This is my second year attempting the Flash Fiction challenge. The premise is simple; They give us (the entrants) 48 hours to write a story of no more than 1000 words. We are forced to write in a specific genre, featuring an item and in a specific location.
My first round assignment:
Item: Breath Spray
Location: University Dorm Room
We’ve been skating along in a state of mild shock for the last week and a half. Grace left our house on the 7th. I wanted to give it a week before I posted anything, and then I got sick and we went out of town. So now I’ve let it sit for too long, and there are many emotions all crowding to be in the same place in my head at the same time.
The other day, maybe about 3 days after she left, I came home and Leonard was kind of monosyllabic and mopey. He was able to articulate to me that he felt sad and a little empty without the girls around. Even in the last few weeks when Grace was spending a lot of time at her mom’s house, she would still come home from school, play with Ziggy and then go out. This broke up the monotony of the day at home and infused some life into the otherwise dull day.
It’s almost like we’re dealing with a mini-grief cycle. Of course she isn’t dead… heck, she’s less than 2 miles from our house. But she’s not our responsibility and she’s not in our home. The room is clean and empty and no terrible, terrible music is coming from behind her door. That feels somehow wrong.
She’s come by the house a few times, but always when I’m at work. Leonard hasn’t asked the “important” questions, like how things are going with her boyfriend or what kinds of rules the new lady has. The brief texts I’ve gotten from her seem like she’s doing o.k.
I’ve been missing Jill a lot as well. She did sign the papers for board extension (YAY!!!) which means that she has the option to move on to an Independent Supported Living program or some such situation. She will continue to be supported until she’s 21 as long as she meets certain criteria. I’m very excited about this, as it means she has a good chance now of getting through high school.
She also got a packet in the mail from a college the other day. This made me feel a little proud- it’s a rite of passage for many American youngsters, and it’s fun to think of something as normal as college mail happening to our Jill, whose life has been anything but normal.
In the meantime, we’re collecting the bits of our lives that seem to be scattered all around. We’re holding off on any major pronouncements or decisions about more foster kids until some loose ends are sorted out- probably not until mid-January at the soonest. So we’re looking forward to a low key holiday season while we make those changes to the house and then sitting down and doing some hard analysis of our lives and what we have going on.
Here’s the reality- foster kids are difficult. TFC foster kids are nearly 3 times more difficult. TFC fostering in the city means kids who have long term patterns of behavior and family dynamic that are not always healthy. It really is a full time job, and maybe not one we’re able to take on right now. We have to get Leonard through school and me where I want to be.
But there’s a lot we can do. We can do respite, which is desperately needed, and we can help agencies such as CASA. We can volunteer and advocate.
In the mean time, we can take a big, deep, breath.
This weekend we ended up putting Jill in respite at another foster home. She has really been behaving badly, mostly against herself. Last week she missed 2 days of school, and she has thrown away all of her medication. Our big concern is for her health- she is risking stomach surgery if she can’t/won’t take medication. She has also missed follow up doctor appointments, which are every two weeks now that she’s not taking her meds.
The tension from her end has been getting worse and worse. For the first week or two, it was just her and Grace was fine. Then last week, Grace started acting oddly as well. She would be fine for a while, and then suddenly turn belligerent, demanding and aggressive. It culminated in a fight on Saturday morning, where I finally confronted Jill about all the things she’d been muttering under her breath in my presence, or things she would say about us while on the phone with other people. She’s been telling everyone who will sit still long enough that she hates us and doesn’t want to stay with us, so after the confrontation on Saturday, I called the agency to request respite. Well, more like demanded respite. It was abundantly clear that I was making her angrier, and that she had really gotten under my skin.
This is why I’d make a bad therapist. I don’t know how to detach properly, and there’s a point with foster care that you need to detach. It’s virtually impossible to remember that when it’s in your home.
They left the house, but Grace came back by herself and wanted to talk about the fight. She tried to say that it had gone down a certain way, but when I challenged her perceptions on that she smiled awkwardly and admitted that she had been trying to stir the pot with us. She was very worried about why I had called the agency. She’s been in juvie facilities before, and is constantly concerned that she’s heading in that direction.
Though we were kind of looking forward to a week by ourselves, we decided to give Grace a choice. When we talked about it, Leonard and I, we determined that the main issue here is with Jill. Her total inability and unwillingness to talk to us makes it difficult to have anything more than a perfunctory relationship with her. That is not helpful to anyone, and a break would do us good.
Jill did not think it was a good idea. Despite complaining vociferously about our home, our food, our choice in radio programs and TV shows, when the worker arrived to take her to respite it took nearly an hour of cursing and thumping to get her ready to go. The worker who came to pick her up was lovely and patiently endured her verbal abuse. They left, but only after Jill very obviously and pointedly threw her medication in the trash.
We’re going to all have to sit down next weekend and discuss our options. Is it healthy for Jill to come back to our house? Is her behavior going to change, or will she just do the same spiral and end up in the same place? Ultimately, as we keep telling her, she gets to make a choice. At some point we have to let that choice happen.
In the mean time, we’re dealing with an odd form of empty nest. After having 3, then 2 and now 1 foster kid, when Leonard and I finally took an hour today to just sit down together and hang out, we thought for sure we were forgetting to do something. After the 6 months we’ve had, one teen foster kids hardly seems like we’re doing much at all!
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.
|Before! What the back looked like when we left|
|After! The amazing transformation when we came home|
Tonight I finally got some time in the “Quiet Room”. The baby is asleep, the girls are doing their own thing, Leonard’s out with friends. I kept remembering things I needed like my glass of water, the computer cord, etc. I finally got in the room.
I put my water on the table, plugged the fan in, sat down on the recliner. No sooner had my back touched the chair than I heard Jill calling my name
“Kitty, look. I found more of my books.”
“That’s great. Are these library books or books you’re planning to read?”
“Ima read these when I’m done with the other two. But look, see?” She fanned them out for me to see. Yup, they’re books. Romeo and Juliet, To Kill a Mockingbird and Speak. An average High School reading list.
“That’s great, hon. I’m glad you found them. Now I’m going to have a little time in here, ok?”
“Ok Kitty. But you know that if the curtain is open even a little bit it’s o.k. to come in and talk to you, right?”
I didn’t know that. Good to know.
It’s been over a week since I’ve had time alone in our crowded little house. It’s a typical three bedroom row home, but downscaled to be around 1,000 square feet. When we decided to become foster parents, we envisioned some younger teens sharing the space in the back room, probably on a respite basis at first and then maybe working towards permanent placement. We imagined that we’d do respite for a while, and then take on the full time gig, and then work our way up to adoption.
That didn’t happen. There is some background at this page: youcaring.com/fosterfamilyinneed. It feels very strange trying to do a fundraising campaign for our family. We generally don’t ask for help, sometimes to a fault. But now that we have the girls to take care of, it’s clear that we need more help than we thought we would.
It really is different being a foster parent vs. being a biological parent, especially when you bring a kid into your family who’s essentially already a fully grown human. Jill is 17 and Grace is 15. They’ve lived in more homes than they can list, and each been to over 10 schools.
Schooling is what’s on my mind these days. The superintendent just announced that unless $50 million shows up by the end of the day tomorrow, they won’t be able to open Philadelphia schools on time. That’s crazy making. See, with our son we have the luxury to take some time in the decision making process. We can work on him with early literacy, make sure we’re reading to him, make sure he’s being talked to using big words all the time. We can take him to enriching museums and events, get him science kits if he’s interested in them or toy kitchens or whatever. We can encourage his brain to think and analyze. We can plan whether he’ll go to a charter school or a homeschool, or even a private school. We have that luxury.
With Jill and Grace we absolutely do not have that luxury. Every time a kid moves schools, they loose approximately 6 months of education. They are both functioning way below their age, and one of them is dragging around a woefully outdated IEP to boot. Neither one of them can handle adversity very well. The slightest bit of bad news can spark a days long thunderstorm of moodiness and anger. But now that the schools are slated to open late and understaffed, we have to make some decisions. Leonard will be taking two classes, and otherwise will be home with the baby. But he’s got his own schoolwork to manage, not to mention caring for the baby. Does he have time and tools to tutor and work with two kids who need extreme academic support? Probably not. I teach all day, and really would rather not come home to a second shift. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a place where they could go and be taught by people who are trained to do this, in rooms full of other kids who are also learning the same things? Oh, right.
I just saw this article: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324823804579014773649474290.html
So our broke as a joke city is going to divert the funding into the schools so they can open with a skeleton staff “on time”. I never thought of myself as the kind of person who would flee the city to the ‘burbs. But the Philadelphia schools have been under State control since 2001, since before these girls were going to school. And if I know PSD hasn’t been able to educate them thus far, how am I to trust that they can fix the mess they’ve made in the next few years? Nope. We gotta get to a better school district. One more thing to worry about.
The good news is that the grey hair is all coming in in one spot. If I’m lucky, I’ll get a nice Bride of Frankenstein look going on…