Friday, December 27, 2013

A Note About The Sisters

I still see Big and Little Sister. They've moved far too far away now, but I am lucky enough to see them once a month when they come down, usually for a sleep over, and we chat on the phone or over the iPad when we can. I am still Mama to them. As I hope I will always be.

What's Big Sister up to?
She's in kindergarten and is about to turn six. She can read "can, me, my, I and and" if I write it on a drawing board and hold it up while we visit over Face Time.
She already has me pegged for being a clueless person regarding all things trendy, as would be evidenced by this conversation a while back:
"Mama, I want to be a Monsters High girl for Halloween."
--Oooh, that will be fun. Which one?
"You wouldn't know since you don't watch TV."

Big Sister is a tall giant suddenly. As she has since she was two, she broadens then stretches, then broadens, then stretches. She's still petite compared to her peers, but a giant around the current three.
She will still occasionally give the appropriate response to "Do I love you?" "Yes, My OH My!" and is still the gracious "Oh Thank you for thinking to...." girl she was when she moved out.

What's Little Sister up to?
Little Sister likes to sing me songs and show me 'nastics. She is particularly long-legged and can jump off the 4th step and land on her feet, which she thinks is the coolest thing.
Little Sister can still "read" most of Pout Pout Fish by heart.
According to Big Sister, Little Sister gets into EVERYTHING. Which may be true given the state of my chapstick after a recent visit.
She can spell her name, read 2 sight words and claims to be able to count to 50, though I haven't heard that yet.
When Little Sister comes, she gets a pile, and I mean PILE, of books, sits down on the playroom floor and asks me to read them all. Each time we talk on the iPad, I have to read a book or two, give a tour of the house, and put Stubby on camera for her to see.

Little Sister misses her Mama something fierce when we are not together, I am told. When she is sick or hurt or in trouble, ESPECIALLY in trouble, I am the one she wants. Her dad and I recently talked about how sad she gets at times and I wondered out loud if I should stop calling/Face Timing. If the distance was too hard on her. The answer I got was: "No. Call more. She is happy when she knows you are around."

So this is where we'll stay for now. Visits when we can, calls when we can, and a continually supportive bio family of this crazy arrangement.

Bits of Christmas

A few things I'd like to remember about this Christmas:

From Speed, who has been particularly crabby lately, on the Sunday before Christmas: "I not like Santa Claus."
--Ok, I'll ask him not to come.

The next day, also a crabby one.
"I like Santa. Not him horsies though."
--Ok, I'll ask the horsies to stay outside.


From Sunshine, after we rushrushrushed to get ready for church. She was wearing a smocked red dress and tights ("These like PANTS! Funny PANTS!"). Chickadee was dressed in Little Sister's old Christmas dress and Speed was wearing a tie. I ran upstairs and threw on the same thing I wear everysingletime I dress for Christmas. Black pants. Red sweater.

"Oooooh Mommy! You look so COOT!" (cute)


"Chickadee, what does Santa say?"
"Ho ho ho. Mehmeh TihTih!"


What Sunshine says every single time we see Christmas lights:
"Look Mommy! Halloween lights!"


What Santa was fed as a snack that night:
1 cookie
1 cereal bar
a few chips
1 cup of milk
1 cup of juice

What the "horsies" were fed:
1 bowl of water (outside)
1 stalk of brocolli
1 large carrot


What Christmas morning looked like:
8:30 am: Me going in the room to wake up two bigs
8:45 (since we get dressed EVERY morning before coming downstairs, we have no pictures in Christmas jammies): Kids played with the toys Santa left unwrapped.
9:30: finally opened some presents
10:30: After opening about four presents each, kids were disinterested in more, so we stopped for the day and played.

The rest of the presents just got opened last night.


I struggled a bit with this Christmas. I don't think any of the kids I've had have had a Christmas like the one they have here. Thanks to friends, agencies and me, Christmas is excessive and full of events, gifts, routines. But these guys? These guys had NO idea anything about Christmas. My struggle was with how much they got and how much they did. Will they ever have an experience like this again? And if the answer to that is "no," then is it fair to have given it to them this once?


Sunshine's retelling of the Christmas story includes something like this:
"Angel come say 'Jesus come! Jesus teach us be good and kind and...what else, Mommy?"
--to love....
"Yeh, to love EVERYBODY!"


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Seven Months

...and no end in sight.

Somehow yesterday slipped by. Our 7 month anniversary as a foursome (minus the mini vacation in August). Maybe it slipped by because the cold has everyone going CRAZY, not to mention coughing and sneezing their brains out.

Yet, we're still trucking along. Here are some of our small celebrations of recent weeks:

Can pedal a trike.
Recognizes D, S, M and the names they represent.
Transitions to school without crying. Often now, without even saying goodbye.
With my permission and only one set of directions, without me even in the room tonight, pulled a chair over to the counter, opened a tupperware of cookies, gave one to Sunshine and one to himself, and put the chair back while I put Chickadee down for the night. When I came downstairs, there was one on my placemat too.

Can buckle the top buckle and one bottom part of her car seat (this is huge at 7:15am, folks!)
Can sing ABCs and Jingle Bells word for word with no help.
Waves hi and bye to random people as we leave Speed at school.
Played with some friends the other day with me across the (very large) room. She didn't even need me around.
Told me today that "I think Miss Amanda (teacher) be at (daycare name) 'day. You think so, Mommy?" From the kid who didn't talk 7 months ago.

Can run.
Away from us.
Walks, rather than being carried, into daycare.
Has elaborate routines with her babies, including trying to change diapers, wipe them, wipe noses, pat them down and then walks away from them saying "bye bye."
Has many, many, many words now. But her favorite is still "NO!"

Still enjoying watching them grow...

Unconditional Love

"Mommy, you say "Go sit stairs. Not nice!", still love me, right?"
"You say Sunshine "Go sit stairs. Not nice!", still love Sunshine, right?"
"Cuz I still love you."

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


...for today. Though by 8am, you wouldn't have known that's how the day would end.

This is how our day started:
"Get your jacket please." -waaaaaaaaahhhhhh!
"Put your backpack on please."  -waaaaaahhhhh!
"It's Chickadee's turn to do that."  -waaaaaahhhhhhh!
"It's time to go." -waaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh!

Sometimes I wonder if my current son has behaviors because of trauma or because he's a hmmm, how to put it nicely?...Crier?

Fast forward through the day and I am smacked in the face with reasons to be thankful:
A boy who pretends to be a Pout Pout Fish while eating.
A girl playing footsie with me under the kitchen table.
A baby who, after every single bite of food, holds her spoon out to me and wants me to pretend to take a bite.
A neighbor who brought over a few larger-than-should-be-consumed-by-toddlers cupcakes.
Three kids who insisted on putting candles in those cupcakes and singing happy birthday to us all.

Thankful for every single "extra" day I've had since August 23.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Story Of My Life

Chickadee's first two word utterance:

"Up Mommy!"

Thursday, November 7, 2013

What Six Months Can Do

I was having a pity party for myself, well for us really, the other day. I was thinking that we all four work sooooo hard to heal and grow and sometimes it seems like we are getting nowhere fast.

The next day, I picked up a piece of mulch off of the carpet AND IT WAS REALLY MULCH! This is the first time in six months that that dark thing on the playroom floor or at the top of the steps has really been mulch and not some other shouldn't-be-touched-with-bare-hands type of thing. (I need to discuss my six month and still failing learning curve on that one). So I thought: Maybe we HAVE all made progress. Maybe all this work is making a difference in the day to day and will translate to a difference in their future.

I needed proof though. I began to read the notes I took during May, the first month the kids were here. Our work has paid off and in black and white it was easy to see:

does not speak to others Does not shut up
several accidents a week Fully potty trained
has yet to interact with peers Yesterday, asked a friend "You sick yesterday?"
Can count to two ten
does not use words Uses three word sentences
does not engage in play Pretend plays babies and birthdays daily
Developmentally delayed on target
Failure toThrive Thriving

Hard Work + Resiliency = Progress 

Friday, November 1, 2013


I love traditions surrounding holidays. Halloween has a zillion, from carving the pumpkin to decorating some cookies to getting out all the old costumes and trying every single one on whomever they will fit.

But holidays kill me a teeny bit on the inside. Because these traditions are mine, not ours. Because next year, I won't know which of these kids was brave enough to touch the pulp of the pumpkin. I won't know who is tall enough to ring doorbells to trick or treat. I won't know who decided they liked passing out candy but who was still too scared. Instead, I'll likely be sharing the traditions with a new set of kids who may or may not touch the pulp, ring the doorbell or pass out candy.

Holidays are a reminder of the fluidity of our house. The comings and goings and in betweens that these little feet may or may not remember when they celebrate the same day next year.

Happy Fourth Birthday, Speed!

We wanted Halloween and birthday to have their own day, so we moved Speed's birthday to last Sunday. Really, all that accomplished was giving him a birthWEEK rather than DAY, but that's ok.

On Sunday, we all worked together to make the absolute finest birthday cake in the construction world.
The kids (in case you couldn't tell) did all the decorating by themselves except for the initial layer of icing. This was a lesson in restraining the inner control freak in me, but they are still so excited to talk about the cake.

On Wednesday, Speed took cupcakes to daycare.
On Thursday, he took mini cupcakes and treat bags to his preschool.
On Thursday night he said: How old I now? I two?
"No, you are four."
"Oh. I like four. I so fun my birthday."

Love this boy.

Oldie but Goodie

Not sure how I neglected posting this conversation between my vocabulary challenged kiddo and me at the breakfast table one morning a while back:

"MommyTammy, you nipples is on the table."
"Oh, you mean my ELBOWS!"

We've got body parts down now (well, I don't know that I have quizzed NIPPLES lately). We sing and scream our bathtime song every single night, labeling as much as we can and taking a bow at the end. If you catch us on a good night, there's quite the dance routine involved.

(to the tune of He's Got the Whole Word In His Hands):

Wash your whooooollllle body in the tub
Wash your whole body in the tub
Wash your whole body in the tub
Wash your whole body in the tub

(The refrain is a bit redundant.)

Wash your fingers and your toes in the tub.
Wash your eyes and your nose in the tub.
Wash your elbows and your knees in the tub.

And so it goes. We're stuck on ankles and knuckles, but otherwise good.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Anatomy 101

Here's what I get for teaching the "clinical terms" for things:

From the backseat of the car last week:
3 yr old boy: Boy have penis. Girl muhgina.
2yr old girl: No, Speed! I have penis. No 'gina!
Boy: Mommy, Sunshine say her have penis.
Me: Ok.
Boy: Her NOT penis. Her muhgina.
Girl: No, I NOT 'GINA!!
Boy (completely fed up and almost yelling): Sunshine! You sayin' it wrong!! (clapping out syllables...way to go Early Intervention team!): It muhgina! Muh (clap) Gi (clap) Na! (clap)
Boy: Mommmmmmmmmmyyyyyy!!!!!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Year Six

"A child born to another woman calls me Mommy. 
The magnitude of that tragedy and the depth of that privilege 
are not lost on me." 
--Jody Landers

28 beautiful children
6 humbling years

Holding on for more of the ride.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Ten Commandments...

...of surviving in a single-parent foster home:

I. Thou shalt put on thy own shoes.
I will buy you velcro shoes. Or slip ons. I will watch you put them on in the middle of the aisle at Target. I will even purchase them within 12 hours of your arrival just so you can fulfill this commandment. Immediately.

II. Thou shalt buckle thy own car seat.
If you are one, you are exempt. If you are two, you just have to do the top straps. If you are three or older, I will wait as you learn.

III. Thou shalt hold my hand.
Or my finger, thumb, belt loop, waistband, shirt tail or elbow when crossing the street or parking lot.

IV. Thou shalt take a daily nap.
I will pat you down till the end of day just to get that hour of silence.

V. And go to bed on time.
Dishes await. Thou are permitted to break this rule by asking to play hide and seek at the last minute or by pleading for another book. Especially one of my faves.

VI. Thou shalt bathe thyself.
I am confident that your 2 year old hands can reach your own back and that any missed dirt will be caught on the next go round.  Besides, I bought the crazy, foamy soap just for you.

VII. Thou shalt walk, walk, walk.
Don't get me wrong. I love, love, love to hold and carry you. But only one of you at a time. Unless absolutely necessary. Then two. But never three at a time. I'll slow my pace for you though.

VIII. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's two parent home.
I get it. You did not ask to be placed in a home where you get 1/2 the attention you would maybe get in a 2 parent home. I'll do my best to make it up. I promise.

IX. Thou shalt not ask another grown-up for something when I just said NO.
I'm still the Mommy.

X. Thou shalt know in thy heart that you are my world.
...that I will give you as much attention, nurturing and babying that I possibly can despite the one parent on three kids aspect of our family, and that we are a team till you walk out the door. Again.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Second Chances

A bit over a week ago, I wrote (and did not publish) this:

I wish I knew:
...that someone kissed your head today.
...that they let you buckle your own car seat even though it takes forever.
...that someone wiped the perpetual snot off your face before you got it with your tongue.
...that you read books today.
...that you got to put away the dishes, or start the washer, or carry laundry to your room, because you love to help so much.
...that someone told you what a great kid you are. At least once.
...that you felt safe in your new home.

...that I Knew instead of Wished...

...that you are OK.

But then on Friday, this happened again:

In a twisted turn, we are WE again. My three musketeers are back. It's not something I wanted to happen for them. I wanted the next stop to be a great one, a solid step in the right direction. Of course, I was happy to welcome them see Sunshine's face absolutely light up when she saw me in the living have Chickadee hanging off my neck be the safe lap that Speed seeks out know that they are OK, but so sad for them that things didn't work as everyone hoped.

For today, though, I don't have to wonder if someone is giving kisses, providing a lap, wiping snot, or reading stories. This I know.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Speed's Ten

I don't even know where to begin with this boy. There are kids who land here because they need a place to stay. And there are kids who land here, I believe, because somehow, someone knows this is the perfect place for them to grow for how ever long they need to be here. Speed was one of those.

10. Called "teeth" "toothbrush". "We gonna brush our toothbrush?"
9. Had two favorite phrases: "I need your lap." and "Pick me up."
8. Loved to push buttons. Literally, although sometimes figuratively as well. Dishwasher, washer, dryer, radio, next door neighbors' doorbell. Any. Button.
7. Came with so few nouns. A phrase he learned quickly was "What that?" But he repeated it over and over and over again till you were quick enough to figure out what he was pointing to and answer.
6. Was terrified of water in early June. Was so comfortable in it by early August that he was fearless. Bathtime became a wet mess for the entire bathroom.
5. Had a special connection with our next door neighbor, Mr. Paul. Speed called him Mr. Paula and likely would have visited his house every night if given the chance. We recently took some farmer's market veggies over. Speed was holding a basket of cherry tomatoes. Only Mr. Paul's wife, Miss Jane, was there. "Give Jane her tomatoes, buddy." "No. These Mr. Paula." So we waited for Paul to come home.
4. Favorite shirt: Bright orange with a bike riding hamburger on it. If it was clean, it was the first pick.
3. Had potential for being a great child laborer. This boy LOVES to help. He liked to put napkins out, set the table, clear the table, get the paper, carry Stubby's food upstairs, shake a pillow into a pillow case, vacuum with the tiny sweeper...
2 1/2. Called me "mommytammy"--all one word, but it sounded like "MahKah" most of the time.
2. Read "Duck on a Bike" Every. Single. Night. Since. May. Ninth.
1. When I told him the other night that I loved him, he said, "Why you do dat?" "Because you're a great guy, of course." "Oh." Big smile.

My dear Speed, As best I can tell, you were given little reason to trust grown ups in your first years. Thank you for trusting me. You're a great guy and I love you.

Chickadee's Ten

When the kids arrived late one night, I went outside to help get them from the car. In the back, in a bucket car seat, was the teeniest baby I'd ever had in my driveway. The brief conversation with the person bringing the kids went something like this:
"um, I was told I was getting a one-year-old."
"She IS one."
"But she looks like she's about three months old."
"I know."

Teeny teeny thing with big big personality.

10. Licked the church pew weekly. I am convinced her immune system will thank me one day for allowing that to go on each week.
9. Got her first tooth at 15 months. It was a top fang. Cutest little snaggletooth in town.
8. Often fell asleep in the exact position I put her in her crib. Arm wrapped around blanket, leg bent just so...and she would stay that way at least until after I went to sleep.
7. Had the most beautiful gray eyes ever. But sometimes they looked green. And sometimes a shade of light brown. She was asleep when she arrived and the worker said: "Wait till you see her eyes." She wasn't kidding.
6. First words included: banana, baby, mamma, no and all done. She also knew "cheese" when holding a cell phone and "clean up" when we sang our clean up song. I was working on teaching her to bawk like a chicken this week, but she didn't perfect it before leaving.
5. Was highly entertained by a sour face I would make at dinner. The older kids would tell me to do it over and over again, just so we could hear her laughing.
4. Had a ginormous belly, despite the rest of her teeniness. Speed's teacher was pregnant (till last week) so he often talked about babies in people's tummies (his included). He was sure Chickadee had one in hers.
3. Showered us all in kisses. If she wanted to kiss you, she'd say: Mmmmmmmmuh! and then kiss away. She was the last to go to bed each night so helped tuck the other two in and kiss them good night, regardless of the perpetual snot running down her nose. She was equally good at blowing kisses.
2. Had lengthy conversations on cell phones, complete with hand gestures, head nods, and laughs.
1. Was the absolute best part of my day when I picked her up at daycare. She would squeal and scream and run and hug around my neck so tight that I could (literally) let go of her and she wouldn't fall.

I wish I knew why I spent 3 years of foster care vetoing babies because, oh my goodness, this one stole my heart. Love, love, love you, Chickadee!

Sunshine's Ten

Three sets of feet walked out today, leaving our house very quiet. The thing with these three was that they were so very easy to do for. To do anything for. They were by no means easy kids, but something about these cute kids made crawling with them through the trenches of trauma and recovery a privilege.

Sunshine was a funny girl. It took her about six weeks to come out of a shell, talk regulary, and play with us. But what a delight she was once she showed us her true self.

10.  Called "flip flops" "plip plops".
9. Had a perpetually rescheduled dentist appointment. She actually never ended up going though it was scheduled several times. Her recap of the situation happened every night while brushing her teeth. "Tammy, I not go dentist. Dentist SICK! I go another time."
8. Nailed the difference between city bus, school bus and jeep really quickly. Only after a while did I figure out that she thought "Jeep" meant the tire on the back of an SUV.
7. Liked listening to a Japanese drum song and "drumming". She had a very serious, eyebrows scrunched, jaw tightened, face when drumming. She knew it cracked the rest of us up so would intentionally do it sometimes, drum song or not.
6. Mastered her tantrum. Fully.
5. Of all three, loved our nightly trip to the mailbox the most. As soon as we sat down to dinner, she'd ask if we were going.
4. Had hair that had a mind of its own. Those twists stood straight up no matter what I did.
3. Was a bit vain in front of mirrors. Snot on face, food on shirt, twists going this way and that, still got "Tammy, I so pretty!" I love her self-image.
2. Was sort of a picky eater but would devour brocolli. So we ate a lot of brocolli since that was the only thing she'd put in her mouth many nights.
1. My most favorite sentence from her mouth came out so sweetly and so often: "Tammy, you wanna play with me?" Of course, I do!

Sunshine got into her caseworker's car today and said: Bye Tammy! You pick us up later, K?

Ooh, I wish I could, sweet girl! Missing you already!

Monday, August 5, 2013

And the Conversation Went Something Like This

"I need to tell you something. Remember the day you came here? People wanted you to have a safe place to live and play?"


"Miss Caseworker, Miss Attorney and Mr. Judge have decided that it's time for you to go to a new house."

Two-year-old wanders off here.

"Tomorrow will be your last day of school."

Two-year-old is back.

"After that, we will put your jammies and toothbrush and clothes and swim trunks and books and toys into a bag. On Wednesday, Miss Caseworker will come to drive you to New Person's house."

Someone scoots closer. Someone else is on my lap now.

"You will have a new bed and new school. We will say good-bye and I will miss you so much."

-What you gonna do when we go? You gonna eat lunch?

"Yes, I will eat and work and take care of Stubby, but New Person will take care of you."

-You be sad?

"Yes. I will miss you."

-I gonna miss you too.

And then he turned, thinking I couldn't see, and wiped tears from his eyes.

-Let's go mailbox, Mommy Tammy.

"Alright, Buddy. Get your shoes."

And as smoothly as that, I have pulled the rug that is security out from under their feet.

Family Portrait

We tried very hard on Sunday to get a family photo. A self-timed family photo, no less. With 3, 2 and 1 year olds. Anyone who has known me for more than, say, a minute knows I have a special fondness for self-timed group shots.

I now have over 40 family photos of us. We are dressed for church. Our faces are clean. Our hair is brushed and Sunshine's twists are actually behaving on her head for once.

But you'll have to imagine that picture. Because each one has someone blinking, turning, a skirt up, a bra strap down, a blur of baby moving across the photo.

This is what we got in its place on our nightly walk to the mailbox today. The kids love shadows.

(Objects in photo are shorter than they appear.)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Letter

Dear Anonymous Caller,

I have been thinking about you so much lately--about what you heard, about what you did--in early May. I am curious if you have wondered if your call made a difference in the lives of three children. I wanted to assure you that it did.

I wonder if you thought twice about sharing the information you were told with authorities. While it was an anonymous phone call, the information provided would point to one person. And that person was you. Did you weigh yourself into the equation or did you just know what needed to be done? Did you care that your actions could damage your relationship with others?

I want you to know what happened after. I wish there was a way to tell you that you would really see. What happened after was a flurry of activity. It was three very damaged children being brought to safety. It has been over two months of physical and emotional healing. It will be a much longer journey to make them confident that they are safe and to readjust their idea of normalcy.

Isn't it a shame that safety is not a God given right?

I want you to know that these children whom you do not know have flourished. That they now speak and smile and most recently, test limits. Know that a three year old saying "I don't want that" and a two year old throwing an all-out stomp-your-feet-scream-so-loud tantrum has become a beautiful thing. They have a sparkle in their eyes that wasn't there before. And you were the first to help that sparkle shine.

Dear Caller, if I have the privilege to know these children in the future, far enough in the future where they are old enough to fully understand their story, I want you to know that they will learn that someone who didn't know them, but knew of their situation, was the first to take steps to make their lives better, safer, happier. That someone is you.

Thank you for being brave.

A Foster Mom

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Splinter Skills

Admittedly, the speechie in me screams on a daily basis these days. Two kids have minor language delays, articulation errors like crazy, and a dialect mixed in. Speed has a very limited vocabulary when it comes to naming things. Sometimes he knows a word in the morning, but can't remember it at night. The guy is a puzzle.

Two months ago, Speed thought all animals were called "dogs." We started small and over a few weeks added "cat" and "bunny" to our vocabulary. We still struggle with the difference between a bird and a fish.

Also two months ago, we started reading Duck on a Bike. Nightly. Each page says something like this:

"And Duck rode past Cow. "moooooo" said Cow. But what she really wanted to say was "A duck on a bike? Now that's the silliest thing I've ever seen!"

The book has a duck, mouse, cat, dog, horse, cow, goat and two pigs. We name these items nightly. We talk about what sound they make.

Today in the car, Speed started a question game: What does a (animal) say?

"Mommy Tammy, what a cat say?" --Meow
"Speed, what does a dog say?" --woof woof
"Mommy Tammy, what a mouse say?" --squeak squeak
"Speed, what does a horse say?"
--I don't know.
"What does a chicken say?"
--Hey Duck! Watch where you're going!!


Well Said

Conversation with a man at the pool today:

Him: How old are your kids?
Me: Speed is 3, Sunshine is 2, and Chickadee is 1.
Him: Those are great names. They are cute. When did they join your family?
Me: May 9.
Him: How lucky you and they are!

And that was it.

Please note the lack of the following:
Where are they from?
Did you plan on having them so close together?
Do you know how to do their hair?
Did you adopt them?
Are you their babysitter?

I wanted to hug this man. No one ever has conversations like this with me. I suppose he may have been curious about us, but he didn't ask. He just acknowledged their utter cuteness and our "family-ness". Thank you, Sir.

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Ones That Never Came

A year ago, there were some crickets chirping for a good long while. Only beyond the crickets, some work was being done so that I could retire from foster care. So that I could end this part of the journey at 25 kids.

Last summer, I drove five hours to a small Texas town and met the kiddos who were supposed to come to stay. I was supposed to drive back to Austin with their belongings. I would have put their belongings in the rooms that had been freshly painted for them....2 girls in one room, 1 boy in another. I would have then waited for the next weekend when they came for a visit here. And then for that next week when they came to stay.

Instead, I came back with no belongings. I came back at the start of a very long decision making week that would change the plan for all four of us. I came back with photos of an awesome weekend with three wonderful children who I knew I would adore and who were so much fun, but whose needs I knew I could not single handedly meet for the next however many years.


Sometimes the best thing to do is to acknowledge that I can't do it all.

One year later. Six kids more. And counting.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Living with a Speech Therapist

Overheard in the playroom today:

Speed to Chickadee: "You want up? Say 'up!' 'Up!' Or you say, 'help me please!'"

As an aside, he was helping her climb in and out of a diaper box. Why buy toys when you have diaper boxes?

Monday, July 1, 2013

Never Say Never #2,367,410

I swore I'd never be one of those crazy people who wears her babies all the time.

Monkey See. Monkey Do.

The Not-So-Terrible Twos

I may have mentioned before that Sunshine is learning to be two. I've had an 8 year old that acted like a 20 year old before, but have never had a two year old who didn't throw tantrums. Or cry. At all. Or spill. Or whack someone from time to time.

While this not acting like a two year old is can really be EASY, we don't really want her skipping her terrible twos.

So an internal party was had last week when Sunshine cried over a toy for the first time. And then we gave it to her. Another party was had when she spilled her food on the floor and didn't immediately hop down and pick it up.

This is our definition of progress: Sunshine learning to be a kid, learning to be two, learning that messes are ok, disagreeing is ok, and fun can be had.

Happy 1 1/6 Birthday!

to Chickadee.

What a difference a month makes.

Chickadee is now:
blowing kisses
waving bye-bye (with both hands simultaneously)
dancing (oh my, how the girl can dance)
taking things out of drawers/boxes/bags
and making her siblings push her around incessantly in a tonka truck.

She's also:
wiping her nose on my skirt
and running away for diaper changes.

Now we just need to work on:
following directions
more words
less snot
and some teeth.


We've spent weeks working on remembering basic vocabulary words.
Dog. Cat. Horse. Car. Truck. Motorcycle. Pig. Macaroni.
We've just started colors and ABCs.

But give the boy a brownie and he'll never ever forget that word.

My kind of guy!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Fair Question

We're working toward increasing our vocabulary of basic things. In the meantime, some pretty confusing conversations happen.

The other day in the car:

Speed: Make TV loud please?
Me: Um, we don't have a TV in the car. We have a RADIO. Is that what you hear? A RADIO? Our TV is at home but we don't really watch it.
Speed: What we do with it?
Me: Keep it in the cabinet.
Speed: Oh.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Right Back At You

Daily exchange between me and the kids:

"Hey Speed, guess what?"
(turns head)
"You're a great guy."

"Hey Sunshine, guess what?"
(turns and smiles)
"You're a great girl!"

"Hey Chickadee, guess what?"
"You're a great baby!"

I say this every day. Randomly. Frequently. To my three mostly non-talkers.

Today I got this:
"Hey guess what? You a good Mommy Tammy!"

Thanks, Speed. I'm working on it.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Splish Splash

A little rain never hurts.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Two Weeks In

This is my Facebook status today, in honor of one friend who likes to "keep it real" by announcing her parenting flaws:
Realities #1-6: 1. One of my kids spent 10 1/2 hrs in daycare today. 2. Our awesome pediatrician felt so bad for me carrying two kids who just had at least 5 pokes each out of her office that she carried one all the way to my car and even buckled her in. 3. I fed my kids fast food for dinner. 4. And canned pears. 5. And at the advice of a specialist we see, I let one kid DRINK THE HEAVY SYRUP from the pears. and 6. My baby will go not only to school tomorrow, but also to a bio visit looking TOTALLY like a white woman is raising her bc I didn't have time to finish her hair.
And this is my new profile picture:

We are doing this fostercare thing in style. We hit the ground running at almost midnight two weeks ago and haven't stopped since.

Welcome Speed, my handsome three-year-old, who doesn't talk much and was recently described by someone as "a darter." Keep your eye on this boy. Not just because if you turn your back he's run way far away from you, but because he's going to move fast in the healing process. I see the sparkle in his eye every now and again and just know it.

Welcome Sunshine, my darling two-year-old, whose real name is the most fitting name for her ever. Sunshine saves her words for rare instances. She is an observer who pops into our play and conversation at her own pace. She is mama to our baby. She is mama to our brother. She is learning to be two.

Welcome Chickadee, my adorable 12 month old, who is as teeny as they come. She has humongous eyes that watch us all. She gives bear hugs around my neck. She loves the carrier. She eats like a football player.

There was a time not long ago where kids were put here to stay. Not once, but twice. I have a healing house for bio moms, I guess. There was also a time not long ago when my focus changed from what I wanted for the kids to what I wanted for me.

It all felt wrong.

So here we are again. Loving on other people's babies while they can't. Showing kids how to go down slides and make bubbles out of soap on their hands. Teaching them ABCs, 123s, This Little Piggy, and the Itsy Bitsy Spider. Accepting that they probably aren't here to stay but adoring every minute of every bit of them while they are here.

Hold on, to me as we go
As we roll down this unfamiliar road
And although this wave is stringing us along
Just know you’re not alone
Cause I’m going to make this place your home

Bug and Beignet, Summer 2009

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Early Literacy

All I Really Need to Know...

Reposting this from August 2011 because this week, it's all I need. Well, that and a trip to the bathroom without a baby strapped to my body:

All I Really Need to Know I Learned Fostering

Never say never.
Buy different character undies for each child...the sorting will be easier.
Don't try to sweep up rice right after dinner. It's much easier when it's dry.
Vague answers to strangers about who you are, who your kids are, and why things don't always match up are entirely appropriate and acceptable.
Three year olds like bibs too.  And stroller rides.  And to be held.
You can make your point known...whether it's an I love you or a get down from there this instant...regardless of what your child's primary language is.
It ain't over till the fat lady sings.  Or the judge hits her gavel.
Find the source of what really angers you.  It's likely not a backtalking three year old.  It's more likely that that backtalking three year old will one day walk out the door.  Or even more likely that that backtalking three year old wasn't treated right in a previous life.
Just when you thought you've heard it all, you realize you haven't.
There are great gifts to be had in caseworkers, fellow foster parents, visiting children, CASAs and therapists.
Many, many people out there are interested in fostering.  Not enough do it.
It's easy to forget the good stuff, so write it down.  Fortunately, sometimes it's possible to forget the bad stuff too, so don't bother documenting that.
We are all human. Even bio parents.
But not all humans should be raising kids.
At the end of the ride, my kids will not remember me unless their families remind them.  They are too young. They will hopefully remember that they were loved by an additional momma during their time here. It's my choice to believe that part.
It's also my choice to believe that no matter how horrific the beginning, the ending will be a good one.  It's called Faith.
Good endings can look like different things.
A day without vegetables kills no one.  Nor does a trip to Chuck E. Cheese.
Keep extra toothbrushes on hand.  And lice shampoo.
It really does take a village to raise a child.
A full night's sleep is sometimes overrated.  A chance to pat someone to bed or to sing them one more song is not.
The word "hurry" carries no meaning to the under five crowd.
There's no need to point out a lie.  The liar is aware.
Blood is easier to clean than vomit.  Especially at 1 a.m.
If you say it enough times, they'll listen.
If you say it even more times, they'll repeat it.
Make it worth repeating.
There's a reason God inspired someone to invent paper plates.
School serves hot lunch.  If you don't make a hot dinner every night, no one cares.
Masking tape, bubble wrap and shaving cream are all really cheap, really entertaining ways to keep kids busy.
Sometimes not being in control is a good, good thing.
Love them like they're staying forever.  Treasure them like they're leaving tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Trauma Informed Care

This picture was in a power point for a training from CPS regarding working with kids who have suffered trauma. The only thing that would make it creepier would be a baby doll in place of one of those animals. Look at the bird's creepy feet even.

Photo of a monkey gently holding  a duck

Now who's traumatized?

Friday, March 29, 2013

Peanut's Ten

And this marks my 25th list of ten.

The thing about two year olds is that they change so much. Over a week, over a month. Peanut was such a baby when she came, but was well on her way to holding her own ground when she walked out. It was a delight to see her grow into her personality.

10. Adored baby dolls. She laid them all face down, covered them with whatever she could find, and sat between them patting patting patting their backs till they fell asleep.
9. Had a pair of footies with monkeys on them that were her first pick if they were clean.
8. Was a bit of a shoe whore. Had different names for some of her shoes that surely no one but us would understand. For instance, her "Halloween shoes" were named so because the first time she wore them was with her witch costume.
7. Toward the end, was happy to tell anyone that she has two mommies. If you listened long enough, she'd tell you a little bit about each of us. I was the one who read stories and made brownies.
6. Loved chapstick almost as much as GG did.
5. Rode in the stroller to take D to school every day. When Buddy was here, we took the double. When he left, she moved to a green umbrella stroller. This change was soooo unsettling for her, but after a while, she understood "Two babies, big stroller. Only me, my green stroller."
4. From October 10 onward, never let a day go by without saying: "I go Chuck E Cheese my birthday. So fun."
3. Developed a solid explanation regarding Santa's habits when it wasn't the Christmas season. "Santa go North Pole. Go night night. Eat dinner. Say "hellooooo elf"...."
2. Could have stayed in the bathtub all night every night if allowed. It didn't matter if she had an empty bottle, bath crayons, or a tub full of plastic eggs. She was as content as could be.
1. Ate Rice Krispies every single morning. The only time she didn't was if we happened to run out mid week. Many mornings, the first words from her mouth were: I eat Pisspeas?

I wish I would be able to see Peanut in a few years. If the past six months are any indication, she's going to be a very independent, very chatty little girl.

I'll miss you, Peanut, from your squeaky little voice to your tiny little toes!

Little D's Ten

D and Peanut moved on yesterday, leaving crickets chirping at my house. D waited so so long for his turn to move and was beyond excited to walk out the door.

Little D (who I never really called Little D but who readily responded to just D):
10.  Wore his necktie that he got for Christmas every single day with every single shirt till well past Valentine's Day.
9. Had a bit of an obsession with his hair. When it was short, he wanted it long so he could have a mohawk. When it was long, he wanted it short so he could look like the Sisters' dad.
8. Never grew tired of the word "SURE".
7. Was proud of the fact that you could feed him "anything except cooked spinach, and I'll be sure to eat it."
6. Loved Stubby. So very much. When I told him he was leaving, that was his one disappointment: "But I'm really going to miss Stubby." When we were saying good-bye in the driveway, he asked if he could come back in to say good-bye one more time.
5. Could entertain himself with an action figure or lego guy for a solid hour.
4 1/2. Was one of two peas in a pod around Big Sister. They acted like they'd known each other since birth and neverrrrrr shut up in the back of the car when they saw each other.
4. Sang a prayer that he learned at daycare every day before he ate. Whether we were listening or not. Whether he had already started to eat or not. Sometimes at the end of his meal instead of the beginning. I drew the line at him singing it with his mouth stuffed with mini-wheats one day.
3. Left a Diet Coke out for Santa on Christmas Eve because "you know, he's gonna have to stay up real late to get us all those presents."
2. Loved riding his bike to school. Before he enrolled in school, we had to do a "practice run" so he knew he could do it. As long as weather permitted, we were the ones trucking up Westgate at 7:15 a.m. every morning.
1. Was a fantastic big brother. To Peanut. To Buddy. And I'm sure to his baby sister when he saw her too.

Be your best you, D. Don't forget to come find me when you're all grown up. I'll love you still.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Future Coworkers

D from the back of the car today when we were talking about packing up some more of their stuff to leave at their house when they go on their weekend visit tomorrow:

"So, (caseworker) is gonna come get us that day and we'll stay at my mom's?"
"We're never gonna see you again, are we?"
-No buddy, you won't.

A minute later:

"Well don't worry about that, Tammy. Because when I grow up, I'm gonna be a speech therapist like you and I'll come work at your work. You can see me then."

Peanut doesn't get it though. No matter how many ways I say it, she believes that like every other time this past month, "You come back? Pick me up?"

-No Baby, you will stay. I will say good-bye.
"Next time, I say HELLO MAMA! You come back!"
-No Baby, I won't come back. You will get bigger at Mommy (name)'s house.
"Then I come you work too. I say "helllllooooooooo mommy!"
-Ok, you can see me when you grow up too.

And D adds: I'll help you find her work too, Peanut.

In His Image

From my holy roller:

"Tammy, I wish I were Jesus."

-Oh yeah, why?

"Because then I could walk around telling people to be good."

Lest you think he means that in a goooood way, let me clarify.

-Dude, Jesus didn't walk around bossing people around and saying "Be good!" "Be nice!" and things like that. He SHOWED people how to love others and be helpers to others and be kind. He told stories that helped people understand. He was not bossy though.

"Oh, nevermind. I don't want to be Jesus then."

It's been a week of disappointments....

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Cat Lips

"Can I kiss Stubby on the lips?"

-well you CAN but do you know how a cat cleans himself?

"He waits till you are in bed and takes a bath."

-um, no, he licks himself. His WHOLE self. That means all those germs are on his tongue.

"He licks his bottom too??"

-well yeah, he doesn't have thumbs so can't use toilet paper!

"That means he licks pee and poop?"

-and then kisses you on the lips!

"nevermind, I'll kiss him on the nose instead."

Sunday, March 10, 2013

H E Buddy

When visiting the other day, Big Sister asked: "Mama, how does food come to your house?"
 "Well, you buy it and then you bring it home."
 "No, I mean, to YOUR house. You never go to HEB."

It occurred to me that in over two years, 15 months here and a year worth of visiting, the girl has never once set foot in a grocery store with me.

I hate shopping with kids. There's no in-out. No leave the cart at the end of the aisle and running down the row for Diet Coke. No impulse buying for you while ignoring their requests.

HEB is not something I choose to frequent with kids.

But lately, Peanut and I have gotten into the routine of hitting the grocery on Friday mornings, after dropping D at school, before going to daycare.  The girl LOVES HEB. She loves the cart shaped like a car.  She loves counting apples and bananas and whatever other produce we are getting. She loves reminiscing about the time Buddy came to HEB with us and rode in the car cart with her on the day he moved. She loves getting Buddy Bucks at the end of our trip.

Sometimes I think she'd choose HEB over Chuck E. Cheese.

I love her little recaps, like the one this past Friday: Mama me go HEB. Bananas.....cereal.....all food...I car cart. I drive car. Lady give Buddy Buck. Food in car. THEN go school. It so fun, Mama!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Weekend Getaway

Two kids are transitioning. We just spent 48 hours apart for the first time in six months. These are D's highlights from their weekend away:

Fruity Pebbles for breakfast: "You know that cereal that LOOKS like Rice Krispies, but it's NOT Rice Krispies because Rice Krispies are light brown sorta but these ones were green and blue and red and other colors?"

TV: "I got to watch all kinds of cartoons. Even Sponge Bob."

Sleeping in the living room: "We got to eat AND sleep in the living room. Isn't that cool, Tammy?"

Showering in the morning: "We didn't take baths at bedtime, nope sir. We took showers in the morning when we woke up." (as an aside, I heart "nope sir".)

What were the best parts of MY weekend, you ask?

Sleeping past seven.
Watching a movie.
Visiting a couple of friends.
Being able to listen in church.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Buddy's Top Ten

We delivered Buddy to his next stop yesterday. He was supposed to be here "a couple of weeks or so." He ended up staying five months beyond that. My little friend:

10. Loved the sound of Rice Crispies. He had to put his ear to at least one person's bowl every morning to hear the snap, crackle, and pop!
9. Was a neat freak. Buddy was a great cleaner upper, a tidy-ish for a two year old eater, and hated litter at the park.
8. Wore undies over his diaper for the past month or so. He refused to call them "underwear." "No underwear, D! Undies! MY undies!"
7. Came in a motoric mess. The dude couldn't run or climb stairs. Left able to climb the rock wall at the park and I'm pretty sure I saw him jump from the third step in the living room and land on his feet the other day.
6. Loved driving over Town Lake. "WATER!! MY SIDE!!!!"
5. Had an eagle eye for birds and planes and the moon, especially when we walked D to school each morning.
4. Gobbled most of his food down very quickly. Except sweets. Sweets were savored and eaten incredibly slowly.
3. Associated two words with "church": "Alleluia" and "donut".
2. Called me Mommy unless he was mad at me. Then I was Tammy. "No, Tammy! Stop!"
1.  Was absolutely happiest playing in our playroom, not going anywhere, just playing legos or Magna Tiles with a tutu or princess outfit on.

I spent a lot of the last five months thinking about what Buddy was not: He was not supposed to stay long, he was not at all easy, and sometimes his challenges made him not that fun. But sometimes, and thankfully most of the time recently, I was able to see what he was: He was here for right now. He was growing and changing and learning every day. And he was very fun when I changed the angle of my lens.

We're missing you already, Buddy. Peanut has no playmate, D has no one to talk incessantly to, and I have no shadow.

Love you, Buddy Boy!

Sixth Sense

This is where Stubby spent the day yesterday while I was packing Buddy's stuff:

He does this--sleeps on the bed of the kid who is being packed up or who has just left--almost every single time someone moves. It's a little creepy. (Not baby doll creepy...just how do you know? creepy...)

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Moral Compass

Tonight from the playroom after someone STARTED to make a bad choice, but then looked at me, saw my eyebrows raised, and stopped.

"You know what, Tammy?  If bad was good and good was bad, that'd be awesome, right?"

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

What Not to Say to a Foster Parent

My sister's friend recently wrote an article about what not to say to a working mom. It's a list of 11 things that well-meaning people have said regarding her working full-time away from her son. It got me thinking about all of the things I have heard as a foster parent...about my kids, about me, about our "situation."

From those who may not immediately know we are a foster family:
Are these all yours?
When you look at me and you see three to five children, all spanning three-ish years and not all matching in race, you can safely assume the answer is "no." Not biologically. Are they all mine for today? Yes.

Are you running a daycare?
Dear well-intentioned woman at the park, when you hear four kids calling me mommy, you know it is not a daycare I run. When I answer 'no' and give you no further explanation, it is time to stop asking more questions. Because if I didn't respond to that one, I will likely not respond openly to "What's sibling rivalry like with all those kids?" and "Did you plan to have them so close together?"

Can I touch her? Can I pick him up?
Actually, thank you for asking this question. Because my answer will be a resounding "no". If you do not know my last name, my child's first name, and have only just laid eyes on my child today, do not ask, offer or expect to hold her. Do not touch my child's hair while saying to me: "What's she mixed with?" Do not squeeze her chubby cheeks and say: "She hasn't missed any meals, has she?" Do not pick up my two year old even if she puts her arms up and very sweetly, in the tiniest voice, says: "Up, please." If you wouldn't do it to another family you don't know in the middle of Target, don't do it to mine. Please.

From those of you who know exactly what our deal is:
Don't you wish you could keep them all?
Kids do not come into foster care with the goal of adoption. They come with the goal of family reunification. A goal that a system can help their family to heal, repair, learn and adapt. Only very late in the game is it even my choice to "keep" them. With 25 kids, that choice has only come once. I believe at some point down the road, someone will "need to be kept." And that it will feel right to keep that someone. Until then, I'll keep them as long as they need to stay.

So what's his story?
My kids' stories, what they have been through, what brought them to my house, are the most personal pieces of information I carry about them. Know that it takes an egregious incident or a long road of neglect to have children placed in alternate care. Assume the worst. Multiply it by a few. Don't worry about the minutiae of their journey.

They're better off with you anyway.
There is nothing better than being with your parents and being adored and well cared for. Foster care, I am sure, is on no child's top ten list. No teen's bucket list. No one's letter to Santa. Are my kids safer with me? Probably for now. Do they have opportunities and experiences that they may not have had otherwise? Possibly yes. But is there anywhere a child would rather be than with the family he was born into? You'll have a hard time convincing me of that.

They're just going to end up back in the system.
My child has lived with me for seven months. Maybe ten. Maybe over a year. I have poured every bit of energy into loving on my babies for those months. I have adored them, played with them, and watched them grow. I have wondered what they'll be when they grow up, where they'll go to high school, what their interests will be. I have loved them with all my heart. I know their backstory and the progress that has been made in the time they've been with me. I do not need anyone suggesting their next step will be anything other than perfect. I have to believe this for my own sanity as my heart cannot handle any other possibility.

We need more people like you.
Don't speak. Act. There are plenty of kids out there to love.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Buddy's still working hard to catch up on his speech and language. His comments from the back of the car the other day show great progress though.

Me: Buddy, did you have a fun day in Miss Donna's class?
Him: Ruby bite me! Ruby NO!!!! Ruby time out!

First retelling of an event from his day. Two three word utterances with no prompts. The speechie in me rejoices.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Window Shopping

Oh, Petsmart, how we love thee.

The Terrible Twos

times two.

I am not sure I'd recommend this to anyone. I don't remember two three year olds being this "fun" or even two one year olds. But boy, do two two year olds keep me on my toes.

I could really do without the fits over cereal, who's on your undies or diaper, who gets their diaper changed first, and what sippy cup I pull out of the cabinet. I would love to eat out without a tantrum or make it through a meal at home without someone crying. I would love not to have my seat in the car kicked repeatedly because a certain princess is crabby.

But if we can filter out the fun and keep it that way, we'll all be good.

Thank you for kids who are interested in undies, who are soooooo happy wearing hats and mittens, who play ring around the rosy and sing ABCs incessantly, and who when not being terrible two year olds can be pretty terrific two year olds.

Sure Thing

Recent comments from D:

"You sure are a good cooker, Tammy."
"Buddy sure does like that word 'no'!"
"Peanut sure does look cute in her undies."
"I sure do like riding my bike to school."
"You sure do like being a mom, Tammy."
and one of my faves, after I said I'd have him "take a break upstairs" if a certain behavior continued:
"Oh yeah, you sure would do that, wouldn't you?"

Best Dressed Pre-K Student Award...

goes to D, who has worn this tie every single day since he received it for Christmas. Regardless of the shirt: Spiderman T, polo, button down.

Best $3.99 Santa has ever spent!