Sunday, January 31, 2010


I can't say too much because I don't want to give away where I live, but I have a friend who works with some famous people, and he is going to arrange a tour for Sabrina and me of where he and they work! I can't wait for the M&Ms.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Asking for help--again

I'm making some pictures of "red light" (never okay), "yellow light" (usually not okay, but grown up has discretion), and "green light" (always okay) behavior. I have two questions on this quiet Saturday night:

1. What would you include in each of these categories (especially green light, as it is easy to come up with the DON'Ts--hitting, biting, not wearing a seatbelt in the car--but less easy to come up with the DOs)?

2. Do you have sources for good clip art to illustrate behaviors? "hitting clipart" gets a lot of baseball and bowling pictures.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

Who can explain to me...

...why the social worker being sick means that the kid's visit with mom gets cancelled??


I just tweeted (no, you can't follow me, as it isn't anonymous...but thanks for asking) that I have no control over Sabrina. This morning was a disaster. Everyone knows: do not announce a consequence if you cannot follow through. "Sabrina, you may not throw chalk." Third time: "Sabrina, you may not throw chalk. I will take the chalk away from you if you throw it again." Fully intending to follow through. Until she threw the chalk, I started to gather it in a bag, and even holding the bag above my head, she was able to wrest it from me by yanking my sweater, pulling my hair, and such, until my arm was no longer above her level.

This was the worst of this morning, but certainly not the only trouble I had.

There are small glimmers of light, though! Sabrina wants to take the new washcloth I bought her to her daddy's house. Fine, whatever, but she used it in the bath last night and she may not put it in her suitcase until it is dry. This morning I noticed her washcloth wasn't hanging up. "Did you put your washcloth in your suitcase?" "Yes." "Is it all the way dry?" "No, I mean yes." "If it isn't dry, it may not go in your suitcase." "It's just a little wet." "If it is wet, it will make everything in the suitcase icky. You can hang the washcloth up yourself, or I will take it out of the suitcase while you are at school." "No!!!" Fast forward two hours, I get home from dropping her off at school, and the first thing on my to-do list is to get the washcloth out of the suitcase. I open it, and there's no washcloth in it. That's weird, I think. Until I turned around and saw it--hanging on the towel rack!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Madea movies

I'm about the most sheltered movie-watcher EVER and have never seen any of Tyler Perry's Madea movies. Sabrina was talking about one tonight. Are they appropriate for a 4 year old?

Advice requested

Didn't want to put this in my novel-length last post. Since my vinyl tablecloth had a rip in it (thanks, Sabrina), I bought some clear vinyl at the fabric store today, threw away the old tablecloth, and replaced it with a regular "tablecloth" (actually a sheet) covered with the clear vinyl. The tablecloth is purple, which is Sabrina's favorite color. (Also mine, which is why I have it.)

Sabrina saw it and FLIPPED OUT. She does NOT want a purple tablecloth. She wants a tablecloth that is a color she doesn't like. I did some mirroring with her, though I'm still working on it and could definitely have done better. So it didn't get too bad, but she is still insisting that I buy a different tablecloth. She doesn't get to control that, but I don't want her flipping out every day that I don't buy a new tablecloth.

Any thoughts on other things I can say to her?

To keep my brain organized...

Sorry folks, this is going to be something of a brain dump. Lots to process from today plus I need to remember to go tomorrow to buy a gazillion-pack of Sharpies, plus bubble gum and crackers. Actually, the Sharpies can wait since we don't have play time on Thursday nights--visits with mom and then dinner and bed.

This morning was terrible, but we're moving on. The only thing that should be shared is that I discovered what happens when Sabrina is SO angry and I have more-or-less "successfully" diverted her from hitting, biting, and pulling my hair--she bites her own hand. "It's my's! I can bite it if I want to." I did not react well to any of her escalation this morning and was much more focused on my own needs than on hers.

However, before things got bad (things got bad when we only had 30 minutes left to get ready for school and she hadn't done any of the things she needs to do), we had a lot of fun. She even let me pick out some of her clothes. (This is HUGE.) She doesn't want me touching her things or helping her AT ALL, which kinda stinks but means she is getting better at zipping her own coat. As soon as she can tie her shoes she will be "completely independent." We played and giggled and it was great.

During the day, though, I had a revelation. (Okay, not quite.) Yondalla recommended a book to me a while back (Connected Parenting), and I just picked it up from the library yesterday. I've only read the first 108 pages so this recommendation/review might be premature, but so far it's amazing. It's a quick read (108 pages over a grande vanilla latte--actually about 2 hours) with lots of practical examples and reassurance ("what you are doing is intuitive and works for a lot of kids; it is not your fault, but here are some new strategies").

After school, we went to a new coffee shop in the neighborhood of her school. Her school is in the poorest part of town (something like 43% unemployment...absolutely crazy) and this is the first coffee shop in the entire area. Imagine, part of a city without a $tarbuck$! We had hot cocoa and I apologized for yelling at her this morning, using some of the techniques I'd just read about. I have to say that I don't know that we'll be going back to that coffee shop, since the hot cocoa was made with powder (hello, half an inch of powder sludge on the bottom of the cup, anyone?), but Sabrina liked it and it might be fun to go with a few of her friends after school one day.

Speaking of her friends... one of them gave me a hug today when I went to pick Sabrina up from school. What a difference from Sabrina, who only occasionally will let me even hold her hand! I haven't figured out all of the kids' names in her class, but I got one more today, bringing my total to 3 girls and 1 boy, not counting Sabrina (ooh, I thought it was better than that), but they all seem to like me :-)

I tried really hard to apply the techniques from the book, 2 in particular. The first is "mirroring"--doing a better job of being empathic than I have been. Since the book gave examples of what parents who were trying but failing were saying (things like I had been saying) and then what would have worked better in that exact same situation, I was able to process beforehand some of the things that Sabrina says a lot and how to respond.

The second was "baby play." Normally when Sabrina goes to bed, I sit on the floor in her room with my computer so that I am in the room until she falls asleep. Tonight I laid down in bed with her and we talked about our favorite parts of the day (she didn't quite "get it" and said "good" when I asked her what her favorite part of the day was, but my guess is she'll pick it up, since I gave my answer and Dora asks that same question at the end of each episode) and snuggled for a bit. Eventually she kicked me out of the bed and told me that I should get my computer. Cutie :-)

Other successes were that she once again let me wash her back and put her lotion on during and following her bath. Cute story from her bath: she was conducting a dialogue between some of her bath toys. I wish I could reproduce it verbatim but over the past two hours I've lost a bit of it. It went basically like this-- shark: "hello amigo." dolphin: "Arriba! Wait, do you speak Spanish?" shark: "no" dolphin: "then, up!" Followed shortly thereafter by some calls of "help, help, ayudame" from some other animals. I love that she understands which words in Dora are Spanish and what they mean in English.

Sabrina also has a truly amazing memory. Also in the tub she was having a family dispute between the shark and the dolphin and one told the other to "go away for one hundred whole minutes!" which is from one of the books that we read (though we haven't read it in a while, and it is now back at the library). This morning in the car she told me to shut up and I told her that we have to be careful about what words we say, thinking about a book we read last night, but instead she said "like in the Leo book"--the same book as the 100 minutes--where Leo tells his mommy that he hates her. Unfortunately that beautiful moment by Sabrina was ruined by my thinking that she said "the little book" and not having a clue what she was talking about. It really isn't my fault that "Leo" and "little" and "louder" sound exactly the same when she says them! But she can say "hypnotize" just perfectly.

Oh, and I think I taught her to snap her fingers! Or at least corrected her form so that she can now make a little bit of the snapping sound.

Really quick an update on dinner. It turns out that Sabrina likes neither tofu nor tomatoes (which she kept calling potatoes), so that was a bit of a bust. Tomorrow is "P" night with peanut noodles and (red) peppers. We'll see how it goes.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


I think I've mentioned repeatedly my trouble with feeding Sabrina dinner. It starts with my pre-kid habit of eating pasta, pasta, and more pasta. And is complicated by Sabrina's claims not to like anything (no pizza, no chicken, no mac and cheese, no potatoes...). And further complicated by my supermarket deciding not to carry my kosher sliced turkey anymore!

Well, I think I've hit upon an idea that will make dinner fun, educational, and easier for me to plan.

Yesterday, quite by accident, we had Cheese and Carrots.
Tonight, we had Spaghetti and Salad.

Get the idea?

So tomorrow we are going to have Tofu (really. if she doesn't like it, I'll give her some cheese) and Tomatoes.

Still working on Thursday, maybe Whitefish salad and Water chestnuts? (Not really. The letter of the week in her class is "w" this week.)


1. Sabrina would. not. get out of bed this morning so we had a half hour earlier bedtime tonight. The problem? 20 minutes in and she's currently standing on her bed. She's obviously not tired yet, but she also obviously needs more than 10 and a half hours of sleep. I'd wake her up a half hour later, but then if she dawdles again (oh who am I kidding? WHEN she dawdles again...) we won't have time to get ready for school on time.

2. I had a job interview today and it did NOT go well. The weird thing is that before the interview I was thinking about how I generally feel that my interviews have gone well, so I was wondering if I would know when one didn't. Yep, I guess I will.

3. I took my knitting to my job interview (to do on public transportation on my way there) and the security people wouldn't let me in the building with it. Seriously, folks, you can take knitting needles on planes, so why not to the DMV? Creative problem solving, done by the receptionist, unfortunately, not by me: leave the knitting with the hot dog vendor outside.

4. I broke a really good pot (Le Creuset) yesterday. I sat it on the counter and it fell.

5. Sabrina has taken to hitting me again. This evening, she swung her shoe at my back. I have FIVE parenting books to read now.

6. The "other" information that Wilma got last week? The ICPC [insert correct noun here] was denied. Dad has an outstanding warrant. I don't know for what, I don't know if he has dealt with it, etc., but after he deals with it, the agency has to re-open the petition and Dad's state has to do all their stuff again.

7. We went to the zoo yesterday to take advantage of some unseasonably beautiful weather. Lots of fun 'til Sabrina wouldn't give my camera back when I asked for it. (She had been throwing things and it looked like she was going to throw the camera. Plus she just had that "I'm not going to listen to you anymore" look.) In case you were wondering, the three parts of an insect are the head, thorax, and abdomen. The thorax is the middle part, even though you might think that the abdomen is the middle part. Apparently I don't know what the thorax is on a person. (This information all from my older sister.)

Sabrina looks to be finally asleep. Off to do important things like hang up wet laundry from 11 this morning.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Staying with me, part 2, and Uh oh, part 3

I just realized something. Sabrina doesn't have any gloves with me. They didn't make it to school with her on Tuesday from whatever family member she actually was staying with.

I went to three stores today, but you know, they just don't sell winter clothes after winter starts. (Makes me wonder what I would do if I had a new placement right now, but thankfully that isn't the issue.)

One cold day (there is frozen crud falling from the sky as I type) without gloves wasn't going to kill her. And she was going to come back after the weekend with a pair. (She has at least 3. To go along with her 5 pairs of black sneakers. But that's a different story.) But if she is going to stay for the weekend, and we have a 20-minute-for-an-adult walk to shul (even if we don't make it to services, We Are Going to lunch), she needs gloves. Really and truly.

Thoughts? I've been to Target, Old Navy, and TJ Maxx.

Natural consequences

I just tweeted "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me."

After movie night, when it was long past bedtime (a half hour) and I said we had to turn off the DVD--we were watching tv episodes, not an actual movie--Sabrina tossed her remaining popcorn across the living room. As a consequence, I made her clean it up. I offered, repeatedly, to help her, but she wouldn't let me help. The independent nature of a 4 year old. "It's my mess; I'll clean it up!" She got it all cleaned up and back in the bowl, and she said she was going to throw it in the garbage. Instead, she took it into the kitchen and dumped it on the floor.

Natural consequences --> you make a mess, you clean it up.
So what happens when you enjoy cleaning up the mess, and it keeps you up later?
The popcorn is still on the floor. I'll clean it up after Sabrina is asleep. Next time, no popcorn.

Staying with me

Wilma reports that I should pick Sabrina up from school tomorrow. Even though there is still a possibility, I suppose, that she'll go to her dad's, I told her that I had something sad I needed to talk to her about, and that after school tomorrow I was going to pick her up and she was going to stay with me over the weekend. Understandably, she cried. A lot. We're having movie night with popcorn instead of doing something responsible like reading books and eating healthy food. When it's over, I think we'll be talking about Shabbat.


That was interesting; I just got a phone call from Sabrina's dad. I acted as if everything is normal for her visit, and I hope that was the correct thing to do. He asked me to please send her to school in a particular pair of shoes tomorrow and to hide her bag of toys so that she won't take it with her. Now, I'm completely in agreement with dad that Sabrina doesn't need to take her bag of toys. I've seen that she has toys at dad's house, and by keeping them in their bag here (she won't take them out), she's not playing with them at all. And it's a pain to schlep the bag to school on Fridays. (Of course, if there is unsanctioned schlepping between houses over the weekend, it would make it harder for them, too.) But Sabrina wants to take the toys, and she wants to take certain clothes, and it's not worth it to fight over whether it makes sense to take toys to her daddy's house, when I want to make sure that she is holding my hand to cross the street, not spilling milk on the furniture, and taking her inhaler. AND, there is no lying to this girl. She will catch you on it faster than (there must be a good metaphor here), and she has enough reason to distrust adults already. Why make it worse?

Uh oh, part 2

Remember this on Tuesday? Sabrina didn't actually stay at her father's over the long weekend?

Well, I just got off the phone with Wilma (the social worker). She was calling to confirm Sabrina's visit with mom this afternoon (and just in time, since I would have needed to go in 15 minutes to pick her up from school if the visit were cancelled), and I asked about the visit with dad for the weekend. (Important background information: I emailed Wilma about the conversation with Sabrina.) Her response was not what I expected.

"I got some..."other" well. I have to talk to the agency attorney."

I suppose I should start thinking about how to prep the little one for Shabbat. There's a scholar-in-residence at one of my minyanim this weekend, a teacher of mine from my year in Israel, so I really really really want to go. Could be interesting.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Last night Sabrina wanted to knit. I let her play until a knitting needle got too close to her eye.

Here she is!

And here is why I gave her crappy yarn and wouldn't let her near anything I'm actually working on:

Tub toys

We had fun playing with toys in the bath tonight! Here is a simulation of what we did:

I knew I was forgetting something

This morning when Sabrina and I got out of the car [note to self: remember in the morning that Sabrina disengaged the child locks on her door], we were face to face with all sorts of liquor litter. Right across the street from an elementary school!

But that wasn't as bad as while we were standing around after school waiting for Sabrina to hold my hand to cross the street. Right where we were standing, there was a little teeny ziploc bag. I know that these really small bags are sometimes used by crafters to hold beads or small earrings. But something tells me that wasn't what this bag originally held.

Where to start?

I didn't take my happy pills this morning (I think) and I didn't take them on Monday (because I hadn't taken them to my parents' house, not planning to spend the night), and I think it's affecting me. I'm feeling a rapid swirling of thoughts in my head and am not sure where to start. So forgive that 1. it's all in one post, and 2. it's not in any sort of order, and 3. some of this might be better just sitting in facebook, but I am a little frustrated with my friends' responses to status updates at the moment.

We had a GREAT evening starting at about 6. Today was a no-TV afternoon as a consequence for hitting me, so after dinner (keep reading for how we kept entertained before dinner) we read. A lot. Have I mentioned before that it is a bad idea to get little kids books that have more than one story in them? Anyway, we read EIGHT Curious George stories. Five before her bath, and three after her bath. (Keep reading for more about her bath.) Then she got into bed with a library book all in Spanish (Dora, she pulled it off the shelf, we didn't bother trying to find it in English) to look at the pictures, and within five minutes she was OUT.

Oh, more excitement on the topic of getting into bed with the book. I knelt next to her bed and quietly praised the great things she had done since dinner, and then said "good night." And she said "good night" back. Normally she yells at me not to talk to her or not to say good night when I try it. It's the simple things, right?

Since I promised to go completely out of order, sleep. Last night, after a horrible attempt to get Sabrina to sleep in her room (ultimately successful, but with lots of crying), she slept ALL NIGHT in her room and didn't wake me up at all! She slept 10 and a half hours, and still was groggy when I woke her up. She definitely needed that sleep.

And then she bit me. I think she needed even more sleep.

Even though she bit me, I decided she needed a treat because she stayed in her room all night. So I let her have donuts for breakfast. Next time, assuming that she gets ready for school in time (not the cast this morning at all), I'll attempt pancakes. (I confess to buying a mix today.)

After school. Oh, after school. I'm not sure if the problem started because one of her classmates said "Sabrina, your mommy's here" when I got to the classroom, or if she would have been upset anyway. We got to the street and I asked Sabrina to hold my hand. And she refused. She also wouldn't let me carry her. So I told her that she needed to hold my hand or let me carry her to go across the street. She dug her heels in, I dug mine in (okay look, I could have tried holding her sleeve or her backpack, I don't need you to tell me that, my sister already did, because she, like everyone else, decided that I was looking for advice when I posted my status on facebook...even though I was just letting off steam. I had 4 people tell me that I should microwave the butter that I had just taken out of the freezer that I wanted to use for baking. Even if I wanted advice, did I really need it four times? The same advice? On the same status?), and an hour later (an HOUR!) we were still on the curb outside of school. We went back inside because Sabrina said "I didn't say goodbye to my teachers!" which is true, but I didn't expect either of them to still be there. It turned out that one was, and she gave Sabrina a hug and told her to hold my hand, and Sabrina said "okay." We went back outside, and Sabrina STILL wouldn't hold my hand!! Ultimately she relented, we got in the car, she was absolutely fine with the seatbelt, and then she cried. It only took an hour and ten minutes to leave school. A new record.

While we were waiting, she hit me a few times, nothing too hard since I was standing and she therefore couldn't reach my face. I told her that if she hit me again (I used the word "smacked" because that is the word she uses), she wouldn't be able to watch TV until tomorrow. She hit me, I told her that she couldn't watch TV until tomorrow, she cried. Then when we got home she wanted "to hear something!!" I explained that there were consequences for hitting, and that she isn't allowed to watch TV today because she hit me. That is when she told me that I had said no TV if she SMACKED me, and smacking is hitting on the face. She only hit me, not smacked. Oy.

We were GOING to make gingerbread men after school. I made the cookies today (see: facebook status about butter) and bought cookie icing and some decorations, and found some puppet templates online, but then we got home and it was almost dinner time already. So she started to color a gingerbread man puppet, but that's all we did.

One of my friends suggested that a baked potato bar would be a fun dinner for a four year old. Sabrina, it turns out, doesn't like potatoes. Lovely. She also wasn't hungry, since she ate a pretty big snack bag of pretzels in the car on the way home. Right before dinner time.

But oh, her bath. We had a lot of fun with some new tub toys (letters and numbers! they stick to the wall! photos to come, though blogger and photos and I don't get along very well) and then she washed herself pretty well, but wouldn't let me help her with her back. Then I tried what is usually a recipe for disaster. I put soap on my hands, lathered it up, and just started washing her shoulders and back. Remarkably, she didn't start screaming or push me or anything! Then she LET ME PUT HER LOTION ON HER!! I got an email from the social worker that, among responses to my email to her yesterday, said that mom was concerned that I wasn't using enough lotion. (Sabrina has eczema so has medicated cream and needs regular moisturizer, too.) So I was able to say "your Mommy wants me to put lotion on you." Maybe that helped? Who knows.

Okay, I think that's it. Other than the photos. I'll go work on that :-)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Sabrina goes to school in a very high-poverty area of my Big City. She gets breakfast and lunch at school, and I think that most of the kids in her class wouldn't get snack after school if they didn't get a snack at school.

So at the end of the day, her teachers give each of the kids a snack. Today's snack was the prepackaged Rice Krispies treats. The other day was Froot by the Foot. Another day was Fritos. Tell me that this is better than going home without a snack??

Uh oh

A conversation in the car on the way home from school today:

Sabrina: "My Auntie picked me up from school, not my daddy."
Me: "Your Auntie picked you up from school on Thursday?" [Friday was a professional development day and school was closed.]
Sabrina: "Yes. My daddy called my mommy and asked her to pick me up."
Me: "And who took you to school this morning?"
Sabrina: "My Auntie."
Me: "Where did you sleep this weekend?"
Sabrina: "The pink room. [My female cousin] has a pink bedroom and [my male cousin] has a blue bedroom."
Me: "Did you sleep in [your cousin's] room just last night or all weekend?"
Sabrina: "Last night and all weekend."
Me: "Did you see your daddy this weekend?"
Sabrina: "I just talked to him on the phone."

Uh oh.

When I grow up...

..."I want to be a rock star, Snow White, and a cow girl." -Sabrina

Now I understand...

...why it is that The Agency didn't want me to go to the (waste of time) orientation session for prospective foster parents until I had actually moved into my current apartment. I thought it was that they didn't want to waste their own time in case I didn't move.

No, that wasn't it.

It was because they know that they aren't smart enough to update addresses completely.

When I went to the orientation, my zip code was xxxx9. Now it is xxxx7. Never mind that I've lived here now for 18 months. Never mind that I've gotten mail from The Agency with the correct zip code. Never mind that I've been called by people in three different departments over the last 18 months asking me to confirm my zip code.

My zip code is still in the system wrong. And this, my friends, is why I haven't gotten my checks for the last two months (although I did get the notice from the accounting department saying that the December check had been sent).

Monday, January 18, 2010

Parents. Mine, that is.

Well, that was an interesting 26 hours with my family. My mom getting snippy with my 85-plus year old grandmother (my dad's mom); my sister, her girlfriend, and me getting annoyed with my mom; and then my favorite: my sister and mom were talking about my grandmother, when, among other things, my mother told my sister that Grandma loves her (my sister) more than she loves me, and I know it and am okay with it. Wha---??

Here's the thing. I'm pretty confident that my sister is a better granddaughter than I am. And is better able to draw out the many interesting things my grandmother has to say and share than I am. But I don't think that my grandmother loves either one of us better than the other. That's just not how she is.

My mom, on the other hand, arrived at my grandmother's apartment this morning and the first words out of her mouth were "did you mean to leave your belt unbuckled?"

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Random stuff

I'm in my parents' computer room freezing my toes off (yes, I'm wearing socks) and am convinced that the floor is not level. Anyway... I'm here because I didn't get my fill of my big sister and my nephew today, so I'm spending the night and going outlet shopping with them in the morning (Lego store!) before my parents take them to the airport. My mom dug out a fresh toothbrush for me, and I can live without my happy pills for a day, so I'm all set. (Three loads of laundry later, I have plenty of clean clothes and pajamas.)

Bright and early (dark and rainy and early) this morning, I went to the grand opening of a friend's yarn store. I bought too much yarn, though I'm not sure there is such a thing, but for the last two hours I've been futzing around on the computer because I don't have anything to knit.


Not completely true, of course... I have all that yarn, which my parents can't know about because of my lack-of-job situation, but I don't have the correct needles. I brought enough knitting to work on while here for an afternoon, but didn't prepare for spending the night. I finished the hat I was making for a friend (I can't be COMPLETELY selfish with my knitting) and determined that my next project, a beautiful dress, needs size 7 needles, even though the pattern calls for size 5. I brought size 6. Guess who will be making another trip to the yarn store??

I know this isn't a knitting blog, but I can't have another blog, and really I don't have enough to say about knitting to make it worthwhile. So please indulge me.

This morning I fondled some alpaca and wow is it amazing. I am going to have to zip through this dress, the two skirts I bought yarn for, and the sweater I bought yarn for, so that I can buy some alpaca and make something with it. (Since the dress is 240-some stitches around, with 15 rows of 480-some stitches, "zipping" is probably not going to be happening.) (I have big plans to knit curtains for all the rooms in my apartment, though, so that will probably come sometime after the dress and before the sweater, and definitely before anything with alpaca. But really, wow, alpaca.)

And now I'm just procrastinating on the sleeping thing, because "my" bedroom in my parents house is So Effing Cold. They keep the house at about 62 during the day and a lot colder at night. My pajamas have short sleeves. The sheets on the bed are cold and if I move at all once I'm snuggled in, I hit cold patches. It isn't as bad, though, as the year when my parents lived in a city on the banks of one of the Great Lakes. It was my first year of college, and not intending to move back to the city I grew up in, they bribed me to spend time with them by giving me the entire finished attic. The house was insulated wrong so my bedroom got basically no heat. This isn't that bad.

Okay... going to go brave the cold. If you don't ever hear from me again, it is because I've turned into a popsicle.

Friday, January 15, 2010


I don't think I've posted any pictures since Sabrina came, so here are some for your viewing pleasure. The cutest pictures, of course, I can't post because they have her face in them, but this small sampling is still pretty cute.
The first night, when she fell asleep ON the dining room table:

We went to the zoo the first weekend she was here:
When she glued letters to my face:

Not a picture of the little one OR me OR the fish (this is me being lazy. I could take a picture of the fish Right Now but am not going to) but the blanket I knit for her doll:

Embarassing question

Thank goodness for the relative anonymity of blogs (or this one, at least). Whenever Sabrina changes her clothes, she strips completely naked and changes everything. The other day she went through three complete outfits, including underwear. When I was growing up, I only changed my underwear once a day unless I had an accident (or got soaked through in the rain or something). Which is more normal?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Learning from books

Last night we read "The Day Leo Said 'I Hate You.'" When we got to the part of the book where Leo yells "I hate you" to his mommy, Sabrina said "I only hate you a little, not a lot." We're making progress :-)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


...Tracy! Not a pseudonym.

Tracy is the newest addition to the Foster Ima and Sabrina household. She is a female betta fish; I am pretty sure we got a girl simply because Sabrina didn't like my suggestion that boy betta fish are prettier. I even asked the Petsmart associate why they bother selling female bettas. They had about three. Seriously.

At this particular moment in time I'm having heart palpitations because from across the room, I think Tracy might be dead. She's at the top of her water and not moving. Okay, Deep breaths while I go check on her...

Okay, all is well. Seriously I was freaking out there for a moment.

We almost didn't make it to the pet store today because I forgot that Sabrina wanted me to bring play clothes for her to change into after school, and she refuses to choose between "pet store in school clothes" or "go home and play." The pet store is in the opposite direction from home, so going home to change before going to the pet store was not an option.

I really didn't think that we were going to leave with a fish (I thought we would just look at the tropical fish and the birds), but I was mentally prepared for the possibility of a betta. And at $13 for a tank, water conditioner, food, AND the fish (it would have been $14 if we'd gotten a boy), I couldn't really complain. PLUS, I'd never gotten a betta for myself because--and this is really stupid--I couldn't figure out how I would get it home in my car without it spilling. It turns out that 4 year olds do a really good job of holding the fish cup.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I don't want to forget this...

While we were brushing teeth tonight, Sabrina said "I wish this was my home." Wow. I guess I can start calling it "home" instead of "my apartment"--for a while she got Very Upset if I called it "home."

(It was all about the Sesame Street soap and Tigger toothbrush. But I'll take what I can get!)

Adventures in English, part 2

Sabrina mentioned her "coo-coo" today. That means what I think, right? Where does that term come from? (Lest anyone have big concerns, she was putting on lotion and asked if she could put lotion "in [her] coo-coo." So I don't think this signals any issue in her past.)

Since you are all so fantastically helpful...

...Sabrina is scared to be in a room by herself. It's gotten so I can be in the kitchen while she is in the living room (there isn't a direct sight line) but last night I needed to use the bathroom and she almost came in with me.

The problem really comes at night. I have to stay in her room until she falls asleep (not a problem, except when she is in a chatty mood, which keeps her awake) and then when she wakes up in the middle of the night she comes to my room, wakes me up, and then I walk her back to her room where we repeat the process. Usually she falls right back asleep, but last night I was standing in her room half asleep for half an hour at 1:30.

Perhaps this was good, because for some reason it hadn't occurred to me (the removal was not explicitly for neglect) that perhaps bad things had happened to her when she was by herself in the past, and while I was pondering being half awake at 1:30 in the morning, this realization hit me.

Anyway, at night she says that she's scared, but it's not of the dark and it isn't of anything like monsters. It really is just being alone that she's scared of. Any thoughts on how I can help her? Because at 1 in the morning I'm really too selfish to be a good foster mom.

Adventures in English

Yesterday I decided that Sabrina needs to learn that "yesterday" means one day ago, not "any time in the past" (e.g. "yesterday Santa came and brought me presents"), and "tomorrow" means the next day, not "any time in the future." Trying to explain this to her did not go well. I gave up before trying to explain that "today" means, well, today. We'll keep working on it.

Last night we were reading a great story (Llama Llama Red Pajama, by Anna Dewdney, I highly recommend it) when Sabrina told me that the language in the book was wrong. It says "Mama Llama goes downstairs." "No," Sabrina said. "BE downstairs." Oy.

Today we rode in the elevator with a couple from Spain. In the course of our conversation, Sabrina continued to insist that she doesn't speak English.

We've also defined the following words over the past few days: fret, moan, underpass, and epiglottis. If anyone can remind me of the scientific word for the reason why something will slide if you put it down on top of a film of water, that would be great.

Instilling values

Any thoughts on how to instill a sense of the value of being on time? We need to have left for school 20 minutes ago, but Sabrina is still not dressed. She won't let me help her (this is when she would hit me, if I tried to help) and says she doesn't care if she's late. In pre-k, I don't think there are real consequences for tardiness. (At her school, there also seems to be a culture of picking kids up early, as if 3:15 is the time when everyone should be out of school, not the time when class is over.)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Glue and Gardens

Sabrina's homework involved glue. After she did it, she decided to glue letters to my face. I am COVERED in glue.

I might get covered in glue tomorrow, as well. Sabrina really wants to plant a garden, but I live in an apartment, and it's winter. So today I'm doing an experiment: if I glue paper to the wall, can I clean it up without hurting the wall? If the answer turns out to be yes, we are going to create a garden on her bedroom wall tomorrow. I can't wait!

Letter recognition

Sabrina had to look through a magazine today to find capital and small "u"s. She was Super Quick at spotting capital "U"s. As in, she opened the magazine to a page and pointed to the U right away. But she has trouble with lowercase "u"s. She spots "n" and points to it, but can't find "u" at all. So interesting to me. (I said, "Sabrina, a "u" looks like an upside-down "n." Do you see any upside-down "n"s? Nope.)

Another note: she has told me that she doesn't like grilled cheese, and she has told me that she doesn't like tomato soup, but tonight I made both for dinner and she ate them. She had a bite of the soup, said it was good, then after two more bites said it tastes funny, and then kept eating it. Silly girl!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

A milestone

Since Sabrina has gone to her dad's every weekend except the first, I have not had to worry about what to do about going to shul. Sometimes I go, sometimes I sleep, but when I go, I tend to reflect while davenning (praying, but somehow the yiddish and the English just have different connotations for me) on needing Shabbat to refresh from the stress of dealing with Sabrina, and seeking strength and wisdom to know what to do for her, and guidance to be less selfish.

Last night I went to shul, and I thought about how it would be fun to have Sabrina with me. The person leading was using great tunes with a lot of energy, and while my community is VERY staid and not the type of community where people dance during Friday night services, I would have danced with Sabrina. I think she would have enjoyed it. In other words, I missed her.

Mmm, soup

This isn't a food blog, I leave that to some real life friends of mine as well as the pros, but since I'm sitting on my sofa slurping leftovers from lunch today, I wanted to share the recipe.

First of all, regarding soup on Shabbat, and particularly for lunch. In case anyone is considered about my halachic observance. I made the soup yesterday afternoon and then put it in my oven at 200. That keeps it warm without boiling...which would have the unfortunate result of getting rid of all of the water between last night and this afternoon, burning my pot, and probably burning my apartment building down. (Maybe not the last of those.)

That out of the way:

Spinach and Black Bean Soup

1 tbsp jarred diced garlic (if the jar has been in your refrigerator for at least 4 years, all the better. Not really, just sayin' this is why I don't use fresh. You could, if you're not a lazy bum. Or, you know, not busy dealing with your kids with RAD, FASD, and other time-consuming issues. Like being kids.)
some olive oil (what, you want precise amounts? it's for sauteeing the garlic in. Use however much seems reasonable to you.)
a bag and a half of spinach (the 9 ounce bags, when they are on sale for $1 each, making them beyond reasonably priced. You could use the bags from costco, too. And really, you could use two whole 9 ounce bags. I only used less because I'd already used half a bag.)
2 cans of black beans
some tomato. I used about a third of a can of diced tomatoes, because they were leftover from something else. You could use more or probably leave them out altogether. I tossed them in the pot because I didn't know what else I was going to do with them.
A bit of white wine that has been open in your refrigerator for probably three months. Taste it first to make sure it's not completely turned to vinegar. This is just for extra flavor. Feel free to leave it out.
Some lime juice.

Saute the garlic, then add the spinach and let it cook down a bit so it fits in your pot. Then add everything else. Cook. Enjoy.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Boring my audience

You'd think that I could quietly type up my dvar torah in a non-public place, print it out, and put it with my things to go to services tomorrow. But no, I think it will be better if there's the pressure of knowing that you, my fans (teehee) are reading.

First, though, let me tell you about my day since I told you that I was overwhelmed. I've finished my cooking (with the exception of the pot of soup still on the stove), vacuumed, washed the kitchen floor, cleaned the bathroom, junked the moldy things from my refrigerator, washed a bunch of dishes... Yay oh yay!

I got my two packages of happy in the mail yesterday (my antidepressants and a yarn order) so what I'd really like to do right now is cast on my newest knitting project, not that I'm not in the middle of four projects already.

Anyway, now that all that is out of the way, a preview of my dvar torah:

[My cute intro...] Those of you who know me well know that there are three subjects that interest me. Knitting, the West Wing, and foster care. So I am going to talk today about knitting. Just kidding.

Since I'm interested in foster care--and for those of you who are wondering, the little one is with her dad this weekend--what struck me this week about the parsha is Moshe's early years. We know a lot about his later years starting with the episode when he strikes the Egyptian to running away, getting married, seeing G-d, going back to Egypt to rescue the Israelites from Pharaoh, and so on.

But his early years are a blur with lots of questions left unanswered. We all know, from our basic psychology classes and our general tendency here to think that reading isn't worth doing unless it is the New York Times or non-fiction, that a person's infancy and childhood are key indicators of what that person's adult life will be like.

So why is it that we settle for the scant knowledge given to us by the Torah about Moshe's childhood? In the foster care and adoption world, we see the negative affect of abandonment, moves from home to home, and kids not knowing their own history.

What do we know, and what did Moshe himself know, about his history?

We know that he lived with his birth family for three months before he was, essentially, abandoned by his mother. We know--or assume--that she did this out of love and out of a fervent hope that her actions would spare his life. But a 3 month old only knows that he no longer has his mother.

We know that Miriam watched and hid as their mother placed Moshe in the river. Did their mother know that she was watching? That is, was she watching at her mother's direction, or did she simply want to know what was going to happen? How did Miriam feel about her mother sending her baby brother away?

We know that the daughter of Pharaoh finds the basket with Moshe and decides to keep him. But we don't know how old Pharaoh's daughter is. Does she want to keep Moshe as a son, or as something more resembling a pet, like a kid who finds a stray dog or turtle and brings it home?

We know that Moshe's mother placed him in a basket in the river, hoping to protect him. Did other mothers do the same thing? Was this a common occurrence, or an act derived from great creativity? In other words, how sure are we that the baby found by the daughter of Pharaoh was the baby placed in the river by Miriam's mother? Is it possible that the son of Miriam's mother was NOT the baby who grew up to be Moshe?

We know that Moshe was raised in Yocheved's house for some period of time after he was found by the daughter of Pharaoh. But we do not know for how long. How much information was Moshe given about his own history and heritage? Did Pharaoh's daughter place any restrictions on what Moshe could be told? Did he even know that he was an Israelite?

We also know, according to the literal meaning of the text, that Moshe was not named Moshe until he was returned to Pharaoh's daughter. Did he have another name until then? How did he feel about having his name changed? Did he understand that he was not going back to his biological mother?

How is it, then, with all of these unanswered questions and all of these opportunities for circumstances to really mess up Moshe's life, that he becomes our greatest prophet?

Though my conclusion is sappy, I offer it anyway: this demonstrates that each of us, no matter the excuses we might have from our past, has the potential for greatness.

[I'm really horrible at conclusions. That was the best I could do.]

A little overwhelmed

Last night, Sabrina woke up at around 1 am (pretty standard) and then again at 5:30. Since my alarm was going to go off literally one minute after she woke me up, I didn't have much luck with the "it's still nighttime, let's go back to sleep" attempt I made.

We had a little bit of a melt-down just at the point when we were getting ready to go out the door (without having eaten breakfast; I put some cereal and a milk in my bag for her to have in the car, though if we'd gotten out of the house she would have been at school in time to eat there)--hitting, crying, yelling, all because I wouldn't (couldn't, but she didn't see it that way) zip her coat while she was sitting down. 35 minutes later, we'd been awake for two and a half hours and we were both tired and hungry. And still inside.

Fast forward to when I got home after dropping her off and going to the supermarket. This is the overwhelmed part. Shabbat starts in four and a half hours from now (approximately). I'm having friends over for lunch, so I need to cook and clean. I made dessert yesterday, and I've already made a side dish and put the main dish in the oven to cook. The challah dough is rising.

But this is the first day in four that I haven't been felled by a headache, so I have my entire to-do list still to do! I have to assemble my sixth dining room chair, apply for one job specifically as well as a bar association volunteer position, and wash a ton of dishes. (Plus whatever else is on my list, which right now is sitting by the front door rather than where it belongs on my desk.) AND tomorrow I'm giving the dvar torah at services, and it's going to be B-A-D Bad. Alas.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Pre-K homework

This week, Sabrina's class is working on the "S" sound. For homework tonight, she had three worksheets in which she had to name pictures and identify which start with an S. Two of them were fine. The third, however, had the following pictures, as identified by Sabrina:
  • sink
  • saw
  • nail
  • ice cream
  • clothes
with four circles for the four correct answers.

Yes, they expected 4 year olds to correctly identify the ice cream as a sundae, and the clothes as a suit.

She put those two together because they were the ones that were wrong, and then, because wrong answers were going on the worksheet, she also glued on the nail, and then the 4 from the first worksheet. And then she refused to do the third because she had just gotten home, it was already 7 pm, she hadn't eaten dinner, and she must have been exhausted.

Side rant: she didn't get home until 7 pm! I'm glad she had a good visit with her mom, but with homework and dinner and books, she didn't get to sleep until ten minutes ago, at almost 9:30. She's FOUR. It's no wonder that when she finally lay down at 9:20 she was complaining loudly that she couldn't sleep.

Whining and moaning

Wilma called an hour ago, waking me from my second nap in two days. Apparently she had not yet heard from Sabrina's mom about the visit today. All I could think to respond was, in an unfortunately snotty tone, "well, Sabrina's expecting you at the end of the school day." If I'd been halfway coherent, I might have whined and moaned even more. I don't think I would have given in to the nap if I had known that I would have 4 fewer hours in my day than I planned to have. Now, I might have to leave in 15 minutes to get Sabrina from school, and I've still not done any work on my d'var torah, nor have I applied for the jobs I plan to apply for. And I'm still groggy from my nap, and my headache still hasn't gone away.

This will also be Sabrina's first cancelled visit with her mom, and I don't have a clue how she will react. She cried a little for her mom yesterday, but we haven't called her at all this week (leading me to wonder if the good behavior is related to NOT talking to mom).

I'm not feeling very grown-up right now. Can I go back to sleep?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Sabrina tales

Yesterday we were talking about nieces and nephews, and I was having a very hard time convincing Sabrina that "nieces are girls and nephews are boys." She insisted that "one girl is a niece, and lots of girls are nephews."

Today I went to Tar-jay to buy Sabrina new underwear and socks. (I took most of her underwear and socks to her dad's house when she was there for two weeks because he said he needed it, but it didn't come back with her--I called dad and asked if we could meet and he bring me her things, he then called mom, and mom then offered to meet me with "some cute outfits." It took a lot to explain that Sabrina really only wears school clothes when she's with me--for whatever reason, she doesn't like to change into play clothes after school--so she doesn't need cute outfits, she just needs underwear.) But she doesn't need the whole amount that I bought (a package of 10 pairs of undies, for example) so I opened the packages and just put a few in her drawer. But she's a smart one, that Sabrina, and her mom gets her underwear at Tar-jay as well. So Sabrina opened the drawer, saw that I'd bought new, and asked "where's the rest?"

I also bought additional oatmeal today. I opened the box and put the packets in the box that came from her auntie, hoping that she will accept the oatmeal as being from her auntie. I anticipate that she will recognize that I've tried to trick her.