The story of Alianna joining our family, A Home for Ali. is featured on Capture Hope, along with some beautiful photos from 535 Photo. I love Capture Hope and it’s mission “From Darkness into Light” … sharing stories of hope and testimonies of God’s goodness. We were honored to be interviewed and photographed by Rebekah several weeks ago. She took hours of Jason and me rambling on and on about foster care, adoption and the amazing kids we’ve had the privilege of parenting; and she turned it into a creative journal format. I love Ali’s testimony and I’m delighted to share it any time I have a chance.
Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me, I’ll still be singing when the evening comes.
From “10,000 Reasons” by Matt Redman
Seven months and 14 days ago she was born. I had been waiting for the announcement, which came the next day. I had already contacted DCS to make sure our contact info was updated in her mom’s file…just in case. Two weeks later I heard that CPS was trying to track her down. I called DCS again. I waited for a call. No call came. A few weeks later, I found out she’d been placed with a friend of her parents, a woman who could care for her. I was relieved but still a bit concerned…what about the family preservation that we, her siblings, her grandmother and her mother all wanted? Another string of phone calls and more waiting. I wrote a letter to her mom and waited. She wrote back with her heart and gave us more numbers to call and an invitation to court. More phone calls. More waiting. We went to court in January but her mom didn’t show up. (The two littlest sisters met for the first and so-far-only time that day.) We filed a petition for custody. Waited a month. Went to our prelim hearing. Waited a month. Went to the next hearing date where the judge review the petitions and case status but didn’t have time for a custody trial with witnesses. Waited a month. Today is the day. The custody trial is this morning bright and early.
So much waiting. I hope we finally get our answer today. Baby girl has 4 people who want custody of her—it’s a good problem for a little girl. No matter what happens today, I know she is provided for, loved and wanted. These months of so many small steps with so much waiting in between have been trying. If we get temporary custody it’s only the beginning of a greater journey of many small steps and so much waiting. It’s worth it.
At 2.75 years old, Ali had her first professional haircut. I’ve snipped at tangled and frayed ends a few times but this was the first real haircut at a salon. Our friend Sierra at Troubadour Salon cuts both Jason’s and my hair and she was glad to give our little girl her first trim. (Sierra is 7 months pregnant with her first little baby boy, by the way.) Ali did great!
Our chickens have been living outside in their new coop for 2-3 weeks now. Jason and I spent a lot of time on it and we’re quite happy with how it turned out. We haven’t had to clean it yet, so ask me again in a few months. Hopefully, we’re still happy! We’re not needing to access eggs yet. My original design was to lift the roof to access the nesting boxes but the roof turned out much heavier than I imagined. Jason is planning to add some small doors to the side to make egg retrieval easier. We’re not expecting eggs for several more months so there’s no rush to get that addition.
I’ve been asked if I could share our plans. We did a lot of scribbling drawings on construction paper, arguing about the plans in the aisle of Lowes and figuring it out as we went. I did the research and design while Jason did most of the construction—some of it with my help. We have very specific requirements because we live in metropolitan Nashville. Our property size allowed for the maximum of 6 hens. Our city requires the coop/henhouse to have 2 sq. ft. per bird and an enclosed run space of 6 sq. ft. per bird. Everything has to be completely enclosed with hardware cloth 1″ or less, and able to be locked. I started with those requirements and read the book A Chicken in Every Yard and did a lot of online research as more questions came about.
Here are some general specs:
• Our coop/henhouse is 4’x4′ with a height of 2.5′-4′. It is 2′ off of the ground.
• The coop has two vents in the back, approximately 4″x12″
• The coop roof is hinged to open for cleaning
• The roosting bar (where the hens will sit to sleep at night) is a 4′ long 2×4
• The roosting bar is about 2 or 2.5′ off the floor of the coop, with about 1.5′ of head space
• We have two nesting boxes (I hear they usually all use one, but 1 box per 4 hens is a good ratio)
• The nesting boxes are 1′ off the floor with about 1.5′ of head space; we’re using small cat litter boxes
• The run is 4’x5′ and connects to the 4’x4′ shaded spaced under the coop, for a total run of 4’x9′
• The run is 3′ high where it’s not under the coop
• The run has two doors for cleaning, letting the chickens out into the yard and accessing the food and water
• The feeder and waterer hang under the coop to stay dry
• Because the run is securely enclosed, we don’t have a closing pop door on the coop
• The entire bottom of the run and all sides are covered with 1/2″ hardware cloth to make it predator-proof. The hardware cloth is stapled to the 2×2 frame on run and then the staples are covered with another strip of wood which is nailed.
• The bottom of the run was covered with dirt and grass and then straw. The inside of the coop is lined with pine shavings.
• The paint colors and shingles are all the same as our house
The coop is designed to match our house.
Our girls seem to be very happy with their new home, though they also love roaming the backyard when we give them the chance. Left to right: Quiche (Plymouth Rock), Meringue (Rhode Island Red), Sunny S.U. (Buff Orpington) and Soufflé (Plymouth Rock). They’re just about 2 months old in this picture.
A reader challenged me to write a day in the life post. (Hi, Gabrielle!) I started thinking about Tuesdays, one of my two work-from-home days, when I do all of my laundry between working and parenting. A lot of people despise laundry but I really don’t mind it. In fact, I kind of like doing it… I thought I could share some ways I make it efficient so it doesn’t consume too much of my life.
Pick One Day
I do all of my laundry on one day for the most part. Exceptions are a load of towels or sheets thrown in at a random time during the week. Other than that, I follow my mom’s tradition of Tuesday being laundry day. I typically do 3 loads on a Tuesday: light, dark and extra-dirty OR light, bright and dark. I put the first load in around 8:00 in the morning. By mid-morning, I shift the first wet load into the dryer and the second load goes into the washer. After lunch it’s time for the first load to come out of the dryer, the second load goes into the dryer and the third load goes into the washer. Mid-afternoon the second load comes out of the dryer and the third/final load goes into the dryer. By evening the last load is dry and folded and everything is put away, typically before dinner.
Jason and I have two laundry baskets in our closet: one for dark clothes and one for light clothes. When I pull out our two baskets and Ali’s one basket on Tuesday mornings, it’s pretty quick to sort hers into ours. If I have more than two loads worth, I’ll split out a brights load. Extra-dirty stuff is in a separate basket in the laundry room. (Examples: Lucy’s dog crate blanket, Jason’s outdoor work clothes, muddy things, baby bibs, wash rags, toddler accident clothes)
I fold the clothes immediately after taking them out of the dryer and sort them as much as possible right then, too. The clothes never leave the laundry room until they’re taken to be put away. Each time the clothes move it adds more time. (You will never find laundry piled up in my living room or in folded stacks on my kitchen table—it’s either in our bedrooms or it’s in the laundry room.) The first load is folded while the second load is drying and the third is being washed. It takes 10-15 minutes. Since Jason and I have two baskets that go to our room, I put all of his clothes into one and mine into the other to speed up the putting away process. Ali’s clothes are small enough that I can make three piles in her basket as I’m folding her clothes: one for pjs, one for tops and one for bottoms—these coordinate with the three drawers in her dresser, making putting away her clothes take less than 5 minutes.
Ali loves to be my laundry helper. Sometimes her “help” slows me down but I realize I’m sowing seeds for the future so I never turn away her assistance . She’s good at helping me move the loads from washer to dryer. She also likes “the matching game” which is simply finding sock matches. Her folding, sorting and putting away skills are not there yet.
First thing: colors sorted, first load in the washer (5 min.)
Mid-morning: first load into dryer, second load into washer (2 min.)
After lunch: first load out of dryer, second load into dryer, third load into washer. Fold and semi-sort the first load. (15 min.)
Mid-afternoon: second load out of dryer, third load into the dryer. Fold and semi-sort the second load. (15 min.)
Evening: last load out of dryer, folded and sorted. All laundry put away. (15-30 minutes)
There you have it. I do three loads of laundry in one day and it takes less than an hour. I admit, we have a few factors that make it easier on us. There are only 3 of us (for the moment). When we had two little girls it took much longer to sort through all their similar size and color little things. Also, Jason and I are not very big people so we can probably fit more of our clothes into a load than bigger people. And lastly, we re-wear a lot of clothes multiple times before washing, especially larger and heavier items like pants and sweaters. Oh, also, I very rarely iron anything.
“Maybe foster care agencies could do more recruiting among the parents who are looking to adopt privately or oversees and say, ‘Hey, we’ve got kids right here.’ They could manage the odds, being even more careful to tease out the birth parents who don’t want to, or can’t, take care of their kids. And frame the argument in a new way: from the adoptive parent’s perspective there’s a risk, and from the biological parent’s perspective there’s a chance—but if a mom takes her baby back, you’ve provided a young person with a vital foundation. It sounds terrible, but if you lose that baby, you could try again. It sounds terrible, but that sounds a lot like pregnancy. Or like love.”
From To The End of June by Cris Beam.
Alianna’s adoption finalization hearing on August 8, 2012
(Photo by Beth Rose Photography.)
We’ve had the privilege of adopting one child and giving three other children a loving stepping stone into a future with their biological families. I consider all four cases to be success stories. There is risk—actually, I’d say that heartbreak is a guarantee—but I’ve never met a heart broken person who feels the love wasn’t worth the pain.
Dear Other Other Mother,
If I were you I’d be really mad at me. Actually, I was in an eerily similar situation a while back and I was quite mad at the other potential-other mother who didn’t seem to care about my heart. But as far as I can tell and you’ve said, you’re not mad. That means a lot, because I really didn’t go into this to make any enemies. You said you’re not mad, just hurt. I can imagine the hurt. I really, really can imagine. In fact, so many times we’ve almost walked away for that reason. At the very beginning I told myself that as long as we knew baby sister was safe, we wouldn’t fight for her. We’d leave it alone and walk away.
There were several weeks of uncertainty between her birth announcement and learning about her whereabouts. We prayed hard for her every single day—that she would be safe and loved—and we still do. Even after I had a general idea of her location, I still wasn’t sure if she was safe and loved. That has always been the primary concern. Once I knew that was true, a huge weight was lifted. Our prayers were answered. I am so grateful for you. You’ve given her the love and protection she needs and deserves. You are invaluable part of baby sister’s story.
I took a step back until I heard from her mother through a letter, the first contact we had in almost 2 years. I had written to her to let her know we were willing to be baby sister’s home, her parents (temporarily or forever), so that she could be with her sister. She wrote back with her blessing and the contact info of people to call to pursue that end. We felt like it was the nudge we needed to start fighting for the secondary concern: family preservation.
We’re passionate about foster care and adoption. I believe that love makes a family. Family is more than just blood. (As an adoptee, I know you know this well.) My husband, my daughter and I don’t share any DNA. I know that I can love and care for a child that didn’t come from my womb and doesn’t share my biology. When we initially approached foster care and adoption we didn’t plan to get involved with our future kid’s biological family. When we fell in love with our girl, our hearts started opening up more and more to her biological family in ways we didn’t expect. I have a deep love and respect for her first mother—the one who carried her for nine months, who chose to give her life, who wanted to parent her and then ultimately wanted better for her than she believed she could offer. Adoption can leave a lot of unanswered questions about family and what it means. I don’t have all of the answers but I know that there are connections I wouldn’t dare severe, bridges that belong to my daughter and are not mine to burn. She came to my home with a history that involved a different family—a biological mother, another grandmother, three older sisters and a brother—family that’s connected by blood. We’ve chosen to make her family, our family—her people, our people.
I believe that you could do the same. You could join with baby sister as part of this broken, patched together, rag-tag family. I believe, as I have from the very beginning, that her love and safety is the first priority. You’ve given her that and I’m thankful. Family preservation is the next priority. For whatever reason, it wasn’t considered from the very beginning. There were several placement options for baby sister that would have accomplished both priorities. We feel that we can meet both of those priorities. We did everything in our power to be considered as her placement since before she was removed from her parents’ custody—even before she was born. I hate that it’s taken so long for anyone (CPS, DCS, legal system) to even seriously consider us as her long-term placement. I hate it because I know how badly it’ll hurt you both to be separated after spending this long together as mother and daughter. It breaks my heart to know that it will break your heart if the judge decides it is in her best interest to move with us for the sake of family preservation. I want you to know that I don’t take that lightly. That said, I still believe she belongs with her sister if it’s possible. It’s hard to put into words, but I’ve loved baby sister since before she was born—all because of my love for my daughter. I don’t know her the way you know her but I care deeply about her.
The decision is out of my hands now and we wait as patiently as possible for the judge’s word. If this doesn’t go how I want it, I want you to know that I have nothing but gratitude in my heart for you. I pray that we can keep in touch for the sake of the six siblings. And if this doesn’t go how you want it, I want you to know that I have nothing but gratitude in my heart for you. You will always be an invaluable part of baby sister’s story and I hope we can stay in touch for the sake of you both.
The Other Potential Other Mother