Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tommy's 6th Birthday

I wish I was a kid in my family when I was a kid. 

Wait. That doesn't quite make sense. But you know what I mean.

I don't remember having any birthday traditions growing up. So when we started to have children and celebrate birthdays, I really wanted to establish traditions that our kids could look forward to and find comfort in year after year.

I think it's safe to say that we've made up some pretty fun traditions. 
Tommy had a great birthday. 

His birthday fell on a Tuesday this year. On the Sunday evening before his birthday, he had a family dinner with the menu of his choice: pizza, greek salad, and apples. In lieu of cake, he requested strawberry ice cream. He was very clear on the fact that he wanted ice cream for his party, but cake on his actual birthday. Okay buddy. You got it. 

So he got to celebrate his birthday a few days early surrounded by some of his favorite people: his cousins. 

One tradition for the last four years has been for us to make his birthday cake together. I have pictures of almost-2 year old Tommy licking frosting and helping me to mix the batter. By next year he could probably make the whole thing himself.

This year he wrote out the exact specifications of what he wanted in a cake: Lemon cake with vanilla frosting. Strawberries on top. Sprinkles. Round. Two layers. Big.

I tweaked his specs a bit to fit my idea of what our family would need in a birthday cake. (ie: not too big). Since the cake was eaten on his actual birthday, and it was just the four of us, I just made a half cake. And if you only have half a cake, how else would you decorate it but as a lemon slice?

Another tradition: Birthday cereal! Our family doesn't normally eat cereal: not out of any strict code of good nutrition, but because it's messy and it doesn't fill the kids up for more than one hour. So it's a very special event to get to pick out birthday cereal. Tommy strayed from his usual choice of Lucky Charms and chose Trix. I have to admit that I've never actually had Trix before. They tasted like a cross between Kix and Jolly Ranchers.

He also got a lot of thoughtful birthday presents: 

The Iron Giant because it's a tradition to get the boys a classic hardcover book for birthdays and Christmas; and because we read an excerpt of the story once and he loved it so much we had to keep reading the same excerpt every night for a week.

A book about origami, because he loves paper crafting so much. It's the perfect level for a kid to follow the directions by themselves.

The movie Aristocats because it's his favorite. I think he likes it for its swingin' music. We rented it from the library a while ago and kept it for a long time because he liked it so much. Ever since then he's been asking to get it from the library again and again. Since I knew we were getting it for his birthday, I kept making excuses like, "Oops, it looks someone already checked it out! Oh well." Hee hee. 

A microscope, because he's one science-lovin' kid. He's always talking about germs and wanting to know what things look like "teeny-tiny". It's by far his favorite birthday gift. He learned how to use it himself and for the past two days has been sticking everything he can find under the lens. 

In the evening we had a family dinner of Tommy's choice (cheese pinwheels) followed by birthday cake. Then we tucked one seriously tired and happy six year old into bed. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Tommy's Birthday Interview, Age 6

I originally conducted this interview with Tommy on video. Then my ornery computer lost it, so I had to do it again and write down the answers. The answers were a lot more interesting the first time around, but this will have to do for now until Mark can figure out where my video went! You can read earlier interviews from Tommy here: Age 5, age 4, and age 3. It's so much fun comparing his answers from previous years!

So how do you think it'll feel to be six?
I’ll still feel five, but later on I’ll get used to being six.

What kinds of things can you do now that you’re almost six that you couldn’t do when you were littler?
Lift a gallon of milk.

What is your favorite color?

What is your favorite food?  
Ice cream.

What is your least favorite food?  
Cooked spinach.

What is your favorite book?
How Things are Made

What is your favorite toy?
That star thingie (He meant a star chart that shows constellations)

Do you have any friends? Who are they?
All the kids at community group. And my cousins.

What is your favorite thing to do?
Going on a date with Dad.

What is your favorite thing about yourself?
That I can ride my bike really well.

What is your favorite thing to do outside?
Play with my cousins.

Where is your favorite place to go?
Legoland. And Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

What do you want to do for a job when you grow up?  
That’s easy. Firefighter.

Where do you want to live when you grow up?  
San Jose maybe. (Why?) Because there’s a lot of cool places to go there.

Do you think you’ll get married when you grow up? Who do you think you’ll marry?
Yes. I’ll try to marry Hannah. But if not, [whispers] maybe Meghan.

How old will you be when you get married?

Where do babies come from?

Is there anything you’re afraid of?
Nothing much.

If you could be any animal, which one would you be and why? 
Giraffe, because then I could reach leaves on tall trees.

What do you love most about your brother? 
When I ask him to help me, he helps me. Like when we’re making fun things together. 

What do you like learning about?
Snakes. And how snails fit into their shells and how they move.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

First Rainy Day

This week we celebrated the first rainy day of the season. 
I had been looking forward to this day for a long time.
We stayed in our PJs all morning. 
We spread a big fuzzy blanket out in the living room and built our first fire of the season. 
We had our school time on the fuzzy blanket in front of the fire. 
We made popcorn and hot chocolate and watched The Iron Giant on our fuzzy blanket.
We rang in the rainy season in style.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Why Ben Needs a Wife

Today I took my second born on a date to the coffee shop. We were overdue for some one-on-one time and coffee is something we both enjoy together. Well, I enjoy coffee and he enjoys pretending to drink coffee while really drinking a kids' cocoa. And he enjoys sips of my mocha.

We had some good conversations. One conversation was so priceless I had to scramble for a pen and write it on the back of the tiny brown bag that our cookie came in. I didn't want to forget it. And, I have a feeling it will be incredibly funny to share with his future wife someday. 

Mom: So, Ben, what do you want to be when you grow up?
Ben: I just want to be a dad.
M: That's a great thing to be! So, who will you marry?
B: I'm not going to be married. I'm just going to be a widow.
M: Well, a widower is someone who had a wife, but she died. Is that what you mean?
B: Oh. No, I mean I'm just not going to be married.
M: Then how will you get children, to be a dad?
B: I'll just go to San Jose! [choking on my coffee]
M: You mean, like how Dad and I go to San Jose to pick up our foster children?
B: Yep. But just the babies...[thinking]...But then I'll need a wife to change the babies' diapers.
M: Why can't you change them?
B: Because I'm afraid poo will get on my hands!
M: .....

And there you have it, folks. Even as wee children, men are afraid of changing diapers.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Baby Four

On the day before Kid C went back to be with her family, we got a call for Baby C. It was a sad story that we simply couldn't say 'no' to. So despite already having a foster child, we said 'yes!" and just like that became parents to four. Truth be told, we only had four children for less than 24 hours. It actually wasn't as crazy as I'd expected, at least the hands-on task of caring for four kids. It was a crazy time, but the craziness came from having to communicate with two different social workers at the same time, about events occurring on the same day, returning Kid C to her dad, and then turning a two year old girl room into a three week old boy room, which involved playing musical furniture and lots of laundry.

So now we are back to two big kids and a newborn, which seems to be the usual pattern for us. I love newborns because they are portable and they can sleep through anything. Our new little guy is "Baby C". He's a skinny little thing, and despite being almost a month old, is still swimming in his newborn-size clothes. He is such a cute little guy. He will be leaving us within the next day or two to go live with his grandma, so we're soaking up all the newborn cuteness we can until then.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Five Days with Kid C

We got " Kid C" late on a Wednesday evening, just over a week after Baby B left us. She was just shy of three years old. This was our first placement of an older child (well, older than an infant). It was quite a learning experience. We learned that there is a life cycle of a new placement of an older child: 

Day 1: Easy, with few problems. C probably figured she was just visiting us and was on her best behavior. She mostly played with the boys and didn't make much of a fuss about anything. Two exceptions were sleeping and eating issues. I knew enough to expect eating issues, so I stocked up on foods I thought any kid would like, things like apple juice, cheese sticks, crackers, grapes, and cereal bars. Despite all my preparations, she still refused to eat anything except a few bites of banana now and then.

The other exception was naptime and bedtime: getting her to sleep was quite a battle. Thinking I would have her for at least a few weeks, I immediately went into "training mode" and was strict about enforcing sleep times and our 'no getting out of bed' rule. In retrospect, I should have focused on comforting her, instead of the goal of getting her to sleep. 

Day 2-3: She seemed to realize she wasn't just visiting. She let her guard down and started to assert her will. Lots of tantrums ensued. One epic tantrum lasted for forty-five minutes, over a request of ice cream for breakfast which I (kindly) denied. These two days were probably the hardest we've ever had in foster care.

Once I found out that she was only going to be with us for a few days, I loosened up on my sleep rules and rocked her to sleep for bed and naps. It didn't take much effort; she was exhausted and dropped to sleep without much effort once she felt nice and snuggly.

Day 4-5: We finally started to figure each other out. I learned what foods she liked and incorporated those with our own meals, so she started eating better. She learned that tantrums don't work so well, so those started lessening. And she didn't need to be rocked to sleep anymore. She still protested naptimes with "No! I not going to sleep now!" but she crawled into bed anyway, listened to a story, and fell asleep right away. So much for that. 

On day 5 she was returned to her family. It was bittersweet: sweet, because it was clear that she was loved and wanted by her family, but bitter because it seems like she has many challenges facing her. We have one more little person to hold in our prayers.

The night C came home with us. Ben quickly attached to her. He talked her ear off about everything from how traffic lights work to how chickens eat, and showed her the ropes of living the Knapp home. It made us realize that while Tommy prefers the cute cuddliness of babies, Ben prefers the fun interaction that comes with bigger kids. 

One of our sweeter moments together: C helped me make beef stew while Mark and the boys went to church. She is wearing what I am told is a Cinderalla dress, given to us by a friend who knows a thing or two about girls. She wore that dress for three of the five days she was with us; she refused to take it off and I decided it wasn't a battle worth fighting.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

On To New Adventures

This precious little one left our home mid-day Tuesday. Of course we knew she was going to be leaving sometime soon, but we thought we'd have at least a few days' notice to physically and emotionally prepare. Through a series of miscommunication and missed messages, we ended up having a half days' notice. 

We met Baby B's new parents Tuesday morning and had a good three hour visit with each other, and then they all left together. They were truly very good people and it is easy to imagine Baby B having a long and well-loved life. 

It was a rare human experience. One day you have a child whom you love and have raised since birth. Twenty four hours later, she is gone, never to return. Normally when this happens to your child, it is a tragedy, usually due to death or kidnapping. But this is foster care, so it is a good thing. So we find ourselves very emotionally confused and drained. We are in the difficult position of both mourning and celebrating her departure. After she left, Mark took the rest of the day off and we spent time together as a family.

We've put ourselves back on the list to get more children and we are looking forward to having another little one. But we want to squeeze in some fun with our family of four before we get The Call. So today we had 'crazy school day'. I took the boys out for bagels for breakfast and they did their school work at the street cafe. Then we went on a field trip at a local fire station. They saw how the fire truck works and how the fire fighters live while they're on duty. They got to climb all over the fire truck and inside the cab, and were able to play with the fire hose (which, if you asked them, was probably the coolest part of the whole trip). 

After the fire station, we hit Target and the library. It's amazing how much you can get done in a day with only two school-aged kids!