February 05, 2014

After her helmet-breaking incident a couple months ago, Charlotte gave up her bike and her scooter for two weeks.  The only way I was able to convince her to give wheeled objects a whirl again was to let her pick out her replacement helmet by herself.

She picked a cat helmet.

As soon as we were home from the store, she eagerly snapped it on and hopped on her bike and told me we needed to show her grandparents.

“Grandpa!” she said when she saw my dad.  “Grandpa!  If I just had a tail and fur and four legs and whiskers and pointy ears and claws and sharp teeth, I WOULD BE JUST LIKE A CAT!”

It was adorable, but I digress.  The really awesome part of the story turns out to have nothing to do with my parents and everything to do with their neighbor’s cat.

To understand this, I have to backtrack a little and explain something: my dad was never a cat person.  NEVER.  I’m pretty sure that he spent my childhood hating cats.  But one day about five years ago, a scrawny starving little tomcat showed up on my parents’ porch and changed everything.

My dad ignored him, of course, but the tomcat turned up the next day too.  And the day after that.  And the day after that.  Until finally my father picked up a small bag of cat food at the pet store and put it out on the porch for him.

That scrawny little feline was Cat.  When my dad put out the food for him that night, I think he expected that he would feed Cat and Cat would leave, but that’s not how it went.  He fed Cat and Cat stayed.  In fact, he fed Cat and Cat became a bit of a stalker.  When my dad’s alarm clock went off in the morning, Cat would immediately start yowling outside of his bedroom window.  And Cat would wait on the steps for my father to come home from work at night.  It got to the point where Dad would avoid turning lights on in the evening because if Cat knew he was up, he would start yowling for attention – and Dad was worried that coyotes would get him.

After Cat came Cat Two.  Then Little Cat.  And Cat Four.  And Target.  And Cat’s Girlfriend.  And Boomerang.

At one point, there was a mystery cat that only came by to eat cat food at night.  My dad called him Cat Five.  One night he heard Cat Five on the porch, so he carefully peeked out to see what he looked like.

Cat Five was a skunk.

The cat food started being picked up at night.

Even so, ever since Cat first trained my father to put food out in the morning, cats have flocked to my parents’ yard.  And around the same time that Charlotte crashed on her scooter, a small grey kitten joined the ranks.

After a few days the people across the street from my parents adopted him and named him Silver, but the small grey kitten still spends hours and hours roaming through my parents’ yard.

When Charlotte got her new cat helmet, she went everywhere with it pretending to be a cat.  She took to calling me “Momma Cat” and referring to herself as “Baby Cat.”  She even started greeting neighbors with a meow instead of a hello.  (Surprisingly, most people meowed right back.)  (My neighbors kick ass, that’s all I have to say about that.)

So when Silver turned up in her grandparents’ yard, Charlotte thought it was only fitting that she don her cat helmet and meow at him too.

HOLY AWESOMESAUCE, world, if you want to see something hilarious, do this.  Go put on a cat helmet with gigantic green eyes, spin suddenly around so that you come face-to-face with a tiny feeble little unsuspecting kitten, and release the most terrifying meow you can muster.

It.  Was.  Epic.

And that is why Silver will never ever trust a little girl again for as long as he lives, the end.

(Also, from a distance, with the sun behind her, it makes her look like Batman.  Which is pretty cool.)

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Well that really hinged on me remembering what my new password was.  Sorry about that.

Can I make it up to you by showing you the funniest picture I have ever taken?

Well.  It makes me laugh anyway.

Earlier this month my family went on a short trip.  A few days beforehand, I pulled out the suitcase to pack and found out that suitcases are to small children what cardboard boxes are to cats.  I’ll bet if you put an unzipped empty suitcase on a front lawn, the next time you look outside you’ll see a kid sitting in it.  Looking at you.  Like they own the place.

But I digress.

Anyway, I put the suitcase out and because my children are weird they immediately piled in.

It was cute.

“I’m going to take a picture,” I said.

“Please smile,” I said.

And that is when I discovered that something is horribly awry with Charlotte’s translation unit from Adult-glish to Child-glish.  When I said, “Please smile,” my four-year-old heard, “Please strangle your sister.”

Sort of like yesterday when I said, “Can you please put on your shoes so that we can get going to preschool?” and Charlotte heard “Definitely take your shirt off and air guitar it up to a song you make up yourself about Clifford the big red dog.  That is totally cool and we definitely won’t be late at all.”

Or this morning when I said, “Let’s grab your sweatshirt and go to the park!  We don’t want to keep Desmond waiting!” and Charlotte heard, “Now is a great time to play hide-and-seek for fifteen minutes.  Ready, set, hide!”

Oh, life with a four-year-old…

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January 22, 2014

The transition from a family of four to a family of five was hardest on Evelyn.

This is Evelyn’s signature look.  Where Charlotte was always a social and talkative, Evelyn is introspective and curious.

Earlier this week the two of us had just over two uninterrupted hours together alone.  We spent them at the park.

Evelyn has long since adjusted to her status as a middle child, but these moments alone are few and far between and we both eat them up.  Sometimes I catch a glimpse of her – standing in the yard giggling as she watches Charlotte’s antics, sitting in the swing at the park listening intently as I recite poems to her, chirping with excitement as she runs through the house, carefully picking up blueberries and savoring their taste – and I am hit with a wave of guilt and panic and frustration.

I’ll catch myself wondering what I have done to my baby.

When we welcomed our foster daughter into our family, we knew that our time and resources would be divided even further and that there would be difficulties.  Sometimes, though, knowing a thing and living that reality are vastly different.  For the first couple weeks after our placement, I frequently found myself awake at night worrying about the affect this would have on my second-born.  I missed holding her all the time, nursing her whenever the mood struck her, relishing every little change as she grew.

But once or twice a month, I find myself in the lucky position of having a few hours with only Evelyn.  Next to our foster daughter, Evelyn often seems much older and more capable than she is.  I sometimes feel like her babyhood and her toddlerhood are slipping through my fingers.  But when we’re alone I see her as she is.  I see my baby in those moments and I soak it up, memorizing every inch of her, trying hard to hold onto her sounds and silly antics.

The time passes too quickly, of course, but it is then when I can see that she’s okay.  I can see that she is doing well.

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Maybe next time I’ll ask for a silly picture and see what happens?

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January 12, 2014

You may have noticed over the past nine months or so that this blog has really suffered.  To say that posts have been fewer and farther between is an understatement of the greatest magnitude.

I wanted to take this time to explain this to you.

Eleven months ago, Donald and I received a letter from our foster-adoption agency.  The letter told us that our file was being temporarily closed because of recent changes in our living circumstances.  At the time, Evelyn was only a few weeks old.  Things had definitely changed for us, but we did not want our file closed.

(Contrary to popular belief based on the e-mails I received at the time, we did not decide to pursue adoption BECAUSE of our miscarriage a couple years ago.  Donald and I had established that adoption was in the cards very early in our dating relationship and the only thing we were waiting for was the right time.  So our pregnancy and Evelyn’s birth did not at all change our resolve to open our home to a child in need.  The long and short of it is that it turns out there is no such thing as a right time and our loss opened our eyes to this.)

So we called the agency the following morning and asked them to keep our file open.  They agreed and promised to call us with more information about what we needed to do to complete our foster-adoptive certification.

Because the social worker with whom we had been working had left her position, it took awhile to find all of our paperwork and sort out scheduling conflicts – but eventually it all came together.  We received an itemized list of what needed to be done, when classes we needed to take were available, what changes we needed to implement in our home, and so on.

THAT is the moment when this blog began to die.  Juggling two children was a difficult but manageable transition for us, but juggling two children and finishing certification seemed to take herculean effort.  I’m not sure why, exactly.  We would have finished in about four months, had I not turned up pregnant with Evelyn, so I think we expected the whole affair to take us a month or two and be over.

Instead, it took MONTHS.

Months and months and months.

We broke it down little by little.  Fingerprinting this week.  Car evaluation next week.  Attachment class two weeks later.  Installing locks on our laundry detergent in the garage after that.  And on and on and on until finally, FINALLY, this last autumn we were done.

By then, we’d outlasted another social worker and been in the certification process for just over two years.  We were literally one of the slowest families to certify in the history of the organization.

On the day that we were finished, the social worker who certified us asked what we wanted our profile to be.  The “profile” is basically which children we were open to having in our home and which we were not, and what our time frame looked like.

We said we wanted to wait until after Charlotte’s preschool let out in June to accept a placement.  We were interested in either accepting a girl in between our daughters in age (preference) or accepting an infant boy at that time.  We had a list of some special needs we were open to and other needs we were not.  We were open to any ethnicity.

A little over a week later, the agency’s intake coordinator called us.

“There’s a baby,” she said.  “And I know you don’t want to accept a placement yet.  And I know that this child won’t fit your criteria exactly, but I really think that this could be a very good placement for you.”

It took us less than a minute to decide.  We said yes.

Seven hours later, a county social worker stopped at our house on her way home for the evening.  She brought with her a beautiful, wonderful baby girl.

And that is why this space has been suffering.  At first it suffered because it was taking us forever to get our ducks in a row with two little girls in tow.  Then it suffered because our ducks were mostly in a row, but our lives felt like they were hanging in limbo.  Now it is suffering because we have three kids to take care of – and on top of meeting the individual needs of three children, we spend an additional 10-15 hours each week on paperwork and visitations with our foster daughter’s biological family and medical appointments and social worker home walk-throughs and the like.

When we started this journey, we feared that it would be invasive and inconvenient and that it would take away from our biological children.

It is invasive.  And it is horribly inconvenient.  And in the beginning as we transitioned to a new normal it definitely took away from our biological children.

It is the hardest thing I have ever done.

But despite the trials, despite the difficulties and frustrations, despite the hours of endless and fruitless wondering how this will all turn out, it is worth it.  It is absolutely worth it.

People keep asking us: “but what if she ends up going back to her family?”

You can quote me on this: IT WILL HAVE BEEN WORTH IT.

I have decided to begin writing in this space more frequently again.  I miss the outlet, the community opinions and guidance and thought-provoking conversations, the chronicle of my children’s childhoods.  I miss the advice and the stories from other parents and feeling challenged by new ideas and perspectives.  But for the foreseeable future, our foster daughter will not be mentioned here or appear in any photographs.  Please understand moving forward that you may not see or hear even a whisper of her, but she is here.

She is here and she is perfect and she is so very, deeply loved.

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