Saturday, October 2, 2010

From the Beginning...

Taking in the girls was supposed to be a three-month deal.  Time for my brother to get enough money to move back from Georgia to Pennsylvania, get a job, get a place to live.  Be ready to be a parent again.

When he announced, less than two weeks into the girls' stay, that he'd gotten himself a dog--a small dog, he said, that was part Chow, part German Shepherd, and part something sneaky--I could already tell that he wasn't looking to be a responsible parent again any time soon.  He tried to tell me it was a "present" for the girls, but at least confessed that he'd gotten the dog more for himself.

Because, you see, some well-meaning soul in a divorce support group had recommended getting a dog to help fill the void left by the departing spouse.  By my way of thinking, he had something to fill that void: his children.

He was not to be dissuaded, though.  I pointed out Small Fry's deathly fear of dogs.  (Heck, we had at least two cats that were large enough to qualify as small dogs, and poor Small Fry (the youngest twin) was terrified of them if they so much as blinked at her.)  He countered by saying that the girls loved dogs.  Never mind that Small would claim the kitty had "bitten" her from across the room, and that she'd climb the nearest trusted adult like a tree if she saw a dachshund.  He knew his kids.

That was really the first inkling.

The second was when he proceeded to prove why he was an irresponsible adult by making a series of unfortunate choices: getting fired from his full-time job for walking off the job, not finding another one, and only working minimal hours at his part-time job, and all of that was before he got back to PA.  The bad choices continued when he returned home.

So it didn't take long for Hubby and I to realize that this was going to be a longer haul than originally thought.  Or that, really, we'd known from the beginning that it was going to turn out this way.

If you're wondering about the girls' mother, well, she was still in training for the Army down in Georgia.  She also knew the girls had been placed in our care relatively soon after it happened...and claimed, during a surprise visit on Father's Day weekend, that she was happy they were with us and not their father.

And so we settled into something of a routine.  Hubby went to work.  I stayed home with the kids and worked from home, which I'd been doing since before the girls arrived.  My parents came out two or three times a week to see the girls for probably the first month and a half.  Then they cut their visits back to once or twice a week.  The girls slowly adjusted.

But things weren't quite right.  First my mom (a retired elementary school teacher with thirty years' experience in small kids under her belt), then my sister (a nurse practitioner), and finally my cousin (a social worker) all indicated concerns that the girls were not developing as they should.

It took me a bit, I'll admit, to get past the idea that this was somehow a slam against the parenting skills we'd had to cultivate on the fly and realize this was more about the fact that the girls were already behind developmentally when they came to live with us.  They needed help.  And so did we.

I contacted Early Childhood Intervention for the twins.  Large Fry, the oldest, at almost three, really needed to be evaluated by the ages 3-5 program, and our biggest concern there was her speech.  She was still using a lot of baby talk.  The twins were evaluated at the end of July, and services started within two weeks of the evaluation.  Both twins had at least a 25% delay in their self-help skills (ability to solve and communicate problems).  Medium Fry (the older twin) threw frustration tantrums half a dozen times a day, because she would get so frustrated by something and then by her lack of ability to communicate it to us and our inability to solve her problem.  So she'd scream.  At the top of her lungs. Often threw herself on the floor in tears.  As awful as it was, we became experts in ignoring these tantrums.  When she'd spent herself, we could figure out and resolve the issue.  Small Fry also had at least a 25% delay in her fine and gross motor skills.  She wasn't walking independently like her twin.  She could walk, as long as she held on to things.  If there was something to push around, she could.  Crawling, however, was her preferred mode of transportation.  Developmental therapy for both twins was held weekly in our home, and so was physical therapy for Small.  It took a while to get through the red tape for Large Fry, because (despite the guardianship papers we held stating otherwise) the LIU evaluating center refused to accept my signature as a responsible party for Large Fry when it came to her educational rights.  It took forever to get my brother to sign the papers authorizing the evaluation.  When he did, Large Fry was found to have an expressive language delay of almost a year.  Everything else was pretty normal, but her ability to express herself was severely behind.  No wonder she couldn't answer questions like, "Did you hit your sister?"

So we exchanged our dining room for a toy room, our spare bedroom for the girls' bedroom, and I saw far less of my office than I did before.  I relocated it to the living room.

About half of the clothes my brother had packed and sent with the girls were too small.  A few had mildew on them from being wet and not cared for.  Laundry became a daily experience.

Large Fry turned three, and we had a small party.  She loved it.  Popoki, our oldest cat, showed up at present time to see what all the fuss was.  Despite being a crotchety old thing, this was her house, and she was going to keep tabs on things, and she adapted best to the kids' arrival.

The girls' mother finished her training, only to find herself reassigned to suit the needs of the Army and packed off to yet another training.  She graduated from there right before Thanksgiving, and the twins' 2nd birthday.

We had two parties that time.  One, at my folks' the day after Thanksgiving, for my brother to attend, along with any extended family who wanted to be there.  The second, actually on the twins' birthday, was the one we invited their mother and her family to.

Five weeks later, having only seen her kids three more times, the girls' mother shipped out to her first duty station in South Korea.  She would be there for a year-long tour.

And the girls would remain with us.

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