Monthly Archives: July 2011

Flying Ponies

Guest post by Barbara Matousek.

On our way in to town this morning, Sammy and I were talking about the clouds.  We were winding along highway 35 between the Nathan Wolfe Memorial Wildlife area where Sam recently told me “things that suck your blood live” and the Trempealeau Wildlife Refuge where Sam says “that funny duck with the big head swims.”  A half dozen white egrets stretched their necks to fish near the wild celery, and a few others sat in the crooks of a dead tree that reflected on the water.  As our Subaru slowed to let a train clear the tracks in front of us and the bright sunlight behind us created dramatic whites and grays on the clouds hanging over the bluffs, Sam told me you can’t move clouds with your mouth like you can the fuzzy tips of dandelions.

“Clouds are heavy,” he said.

“They are?  How do you know that?” I asked.


“I think they’re really easy to move.  You just have to get close enough,” I said.

The last car of the train bumped across the road and the red lights stopped blinking and the large semi in front of us slowly started moving.

“Go fast, Mommy.”

“I can’t.  The truck in front of us is going slow and it takes a lot of energy for him to get started.  Remember how hard it was for you to get your bike started when we were going up the hill last night?” I reminded him.

“Yah.  That was hard.”

“It’s the same.  Once he gets started we’ll get moving fast, but right now he’s got to work really hard to get going.”

He thought a while.

“Mommy, we need to get a flying pony so we can go up into the sky and blow the clouds away,” he said.  “If we flew really super fast it would not be so hard to get them started.”

This guest post, brought to you by my good friend, Barbara Matousek. She is a single mother by choice of a toddler boy and a baby girl. She writes regularly on her blog about

First Few Weeks With Little K

I’ve been struggling with what to write about our transition with Little K, but I think I’ve identified the problem. See, I tend to write posts from the point of tension, conflict, grief or some new knowledge. It’s that creative writing 101 anthem of where’s the trouble. This is the problem. There is no trouble.

Little K is just pretty much perfect. The transition time in Dallas was great. The foster parents (FP) were so loving and caring and they had fallen madly in love with him. After the first day when we met him at the agency, we went to the FP’s house and we all played on the floor while he moved between us. He was so accepting and it was nice to be able to bring him back to his safe place at the end of every day. You could see him relax, exhale, sleep when he got home. It just gave us all a little breather and took the pressure off for a few hours. By the end of the week, he’d cry when we left the FP’s house without him.

The flight home was trying at times but nothing unexpected for a 1 year old. At home Josie was waiting for us outside and beside herself with excitement. She hugged him and kissed him and continued to play with him even after he captured two fistfuls of her hair. She bought him a red fire truck with sirens and lights and showed him how it worked.

Over the next few days, she gradually came to understand that she did not get to feed, change, and diaper the baby by HERSELF. She, of course, could help or, she could change her own baby while I changed K but that was never good enough. So, we’ve been spending some time coming up with a job description for a big sister and we’re open to your suggestions. What are the big sister’s primary duties?

The first week we were home, Josie went to school as usual and Paul and I watched him while he slept. He slept a lot but he also seemed to be adjusting just fine. He was fascinated by the dog and his favorite thing to do was stand on the couch and stare at her in the back yard. He likes to cuddle after his nap and he loves it when I chase him out of the kitchen. He giggles and shrieks and pats his hands on his chest as if to say hey, how do you like me now? He’s recently started clapping and he’s so pleased he can make that clicking sound with his tongue.

Things were going so well that first week that we decided to take long-scheduled vacation to the island the following week. The weather was awesome. We walked on the beach, swam in the lake. What more is there to say?

We see occasional glimpses into the difficult transition he must be feeling. Sometimes he has a hard time falling asleep at night or wakes up in the middle of the night, looks around and for his FP’s or previous caretakers. There’s lots of rocking then and if he really can’t settle down, we try the baby carrier (oh, my aching back!) or watch some Baby Einstein (awesome) at 3:00 in the morning.

Now Paul is back at work, Josie is back to school. I’m here folding laundry, weeding the garden, chasing the baby out of the kitchen and watching Baby Einstein and maybe an episode or two of The Office when I can’t fall back to sleep.

My First Book Appearance

Hey everyone, just wanted to post a quick update to bring you up to date on the book happenings.

You are the wind beneath my wings! xoxo

Confinscated at Security

More on Little K soon, but for now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

The last time Josie and I flew anywhere together alone she was almost exactly a year old and she had a stomach bug. She was young enough to be my ‘lap child’ so I didn’t have to pay for another ticket but Josie has never been much of a ‘lap’ anything. She was pushing 30 pounds and fighting mad the whole flight. She ripped magazines out of strangers’ hands. She threw toys. The movie on my laptop was of NO interest. She slept for 30 minutes of a 10 hour trip. By the time we arrived in Chicago, I’d been shit upon so massively (through her diaper) that I had to buy a new t-shirt in the airport.

We hadn’t flown together since and the short hop to San Francisco to visit my sister and family seemed like a really bold move. But, Josie is 3 now and it was her cousins 4th birthday and there was a bouncy house and cupcakes involved so we decided to give it a try.

The flight down was perfectly fine. She wheeled the luggage through the airport. When it was time for takeoff she yelled, This is so FUN. And all the well-seasoned business commuters had a good laugh. She was charming, well-behaved, a pleasure. Well done. Congratulations to us!

We had three days of cousins and sunshine and princess dresses. But she’d had an understandably hard time going to sleep in a new place with all the excitement, and by the time we left, she was a sugar-amped, over stimulated, sleep-deprived mess.

The problems started in security where Josie was dancing and singing while I piled our stuff on the belt. I had a hard time keeping her near me. Our line was stopped until the attendant checking boarding passes asked the person on the baggage scanner to expedite our line to get Josie thru. Bless her.

While we waited to have her cup of almond milk tested for explosives, she stuck her fingers in the nearby fan. When I asked her to stop, she ran across security to put her fingers in a different fan.

By the time we left security I was holding her hand, tightly, and she was screaming her head off and dragging her feet. Yes, we were that mother and child cliché and our fellow travelers were giving each other the requisite glances, speaking the universal language of god, I hope they aren’t on my flight. I’d been there. I wished I wasn’t on my flight too.

My goal became survival.

We managed to board early and kept our shit together through takeoff. Then I set up a movie for her on my laptop and plugged in her headphones. I took a deep breath. She was content. For ten whole minutes. Then she took off her headphones and pronounced that she was done. No. You. Are. Not.

What came next was one of my proudest moments as a parent. I offered her a piece of candy. Not a new toy, not a sticker, not a cookie, but a piece of candy – if she kept watching the movie until it was time to descend. I bribed my child. With candy. To watch TV. I’m super-proud.

But it worked. She watched until the flight attendant told us to shut it down. Then Josie shunned my bag of tricks and turned her focus to banging the tray table up and down. The guy in front of her turned around and gave me that look and I returned with a look that said something like – seriously, do you have any idea what I’m dealing with back here? I’ve got a sleep-deprived, sugar-amped three year old coming off a two day over-stim bender of bouncy houses and dance parties. She’s a fighter and a runner, who, just a few hours ago was bent on cutting her fingers off in the airport air fans. Count yourself lucky that a bumped chair is all you had to deal with. If that bribe hadn’t worked out, we would have had a new terrorist threat on our hands.

The Post You’ve Been Waiting For

On June 13th, I was in an appointment with Josie when my cell phone rang. We’d seen some information on a 10 month old boy a few weeks before and it was about the right time for the birth parents to make a decision. As soon as I could, I stepped out to check my voicemail. It was, indeed, the case worker from the agency, and she asked me to call her back.

Then my phone crashed and spent five minutes shutting down and restarting.

Finally, I was able to call and, yes, we’d been picked. I cheered and cried and skipped down the sidewalk, kissing strangers. Then I bought a bouquet of flowers and handed one to every person I met and I wished them a good day filled with rainbows and puppies and bunnies. Okay, not really, but I felt like doing all of those things. Instead I called Paul and got his voicemail. Super anti-climactic.

We didn’t know much about little K. We knew he had chubby cheeks that hinted at dimples, an adorable afro and hefty thighs with creases you could lose change into. He was up to date on his vaccinations and had been pronounced healthy by the agency’s pediatrician. He was developmentally on track and at 10.5 months he’d taken eight consecutive steps (OMG where are the baby gates?). He’d been in foster care for two months and had become quite attached to the foster parents. He was perfect.

I printed a picture for Josie. She carried it, folded it, loved it, slept with it and, eventually chewed on it. She brought it to show-and-tell at school and it sat with us at the dinner table. There was a lot of discussion about who his parents were, what he ate, and when he was, or wasn’t sleeping. One night I caught her whispering to it, “don’t worry baby, my mommy and daddy will be there soon. It will be okay.”

We had two weeks from the call before we traveled to Texas, then a week of transition before we brought him home.

The chaos began immediately. There was the paperwork, the calls with various social workers and pediatricians and agencies and the travel arrangements and the preparation for maternity leave. Oh, hello boss, CEO of a small business, I’m going on maternity leave in two weeks. Surprise! Bye! Of course, it wasn’t that easy, it involved training of a new person, preparation and even a few spreadsheets.

Then there was the stuff I wanted to get done for the book, then there was the blog, oh, well, the blog… You’ve seen how well that has worked out, but do not fear, I have some exciting posts lined up.

Then there was the BABY! There was the upending of the garage and me muttering about baby bottles, nipple flow levels, onesies, baby carriers, socks, shoes, crib set up and furniture re-arranging. Then there was the Josie preparation. My mom was coming to stay with her and there was food and schedules and another spreadsheet.

Then there was the panicked night-waking – OMG attachment disorders, we’re going to ruin our lives! OMG fetal alcohol syndrome! OMG a second child, what are we thinking! Then there was the buying of the attachment book and staying up late at night to read it and there were more calls to pediatricians and a lot of pacing and not sleeping and breath-holding.

Finally, there was travel. We arrived in Texas on the 21st and went to the agency the next day. We were settling into a couch in a big room when the foster mother walked in with K. He was everything they’d said he was. Healthy. Cute. He was attached to the foster mother, but friendly and social. After a few minutes, we were on the floor playing with a crinkly, shiny bag and a giant, stuffed, Cat in the Hat.

We left our first 2 hour meeting completely exhausted wrecks but utterly satisfied and hopeful that this was going to work out just fine.

And, after that, there was a big exhale, a giant nap, a little bit of letting go and a new kind of holding on.

To be continued…