After the initial meeting we set up the visitation schedule.
2 hrs on 9/3
6 hours on 9/10
1st overnight 9/16-9/17
1st weekend 9/23 – 9/25 (the kids’ birthday weekends)
2nd weekend 9/30 – 10/2
3rd weekend 10/7-10/9
Move in date 10/11
Plus Wednesdays at McDonald’s for the first two weeks. Friends brought toys, pajamas and bikes and I busied myself getting their rooms ready for the first visit. I painted the little Minnie’s room pink. I added Spiderman to Mickey’s. I hand painted their names for the walls (hers had tiny daisies and his spiderwebs). Our first visit was spent playing. Our 2nd visit was much the same. There was no mention of why they were visiting or why they had rooms there. On that visit we went to lunch with my parents at a local pizza place. My dad had grown impatient and they both really wanted to meet the kids. The kids were both all over the place at lunch, but my parents were as enthralled as I was. Note to self – begin training for appropriate restaurant behavior.
Our 3rd visit was the first sign of the challenges to come. Mickey hit Minnie several times. When I asked him to stop, he screamed and ran behind a chair in the living room. It is hard to describe the scream, but it is mixed with a pant and sounds like ah ah ah ah ah at full volume while rocking on his feet, knees bent, behind a chair. This lasted 10 minutes while I tried to sooth him. We then went back to the cookies we were making. I also found out that Jesse had told the kids that I was to be their new mom. Both kids seemed ok with this though they didn’t really seem to understand it. They loved their rooms. Mickey slept on the floor of Minnie’s room and I sat in the room with them for an hour after bedtime until Minnie fell asleep. Mickey’s meds sent him out within about 20 minutes after finishing the second book. My cat sat at the door trying to figure out who these two little people were.
After the kids went to bed, I read the letter found in their luggage from Jesse. She offered her phone number and some basic tips for the kids and wished me luck. The kids went home around 6pm the following day via transportation provided by DFACS. This company was hired to keep Jesse and I from having to deal with each other and was insisted upon by Elise.
The following weekend was our first full weekend – Friday to Sunday evening. It was also the kids’ birthdays – 6 & 4. I decided to pick up my niece and rent a bounce house for a small family party, with only 1 other child, two neighbors and my parents, brother and niece. We didn’t want to overwhelm the kids. Included was Nikki, who would provide daycare for Minnie and after school care for Mickey. This weekend showed me quite a bit of Mickey’s struggles with the following directions, getting overwhelmed and frustrated and non-stop energy. I also saw a sweet funny excited little boy who held my heart.
The following week, I was invited to attend Mickey’s IEP meeting at his current school. This would be the shorted IEP meeting I would have in nearly 4 years. Jesse and Elise were in attendance. Jesse, Elise and I also worked out a new transportation plan that had us meeting at an in between spot to exchange the kids, after transportation had dealt with a very upset Mickey and failed to buckle Minnie in. At the IEP meeting, knowing he was leaving the county, we focused mainly on existing behaviors rather than fututre planning. At that time he was getting academic support and speech only – there were no behavior or OT supports in place. They suggested that I call his new school and set up a meeting to get started on the new IEP in our county. I did that day. I spoke with the vice principal, Mrs. P. I would come to know this woman very well in the next year, and I found her helpful and even a little excited about Mickey’s attendance. We met the following with with his team. Mrs. B would be his general education teacher, Mrs. E his OT, Mrs. Z his special ed teacher, Mrs. B the speech therapist and the head of special ed, Mrs. C. We formulated several plans for placement and dealing with behaviors we knew about.
His general ed teacher, Mrs B., along with her parapro Mrs. D, were experienced teachers – in fact, 2 years later, after little Minnie had her for kindergarten, she retired. She would be an integral part of our surviving the first year. She remains a dear friend now. They ordered a rocking chair for him to not have to sit still, we formulated behavioral supports, and OT and speech plans during this meeting. It lasted 2.5 hours and we were ready for his first day of school on 10/13, though he would attend a mini day on 10/12, with me and Minnie.
In the meantime our weekend visits continued with relatively few issues. Jesse had written me a note asking for updates or some degree of contact after placement. By this time, we were tentatively building a relationship, mainly based on our weekly pick ups and drop offs and a few letters. I agreed to some degree of contact, but I hadn’t decided what yet. This was strongly discouraged by the caseworker.