Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Social Black Hole

So I haven't posted in this space for quite a while.  In a sense, I feel like I've fallen into a social black hole.  The placement of two children into our home for foster care has certainly thrown our regular family routine into a tailspin.  We'd been getting used to doing more "grown up" stuff with the children, my youngest of whom just turned 7-years-old, such as having family game nights, going on more educational excursions to museums and the like, and having quiet reading time.  With the introduction of a needy 3-year-old and a needy-in-a-different-way premature baby, we're suddenly back in little kid mode.

So what's been happening with us?  Well, naturally our lives have been focused on the care of the foster children.  I've been taking the 3-year-old boy to visitations with his family once a week, which is in itself an adventure.  I've had the chance to visit with them quite a bit, and while there is no lack of love there for our foster son, they simply seem incapable of responsibly caring for him.  The court has yet to finalize things (obviously), but we still have high hopes of being able to keep him.

He's been improving in almost every conceivable way under our care.  His vocabulary and speech has been improving by leaps and bounds, his temper tantrums are being, well, tempered; and he is learning so very much.  We're still working to get him into speech and other forms of therapy, but we suspect he may not qualify when the "system" finally gets around to evaluating him due to his amazing progress.  That will be a disappointment because we think he would benefit, but we can see it happening because of how much he has improved without it.  We don't detect anything "wrong" with him as far as intellectual abilities and what-not (he's a good learner!), though, of course, other issues such as color blindness or learning disabilities or ADHD wouldn't necessarily manifest or be diagnosed until later.

As for his half-sister, there's been no visitations granted with her biological mother, largely because she (the mother) has been missing in action and hasn't attended any of the court dates.  We're just at the beginning of the very long court process, which could still conclude in practically any conceivable way, from us keeping the baby girl (which is what we want) to her being returned to the family (which we think is unlikely) to her being placed with an extended relative (which is more likely, much to our chagrin).

She's been growing very well.  She's still shy of 10 pounds in weight, but at 3 months old, she's doing well with lifting her head, tracking us in her vision, and she's even started smiling at us.  She's downright enchanting with her beautiful blue eyes.  She does have a hemangioma on her upper lip, which is the source of endless questions by others.  The pediatric plastic surgeon wants to wait and see how it progresses before doing anything -- particularly for one so small.

As for the rest of the family, we're trying to settle into a new normal.  Gone (for now) are my trips to the temple once a month -- replaced by the weekly visitations for our foster son.  Gone (for now) are our regular bedtime routine when my wife and I would go to sleep at the same time.  She now turns in as soon after 8 pm as possible so she can wake up for the early morning feeding, whereas I stay up through the late evening feeding so I can get enough rest to be a functioning person at work.

Gone also (for now) is any possibility of having a mature discussion on the scriptures as a family.  The 3-year-old knows nothing of the Gospel, and has no patience for lengthy discourse.  It will come with time, and he is 3, after all ...  Even so, it is frustrating because we had been in a very good habit of reading with the older kids, and that has been very hard to get jumpstarted again due to the bedtime routine for the 3-year-old and the baby's feeding which needs to occur whenever it needs to occur.  I've no doubt we'll figure it out, but we aren't quite there, yet.

Introduced (for now) are the visitations I've already mentioned, visits to the house by various social workers who come at least once a week, more trips to doctors and dentists and child psychologists and therapists than I can keep track of (thanks, wife!), and regular feedings of a baby that runs on her own time.

Regarding this latter bit, there's been quite a few people in our ward who have had babies recently.  It is weird, but even though we have a newborn in our home who is the same age as all those others, we don't feel in the same class as them.  As the baby isn't our biological child (and one we might not get to keep, no less), we don't get the same congratulations that others get.  In addition, we're experienced parents so the drama that a first- or second-born brings into a family is absent.  Worst of all, though, is that the baby doesn't receive the same adulation that other babies receive due to the hemangioma on her upper lip.  We love her fiercely, though, and treat her as if she were our own.  Frankly, when we're feeding her and she looks up at us with those beautiful blue eyes, I see no hemangioma ... I see the amazing spirit in my arms that I can't help but love.

Our other children continue with activities that keep us hopping in other ways.  Our oldest son is very busy with the Boy Scouts -- he is doing very well and has recently earned his Star Rank.  We're very proud of him, and are excited to see him continue to mature through this program.  He's also taking both piano and violin lessons, but I wouldn't say he is excelling at either one because he declines to practice as much as we'd like him to.

Our oldest daughter continues to be home schooled.  She seems to be running off the end of that's usefulness, as she seems to need more of a social environment lately.  We're planning to put her back into public school in the fall.  She's playing tennis, though, and also takes piano lessons with her big brother.  We have the same frustration with her lack of desire to practice, but we assume that most parents experience the same problem.  She also has started taking karate lessons, which she loves.  She has a desire to be a black belt, and we'll support her in that if she'll actually take it seriously.  She's just getting started, though, so we're preparing for the long haul.

Our now-middle son is also taking karate lessons.  For him it's more play time, but he benefits from it, too.  The balance of his time he well-uses playing at home.  He has developed an extraordinary love of the "Titanic" and has built models of it from both kits and out of Legos.  He's an amazing kid, and we are in awe at how well he has managed the introduction of the foster children to our home.  Being the youngest and the closest in age, he is naturally the most affected, and he has been making us proud with his accepting attitude, his increase in responsibility (he has to set the example now!), and his willingness to share.

My dear wife, somehow, manages to keep all of this straight.  I have no idea how she manages to feed the baby and deliver kids to their respective places and home school my daughter while a needy 3-year-old plays under foot while planning meals and getting to the grocery store and generally keeping the house from falling down.  She doesn't feel like she's juggling all those balls very well, but somehow they stay airborne (well, most of them most of the time ...).  We've had to become quite choosy in what we do outside the home, but I think we're doing all right.

As for me, work is going crazy.  Our next rover arrives at Mars the evening of August 5th, and we've got more software development to wrap up, test and training activities to conclude, and plenty of planning and coordination that needs to get done.

Frankly, I'm tired.

So if you don't hear from me again for a while, just assume I'm doing something related to anything I mentioned in this post.

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