March 11

03/11/2014

One evening Jason and I had a tearful conversation over dinner that ended with him saying, “Make the call. Find out what we need to do to become foster parents.” I had been feeling a strong pull in the direction of foster care and potentially adoption for a while but I was praying that if God wanted us to go down that twisted, scary road that He would bring Jason on board quickly. I wanted to be completely unified in our decision and God answered my prayer—bringing Jason to equal passion to parent kids who are not ours by birth, kids who are living their worst nightmares, kids who have troubling pasts and bad behaviors.

Within hours of making that decision together, I started feeling completely inadequate for the role of foster motherhood. I tossed and turned all night, wrestling with my fears and insecurities. The next morning, on March 11, I read this passage in Jesus Calling and it changed my life forever:

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Walk by faith, not by sight.
As you take steps of faith, depending on Me,
I will show you how much I can do for you.
If you live your life too safely,
you will never know the thrill of seeing Me work through you.
When I gave you My spirit,
I empowered you to live beyond your natural ability and strength.
Thats why it is wrong to measure your energy level
against the challenges ahead of you.
The issue is not your strength but Mine, which is limitless.
By walking close to Me, you can accomplish My purposes in My strength.

Here we are on March 11, 2014. In the past three years since I read that passage I’ve been mama to four kids, each with a painful past and a broken heart. Three of those babies have gone on to live with their biological families. We had the great privilege of adopting one of them, our precious Alianna Mae. Today we’re going to court, pursuing a temporary custody placement of her biological baby sister who is six and a half months old. I’ve nicknamed her Trust here to maintain her confidentiality and to remind myself that I need only trust God with this situation. He is worthy of my trust. He moved a mountain for Alianna to be put into our custody 2.5 years ago and if He wants to put Trust into our custody today, He can do it. These last 6 months have been emotionally taxing as we moved from concern about her safety to concern about her long-term placement and connections with her biological family. She’s been in a safe and loving place (as far as we know) since she was two weeks old but we feel strongly that if there is any way to preserve her connection to her biological siblings—especially since she’s already separated from her biological parents—it should be pursued. And that is why we’ve been fighting for her since before she was born. Not because we deserve her or because she deserves us—we have no right to her. We love her because she is our daughter’s sister. We care deeply about her biological mother because she’s our daughter’s biological mother. If she’s lost, someday we’re going to have to answer our daughter when she asks, “Where is my little sister? Why didn’t you fight for her the way you fought for me?”

So we fight. We fight for what we believe is best for her. This afternoon we anticipate the magistrate will make the decision: will she stay where she is now or move into our home with her sister Alianna.

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Where is her Real Mommy?

03/06/2014

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Where is her real mommy?

I knew questions like this would come but it still caught me off guard. The three year old girl didn’t ask me directly; it was a question for her mom who was telling me later—and perhaps also asking. We’re loose acquaintances so she doesn’t know our story. That mom had suggested to her daughter that she ask Alianna. I told her Ali wouldn’t know how to answer that question. I left it at that. I could have said so much more and I’ve been mulling over what I should have or could have said for hours now.

The question bothers me partly because of the word real. Anyone who knows about adoption etiquette knows that’s a buzz word. I’m her real mom. Her biological mom is her real mom. Neither of us is fake or pretend. We’ve both very real and we’ve both very mom. Alianna is my real daughter and we’re a real family. It also bothers me a bit that this mother and daughter discussed the possible reasons for Ali’s adoption… “Maybe her real mom was sick.” The answer to this question is too complicated for a three year old and too personal for a loose acquaintance.

I’m pretty gracious with adoption questions and I don’t expect everyone to have the right words to use. However, the reason this poorly-worded, intrusive question made me sick to my stomach was the thought of a three year old peer asking it to my two year old daughter. Ali is confident and out-going but she would have no idea how to answer this question in 2.5 year old terms. I hate to think that it would give her a moment of panic… Is my mom not real? Is she not my real mom? Is she lost?

The three year old girl must be observing that often families match skin and hair colors. (Or has someone pointed it out to her?) We were in a fairly diverse setting but apparently transracial families and adoptive families are not common in her circles. I asked Ali later if she’s noticed that we don’t look alike—that she has brown skin and black curly hair and mommy has lighter skin—I stopped myself there because the look she was giving me said, No kidding. Why would or should we look alike?  I might as well have been asking if she’s noticed the sky is blue and the grass is green. Then I realized that adoptive and transracial families are very common in our lives. It’s probably never crossed her might that we “should” look alike. There is nothing unusual about her family from her perspective at this point in her life.

Since I’ve been over-analyzing this conversation, I’ve come up with a response for this three year old girl in preschool terms. Here it goes:

I am Ali’s real mommy. She had a different mommy before me. She grew in her first mommy’s tummy. Her birth mommy loved Ali very much but she wasn’t able to take care of her so some helpers found Ali new parents—us. We adopted Ali into our family and we’ve been her parents ever since.

If she wants to know why her birth mom couldn’t take care of her: She was dealing with some really big grown-up problems and she needed to learn how to take better care of herself.

If she wants to know who the helpers were: They’re social workers who work for agencies—Child Protective Services and the Department of Childrens Services—that watch out for kids to make sure that they’re safe and their needs are met.

If she wants to know what adoption is: It’s when a judge decrees that we’re a real, official family—real parents and a real child—forever and ever.

If she wants to know where her birth mom is now: I don’t know for sure. She still lives in Nashville but we don’t see her very often.

(Picture at the top is Alianna with her birth mommy—her other real mommy. Blurred for her privacy.)


Called to Fight

03/04/2014

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My parents named me Martina Louise. My first name means “warlike” and my middle name means “renowned warrior.” Most people who know me wouldn’t think of me as a fighter. My husband might disagree… But here we are and this is our life. We had to fight for our daughter Alianna. Her placement with us through foster care was simple but her custody and subsequent adoption were far from easy. We fought for her like we’ve never fought for anything else before.

Two and a half years later we find ourselves in a bizarre but not-so-different situation fighting for her half-sister. I can’t and won’t say much about the case in this public platform because it’s sensitive legally and we want to be respectful to all of the other parties involved. In short: if she cannot be with either of her biological parents—which is and has been the case since shortly after her birth—we believe (and DCS policy supports) that the next best option for a child is to be with siblings whenever possible. I believe that we are supposed to advocate for her and her best interests. I will fight for her and I won’t stop fighting for her.

As much as I want to keep quiet about this case, I also want to solicite the prayers of our friends. Please pray with us that whatever is best for baby Trust* would be done and soon—she’s already 6 months old! (We’ve been trying to get her placed with us since before she was born.) We have court next Tuesday March 11 at 1 pm, which involves a progress report trial for her biological parents and our petition for temporary custody.

*Not her real name (Thank God!) but my nickname for her since before she was born to remind me that her future is in His hands

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Two and a half year old Photographer

03/03/2014

My iphone requires a passcode or my fingerprint to unlock, however the camera can be accessed in lock mode. Alianna has figured this out and loves to swipe my phone and start snapping pictures. Here are some of her captures in the past few months.

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My 3-year-old Niece’s Dress Up Party

02/27/2014

We celebrated my niece Eliza’s third birthday with dress up clothes. What a perfect set up for fun photos!

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Chick Portraits – 2 Weeks Old

02/24/2014

 

I have to admit, I’m enjoying these birds a lot more than I thought I would.

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A New Ship for Bee

02/20/2014

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I wish I had written this blog post because it so perfectly illustrates the voyage of a foster parent: setting sail with hope despite the storm clouds ahead, being shaken to the core and finding hidden strength, forging unlikely partnerships, easing out of the storm, saying goodbye, and then steering straight back into the storm, empty-handed on the way back home. We’re at the point of saying goodbye—releasing our foster daughter onto a new ship. Go read this post because it says it better than I can say.

In front of you awaits a new ship, fresh with hope readied to empower your partners with a new chapter.

They surround you with hugs and thanks, and in a flash you and your forevers are left to steer that battered ship back into the raging storm of grief to begin again.

Your heart lurches in fear as your empty arms ache for the one to whom you gave your heart…

The son or daughter of your soul.

We say goodbye to Baby Bee this morning. All of her clothes, toys, bottles, bibs, burp cloths, hats, coats, diapers and toiletries are packed into her suitcase, backpack, storage tub and random bags. Her family is waiting with eager anticipation to get their hands on “our” chubby little nine-month-old, to see how much she’s grown in the past month and to kiss all over her impossibly soft cheeks. Their tears of joy will mix with our tears of sadness, soaking into the same precious child.

There is an expression I’ve been hearing lately—I don’t know the source—that seems to be the only way to describe this mix of things stirred up by foster care: I’m feeling all of the feelings. While we’re sad that she’s leaving, we’re also happy for her and her family. We’re tired and relieved to have a break. We’re hopeful for the future. We’re frustrated that a perfectly capable relative was kept away from Bee for three months solely because of state lines. (Had the relatives been in the same state as Bee, she never would have entered foster care.) We’re thankful for the cooperation and friendship with her biological family. We’re satisfied with good case workers, attorneys, CASAs and judges who do their due diligence. We’re glad that we were able to be there for Bee when she needed a home, loving parents, advocates and a big sister. We’re ready for what’s next because what’s next is rest.

For the next 19 days, I will be saying “no” to any new placement calls. After that, the next chapter of our story begins.


Buzz Visit at the Mall

02/19/2014

Guess who we saw on Saturday! It is such a gift to be friends with this boy’s mama and to get to watch these two kids playing together again. I told Ali once that Buzz was “kind of like a brother.” She answered, “A brother and a friend.”

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Also, this kid has grown so much! I knelt down to give him a hug and I had to half-stand back up. He’s out of the toddler sizes already and he’s not quite 3.5.


Alianna at 2.5 Years Old

02/11/2014

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I’ve been trying to write this post for a month now. Alianna turned 2.5 on January 20. I was doing a photo shoot for Jason recently and using her to test my camera settings. I’m thankful for this impromptu session to capture some of her two-and-a-half-year-old wonderfulness. Here are some quick stats.

Growth:
Ali is 34.5″ tall and 27 lbs. at 2.5 years old. (Between 10-25th percentile for height and 25-50th percentile for weight.)

Personality:
She’s more passionate than ever. Everything she feels, she feels intensely—like most two year olds. Ali is sweet and sensitive to other’s feelings. She’s also let you know if she’s not happy. Every night she remembers to pray for Buzz and his mommy, for Great-Grandma (who Ali says is sad and sick and she needs a hug), for Nana and Papa, for Grandma and Grandma, for Mommy and Daddy and Bee and for biological baby sister. She’s got an amazing memory and often surprises us, especially when it comes to music. Ali is a gentle and loving big sister to Bee and considers everyone her friends.

Funny/new sayings:
Mommy…not Mommy…Daddy! (She gets our names mixed up a lot.)
Daddy.…not Daddy…Mommy!
I don’t know.
Esmooz me (excuse me…so cute!)
It’s hard to wait sometimes (said about 10x a day)
It’s hard to be patient.
(Ali, are you finished eating lunch?) No, I’m eating lunch all day.
Hmm, I don’t know what I want to choose.
Look at me.
Talk with me.
I need attention.
I need affection.
You sad? I know, you play puzzles with me. Then you be happy.
I go to bed happy and then I wake up happy!
Mommy! Mommy! My yight came on. And then I stayed in my room until my yight came on! (Every morning)

General Favorites:
Bible Readeez, potato heads, play kitchen/food, being mama to her baby doll (feeding, burping, changing, putting to bed), Justin Time (show), Yo Gabba Gabba soundtrack, playing catch and soccer, dancing to music on her “stage” (footstool) with her frilly skirts, puzzles, learning letters and numbers, the book Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See (she has it completely memorized and wants it read every night), FP Little People, playing catch or soccer with a bouncy ball

Favorite Foods:
Mac & cheese, eggs, grapefruit, apple juice, fruit snacks, clementines, blueberries, rotisserie chicken, broccoli, sautéed mushrooms, chips & salsa (especially Chuy’s restaurant), cheese, yogurt, sweets/mints, pistachios

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Alianna at 2 years old. Alianna at 18 months. Alianna at 1 year old. Alianna at 6 months old.


Meet the New Chicks

02/10/2014

This weekend we fulfilled a lifelong dream of raising our own livestock. Just kidding. Actually, Jason has been trying to convince me for a couple of years now to get backyard hens. He got a book for Christmas on urban chicken keeping and we started planning the fence to enclose our backyard…I was finally on board. The fence is now complete. The coop and run are designed on paper. The permit from Metro Nashville has been acquired.

Within the city limits we have a lot of regulations on chicken keeping. We have a large enough yard to allow the maximum number of 6 hens. Absolutely no roosters are allowed. We wanted to start out with a minimum of 3 hens and since the chick survival rate is not 100% and we have at best a 1/10 chance of getting a rooster, we started with 5.

Meet the girls. Left to right: Sunny S.U., Soufflé, Quiche and Meringue. Scramble is in the back, not showing her face. Sunny and Scramble are Buff Orpingtons. Soufflé and Quiche are Barred Plymouth Rocks. Mer is a Rhode Island Red.

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Ali holding a chick for the first time. Isn’t it sweet? Major Mom mistake though…I should have had her sitting on the floor. She got startled right after this picture and dropped Scramble. (That’s how she got her name…) Scram isn’t doing great. She’s eating, drinking and walking but she’s kind of…crooked. She sleeps more than the others. Not sure how that’s all going to turn out yet. She’s really sweet and I’m trying not to get too attached to her in case we need to replace her. Eek. Our first chicken drama. I feel horribly guilty about poor little Scramble.

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This is Meringue. She’s smart and feisty.

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This is Sunny S.U. She’s very mellow.

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The folks we got the Plymouths from gave us a dozen eggs from their full grown girls. They said they have more eggs than they know what to do with. We celebrated with poached eggs for dinner last night.

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We still have a coop to build and a lot to learn but we’re all really excited about this new adventure.


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