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.