The weekend

What an amazing weekend with “Catelyn” we had.
Such a beautiful baby.
And I don’t mean just a cutie pie.
But, smiled at everyone, talked herself to sleep, talked to me until I woke up during the night for feeds, very relaxed about being cuddled by lots of people. My favourite thing had to be, every time I walked in the room she would turn and smile at me.
She had her signs that we were able to pick up on quite quickly about what she needed, so it made understanding her different sounds easier to identify.

I got to do some of the things I’ve always wanted to do.
Sleep interrupted nights.
Take baby shopping.
Take baby to visit farm.
Learn to dress a wriggling worm.
Gag on poop smells…seriously, how do they make that smell? They’re so small!
Laugh at the tri-coloured poop…thanks mum for introducing her to banana after she’s had pumpkin. It was the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. Poop normal colour, with added layers of bright orange and then yellow. I just wanted to feed her beetroot and blueberries. Would we get a pink layer and a blue layer or would it come out a pretty purple colour??

MM was fantastic. He knew how special this weekend was for me. So he let me do as much of the looking after as I wanted as he’s had his own babies. I feel a bit guilty that I monopolised “Catelyn” but he assures me, that he was happy to watch me have my special time.
The first night when I was woken up by “Catelyn” I woke up MM to help me get her bottle and sit with us while she ad it, but the next 2 nights, I figured I’d have a go at doing it solo. No point both of us being tired during the day.

Babies hardly ever need respite care and there’s already a lot of carer’s who do emergency care just for babies, so we generally get the older kiddies, which is totally cool, but it was so nice to have a bubby for a change.

To MM
Thank you for never telling me I was doing things ‘wrong’.
Thank you for taking this journey with me.
Thank you for letting me have this super special weekend.

To my awesome PSW
I don’t know what strings you pulled to make this weekend happen for us, but thank you…a million times, thank you.

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How was your life different before becoming a foster carer?

Quiet.
It was oh so quiet.
I worked more hours.
If I wasn’t working, I slept in on weekends.
I had more time to read.
I owned more M rated movies than G, and now it’s the other way around.
I spent less time googling how to raise children and more time looking at fashion online (I’d rather shop online than in store, those lights in the fitting rooms…arghhhh!)
The photos on my computer were mainly of my niece, now there’s hundreds of photos of “our babies”.
Life was about working and paying bills.

Now,
It’s about giving the kids that come into our home a great weekend.
It’s about working less and living more.
It’s about giving the kids life skills they can use for the rest of their lives, whether it’s cooking time, or helping them manage their anger, or just having a laugh.

Do I miss the extra money from working the long hours I did?
Yes, a bit, but…

I think I’ve finally found the work life balance that works for me.
I love what we do, and wouldn’t change a thing.
Falling into bed at the end of the day, whether it’s been a fun day or a testing day is so much more rewarding than any job could be, and that’s from a woman who love’s her work.

What’s the biggest difference in your life since becoming a foster carer?

It gets better

Little “Terrance” was only with me for 36 hours.
A short one off respite placement so his carers could go to a wedding.
I spent a couple of hours in tears after he went home. I wondered if I had it in me to do this. By this I mean, foster, give them back, get attached, have my heart broken.

I am blessed, I don’t have lots of friends but those I do have are amazing.
With friends living all around the country we stay in touch online, so I got onto Skype. Hopefully, someone would be around, and they were. There were a few around, and they knew that I’d had my first placement so they were waiting to hear how it all went. I was able to chat to them and cry at the same time. It was so good to be able to talk to friends and with their help I was able to focus on the awesome weekend that I’d just had and not on the sadness I now felt at the little man going home. By the time I spoke with my support worker the next day I was feeling much better about the situation.

About 3 months after this placement the agency that supports me had their annual Christmas Picnic for families and I was reluctant to go, not yet being a “family” (MM was living interstate and as I don’t do long or short term care I didn’t really think I belonged) but, with some encouragement from MM I went. Best thing ever….thanks MM for pushing me to go.

When I got there I was told “Terrance” was there. Where he was playing with his new family was pointed out to me, but I thought I wouldn’t intrude. I really didn’t think he would remember the lady he spent a day and a half with.

An amazing thing happened shortly after arriving. The little fella run across the picnic area to come and give me a hug. His first words to me “When can I come for another sleepover?”

All afternoon he kept popping over to see me. He even brought 2 of his bio-siblings to meet me.

I just don’t have the words to explain how awesome it was for this little man to not just remember me, but to also give me a hug when he saw me and when he was going home, and to ask for another sleepover. Words just can’t explain the feeling adequately.

“Terrance”, thank you for saying hi to me at the picnic. That small action from you means the world to me.

What’s your most memorable moment from your first placement?

A time for us

Well, the weekend is drawing to a close and we’ve had a lovely kid free weekend.

Don’t get me wrong, we love what we do, but we also love each other and know that to keep our relationship strong and ourselves fresh for the kiddies, we need to take time out. We can’t be the best carers we can be if we’re running on empty, and I can tell you, some of the kiddies run our tanks pretty empty.

The kiddies we provide regular respite for generally are special needs or have some seriously challenging behaviours, after all, that’s why their carers need respite isn’t it? So, it’s important that we give ourselves time to recharge as well.

So what does a weekend without kids look like for us?
Well, there’s no point in having a weekend off if we spend the whole weekend doing chores.
We’ve slept in, visited my parents, had actual conversations with my parents and with each other without the little interruptions, done some chores and today, we’ve spent a good chunk of the day on the couch watching movies together.

What’s your favourite thing to do when kid free?

Terrific Terrance

“Terrance” was my first respite placement, and like all first ‘babies’ will always hold a special place in my heart.

I was so nervous. My first placement, and a boy. I wasn’t even sure I knew how to entertain a little man for a weekend.

I had planned so many activities for the weekend and we stayed busy. Busy kids aren’t bored, and non-bored kids don’t whine.

We did jigsaws, baked gingerbread men, made mini pizzas, went to the park, made things from the making box, and that was just the first day. The second day included a trip to the farm, patting all the animals, playing soccer, hiking around the rocks, before coming home to print out pictures and make a photo book of all of the things we did for the weekend.

My highlight of the weekend had to be when he went to bed, I know, all you parents think that’s the best time of the day because that’s when they are quiet, but for me it was different.

I was told by his ‘mum’ that he could take up to 2 hours to go to sleep and because he was not going to be with his foster brothers I was warned, he would probably cry for a while about being lonely.

Well, bedtime arrived after his favourite dinner and movie and I prepared myself for a long couple of hours.

He got himself ready for bed, and chose a book from my collection for story time and without any requests for more drinks, stories, toilet trips he snuggled into his bed and I read him “The Very Cranky Bear” by Nick Bland. We said goodnight , I turned out his light and not a peep was heard from him.

About 20 minutes later, I couldn’t help myself. I tiptoed up the stairs to peek into his room, and he was out like a light. What an amazing feeling. This little person that normally has sleep issues, fell straight to sleep. I can tell you, it was the best feeling in the world.

“Terrance”, thank you for the best introduction to respite care.

Tell us about your foster care role

What age do you foster?

We foster children from birth to 12 years

What type of care do you do?

We started with respite care, just weekends, giving long term carers a much needed break.
We did this for about a year.
After a year were touched by a story in the news that prompted us to look at doing emergency care as well.
We have now been doing emergency care for a few months as well as our regular respite placements.

Length of time?

We have now been providing care for about 18 months, and loving it!

Ahhhh. Weekend off

What a night.

We’ve just returned home from an information evening held by the agency we foster through.
How exciting, MM and I were invited along to chat to people about our experiences as foster carers, and, they gave us chocolates as well!
Talking about what we love and chocolate.
Does it get any better?

Well, I thought for a change, I would get MM to write a few words about tonight as I’m still far too excited, and will ramble on for hours.
Now to go get him….Oh MM…..

OK. Here goes…. As previously mentioned, we went to an info night for potential Foster carers. The Ladies holding the info night went through some of the details that the visitors needed to know.
We got introduced and got asked a few questions and we replied with gusto about all the wonderful things that have happened to us since we started foster care.

There were 3 couples there tonight and all of them asked questions of us and I’m sure they could see the passion we have in what we do. It was the same in the intermission, a couple of the people wanted to ask us more questions, which was good also.

All in all it was a good night, the potentials did seem interested.

It was nice to be asked along to say things from our point of view, and for that we need to thank the agency for the opportunity. – MM

Many thanks to our support worker for all of her ongoing support, to the agency for all of their support, and for the opportunity to share with others.

Next on our agenda, a weekend off.

Time to relax, reflect and for me to come up with at least one “MM, I’ve been thinking…”

The generosity of strangers

What a day *contented sigh*

We went to visit my parents today and a friend of theirs popped by to drop off some things that my parents are going to store for them while they’re moving.

This lovely man, that I’ve only met a couple of times before, and MM has never met, asked if we knew anyone who needed any beds as they had some kids beds to get rid of.

Well, we’ve been thinking about getting a third bed, to give siblings a choice of having their own rooms when they stay here or to share a room, so this was a great opportunity. We would have been happy for Mr and Mrs B. to just drop off one of their choosing to my folks, but no, we had to go round to their house and choose. So, off we went.

When we got to their home, we explained why we were looking at another bed, and next thing we know we have a ute full of things to bring home.

Seems they like what we’re doing with foster care (it appears as though Ma and Pa have been raving about all our babies) and we came home with :

  • Single Bed
  • Trundle Bed
  • Bike
  • Ride on car for little kid (think Fred Flintstone style)
  • Hundreds of $$ worth of clothes, swimwear and sleepwear for girls in various sizes, some brand new with tags still on
  • Boots and rain boots in various sizes
  • Hats
  • Books
  • Kids out door chairs

 
I have spent all afternoon and evening smiling at MM, and, I will confess, I’ve gotten a bit teary too, at the overwhelming generosity of these people. We asked how much they wanted for everything that they have given to us, and the answer was, No, just give it a good home, the kiddies need it and anything you don’t want or need, pay it forward. And we will.

Mr and Mrs B….you are amazing people and your kindness today for the little people that come into our home has made my cup runneth over. I wish you all good things and on behalf of the kiddies that will get the benefit of your goodies, Thank you.

Thank you so very much.

More testing….really?

I really thought we were onto something.
Bribery, or as I like to call it… an incentive scheme.
It worked the previous night so why shouldn’t it work again?
Well, that was the theory.
Isn’t it a shame that children aren’t like in a text book?
Have a theory, put it into practice, wave your magic wand and hey presto, problem solved.

In this case, we told “Blake” about the incentive for going to sleep straight away, well before bedtime. Lunch at his favourite takeaway place and time to play in the playground. He was excited, so I foolishly thought we were in for an easy night.

Ba-dummm. Wrong answer.

An hour. Yes, an hour of howling. If it wasn’t so annoying it would be hilariously funny. He howls for a few minutes, stops, listens for our reaction, then starts again.
We checked to make sure he wasn’t in distress, that the little fella was actually ok, and he seemed to be. No actual tears, no runny nose, no red puffy eyes, no blotchy face and when asked, he couldn’t tell us what was wrong.

In 18 months of caring, we have only had 2 other criers, and both had reasons we could understand and help them with. This one is a mystery.

We even tried chatting to him the next day when things were back to normal again.
Maybe we were missing a step in his normal bedtime routine.
Had a last drink and loo trip … check
Bed time story … check
Night light on … check

It is indeed a mystery.

Anyone with any thoughts would be most welcome. Many heads make for less howling right?

Just horsing around

What an adventure.
“Blake” was really looking forward to horse riding at the farm, after all, he’d done it before….apparently.
Pa had the horses in the house paddock when we went to visit which was just too tempting for “Blake”. As soon as he was out of the car he wanted to race over and pat them. We managed to get him to race inside, say his hello’s and then he raced back out. Guess we weren’t going to get a cup of coffee anytime soon.

It turns out our little “expert” rider has only been on a pony before and as keen as the little man was to get up on a real horse, the experience wasn’t what he was expecting.
It’s a long way up.
Poor little man, so keen and excited, only to get up on the horse and then beg to taken straight back down. It was hard not to laugh.

My niece (Miss 6) was there, and she just loves riding, so she was next up. Laughing and waving as she was lead around the paddock. She went so far as to ask for no seat and no pedals (saddle and stirrups).
Well “Blake” wasn’t going to be out done by a little girl, so to his credit he asked for another go.
Up he went again, and this time, he did a few laps around the paddock. Pa leading the horse and one adult on each side of him as ‘catchers’ in case he fell.

You could tell he wasn’t 100% happy up there, but he stayed up for a while with lots of encouragement from us on the ground. We were really impressed that he got back up. That takes guts. Go “Blake” !!!

Then it was my turn for my second riding lesson. We like to lead by example, so MM was already on a horse and trotting around looking like he’d been doing it for years, and me, well I’m the entertaining one to watch. All can say is Henry….you are an amazing horse and I love you for putting up with my non-existent riding skills.

If watching me get on Henry wasn’t funny enough (We had to find something for me to stand on so I could reach to put my feet in the stirrups) then my dismount was something straight out of spaghetti western or cartoon. The advice from Pa was to quote Buzz Lightyear “fall with style”…not exactly the advice I was looking for.

Step 1 – remove feet from stirrups
Step 2 – lay on horse
Step 3 -swing right leg over horse and slowly turn body so I was laying sideways across the horse (imagine dead body across horse in a western and that was me)
Step fall, I mean 4 – Slide / slither down the side of Henry until my feet hit the ground
Step 5 – Give Henry a HUGE hug for not moving a muscle through this entire process.

If sore muscles are directly proportional to the fun we had….then we had LOTS of fun.