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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Lunch with TJ

     6:00 AM. I crept stealthily up the stairs to wake TJ for school. Down the hall the baby had just fallen asleep after a restless, fussy night. I cracked TJ's door. The light from the hall poured into the bedroom. I peered around the door in time to see her lurch up in her bed, cast off her covers, leap to the floor, and begin jumping up and down on her tip-toes,
     "I didn't sleep at all last night, Mama! I couldn't stop thinking that this is the day you are going to come to school and eat lunch with me!"
    The baby began crying. "Shhhh. Whisper, please. The baby is sleeping. We can talk down stairs." I tried my best to subdue her enthusiasm, but she bounded out of her room and down the stairs talking in full boom all the way. I may as well have told the north star not to twinkle as told TJ to calm down. During the next 30 minutes of twirling and leaping, she managed to get dressed, brush her teeth, comb her hair, find her backpack, put on her coat, get out the door, and beat her sister to the bus stop.
     At 10:15 baby Dani and I arrived at the school amid myriad of other  moms, dads, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins who had come to share Thanksgiving lunch with their kindergarten children. Class by class, the K5'ers paraded past the large crowd. When the searching eyes of the children caught sight of their family they grinned, waved, and waited for the signal to launch out of the line toward their kin. The adoring families eyes were soon diverted from their little ones to the bobbing of a blond head which rose rhythmically above all the others.
     "MAMA! MAMA!" TJ's voice echoed in the concrete hallway. "MAMA!"  The eyes of everyone were searching for the mama of this loud little girl who, unlike all the other good boys and girls, couldn't wait patiently.
     For me to acknowledge TJ would avert the gazes of the crowd of relatives, all the anxious children, the weary teachers, aides, staff, and volunteers toward me . . . the 59 year old, gray haired grandma, holding her her grand baby in her arms. This old woman would answer to 'Mama.' Questions will get bantered back and forth, quizzical looks arrowed toward me, and polite, obligatory nods of 'how nice that you have had a late in life child."
     I held Dani in the air for TJ to see and as inconspicuously as possible, hollered out, "Hi TJ." All eyes trained on me. "That's my daughter." Then the looks started and TJ continued with "Dani's my niece!" adding more confusion to everyone's already mystified minds.
     Soon, a tsunami of children came rushing forth. TJ grabbed my hand and drug me to the closest lunch line. The length of the winding line only added to my distress. TJ began jumping out of line and bringing her classmates over to me. "Brandon, this is my Mama." "Hey Karras! This is my Mom!" "Mama, this is Jordan," and on and on it went until I had met every kindergartner and a few parents as well. Somewhere in the long line of introductions it dawned on me that TJ is proud of me. It doesn't matter to her that I am older than all the other parents and older than some grandparents.
     All my pride was put to rest. I smiled at the lunch ladies and said 'yes, TJ is my daughter.' We found a crowded table on which to feast and the introductions continued, but I didn't blush any longer.
     TJ is proud of me.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Calling It Quits

     Sitting sideways in the old parson's bench, Bob stares thoughtfully out the window. His gaze caught by goats grazing lazily in the warm Indian Summer sun and the peacock strutting at chickens who ignore the glare of a hundred green eyes. "We just have to endure the next eight months. What else can we do?" After a year and a half our hopes for Anna turned to frustration and frustration has melted into resignation. We are left with a myriad of questions of which the two most burning are 'why' and 'why not.'
    Three years ago Anna appeared in my middle school math class, a vibrant 12 year old girl with a slight build and a broad smile. She befriended everyone and easily shared herself and her story to all who would listen. She like many of the other children, had been removed from her home by CSS, but her story had a disturbing twist. When she was three years old she had been adopted out of 'the system' and now, as a young teen, her 'parents' were giving her back to the state. I often heard her say she wanted a different life, to make something of herself, to prove everyone wrong, to become someone. She broke my heart.
     For months Bob and I prayed and discussed what role, if any, we should play in Anna's life. Taking on a teenage girl, possibly adopting her, would change our future and retirement dramatically. When all was said and done, the few years we could give Anna weighed heavier than the freedom of our retirement years. God, we were sure, would have us bring this young girl into our family.
     We were ecstatic over the possibilities. Anna would explore places she had never thought of going. Her front teeth, which appear to travel in opposite directions, and the overbite which accompany them would be brought into alignment. She would meet educated people who speak of ideas and view the world very differently. Anna was going to be submerged into the middle class.
      Anna, now 15, is happy she lives with a white family. 'There's not so much drama with white people.' and her friends think she is rich.  She has traveled to Pensacola, Charleston, Johnson City, Disney World and camped in the mountains and on the beach. She has taken our correction of her English well. She works hard at enunciating the consonants at the end of her words and self-correcting her 'I be ....' and 'he do...'
     But she hasn't made that 180 change she'd declared in middle school. As a second year freshman, Anna is failing her core classes. Her language at school is dis and dat, but mostly fu.... She lies about where she  is and what she is doing. She failed her last drug test and has indiscriminate sex at school. She has one or two girl friends, but her calling list is 90% boys.
     Bob sits sideways in the old parsons bench and wonders what else can we do. Are we of any consequence on her at all or are our prayers and efforts in vain? Can we impact the direction she is taking toward a life of entitlements or will she make something of herself? Will she acknowledge Jesus Christ as her Savior, which she so desperately needs?
     "We just need to endure the next eight months." After some thought Bob hears the Spirit of God; He is not finished yet. Quitting would be denying the power, plan and promise of God. Once again, Bob and I regain focus on the challenge ahead, putting one foot in front of the other.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Five year olds have no concept of time. Yesterday could mean yesterday or last May. Tomorrow might be tomorrow or next summer. Five minutes are equivalent to years; two days are less than an hour; this afternoon is tomorrow after the sun goes down or maybe it was yesterday.
I tried explaining the concept of time to TJ on multiple occasions. "TJ, if you count to 60 that is the same as one minute." With a little help she counts to 60. In my mama-teacher voice I'll extend the lesson and continue with "That's great TJ! Now, if you count to 60 fifteen more times, that will be 15 minutes and the cookies will be done!" Cocking her head, furrowing her brow, and squinting her eyes, she contemplates the idea of 15 more 60's making the cookies ready to eat. "THEY WON"T BE READY UNTIL TOMORROW!?!"
"No, Honey, they will be ready in 15 minutes."
She resigns herself to a "Whatever" and wanders back to watch Dora and the Map climb another hill.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Bob held one corner of the towel with his left hand and with his right he supported the center. Anna clutched the other corner and the two of them faced outward and moved to form two sides of a triangle, My substantive rear formed the third side giving TJ the privacy she needed. I dropped to my knees and simultaneously pulled her shorts and undies off and without a hesitation pulled up the bottom half of her swimsuit. In the same smooth motion, I clasped her t-shirt, pulling it over her head and easily slipped on the top of her tankini. Voila! TJ was ready to attack her first incursion into the Atlantic Ocean!

Anna released her end of the towel and Bob collected it revealing the wide, white beach at the edge of the expansive waters. Nothing could constrain TJ as she ran headlong down the beach into the oncoming waves: arms flailing and legs leaping. Bob, following behind her, raced her to the ocean and scooped her up. When  the water reached knee height he collapsed plunging into the sea with giggles and splashes . . . . And TJ gets her first taste of ocean water.

Meanwhile, back on shore, Anna decided not go near the water - after all 'EVERYONE IS STARING AT ME!' and ' I just spent 45 minutes on my hair!' She opted for dog duty rather than cooling off, and so she wrestled with Big Dog who struggled against her to follow his master into the waves. The tug of war went on for a good while, neither ever gaining the win. Even with Big Dog managing to get wet, Anna was able to stay dry . . . that is until . . . Big Dog sauntered right up next to her to say 'I quit but not giving up' and gave himself a good shake! Anna screamed, Big Dog now dragging his leash behind him, raced toward Bob.

TJ had her first foray into the ocean, Anna got wet regardless of her efforts not to, I found a shark's tooth, which seem to elude me with my worsening eye sight, Bob played the perfect father and Big Dog won. Who could ask for a better day!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Another wonderful and beneficial Sunday service! Aaaahhhh. There is nothing like the presence of God to put the trials of life in their proper perspectives.

After making our way through the after-service crowd in the church atrium, Bob, Anna, TJ, and I head for the parking lot. Bob and I stand beside our cars discussing the trip home and our afternoon
plans. Relieved that there is no need to go to the store or get gas, we each turn toward our respective cars anticipating an easy 30 minute ride home and lunch. As I begin buckling TJ in her carseat I hear Anna shouting "I need to stop at the store!". As I turn to acknowledge her, she puts her hand to the side of her face so no one can see her mouth the words, "I need pads."

I latch the final carseat buckle and can hear Bob's truck leaving the parking lot. I kiss TJ on her forehead, shut her door, and call for Anna. As I open the driver's door I call out for her again and slide into the front seat. No Anna.

"She did not just do this to me! No she didn't!" With frustration dripping from every syllable, I slammed the palm of my hand in to the steering wheel, picked up the phone with my other hand and speed dialed Bob.

Not knowing the righteous indignation waiting for him on the other end of his phone, he answers quite calmly, "Hello."

"Is Anna with you?"

He knows the tone. "What's going on and yes she is here."

"She's with you!?! UNBELIEVABLE! She wants me to stop at the store, get out of my car with TJ in this 98 degree heat and get her things while she just pops in the truck with you and goes on her merry way! Well I'm not doing it!"

Bob pulls the phone away from his mouth and talks briefly with Anna. He gets back to me with the decision that we will all meet up in the drugstore parking lot. He will leave her with me, she can purchase her items and ride home with me. 'Fine' I say to myself, but wonder why isn't he waiting in the parking lot and why am I not the one who gets to go home.

At 15 Anna does not like to do any public thing by herself including shopping. There must be someone with her at all times, because, as is obvious to only her - and every other 15 year old girl - everyone stares at her.

"TJ, do want to go shopping with me?"

"No."

"I'll get you a drink."

"No."

"I'll buy you some candy." Anna is pleading with TJ to accompany her into the drugstore for her small purchase, but is clear that TJ would like to remain cool in the car.

"Anna," I say, "You will just have to do this on your own." She gives a heavy sigh, an audible groan, and shuts the door.

Suddenly, from the back seat an outburst! "I wanted to go with her! Why didn't you let me go!" In my calmest voice I reminded her that it was she who said 'no' and not I. "I did not!" she screams.

"Christina. You need to calm down or you will go to your room a soon as we get home," I say firmly.

"NO I WON'T! I WON'T GO TO MY ROOM!" and with that she begins her loudest scream and kicking the back of the seat in front of her.

I am angry. You don't yell, scream, or defy this Momma! In my anger I fumble to get out of the driver's seat, stomp around the back of the car to the passenger side of the back seat, swing open the back door in a fury, fumble again to get her out of the winding maze of buckles and latches, pull her out of the door and stand her on the pavement looking at me. Defiant, arms locked in front of her,eyes glaring. I square her shoulders toward me and in no uncertain terms say, "You can scream all you want out here! I will not have you screaming in my car!" With that I stomp back to the passenger side, throw open the door and fling myself into the seat.

In the right side mirror I see TJ untangle her arms, wipe her tears away on her fore arm, her nose on the sleeve of her dress and then entwine her arms again. She is going to remain defiant, but quiet.  Keeping my eye on her I watch her peer into the car to see if I was looking and then turn back around again. Soon she drops her arms and begins picking at her fingers, looking around the parking lot and waiting for Anna to leave the drugstore.

I take a deep breath, get out of the car and walk slowly over to her. "TJ. Screaming at me is very disrespectful. You don't always get to do what you want. What if Anna did that every time she didn't get her way?" She giggles at the thought.

"I'm sorry, Momma."

We hug. I buckle her back into her seat and by the time I finish Anna rejoins us.

"What's going on?" Anna asks.

"Just life," and I force a smile.

Another wonderful and beneficial Sunday service! There's nothing like the presence of God to put the trials of life in their proper perspectives

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Holy Moley!

TJ and Anna were giving themselves the final inspection before they headed out the door for their first day of school. They parted their lips and studied their teeth for breakfast remnants. TJ wetted her hair to make it straight while Anna added a little more grease to hers. Anna moved into the mirror for an examination of the new, bright red pimple on her nose and TJ did the same.

"Momma."

"What is it TJ?"

"What's this?" She pointed to two tiny brown dots on her neck.

"Those are moles, TJ. Everyone gets those. See. I have some here and here and here."

"Momma, am I turning black?"

Anna was unable to control her laughter and I tried desperately not to embarrass TJ by giggling at her innocent question. Anna could not contain the urge to goad her sister. "Yeah, TJ. I had a mole once. Then I got another, and another and another. Just look at me now!"

"Really?" TJ asked incredulously.

"Really! I looked just like you when I was five."

"Really?" TJ furrowed her brow in deep thought. "No. I don't think so. I think you were born that way and I was born this way. I'm not turning black . . . am I Mom?"

We all grinned and giggled and then the sisters picked up their respective book bags, sashayed out of the house babbling and began their new school year.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Distressed

I read the number of the incoming call - Children's Social Services. Dread.

"Ms. Lillis?"
"Yes"
"This is Miranda at CSS. How are you this evening?"
Irritating niceties. "I'm good, Miranda. What's going on?"

"We have several children that have just come into our custody and we need to find placements for them. There are two sibling groups. One group is a five year old boy, his four year old brother and an 18 month old sister. The five year old tested positive for drugs. The others are two sisters. The older is two and the younger is four months old, in a full body cast in the hospital. She won't be out for a while." She paused. I wanted to vomit. What kind of savage does this to his babies? "Can you help?"

My thoughts were tripping over each other. Will TJ be kind? Where will we put them? How many can we take? Can I handle more children?
"Ms. Lillis," Miranda interrupted my racing thoughts,"You know you don't have to take the whole group . . . if you could help with just one of them . . . ." her voice trailing off, expectations fading.

Our county has only five licensed foster homes. Three - no four of them are full. If Miranda cannot find a home placement the children will probably all be split up and sent to different group homes around the state. Other counties haven't enough homes for their children either and the group homes are full. Emergency shelters are set up to keep children for no longer than a month. As if the eminent separation of the brothers and sisters is not enough, the staff at the homes have instructions NOT to hold or touch the children unnecessarily to keep them from bonding to closely with the staff. Bonding complicates the next transition making it all the more emotionally difficult on the children.

"I'm sorry, Miranda. Bob and I just added our 12 and 24 month granddaughters to our family for an indefinite period of time and we have TJ and Anna. I am so sorry."

Miranda will keep calling til morning if she must, hoping against hope that there is a family that will take one or more of these children.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Blonde-headed, Green-eyed Monster

Without a thought, TJ places the heal of her Sunday sandal over 4 year old Connor's exposed toes, bears down and grinds. He lets out a high pitched screech.

"TJ!" Anna yells, "Don't do that!" TJ flashes her a defying look, but in a voice sweet as honey replies, "I didn't mean to."

 "Don't be mean to Connor. He is your nephew and you don't be mean to nephews!" Anna's attention drifts back to her vampire tale until she is sharply interrupted by Connor's screaming. Her eyes flash up in time to see TJ's heel still twisting on Connor's toes. "CHRISTINA!" Anna roars.

As if she had been the one hurt, TJ whines, "It was an accident."

"No it wasn't! You did that on purpose!"

Considering herself reprimanded and fearful that Anna will tell Bob or me, she takes a remorseful air, looking down to the floor, softly she responds, "I'm sorry. I won't do that again."

Hours later, sitting at the dinner table, Connor begins his winding tale of what transpired during Sunday School. In the midst of his list of Jesus's attributes he divulges, "and her punched me in the stomach" to which TJ retorts, "That boy hit me in the head!"

"Who hit who first?" I asked, expecting an honest answer.

"That girl hit me in the head then I punched her in the stomach."

Bob and I pass confounded looks between ourselves. What has happened to our sweet TJ? She has been abducted and a blonde-headed, green-eyed monster has consumed her.

Connor has caught the brunt of TJ's antagonism. Under the dinner table he has endured constant kicking and pinching. While playing he has had his arm twisted until he cries out, toys have been hidden in the vacuum cleaner, between TJ's bed and wall, under piles of dirty clothes, and she squirrels away his few toys that she wants as her own.

Not only has she withheld her toys and space, but resolutely she will not share Bob or me. Holding Connor on my lap signals TJ's green alarm catapulting her into a quiet subversive mode. She gently pries him from my grip in the same manner a starfish opens an oyster - slowly, methodically sliding her fingers, then hand, arm followed by shoulder and upper body. Before he knows what has happened, Connor finds himself replacing TJ on the floor and she is resting comfortably on my chest.

Connor will be leaving soon and we will get our sweet TJ back. Bob and I, however, are at a loss on how to handle her jealousy. The next time Jordan, Micah, or Jeremiah come over for a visit her green eyes will flare again. Bob and I wonder, is it possible to love the monster out of her?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Monster Mom

I am, for the most part, an even-tempered individual. I rarely feel the need to raise my voice to any of my children . . . or husbands . . . except the first and he had it coming. My parents didn't yell; I didn't yell; my kids don't yell.

Please don't misunderstand. I distinctly remember shrieking at my 17 year old son the day I put him out of our house. More than a few regrettable words exploded viserally. When I ended my diatribe my throat was raw, my voice dropped an octave, and I sounded like I was channeling Marlena Dietrich. The calm, quieter approach has not been so effective with TJ who is strong-willed, bull-headed, cantankerous, ornery, etc. Take last Sunday for an example.

Sunday morning 7:15 am
"OK Momma. Bye"
"I'm not leaving yet. TJ. Listen carefully. I will be at Grandma's and Pawpaw's helping Grandma while Pawpaw goes to church."
"OK"
"Do you remember where we put your church clothes?"
"Uh-huh."
"Where are they?"
"I dunno."
"You picked out your red ploka dot dress and hung it on my door. Don't forget to brush your teeth, comb your hair and help
Daddy."
"OK."
"One more time TJ. Where is your dress?"
"I dunno." I repeated it all once again and left for my parents.
10:30 am
I met Bob, Anna, and TJ in the church parking lot and noticed immediately she was wearing her very wrinkled, green, flowered dress. "What happened to the polka dot dress?" TJ was out of ear shot. "She couldn't find it," Bob answered quite calmly. Apparent to me was Bob's lack of understanding that TJ had picked that red dress out. I ironed out, very meticuously, every wrinkle in that cotton frock, she hung it on the door, I reminded her twice this morning where it was and she has the audacity to come to church in her crumpled, green flowered dress!

1:00 pm
We arrived back home from church, ate lunch and then, the coveted Sunday afternoon nap.

2:30 pm Anna went to her room, Bob to the couch, and I to my bed. TJ went to her room which is directly above mine. I laid down on top of the covers, pulled a pillow over my eyes, and settled in for a quiet hour.
Thud! 'What was that,' I wondered.
Thump! 'This is not good.'
Thump thump thump in rapid succession.
Too tired to rise, I laid there for a few more minutes hoping . . . quiet. THUD! 'One more thud and I'm going up there!'
Quiet.

An hour and a half later I had forgotten about the thuds and thumps and set about shooing everyone out to the pool while I worked on some dinner.

7:30 pm
Because TJ has been considerably grouchier then normal, I have moved her bedtime back to 7:30. She doesn't seem to mind. Turning off the TV is a bit of a stumble. "Bedtime, TJ." Ever so slowly she lifts the remote in the air, points it at the TV and holds it there. . . holding . . . holding . . . . But this time: "Bedtime, TJ." She snapped that TV off, ran past me, through the living room, up the stairs and all the while her arm extended, hand out, palm facing me, saying, "Momma! you can't come up yet! I have something I have to do! I'll let you know when you can come!" Whirls of thuds and thumps thundered back. Oh my goodness! What has she done?

7:45 pm
From the top of the stairs comes a confident, "OK Momma. You can come up now!" Then, as is our ritual, she runs to her room, closes the door and waits for me to knock.

Knock, knock, knock.
"Come in." Cautiously, I opened the door. Wow! her room was surprisingly neat!
"Why TJ! Your room is very nnnnnnnnnnn . . .," my searching eyes spotted the blue velvet case, open and empty, under the crib.

Here it comes . . . I couldn't stop it . . . ."IF I'VE TOLD YOU ONCE I'VE TOLD YOU A MILLION TIMES 'IF ITS NOT YOURS KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF IT'!!! WHERE IS THE FLUTE!!!!! WHY DON'T YOU LISTEN! HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU?" and on and on and on I ranted.

TJ, terrified, scrambled to get into bed, pulled the covers over her head, and burst forth in shaking and sobbing. Callused to her wailing, I got on my knees, hunkered under the crib to retrieve the empty case and there, pushed next to the wall, were the three peices of my flute. I gathered them into my arm, squeezed back into open space, righted myself, and noticed the quivering covers. I found my center once again.

"Are you ready for your Bible story?" Monster Mom asked her quivering child.
Pulling the covers back down, revealing a reddened splotchy face, TJ spoke in her most mature voice, "Well. You didn't have to scream at me, Mom." I shrunk to this (.) big. I had been out matured by my 5 year old daughter.
I drew in a deep breath. "I am very sorry,TJ. Will you forgive me?"
"Yes, Momma. and I'm sorry for getting into your stuff."
I explained why I became so frustrated (because I repeat the same things and she keeps doing the same things) and she explained why she played with the flute (because it was there). We finished up our routine as we always do: a Bible story, hugs, kisses and tucks into bed.
"Goodnight TJ. I love you to the moon."
"Goodnight, Momma. I love you to the moon and back."

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Score One for Momma!

"I hate that!" TJ screamed at me from the living room. "I DON'T WANT TO!"
"Go to bed,TJ. Your day is over."; I raised my voice over the irritating sounds of Sponge Bob.
I could hear her twist her head, roll her eyes, and throw her hair as she thought she beat me to the punch. "I already was!" she shouted. She stomped up the stairs, slammed the bedroom door and I, right behind her, stomped louder and harder. She slammed the door in front of me. I was fuming!

The day began much like it ended. TJ woke up cranky. Cranky morphed into defiance; defiance mutated into belligerence and belligerence got her sent to bed.

With fervor I grabbed the knob and thrust that door open. TJ stood beside her bed, arms crossed, brow furrowed, head bent just enough to maintain her glare, eyes welled up with angry tears . . . and I softened.
"You were very disrespectful to me tonight. You screamed at me and I did not deserve that. You were disobedient, too. Because you refused to put on your pjs, you may not wear them to bed tonight."

Meltdown. She flung herself across her bed, her face buried in one of her many pillows, and wailed, "But I want to wear my jammies"

Not only today, but this entire, long week, had been profuse with 'no! I don't want too's' and  'I'm not going too's' punctuated with mocking sarcasm and sassiness. Flashing her a disapproving look or enunciating her name ever so cleanly received a pleasant, but insincere, 'Oh. I'm sorry, Momma.' 

Now I am taking charge!

I rubbed TJ's back and explained one more time that it was she who decided not to put on her pajamas and that was the way it would be. Her crying settled into sniffles. She rolled her head over, blinked back some tears, and asked if she could take off her jeans.

"I'm sorry, Momma. Tomorrow I will be a good girl."

"You are a good girl, TJ and I get upset sometimes, but I always love you." With that, she pulled off her jeans, found her Bible and we finished off our day with prayers, hugs, and kisses.

The next morning, TJ woke up still in her clothes from the day before. Score one for Momma!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Anna's Jam

"I'll do it!" Anna exclaimed, excited at the prospect. "You go! Take care of Grandma tomorrow and I'll make the jam!"
'This could be bad,' I thought. 'She breezes through instructions, leaves out ingredients, walks out of the kitchen leaving things cooking on the stove.' Visions barreled through my mind: peach parts fallen in layers to the floor, splattered on the counters, stools, cabinets and frig, froth spilling over the pot, onto the stove, gooey streams oozing down the sides of the stove caught by the wall.
"This could be ugly," I said quietly.
"Huh?"
"Anna, I just don't know. You've never done anything like this before. You've never helped or even watched me make the jam." But then I looked at the breakfast bar with layers of tiny 2nd year peaches almost too ripe to use. The jam had to be made or little peaches would be pecked to the pit by chickens. In reality, I thought, it would take Anna at least four hours to skin, pit, and chop four cups of those minuscule fruits. "OK." It was a very reluctant concession.
"Alright, Mom!" Anna quickly found pencil and paper. "Tell me what to do." I recited the short list of ingredients, a set of cooking instructions and brought seven jelly jars out of the garage and into the kitchen. I reviewed the instructions again. "MA! I GOT IT! I'LL BE FINE!"
The next morning, while Anna still slept, I left for my parents. Since I was not at home, I assumed Anna would probably sleep until 11:00 am. I would probably be home close to 1:00 pm. What could happen in two hours?
11:30 . . . the dreaded call from Anna. Is she hurt? Scalded? Cut off a finger? Was there a fire? Is the house still there?
Trying to sound calm, "Hi, Anna. How's it going?
"Hi Momma!" She sounded as if she hasn't seen me in days and was excited just at the sound of my voice. "Everything is fine, Ma. I just have one question."
Here it comes.
"Why are the peaches turning brown?"
Is that all? Brown peaches? I sucked in some oxygen, slumped in a chair and gave her a short answer to her question. "I'll be home in an hour, Anna. Be careful," and I hung up the phone.
An hour and a half later I was on the way home. Thirty miles seems interminable when one's imagination has no limits. I buttressed myself as I entered the house.
There at the stove stood Anna . . . stirring . . . stirring what looked liked 5 cups of sugar. I glanced around the kitchen and, yes, there was a mess, but nothing unusual. She had followed directions to the tee. She had just begun the cooking and I was as proud - and relieved -  as could be. I helped her sterilize the jars, check for jellying, fill the jars, and process the finished product.
Anna's jam is a success and so is Anna, who beams with pride every time someone asks for jam for their biscuits.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

I Can't Tell Her the Truth

Dinner had been unusually late so it was not long afterward when we all began our nightly routines. Anna decided upon enough videos to keep her up until the early morning hours. Bob took his final stroll to the chicken house looking for that egg-eating snake. TJ and I stood in front of the bathroom mirror brushing our teeth. Soon, Anna retreated to her room, shut her door and began her movie marathon. Bob returned from the chicken house snakeless and eggless, and TJ and I climbed the stairs to her bedroom and continued our nightly ritual.
"Now, Mom, remember - don't come in my door." She scurried ahead of me, closed the door and left me standing in the hall.
Knock, knock, knock.
"Come in, Momma." Inevitably I enter her room with an enthusiastic comment such as 'Oh  TJ! Your room is so tidy tonight!,' or 'Oh TJ! You are already in bed!,' or  'My goodness TJ! Did you let a tornado visit today?'
I opened the door to see her standing in the middle of the room. "Oh TJ! You have such wonderful manners!"
"I know, Momma. Here's my Bible." She held it out for me to take. "I have paper where you need to read." A folded, folded, and folded again scrap piece of paper marked the next Bible story to be read tonight, 'Jesus Walks on Water.'
We sat next to each other on the edge of her bed, each of holding one side of the over-sized book. I read while she studied the pictures. After reading I tucked her in, said our prayer, and as always, added 'And God, heal TJ's head, her heart, and her spirit. Amen.'
Tonight, after hugging and kissing and re-tucking, TJ securely put her arms around my neck and said, "I never want to leave foster care. I love you and I love Daddy so much. I never want to leave."
I drew her close, held her tightly, ever so gently rocked back and forth, and whispered in her ear, "You are my TJ and I love you! I am not letting you go!"
She laid back down. I studied her profile against the pillow. "Good," she said.
I can't tell her the truth. Our home is only temporary. When she is 15 I will be 68. She deserves better. Someone will come along and want to adopt her. When that happens it will break her heart.
It will break mine, too.

Monday, July 5, 2010

My Tongue has Great Eyes!

Meatloaf with baked potatoes, sugar snap peas, and fresh corn - all vegetables from our garden - made a delectable dinner. Bob, Anna, TJ, and I finished the our meal and relaxed around the table. There was no conversation, only sucking sounds as each of us struggled to get minute pieces of corn from between our teeth.

"WOW!" TJ exclaimed, "My tongue has great eyes!" Our heads turned to her and cocked, unsure of what we just heard.
"What was that?" I asked.
"My tongue has great eyes. It knows just where to go to get that corn out of my teeth."
Laughing on the inside, wowed on the outside, we all looked at TJ with great envy of her very smart tongue and wishing ours had good eyes, too.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

"Anna! Come down here. We need to talk." I hollered up the stairs and waited for a response. Anna hesitated. "Yes ma'am." Reluctantly she walked slowly down the stairs and met me at our breakfast bar. Knowing she was in trouble, Anna thoroughly cleaned the downstairs, upstairs, even scrubbed all the bathrooms. She hoped this would ameliorate the inevitable lecture. "Anna," I paused and took in a deep breath, "You have been begging to go to this church for months. You looked up the time the services began. We have had this same conversation THREE times this week about getting up by 9:00 am everyday, earlier if we have harvesting to do." Anna sat on the stool swiveling 90 degrees back and forth, fiddling with her fingers and eyes fixed on the floor. "TJ and I left this morning at 10:15 and you still were not up. I left a note for you to have listed three goals you want to accomplish and to note how you plan on attaining those goals. Let's take a look at that list." Silence. Very quietly Anna responded, "I don't have any goals." I have known Anna for two years and she is right; she has no goals. She dreams about going to college and becoming a pediatrician, but having failed all her core classes and ART tells another story. She was on the school basketball team, but could not stay out of trouble and so was removed from the roster. She reminisces of her days on the elementary and middle school track teams, but lacks the self discipline to do daily runs so she could make the cut. She wants a weave, new clothes, have her nails done, but has not done chores in 8 weeks to earn any money. Frustration painted itself on my face and oozed from my voice. "That's the problem Anna, you have no goals, no passions, nothing interests you. There is nothing you are willing to pursue. You cannot continue to depend on others to support you and give you what you want for the rest of your life. YOU have to work and work hard. YOU have to put gas in your car. YOU have to pay your rent. YOU have to buy your clothes." Anna has a kind sweetness to her that compels people to want to help her. 'I don"t have money for lunch,' she'll say softly and before you know it she has food and money setting before her and she is set. "Why bother to make my lunch when I can get it for free?' Her teachers give her extra points because 'poor Anna is a foster child who has had such a hard life. She will soar if she just had a break.' And breaks Anna has had. She has been given clothes, jewelry, MP3's, PSP, CDs...you name it she'll get and I seize every little bit of it. Is there any good reason why she should have to work... food stamps, low income housing, medicaid. The foster system will get her a car, a laptop, provide housing, pay for college, and more. She doesn't need any goals! As far as she can see down her life's path there is a shortcut - the system or people are there to take care of her. Resignation replaced frustration. Tension released through a very heavy sigh. "Anna, do you have anything to say?" Ever so slowly her head wagged no. "OK. Well . . . I'm done. You can go back to room." She sauntered back, leaving me leaning against the breakfast bar, my elbows on the counter and my forehead heavy in my hands.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Momma Weary

6:20 am and it starts again. "Momma, what's for breakfast?" "Momma, I can't find the remote!" "Momma there is a fly in the kitchen!" "MMMMMOOOOOOMMMMM! I CAN'T FIND MY FLIP FLOPS!" "Momma, can you put my flipflops on?" "Hey, Mom, can I have another snack?" "Look, mom, I have ten fingers!" "Momma, I know how to spell McDonalds. M....O....M. There. I did it." "HEY! Where are you, Momma?" Couple the "Momma" with "Can I help" and "No. I don't want to," by the time 9:00 pm finally arrives, my patience pool is dry. I love being a momma again, but I am a little momma weary. So I cope. I find I linger in the bathroom just a little longer, secretly walk to the chicken coop a little more often, and hope Bob will get home a little sooner.

Take a Leap of Faith!

Take a Leap of Faith!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Never Waste a Crisis

TJ bounded through the back door, throwing her school papers and notes on the kitchen bench. I dreaded telling her she would miss her swim test today and would not be able to sail down the long, curly, blue water slide. "Momma! I'm home!" I cringed at the thought of the conversation we were about to have. Having rehearsed it for the past two hours, I felt well prepared. Her radar honed in on my exact location. "I'm ready for my swim test!" I girded myself. "I'm sorry TJ, but we won't be able to go today, but you..." "NO!" crossing her arms, stomping the floor, and screaming, "You said I could go down the slide today! I DON'T WANT TO STAY HOME!" Hmmmm, I thought, I could pass this off on Bob and he can deal with the fallout. "Maybe you could ask Daddy if he will take you when he gets home." But, thinking again, this would be a good life lesson for her. It's not all about TJ and what she wants when she wants it. Life is full of disappointments, cope. That was really the best option. Never waste a good crisis! I really was prepared for everything . . . except this: TJ bounded through the back door, throwing her school papers and notes on the kitchen bench. "Momma! I'm home! I"m ready for my swim test!" I"m sorry TJ,but we can't go today, but you can take your test on Monday." "Oh. OK." She found the remote, threw herself into the green overstuffed chair and began watching 'iCarly.' Another crisis skillfully averted.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Six Legs

It was nice for a change; TJ came home from school excited about going to her swim lessons. Jordan, my 3 1/2 yr old granddaughter, was joining us at lessons and then for a short swim afterward. TJ was excited to show off her new skills, but she had one warning for Jordan, who only stands to her shoulders: "You can't go out in the deep end, Jordan, because it is six legs deep."

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Is That MY Reflection?

I stood in front of the sink staring at myself in the bathroom mirror. Dressed in my pjs, gray hair pulled back in a stubby ponytail, I loaded my toothbrush with a pea-sized dot of tooth paste and looked over. TJ, to my left, loaded her toothbrush with a small dot of toothpaste. I put the toothbrush in my mouth and powered on. I watched the bulge in my check move in circles, side to side, and up and down. To my left I was surprised to see TJ looking up at me with her toothbrush in the side of her mouth moving in circles, going side to side, and up and down. I moved to my front teeth. TJ moved to her front teeth. Again, circles, sideways, and up and down and again, she followed. She continued this parroting for two minutes. I spit, she spit. I rinsed off the tooth brush and she followed. We put our toothbrushes and paste back in their respective places. I cupped my hand under the running water, took a sip and spit again. "How'd you do that, mom?" "I put the cap on the toothpaste and dropped in here, then . . ."NO!" I was interrupted. "No. How'd you do THAT?" It took a minute before I understood that she wanted to know how to cup her hand, catch the water and drink. She had been mirroring every move I made. *I wonder what else she will mirror. Will she reflect my generousity or my selfishness? my piety or my sin? My prayer, is that above all things, she will become my love of God and mirror Him.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Circle of Four

"Momma! Dad!" Anna ran down the hall of East-West Middle School with arms open wide. She latched onto Bob with fervor, putting her head against his chest, "I'm so glad you're here!" I was next for the squeeze, rocking me back and forth, "You really came!" Once unhooked, we followed her into the cafeteria where clusters of parents stood with their blue-shirted children, laughing, hugging, and telling tales. In the midst of all the reunions we formed our own little circle of four. "Anna," I said, "TJ doesn't think your're coming home." This concern of TJ's caused her a lot of anxiety. She had heard of other children being with us and her own half sister left for school one day and never came back. Was this going to happen to Anna, too? "OOOOHHHH," Anna cooed, "I'm definitely going back home. I miss you! . . . but I won't be home until Saturday evening. Is that OK?" "That's OK, but..." and then TJ launched into a litany of things Anna has missed and she deemed important - how to feed Big Dog his Milk Bone, but the little ones don't like them, and her elephant puppet she made at school is purple, and momma's jelly is runny . . . on and on she went, but no one was listening. The evening rambled on with a pot luck dinner provided by the local Methodist churches, praise songs led by blue shirts, and a slide show of all the homes the groups are working on. Finally, an introduction of all the participants and I wondered if it bothered Anna that she was the only African American on the team. The presentation ended and Anna walked us out to the car. We said our good byes and hugged one last time and Anna smiled. "I want to come back next year." I smiled, too.

Monday, June 14, 2010

God, Where Were You?

God, where were You? Anna was such a small, frail little girl when that loathsome man began his horrific secret life. Where were You when he slithered into her bed and her tears slipped quietly from her eyes. Where were You when she trembled in nightly fear at every creak and feigned step. Her nights turned into years of nights and her tears dried up; rebellion, distrust, and anger replaced them. What were You doing for those seven years before finally moving her into a safer place? I will not presume to know Your mind. I am not God. I don't understand. But I do know this: I trust you beyond reason. Anna now has a home where she feels safe and is trusting again. She is loved the way a daughter should be loved. While she is on her mission trip heal her - every little bit of her. Make her whole and make her Yours. In Your holy name. Amen

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Anna's Anxiety

Anna's excitement has morphed into anxiety. She has been packing her bags for three days, preparing for her first missions trip . . . 30 miles away. Two and a half weeks ago one of her caseworkers asked if she would like to help repair homes in our county. Anna's face broadened and brightened. Before asking any questions, she committed a week of her summer staying in middle school classrooms with over 100 other local teens.

In her enthusiam she began listing 'must haves'. Her primitive excusion required a myriad of hair products, a flat iron, make up, moisturizer, and a variety of fragrances. It wasn't until the final few hours did she realize bug spray, sun screen, and a sleeping bag might be desirable.

Now, just hours before she leaves, anxiety has blossomed. Anna is concerned we may eat something fun, run out to McDonalds, enjoy a family game night, or - who knows - we may brave the thorns and pick blackberries, all without her. Already missing the dogs and cats in her bed and TJ's constant playfulness, Anna is sullen and shaken. Her seven days away from home are not looking like so much fun now.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Blind-sided

Blind-sided, bush wacked, sucker-punched.

Another call came unexpectedly late Tuesday night. The news made me want to vomit. After two failed visits with TJ's biological mother, one more had been scheduled for the next morning at 10:00. The only other visit had a devasting effect on TJ. She began wetting herself, became beligerant, defiant, argumentative, disruptive in school, and hit and pinched other students. Just a week before that visit she received the Star Student Award in her school. The two weeks following the initial 'appointment' were dreadful. TJ's behavior was so horrid that Bob and I found ourselves out of patience within a few hours; one of us would hide in the bedroom and recouperate while the other spent time being bombarded by her insults and disrespect. It took weeks before we had our sweet Tj back.

Now the news of another meeting.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

First Swim Lesson

Seven 4 and 5 year olds sat at the shallow end of the olympic size pool, gangly legs dangling in the water. The instructor securely put her hands around the waist of a waif of a girl and gently lifted her into the water. Her eyes and mouth widened and she squealed a high pitched "Ohhhh." Her small hands began grabbing and scratching at the instructor's hair, nose, ear lobes - anything that she might latch onto to safely pull herself out of the water. Next, a marshmallow faced boy, sure of his expert swimming skills, lunged himself into the water and directly sank to the bottom of the pool. Calmly, the instructor grasped his underarms and raised him back to the surface his grin broadly covering his puffy face. TJ, confident after watching the first two children, permitted the instructer to guide her by her waist into the water and gently sway her back and forth so as not to traumatize her. Suddenly - a mother's voice echoed over the pool, "She can swim! She's great at the doggy paddle!". All eyes turned to me, 'Another pushy mom'. TJ, unsure of whose directions to follow, flashed me a confused look. "TJ. Show her. Show her you can swim!" The instructor reluctanly let go of her waist and TJ of the instructors neck, and off she splashed. With her finger extended toward the deep end of the pool, the instructor said "OK. That class down there." TJ beamed with the knowledge that she had just been promoted to the mid-level beginners class. * TBC...

Friday, June 4, 2010

Mom's Wisdom

My daughter to my mother: "The Dr. told me that J's (her 12 month old son)banging his head against the wall is normal. He said 20% of boys do it." My mother to my daughter: "I wonder how many mothers do that."

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Living in LALA Land

Anna stood on the back porch peering down at TJ in the pool and me, gliding on the swing. "I'm home, Momma," she yelled, her smile, evaporating every cloud. Plopping down next to me and sending the swing into convulsions, she told of the great fun she had at school: her teachers love her, she has made wonderful friends, and she believes her grades are coming up. "I can't wait until next year! I'm going to be a SOPHOMORE!" I tried to sound cheery. "Yeah. It's too bad you will be a sophomore in the 9th grade." She widens her eyes, shakes her head back and forth, as if that will change the reality. Anna, Bob, and I have been having this same conversation since her first progress report in October. 'You're in high school now. You pass or fail by the class not by grade level. You fail the class, you repeat the class." After each conversation she constructed a plan of 'gonna do's'. 'I'm gonna study for my tests. I'm gonna pay attention in class. I'm gonna keep up with my homework. I'm gonna ask for help. I'm gonna stay organized.' All her gonna's became 'was gonna do' and eventually became 'didn't do.' Here we are at the end of her first year of high school and Anna has failed all her core subjects AND ART! In the past she has not had to struggle with any of her failures. She has a broad smile, a warm heart, and an even temperament - most of the time. Everyone who meets her loves her and believes if she just had a break she would soar. And breaks she had. Now, her LALA Land living has to come to an end . . . or so I would think. But, no. She still believes her teachers are going to pass her because she is so wonderful. Her bubble won't burst until the first day of her 2nd freshmen year.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

F-5 on the ground...continued

Having picked the little silver slivers out of the carpet, I tucked myself back into bed once again. I heard TJ coming and going from my bedroom, the TV murmuring in the background, her giving instructions to imaginary friends and then quiet. A few minutes later, still quiet. Then the pat pat pat of bare feet from the living room to the kitchen, running water . . . quiet. I fell back into a fevered sleep and when I awoke . . . still quiet. Once again I roused myself and shuffled into the kitchen. "TJ," I called quietly. "What Momma." Very controlled and very quietly I asked, "What have you been doing?" Blue water pooled my kitchen and a trail of splashes led through the dining room into the living room. Her child sized chair pulled up to the counter gave her ample height to fill the round, plastic container of blue water that sat precipitously on the edge of the counter. Wads of fading blue paper drowned and settled to the bottom. I made my way into the living room to see TJ sitting at her small table intently covering a torn piece of paper with a blue marker. "Well, Momma, I am tie dying and this is how you do it. Now watch and learn. . . " I wasn't listening. When she began her lesson I went directly to prayer. "God I am sick and tired. I have no help today. Tj is into everything and won't sit and watch TV like other children. I am out of patience; there is nothing left in me and the day is not half over. I am too old to parent a five year old, even when I am healthy." "Follow me," TJ instructed and she led me to the kitchen counter. I felt the voice of God. "I never said it was going to be a convenient ministry, Love (yes, God calls me Love). Ministry is messy and sacrificial. You were messy and look what I did with you!" I believe I heard Him chuckle. I looked at TJ who was looking at me waiting to hear what a wonderful thing she had done. Blue circled her lips, dripped out of her nose, and speckled her new white shirt. She was a mess; I was a mess and we were in the middle of a three room mess. . . and God said He could do something with this. I reprimanded TJ and together she and I cleaned up. There were two more of these incidents before the sun finally gave up on the day. I put her to bed, none too early for me, and I crawled back to mine and cried.

Monday, May 31, 2010

F-5 WARNING

In my feverish, restless sleep, I heard her come quietly into the room. So as not to disturb me, or more likely - not to get caught, she carefully opened the cabinet door. I heard the rustling of papers, books thudding against each other and all I could think was "Why doesn't she just watch TV!?!" Gently I raised my eight pound head off the too warm pillow just high enough to see over the settee at the end of the bed. On the floor in front of the bookshelves I spotted her squatting. "TJ." My voice sounding like a trombone with the cup stuck in it. She shot up, twirled around, and flung open our extra long stapler to a perfect 180. Staples flew every where! I heard pings on the mirror, off the door, the computer, lamp, desk, pictures! Pings raining from the ceiling! "CHRISTINA!" My head throbbed. "This is what I was looking for Momma." "TJ . . .use tape, sweetie." Too painful to yell, too tired to fuss, out of the bed I slid. Down on my knees, back on my legs, heavy head on the floor, aching eyes searching fibers for tiny arrows. . . this the beginning of a down-hill day.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Front and Center

Forty 5 year old children lined up in three squiggly rows in the front of the Media Center in East-West Elementary School. In her mastery, TJ was positioned in the center of the front row, wearing her Itsy Bitsy Spider hat with its eight dangling legs. Her eyes searched the crowded room looking for Bob and me. When finally our eyes met, up popped her hands, waving as if she were giving flag directions which sent spider legs twirling around her head like ribbons on a May Pole. Since I was standing during the program, I moved several times hoping to find a better vantage point. This sent TJ into search-find-wave all over again. After the program ended, she said good bye to her friends and teachers, we said our thank you's and then she raced for the front door of the school. Out side, running ahead of us still, she yelled, "The car's over here! Follow me. Are you coming?" She held tightly to the large envelope clenched under her right arm. The twinkling star on a stick, Humpty Dumpty, and a paper pail of water clenched in her left hand. Bob smiled and sighed, "She deserves so much better than us."

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Post-Nesting Life III

The foster care application process is very, very s l o w . We began in January and were finally approved in June. During those six months I had to take a lot of time off from teaching in order to be home to meet with DHEC, the Fire Marshall, various workers from the Department of Social Services (DSS), and what seemed to be myriads of others involved in inter-county placements. My principal, Colin Taylor, was none too happy, but there were no other options. In the meantime, Anna was thrilled with the prospect of having a home. Although somewhat hesitant, I was just as thrilled to have her as part of our family. The only other possibility for her was to live with her adoptive grandmother who, according to Anna, had too many health problems to care for a teenager. One afternoon while eating lunch with some of the girls, one of them blurted out, "It would sure be nice if Anna and I were sisters!" Anna and Anya had been quietly plotting. Their names were similar. Anya was one year older. People who didn't know would think they really were sisters. The facts that one was black and one white and they had different last names (not all that unusual), but had the same parents, made them giddy. Imagining the quizzical looks they would get set them into hysterics! Bob and I went back on our knees . . .again. It wasn't long before Anya was going to be a part of our family as well.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Post-Nesting Life II

I quit my job. I was exhausted both spiritually and physically so I quit. That was seven years ago. I thought I would never teach again and was perfectly happy working at Walgreen's doing whatever anyone needed me to do. But once again, God intervened in my complacent life. In September of 2004 I was hired on as a math teacher at a residential school for at risk children. I LOVED IT! Children in grades six thru ten came from all over the state, their parents hoping for a miraculous change in their children's behaviors and attitudes. Many of these kids had been expelled from their home schools, were judicially ordered, had just been released from the youth detention center, or, as was more often the case, their parents had just had it and wanted them out of their houses. It was not uncommon to have one or two children each year that had been adopted and mom and dad wanted to 'unadopt'. Anna was one of those children. In September 2008, Anna showed up in my 8th grade math class. She was very likable, smiled and laughed easily, got along well with almost everyone, and appeared to have a stronger sense of responsibility then others her age. Since our classes were very small, only 3 - 5 students, I was privy to the intimate details of their lives - mostly because I eavesdropped on their conversations! It wasn't long before I began to think of Anna as a part of my life. In prayer, I expressed my concerns for her future - at 13, who would have her? Before long, foster care and adoption became part of my prayer. In December Bob and I began to talk about it and how such a big step would change our wonderfully easy life. In January 2009 we began the foster care process.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Prayer for TJ

O God! Today TJ goes for her forensic medical exam to see if there is any vaginal or uterine damage. I cannot imagine the terror, fear, and humilation that five year old little girl will be facing. I ask that you will protect her from nightmares past and make the exam pass easily and quickly. Heal her, God. Heal her heart, her emotions, her spirit, and her thoughts. Make her whole as only You can do. Amen. Amen. Amen. It is done.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Post-Nesting Life

30,31,32,33 . . . these are the ages of my children - three boys and one girl all gone and living in the southeast. What a life Bob and I had: kids gone, almost at the top of our teacher pay scales, free to go on weekend trips whenever we wanted, and wonderful two week summer vacations. We moved away from the congestion of town and our tiny little lot, bought 25 acres 30 miles away, built a nice 2300sq. ft home, added 50 chickens, 6 goats, one peacock, 2 more dogs, 2 more cats, and a pair of parakeets and the closest neighbor is almost 1/2 mile down our dirt road. WHAT A LIFE! Bob and I are blessed! For reasons known only to God, He had chosen to bless us with more than we could ever think. So the question that kept circling my brain was 'why?' The answer was slowly unveiled.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

 
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The Sleepover

Last Tuesday Anna invited TJ to a sleepover. Painting nails, watching movies, and eating popcorn were all in their plan. Anna thoughtfully ordered two jumbo cupcakes from the bakery and requested blue frosting with red spiinkles, just exactly as TJ would have liked. But for TJ,the most exciting event of the entire night would be entering the 'holy sanctum' - Anna's room! For a week she told everyone who'd listened about the sleep over in her big sister's room. In order to convey the importance of this invitation she always ended with an emphatic "SHE'S A TEENAGER"!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Tj has returned to the happy child we had before the 9th of this month when she had her visit with her mother. She wakes up joyful, playful, follows the morning routine with the ease of a champion skater, and chatters like the local DJ on pop radio. She is FUN! Another phone call. . . . Since her mother did not call to confirm her visit with her children it has been postponed for one more week. Relief! Anna- We have growing concerns for Anna. With only three weeks left in this school year she decided she needed to change high schools. In her first days at her new school I have had phone calls from a teacher, two counselors, an assistant principal, the school nurse and her clinical therapist. Anna had skipped a class and when confronted about the impossibility of the tale she told, still maintained her stance . She is also telling the staff and friends that she is five weeks pregnant. She"s not.

Friday, May 21, 2010

We had a meeting with TJ's therapist, Ms. C, yesterday afternoon. Using her five year old imagination and Junga blocks, TJ built towers, towns, and castles fit for princesses. Immersed in her construction, she was oblivious to the conversation Bob and I were having with Ms. C. After ten days of terrible behavior, she has finally returned to the little girl we have grown to love. The temper tantrums and screaming have subsided. Her sassiness and back talking has been replaced with a sweet 'OK Momma'. Once again she is asking before taking things that don't belong to her and taking a 'no' with as much grace as is possible for a five year old girl. Bob and I are now breathing easier and enjoying the rhythm of our family of four once again. The call came after dinner: TJ will have another court ordered meeting with her biological mother in two days.