Wednesday, January 28, 2009

neek! neek!

Here's how the living room is looking. I'm really digging the lighter, brighter color.

I'd ordered a green shag rug from Overstock but when I just checked the status it seems I made a mistake and really ordered a black shag rug. Needless to say, it's going back immediately. I was so looking forward to that shaggy, grass-like rug. I'm going to see if the price goes back down and order it again, this time making sure I'm ordering green.

Tomorrow the house gets inspected so we can renew our foster care licenses. I have so much to do...every room will get peeked into! Today I really need to tend to the craft room...

But all I really want to do is sip coffee and daydream.

OH! p.s. The three angels spent the day with me yesterday. It was so much fun! You should see how much these little ones can eat! Want to hear something so cute? The little girl (I'll have to think of what anonymous name to call her) has a word for when she really likes something (reminds me of Teresa's Foofala story!)'s Neek! and it's said more like a little squeal like what you imagine a cartoon mouse might say. Neek! Neek!

p.p.s. I know you're going to want to know about the stuff in the living room picture, right? The house pillows were made by my amazing friend Catherine of Red Shoes... (I think I'm going to grab one of her new pillows too so I'm watching her site like a hawk...a hawk, I tell you!) And the houses on the wall are by my sweet friends at Berries in the Meadow. Look here or contact the cottage. The cuckoo clock is my favorite gift from Rich for Christmas. It's from Pottery Barn Kids but I think they are sold out. And the mural? Also from Rich for Christmas from . here I overheard Rich telling my mother "You should see what Amy did in the living room...she put stickers all over the wall." That made me feel less excited about it. What do you think? Does it look like stickers? Is it silly?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

what looks like crazy...

Thank you all so much for your fabulous suggestions. What I love most about them is that they help me picture this new life...what it will look like and feel like and what to expect. Stuff like that. I'm sort of picturing my life becoming a bit of a preschool. In fact, I think I will clean out the family room and make it a complete playroom. It's a bit of the calm before the storm...and I'm making all sorts of plans of how to prepare for this big change.

I have to show you photos from the hotel we stayed at in Petaluma. If you are planning a trip to the San Francisco area, you definitely need to check it out.

Metro Hotel

In every room and along the hallway, there were these very enchanting posters...

I found out that they were French posters that were used in classrooms for expanding vocabulary...

Don't you love them?

This is one of my favorites...

The baby and I studied all of them and found our likenesses in almost all of them...and then we'd do the usual...find the dog...and the cat....and let's count the people.

I'm almost finished painting the living room. I can't wait to show you. I'm feeling very inspired.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

are you crazy?

Maybe. We are opening our home to three little ones...a little 3 year old girl and her twin 2-year old brothers. Yes, 3 toddlers at once. Perhaps we've lost our minds.

At first they'll come just a couple of days a week and then they'll come live with us as foster children. We are so nervous and excited. These children have been through so much and have some emotional issues. We definitely have our work cut out for us.

So, that's our news. We're busy getting our home ready. I've been thinking of all the things I've wanted to do for the last year but couldn't. I realized that if I don't get them done soon, they'll be put off for another long while. Today, I decided that I've had enough of the dark walls in the living room. I hate painting so much but I tackled one of the walls today, covering it in primer. Tomorrow, I'll prime another wall and paint the one I primed today. I've got some ideas to switch that room from stuffy formal to friendly fun. I'll share pictures along the way.

I also want to do the kitchen update that I have been planning...sweets shop inspired. Maybe next week. Oh yes...I am motivated.

In your comments maybe you can give me suggestions for handling 3 toddlers...besides putting them in cages. I already asked the agency and they said no. ;)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

goodbyes and hellos

We said goodbye to Baby last night and boarded a plane for home early this morning.

We will always, always, always cherish this week with him, getting to know him all over again and discovering all sorts of new things about him. He is such a darling, darling boy. There's an unmistakable sparkle about him. Strangers everywhere take note of him and see just a glimpse of what we know about him and it's enough to charm them. Like magic.

We spent nearly every day of the last week with him, early morning to early evening. What a gift it was. More than anything, it let our hearts see that he is okay. He's safe and loved.

The thought struck me on the plane today that along this path we've taken it would have only taken a single "no" to change its course. We could've said no to the idea of foster care. After training, when we realized the challenges even more clearly, we could have certainly said no, this isn't for us. Right? And then when we got that call, we could've said "No, not yet. We're not ready". Any of those no's would've erased him from our life.

And if he were never in our lives, we'd probably still live fairly happy lives, continuing in our little boat for two merrily down the stream.

But we said yes. We shocked ourselves with it. Yes, we can be foster parents. Yes, this is for us. Yes, we'll take care of a little baby with a broken arm.

And with that sweet little word, yes, we forever changed our lives and our hearts. We redefined happiness. Our hearts are swollen with love for one little very special baby.

More than that, our hearts are stretched big. Big and ready to love more.

I have a memory from years ago to share with you. We were all piled in the station wagon, my sisters, my brother and me, picking my father up from work. Everyday at about 4:00pm, after the mill's whistle blew, it was the same routine. My mother drove to the same spot, and, once parked, slid over to the passenger's seat. We'd all look expectantly at the gate, waiting to see him, soot covered in overalls, come over the hill.

One day one of my father's work friends poked his head through the window to get a good look at all of us children piled in and he said "Good God, John, you must have a lot of love to go around." And my father replied simply "You got it all wrong, man. The love's not's multiplied."

Tomorrow, I have something to tell you. It's a matter of muliplication.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


We spent all of yesterday with our guy. In just a little while, we'll go see him again and spend all of today with him.

He's gotten so big...and he's so much more solid, rough and tumbly. He remembered us, surely, but he was a bit hestitant, especially with Rich. We'll see how today goes...

The weather here is wonderful...highs reaching almost 70. Perfect playground temperatures.

I am so happy. Buzzing with happiness just to see him.

Monday, January 12, 2009

tomorrow...what a lovely word

I can't wait to see our little baby tomorrow. Writing it all out was very therapeutic.

I have a million and one things to do today to prepare for the early morning flight out tomorrow. Silly little things. What I really want to do is just go to sleep and wake up and be there.

I'm going to be taking a break from inspiredideas and inspiredfriends indefinitely. This big thing that lies in our wake might preclude the investment of time needed for either. We'll see. And even if it doesn't pan out, I have a plan of something a little different to try. Mystery and intrigue, how about that? I'm terrible at keeping secrets so it won't be long before I let it all out. You know that about me, don't you?

So tomorrow we'll see our sweetie. That's the only thing I'm thinking about right now. I feel like Christmas all over again.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

love: chapter five

I don't think it was just us imagining it, that on the days leading up to the last trip to California, when we'd leave the baby with his father, his hugs were tighter around our necks. He stayed a bit closer by our sides and when I said "Oh baby, I'm going to miss you." He'd reply "Ckkkkk?" (That was his word for Rich) "Yes," I'd say "Rich is going to miss you too".

We tried to fill those last days with all the love we felt. We invited friends and family over for a farewell party. And then early in the morning, hours before the sun was due to shine, we loaded suitcases filled with his books and clothes and toys into the car and headed to the airport.

It seemed like a betrayal. As much as we knew it was what was supposed to happen and all of that, in the end we were leaving our baby with someone he barely knew. He trusted us, completely. And we left him. It scared us to think of how much that hurt him.

On the last night we didn't have a plan for how we'd say goodbye. We wanted to respect his family. The baby's grandmother said she'd give him a bath and put him to bed. And the baby just wanted to be with us. His screams still echo in my head and tear at my heart. It was just too much, too traumatic.

I suggested that maybe it would be better if I just put him to bed, the last time. And then, instead of a traumatic goodbye, he would just wake up and we'd not be there. I honestly don't know what was the best thing. I just wanted to take care of him that last time, hold him and sing to him and whisper love. It took a while for him to settle down in this strange new place but he finally drifted to sleep. I kissed his head one last time and whispered goodbye.

That night, in between dreams of him, we wept. And in the morning, early, we left the hotel to catch the plane back.

Sadness weighted us and we worried that if we weren't careful, we could start crying and never, ever stop. On the plane, I put on the headphones and listened to music. And a song I'd heard so many times had new meaning...
I was waiting for so long
For a miracle to come
Everyone told me to be strong
Hold on and don't shed a tear

Through the darkness and good times
I knew I'd make it through
And the world thought I'd had it all
But I was waiting for you

And with the next song came a memory. I'd heard it the first day as I held him and fed him a bottle. We were both so scared, the baby and me, and the song seemed to fit that day. And now, hearing it again, I knew the answer...
Don't know much about your life.
Don't know much about your world, but
Don't want to be alone tonight,
On this planet they call earth.

You don't know about my past, and
I don't have a future figured out.
And maybe this is going too fast.
And maybe it's not meant to last,

But what do you say to taking chances

And what I knew then that I didn't know that first day was that taking that chance, loving this baby, was what was meant for me. It was the easiest and most natural thing in the world. And on that day when I needed comfort, it was found there, in that thought discovered through those two sentimental pop songs.

I didn't know how I'd make it through all the weeks and months to follow but I could find what it took to make it through that given moment. And then the next.

At first every breath carried the thought "I miss him" with it. And then, over time, some breaths carried instead "I love him". And then "It's going to be okay".

On Tuesday, just two days from now, at 1 in the afternoon, we'll knock on his door. We'll listen for his running feet and wait, hearts full of love. And when we see him, we'll hug him and kiss him and tell him that we love him.

And for that week, we'll spend as much time with him as we can. We'll celebrate his birthday and blow out the two candles with him. We'll look for ways that he's grown and ask him if he remembers 'Munk and 'Mander and 'Hopper, and the countless other things from our beautiful life. We'll laugh and play and sing and read. Then we'll give him a hug and a kiss and tell him we love him and catch the plane back to our lives back here.

Ten years ago, five years ago, if you asked me to pen my life, I'd written it a little differently. It would have read more like a typical mother's story. It's what I've wanted all my life. I yearned for it. And yet, I like this story better. God gifted us with the hearts of a mother and a father, he showed us what we wanted to feel all our lives. You might argue "But look, He took him away from you!" But that's the thing about love, isn't it? Love doesn't go away and it's not a factor of time. That little baby is in our hearts forever and we will always love him. Always.

Our hearts are all connected, every one of us. With this new year dawning before us, we ask the Lord to continue to light the way, to show us His will, and help us to surrender our life to it.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

love: chapter four

The cast on his arm was incredibly big and heavy. And, in the beginning, those first few weeks, it anchored him to where he sat.

I'd make a little throne for him out of pillows and blankets and sit with him. If he wanted something, I'd get it for him.

The first Saturday morning, Rich fed him breakfast as I read him a story. My eyes were on the page when it happened. His arm slipped out of the cast. His arm, just broken less than a week before, was out of the protection of the cast.

He was so excited to see his arm again and he started waving it about. Rich held the broken arm to the baby's body and shouted at him to stop. He meant to sound forceful but it broke my heart with how mean it sounded.

My mind scrambled to remember what to do in an emergency. I made two calls: One to the emergency line at the agency, one to the hospital in DC. We decided to take him to the local emergency room, less than 5 miles away. We were out the door in less than 10 minutes, maybe closer to 5, dressed and ready to go.

When the doctors looked at the configuration of pins extruding from his arm, they were confused. We could offer no help. They examined the cast and thought they understood how it was fashioned. But they understood wrong. The arm was improperly casted that second time. A permanent mistake.

A few days later, the routine check at the original hospital revealed it. The following day there was emergency surgery to investigate. On that day, a week after we first got the baby, we met his mother.

She seemed impossibly young, more like 14 than 19. The first thing she did when she held her son was check his clothing tags. Then she checked his ears and pronounced them dirty and looked in his mouth and asked the little baby if "they" were brushing his teeth. She ruffled his hair and declared it too long.

She looked at the two of us with fear that resembled disdain.

I was hurt immediately. I learned later to listen for her love when she looked him over to find evidence of lack of care.

That day was one of the hardest days of my life. It would have been even tougher if I hadn't been guided by His grace to say these words to her: "We're not here to take your place. We're here to love your child and give him a safe place to live while you get things worked out." Her heart softened at that.

When the baby came out of surgery we learned that his arm would probably heal "bent" but that they didn't want to rebreak the bone. He was healing quickly and the joint would still probably function well.

A few weeks later, the cast was removed and his little arm was free.

Throughout the months, we became close to his mother. Most days my heart was tender for her and I would easily overlook criticisms. The baby visited with her every week for an hour. After the visits, she would walk with us back to the car and fasten the baby in the carseat. This little bit of unsupervised time when she could do normal motherly things like worrying about covering his head and putting him in his seat, was the only time she was really allowed to be his mother.

The boyfriend (not the baby's father) served time in jail for the baby's broken arm but we were asked to believe that it was an accident. It was a puzzle to us that solved much later when he confessed that he'd hurt the baby on purpose. We still saw this man at the weekly visits. I could never bring myself to look at him again. My understanding could never extend to this man who hurt our baby so badly out of meanness.

There was a list of things the mother needed to do in order to get the baby back. She needed to get a job and a permanent residence. She needed to go through anger management and parenting classes and see a therapist. Maybe there were other things too. But whatever progress was made seemed to be erased by months of standing still.

The father learned of what happened to his baby who lived all the way across the country on his 20th birthday. He remembers the exact time the call came. He asked right away what he could do to get custody of his baby and he did everything he needed to do within a month. In April, the California courts confirmed to the department of family services in Virginia that the father's home was fit for the baby.

In August, when it was clear to the social workers that the mother wasn't doing what she needed to do in a timely fashion, they, for the first time, considered the baby's father's home for placement. I nervously travelled with the social worker to California to meet him.

When we arrived at the house, decorated with homecoming banners and balloons and tears of joy, my heart sighed with relief. I knew from the instant I met the baby's father, who he calls sweetly "Papa", that he would be safe here, loved and secure and happy. My heart could imagine him there.

Friday, January 9, 2009

love: chapter three

We looked out the front door one day, and there, sitting waiting for us to notice, was a chipmunk.

Another day, on our way out the door to the mailbox at the end of the driveway, there was a salamander, sly and quick.

And then one hot late summer afternoon, a grasshopper jumped directly at the baby when he looked out the window at it.

Those three little visitors, 'munk, 'mander, and 'hopper, became our special friends. We stopped our day many times to check to see if they were there. In the morningtime, especially, we'd spot 'munk. Sometimes he was hurrying by, other times he was waiting for us to look out. A few times we threw out a handful of nuts, the good kind including cashews. We'd spend the morning checking his progress through them. One day, just like some sort of cartoon, his cheeks were stuffed full of the bounty.

'Mander was seen less frequently, mostly baking on the hot bricks of the front porch. And he was so quick that I worried the baby might've missed him. But on that first day, he waited for us to come back with the mail and just like the little fella on the commercials, he nodded to us. Then he scampered off.

'Hopper was seen just that one exciting afternoon. What a delight he gave the baby as he jumped right up to his face pressed to the glass. Time and time again, as if he truly was trying to get him. For that whole afternoon, we took turns going to the glass to see if he was still there. And the baby would come running and do the whole thing over again, giggling at it all. And then when the sun went down, we looked out and he was gone. We haven't seen him since.

We saw 'Munk a whole lot that week before the baby went away. Everytime we looked out, it seemed he was there.

Looking back, it seems so strange this story of these visitors, like a dream. Would they have been there anyway and we only just noticed them because we were noticing everything in the whole world fresh through his eyes? Maybe that's it.

I haven't seen any of these visitors since he left. I still find myself wandering aimlessly to the door, pressing my face against the cool glass, and looking for them, remembering his little voice echoing "Munk?" Mander?" "Hopper?"

Thursday, January 8, 2009

love: chapter two

In the beginning, as he learned about us and as we learned about him we started forming routines. Out of nothing. Silly things, repeated, became our days and formed our beautiful life.

Like morning turning the stereo on for breakfast, repeated the next day and the next. And then I was asking every morning "Shall I play some music?" and he would smile and, with both hands in the air waving back to me, he'd motion the sign we made up for morning music.

Our favorite morning song quickly became "Three Little Birds", originally sung by Bob Marley but performed for us by Elizabeth Mitchell. He knew the song immediately when he heard the first bit and he would get so excited, his little feet kicking in his high chair.

Sometime around breakfast Rich would appear, ready for work. He'd eat his breakfast while we finished ours. And when Rich was ready to leave, we'd walk him to the garage door and wait there as he drove out. This particular routine, paired with the same ritual at night welcoming Rich home as soon as we heard the garage door, became one of the most important things to Baby.

When Rich came home, greeted at the door by the two of us, he took the baby with him to change out of his work clothes while I started dinner. The two of them would make quite a ruckus up there, giggling and hooting and hollaring. It makes me smile to think of the two of them together, having so much fun.

Nearly every single night, Rich took care of the whole bedtime routine. What was at first quite a struggle (he woke up every hour throughout the night after hours of getting him to bed) became, I believe, what had to be the most peaceful going-to-bed hour in all of America.

At 8:00 on the dot every night, we'd watch the opening song of the Backyardigans. Most nights, we'd rewind it and watch it again. And maybe again. We'd all get up and dance and sing. Bathtime was next. And then, all clean and bathed and pajamaed, it was time for a little goodnight bottle and rock-a-bye-babying with me. With a kiss from me, the two of them would go up to the baby's room. They read books and played games. And when the sunshine clock said 8:45, Rich would turn out the light and lay down on the floor. The baby could continue to play but Rich wouldn't play back. Instead, he'd pretend to be really sleepy. After about 5 minutes, but sometimes immediately, the baby would go over to Rich and motion to the bed. "Are you ready to say goodnight?" And he'd nod yes. And then they went to every single thing in the room, all of the wonderful gifts that decorated his walls, and they'd say goodnight. "Goodnight cow jumping over the moon" "Goodnight little boy holding a rabbit" "Goodnight party cupcakes" "Goodnight sunshine" and so on until everyone got a proper tiding, Goodnight Moon style.

And then, like a little miracle, the prince would lie down in his bed, watching Rich until he left the room, and go to sleep.

You could paint all of those days in all those months he was with us with a broad stroke. We did the same sorts of things everyday. We read the same books, sang the same songs, played the same games, watched the same shows, walked the same paths. We learned all about each other, by heart.

love: chapter one

One year ago tomorrow, at 3 in the afternoon, the phone rang and changed our lives. I had just returned from lunch with Lorraine, sharing one of my very favorite things in the butter on yeasty rolls at Neiman Marcus Cafe. I had put the phone squarely on the table, apologizing for the rudeness of it all but explaining that the phone might ring and change my life.

"Amy, we have an 11-month baby who needs care. He has a broken arm. We'll need you to get him tonight. What do you think?"

"Let me call Rich"

"Rich, I just got the call. It's a little baby with a broken arm."



"Yes, okay"

Me, calling back the agency... "Okay"

I hung up the phone and immediately left for Target to buy anything and everything I thought we might need for the first few nights. Pajamas, diapers...but what size??? Car seat..."Excuse me, can a 11-month baby use this car seat? Do you have a baby? What kind of car seat do you like? Are these 20 car seats the only ones they have here?" Sippy cups, bottles. Baby cereal...surely he eats baby cereal. Don't they all?

The bill comes to something like $700. It doesn't matter. I was in and out in less than an hour.

Rich comes home and we meet at the agency's office. But now we have to go to the hospital in D.C. to pick him up. The car seat is still in the box and we don't have a clue about how to fix it in the car.

We get lost...two social workers, Rich, me, and the car seat, on the way to pick up the baby.

When we finally arrive to the hospital, we rush up to the room. My heart is beating so fast.

And then we get to his room. The CPS worker and a hospital social worker are there talking. And there he is, sitting in a cage-like crib, looking around like a scared little bird.

My very first thought when I saw him was "Oh my goodness, look at all that hair!"

He looked so scared.

"Can I hold him?"

"Yes, of course"

Then we noticed that he was trying to tell us something. "G...g" We asked the others. No, they said, he doesn't talk. Still, he insisted "G....g" "G...g" Everytime we looked at his face, he said it.

Finally, we realized it. He was hungry. Starving, really. Hours had past, it was 11 pm before we finally got the discharge papers.

I remember holding him and feeding him a bottle thinking "How in the world do people do this?" The muscles in my arms started burning and I realized that I couldn't possibly hold him and walk and feed him at the same time.

I think it took a whole hour for the social workers and Rich to put the car seat in the car. And when they finally did, the social worker driving, first week on the job, backs her new car into a pillar in the parking garage. "Everybody be quiet" she says. The baby, so scared and wearing just a hospital gown in January, is wailing.

We got home after midnight.

And in the midst of all of that, we fell in love. Our little bird with a broken wing, so scared and sweet. We fell in love that night.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

building a house...

About a month ago, I received an exciting email from Tim Holtz asking me to be a participant in the Ranger Ink CHA Designer Challenge. Of course, I said yes. I think I must've been the first to respond...maybe just 3 minutes after the email was sent.

The challenge was to fashion a house of whatever style we fancy using Claudine Hellmuth's Studio line of paints and brushes and sticky back canvas. All of the supplies, including the fabulous paints, were provided. All I had to do was build a house.

Using a paper mache rectangle as the base and chipboard for the roof. I painted a sheet of the sticky back canvas and then cut it into strips to use for the siding. I applied the siding from the bottom up, overlapping the edges to mimic siding of a real house. I added a door and windows and flowerboxes, all made with the sticky back canvas.

I put flowers in the flower box and a little clay birdy. The doorknob is a shiny button and the topiaries are vintage pom-poms.

The whole business got a coat of glitter, because it didn't seem complete without it. Although, in retrospect, I miss seeing the quality of the paint on canvas which gave the piece so much charm. If I were to do it over, I'd only glitter the flowers and the trees, I think.

It was a real joy working with Claudine's Studio line, especially the paints. They are so pigment rich!

So here is the final result, shipping out today to {hopefully} make the Friday deadline.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

next week!

Next week we leave to visit Baby for his second birthday. We can't wait. We have no idea what to expect...whether he'll come to us or need to warm up. In my dreams, he comes running into our arms and we hold him as if we never let him go.

We miss him so much but we're doing so much better than a couple of months ago. The ache is still there and we still cry often, especially when we think of how beautiful our life was with him.

We are preparing our home for more children to visit us soon. There's something HUGE in the works but it's too early to talk about yet. You won't believe me when I tell you. Seriously.

p.s. The font I used for my parents' golden anniversary invitations (which I'm still putting together!) is Chopin Script. The secret is to vary the size of some of the initial caps.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

scenes from a sunday morning

My parents' golden anniversary is coming up in about a month. Before Christmas, February 7 seemed like a world away. Now it's just around the corner. I'm working like crazy today to make 200 invitations for the celebration we have planned. I thought you might like to see what my world looks like today.