Approved?

03/04/2013

Not so fast.

We had our home study visit with our case worker on Thursday to reopen our home for foster care. We went through our piles of paper work to make sure everything was there. A quick scramble to reprint the form Ali had torn the corner off of, print our her adoption decree (and explain that no, we still don’t have a birth certificate for her even though her adoption was finalized 7 months ago…), and print out our 14 pages of 2011 tax returns to attempt to prove that Jason, who does not get pay stubs because he’s self-employed, does indeed make money.

Then we moved on to the home tour and inspection. Tennessee Department of Children’s Services has been in the news a lot lately and it hasn’t been good news… That seemed like a valid excuse for our case worker to open every drawer and cabinet in our kitchen to make sure there was nothing potentially harmful within reach of a small child. The child lock on our knife drawer failed. When she yanked on it, it popped right open. So we spent a good 10 minutes talking about the danger of knives, potential scenarios and possible solutions. Jason insists on fixing the lock. Her suggestion was to put the knives up high, which to me, means they’re still accessible to a determined child AND I’m more likely to drop one on my head while I’m cooking dinner.

We also need doors or a more invasive metal screen on our fireplace. I thought this might be the case. Ours has a metal mesh screen and since the safety checklist said “fireplace screens or guards are in place” I thought it was worth a try. Glass doors for our extra wide fireplace cost $1500-3000 so…yeah. I’m hoping that a big ugly metal screen will get the job done.

Honestly, I was surprised by the things that were meticulously inspected while other things (that seemed important in our first home approval 2 years ago) were just glanced at or discussed this time around. We were also surprised to find out that Jason has a black mark on his criminal record from a speeding ticket in Virginia 7 years ago.

But nothing was more surprising than to find out that some people at the DCS office are still upset about how things went down 18 months ago which led up to a judge taking Ali out of state care and giving us custody so we could adopt her. It seems there’s been a game of telephone going on around the office and the story has, in Jason’s words, turned us into the Giant Purple People Eater. (In other words, the story has been twisted over time.) We got slapped on the hand and warned “don’t do that again, or else…” I have to admit, I’m kind of proud of the fact that we still have a reputation around the office after all this time. Jason asked if the person who approves our home study knows about everything that happened and her response was “EVERYBODY knows.”

Let the records show: We never broke any of their policies; we passionately questioned a policy that was broad and obscure because it didn’t seem to be in the best interest of the child in our care. I would not hesitate to do that again. We take it seriously when they tell us to advocate for the child and we’ll do that, even if it’s messy. Clearly we were not the only ones who felt their policy was in conflict with Ali’s best interest and ultimately it was the magistrate who made the call. We had not even asked for custody (we didn’t know we had the right). So as far as the accusation that we “went over their heads” … no, we just prayed, spoke our hearts and God went WAY OVER your heads! Also, we did NOT hire an attorney to represent us until after we were given custody and had to peruse private adoption at our own expense. Thankyouverymuch.

It was a little angering, not at our case worker who is sweet but was instructed to give us a warning, but at the system as a whole. Welcome back into our lives DCS drama! More than anything though, it was motivating. It reminded us of why we’re doing this: we are in it for the kids. We will parent, love, protect, nurture and advocate for them for as long as they’re living in our home. We’re not at odds with the system…unless it’s at odds with the child’s best interest. Then you better believe we’re going to do what we’ve been asked to do.

So, I’m pretty confident they’re going to approve our home. As long as a knife drawer, fireplace screen and criminal record for a speeding violation 7 years ago can be resolved. We’ll find out soon enough. The main reason I’m not at all worried about it is that we feel called by God to do this. It’s not fun.* It’s not easy. I’m perfectly content as Ali’s mom and if we simply wanted to have more kids, we’d pop ‘em out of my body (assuming it all works down there). We’re in it for the kids because we feel called to care for the fatherless, defend the weak, clothe the naked, house the homeless, feed the hungry, heal the sick. If this doesn’t work out with DCS, I know God will use us in another way. This was His idea first, after all.

*Parenting is fun. Dealing with the child welfare system is not. The kids are worth it.

Tomorrow we’re going to get fingerprinted for the third time in the last two years. We assumed that our prints would never change but apparently the government wants to make sure they’re still the same as they were in May 2011 and January 2012.

I’ll keep you posted if/when we’re approved to start receiving placement calls.

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New Home Tour: Den/Playroom

02/28/2013

Depending on the angle of the photo, it looks like a den…

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But 98% of the time it’s a playroom. (Technically, it’s a guest room, too, though it hasn’t been used as such yet. Someday it’ll be a bedroom.)

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The closet is full of books, toys and games.

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A few things to note about this room:

The sofa is vintage. We’d like to reupholster it someday but it’s not in bad shape and the pull out mattress is in excellent shape.

The rug is from Urban Outfitters. I purchased it for a staging project right before we moved in. We had it in the living room for a little while but it was way too small in there. It’s perfect in here.

This room is the smallest bedroom in the house but the super high ceilings make if feel big and the high windows and concrete wall make it very unique. I’m hoping a teenager will love it as a bedroom someday.

The play stove is second-hand, hand made but someone. I got it at a yard sale. It was Ali’s adoption day gift.

Ali’s navy table was a Christmas gift from Grandma and Grandpa. The metal folding chair is vintage from an estate sale in my neighborhood. I got it when I was putting together our first room for future foster kids.

The small guitar was a baby shower gift before our first placement. It’s still a bit too complex for Ali but she likes to bang on it, August Rush style. The blue guitar is really special to me. It was the guitar Jason first learned to play guitar on…it deserves it’s own post.

The TV is not attached to anything except power. Eventually we plan to get another Roku box for this room (which we use for Hulu and Netflix) and attach a DVD player. We’ll also need some kind of shelving for that.

The robot decals I won from a giveaway on Design Mom. Ali loves to give them kisses.

Ali’s favorite activities right now are the slide (going down and sending toys down) and sitting at her table to play with stickers

FYI, our architect is Ryan Thewes.

Related Posts:

New Home Tour: Kitchen

New Home Tour: Living Room

New Home Tour: Dining Room

 


Buried in Paperwork

02/27/2013

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OK, not really buried. See that small stack of paper work? It’s 25 or so forms that I need to fill out before the home visit with our case worker tomorrow.

(The big binder jammed full of paperwork in the background is from our training, home study and 1st year classes from almost 2 years ago.)

I’m on deadline at work with one of the three magazines I design. I have worked the past two evenings trying to get that all wrapped up. One more day…maybe two…and I’ll be able to take a good, long, deep breath.

In other words, the post I had planned to write for today didn’t happen. Tour of another room in our new home coming tomorrow. I’ll be back soon.


And Then There Were Two

02/26/2013

Oh, but not a foster placement. Boy did I confuse a few people on facebook! On the foster care front, our case worker is coming out on Thursday to check out our new home and move us back into open status, assuming all goes well. (GULP.) We could potentially start getting placement calls this weekend. (DOUBLE GULP.) Our home is as ready as it’s going to be, which made it easier for us to agree to watch our friends’ little boy Jaron for 4 days/nights with less than 24 hours notice. We joked that it would be good practice for life with two kids but dang… it was good practice! We learned a lot. It was almost as big of an adjustment as suddenly being parents to a toddler (our first placement). That was encouraging on two levels – 1. It was not as big of an adjustment. (We’re experienced now! Woot!) and 2. With our first major adjustment it got better after a week or two so I know that it would get better with two kids, also. The major difference, of course, is that we already knew and loved Jaron and his parents and we knew it would just be a few days. They also gave us a ton of directions on how to care for him, clothes, food, toiletries, etc. All of those things made it easier. It was still very stretching to have two almost-twin toddlers, and I know it was hard on little Jaron, too. One of the biggest things I learned: Being out numbered by munchins is no joke! It was much easier when Jason and I were both there to split the duties. He’d put one kid to bed, I’d put the other to bed. He’d carry one kid into the store, I’d carry the other. We both had at least 1 day where we were solo parenting both kiddos. Oy! But again, I know it would get better the longer we had to settle into a ruetine and get used to each other. Ali did really well sharing her parents. I hardly noticed any jealousy. There were a few periods when both kids wanted the one-on-one adult attention that they’re used to and I wasn’t able to meet both of their needs at once. They weren’t upset with each other but at one point while I was trying to warm up some leftovers for dinner (no way I was going to be able to cook!) and I had one kid clinging to each of my legs. It would have been comical if the shrieking/crying/whining wasn’t making me lose my mind. I even attempted to take a photo so I could laugh about it later but it don’t turn out. And I realized…What am I doing?! Just get the dang food in the microwave so I can sit on the floor and hug both kids at the same time.

So on to the fun stuff. These two are so sweet together.

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This boy is a messy eater! Lord, have mercy…He’s so stinkin’ cute though. Smiles and laughs easily.

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They two both get kissed a lot by their parents so they love to kiss each other as well. So cute!

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Ali thought the chalk would make good lipstick…her latest obsession.

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Hi, Lucy! Yes, I still love you.

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Flashback… one year ago:

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Introducing… Marcus James

02/20/2013

If you recall, last week I explained that the reason we were unexpectedly watching our friend’s son is because the friends who were planning to babysit him had to suddenly up and go to Kansas to pick up their new one month old baby boy. They had been matched with a birth mom and had less than 24 hours notice to decide and go. They filed their adoption papers on Valentine’s Day and are currently still waiting in Kansas for the Interstate Transfer documents to come back so they can leave the state. Here are a couple photos of their little sweetheart:

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They’re still in need of funds for their adoption if you’re interested in helping out. More information on their blog site.


Ketchup

02/19/2013

I’m really thankful I had President’s Day off because I’ve had a very full weekend. It started on Tuesday night when we started watching our friend’s 15 month old son Jaron for 2 nights and 2 days. When he left to spend the weekend with his aunt and uncle, Jason was already gone to Orlando and I got hit with a cold. Ali and I had a couple low-key days and then Jason and Jaron came back on Sunday. Little J is heading home this morning with his parents. Yay for him, and for them…and for us! We joked about how it was a trial run with having 2 kids (since we’ll be reopening our home as foster parents soon) but, boy, we really did learn a lot.

I’ll be back soon to reflect on what I learned, as well as share a ton of cute pictures of these two little buddies. I also have a bunch of photos to share of our house that I was finally able to upload but haven’t edited yet. I need a little time to play catch-up and today I’m back to work. Bear with me. I’ll be back soon!

I leave you with this one picture for now. One of the few times we braved leaving the house with two kids was to go to Lowes to get mulch. They did awesome! Having two adults helped a lot! I pushed the car cart with the munchkins while Jason pushed the big flat cart with the mulch.

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Kids Room: A Theme Developed

02/18/2013

When I started pulling together the bedroom for our next kids, the ones who will join us through foster care, I really didn’t have a theme in mind. I was just trying to use what we had. The woodland friends curtain was from the kids room at our last house and what prompted me to use green for the accent wall color. The bedding was also from the previous room.

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I ordered a Nashville road map from AAA because it was a way to get a large, colorful, free piece of art for the wall. I also thought it might be helpful for older kids to see where our house is in relation to where they used to live.

As I was going through our art collection one day, I decided this room would be a nice place to display our Hatch Show Print posters. (Hatch is a historic letterpress print shop in downtown Nashville that’s famous for their concert posters.) Jason wanted to throw my old acoustic guitar away but I saved it, thinking again about older kids.


As I looked around the almost completed room, I noticed a lot of music related items and considered replacing the woodland friends curtain, even though it had been my starting point. Just yesterday it hit me! The theme of the room is the one thing every kid who lives here will have in common: Nashville. Our house is not far from Hatch Show Print in downtown Nashville. We’re also close to Shelby Park so we see lots of trees, owls and squirrels here. I love when something comes together organically like that.

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(I wrote this post from my phone so please forgive me for their weird formatting and any typos.)


A is for Adoption

02/13/2013

By the way, if you have a heart for adoption and would like to donate to this sweet family (mentioned in my previous post), they’re in major need of funds. They drove through the night until they needed to stop for rest and to wait out a snow storm in Missouri. They’re just a few hours away from picking up their baby boy!

Visit their blog for info about their family and to donate.


Good Reads

02/11/2013

These three blog posts rocked my world last week and I wanted to pass them on to you.

Look at Me When You’re Talking to Me!

You want me to look at you, even when you are very angry and I don’t want to look at you.  And you want me to wait my turn for talking, even when I have something very important to say.  So why don’t you look at me when I’m doing my very important things before you tell me to stop?  And why do you get to interrupt what I am doing without waiting until I’m done?

Written from the perspective to the child, this totally humbled me as a mama. It brought tears to my eyes as I realized how often I fail Ali by not giving her the attention and respect she deserves. The day before I read this, I had scolded Ali for demanding “Cacka! Cacka! Cacka!” from the other room. I told her she needed to say “Cracker please” in a nice tone. Then a few minutes later, I caught myself toning out her voice as I was preparing dinner. “Pease. Pease. Pease.” she was saying in the sweetest little voice as she pointed to the package of crackers. She wasn’t rude, loud or demanding…and she totally did not get my attention. Sigh.

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For the Foster/Adoptive Dad

My friend and mentor says there are only 2 emotions; fear and love.  They are intricately and inversely related.  Foster or adoptive children live out of fear, they are afraid that at the drop of a dime they will be picked up and put out of the home they are currently in.  It does not matter how old they are or how long they have been there, fear is often the primary emotion that is shaping everything and anything about these children.  … God says He is love, and thus far I believe Him.  No matter how many moments we want to respond in fear, fathers must ferociously pursue the presence of God…the presence of love.

I don’t come across a lot blogs written by foster/adoptive dads so I thought this one was pretty cool. This father discusses 3 things that he feels very foster/adoptive dad must force himself to lean into daily.

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3 Things We Forget

In most cases lying, stealing, selfishness, and the inability to empathize will surface again and again. Get ready, because they all come with the territory. All of these are symptoms of a human being who has been forced into survival mode early on in their little lives.

From the same father as the previous post, here he addresses 3 things to keep in mind when parenting “hurt” kids—behaviors that result from fighting to survive, not to expect gratitude from a child who didn’t choose this life and the long term investment beyond a kid’s 18th birthday.


The Nest is 75% Ready

02/07/2013

75% is enough for now. Enough to call our case worker to have her come out and do a walk-through. Enough to make me feel mostly prepared.

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Bedroom for Future Foster Kids Checklist:

• assemble KURA bed
• hang curtains
• hang wall art
• add a rug
• make space in closet for clothes
• dresser
• bookshelf ?
• nightstand
• lamp
• hang book ledges
• mount guitar hook for my old acoustic
• nightlight
• make bed look comfy and inviting

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The Rest of the House Checklist:

• mount TV to the wall in the den
• cover all electrical outlets with annoying plastic caps
• lock up all of our medications and vitamins
• lock up all of our cleaning supplies
• lock up all knives
• lock up all matches and lighters
• secure rugs to the floor (so they’re not tripping hazards)
• make sure we always have bananas
• have and know how to install car seats and boosters for newborn – 8 year olds

Our den/playroom:

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