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


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
Any kind of formula (phew, what a relief!)
Soothie pacifiers

TT dislikes
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."