‘Cuz you’re a heartbreaker, dream maker…

It has been a little over a week since 2/5 of my heart was punted across the river to the east. I am starting to adjust to this new life of just “littles”, and I have to admit that I am missing my “bigs” terribly. I have been Livia-less for a little over a year now, so my heart has become accustomed to such. I miss her of course and I have more than once contemplated showing up on her doorstep to have a sleepover already, but the newness of being Tasha-less is stinging a bit right now.

15 months ago I received a voicemail that would begin a 3 day explosion of frustration, turmoil, and emotion. “If you want her, come get her.” (Don’t curb alert your children.) To see the panic, longing, and desperation on Livia’s face gave us no option to second guess. Even though taking on another teenager wasn’t exactly on our wishlist,  we love Livia so much that we knew that we would do whatever it took to get her reunited with her biological sister and best friend.

Over the course of 15 months, our simple little family has gone through some very emotional and challenging times. Last spring I agreed to be the cheer coach at my old high school. This was before we knew we would be adding 2 more permanent members of the family. By the time we knew I was expecting another baby, it wouldn’t have been fair to back out on that prior commitment even though I knew how hard it was going to be on me. To my surprise, Tasha joined my cheer team for the football season. She started her cheerleading career with me when she was a freshman before moving to the big school and up into the big leagues of competitive cheerleading, and then she ended in the little leagues again with me. In fact, it was cheerleading that started our bond 4.5 years ago and it was special to have it come full circle in a way. Since Allison was born in the middle of basketball season, Tasha wasn’t cheering, and Allison decided to keep things interesting until March, the coaching chapter of my life just kind of ended abruptly. Tasha is one of the few people who knows exactly how passionate I am about cheering, about innovating new ideas,  and about revamping school spirit and energy. She got to be my listening ear as I talked myself through some hard and sad conversations about what I feel was a failed attempt at something in my home town.

Tasha was with me the day that I found out Allison had cysts on her brain. I had invited Tasha to go with me during my anatomy scan with Allison. She would get to be the first person in our family to know whether we were having a baby boy or girl. I will never forget how disappointed Tasha was when the technician said GIRL! She was so mad!! She wanted a brother and she gave me the silent treatment for the next 20 minutes as if I had something to do with it. Cracked me up! After the ultrasound we were waiting for the doctor and as soon as she came in I could tell something was up. She explained to me that the technician had found some spots on the baby’s brain that were most likely cysts. She also explained that these cysts are often nothing, but that they can also be linked to trisomy 18. We would not know for sure until we did another ultrasound in 4 weeks. Even though it was a good possibility that the cysts would be gone in a few weeks, it is our natural instinct to worry. Tasha quit pouting about the gender and quickly acted to turn the solemn mood around. Thank goodness I had invited her because there would have been a lot less dancing and laughing on the way home without her.  Multiple times over the following few weeks she would find me deep in thought and I wouldn’t have to say anything before she was assuring me that everything would be fine.

The first three months after Allison was born were tough. I was adjusting to two babies at home, worrying about my classroom from home, our attempt at keeping their biological brother united in our home failed dramatically, Allison gave us the scare of our lives, and then we discovered my heart condition.  It was a lot of emotional turmoil shoved into just a few months. Tasha was just “cool” through it all. She never wavered in her loyalty and she never took advantage of the situations. In fact, she was sure to always be around just when I needed her to be. Countless times she would take Abbi downstairs to play when she knew I needed a break or to rest and she kept the house together when I physically couldn’t.

Tasha is a human teenager and of course there were a few times that shone brightly, but thats part of what makes raising teenagers fun and interesting. Like Livia, she had to “start over” at the beginning of her senior year in a small and unforgiving town. She overcame a number of challenges throughout the year very gracefully. She never let her disadvantages get the best of her. She continued to work hard, remain at the top of her class academically, and gained some much needed confidence. Liv would disagree that she lacked confidence, so before she calls me out on that I better clarify… She gained the confidence of a young woman, replacing that of a junior high kid. HA! Sorry, Tasha, its true.

Tasha is drop dead gorgeous on the inside and out. Her witty sense of humor keeps us laughing constantly. She is the only kid that can keep up with Ray in humorous banter. We tease her about being “heartless” because she isn’t snuggly like Liv and she can be a bit of a heartbreaker. I sang this song to her a time or two.  Truthfully, she is one of the kindest girls I have ever known. Her thoughtfulness is proven time and time again to everyone in our home, but one of my favorite examples would be how sweet and kind she was to two foster children that we had in our home this summer. They were 7 &5 and absolutely adored Tasha. Even though there were times that she was annoyed, she never let it show and she gave those children comfort that they needed.

Trauma affects all people differently. I have worked with enough youth and young adults to know that these girls’ story could be very different right now. Even though it makes me a special kind of angry that others could just toss her out of their lives like the daily trash, I am very glad that the stars aligned perfectly to bring her to us.

Every day this past week I have looked anxiously for the little red bomber in the driveway and when it isn’t there my first instinct is to issue the ever so famous, “Where you at?” text from mom. Then I remember that she isn’t here because she is out there owning her world; a world that exists because of her own determination to prove her success and a refusal to back down.

Two and a half years ago, our Liv literally showed up on our steps.15 months ago, my husband and I were feeling so unsure of whether we could handle any more teenagers.  These things don’t “just happen”. I can’t begin to tell you how often people dotingly tell us, “You are such good people for doing this” or “You guys are Saints.”  But, these two girls have been just as good for us as we have been for them. Thank you God for blessing us with not one, but two, beautiful souls that we had no idea were missing from our lives.

Just wait until Allison can play, too!