New kids + new workers = better experience

Pretty  much any adult knows that in the workplace, WHO you work with can make all the difference. Some workers are good at their jobs, some aren’t. Some workers have good attitudes, and some do not. Some are encouraging, some are defeating. And so on.

It’s that way in foster care, too.

We took the plunge after our recent experience and accepted new children into our foster home. We accepted a two-year-old girl, and soon after accepted a 12 month old boy. The experience has been night and day different from our last.

I haven’t had to struggle to find resources for these kids – the caseworkers had recommendations for me within the first week. I haven’t had to contact a single supervisor to get an answer to an urgent question because these workers are actually reachable and they respond to me. I haven’t had to deal with snark and rolled eyes, either, because the caseworkers these children have act like the professionals they are. It is SUCH a relief.

Foster parents should be – and NEED to be – adequately supported by their workers.

The one year old boy has already returned to his parents. I was extremely pleased when I saw how quickly they got their act together and did everything they needed to do, and their child was returned to them at the next court date. I was honored to testify on their behalf, saying I had no reservations about their newfound ability to parent their child in a healthy manner. A new experience for me! And one I hope I get to repeat with other children.

The now three-year-old girl is still with us. She’s our only girl placement to date, and it’s really fun and really different! She likes pink, and sparkles, and likes to have her things organized. She puts her shoes in a row in her room because it’s “pretty” that way. She definitely has things we need to work on, for instance it takes three baby gates and obnoxiously loud alarms on all the doors just to keep her inside the house! But her general attitude and the things she likes are so different than any of the boys we have had.

I’m grateful for the good workers we have running this case, and I hope the rest of our foster care experience runs in the same way. Good workers can make all the difference.

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Yes, No, Maybe So

It has been a long time since I posted, and with good reason.

The boys are gone. We almost quit foster parenting.

Some types of trauma can not be healed in a family foster home, and that is hard to admit when you are the foster home in question.
Some types of trauma do not show up in a child’s behavior in public, but only in private, behind closed doors, when nobody but a sibling is there to witness it.
Some types of trauma leave no scars on anything but a child’s psyche, and a child’s psyche can not be presented as evidence in a court of law.
Sometimes it isn’t possible to track abuse to its source. We will likely never know the identity of the person who first hurt these boys.

We did our best. We taught them manners, how to ask for things politely and how to say “thank you”. We taught them it was safer to to hold an adult’s hand when crossing the street. We taught them what it was like to be tucked into a clean bed with warm blankets.

In our home, they learned that waiting for something wasn’t the end of the world. They learned that sometimes – sometimes – you can trust an adult to do the right thing. They learned that it was never, ever, ever, EVER acceptable to hit a dog or a cat. They learned how tightly to buckle their own carseat buckles, just in case the adult they were with didn’t know.

The older boy arrived not able to sing the ABC song, and left 4.5 months later able to sing the song, write the alphabet, and identify all its letters both capital and lowercase. He went from a preschool IEP in January to “no accomodations needed” in June. The younger boy’s vocabulary exploded with new nouns, verbs, and adjectives.

All this in spite of behaviors that were rapidly spinning out of control. Ultimately, we knew we were not going to be able to keep these boys safe. Their behind-closed-doors behaviors were just too extreme and dangerous – to each other – and to us.

Did you know it is possible for a preschool aged child to be so traumatized that he will require inpatient psychiatric care in order to heal? And, did you know that psychiatric inpatient programs at hospitals are not available to children that young? Nasty catch-22 there.

In short, the boys are now in homes that are better equipped for helping them heal. Yes, two separate homes. It was eventually determined that in order to heal, the boys must not be constantly triggered by each other’s presence. If they can heal, and learn that siblings should support each other and not hurt each other, they will be placed together again. But they have much healing to do before that can happen – an amount of healing that is more than many adults are able to accomplish.

May God speed you both to full recovery, boys. And may you each get the type of permanent home and family that will enable you to continue healing the rest of your lives. God bless you, Tiny Viking, who upon seeing the sea for the first time, hit it with a stick and demanded “Stop Moving!” and the wave withdrew. God bless you, Puzzle Prince, who upon being told “you’re smart!” for the first time in your life, responded by looking shocked and then slowly saying “yes, I am”.

 

If you are a parent, struggling with a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder or Oppositional Defiant Disorder, or you find yourself being a “Trauma Mama” to a child who has endured unspeakable trauma, feel free to contact me for verbal support via the comments on this blog. I hear you. And I KNOW it is not always the fault of the person doing the parenting right now. We didn’t cause it. We can’t cure it. And we need to stand with each other, no matter what we choose to do (or have to do) to further the healing of these children we love.

I miss my backyard

I realized today just how long it has been since I have spent any time in my backyard – two months. Yep. That’s WAY TOO LONG. But what’s a mother to do? My priorities are just different at the moment.

But I still miss it. I miss the smell of the grass. I miss the cluck of the hens. And even though I sold the last of my Angora rabbits a few months ago, I’m missing them today too. They went to a great home that will be able to utilize their fiber better than I could.

I’ve hired someone to do some of the maintenance that I have let slip. He’s power-washing the rabbit cages for storage, chopping down the new blackberry vines that keep appearing, and doing some general cleanup. Although I was really happy to notice that last month’s storm did not drop a single tree branch in any part of our yard! That was really nice to discover, given the number of downed branches and entire trees in the rest of the town.

I admired my yard through the window this afternoon as I went back and forth between dealing with laundry and dealing with preschooler tantrums. I will have to make some time to get out there soon. It is so rejuvenating to get into nature of any kind, and nature I can dig my hands into is especially invigorating.

The preschoolers and I planted some seeds last weekend. We had gone to a propagation fair – basically a seed swap with some professional talks. Free admission, free local/organic seeds, free talks, it was great! I picked out some seeds I want to try in my garden this year, and then let the boys each pick out some flower seeds. I got some peat pots and soil that day, and we planted the seeds and placed the pots on the front porch so the boys can see “their plants” every morning on the way to the car. I hope some sprout before the boys lose interest!  I know we’re playing roulette with the weather but the seeds had the boys’ interest so I struck while the iron was hot, so to speak. It’s so rare to get them interested in much of anything.

We still have the chickens, and added a fifth hen to them before Christmas. An opossum or raccoon had decimated a friend’s flock, leaving him with a single  hen. Rather than bring more hens into a coop that needed additional predator protection, he gave her to us. I was pleased with how quickly she was accepted. We placed her on the roost at night in the dark, and she spent about three days being ignored and run off by the others, then everything was fine. No fights, no blood, it was pretty tame as far as introductions go. A beautiful, large, shiny, blue/green-black hen that lays large medium brown eggs.

And about the eggs – I’m glad its winter and the chickens are molting, because I haven’t even been to the chicken coop in those two months! I could have eggs out there and I wouldn’t know about it, but this time of year that is unlikely so at least I’m not wasting eggs. When the preschoolers arrived we realized just how hard everything was going to be for a while, so we opened the coop and run and let the chickens have the run of the backyard. Feeding them now takes 10 seconds in the morning – open the back door to let the dog outside, toss out the day’s ration of chicken feed and call “chick, chick, chick!”. They all come running – five chickens, two legs and wings apiece, no new feathers missing, call it good. Whistle for the dog and close the door.

Although I did get to go in my neighbor’s backyard once! One of the chickens got over the fence. I tossed out the food and only four chickens came running, but I could hear the fifth. Stuck my head out the door and I could see her, running up and down the fenceline. Thankfully I had a guest that morning, someone from the boys’ therapy office, and she was willing to supervise them while I ran next door to catch the recalcitrant hen. It didn’t take long. I opened the gate and shooed her back into our yard where she happily joined the others at eating breakfast, none the worse for wear.

This blog has really undergone some changes in the past two years, hasn’t it? Micro-farming, a crazy amount of pets in a crazy small amount of space, becoming a foster family, and now back to wanting to garden. About the only consistency is that I’m still ranting against the boxes we humans can get stuck in. There is always something else out there that we can see, that tempts us to be more than we currently are. I’m going to get out of my mommy-to-traumatized-kids box pretty soon and get back to nature. It doesn’t mean the kids are going away, it just means that they can no longer be the sole focus of this household, because such single focus isn’t healthy for anyone. Our horizons are going to expand and we will find life outside our current “box”. What box are you going to get out of?

Things I have actually had to say

I used to read all those blog posts about “things you learn when you have boys“, and laugh. I enjoyed them, but surely children who do and say those things are the exception rather than the rule, right?

HA! No. Here is my list of things I have actually heard come out of my mouth. You can imagine all the fun that preceeded me needing to say these things.

Take your bottom out of your brother’s face.
Do not use your brother for a chair.
Please do not fart in the bathwater.
Keep your poop to yourself.
No, you may not pee on your brother.

Stop playing with your penis and finish your bath.
Farts are not supposed to be funny.
Poop belongs in the toilet.
No, you may not both pee in the toilet at the same time.

Did you wipe?
Did you wipe?
Did you wipe?
Go back and wipe.

Do not climb the curtains.
Do not use the window frame to do pull-ups.
Punching the window is not a good idea.
Get off the top of the dresser.
Beds are not to be used as bumper cars.

No wrestling.
No wrestling.
No wrestling.
Stop touching each other.

Do not use your brother for target practice.
Books are not frisbees.
You may not bite people, not even when you are playing dinosaur.

Do not spit at your brother.
Do not spit at me.
Do not spit.
Keep your spit in your mouth.

And this list is not exhaustive! And it represents only 6 weeks with two preschoolers. I’m sure the coming weeks will have many more unexpected things coming out of my mouth. Stay tuned!

Foster parenting is complicated

Sometimes I just don’t know what to do.  When a child’s behavior is unacceptable… do I allow natural consequences to happen? Do I assign a punishment for the behavior? Do I write it down to address with the counselor because the behavior is based in past trauma? Do I let it pass without comment because in the larger scheme of things it not something I choose to address right now? Do I pull the child in for a long hug because the behavior is based in past hurt and shame and a need for appropriate attention from an adult? Do I do several of those choices?

And it is complicated even further by the sheer number of unacceptable behaviors that sometimes happen one right after the other. Before I have fully recognized the first and decided how to respond to it, there is a second. And a third. And sometimes a fourth. Sometimes they are an escalation of the first one, sometimes they are unrelated behaviors.

For instance, the boys may be eating breakfast cereal. One will spit a mouthful at his brother (or the cat, the dog, or the curtains). Obviously this means he isn’t hungry anymore, right? As I put down the milk and approach the table to calmly enforce the natural consequence of removing the cereal, the preschooler says “it’s YUCKY. Brother, you’re eating POOP cereal!”. Brother starts to cry and says “No, I’m not!”  OK, this is no longer a kid spitting out food because he’s not hungry, this is upsetting brother on purpose. But do I comfort brother and ignore the instigator? Or do I remove instigator from the table, and if I remove him do I simply send him to get dressed or do I send him to time-out for saying what he did? In the process of removing the cereal bowl and getting instigator down from his booster seat, brother (still crying) throws his entire bowl of cereal at the instigator, covering him, me, and the wall behind us. So now, do I continue with removing the original instigator, do I switch to comforting the brother who was obviously upset by the idea of eating poop, or do I now address the throwing of the cereal bowl?

You can see how things stack up quickly. What I just described can easily happen start to finish in 10 seconds or less. (And of course it isn’t finished.) And for those who are curious, the day I attended to the crying brother instead of the instigating brother did not help diffuse the situation any faster – it was just the instigating brother who got angry and threw the cereal bowl rather than the crying brother.

This is what foster parenting to children who have experienced WAY TOO MUCH TRAUMA in their lives is like. Every hour is a new crisis. Sometimes every 10 minutes is a new crisis. And sometimes they can go on for hours before I can break through and get a handle on just one little part of the crisis and defuse the situation.

Unfortunately, that handle that is available for me to grab on to might be different on different days. One day a child might hit his brother because he thinks he’s going to be hit first. Another day he might hit his brother because he is angry they are not playing the game he wanted to play. Another day he might hit his brother because he’s tired and grouchy and the brother happened to be the one there. And sometimes the way to grab the handle is laughter. Other times it is a quick reminder that the behavior will not be tolerated here. And still other times extending some grace and ignoring the behavior is the handle.

Preventing every possible reason for unacceptable behavior just isn’t possible. And neither is interrupting all unacceptable behavior. All that is left is finding how to respond to it – and realizing that responding in the exact right way every time isn’t possible either. It takes a mixture of all of these.

No parent is perfect. No parent can prevent everything. No parent can correctly respond to everything. And parenting kids exposed to trauma just makes the job exponentially harder, like a math equation. (Normal child behaviors) times (types and amounts of trauma experienced) times (siblings who feed off each others’ behavior) times (previous experiences where unacceptable behavior got good results for the child) = a crazy complicated time of trying to heal the children.

Why does Santa treat different families differently?

I have heard this question, in all its forms, so many times. A child whose family can barely put food on the table wonders why she received a hat and scarf from Santa when her schoolmate received a most-coveted Rainbow Loom and dozens of packets of circlets. Another family wonders why Santa skips his house, not understanding the differences between his Christian neighbors’ celebration of Christmas complete with Santa, and his on Jewish family’s decision to celebrate only Hanukkah. Another family struggles to explain how Santa left footprints on their friends’ fireplace and reindeer poop in their yard, while leaving no sign of his presence at their house besides the presents.

All parents must decide how to explain Santa, at some point. The man in the red suit who shows up in the mall, on decorations, and in movies must somehow be explained to little ears who want to know who he is. This post is for those families who are willing for their children to believe in Santa, whether you include him in your celebrations or not.

In the world of adoption and foster care, the questions are sometimes even harder.

A child who was abused by her babysitter’s boyfriend might say: “NOOOOOO! I don’t WANT a strange man to come into my house. MOMMY NO! You said this house was SAFE and noone could get me!”

A 3rd grade boy struggling with ADHD and low self-esteem might say: “Dad, I’m sorry. I forgot my homework at school. I’m so stupid! I can’t remember anything right! I’m gonna get coal in my stocking.”

A child in foster care for the first time might burst into tears at the sight of Santa in a book and sob “Why couldn’t Santa find me last year? Mommy said he couldn’t find us so couldn’t give me my presents. Why couldn’t he find me? Will he find me this year?”

Or on the other hand, a child who was in foster care last year, who you have adopted might wonder: “Why didn’t Santa bring presents this year? Why do I have to write thank-you notes to grandparents? Santa brought all the gifts when I lived in my other home!”

The stakes are so much higher when you are parenting abused or neglected children, or ones who have memories of different homes and different parents in years past. Regardless of your personal beliefs about Santa and how much “reality” to use when explaining him, sometimes children arrive in our homes with opinions and past experiences that have shaped how they already think about him.

Noone reading this blog is going to insist to that abused child that Santa will come down the chimney, unknown to even the adults, in the face of such “stranger in my home” fear. But especially if there are other children in the home who expect Santa’s visit, just how do you handle it? Or the child who was accustomed to Santa before, if you do not celebrate him in your house? Or the child to whom you have to explain Santa’s absence and the parent’s fib last year, whether or not you have him at your house?

Many years ago I read a story about one little girl’s fear of the Tooth Fairy. She desperately wanted the dollar the Tooth Fairy would leave if she put her tooth under her pillow, but equally desperately she wanted to save her tooth to show her mom at next week’s visit. Her dad was a smart one, and said he’d talk to the Tooth Fairy and make a deal with her so that his little girl got her dollar AND got to show her mom the tooth. And suddenly, peace reigned at their house.

Can we do that with Santa Claus? Can we, as parents, decide that not only do we each get to celebrate Santa (or not) in our own way, but also explain to our children that it is the parents’ decision that makes Santa do what he does?

I propose a Santa Contract. Each family makes their own, and takes ownership of it. In one family the contract can state that Santa brings the most wished-for items. In another family, it may state that Santa brings the most needed items. When I was growing up, our family’s contract would have stated that Santa would bring identical items for each of the children, since that is what we received each year. Another family’s contract may state that Santa not leave presents at their home, because they choose to give gifts to each other themselves.

The Santa Contract can also state where the gifts may be left. Sure, it’s often fun to think of Santa sliding down the chimney, but it is no less wonderful to receive gifts discovered on the back porch if that is where your contract said to look! (And this eases the fears of children who do not want strangers in their home while they are sleeping.)

A contract with Santa can also take care of “mistakes” he made in the past. I know of one family who adopted two little girls from Tanzania, who were sad that this Santa they had heard of had never visited their orphanage – that they had been so “forgotten”. On their first Christmas, under the tree Christmas morning were multiple presents for each girl – one for each year of their lives. They were labeled with their names, and the year they would have received them. So in the package marked “first year” each girl received a rattle. In the one marked “second year” each received a pair of baby shoes. And so on. Santa also left a note that explained that houses in Tanzania don’t have numbers or names on them, so he couldn’t know where each girl lived. That he loves everyone, and now that they have parents and now that he does know where they live, he wanted them to know that he had always remembered and never forgotten them. What a boost to a little child’s way of thinking about their worth!

This little idea can not fix everything. No single idea can. But if you are struggling with your child’s questions about Santa and the different treatment they notice around them, it may be something to consider. Because we each want our children to feel loved, and valued, and keep them from unnecessary trauma, don’t we? And even if Santa is just a game in your home, it’s never fun to miss your turn in a game, so this Santa Contract idea may be one way to make past hurts feel a little less sharp.

I hope this helps someone, in at least some small way.

The cure for too much noise is chocolate

I have a large bag of fun-size 3 Musketeers bars. A very large bag. I got it Thursday and ate one or two. But since FRIDAY, well, let’s just say that was only two days ago and the bag is now almost empty. There is a reason.

Most of you have been in an airport. You know those magazine stores that sell aspirin, bottled water, and chocolate bars? There is a reason they don’t sell vegetables – nobody would buy them. The people are running around in a building designed after a rat’s maze, with loudspeakers and jet engines in their ears. A jet engine at takeoff usually registers about 105 decibels.

Or take professional sports. The concession stands there sell hot dogs, wings, french fries, and ice cream. All greasy, fat-laden foods. Again, no vegetables. After all, a professional sports arena is one of the loudest places to be. A recently played football game had a crowd roar that reached 136.6 decibels! Definitely far exceeding eat-your-vegetables levels.

Which brings me to this weekend. One of my children might have chicken pox and definitely has a very high fever, which results in loud, round the clock sobbing because the poor kid is uncomfortable in his own skin. Baths, Tylenol, and anti-itch medications only work so far. He’s far too young to understand why he feels so bad, so sobbing in my arms is the only outlet he feels he has. In my arms, his mouth is less than a foot from my ear.

And my other child is teething, he has two molars coming in at the same time. His crying is more indicative of actual pain, rather than generalized discomfort. And it comes out in shrieks, rather than sobbing. Tylenol and Orajel help, but they don’t take the pain away completely. He feels his outlet is generalized anger, so he has begun to hit the cat and throw his toys. Picking him up calms him for a moment, but brings his shrieks closer to my ears. He soon continues his anger and pushes me away.

Researchers say that exposure to sounds louder than 85 decibels can contribute to hearing loss. Anecdotal stores from those researchers says that people experience pain in their ears when hearing sounds louder than 100 to 120 decibels (depending on the individual).

Are you ready to learn how many decibels are produced by a crying child?

115 – 136 decibels.

Now that is LOUD. The average jackhammer is only 105 decibels. And rock concerts average 120 decibels. A single shrieking child can be louder than either of those.

So taking my cue from airport kiosks and professional sports stadiums, I respond by eating fatty, sugary, delicious foods. Right now, that means fun-sized 3 Musketeers bars. Many, many fun-sized 3 Musketeers bars. It’s a stress response. And sounds this loud are definitely stressful. My ears rang tonight for about 30 minutes after the kids finally fell asleep.

Chocolate cures many things. It can not cure actual hearing loss from these loud noises, but they can make the sounds themselves much more bearable. I will be purchasing ear plugs this week, ones like contractors use at constructions sites. But until then, chocolate helps.

Please excuse me, I get to go hug one of my children; he woke up and is crying again… I think I’ll get another chocolate bar on the way.

When it rains, it pours (aka: the week of teething, and chickenpox, and several other things)

Being a mom is lovely, absolutely lovely. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Keep your corporate job, keep your million dollars, I’ll keep my stay at home with two toddlers life. Seriously. I waited so long to be able to rock children to sleep that I’ll keep it and love it  even during the phases everyone dreads.

Have I mentioned on here that we have two toddlers now? Two boys, 17 days apart in age but worlds apart in development. One walks, runs, and climbs. The other is still cruising the furniture. One is trying out sign language and is very close to talking. The other has the Early Childhood Intervention people visiting because he is not making any strides toward communicating at all. One is 2’8″ and 30 lbs. The other is 2’3″ and 23 lbs. But both have light brown hair and blue eyes, and the most charming smiles!

If you know anything about adoption, you know that artificially twinning children is a bad idea. I would not have done it if this second child were not a short term placement. But he is – he has an adoptive family already identified! They just haven’t finished their training yet, but everyone is waiting for them because they already adopted two of this toddler’s siblings a couple years ago. So adopting him will bring the family of children together again. And that is worth a lot of waiting and a lot of bother. And because he has delays, having a same age sibling to identify with and to copy for a couple months just might help him out. So we agreed to do it.

The good news is the copying theory seems to be working out just fine. Our first child, DittoChild (DC), does something like take a toy and walk off with it, and our second child, Chipmunk, gets upset and starts cruising the furniture even faster in an attempt to catch up to DC and take the toy from him. Good workout for him.

The downside is really just about me. Because having two children the same age means two children going through things at the same time – like teething. Oi! I hate teething. With a passion. One question I’ll definitely have for God when I get to heaven is why he invented it! I mean, our head produces strands of hair without pain, why can’t our gums produce teeth without pain??? I’m sure he has a reason, but sheesh – I do not know what it is! My mom laughs and says I get to experience all the typical parenting headaches on fast forward because of the ages of these two children.

And now it looks like I get to experience a child with chickenpox. It might be hand/foot/mouth, or some other blister-causing virus… but chickenpox is the leading theory. We’ll know more Monday, 3 days after the first of the high fever and spots. So far just two blisters, and a bunch of red pinpoint sized dots. You know, the doctor at Urgent Care hasn’t seen a case of chickenpox in YEARS – all because most children are vaccinated for it nowadays. We went to Urgent Care because Chipmunk got a fever that spiked very quickly to 105.5 degrees. Noticing the blisters was just icing on that cake. At least I left with doctor’s prescription for how to administer tylenol to a child too small for the smallest dosage on the package – stuff like that gets really sticky when dealing with foster children. It’s always best to just have a doctor write it down and then it’s suddenly OK to give it. A recommendation over the phone is not nearly as official.

So by Monday we’ll know for sure, supposedly. Which means Monday I get to call all the professionals we saw on Friday and tell them what they were exposed to – because Fridays around here are “professionals” days. This week we had the Early Childhood Intervention people out, and the CASA rep. I’m sure I’m not the only person to tell them they’ve been exposed to something, though! It’s probably a professional risk they know about all too well.

So Monday’s schedule includes:
calling for a doctor’s appointment,
going to the doctor’s appointment,
emailing Chipmunk’s worker to say what he has,
griping to Chipmunk’s worker about being told he was up to date on vaccinations when I was told at Urgent Care that he’s 6 months behind,
emailing DC’s worker to tell her what he’s been exposed to,
talking to the medical transportation reimbursement people,
calling the ECI and CASA to tell them what they were exposed to on Friday.
And oh yeah – calling my brother to tell him we probably won’t make it to HIS WEDDING this week. (Oi, that one’s gonna hurt. But if Chipmunk has chickenpox, then we can’t bring him and doubt we could find a babysitter OK with it. So it is what it is.)

I can’t find out until Monday whether DC is vaccinated for chickenpox. He should be, but then again Chipmunk should have been, too. I’m not a proponent of the chickenpox vaccine, in my opinion it is still too new to have documented all side effects so parents can make truly educated decisions for their children. But being in foster care, I am not given a choice about vaccines. I must have them done on schedule. MUST. So now we have to deal with a catch-up schedule for Chipmunk as soon as he’s over this illness.

So: Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
may my kids sleep through the night,
and wake up with fevers LIGHT.

Bless mommy, daddy, Chipmunk and DC.
May all involved adults make the decisions for these children that are in their best interests. And may they wake up healthier and happier than they went to sleep.

Amen

I love watching him learn

This little boy my husband and I are fostering is learning SO MUCH. It’s like his brain is full of little Christmas lights and every day we get to see more of them light up.

The other day I started sneezing…

Me: Achoo!
DC: (with a wondering look in his eyes) Hoo?
Me: ACHOO!
DC: (with more confidence) A-Hoo.
Me: ACHOO! ACHOO!
DC: A-KUU! A-KUU!  And he walked around for several minutes repeating A-KUU as hubby and I laughed.

He has a toy that sings. One of the songs is “If You’re Happy and You Know It” and when it plays I have always clapped my hands when the song tells me to. Now when it comes on he starts clapping his hands right away. Another song it sings is “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” and while he is nowhere near coordinated enough to make the spider motions, he is used to seeing me do them and he immediately starts to try.

He and hubby have a game they play in the evenings that I call “in and out”. Hubby takes apart a chain of plastic rings, and sets up some containers. Then he starts putting the rings in the containers one at a time. DC comes over and joins him. Hubby puts in a ring, DC puts in a ring. Hubby puts in a ring, DC puts in a ring. When the rings are all in continers, they laugh and clap and proceed to take them out – hubby takes one out, DC takes one out, hubby takes one out, DC takes one out. And they repeat. (This is apparantly a males-only game. When I try to interest DC in it, I get covered by a shower of plastic rings that he throws out of the container by the handful.)

He had an assessment the other day. It was really cool watching a child development expert assess what DC knew how to do. When the Early Childhood people asked me if DC would pick up a string with his thumb and forefinger, I plopped a string in front of DC and watched him pick it up. When this assessor wanted to know the same thing, he got out a multicolored pull toy, and dangled the string to it in front of DC, swinging it slowly back and forth like a metronome until DC, fascinated, extended his hand and grasped it with his forefinger and thumb.

I have never taught a baby sign language before, although I’m familiar with it. DC doesn’t say any words yet, so baby sign language is helping a TON. I’m surprised at how well I’m remembering it, and how quickly he’s picking it up. “Milk” and “more” are the ones he uses most often, although “food” and “all done” get shown a decent amount too. He learns so quickly!

Parenting is using such different parts of my brain than anything else I’ve ever done. It’s rewarding, and frustrating, and enjoyable, and exhausting. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

I’m so tired that I…

This has been a crazy tiring few weeks. I was already exhausted from selling fireworks at my church’s fundraising stand when God blessed us with a new foster child. He’s an amazing child. He’s smiley, loves toys, and has a most contagious laugh. He eats, he plays. and he sleeps – sort of. It’s the “sort of” that gets to me!

This week I’ve become so tired that I:

Wore my socks inside out – and once I noticed it I put my shoes on them anyway!
Put my car keys in the refrigerator.
Lost my car keys four separate times.
Put a stick of butter into the dish cabinet.
Spent five minutes looking for my sunglasses that were already on my head.
Drove on autopilot to the wrong store. Twice.
Spent five minutes just standing in an aisle of WalMart – because I couldn’t remember what I was supposed to get there. It was diaper rash cream.
Put both my contacts into the same side of the case.
Forgot to eat at least seven meals.
I haven’t done any laundry except diapers (we cloth diaper) for two weeks.
Forgot to put a plastic bag in the diaper bag twice (and we’ve only been out in public twice – that means I forgot every time.)
Did not notice that new baby broke the cat door that we keep locked, and one of the indoor-only cats got outside (thankfully hubby noticed and we got him back in two minutes, but that one was scary!)
Forgot to lock the car doors – and we *always* lock the car doors.
Lost the tube of neosporin, found it in front of the TV. (Why there? I still have no idea.)
Forgot what day it was and just stared at the calendar wondering which appointment I was missing.
Neglected to look up directions to one of the appointments new baby needed to go to, until I was almost there and had to pull over to figure out where it was.

Have I mentioned I’ve never parented before? I think I’m as tired as any parent of a newborn. But my baby is 25 lbs and does not stay where he’s put! Baby gates are my friend. So is my Mai Tie baby wrap – a wonderful invention.

There have been no disasters. Lots of weirdness, of course! The cats took advantage of my distracted condition and stole chicken breasts straight from the frying pan. The dog is still scared of him, but has overcome it – for mealtimes at least, when she permits him to touch her while she eats the food on the floor around his high chair. My husband put a large roasting pan full of fresh eggs into the oven. It was intended for safekeeping, there wasn’t anywhere else to keep that many eggs away from the cats. And it was safe, until I preheated the oven. D’oh! So the house is chock-full of weirdness right now.

But that’s what makes life, right? And at our house right now, life is good.

life is good - simple as that

P.S. – Baby says afsdlmvpoj2419p8fmdvlknqw98AFDOIUGXD3!