Monday, April 30, 2012

Reflections on two deaths

Cheerful title, huh?

Andy's grandma died about three years ago. Decades of smoking had robbed her of her health and, interestingly, her voice, so that the last few years of her life she spoke in a whisper. (She also had always pronounced my name "Racial" instead of "Rachael," which I thought was funny, and I can do a spot-on impression of her whispering my name, to the general amusement of Andy's sisters.) She went into the hospital with some sort of lump, was operated on and sent to a nursing home to recover, and moved from there to a hospice. We were there a lot in her last few days, and Andy's younger sister was there with us one afternoon. His grandma had been mostly unresponsive, and occasionally would do this terrifying gurgling breath that the hospice workers assured us was normal and much worse for us hearing it than for his grandma. At one point, Andy's sister went over, sat on the side of the bed, took their grandma's hand, and said, loudly, "Grandma? I love you."

And their grandma whispered, "Love you too."

I'm almost certain those were the last words she said.

My great-aunt died on Saturday. She was 92 and was spry enough to have been driving until about a year ago. She was my family's matriarch, the great queenly lady who delighted everyone and held court wherever she was (and there was always a court around her - she had 12 kids). She went into the hospital with "a minor heart attack" three weeks ago and went downhill, then bounced back, then went downhill, then bounced back, then moved into home hospice care. Said great-aunt lives not too far from the Kid, who went to see her last week. Our aunt was slipping in and out of responsiveness, but wasn't reacting to much. But whenever the Kid's daughter, my perfect little niece, yelled or babbled or made noises, our aunt would struggle to sit up and turn towards her.

I don't really have a nice tidy reflection on this. My sister told me about our aunt trying so hard to respond to the little great-great-nice she adored, and it made me think of Andy's grandma talking to his sister. Life and death are interesting things, and love is pretty powerful.

The county said it won't be a problem for us to bring the baby with us to the funeral, even though it's out of state, so I'm grateful for that.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Life continues and I'm glad it's the weekend

Hello, the internets!

This was a busy week and I'm still tired. Being in training at work sort of fries my brain so I have less energy to deal with other stuff, like the new thing where the county says that if the baby's grandma and brother don't have visible symptoms, they aren't contagious, which is total horseshit, since they didn't have visible symptoms at their visit last week and the baby sure as shit got reinfected.

So even though I'm fried, I already have two doctors - my primary care physician and the dermatologist who finally diagnosed her correctly - to refute that claim willing to write letters or make phone calls on our behalf. I don't know if it was a dick move to go above the county's head like that, but hey, I'm not trying to go through this shit a fourth time.

Tonight I think we're going to dinner with Andy's parents, and then I plan to have at least two beers and get some solid sleep. (Fun note: I had two beers in a row last week and got a little buzzed. That hasn't happened since high school. Or maybe ever. Parenting has made me a lame-o.)

Thanks for reading this shit, dudes, and thanks especially to those who comment. It's nice to know y'all are there.

What are you up to this weekend?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Recipe for exhaustion

I have had a pretty draining week.On top of all this, on Friday we went to a bonfire at our friends' house, and yesterday we went to an art show (Andy had a piece in it) and hung out with friends we haven't seen enough of lately so we were out of our house for about ten hours in a row. While these were all awesome things to do and I'm glad we did them, it wasn't exactly the peaceful relaxing do-nothing weekend I was hoping for.

And right now I'm waiting for the baby to wake up from her nap so I can take her to the Urgent Care clinic, because we think she might be reinfected. Again.

I am really bummed about this, not just because it's disgusting and takes several hours of my life to treat, but because this will probably mean she can't visit with the grandma. I know the grandma is really, really trying, so this will be a big blow to her determination. But the fact is, neither Andy nor I are showing any symptoms, and I can assure you that I'm even more careful with treating the baby and her stuff than with our own. The only things the baby does that we don't are daycare, where they are super-careful and no one else has been infected at all, and visits with the grandma and brother.

Also, every visit means the baby is exposed to new germs, so she spends weekends all boogery and stuffy and it sucks. I know the visits are important, but last night she was so congested she kept spitting out her pacifier to breathe, and then fussing until we put it back in. This happened at least a dozen times between 1:30 a.m. and 7:30, when we moved her to our bed and could sort of stick the pacifier back in without actually waking up. This was a much better arrangement and we all snoozed until 10, but it didn't really make up for the hours of broken sleep. (And part of my brain is chiding me that this is our fault, because we were bragging yesterday to friends with a baby the same age that our baby sleeps through the night and has since she was six weeks old. So the universe is paying us back or something.)

Naturally, on top of all this stuff, I'm PMSing and so tired that I kind of want to cry. Coffee ice cream with chocolate sauce is helping a little.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Home visit

So Sunday my niece was born, Monday we had court and I started a new position at work, Tuesday I had a WIC appointment (always THE WORST), and yesterday we had a home visit with the baby's worker and also we brought dinner to my bro and his wife and the new baby twenty minutes away. Oh, and tonight we have dinner with my parents. Because of course we do. I am so, so glad that tomorrow is Friday.

So the home visits are scheduled for half an hour and are basically for the worker to confirm that the child is alive and the home is still standing. The old worker would stop in, say hello, ask if we had any questions, answer them if I did, usually check the baby's sleeping area, and then bounce. Yesterday the worker was here for an hour and a half.

This worker is pretty great. She answers all of my million questions and is way more forthcoming about information that might not be considered crucial for our case - like she'll share pieces of history about the brother's case or tell us about the dad's other kids' mom's situation - in a way that our first worker didn't. She also is really good at answering my questions about the process, so that's helpful in me seeing what possibilities are ahead of us.

She confirmed for me yesterday that there is very, very little chance that the baby will go anywhere between now and the scheduled court case in July. For her to go anywhere, the grandma's lawyer would have to petition the court to place the baby with the grandma, and I think there would have to be a hearing. The worker also reassured me that the county still wouldn't support that, even if her lawyer did petition the court (which is itself incredibly unlikely - it's just that I asked the worker exactly what would have to happen for her to go somewhere before July). The worker also told me that sometime in the next few months she'll talk to the mom about surrendering her rights. That isn't a likely outcome, but the worker says that the mom is doing very little to show any progress and might be persuaded to stop dragging it out. I asked what that would mean about the grandma wanting custody, and the worker said that if the mom voluntarily surrenders her rights, that removes the grandma from the equation. I did confirm that the dad would have to surrender his rights too (he's the adjudicated father, which means he has attested in court that he is her dad) and he might fight it because he's a pretty proud dude (and also because it gives him some power over the mom).

This is by far the longest we will have gone without a court date, which is really cool. We know we'll have the baby for my first niece's first birthday party. I can buy even more summery outfits for her. (Also, and this isn't a minor thing, I am going two months before my next WIC appointment instead of the every-month bullshit I had to do until now.) It is nice to think about our time together as a family doubling by July!

Do you guys have any questions about any of this shit, like the process or how it all works or anything? I'll answer if I can!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Two big days

So I started a new position at work today. I haven't even really freaked out about it. Much.

I think it will be a good move. I'm still editing, but what I'm working on and the process is pretty different now. It's a much more complicated and involved job, which I think I'll like. And the trainer and the boss for the new department seem a lot more in line with my communication style than my old boss, who basically just presented numbers and let you draw your own conclusions.

I also had two secret weapons to keep me from bugging about work today:

1. My brother and his wife had their daughter yesterday morning! She is perfect and chubby and squeaks like a mouse in her sleep. She was not expected for another week but my sister-in-law had an easy labor (SHE SLEPT THROUGH CENTIMETERS FOUR THROUGH TEN) and both the baby and the mama are doing wonderfully. In fact, Andy and I brought them Mexican food for dinner last night! We are so excited to finally have her around.

2. We had court today! The baby's mom is still contesting the allegations that brought the baby into care, so they set a pretrial conference and then the actual trial date today. So it's looking like we'll have the baby at least through June 12 (the date of the pretrial conference, at which they will give the mom yet another chance to consent to the allegations) and we'll likely have her through July 9, the first date scheduled for the trial. We also learned something from the worker this week that makes it sound like the grandma thinks that if she doesn't have physical custody of the child then she'll be out of her life completely, so we asked the worker to have a conversation with the grandma to the effect that if the baby stays with us (whether by county order or by the grandma realizing that it's too much for her to take an infant on top of everything in her own life) that we would like the baby's family to still be in her life - particularly the grandma, who is the most stable of the adults involved, and the baby's brother who is in the grandma's care. We brought a few pictures today for both the mom and the grandma (doubles, so they didn't have to share) and they were both very grateful. So it's super awesome that we'll have this baby at least another two months, but we know the longer we keep her the harder it will be if the judge orders her elsewhere.

She's snoozing in my arms right now, and I'm so happy to be holding her.

Andy and I are planning to celebrate my new position, our new niece, and the continued presence of our precious baby girl with some steaks on the grill and the the first Pimm's Cup of the season!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

My secret superpower

I have a special ability to prevent disaster.

Here's how it works: If I have my cell phone with me, I can be reasonably sure nothing terrible is going to happen.

If I forget my phone, I can be reasonably sure something terrible is going to happen., and no one will be able to get in touch with me.

This is why I left work this morning to drive home and get my phone, which I had forgotten. I'm sure you all understand.

(In fact, by the time I got my phone, the only missed message I had was a text message from my brother that consisted solely of DMX lyrics, for some reason. After I got to work, he texted me some Wu-Tang Clan. We have a special relationship.)

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Obligatory holiday post

We had a busy day today. It was our first holiday with a kid, and it wasn't easy.

First, we went to church for the first time since the kid got here. We sat in the church's Crying Room, because we didn't know how the baby would do in a new setting, and she was markedly the best kid in there. Because apparently "crying room" is now code for "loud rambunctious toddler room". There were about five two-year-olds running around screeching. The baby should have napped for most of the service, but was frequently startled out of almost-sleep by noisy kids.

Then we went to my folks' house for brunch. The baby does pretty well with my parents but it's still a change of pace, and my brother and his wife were there so it was extra stimulation and change. She napped about half as much as she usually does. We finally got her into a decent nap, and after she woke up we headed to Andy's parents' house.

We haven't brought the baby there at all. Andy's mom is a smoker and she smokes in the house, so when the baby first arrived, we had a very difficult conversation with her and told her we wouldn't bring the baby there if she still smokes inside. Andy's mom wasn't thrilled with our choice, but we think it's important for the baby's health and have stuck by it for three months. However, holidays are a little extra complicated. We didn't want to not celebrate Easter with his family, but we also didn't want to host a huge group at our house with a tired, overwhelmed baby. Andy's sisters were both in town, both with new romantic interests, and Andy's uncle and his girlfriend were there too.

I also had forgotten that FUCKING EVERYONE HAS AN OPINION ABOUT FOSTER CARE and we're expected to listen politely to all of those opinions. I got a little sassy at one point, because I am not interested in being lectured about this, but overall it could have been worse.

Now we're all fucking tired and going to bed early. Hope your Easter was restful and full of joy!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Just to make things more interesting...

We're considering getting involved with the interstate fostering/adoption of my cousin's half-sister's as-yet-unborn child.

I think it's pretty unlikely that anything will happen with this, but here's the situation: My favorite cousin is AC. She lives in Virginia. So does AC's half-sister, AG, who is not a blood relative to me. AG had a pretty tumultuous childhood and doesn't have the drive and determination that allowed AC to rise above that same childhood and become a successful adult. AG is pregnant, due in August, and woefully unprepared to be a parent. AC has brought up the subject of adoption, and AG was very resistant. However, AC and the sisters' mom think AG is simply not capable of being a parent, and think the child will likely end up in foster care.

That's where we come in. We have offered ourselves as an adoptive placement, if they think AG will be more receptive to an open adoption with someone she has at least met (she knew me when we were kids, but has never met Andy). If she is still adamant that it won't happen, we can have AC and their mom list me and Andy as a possible kinship placement if/when the child enters foster care in their Virginia county.

I talked to AC yesterday and officially offered our home as a placement for the baby. AC told me that she has envisioned that exact scenario as the perfect solution at least a hundred times since she found out her sister is pregnant. The family supports me and Andy adopting the baby, and with the distance (geographically and in our relationship) I'd be able to set better boundaries with AG than either AC or their mom might. Also, Andy and I are already signed up to parent children born to other people. We're prepared for this. Now that it's all out on the table, we'll work on a plan for this idea to be presented to AG (by AC or by me - we're not sure if she'd respond better to hearing about what foster care/parenting is actually like from me).

I also called the foster care office in their county today. I talked to a lady about how their county defines kinship placements (as in, are we close enough to be considered family?) and she reassured me that if the family names us as a kinship placement, they'll go with it. We also discussed how we could be involved if/when the child enters foster care several hours away. Apparently their county holds "family planning" meetings after a child enters care, and AC and the sisters' mom would have the opportunity to speak and to invite us as an already-certified possible placement.

So in addition to dealing with the current placement's super-complicated case, we're getting involved in another no-way-to-know-how-this-will-go crazy scenario. Totally a reasonable idea.

In real life, not knowing what's going to happen DRIVES ME NUTS. I hate not being able to plan. I think out nine million different scenarios and outcomes and can't fall asleep because I can't turn off my brain. But hey, another kid is being born into an unsafe situation, and this time we might be able to prevent a kid being dumped on AC by her unstable half-sister. So I'll call AC next week and we'll start planning.

Do you know of anyone doing a family placement? Or an interstate thing? Are we just plain nuts?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Operation Eradication

Welp, the baby got reinfected. And so did Andy and I.

I'm an optimist, so my reactions right now are as follows:

- The timing on this could be way worse. We had family visiting two weeks ago and people in town this weekend for Easter, and thankfully we don't have to worry about her contaminating anyone.

- Now that it's official, the worker can set all sorts of great new rules to make sure this doesn't happen again. The only complicating thing here is that the grandma will get herself and the brother treated, which is great, but will also let the mom come over before she gets treated, so that will probably mean no more visits with the grandma. That's rough, since the county is still working towards placing the baby there and we'd like the baby to at least recognize the lady, but I'm not willing to deal with a fussy itchy miserable baby every time there's a visit because the grandma refuses to abide by a COURT ORDER prohibiting the baby's mom from being at the grandma's house.

- It happened after only one visit. I knew the parents hadn't done the treatment properly, and I knew we'd get reinfected eventually. At least this way it's done quickly and I don't have to freak out every time there's a visit for months before we can actually start moving along with requiring these things.

So I took the day off yesterday for what I called Operation Eradication: the baby and Andy and I were all treated, and we did all the necessary treatment in the house. Our next court date is in two weeks, and I don't think visits will resume before then. (Of course I could be wrong on that, but it seems unlikely that family will do everything they need to by then.)

The worker did tell me today that this is one of her more complicated cases. There are a lot of people involved, all of whom are working different case plans (or not working those case plans, as the case may be), and there are a lot of factors at play that make it really hard to predict how things will go. I'm glad that it wasn't just me thinking that there was a whole lot happening with this case!