Friday, December 30, 2011

Boys are back!

 Tater, Doggie, and I were thrilled to welcome our traveling boys home yesterday morning.  Today, they are both sleeping in, and I am grateful that school and work don't start for a few days more so they can recover from their red-eye.

Every time Daddy returns from a trip, Doggie places her snout on his leg and her body over his feet.  It looks like a sign of affection, but my hypothesis is that as a herding dog, she is physically trying to bar him from leaving the pack again.  The Nugget somehow rallied as soon as they returned home, having slept only 2.5 hours for the night.  But at 3:30pm, he basically passed out in his car seat and had to be carried to bed, where he stayed for the afternoon, evening, night, and now part of the morning too!

They had a wonderful trip, and have the pictures to prove it!  Tater and I are a wee bit jealous we didn't get in on the fun.  Next time, I hope!

Baking with Grandma and the cousins.




Time with little sisters!  Meeting Baby Waffle (Poppy's daughter) for the first time.

Catching up with Cupcake (Tum Mum's daughter)
Special train ride to Portland with Grandma and Papa.  Papa worked for a railroad and so shares the Nugget's affection for trains.  Look at those smiles!

Thankful for good friends who met for the zoo and kids' museum.  Proof that distance doesn't dilute friendship.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Had ourselves a merry little Christmas


Well, it's just me and my girl this year.  We rang in Christmas at 1:30am, but thankfully went back to sleep several more times before officially wishing each other a Merry Christmas.

I slurped down my morning coffee and dressed us up for church.  Tater was so adorable in her red dress, but I had neglected to try on the size small tights in advance - they hung off her like the saggy baggy elephant.  Oops!  We went early to land a spot in the bawl room, but needed it not; apparently the big service was Christmas Eve.  I have never spent a Christmas here before, so it was a new experience.  Tater slept through the whole service, and the homily seemed meant for us, as it was all about focusing on the (Christmas) present and not dwelling on the future.  Carpe diem.

The boys Skyped in their gift opening at Grandma and Papa's house, so I did not miss the Nugget's giddy glee.  He is the youngest there, so he got to assist everyone in the gift opening.  He didn't pay me much attention, but getting to see his smile, hear his giggle, and witness him running in and out of the frame was awesome.  Very thankful for technology.

We delivered 2 full bags and some old curtain rods to the Goodwill dropbox, relishing the quiet streets.  Home again to watch some holiday concerts and some Netflix, the good (HP, finally!) and the bad (Gnomeo and Juliet).  I swaddled her for a nap, and prepared myself a little casserole and brown rice for dinner.  A Christmas beer, a salted caramel, and an early bedtime for me.  What I thought would be a lonely Christmas turned out into a peaceful one.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tots


Tater had her second doctor's appointment yesterday, and she is up to 5 pounds, 7 ounces.  So apparently I have good baby-fattening skills.  She is starting to become more alert and is attempting social smiles and holding her head up for a millisecond at a time.  Her lanugo is mostly gone, as is most of her flakiness off her skin.  Her cheeks are starting to plump up into an adorable baby face.  She has a little button nose and a little bow-shaped mouth.  Her hair curls slightly after a bath.  She can track a rattle with her eyes now and is definitely starting to notice the Nugget and his antics with a wide-eyed stare.

Tater Tot has been a joy, and she definitely has us all wrapped around her teeny finger.  She finally fits into newborn sized clothing and the most tiny adorable diaper covers.  She is most content when being held or worn, and is starting to protest being put down in the bassinet at night.  I keep reminding myself that all those night wakings are extra precious time with her, and it's fabulous that she is willing to eat and grow at night.  On the flip side, getting 1 hour of sleep at a time is starting to wear on me, so I am looking forward to sleeping whenever she sleeps next week.  Her likes and dislikes closely mirror the Nugget's preferences as a newborn.  We are all so curious to find out what her personality will be like as she grows.  Not sure if we'll be the lucky family who gets to witness it, but we are loving today.

TT likes
Cuddles
Any kind of formula (phew, what a relief!)
Swaddles
Soothie pacifiers

TT dislikes
Baths
Diaper changes
Wardrobe changes
Nuk pacifiers - the slight difference in nipple shape makes her reel with disgust and rage!

One hard thing about fostering Tater is that, unlike Noodle, she doesn't know I'm not her mama.  We are bonded to each other much like any other newborn and mother.  I know this is setting her up for good bonding and relationships wherever she goes, but the longer she stays, the more I worry how a move is going to affect her.  Still, such is life in foster care, and I suppose worry is the most unproductive thing I can do.  Better to take that energy and pour it into her while she is here.

I myself had a foster mom between my birth and adoption.  I don't remember her, and to be honest, I have very rarely thought of her until now.  When I thought about my unknown past, I always thought of my birthmom and not her.  But now I wonder how she is, how many other babies she helped, why she got into fostering.  I do know that she gave me a precious gift and that my ability to connect with my family was definitely impacted by her loving care.  Paying it forward.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Making Christmas Lemonade

When we decided to say yes to Tater's placement, we knew there was a strong possibility that she would not be allowed to travel for the holidays.  We said yes anyway, and for awhile, things were looking up.  The pediatrician cleared her for travel, the case worker thought it seemed doable, and we started to get our hopes up that all 4 of us could be WA-bound.  But the judge had some concerns about granting out of state travel to such a tiny baby, so it looks like Tater and I will be home for the holidays while my boys earn some frequent flier miles.

I'm not going to lie, I shed some tears in anticipation of being apart from my Nugget and Hubby over Christmas.  I toyed with the idea of canceling and rescheduling the trip, but decided that would only serve my selfish wishes, it wouldn't be in the best interest of Hubby's side of the family, Hubby, Nugget, or Nugget's birthfamily.

Then I remembered that the first Christmas didn't look so fine from the outside either.  Christmas, after all, is not about postcard-perfection tied up in a red satin ribbon.  It's about sacrifice and love.   If Mary could ride a donkey for miles while 9 months pregnant, we can certainly work some Christmas magic here too.  It's not about a date on the calendar.  It's about making time for each other.

The Nugget was excited to find a note from Santa under our tree yesterday.  Santa told the Nugget that our family should get to have a special early celebration before Nugget and Daddy's big trip!  The Nugget was instructed to take a nice bath, put on his Christmas jammies, set out a cookie and a carrot, and enjoy a magical early Christmas.



He awoke to find the carrot full of reindeer teeth marks, cookie crumbs on the plate, and plenty of gifts under the tree.  Someone's been a very good boy all year.  He was especially fascinated with the timer on our camera when we took our annual pajama picture.  I tried to find red pjs for Tater yesterday in vain, and of course an hour after we took this one, I found an abundance of them at Target.  Oh well!  Pink polar bears are festive too.  Tater is in the real photo, but as foster kids are not allowed to be pictured on public websites, you'll have to make do with her little T-rex hands.


Tater slept through the whole thing, but the Nugget was happy to open and test out her gifts.


Afterwards, we treated the Nugget to mini golf and air hockey at the local bowling alley, then off to the bookstore for pretzels and "dazzleberry" (pink) lemonade.  Home again for more fun with the new toys and to whip up a batch of buckeyes.  Daddy picked up pizza for dinner to make it a truly carefree day.




Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Going Bananas

The Nugget and his snowman.  Clearly he is not familiar with many pipe smokers.

The Nugget recounted how he entertains each of his friends at school.
"O likes it when I laugh, then she laughs, then I laugh, then she laughs..."
"J likes it when I say, (deep voice) 'Banana peeeeel'!"
"M and I go, 'Mek-mek-mek'."

And as a spin-off on the J banana peel joke, he added, "Banana peel dot org."

As the Nugget was giving us the entire banana peel routine while stalling at bedtime, Daddy remarked that he could be a comedian when he grows up.  Then, not wanting to box our son in, he said, "Or maybe you could be a physicist."  The Nugget cackled and immediately repeated (slowly in a loud silly voice), "Phy-si-cissst....mwahahaha!  Banana peel dot org physicist!  Banana peel dot org physicist!"

When helping Daddy fold the stroller today, he exclaimed, "Wow!  That was magical."

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I swear you hit me like a vision


"Oh, this is how it starts.  Lightning strikes the heart." - Colbie Caillat, Brighter than the Sun


This song was playing both times we went to pick up our foster babies.  You could call it a mere coincidence and a likely one at that, considering that our local college station plays the same 20 hit songs on a continual loop.  Or, you could be cheesy like me and let your eyes well up, because it's a sign.

Tater is a snuggler.  She sleeps so contentedly when held.  She is awake and alert for only a couple hours total each day, and she gazes at us peacefully with deep brown, jewel-like eyes.  She is finally starting to fit into some of her newborn clothes, although she still needs preemie diapers.  She cries quietly and rarely, but when she does, it's a sad, soulful cry (and not the angry hollers I'm used to).  She looks crazy small in the car seat, and strangers draw in their breath and squeal, "How teeny!" when they see her.  Her newborn coat looks like a giant hooded bathrobe on her, and the arms dangle loosely like Brobee's.  The Nugget's (doll) baby Dami was actually larger than Tater when she arrived, and now they are neck and neck.

There some books and classes that teach foster parents how to love reservedly, to make sure you hold some back, slice an invisible dividing line between "foster child" and "your own child".  While I understand why, I respectfully have to disagree.  Our job is to give without holding back, to be open and unreservedly in love with these children who need us, because they deserve it.  Maybe they won't say thank you.  Maybe they won't remember us.  Maybe they'll be gone to another home in a week, a month, a year.  But what we've gained out of our very limited experience far outweighs what we've given.  For as long as you need us, Tater, we are yours.

"But who am I to tell fate where it's supposed to go?"

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Laughter, Tears, and Trees

The Nugget verbalized a very special part of his personality today:
"When people are laughing a little bit, I laugh too, and everyone laughs more.  And louder.  And that makes me happy.  I like to do that."


Of course, he's not all laughs all the time.  Above, is some art therapy created by the Nugget.  "This is a dog with 10 feet and 14 tails.  He is sad because he misses his Grammy and Grandpa."  We call the first day without G&G the hangover.  It involves a lot of pouting and groaning.

But no matter.  It is December now, and because we travel for the holidays, it forces us to get our Christmas on early.  The tree is up, a Frasier Fir packed tightly with funky ornaments, probably 1/4 penguins.  While we were decorating, the Nugget repeatedly stated, "Christmas trees are the best!  Christmas trees are the best, Mama!  Daddy, Christmas trees are the best!"  He helped us hang ornaments, preferring to create little "meetings", 4 penguins to a branch, a manatee kissing a giraffe, etc.  We had to move a couple of his creations due to the laws of physics, but otherwise are content to leave his meetings be.  Our family trees are not about perfection but about love and memories, and it's always been that way, back to the day when my parents proudly hung up aluminum pie plates with magazine clippings glued inside, pipe cleaner candy canes, and salt dough ornaments scrawled with marker.  I used to look at our random tree with concern, comparing it to the stark glittery beauties in dentist offices or Martha Stewart Living.  But now I would not trade our funky ornament collection for all the designer trees in the world.  Perhaps that's a good analogy for learning to love life's journey as well; embracing all that's uniquely given to you, as chipped and clumsy as it may be.

A penguin conference.

When the Nugget was born, I bought a pack of 12 tiny silver frames strung on red satin ribbon.  Each Christmas, I've been snipping down a wallet-sized photo of the Nugget to fit in a frame.  I spread out the 5 on the table and called Hubby over to marvel at how much he's grown and changed.  And I caught my breath realizing that I only have 7 left in that box.

This is the photo in the first ornament


We hosted our first annual Cupcakes and Cocoa party!  At least, I hope it becomes an annual tradition; it will depend on whether our friends are willing to bring back their children for a sugar high on a weekend morning next year.  The kids decorated 2 cupcakes each - one to eat, and one to-go.  I prepped 3 colors of frosting, sprinkles, m&ms, mini pretzels, tiny white chocolate baking chips, dried cranberries, and mini candy canes.  Noodle's leftover baby food containers made perfect cups to hold the fixings.  I bought 3 flavors of cocoa mix and heated a half-gallon of whole milk on the stove.  Served with a side of mini marshmallows and whipped cream, of course!  Then we bundled the kids and let them run out their sugar high in the backyard until the meltdowns started.


We attended the downtown Santa House again this year and were disappointed that the trolley was not included this time.  Still, Santa was a hit.  The Nugget begged to borrow my scarf, and of course, it looked amazing on him.  I really envy his ability to pull off any look.  Santa exclaimed, "Wow, what a sharp dresser!  Can I hire you to pick out my clothes in the off-season?  Mrs. Claus thinks I could use some help."  

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Thank you, St. Nick!

Today is St. Nicholas Day, and the stockings are full of goodies.  There was one special surprise that St. Nick dropped off at the local hospital for us too!  Although we hadn't planned on fostering again so soon, the call just felt right.  She is teeny-tiny, under 5 pounds, so she is practically half the Nugget's newborn size.  I'll call her Tater Tot or Tater for short.  She is 4 days old today.

The Nugget was excited to see the baby swing and car seat out last night.  When I told him that he was going to get to take care of a baby sister for awhile, he responded enthusiastically, "Yay!"  He did his little happy dance which looks like running in place with a little head bob, fists clenched as if to hang onto his joy.

It was nice to have a bit of notice about Tater's arrival, especially since Hubby is on his way out to a business trip this week.  So we got all the baby equipment set up and made some runs to the stores last night for preemie clothes and diapers, all of which seemed impossibly small until I dressed her today, and now they seem impossibly large!  When I cleaned the lint trap after a load, the lint was pink!  I have to fold down the preemie diapers to attach them!  It's a whole new world!

So far, Tater is a typical newborn - eating, pooping, and a little cry that sounds like the panicked bleat of a lamb.  She loves the swaddle and being in the Babyhawk.  She dislikes being cold, so diaper and clothing changes are just not her favorites right now.  She has a full head of silky black straight hair; I look forward to snuggling it against my cheek when she grows big enough to take off the hat once in a while!  Her skin is a lovely shade of milk chocolate.  She has downy lanugo on her cheeks, which I know she'll shed soon, but for now she is a precious wooly bear caterpillar.  Her arms, legs, and fingers are long and slim.

We continue to be blown away by the support of our community.  Miss L delivered armloads of bags full of baby girl clothes, diapers, and wipes.  My friend A is coming by tomorrow to pick up our donations from the playdate we missed this morning and said she'll come bearing food.  Hand-me downs from Cabbage and Baby E are en route.  It is humbling and incredible to reach out for help and find it around every corner - eager to provide comfort to a child in need.  If you read the comments on Yahoo news stories, you can get pretty concerned about the state of humankind, but I can tell you that goodness and generosity still abound in our world.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Hungry Burps and Other Bodily Functions


"Mama, when I'm very hungry, my burps sound like this, (deep voice) 'Hit the ball!'"

"Sometimes my pop-pops (that's what we call gas) don't have any sound.  That means they're just for fun."

To our sitter:
"I'm going to eat lots and lots at Thanksgiving, so I can have a good selection."
(And a bedtime stall)
"Um, I can't go to bed yet, because Doggie has to come upstairs and tuck me in.  That's what we do now."

The Nugget's new favorite phrases:  super-duper, a very lot, I'm not positive, I've never seen that
For instance:  "Wow, that's a super-duper, very lot of birds!  I'm not positive, but I've never seen that before."

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Giving Thanks

 Thankful for these boys and their smiles

Cousin F being a good sport.  Please note his awesome penguin hat.

The Nugget's thankful chain for 2011 included:
Writing letters
Gyrocopters
Bear planes - they carry bears to Grammy and Grandpa's hometown to have a parade
Windmills
Making cookies
Riding on an airplane at Christmas
Baby Noodle
Grammy and Grandpa
Footie pajamas
Playing dead
Helicopters
Playing airplane
Friends
Breadsticks

Grammy cooked up a feast for 29 (just one side of the family, if you can believe it), with the help of 6 crock pots.  The Nugget remembered second cousins he hasn't seen in years, and spent a few happy hours playing babies and Legos in the basement as well as soccer in the backyard. He watched "The Polar Express" for the first time, astonished and captivated.

We went to the zoo and another cousin shared his popcorn and a carousel ride with the Nugget.  The Nugget was dismayed that his favorite feature at my parents' zoo (a rope bridge) was closed for repairs, but found solace in a slide and a stationary train.  He eagerly rang the brass bell on the train by pulling the rope, but insisted on his headphones with panic for the very quiet carousel bell.  Cousin F handed down a huge bin of toys and coloring books for the Nugget to take home and even sweeter, left his favorite carousel tiger to sit with the Nugget on the bench.  I don't really know why the Nugget prefers the bench, but each time he rides a carousel now, he yells, "Let's sit on the bench!"

At yet another family gathering, the Nugget built a train track and stacked a marble run with my brother and his girlfriend.  His ears practically perked up like a dog's when he overheard talk of chocolate pie and clapped with glee when given his own slice.  He dragged another good natured cousin outside for hurry-catch-catch, hula hooping, and chalk art.  He chased down Great-Grandma D for several big hugs before she left.

We took the Nugget to one of my favorite childhood restaurants for dinner one night.  It is one of those places where the food may not be incredible, but the nostalgia makes it taste better. Waiting for dinner, the Nugget traded funny faces with a baby at a nearby table, laughed uproariously at Grandpa saying, "Soda," (apparently another to add to his funny word list), and did some coloring with Grammy. We enjoyed fried fish sandwiches and hot salty pecans on top of cold rich ice cream while the Nugget chowed down on chicken fingers and rainbow sherbert.

We have so much to be thankful for, but always at the top of my list is the gift of being the Nugget's mama, Hubby's wife, my siblings' sister, and my parents' daughter.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Stocking Stuffers

I love stuffing stockings!  What a fun challenge to find little gifts that won't break the budget nor become plastic flotsam underfoot.  I like to add some sweet treats, like fruit snacks, tangerines, granola bars, fruit squeezers, and a couple pieces of chocolate.  St. Nicholas likes to deliver the Nugget's stocking earlier in December, but sometimes it's hard to resist and Santa ends up filling it again for Christmas morning.  Here's some new ideas for you!


Ages 0-1
Booties
Personalized baby spoon


Ages 1-3
Jingle bracelet
Flower hair clips or a Newsie cap
Bingo daubers filled with washable paint

Ages 4-6
Slide whistle
Window markers
Wooden top
Pastels

Product Reviews: Natural Bubble Bath

Burt's Bees Bubble Bath - Unlike some other bubble baths we enjoy, this version is tear free. I also love the scent on the kiddo - more milk and honey baby scented vs. herbal. The price point is decent $6-7 for 12oz, and you only need 2 capfuls per bath to make a whole tub of bubbles.


Method Squeaky Green - This one is my second-favorite scent, a sweet rice milk and mallow (as in marshmallow) light scent.  It is consistently only $5.49 for 10oz. The bottle is a soft and adorable little seal.  The main drawback to it, however, is the bottle design. Instead of unscrewing a cap, there is a silicone valve at the bottom, and you squeeze the thing directly over the tub. This masks how much you are using per bath, and I found that it took a big squeeze to get enough bubbles, so cost per bath is iffy.  This bottle has to be stored far away from kids, and it leaks so you can't travel with it.

California Baby - Many parents won't let their daughters take bubble baths for fear of UTIs; this brand is so gentle that the girls can indulge in some foam!  We enjoy it too, but at $14 for 13oz, a bottle of this is a real gift for the Nugget, something we tuck into Christmas stockings and Easter baskets.  We gave out these mini bottles for party favors.  The full-sized bottles come with a bubble wand, which is a nice touch, but actually problematic because you can't blow a satisfying bubble with the solution.  It takes 2-3 capfuls for a tubful of foam.  The scents are all essential oil-based; I really like the Cold and Flu version for winter.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Urgent Message



While leaving a playdate, my friend (known to the Nugget as Miss K) was kindly helping us load up the car.  After the Nugget had been fastened into his booster seat with his door shut, we were loading the last of the bags when we saw/heard him frantically yelling, "Miss K, Miss K!  I have to tell you something!"  He was so desperate to pass on this message that he was on the verge of hysterics.  When she humored him with a, "Yes, sir?" he was blessedly able to deliver this urgent statement.

"Sometimes when we are at the airport, we get scones."
**************
Thanks to old episodes of Blue's Clues on Netflix (Steve will always be far superior a host than Joe), the Nugget is now fascinated by cassette tapes.  I scoured the library to find a book on tape, and finally came up a version of How the Camel Got his Hump by Rudyard Kipling.  It is very odd and read super slowly with lots of strange mystical humming music in the background.  After the first very skeptical listen, it grew on the Nugget, and now we are going to be lucky if he doesn't wear the darn thing out before it's due back.  Of course, the most exciting thing is working the tape deck and imagining the tiny gears in the cassette player spinning.
**************
Parent-teacher conferences at the preschool are always fun and entertaining.  No one will care about this except grandparents perhaps, but as this is my online journal of his growing years, here are some anecdotes from Miss L this year:
-She opened the conference by comparing the Nugget to Norm on Cheers.  When he walks in the room, she says, all the friends yell, "Nugget!"  She said, "And that sums up his personality and our experience with him in the class.  He's a big teddy bear."
-Always a big smile on his face, always participating fully.
-Gets frustrated with fine motor work but is persistent and keeps trying.
-Loves dramatic play and anything flashy.  He has bonded very quickly with one of the teachers who always wears glitter, shiny high heels, and jewelry.  They are "sparkle buddies", says Miss L.  This does not surprise nor bother me in the least.  I picture the Nugget will be the high school boy dressed in drag for Halloween and Spirit Day and really rocking it.  I love this picture of Antonio Garay (a nose tackle for the Chargers), because it reminds me of the Nugget's willingness to be himself and bust through stereotypes.
-Enjoys playing with both boys and girls.  Aside from the rough and tumble play, which he avoids now (such a change from 2yo Nugget), he can be found with nearly any friend at any time.  Miss L said this is a very unique trait for a 4yo, and says everyone enjoys his easygoing, friendly nature.
-Slow to warm up and cautious before trying new activities.  He likes to watch friends try something first.
-Hates getting his hands messy - will frequently run back and forth from a craft station to the sink to cleanse every bit of glue or paint from his fingers.
-Is teaching one friend English!  He is a natural teacher and is really helping his friend M learn new words.
-Dislikes nap time.  They have had to move his cot away from the true sleepers, because he is so restless.   They provide him with books and quiet toys, but it is the bane of his day.
-Is always, always, always dancing.  He makes up songs, creates instruments out of random toys, and "gets his groove on" constantly.
-Loves to be silly.
-Very inquisitive and drawn to the sciences.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Farewell to Noodle

Dear Noodle,

Tomorrow we wish you goodbye.  Your bags are packed and at the door.

It is fitting that you are starting the next leg of your adventure near Thanksgiving.  We are so very thankful for the gift of time with you.  You brought baby squeals, gummy smiles, and footie pajamas back into our life.  You gave the Nugget the gift of a live-in little brother.  It was an honor to have you in our home, and you'll forever be in our memories.  Our hearts are bigger because of you.  Our lives are richer because of you.

Wishing you health, happiness, safety, comfort, peace, and love.  Have a beautiful life!

Love,
Your foster family

"Don't cry because it's over.  Smile because it happened." - Theodor Seuss Geisel

Monday, November 14, 2011

Little Daddy

The Nugget often ignores his baby dolls but will occasionally go on jags of intense daddy play.  I thought when Noodle arrived, he would spark some daddy play right away, but not until today did it happen.  And boy, was it cute!  When I went to change Noodle's diaper...

"Hmm, I think my baby needs a diaper change too.  My pretend baby (that's what he calls dolls), I mean, not my real one.  I'm going to change his diaper.  His name is gonna be Noodle too.  (fusses with diaper)  Oh, I see there is no penis, so I guess this baby is a girl.  Her name is Dami.  I am Dami's daddy.  You are Dami's grammy.  And...Dawa is Dami's mommy but she doesn't live here.

Ok, so I'm going to change this diaper.  Oh boy, it is a poopy one!  Wow, that's a good poop.  I need to clean you up, Dami.  Here's a clean diaper and some bottom cream.  Doesn't that feel fresh?  And now, I'm going to swaddle you.

And now, I'm going to give you some milk.  Dami can drink cow's milk now, because she's big.  She drinks it from this bottle, and you can hear her drink it!  And den, I'm going to give her some food.  The food is on this plate.  And here's the bib.  And this stroller is gonna be the highchair, but later it will be a stroller.

Ok, now the highchair is a stroller now, and we're going to take a walk very fast!  Watch this, Noodle, see my going very fast?!

Now she wants to go in the backpack (his doll-sized Ergo).  She likes it!  Oh, she needs another diaper change."

This went on for about 45 minutes, until we had to leave for school.  But the Nugget wasn't done, and had to leave "Grammy" with some instructions.

"Ok, while I'm at school, Dami will need to have her diaper changed at 2 o'clock.  And she will need her diaper changed.  Don't forget!"

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The 4-year-old's vernacular



Nugget:  Mama, what is "isswater"?
Me:  I don't know.  Can you tell me about it?
N:  Well, it's blue and it goes in the middle of a flower.  It's kind of like paint.  And the taste is strawberries.

N:  (building with Duplos) This is a tag-bo.
M:  What is a tag-bo?
N:  It's a place where friends can play tag, because it's so soft and furry so if the friends fall down, they won't get hurt!  They just fall in the fur!

N:  Now we need to play a taygoob.
M:  With the tegu blocks?
N:  NO.  A taygooobbbb.
M:  I don't remember what that is.
N:  It's when we play music with our instruments together.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Prelude to a Goodbye

Yesterday, we got the news that Noodle will be moving to his aunt and uncle's house sometime "before the holidays".  Not sure if that means Thanksgiving or Christmas, either way, we have started to prepare.

Deep in the recesses of my foster care folder, I found a packing checklist that needs to be completed for Noodle.  Although he arrived with just a single onesie, a sleeper, and a blanket (neither item of clothing actually fit him), we are charged with providing him an entire wardrobe and baby supply kit for him to take with him to his aunt and uncle's house.  (So when you hear that foster families "get paid", it's really more like reimbursement.)  The list is providing some catharsis for me, and it's a great way to feel like we can continue to provide for him materially even after he leaves us.

I am going to make the Nugget a photo book of him and Noodle as well, and I am brainstorming a "goodbye ceremony" suggested by the counselor at his preschool.  I will be scheduling at least a couple counseling sessions for the Nugget to help him work through his emotions after the move.  I am going to ask Noodle's aunt and uncle if they'd be willing to exchange contact information post-placement so that we can send him care packages and if we're very lucky, receive photos and updates from their end.

So it looks as if we accomplished our goal - to keep Noodle safe and loved while he needed us.  Undecided whether we will continue to foster, I think at least a good break will be in order, but Hubby and I agreed it has been a wonderful positive experience for our family.  Saying goodbye will surely be bittersweet, but it will be a happy ending beginning for Noodle.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Enjoying our Time

One of the worries with a second child is that you are so busy juggling that you miss out on all the little things.  The common complaint about the lack of photos, for one.  Well, one of the silver linings in fostering is that I am so cognizant that this is fleeting, that I never know when our last week with Noodle will be, that I force myself to soak in the glory of his babyhood.

The little pink stork bite on the back of his neck.  The way his warm, peachy head feels on my cheek.  The way he bats the bottle like a kitten with a toy mouse.  The frantic, ticked off screams he makes every time we wrestle him into a warm coat.  The way he lights up for the Nugget.  The way his chunky baby thighs rest against my arm in his footie pajamas.  When I have tried to put him to bed 3, 4, 5 times, I stare at that little thigh and think, "It won't last," and that gives me the energy to keep going and savor each gentle bounce though my arms cramp.

"We are enjoying our time with him," is my frequent reply to everyone who asks how it's going.  More like savoring it, eating it up, but that sounds too creepy to say out loud.

I bought Noodle a good suitcase today, another tip we learned in training.  So many foster kids, they said, have to say goodbye to everything they know carrying all their worldly belongings in a ripped garbage bag.  I carry that image in my head, and it haunts me.  I know times are tough and foster families already give so much, but what message does that send even the tiniest child?  Filling that suitcase brought the first tears to my eyes since he was placed with us, a mini preview of how hard it will be not to be able to watch him grow up.  But it will be a tangible gift for him, something he can touch and feel and know that we cared enough for him to provide a cheerful rolling blue case to protect his clothes and his treasures.  It helps me feel more like I am sending him off prepared for his next adventure.

I started a lifestory book for him on Shutterfly and hope I will have enough notice to finish and print it before he goes.  I don't know if his family will pitch it, hoping to blot out the painful memory of his separation from them, but I hope they will keep it for him, let him know that there are others out there who love him.  I feel like maybe this is a tiny peek into understanding the emotions a birthmom might go through, wanting a child to know their love was and is real and true, even if the time spent together was fleeting.

We have friends who tell us that they are keeping their fingers crossed that he'll get to stay forever.  I cannot even go there right now.  I have to repeat in my head that Noodle is going home, that we get to care for him for just awhile, but we can love him forever.

To all the parents who complain about the children growing too fast, who are struggling with a tough phase (myself included), remember that it is an honor and a privilege to witness it.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Things I Had Forgotten About Babies

10.  The way their developing neck muscles suddenly get tired and they crack you right in the teeth with a huge hard skull.

9.  Giant poops exactly when you are supposed to be leaving the house.  The more important the outing, the larger the poop.

8.  When you set them down, they are exactly in the same place when you return.  This doesn't last.

7.  The terror of having a shirt pulled over the face for even a second.

6.  The way an adult sized washcloth covers their entire torso during a bath.

5.  The constant crick in my neck and hunch to my shoulders from holding bottles and cradling a little one to sleep.

4.  Their ability to violently flail fists but the lack of ability to control where the fists are going.

3.  The startle-stare-gape at the flash on a camera, resulting in hundreds of photos of the same bug-eyed expression.

2.  The way they sneak your shirt down every chance they get, and suddenly you realize that your bra has been exposed in public for about 5 minutes.  Also, all your shirts are now stretched out beyond recognition.

1.  The little shudder-sigh as they fall asleep.  Yeah, that kind of makes up for all the harder stuff.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Noodle Noodle Bo-Boodle



Noodle likes:
The jumperoo
The swing
The stroller
Music - he's a big fan of the Banana-fana song (hence the post title) and Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes
Baby Signing Time
Watching the Nugget
Bathtime
Doggie, especially when she sniffs him
The binky when it's his idea
Watching a crowd
Diaper changes
Lotion
Storytime
Enfamil Gentlease
Having 2 adults at his beck and call after the Nugget goes to bed

Noodle dislikes:
Wet diapers
Delays in bottle preparation
The car seat
Wearing jackets or feeling warm
The binky when it's someone else's idea
Being worn in the Ergo or the Babyhawk*
Being propped to sit on a lap*
Windy days
Any variety of less-expensive formula
*We are working on these 2 items, because they are really a necessity for any baby, especially a second child!

Noodle has:
A face that reminds me of a cute little old man
Perfect rolls and folds at his joints
A little squeal-laugh
A gummy smile that we see more every day
Busy legs that love to kick our Bop&Wobble Lion
A mellow demeanor, except when he's screaming bloody murder, which is thankfully less and less often
A tired tell - he nuzzles into my body and fondles his nose.
Colicky tendencies - to make up for his nighttime sleeping, he can go into an incredibly fussy inconsolable cry, usually in the evenings.  I imagine he is probably homesick, poor guy.
High dimples on both cheeks

One of the biggest surprises to me about parenthood is how much of a child's personality is fully present from the beginning.  It is incredible to watch it emerge and learn how to support and work with that personality instead of fighting it.  I predicted early on that the Nugget's main drive in life would be for attention - as a baby, he craved socialization and would do anything for a smile.  He would light up when he could command an entire room of adults to clap with him.  I am fairly certain that Noodle's main drive will be for independence - he is a determined little soul and his little "glowing moments" come when he accomplishes a giant feat like getting the binky into his own mouth or managing to bop Happy Apple.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Eyebrows and other Stuff


Noodle can now wiggle and waggle his eyebrows along with my other boys. It is great fun watching him relax and feel at home here.  Noodle and Nugget often go into squeal-laugh fits with each other.  That said, the Nugget has already started the, "I don't want him to look at me," complaint.  I think most parents find that super annoying, but after waiting so long to hear the laughter and squabble of siblings, it is (practically) music to my ears.

Nugget:  What is my placemat doing on my chair?!
Me:  I don't know...
Nugget:  Maybe the night wind blew it!

The Nugget invented a new game and dubbed it "Hurry, catch-catch."  To play HCC, you take turns throwing a frisbee, then you both race each other to fetch it.  It is important that during the race portion, you both yell, "Hurry, catch-catch, hurry, catch-catch, hurry, catch-catch," until the winner triumphantly grabs it off the ground.  Repeat about a zillion times, or until one of you steps in dog poop, or until the adult tires and requests a water break.

Hubby gets the Best Dad Ever award, as he took both boys to Zoo Boo when I felt too feverish to attend this weekend.  I am so lucky!  With the Nugget missing Trunk or Treat due to croup, I am knocking on wood and hand sanitizing like crazy, hoping that we are all healthy for the 31st!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What is it like?

I continue to gather my thoughts and build my philosophy on fostering.  What is it like?  It's like nothing else I've ever experienced, but it has familiar components.  It's sort of like:

-Being a parent
-Being a nanny
-Babysitting a niece or nephew
-Hosting an exchange student
-Participating in the witness protection program
-Being a student
-Being a substitute teacher without a lesson plan
-A desk job involving lots of paperwork and phone calls, but you can only work during nap time
-Being a bus/carpool driver:  Noodle to visit, Nugget home, Nugget to preschool, time for a 5 minute errand, Noodle pickup to home, oh my!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Gifted


A couple more Nugget thoughts:

"I'm going to be a big daddy someday.  I'm going to name my girl James Lou.  Or Melissa."

"I had a dream that I was running with you (Daddy) and Grandpa.  I was bigger, I was almost a grown-up.  We were running on a trail at the place that was a little stinky."



There's this quote I've seen a lot since we started the fostering process:
"Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift."

 Right now, there are four pumpkins on our porch.  Our home, car, laundry baskets, and calendar are ridiculously full, and I'm feeling pretty thankful for the gift of today.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Alternative Halloween Treats

On our October line-up this year:  Trunk or Treat, Halloween party, Zoo Boo, and traditional Trick-or-Treat in our neighborhood.  Clearly, Nugget and friends are in for a sugary October.  I hand out fun-sized chocolate bars on Halloween, but for the rest of the festivities, I like to distribute alternative treats.  But I remember clearly how much I abhorred raisin boxes on Halloween, so here's a list of kid-appreciated alternates.

Little bags of salty:
Goldfish crackers
Pretzels
Pirate Booty

Sweet-but-not-candy:
Fruit snacks
Fruit squeezers
Animal crackers
Mini graham crackers
Granola or cereal bars

Toys:
Stickers
Temporary tattoos
Mini Play-Doh tubs
Glow bracelets (get a tube of them at Dollar Tree)
Bouncy balls
Lego Mini Figs (buy them in bulk, give out 1 per kid - will only be cost effective if you have a small group)
Pencils and erasers

To bring to parties:
String cheese and crackers
Bananas
Yogurt squeezers

Care packages:
Cute snappies - I especially like the orange swiss dot because it will have a useful life beyond Halloween
Ghosts in the House - I flipped through a copy at B&N, and the illustrations are amazing!  Looks like hard-carved woodcuts plus sheer tissue? fabric?  Whatever it is, this book is a thing of beauty, and the story is sweet, not scary.
The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything - Disembodied clothing tries to spook a little old lady, but she won't fall for it.
The I'm Not Scared Book - Not exactly Halloween-y, though there is one page with costumed children.  Todd Parr validates common fears but then empowers children with solutions that will make them feel braver.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Quotable Nugget


To Doggie (he has just learned she is part Aussie, part BC):
"Go downstairs, Australian Shepherd."

"That's a funny word!"  These words cause the Nugget to spontaneously combust into wild giggles.
-Pipsqueak
-Gourd
-Blimp
-Petite

(Holding up a pretend measuring stick)
"Let's see, I think this water bottle is 1-2-3-4-5-6-7 miles tall."

This week, the Nugget declared, "I want to make a fancy bat.  A very fancy one."  I wrapped some foil around a piece of cardboard, drew a bat shape on it, and the Nugget went to town with some homemade Modge Podge, colored tissue paper, and glitter.  It is really fun to watch him create.

Please note the small glitter smudges on the bat's feet and off to the side.  "These are his shoes.  And here are some slippers for him to wear later."

Today, the Nugget admired his bat but stated that, "He could be even fancier."

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Noodle Bowl



Noodle has a big gummy smile, and when he smiles, he makes tiny fists, shrugs his shoulders up high, and crosses his arms over his chest.  Noodle startles and stares whenever I get the camera out, so it's hard to catch his joy on film in this phase, but it is something very special that I want to remember.

When he eats, Noodle wants so badly to hold the bottle by himself.  He grunts and grasps, pushes my hand away.  If I comply, the bottle slips, and he wails.  Or sometimes he will triumphantly get just the nipple into his mouth but can't tip it properly, so he sucks air.  The Nugget likes to help feed him, so I try to hold Noodle's hands so that he doesn't pinch or scratch the Nugget.  He has a mighty belch that comes right out the second you turn him right side up.

Noodle falls asleep in quite a remarkable fashion.  I haven't seen anything quite like it before.  Sometimes during a bottle, other times in the midst of fussing, he will go from awake to totally out in 10 seconds.  You can feel him turn from squirmy baby to limp sack of potatoes in the blink of an eye.  The car seat is another guaranteed nap for him - even on 5 minute journeys, the motion lulls him to sleep.  Quite the contrast from the Nugget, who was like the valedictorian of the Moro reflex.

Noodle loves Doggie.  He lights up whenever she's in the room.  With baby Nugget, Doggie was always up in his grill, wanting to sniff, lick, rebreathe his air.  Older and wiser now, Doggie gives Noodle a wide berth but comes to check on him when he cries, looking at us balefully as if to say, "You're not doing it right."

It's an interesting dance of affection and attachment.  We're letting Noodle steal a part of our hearts, but that's ok, because he can take that with him if/when he goes.  I wasn't sure I'd be able to do this, but now I feel like I'm right where I'm meant to be.  Things might change, but if today they told me that Noodle's home and family was made safe for him, I could hand him over with a hug and a kiss, with his new bear and some onesies to-go.  And I'm not sure that it would break my heart the way the failed adoptions did, because if he was able to go home, it would mean that we accomplished our goal, that we kept him safe and loved while he needed it.  And on the other hand, if something went wrong and we were asked to become Noodle's forever family, we would say yes in a heartbeat.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Sibling Experience

Day #3, and the Nugget is beginning to let his ambiguity show.
"Can we drop him off?  At the baby kennel?"

But then hours later,
"I need Noodle to come see me.  I can't wait for him to wake up!"

Every day, we are reviewing his options when Noodle cries.  I might draw him a cheat sheet, since he is a visual learner:
1.  Headphones
2.  Find another place to play
3.  Turn on music
4.  Help us figure out what Noodle wants

Somehow, Noodle and Nugget have already synched up their meltdowns and their hunger.  I realized today that I cannot prep and give a bottle while peeling and slicing an apple.  So Noodle waited impatiently while I gave Nugget cheese and crackers.  Then Nugget waited impatiently for his apple while I made a bottle and fed Noodle.  I narrated the process, trying to demonstrate to Nugget that they both have to take turns, not just him.  When Noodle was down for his nap, we took the monitor handset out into the backyard and had some "Mommy-Nugget time."  This is not easy, but it's also what I wanted - a real way to teach Nugget how to be patient and to grasp that while he is an important valued part of the world, the world does not in fact, revolve around him.  He's not always going to like it, but that's part of the sibling experience.  This is big brother boot camp.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Noodle

There are three boys in the house.  Hubby, Nugget, and a newcomer.  I got a call yesterday afternoon, "Could you foster a 4 month old baby boy?"  Our littlest houseguest has a big round noggin covered with nothing but brown peach fuzz, round green eyes, a cute little chin, and 10 tiny toes.  I'll call him Noodle.  As previously mentioned, we are not allowed to post pictures nor share any backstory, but we can describe our new life as we know it.

Doggie initially gave me a look like, "Are we seriously doing this again?" But she can't resist his charm, nor her maternal/herding instincts to serve and protect the littlest member of our pack.

The Nugget is equal parts enchanted by the baby, upset at the sudden upheaval of his world, and thrilled by his new round the clock role as big brother.  Today, he wanted to show Noodle off to all his friends, "This is my baby."  He knows that it's only for awhile and that we don't know how long.  He wants to know why Noodle can't go home right away.  "He needs a safe place for now," I tell him.  "I will protect him!" the Nugget replies.  We could not be prouder of our big boy.

Hubby and I are waking up latent memories of what it feels like to snuggle an infant in your arms, to mix formula and wash bottles, to bathe a slippery baby, to wrestle tiny limbs into cotton sleepers and snap them up before those wiggly toes escape again...finding that our fingers are clumsy but that they remember how.

Expect blog posting to be light over the next few weeks as we find our footing as a for-now-family-of-four.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Cousins in Kalamazoo

We lived in WA for the first 15 months of the Nugget's life.  My mom always said, "Anytime you are east of the Mississippi, we will come see that baby!"  And indeed, they traveled to the southeast when we came for a wedding to sneak in some extra Nugget time.  We took a page from their book and joined them when Cabbage and Co. were in Michigan this weekend.  We took the Nugget out of school, boarded the dog, and packed up the car...all worth it for some precious cousin time.




The hotel was amazing - nestled in a big beautiful building with multiple restaurants, stores, and a coffee shop.  The kids were awestruck by 2 sets of escalators, a fountain, and a long hallway with a giant fish tank.  Empty conference rooms flanked the opposite wall, so it was perfect for letting the children run off some energy.  We spent several hours watching them run and play in that hallway, where their squeals didn't bother a soul.  Best of all, a hotel pool and 3 adjoining rooms.  It was like a college suite, with Grammy and Grandpa's room as the central hangout.

Cabbage is walking now, still on the tiniest feet imaginable.  Her hair has changed to a caramel color that women would spend big bucks to get from a stylist.  She is starting to talk in earnest, and like her mommy, she uses her hands expressively.  One of my favorite Cabbage moves is when she walks with her hands clasped behind her back, demonstrating her advanced walking skills.  Also thrillingly adorable is when she places both tiny hands over her mouth in dramatic fashion and exclaims, "Oh wow!"



The Nugget sees himself as her mentor.  "Look at me, Cabbage!  Can you do this?  Can you drum like this?  Can you say, 'water'?  Come here, Cabbage, come play hide and seek!"  He was her willing pawn in the "throw the cup/flower/etc on the ground" game that 1 year olds love to play, fetching it for her over and over again with a big loopy smile on his face, golden retriever-style.  He invited her to sit on his Trunki while he pulled it from room to room, both of them squealing in delight until Cabbage was removed for a diaper change, her face red and her legs kicking in indignation - a foreshadowing of her toddler years.  So in love with that girl, and we can't wait until we can see them again!

Product Reviews: Kids' Sunscreens Group 2

I found some new sunscreens to recommend!

Babyganics Cover up Kids Sunscreen - great consistency, unscented, easy to apply, does not leave a visible chalky film. Retail about $8.99 at BRU, which is fantastic!  Use a 20% off store coupon (they give these out with every purchase) to make it $7.19 a tube for a 6oz bottle - that's competitive with store brands.  I also found a BOGO deal on Babyganics at Diapers.com.  They carry it for $11.99, but at BOGO, that's $5.99 per tube. At this price point, it's going to be our family's regular sunscreen.

Aveeno Baby Natural Protection Sunscreen Stick - I have always liked the California Baby sunscreen stick.  All natural minerals, easy to apply, and it doesn't melt in your bag nor drip into your kid's eyes...but at $15-20 (the price has dropped since I last reviewed it), it was a tough price point to swallow.  I'm happy to say that Aveeno came out with a similar stick format made from just Titanium dioxide and Zinc oxide, but it's only $9.  Score!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Rainy Days

Autumn fluctuates between gold and gray.  We got a little sun break yesterday, but the majority of our past week has been solidly in gray territory.  

I prefer the gold, but gray is the reason rubber boots and raincoats were invented.  The Nugget knows the fine art of puddle stomping, and verbalizes the wonders of dirt swirling around his lobster boots.  And there is nothing like coming out of the gray into a lovely dry bookstore and warming up with a chai tea latte (me) and a hot pretzel (Nugget).



The grayness means that we can't go to the playground but that I can entertain the Nugget for hours with a turkey baster, some food colors, and a few cups of tap water.  That $2.25 turkey baster might not ever see a turkey in this house, but it's going to get plenty of QT with the Nugget.  Maybe I will add a set of eyedroppers to this tray next time and tell him that the turkey baster had babies.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cooking show, cow song, and Colorado


When passing some new townhomes, the Nugget exclaimed, "That looks like Colorado!"  Indeed, they looked like Cabbage and Company's former residence.

"I was dreaming about harvesting blueberries.  It was a sweet dream, because the berries were very sweet."

The Nugget's preschool is doing a study on sports.  College athletes and coaches are taking time out of their days to volunteer at the school, running mini clinics on their sport.  The Nugget is inspired and now insists on playing both baseball and soccer in the backyard daily.  He forces includes us in the practice, assessing our pitches and kicks with authority.  "That was a nice one, Daddy."  "Mommy, that pitch was a little bit high."

We are borrowing lots of Mister Rogers dvds from the library these days.  The Nugget's favorite part is the factory tour under the special features.  So far, we've marveled at the creation of construction paper, pretzels, crayons, and teddy bears.

The Nugget likes to run his own cooking show at the sand table.  Today, I will share his recipe for Water Vapor Dough.
"Now, we are going to make Water Vapor Dough.  Well, we start with this wet sand.  Mama, can you put wet sand in your hand like I am doing?  You have a little too much, try to make yours look like mine.  Ok, that's it.  Now, we put our sand in the bucket.  And then, we add frown sugar.  Not brown sugar, FROWN sugar.  Now I crumble this yeast.  And one more.  A little bit of brown sugar.  There, now I smooth it out.  It won't be ready today, it takes a very lot of time.  When it's done, it will taste like milkshakes. "

The Nugget is fully capable of pronouncing Daddy, but he has a new slang title which is utterly adorable.  "Daa-eee!"  He is also back to calling me "Mama", which is sweet.

A new favorite song is Moves Like Jagger by Maroon 5.  The Nugget calls it, "The Cow Song," because of the line, "Moo-oo-oo-oo-oo-oo-oo-oo-ooves like Jagger."  "It's a cow singing, Mama!"