Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Most Exciting Post EVER

First pee in the potty, today! (Harper, obviously). I have never been a prouder mama!

And then, at lunch today, there was this:

Me: "Harper, did you make a mess?"
Harper (emphatically): "NO!"

Ummm, I hate to pick nits, but I can't imagine how you could possibly cover more square footage with your lunch, kid.

At least she's having a good time.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Sorry for the blog hiatus as of late. We’ve been busy. Really busy.

For those of you who don’t know, after years of talking about it Brad and I have decided to become licensed foster parents. Not the pet kind, either. Fostering actual human children. It’s a pretty big step and one we do not take lightly.

We had settled on fostering kids aged two and under but, because of Harper’s age, our agency actually recommended we start with infants. I guess they really have a need for families who can take newborns because they require so much care. That works for us because I’m at home full time right now.
For some reason these are posted all over the interior of the Licensing Agency. 
The process is a long and arduous one and meant to weed out those who aren’t fully committed to following through. Steps we have completed thus far follow:

1.     Orientation. 75 or so people (most of whom I would not trust to care for a potted plant let alone a child) packed into a warehouse-like “conference room” with chipped, pale –yellow painted cinderblock walls and cement floors for 2+ hours while the facilitator go through a power-point presentation (read: monologue) covering fascinating topics such as What is Foster Care? and What is Abuse?  Your only respite; the frequent sounds of people answering their cell phones because no one bothered to ask the audience to turn them off before starting and, apparently, it is completely beyond some people to think to do so themselves. Or you can start filling out a stack of paperwork that basically allows total strangers to run all sorts of background checks on you and delve into your personal finances. At the end you get to (read: are not allowed to leave until you do) pick your licensing agency (read: Mouth of God) which forevermore dictates and scrutinizes every minute detail of your previously private home life. Not that we would have it any other way Camelot Community Care of Hillsborough County (a licensed 501(c) 3 not-for-profit business) (whom we affectionately refer to as  “Big Brother”).
I'm pretty sure this guy was sitting next to us at orientation.
2.     Model Approach to Partnership in Parenting (aka MAPP) Classes. We did expedited private lessons because Brad’s schedule would not allow for the free ones provided by Camelot Community Care of Hillsborough County (a licensed 501(c) 3 not-for-profit business). In fairness, we probably had it easier than the people who do the regular 13 week course by doing it all in 3 sessions over one weekend. Still, they were excruciating. You flip-flop between hearing heart-wrenching stories about the ugliest abuse imaginable (our instructor had worked in therapeutic care with older children who had severe emotional and behavioral problems) to the most tedious details about how which agencies are responsible for what, to broad, over general reviews of Psych 10 (Hello Maslow!  Hello id, ego and superego!). But a week after you finish you get a fancy piece of paper with your name on it, so there’s that. 

3.     First Consultation Visit. A social worker comes to your house to hand you another much more in depth stack of paperwork (ours is about an inch and a quarter thick). And all the paperwork you filled out in the first round?... it’s back! (of course, they want you to fill it all out again and send it different places this time). They also do a quick tour of your house to make sure you don’t have a meth lab currently in operation and that you are not an (obvious) sociopath. Plus they give you a radon kit so a state lab can test your house. We totally passed! Yay us! (I mean we passed the sociopath thing. We’re waiting to hear back about the radon. Fingers crossed!)
Just fill this out and return it to our office within the week. 

Steps we still have to complete (Please note that these are the steps that I know of. It is very possible that additional steps exist that I have not yet been made aware) :

1.     Fill Out Inch Thick Stack of Paperwork and Return to Camelot Community Care of Hillsborough County (a licensed 501(c) 3 not-for-profit business). This is not as easy as it sounds. Besides the little hiccup we are dealing with now (which I will discuss in depth in a future post) you are required to list specific references (i.e. two neighbors, your boss, etc.) who are then sent packets of their own to fill out. The trick is that the references we list must complete and return their own packets or else we don’t get licensed. No pressure, though.

2.     Health Inspection. It doesn’t sound so bad but for the fact that an actual Health Inspector will come out and give our house the white glove treatment. I have been forewarned that ridiculous hoops we are required to jump through include keeping all medications and cleaning products under actual lock and key, installing fire alarms in every bedroom (although we already have one in our hallway and the alarms, once installed, will literally be in a 3½ foot radius of each other), making sure that no item of food has an expiration date that has passed (Hominy? Canned mackerel? I honestly don’t even remember buying this stuff.), having screens made to fit our antiquated and pre-standard sized windows so no baby can fall out (Who opens their windows in Florida?!?!?! Seriously, the weather is terrible here!), and my personal favorite,  drawing a blueprint of our house with all fire escapes clearly marked and then laminating and posting a copy to the door of each bedroom so that any pre-ambulatory infant in our care will be able to find their way out of the house in the event of fire.
The health inspector gives these out for FREE! And liberally!

3.     Make a Safety Plan. I’ll get into this in a future post, after I have calmed down. But in the meantime you can picture me shaking my fist at the heavens while exclaiming, “Arrrggghhhh!”.

4.       Get Fingerprinted. Easy enough.

5.       Health Exams. For Brad and me to confirm we are healthy enough to be caretakers.

6.     Home Visit. This is the soundtrack for the Home Visit: Or it might be this: Either way this is the one that freaks everyone out because your social worker comes to your home, splits you and your significant other up and proceeds to interrogate you about every detail of your life Guantanamo Bay style. 
We just have a couple of questions for you, Ms. Booker.

7.     Second Home Consultation Visit. To confirm we’ve righted all the wrongs discovered in the first home consultation visit.

8.     Officially Become Licensed Foster Parents! As exciting as this is, it’s tragic to know that we have been told to expect to receive a call the day we receive our licensing because there are so many kids in the system.  

And it’s just as easy as that! Wish us luck!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Breaking News

An airplane suffered engine trouble this morning and was forced to make an emergency landing in a local neighborhood, further complicating a tragic multiple-vehicle accident involving several vehicles including a cement mixer, fire engine, tractor and school bus. Horrifically and for reasons not yet made clear, the school bus wasn’t filled with school children but with WILD ANIMALS which then poured out on to the highway to wreak havoc among the wounded passengers. The commotion alerted various species of invasive dinosaurs which are now actively hunting the survivors.... and driving the occasional vehicle. They leave a trail of carnage and horror in their wake, the likes of which this reporter has never before witnessed.

This is Leah Booker, reporting live from Harper’s bedroom.


Saturday, September 1, 2012

(More) Conversations With a Toddler

Our home was featured in a documentary today.

Harper was keeping me busy this morning. I was trying to get us ready to go to her art class but every time I turned around she was getting in to something and I’d have to clean it and her up. After mopping her breakfast up I found her smiling atop a mountain of linens (including every single one of her blankets, quilts, receiving blankets, sheet sets and crib pads) in the middle of her bedroom floor after she had surreptitiously removed them from her armoire. Exasperated, I decided to call Brad at work to discuss things.

Me (on speaker phone): “Brad? I would like you to speak with your daughter about making messes.”

Brad: “Did she make a mess?”

Harper: “Yes! Mess. Dirty, yucky.”

(Brad stifles laughter in the background throughout the remainder of the conversation)

Me: “What kind of a mess did you make?”

Harper is silent and avoids eye contact.

Me: “Harper, did you make a mess?”

Harper (proudly): “Yes! Blanket mess!”

Me: “That’s right. Blanket mess. What other kind of mess did you make?”

Harper (pointing at the blankets scattered everywhere): “Blankie! Blankie!”

Me: “Yes. Blanket mess. What else?”  

Harper: “Cheerio.”

Me: “Cheerios and milk mess?”

Harper (proudly): “Yes!”

Me: “Yes, that’s right. What other mess did you make?”

Harper: “Snake mess!”

Me:  Snake mess?"

Harper: "Yes!"

Me: "Well, I haven’t found that one yet but that sounds exciting. What other mess did you make?”

Harper is silent.

Me: “What about the crayon mess? Did you make that?”

Harper (vehemently): “No.”

Me: “No?" (explaining to Brad) "I am looking at crayon on the table and bookshelf." (to Harper) "Who did that?”

Harper (resolutely): “The crayons!”

(Brad starts guffawing)

Me: “Brad…”

Brad (collecting himself): “Don’t make messes, baby.”

Harper (coloring the window sill with a stray purple crayon nub): “OK. Bye daddy.”
This is what I imagine a snake mess would look like.

In other news, Harper has been learning how to swim! We priced classes but just couldn’t swing it so I’ve been Google-ing and Youtube-ing toddler swim tutorials and have been pleasantly surprised with the results.  

I mean, she’s no Michael Phelps (yet) but she’s catching onto the basics pretty quickly. (Despite the fact that I don’t know what I’m doing) she can hold her breath underwater for up to 10 seconds in a row, is pretty good at orientating herself underwater, will swim towards the steps or me, will put her face underwater to pick up her toys off the steps and can creep along the sides of the pool. She is TERRIBLE at jumping in (she jumps straight down so that I am terrified she’s going to hit her head on the edge of the pool) and will not float on her back (I’ve tried every trick I can find and nothing works. She just shrieks like a banshee and won’t relax. Tips are appreciated). But other than that she’s a lean, mean, swimming machine.

Just look at her go!
It's hard to tell but this is about a nine foot swim.

Daddy! Quit filming already and get in this pool!

After we got home from our afternoon swim today Harper was a little chilly and absolutely insisted on wearing her brand new T-shirt (which was purchased in haste this afternoon following an epic ketsup mess after art class), warm socks and, in lieu of pants, a towel, which she originally had fastened about her head. Now she is all wrapped up like a warm and zesty little toddler burrito, watching her favorite video while I make dinner.
Doesn't she look snug as a bug?
 At least I know she’s not making any snake messes. For now.