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 back...to see Sunshine's face absolutely light up when she saw me in the living room...to have Chickadee hanging off my neck again...to be the safe lap that Speed seeks out daily...to 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.)