If you missed the last post, you can catch up here.
So I imagine what went through Dale and Laura Vallard’s head when they got the news that they were picked to be our parents was probably something like, “Hell yea! Kids!” These guys were so hyped to be parents, ya’ll don’t even understand.
Laura must have read all kinds of books about parenting because I don’t know how else she would have thought to have a potty calendar. Marie was at the age where they were trying to get her to stop using a diaper, so Laura put a calendar next to the toilet and put a shiny star on the days that Marie didn’t poo her pants and would put a frownie face on the days that she did. One day I had to go, so I walked into the bathroom to see Marie sitting in the tub smiling. Not caring at all for either of our privacy, I dropped my drawers and plopped down. I kinda tried to play with Marie as I peed, but she didn’t want to play – she just wanted to smile. I leave the bathroom as Laura is walking back in to finish bath time. She inhaled sharply, picked Marie up, and started hooting immediately. I say hooting because I genuinely don’t know what other word to use to describe the noise – there weren’t any words, just a jumble of angry vowels. Curiosity piqued, I poke my head in to see what was going on. Marie , still smiling, had been sitting there next to me, pooping in the tub! Laura was so mad, she finished washing Marie (and the tub), took a sharpie, and blacked out the whole day on the calendar, muttering “Bad, bad, bad!” in her central Illinois accent.
They took us on all kinds of adventures with them to the state capitol building, to The Arch in St. Louis, to Cardinal’s Stadium, to museums, to Baskin-Robbins, and other places. I really cannot emphasize enough how happy these two were. Of course, we were also ecstatic to have parents who really wanted us.
You don’t really learn a lot in first grade, so my parents didn’t focus much on me academically, but Shane and Laurel were in third grade and were learning their math facts and multiplication tables. I remember this because they must not have been picking it up well enough, for Dale was always getting frustrated with Shane for not understanding multiplication. On weekdays, his voice boomed off the walls in the kitchen where they worked as he tried flash cards and extracurricular assignments to try to drill knowledge into his son’s head. I swear Shane is still traumatized about math to this day.
Holidays were kind of a big deal around here, so we always got new dresses for things like Easter, Christmas, whatever, and of course they were always matching.
Let’s talk about Christmas for a sec. When we lived with Tyler, he didn’t really do things like “buy presents” or “decorate”, but he did read us Bible verses by candle light. Whether the candle light was out of necessity or for emphasis, I’m not sure. Considering we used news papers on the kitchen floor in lieu of a dining table, the former wouldn’t be a far stretch. Anyway, so the Christmas I remember with him, he took us to his sister’s house and she loved her kid, so she bought lots of presents, and told us we each had a few too! Filled with excitement, we woke up on Christmas morning and headed groggy-eyed to the tree only to find that ALL OF THE PRESENTS HAD BEEN OPENED ALREADY. Our cousin had apparently thought all of the gifts were hers, so she opened everything. Her mom reasoned that there was no way of telling which presents were whose (really, lady??), so her daughter kept everything. Now, that year I reeeeeeally wanted princess shoes. Lo and behold, little witch unwrapped a pair that fit me perfectly. I begged and begged to be able to keep them and even reasoned that Santa must have gotten them for me because look how well they fit!!! Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. My aunt said it wouldn’t be fair to my cousin to take her presents from her, so that year we went home empty-handed and heavy hearted. Looking back from my new perspective as a logical, mature 24-year-old, I am still of the opinion that she’s a total biotch.
So compared to that Christmas, I could have gotten a bowl of spaghetti and been happy as a clam. The Vallards took us to the Christmas party at the Children’s Home. I think the presents were from the Angel Tree stands you see at the mall that time of year, or some similar organization because they were marked not by name but by sex and age. So Santa would hand you a gift that said like, Girl 9 months, or Boy 15, which was still magical because how does he know how old you are?? As you can see below, I could barely contain my excitement and had to be physically restrained. This year I got a Barbie kitchen that quickly became my favorite gift ever. If you ever participate in an Angel Tree or other affiliation, please do put your heart in it because guys, that was my best Christmas ever. I can’t explain how much that plastic little chicken meant to me.
When we got home, Dale and Laura had also bought us a plethora of gifts including little robot dogs, American Girl Dolls, Legos, and much, much more. We then made the tour-de-families and got gifts at our cousins’ Christmases and were always included at Easter and other get-togethers.
Finally, we were settling in to our new family, calling them Mom and Dad, and all was going so well until…