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Jim Babcock
We are still alive... and often happy... but we are still often overwhelmed.

We have a nanny and she is a pretty wonderful human being.She's the daughter of a choir friend of Lisa's and is working out well.

This last week and weekend was very stressful. We were finally moving into new bedroom suite, forced by our inlaws coming up for the weekend, and the county anounces that the guardian ad litem (a lawyer that acts as legal guardien for the county, in this case, someone that was in the original foster parents corner) wants to talk to us and see the family's dynamics. Oh and we're calling you Monday to tell you it will be on Thursday. So we busted our humps and got it all ready.

The boys are all in their own rooms. Joey and Noah were in their own room, but there was a bunch of dressers and stuff piled in there waiting for a place. Basil and Theodore were in the guest room, waiting for Lisa, Colleen and I to move down stairs. We got everything where it goes and put all of the boy's clothes where they belong. Set the baby up in our room and us in the sitting room/nursery... I finally convinced Lisa that even though it wasn't the plan, it made more sense not to walk through the baby's room to get out of the bedroom.

The boys and our walls are pretty bare and sterile, but we have time to work on that. There's still some work to be done in the closet, bath and utility room, but we're out of time and money for the project at the moment, so it will have to wait. We are getting the shower glass on Wednesday, so that will be cool... All in all, its a very nice space and we're happy there (the baby is sleeping later, too!!!)

This weekend was Noah's birthday and the first birthday after we had them all and were starting to get it together a little bit, so we had a party. Did I mention it was a stressful weekend? Lisa's parent came up and that helped, but there was still so much to do. Lisa took care of all the food and party kind of stuff and I did most of the heavy lift and such. I had a ton of yard work to do, partially because we'd been neglectiing it, but largely because we'd had so much rain, that most of the yard had been to wet to drive the tractor on for the last month. The boys helped when pressed, Basil ran the weed trimimer and Joey and Theodore did odd jobs. The party was mass chaos, just kids everywhere. Noah made out like a bandit and still has gifts from my parents who are out of town.

We invited original foster parents and their family, which went pretty well. The only issue we had was when Lisa put Noah to bed. He wouldn't let her give him their tradition "I love you" kiss on the forehead because Mommie Millie had told him at the party that we didn't love him, only they did. Lisa told me this and I went up to give him a hug goodnight and he replied, "I know", when I told him I love him and agreed when I told him that Lisa loved him, too. So did Millie really say this, or was this acting out because of the excitement and this was the first time that he'd seen his former foster parents since moving out? Opinions are divided.

On the legal front, this is officially an extended visit and we are fostering the kids. I think somewhere around fall, adoption proceedings will start and after six months, it will be final.

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*note* I just realized that I didn't post that the date we were supposed to get the kids permanently had been drastically moved up at a meeting at the CSB... I deliberately didn't post it because I wanted plausible deniablity in case prying eyes had discovered my blog...*end note*

The plan has changed yet again.... big surprise. We got Colleen and Noah two weeks ago, Theodore last week and we're supposed to get Basil and Joey for good this week, but its been pushed out until next week with some convoluted plan for this weekend. Not that I begrudge them doing this, but there was a enough going on for the boys to have made this decision in the first place. For example, their school ends May 11th...

Next Friday Morning we are supposed to meet at the CSB (Children Services Board) offices and the foster father is going to lead a "separation" rite and then we'll take the kids. It seems that maybe the Waggoners are finally coming to terms with this, but I'm not ready to relax, yet. Last we heard, they were trying to use some ethnic law to stop the procedings because they and presumably now the kids are Pentacostal and we are Catholic... Ignoring the fact that these aren't nationalities and the laws are actually designed to prevent discrimination, not encourage it.

I've not been handling things getting so "real" as well as I would like. Ever since the meeting that moved everything up by a month or so, I've been in a constant state of agitation. I've got that adrenalin feeling in my chest all the time, my mind is scattered, if I wake up at night, I don't get back to sleep... and thats the worst part. The baby wakes up coughing at least once a night and needs an asthma treatment and/or cough syrup, consequencely, I've only got 4 to 5 hours of sleep per night for the last week and a half.

Add to lack of sleep and a constant anxiety the fact that the kids are "starting to test their boundaries" and I'm not often enjoying myself. Every time I say something the kids think everything is open for negotiation or manipulation. I've been barking a lot more as of late.

I was aware that this would be a big change and fully expected to be a different person after being chewed up and spit out by this process... but I don't cope well with out sleep and I find I'm desparate for peace and quiet! I talked with Lisa about it and even though she is rattled a good portion of the time, she is still determined. I guess I am too, though I'm not used to being scared all the time like this. Mostly I know I can get passed this, that we just have to set boundaries and let the kids settle in, but part of me is afraid I'm going to end up hating life and resenting my loved ones.

On the bright side, we've been making process with Noah on the temper tantrums and random refusals to do what he normal would do. Lisa took Colleen to respirator specialist and her medication was adjusted (we got her with only cough syrup and an "as needed" nebulizer med, now she has an oral steroid and a maintenance nebulizer med, as well). She slept through the night, last night, never needed her cough syrup! Between that and the melatonin I started taking yesterday (its got that supplement that gives you the vivid dreams, I think I got about six hours sleep!

So thats what's been going on.

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Well, by now, Millie, the foster mom, has been told that when she give us Joey, Noah and Colleen for the weekend on Friday, only Joey is coming back on Monday night. We're getting the youngest two, permanently.

We've talked to a councillor that the kids are using and that the foster parents speak to as well and he believes that this is the best thing to do... that there is no reason to drag this process out for the kids that aren't in school. He's just concerned that the agency is doing this vindictively and has the potential to her the rest of the children. And guess what, that's what they are doing.

The foster parents have been escallating over the last several weeksWell, by now, Millie, the foster mom, has been told that when she give us Joey, Noah and Colleen for the weekend on Friday, only Joey is coming back on Monday night. We're getting the youngest two, permanently.

We've talked to a councilor that the kids are using and that the foster parents speak to as well and he believes that this is the best thing to do... that there is no reason to drag this process out for the kids that aren't in school. He's just concerned that the agency is doing this vindictively and has the potential to her the rest of the children. And guess what, that's what they are doing.

The foster parents have been escalating over the last several weeks. Progressing from reporting/exaggerating/lying about anything they heard from us or the kids to the CSB and wheedling behind the scene to force us to work to higher standards than the CSB normally enforce… to telling the kids they were going to adopt them from under us, pulling the kids from school to have them baptized at their church and making the kids lie to us about what they were doing (the baptism thing is apparently a direct violation of their foster agreement) and suddenly spending tons and tons of money on them after each of our visits. When we dropped them off after the Easter weekend, their “for real” lost Game Boys reappeared along with twenty new cartridges, the babies had new clothes and toys, the beloved trampoline… that the county made them take down… was back up, they had the four-wheeler out and were giving the kids rides…

So the CSB has been telling us that they were on our side and they were upset with Millie, all the while seemingly sticking it to us… often to the point of flip-flopping on things they told us after speaking to her. They’d asked us to get our foster license, ASAP. This was a just a formality, because the agency we hired to help us with the adoption process pre-qualified for fostering as part of their standard process. We didn’t file the forms, because we didn’t feel we were up to fostering. All we had to do was renew our fire inspection and our health checks and we were golden. The reason we needed the foster license is because Colleen’s parental rights haven’t been severed… though we were assured its coming.

It’d been hinted that they might do an early pull on the two youngest, but we found out how it was going to go done this week. Millie is supposed to be called in to discuss the progress of the children. CSB was not pleased to find out that the little Christian school they put the kids is not accredited. Then they are going to issue violations for the baptism and the trampoline (we were concerned about the trampoline having no safety walls, but couldn’t have cared less about the baptism… other than asking the kids to lie to us about it). She will be informed that because of the violations, she is losing the two youngest (the ones she wanted most desperately to keep) the next day.

I’ve been non-stop worried over the fallout from this since I heard the plan. It is going to be hard on the boys… they’ve gone from being our best supporters to waffling since the Waggoners announced they would try to adopt them. She’s not going to be happy; being stuck with the ones she didn’t want and having the CSB come down on here so hard. It will be hard on the young ones, too.
I’ve been thinking and praying a lot over this. All I want is a peaceful resolution to this and healthy and happy children… Having Jack and Millie being able to reappear at a later date as grand parent figures would be nice, too.

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Everything (apparently) went fine, yesterday. I didn't get home until 6:30, because I'm on the late shift and it was all over with. Noah ran up and gave me a huge hug, Colleen tottled up and gave me a big smile and Lisa was happy as well. Its been the pattern for most things involved with this process, things spring up suddenly, there's lots of drama before hand and things turn out ok.

Lisa is picking up Basil, Joey and Theodore before Royal Rangers and they'll probably pick up Hot Dog Shop take out for dinner. I'll get home with enough time to wolf down the dogs and some fries and herd them out to the Tahoe to head out to the far side of Warren.

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It's been a stressful week and its only Tuesday.

We had the kids for the weekend and it went pretty well. The were times when it was a bit overwhelming and I did have to yell once, but it went better then I dared hope.

Colleen was happy-go-lucky... as long as she had her sippy cup and little blue plushy beaver named Chewie. She was the one that really had me worried. It was the first time we'd had the baby (16mos) and it was the first over night visit. But she ate well, napped well, slept well, churched well... the only thing we had an issue with was keeping track of her, that little girl can scoot.

The only issue we had was we weren't given any instructions on her nebulizer or even told there was maintenance asthma meds in her diaper bag that we were supposed to give her. Lisa didn't find them until she was packing things up to go. She  has croup and coughs every once in a while, normally. About 4am she started coughing about once a minute, but not enough to wake her up. It woke us up, so Lisa decided to treat her with the nebulizer. We mentioned this the foster folks and heard back from the county that she had had an asthma attack and wasn't given her meds. Lovely.

Colleen was a contributor to me yelling, too. We were taking them back to the foster home and Colleen, seated directly, started screaming because she dropped her cup AND Chewie at the same time. Then the kids, who as per usual were asking 15 questions per soconds, started shouting to make themselves heard... They got a resounding "THAT'S ENOUGH" for their efforts. I'm pretty loud on most occasions, I'm told I can be pretty intimidating, especially to kids, when I yell... Except for the baby wailing, it was quiet for a bit.

As it happened, we had to turn around to get something we forgot, so we got the baby her stuff and she quieted down. I explained to the kids that they didn't do anything "wrong", but they can't try to complete with the baby when she's going full volume, right behind my head, while I'm driving a 6000lb truck down the street. No one seemed to traumatized and we were chatty as normal by the time we got back on the road again.

So we were tired and a bit wrung out after having 5 kids for two days, but all in all, it went fine.

Yesterday was when things started to get stressful. After a reasonable productive day at work, Lisa calls and says that the county wants the foster parents to start sharing driving duties. They are really ramping up visitation. We got the schedule last week and we get Noah (3) and Colleen Tuesday, Thrusday and overnight Saturday to Sunday. The overnight includes one of the older boys. Wednesday night we get the oldest three for dinner and go to Royal Rangers with them. The problem is, the entire staff of the county is coming this first time to inspect the house. They are assuring us, it is to assure the oldest girl, Claudia, that we are being held to the same standards as the foster parents. We aren't so sure that this isn't more manipulations on the foster parents part.

So we had a day to get the house back into order. Not that the house was in bad shape, but we are remodelling and we've been recieving toys and furniture on a daily basis. Less than a week ago, you couldn't walk through the livingroom for all the dressers, tables, cabinets and such. There is a big section of the wall between the dining room and the stairwell that was torn out to add heater ducting that we'd just discovered the previous owner had removed when he remodeled.

On top of this, we were trying to trade up the Tahoe for a 12 passenger van and that was the only night we would be able to do that. We left friends doing the work, only to find that either this dealership or the original was trying or had screwed us. There was a 5k discrepency between the vehicles, which we can't swallow... so it was a complete was of time we really needed.

On top of this, I could really use to put in about 20 hours overtime to complete this project my manager insists be done by Friday...

Anyhow, hopefully tonight will go ok.

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The pager sucked again last night. Two nights of short periods of light interrupted sleep are taking it's toll. Mark is back though, and he has the pager... but I get it again next week, for the whole week.

Tonight may be my only night for sleep. We are getting the kids overnight for the first time, picking them up on Saturday morning and dropping them off Sunday night. The only really scary part of this is the is also the first time we are getting Colleen, the sixteen month old... the baby we haven't spent any time with and that screams when I pick her up. Oh and by the way, her crib is in our room on my side of the bed.

Pray for us :).

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So what's been up?

Some parts of the adoption process are going well (the three oldest boys) and other parts are not (the two youngest and Claudia). We've been seeing the boys every weekend and been getting along famously with them. There have been a few incidences, but by and large things have gone smoothly. Wednesday was Basil's birthday and was the weekend that Lisa's family was coming up to celebrate Jake's birthday (Jake is the 4 year old son of Lisa's sister, the four of them live about 45 minutes away in Greenville, PA. Lisa's parents stay at our house when visiting because we have more bedrooms). So we have a birthday breakfast for Basil and then went to PA for Jake's celebration. Sunday we picked them up after church and went to a spaghetti dinner fundraiser where we met up with my parents and more presents for Basil.

It's apparent that my dad was more than a little disappointed that I wasn't interested in fishing... Basil got a BUNCH of fly fishing stuff. He got a book on fly fishing, a rod, reel, string and a tackle box full of 30 or 40 hand tied flies, most of them by my dad. His eye about bulged out of his head when he saw them all. Twas very cool, indeed. We went back to PA that afternoon and got to see Darrin and Lynne's new farm, cows, sat in the tractors and scoped out their pond. :)

Last weekend we were supposed to have the five oldest kids on Saturday (Millie, the foster mom is reticent to let us have her as her parental rights have not been severed, yet, and we are not foster certified and the agency isn't pushing it, because they feel she won't remember us week to week, seeing us only once a week), but Claudia was 'sick'. We got a call on Monday or Tuesday that she didn't want to be adopted and we won't be visiting with her anymore and that we weren't welcome at her youth group meetings anymore.

Needless to say Lisa was quite upset by this (as well as myself) and she and the agency is convinced that this is all part of Millie's plans to keep the kids she wants for herself. Though I'm not so sure, we were originally told that she just wanted the two youngest, Colleen and Noah. We showed up Saturday morning Noah was in full temper tantrum and Millie announced that he was in no condition to go anywhere. I came in a few minutes after Lisa and she relayed the situation to me and I echoed here thoughts: you don't give children that much control and you don't reward them for temper tantrums. He went into his child seat kicking and screaming and was ignored until he burned himself out. Lisa later told me he was screaming when she walked through the door and when Millie pronounced that he wasn't coming, she wouldn't meet her eyes. When we dropped the boys off on Sunday night, Claudia made a big show of being around and not being bothered to be around us... it seemed a bit staged.

Lisa took half a day yesterday to scope out the local schools and she talked at length with one of the county social workers. We went shopping for tile and shower fixtures for the new rooms last night and talked about it at length. In the end, Claudia (and Basil for that matter) is old enough to make her own decision about being adopted. If Millie will have her, she can decide not to be adopted by us. We'd love to have her and we'll leave the door open, but we won't force the issue. We will have a sit down to explain the situation to her, though. If she wants to opt out, she needs to opt out, not weasel out by feigning sickness :P.

It might be that this is for the best. She's very devoted to her faith, a faith that not our own and she wants to be a youth counselor when she grows up... so maybe we are not the ones to guide her. But on the other hand, I think she's trying to drown her fears and issues in her faith and while that’s more healthy than drugs and alcohol, things not dealt with will always cause issues down the line and I don't think the people I've met in her church leadership have the sophistication to do anything other than pity her for her lot in life and tell her that she needs to pray more.

As far as Colleen and Noah go, Millie has no sway there and those are the two she wants the most. In fact, our agent has said the county wants us to get our foster license as quickly as possible. She thinks that the county may want us to take them before we take the other two. The county has told Lisa that they want us to take Noah and Colleen twice a week in addition to spending time with the group on the weekend.

All I really know is this has the potential to burn a lot of bridges with some really positive people that we really wanted to keep involved in their lives. These don't seem to be the actions of someone that cried at our first meeting because an earlier foster broke contact with them or the actions of such a devote Christian...

I always try to err on the side of naivety in these situations, so I'm urging caution... but its more than my well being on the line, so we need to be alert as well.

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It's been a while since my last update. Not because I haven't had anything to say, but because I've been in information overload. It's strange too, because it seems like time is slowing down around the kids. It seems like weeks ago since we went to the pine wood derby, but it was only last weekend. This week we went to their youth ministry at the Assembly of God Church they attend (and that their foster father's father founded). I went  to the oldest boy's Royal Ranger meeting and Lisa went to Claudia's youth (teen) service. I went to Claudia's guitar lesson on Thursday. We had Claudia and Noah on Saturday and had Basil, Joey and Theodore on Sunday. I think this will be the de rigeur for a while.We'll attend their Wednesday night activities, and have all or some combination of them on Saturday and Sunday, depending on their schedule. I'm not sure if I'll do the guitar lessons again, until I'm ready to start taking them with her. We really don't interact much and I'm sure I'm at least some amount of distraction.

We had a good time with the kids. Joey and Basil are settling in a bit, they at least take breathes between questions. Theo, though, is a non-stop gatling gun of questions. He really is borderline hyper, though not attention deficit. He stays pretty fixed, maybe even obsessed with things. Part of it is just his age and this situation. We're really hoping he'll also settle down once he gets into the routine. Noah is just getting out of defiance and and literalism stage... I hope. We had fun on Saturday, Steve and Jodie brought there girls over and they played with Noah for a couple of hours. Claudia and I played some pool, she's seems to be a typically quiet teenager, and though we haven't seen any moodiness yet, I'm sure it will surface :). Actually, she seems incredibly good spirited for all that she's been through. It's interesting to watch her slip smothly from snippy teenager to caring old-for-her-age older sister and back. We really haven't been seeing much of Colleen. I'm not sure if the county doesn't feel she needs to spend the time with us because of the age, or they don't want her to go out because she currently has a respiratory infection or what... On one hand, it make it easier for us to focus on the older kids, but on the other, she's not developing any comfort in being with us. Besides the first meeting, we've only spent time with her when we've been chatting with Millie and Jack after we drop the kids off. Lisa seems to be doing pretty well with her, but she definitely has issues with my height.

We went to one of there services on Sunday night because Claudia's youth group was presenting a "human video" and Lisa was right, they lay on the floor and cry and convulse and "speak in tongues". I knew this already, but its still a little freaky to sit through it. On the whole, I'm ok with their message, though. The service was long, about 2 hours. Lisa likes the praise and glory singing, but its not my thing and this was really repetative. The scripture reading/lesson was on evangezation and I agreed with it for the most part. The supposition was that you have to make the message attractive by living it and not being afraid to discuss and represent it. I think that's absolutely true. However, the affected southern gospel repetitive patter and occasional growling and yelling parts felt more like he was trying to cram it down my throat, than make it attractive. Then there was the 20-30 minute closing prayer, which degraded into two of the three Reverends pacing and talking in tongues, about a third of the congregation on their knees or prostrate in front of the dias... scary stuff Maynard. Notably, Neither Claudia or the foster father spoke in tongues. Claudia did go up front and kneel with her friends, but that's cool. The bizarrest thing was at about 20 minutes into this, with the Preachers still walking around mumbling and people still laying on their faces, people just start putting things away. One woman went up and put away the wine and the Eucharist from the side altar, another guy collected a mike from a Reverand, still speaking in toungues, along with a couple other ones and put them away, people just packed up their things and started walking out or chatting with their friends. Strange.

If Claudia and the other kids are happy there, we are good with that. The message is good for the most part, no one is going to hell based on their denomination. I suspect part of it is social and part of it is propaganda they've been fed. We'll expose them to our church and hopefully they'll come around, but we won't force anything.

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We met the kids tonight and things went well.

Joey, Theo and Noah just accepted us. Kind of took us as fact and settle right into the can you do this, can we do that, can we play games yet? Basil, aka Lee, looked as frightened as I felt. He's the shy and quiet type. But as soon as you engaged him on a few things, he opened right up. Claudia was very reserved, not icy or hositle, but not really giving or taking unless directly asked. She seems like a good kid and definitely has a handle on the baby. Colleen was interesting... I'll have to get Lisa's input about her. She pretty much jumped right into the toys and wandered around the room, exploring. Seemingly unaware of what was going on and at 15 months, she probably didn't. I tried to engauge her several times, but she wasn't having anything to do with that. It's something I've seen time and time again with little kids: their gaze starts at my knees, travels up my 6' 5" frame and has a flash of "Oh Oh!" as they see how big I am... but we'll get past that.

Joey and Theo thought they could teach me about cards and I showed them who the boss was :). Go Fish, Old Maid, fast hand (? you split the cards equally and each put one down, face up one at a time and if 2 players cards match, they slap at the stack, whoever's hand is at the bottom gt the cards, the person with the most cards wins) and thirty-one. We had fun, but I didn't set any false expectations. I was actually very pleased to learn they knew 31. My mom's family played that as a family ritual right up until I was actually old enough to join them... then they switched to Uno. And though Uno is a mighty fine game, I always loved thirty-one above all.

Just as I was finish the last entry, they showed up. I had to finish the last words, fill in the time zone and hit submit, as I was heading for the door to let them in. They spotted that we had our dog, juliet, in the car and wanted to meet her. Jules was a bit intimidated because there were four (the boys, of course) of them and they closed pretty quickly on her. But she did fine... and I think she'll be fine. She doesn't get enough attention and having more people around has to equate to more entertainment for her. And when we have a nanny during the days, she'll be estatic. The cats on the other hand...

We were with them for about 1 3/4 hours and it didn't seem long at all. Everyone had fun, we got hugs from most of them when they left, Basil invited us to his pine wood derby contest this weekend. Afterwards, Lisa and I cleaned up things before she went to choir. We really didn't talk about it too much, there didn't seem to be a need to... we'll have to see how that goes when she gets home. It might also be we're both dealing with information overload.

Thus starts our grand adventure!

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The guys I work with are taking odds as to whether I'll survive until Christmas, let alone be able to afford to buy presents for six kids. And the office conservative claims that our adoption is part of a new liberal ploy to stack the odds in future elections...

Ptptptpthththt

Raspberries for you all :)

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