Sunday, August 26, 2012

Summer...the whole enchilada

Summer: The whole enchilada….

In a few short hours my kids will turn in for bed. Tomorrow they go back to school but right now it is still summer vacation. 
It absolutely FLEW by.  
We welcomed the sunshine with Skyler’s 11th birthday.

(Doritos on the burger...only the cool kids do it)

The first couple of weeks were a mix of late mornings, pool time and Sky’s All Stars team.

And this 4th of July the deep ache within my bones was silenced with a family trip to Ludington. 

I could write pages and pages about this. 
That smell--I already miss it. If you could smell the color green you’d smell Ludington. The perfect beach town nestled on  the shores of Lake Michigan and keeper of my greatest childhood memories. It is the pure essence of summer—the perfect concoction of meadow, firework smoke, ice cream, lake water, wine, starry skies, the buzzing of mosquitos and sun kissed shoulders all wrapped up in a warm summer's night.

(sand tunnels)


A few short days after we returned from our trip we celebrated Adoption Day.  It was in true Vegas fashion.  A quick stop in a Vegas court room where the five of us raised our right hand and promised forever  to one another.  Then we hit the strip to celebrate.

Next, we took a quick trip to visit my sister. Where cousins shared stories in the backseat and more summer memories where made. 

Then back to late mornings, swimming and playing at the park. Rinse. Repeat. 
Now we enjoy one last swim and BBQ dinner on the porch to wring out the last drop of summer and greet summer's end.

And tonight as I crawl into bed and give Jason a smile and let out a sigh it will need no translation.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Last week

Last week started off amazing but at this point is almost a blur.


I received the My Special Mom Award at a Mother’s Day event.  My kids stepped onto the stage and into the light. They embraced their story and I am so proud of them for that.  A few short months ago Josh was so uncomfortable with being in foster care that he would tell his friends that we were his step parents.  When asked which was his real parent he would reply that we were both his step parents.  We’ve come a long way. 

Here is a bit of our moment:


Jason and I got into the Strangest. Fight. Ever.  It was over nothing.  We exchanged some words.  He stormed off into the bedroom.  I looked around for an excuse to go into the bedroom.  I pretended to change out my purse.  I could tell he was watching me so I laughed.  And then he laughed.  End of fight.


 Our local radio station played a part of my mother’s day speech on the radio-holy cow!

Later that night we found out that the kids’ biological family reached out to Josh through Facebook, again.


After no sleep I met with the kids’ therapeutic team who suggested we allow contact with the biological family.  Terrified.


 Zero sleep. Skyler officially has all As and Bs, Orthopedic appointment proves that Josh needs Surgery. A trip to the Vet, my sweet Pepe is getting old.


Well, Thursday was a long day:

I use to worry that because I didn’t birth my kids I wouldn’t have motherly instincts and if I did they’d somehow be mediocre.   But then an incident occurs and I left face to face with one of my children and they are expecting me to say the right words and rise to the given occasion.  I know there have been times when I’ve let them down.  Times when I’ve spent the entire night tossing and turning wishing that I’d handled it differently.  Or said more or said less.  But life continues to throw us curve balls and makes way for a “do over”. 

I got my do over.  A note from a friend just about broke Kyla’s heart (and mine too).  I knew we would have to deal with this at some point or another but I hadn’t had time to prepare myself for it. 

I knew something was wrong with her right away.  She sat at the kitchen table and with a quivering mouth told me about her day. 

One of Kyla’s good friends, one whom she shared her whole life story with, didn’t invite Kyla to her birthday party.  The explanation was given in a note. It included your typical he said she said 6th grade drama. I so wish it would have stopped there.

But towards the bottom, there it was in written in purple ink…

PS at least my mom wanted me

Damn it.  Now, the first thoughts that ran through my mind were not kind and little immature.  I wanted to find her friend and tell her she was never welcomed in my home again.  I wanted to tell her what hateful person she was but then I met Kyla’s eyes…she was barely hanging on and waiting for me to make this better. 

And somehow, I knew exactly what to do.  I bent down beside her, cuffed her face in my hands and I told her I want you.  I want you Kyla.  I want you.  I want you.  She dropped to her knees and we sat on the kitchen floor and I hugged her as she sobbed into my shoulder.  Before I knew it Josh was on the floor hugging us too.  And before long my baby girl was soothed.

Later that night we initiated contact with the biological family.  I’m still scared.


Barely any sleep but we managed to run the kids’ to a birthday party, get groceries and called it an early night.


One baseball game, two trips to friend’s houses and a birthday party.  Which left Jason and I home alone on a Saturday evening or the first time in a very long 16 months.  We sipped champagne and tried to catch our breath.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

                        A few months ago….it was the one year anniversary of Gotcha Day

I use to work for a community outreach program that promoted environmental wellness.  At the end of each year I was tasked with putting on a banquet not only as a means of thanking our volunteers and staff but to also reflect on the year’s success.  I would spend hours collecting data which included things such as how many hours were donated to our cause, the amount of trash removed around our community, and how many miles of trail were restored in our National Park Areas.  The compiled data would be presented at the end of the banquet and our organization would relish in another successful year.

As we near the end of our first year with the kids I can’t help but find myself trying to measure our success. So much progress has been made.  Social skills have enhanced.  My shy kids who were once glued to each other in new settings are now the first to run and make new friends and have also proven to be a little more social in class then expected.  The real biggie is all of the academic progress that has been accomplished.  Josh knows that if he applies himself he is capable of getting As and Bs.  Kyla, well- this girl is going places.  Sky probably had the furthest to go.  He was so behind— a year ago he didn’t know an even number from an odd was or any of his multiplication facts.  He struggled in class and was a disruption.  Homework time was horrible and tested my patience on a daily basis.  He didn’t understand the material and he fought me every step of the way. Today, Sky is an A and B student and homework time is easy peasy.   

And while I’m happy about the social, behavioral and academic progress what about of the rest of it? 

Like the new traditions we’ve started. The purple plate at dinner earned for some sort of good deed or success- copied from my friend Layke. Or the love notes I write to my daughter like: “Be yourself…everyone else is already taken” and “To worry about what you don’t have is a waste of what of you do have”.  And one of my all-time faves is our dinner time inferences that go something like this…

Kyla says, “A woman is running through a mall”
Dad- she shop lifted
Josh- the mall is closing
Skyler- she is being chased by dogs and or aliens

Me- there is a super sale happening

And how do I measure all of the blending? A year ago, the kids seemed so different from us.  Jason and I favored more traditional sports like football or baseball and they were all skaters.  I remember not knowing how to answer Jason when he said how come the kids won’t have a catch with me? I love all things girly and Kyla swore she would never wear a dress. But a gradual shift has occurred within the walls of our home.  We’ve been sewing our fabrics together, folding, becoming one blanket that wraps us up as we fade into each other. We know have a wiffle ball field in our back yard that we call “Pepe Park” that everyone enjoys.   I’ve been known to ride skateboards and scooters in our Cul de Sac. Kyla loves all things that can be found at Justice for Girls. 

Most recently, I’ve been watching the bond between Skyler and Jason grow. A couple of months ago Skyler passed me in the hallway and he was humming, “mmm mm mm m m m, I was mmm mm mm m m m”.  “What are you humming?” I asked. He replied, “Born in the USA”.  Me: “Why?” Him: “Because it’s awesome.”  Jason also coached his baseball team this fall and the two spent hours together practicing and having a catch.  And on Saturday mornings you’ll find Jason in his home office working at his desk. Equally, you’ll find Skyler in the home office on Saturday mornings reading his father’s books on baseball and Bruce Springsteen.

 There were plenty of challenges over the past year and I send a big thank you to my sister, Tawney for always answering my panicky phone calls.  Like the time I called her because Kyla had decided she didn’t want to have her first sleep over half way through it. Or, Skyler’s first day of the 4th grade again.  I was terrified that kid’s would tease him and I doubted the decision Jason and I made to hold him back a year.  But, like always, my big sister knew exactly what to say to me.

These past couple of days I’ve sifted through photos of the past year.  I’ve made a mental note of pounds of trash or challenging behaviors removed this year, the hours donated or therapy and homework time and lastly, the trails restored--progress and the folding of our new family.  And so tonight the five of us will get dressed up and over dinner we will talk about the progress we’ve made, laugh about the struggles we’ve faced and as a family we will celebrate the completion of a successful year.

The truth is I didn’t post this because I was struggling at the one year anniversary.  And, I felt terrible about it. The truth is this parent stuff is hard work.  Some days it down right kicks my ass.  I was trying to wrap up our year with ribbons and bows but really I was searching for the tape to hold it and us together. 

I find myself wanting to share only the good and just where has that gotten me…well, I haven’t written in months.      “A-ha moment” If I only write about the good I will hardly write at all.  My life isn’t always so picture perfect.  And while these moments do float in and out (and you better believe I will be posting just as fast as I can with pictures to prove it) there are so many moments when we struggle. 
And so, If I’m not honest how can I ever expect anyone else to be…so from here on out (oh lord) you’re  getting it all.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

I've got the look...

Kyla plays softball.  One of her teammates had a bit of a breakout season this past fall.  The girl’s dad never missed a game…always coaching and encouraging her from the bleachers. One game his daughter put the ball to the fence.  Her dad stood up but didn’t speak a word as she rounded the bases. When she hit the home plate her dad shot his wife this “look” and then he smiled.  A year ago I would’ve missed that “look”.  But now I get it, boy do I get it.  I had that look the first time Josh put on his ROTC uniform.  I felt it when Kyla read her D.A.R.E. essay in front of the entire school.  I had it when Skyler walked on top of the pitcher’s mound and threw his very first pitch.

I got to have it again last night.  Last year Skyler struggled with his school work, especially writing and math.  He was so far behind that we chose to have him repeat the fourth grade. Last year Skyler’s class was given a multiplication test each week.  They were to do 100 multiplication problems (like 9x5 or 3x3) in less than 5 minutes.  The students who passed the test got their name on the front of the next week’s homework packet.

Last year Skyler could only complete 10 to 15 of the problems.  Each week he would look at the names of all the students who passed the test and then he would write in his name under theirs.  I spent the entire summer teaching him his multiplication facts and dealt with all of the whining when he found out he had to write them out again even though it was the weekend.  But it worked folks.  The class took a multiplication test yesterday and last night Skyler came to me and told me he past his multiplication test! He got them all correct AND he gets to have his name on the homework packet next week.  I won’t have the packet until next Monday but when I get it I am framing that puppy!
It’s funny, I thought Jason was the only person I would kiss with my whole heart.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Nine short months ago Kyla and I were taking down the Christmas tree together.  It had only been about two weeks since they moved in and back then she easily volunteered for “projects” with me.
We were about half way through boxing up all of the ornaments when she came to a K shaped ornament with her name on it (my sister’s idea—because she’s good like that).   She held it up and I smiled at her.  Foster kids who live in group settings tend to want to hoard things.  I thought for sure she was going to ask me if she could keep it in her room. 
WRONG.   “If I’m not here next Christmas will you hang this on the tree for me?”  She asked.   I remember trying to reassure her that she would still be here.  “You’ll hang it up yourself, just wait and see”.  I could sense she didn’t believe me.  Overwhelmed and a bit saddened I wondered how or if I’d ever be able to undo all of the damage.  Would they ever really feel stable, secure or at home with us…
Fast forward nine months and we’re cooking together in the kitchen. Dressed in grandma’s homemade aprons-we fried taco shells, diced avocados, and dished about our day.

Kyla made a comment about the funky pattern on her apron.  I told her that the aprons used to belong to my grandma. Still trying to figure out her new family tree she guessed all of the new grandmas/great grandmas in her life.  I explained that these aprons were made by mom’s mom.  She passed away about 13 years ago.   
And I let her know how special the aprons are to me and that they are one of my favorite possessions.  Every time I slip one over my head and tie the strings around my waist I am reminded of my grandma. And each time I slip one over her head and tie the strings around her waist I can’t help but smile to myself.
She smiled. And then she went for it…
“When you die can I have your aprons”?
I have to admit, I was a little shocked.  I mean no one has ever asked me that question before.  No one has ever called dibs on my belongings.  But surely, if my girl believes she will be around to inherit my belongings she must believe that she will be placing her K shaped ornament on the Christmas tree this year.

“Yes, of course”, I said.  “Take the blue and green one for sure.  It has pockets, the best pattern and it inspired the color scheme for our kitchen”. 
And the then the gates opened and sister soul was calling dibs on everything she could see.

She got to my collection of cookbooks and I pulled my favorite one out.  It’s the Betty Crocker’s Bridal edition given to me by in-laws as a wedding gift.  We pull it out weekly to make banana bread.  It’s the over used one with stained and crinkled edges. 
On the inside cover it reads:  Presented to Tammy Mauldin Gerber (what every new bride wants to see, her name with his last name behind it) in celebration of their marriage on July 22, 2005.

The last part is really important.  Every July Jason and I pull it off the shelf and double check the inside cover for the date.  We can never remember our actual anniversary date.  We know it’s somewhere between the third and fourth week but the date always seems to escape us.
What I do remember is that three weeks before my wedding day my soldier returned home from the war.  I remember how handsomely rugged he looked in his desert BDU’s.  I remember looking into his blue eyes and thanking God with everything I had for his safe return.  And most of all, I remember kissing him.  Oh, that kiss.  I waited the longest year for that kiss. There’s something so incredibly wondrous about kissing a soldier who is fresh from the war.

And although it is a little embarrassing to admit that I don’t remember my own wedding anniversary-- there is something special about pulling the cookbook off the shelf and reliving that kiss each year.
And I do want her to have the aprons and cookbook but even more… I want her to have her own magical moments and sweet memories.

Later that night I sent a quick thank you out to the universe and  drifted off to sleep with a very full heart.  

Friday, August 26, 2011


I did it. I survived my first summer as a mama.
Our last weekend of summer is upon us. It was fun, it was adventurous, it was casual and at times it was a bit much…but now it is winding down. Tonight the kids and I wring out the last bit of summer with dinner in front of the TV topped off with my own concoction of ice cream sandwich-root beer floats followed up with some night swimming.
This is one of my favorite times of the year…the transition from summer to FALL. After a very long, very hot Southwestern summer I am always more than ready to welcome the FALL.
I see it as a time for happy trading…
Less pool time (and a much less littered pool fence) but more evening walks with the pups… Popsicle sticks riddles swapped for homework…laid back mornings exchanged for busy evenings filled with school projects, rushed dinners, practices and game filled weekends.

Yep, I’m ready to trade. 

The electric and somewhat nervous energy that goes hand in hand with the beginning of a new school year is alive and well in our home.
 Josh is a freshman this year.  Big brother is a football player this year and would sleep in his gear if we allowed him.   
Sister soul is a six grader and attending junior high which is BIG TIME people.  She’s rocking new bangs and I know they make her feel fierce.   
And our little guy is repeating the 4th grade.  It was a hard decision to make and I’m apprehensive about the first few weeks back.  But we’ve spent the entire summer closing the gaps in his education and I know this time around he’s gonna kick butt. And, he’s taking math down first.
Moving on…