Saturday, January 24, 2015

to my foster daughter of 14 months

I wrote this after our 7 year old foster daughter, with us for 14 months, had been gone for two weeks but I just never could hit "Update". I decided to today.

Dear Faithy,

You're at your dad's now, and we got to Skype with you last night. Oh, girl, it did my heart so good. I was sweeping up the kitchen and this song came on by the Script, called "For the First Time". A line in it is "we're smiling though we're close to tears." yah.

 I was thinking I was doing awesome, getting stuff done, not crying, getting your room ready to make it Phoebe's room. Last night I had Daddy Scott move your bed to a different corner of the room and I gave what was leftover to Goodwill. I can't go in there and see everything how you left it and not cry and cry and cry. I called him at work crying, telling him I had messed up Phoebe's hair by buzzing it trying to make it look like Aunt Al's because she has that same kind of profile, and he said, totally seriously, "Well, the one thing you know about doesn't ever grow back."

He always knows how to make me laugh.

I met Angela at the gym this morning and I told her I was feeling great, I had a good night's sleep, and now she is watching Phoebe so I can do some stuff. mainly, paint Phoebe's room so the room is more hers and less yours.

Your forever Daddy told me for months and months how he had to just shut your door because it was too painful too look inside your little girl room and see you not there. The absence of you is just so...heavy. I get that now. I get what he was saying.

This is why people don't do foster care. They're glad they're not me right now.

You'll never see this, because these are things you don't put on a seven year old, but I'm sending them out into the ether so I can express them and sort this stuff out in my mind.

I remember when Baby Man left, it was the same way. Crying a lot, praying through the days, knowing he was where he was supposed to be and just letting the tears fall whenever and wherever I needed to. Feeling like a responsibility was lifted, one less thing on my plate, but just this heavy missing remained.

"ah, these times are hard, they're makin' us crazy, don't give up on me baby, you don't need to change a thing, relationships I don't know why, they never work out, they make you cry, but the guy that says goodbye to you is out of his mind"

That's the song on now. I want you to know how loved and valuable you are. I want you to know that you don't always have to be funny or talking to be loved. You don't always have to be happy. You can be sad, or quiet, or just in a "down" mood and you will be loved, just the way you are. I want you to know that it was hard for me to meet all of your little needs constantly, because there were so many, you just came to us with this big gaping wound of hurt in your heart, and you could literally sit on the couch and cuddle with me for hours, but I had three other kids to take care of, and laundry to do, people to take places, dishes to wash, fights to settle, oh, the work felt endless.

Sometimes it felt like I could never give you enough of what you needed. Just constant attention and reassurance and love, those things that you weren't given before.

I worry about you, about how you'll be without me, and then I think about how God is bigger than that and your Daddy loves you SO much and he could NOT wait to get his hands on you, and I think about all of the snuggles you're getting from your sisters and it makes me so so so so so so so sooooooooo happy to think of you all reunited.

The first time I talked to your dad he showed me the pictures he had of you on his wall. They were of you as a baby, and hanging with them were some little sunglasses you wore then. I thought to myself, "He's not playing. He's in it for the long haul. He loves this little girl."

I've watched him cry over and for you over the months, and I've realized what an awesome life you're going to have with him.

Your dad sent me a video of you just jumping around on your front porch, singing and dancing. That's how I always think of you, singing and dancing.

Lucy cried a lot yesterday afternoon. I did, too. She told me she just didn't know how it was going to be, not having a sister like you.

We agreed that you just see the best in people. You have such a tender heart and a tender way with people and I just have never met anyone like you, kid or adult. You've been wounded but you just keep getting up, keep living and keep fighting and keep just being this amazing little light to the people around you. You hate seeing people hurt. I never saw you once be mean to Phoebe. ONCE! Three year olds are annoying!

dang it, is this pandora station trying to kill me?

now it's passenger: "Let Her Go".

Is someone trying to tell me something?

When you first came to us you were obsessed with this Bethany Appleton book you'd gotten from your old library. Her name was actually Bethany Hamilton, but the surity with which you told the story made me not correct you. We took you to Deanna Rose and you got ice cream on your shirt. You helped Phoebe ride her tricycle. You fell in love with her from the minute you saw her.

My friends told me you looked for every excuse you could to call me "mom". I feel bad now for the times I got frustrated with your neediness or just plain tired. I'll always hold the gift of being your mom in the palm of my heart, a little treasure I get to open whenever I want.

I get that. No one else does.

I'll never forget our conversation on the way to the airport. I reassured you about my love for you, and God's love, and how His love would never, ever leave you or forsake you. You have such a heart for God. I hope you keep it.

I hope life never takes from you your happy spirit, your love for other people, and the way you saw good in every situation.

Oh, and I'll always remember to wear a good belt. Thanks for pointing out whenever my crack was showing.

Mom Bomb

p.s. I'm holding you to the promise you made: that you would come and find me when I'm old and senile in the nursing home. I'll have all the time in the world to cuddle you then. Remember, bring your tweezers for my chin.

Friday, January 23, 2015

How to forgive yourself in one easy step.

For those of us with a naturally guilty conscience, a hell-bent propensity toward everything in the universe being our fault, how do we find peace in life?

How do you find peace in life when your actions at a certain point in time lead directly to something that negatively impacts so many people around you, for life?

That photographer I talked to at Panera today. He gets it. He gets that people are not one-dimensional souls, floating dervishes above the stagnant pond of humanity. No person you read about in the news is only that.

No old woman you pass on the street was always old. She was young once, with a passel full of children and a scarlet ribbon around her waist.

People have dreams, everyone was born of a woman, rocked to sleep by lullabies.

Or, maybe not. Maybe that's all that's wrong in the world. Not enough lullabye-ing mothers. Too many harsh corners?

Too much unforgiveness. Of others, of ourselves.

You used to be young once, you used to dream. What happened to those dreams? Where did they go? Maybe a more pertinent question:

                                                            "Why did you let them go?"

I think about the day 3.35 years ago that I almost died. No, I'm not that exacting. 3.5 years. My wine glass botched my keyboard typing. Anyway, I think about that day and you're probably tired of hearing about it, but so many days I wondered,

Why didn't I know that I would be the one in 10,000 who just could not stop bleeding?
Why didn't I have the sense to stop getting knocked up after two?
What if I had died?
Why did I make it through that surgery?

ah. the existential question.

People glibly say, "Well, God still wanted you here."

OK, but WHY????

Why. Isn't that really just the question handed down through the ages? I imagine the question, passed down from generation to generation, a wooden word rough-hewn and polished over time by so many human hands and so many tears.

I think the secret to being a happy and fulfilled human is realizing you are not in charge of any of it, there is a God who is,

and Cheetos are always, always a good choice with wine.

that time I went to Panera and met an amazing guy

I am sitting here in Panera and I just saw the relatives of some of our old foster children. I asked WAYYYYYY too many questions because I had a large latte from Dunkin' Donuts after a homemade iced coffee and OHMYGOSH WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE MEASLES GUN-TOTING TERRORISTS CANCER GANG WARFARE CHEMICAL WEAPONS BRAIN ANEURISMS

Do you ever do that thing where you're lying in bed at night, minding your own business, and then you start to think of all of the random ways you could die?

And then you don't want to fall asleep because WHAT IF YOU DIE IN YOUR SLEEP????

Good times. good times.

So, this morning I called a friend who I always call when I'm having a caffeine meltdown and she said, "It's the caffeine talking, honey. Don't make any rash decisions. It's the caffeine talking. You are addicted to caffeine!"

Actually, I think I'm addicted to the taste of sugar, which is super good, and there's lots of sugar in a large latte. Lots and lots.

Anyway, do you ever miss the early 1990s, when badly permed hair was not only permitted, but encouraged? Everyone just walked around with a badly burnt poodle on their head and it was copacetic.

I wish I had a penny for every day I wished this hairstyle was acceptable, embraced and widely applauded.

These days I stick my greasy hair into a bun and slap a bandanna on my head.

And yes, I totally look like this, only I don't work out. I O.D. on caffeine and talk the ear off of the guy I meet in Panera, apparently. I wanted to take his picture so you knew for sure I really met him, but he exclaimed that that would be "creepy".

Not ten minutes before he told me that he has stopped asking to take random photos of people because they always think it's "kind of creepy".

This guy has beautifully photographed Eric Clapton, BB King, George Bush the First, etc. I felt sort of dumb with my sweatpants and coffee withdrawals.

Warren, this post is for you.

You guys, I swear I met him. See, Warren? This is the same reason I took pictures of this guy's id. People don't believe my stories.

So. Is it the people I happen to meet, or the fact that I like to talk and won't leave anyone alone?

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Reason I Do Everything for My Kids, Part 2

You can read the first part of my piece over on Scary Mommy, entitled "Why I Do Everything for My Children". What you didn't see was the second part of the piece, which wasn't published on her site. Thank you, Jill, as always, for the honor of being a part of your site!

Here's the second part, and in retrospect, possibly the most important:

As I sit here writing this post, my husband told the children to go outside and play. When they continued complaining that there was nothing to do he got all Pa Ingalls on them: "Kids. Make yourselves scarce." I realize finally what my husband was trying to do. I can see it clearly now, and it's not him being a class-A jerk. He's trying to do this little thing we like to call "preparing children for LIFE". 

I think our society has taught us to placate and mollify and focused on our children. Just look at the parenting magazine headlines. If you'd have told Betty Draper there were such thing as a magazine telling her how to parent, she'd have grabbed your flabby upper arm with her cigarette-stained manicure and thrown you right out of her no-children-allowed living room.

I'm kind of jealous of Betty Draper, actually. She doesn't feel guilty for sitting down for a smoke or a chat on the telephone or a date with the Congressman.

I guess I just feel like telling them to get it themselves is a luxury. If mothering is my job, then I need to be on it like a freaking bonnet, 24/7. Relaxation is a luxury I don't deserve.

These older child years feel so uncharted and scary to me. I know how to get a baby to sleep, but it's easier for me to just do the vacuuming or the laundry or the table setting because it's quicker that way and I don't have to hear any complaints.

I want to change this about myself. I want my children to become who they are meant to be. I don't want to unwittingly disable them by never requiring them to do the hard things for themselves.

You know what this mean for me, and for you, too? It's OK for you and I to go and relax sometimes. There's such freedom in this knowledge: just because we *can* complete a task for them does not mean it's best for them that we do.

So the next time you see me, remind me that my eight-year-old is highly capable of opening his own Ketchup and tying his shoes. Even if it takes 22 minutes and he still gets it wrong, late for school with ketchup-covered shoe laces.

And then, before you turn the soaps on for me because I'm too comfortable to get up from the crayon-stained couch, 

pass me a bon bon. Help yourself to one, too.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Chuck E. Cheese and the Five Stages of Grief

Elizabeth Kubler Ross was onto something when she described the five stages of grief. I do believe she wrote her theorem while in the middle of a Chuck E. Cheese with some children, asking God to let her die.

I’d like to posit that every child is forced to denial, bargain, anger, sorrow and finally acceptance each time he or she is introduced to Chuck E. Cheese and then has to leave. 
  • denial  - no, honey, you can’t have the angry birds kite that costs 5000 tickets (read: $50 cold hard, american cash.) yes, of course you want to be a chuck e cheese employee when you grow up. Who else has access to unlimited amounts of CEC coins in the pocket or access to the back room where Chucky (sorry, "Chuck E.") grabs a smoke and a slice of that pizza that tastes like it's made with snot sauce? I know, I bet he gets it for free, too! Some day, some day YOU may be the one to have that magic key.

  • parental denial - damn. the prescription bottle i brought is the one for prozac, not xanax. since the kids are getting so much exercise right now, i think a 6:15 bedtime would be totally doable.

  • anger - ”but you said this would be “fun!” you said the sky would rain kittens and it would be eternal summer if i won all of the games! why do I only get a Laffy Taffy and a broken whistle?

  • bargaining - seriously. child. be quiet. stop talking. for the love of God. shut your mouth. nothing you are saying makes any sense, and you’re stuttering over your words because you’re trying to talk too fast. seriously. STOP. DO NOT THROW YOUR LIFE AWAY OVER THE FACT THAT YOU ARE TWO TICKETS SHORT FROM GETTTING THIS:

  • while she wails at the sky. (sorrow)

we just threw away 75 of these tickets at home. they were stuck in someone’s drawer and i didn’t figure the kids would be stealthy enough to figure out how to get me back to this god-forsken place. if only i had those 75 tickets. we would have enough to buy the deluxe plastic hand-clapper. I don’t want to fork out 75 more cents, because it’s just the principal of the thing, you know? why don’t we have enough tickets for this purchase? I spent $45 at the outset of this trip, and that was before drinks.


Why can I not buy beer here????????????????


why the fart do i have to wait in line for 25 minutes to get a thin rubber band and a broken sweet tart?

  1. bargaining: if you just buy me thirty extra tickets so i can get the pack of THREE sweet tarts I will never, ever whine at you again! i’ll also never leave my candy wrappers in the car or peel off the window tinting or spill nail polish on your favorite dress, ever again! I’ll also never scream, “I HHHHhAAAAAAAAATeeeeeeeee youuuuuuuuUU!” at the top of my lungs when I’m a teen or try to figure out ways to torture you with my musical choices which will always, always ALWAYS include something by Taylor Swift:

see what I did there? I went from bullet points to numerals because I LOST THE WILL TO LIVE JUST THINKING ABOUT CHUCK E. CHEESE

  1. denial- the guy with the angry eyes is staring at me again. i know he hates me. i know everybody hates me. I know he’s thinking all of the same things i am, but he will just never writte it down. it won’t be there for all posterity to remember.
  2. acceptance
  3. OK, this little piece of gummy stuff in my hand is what I came here for. I am suddenly the most excited kid in the world because my mother willingly spent $60 for me to come here, and more specifically, to buy this gummy hand that will get stuck either in my little sister's teeth or the car upholstery, and I'll only care about finding it RIGHT BEFORE BED.

everyone in the car, five minutes later: MOOOOOOOOM! Can we go here again?”

aaaaaaaaand me, knowing they will be coming here in two craps of a dog's bottom:

  • "yes." (acceptance, me).



they win again.

Monday, January 5, 2015

when the grief is gone

When our foster daughter came to us nearly 16 months ago, her grief was palpable.

She tried to cover it up with smiles, hugs, shrill laughter and an obsession with the surfer Bethany Hamilton by showing us all a pilfered library book from her old school, surely stuffed into a bag with her grimy little hands before the police officer showed up to bring her to a social worker's office.

I could sense it in her, though. She was sad, small, and something about her felt too-tight around the edges.

Loving a child who is grieving is hard. I saw myself in so much of her while she was with us; the neediness, the constant yearning for acceptance.

The undying loyalty to the source of her grief.

At any cost.

The source of her grief is different than the source of mine, but grief is grief.

I watched "Return to Zero" today, and if that didn't put me in a melancholy mood and make me feel so fantastic at the same time, I don't know what did.

"You're addicted to feeling sad," a wise friend of mine has told me more than once.

"I think you're right," I told her, starting to cry about something sad.

One line in the movie really stuck with me. Arthur was stillborn at 40 weeks. That means that his mother fell in love with him for nine months and then walked into a doctor's office where everything that shouldn't have been was still.

Arthur's mother, played by Minnie Driver, says, "I'm so afraid of losing my sadness. Once I lose that, I lose my connection to him. I love my sadness. It makes him nearby."


People (both the grievers and the grieving) want grief to be over. They don't like that it is messy and gets stuck in the back corners of the refrigerator, turning into a sort of grime that only comes out with Goo Gone or Coca Cola, if you believe the Youtube videos.

I have to feel the waves of it, even after it feels gone, because that is what helps me to get through it.

And yes. I will admit it.

Once it is gone, not so much front and center, I will miss it. I do miss it.

Sometimes grief and sadness becomes so much a part of your life that you maybe don't realize how much it overshadows everything you do. You don't realize how much you could do with it gone.

Listen, I get it. When you're used to living with grief or guilt or any negative human emotion, it gets to be like an old friend. Steady and secure.

It's just, it's just... this: I don't think we're meant to live like that. I don't think YOU'RE meant to live like that.

She certainly wasn't.

God, I'm so glad.

FaceTiming with our foster daughter "Faith", who is now living her incredible new life. I wish you could see how happy she is. And yes, I'll get a phone call in a few days from her father, not appreciating his backside in this picture. DEAL, daddy-O, DEAL. Oh, and he was folding her clothes! HOW CUTE IS THAT???!!!!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

When you're ready for your darlings to go back to school

I wrote this one year ago. I wondered today, wandering all bleary-eyed and anxious through Target, if I felt this way last year, too. Apparently I did. You probably are, too.

"I'm sooooooo ready for you guys to go back to school."

Wait, was I not supposed to say that out loud?

"Get your fork off of the floor" has become a tongue twister. I feel like I've lived an entire day and it's only 9:42. 

"Kids, since when was it all right to come to breakfast in your underwear?"

Here was Scott yesterday at this kids' restaurant that delivers your overpriced, salty, dried out meat sticks on a tiny train:

"Hey!" He said this morning, over our two year old's screams over something to do with boogers and toast, "We should start an abstinence program for teens where she shows up to go to a movie with a young teenage couple! Think of all the good we'd do!"