Unbelievable

11/16/2011

I’m afraid if I start telling the whole story of what happened yesterday, it’ll be the longest post in the history of my blog and quite frankly, my brain is fried from this long, crazy, wonderful experience. I’m also afraid that if I don’t tell the whole story now, it won’t ever get told. So let’s see where this goes… Basically, a miracle happened yesterday. And I don’t throw the word “miracle” around lightly. God moved a mountain, an even bigger mountain than we initially thought.

Last week we got unofficial news that most of the people at the DCS office were changing their opinions and were feeling she should stay with us. But it wasn’t official yet. Yesterday, they all got together and made their official decision. When we arrived at the courthouse in the afternoon, we got the bad news from Precious’ case worker after a very split meeting, they had decided she should move to the other “kinship” placement on Friday, as originally scheduled. My heart was pounding so hard I thought I might suffocate.

While we were waiting for our hearing, the social worker suggested we allow this new placement, the woman who had not yet met Precious, to hold her and see how she reacts. I could barely manage an introductory smile, and I just couldn’t bring myself to make small talk. How could I trust a woman who would do this to us and to Precious? Did she not realize the gravity of all of this?

As she was holding her, Precious kept looking over to Jason and giving him big slobbery open-mouth smiles. He couldn’t help responding back with a smile but I couldn’t do it. Watching that and imaging her growing up without a daddy, HER daddy—it was more than I could bare. I had to walk away as tears started burning my eyes. I tried to hold it together and not be a blubbering fool in the courtroom. Thankfully (?) we a long wait before going in and plenty of time to compose myself.

What happened inside the courtroom was a beautiful blur. I shouldn’t really share any details but here’s how it ended. The judge (magistrate, technically) asked us if we would be willing to accept full legal custody of Precious and no longer receive any assistance from the state department of childrens services. We enthusiastically said yes. Her ruling was that Precious leave state custody immediately and we be given custody of her. That means she is no longer a foster child—she’s ours! I think that ruling was unexpected by everyone in the room. Talk about a miracle! That just doesn’t happen. But it did. We are over-the-moon excited and thankful. God is so good!!

Now we’ll still need to adopt her through an attorney and there is a bit of a jumbled legal mess around this whole situation but WOW WOW WOW! And we’ll have to come up with money for a private adoption but come on, if God can do all of this, He can handle all of that, too. Thank you to everyone who has been praying and cheering us on. Seriously, prayer works and I without-a-doubt believe that God worked a gigantic miracle on our little girl’s behalf.

It’s all still sinking in.


Big Day

11/15/2011

Today very important decisions are being made regarding Precious’ pre-adoptive placement…and the whole rest of her life. Again. The initial decision is being re-evaluated, praise the Lord! Prayers would be greatly appreciated today, for the best decision to be made for Precious. After last week we are feeling so hopeful and encouraged that the original decision to move her out of our home will be reversed (that would be a HUGE mountain moved!) but I’m still a bit nervous until decisions are made official. It would be tragic for her and for us if she was moved at this point. She’s already been through way too much in her short life and we’re the only safe home and parents she’s known.

I’m feeling more free to dream for her now, to let my mind wander into hopes for her, for the first year of her life and beyond. I tend to be a planner to a fault; “obsessive planning” Sarah Young calls it in Jesus Calling. Being a foster parent has really challenged me to stay focused on the present and not let my heart jump too far into the future. But the past few days I can’t help but think about how wonderful it would be to have Precious celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas with us, to get to grow up with cousins and friends so close to her age, to take her with us on our big family vacation to Outer Banks next summer during her 1st birthday week, to spend many hot days next summer in my parent’s pool. And beyond that, I wonder what she’ll be like when she’s 6 or when she’s 12. What about when she’s 16 and learning to drive? What will her passions be…music like her dad or art like her mom? Will she have a heart for adoption? Will she have unshakeable faith after all she’s been through? She already has a powerful testimony. I’m believing for great things for her and I can’t wait to see where God leads her life.

Call it a step of faith but I made her a Christmas stocking on Saturday.

 


Happy Monday!

11/14/2011

and Happy Birthday to my dear friend, Renata!

I didn’t have a chance to prepare a post for today and now I’m busy at work but here are a few photos from the weekend that I’ll explain soon.

A lot happened last week regarding Precious and we’re feeling really encouraged that things are going to work out for her best interest after all. It sounds like God is moving a HUGE mountain. Thanks for all your prayers! I’ll let you know more once we have some official answers; hopefully this week. Can you tell I’m having way too much fun dressing her and making clothes for her in the meantime?


Phone Photo Friday

11/11/2011

Happy 11-11-11! We’re selling three of these chairs. $15 a pop. Let me know if you want ’em. (Email me at martina [at] lighthanddesign [dot] com.) The legs are metal and the seat bases are off-white plastic. They’re Eames-ish but not the real deal. Pretty good shape. They’ll get up on craigslist as soon as I get around to it.


Worth Fighting For

11/10/2011

My friend Susan commented the other day that my posts lately have been so real and so raw…letting you all feel the emotions, anxiety, pain and love we’re going through. That was intentional, so I’m glad it’s coming through. (Hopefully my MCM design enthusiast readers don’t mind too much.) I discovered Chazley’s Blog the other day. She’s a foster mom and an excellent writer and I was really challenged by the transparency about her struggles. I want to be honest about how much this process we’re in sucks and at the same time why it is worth every minute of the hell we go through for these kids.

I have other things to write about, home related, exciting things, really big news, I promise. But right now all of that feels so insignificant compared to the battle we’re in. Yes, a battle. We are fighting for this little girl and what we strongly believe is her best interest. Some days are painfully discouraging, others are emotional draining as we’re reading through policies and making lots of phone calls, and other days are surprisingly encouraging.

Surprisingly encouraging. That sounds fun. Let’s hang out there for a minute. Precious had a permanency plan hearing the other day. It’s supposed to be just routine judge signing off on the department’s plan for permanency for the child (typical goals are reunification with birth family, adoption or sometimes exiting state custody with a relative.) It would have been simple in this case, too. However, at what would have been the end of the hearing, one of Precious’ advocates boldly stepped out and raised concerns about the proposed move. I really shouldn’t say too much since I don’t want to jeopardize anything but let me just say this, it seems there is a growing number of people who believe moving her to another home is not in her best interest. It’s far from over but we’re feeling really encouraged. We have not run out of options yet.

I woke up the next morning with praises in my head. It was a song we had sung on Sunday, a day when I was feeling completely deflated by all of this and my spirit was having a hard time convincing my body and mind to worship. But unlike on Sunday, that morning it filled me up with joy and hope. The chorus that was stuck in my head goes, “What joy, what joy for those whose hope is in the name of the Lord! What peace, what peace for those whose comfort is Him alone!” and the verse says this: “You made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in it. Your promises remain. You give justice to the weak. You care for the widow and orphan. Forevermore You reign.” (The song starts at 20:20 in this video recording from 11/6/11 if you want to hear it. Bonus: Jason was playing guitar on the worship team last Sunday.) I stopped in Precious’ room to say goodbye to her before I left for work and was greeted with the most gigantic smile. She is a beautiful, sweet, joyful little girl and that smile is all the fuel I need to stand up and fight for her.

I pray that someday Jason and I can sit down with our daughter and tell her about what a ruckus we caused on her behalf, how hard we fought for what we believed was best for her, how many people were involved in the battle for her, and how it was all worth it, because she is worth it.


Chair Pair

11/09/2011

Let’s pretend for a day that my thoughts are not completely consumed with thoughts about Precious’ situation…

On our most recent thrifting excursion Jason fell in love with 2 mid-century chairs. I like them, I just don’t love them… After a bit of haggling, Jason was toting them down the street to the silver bullet while Precious and I were following along. We ended up paying $40 for the pair. One of them has 2 small rips but sometimes it’s still worth it. We may reupholster them eventually. They’re now crowning the heads of our dining table.

What do you think? I do have to admit they’re more comfortable than our IKEA Gilbert chairs.


Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters

11/08/2011

Both of our little girls so far have adored Jason and vice versa. “Is she a daddy’s girl?” people always ask. I’ve dearly loved our girls too and they’ve loved me back, but there is just something about that father daughter relationship that’s hard to explain.

I used to come home from work and scoop Ladybug up into a big hug. More often then not, I could smell Jason’s cologne on her. I’d suck in the fragrance as I hugged our first daughter and my heart was full of joy that she had a daddy who loved her so much. I could always tell when she’d been spending time with her father because she had picked up his scent. (Picture above, from here.)

Precious is too little to give hugs but she has gigantic kissable cheeks. At her first doctor’s appointment, the pediatrician gave us a prescription for a rash on her face. We had never noticed the rash before. I actually didn’t even realize I was filling the prescription for a rash cream until the pharmacist explained what it was for. I looked back at Precious in the back seat. She didn’t have a rash on her cheeks. Later that day we realized when Jason’s scratchy beard brushes against her cheeks she gets a red dotted rash. It doesn’t last long but he must have been kissing on her cheeks right before the doctor walked into the exam room. Now, I always smile when I see a dotted patch on her cheek. She has a daddy who adores her.

We’re part of a system (as foster parents) where good dads are rare…in birth families and in foster homes. A friend just loaned Jason the book, Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know by Meg Meeker. He’s not much of a book reader but he dove into it immediately. I noticed as I was falling asleep that his eyes were full of tears as he read. I wasn’t sure if he was going to end up brokenhearted or fired up, ready to fight for his daughter.

As far as policies go, the department of chilren’s services doesn’t prefer a mother/father household over a single parent household. Jason feels such a heavy burden for Precious (and he also did for Ladybug) knowing that he will probably be the only daddy she ever has. There are a lot of wonderful single parents out there who are doing a great job raising their children and fostering children and I admire them for all they do on their own. But statistically, there is no question that it’s better for children to grow up with a mother AND a father. The statistics for girls who grow up without strong fathers in Meeker’s book are…repulsive.

It’s just one more thing that burdens our hearts to think of Precious being taken from our home.

Oh sweet girl, we are doing everything we can to fight for you.


Loving, Losing and (Not) Letting Go

11/07/2011

After we let Ladybug go, it took three weeks before we felt like our hearts were ready to love another child. Then we accepted the placement call for Precious. Loving again was easy. I was ready to love again. But I’m not ready to lose a child again. I don’t think I’ll ever be ready. We knew when we became foster parents that loving the kids wouldn’t be the hard part, it would be letting them go that would be difficult. And it has been. It hurts like hell. What I was not at all prepared for was the tangled mess of policies and players (case workers, CASA workers, guardians ad litem, placement specialists, adoption specialists, judges, birth family, kin, etc.)

We’re in a very difficult situation right now. How can I explain this without giving away too much information… Let’s say Precious has several older siblings. Two of them, BoBo and LaLa (not their real names, of course) were adopted by a foster mother named Sue (not real name). Sue was called to be a kinship placement for Precious when she came into state custody but she declined. Sue is not related to Precious but would be considered kinship because the kids are biologically related. No other family or kinship (friends, godparents, church members, etc.) were identified so Precious ended up with us: random foster parents. Now, 6+ weeks later, the department has identified a woman named Patty (not real name) who wants her and hopes to adopt her since that’s where Precious’ case is leading. Patty is good friends with Sue so she spends a lot of time around BoBo and LaLa and is considered their godmother. Patty has never met Precious but has crossed paths with her birth mother a few times when Sue initiated some visits between her and BoBo and LaLa on holidays and birthdays. The department is now considering Patty to be kinship under their “broad definition of kin.” Although really the policy says to be considered kinship, the adult should have an existing relationship with the child or at the very least an actual relationship with the birth parent. The department says they made a mistake by overlooking Patty initially and now they’re trying to fix their mistake. Precious and her siblings have never met her so there is no existing bond or relationship. We have expressed that we would also be willing to allow Precious to stay in touch with BoBo and LaLa if we can adopt her.

So let me make this really simple: they want to move Precious out of the home she’s in now with two foster parents who have been loving and adoring her for half of her life and are completely attached to her (and she seems pretty fond of; see picture above) into the home of a woman she has no relationship with, who is not family, where she will not be living with her siblings, because this foster mother is friends with the adoptive mother of her siblings. Does that seem like it’s in the best interest of the child? We think not. Some of the players think not. The decision making ones think so. So we’re fighting it.

As foster parents we are asked to love the children as if they are our own, to consider them fully a part of our family as long as they’re with us and to be an advocate for them. Especially in the case of a child who is too young to communicate, we have to stand up for what we believe is best for her. It’s not that we want to keep her just out of selfish desires and avoiding a painful loss, we believe it’s our great love for her that propels us to fight for what is best for her. What is best for her is to be in a home with people who love her and already have a relationship and attachment to her, and vice-versa. Staying in touch with biological siblings is important and we’re not disregarding that, but because there is no currently existing sibling relationship, it doesn’t seem like that should trump the parental relationship that currently exists between her and us.

I’m sharing this for several reasons… to be honest about the struggle we’re in right now and how much it’s tearing at our hearts, to be open about the kind of policy mess that can surround each child welfare case, to shed light on what we believe to be an unjust situation and more than anything to ask for your prayers as all this is being figured out. The department has essentially made their decision but there are a few things we can do to challenge their position.

It ain’t over yet…


Phone Photo Friday

11/04/2011

If you pray really hard, maybe I can actually show you this sweet face soon. Let me tell you, she was not happy about this snowsuit. I think she looks like a starfish! I kept thinking “I can’t put my arms down!” from A Christmas Story.

On a serious note, the decision making meeting is today where a team will decide whether Precious can stay with us or if she should move with another woman for her adoptive placement. It sounds like it could go either way at this point. Please pray! We’re really, really hoping she can stay with us.


A Perfect Saturday

11/03/2011

I had plans for a perfect Saturday: sleep in, big home cooked breakfast, clean the house, then rake up the blanket of pine needles covering our front yard and driveway, and then the night off with a date. I woke up naturally (!!) at 9:30 to discover that Jason was still sleeping, Lucy the cocker spaniel was still sleeping, and not a peep was coming from Precious’ room. How about that! I tweeted about it and indulged in some twitter/facebook until baby girl started stirring around 10.

Once I got her up, changed and fed, everyone else was up too. I shared my plans for the day with Jason and he suggested we go to the coffee shop and then thrift stores instead. Feeling stressed by the sink full of dirty dishes and the dog hair dust bunnies floating around the house, I was a little less than agreeable. We compromised and cleaned the house and did dishes before heading out to the coffee shop. My husband is so patient with me…and he’s super helpful with house cleaning. He dusted and vacuumed in the time I did the dishes and straightened up the kitchen.

Anyhow, we DID have a lovely breakfast at the coffee shop. At NOON! (I’m excited about this because we have a 3 month old.) Then, we headed out to our favorite thrift stores. Jason entertained Precious while I found her 2 pairs of socks, 1 headband, 1 hat, 1 pair of pants and 4 shirts (none of which was pink!) for about $12. Most of her clothes up to this point were pink and I was really growing sick of pink. At the next thrift store, we found two new mid-century chairs we couldn’t leave without. They deserve their own blog post.

After a quick nap for the little one and a walk around the block with the ole’ pup, it was time for DATE NIGHT! Woo hoo! I love my Jason.

So really, it was an amazingly perfect Saturday. We all slept in. The house got clean. Daddy got his coffee. We went thrift store hunting as a family of 3! We enjoyed the nice weather. Jason and I had a nice date night.