Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Great Pumpkin Meltdown

When you're a foster parent, the kids in your care have been through some pretty wild stuff and they don't always have the language to tell you about it.

Little Dude apparently didn't see much fruit before he joined our family. For the first several months, every time (every time) he saw a piece of round fruit within reach he would announce, "Ball!" and launch said fruit across the room. Apples. Oranges. Tomatoes. Watermelon.

This is very taxing when your custom is to leave a fruit bowl on the table. Embarrassing when your friends and family do the same.

He now understands that an apple is food. This is after many sessions of me demonstrating, "No ball. Eat. See? Yummy!" and showing him how we cut into it and eat the pieces. An apple is still fun to throw, but now it tastes good, too. Tomatoes, potatoes, watermelon, oranges, those are still tossing toys.

This week we stopped by a roadside stand to grab some apples. I left the little ones in the car, walked the 10 feet to drop my payment in the honor box, and returned to find Little Dude wailing, kicking and screaming in his carseat. Between sobs he was pleading, "Ball!?"

Did he want an apple? No. I followed his eyes and realized we had pulled into a roadside stand in October, gaily decorated with what to him were an astounding number of orange balls. Big orange balls. Little orange balls. Huge orange balls. Tiny orange balls. Orange balls with faces. Orange balls on straw bales. Orange balls with scarecrows.

This boy LOVES balls. And I was the witch who wouldn't let him out of the car to have the time of his life throwing balls around at the great orange ball playground.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Toothbrushing Song

I've decided to put the lyrics to my new song in the public domain, a gift to all parents.

Sing it to the tune of the Jingle Bells chorus.


Brush your teeth,
Brush your teeth,
Brush your teeth today!

Brush 'em, brush 'em, brush 'em, brush 'em
Brush them every way. Hey!

Brush your teeth,
Brush your teeth,
Brush them all right now!

You act like you're being tortured,
But I swear to God you're not.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What I've learned this month about adopting hurt kids

That people want to hear things are getting better, even when they're not. So you stop saying this kid is hurting inside. That he has hurts that aren't ever going to heal. And when they ask for the third time today if he's doing better when you've already said twice that he's not, you say yes. And watch the worry melt from their foreheads.

That people don't like to hear the words mentally retarded. Even when it's true. They prefer to think about developmental delays and learning challenges. Some kids need extra time to learn to talk, you know. He's just never been given a chance, you know. As if a brain damaged by drugs and alcohol, abuse and neglect is something a child can erase if only given enough love. As if this broken child will ever be whole.

That you can take a child into your home, shower him with everything little boys need and deserve, and he can still act out in ways you can't even mention in good company. In horrible, terrible, disgusting ways. And it doesn't only make him difficult to love, but hard as hell to like. And you wonder if you're ever going to like this kid. If anybody can ever like this child. But you keep going, and hope that you'll be the first.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Saving Henry, or, An Afternoon with a Rose-Breasted Grosebeak

This afternoon I was pushing Little Dude on the swing and adjusting the trapeze bar to the perfect height for Cherry Pie when I saw our yearling cat Bo, scurry alongside the house with something in his mouth. I nudged closer, wondering if it was the large brown bat that had been flying around a few days in broad daylight, worrying me with thoughts of rabies on wings.

When I approached I saw this. Or rather, an even sadder version of this. A beautiful rose-breasted grosebeak ooking limp and quite possibly dead.

I shooed away the cat -- repeatedly -- and summoned 8-year-old Addster to fetch Baby Boy's toy basket, sans toys I called for Cherry•Pie to bring the porch broom, which I wielded to keep Bo the cat at a distance.

Then Addster returned, upturning the basket over the bird to give it shelter for recovery. We waited and periodically checked on the birdie, each time finding him a little stronger. Our newest foster son Little Dude, who is Obsessed With Birdies, by now left the coveted yellow swing and found this part of the rescue exceptionally entertaining Eventually we realized that not only could the birdie hop a little, but Little Dude actually may begin to pose more of a danger than the feline predator. I pictured George with the bunny.

So off we went down the road. The middle of the road, which you can do in the countryside to find a new home for the biedie that didn't feature a still- hungry cat perched in the branches of the cedar overhead. (We offered cat food, the cheap grocery store dry variety, but kitty wasn't having it.)

First we gave everyone a chance to briefly and gently pet the birdie, who by now was christened Henry. I had already googled to learn that imprinting human smell is only a major concern with juvenile birds.

Finally Henry hopped away, with a bit of a leftward tilt, only to circle around and rest on my shoe. (Yes, those are my pajama pants. At 3 in the afternoon. Why do you ask?)

Then Little Dude freaked out because he wanted one last chance to see the birdie! birdie! birdie! Which was OK because I remembered forgetting to show him to Baby Boy who was riding on my back in my Ergo Baby Carrier the whole time.

So Addster scooped up Henry one more time. When he bit her, we figured that was a clear sign he was feeling better and ready to go.

This time Henry hopped into a clump of trout lilies, then flitted over a mass of red trillium and wood violets. Satisfied Henry was happier, we bid him adieu. Until Grandma pulled into our driveway, at which point the children insisted upon bringing her to the woods and repeating the whole farewell ceremony.

Enjoy your new home, Henry Grosebeak.