Monday, July 28, 2014

Meetcha Day and Random Photos

Meetcha Day was pretty amazing. I didn't expect the surreal motherly feeling that I had meeting our new son and then our new daughter.

Watching our son walk around the corner toward us was every bit as awe-inspiring as giving birth, and our first hours together were every bit as awkward yet perfect as those with our newborns. There were scared eyes and stiff backs, there were periods of silence that weren't so comfortable. There was a string of simple questions and answers shot across a table of ice cream. And then- THEN- there was a moment when I was able to mother him, and he was grateful. A sparkle in his big searching eyes. And a genuine giggle of delight. As soon as we broke through the discomfort, it was time to say goodbye.

As we walked toward our new daughter, I saw a glimpse of shyness that was so much like her brother. I had to hold myself back from turning into a sappy mess right there under the heat of the summer sun. This was my daughter, the one I'd been praying over and working for for I offered a simple hug. We drove an awkward five minutes to the coffee shop that Amos and I frequent, ordered, and sat down to visit. The two hour visit was much like a first date, lots of get-to-know-you conversations and stories and a few awkward moments. We dropped her off after a quick photo to commemorate the day, and that was it.

I'd like to spend some time reflecting and forming words from my emotions, but life is a whirlwind of mothering, home reorganization, kids' schedules, housework, and school year preparations.

Teenage Organization-- if only it could stay like this forever! 

For now, my quiet time is all but obsolete, and that is ok. This is what it means to welcome children to your family-- functioning on less sleep than any person should, realizing that it is 2:00 and you have yet to eat a bite, and resenting the 30 minutes that it takes to become half-presentable in the morning.

Three of our seven bracelets

My life right now is filled with giving my three kids who were already here voices and validation, managing attention-seeking behaviors, and offering praise and cuddles any chance I can find.


I'm feeling the need to find care for them while I work but an unwillingness to send them away from me. My life right now has a business that is truly more than I have ever known

Quick trip to visit Aunt J!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Meetcha Day Eve

Meetcha Day is tomorrow! We are still scrambling with final preparations (what do you wear to meet your kids anyway?), but Amos and I cannot wait to finally, FINALLY meet our son and daughter! 

After church, we will go to our visits. It will be Amos and I with each child individually. We'll meet our son first, then our daughter. Tonight, I am thankful that our new kids are the same age as Noah and J. I'm hoping that all the practice conversing with them and their friends will make it easier to avoid the awkward silences. 

Our daughter texted last night to see what the plan was for our visit. It was my first (sort of) direct interaction with her, and it made me want so badly to start this transition and have her home to stay. I pray that she feels the same way! 

I keep wondering about our son who we know so little about. I wonder what he's thinking, if he's excited or nervous. I can't imagine tomorrow from his 7 year old perspective. I hope we are able to connect with him tomorrow, at least in little ways, and that when we say goodbye, he feels hope and a seed of security.

As for the other three kids, they will wait for our stories from the afternoon and hope that tides them over until the kids all get to meet next weekend. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Growing into Seven

Our Shutterfly books came in last Thursday, and they are beautiful! I'm so excited to give them to the kids so they can see a bit of their new family. 

A friend of mine suggested that I make bracelets for all seven of us to wear until we're under one roof, so I spent my many recent car rides knotting threads. They are finished and four of the seven of us are wearing them. I'm praying that all seven of us will have them by the end of the weekend.

No official word on a transition schedule yet. There are some strings that have to be tied up this week, but we are supposed to be forming a visit schedule and setting a tentative move-in date in the meantime. It's been pretty quiet on the Children's Division end. I'm trying to be patient and appropriately pushy. I have a feeling I'll become a little less appropriately pushy if we haven't set a meetcha date by the end of the week.

While we wait, there is plenty to keep up busy! We've been a family of five for six years. I didn't realize how tailor-made our life is for that number: living room seating for 5, kitchen seating for 5, water heater meant for 5, beds for 5. There are so many home adjustments to make, and it seems more daunting with the older ones than when we were getting a new baby. Maybe it's the shorter time frame or maybe it's the ages. Either way, we hit the ground running last weekend and haven't stopped!

Friday was Miriam's dress rehearsal for her recital. 

On our way home, we visited this place-- 

and scoped out a new dining room table, kids bedroom furniture, and extra living room seating.

Saturday before the recital, we drove one of these babies--

a TWELVE passenger van that was a little intimidating to maneuver. My five feet did not feel like enough height to operate the thing, but we're supposed to give it another try before we abandon ship. It would be really great if the kids were able to bring friends in our vehicle. We'll max out our current minivan with the seven of us. 

We've visited furniture store after furniture store over the last four days, so many that they are all a blur. The shopping list is prioritized, and if the budget runs out, we'll table the rest of the list for later.

I found beds for the teenagers online-- I'm really hoping that they work and are sturdy!

Everything else is yet to be purchased. I am beyond ready to have the house set up. I feel like if the house is organized, it'll be one less thing for me to stress over once the transition starts.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Navigating Christian Parenting

28 'Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest.
29 Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
30 Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.'

Yesterday's gospel reading (Matthew 11: 25-30)... God's perfect timing once again. I sat listening to message of giving our sorrows and burdens to God... and taking up His yoke of LOVE and FORGIVENESS. 

Delivered with simplicity, the words have settled in my heart. I need to get better at remembering that burdens and labors are part of life, and that it's OK to be at peace while I work through them. My success at this ebbs and flows, perhaps because I've been trying share the burden with my God but haven't replaced its weight with the absolute beauty and feather-lightness of Jesus' love and mercy. 

When it comes to raising children, I struggle so intensely with what is looks like to give them grace and serve them in Jesus' image. Sometimes I wish Jesus been married with a brood of little ones. What I wouldn't give to have that concrete image of him correcting children. He loved and welcomed then, no doubt, and taught extensively about Christian family and parenting. In the midst of defiance, tantrums, or disobedience when our kids don't seem to be responding to love and mercy, I loose sight of all the lessons. I keep correcting with love as best I can, but sometimes I feel like a pushover and wonder if I should be yelling or punishing more harshly or if I'm at all cut out for the task of mothering. In the midst of all the struggle, I forget that marriage and family is my calling. I don't stop to pray in the middle of getting an eight year old to brush his teeth. I shake my head and wonder why in the world we're STILL struggling with this after eight years of teeth brushing, and I never think to offer it up in the moment

These children are not my own, they are God's, and I am to be an instrument of His love to them, just like our priest was a vessel for God's message yesterday. 

The Christian family is a community of faith, hope and charity. I need to get better at keeping that image in the front of my mind and demonstrating it to my children. 

When I can let go of the heavy, helplessness of our trials and channel Christ's love and forgiveness, parenting gets simpler, more joyful, and (go figure) more effective. God's good like that. 

After the closing song yesterday, I knelt with Miriam and prayed that God would provide the grace we need to take up Jesus' yoke of gentleness and humbleness of heart. 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Call

I am so unworthy of the incredible trust God has placed in me. We are officially on our way to being a family of SEVEN!

My cell phone rang Thursday at 4:00. It wasn't the main CD number, but it was the same prefix, so I wasn't surprised to hear Miss A's voice when I answered. We'd been waiting 265 days for this call.

"I have good news."
"You and Amos were selected as the adoptive placement."

And with that, our lives are forever changed.

I cannot begin to explain the perfect way that God has knit our stories together. Maybe someday I'll be able to find the words to do Him justice. I'm standing in this little corner of the world watching His plans fall into place in a way that only He could have designed.

Thirty-eight weeks ago, Amos and I walked with our three kids through a carnival of kids in matching T-shirts. We stood just a few feet away from our daughter as she visited with Miss B before we did. That day, she and her brother snuggled into our hearts, and we found ourselves making a follow-up call for the exact children that J and Noah had been praying for, a 12-year-old girl and 7-year-old boy.

Over the last thirty-eight weeks, we've done a "Say 'Yes' and Let it Go" dance. We called, then prayed, then waited two weeks. We got a call back, said yes, prayed, and waited nearly 6 more months. Their sweet profiles showed up in our email on March 18th. We said "Yes" and waited a few more times before we finally got the call yelling us that our kids were ready to start heading home to us.

We've had a busy week telling the kids, reorganizing, making plans to adapt out home for our new additions and reading up on adopting with a vengeance. While we can't guess the timeline or even the day that we'll meet our kids, we know where we are headed, and we are thankful.

Life Books for Adopting Families

Life Books in foster care are important. It's a universal way to keep track of the children's lives, a book of memories that can grow and travel along with them if need be. We haven't actually made one. When the girls were here, they went back home right away, so I just shared pictures with their mom.

At the end of our staffing interview, they asked if we brought a life book with us about our family. That threw me more than any other question. It was a huge, "That wasn't supposed to be on the test" moment! I had never heard anyone mention making a life book for my family. It sure made sense after it was mentioned. After all, what better way to make our family real to the team than through images. But in all the conversations I'd had about the staffing, no one ever asked that we bring one along. We missed the class on life books during licensing, so I wondered if our crash make up course had just skipped that aspect of life booking altogether. I didn't think much more about it. It was water under the bridge. And then we got the call.

I started realizing that I needed something visual and tangible to help the kids feel like they were going to be safe and maybe even happy in our family someday. A introduction to all aspects of our life in a lighthearted, no-pressure package. Then I realized the importance of a life book for adopting families. We wanted to give both kids their own book, but the reality of our time constraints meant that hand scrapbooking was out of the question. To Shutterfly we went. In no time, we had two age and gender appropriate themes chosen (it helps to have the same age and gender sitting next to you!). I laid out pictures on each page:

The front of our home
Our family
Amos and I
A page for each kid (we left two pages with empty frames for pictures of our new arrivals)
Our pets
The inside of our home, especially bedrooms
Our neighborhood and community
Several pages of what we do for fun (we included extended family in this section)

I started to write on each page, and I'm stuck. The words on Little brother's pages come easy. A seven year old isn't ready for a novel and probably isn't concerned about much more than the basics. However, it is extremely difficult to guess what and how much a teenager will want to know about their new home. It's a lot of pressure to put our first impression onto 20 pages! I overanalyze every sentence I type, trying to find the line between too much pressure and too little. I want her to know that we're so ready to make this work, that all five who live here have been praying for her for months, years even, that I'm sad for the loss that it took to get to today, and that I believe with all my heart that healing will come. But... that might be a little heavy for a Shutterfly book.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

What is a Staffing? And Now More Waiting.

I am more exhausted than I have been in weeks, but our staffing interview is complete.

We dropped Noah and Miriam off at my parents' this morning, stopped by our favorite coffee house for a peppermint latte to calm my churning stomach, and headed down the familiar path to the Children's Division a county away. We pulled into the parking lot that we'd parked in many times for our girls' visits. Today, as we sat with ten other people trying to find out in 90 minutes time whether we were a good fit for these 8 and 13 year old siblings, I longed for the simplicity of that placement. I liked being a foster mom so much more than being as adoptive parent so far. The fear and insecurity that come along with this new role drive me nuts!

Here's the truth. I don't look at the facts on paper and think "We've got this is the bag!" Whether or not we would work as an adoptive family for these two is anyone's guess. Looking at the faces and expressions of the team members during our interview made me believe that they were on the same page.

We sat at a table with ten team members who took turns asking us questions. We were in our interview for nearly two hours. They asked more questions than I could remember, at least twenty because they went around the table twice. There were predictable questions like, "Tell us about your family routine." There were some that caught us off guard, such as, "What are your expectations with name changes?" Overall, I think we did a decent job giving them all the information we found relevant. We were able to ask all of our questions. We asked, "What's the one thing about each of the kids that makes you want to hide in a corner and cry?" I HOPE and PRAY that they weren't sugar coating their stories because they certainly didn't scare me off. Even if their stories were truly the worst, I feel confident in one thing-- if the team decides that we are the best option for a successful placement, we have to be prepared for a tumultuous year in order to say yes.

As I walked out the doors of the office, the next couple being staffed sat waiting. They were sweet looking, had a few years on us, and I found myself praying for their interview. I've been praying off and on all day for the team, for the other families, and that there is a perfect fit for these kids. One that the team was in full agreement on. That could be us, in which case we'll be saying yes and diving in. And it could be another family, and I'll be so happy that there was a family well suited for the kids.

I am more exhausted than I have been in weeks, but our staffing interview is complete. Apparently, this is the part of the story where we wait some more. The part where the waiting makes me crazy, makes me second guess every move we've made in the last two years, makes me joke away encouragement and shrug off wishes of good luck. This part is tough for me. I don't do vulnerable or unknown well. I just want to know SOMETHING! Waiting on this call feels a lot like waiting on labor to start, only we don't know if we'll end up with more children at the end of it. 

And just to lighten things us a bit-- a little Independence Day silliness--