Tuesday, August 31, 2010

2 and 1

Two cute Sabrina stories:

This morning in the car Sabrina was singing something along the lines of "I like your funk. I like your funk. I like you [something else]. I like your [the same something else]. I like your funk. I like your funk...." And she went straight from that into Miss Mary Mack.

This evening Sabrina was practicing writing her name and after she wrote one of the letters stood up on her chair and said "I've got it goin' on!"

And one gripe:

While at her dad's house this weekend, Sabrina got a lunchbox. (Not actually a lunchbox, to be honest, but a tin box that LOOKS like a lunchbox.) Today she asked me if she could take a snack to school in it. A snack, mind you. Not lunch. The one time that I packed a lunch for her last year because she asked me to, she didn't eat it. She eats school lunch. I think everyone at her school eats school lunch. Anyway, a snack. I figured she wanted it for aftercare. I packed her a package of those horrid pre-cheesed crackers, grapes, and a juice. When I picked her up from school, she said "My teacher told me you need to give me a sandwich." Excuse me? 1. It wasn't supposed to be her lunch. 2. A lunch doesn't need to have a sandwich. 3. I'm tired of everyone at her school implying that I'm not a good parent figure. (Paranoid much? This morning the aide from Sabrina's pre-k class saw that she needed to wash her face--she had a bit of a milk beard, to be honest, and I had let it slide since I didn't notice it until we were in the car--and did that annoying mother thing of rubbing her thumb on Sabrina's face and then dragging her to the bathroom.) Wow, didn't mean to gripe for that long. Anyway, we went to the grocery store to buy lunch-appropriate foods, so if she doesn't want it anymore, I'm going to be (a little) annoyed.

Off to get tomorrow's lunch ready.

Homework, part the 94th

I finally got the opportunity to talk to Sabrina's teacher this morning. (I say "finally" because I wrote her a note on Wednesday asking her to call me, wrote another note on Friday--that one just explaining why Sabrina hadn't done her homework, not asking her to call--and thought I would see her yesterday at aftercare but was wrong.) The note I wrote on Wednesday said something jargon-ish like "I want to talk to you about how best to support what you are doing in class." What was in the back of my head was "she has too much homework, so what do you want me to do, skip dinner or skip getting enough sleep?"

So this morning she apologized for not calling--totally reasonable, she intended to call me over the weekend but is caring for her ill mother and didn't get around to it--and then promptly said "you can support what we are doing in class by doing the homework." At that point I explained that we were spending a half hour on it and not finishing it, that we have only an hour and a half between getting home and bedtime, and I'm the only adult in the house and just can't prepare dinner and help with homework at the same time. I also explained that we talk about school in the car (for example, yesterday's homework included finding words that start with "F" so we brainstormed those words, as well as other things like rhyming and opposites) but she can't write in the car! I agreed with her that Sabrina does need practice with writing but was just feeling hamstrung by not having enough time in the day. So we agreed that we could switch back and forth between reading and math homework, and I think we're doing to focus on writing more instead of the finding pictures part.

She also told me that by the end of the year, the kids are expected to be able to count by 2s and 5s to 110 (why 110, and not 100, is beyond me). And after they get to 20 (2 more weeks), the next project is to learn their address and phone number. After last Thursday's adventure with mom, I'm a little nervous about teaching her our address! She knows the apartment number and recognizes the building, and I did already start working on teaching her my street name, and it's super important for safety reasons for kids to know their address. But I'm nervous anyway. I told her teacher that I'm a little nervous about it, and we'll just figure something out, whether it's teaching her my address despite my nervousness, or teaching her her dad's address.

Or maybe dad will have moved to my big city by then?

Who am I kidding.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Adventures in Emergency Response

The email that I just sent to Sabrina's social worker, names changed:

Thanks for your call today. I didn't expect to need to email you again so soon after we spoke, however a serious incident occurred this afternoon.

I arrived at school to pick Sabrina up from aftercare, and she was sitting with her mother (and cousins). The school properly did not let [Mom] leave with Sabrina, but I do not know how long she was there. (Incidentally, it turns out that she does not appear to be pregnant.)

More seriously, she walked with us to my car, and when she saw that my car is messy (cereal on the floor, wrappers from string cheese), she called 911. She actually called 911 three times, all while standing next to Sabrina and preventing me from closing the car door. The whole episode lasted about 15 minutes (I'm estimating) and was visibly stressful for Sabrina (as it was for me). Additionally, Sabrina now believes that a messy car is "an emergency" for which it is appropriate to call 911.

I do know, in case it is significant, that the third time [Mom] called 911 she spoke with Officer Jones, badge number xxxx, and I suspect that she made a particular effort to note my license plate number. The first two times she called 911 she was unable to answer their questions or speak rationally; the third time I was on the phone with [Sabrina's attorney/GAL] and therefore wasn't licensing to what she told the dispatcher.

For my peace of mind, please let me know what you will be doing in response to this incident.

Thank you,

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Homework, part 2

The conservative estimate for time spent on homework tonight is a half hour. (As in, I think it was longer. It was definitely no shorter than a half hour.)

Sabrina got some sort of talking-to at school today about her homework not being done; I'm not sure if it was a "YOU NEED TO DO YOUR HOMEWORK OR YOU'RE GOING TO BE IN TROUBLE" type of talking to or if it was a "sweetie, you need to listen to your foster mom when she tells you to do your homework" type of talking to, but it's the only thing that Sabrina told me about school today.

We did most of her homework, meanwhile I forgot to cook dinner so we had cereal with fruit because if we get home at 6:30 and bedtime is 8:00 and homework takes over a half hour and I'm the only adult in the house... We skipped bathtime tonight because we just didn't have time. Tomorrow night the GAL is coming over so maybe she can help Sabrina with her homework while I make dinner. There truly are not enough hours in the day.

Now, if I could get the social worker to allow me to enroll Sabrina in my much better and much closer neighborhood school, we'd have an hour and a half extra each day plus she'd get to spend two hours with a babysitter doing homework and fun things instead of aftercare. I know that that the school year has now started already, but a week in shouldn't be too bad a time to switch, right? (I don't think I have any readers who think I foster "for the money" but in case I do: I just spent over $100 on school uniforms for the current school that she won't need if she switches to my neighborhood school, and aftercare at her current school is free but I would need to pay a babysitter if she goes to the neighborhood school. Still I want her to go to my neighborhood school for her own benefit.)

I need a second grown up in the house, and then I need that person to keep me on task, limit my computer time, and tell me when to go to bed. Because I really should NOT be up right now!

Happy first week of school!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Yesterday I mentioned the possibility that Sabrina's mom is pregnant. I don't think I have any "foster-parents-are-baby-snatchers" readers, but in case, I do, I just want to clarify that when I said that I am willing to buy a crib and do whatever I need to do in order to have the (possible) baby live with me, I mean that 1. IF someone else makes the decision that the baby can't stay with Mom and 2. IF the baby's dad is unknown or unavailable or 3. IF someone else makes the decision that the baby can't stay with its dad and 4. IF someone else makes the decision that another relative of the baby shouldn't have the baby, THEN I think it's important to do what is possible to keep Sabrina and any siblings together, so the social worker should be aware that I am happily willing to take care of the baby.

So please don't think that I am actively seeking out ways to get the baby into my hot little hands.

Monday, August 23, 2010


Pre-K homework was bad. Kids too young for homework, and then 4 worksheets a night? No way is that appropriate.

Kindergarten homework is going to kill me. Kids are still too young for homework. And what's up with no nap for 5 year olds in full day kindergarten? I went to half-day kindergarten and we had a nap period that was more than just putting our heads on our desks.

Oh yeah, homework. I have issues with it, but at least it is reasonable. (So far.) Practice writing your name. Write the letter A and a. Write the numbers 0 and 1. Okay, so Sabrina had a meltdown when asked to write her name, making the rest of it a little touch and go. (She wrote--traced, actually--her name once, not the recommended three times, and didn't write the letters OR the numbers.) But the rest of it. Oh, the rest of it. Cut out or draw three pictures of words starting with the letter A. Cut out or draw three pictures representing the numbers 0 and 1.

First: lawyer magazines? Great for words starting with A if you are an adult (ooh, there's another one): abacus (in an ad...and yet another one!), attorney (not obvious from the pictures but hey, it was a lawyer magazine), Alan Greenspan. Not so good if you're in kindergarten. (Here I insert another aside: I'm flipping through the magazine and come across the abacus picture. I say out loud "oh, an abacus. If I give you this one, your teacher will know that I helped you. Because five year olds don't know what an abacus is." To which Sabrina replied, "I know what it is." Me: "Really?" S: "Yes, it's like the monument." Me: "Oh close, that's an OBELISK." I'm on a mission to make Sabrina the only kid in kindergarten who knows what an obelisk is.)

Second: Lands End? Sells a lot of things that start with B. We'll be all set tomorrow. Today? Not so much.

Third: IKEA? Also not helpful.

Fourth: I don't have anything else with pictures. Really.

Fifth: Sabrina has this perfection complex so she won't draw anything because she "doesn't know how." I'm working on it, but it's slow. Anyway, I don't know how to draw an ant or an airplane either, so who am I to ask her to do it?

Sixth: We didn't even think about the math part of the homework because hello, zero is a really hard concept and, um, how do you draw zero other than in contrast to something else?

The rest of the week is the same: B, 2, and 3 on Tuesday; C, 4, and 5 on Wednesday; D, 6, and 7 on Thursday; and E, 8, and 9 on Friday. Because yes. It is kindergarten and they have homework on the first day of school and homework on Fridays.


Not what I was expecting from five

We went to the pharmacy to pick up Sabrina's prescriptions. As we were leaving the store, I noticed that she was holding a lip balm. A lip balm, I should add, that we didn't pay for.

I took her back to the pharmacy part of the pharmacy where she found it and told her that she needed to hand it to the pharmacist and tell her that she was sorry that she took it, that it was wrong, and that she wouldn't do it again. I seem to recall reading that this is how parents deal with their teenagers shoplifting.

But she's only five.


First day of kindergarten!

In no particular order; my brain is on ADD mode:

I took the obligatory first day of school photo, but it is on my phone and for Sabrina's parents only anyway.
We were late to school because the social worker scheduled Sabrina's annual physical for this morning. Only she didn't. It is on the 23rd of SEPTEMBER.
The system-wide school supply list bears little resemblance to the school-specific school supply list, at least for kindergarten. I now need to buy these additional items (most of which make sense, but weren't on the system-wide list): 2 folders, 3 composition books, 1 additional box of kleenex, and 2 bottles of hand sanitizer (which I don't think they should be using; sorry but I think a little bacteria every now and then is good for kids' immune systems). I don't need to buy, because I bought them already even though they weren't on the list, pencils, scissors, and paper.
I took today off so am sitting in a coffee shop. I was looking forward to this vanilla latte since Friday when I developed the plan to stay near school for the day. It's not that fabulous.
Sabrina's grandma called me yesterday and said that SHE wants Sabrina to go to the school near me. I agree but I do what I'm told. And I was told to enroll her in her old school. Where her new teacher, like her old teacher, doesn't know how to pronounce her name. There's no L in Sabrina's real name.
I don't know what the temperature is outside, but the sky is a nice clear blue. A good view from the window of the coffee shop.
While we were at our (basically) unnecessary visit to the doctor this morning, Sabrina was fantastically well-behaved. (She has been ever since she got back on Saturday afternoon. Yes, I realize I'm tempting fate.) I praised her multiple times; the last time she told me it was because G-d told her to be good. She told me that G-d is in her heart. She then asked me if I know G-d, then asked if G-d is a girl or a boy. That last was a difficult question to answer! I think she got some heavy-duty indoctrination* from her Grandma over the two months of the summer!
Sabrina keeps talking about getting a new baby sister. She was talking about a baby sister or baby brother at the end of last school year. Now it's more specific, only a sister, telling me what babies need (bottles, pacifiers, diapers, and car seats), wanting to knit something for her baby sister, and saying that her mom told her she would have a baby sister in 2 or 7 weeks. I think an email to the social worker is in order, volunteering to buy a crib and get licensed for two kids, if the plan is removal. (Since my boss, in my office of only five people, just had a baby on Saturday, it might be a problem to have two of us on parental leave at the same time, so hopefully 7 weeks is closer to accurate than 2! If there is, in fact, any baby at all, and if said baby does end up in my home.)
We did make use of being at the doctor's office this morning to get a new prescription for Sabrina's inhaler. The doctor gave me a prescription for quantity=2 so one can go to dad's house and one can stay with me, hooray!
It's amazing how un-crowded the walk-in clinic is on the first day of school!
I found my camera cord (under the dining room table; no, I did not clean at all until my frenzied mental health day on Friday) and there are some great pics of Sabrina that don't show her face!

She loves her construction set. She loves the trains even more, but all of those pictures have her face. She also loves the legos; but I'm still working with her on free-form play with the trains and legos. She is pretty insistent that they be "right" and she doesn't "know how to do it."

She also loves bubbles, but isn't so good at blowing them herself. Instead, I blow bubbles until I have a headache from the forced exhaling, and she runs after the bubbles to pop them. Or, like yesterday, catch them on her tongue. Yuck. It's nontoxic but I know it tastes bad; I got some on my lips when it dripped from the wand.

I hope that one eye only is confidential/private enough. I think this was her trying to catch bubbles on her tongue, though it wasn't yesterday so I don't remember. It might just have been her being uncooperative when I wanted to take a picture!

This is her in the dress I knit for her, that she doesn't like. I don't have any good pictures of her in it because she thought she looked "ugly" and wouldn't let me take any pictures. I thought she was going to grab the camera out of my hand after I took this one. I understand the feeling.

Sabrina loves smelling flowers. Every time we take a walk she stops to "smell the roses." Here they are actual roses; but she'll smell anything that's a color other than green.

*I don't mean indoctrination in its negative sense, but can't think of a less laden term at the moment.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Oh, Shabbat...

Sabrina came back to my house today! We had a great few hours, but that's not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about Sabrina's dad, and Shabbat.

There are many things that I don't do on Shabbat. One of those things is use the phone.

I happened to be right next to where my phone was charging, however, late this morning (we'll not talk about why I wasn't in shul), when the phone rang and I could see that it was Sabrina's dad. After all the chaos of the last few days, I wondered if he was calling to say "I don't care what anyone says, she's not coming back to you." But there wasn't anything I could do about it, so I just let it slide.

Fast forward to 9:30 this evening when I have finally gotten Sabrina in bed. I check my phone and see that I have NINE missed calls and four voice mails. Some of the missed calls were from numbers I didn't recognize. All four voice mails were from Sabrina's dad, as was the text message I also received.

Message 1: When is the first day of school? I want to be there.
Message 2, 10 minutes later: You really need to answer your phone. This isn't right.
Message 3, 8:43 pm while we were reading a story: Yeah, uh, I was just called to talk to [Sabrina]. You need to answer your phone.
Message 4, 8:46 pm, from Grandma: I just wanted to make sure that [Sabrina] made it there safely. G-d bless you.

Text message: When is the first day of school?

I texted him back saying that 1. school starts on Monday but the agency made her physical appointment for Monday morning, so we are going to be late to school and I don't know what time we will get there, and 2. I'm sorry I wasn't able to answer the phone today but we should be available tomorrow except when we are in the car. Hopefully that will appease him.

(Brief update on fun with Sabrina: 1. she definitely still wears a size 4. Her new PJs, size 5/6, literally fall off her. 2. I love how polite she is! 3. We had birthday cake--her birthday was Monday--and she now wants me to give away the rest of the cake so that we can make cupcakes :-) 4. I got no mosquito bites all summer until we went to the playground today.)

I now need to get myself to bed as I don't have any idea what time we'll be waking up in the morning!

Thursday, August 19, 2010


It is too late for me to be blogging, but since I needed to log in to this account to respond to a comment (hi Bryna!) I figured I should give a quick update on the clustercurseword that is Sabrina's relationship with the child welfare system.

School starts Monday (I hope that enough school systems start Monday that I'm not giving anything away about my location) and Sabrina has been with her dad all summer. Her birthday was earlier this week as well, so I called to wish her a happy birthday, see how she's doing, see if anyone had done ANYthing to prepare her to come back to me, make arrangements with her dad to pick her up, etc.

Sabrina has better phone skills than me and I am convinced is more polite than I am as well. What a sweetheart. Unfortunately: 1. someone (I assume dad) got her a Barbie car for her birthday so I have to do a lot to buy her love, and 2. no one had told her anything about needing to come back to my house. Nice, being the bearer of bad news.

Then I come to learn the reason why no one has told her that she would be coming back to my house: dad has done all sorts of things as if Sabrina is just with him for now and forever--enrolled her in school near his house (remember, he's in another state entirely), bought her school uniforms (I'm sorry, but any school whose uniform is a yellow top and green bottom needs to reconsider), registered her for piano lessons and another after school program--and when I tried to talk to him, he got snotty and then hung up on me.

As if that weren't bad enough, either he refuses to talk to Sabrina's social worker, or Sabrina's social worker isn't trying hard enough to reach him. So while dad kept saying (before he hung on me) "well, you need to talk to Wilma"--to which my responses were generally along the lines of "Wilma would say exactly what I am saying"--he hasn't spoken to her himself. As soon as I got off the phone with dad, I emailed Wilma, Wilma's supervisor, and the GAL (followed up with a second email after I received text messages from dad with the details of school/uniforms/after school activities and a statement that "maybe you should tell Wilma that Sabrina isn't the foster child for you") with the situation.

Guess who I did not hear from at all today? Guess who the GAL didn't hear from at all today? That's right, Wilma. The GAL spoke with the supervisor and then I spoke with the GAL. The GAL told me first that Sabrina is going to have to come back to me on Friday, which is fine although my apartment is STILL a wreck (I did finally get rid of the plants that were sitting, dead, on the dining room table when Sabrina was last here) and better for transition for Sabrina, but I don't know if the agency will ultimately agree. The GAL also told me--and this I was extremely relieved by--that the agency will have to pick Sabrina up from her dad's house and bring her to me. I expected to go myself, but after the call yesterday, I wanted to have "back up" with me to support my right to bring her to my house. And the GAL said I shouldn't have to go at all, yippee! I just need to make a list of the things that are at dad's house that Sabrina needs to bring back to my house. Like her inhalers. And the umbrella that I bought for her, and one of the two pairs of sunglasses, and the blanket I knit for her. I have no problem if things that I buy for her end up at dad's house, but I won't buy an umbrella a week or a pair of sunglasses a week just because Sabrina takes them to her dad's and then doesn't bring them back.

I still need to register Sabrina for school, and the GAL said I should hold off on enrolling her in my neighborhood school (if Sabrina goes to live with her aunt in a month or two, it does make sense--sort of mostly--for her not to have an extra school change) until we have a conversation with the social worker and her supervisor, but who knows if that's going to happen.

Even before this mess, I was talking to a friend who said I should tell the agency director about my troubles. But this friend has political clout in his job, and I'm just the local equivalent of a civil servant and have no professional relationship with the director, only with his chief of staff. So... who knows. I haven't made that decision yet.

I didn't miss Sabrina as much as I "should" have this summer, but I'll tell you what was really nice about her not being here: I didn't have to deal with the agency OR with her dad. It was nice while it lasted.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Free and Reduced Price Meals

Help! I'm filling out the FARM application for Sabrina (free and reduced meals, love that it's missing the word "price") and want to know what other foster parents do:

1. Section 1 of the application is for foster kids. It asks "the amount of this child's personal monthly use income." First of all, the grammar doesn't make sense to me, but more importantly, what does this mean? Is this "how much does the agency give you each month for the child?" Or is it "I'm 5 and am just a kid, I have no income"?

2. Section 4 of the application is parent/guardian info. I'm not the guardian, the agency is. And it asks for social security number. I naively don't have too many fears about giving out my social security number (at least in contexts where it makes sense) but am I supposed to fill this section out as a foster parent? And the piece about my income? What do you do?