Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas 2014

We've been "doing" Christmas since mid-November, thanks to the daycare teachers who like to be sure everyone knows their carols. It was so fun to celebrate Christmas twice with the three amigos, and Junebug, of course, made it even more fun.

Things to remember about this year:

**Like last year, the kids, namely Speed, were afraid of Santa. They asked every night for many nights before Christmas if Santa stays downstairs when he visits and if he looks at them. I am pretty sure my poor Elf on the Shelf is closeted for the remainder of their childhood.

**Chickadee knows all the words to "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" except she says "park" instead of "hark".

**Speed knows a LOT of the words, but not all. But to him, "God and sinners ROCK IN STYLE."

**Sunshine's favorite tune was "Santa Claus is Coming to Town".

**The kids had been excited since early November to participate in the pageant at church. Sunshine was adamant that she'd be a sheep for the show. She held onto this belief till the rehearsal when the rest of "us girls" were being angels, so she changed her mind. Speed stuck to being a king the whole time.

**Though the details are not mine to share, there are aspects of Speed that make him difficult, and sometimes out in public, others may be able to tell that these bits of him exist. The girls and I went to a sing-a-long at his school the week before Christmas. We crammed in the gym with about 500 other people as kids sang a bunch of holiday songs. In an overstimulating room of 500, with family watching and no adult near him to keep him feeling secure, Speed belted out every single song and danced his little heart out. If someone had told me that this happened, I wouldn't have believed. I was so happy to get to see him appear carefree in such an environment.

**Sunshine, too, has her own little quirks that were completely invisible during her daycare's Christmas performance. This was last year.

**Chickadee made me a coffee can with her picture on it for Christmas. She opened it for me a few days before Christmas and told me I had to share. It was a package of microwave popcorn and a fun sized bag of M and Ms. She ate those M and Ms tonight for dessert. And didn't share.

**We were blessed with an overabundance of gifts. So many that when we were almost finished unwrapping and put a gift on Junebug's lap, Junebug said, "no more," in a very pathetic little voice.

**Although Junebug is on her way out AND is a gigantic pain in church, I was happy to have her with us for all the festivities. We have a most awesome picture of her lying on the floor of the sanctuary in an angel costume. It is second only to the other fine photo of her scratching her nose but it looks like she is flipping off the entire congregation. :)

Merry, Merry, Merry and Happy 2015!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Perk of Weekend Visits

...and full time daycare.

I have changed only one dirty diaper since last Tuesday. One. :)

Monday, December 15, 2014

This is NOT My Kid

A couple weeks ago, a friend sent me a picture of the cover of a DVD about parenting traumatized children and said: Is this Chickadee?

Why, yes, yes it is. How'd she get there?

Then a second friend (who doesn't know the first friend) texted me asking the same thing.

Our therapist looked at the picture and thought the same thing.

Chickadee has those earrings, that shirt and that is my go-to hair do.

We did some digging. Found the source of the photo and believe it or not, that is not her. She has a twin out there somewhere. A twin born in 2009 rather than 2012, but a twin nonetheless.

A Weekend without Junebug

We've lost Junebug for the weekends from here on out. We have her for fewer waking hours than her family at this point. I am in full support of this reunification and can only think of two other cases when I have felt this good about the outcome.

Everyone seemed OK without Junebug except for Chickadee. She asked for her multiple times a day (though did enjoy riding in Junebug's car seat). Today, she asked where she was again.

C: Where Junebug?
Me: With her mama and dada, remember?
C: But she MY Junebug! *I* love her!
Me: Lots of people love her. You will see her at school today though.
C: Ok. I give her a big hug.

I wonder what the big kids think of all this, but being their nonexpressive little beings, they won't say.

The difference between four kids and three kids was noticeable to me in only 2 ways: 1. we can get in the car and ready for school faster and 2. there are things that aren't developmentally appropriate for Junebug that we can do when she is not around. Otherwise, I guess the saying that once you get three kids you don't notice when more are added is true.

Friday, November 28, 2014

But Technically The Unsupervised Walk Didn't Last That Long

...because Junebug felt left out, got her shoes and socks and stood by the door yelling: MY TURN! MY TURN! until I gave in, put on those shoes and socks and took her to catch up with the others.

It was nice in theory.

This Thanksgiving....

... I am thankful that I was able to let three kids go for a walk with some friends while I stayed behind with Junebug. Friends who are not background checked. For as long as they wanted. There are some perks to the other side of foster care.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Adoption Pictures By A Five Year Old

A five year old friend had a camera at our adoption. Here is a small sample of the photos I got from her this past weekend:

Junebug is Two

Today, our littlest friend is two. We celebrated with a tiny playdate on Saturday because Junebug will celebrate with her bio family today. We had cake and cupcakes and party hats and that was enough for this sweet girl who mastered being two a long time ago.

Junebug has been such a great "try" at our family continuing to foster. Before I put us back on "the list" to have another kiddo, I hoped for grace that this kid would show me if I was doing the right thing. That grace was quite literally carried through our door in June. Junebug's presence has shown me the gift my kids can be to others. Junebug herself has kept us all on our toes and most of the time keeps us laughing. What has amazed me the most this time is Junebug's case and family. I have waited seven years to see every single person from caseworker to family work as a team and it is absolutely wonderful to be a part of a group of people helping a family because the family recognizes their role and is working with the system rather than against it. This has, up to this point (and managing four kids aside), been a seamless journey.

Wishing Junebug a wonderful second year. We don't anticipate that we'll be a part of it for too too much longer, but we will enjoy your silliness while we can.

Thursday, November 13, 2014


(Hats + Mittens + Extra Shirt Layer + Jacket) x 4 = 15 minutes longer "prep" time in the morning. :(

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Christmas Carols


Chickadee LOVES the song "Hark the Herald Angels Sing". She has a Charlie Brown book where the kids are pictured around the Christmas tree singing that song.

Last night, she had me sing it on repeat, over and over and over, for the entire time I did her (complicated) hairdo.

I only know one verse.

Forty minutes of the same verse. Googling the other verses right now.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Election Day

Speed went to school pissed off this morning. Because he's not old enough to vote and even worse, as we walked by the people staring intently at their voting booths in the school foyer:


Life is so unfair.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Halloween Sneak Peak

My camera ran out of batteries but here's one picture sent to me by a friend. Hoping to get more soon!


Junebug has a bit of an obsession with socks. She MUST be wearing socks at all times, except when she decides to take them off/scream to have them put back on/take them off/scream to have them put back on. This lovely game has rubbed off on Chickadee as well and now it has become a bedtime game.

Last night:
Junebug: Waaaaah!!!! sock! Help! Sock!
Chickadee: Mommy, put my sock on please.
(yes, I comply)

Junebug: Uh oh! Sock! My sock!
Chickadee: Mommy! I need my sock!!!
(yes, I comply)

I thought about stopping the madness and ignoring them and letting them have cold feet. But then I figured that soon enough, Chickadee will know how to put on her own socks and Junebug won't be here so I'll have no little feet to resock a zillion times in one night. May as well play the sock game while it lasts.

FIVE (things I love about Speed)

Speed turned five on Friday. It happened to be book character day at school so he dressed as...a five year old (from the book "It's Hard To Be Five"). He got spoiled at school with a birthday crown and cupcakes. We put the rest of the celebrating on hold till after Halloween. Yesterday, we had pizza and cake with some friends and Speed was very happy to be the center of attention.

This is the boy who was supposed to be here just a couple months. He's now here for good. I'm having a hard time wrapping my mind around the idea that I will see numerous birthdays with this guy. When I am able to see the forest instead of the trees, I am amazed at how far he has come in not quite a year and a half.

Five things to love about Speed as a 4 year old:
5. Learned to take a shower with the curtain closed. This is viewed as a "treat" to him. And to me.
4. Loved dolls, dress up and strollers as much as any of the girls in the house. I watched a kid in my waiting room at work play with action figures recently. I thought "Speed would have no idea what to do with those toys!" But give the boy a pretend picnic basket and birthday cake and he can keep us all busy for a good long while.
3. Caught up in pre-reading and writing skills. Speed does not always like to accept responsibility for things but is very good about accepting responsibility as the person who wrote a letter on in an inappropriate place (pillow cases and bookshelves come to mind). I think this is because he knows he's the only one who knows how to do this.
2. Is going to be a Home Depot loiterer when he gets older. Four-year-old Speed was obsessed with lawn mowers, leaf blowers, tools, power tools, and weed wackers. I am looking forward to the day that I can actually let him use these things unsupervised.
1. Continues to have more compassion than I would ever expect. Speed loves all of the sisters but his seeming understanding about and acceptance of Junebug and her presence in our house always amazes me. He is the first to stick up for her, the first to give her hugs, and the first to make sure she is ok if she gets hurt or is sick.

Looking forward to another year (and more) with my speedy boy!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Why I Get NOTHING Done At Night

The babies still go bonkers at bedtime. I sit outside their doorway, reading or emailing, until they fall asleep. This curbs their tendency to get out of bed. It DOES NOT curb anything else. Heard last night:

Chickadee: Mommy, Junebug say AAAAHHHHHH!
Chickadee: Mommy, Junebug say AAAAHHHHHH!
Chickadee: Mommy, Junebug say AAAAHHHHHH!
Me: I know, honey. It's ok.
Chickadee: Mommy, Junebug not sleeping. Junebug say AAAHHHHH!!!
Me: I know. It's ok.
Chickadee: Mommy, Junebug not sleeping. Junebug say AAAHHHHH!!!
Me: I know. It's ok.

And round and round we went.

Why Watch TV?

...when you can walk to the mailbox and happen to arrive there as the mail carrier is passing out mail to all 80 mail boxes?

We sat tonight, on the sidewalk beside the cluster of mailboxes, and watched the poor mailman fill all of the boxes. He was not much into answering questions but the kids didn't seem to mind. When he was finished, gasp! There was MAIL IN OUR MAILBOX!! So we picked it up and walked home.

Way better than watching Dora.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Seven Years

Seven years
29 kids
19 ultimately reunified
4 in relative placements
1 moved to be with a sibling
1 adopted by another family
3 stuck with me for good
1 still in the works.

I am forever grateful for each of these children, no matter how long they stayed. I am also grateful for my inability to consistently say 'no'. Seven years ago, my guideline was 2 kids, aged 4 to 8. Had I stuck with that, the current crew would not be here today.

Saying "yes" has changed my life.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Imperfect Post About The Perfect Day

We've been official for a week yet every time I try to write about our day, I come up blank.

It could not have been a better day. The kids were excited and helped set up for our party. Really helped, not just "helped". We went out to a lovely lunch with our friend who flew in for the occasion. Family came rolling in. Then we got alllllll dressed up and drove to the courthouse. Speed was insistent on a tie and "fancy" shoes. The girls and I were in dresses. They had no real understanding of what was about to happen, but they knew it was a special day.

I have been to a few adoptions of friends' kiddos. They have all been lovely and ours was equally as lovely. What struck me in our hearing was the village sitting behind me. It was such a big village, in fact, that there was standing room only and the people with cameras/FaceTiming phones were permitted to be up close to the judge's bench.

About fifty people welcomed these kids into a permanent family. Fifty people.

The kids appear to understand that they are here for good, that I am their mom, that they are Russells. What I wish they understood more is that they are forever part of an amazing community--family, church friends, old caseworkers, old coworkers, playmates, their legal team--that has embraced them as Russells as well.

After the ceremony we came home for our cupcakes and lollipops. The girls posed for an excellent picture displaying their blue lollipop tongues. We continued celebrating the next day with a party at some friends' house. We are still eating cupcakes and lollipops a week later.

The kids were given blankets with their names, new middle names and adoption date embroidered on them. Every night since September 26th, we've had to lay the blankets out smoothly and read the names. 

I am grateful, so grateful, for phone calls I received on May 9, 2013 to take the kids, and on August 22, 2013 to take them back the next day. I am grateful for the people who fought for them to be safe and stay together. I am mostly grateful for these three:

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Seven is the New Thirty is the New Ninety

(August 7, 2014)

Need I say more?

30 is the New 90

(July 24, 2014)
Part of the timeline heading toward adoption is a 90 day wait period (for blahblahblah to hopefully not happen). I thought these were the longest 90 days of my life.

Till I got to the last 30 days of the 90 day period.

Yup. These 30 days (with about 19 to go) are most DEFINITELY longer than the first 60.

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

The Parking Garage

(clearing out the Adoption Archive, May 14, 2014):

I spent $18 in a parking garage for trial since we'd be there all day and the meters cap out at three hours.

It was the best $18 I've ever spent.

Separation of Church and State

Sunshine at dinner: "God is Grace, God is good, and we thank Him for our food. Amen. My teacher say that at school."

Speed, in response: "My teacher not say that prayer. My teacher prayer go like this: First, eat. Then, talk."

Patience, Patience

Sunshine from the back of the car this morning:
"{sigh} It taking a long, long time to be a Russell."

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Part I Was Worried About

From Sunshine while brushing her teeth this morning, regarding Junebug (who is not leaving anytime soon): But why can't she ALWAYS stay with us?

And from Speed: Why does she have to go to (her final stop)? She can live with us always!

This week's mantra: Any attachment is good attachment, any attachment is good attachment....

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Adoption Party Requirements

from Sunshine: cupcakes
from Speed: lollipops

Done and done.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

On The Decision To Continue Fostering: Part Two

(more from early June):
If another kid comes, it will impact our whole family. It's not just me in the mix anymore so I had to ask the kids.

The conversation started with some sort of (re)acknowledgement that alllll those kids on my bedroom wall have lived with me because they needed a safe home. We went on to talk about how the Sisters went back to their family. We talked about our friends who have been adopted and are staying forever in their homes. I reiterated a zillion and one times that we are a forever family and no one will take them away. I wondered out loud if it would be OK, if Ms. Caseworker ever called and said another kid needed to stay somewhere for a while, for us to say "yes" and let a kid live with us for a while.

Sunshine smiled and nodded her head. Speed thought for a minute and asked a few questions:
Will I still get my bed?
Will Sunshine still sleep in my room?
and then something to the effect of: Will we leave when they leave?

I answered. He thought. He approved. We are on "the list". We (read "I") have made it very clear to our placement agency what I think will work with this crew. Time will tell what happens. If we do this once, and it doesn't work out, we've tried. If we do it more and it feels right, we'll help more kids.

On The Decision to Continue Fostering: Part One

(from sometime in early June)
It strikes me that sometimes in life, we are sure, ABSOLUTELY sure which way we are going to turn when we get to a fork in the road. We get to that point in the journey though and something jumps out to tell us to go the other way.

I was cleaning out bins of clothing the other day. Anything under girl size 18 months and boy size 4T should be weeded out but those clothes just have so much more life in them. My plan has always been to retire from foster care the minute I knew someone was staying. In fact, I felt very adamant that children who were once foster children should not continue to grow up in a foster home (even though they aren't leaving). I have, admittedly, judged others pretty harshly on this exact topic.

So why the change of heart?

I really don't know. Bottom line: I believe we as a family may have more to offer others.

We won't know until we try.

On Good-bye Visits

(from late Spring):
I'm not sure there is a way to explain to a 3 year old what a goodbye visit is. So we sat, in a parking lot, 30 minutes before the goodbye visit right after taking a 4 year old to school, so that I could explain to her as best I knew how:

We are going to see (x) today, but it will be the last time. You will say good-bye today and you won't go back for more visits. X loves you very very much but cannot take care of you. So X will say goodbye to you today and we will still make sure you are safe and are taken care of. X really loves you.

The questions I got in return were just:
Is Chickadee coming too?
You gonna pick me up later?

Answer to both: Yes.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The "Little" Misstep

(from August 7, 2014)
I have two descriptions for what happened a year ago with my kids. First, I call the decision to move them last year a "misstep on the judge's part." We sat in a hearing for much longer than usual discussing the possibility of their move. Everyone was against it. "Policy" forced it.

I call their actual two weeks and one day away from me their "mini-vacation", though I don't believe it was a vacation for any of the four of us involved. We are all quite thankful that the vacation was no longer than it was...that nothing egregious brought them back to me..that my house was still empty for them to return.

Today marks one year since they walked out the door. As it turns out, they won't walk out again. How nice that on the year anniversary of their misstep, I got drafts of their adoptive orders in my mailbox.

You just never know how things are going to turn out...

Monday, August 25, 2014

FGAs (Frequently Given Answers)

I found this in the depths of drafts...from wayback when the Fab Four were around:

"Yes, they are mine."
"No, not four girls.  He just needs a haircut."
"No, they are not twins."
"Yes, it takes a long time to get into the car."

Three full years later, I would add the following:
"Yes, they are all mine."
"Yes, I do their hair myself."
"No, they are not twins." (re: Speed and Sunshine)
"Are we looking at the same two kids?" (re: Chickadee and Junebug's "twinness")
"Yes, it takes a long time to get into the car."

Some things never change....

The Magic "E"

Though we can't officially change his name till adoption, we've informally changed the spelling of Speed's name by changing one letter to an E.

The conversation was something like this:
"Hey, did you notice that dentist called you Spade instead of Speed?"
"Would you like to change how you spell your name so that other people know how to say Speed right all the time?"

So we did.

I'm finding things allllll over the house with "E" on it. Drawing boards, sidewalks, papers. The boy has taken ownership of this one little letter.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Because I Can

and here begins a list of things I can do now that I know the kids are staying:

May 15, 2014: Turned in Speed's registration for pre-k which does not begin for FOUR months. Because I know he'll still be here.

May 16, 2014: Let Speed skip school for the hell of it (well, to go to Sea World). Because I know CPS doesn't really care about things like that at this point.

July 8, 2014: Plan a date with Speed to go buy a lunch box for pre-k. In August. And then turn to Sunshine and say: "Don't worry, I'll take you to do that next year."

August 8, 2014: Bought a pair of 3T pink jammies on clearance. Not for Sunshine because she has a zillion jammies already but for Chickadee, who will probably be big enough to wear them IN A COUPLE YEARS....

August 22, 2014: Saw Speed's (not yet legal) new name (including last name) on his "class list" for school. (In an effort to avoid having to explain changing name spelling and last name to peers, we are starting the year off this way.) I had to read the list twice to find him because I wasn't used to seeing my last name next to his first name and couldn't find him at first glance.

Car(seat) Max

Chickadee and Junebug are about the same size.  They both think it is THE MOST HYSTERICAL THING IN THE WORLD to swap car seats and sit in each other's spot.

Hysterical. They laugh all the way to their next destination.

What Strikes Me Today that Sunshine is the age Speed was when they arrived in May 2013. The exact age. And Chickadee is the exact age Sunshine was when they arrived in May 2013. (Have I mentioned that there is exactly 15 months between each child? To the day?).

This strikes me both in how much the older two were robbed of their childhoods and in how little they once were. I cannot remember Speed ever being as little as Sunshine is now. Hasn't he always been able to reach the sink and countertops?  I cannot imagine Sunshine being as socially carefree and playful as Chickadee is now. Along those lines, the difference in every.single.thing about Speed when he arrived vs. Sunshine now is astonishing.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

FAQ #7

(more from the Adoption Archive):
"Are you changing their names?"

I'm getting this one a LOT lately. A. LOT.

Short answer: First names*, no. Middle and last names, yes. (*with the exception of the spelling of one child's name in hopes it will be more pronounceable at first glance).

Long Answer: This is something I've felt very strongly about since 2007. There have been some WONKY NAMES in my house. Really, really out there type names. A portion of these three amigos may or may not fit into that category. But these are their names. Their identities. How people know them. How they know each other. The children attached to these names are the children I have grown to love. Their names fit them. At the end of the day, they are all each other has so changing even this small part of their identity seems to cross a line. Calling them something else just doesn't make sense to me.

Plenty of people do it. Those people are certainly allowed to make their own decisions. But my belief is that they are who they are and we'll carry those names for as long as they want them. If somewhere down the road, someone decides they don't want to go by the name given to them by their birth mother, that's fine. Move on over to the middle name.

But for now, they are still Speed, Sunshine and Chickadee.

Friday, August 15, 2014

On the Day I Knew We'd Be "We"

(Lest you think I was not blogging regarding adoption in the last few months, here's another from the Adoption Archive (May 15, 2014))

I went to Target. Nighttime pull-ups were on sale, but only if you bought two boxes. That's 120 pull-ups...4 months worth.

I bought 4 months worth of pull-ups because I can. Because I knew I'd use them. Because I can actually, for the first time in seven years, plan that far ahead.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Music To My Ears

Letting the cat out of the bag. This was written on June 17 regarding the Three Amigos. We've dotted enough Is and crossed enough Ts to share:

Phone call the other day:

Person: Hi, Tammy. My name is (x) and I am the adoption worker assigned to your kids' case.
Me: Will you please say that again?
Her: Um.....My name is (x) and I'm the adoption worker assigned to your kids' case.
Me: Thank you. It just sounds so nice that I wanted to hear it again.


Monday, August 11, 2014

Thank You Note

I got a short little hand-written thank you note of sorts today from Junebug's mom. "For taking such good care of Junebug."

I've never in seven years gotten a thank you note from a parent....

Saturday, August 9, 2014

My Animal Birthday Cake

posted here for my old roommate who wanted to see what I got this year:

Chocolate dragon innards, chocolate cream cheese icing, orange candy scales, fruit roll up dragon wings, marshmallow toes..not a detail missed. :)

Thursday, August 7, 2014


Sunshine from the back seat of the car yesterday:
"We not have pizza in a long, long time!"
Me: I know. Remember, Junebug can't have cheese!
"Well, we can pick the cheese off for her!"

Good thinking for a three-year-old. So tonight, that is what we did. Sunshine was very happy.

Sticking with a Theme

Have I ever mentioned that Sunshine and Chickadee's names are thematic? Unusual names but in the same "category"?

Coincidentally, Junebug's name is in the SAME category.

When they called to ask if I would take Junebug, we got through the details and I asked: "What's her name?"

And they told me.

"Of COURSE it is!!"

So now we have three girls who are obviously not biologically related but whose names appear to be chosen by the same mama.

Tonight we met some new friends. It's the first time I've had to introduce all three girls at once to someone who doesn't know we are a foster family. It totally sounds like I am the one who chose the names.

Oh how the eyebrows raised!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Cheese Nazi

Junebug is dairy free. Sunshine reminds her of this fact often by going up to Junebug, scrunching her nose and in her deepest voice (which is not very deep) saying:


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Eating Fruit

The kids and I cannot understand how Junebug doesn't like ANY fruit. It's sooo good and we eat it with every single meal.

So for almost 6 weeks now, I have put a small bite of whatever fruit we are eating on her plate for her to stare at and refuse.

The kids have decided to move things up a notch. They are trying to TEACH Junebug to eat fruit. Last night, it was watermelon. They took turns holding their chunk of melon up to their faces, saying: LOOK, JUNEBUG! and taking very dramatic bites of watermelon. Junebug cracked up and picked up her watermelon, but still wouldn't taste it.

Hopefully she will in time. She's missing out on all the good stuff from the farmer's market.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Most Stupid Question I Have Ever Gotten

Four kids. Three African American. One as pale and blond as they come.

Lady at Farmer's Market: How old are they all?
Me (pointing): 4, 3, 2, and 20 months.
Her: Really? How far apart are they? (babies)
Me: Six months.
Me: Are we looking at the same pair of children? Do they honestly both look like they came out of my body?
Her: Oh, I guess not. (chuckle, chuckle)

Questions of curiosity really don't bother me. I don't care at all if you ask me if we are an adoptive family, foster family, playdate, whatever. I don't really care (though I won't really answer) if you ask the kids' story, how long they've been with me, or "how on earth I can say goodbye."

But for goodness sake, use some common sense if you want to ask how two siblings could possibly be six months apart in age!

Mock Teddy Bear Surgery

The Austin Humane Society hosted a mock teddy bear surgery. We all went, but not with bears. Speed took a bird ("It's actually a parrot, Mommy."), Sunshine took Snoopy, Chickadee took a little bear-used-to-be-dog-toy she acquired at my parents' house, and Junebug took a bunny.

Each kid got to listen to their animal's heart, put a bandaid on, give it a shot, and wrap a bandage around an appendage. This event was lost on Junebug (the sign up actually said two and up but I couldn't get myself to feel ok about leaving her out). The other three though....oh man, did they eat this stuff up!

Chickadee was incredibly serious the whole time, Speed asked questions, and Sunshine--unusual for her--jumped right in. It was the cutest thing ever.

Chickadee giving Bear a shot

Sous Chef

My little dinnertime helper. I will miss this part of her being two.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Beach

We went to the beach in Corpus this weekend. Twelve kids, ages 13 years down to 12 months. 5 adults. (and yes, miraculously we were within the mandated adult:child ratio).

I never really thought my kids would ever get to go to the beach. I can't, as one person, take them all there, even if Junebug hadn't joined the clan. I have some really awesome friends though who assured me that we could do this together and still have fun.

We did. It was a blast. Chickadee is absolutely fearless and was only out of the water when she had to be. Speed warmed up pretty quickly, but whoever was holding him out in the ocean looked like they had a barnacle attached to them...every limb was wrapped tightly around anything he could touch. Sunshine, as is normal for her, took it all in from the sidelines for a good long while and then gradually started playing and having fun. She seemed to prefer being on the sand right where the water washes up on your feet instead of being out "swimming". Junebug spent her day in someone's arms or lap, in the water or in the sand, enjoying things but not with more than 12 inches between her and a grown up.

Speed would tell you that the sand was fun and the "hills" (waves) were big and that "mommy made boots out of seaweed." (yes, I did...there was no shortage of seaweed). We are hoping that the beach weekend with the other two families will become a tradition.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Sunday, July 6, 2014

New Roomies

Junebug is a lighter sleeper than any baby I've ever shared a room with, so I kicked her out today. No one needs us BOTH up at 5:45 a.m. each day. She's now sharing a room with Chickadee.

What bedtime sounded like tonight:
Junebug: Blahblahblahblah, BLAH BLAH BLAH.
Chickadee: SHHHHHHHHH!!!
Junebug: gagagagagalalalalalabababbaaaba

(These are not gentle, hush-little-baby shushes we've got going on here. They are more the "you better stop talking in the middle of Father's homily!" variety.)

Junebug: lalalala, blahblahblah, LOUD SQUEAL!!!!!

About 2 minutes later, Chickadee was out. Junebug sang for at least another fifteen....

Thursday, July 3, 2014

What Two Weeks With Junebug Has Taught Me

I saw the kids' CASA at court yesterday. She asked how Junebug was doing. I said, "Boy, I am learning a lot!"

This CASA is incredibly supportive of our little family and has known us for over a year now. "What? You've learned that four kids is a LOT?"


This is what I've learned:
That despite their beginning, Sunshine and Speed have this deep and constant ability to be kind and compassionate. That even when they are pouting in a corner and Junebug climbs on Speed to get a hug, they don't push her away, they don't say anything rude, they just give her big hugs and say: Junebug! You're squishing us!

That I love more than anything taking the time to sit back and watch them with her. And to watch her with them...she is already picking up on their pretend play "stories" and rolling along with them.

That the contrast of cases, Junebug's against the Three's, is sometimes really hard to accept.

That all this time, I have sheltered the kiddos from so much to help them heal, but they have accepted this major change as if they knew how to deal with change all along.

And then yes, dear CASA, I've learned that four is tough, that four takes a lot of time to load and unload, that the fourth eats us out of house and home, that things I could stay on top of with three, like laundry and dishes, are harder with four, and that bedtime will never be the same again till she leaves.

Sunday, June 29, 2014


Just because she arrived in June, though maybe a bit because she has a round little tummy...

Our "new little friend" is settling in so nicely. She still has a four-year-old boy falling at her feet most days and gets some good loving from Sunshine. Chickadee is pretty impartial as all she really cares about is that I can hold two babies at once.

When Junebug arrived, I thought she was the fattest baby in town (and there have been some fat ones here!). Turns out, she's only in the 25%ile for weight, but compared to Chickadee's not-on-the-charts-till-just-last-month percentile, I guess my perspective is skewed. She has fine blonde hair that I've had to learn how to do and I had forgotten that her hair needed washed more than once every two weeks.

Junebug is by far, BY FAR, the easiest addition that has ever arrived. She spent about three days being shell shocked and now it seems as though she's been here a good long while. She has four little teeth, a scrunchy nose smile, and a funny little laugh.

I struggled a lot with the decision to take another kiddo with the Three Amigos. I think we are all glad we got her and will love on her, all four of us, till it's time for her to move on.


For about the past two weeks, once every day or two, Speed stops dead in his tracks, turns to me and says:

I'm so so HAPPY!

As though he is surprised. As though he has been looking for happiness his entire life and has just now found it.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Amazing Thing About Hoarding Children's Clothing

..and other necessities for kids:

This is the first time in 29 kids that I have not had to run to Target or HEB to get something I needed for a kid. It was allllll right there in the garage. From clothing to car seat to booster chair to diapers. Not. One. Purchase. Made. (medicine and dietary needs aside)

Well, actually we did buy a little wagon off of Craigslist. Because heaven knows, we can't alter our nightly routine of walking to the mailbox and Chickadee doesn't think the stroller is special enough to keep her in Queen status while making the trek. Two bikes and two babies in a wagon from here on out.

In Walks Number Four

The kids woke up to "a new friend" on Saturday morning.  They were actually awake for the initial phone call so were able to "approve" the placement of a 19 month old that night. They, lucky them, got to sleep through the numerous phone calls after that to figure out when she was coming, what she would need (medically) immediately upon arrival, etc. etc. etc.

Here they are peeking in on our newest family member:

So far, all is going well. Speed LOVES this child. He follows her, dotes on her, tries to put her shoes on and would likely change her diaper if I let him. Sunshine goes back and forth between being interested and engaging with her or playing like she usually does. I think her favorite thing so far is getting to ride in the third row of the car. Chickadee's world has not yet been rocked quite as much as it could be. She's still being held plenty, loved on as always, and ruling the roost in a way I hate to admit she does.

A couple things amaze me with the kids' reaction to this placement. First, they've been here for almost 14 months and have never woken up to a new kid in the house. They acted like it was no big deal. Second, they have so much compassion toward her, more than I feel I have ever modeled. And given the first part of their lives, I am just not sure where that all comes from.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Moving On

Chickadee has gotten over the "don't bite me" phase.

She's moved on.


"Don't eat it! That GROSS!"

Example one: "Go put your diaper in the trash please."
"Don't eat it! That GROSS!"

Example two:
"Can you please bring me Stubby's plate?"
"Don't eat it! That GROSS!!"

Hoping she follows her own advice.

Male Role Model Found

Text to sitter:
"Speed now wearing all shirts tucked waaaaaay into his jeans. Definitely can't see his underwear. Thanks, Dad."

2107.5 Miles

...over 10 days.

The kids did AMAZING in the car. Way better than I could ever have imagined.

My dad asked me what they did in the car for that long, knowing we don't have a DVD player to pass time.

Here's a short list:
Baby wipies
Pipe cleaners
Color Wonder (God I love Color Wonder)
Stress balls
Baby dolls
ABC learning computers
"Let It Go" (which I can now sing in pig latin and in "chicken")

I'm sure the back seat looked a bit Lord of the Flies-ish  from time to time, but we made it to Colorado and back. Tons of fun!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Road Tripping with the Three Amigos

Part One:

This nonsense is written on my packing list:

day diapers
swim diapers
nite diapers
nite diapers
pull ups for car
nite easy ups
pull ups for car

This is exactly why we are driving....

Male Role Models Wanted

Text from sitter:
"On a walk and I ask Speed to pull up his pants. He says, "Why? I want to be like a football guy." I told him no one wants to see his underwear."

Monday, June 2, 2014

Imagination Required

Chickadee, Sunshine and I were running down the hill at the elementary school after dropping off Speed this morning. Chickadee stopped half way down the hill, sat in the wet grass in front of a seeded dandelion, sang Happy Birthday to Chickadee all the way through, blew out the "candle", clapped, picked the "candle" and then ran to the car with it.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Chickadee to a T

Naughty, Naughty, Naughty

Speed and Sunshine think they are the naughtiest children in town. On Saturdays and some Sundays, we get to "sleep in" (read: sleep past 5:30 a.m.). Because of some supervision rules/issues, they stay in their room until I am out of mine. I have encouraged them to get up, look at books, play with animals, do whatever as long as it's in their room.

For months, they've not moved even with my encouragement. They are strict rule followers and can't seem to get that it's ok to get out of bed. So despite animals on their beds and books stacked beside, they lay still and don't talk.

Yesterday, I walked in on them both on the floor, hiding and giggling under blankets with books and flashlights.

It's about time.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Another Photo Dump

This time from the cell phone:

Speed and Sunshine crushing wheat at a biblical village at a nearby church

 Why I love the field next to our house so much

Speed and Chickadee dancing at Central Market

Kids taking their babies for a walk

Chickadee carrying Speed's backpack into his school

Chickadee's first ride on the big kid swing

Because someone sneaked this toy into the car AND because I am wrapped around her little finger:


Stolen from some random Facebook comment from a page of a blog I follow  (wish I knew the original source because that person deserves recognition):

"Every child deserves to have someone love them to the point of devastation when they leave."


Thursday, May 8, 2014

Sunshine: Center of the Universe

This girl is going to be so humble something else when she is a preteen.

As I have mentioned, Sunshine's name is very unusual for a name but it comes up a lot in other places. It is currently in BIG HUGE LETTERS on a bulletin board at school.


She thinks it's for her and now walks three inches taller than she did yesterday.

My Detail Oriented Boy

I have often said that if I moved all the furniture over 1 inch in the middle of the night, Speed would notice before he hit the bottom of the stairs.

The boy notices EVERYTHING. Each morning, he walks downstairs, scans the room, and invariably finds something that I did after bedtime.

"I not know why you put that there."
"I not know why my snack not on counter."

Yesterday, he saw that his teacher had left her thermos on the top of her car from TWO ROWS AWAY.

Today, a man was fixing our roof. Speed rides past the main street by our house--a field away--in a bus on his way from school to daycare at 45 mph at about 10:50am. I stood out on that sidewalk today and noted that one can see approximately 5 feet of the roof where the man was standing.

At dinner tonight: "Soon I go (daycare), I see man on our roof. I don't know why a man on our roof."

Mr. Eagle Eyes.

Sign of the (Two Year Old) Times

I can only assume there's a biter in Chickadee's daycare class.

When the vacuum is turned on: "Don't bite me!"
When we pass a lawn mower: "Don't bite me!"
When we hear any loud noise: "Don't bite me!"
Cat? (who has never bitten)
Hair dryer?
Anything that makes noise?

"Don't BITE ME!!!"

Friday, May 2, 2014

Random Chickadee Phrases

"I fly away!" = I need my wings on!
"Look, Mommy! Tree Tunnel!!" = exactly that. There is a point in the road where trees from either side meet and it does, in fact, look like a tunnel.
"I so big!" = said multiple times since I've turned her forward facing in the car
"Hug you." = Give me a hug.
"Hug you big." = Give me a big hug.
"Wuv oo oo" = Love you too.
"Where Water Go? Dowwwwwn drain!" = every night after bath
"Where poopoo go? Dowwwn potty!" = self explanatory
"I Stubby." = I pet Stubby.

Chickadee is TWO


Chickadee loves CATS. For her birthday, she had a cat cake, cat napkins, cat plates and pretended to be a cat. When she meows, she says: Mow! (rhymes with cow) instead of MEEEE-ow! She often tries to eat out of Stubby's bowl and recently had canned cat food on her cheek. She is my two-year-old cat princess. I'd say she was a girl after my own heart, but she already has it.

Happy Second Birthday, Chickadee!!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Photo Dump

Number one reason I keep the extra car seats in the closet

Chickadee's favorite dress up outfit in boys' size 8 (rolled and rolled and rolled up some more)

Sunshine's rendition of Goodnight Gorilla

What Speed wishes he could do every single night after school

Waiting for the carousel at Sea World

Best dyed eggs of the year

What every single picture taken of Sunshine on Easter morning looks like because she didn't want her picture taken (alone)

UT fountain on Easter morning

What Chickadee climbed in her booster for because she thought this would be an allowable Easter breakfast

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Happy Meal Toys

It's impossible to describe the significance of this event:

McDonald's with five kids. Speed says he wants a Little Pony. Gets said Pony but then decides he wants a Skylander toy.

"You can go up and ask the lady to trade you."
"I want you do it."
"I'll stand by you. But you have to do the work."

Long. Pause.

Then much to my surprise, he got in line with me standing off to the side and waited his turn. The lady asked him what he wanted and he held his toy up and said: "Trade please."

She swapped toys. He walked off.

This is the kid who hid in corners 11 months ago. The one who didn't trust anyone over 3 feet tall. And the one who didn't talk for several weeks upon arriving.


Sunday, April 6, 2014


from Big Sister today when I wondered out loud if the McDonald's by their house has an indoor playscape, outdoor playscape, or no playscape:

"Do you know who Siri is? You can pick up your phone and say something like 'FIND A MCDONALD's WITH A PLAYGROUND' and Siri will answer you. It's really simple and it works. I saw xxx do it lots of times."

"Yes, but you can also pick up the phone, call McDonald's and ASK THE PEOPLE THERE if they have a playscape."

Which is what I did.

My favorite six year old thinks I am a nut. :)

The Adoption Party

We went to an adoption party for a dear friend yesterday. I spent all week rehearsing in my mind how I would address with the kids what the purpose of this party was. There were presents, but no candles and no one singing Happy Birthday.

In the end, they didn't ask. Sunshine said, "We going to Coco's birthday?" and I replied with "It's not her birthday, it's an adoption party." That was as far as I had to go.

The great thing about the party (aside from the obvious!) was that all three kids moved more than 10 feet from me. They interacted with other kids. Speed actually asked another grown up whom he'd never before met for some help with the bubbles.

I lose perspective. I lose the forest for the trees. Coco, who had not seen the kids in at least six months, was able to see (and tell me, thank you) that they looked and acted different and HOW they looked and acted different.

It was a good, good day!

Friday, April 4, 2014

One Way to Look at Us

A conversation today with a 9th grade student who is absolutely obsessed with TV and knows two, and only two, things about me--that I do not watch TV and that I have "small" children--went something like this:

Him: Have you seen Breaking Bad?
Me: No, remember, I don't watch TV. Tell me about it.
Him: I will but do you mean you don't EVER watch TV?
Me: No.
Him: How about your kids?
Me: My kids are small. They don't watch TV either.
Him: What do you do?
Me: What do you mean? We play.
Him: No, I mean, every single day what do you do instead of watch TV?
Me: I dunno. We keep busy. Last night, we got home, the kids played in the playroom while I cooked dinner, we ate, we walked to the mailbox and played in the field. Then we saw a neighbor and visited with her and then it was bedtime so we read stories and went to bed.
Him: Your family is how do you say it?...Like the PERFECT ALL-AMERICAN TRADITIONAL family. That's cool.

He said that, and I pictured my 3 babies, the condition they were in almost 11 months ago, and where we are today both in progress and in work still to address.  I thought that anyone who looks at us walking down the street knows we are far from traditional and that the point in the kids' case where we are today is anything but a perfect place to be. I smiled and thanked him for the compliment.

We are perfectly imperfect.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


Sunshine could spend all day outside, turning over rocks and putting Honeys into a bowl. She's very careful with them and speaks ever so sweetly to them.

"Come here, Honey!"
"It's ok, Honey, don't be scared. I just put you in this cup."
"You can go see you friends later, Honey."

When I tell her it's time to clean up, she starts crying: "I want to find more HONEYS!!"

What exactly IS a Honey?

 AKA: Roly Poly

Friday, March 28, 2014

I don't MEAN to make this awkward

Conversation last week at adoption ceremony for a friend with a couple whom have adopted a baby after fostering one previous child:

Dad: How many kids have you had?
Me: 28.
Him: Oh yeah, we know exactly how you feel. We had one before (daughter) that we had to give back.
Wife: Dear, she said 28 kids. You said ONE.
Him: Oh.

And then he avoided talking about his kid, fostering or the obvious adoption that was about to happen the rest of the time.

Conversation at school today while waiting for an ARD meeting to start:

Special ed teacher to me: Did you see (African American student)'s mom out there?
Me: I don't think so. Is she African American?
Classroom teacher, sarcastically: No, she's white.
Me: Well, MY kids are african american....
Him: Oh. Sorry.

Conversation at a birthday party with Chickadee:

Someone I've never met before: What's your daughter's name?
Me: Chickadee.
Her: REALLY? That' What's her middle name?

And then I started laughing. I cannot say the middle name to a stranger who doesn't know I didn't choose these names without laughing apparently.

(I am reminded of the month I spent trying to wrongly pronounce Little Guy's name. Chickadee's middle name is easy to pronounce. It's just a little "thematic" and makes me giggle. Let's not even discuss Sunshine's...)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Conversation with a Five-Year-Old Client

(but I have no idea where it began)

Me: I don't like that (doing something at home...can't remember what).
Him: Well, what about your husband?
Me: I don't have a husband.
Him: Wait, WAH?
Him: Well, where do you get all your babies from?

At this point, his mother is bright red. BRIGHT red.

Me: People bring them to my house.
Him: (open mouth stare)
Him: How does THAT work?
Me: I have a special family. When a kid needs a safe place to live, someone brings them to houses like mine and they stay there so they can be safe.
Him: Oooooooohhhhhhh! Now I see!
Me (not out loud): Yeah, I bet....

Coincidentally, we went to a nearby church's "biblical village" tonight and ran into this kid. He was able to meet "all my babies." :)

Friday, March 21, 2014

That's My Girl!

Text from sitter last night:

"Sunshine just told me she's crabby. I had to try very hard not to laugh."

Friday, March 14, 2014


The kids thought it was the CRAZIEST thing that I served sandwiches for dinner last night.

Sunshine said: "It not lunch! It dinner! We not eat sandwiches."

We've come a long way, Baby.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Ain't That the Truth

From a woman on the playground after watching Chickadee play for about 30 seconds:

"Now THAT is a giant personality packed into a teeny little body, isn't it?"


Saturday, March 8, 2014

#days in foster care

There's seemingly a new trend around. As best I can figure, it started with this article and photo shoot about how many days a girl spent in foster care before she was adopted. Now many people are posting and blogging about how many days their kids have been in care and how ridiculously high that number is.

But guess what?

I think in many ways foster care is a GOOD THING. My kids are 303 days in care minus the 15 days they were moved away from me for their "vacation" which didn't work out.

That's 288 days that they have not been hurt.
That's 288 days that someone has not failed to protect them.
That's 288 days that they've been able to heal.

I get the point of the article. Kids should not be lingering in limbo with permanency a carrot dangling in front of them for days, months, years. More importantly, we all wish there was not a need for foster care to begin with--that every child in the world could hold up a sign reading "0 days in foster care."

Unfortunately, there will always be a need for foster care. But it's not all bad. In fact, much of it is good.

288 days of lovin' and more to come.