I'm sorry I've been neglecting my blog. I'll try to get back into the habit, maybe even into the habit of writing daily... but I have to go now.
I'm sorry I've been neglecting my blog. I'll try to get back into the habit, maybe even into the habit of writing daily... but I have to go now.
They were right to do so--- it was a horrid mess, though not as bad as some I've seen (no feces anywhere, and both my kids and our clothes were clean)--- but they chose a terrible time to do it, as Youngest had just come home from surgery to reset his broken right arm, and his pain was tormenting to both of us because he refused to take the medication given us for his pain.
Two years ago.
We've come a long way since then.
I just hope we don't have that long again until my sons come home to me.
I’m too freakin’ tired to go into all the details, so here’s the cliff notes:
Court was scheduled for 10:30am February 28th.
We got in around 11:15am (at least I think it was?).
STBX’s attorney was MIA.
My attorney suggested the following case go first while STBX’s attorney is found.
We all retreated to the gallery, except for my attorney, who had a client in the following case as well.
I knit 1.5 rows of my first shawl during this time, with my counselor Dan seated beside me. I quietly pointed out to him that my STBX was sitting behind us in the back row, in case he hadn't recognized my husband. Dan responded, "You knew you'd have to see him eventually," or something to that effect. I just nodded.
We resumed our seats in front of the judge, with my attorney between myself and STBX.
The attorney for DHS explained that DHS wants the plan to change from guardianship to adoption, and my STBX’s attorney stated that STBX supports this, and that he is willing to sign off his parental rights in order to do this.
DHS’s attorney asked Anastasia a number of questions after she was sworn in…
… and then the judge asked why the guardianship still is not in effect when it was requested a full year ago?!?
Neither Anastasia nor DHS’s attorney said a single thing while the judge reamed DHS for a full five minutes.
My attorney introduced evidence showing that I have improved since the last court hearing, pointing out that many of the examples of my failings used by the ‘prosecution’ occurred prior to the last court date, and got Anastasia to admit that I have not repeated any of those behaviors since then.
She got Anastasia to admit that even though it says in the court papers that I’m supposed to be involved in my sons’ treatment, I haven’t been allowed to be involved. Anastasia insisted multiple times that the service providers are the ones insisting that I not be involved since my sons aren’t living with me… but she had to state for the record that it has not been by my choice that I am not involved with my sons’ treatment.
She also got Anastasia to admit that my current home is now considered to be not just at community standards, but above community standards as far as cleanliness is concerned (thank you very much!), which was confirmed by Dan when he took the stand.
Dan testified that I have only missed one appointment with him in our roughly 1.5 years of my treatment with him, and that that was due to a transportation problem on my part.
He also testified that I have made significant improvement in dealing with my hoarding and collecting and with my anxieties.
All the attorneys questioned him, and oddly, many of their questions had to do with my parenting abilities, none of which he treats, and he patiently repeated that he could not answer that because he does not work with me and my sons together.
The kids’ attorney asked about my finances, which Dan explained that he does not deal with my finances, but that I have been working with Vocational Rehabilitation in an effort to go back to work so that I can keep stable and safe housing.
STBX’s attorney asked whether I have a storage unit, and how much money I spend keeping it. Dan stated that he does not deal with my finances, but that I have gotten rid of many of my things, including things I’d not before been able to let go, and that I’ve made significant progress in not collecting more items.
Dan explained that I have a problem with being rather literal/concrete in my thinking, and the opposing attorneys all wanted to know how I could be a good parent to my high-needs sons if I have such a high IQ but have to have things explained so concretely… or something to that effect. Dan explained once again that he cannot testify as to my parenting skills, since we don’t work on that, but that I tend to over-think things and miss what is actually meant by the things said to me.
Dan also explained that I do not intentionally defy rules or try to get around them, and that got all their knickers in a twist as well. ::giggles::
After Dan was excused, Anastasia brought up the letter which Older Son’s counselor wrote last October--- the one in which this counselor, who has never seen me work with my sons in a parenting capacity, recommended that Older Son be adopted by my SIL & BIL and have extremely limited and only supervised contact with me--- and the judge asked where to find it (in the six-inch-deep stack of case files).
Nobody could find it.
I waited a couple minutes while all the attorneys and the judges searched through their files, then nonchalantly opened my briefcase and slid out my copy of the letter--- me, the one who supposedly can't keep anything straight in order to parent my sons!--- quietly placing it in front of my attorney, who glanced at it but said nothing.
After a couple more minutes, I whispered to my attorney, “Should I bring that up to the judge so she can read it?” She looked at me and whispered back, “Stop helping them! You can help me, but don’t help them!” I grinned and responded, “That’s what I thought… that’s why I waited before asking you!”
Everyone else gave up searching for it after another couple minutes and moved on.
My attorney brought up that I want to be involved with my sons’ treatment, and that I want to repair the relationship with my sons' foster parents, so she’s requesting mediation for myself and the fosters, as well as more involvement with my sons’ treatment… or at least education about their issues so that I can better parent them.
The DHS attorney tried once more to insist that adoption is the better choice for my sons, and this set off the judge. She was definitely not happy with DHS!! She was very calm and articulate, but she made sure they understood in no uncertain terms that they had presented no evidence regarding my sons’ treatment over the past year, other than the letter written by Older Son’s counselor (which someone finally found a moment earlier!) and that she saw only improvement on my part, and that DHS is not doing their job, and she was not going to choose a different permanency plan when DHS hadn’t even completed the last one!
STBX’s attorney made it plain that STBX still supports the adoption plan, and he’ll support the guardianship plan, but he does NOT support a return-to-home for my sons. Surprise, surprise, surprise.
The judge’s final say was that my sons will stay where they are, in the same holding pattern, for 90 days, when we will reconvene in her court. There is to be mediation set up between myself and the fosters. And (I THINK--- I’ll have to clarify this with my attorney next week when she’s back from the East Coast) DHS is to arrange for me to start being educated about my sons' issues.
Again, I may have missed something. I apologize. I'm still waiting to get my copy of the court report, which probably remembers things I don't.
Also, I am exhausted, and I have to get up early for a meeting with my Youngest son's therapist... the first one in roughly a year!
I took that step this morning, when I filed for my divorce.
I was stressed, nervous, and flustered, certain that I hadn't all my paperwork filled out, but I figured I'd have someone official tell me what I'd missed.
They did, and sent me to the courtroom labeled "Ex Parte" to request that my filing fees be waived.
Traveling by bus, and having to restrict the items with me in order to make it through security, I didn't have my normal backpack... which made it awkward to carry everything. I had my briefcase (which is roughly twenty years old now--- yikes!) and a small basket with me, as well as my raincoat, which fortunately has a lot of large pockets. But I hadn't expected to need to remove my sweatshirt due to my overheating in the courtroom while I waited... and juggling all of these items as well as the papers I needed in-hand made for a difficult time on top of my stress. The sweatshirt landed on the floor more than once, remarkably remaining folded each time.
The judge spent several minutes reading the paperwork I presented him, his expression a cross between puzzlement and disbelief and becoming more pronouncedly so with each successive sentence. He asked me only one question: "Are you filing this today?"
I gulped and said, "Yes... if I can."
He waived my filing fee.
Next, along with a younger woman whom I vaguely knew from yesterday's visit to the Family Law Center, I was led downstairs by an even younger lady who I guess was a law student. As we walked down the stairs, she explained what was to happen next.
Naturally, I forgot every word she said.
We found ourselves in a line in front of the filing clerks' desks. I did some spindle-spinning, shuffling my basket and briefcase along the floor as the queue made its way forward, one person at a time. The girl who'd brought us down soon deposited two more people behind us, telling them the same thing she'd said to us. As she left, I said, "I'll bet you say that to everybody."
That brought a few chuckles from others in line.
Finally it was my turn at a window. The girl behind the counter looked at me expectantly.
"Um..." My faulty memory held nothing. "I'm not sure what I'm doing..."
She remained calm. "I don't know what you're doing here," she pointed out, not unkindly.
"Oh." Something clicked. "I'm getting a divorce. I just got the fees waived."
She got my name and retrieved the papers that the judge had signed, then stamped, stapled and wrote the case number on various papers. Then she asked if I had copies of any of them. I hadn't, nor did I know which ones I needed to have copied... and she couldn't tell me, because that's considered "giving legal advice."
I paid $5 to get copies of all twenty pages. *sigh* But that was the end of it.
I had finally filed my petition for a divorce from my husband of twelve years.
Then I went downstairs to the Family Law Office, to have the clerk there verify that I had everything else filled out.
While I was waiting, I overheard a young man talking with the clerk about his having mailed the papers to his wife, who was in jail in another state. He'd made the mistake of mailing them directly to her, instead of to a sheriff in that county, and thus he had no proof that she'd been served. So he needed to have her served again... and in the meantime, she'd been released from jail and had vanished.
I made a mental note to ask specifics for my own case.
When it was my turn, the clerk carefully explained that if I have the sheriff serve my spouse, I will get my proof of service. (Whew!) She made a number of copies for me, had me sign a few more places, made notes of what I needed to do next (like serving a second set of papers to the Child Support Department, or whatever it's called), and then as I gathered my papers, she asked me to read off the case number so that she could enter it in her computer. I did so... and we both stopped, frowning.
We both remembered the last number differently.
We double-checked all the papers.
More than half of them were labelled with the wrong last number, as compared to the court number written on the receipt of my fee waiver.
The Family Law clerk corrected them quickly, and agreed that I should go upstairs to make sure the clerk there had caught her mistake. I pointed out that I did not want to go through the whole routine all over again simply because one number was written incorrectly (!), and hurried upstairs after thanking her profusely.
I was just in time. The clerk who'd filed my papers was just leaving, and I ran to catch up with her. After I quickly blurted out the problem, she immediately turned back, indicating that I should return to her window. She found the papers quickly and corrected them, thanking me for letting her know. I wished her a good weekend, and she laughed softly, murmuring, "Oh, you have no idea!"
I didn't ask. I just thanked her again and left the building.
I called my BFF as I strode toward Pearl Street. I explained that I needed to serve the papers on the Child Support Division (or whatever), and then I was free for the day. We made tentative plans, and I told her I'd call her after I was done serving the papers. I started down Pearl Street toward 7th, according to the address I was given on a Post-It note.
Two blocks later, a scruffy-looking older man called to me, asking if I knew the local bus routes. I hesitated, admitting I didn't know them very well. Very seriously, he told me, "I missed the bus. Maybe you can help me find my way. Which bus will take me to Hawaii?"
I broke into a slight grin. "Oh... I think your best bet would be the Greyhound bus down the street here," I told him, shaking my head as I chuckled.
One of his companions agreed. "Yeah--- they have those floaters now..."
At this point, I suddenly realized that I'd been walking the wrong way--- I was nearly to 10th Street, not 7th. I reversed direction, wishing the men a good day as I went.
The building I needed was across the street from the courthouse, as it turned out, and I was done with my task within five minutes. I called BFF again, and we hammered out plans to meet at the Target on West 11th in an hour. I strode to the nearby bus station (the local bus, not Greyhound) and boarded the Number 43.
Seated on a bench in front of Target, I pulled out my spindle and started drafting out the merino batt I'd brought with me. The sun was warm on my face, and I was grateful I'd brought my sunglasses. A man crossed in front of me... and slowed.
"That's really neat!" he said, smiling. I smiled back.
He sat down next to me. "Do you know how to sew?"
That caught me off guard. "Um... a little?" I admitted.
"I need the pockets fixed on my work jacket."
Nonplussed at the apparent implication, I stopped spinning. "I don't have anything with me to be able to fix it," I finally managed.
"Oh, I don't have it with me anyway," he told me blithely. "How do you tie a knot?"
I considered that carefully, wound the working single around my spindle shaft and put it away. I pulled the cord closure of a small bag out of my basket and showed him how to tie a half-hitch. He asked if a square knot would work, and I allowed that it would, as would several half-hitches in a row. After he suggested that he would then use the needle up the side of the pocket, I recommended that he go up and down the pocket sides several times, stating that the more stitches he put into it, the more secure it would be in the end, and the longer it would last before he had to repair it again.
He looked at me with wide eyes. "That's good to know. I was just going to go up it once."
I'd suspected as much.
He got up then, and I pulled out my spindle again. He commented again about my spinning, and asked what I would do with it, so I gave him a wee spinning demonstration, finishing up with a brief example of plying. He bent close to look at the resulting yarn, smiled, and said, "That's cool. Thanks for helping me." And he continued into the store.
The rest of my day was rather tame after that. BFF brought me home, and I took Lucy for a walk, then started split pea soup in the crockpot. I called my first stepmom and broke the news, and she offered to go with me to talk to the sheriff in Marion County. I then called Dad, and he said he'd send me money to cover the service fee and gas funds to drive up to Salem early on Monday morning, to make sure the papers were received by the sheriff's office so that my soon-to-be-ex-husband can be served as soon as possible... or at least before Friday.
My split pea soup was a fitting reward for finally filing. I truly enjoyed it for my supper tonight.
It'll be even better tomorrow.
Fourteen hours later, at 4:45pm, my firstborn child slid into the world... and was whisked away without anyone telling me whether I'd had a boy or a girl! My sister ran after the retreating nurses, saying, "Wait! What is it??"
The need for speed was because the doctor was afraid the baby had breathed meconium into those wee lungs, so the special respiratory team needed to suction out every possible bit of foreign matter before the infant drew a breath. While they were doing so, my sister took a quick photograph, then hurried back to tell our mother and me that I'd had a baby girl.
Great blackmail photo, let me tell you--- all you can see is her swollen genitals, her legs, and the oxygen mask over her face!
We've had our ups and downs, to be sure. But I don't know if I'd change a moment of them, because my daughter is a force to be reckoned with, a strong, vibrant young woman who knows what she wants and isn't afraid to express her opinions.
Beans, Nana-berry, Hobbes, my little girl with the blonde brain (another long but excellent blackmail story!), I love you so much, and I am so proud of the woman you've become in spite of all the trials of your young life.
Keep up the great work, Beans!
Before I go on, just know that I am fully aware that you're not supposed to publicly post your child's name on the internet, for fear some internet predator learns it and starts stalking. I'm always warning friends and family about that very danger, and normally I follow it to the T (in case you hadn't gathered by the names Youngest and Older Son). However, his is a fairly common name, and since I'm not sharing any information beyond his first name, and since his last name is not the same as mine, I think it's okay to impart this wee bit of information, just this once, for the sake of this post.
Besides, I have to have blackmail material for when he starts dating, right?
Danny is like many children--- inquisitive, compassionate, and independent. He loves life, loves his family, and loves trains and firetrucks.
But he does not like that second letter in his name. And so he insists on spelling his name "Dnny."
It's actually rather comical, and I like the way Dnny looks when it's written down. His foster mother said once, "I don't know what the letter A ever did to him, but he does not like it when we spell his name with it!"
I've asked him several times over the past few months, "So, Danny, how do you spell your name?" And his answer is always the same: "D-n-n-y."
But I know that he needs to be able to spell his name properly, so I finally decided to ask him about it. This ended up being asked during a visit when his older brother was sick, so it was just Danny and me, playing with Legos on the floor of the DHS office.
"So, Danny, how do you spell your name now?" I ventured while fitting a neon pink brick into the wee house I was building.
He grumbled, apparently disliking the question. "D-n-n-y."
I cocked my head to look at him. "Why don't you spell it D-a-n-n-y? That's the way it's supposed to be spelled, you know."
"I don't like the 'a.'" SNAP went another piece into place.
"What don't you like about the 'a?'" I prompted, struggling with another Lego that refused to go where I wanted it.
He continued building the rocket launcher in his hand. "I don't like the way it looks. Teacher won't let me write it the way I want to write it, so I don't use it at all." He reached for a piece, and I handed it to him.
A light bulb flashed into brilliant life in my head. "You like the big letter 'A,' but not the small letter 'a,' is that it?" I queried.
Danny nodded, not looking at me.
I put down my half-finished house and pointed out where I have his name tattooed on the inside of my left ankle, all in capital letters. "So you like it when it's written like this?"
He stopped what he was doing (which is a rarity for him!) and took a long look. "Yep. That's right." Then he resumed retrofitting his rocket launcher.
Now I'm wondering whether this has been explained to his teacher, or if I can talk to her about it. While I understand why it's important for him to know the difference between upper case and lower case letters, I do not think it's important that he spell his name with lower case letters if he can demonstrate that he knows how to write them when necessary.
Smart little rascal...