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Our May special dinner was a celebration of Victoria Day this past Monday.  Victoria Day is sort of the Canadian equivalent of Memorial Day, in that it is the “unofficial beginning of summer” holiday.  It recognizes Queen Victoria, who was queen when Canada became a country in 1867.

We barbequed brats (which we called “super hot dogs” for Simon, because he loves hot dogs and was suspicious of the brats) and had corn on the cob, baked beans (Heinz Maple Style, brought back from our recent trip to Windsor), Sun Chips, and watermelon.  Since Victoria Day celebrates both Queen Victoria’s birthday and the birthday of the reigning monarch, I made birthday cupcakes for dessert.

It was the lowest-key special dinner so far this year.  I admit, I slacked off.  We didn’t do any crafts or decorations.  We did talk about Victoria Day, more for Peter’s benefit than Simon’s.  I plan to do better next year.  Even though we live in the US now, we want our kids to grow up with a sense of their Canadian identity.

I decided not to go with the second foster care agency I contacted.  The woman there who I really liked from my initial agency research has been promoted to another position and would no longer be the person we’d be working with.  Also, they are estimating 6-9 months to complete a home study, which seems quite long.

I contacted a third agency, one that hadn’t been on my list originally, but had been mentioned positively by two people on the Michigan foster/adoptive parents Facebook group when I asked for feedback about the agencies I was considering.  The woman I spoke with was enthusiastic, knowledgeable, took her time to talk with me (we were on the phone for half an hour and she never gave the impression that she wanted to get off the phone and get back to working on something else), and asked good questions.  We scheduled a meeting for next Thursday.  She said she’ll call me to confirm on Tuesday (I needed to check Don’s schedule to be sure it would work for him), and told me not to worry if that time doesn’t work, because her schedule is flexible.  She asked me to send her a copy of our prior home study to look over before we meet, so she can get to know us (I joked, or at least who we were five years ago) and so that she won’t have to ask us detailed questions about things that were already covered and haven’t really changed, like family history.  All in all, I feel more comfortable with her than I did with the workers from the other two agencies, and I’m looking forward to meeting her next week.

No meeting today

I got an e-mail on Friday from the worker who was supposed to meet with us this morning.  He had to cancel because he had received a court summons.  He offered to reschedule, but didn’t have a free day until the week of June 8th.  We are going to be out of town that week, so it would be a month until we could meet.

This seemed like a red flag to me.  I was already not impressed that he had not responded to a couple simple questions I had e-mailed him after he sent me the questionnaires, ten days previously.  I don’t have a lot of confidence that someone who doesn’t respond to e-mail and can’t meet with me until six weeks after I made the initial phone call (if it even happened then) would be there for me when I really needed them.  I posted about it on a Facebook group for foster and adoptive parents in Michigan and asked if it was reasonable or not.  While several people did mention that delays and rescheduling happen, many people agreed that it seemed like a red flag and encouraged me to switch agencies.

I have contacted another agency, which was actually the agency I liked best after my initial research (I didn’t choose them before because their office is two hours away and the agency I first contacted is local to me, which I thought would be more convenient).  We’ll see how things go.

Last week, I called a local non-profit agency and told the young man who answered the phone that my husband and I had been considering fostering and possibly adopting for a while and had decided to move forward with it.  (In Michigan, foster care is done both by the state Department of Human Services and by various non-profit agencies that contract with the state.  There are four different agencies that we could have chosen to work with besides DHS.)  He scheduled a time to come to our house for an initial interview/orientation—he’s coming a week from today, on Monday, May 18th.

He e-mailed me two questionnaires to fill out and send back to him, one for me and one for Don.  One is 46 pages long and the other is 26 pages.  (I’m doing the longer one since I have more discretionary time.)  Both have personal questions; the longer one also has info about our home and community.  They are the kinds of questions we discussed with our social worker during multiple home study visits the last time we did this.  It seems a little strange to me that they would send them to us before even meeting us (though I got the impression that he sent them because we had already made the decision to do it and he wouldn’t have sent them to someone who was just interested in getting more information).  It’s weird to write out the answers instead of discussing it (though I assume our answers will be discussed in future meetings); it almost feels like they’re asking us to write our own home study.

I dug up our PRIDE training certificates and our old home study to copy for him (it was a challenge—I knew exactly where they were in our old house, but not where they ended up after we moved).  We completed 27 hours of pre-service training in Ontario, whereas Michigan only requires 12.  When I was researching agencies, the supervisor at this agency had told me they should be able to count our Ontario PRIDE training hours.  Flipping through our old home study, it was amazing to realize how much has changed in our lives in the past five years.  We’ve moved twice, Don has graduated and found a job, I am no longer working, D was placed with us and then left, Simon was born, we started homeschooling and then stopped, I left the Catholic church and rejoined the Lutheran church…

It took a year after D left us before I was able to consider adopting again, and longer for Don.  After what we had been through, it just seemed too risky.  However, even just after D left, I thought that foster care might be a good fit for us.  The fact that we accepted D’s placement with the intention to adopt him and then decided not to adopt him is the reason that experience feels so much like a failure.  If we had only been a foster family, without the expectation for adoption, our experience with him would feel like a great success.  We helped him grieve the loss of his birth family after he moved into our home, helped him maintain a relationship with his grandmother (which whom he had been living), helped him grow and develop in many ways, and helped him transition to his forever family.  Now that Don has made it through his first school year in his new job, Simon is three and somewhat more independent, and Peter is in school instead of homeschooled, we feel that we have the time and energy to support a child placed with our family.  Although we may decide to adopt eventually, we aren’t seeking a placement with the intention of adopting.  Foster care seems less risky to us and it’s still a way to have a positive impact on the life of a child.

Taking our first steps on this new venture calls to mind one of my favorite prayers, which comes from the morning prayer service in the Lutheran Book of Worship:

Lord God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown.  Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Totally tubular dinner

My apologies for the grumpiness of my last post.  Don has been gone all week for a conference, I woke up to a house that was 57 F because our furnace was acting up again, and I was not a happy camper.  Life is not really that bad.  In fact, since Peter started school, the weather has warmed up enough that I’m not constantly freezing, and Simon has become potty-trained, I’m feeling rather liberated. Anyhow, the point of this point is to share our special dinner for April, which we had last week.  I saw these rolled-up tortillas chips in the store and they inspired me to plan a meal of tube-shaped foods.  We had those tortilla chips with salsa as an appetizer, ziti and rigatoni as a main course, Go-Gurt (yogurt in plastic tubes) as a side, and filled cream horns for dessert.  We drank smoothies through straws (which are, of course, tubes).  I cut up a paper towel tube and Simon decorated the smaller tubes with markers and stickers to be napkin rings for our cloth napkins.  I found all kinds of neat craft ideas for toilet paper tubes online, but we only made two–a confetti shooter (which we actually forgot to use) and a little owl (which Simon loved because of its big googly eyes).  I feel deficient because I don’t have any pictures, but just know that it was cute.  I didn’t tell Don and Peter what the theme of the dinner was; I told them they had to figure it out.  It took a little while, but Don figured it out first.  All in all, it was a successful special meal.

Interminable winter

This is the view out my front window:

more snow 2

Yes, it’s April 22nd.  Most of the US is experiencing spring–warm weather, flowers, green grass, buds on the trees, all that good stuff.  And we’re having snow for the third day in a row.  We have had some warm weather–some very pleasant days in fact, leading to the melting of most of our long-accumulated snow.  But cruelly, the warm days don’t last.  They are interspersed with cold days, and right now we’re being tortured with more snow.

This has been such a long winter.  There’s the harshness of the weather that requires you to put on layers of protective clothing before you step out the door.  There are the hours and effort of the labor involved in shoveling, snowblowing, and plowing.  There’s the extra stress of driving in the snow.  There’s the discomfort of living in a poorly-insulated house and feeling like Sam McGee.  And there’s the stress of all the things that kept breaking on us–the used snowblower that Don bought, two different parts on our pellet stove, our dishwasher, our washing machine, our furnace.  I just want the winter to be over.  Unfortunately, I know that it’ll be back again all too soon.

You must do the thing you think you cannot do.  –Eleanor Roosevelt

Today was Peter’s first day of fourth grade.  Yes, we’re done homeschooling.  We went in on Monday, picked up the paperwork, got a tour of the school, and met his new teacher.  The secretary told us that Tuesday was Family Science Night, so we went to that.  We got to see science fair projects and physics demonstrations by university students, and Don got to see the school.  Yesterday we went in to drop off the paperwork and ask a few questions, and we ended up going to the classroom with Peter’s teacher because we got there just before recess time.  She answered my questions, showed Peter where his coat and backpack would go, and gave him some math problems to solve on the board to get an idea of what he knew.  So he was at the school three days in a row before he started today, which I think made him feel more comfortable.  He knows at least four kids in his grade (though only one in his class; there are three fourth grade classes), as well as a few kids in other grades, through Cub Scouts and our neighbors, which also helps.

Don drove Peter today, just because it was his first day, and he rode the bus home.  He’s looking forward to riding the bus both ways tomorrow.  I appreciate the fact that the bus stop is in front of our next-door neighbor’s house and Peter is old enough that I don’t have to go out with him.  As long as he gets out the door on time, it’s easy for me.

Peter seems positive about his experience so far and the teacher wrote a note in his agenda that he had a good first day.  We’ll see how it goes once the novelty wears off.  I picked a Thursday start so that he could go for two days and then have a weekend to recover before having to go for a full week.  As it happens, he gets spring break after that full week, and then a four-day week when he returns.  So it won’t be until mid-April that he has a second full week of school.

The first three days of this week I was focused on getting everything ready for Peter–filling out paperwork, buying supplies, visiting the school, etc.  Now that he’s in school, I need to shift my focus to figuring out what Simon and I are going to do with ourselves during the day.  I certainly haven’t been neglecting Simon, but I haven’t given him as much attention as I would have liked.  We’ll do more preschool-type things and more fun outings.  I’m confident that some days I will be totally fried by too much time with him, but I hope that overall, this change will lead to a better quality of life for all of us.

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