Friday, March 28, 2008

Delays of a Legal Sort

Yesterday was Little Boy Blue's supposed 'final hearing.' The DA was planning to terminate his birth Dad's parental rights. They cannot find this man; at one point, they thought he was incarcerated in Odessa. Now, he has disappeared. It is difficult to legally terminate on a missing person. There are many hoops to jump through to make sure 'legal notice' has been sufficient.

So, there was a mistake. One of the attorneys missed something on the citation that was published in the newspaper. The Judge is bound by the law to require proper notice. So, the Judge has put the termination hearing off until June 5; then the permanency hearing on June 13. The 90-day appeal period will not begin ticking until then. We are disappointed, no doubt about that. And yet, so what? So he's not ours until later this year ... does a date change anything about the way we feel? Absolutely not.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Rollercoaster Day ...

Today was just plain weird. I cannot say it turned out to be a great day; nor can I say it turned out to be a horrible day. We had highs and lows and everything in between. There were points when I was about to be bald from pulling hair out to points where I sat quietly and planted seeds because I could do nothing else productive.

I have a very whiny toddler on my hands. He is teething, I think. (Let's give him the benefit of the doubt here.) He wants to be outside at all times. He cannot stand the thought of my paying attention to Little Mommy instead of him. (his brothers are fine objects of my attention; just not his sister) He wants to eat non-stop. (While I'm prone to exaggeration, I am not exaggerating here, I promise!) Oh, and he's approaching 2 in a few months.

So, really I should just be patient with him and allow him the freedom to move around, etc. But there's this pesky little, tiny thing called school that most days has to get done. Bother.

And, I have this itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny problem called impatience... actually, my lack of patience is an enormous problem. I keep going back to God every single morning
and He faithfully reminds me that His mercies are new every day... I can start over and try again with His help to be a better, more patient Mommy today than I was yesterday.

Happily, the day ended on a good note. Arriving at that end required several moments when I stopped school and changed direction. One such moment, I put everyone in a quiet spot, including me. One such moment, I sent an e-mail to a friend asking for immediate prayer. One such moment, I pulled out a book we bought Prince Caspian in honor of his adoption and read it aloud to everyone and just bawled my eyes out. (I can't remember the title right now, but I'll be sure to share it another time.) One such moment, I imagined myself on a sandy beach with my husband in Hawaii saying our vows and having utterly no idea that this would be the way it all played out.

You know what amazes me? My kids are so forgiving. I love that about them. They understand that we walk the same challenging road and they recognize that I, too, make mistakes. And they are so quick to apologize and say they love me no matter what. It is true that we learn much from our wee ones. If you doubt such wisdom, just come visit my home on any given day. You will see one family learning much about love and forgiveness.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

He Is Risen!

He is alive!

I awoke today feeling the weariness of a week of absolute craziness. Yesterday, I realized Easter was today! I felt like I was spiritually asleep in terms of what Easter means to me. 5:00 a.m. I awoke with a start. I wanted to go back to sleep so badly. Yet, something stirred within me to get my lazy self up and prepare for the risen Christ.

What a blessing ... I had an opportunity to read the stories of the resurrection in all 4 gospels before anyone got up. It was the perfect thing to get me back in gear and focus on the reason for this special celebration. Plus, it prepared me for the message that was to come when we went with my parents to their church. It was a convicting message that I more than needed to hear about sharing the 'good news' of our faith.

Guess what else happened today .... Little Boy Blue's 1st Birthday! Little Boy Blue is ONE today. What a fun day. I will admit though - making 2 of those cakes in one week was really trying on my patience. And to think that June now holds 4 family birthdays ... just makes me want to shriek and run for cover!

Finally, we have had the distinct honor of having Alex's cousin from London stay with us on and off this week. His funny stories, his french horn, his faith and his delightful accent have been a welcome to our Spring Break. And, as you can tell, he has HUGE fans in our family.

Monday, March 17, 2008

It's a Boy!!

We have a new son!! A new, official male member of the family! It is official; he is ours... for keeps. We aren't just playing dress-up with him anymore.

The day started off VERY early... up at 5:00 a.m. and out the door at 6:00 a.m. Wee ones went straight from bed & jammies to car. Big kids and extra big kids got dressed up and began the 2 hour trek to Fort Worth, the town that gave birth to our Prince Caspian! Oh, first we dropped off Little Boy Blue at my friend, Theresa's house. Lucky lady... wee bairn all to herself for hours after he had a very difficult night.

We arrived at a beautiful, brand-new courthouse ready to go.

An interesting aside ... the court schedules all uncontested matters during a 30 minute time frame first thing in the morning. Uncontested included about 15 divorces and our adoption. A divorce takes literally 60 seconds. Sad, isn't it?

The Judge was just incredible. She immediately took hold of our Prince Caspian and made him feel like a true Prince Caspian. Special toys she kept tucked away for moments like these ...

She made us feel very special and very fortunate. Sweet boy had been waiting almost an hour and a half before our case came up. We were all feeling a bit weary, but the Judge gave us a huge energy boost!

Grandmom, Papa Jim & Granny Sally were there for the event, followed by a huge brunch at IHOP.

Back at home, we had a party ... complete with an Elmo cake! Bubbles and noise makers were provided by Covenant Kids.

My precious son, I cannot wait for you to look back on this day. I pray that you feel every ounce of love that our family poured out just for you today. You so deserve this special celebration!! Just 8 months ago today we found out we were chosen to be your family.

I go to bed tonight so tired, but oh so thankful! Sometimes I kiss those little chubby cheeks and I wonder at how I can ever thank God for such a gift; the gift of another son; the gift of you! Happy Adoption Day, Little Man!! Your Mommy & Daddy love you.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Photo Opportunity ...

Isn't he the cat's meow? I've been working this week to get a few special pictures of Prince Caspian to use for an adoption announcement. In addition, I'm working on his baby/adoption book. It is such a pleasure to revisit these memories and realize just how far we've come in a short 6 months. Enjoy these photos of my tiny boys... growing like little weeds!

Had to include this one of Gabey-baby, too!

A rare picture of Mommy with Prince Caspian ... why is it that I'm always on the other side of the camera??

Friday, March 14, 2008

What I'm Learning ....

Thank you so much for those encouraging comments and e-mail. Your words, friends, just encourage, encourage, encourage. I'm grateful for each one.

The meeting last night was lovely ... not a huge turnout, but very interested people came through the door. One local judge spoke about what she sees in her family court; a CASA volunteer explained how these volunteers help provide a broad range of services to foster children; Covenant Kids shared great information about the agency and their non-profit ministry; and one other foster Mom and I shared our stories. (Alex really needed to be at a baseball thing with Budding Author, so I went on my own.)

I was first-up and was able to share our story without tears ... surprise! The precious Mom after me made me cry with her words that were straight from the heart.

The most interesting thing about the entire night was that the audience was made up of primarily people over 45 years of age. Several attendees were of retirement age and had already completely raised their biological children and were seeking to foster. Don't you find that incredible? I do.

Lately, as we have contemplated what the future holds for us and fostering, one thing that continually comes up is our age. Why? Why are we so bothered by the fact that we are turning 40 this year and have young children? Is our vanity that large?

Our society certainly places a premium on youth; yet, we aren't supposed to operate by society's goals, right? Why am I bothered? Why when I look in the mirror do I see an aging, tired face and think 'Oh, we could never take any more kids.' That is just nonsense.

I was reminded last night of the faces of children waiting for homes. A reminder like this gets me contemplating a commitment to fostering for the rest of my life on earth. How? I don't know. It just makes no sense for a family who has been blessed with room and love to say 'no.'

The other foster Mom did say I'd stepped on her toes by what I'd shared about loving Little Boy Blue's Mom. I reminded her that by 'loving' I did not mean that I wanted to be his Mom's best friend or that I supported her bad decisions. It just means that I see clearly the bondage his Mom is in and I recognize her need for a Savior, just like me. I think it puts things into perspective. Not an easy proposition, by any means. But we are required to love, like it or not.

As always, I'm just walking one step by one step ... hoping God will shine the light on my path just enough for me to be able to step-up and not trip over the next stair.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Input Needed...

Thursday night we are sharing our fostering story for a foster parents recruitment event sponsored by Covenant Kids. The anticipated attendees are church-going people ... most of the advertisement was done through local churches.

We are both going to share for about 5-7 minutes each. I'm telling our experience and Alex is going to 'rally the troops' as he puts it. We are not supposed to focus upon Prince Caspian's adoption, but rather on foster-to-adopt in general.

So, with that background, I'd like for you to read what I've compiled and offer suggestions. Is anything I'm going to say inappropriate for the audience? Go gentle on me, now!

"The seed, the idea of adoption, was planted before either of our natural-born children arrived. When we were told that we might not be able to conceive, adoption became an exciting option. Ultimately, we did conceive, twice. We were and are thrilled to be parents of two healthy biological children, ages 7 & 4. As our family has grown and matured, it was as if a person or two… or even three, were missing. It wasn’t a sadness, or a reduced sense of happiness; just an odd feeling that those chairs at our table were meant for someone permanent.

In August of 2006, our hearts were convinced that we were to adopt a child through the Texas foster care system. So, we began training to be an ‘adoption only’ home. During training CK asked everyone ‘adoption only’ to pray about being a foster or foster-to-adopt home. God slowly began to show us that this was not about us … but about Him and His greater purposes. So, we agreed to be a foster-to-adopt home. A foster-to-adopt home accepts foster children who may end up being adoptable as their case progresses.

After much preparation, our home was officially licensed with CPS through Covenant Kids on Valentine’s Day 2007. What a day to start this amazing journey.

Two short days later we received our first placement, an infant girl who had been abandoned in Dallas. We loved her instantly. From the very second I saw her face, all of the doubt about my ability to love another child vanished. We nicknamed her and she quickly became a part of our everyday life …

The chances of her staying with our family were very, very high when no one came forward to claim her after 30 days, then 60 days… But God had other plans for her life and for ours. The surprise call came out of the blue…. Our precious baby girl had brothers. Two completely opposite responses surfaced almost immediately... First response - Praise God! Two brothers! Second response - No, it simply cannot be! We had it all planned out, we'd already decided on her name, her bedroom, her first car, where she would go to college... OK, so not quite that far. But we LOVED her. We drifted back and forth between these two responses until we finally just began to accept. We take the gift for what it had been, pure joy!

We had the unbelievable blessing of watching a child unfold; of witnessing the transformation of a little one reaching out to a family who desperately loved her. How could we even ask for more?

Was this our 'plan', our ideal situation? Absolutely not. But did we finally rest in peace after wrestling with God? Absolutely.

We began asking some big questions about our faith … What exactly is God asking us to do when we love another? Are we to love only when we receive love in return? Are we to 'guard our hearts' and only love in pieces? Or are we to love with our complete selves expecting absolutely nothing?

Often people comment to Alex or me, "Oh, I could never be a foster parent because of the hurt of letting go." The letting go hurts; yet, when we make statements such as the one above, are we really allowing God’s love to work in and through us?

This is such a difficult thing. I do not claim to understand the depth of God's love for humanity; nor do I claim to understand the love we are to show to a hurting world. I do know this - such a love, one that exists beyond all self-motivation, is supernatural. It is of God. It is impossible for us, as believers, to 'create' on their own.

So, the question we had to ask … can we allow God to lovingly work through us, trusting that He will ease the grief of letting go? In other words, do we really trust God with our hearts?

We did not jump back in immediately. We decided to provide respite care for other foster families… Respite is short-term care for foster children when other foster parents need a break of some sort. During our 2 respite placements, God showed us that we could feel the same intensity, the same depth of love for other children. We found out that our calling to be foster-to-adopt parents was really from God; the love we felt was His love toward these children.

Our next placement was a baby boy, Little Boy Blue. Even as they were bringing him through the door, I thought to myself, "what if I cannot do this again?" But there he was. The choice was already made. He was to be loved by me, at least for now.

With Little Boy Blue's case, we had an even more difficult proposition to consider - loving the 'someone else' who caused this child to be considered neglected, abandoned, abused and unloved. I do remember the very first night we had baby girl … my sweet husband was up all night worrying that there was a Mommy somewhere searching for her baby. You see, although she was abandoned in a very ugly place, my husband still believed in a mother's love...

So, how do you love someone who does this to a helpless, innocent, child? Just like we love any other person... Only with the miraculous, life-changing Spirit of God can we view people through His eyes and not our own.

For a time, Little Boy Blue had weekly visits with his Mom and extended family. I was not doing well in the area of loving his Mom.... I began to pray for God to peel back the layers of my own prejudice and judgment and allow me to see his Mom for who she was. And, God was faithful to do just that.

Every week for his visit, I would send pictures and a note written from Little Boy Blue to his Mommy. And, then one week, I received a note in return. Funny, when you put a face on someone and you read words of gratitude, it is very difficult not to sympathize and even 'like' that person. Brutal honesty, I did not want to like her. But I found that I sort of did... you see, she and I are connected by this precious baby. She gave this child life!

Even then, I did not desire to meet her in person. Never did I fathom that I could look her in the eyes and see a woman more like me than I ever imagined or wanted to admit. In fact, I remember saying to God that I could never actually do it, meet her I mean. And then, the letter came. CPS wanted us to meet with the caseworkers and his Mommy to discuss permanency plans. Unbelievable! The very one thing I did not think I could handle had come to pass.

Honestly, it turned out to be a surprise blessing. I cannot clearly explain in words what it did for me to see her in person. I do know this... she went from being this negative image in my mind to being a living, breathing person, in the flesh. I saw our similarities. She and I are both fallen human beings who have made poor choices and are in need of a Savior. It really became that simple. In her, I saw a Mommy's love shining through, I saw a heart and mind capable of so many things.

After that meeting, our prayers changed. We believed and still believe, without a doubt, that Little Boy Blue's Mommy can change and we believe in the One who can speak to her heart. We began to pray that she would see Him everywhere she turned and, believe it or not, as a family, we were actually praying that she would have a chance at getting him back.

That was not God’s plan. After a series of serious missteps, she relinquished her parental rights to Little Boy Blue just over a month ago, almost 9 months since he arrived at our house. While it is not certain that we will be able to adopt him, it is looking really, really positive.

But, the story does not end there. Shortly after Little Boy blue arrived, we were selected as the adoptive family for another little boy, our Prince Caspian. His parental rights had been terminated before we ever met him. When he came to live with us, we knew he was going to be a part of our forever family. His adoption will be finalized next Monday, on St. Patrick’s Day.

There is no doubt that we, as believers, are to care for those who are unable to care for themselves. For our family, that means physically doing the caring. For other families, it may mean something altogether different. That is what I love about God... we all have a different task and we are perfectly equipped to complete the task that He asks of us.

It all boils down to faith. Do I trust that the God of the universe cares for our family? Do I really believe that He knows these children and will care for them? Do I really believe He loves me and knows what my heart can handle? Do I really believe that He will work all things together for His good? I do.

God has promised to be a Father to the fatherless; and He allows us to participate in this exciting task. Incredible.

This is my lesson... If God had pulled back the curtain and shown me what 2007 was going to look like, I would have said 'No thank you, this heart can't handle that. You'll have to pick someone else.' And I would have missed it all!"

Friday, March 7, 2008

10 short days ...

and Prince Caspian will be OURS!!! Just got the call from our attorney. St. Patrick's Day will have a whole new meaning for our family.... adoption. WOW.

Alex has decided to plant a magnolia tree in honor of Prince Caspian. That excites me ... to think that we will have fragrant, cream blossoms as a reminder of his precious life.

Funny aside. I was impatient this morning with my kiddos. During school, I had to take a Mommy break so that I didn't lose it on everyone. Also, our home phone was almost cut off because I forgot :) to send the bill in. As I sat in the kitchen swallowing spoonful after spoonful of Nutella, (ever try that yummy stuff?) the phone rang. It was the attorney. Quick way to make a Mommy feel remorseful, I'll tell ya that! Plus, I'm glad my phone wasn't disconnected.

We are so happy, we could burst! I cannot wait to show you pictures of the blanket my Mom is making for the newest member. Oh, and I want to do adoption announcements ... amidst the millions of other details

Filled with joy,

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Hither and Yon

I've become a horrible blogger. Just lazy, I guess. Or maybe, could it be the sickness that pervades every square centimeter of our house?

Yesterday, we added another sickie to the ranks ... Last week, it was Prince Caspian with an ear infection, then Little Boy Blue with the same. I took a sore throat over the weekend which has turned into a nice viral infection. Today, I took Budding Author to our friendly family physician and he has the flu or strep or both.

Interesting aside ... we gave Budding Author his first dose of Tamiflu and he had a very weird halluncination-type thing happen. My trusty Fox News anchor told me this morning that other children have had psychiatric side effects to Tamiflu in Japan. So, we've decided to skip the Tamiflu and hope the antibiotic is what is needed.

How are you?? Anything exciting happening in your life that you might need to start a blog and share?

A few things to catch up on here:

Little Boy Blue is taking steps. Prince Caspian is perfectly on track with his speech and other developmental areas and does not qualify for ECI (yippeee). We weren't so oblivious after all!

I have many things cooking in my head to write about and not enough time to write... isn't that true of every area of our lives?

Until then,