Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Love Life of a Nearly 2-Year-Old

Bug has a girlfriend.  She is a sophisticated older woman - at least three months older than him, but he is quite smitten and the feeling seems to be mutual.

Every morning as we pull into daycare, Bug starts his daily mantra...

"Katie fun!  Katie funny!  Katie nice!  Katie MINE!!!"

Katie MINE?!?  Oh boy!  I never in my wildest dreams thought that I'd be having the "women are not objects to be 'had'" talk with my 21-month-old, but it looks like a little discussion might be in order. 

Their romance began in May when Bug was moved up to the big kid class.  Apparently both children had "matured" during those few months apart (she had moved up before him), and it seems they saw each other in a whole new light.

Every morning when Bug walks into class, he calls out her name and runs up to the table where Katie is sitting.  She immediately shouts, "Bug!" and stands up, pulls out the chair next to her, and orders "Sit here, Bug."  He immediately sits (which I'm guessing might be a big reason Katie likes Bug so much.  Lol.)  They seem to be inseparable.  Every time I walk in and Katie hasn't already left for the day, they are without fail glued to each other's side.  I ask Bug what he did each day, and each day he tells me what Katie did.

I knew we had a genuine "romance" on our hands yesterday when we pulled up to school and the kids' teacher was walking into another building holding Katie's hand.  Bug spotted Katie.  Katie spotted Bug...  And what followed was the most dramatic display of star-crossed love that I have ever witnessed as I pulled Bug towards one building and their teacher walked in the opposite direction with the love of his life.

Bug tried desperately to pull me in the direction of the other building crying, "NO!  KATIEEEEE!!!"  Katie frantically looked for a way to escape as she called out, "BUUUUUGGGG!!!"  Bug tried to break free of my grasp, "KATIEEEEE!!!"  Katie cried out, "BUUUUGGGG!!!" 

Fortunately for the two little lovebirds, Katie's trip to the other building was a quick one, and she and her teacher walked into our building before I had finished checking Bug in for the day.  On a typical day, Bug stays by my side as we walk back to his classroom.  Not this day!  All thoughts of Mommy disappeared the second Katie walked in the door when the two immediately started laughing hysterically and ran together towards their class.

"Um, okay then...  Bye, Buggy!  Have a nice day!  I love you!"

But it was too late.  Mommy had been replaced by a girl.  Guess I'd better get used to it.  My kid's a pretty handsome charmer (if I do say so myself).  I have a feeling Katie is just one of many "loves" along the way.  At least I know that those girls will come and go, but Mommy is FOREVER!

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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

You Mean You Don't Do That? Oh...

The other day, my co-workers and I somehow ended up in a conversation about talking to ourselves.  One friend mentioned how she tends to talk to herself at the grocery store saying things like, "Oh, man!  I forgot the chips!"  Another said she talks to other drivers on the road even though they can't hear her exclaiming, "A blinker would be nice, mister!"
That's when I piped in with, "RIGHT?!?  And when you talk about yourself in the 3rd person because you're a mom.  Like 'Mommy needs to get Diet Coke' or 'Mommy forgot the diapers' or 'Mommy needs to go potty!'" 
They all laughed and one friend said, "Yeah...  But that's okay because you have the baby with you."
And this is where my fatal error occurred.  There's that filter that most people have that sensors your words before they come out of your mouth.  Mine doesn't always work properly, and this was one of those times when it failed me miserably.
When my friend said, "... you have the baby with you," I should have said, "Uh... Yeah.  That's right.  The baby...  Yeah."
What I actually said was, "Ha! No, I don't."
All light-hearted banter ceased, and everyone stared at me with that "Oh...  This poor girl needs medication" look on their faces.  You could hear the crickets chirping in the silence as they stared at me with their mouths agape in disbelief.  "Oh, honey.  That's bad..." they said.
You mean you don't do that?!?  Oh...  Oops!

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Words That Take Your Breath Away

"Thank you for taking care of us."

Those were the words spoken by an 8-year-old little girl last night as a stranger tucked her into bed.  She and her younger siblings had just been removed from their home in the middle of the night and placed with people they didn't know.  So many times we try to anticipate our children's feelings.  Are they frightened?  Are they confused?  How can we help them?  And so many times, these children stop us in our tracks with only a few words.

"Thank you for taking care of us."

When I read those words on my friend's FB page this morning, all I could think was "wow..."  I kept coming back to it over and over again, my heart simultaneously breaking for that little girl and her siblings and thanking God that, at least for now, they are in a safe and loving home.  I kept coming back to those words and let them truly sink in, and I thought about all of the other times that a child's innocent words have left an ache in my heart.

I remember the first time I provided respite for a foster family, when 6-year-old Rocket asked me "So what exactly are the rules in your house?"  I think he was under the impression that I didn't have any because I really hadn't had to get onto him for anything.  I told him that my main rule is to "be respectful of others" and that included things like no yelling in the house (because I have neighbors upstairs), no hitting or kicking, etc.  He replied, "Why no hitting?" I told him that hitting hurts people, and that I never wanted anyone to be hurt. Rocket's face fell, and he replied in a quiet little voice, "People hit at my real house."  :'(   I knelt down in front of him and told him that that made me sad and that I was really sorry to hear that.   Then I assured him that no one hits at my house.  Ever.  He looked up, smiled, and said, "You're a really nice lady!" and then went on about his day as if he hadn't just taken my breath away with a few little sentences.  I'm so used to only fostering infants and toddlers that it was a whole new experience having children who could verbalize their experiences before coming into care.

Photo used with permission
Yesterday, another foster mama friend posted this picture in a foster parent support group.  It is a list of questions that her foster daughter has for her social worker.  Things like "Am I going back home," "How are Mom and Dad doing," and "Is any family member trying to get me?"  Her foster mom said that her foster siblings recently went to live with an aunt, and this little girl so desperately wants someone in her family to want her too. 

No child should ever feel unwanted.  No child should ever feel fear in their own home.  No child should ever be put in a position to thank complete strangers for doing what their own parents should have done.  No child should ever have to be in foster care.

Unfortunately, the sad reality is that children are living out these things every day.  Foster care is necessary because some parents will fail their children.  It is our responsibility as foster parents to walk with these kids through times of uncertainty, hurt, and fear of the unknown.  We do our very best to be an anchor for these children to hold on to when the big feelings come and threaten to take over.  And when their words hit us in a way that leave us heartbroken and breathless, we let them them know without a doubt that they are loved, that they are safe, and that they are most definitely wanted.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Letters Between Mothers

You might remember in early April, I reached out to Bug's birthmother.  In the two months since that initial letter, my son's first mom and I have been writing back and forth every week or two.  I tell her stories.  I answer questions.  I reassure her that Bug is growing up loved beyond measure in a home free from dysfunction and chaos.  She gives me pieces of his history.  She tells me her hopes and dreams for him.  She thanks me over and over for reaching out and giving her a chance that she feels she doesn't deserve.

It's a strange thing to have such a monumental connection to a woman you've never met - a connection to a woman who is so very different from you, and I know she feels the same.  I cling to every word as I piece together our son's past - where he came from and how he came to be mine.  She locks away every detail that I share about our son's present - his likes and dislikes, silly stories, and personality traits.  I smile when she responds with "Oh my goodness!  I know where he gets that!  His father used to do that all the time!" or "You said he loves cars and he loves to read, so I'm really hoping I can find a car book next time."  She cries happy tears when I send her little momentos like a handmade Mother's Day card from Bug and school photos - all things that she thought she would never be able to see when she signed relinquishment papers last September.

It's all still new, and we are still slowly figuring out the details of what we want this relationship to look like.  I am adament that any direct contact with Bug will not be happening until he is much older and able to help make that decision himself.  She completely agrees because she doesn't want to confuse him or let him down in any way.  I worry that frequent letters will cause her more pain than comfort when she reads about what all she is missing every day, and she worries that she will share too much about her past and how she was raised and I will decide that it's not worth the risk.  It's a balancing act, but it's one that I truly believe is worth every ounce of effort we can put into it for Bug's sake.

Every time I open the post office box to see a letter...  Every time I find a lone key to a parcel box...  Every time I address an envelope and drop it in the mail, I know that my son is gaining a little piece of his history.  I watch my little guy as he reads the first book his birthmother chose just for him and I see the collection of his birthmother's letters growing as I store them away, and I know without a doubt I made the right decision the day I reached out to the woman who loved my son first.  With every word, I am able to piece together my child's story in ways that I never would have been able to with only that big black binder handed to me by CPS.  With every word, I also have hope for the future.

I don't typically ask for prayers, but please lift up Bug's first mother over the coming weeks/months.   Please pray that she can feel my hope for her and my faith that she can overcome her addictions and learn to live a life that is not filled with dysfunction and chaos.   Pray that she can feel God's love and know that she is not alone and that this time she has people who believe in her and who are lifting her up in the best way they know how.   She is lost and struggling, but wants so badly to find a life outside of what she has always known.   As hard as it was for her to admit to herself that she couldn't be allowed to parent her son, she knows that he is exactly where he is meant to be, and we are both so hopeful that by seeing my love for him and how he is being raised, she'll get her first glimpse into how things should be.   Please just remember her in your prayers.   That's probably the best thing I can do for the woman who gave my son life.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Five Years Ago...

Five years ago today, my life was changed forever.

Five years ago today, a two-toothed, smiley little drool machine crossed my threshold, and the roller coaster journey that has ultimately led towards the creation of my family began.

The day that Booger Bear came through my door, I knew that there was something special about that little boy.  Little did I know, this little guy would be connected to every amazing thing that has happened in my life since.

In the year that Booger was with me, I learned just how deep a mother's love can run.  I quickly learned that the best sounds in the world are your baby's laughter and the little "I love yous.'"  I learned that baby hugs and kisses and "cuddle time" with your little boy can make a bad day turn around in an instant.  I learned what it means to be a mom.

Losing him was the most devastating thing that has ever happened to me, and I had no idea how I would recover from the grief.

Imagine my surprise when one year later, Booger had once again firmly planted himself into my heart and life...  along with his new mommy, his dad, and his newborn baby sister.

In the five years since Booger Bear first came through my door, I have gained a daughter, a son-in-law, and a granddaughter.

Because of my experience with Booger and his family, I am still Mommy to my amazing little 3-year-old Monkey more than two years after he returned home to his dad.  I never would have had the courage to try to co-parent with a former foster child's father on a long-term basis if I hadn't seen firsthand how foster care can work.

Five years after Booger Bear entered my life, I am the forever mommy to an adorable little Bug who has his own unique connections to Booger along with sharing the same middle name.

Five years ago today, my life was changed forever when a 7-month-old little Booger happily fell into my arms for the first time.

Five years ago today, a family was born.

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