Parenting Magazine

Transition Plan, Visits, and “Momma,” Oh My! (Catching Up-Part 2)

By My_writing_life @my_writing_life
Before I go any further with writing this blog I want to make a public statement that I promise to have more frequent updates…at least weekly. I’m almost caught up with the back story (I have one more lengthy post about our home visit), so by early March I hope to be on a more regular schedule with postings. Thank you for your patience, and happy reading!!!
Transition Plan As we started to create a transition plan with the social worker, our main concern was whether it would be in the best interest of the children to come down and live with us ASAP, when another hearing was scheduled for March 8th and re-unification with one or both of the parents was still on the table. It didn’t make sense to Jim or I to have the children bounced around from one home to another. But after speaking to several people in Washoe County; the social worker, the children’s therapist, and the District Attorney representing the case, they unanimously agreed that placing the children with us right away would be the best thing for them. At this point it was also pretty clear that neither parent would be improving their situation dramatically enough to warrant placement with them. Even after the judge ordered a three month extension on the parent’s behalf she was doubtful it would make a difference for either one of them.

After going back and forth a couple of times with Washoe County in developing a transition plan we had finally reached a decision. Jim and I would travel up to Reno on December 10th to spend a few days with the kids, then they would fly down to Palm Springs in early January for a few days to have a home visit with us, and by the third or fourth week of January they would be in our home permanently!

As you know, sometimes the best laid plans don’t always happen. Since we were driving up to Reno we had a keen eye on the weather as it looked like a blizzard was going to pass over northern Nevada and dump several feet of snow. Since the snow storm was becoming inevitable (remember, you can’t fool mother nature…even if she does wear a moo-moo and has daisies in her hair) we decided it best to cancel our trip and reschedule it for right after Christmas…and this time we would fly! With that, we flew up to Reno on December 28th and returned on December 31st.

Transition Plan, Visits, and “Momma,” Oh My! (Catching Up-Part 2)
Reno Visit Once we landed we checked into our hotel (Harrah’s in downtown Reno) to relax for a bit before we drove out to where the children had been living for the past year. We met up with the social worker and followed her out to the foster home. During the drive Jim and I wondered if the kids would remember us, since it had been a little over five months when we saw them last. As we pulled into the snow covered driveway we could see their little faces against the window and pointing at us. As soon as we walked into the mobile home Angelica’s face lit up and ran over to give us hugs! We were greeted by Ronald saying, “Hi Thomas, Hi Jim! Did you bring me present?”

They really did remember us, because in July we did bring them presents, but this trip we were empty handed. For a moment I think our popularity dipped just a little. But what we did bring with us were pictures of the two of us, as well as one of Humphrey, or as Ronald said, “Humpy!” Angelica used the more generic term of “puppy.” Since Humphrey is about 7 years old (he’s a rescue so we’re not certain of his actual age) I’m sure he likes being referred to as a “puppy.”

That evening we observed their night time ritual of having dinner and taking baths. We had learned that they both go to bed between 6:30-7:00pm and usually wake up twelve hours later!!! I think Jim and I were giving each other a mental high-five! The children had been working with a therapist in the home on a weekly basis since August, and she was there as well to give Jim and I some valuable insight into their progress and what works, and doesn’t work, in correcting behavioral issues.

The therapist (Kim) was extremely helpful during our visit, and continues to be a valuable resource to us! We agreed to be back at the foster home the next day at 9:00am to pick up the children and spend the entire day with them. So that night we left the foster home around 7:00pm a little more tired than when we arrived, and with an abundance of information we were still trying to process. Happy hour had been delayed by two hours…we had some catching up to do!

The next morning we got in a workout–we should have been reserving our energy–and loaded up on Starbucks! Heading out to the foster home that morning, I have to admit, I was a little nervous–okay, a lot nervous–about all sorts of things! This would be my first time driving around with two little ones in car seats (and it was snowing), making sure they were being taken care of, and having to change diapers! Who was in charge of making the decision that I/we were prepared to be doing this?!?! It was too late to turn back now because we had arrived at the foster home, and once again Ronald and Angelica were at the window waiting for us. A wave of anxiety passed by and gently caressed the sandy beach, rather than crashing hard against jagged rocks.

“Momma” When we walked into the mobile home we were greeted enthusiastically. Ronald said, “I go with Thomas and Jim.” And as soon as Angelica made eye contact with us her face lit up and she giggled with glee. She immediately ran over to me, wrapped her arms tightly around my knees, threw her head back and looked up at me with her big, brown eyes, and long eyelashes, and screamed “Momma!” The therapist was also there and said, “Well, I guess that has been decided now!” The next wave of anxiety had dissolved even before hitting the shore.

After spending almost an hour in the foster home it was time to load up the kids in the car and take off on our adventure. It’s somewhat challenging to come up with kid-friendly activities when there’s snow on the ground, it’s freezing outside, and you’re in a city where the main industry is gambling. But, we did find a kid zone in an arcade at a hotel/casino, which meant we had to pass by dozens of slot machines first (neither Jim or I are gamblers).

Once we arrived at the “gymboree” apparatus it was interesting to watch the two of them in this environment. First, they ran off into separate directions as though the other didn’t even exist. Second, Angelica seems to have no fear when it comes to climbing, rolling and sliding on anything she can get her little body onto. When it was time to leave it took some extra time to wrangle up both of them–kind of like trying to catch two chickens in a huge hen house! We had to get them lunch then take Angelica to her speech and occupational therapy appointment that afternoon. Oh, and somewhere in there we had our first diapers t0 change–Jim stepped up and did the first one, I just stood there and provided commentary like, “Ewwww…gross…I don’t know if I can do this.” The other thing we learned is when you have kids you need to add on a minimum of fifteen minutes because little feet and legs don’t move as fast as you think, and you need to build in wrestling time with the car seats.

After Angelica’s appointment, which ended up being 2 hours long (one hour of speech therapy, and one hour of occupational therapy), we decided to take the kids back to our hotel room to hang out until it was time to take them back to their foster home in time for dinner. Through their eyes our hotel room was “gymboree–part two” because there was bouncing on the beds, throwing pillows, and climbing on every piece of furniture in the room filled with giggles and belly laughs! And what we thought was Angelica playing hide and seek in the corner of the room turned out to be her taking a big dump in her diaper (diaper change #2–my turn!). When we told them it was time to go Ronald said, “I want to stay, Thomas and Jim.” It was apparent they both enjoyed spending time with us, which is a very good thing! But when we tried to explain it was time for us to take them back to their foster home, Ronald immediately dropped his head and checked out for a few minutes. We tried telling him we’d be back in the morning to spend the day with them again, but that didn’t help much.

Transition Plan, Visits, and “Momma,” Oh My! (Catching Up-Part 2)
Transition Plan, Visits, and “Momma,” Oh My! (Catching Up-Part 2)
Transition Plan, Visits, and “Momma,” Oh My! (Catching Up-Part 2)

Overall I would say our first full day with the kids went well, for all of us. But when we got back to the foster home in time for their dinner we were both exhausted! And once 6:00pm rolled around we were more than ready to get back to our hotel, have dinner, a couple of glasses of wine, and go to bed…and not necessarily in that order!

Day Two The morning of day two started out the same as day one–a workout, LOTS of coffee, and getting to the foster home by 9:00am. Once again, the children were excited to see us, as we were to see them. The therapist was there as well so we reviewed everything that happened the previous day. Ronald kept saying, “I go with Thomas and Jim,” and Angelica kept coming over to both of us for hugs. It was really heartwarming and sweet to see how attached the children were becoming to us. We left the foster home by 10:00am and continued on our journey in becoming future parents.

We decided to go to a “family fun center” (basically another “gymboree” type place) where there were multiple activities under one roof. When we first arrived it wasn’t very crowded, but one hour later there were kids all over the place. As I looked around at all of the kids, and all of their parents, it was at this moment that I could honestly see Jim and I as parents as well. Maybe it was the way I watched Jim play with Ronald, or how he would keep an eye out for Angelica (she’ll bump into something or fall down without any notice), that made me realize we could do this, and there wasn’t any other person I would want by my side to parent with. Or maybe it was the way other parents were looking at us, as though we belonged, or maybe it was because we really stood out in the crowd as two same-sex parents. Or maybe they were trying to send us telepathic messages, “Don’t do it! Your lives will never be the same! Next stop is Chuck E. Cheese!”

After the kids were done playing and eating lunch it was time to visit grandma (my mom), their older half sister (age 19) and brother (age 17) , and their nephew (who is almost two years old). Believe it or not, because of the (crazy) family dynamics, Ronald and Angelica are already an uncle and aunt! We had a nice visit at grandma’s place, and Jim got to witness the folded paper towels everywhere (if you’ve read or seen my play, “In the Fold” then you’ll appreciate this reference). Afterwards, we went over to the social services offices to have a meeting with the social worker and the therapist to review the past 2 1/2 days, and to discuss the upcoming home visit in two weeks.

By this time we were both pretty exhausted…I think Jim more than me, which was evident by him practically melting into his chair and struggling to stay awake and be an active participant in the conversation. The past couple of days were a lot of fun, but for two men who aren’t used to being around young children for extended periods of time, we were definitely wiped out! We kept reminding ourselves that when we have them in Palm Springs for a home visit it won’t be like this because we’ll be able to entertain them in our house (note to self…thoroughly childproof the home).

After our meeting we took the children back to their foster home. The drive home was bittersweet because we had become quite attached to these two little people…hearing them laugh, holding their little hands, and cracking jokes. One of my favorite memories is while driving in the car Jim created a cartoon voice and with it asked Ronald if he was a “stinky skunk.” Ronald replied back with, “I’m not a ‘kinky kunk’ you are!” Then I started to laugh, and Angelica started to laugh, and before you knew it the car was filled with laughter. But at the same time, Jim and I were both looking forward to getting back to our hotel room, having dinner, enjoying a couple of glasses of wine and going to sleep!

It was tough leaving the kids at the foster home that night, especially when Ronald kept saying he wanted to “go with Thomas and Jim.” Or he would say, “I see you tomorrow.” In our best adult to child translation we tried to explain that we had to go back to our home the next day but that very soon he and Angelica would be getting on an airplane to come down and visit us and to meet Humphrey! To a child two weeks can seem like a life time, but for two men, one barely hanging on to his late thirties, while the other is knee deep into his mid forties, two weeks is just right around the corner!

–Thomas L-L
Transition Plan, Visits, and “Momma,” Oh My! (Catching Up-Part 2)
Transition Plan, Visits, and “Momma,” Oh My! (Catching Up-Part 2)
Transition Plan, Visits, and “Momma,” Oh My! (Catching Up-Part 2)

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