Tuesday, December 2, 2008


How lucky am I, in this week of having an empty house, to be able to connect with FIVE of my kiddos in one week!

There are few things that would get me into Chuck E. Cheese, particularly on a day where I have no children. Blonde brothers one, two and three, though, are a perfect reason to go. Saturday was the birthday of one of the sisters. Current foster mom, old foster mom, and biological mom sat at the same table, watching the five kids (plus a few others) run around spending their tokens. How great it is to hear that the brothers will be slowly moving home, one child at a time, over the next three months. How great it was to see their mom using her new parenting techniques. And greater still to see how the kids responded. A wonderful day in Chuck E's land.

My computer savvy Sass too has been in touch. She emailed me that "everything is fine but my room is a big mess." Why does this not surprise me?

What did surprise me was the phone ringing tonight. I answered it to hear: "Tammy, someone wants to talk to you." Whose voice is on the phone but my wonderful Little Bit. Bit is apparently having a hard time adjusting so her relative thought it'd be good for her to keep the connection with me for a while. So I got to hear that the cat's name is still Tessa, that current placement "gof about playing the chimichanga song," and that snow hasn't yet come to Lubbock.

Tonight, I will go to sleep not wondering about my kiddos. A great day! A week to celebrate these small friends who have been, and seem to continue to be, in my life!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Little Bit's Ten

10. Claimed that she twitched her nose to make the lamp go on. In reality, it was a light timer. Also in reality, I don't think she ever KNEW it was the light timer.
9. Insisted that we do "This Little Piggy" on both feet at bedtime each night.
8. Anytime she forgot part of a routine, would hit her head and say: "I gof' about it." But if she remembered, she would say: "I bemembered. I'm a good memberer."
7. Was an expert at pretending to be a cat, down to playing with a catnip mouse, crawling around the floor meowing, and pretending to eat from the cat dishes.
6. Chased a plastic sea horse in circles in the tub, leaving little water IN the tub by the end of each bath.
5. Apparently had the counselor at school teach a lesson to her class about getting along one day. If she picked up on tone that Sass and I were having a "discussion," she would pipe in: Using words, using words, you have to talk about it!
4. Got a stuffed cat from Build A Bear for her last hurrah. She named her Tessa after a classmate yesterday, but today changed his name to CC.
3. Asked almost daily to have her hair put into "dog ears," aka piggy tails.
2. Called her new glasses "eyeballs." When we forgot said eyeballs at home one morning for school, she told the crossing guard: We gof about my eyeballs and had to go home!
1. Snuggled in fast and deep into loving Sass and me. Bit didn't let a day go by without telling us both that she loved "her Sass" and loved "her Tammy."


Making it "all about the airplane" was the only way to go for Little Bit's exit. I tried hard to make her want to move forward. We got pictures of her relative. We called said relative on the phone. We talked about the cousins she might get to play with. All of these attempts were met with resistance. With "Why can't I stay here?" With "But I want to call YOU my mommy." With "I am NOT going to like it there!" The draw of the airplane was our ticket. Relative said on the phone last night: "Oooooh, you are such a brave girl!" as Bit beamed. We drove down 71 over the weekend to see the planes. We looked at pictures of planes. We talked about seatbelts and potties and chairs and snacks on planes. It worked. At least up to the point where she went through the security gate and I went to my car. Little Bit followed her CPS caseworker through the metal detector, stuffed cat in tow. Here's hoping it was a smooth landing.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sass' Ten to Remember

10. First showed her ability to be a kid when watching the turtles at UT and when playing in the fountain in front of the LBJ library.
9. Devoured books. Came in reading "a" and "the". Left reading "Henry and Mudge."
8. Was aptly described by a friend as being LOQUACIOUS.
7. Used phrases such as "first and foremost" and "It's my understanding that...." on a regular basis.
6. Had an adoration for rocks. Sass could not walk by a bed of rocks without putting one in her pocket.
5. Called Stubby to the couch every night so that he could sit on the back of the couch, sniffing her hair to "be sure I washed it good" while listening to her read.
4. Though it was difficult, Sass accepted Little Bit into our home and treated her like a little sister.
3. Spent three and a half months telling people I was an aunt, stepmom, real mom. Spent the last two weeks fessing up during her transition.
2. Adored going to church. When she heard there was such a thing as daily mass, she gasped: Really? Why don't we do that?
1. Came in like a lion who thought she was 20 and left like a lamb who, more often than not, knew she was eight.

Exit Strategy

7:45 a.m.: Wait on couch with shoes and jacket on for 11 a.m. pick up.
8:00: "Is it almost time?"
8:30: Pack forgotten toothbrush and hairbrush.
9:15: "I really can't wait to live with my aunt."
9:20: "Is it almost time?"
10:00: Lie on sidewalk near curb so as not to miss caseworker's arrival.
10:56: "Is she on her way?"
11:01: "Why isn't she here yet?"
11:26: "Yaaaaaaay! She's here."
11:34: "Bye Tammy, Bye Bit, I'll miss you."

And she's off.....

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Giving Thanks

Sass wrote two thank you notes tonight. She decided on her own that this was the thing to do. The first was to her therapist: "Thank you for your help giting over a situation that was hard giting over." The second was to her new caseworker: "Thank you for moving very quickly giting me to live with my aunt." She is now able to recognize the progress she has made and is able to see people in her village that have helped her. For that, everyone who loves her gives thanks.


Sass once drew a picture in therapy of herself holding a suitcase. The suitcase was supposed to represent all of the feelings she has been carrying around during this fostercare experience. She said that there was loyalty, sadness, anger, and a little bit of happiness in there.

Our house is suitcase-laden today. Both girls have received their green lights. Sass will hit the ground running on Saturday when she moves to her aunt's. She is--to put it lightly--ecstatic. Bit will hop on a plane with her CPS caseworker on Tuesday or Wednesday. She is--to put it lightly--horrified to be leaving.

We are talking a lot about what goes in our suitcases. Sass is piling in the art supplies, the books and the stuffed animals she has collected in the four-days-shy-of-four-months she has been here. Little Bit has decided that her animals can only be in the backpack, not the suitcase. Her suitcase will hold her fancy winter coat that she will need and her books and puzzles that she adores. My suitcase is different. Mine holds some sadness that they are leaving, some happiness that they were ever here, and some trust that they will be ok.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


The girls, our 7 year old foster friend, and I went to the Austin Zoo last weekend. Everyone loved it. We saw a lion roaring maybe eight feet from our faces. We saw llamas, cougars, pot-bellied pigs, and big, huge tortoises.....

One tortoise had two front feet (paws?) on top of the back of the other. He was grunting. He was groaning. And suddenly: Tammy, what is he DOING to that other turtle?

Yikes. Do I really want to explain this one? "um, I am not sure." I responded as a woman next to me chuckled. "Why is he making noises like a cow?" asked Little Bit. "um, I am not sure." I responded again, as the woman next to me chuckled. "Why does it look like the one on the bottom is crying?" asked our 7 year old companion. "um, I am not sure." I repeated and that darn woman beside me laughed one more time. "Maybe it's like the turtles at the UT turtle pond....he's just trying to climb on her back to get closer to the sun."

Seriously? That satisfied their curiosity? Awesome!

Sass brought some great artwork home from support group on Monday night. A beautiful picture of two tortoises...one on top of the other. Seriously. Awesome!


noun: an intermediate or transitional place or state, a state of uncertainty (Merriam-Webster)

This is our home right now. Two girls, well, I guess THREE girls, in limbo. One knows she is in limbo and her behavior shows it. One has no idea that this is our current place of residence. And I have no idea how much longer I'll get to enjoy these two critters.

Sass got news yesterday. We have a new CPS caseworker for her. As best I can tell, in the four days this lady has been on the job, she has done more for Sass than the previous caseworker did in 3 1/2 months on the job. She is working hard and is very honest with Sass. She knows where Sass wants to be, knows she has somehow fallen through the cracks, and has told us both that we will have an answer THIS WEEK on what the future holds for our girl. Let's see if that happens. I hope for Sass, who spends half of her time planning what we'll do here for the holidays and the other half wondering how she'll celebrate with her family, that we really will know more and can work our way out of state of uncertainty.

Bit, too, is in limbo with us, but has no idea. She trucks along day by day saying things like "I love you, Tammy." "I love my sister." "I so happy here." And she already calls this place "home." Her limbo is lasting at least through this Friday so that we can wrap up all of her medical appointments. Is CPS really planning on flying with her to her new home (far away from Austin) during Thanksgiving week? They'd be nuts. But it'd get Little Bit to her new home. Stay tuned.....

Thursday, November 6, 2008


Could you hear the screaming this morning? It was loud and clear. Little Bit had her 4 year old well check today. This was on the heels of three days of being not so well. Since she has been sick all week but today was better, she couldn't figure out why I was taking her to the doctor. "Well, I think they might have to give you a shot." "What's a shot?" Leave it to Sass to pipe in, "Oh, YOU'LL find out!" Turns out the word "A" was a bit of an understatement. Midway through the appointment, in walks Nurse Ronnie with her tray full of syringes. Then in walks Miss Dottie to draw blood. It took three of us, nine painful pokes, and about five ugly minutes to reduce our little girl to a pile of shrill screams, sobs of "This really hurts. This really hurts." and the flat out sad cry. She calmed down eventually, but on the way out of the doctor said: This makes me want my other mommy.

And news today is in. Bit still won't see her "other mommy" but her road here is coming to an end. Sounds like the next two to four weeks will bring a new home, in the form of a relative waiting with open arms, for my favorite 4 year old. And all I can do right now is agree with her words from today: This really hurts!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Happy Birthday, Miss Sassafras!!

Eight ways it's good to be eight:

1. Cinnamon rolls with candles for breakfast
2. "You mean I get MORE presents??! Awesome!!"
3. $30 worth of gift cards and an hour and a half worth of time well spent at Target
4. Texas Book Festival on a gloriously hot but happy "fall" day
5. McCallum High School Steel Drum Band
6. "Fancy" dinner of calamari and mozzarella sticks at the Olive Garden
7. Seven waiters singing "the Italian Olive Garden Birthday Song" while delivering an ice cream sundae
8. A long steamy bubble bath to round out the evening

Happy Birthday, Sass. Wishing you all good things and a forever home in the year to come!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Benefits of Literacy

Sass was horsing around at the dinner table the other night. She hunkered down with the bent over back of an old woman and declared: I am goin' out PIMPIN' tonight!

I am sure my face said it all. Little Bit sat chomping her green beans, her black eyes watching us carefully. "Sass," I said in my attempting to be calm but probably not succeeding voice, "that is not a nice word. Please don't say it again." "Well, what does it mean?" "It's just not nice." "If you tell me what it means, I will UNDERSTAND that it is not nice." Hmmm, she had a point there. I looked at Little Bit, trying to figure out how to explain something to an almost eight year old that a four year old shouldn't hear. "Well," I started as Bit stopped mid-chomp to listen, "it's when you ask someone to pay you for S-E-X." "Ohhhhhhhhhh!" Sass said, as if completely understanding that very vague meaning. And then a very excited: "Oh!! I am so glad I can SPELL!!"

Monday, October 27, 2008

Loving My Neighbor

That was the topic at church yesterday....You should love your neighbor as yourself. It was odd timing, I thought, because all week I had been struggling with that very idea. This was all sparked by reading Little Bit's initial court report, the one that explains in detail why she was removed from her home, what happened to her, what someone failed to do for her....Reading court reports is hard. It brings me to tears every single time. Most days, I can compartmentalize things in my mind and convince myself that my children's stories are from a bad made-for-TV drama. In reality, though, their stories are real. Attached to those stories are the people who were supposed to care for them....my "neighbors". And so I find myself searching for the compassion I have felt for the families of previous kiddos. Maybe it is ok to have both feelings, though. Maybe I can feel compassion for a mother who doesn't have her child with her but still hate the reason why. Or maybe loving my neighbor is done by loving my neighbor's children while she can't.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


Things today that got a Wow! or Yay! response (I love my easy to please children):

1. "Little Bit, it's time for a nap. I'll read you a story."

2. Sass got a gift card for her birthday to the Half Price Book Store.

3. "Yes, we can do the Thriller dance before bed."

Friday, October 24, 2008

Pretend Play

Little Bit is not one to express emotion. She has cried only once in two weeks (because it was bedtime). She has two buttons: Happy and Angry. Both are used regularly. Tonight, she told me that she will "never ever" cry, because only babies who want milk are allowed to do that. Her feelings come out in her pretend play though, so my ears stretch out like an elephant's when she plays alone. Her two toy dogs were having a conversation yesterday. Dog 1 (in a big labrador type voice): You need to go back to your mommy. Dog 2 (in a high squeaky chihuahua voice): I can't. I have to stay here. But I am safe. But I want my mommy. Dog 1: But your mommy wants you back. Dog 2: I know, honey, she just can't have me right now.

Ready to Thrill the World

The girls and I are ready for our big day tomorrow. By "ready" I mean that Little Bit has her witch costume out and can lie on the floor like a zombie, and Sass knows all the words to the thriller tutorial we have learned. Let's not even discuss what MY thriller abilities look like. We are ready to join in breaking the Guiness World Record for the most people dancing the Thriller dance at once. Sass knows her stuff. Her beat is a bit off, her monster claws a bit limp, but the enthusiam is there. I have spent the past 6 nights laughing to the point of tears at the energy present in this house when Michael Jackson sings his song.

I wonder if this opportunity had come up three months ago, would Sass have agreed? Would she have danced around in her pjs night after night and brushed her teeth while saying: Oh snap, two, three, four, shake-a and-a up-a?" I doubt it. Tomorrow, though, on her 3 month anniversary of being here, she'll strut her stuff just like an almost-8-year-old should.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Waiting is Hard

That was one of the mantras that the 2nd blond brother and I shared regularly. Waiting for his turn in the bathroom. Waiting for the pledge of allegiance at school to begin. Waiting for his turn on Candyland. Middle brother had a hard time waiting even for his turn at a drinking fountain when he was second in line and the kid before him was already walking away. We spoke those words so regularly that I could say, "Waaaaiiiii--" and he would immediately finish "--ting is HARD."

It is really hard. Sass and I are figuring this one out in the hardest possible way. She is on her way out. She has been on her way out for what seems like a month now. But the big ball of bureaucracy that is the child welfare system is holding things up. Somewhere out there, whether it is still in the form of an unwritten report or in the form of an unsigned (by a zillion people) approval, is Sass's green light to leave the foster care system. But she is still here. And we wait. We wait to plan Halloween. We wait to schedule afterschool activities. Mostly though, she waits, and I wait with her, to start her life in what should be her forever home.

And so she ends every weekend, and starts every week, with a telephone exchange with the relative who, like us, is waiting. "Maybe I'll get to see you this week." says her relative. "Yeah, maybe" Sass replies. "We just don't know how long we have to wait."

The Honeymoon is Over

It's official. We had a lovely six days of being a family of three when two of our family members decided to be not-so-lovely anymore. Sass has decided that being followed around by a four-year-old who calls you "Sister" non-stop is no longer cute. She has demonstrated finesse in avoiding sitting by, speaking to, modeling for, or helping our new little one. She pleasantly suggests that Little Bit choose HER face painting design first, even though it is evident that her purpose is to not have Bit copy her.

Of course I don't want to discredit Little Bit in her ability to be, well, an annoying four-year-old either. Little One wants the same flavor donut, must eat breakfast in the same manner as Sass, and will only wear her dress-up clothes if Miss Sassafras wears hers. Beyond that, she is loosening up and letting her personality shine. Have I mentioned before that her nickname may end up being "Spitfire?" I guess it is good though, that she is becoming herself after a week of figuring out exactly how things go in this new life. Even if herself is the self that screams from the backseat as we pull into the Pumpkin Festival today: I am NOT looking at pumpkins. I am NOT going to like it. I am NOT going to have fun and YOU can't make me!

Ah, but I have the pictures to prove her wrong.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Haircare 101

I attended a 2 hour workshop titled "African American Haircare" in the spring. It was highly likely that I would need that skill at some point. Now I do. This is some of what I have learned:
1. Rinse child's hair.
2. Put leave in conditioner in child's hair.
3. Carefully comb out every knot without ripping a single hair from her head.
4. Loosely braid hair down back for bedtime.
5. Wake up in the morning to find that child "got bored" while falling asleep and took her protect-me-from-the-rat's-nest loose braids out.
6. Attempt to remove rat's nest from hair.
7. Ask Sass to fetch scissors.

Clearly, we are still working on the hair care thing....

Emerging from the Turtle Shell

Little one, who still has no nickname that has stuck, is beginning to stick her little head out of her shell. Her little turtle neck has stretched a bit this week to try her first day of school (loves it, but not the work), her first ever shower (loves it too, but not the water on the head part), and her first brussel sprout (gotta start 'em early, I have learned). As with the rest, she is figuring out who she is, who "we" are. I have been told that she has told several that "Tammy is not my real mommy. My mommy is in jail." She put me through 20 questions earlier this week about why Sass lives here and where her mommy is. She's figuring it out. And Sass and I continue to figure her out. Just gotta come up with a nickname now.

Monday, October 13, 2008


Most days, I am naive enough to think that children do not see color. Sass, for instance, describes the only African American girl in her class as "the one with beads." But in a room of foster children, where almost everyone is in a "multi-colored" family, it's pretty clear that the kids recognize color.

Sass and I have slowly come to the realization that it is, in fact, easier to just say we are a mother-daughter pair. We look enough alike. The fact that she calls me by my first name is still a puzzle to the average bear, but we can usually escape questions this way. Now, though, with our petite friend, we have become a family that doesn't really look like a normal family.

Four foster sisters at tonight's support group sat by us for dinner. They represent three different ethnicities. "Are you her mom?" one asks me while pointing to Sass. "Yes." "Well, are you HER mom?" she asks, pointing to Petite. "Yup." "Well, how can that be? You aren't all the same color?"

This is the same girl who, when I asked her foster sister dressed in a Cheetah girl costume which Cheetah girl she is, interjected: Well, DUH! The BLACK one!

So much for my theory....

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Newest Critter

To mark my one year anniversary of fostering, Lutheran Social Services gave me a present: another critter. This one arrived yesterday, tie-dyed teddy bear in tow. While most times in the past 24 hours, she has had the deer-in-headlights why-am-I-here look, she has let her four-year-old personality come out in a few ways:
"Oh no, I do NOT eat beef." she says as she stuffs a beef corndog into her mouth.
"I don't drink Sprite anymore. I stopped that a long time ago."
"Wow, I LIKE brushing my teeth!"
"It was fun today when we ate pizza and dessert."
And at 8:30 this morning, "You two," she tells Sass and me, "it is WAY too early to be up in the morning."

Just wait till a school day rolls around......

Friday, October 10, 2008


1 year of fostering
Calls on 58 children
Ranging in age from 6 months to 14 years
31 boys
27 girls
9 kids in my house
7 boys
2 girls
Ranging in age from 21 months to 9 years old
Staying 4 days to 3 1/2 months
All in 1 year

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


On the daycare playground:

Friend: Is that your mom?
Sass: Yeah, that's Tammy.
Friend: But is she your mom?
Sass: Yeah, that's Tammy.
Friend: But is Tammy your mom?
Sass: Friend! Aren't you listening? I said that's Tammy!!

End of discussion, likely leaving a 2nd grade friend a bit puzzled.

At the CPS office:
Caseworker: What's your favorite thing about living at Tammy's?
Sass: I have a bedtime.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Other Mothers

Miss Sassafras had a visit with her mother today. It was the first visit she has had in the more-than-two-months she has been here. She was nervous----finger picking, sitting up straight, silent for the whole car ride kind of nervous. What if my mom is mad at me? What if she doesn't come? All valid concerns for this 7 year old. As it turns out though, she DID come and she WASN'T mad, and that was all we needed--for today.

As I sat in the waiting room, I thought about meeting the mamas of my kiddos. I have met the mother, and sometimes the father, of seven of my nine children. They have thanked me, hugged me, and asked me to give messages to their kiddos. They have introduced me to their boyfriends, mothers, cousins, and sisters. They have never once treated me poorly or been unkind. It is hard, at times, to remember that no matter what these mamas have done to or have failed to do for their children, they are still human beings who deserve respect, similar to what they give me.

Imagine my surprise during this thought process when the door to the waiting room at the CPS office opens and in walk the parents of Gentlemen Tall and Short. They took one look at me and said: Tammy! Oh, you'll get to see the boys! The mom hugged me. The dad shook my hand. The kids came running in seconds later with big open arms, ready to hug and with plenty of stories to tell me about their new school.

As they ran off to visit with their family, Sass and her mother came out. We walked toward the exit and Sass' mom stopped me and said: She is doing so great. Thank you.

So yet again, I am surprised. Surprised by the respect they feel for me and by the compassion I feel for them. Surprised. And thankful.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Miss Sassafras is already in high spirits about Halloween. She has grand plans that she reviews every day. On most days, I have not been included in the plans, as Sass is convinced that she will no longer be living here by the big day. Today, though, I was included. "Will you PLEASE dress as a crazy cat lady for Halloween? Do it for me, Tammy. PLEEEEEEEEEEEASE??????"

Come trick or treating at our house to find out if I cave in.......

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Younger Gentleman

10. Woke me up at 1am on his first night here and said: Ok, I am ready for you to take me home now.
9. Thought the 18 inch long pencil from the state capital was the coolest thing in the world.
8. Came in screaming because he was afraid of animals, but left kissing them both on the "lips".
7. Wore the same size clothing as the 21 month old before him.
6. Asked me to drop him off at his daycare before dropping off big brother so that he could give us BOTH a "hud and tiss" before we left.
5. Like his brother, assured me that I would "learn to cook better rice."
4. Bowled three strikes (though not in a row) in one game. Thank God for bumpers!
3. Was the first kid here to choose a different book every night.
2. Spent over 2 hours one day crafting "I love you" papers for his family.
1. Said he was terrified of swimming, though you couldn't tell by watching him in the water.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Elder Gentleman

10. When it came up that he had a different last name than his brother, said: "It's because I'm a special boy! That's what my mama told me!!"
9. Was so incredibly impressed that I bowled three strikes in a row. He told his aunt in court: She got a turkey!
8. Was the sweetest big brother ever.
7. Tried to tell me that my rice (steamed in a rice cooker) was "almost" as good as his mom's Mexican rice. "I can help you work on it. Don't worry."
6. Sat in a laundry basket in front of the frontload washer, watching it go around and around and around.
5. Saw a picture of G. W. Bush in the capital building and said: "I do NOT like that man!!"
4. On day one, told me that only his brother could call him by his nickname. On day five, invited me into the circle.
3. Thanked me for "taking good care of me and my brother" when he heard that he was moving.
2. Liked making a whirlpool in the backyard pool by quickly walking around the perimeter in circles.
1. Had actually talked me into letting him get a mohawk for the rest of the summer. Luckily, that was the day they moved!

The Town Crier

10. Earned his name for a reason. He cried so much the first week, I almost became the town crier.
9. Did not eat for the 1st two nights in my house. The first thing he actually did eat, despite the fact I was told to give him Veggie Tale fruit snacks and chocolate milk in a bottle, was a veggie burger.
8. LOVED dogs. We went up the block every night to 1. delay crying, 2. bark at the neighborhood dogs and 3. get licked down by Roscoe.
7. Slept (though sporadically) with a bed full of books he had pulled off of the shelves.
6. Learned to say "Elmo" and "Thank you" while here.
5. Was a fish in the water.....pools, bath, sprinklers.....
4. Liked to carry around clean diapers.
3. Was the first kid I had to practice my first aid skills on. Now I feel OK that that is a requirement of fostering.
2. Was yet another fan of cat toys. He collected all of the balls in one pile and the mice in another. Early categorization skills emerging in this 21 month old.
1. Was the first indication that I have "sucker" tatooed on my forehead, as I have sworn that the youngest kid I'll take is three.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Princess

10. Turned feather sticks for cats into magic wands and played house with the catnip mice.
9. Exclaimed "Oh look! My mommy's a princess too!" to her daycare friends when I walked in wearing a dress.
8. Could unhinge her jaw to give the 3rd brother a bite on the arm when she got mad.
7. Frequently directed us in the following manner: "Princess went potty. Clap your hands and say: Good job, Princess!!"
6. Had a sugar radar that spanned for miles. The girl made a meal out of a bright blue frosted cupcake and got not a lick of it on her dress.
5. Somehow convinced Stubby that it was safe to jump up on her bed and to be used as a pillow.
4. Said, "See, there he is. He hurt his eye." every night while reading Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, when we got to the part about the "black eyed P".
3. Occasionally made me wonder where the rhyme "sugar and spice and everything nice" came from....
2. Called roly-polies "Holy Polies" and often called her dinner "delicious and Moo-tricious".
1. Once requested to hear the Wiggles' "I want to wear the jacket" song 13 times in a row.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The 3rd Brother

10. Was so very excited to live in a house where his brothers had lived. "This was my brother's bed." "This is where my brother ate."
9. Was unabashed as he danced around the living room in his pink princess dress and blue painted toenails.
8. Chose a red pepper as his treat of choice at HEB.
7. Claimed the bottom bunk within 20 minutes of the princess walking out the door.
6. Showed me how fun it can be to take someone to the beach for the first time.
5. Listed each food on his plate during dinner time prayer. "Thank you God for my hot dog, my ketchup, my Ranch, my grapes, my peppers...."
4. Preferred to wear most shirts backward and sometimes inside out.
3. Selected "Everything is Different at Nonna's House" as his book of choice for 4 weeks straight.
2. Was the bank of unnecessary knowledge regarding all things that go: dump trucks, tow trucks, cherry pickers, back hoes.....
1. Learned to say "Stubby" instead of "Dubby" during his last week here.

The Second Blond Brother

10. Used a Thomas the Tank pillowcase as a lovey and thought his thumb tasted better than chocolate ice cream.
9. Ate one brussel sprout leaf the night before he moved out and said: mmm, that was good. I should have done that a LONG time ago.
8. Would spontaneously yell "Hey Tammy, I love you" as I left him at school. Or would tell me to "Tell so-and-so I love them" as I walked out the door.
7. Ran out the front door to the end of the walk and strained his neck to get a view of the train at the end of the block....almost every single time he heard it.
6. Could not sit through Mass to save his life but could retell the gospel story almost every week.
5. Loved "Go Dog Go" and "The Best Nest" to the point of two of us having both books memorized.
4. Woke up early every morning so that he could "read" before school. This Blondie would look at all the pictures and then declare: I read it in my mind.
3. Played "Dirty Towels" every night after his bath, a game where he hid under his wet towel and I pretended that he was missing but left his dirty laundry on the floor for me to pick up.
2. Had two favorite songs in the car: "The One Two Song" (aka, Ryan Adam's "Two") and "The Colorado Song (aka, Brett Dennen's "There is So Much More").
1. Was the hardest to keep here and in the end, the hardest to have move forward.

The Eldest Brother

10. Once stood on the street corner, wearing a camouflaged skating helmet, elbow pads, and knee pads, tried to break dance and sang a country music song at the top of his lungs. All of his worlds of fun in one 60 second period.
9. Decorated a chocolate cake for my book club's discussion of "All Quiet on the Western Front" by putting every last one of his "army guys" on top.
8. Didn't believe me when I told him drinking too much red Gatorade would make him throw up.
7. Wore one of two button up shirts, buttoned all the way to the top and tucked into his Wranglers as far as it could go, to church every single Sunday.
6. Came in with the strongest country boy accent I had ever heard in my life.
5. Won a 1st place ribbon at the city-wide science fair, but would tell anyone that "it's really because the judges could tell I did it all by myself."
4. Loved Harry Potter almost as much as I do. So much that he wanted his hair to be cut like Draco Malfoy's.
3. Said "tartar sauce" as his own personal cussword.
2. Was Scooby Doo's number one fan to the point of squishing his long 9 year old body into a pair of very small pajamas to display his loyalty.
1. Taught me the perseverance required to assemble Legos and showed me how far they have come in 30 years.

Tator Tots

This blog was created so that I could remember the kids who came through my door. Unfortunately, I started it on Kid #9. The question that has been eating at me this week is "who was it that didn't like tator tots?" I mean, what kind of nut of a kid doesn't like tator tots? The one who only likes green beans? The one that prefers ketchup to be the main course? I still can't figure it out. But in an effort to remember my kiddos, I will sum up the top 10s for each.

Shorty But Cutie
10. Shorty loved school busses. "Nother Bus!" We could not drive more than a block without a comment about a bus. As it turned out a "bus" to him was actually a bus stop.
9. Shorty liked raisins. Morning, noon, and night.
8. Shorty was the easiest kid to put to bed. "It's time for bed, Shorty." "Otay!"
7. Shorty and the cats were not friends. Not because he did not put effort forth. Being the first kid in the house, they were a little uncertain.
6. Shorty enjoyed running up and down the front walk repeatedly.
5. Shorty called any grown up "mama".
4. Shorty would eat cold canned grean beans as a treat.
3. Shorty was here for a really, really short time because the daycare didn't have space for him.
2. Shorty was the only kid I have tried to push around Town Lake in a jogger.
1. Shorty was mesmerized by the drums at the annual PowWow.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


"I can pick you out of a crowd like THAT!" Sass snapped tonight at dinner. "All because you always wear a barrette."

"You're like a pickle in a pile of donuts." she continued.

Hmmm, I wondered outloud. "Is that an OK thing? To be a pickle?"

"Sure is!" she said. "Because I LOVE pickles!!"

Saturday, September 20, 2008

"Just" a Foster Parent

Sass and I had the "privilege" of going to see the psychiatrist yesterday. I am not sure exactly why he is in the loop, since her medical needs can be managed by the pediatrician, but he is. Mr. Shrink is not my favorite man. He was not my favorite man when he would not hear me say that I thought the eldest blond brother didn't need meds. He was not my favorite man when he told me that the middle blond needed a few. I believe he gets a cut of the profits from certain medications. I believe he may be married to his prescription pad.

Yesterday, in between being 20 minutes late for us, his 1st appointment, and taking a personal phone call while we were in his office, Mr. Shrink asked me how I thought Sass was doing. I used at least 20 adjectives to describe how far she has come. He then asked Sass how she thought she was doing. She used three adjectives to say she is doing well. Then he pulled out his prescription pad. I expressed disagreement with his choices. His response was: You are just a foster parent. When you make the decision to be LEGALLY responsible for your own child, you will have more say. I am her doctor.

So just like that he was able to trump me. He is right in only one regard. I have no legal responsibility for Sass. Where's the sense in that? She lives with me 24/7. I take her to the ER. I am the one who stays with her when she cries herself to sleep because she misses her family. I am the one who schleps her to the various appointments to therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists to undo what those who were legally responsible for her have done. But I have no say in the matter. I am "just" the foster parent.

Needless to say, I was not a happy camper. However, I was an unhappy camper with a very impressionable audience. So, of course, I calmly stated my disagreement and left the office (vowing in my head to never return). I thought I handled myself well. I thought I managed to show Miss Sassafras that, even when disagreeing with someone, even if they make you SO mad, they should be treated with respect. I thought she had NO CLUE that I was mad as we left the doctor's office or that I had not recovered by the end of the day.

Apparently, I failed in my attempts. Later that evening, Miss Sass pulled out another one of Mo Willems' books. In this one, Piggie is mad because Gerald the elephant has broken her new toy. She is really mad. And she is mad for several pages. Sass turned the page to see Piggie staring down Gerald. "That" she said, pointing to the tornado-shaped cloud colored over Piggie's head, "is called holding a grudge. And you shouldn't do that....TAMMY!"

Monday, September 15, 2008

Books, books, and more books

We are still in our "How did I ever NOT love reading?" stage. Sass cannot get enough of the written word. She has written letters to her parents declaring: I am strting too lik books. She has asked to spend time with her counselor showing off her stuff. Any visitor to this house is read either I Am Invited to a Party or I Can Fly. Requests to listen to radio stations or favorite CDs have been replaced with demands to hear the next chapter of Because of Winn Dixie.

When asked what the good things were for the day this evening, Miss Sass quickly announced: Well tutoring ROCKS! and then added "AND you checked out 10 new library books, one of which is by my favorite author."

Who knew this girl could be so easy to please?


Miss Sass brought home her first piece of artwork from 2nd grade on Thursday. It was a "family portrait." She had carefully drawn, and almost finished coloring, a kid, a grown-up, and two cats (one, most naturally, wearing a T-shirt). I was surprised by her portrait given the conversation I overheard at the pool the previous weekend. Sass and her 5 year old foster friend were debating something. "Go ask your mom." says 5 year old. "She's not my mom." replies Sass. "Yes, she is. She's your foster mom." "That doesn't count."

Sass is uncertain, and I don't blame her, of how to identify herself or me to her friends. Walking down the hallway to her classroom at back to school night, I saw rows of "All About Me" projects. The students had decorated dye-cut paper people with yarn and markers to look like themselves. Below, they had completed some fill-in-the-blank sentences to describe themselves. "I like to eat....pizza." "I am.....seven years old." "I live with......" Most kids had written "my mom and dad." or "my mom." Miss Sass had written "my Tammy."

Surely every child wants to have a mom, but does it feel to them as though they are betraying their biological families if they call their current "placement" a mom? Is it tricky for them to straddle the two lives they have--one with their "real family" and one with their foster family? I think most of the school aged foster kids I have met would agree. Being identified as a foster kid opens up a whole can of worms with their peers. Our 7 year old foster friend put it this way when talking about her foster mom: It's easier to just call her my mom because if I call her by her name, everyone asks questions and then I am talking WAY too long.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Happy Birthday to our Little Friend

A client once told me that the "good thing" about having a kid with special needs was that you met so many wonderful people...people you would not have met were this not your road. The same goes for fostering. Aside from the great kids who have come and gone through my door, I have met wonderful caseworkers, ad litems, therapists, and fellow foster friends.

Today, Sass and I were invited to share in a special celebration. Our littlest foster friend turned 6 months old. His 5 year old sister and Miss Sassafras blew out candles on their way-too-much-sugar-for-a-school-night cupcakes to celebrate this cute boy being in our lives. The birthday boy smiled and drooled, drooled and smiled his way through the celebration, maybe wondering what all the fuss was about.

While anyone who knows me knows that I "don't do babies," this is one cutie pie that I am lucky to know and to see on a regular basis.

So to my baby foster friend, I say: Happy Half Birthday, Little Guy! Yes, you with the curly curls who gives his toothless smiles away for free. I wish you good things in your life!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Thank God Somebody Likes Them

Shorty wasn't here long enough to try. Brothers 1 and 2 only ate green beans--canned ones at that. Brother 3 and the Princess were more into red peppers, carrots, and "leafsiz" (spinach) that could be dipped in Ranch. The Town Crier didn't eat anything for the first 36 hours he was here. Gentlemen Tall and Short were specific about how their fresh green beans were prepared....down to which pan they were cooked in. On the way home from daycare yesterday, Miss Sassafras announced: It has been three days since you cooked Brussel Sprouts. Can you PLEASE feed me brussel sprouts tonight? I miss them so much!"

Yet another reason to like this kid.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


In my efforts to show Miss Sassafras how great it can be to be a kid, we try to hit multiple kid-friendly events each week. This week, the little miss enjoyed being granddaughter for a day while my parents were in town. Part of the excitement was a trip, in the 99 degree weather, to the Batfest, Austin's own celebration of all things batty. Included in the Batfest were several bands, battling it out on stages on the north and south sides of the 1st street bridge. Sass and I walked along the bridge and the music got louder and louder.

And the lyrics got clearer and clearer.

Says 7 year old to me: I am surprised they are using cuss words with all these children around. I mean, HELLO!, Monkey hear, Monkey SAY! What are they trying to teach us?

The Current Critter

Right now, Little Miss Sassafras is my only critter. While it is her belief that she is twenty, she is truly seven years old. Miss Sass came to me in July. We have had six weeks of detoxing and I think she is finally learning to be a kid. Last night, Miss Sass admitted that she is surprised that she likes books so much "because there is so much cool stuff inside each one!" Imagine my surprise when the offer to read while eating a brownie elicited an "oooooh" warranted for a trip to Chuck E. Cheese. How fun it is to show someone, a sassy someone at that, that books are cool, cats are cool, walks around the blocks are cool....even 2nd grade can be cool.

Children of the Day

In as many months, I have had nine children in my home. Some come in pairs, some come as singles, two came as a pair and left as singles. They have ranged in age from 21 months to nine years old. Each has had his or her own strengths, difficulties and baggage. All have eeked their way into my life, my heart, my friends' lives, my friends' hearts. All have come with more resiliency than any one child should have. I am lucky, fortunate, blessed to be able to give parts of my life away to them.