Sunday, February 22, 2015

Baby, baby, baby

Today begins day 3 with Baby C.  So far, things have been going fairly well with her.  We are actually surprised at what an "easy" baby she is.

Yesterday, Mike and I made a point of making sure we were with her all day - both of us as much as possible & at least one of us within eyesight at (virtually) all times while she was awake.  Friday night was a little rough for her.  She woke up a crying a couple of times during the night, and while we were able to put her back to sleep pretty easily, she wasn't quite able to do that for herself.  At 4am, she truly cried for the first time.  She'd fussed and whimpered a couple of times Friday evening and had woken up once at 2am, but at 4, she really cried.  I went in and picked her up and rocked her for a little while; I think that was the first time she was really scared or lonely.  We realized that as part of a large family group (she has 3 older siblings), it was probably the first time in her entire life that she'd slept in a room alone at night.  She went back to sleep briefly, but was up for the day by 6am.

So yesterday, we had two goals - 1) make her as comfortable as possible with us and 2) keep her awake long enough to help her sleep through as much of the night as possible.

Goal 1 wasn't too difficult.  We took her on walks, we played with her, we talked to her almost non-stop (hoping she'd start saying something back) and tried to give her as much love and affection as we could.  While she doesn't really get "play", she does enjoy some musical toys that we picked up for her at Goodwill.  She likes things that make noise - a lot.  She doesn't seem to understand cause-effect yet, but she does like making things sing and dance.

Even with all of this "noise", Baby C stayed quiet all day yesterday.  She fussed a few times if she was left alone in a room, but nothing serious.  We realized that she doesn't cry when she's hungry or sleepy, or even if she's wet.  She'll just sit quietly until we realize that it's time to feed or change her.  I've tried to be proactive about feeding and changing her often, but it would help if she was willing to "tell" us she needed something.

She did start motoring around a little bit yesterday.  She doesn't walk, or really stand much, but she does crawl like a champ and has started following me or Mike if we leave the room.  We also pulled out a walker that Steve and his wife gave us at our shower... she LOVES that.

Goal #2 was also relatively successful.  Baby C did not completely sleep through the night, but we put her to bed around 9 (an hour later than Friday) and she slept until about 7:30 with only a single wake-up in the middle of the night.  She started crying with gusto about 4am (I'm seeing a trend here).  Mike went in to check on her and found her standing in her crib.  She reached out for him, but stopped crying as soon as she saw him.  He called it a "wellness check" - she wanted to make sure we were still around to take care of her.  She didn't really need anything except to know we were there.  Hopefully tonight we can make it through the whole night.  She's a good sleeper - she doesn't fuss when we put her in her crib & actually puts herself down for naps during the day.  One minute she'll be playing with her toys & the next she'll be laying herself down to sleep.

We're thinking third time is a charm.  Since we don't have the proper paperwork, we can't put her in daycare tomorrow, so I'll be staying home with her... hopefully getting the paperwork in order so Tuesday we can go to daycare and both Mike and I can be at work.  Let's keep our fingers crossed!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Foster Care, take two

After a great deal of thought, and an endless number of "should we or shouldn't we" conversations, Mike and I have changed course a bit in the world of foster care.  We have decided a couple of things -

1.  One child is enough.  I said this before, but going from zero children in our home to two children in our home is much too overwhelming, especially since I've never had children.

2.  We are not ready for long-term care yet.  Yet.  We realized we still like having options and the ability to say no.  We were actually presented with a potential adoptive child a few weeks ago.  We thought about it and talked about it, and in the end decided we weren't there yet.  Part of us wanted to be, but we realized it would be unfair to us as a couple and unfair to the child to make that step without being 100% certain it was the right choice.  After a few days of talking it over, we kindly thanked the case worker, but walked away without ever meeting the baby.  We saw a picture, but knew meeting him wasn't the right thing to do.

That being said, we have made the well-thought out decision to provide short term and/or respite care in spurts through the rest of the school year.  We can step back during times that are strenuous for our jobs (or perhaps law-school finals time), and still provide care to children in need.  Once summer begins, we can start looking for that "right match" for a longer-term placement.

Today, we took our first short-term placement.  This afternoon, we picked up Baby C.  Baby C is a sweet 15-month old girl with a couple older siblings that are currently staying with their grandmother.  The caseworker is concerned that grandma cannot handle a toddler, but they'll hammer something out early next week.  In the meantime, Baby C is staying with us.

Baby C is almost the complete opposite of our last foster-baby.  She's virtually silent, not particularly needy, and not puking on me.  Apart from the puking thing, we are worried that the other two things might be signs of long term neglect and/or severe developmental delays.  In the 4+ hours she was with us before she went to sleep, she didn't say a single word.  She babbled "ba ba ba" a couple times, but that was about the extent of it.  She doesn't point, or respond to her name.  We even tried speaking Spanish to her, but it didn't seem to work.  We're also terrible at speaking Spanish, so it might be our accents.  :)

All in all, so far, so good.  CPS can't find her shot records, so I can't get her into daycare... I'm hoping we remedy that over the weekend, otherwise we may have to find a stay-home foster mom to care for her until we get that sorted out.

In the meantime, she's out like a light, so I'm going to sleep while the sleeping is good.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Spring Fever

I'm linking up with Jen from Ramblings of a Suburban Mom this week for "Thursday Thoughts."  This is really no different from my normal ramblings, except maybe I'll get a wider audience.  :)

I'm not sure what it is about mid-February, but my students always start behaving like insane people.  It's like they suddenly realized they just had their long vacation for the year and spring break is a little while off.  As I'm already in a behavior school, this amplifies the situation a little bit.  Spring restlessness can turn into all out chaos.

Over the past couple of weeks, the TimeHop app (which I LOVE) has been reminding me of some of my annual spring insanity.  Since I haven't posted them all to Facebook, here's a small sampling.

-- The kid that got upset and threw a desk at me.  This one really doesn't require a lot of explaining.

-- The entire classroom full of students (about six kids total) that lost their indoor privileges for nearly 2 weeks because they kept acting like wild animals in the classroom.  They wouldn't sit down, do work, stop moving the furniture around, stop throwing things, you name it.  I finally got fed up and taught class outside for two weeks.  The tables were bolted to the ground.  They hated it.  (While it is February, it is also Las Vegas... so no complaints about cold winter weather)

--The kids that got bored and started smoking weed in class.

For what its worth, I have a very good principal and all of those kids had to deal with the consequences of their actions.  None of those situations were ignored.  I know the two kids smoking weed were arrested, as I believe was the desk thrower.  The group of "outside" students were eventually suspended for a few days after even having to sit outside for two weeks in February didn't calm them down.

This year is no exception...  I have one student that I've sent to the office EVERY SINGLE DAY this week.  Since he hasn't done anything overtly horrible, he hasn't been suspended yet.  Yet.  However, he was supposed to spend two days in In House Suspension (little room all to yourself to do nothing but homework).  The IHS monitor had to leave early today, so he was sent back to class for the last 2 periods of the day -- which ironically are the two periods where he gets into the most trouble.  He barely made it 5 minutes into my class before he stood up next to his desk and started doing impressions of all of his teachers.  Not flattering, mind you.  I told him to stop, as he was being unkind and inappropriate.  Rather than do so, he amped it up.  <sigh>

But that's no big deal.  That's kids 101.  The most mind blowing thing that happened this week was the student that decided to urinate in the classroom.  I've heard some conflicting stories about this, so I'm not totally sure which one is true.  However, everyone (both adults and students) agrees the kid was upset because he wasn't allowed to use the restroom.  He'd just come in from lunch and his teacher told him to wait a few minutes so she could get class started.  The kid goes up to her in the front of the room and asks again. At that point, the story diverges somewhat:  some say he peed on her podium, others say he peed on her leg.  Either way, the kid opened up his pants and peed in the classroom & the teacher went home to change her clothes.  To her credit, she came straight back to school and taught the next period.  I would have been out of there so fast....

What can I say?  It's times like this that I understand why people used to think our feelings and behaviors were controlled by the seasons.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Decisions, Decisions

Somehow, I have come to a crossroads in my life... all of a sudden these decisions appeared on the horizon and now I have to make them.  I've seen enough episodes of "Supernatural" to know that something will probably go askew somewhere.

None of my impending decisions are life-and-death, however, I imagine they will have some long-lasting impact on both my personal and professional lives.

We are trying to make some foster care decisions (as I discussed the other day), and to make matters more complicated, our case manager called and asked if we would be interested in becoming an adoptive family for a young boy who has been living with a foster family since birth.  The little boy has some potential health concerns, as he was born very prematurely, but seems to be in a good place now.  He was born drug exposed and had a difficult first few months, but seems to be stable.  His mother has abandoned him, and the courts have terminated parental rights, so he is available for adoption.  Typically, the foster parents that have been caring for the baby would have the first opportunity to be the adoptive family, but his foster parents are older and have no interest in adoption.  In some ways, this seems like an ideal match for us, but we are nervous about potential health problems.  The case worker sent me a photo this afternoon -- and he's an adorable little boy.  But, I'm a big softie.  Mike is much more pragmatic, but I keep looking at the picture and thinking how we'd be able to give him such a wonderful life.

I also have to make some decisions about my legal education.  It's a "what next" sort of situation.  Like many things, I have to start making decisions now about what I do or don't want to do next year. Do I want to apply as an editor for the Law Review?  (probably)  Do I want to apply for a major role, or something more low key?  Do I want to continue on SBA (student government)?  I've reached the point in my legal education where I've met all of the requirements -- I just need to go through the motions until I have enough credits to graduate.  Once I'm done with this semester, I'll only have 17 remaining -- I'll do between 4-6 over the summer, leaving me 12ish credits - or one full time semester.  As a part time student, I can't do 12 in one semester, but you can see how close I am to finishing.

And, as always, I have career decisions to make.  I've had a few interviews in the past couple of weeks, but I feel less excited by the prospect of changing jobs.  I wish I'd found an administrative match a year or six months ago.  But, for whatever reason, it never happened.  I like my job, I like my boss.  Today, I actually had a group of kids arguing about the theme of a poem.  It was one of those weird moments when all of the stars seemed to be aligning and I remembered why I love teaching.  I also had a student tell me that I was a wonderful teacher and the one bright spot in her otherwise miserable behavior school experience.    So, why would I want to leave that?  Of course, this follows on the heels of a day I worked really hard not to punch a kid in the face (kidding!).  It does go both ways.  :)

All in all... a lot of decisions, and no answers...

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

What Now?

Today, like most other days, CPS placement workers called me three separate times to ask me if Mike and I would be willing to take physical custody of various foster children.  I know there was a 6 month old boy, but I didn't speak to the other two workers, so I'm not sure who the other two children were.  On average, I get 2-3 calls per day, every day.  We have a happy home and and empty bed, so we are a CPS worker's dream.  For 12 hours a day, placement workers are trying to find healthy, happy, homes for children that are brought into care for a couple of different reasons.

Some children need what's called an "initial placement".  They are brought into CPS care from their parent or guardian's home, and now need somewhere to go.  If they don't find the child(ren) a home within the first 24 hours, they technically become a ward of the state, which is a legal conundrum for a number of reasons -- it's much easier if they find a foster parent within the first 24 hours.  There's a lot of paperwork that can be avoided.  Nonetheless, these kids come straight from whatever situation landed them into foster care in the first place.  Our last kiddos came with fresh bruises, diaper rash, and other signs of abuse and neglect.  These kiddos are generally just big question marks.  No one knows anything about them.  Baby P was fussy and hated men, and dogs.  These were things that we should have known... as Mike is a guy and we have three dogs.  But no one knew, so they couldn't tell us.

Other children need a secondary placement.  This means they've been in a foster home and for whatever reason, that isn't working.  Maybe the foster parent can no longer care for them; maybe the foster parent needs to care for less children because they're moving into a smaller home, because they have too many kids under the age of 3, opposite sex children are in the same room... there are a lot of rules.  We got a packet of foster parent rules that was probably an inch thick.  In many ways, this is slightly better than initial placement.  We now know something about these kiddos.  They've been in a home with someone that I can talk to - the old foster parent could tell me what they do/don't eat, how they sleep, if they have any fears or allergies, if there are any behavioral or medical concerns.

A third time of placement is a familial placement -- it means there are siblings they want to unify into a single home.  It is never the goal of CPS to break up families.  These kiddos have already been though a lot and they want to keep as much stability as possible.  In many ways this is similar to a secondary placement, except there is the unknown factor of the sibling interactions.  Maybe they love each other, maybe they hate each other... no one knows.

So anyway, I went through all of this to explain why there are so many calls.  Most of the calls I get are for initial placements.  Sometimes, it's even a sibling pair that they offer to let us choose one of the kids.  These would probably be shorter term placements, because the goal is to reunify the sibling groups when possible.

We are now in a place where we think we can start considering kiddos again.  Not today, but soon.  Once we gather our thoughts and our energy, we can start looking for the "right" fit for us.  We decided that will be a single kiddo that we can easily transition into daycare.  A younger infant could go to daycare and never know the difference.  A person is a person.  A toddler with daycare experience could go into daycare easily as well.  It would be a "new" daycare, but they know how it works.

Aside from that, we know we can't handle major medical or behavioral issues.  One kiddo they called us about was a biter.  No dice.  One kiddo had serious medical issues that would require round the clock care.  As heartbreaking as his story was (his parent had beaten him so severely that he'd become paralyzed), we knew we were the wrong home for him.

However, we will keep our eyes and ears open for the right match.  Someday, it will come along.  Considering we are getting three calls a day - probably some day soon.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Law School Ramblings

In the past few weeks, I've had a few students tell me they wanted to go to law school & a few current college students tell me they were registered/taking/hoping to take the LSAT.  Mostly, I just smiled and said "that's great!" or something similar while deep down I was thinking "are you sure you want to do that to yourself?"

As the semester is barely two weeks old, and I have a pretty light load this spring, law school feels like a totally realistic endeavor.  Friends see that I'm sleeping and eating regularly, having date nights and Disneyland marathon weekends with Mike and think this is the law school experience.

I will admit, this year has been pretty good.  I spent the summer in Europe "learning" about international legal concepts and visiting some amazing places.  Then fall the first semester in the past 3 years that I've felt I've actually had time to breathe.... and exercise.  This spring is looking to have a similar feel to it.  I only have two classes during the semester and a weekend seminar class in March - which gives me a lot more free time.  I had a similar schedule last semester, except two of my classes required me to write papers, which was incredibly stressful.

I realized today that I've been in school non-stop for the past 30 years.  I've always liked school -- clearly enough that I'm not able to leave.  I went straight to college from high school, then started teaching, started (and finished) grad school, and then went to law school.  I teach summer school, sometimes take summer classes... it has been a non-stop educational roller coaster since 1985.  That was a long time ago.

I'm actually to the point in law school where I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I'm taking my last required courses right now, which means for the next couple of semesters, I'm just taking credits.  I hope to extern at the public defender's office over the summer and then who knows what I'll do next year.  I'll take some classes, apply to be (successfully, if I'm lucky) a law review editor, and hopefully continue my low stress path.

At the same time, it's terrifying.  I've spent a decade teaching and most of my life in school.  Transitioning out of school will be the first time in my life I'm doing something else.  Despite the fact that everything else in my world has changed a thousand times - marriage and divorce and moving from state to state - I've also ways been in the world of academia.  I'm not sure what my life will be without that.  I'm also not sure how I'm going to work during the summer without thinking it should be optional.  I've spent my life as a semi-responsible free spirit, and now the idea has entered my mind that I have to be totally responsible.  <shudder>

I'll think more about that later...