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I’m totally exhausted and cramming lovely, gingery carbs in my mouth like my life depends on it. It very well might. My ridiculous son will wake me up in about 6 hours, because he doesn’t understand about sleeping in. I rode the GIANT cargo bike all over town today.

This is a cargo bike:

Ok, so I wasn’t moving furniture, but the baby FEELS like he’s as heavy as furniture.

Essentially, it’s a bike that can haul a lot of cargo around. This is mainly practical, because we don’t have a car. At this point, we don’t have a car because of finances more than anything. Try grocery shopping for 5 people on a bus. The bike is better.

I rode all over town (including to one of Philadelphia’s finest gems, Smith Memorial Playground) because today was the day that Leonard and our friend Dustin built our deck. This is one of the goals of our fundraiser, which we are running in an effort to make our lives a little more manageable. 
One of the things we didn’t really think about before the girls came to live with us was the practical layout and space of our home. We had the bikes living inside, as is common for people in our sub-section of the West Philadelphia community. We have a woodstove that provides most of our heat and a nice, comfy couch that has seen a few too many dogs on it to be totally comfortable. 
Now we suddenly have two extra people who have their own needs, their own space demands, and the kinds of houses that they are accustomed to. This is another reason to consider being a respite parent for a while. You need to suss out what the kids in the age range you’re interested in need, and what your home can provide. If you’re used to living with your own kids, or maybe you’re empty nesters, you’ll want to go through a few respite placements just to figure out where the toy box goes or where the couch can expand to to accommodate teenagers and their friends. We knew we were in trouble when we had to figure out where to put their bikes. 
So today was the second step in that process: the deck. 
Before! What the back looked like when we left

After! The amazing transformation when we came home

The big foster parenting thing this weekend was about the battle between the girls. 
In total, there are 9 siblings that share the same mother and father in Jill and Graces’ sibling group. There are also 4 additional siblings that share one parent or the other. All of the kids are either in foster care or are now grown and creating children of their own. One of the younger siblings comes to stay with us from time to time for respite because she and her foster mom don’t get along. She is trying to stay there because she wants to stay with the even younger twins. So we give everyone a break, and it’s usually good. Tara is a generally polite kid, at least in small doses. We’ve seen things that lead us to believe she can hold her own in the Holy Terror category. 
Because all three of the girls were here, their mom wanted to see them. This is generally something that the girls set up and coordinate on their own, and we know little to nothing about it. This time, however, we got to hear all about it because Grace was furious last night because of some hurtful things her mom said. This is the second time in a row, and about the 20th time altogether that we’ve heard this from her. 
This leads me to the thing that’s been weighing heavily on me. What is the split/balance between foster parent and therapist? While our agency is taking it’s sweet time getting her a therapist, I’m walking around with her at night for 2 hours while she dumps on me all of her issues. On the one hand I want to say “I’m happy to do it. I’d love to help her out” while on the other hand, my heart is screaming “noooooo! i need more bleeping time to myself!”
Either way, I ended up walking her around and we got incredibly expensive popsicles. They were delicious. All day she’s been really on the ball, really helpful and thoughtful. 
Then we had this conversation:
G: Kitty, I talked to my mom tonight. See, Jill had talked to her and asked her to tell me to call. 
K: Really? Ah. I see. 
G: So I talked to her. I didn’t want to at first, and first when she started talking I didn’t say nothin. 
K. Mmmmhmmm. 
G. So she said “why you tellin them that I been mean to you. i ain’t been mean to you, and i been sad all day”. But Kitty, I don’t believe her. I don’t think she tellin the truth. 
THere was more. She told me the whole conversation, but it goes around in circles. Basically, Grace was looking to me to show her a reaction. How to respond, behave in this situation. I think she handled it very well, actually, by not saying anything and giving the phone back to her sister. 
She was looking at me with her big, brown, innocent eyes. It’s remarkable to me sometimes how childlike she can really be. So I told her the truth. 
The truth was that right then, I didn’t know what I could or could not say. As a foster parent, I have to keep my own emotions, biases and feelings out of the game there. Clearly, I am upset when I see the girls upset. I obviously have biases that lead me to judge their mom. I try not to, and I try to offset my judging by finding the positive things the girls learned from her and repeating them, almost like a rosary. 
So I told Grace that. I said “I am not saying anything right now because I don’t know what to say. I have to be careful, because I don’t want what I say to be played into a war between you and your mom. I am going to trust you to do what your instincts tell you is the right thing to do. Last night you had a lot of examples of behaviors that made you feel one way about your mom, but maybe tomorrow you will have a different list. Ultimately the decision is up to you. I trust you to make a good one.” 
She stared at her toes for a bit, but I think it made sense to her. And it’s all true. I also stated to her that I trust her to make the right decision, and hopefully implied that I’m here to help her if needed. 
I wish I could pass along a similar message to Jill, but I’m afraid she’s in a place where she can be the adult to her mom. I think it makes her feel good to provide worldliness to their mom. This almost automatically makes me the bad guy. But i’m honestly fine with that… She’ll figure it out soon. 
I’m now so tired I can barely see to spell check. I will try to do a mid-week post this week!