6:00 a.m.: Wake up. No, really wake up. I don’t care that you were up until 3 a.m. with the baby who was crying for mommy (ya know, the mommy who is currently in jail. The one you cannot hand the baby off to no matter how hard she cries). You have to take the older kids to school. There’s a doctor’s appointment today, and you also have to call for the referrals to the specialists for Todd. What are you waiting for girl? Get. Out. Of. Bed. 

6:30 a.m.: Fix breakfast. No one besides the baby will eat because the cereal you bought is the wrong brand. The 9-year-old is making gagging sounds because you had the nerve to suggest he eat scrambled eggs or oatmeal. Things that are not Pop-Tart or donut-shaped make him sick to his stomach, he says. You’re tempted to shape the mushy cereal in front of him into a donut shape out of spite, but you know he’s more sad than angry or upset at you. Give him one of your  Pop-Tarts from your secret stash on the way out the door so he doesn’t starve. Insist that he does not tell his brother where he got it. Buckle baby into the car seat. This is a two-person job, but you are all you’ve got right now, so make it work. You hand your bag and keys to the 9-year-old (who, by the way, is now bragging to his 6-year-old brother that you gave him a special Pop-Tart because “Mama Chrissy loves me best.” You can only just hear him over the baby’s screaming. You decide to ignore it. One battle at a time). Oh great, you’re going to be late. Tell the boys to get into the car after you’ve successfully secured the baby into her seat. Remember you haven’t seen the teenager at all yet today. He is 15 and should absolutely be capable of getting his own self out of bed. Clearly not. “Luca, can you please go ask James to come out to the car? It’s time to go, and we’re actually running late.” “ Why can’t Miguel do it?” “Because you’re older, and I asked you.” “Fine.” He stomps into the house and screams, “James, wake up you idiot!”  You make a mental note to address that later. James comes out a few minutes later wearing the same gross clothes he had on yesterday. His hair is a mess but you don’t want to fight this early in the morning, so you leave it alone. Why did you think this fostering gig was a good idea anyway? Okay, now time for drop-offs. 

7:30 a.m.: You’re late. You know you’re late. You also just realized there is baby vomit on your shirt, your pajama pants are on backward and inside out (how?!), and you’ll have to sign James into school because he’ll be tardy by the time you arrive. Awesome. You look around hoping to find some sort of sweat pants or blanket or…anything to cover up your embarrassed self for the walk of shame into the office with a screaming baby, but no. No such luck. You pull into the elementary school drop-off line. Miguel starts crying that he hates school and wants his mama. You give him a hug and tell him you’ll have a surprise for him when he comes home if he’s a good boy at school. That cheers him up, but now you’ll have to go shopping for an unknown surprise. Great. Luca is now angry that he isn’t also getting a surprise. Agree that everyone will get a surprise if he will just get out of the minivan. Now. Please. Pretty please with a cherry on top. 

7:45 a.m.: Thank the Lord! You just made it in time to drop off James without needing to sign him in. No pajama walk of shame. Jesus loves me, you think to yourself as you look back at the baby who is now sound asleep and sucking her thumb.  You head home to try and tidy up before the caseworker visit that is supposed to happen tomorrow. 

8:15 a.m.: You arrive at home to see a car you don’t know in your driveway. Huh? You go about getting your purse and the baby girl out of the van while trying to keep an eye on the stranger.  A man gets out of the car, startling you. You gasp which inexplicably wakes the baby. She starts to cry. You feel like you might start to cry also in a minute. 

The man is a caseworker for the state. He drew your name for a surprise inspection. Great, you think to yourself. Today is the day I lose my fostering license. (Today is not the day you lose your fostering license.)  The man walks through your door like you invited him in and begins to inspect the house while peppering you with questions. “Mrs. Smith, why is there still milk and cereal out on the table? That’s highly unsanitary.” “Oh, I guess Luca didn’t put it up when I asked him to. Here, I’ll take care of it now.” “No need,” he said as he made a note in his folder. Again, you are pretty sure today is the day you lose your license. The baby needs a change and a bottle so you excuse yourself and go to do that. 

8:30 a.m.: Baby is asleep and in her (very safe, inspected) crib. You are trying to tidy up when you hear a ring at the door. The baby is now awake again. You curse the unknown visitor but only in your head so Mr. Surprise Inspector doesn’t take points away from you again.  You answer the door. It’s your agency caseworker followed by your older boy’s CPS caseworker. “Hey, can we come in?”  “Sure,” you say, glancing down at your still unchanged pajama pants. “I need to go get the baby. She just woke up from her nap.” “Oh take your time we’ll just do our inspections now.” “Crap,” you say in your head for about the 50th time since you woke up. You rush to your bedroom, put on clean, right side out, pants and a non-vomity shirt. “Dry shampoo it is again,” you sigh as you spray your head. You hope no one can tell. (They can’t; they’re too distracted by the bags under your eyes.)  You scoop up the baby and head out to hear the caseworkers all exchanging pleasantries. The inspector gentleman says he thinks everything is okay, so he’ll just send his report off now. You wonder how long it will be until they come and collect the kids you are clearly unfit to watch. 

9:00 a.m.: Caseworkers are college friends. That’s good. Unfortunately, they need to talk to you about James’ dad. He got out on parole and wants James to come live with him a few states over. You need to pack his things while he’s at school. He’ll get picked up in the evening. 

11:00 a.m.: The caseworkers finally leave. They assure you that your house is fine and just looks lived in. You’re pretty sure this is code for “it was a disaster”. The baby is screaming for food. You heat up a bottle, and, once again, she falls asleep while you feed her. You decide you’ll have a better chance of her napping if you stay put and play on your phone for a while. This half works, but now your arm is numb and you almost left a phone-sized imprint on the baby’s face when your grip slipped. Oops. 

12:00 p.m.: Your stomach growls, and you realize you’ve had two bites of food all day. Make a sandwich one-handed. The baby wakes up and yells. Hand her a fruit puff and try to eat while keeping her away from your PBJ. 

12:30 p.m.: Pack up James’ stuff. 

1:00 p.m.: Attempt to clean the boys’ bathroom.

1:30 p.m.: Consider burning down the house instead because the pee smell will not come out no matter what you do. The baby is contentedly riding in her backpack on your back and then she throws up. In your hair. Because why not. 

1:45 p.m.: Plop baby in the playpen with toys right outside the bathroom door so you can talk to her while you take a much-needed shower. Listen to her scream while you shower. At least there’s no vomit in your hair now. 

2:15 p.m.: Time to get the kids. You wonder if the caseworker told James about his sudden move, but you’re afraid that will be your job. Realize you freaking forgot about the baby’s pediatrician appointment because the caseworkers came unexpectedly. Call the pediatrician on the way out the door to reschedule. Swear you won’t do this again, really. You’re certain. 

2:30 p.m.: Elementary pick-up and high school pick-up. Start to tell James what is happening. He gets angry. The younger boys get sad. The baby starts crying again. Your head feels like it might explode. Give everyone the snacks and water you brought along. You’re sure they aren’t drinking enough. 

2:45 p.m.: Get hit in the back of the head with a half-full water bottle. Almost wreck the car. Imagine how peaceful a hospital room would be. Decide it isn’t worth it anyway. 

3:15 p.m.: Get home. Try to get James’ stuff outside so the caseworker can just put it in the car when she gets there.  Sing the sight words song with Miguel and run flashcards for Luca.  Rock the baby while you’re trying to do these things. Not in a chair, on your feet. 

3:30 p.m.: Insist the boys need to do a chore each before they may play video games. They agree then begin to fight over which game they’ll play.  Break that up and 20 other smaller fights they end up having. 

4:00 p.m.: Crap, start dinner. Chicken nuggets and tater tots and baby carrots. Again. Because that’s all they’ll eat.  Begin to feel conditioned to gag when you see a nugget. 

4:15 p.m.: Give the boys a timer, tell them to stop video games when it dings. Realize you didn’t check their chore. Oops. 

4:30 p.m.: Break up three more fights. Check on James who is staring at his phone and ignoring the world. 

4:35 p.m.: Remember the phone call about the specialist. Forget which kid it’s for. Realize that the kid left last week. Cry. Oh no, you smell burning nuggets. Crapcrapcrapcrapcrap.

5:00 p.m.: Call everyone to dinner. Pray. Ask the boys to please not make fart sounds during prayer. Kiss your sweet husband because he is an angel for asking the boys to help him clean up after dinner so you could have some downtime. 

5:45 p.m.: Realize that even though you technically have downtime now, you can still hear everyone screaming. Realize also that James hasn’t left yet. Call the caseworker. Get her voicemail. Ten times. Leave a message. Realize you had the wrong caseworker. James is on the other one’s caseload now. They told you earlier, but you somehow forgot. Call that caseworker. Hear that James’ dad doesn’t want him after all. Ask the caseworker to break it to him. She can’t. She’s about to clock out. “Must be nice,” you think, but then reprimand yourself because you don’t want her job. It’s hard enough that the caseworker deserves to clock out at noon every day and get a paid vacation to the Bahamas instead of the barely above minimum wage, way over caseload, way understaffed situation she is in. 

6:00 p.m.: Let sweet husband know about James. Realize you didn’t tell him he was leaving in the first place, so he’s confused. He says he’ll get the littles started on bathtime and get the baby girl ready for bed if I want to take James out for ice cream to break the news. 

6:15 p.m.: Go to talk to James. Realize he is nowhere to be found. Mentally check when you last saw him. You were sure he was at dinner but now you have no idea. Cry. Panic. Call the caseworker. She answers even though she shouldn’t. She tells you to call the police.  You don’t want to call the police, but you want to find James more. Call, explain. Police come to the house. They find James around the back of the house, crying. “I knew my dad would change his mind. He always does.” He wipes his face, shrugs, and goes back into the house. You feel embarrassed, but the police insist you did the right thing. 

7:30 p.m.: Walk into the house and hear everyone screaming at everyone else and the baby crying above it all. Pick her up. Go into the boys’ room where suddenly everyone is calm. “Miguel said you were getting arrested. I told him he was stupido.”  “Don’t call your brother names. Thank you for defending me though”. Hug the boys, tuck them in. Pray with them and your husband.  

8:00 p.m.: Lay the baby in her bed, certain you’ll see her in a few hours. Plop on the couch next to your husband who looks at you with concern. “Can you keep doing this? Should we?” Stare at him with incredulity. “Why wouldn’t we? These kids need us. Also, it isn’t so bad.” Giggle snort at the lie you just told and cuddle on the couch until one of you falls asleep. 

9:00 p.m.: Hear the baby crying. Warm up a bottle, wake up your husband off the couch so he can go to bed. Go and comfort her for the next few hours and thank God that you get to do this thing when you were pretty sure you would never be able to have any kids. Now you have four.

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