Remember when the Army had a commercial that said “we do more by 5 am than most people do in a day?” At least I think it was the Army. It may have been one of the other armed forces, and if it was, I’m still pretty certain that the statement would apply to any of them. There is no harder working group of people on earth than our military. So believe me when I tell you that while being a parent is tough work, I do not mean to marginalize the hard work the U.S. Military does on a daily basis. Having said that, the slogan did occur to me on more than one occasion this past looooong weekend.
Labor Day Weekend is typically a weekend that we take an extra day off from work and pay tribute to the contributions and achievements of American workers. Translated: It’s a weekend where we take Monday off and get that one last back yard BBQ in before the weather turns. It essentially represents the end of Summer to most. I’ve discovered, however, that to a parent, it really means another day with the kids. Now, sometimes this is great and sometimes it’s just plain tiring and you find yourself asking, “what exactly is so bad about work?”
With the above preamble, you have probably guessed which type of weekend we had. Ya, it was a bit tough. It actually started on Friday afternoon. The last four days of last week, the mom had been picking up ‘T’ from school and spending the afternoons with her. Friday afternoon, however, we get a call from her telling us that she picked her up but a block away from the school, the front right axle of her car had snapped. Since it was a front-wheel drive car, this is a problem. I immediately ran up to help and got there to find the car up on a jack (one of the neighbors helped) with the wheel just hanging there in the middle of the street blocking all in and out traffic. Meanwhile, the mom had gotten a call from the social worker telling her that she needed to meet right away if she wanted to keep her kids. She said she could take a bus and I told her I’d deal with the car and sent her on her way.
I spent the next 45 minutes, while waiting for the tow truck to arrive, directing traffic, telling larger vehicles that there was no way through and that they’d have to turn around, helping a school bus back out to the end of the street so she could go down to the next block (after telling the three cars behind her to turn around), getting yelled at like it was my fault and generally dealing with the frustration of others. The tow truck could have gotten there in five minutes and it wouldn’t have been too soon. I gave him the keys, arranged to have it dropped off at the auto shop for the weekend.
It’s been decided that the car just needs to be scrapped. I am disappointed because I was hoping that with the recent repairs, she would at least be able to get six months or so out of it. Unfortunately, there was no way the mechanic could have known that the axle was going to break. I informed the mother that the car needed to be trashed and it’s at this point that she mentions to me that she does not have the title (and is not sure she can get it). Unfortunately, I think that in cases where cars are fairly old, they change hands a number of times, but the title does not follow along. I am fortunate that the mechanic is a friend of mine and offered to let me tow the car there until we could get it towed away for good. In all likelihood, we will have to call it in as an abandoned vehicle.
After getting back from having the car towed, I arrived home to take the three boys to spend the weekend with their birth-mom. As I was loading up the car, the caseworker pulled up with the 4 kids’ mom. I was on a schedule so had to leave.
I guess, I left the part out where Jessica had to deal with the social worker earlier in the day. Because I don’t really feel like going back and editing, I’m just going to throw it in here that the social worker who had been called several days before came for a visit to talk about the situation. It turned out that there was already an open case on mom and the four kids and she was following up on it. After talking with Jessica for about an hour, an action plan was developed. Mom would be given two weeks to find a place to live or the kids would go into foster care. Jessica explained that while we’d have kept them, there were just too many challenges for us to overcome; no designated permanent sleeping areas due to the attic not being done, age range (our goal has always been to bring in an older sibling group. Having nine kids with seven of them being five or under was something we always knew we would not be able to balance for any extended period of time. We’re discovering we were right on that), and the fact that these kids have been given very little to no structure in their lives meant that they just are not a great fit for us at this time. The case worker was more than understanding; even told Jessica we were angels and that in all her time doing social work, she had never seen anyone do what we’ve done. She even told Jessica that her first thought was, “Who does that other than relatives?” Of course, when she saw Jessica, she knew we were not related (don’t MAKE me explain it to you).
So, back to the evening. After dropping off the boys, I got to talk to Jessica a bit about the second visit. Apparently, mom signed all the papers stating she was aware of the guidelines set forth and that she would make her best effort to follow through. Additionally, visiting hours were set. She would be allowed to visit on weekdays between 3:00 PM and 5:00 PM. Because we had issues earlier with her not sticking to a schedule or showing up after picking ‘T’ up from school until bed time, we felt that established visiting hours were a necessity.
That night, the mom texted Jessica several times explaining her need to become a good mom and wanted Jessica’s advice. Strangely, though, she never really asked for ANY advice. Jessica felt it was a way for her to try to ask if she could live with us (no) and when Jessica brought up some helpful things, the communication stopped.
And, oh ya, Friday was Eli’s first day of cat-sitting for some neighbors. We needed to fit that in, somewhere. So, while Jessica was putting the kids to sleep, Eli and I walked down and fed the cats.
Kids went to bed and Jessica and I marked “Day One” off of the count-down. We knew the weekend was going to be long and grueling with no help since Ashley only comes on the weekdays.
To be honest, I don’t remember much of Saturday. Since their arrival, with the exception of a few nights, I have been sleeping downstairs on the couch with TJ. My reasoning is that hopefully Jessica will get more sleep and that when he wakes up for his nightly feedings, he does not wake up the other two little ones sleeping in our bedroom (keeping in mind the others are now 14 months and 20 months). Of course, Jessica still has to get up a couple times a night because neither of these two are really good about sleeping through. So, really, neither one of us are getting a lot of sleep at night.
Saturday morning it was just the six kids with ‘A’, ‘N’, and ‘A2’ at their birth-mom’s. It was BLAZING hot and humid out, and frankly, we didn’t feel like doing much of anything or going anywhere. So, the idea was that we’d just hang out in our air-conditioned home (we only need A/C about three weeks out of the year, but we sure are glad we have it when we do!). At first, I had some grand scheme about walking the neighborhood and picking up trash but man, it was hot and MAN was I tired. Jessica and I tried to explain to the new kids that they could play with the toys, but we wanted a nice, relaxing, calm day.
I don’t know how, but throughout the day, Jessica was able to feed the kids and get their naps in. During that time, Eli and Brenna came out of hiding and hung out with us. I’m sure that we did some other things during nap-time but the day was a blur. I do remember a dance party, though. It’s a tradition in our house; our way to get the kids to get the wiggles out before going to bed.
Later, with Day 2 marked off, Jessica and I sat and relaxed, watched an episode or two of Everybody Loves Raymond on Netflix and then “turned in” for the night.
See “Saturday,” with a couple of exceptions. Jessica woke up to several texts from mom. She had reached the “anger” part of the grieving process and, of course, everything was our fault. Fortunately (or unfortunately) for us, we went through this with birth mom on the other three kids and so this time it didn’t really affect us emotionally. The first time with birth-mom number one, on the other hand, is a different story.
Jessica left to go get a nail fixed that had cracked in a really bad place during the kids’ nap times. I took advantage of this time to go fire up the grill and made myself an awesome T-bone steak. This was a steak Jessica had purchased for me the day before (just for me), for dinner. But the way things went, she didn’t have time to make the T-bone as she had to make dinner for the kids. And by the time I was hungry enough to eat it, I was not in the mood to make it. It turned out all for the better.
Once I made the steak, I went inside where Eli and I hung out and watched a Spiderman movie and shared the steak. It was nice, quiet, relaxation time.
Sunday night, our good friends came over to hang out. We decided it would be nice to have movies on the deck so we spent some time setting up the new inflatable screen that I had recently purchased and had a nice, relaxing time. The new kids had gone to bed and Eli got to hang out with his friends watching the movie with us. Brenna had gone next door for a sleep over with her friend.
At about 11:00 PM, everyone left and Jessica and I looked at each other acknowledging the fact that we could be in an episode of “The Walking Dead,” (guess which parts we’d play). 3 Days down. One to go.
It was our anniversary. Jessica and I decided, however, that we were not going to do anything special until after things returned a bit more to normal. It was a good call. We pretty much spent the day the same as the others as it was still rather warm and we were beyond tired. The kids had gotten fairly good about picking up one mess before moving onto making another. Plus, I think they were tired of us by then. Things were still nuts but, for some reason, it didn’t seem as rough. And somehow. . . SOMEHOW, Jessica managed to find the time to make a KILLER dinner. To be honest, I’m not sure WHEN she found the time to make it but she DID find the time to make it. Roasted tenderloin, mashed potatoes and some sort of vegetables (you can tell, I’m not a vegetable sort of guy). So, even though we had agreed to do something on a different day, she still found a way to make it special. And it definitely was the highlight of the day!
Of course there was a bunch of other stuff that went on, and I’ll remember it later, but I figure that this post is already a bunch’o’words long and if you even made it this far, I’ll hand it to you for attention factor alone.
Next week, Ashley will be gone Monday and Tuesday so it’s going to be a really interesting challenge to see how much real work gets done! If we’re alive by then, I’m sure that it’ll make for an interesting post.