In honor of my congested brain, I thought I'd share with you some of the things we do for our kiddos to help honor their place in our family - to help them feel like they belong.
Piggies & Paws Art
If you haven't seen this before, you really need to check it out. My cousin is a Piggies & Paws artist and she introduced us to the concept. As we tried to figure out how to remember each of our kiddos in a memorable yet cost-effective way, the service she provided us became a clear winner. (Click on the image for more information or you can Contact Mie if I can help answer questions). The business operates much like other home business where they hold home parties, called galleries, generally at a "host's" home, where the artist displays sample artwork and guests of the host come and go with their children (or whomever will be printed). Guests will find a design from samples the artist provides and once ready the artist will take the hand and/or footprint of the child (typically) who will be "printed". There are designs using one or two handprints, one or two footprints, or a combination of each. They have designs that are for everyday occasions or scenes, special events (like birthdays), and for holidays or seasonal occasions. If you go to the website you'll be able to see how many different types of designs you can choose from. Of course you can't see the designs; they want to make sure no one copies and makes their own. Oh how I wish I could ethically share mine with you on this blog because they are so creative and my cousin does such a great job making them! I have a special scrapbook where I keep the ones from my foster children, but I have several others from Logan and Summer that I've had done over the years (don't want them left out each time I get one for a new foster kid!) and those are displayed proudly in our home, at my desk at work, and in my husband's garage (that one is a power drill from my son's foot!).
Though I can't show you the designs I've received, I think I can tell you what I've chosen. What I do is look through the books and try to find a design that reminds mie of the child's personality or something that has happened while in my care. Here's what we chose for each of our kids:
- A Summer/Beach/Girly Sandal - She was our first girl and this fit her personality perfectly
- A Baseball & Glove - He loved to play catch and ball was one of his first words
- A Boy in a Sleeping Bag - One thing that amazed us about this kiddo was how he LOVED to sleep and he was so good at it!
- I have two for her - I know one was a ladybug and that is the one in our memory book. I just looked and saw the other was a fairy, which I'd forgotten. Amazing since we just decorated her room with fairies and this will be perfect to hang on the wall.
- A Caterpillar - it was feminine and cute and lots of shoes - this one was hard because we had her less than 2 weeks before I had to pick her design before she went home and we didn't know her very well at that point. This worked though because she had a thing for shoes!
- A butterfly - our only little baby, the butterfly was perfect because it represented her daintiness and overall cuteness.
- A motorcycle - perfect for our little rock star wild-man.
- A poodle - we also chose the designs for #7 & #8 shortly after they arrived because there was a gallery at a convenient time, but by this time we already knew #8 was a bit delicate like the poodle design.
We haven't had #9 and #10 printed yet but I look forward to the day I take them to get theirs done as well.
Our son Logan got a Pillow Pet when he was about a year old - they were just starting to come out and were only at the fairs. We were in LA at the LA County Fair while visiting family and he was getting grumpy but this thing became his pal. At that time there were only a handful of animals and his was the dog. At some point we decided Summer (then #4) one and I desperately wanted to get her a ladybug. She is my little ladybug and it seemed to fit her perfectly. At that time #3 was going home and so we didn't get him one. #5 & #6 weren't with us long enough to give us a chance to get them one. After #7 & #8 were with us for a while we decided to get one for each of them as well. It's not something we make a huge deal about - we don't say things like "you have to be with us longer to get one" or anything like that - but when we do end up getting them one it becomes "Logan & Summer have one, do you want to get one too like them?" and it's kind of a bonding experience. Before they have one we don't point out that they don't have one. #7 got a dog like Logan, in fact Logan got a new one because #7 poked little tiny holes in Logan's so he got the one with the holes in it. #8 got a pink pig. Pretty soon it will be time to get one for #9 & #10 - we'll see when it feels like the right time (to us and the budget - they are $19.99 each).
I bought Logan a glow worm sometime between his 1st and 2nd birthdays. I had a glow worm growing up and I remember how much I loved that thing - so Logan needed one too :) He still loves it. At some point #3 got to borrow it from Logan, but when #4 joined us it was clear she needed her own. She got one for Christmas or her birthday the first year she was with us - a pink one. These are the only two kiddos who've received a Glow Worm. This falls 3rd in order of what we give out to our kiddos and we haven't had too many who have stayed long enough to get to the point of getting a glow worm. Again, it's not something where we have a hard and fast rule to get one that we point out to the kids as a differentiating factor, but it's more used as a celebration for being part of our family - I guess this one can be used as something that we get symbolically at the point the child either becomes legally-free or at the point where the case turns in that direction, toward TPR and adoption with us.
This tradition is saved to celebrate bringing home our forever children and again was rooted in something we did with Logan. The day Logan came home from the hospital I felt the need to get out of the house. As crazy as it was (it was seriously hours from when we got home and he was 2 days old!), I guess I just had a hard time adjusting to the need to rest and stay at home enjoying our new little boy. We built him a policeman bear that we immediately put up on the shelf for safekeeping. The day we adopted Summer, after court was done and we'd celebrated by going out to breakfast, we made sure to make a trip back to Build-A-Bear to celebrate the day we took her home as our forever child. My mom and sister were there, just like they were when Logan got his. This time though, unlike with Logan's bear, Summer was able to participate in the process, picking out clothes she liked and the bear she liked with just a little help from her mommy and daddy. Since Logan wasn't able to participate in picking out his original forever bear, he was able to make a friend too that day - he made an army bear with full camoflauge. Apparently he loves that bear because he wrote about it in his journal for school. Too cute. Maybe we'll continue the tradition and for any other adoptions that happen we'll let all kids build a new bear to celebrate the building of our family...we'll see because that would be
beary very expensive!
So, there you have it, the things we do to celebrate the various stages of kids as they join our home and family. I love having these traditions because they really do serve as opportunities and symbols of how they belong in our family, foster or forever.