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
Bear planes - they carry bears to Grammy and Grandpa's hometown to have a parade
Making cookies
Riding on an airplane at Christmas
Baby Noodle
Grammy and Grandpa
Footie pajamas
Playing dead
Playing airplane

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
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

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!

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
Doggie, especially when she sniffs him
The binky when it's his idea
Watching a crowd
Diaper changes
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.