Friday, December 27, 2013

Goodbye traditions: plans and reality

Merry Christmas!  A week ago we said our goodbyes to Pterodactyl, then left the next morning for Canada.  We spent Christmas with B's family, busy with the boys' little cousins, a little playing in the snow, a lot of church.  Pterodactyl never came with us on a trip there, so it felt mostly normal to be there with just the two boys.  I did miss her, and felt an emptiness at the way it sometimes felt like she had never been a part of our family.  We came home to a message that all was well with her placement with her grandma, and she will stay there as an official move.  So, I'm relieved that she won't have the back-and-forth I'd feared, but it's still a little unreal.  I kept thinking today that I should be taking her to her Friday morning visit.  Last night I found myself almost asking B if he had brought up the bottles for nighttime feedings.  It was a seven-month-old habit.

I thought I'd write up some ways we were intentional about our first goodbye, the plans and the reality.

Visual Reminders
I wanted to have visual reminders that Pterodactyl was a part of our family and borrowed two ideas that I liked.  A good friend of mine that's a foster parent made small canvas squares painted bright colors with a handprint done in white.  I had all the supplies ready back in November when I thought she was moving, and there they sat for two months.  So, last Friday I rushed to get it all ready, and Dinosaur wanted to be involved in the painting and choosing of colors.  Maybe I should have asked my friend what paint she used, as ours turned out a little more rough and sloppy.  I still like them, though now I'm thinking of redecorating the nursery so that a random selection of colors blends in a little better.  Left is Dinosaur, middle is Rhinoceros, and right is Pterodactyl.

Our other visual reminder idea comes from Karen at Nuggets from the Nut House: buying two Christmas ornaments, one to go with the child and one to decorate the tree for years to come to remember each foster child placed with us.  Hallmark happened to have the perfect ornament this year for Pterodactyl and her lovely chocolate skin.  I found it sometime in November and planned to get around to going to a store and picking it up, only to find that one should not wait for Hallmark ornaments.  Suddenly they were out of stock online, and as I called around, five local stores were sold out.  I found one with two remaining ornaments and made sure the clerk put them aside for me to pick up ASAP.  What I didn't expect with this tradition is how it would help my bio kids process the goodbye.  I showed Dinosaur how we wrapped up one ornament to go with Pterodactyl and open with her grandma.  Then I told him when Pterodactyl is older and asks about the ornament, her grandma could tell her about us and how we loved her and took care of her.  I can't promise that this will actually happen, but Dinosaur soaked it up and seemed very comforted by the possibility.

I planned to have a photobook of Pterodactyl to give to her grandma (and print an extra for us to keep), and a family picture of us including Pterodactyl taken close to when she moved.  Well, the book is mostly up-to-date, but since we only had a day's notice she was going to her grandma and then went out of town, I still need to finish it and print it.  We did manage a family picture by the Christmas tree, but we had to use the camera on a timer and ended up with one with the flash that makes us look a bit washed out and scary, and one without the flash in which I'm blurry.  Oh well, they'll do.

Goodbye Celebration
We hoped to invite friends and my brother and sister-in-law (the only family that lives nearby) over to have a little goodbye open house with dessert and a chance to see Pterodactyl before she moved.  Yeah, this didn't happen due to short notice.  I've had to just send e-mail updates with pictures and that will have to be enough.  Most did know that anytime they saw her in the past two months could be the last, so I don't think anyone was blindsided by it.  I think a party would have been good for Dinosaur and Rhinoceros to understand what was happening, though.

Taking a Day Off
We had hoped that we would be able to take a day off when a foster child moved, so that we could all be there for the goodbye and just to make sure we had enough family time.  By coincidence, B had taken the day off because he had some paid days off to use up before the new year, I didn't work that day, and Dinosaur's school was closed because of an ice storm.  So, that made it easy!  We were all there to say goodbye, though I had the boys just say goodbye from the minivan.  Everyone got to give a kiss, and we drove home.  Then the power went out at our house shortly before bedtime, and instead of drowning my mixed emotions in internet and TV, I finished wrapping gifts by lantern light and read with candles and silence.  I didn't know I needed that silence, but it was peaceful.  And I liked imagining that the house was acknowledging something had changed and decided to shut things off for awhile.

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