Monday, December 31, 2012

Notes to Self...

  • When making the spur-of-the-moment decision to "just throw on yesterday's jeans and run to the store," it might be wise to make certain they aren't the same jeans that the baby peed on.  Just sayin'.

  • The Walmart door greeter probably isn't going to appreciate your snarky sense of humor.  When she asks, "Is he your first?!?" and you reply "Oh goodness, I've totally lost count.  He's the only one living with me full-time though," she's probably going to stare in horror or confusion as you walk away.
  • Only buy infant pajamas that have a full zipper or snaps entirely up the front. Believe me when I say you do not want to have to attempt to pull pjs over your baby's head after a 3:00am diaper blow-out. I have done the whole "cut the clothing off of the baby" thing in order to avoid that, but it's kind of a bummer when you really like the outfit.
  •  Always be aware of those times when the baby is not with you, and adjust your speech and actions accordingly. Standing up at the office and announcing, "Mama's gotta go potty. I'll be right back" will probably result in chuckles and taunts from your co-workers. Absentmindedly taking a tissue to your boss' nose after he sneezes... Probably not wise. Always be aware of those times you are childless!
  • When the obnoxious single dad in the WIC office begins complaining, LOUDLY, about how long it is taking for the tenth time in only fifteen minutes, it would probably not be the brightest decision to start singing the "Have Patience" song just as loudly.  Others might find it amusing.  Him, probably not so much.  ;-)

Have patience, have patience
Don't be in such a hurry.
When you get impatient, you only start to worry.
Remember, remember that God is patient, too...
And think of all the times when others have to wait for you. 
Yes, these are just a few of the things that I thought I should write down.  Some things are too important to forget.  And remembering not to make jokes about not knowing what your baby's father looks like with the elderly church ladies would probably be one of them.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Kid Quotes

Time for a few more Kid Quotes as we round out the year...  :-)

My sister was going through some of Ka-Diva's papers, and found this "Emergency Contact Card" mixed in with her things.  She lists her Mom's Cell Number and 9-1-1 for emergencies.  At first glance, I wasn't quite sure what she meant by "Mrs. Lynn - Not that bad."  Mrs. Lynn was the big twins' Kindergarten teacher a couple of years ago and lives on the other side of their cul de sac.  I thought, "Well, that's nice that she thinks Mrs. Lynn isn't 'that bad,'" but what does that have to do with emergency contacts?  That's when I realized Ka-Diva meant that she should contact Mrs. Lynn if there was an emergency that wasn't "that bad."  :-)  Funny thing is, my sister has called on her more than once!  Her husband is an EMT, and with four kids, someone is always getting hurt.  :-)
Buddy (upon taking a long, looong time in the restroom, my mom called in to him "Buddy, are you okay in there?") - His response...  "I'm good!  Just a singin' and a poopin'!"  (such a boy!)
(from my sister's FB) - "Butterfly has started the "terrible twos," I'm afraid.  Ka-Diva was frustrated with her last night.  She threw her hands on her hips, huffed, and said, "I can already tell when she starts school she is going to get notes in her binder from the teacher ALL THE TIME!!"
Colton (my BFF's 4-year-old) - "Mommy, what's Heaven like?"  Katie went on to describe in beautiful detail what she thought Heaven must be like...  Colton, pondering her description, replied, "Do they have nice chairs?"  Apparently comfortable seating is a concern for this particular 4-year-old.  ;-)
Monkey - The older Monkey gets, and the more he is able to communicate, the more I am beginning to discover just what types of things he does when he is with his daddy.  A couple of weeks ago, I decided to take Monkey to his old daycare for a visit.  Along the way, we passed that good old fast food establishment with the golden arches.  I've never taken Monkey there before, but someone certainly has, because my 21-month-old looked out the window, pointed, and exclaimed, "MMMMM!!!"  :-)
There was also the time when I thought I would be a super nice Mama and give Monkey his first real cookie.  Not one of those baby ones...  I walked into the kitchen and asked, "Monkey, would you like to try a cookie?"  I didn't think he'd have a clue what I was talking about, but I knew that he would try it because I was eating one (and anything Mama eats has to be good)...  Boy, was I wrong!  Monkey's eyes lit up like a Christmas tree as he came running into the kitchen shouting, "COOKIE?!?"  Yep.  I think Daddy's been busted.
 Last month, Buddy and Ka-Diva had a book report project where they were required to turn hats into representations of their book.  Christy called me in a panic because she needed some help with the creative side of things.  We spent the next three nights working on the kids' hats.  As we came to a few of the more artistically-challenging portions, I asked the kids if they wanted me or their mom to help them.  Both of them quickly replied, "YOU!"  Christy, slightly offended, said something like, "Hey!  What about me?!?  I can do it too!  But I guess I'm not as good as Aunt Tammy."  Buddy, putting on his concerned, "I need to make this better" face, looked at Christy and said, "It's okay, Mommy.  You are trying your best.  You made a good effort!  That's all that matters!"  (Their hats totally rocked, by the way. :-)
(from Christy's FB) - "Ever since we moved into this house (about 5 years ago), circumstances have always unfolded resulting in Chris having to hang our outside Christmas lights in freezing weather.  It has become a tradition now.  Today, Buddy said, 'YAY!  A cold front is coming through!  Daddy can finally hang the lights!'  Sure enough, that is exactly what happened.  He was cold, but the house sure looks pretty now!  :-)" 

(also from Christy's FB) - "The kids have a Christmas performance at school tomorrow.  Ka-Diva (from the tub) said, 'Man, I bet it smells like soap there tomorrow.  All the parents are giving their kids baths tonight so they don't have the one kid there that stinks!' Lol"

(after a particularly smashing success at their Christmas performance) - "Performance went great tonight!  I told the kids that I, without a doubt, had the two most talented kids in the show.  Buddy just smiled and said, 'All the other moms are saying the same thing to their kids right now too, you know...'"  :-)

Monkey - During our little visit to his old daycare, Monkey made himself quite at home.  While hanging out in the "big kid" classroom, Monkey spotted a toy that he apparently just couldn't live without.  He was a man with a plan.  Monkey grabbed the toy, tucked it under his arm like he was carrying a football, exclaimed, "Come on, Mama!" and proceeded to run through three rooms straight to the front door of the building.  The daycare director was standing at the door, and Monkey walked right passed her, said, "Bye-bye!" and tried to push his way out of the building with his pilfered toy in hand!

Booger Bear - We had an early Christmas at my house with all of my kids last Saturday (more on that in a later post because it was awesome!).  At one point during the evening, I overheard a conversation between Booger and my mom.

Booger:  "Is Santa coming to your house, Nana?"
My mom:  "No, I don't think he is..."  (not elaborating that she doesn't have kids at home)
Booger (eyes HUGE):  "What did you DO?!?"

Booger knew that you had to be pretty bad to have Santa pass you by.  He had already told me that he knew he hadn't always been a good boy, but that Santa had already come to see him once.  So the fact that Nana didn't think that Santa was coming to see her absolutely shocked him.  Booger couldn't fathom a world where Nana had done something so terrible that Santa wouldn't come to her house!  :-)

Banana - Banana loves her Mimi almost as much as her Mimi loves her.  :-)  The following is what I believe is a fairly accurate representation of how our conversations usually go during the times we are together.

Banana:  "Mimi!  Mimi!  Mimi!  Mimi!  Mimi!  Mimi!"
Me:  "Yeah, baby?"
Banana:  (Big smile)

And last, but not least...  Heaven told me, "So Tammy, I just have to say you're gonna be impressed with your gift from Booger.  :)  It's not much...  Just something simple, but when he and I were looking for your present and found it he said, 'Mommy, this is what Tammy needs from me, so she knows that she can always have me in her heart!'  and the way he said it was so serious."  I love my heart necklace with Booger's initial inside!  And he sure smiled pretty big today when I showed him that I was wearing it.

I've got some pretty fantastic kids in my life, and they never cease to crack me up, make me think, and make me proud to be their "Aunt Tammy, Mama, Mimi, Tammy."  :-)

Friday, December 21, 2012

1 Week Down and 3 Months Old

The Bugmeister is 3 months old today, and is one seriously cute kid.  Definitely the easiest baby I've had yet!  He's a total flirt (very popular with the ladies), all smiles all the time, doesn't spit up, only poops at daycare, and only cries (and a quiet cry at that) when he's hungry or needs a diaper change.  He's been with me for exactly one week, and we have gotten into a great routine that should work out really well when Monkey comes back.  He's down for the night around 7:00pm and wakes up between 1-2:00am for a bottle and again between 5-6:00.  He goes back to sleep just long enough for me to get ready for work, and have a little down time before getting him up and ready for the day.  Monkey usually gets here at 8:30pm and wakes up around 7:30am, so the timing should work out well.  We'll have a trial run tomorrow night/Sunday morning when I get Monkey for our family Christmas. 

At 3 months old, Bug:
  • Smiles and coos constantly
  • Has reflux, but is easily managed with rice in his nighttime bottles
  • Taking 6oz of formula every 3 hours during the day!
  • 5oz with 1 tsp rice during night feedings
  • Loves talking to his "friends" (Monkey's old favorite Mr. Giraffe, and Bug's best "friend" Teddy Bear)
  • Has all of the women who meet him swooning when he smiles and talks to them
  • Only weighs about 10 pounds the best I can tell (check up on the 27th, so we'll know for sure then)
  • In 0-3 month clothes
  • Loves to cuddle
  • Loves tummy time (crazy kid)
  • Gets the hiccups when he cries
Bug has his first visit today with his grandma (and possibly his mom).  Grandma has had him since he was born, so she has been his primary caregiver and I know she's missing him.  My initial impressions are that Bug's case won't last very long, but of course, this is foster care.  I could be totally wrong.  I'll get a better idea this evening after Bug's investigating caseworker brings him back home.

Christmas pjs are a MUST!
As cute as Bug is, I'm missing Monkey something FIERCE.  I've never been apart from him this long, and while I have Bug to keep me busy, I REALLY need my little Monkey Man.  I'm SOOO looking forward to tomorrow night when I have ALL of my kids together for Christmas! My three boys (Booger Bear, Monkey, and my newest little Bug), my girls (Heaven and Kama), my Banana, and my awesome son-in-law Kelly... My family might be unconventional, but I think it's pretty fantastic.  Never in a million years would I have thought that foster care would bring me my family in the way that it has, but I wouldn't change a thing!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Getting into the Groove

It's been a whirlwind of a weekend, complete with Day One of me melting down and calling my Mommy because I had 45 minutes warning before Bug got here, and my house and my normally structured and organized life was in shambles.  I'd had an hour of sleep the night before because Monkey was all freaked out and INSISTED that I hold him ALL. NIGHT. LONG.  I was seriously questioning my sanity and wondering what I had agreed to by taking another itty bitty one.

The placement conversation went a little something like this:

Nice Lady - "Well, you didn't get the girls (a sibling group that she called me about earlier in the day).  They decided to go with someone in their own county."

Me - "Yeah, I kind of expected that.  That's okay."

Nice Lady - "But you did get a 2-month-old baby boy!"

Me - "Huh?"

Nice Lady - "Yeah...  (New Agency Director) didn't want me to tell you that he had submitted you because he didn't want to get your hopes up."

Me - "I got a baby boy?  Like...  They chose me?"

Nice Lady - "Yep.  They chose you!  He'll be there in 45 minutes!"

Yep...  I panicked.  :-)

Fortunately, thanks to my mom, Christy, Kelly, Heaven, and Kama, things are already getting to a new "normal," and (right now anyway) I'm no longer a total basket case.  :-)

Don't you LOVE baby feet?!?
We figured out that Bug has a sensitive tummy, changed to the "sensitive" formula, hit the good ol' gas drops, and he's been golden ever since!  Slept in his new room all night other than the four times he wanted to be fed (I swear, I have no idea how this kid can be so small the way he eats!).  And he's currently sound asleep in his room again.

I SOOO wish I could share photos from today.  Heaven, Kama, Kelly, Booger, and Banana came over to meet Bug, and spoiled him absolutely rotten.  Bug and Heaven fell in love at first sight, and I'm fairly certain I will never have to wonder if I can get a babysitter ever again.  :-)  I love that I now have a picture of my first foster son with my current foster son, and that next Saturday I'll have pictures of all three of my little guys together when Monkey comes back to celebrate our crazy mixed up family Christmas.  (Monkey's daddy just took three weeks of vacation, and I'm already missing him like crazy.  But, his daddy being as sweet as he is, realized how much we would miss each other, and is letting me have him both weekends in between now and when he goes back to work after the New Year.  Boy are they going to be shocked when they see Bug!)

We went to my sister's house after the kids left so all of my nieces and nephews could meet Bug.  Ka-Diva didn't leave our side for three hours, and Butterfly was in awe of the live baby.  Buddy was his typical awesome foster cousin self, but Pooper was more excited about the flash on my camera than anything.  Guess that particular 20-month-old isn't so impressed with babies.  :-)

God's timing is pretty perfect, I think...  I got the call that Bug was coming the day after Monkey's daddy went on vacation so we'll have three weeks to get into a good routine before Monkey comes back on our regular schedule.  I'm praying that Monkey isn't too jealous and that I can handle the chaos of getting us all cuddled and in bed at night and presentable and loved on in the mornings by myself.  As of right this second, I think it will be fine.  Although it's quite possible I am delirious from lack of sleep.  It's all good though!  I've got a new little Bug to love!  :-)

Friday, December 14, 2012

Mama Got an Early Christmas Gift

Baby Boy (aka. "Bug")
2 months old
Currently sawing logs in his nice warm bed...
(More details to follow!)

Friday, December 7, 2012

Computer-less :(

Just a quick FYI to let you know that I haven't completely forgotten about the blog.  I am currently computer-less at home, and they are cracking down on Internet usage here at work, so I haven't really had a chance to do much here.  There's lots of interesting stuff going on over on FB though (easy to update there on my phone :-).

I'll definitely be writing a lot more as soon as I can get my hands on a laptop!

"Foster Friday" Guest Post: Reflecting God's Love

"Reflecting God's Love" 

During this Christmas season, I keep feeling like I should pinch myself because this cannot possibly be my life.  I am the happiest I have ever been in my life.  I didn't know that it would take 3 years of heartache and 10 foster kids, some still here - most not, to get here.

There are certain verses in the Bible that ring in my heart every day.  "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."  "Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friend."  "Whatever you do to the least of these you do unto me."  Those verses have kept me going every time I wanted to give up and run away from this little world these kids are stuck in.

As I put up my Christmas tree this year, I saw the faces of my foster kids that have left on the glass ornaments that I made for my tree.  The tears that used to come immediately because I missed them so much have been replaced by a smile just remembering them, remembering how much I love them, but I have a peace I didn't have while going through it.

In the Bible it says, "all things work together for good to those who love HIM, for those who are called according to HIS purpose,"  Ladies (and perhaps Gentlemen), we are the called.  We have put our money where our mouth is and laid our hearts out on the table.  When God saw we needed a Savior, HE sent one.  A beautiful baby born in the most humble way...  He gave us HIS son.  It wasn't easy.  It didn't feel good and then HE had to see HIS son go through the unthinkable.  Being a foster mom is a risk.  It is hard.  It is a need that needs to be filled.  It is watching our kids sometimes go through terrible things and being willing to pick up the pieces over and over.

This Christmas I am "on the other side" for right this minute.  I am getting to enjoy my kids instead of having to worry about visits and court day and possible reunification that seems to be a terrible idea.  But I have no regrets, and if you have followed my story, I have seen miracles.

Christmas in foster care can be hard, but Christmas isn't supposed to be about a certain day.  It is about your life.  It is about living in a way that reflects what God has done for us.  It is about reflecting God's love for us by loving kids that we didn't give birth to, but fell in love with anyway.  Enjoy your kids whether you will have them on Christmas day or not, and know that you are not alone.  You're not doing this in vain because someday you will be on the other side of this too, and it is worth the wait.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Month of Thanksgiving 2012 - Day Five

     Thanksgiving Day 1998, I sat with my family in the CCU waiting room at UCLA Medical Center eating my turkey sandwich and potato chips from Subway.  Three weeks earlier, my grandmother had called to tell us that my grandfather had been admitted to the hospital.  His doctors had just broken the news that he would not be leaving again without a miracle.  We had come to California to say goodbye.

     For as long as I can remember, my grandfather had heart problems.  He had his first heart attack in 1982 followed by numerous surgeries and procedures.  Despite his poor health, my grandfather had always been a rough, tough, stubborn cowboy.  The kind of rough and tough cowboy who rode in a horse show ten days after his quadruple bypass when he made my grandmother wrap his chest in ace bandages and told her not to worry...  As the years passed and my grandfather's heart disease progressed, it became clear the only option was a heart transplant.

     I think the fact that he always seemed to recover before gave us a false sense of security.  Even when he was put on the transplant list, we thought "Okay. We'll get him a transplant and he'll be fine.  No problem."  We had no idea what we were in for.  No one ever expects to be in that situation.  No one ever thinks it can happen to them.  But when he was admitted to the hospital in early November, the reality of what was happening set in and the waiting truly began.  The doctors and nurses did everything they could think of to try to keep his heart beating.  It was a constant battle on their end to keep him alive and to try to find a suitable match.

     As the weeks progressed, the waiting became almost unbearable.  Every time my grandfather heard a helicopter landing he would ask, "Do you think that's my heart?"  My grandmother was afraid to leave him alone.  She would listen to him constantly to make sure he was still breathing.  We prayed for a miracle.  We prayed for a match...  But knowing the cost of what a match would mean for another family made us second-guess ourselves.  Who were we to hope for something like this?  We constantly switched between feelings of hope, despair, frustration, guilt, and every other emotion you can name.

     But on December 9, 1998, we got our miracle.

Day Five - Today, I am thankful for the miracles that have been given to families like mine through the gift of organ donation.

We lost my grandpa early this year to something completely non-heart related, but even in the midst of our grief we can't help but be grateful for the thirteen extra years that we got to spend with him.  He lived a second lifetime in those thirteen extra years, and in that time I got to know my grandpa better than I ever had before.  I think of the past thirteen years, and all of the memories that we never would have had had it not been for the ultimate gift from a stranger:

  • Listening to my grandpa tell stories about when he was young...
  • Walking around with me in Laguna Beach, pointing to people and joking, "My tan is better than his, right?"  ;-)
  • Shooting hoops with my dad before my sister's wedding...
  • The times when my dad, mom, sister, brother-in-law, and the kids all loaded into our cars and made the two-hour drive to spend the weekends on the lake, hang out in the barn with my grandpa, fish off the dock, and always, always have something on the grill.
  • Listening to Buddy and Ka-Diva as they talk about their Papapa (a name that my Grandpa Jim chose himself because he was their "Papa's Pa" ;-)  I love that they have so many great memories of their great grandpa and that they will be able to tell Pooper and Butterfly all about their awesome Papapa who was a real cowboy.
  • Having my grandpa meet Booger Bear and knowing that he got to see me "be a mom."  (He didn't get to meet Monkey while he was still here, but I do believe he paid him a visit a couple of days after he passed away.  That's a story for another day, but I will say that that experience left me with a huge sense of peace, and makes me smile every time I think about Monkey's "conversation" with his Papapa that night.)
  • Seeing that he was still the same old, stubborn, tough cowboy, but with a few subtle changes...  He was more patient than he was before, more sensitive, and more open with his thoughts and feelings.  I loved sitting back and watching him and my dad grow closer than they'd ever been before as they'd just sit on my grandpa's porch and talk or work on projects around the property.  I loved watching him and my grandma together...  Just seeing how much they loved each other and knowing how thankful they both were to have those extra years together...
When I think about my Grandpa Jim and the last thirteen years that we were blessed to have him with us, I can't help but think about the person who made it all possible.  What was he like?  Would he have approved?  Does his family know what a huge blessing he brought to our lives?  What can I say to a family who, when devastated by grief, still had the presence of mind...  The goodness of heart...  And the generosity of spirit to give so much to complete strangers?  How can I possibly show my gratitude to a person I will never meet - a family I may never know?  ~  There may be no perfect answer, but I do know this:

I will try to carry on their gift of life.  I'll continue the chain they created when they put others before themselves.  I will spread the word about the importance of organ donation and what an amazing blessing it can be to so many people.  I will discuss my decision to donate with my loved ones, and encourage others to do the same.  I'll share what an incredible difference that one life has made for my entire family.  ...and I'll pray that, because of their influence, this life, my life, can make a difference for someone else.

On this day of Thanksgiving, I am thankful for miracles and for those who made those miracles possible with their ultimate gift of life.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Little "Contest" of Sorts

I should be "official" with the new agency today (barring anyone having stolen my identity and committing horrible crimes).  So...  I thought it would be fun to have a little "contest" of sorts...  Winner gets nothing but bragging rights, but it'll be fun to guess.  :-)

             "Guess the Placement"

We all know that when it comes to foster care, what we ask for isn't always what we get as far as potential placement calls go.  We might say something along the lines of "one female only under the age of 5," and the first call you get is for a "sibling group of five boys ages 6,8,10,12, and 16."  So I thought we'd have a little fun.

I have asked my new agency that we start with one child under the age of two right now.  I've also mentioned that my absolute dream placement would be a baby girl between 4-9 months old, but that as long as it's one child under the age of two, I'm all good.

So...  Let's have some fun, shall we?  What do you think my very first potential placement call with the new agency will be knowing what you know about how these calls usually go?  Number of children?  Gender(s)?  Age(s) (in months for infants, years for over 2)?

Ready?  Set...  GO!!!  :-)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Month of Thanksgiving 2012 - Day Four

They say "It takes a village to raise a child," and looking at my family over the past couple of years, I have to say, that African proverb is dead on!

Day Four - Today I am thankful for my "village."

With my sister's two sets of twins (2nd graders Buddy and Ka-Diva and almost 19-month-olds Pooper and Butterfly), my 20-month-old Monkey, and my "honorary" brood of 19-year-old Heaven, 16-year-old Kama, honorary son-in-law Kelly, 4-year-old Booger Bear, and almost 22-month-old Banana (not to mention any other foster kiddos who come my way), we've definitely got our hands full!  Fortunately, our "village" has come together to do whatever we can to raise these kids without doing too much damage.  ;-)

With so many kiddos so close together in age, but just far enough apart in size that they're all a size apart, our first village "perk" is that of sharing clothes.  I have my "foster care closet" with nicely organized storage bins of children's clothes ranging from 3 months to 3T-4T.  As all of our little ones grow, the closet is the first stop for "shopping."  As they outgrow their clothes, everything (and then some) makes its way back to me for future foster babies!  The "closet" has been a great addition to the "village economy," and I'm certain has saved us all hundreds of dollars in clothing costs. 

Village undertaking number two would have to be that of "coordinating schedules."  On any given week, my sister, our mom, and I pull out our day planners and coordinate our plan of attack.  Because my sister and I both work outside of the home (me full-time, and Christy part-time), we depend heavily on our mom during the work week.  Quite honestly, when I say "it takes a village...," what I mostly mean is "it takes our mom!"  Not only does our mom move from house to house to watch toddlers, she somehow manages to help around our houses too!  I have a Magical Dishwashing Fairy who comes to my house on the mornings that my mom keeps Monkey for me, and my sister has a Magical Laundry Fairy who helps her out.

Village undertaking number three would be our constant "on call" status.  With all of Pooper's appointments, after school stuff, gymnastics, school, etc. and just all of the other things that come with a family of six, their schedule tends to change from week to week, so I try to be as flexible as I can be.  I tend to be the "on call" transportation when one of the big twins gets sick at school or needs a ride home from tutoring.  Fortunately, I work just down the street from the kids' school, so I can make a quick run and be back at work in 20 minutes.  I'm also "on call" for Booger and Banana when Heaven and Kelly need help.

Village undertaking number four is that of "musical households."  Christy's got her hands full, so we do our best to entertain the big twins by having them spend the night with Nana and Papa, spending time at Aunt Tammy's having fun with the Saturday Crew, and having playdates at each other's houses just so there are more grown-ups to watch all of the toddlers around at the same time.  The kids enjoy playing with each other, and the grown ups enjoy being able to tag team for diaper duty.  :-)

Village perk number five is that of utilizing each of our strengths when it comes to entertaining and educating the kids.  Heaven and Kama are the adventuresome ones who are always up for anything.  Exploring in the woods, painting pumpkins, scavenger hunts, decorating cakes...  You name it!  These girls are all in!  Kelly, Chris, and my Dad are the "fun" ones who are always willing to play with the kids, no matter what crazy ideas they come up with.  "Throw us across the pool as many times as you can, Kelly!" or "Let us ride on your back and race around the house, Papa!" or "Let's see what we can make that is really, really gross, Daddy!"  They'll do it!  I am the creative one who always has fun arts and crafts projects planned and was most recently designated "homework project coordinator" when Buddy and Ka-Diva had a huge "make a hat" book report project due.  Christy is the organized one who helps coordinate all of our schedules, makes sure all four of her kids feel loved and special, and according to the Big Twins she gives the best hugs and is the best Mommy on the planet (even if she makes them eat "diet food" occasionally ;-).  And our Mom is the steady, nurturing one who we all depend on to keep us sane.

My "village" is a busy, busy place.  My "village" is chaotic.  My "village" keeps us all on our toes.

My "village" is absolutely perfect

And for that, I am eternally grateful...

Friday, November 9, 2012

"Foster Friday" Q&A: Help for the Holidays

Anyone who says that "foster parents are only in it for the money" clearly hasn't ever fostered (or been close to anyone who has for that matter!).  92 cents an hour does not a wealthy person make!  Every penny and then some goes straight towards our kiddos' immediate needs.  People rarely think about the added expenses of being a foster family that most mainstream families don't have.

  • Multiple sizes and numbers of carseats, boosters, infant carriers, etc. that need to be replaced often due to extreme wear and tear and age.  Did you know that carseats "expire" 6 years after the manufacture date and should be replaced?  When you have a constant stream of children of every age, the cost of replacing all of their transportation safety equipment can be daunting in itself.
  • Constant replacement of everyday infant/toddler supplies, clothing, and toys that get misplaced during visits, worn out from overuse, or sent home in bulk when our kiddos return home.  I know when my kids return home, I send them with all of their favorite toys, learning toys, books, the bottles/sippy cups that they are used to, their favorite blanket and stuffed animals, all of their OTC medications and personal hygiene supplies, diapers, wipes, formula and/or a few groceries or foods that they are used to eating, and their complete wardrobes.
  • Last minute scrambling to purchase twin beds or cribs when we receive a placement call for a child not in our planned age range (because goodness knows, it happens all the time)
  • Loss of income for working parents who need to take unpaid time off of work for foster care-related home visits, court hearings, required appointments, etc.
All of the added expenses as well as trying to keep an "emergency reserve" for all of the initial costs associated with new children coming into our lives with a phonecall's notice and an hour to prepare leave very little resources for extravagant purchases at any time of the year...  But when children come into care during the Christmas season (unfortunately one of the busiest times of the year for children to come into care), any assistance that a foster family can receive in order to help alleviate the stress of not only providing a comfortable, loving home for these kids, but help in giving them a joyful and fulfilled Christmas and holiday season that they deserve is a huge blessing to everyone involved.

When I first started fostering, I had no idea that there was any kind of assistance out there for families like mine.  As Christmas neared the year that Booger Bear and Angel were with me, I began to learn from various sources about different not-for-profits and local groups whose mission is to provide foster children with gifts, warm coats, shoes, food, etc.  That year, my kids were blessed beyond measure with gifts from their CASAs, donors from my agency, CPS, Angel's young mother's group, and a local not-for-profit.  Over time, I have learned of even more organizations and groups who offer assistance to foster families throughout the year as well as during the holiday season specifically.

"So how do you find them?!?" you might ask.  Ask your children's CASA, caseworker, agency, or your church.  Scour the internet and search specifically for "organizations supporting foster children in *** County/State."  You might be surprised what all you can find!

Just a few random ones that I may or may not be personally familiar with (because I don't want to be too specific on my location) are:

Friends of Wednesday's Child offers a wide variety of programs and assistance for foster children and teens aging out of care in North Texas.

Ambassadors for Children in Greene County, Missouri also offers several forms of assistance and support to abused and neglected children and foster families in Greene County.

The Foster Care Support Foundation partners with the state of Georgia to help meet the needs of Georgia's foster children.  This particular organization has a huge variety of programs including assistance in meeting physical needs, training, scholarships, and foster parent support. - is a National organization that provide resources for at-risk children and youth by partnering with major retailers, restaurants, services providers, etc. to offer discounts for families in need.  They offer discounted rates on computers and cell phone plans, coupons for groceries, tips on improving computer skills, and question and answer forums.

These are just a teeny tiny sampling of the organizations that are out there to assist our families and our kids.  I am in the process of compiling a listing by state as well as a list of National organizations.  My hope is to be able to put these together as a stand-alone page on the blog for easy referencing. 

This is where you come in!
My HUGE request is for help FROM ALL OF YOU in providing links to organizations that you use in your area (or just help with the research if you have time to spare over the coming weeks). 

Please post your choices here or email me directly at with links to your favorite organizations or if you can offer any other kind of assistance.  I would love for this list to provide a great variety of options for foster families everywhere, and I know this is a huge task that I can't do alone!  Very thankful for my awesome readers who have already contacted me!!!  You ladies are wonderful!  :-)
Keep an eye out for a "Foster Care Resources" link over the coming weeks and check back frequently as I will continue to update as I find new organizations.  Looking forward to this project and to being able to provide a great resource to foster families!  In the meantime, be sure to ask your children's CASAs, caseworkers, etc. about local organizations for help for the holidays.  The help is out there!  You just have to find it.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Month of Thanksgiving 2012 - Day Three

Eight years ago, I was eagerly awaiting the January birth of my first niece and nephew.  We were a family without children, and desperately wanted some little ones to love.  Who would have thought that eight years later, my sister would have not one, but two sets of boy/girl twins?!?

Day Three - Today, I am thankful for my amazingly awesome nieces and nephews.

Before I was "Mimi..."  Before I was "Mama..."  I was "Fun Aunt Tammy," and I do my very best to continue to live up to the precedents that I set long ago when it comes to these kids and their expectations of their Aunt Tammy.  How could I not!?!  These kids are simply the best!

My Oldest Nephew, "Buddy" - 7-year-old "older" twin to Ka-Diva, and the absolute sweetest, most loving child you will ever meet in your life...  Fiercely protective of the people he loves, he has this incredible heart, and is always trying to take care of people and make everyone happy and comfortable.  He has been amazing with all of my foster babies, and is always one of their favorite people because of it.  He can be a total goofball, but he is also quite a gentleman and is very popular with the ladies because of it.  ;-)  He is an "old soul" and wise beyond his years.  He has "deep thoughts," and often says things that make you stop in your tracks and think.  He's ridiculously bright and totally gives me a run for my money when playing games. There's no "taking it easy on him because he's a kid."  He's way too smart for that!  I am so unbelievably in awe of him.  He inspires me every single day, and I can't say enough how very, very proud I am of him!  :-)

My Oldest Niece, "Ka-Diva" - "Younger" twin to Buddy, and my absolute "Mini Me" in every way...  I will never have to wonder what my own biological daughter might be like because Ka-Diva is all Aunt Tammy.  She's inherited the women in our family's looks (we all look exactly alike), and has my personality in spades.  Her "strong leadership skills" and "executive tendencies" are all me!  (Sorry, Christy! ;-)  She's a 37-year-old in a 7-year-old body!  Ka-Diva has my sense of humor...  Very dry and sarcastic with a quick wit.  Like the time the doctor asked her rate her pain "0 = no pain and 10 = the worst ever", and she quickly replied "If I had no pain, why would I be at the doctor?!?"  She can be totally serious and then bust out with the goofiest faces you've ever seen in a split second.  She's very into safety and an excellent "babysitter" for all of the kiddos in her life.  She's always practical, anticipating their needs, and watching out for potential dangers.  I love every single second that I get to spend with my "Mini Me," and I am so blessed that I get to be such a huge part of her life.  She makes me smile that "knowing" smile because with her, I know what's coming next.  ;-)  I love this girl like no other! 

My Youngest Nephew, "Pooper" - 18-month-old "older" twin to Butterfly, and one very special little boy...  He's a super-cute, generally laid back little guy (well, big guy considering he outweighs every toddler in the family by a good 4-5 pounds and is at least 3 inches taller than the next tallest kiddo) with a super-deep slow chuckle or an ear-piercing, high-pitched squeal that would call dogs depending on his mood.  He's a very quiet one who lives in his own little Pooper World a lot of the time, but those moments when you can connect with him...  when you get him smiling or catch him enjoying something he's never done before...  Those moments make your heart melt and touch you in ways that you don't have with the other kiddos.  I love being a part of this little man's life, and I love that I am blessed to be here to love him and to watch as he blossoms and discovers himself and the world around him.

My Youngest Niece, "Butterfly" - "Younger" twin to Pooper, and the "baby" of the family (although if you ask her, she'll let you know in no uncertain terms that she is one of the big kids).  This child loves her Aunt Tammy like crazy, and never fails to boost my ego to new heights every time I walk through the door.  "Oh!!!  YAY!!!  YAY!!!  YAY!!!  HI!!!  HI!!!  YAY!!! YAY!!!"  (with jumping up and down and much applause)  Who wouldn't eat that up?!?  :-)  Out of all of the kids, I'm fairly certain that Butterfly will be the one who gives my sister and brother-in-law the biggest run for their money as she grows up.  She is quite the precocious little thing, unbelievably headstrong, and completely fearless.  She's the one we fully expect to find on top of the refrigerator any day now.  I love this little girl like crazy, and I can't imagine a world without Aunt Tammy's little "Butterfly."

These four kiddos have brought so much joy, laughs, and love to our family!  They complete us!  ...and I am very, very thankful that God entrusted these little souls to our family to love.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Month of Thanksgiving 2012 - Day Two

Day Two - Today, I am thankful for every second of the past 18 months that I have been blessed to be this little guy's Mama.  When you become a foster parent, you expect loss and a broken heart many times over.  You certainly don't expect to remain your child's Mama eight months after they have returned home.  You don't expect to be typing a blog post late at night and hear your little guy snoring over the baby monitor eight months after he was supposed to be only a memory.
When that sleepy little 2-month-old came through my door 18 months ago, I never could have imagined what the next year and a half would bring us.  At three months old, Monkey was giving me a run for my money with reflux to the point of aspirating and choking and almost total hearing loss for nearly two full months.


Eventually we found the right combination of medications, things began to straighten themselves out, and my Chunky Monkey's true personality shined through.  Always smiling, my happy little guy never failed to make my heart melt.

By 5-months-old, we were quite the little family...  Monkey, Kitty Cat Tommie, and me...  We had hit our stride, got into a groove, and were moving right along as a happy threesome.  :-)

At 6-months-old, my Monkey man was becoming quite the "big boy."  Popping out several teeth and doing his very best to sit up straight and tall.

In October, Monkey finally got the hang of getting up on all fours.  He was quite proud of himself, but got frustrated when he couldn't figure out how to move forwards

F'real...  I've got a cute kid!  How on earth am I supposed to choose only one picture a month!?!  I really hope I'm not one of those annoying moms who thinks my kid's adorable when in all actuality, they are really unfortunate looking.  I'm fairly certain I'm not.  I mean, really!  Look at this smiling happy baby!  :-)

I was blessed to have Monkey with me for his very first Christmas.  He was all about the bows.  Apparently, no present stood a chance against the power of the shiny bows.

At 10-months-old, Monkey was finally pulling himself up and crawling around like madman.  His greatest obsession was Kitty Cat Tommie.

By February, I was so completely in love with this kid.  I knew that court was coming up in a month, and I was preparing my heart for the loss.  I started taking him to his visits with his dad myself so I could do my best to make sure his father learned every possible thing about our baby boy.

In March, we celebrated Monkey's first birthday.  I soaked up every second of his sweet little face.  I gobbled up his double chin.  I loved on my baby as if every day would be the last.  I also made a decision that would change the course of my life...  I (and my mom) offered to continue to keep Monkey four nights/three mornings a week for his daddy so he could continue to work his night schedule and not have to put Monkey in overnight childcare with strangers.

Last morning w/Mama
I spent my last morning with Monkey, laughing, cuddling, and taking lots of pictures with my baby boy.  When his daddy came to get him after court, all of our lives changed, but I think they changed for the better.  That week began what has been eight extra months where my baby boy has two parents and a Nana who love him like crazy.

The move back and forth between daddy's house and mine never once phased Monkey.  He is always thrilled silly when his daddy comes to pick him up and is just as happy to launch himself into my arms when he comes back.  Proof that an infant/toddler can form a bond to a bio parent during one hour a week if that parent is dedicated, loving, and consistant.

Mother's Day
"That's not Monkey," you might say!  And you're right...  Those are my Mother's Day flowers that Monkey's daddy brought me.  "Thank you for being a mother to Monkey," he said.  Thank you for letting me be his mom!  I'm the lucky one!


Monkey's personality shining through...  At 15-months-old, my boy could crack me up!  He could crawl 50 miles an hour, but still flat out refused to walk.

One week before he turned 16 months, we had a playdate with Banana who has been running since she was 10 months old.  He took one look at her and must have thought, "Well crapfire!  I can't let that girl out-do me!"  He stood up and ran across the room like he'd been doing it for months, and has been running ever since.

Pictures of my little gooberhead begin to get more and more scarce as this kid is always on the go!  Every so often I luck out and get his attention long enough to capture the cuteness on film.  :-)


Me and my Monkey Man...  At 18 months, he began to hit the Terrible Twos.  Monkey's "Terrible" Twos are more the "I'm Just Going to Be Contrary, Mama" Twos.  For the most part, he doesn't pitch the usual fits that a normal toddler pitches.  He just matter of factly tells me "no" in a calm, cool, and collected tone.  :-)


At 19-months-old, my baby isn't a baby anymore.  He talks to me in "toddler" conversations.  He sings songs, dances, uses his manners by saying "thank you," and cracks me up by making funny noises that he knows make his Mama laugh.

Today - 20-months-old

I have been blessed beyond measure with the relationship that I have with Monkey and his daddy. Monkey has a Mama who would walk through fire for him and a Daddy who loves him so much that he did the same to ensure his little boy would continue to have the only Mama he's ever known. The past 18 months of being Monkey's Mama have taught me more about self sacrifice and the unconditional love of a parent than I ever could have imagined.  This little guy is my heart in human form, and I am unbelievably thankful that I've been given the opportunity to continue to be his Mama.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Maintenance and Request!

Couple of blog maintainence things and a REQUEST!

1) I will be taking down a large portion of the blog over the weekend in order to make it a little more anonymous, add graphics and pics, update dead links, etc.   Never fear!   It will all come back soon... bigger and better!   I just wanted to give you a head's up first.

2) Next week's "Foster Friday" Q&A will be answering the question "Where can I find local organizations that support foster children throughout the year and/or specifically during the holiday season?"   I have several that I use, but I'd like to put together a listing BY STATE.

My HUGE request is for help FROM ALL OF YOU in providing links to organizations that you use in your area (or just help with the research if you have time).  I know...  I know...  I probably should have started this project a bit sooner.  Nothing like a trainstop in Procrastination Station to make things harder on myself!  :-)

Please email me directly at with links to your favorite organizations or if you can offer any other kind of assistance!!!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Month of Thanksgiving 2012 - Day One

It's November again, and the Holiday Season is upon us.  For me, November is a month of Thanksgiving.  A month to actively reflect on my life and share the things that I am most thankful for...  I have been very blessed, and I love to express just how much certain people, things, experiences, etc. mean to me during this time of year because I know I don't generally say it enough.

I checked out last year's "Day One," where I expressed my thanks for "the little things," only to look down and realize that I was once again drinking out of my Route 44 morning Diet Coke with lime and extra ice, and I realized that I am just as thankful for the small things as I was last year.

Day One:

Today, I am thankful for a a boss who understands my need to take a last minute day off in order to meet my OCD need to CPS-proof my house before my homestudy.  MUST HIDE THE TUMS!!!  (Sidenote - They never even left the living room!  Easiest "homestudy" ever!  Nice Lady came with them, and since she was just here three weeks ago, she vouched for me. ;-)

I found myself enjoying comfortable shoes as I made the hike from work to my car, stuffed crust Pepperoni Lovers pizza for dinner (something my oldest daughter gags at the thought of, but my youngest daughter can appreciate as much as I do), a huge jug of ice water (which made me realize that I could never last on Survivor because I want ice in everything), a hot, relaxing bubble bath (complete with Mr. Bubble bubbles :-), and an episode of Criminal Minds (because Shemar Moore is yummy!).

I am thankful for comfy pillows that turned me "laying down to rest my eyes for a few minutes" at 8:00pm into "totally crashing and awakening in a puddle of my own drool 240 minutes later."

I am happy to have internet foster mama friends, a sister, a BFF, and a daughter who are total insomniacs (or just busy moms with no time for that sleep business) who I can always count on to chat with me in the middle of the night when we're all on FB.  (This will likely come in even more handy in the near future when I am up 2-3 times a night doing bottles.)

I am thankful that my "extra" check hit this month and I was able to buy a new camera!  We all know how I loooooove showing off my kiddos (even if it is just their feet or a tooth or two while they're in care), and my new camera has already turned me into a full-fledged paparazzo (as if I wasn't already).

I smile every time I step on a Lego (after muttering "almost" curse words and crying), find a puzzle piece in my shoe, get my nose picked by toddler fingers, have half of my lunch begged for and eaten by a certain hungry baby bird every day, and hear Monkey calling "Mamaaaaaa...  It good morniiiinnnngggg!!!" over the baby monitor.

I have so many big things to be thankful for, but never forget the little things!  It's those "little" things that build your life.  Mine is pretty awesome, and for that I am eternally thankful!  :-)

"Foster Friday" Guest Post: From Foster to Adult

Kelliann is a college senior and former foster youth who aged out of foster care at age 21.  She previously contributed to last month's "Foster Friday" guest post describing "How Foster Care Has Touched Me," and agreed to write this month's guest post for me when I begged her to write more specifically on the topic of how we can help youth aging out of care.  I was so happy she agreed!  :-)

For more from Kelliann, check out her "FACES Youth Blog."  You won't be disappointed!
Mimi asked me to contribute to this guest post by writing about the struggles that come with aging out of foster care and how supportive adults can help. “Aging out” refers to youth leaving  foster care without achieving permanency through reunification with their birth family or adoption. Here’s what I’ve got:

First, put yourself in the shoes of foster care alumni:

Think about all of the resources and support you gained from your parents and family after “becoming an adult” at age 18 and transitioning to adulthood. Did it include:

§  Financial support for college or post-secondary education?

§  A place to continue to call home while starting your first job or on college breaks?

§  Independent living skills on how to cook, rent an apartment, or purchase a car?

§  Hand-me-down furnishings and supplies for your first apartment?

§  Health insurance?

§  Someone to call in an emergency or for advice?

§  A place to go for holidays?

§  A support system for the challenges and the joys that naturally come with living life?

Foster youth who age out of care do not have families to provide any of these resources and supports. We must rely instead on ourselves, whatever networks of support we’ve managed to create, and the meager resources provided by the foster care system prior to aging out. As a 21 year old navigating the challenges that come with young adulthood, I continue realizing more and more just how much of a loss it is to age out without a family for all of the reasons listed above. 

Unfortunately, the lack of material resources is often the least of a foster care alum’s worries. Consider that emotionally, most foster youth have a strong background of trauma, abuse, neglect, abandonment, and instability. The inner world of a foster youth can be even more tumultuous than the outer world! 

What are the outcomes when you combine a challenging background with a lack of support? Not surprisingly, the results are discouraging:

§  Less than half of foster youth graduate high school, and only around 2-3% earn a college degree.

§  25% become homeless within two years of aging out

§  25% become incarcerated*


How can I help?

The good news is that ordinary people can make a difference for foster youth and those who have aged out!

§  Listen to foster youth tell their stories. Asking good questions and listening are so underappreciated. If you know someone personally who has aged out of foster care, ask about his or her experiences and how having aged out is impacting life now. Ask how you can specifically be supportive.

§  Get involved.

·         Ultimately, the best way to help foster youth is to help them achieve permanent connections with loving families. Adopt or support the adoption of waiting children in foster care. Adopt US Kids and the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption are good places to start.

·         You can also support foster youth who have already aged out of care, perhaps through Foster Care to Success or The Camellia Network. Both organizations work to provide encouragement as well as material resources to youth who have aged out.

·         If you are able to connect with a former foster youth in your area, consider how you can step in to meet some of the needs normally addressed by a family. Something as simple as spending an hour teaching a young adult about basic money management or how to apply for educational scholarships can make a huge difference in creating positive outcomes!

§  Don’t be afraid. Foster care carries a lot of stigma, but like all people, foster youth need love and support and will do best when they receive them.

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