Everyday I’m in awe—not just with how stinkin’ adorable my daughter is (of course, I’m biased)—but that I get to be her mom. I’m fully aware that things could have turned out very differently for us all. Thankful doesn’t seem like big enough of a word.
This journey hasn’t been easy. We had some really trying times back in October and November. But everything now is so…easy. And fun. Do you see that giant smile? Everyday we get to soak up that joy that oozes out of her and we could almost forget how difficult things were at the beginning with the DCS drama. And like her older half-sister, she could have been bounced around from foster home to foster home before being adopted. But we are thankful for the way this chapter is turning out. We are thankful for her. And thankful for this season of fun and easy.
I’m eager to get back into foster parenting. Having our home “closed” is hard. Even though it’s the easy road. It’s hard because we signed up for the challenge; and now we’re not doing it. I suppose in a way we’re still doing it. Precious came to us through foster care (though she ended up being removed from state custody and put into our custody) and we still haven’t finalized her adoption…but it just doesn’t feel like we’re doing enough about the foster care situation. There are so many kids still out there in our city that need good foster parents. And I want to help.
I probably need this forced break more than I want to admit. It’s time for the three of us—me, Jason and Precious—to bond as a family. We were still reeling from the situation with Ladybug in a lot of ways and this break from foster parenting gave us time to process all of those feelings. By the time our new home is finished and we’re ready to reopen (late summer or fall, hopefully), Precious will be over a year old. We will be a very different family than we were last July (when we were first certified) and it was just Jason and me. There are a lot of things to think about and different ways to prepare this time. We have our daughter to think about now—what is healthy and safe for her—when we consider welcoming new kids into our family.
Sorry for the rambling. I’m sleepy and I was just going to post pictures to publish in the morning. Then I decided to pour my thoughts out and try to make sense of them here. I don’t have a neat little conclusive bow for this. I’m very thankful for our daughter and I’m thinking a lot about our future as foster parents.
Jason and I just finished watching Eames: The Architect and the Painter on Netflix, and it was totally inspiring. What I love most about the husband and wife duo of Charles and Ray Eames is that they never limited their creative interests and business endeavors to just one field. Charles was trained as an architect though he never graduated from college or got a license. Ray was trained as a painter but never made her living that way. Together they took on the challenge of creating an ergonomic chair made of bent plywood—completely innovative in their day.
From there, they went on to produce tons of furniture designs out of their studio in California with a team of designers working for them. But the couple also dabbled in film production and toy making. Everything they did was as a team. I loved seeing the letters they sent back and forth while they were separated for work, each updating the other on progress at the studio, what shops to visit in Paris, where to buy shoes, where to get a great deal on perfume—complete with whimsical drawings and love notes. It reminds me a lot of the kind of texts, emails and phone calls Jason and I exchange throughout the day. What a cool couple (minus the whole infidelity thing…eh hem), pictured below in the home they designed together.
I saw this article about red refrigerators on Retro Renovation and it got me thinking… would I ever put a colored fridge in my kitchen? Red is my least favorite color but I started looking at Pam’s links and imagining the possibilities. Maybe a minty green refrigerator?
Or a sky blue?
What about a white vintage style? White would be kind of sexy alongside glossy white cabinets, dark countertops and other stainless appliances.
I have a feeling we’ll end up with stainless but it’s fun to dream. (The above models are around $3500. Yikes!) Here are some inspiring photos:
Today is my dad’s 60th birthday. My mom asked him what he wanted to do to celebrate and his only request was to have the whole family together, including his grand babies. Friday afternoon my siblings, their spouses and their kids flew down from PA to spend the weekend here with us. We had a special celebration on Saturday night with a catered dinner at home, my dad’s favorite homemade cheesecake and a special kind of gift exchange. Before we gave my dad regular presents, we each gave him a verbal present—a little mini speech to thank him for being such a great dad and to share some funny and sweet stories. He said that was his favorite part of the birthday celebration. After all of that, we piled his three grandkids on his lap for a photo.
Precious is 7.5 months old, Eli is 7 weeks old and Iris is 5 months old. Precious was quite excited about having her cousins here for the weekend.
Eli pretty much did this all weekend and was passed around a lot.
Precious and Iris were really sweet together.
We embraced the rare opportunity to get a snapshot of my whole family. This was the best we could do with the self-timer and the camera on a tripod. Lucy even managed to sneak into the shot at the last second.
I was trying yet again to bring it up subtly, to work foster care statistics naturally into conversation. I don’t remember which freshly learned fact I was offering. Maybe I said, “Did you know there are half a million kids in foster care in the US? And over 200,000 of them are waiting to be adopted.” Or I may have been explaining why the Adopt US Kids lists rarely showed infants and young kids on the waiting-to-be-adopted lists—because they were usually adopted by their foster parents; because the foster parents the kids already know and trust are typically offered the first opportunity when the kids become legally free to adopt. Perhaps I was mentioning how it doesn’t cost anything to become a foster parent, the government even pays a small daily board rate to help with expenses, and that adoption through foster care is practically free.
Jason looked at me from across the dinner table with tears welling up in his eyes and said, “I can tell this is something you really want to do. Why don’t you go ahead and take the first step—call whoever you need to call to find out what we need to do to get started.” After our previous foster parenting conversation (when we talked about how heartbreaking it would be and how it wasn’t really in our plan), he had agreed to think and pray more about it. Maybe this was something God was putting heavily on our hearts for a reason. I was amazed at how quickly Jason had warmed up to it. I had expected more resistance to this crazy idea to become foster parents and now I was wondering if I really was ready to practice what I had been preaching.
This is what I tweeted that night (3-10-11):
“On the precipice of something big and feeling equally excited and inadequate. Thank you Lord for lighting the path… one step at a time.”
Later that evening an intense headache came upon me—the kind that makes me want to just curl up in bed and do nothing. What if I had a child right now? I wondered. How could I care for someone else who is dependent on me when I don’t feel like I have the strength and energy to do anything for anyone else besides myself right now. What was I thinking? How in the world am I going to have the energy to not just care for a child, but care for a child who is coming from a difficult past with the potential for all kinds of behavioral and emotional problems? I have no experience as a mother. I’m not good enough… I’m not strong enough… I’m not selfless enough… Those thoughts rolled around in my head as I tossed and turned all night.
When my alarm clock went off, I slipped out of bed, made my way into the bathroom, slid my Jesus Calling book off the back of the toilet and opened it to that day’s passage, March 11. It said…
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.
My feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy melted away as I stepped off the ledge into the unknown and started the most challenging, rewarding, stretching, joy-filled, faith-building year of my life. Thank God for giving me the courage to take that first step in obedience and for working through me despite every shortcoming.
(The picture above is from the day we said goodbye to Ladybug, our first foster placement, on arguably the most difficult day of my life.)
A couple of years ago Jason and I took a tip from some successful friends and started writing down goals and a game plan for the coming year. These aren’t the dreaded “New Years Resolutions” and I’m purposely waiting until the second week of January to write this blog post. It’s not about what day we start; it’s about making a plan for the year. In fact, we haven’t written our goals for 2012 yet—though we both have a bunch floating around in our heads. We’ve used this tiny notebook to record our goals for the past 3 years:
Some of our goals are on a personal level, some are career related, some are for our family and home, some financial, and some are big picture goals.
We didn’t hit all of our goals for 2011 and that’s OK. We set a lofty income target and we didn’t quite make it, but we did see a significant leap. We’ll try for that goal again in 2012. We had goals to finish some home projects like put a shade roof on the pergola and build a privacy fence around the patio and garden, which were completed. Others, like replace the plumbing mainline to the street, we decided to forego.
We had written a goal to start saving for our next vehicle. We ended up buying the Silver Bullet in cash. Yay!
We had planned to save up money for an adoption or for medical expenses if we had a baby. We ended up draining all of that money preparing our home to become foster parents. That works, too!
We had intended to save, save, save for our future (kids, vehicle, retirement) in 2011 but we ended up just saving a little (see above two points).
My favorite goal of 2011 was “Take more risks.” At the time, that was a big picture goal. We didn’t have anything specific in mind when the calendar page flipped over to 2011. Turns out we became foster parents, which was a pretty huge risk. We also bought a piece of land and put our beloved MCM ranch on the market with plans to build our dream house in 2012 with rooms for more kids.
It’s fun to look back at how much life has changed in one year. 2011 was a challenging, stretching, overall good year.
Here are a few of our (not too personal and/or financial) 2012 goals:
• finish new home build
• move in and get settled
• finalize Precious’ adoption
• specific goals for our retirement savings
• save up cash for a new vehicle to replace our 10-year old Ford Focus
• reopen our home as foster parents
• specific marketing and distribution goals for Acoustic Lullabies
• specific home related financial goal
• specific income target
We took Precious to the playground for the first time last week since the weather has been reaching into the upper 60s and low 70s more frequently here in Nashville. She seemed to really enjoy the swings. Not much reaction to the slide and that’s about all she’s big enough for yet. So lots of swing pictures pictures…
I haven’t given an update on our adoption situation in a while, mainly because not much is happening. Later this month we’ll be celebrating our 6-month familiversary (a term I got from the Foster Parent Podcast) and Precious will be 8 months old. We were anticipating being able to finalize her adoption around the 6-month point but now it seems we’ll be waiting two more months…until the beginning of May. At the earliest. We did everything we were supposed to do. Got our home study done in less than a month and our attorney submitted everything to the court. And then we waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, the judge’s clerk got back to our attorney to let us know they would start the process of publication* in order to terminate Precious’ biological father’s parental rights. This week. And the process takes 8 weeks. It feels like the papers were just sitting around in a stack in the courthouse for over a month. It’s frustrating to be stuck in this waiting period—just hanging out in limbo—for an indefinite amount of time.
But we could be in such a different situation that we’re in right now, and that perspective keeps us in thankful mode rather than impatient mode. We have full custody of Precious, she’s with us everyday, we’re her parents, we’re not in any real risk of losing her—we’re very blessed. Situations don’t often turn out this rosy. But that finalization is going to feel so good. Everything will be permanent and official then. We’ll get a new birth certificate for her with our names on it as her parents and a new name for her—which I plan to reveal here once it’s a done deal. She’ll take our last night, get a new middle name and keep the same first name. We’re just changing the spelling of her first name slightly because her biological mom gave her a beautiful name and we’d like her to keep it. But a little modification will allow us to incorporate in our favorite family name as well as honoring her original name and her history.
*In case you’re really interested in adoption and foster parenting technical processes, here’s an explanation of “publication” as best as I understand it here in Tennessee. When a biological parent is unidentified or his/her whereabouts is unknown, every effort needs to be made to find him/her. There is a Punitive Fatherhood Registry in Tennessee where a father can post that he is looking for a biological child. A child’s information is submitted and if it matches a father on the list, more information/testing can be done to see if they’re a match. If there is no match there, the next step is to run an ad in a public newspaper for 4 weeks. I think the ad says something like, “If you are looking for your child, born on blank, please contact blank for more information.” Pretty vague for the child’s protection. The parent has 30 days to respond to the ad. If no one comes forward and no match is found any other way, the adoption process moves forward and the biological parent’s parental rights are terminated.
So that’s where we’re at. We’re just waiting. Hanging out. Having fun. Going about our day to day lives with our precious 7.5 month old little sweetie pie. And being thankful everyday. She makes my life much richer, messier and so much more joyful…