One More Time

It was January 31st, 2018.  I was sitting in the parking lot of the girls acting and art school when my phone rang.

“Hi, we have a baby boy who is 5 days old and being released from the hospital.  Would you be interested in taking him?”

After getting all the information, I said yes.

In the State of Texas, just because you say yes to a placement, doesn’t mean you are getting that child.  All agencies who respond to the broadcast regarding a specific child(ren) wait on the case worker to choose the family.  So on our way home from the girl’s classes, I got the call saying we were chosen.

I rushed home as quickly as I could and a short time later our agency manager arrived with her portion of the placement paperwork.   Not long after, the case worker arrived carrying a car seat with a precious baby, snuggly wrapped up and strapped in tight.

We oo’d and ah’d over the little guy and began signing paperwork.  A few minutes later the case worker says something about “she,” to which I responded, “Wait!  He is a she?”  We discovered that the CPS supervisor accidently checked the wrong gender box and the baby boy we thought was arriving to our home was actually a baby girl.  LOL!!!

We completed the paperwork and the case worker left, followed shortly thereafter by our agency manager.

Just 4 days earlier, we had tearfully said good-bye to another baby girl that had arrived to us straight from the hospital.  We were all so upset by her leaving, that we had a family meeting to discuss whether or not we wanted to continue fostering.  Even with broken hearts, we all knew we had to continue on and suddenly my nights were once again filled with night-time feedings, diapers and baby cuddles.

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A couple of days after she arrived, I took her for her first visit with her mom.

It was cold and I had her all bundled up as I carried her into the CPS office.

I walked to the front desk asking for the case worker when a woman jumps out of her chair and says, “That’s my baby!”  She then asks, “Can I give you a hug?”  We hugged and she says, “I was so scared that had given her to someone crazy!”  I didn’t have the heart to tell her that it takes some level of crazy to become a foster parent, but that first meeting with mom made me feel that she did in fact love this baby girl and may actually do what she needed to do to get her back.

 

The girls very quickly fell in love with Little Miss A.

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She was a precious baby, so it was easy to love her.

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I even enjoyed the middle of the night feedings.  A time when it was just the two of us, in the quiet of the night.

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As most newborns do, she slept often and one of her favorite places to sleep was laying on hubby’s chest.

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It’s amazing to watch babies.  They change so quickly.

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Her straight black hair began to curl ahd her light skin began to darken.  We began to see her personality shine thru.

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She was tiny little thing.

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When she arrived, she weighed about 6 lbs and while she gained weight steadily, she gained slowly.

But she did get bigger.

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And grew.

And grew.

Each week, a transporter would pick her up and take her to visit her parents.  Then two hours later, I would leave and go pick her up.  This gave me a chance to talk to her mom for a few minutes after each visit.

At first, her dad wasn’t attending visits, but eventually he began coming as well so I was able to chat with him, although he was much more the strong silent type.

With mom and dad attending visits regularly, I thought she would eventually go back to live with one of them.  In the State of Texas, reunification is the goal, but another goal is to find a family member who will take the child(ren) while mom and dad work on their given plan.

Each month, the case worker would come for her monthly visit and give me an update.  Those updates included information about another family member that was contacted or was being contacted about taking her.  We braced ourselves for one day saying good-bye.  After all, we had said good-bye to 7 other children who went to live with family so we didn’t expect this case would be any different.  Yet each month, placement with a family member fell thru for one reason or another.

And she continued to grow.

Especially her thighs.  LOL!

And we saw so many different sides to her personality.

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We had plans to take a vacation to Illinois and Florida, which required getting permission.  Little Miss A’s mom didn’t hesitate to give us permission to take her, which was  a huge relief since I couldn’t imagine putting her in respite care while we were gone.  By this time, she was so firmly attached to us (especially me), that I wasn’t sure she would do well being away from us.

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She was a great little traveler and she was happiest when she was with us.

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And we were pretty darn happy with her as well.  We knew she might leave us, although it had become impossible to imagine our lives without her.

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Shortly after getting back from vacation, I got a call from her case worker.  She said Little Miss A’s mom wanted to know if we would be willing to complete an open adoption.  I told her we would, but asked what her dad thought about it.  After all, she had two parents and both would have to be willing to give up on reunification and reliquish their rights.  She didn’t have an answer, so we would just have to wait and see what happened.

While I couldn’t imagine not having Little Miss A in our lives, I also couldn’t imagine being in mom and dad’s shoes.

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Time went on and nothing was said about adopting Little Miss A until I asked the case worker for status on the case.  She still didn’t have any answer, but then things began to change.

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First dad quit showing up for visits.

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Then mom began to cancel visits.

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Before long mom quit showing up altogether and we were asked by the case worker once again if we would be willing to adopt Little Miss A.

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All the potential extended family placements had fallen thru and in December, the case went to mediation.

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At mediation, the goal was changed from reunification to non-relative adoption and a few days later, the judge terminated dad and mom’s rights.  We now needed to go thru the 90 day waiting process which gives parents 30 days to appeal the termination and a full 90 days for other family members to come forward requesting the child be placed with them.  Considering all that had happened over the duration of the case, we didn’t have a lot of concern, so we just moved on and waited out the 90 days.

On January 26th, we celebrated Little Miss A’s birthday.

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And we did things as a family like ususal.

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Eventually, the case was turned over to the adoption unit and we were told to hire an attorney to handle the adoption for us.

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Visits with the CASA and the adoption case worker began and before we knew it, we were given an adoption date.

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Today, was adoption day!!!

Which is why I was able to share so many photos of our beautiful baby girl with all of you.

So please allow me to officially introduce to you . . . . .

Arryn Nicole Weeks

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Togetherness and Good-Byes

Tomorrow we should find out more about our upcoming adoption.

Although I’m doubting it will happen this month, since the month is half over, I’m hopeful we will finalize by the end of June.  Once the adoption is final though, I’ll be posting lots and lots of pictures.  After all, this little munchkin if 15 months old now and I have 15 months worth of pictures to share.

Assuming the adoption is finalized by July 1st, hubby will be taking some much needed time off.  One of the benefits his company offers is 12-weeks paid time off for the birth or adoption of a child.  He will take 8 weeks this summer and the rest in December.  Having most of the summer as a family of five will be so very nice.

We found out that our other two foster kiddos will be leaving to go live with a family member.  Between having them back in 2017 and them returning to us last year, we’ve had them for 18 months.  This is going to be a big adjustment to say the least and is truly the hard part of foster care.

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With our adoption on the horizon, the other two leaving, a vacation coming up and a new grandbaby on the way, we’ve decided to take a break from foster care for the summer.

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We will keep our license in tact so we can help out other foster families by providing respite for them in between our summer travels.  We will re-group in August and decide if we want to continue fostering, stay open strictly as respite providers or close our home altogether.  We’ve had 13 children come thru our doors and while that is only a small drop in a very large bucket, we have to do what is in the best interest of our family.  Having the summer to sit back and relax a little is very much needed, so that’s what we’ll do.

We also have some home renovations we’re hoping to work on, so having fewer kids, while getting some of these things done, will be helpful.

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Mother’s Day was very nice this year.

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Hubby made arrangements for me to have one-one-one time with each of the three oldest.  I had a nice breakfast date with one, went to Painting with a Twist with another and got a manicure and pedicure with the third.  There was a lot of running here and there, but it truly was nice having one at a time and getting a break from the two littles.

Part of gearing up for the summer is also preparing for more homeschooling.  Since we take breaks throughout the year, we keep working during the summer.  We still do a lot of fun summer activities, but our school doesn’t end like it does for public school students.

Life keeps on keeping on here.

I hope you all have some wonderful summer plans to look forward to.

 

Moving Quickly

It seems like everything is moving quickly these day.

Lili turns 12 in a few days, even though it doesn’t feel like she should be getting this old.

Our adoption case worker came over and had us fill out paperwork for ANW’s adoption.  She told us she is just waiting on the birth certificate, but thinks we should be able to finalize next month (May).

In 69 days we’ll be heading on our vacation to Florida.  I mapped out our route and finalized it today by making our hotel reservations during the drive to and from Florida.  I am so ready for some beach time!!!

Before our trip to Florida though, Naomi will turn 10.  Double-digits!!!

Seriously, how did my girls get this old so quickly?!

Life sometimes seems to change in a blink of an eye.

Do What Makes You Happy

It’s an easy concept right?

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So why isn’t it that simple?

As I think about the things that make me happiest in the world, these things come to mind . . . . .


My husband

My kids

Extended family members

Good friends

Cruises

Being at the beach


I’m really am fortunate to have a wonderful husband and a good marriage.

I have some pretty awesome kids (most of the time).

We have extended family members who are there for us when needed.

We’ve made some awesome friends over the years.

We have been able to take some fun cruises and have more booked.

We were at the beach for vacation last summer and are going back this summer.

There is also beach time during our cruise shore excursions.

However, time at the beach is something I long to have more of in my life.  It’s something my family longs to have more of in our lives.

Living in Texas means we aren’t THAT far from the beach, but it’s still a several hour drive to get there and my favorite beaches are in Florida and the Caribbean.

Life is short and getting shorter every day.  So if being at the beach makes me and my family so happy, why don’t we live closer?  For a matter-of-fact, why do we hesitate to make the changes necessary to do things that we know make us happy?

I have many people in my life that would rather live somewhere else, but they stay where they are.   Why?


They live close to where they work and money certainly makes living life easier.

They have family in the area and don’t want to leave them.

They don’t want to go thru the hassle of selling their house.

They are fearful of change.


The list of reasons are long and many have very good reasons for wanting to stay where they are, even if they aren’t completely happy.  Many of those reasons are the reasons we hesitate as well.

However, I don’t want to spend my life living somewhere that doesn’t make me truly happy and we’re fortunate to have choices.

We have experienced things in life that we know bring us happiness and enjoyment in life, so why not strive to make the changes that will allow us to regularly enjoy the life we want to live?  Isn’t that living our authentic life?

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Recently, hubby was interviewed for a new position in his company.  The interview went very well and he was told he was going to be offered the position.  Upper management decided to make some changes regarding the job classification and unless he was willing to take a step backwards, they could no longer offer him the job.  It’s hard to get excited about a new opportunity only to discover it’s not going to be an option.  However, the experiences caused us to step back and look at the bigger picture.

In this particular instance, the job change would have required us to make another move back to the Pacific Northwest.  We weren’t opposed to making the move because we knew from living there previously, that we liked living there.  However, we realized it wasn’t somewhere we wanted to live for the rest of our lives, so it would have been a temporary move for us or we would have been forced to stay there longer than we may have wanted.  So thru the disappointment of hubby not being able to move his career forward like we thought, we realized that it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Instead of putting our focus on making a temporary move, we can focus on doing something that will make us happy.

For the short-term, we will focus on ANW’s adoption and we will make some changes to our home.  Hopefully within the next 1-2 years, we will relocate to an area that we so very much enjoy – the Tampa Bay area in Florida near Clearwater Beach, which is listed as the #1 Beach in the U.S.

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Although we vacation at Indian Rocks Beach, a few miles south of Clearwater Beach, we are in our happy place there and it will be a great location for us to one day retire, so why not make the move before retirement and begin enjoying the beach life.

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So we’ll set our sites on making that move in the future with no detours, because we should do what makes us happy.

Life With ANW

This baby is something.  She’s 14 months old and said her first 3 word sentence yesterday – Thank you Lili.  Although it came out as tan oo e e, but it was very intentional and we knew exactly what she was saying.

She has decided she’s unhappy at meal time sitting in her high chair.  It’s pushed up to the table, but she wants to be sitting AT the dining room table in a booster seat.  This one doesn’t need a Patrick Swayze telling us “No one puts Baby in the corner.”  She is very capable of speaking for herself.

And speaking of meals, there is no feeding her.  She “must” do it herself.

Stairs!  Her favorite thing in the world right now is climbing stairs or anything else she can climb on.

Bath time ranks pretty high in her book as well.

Her smile melts our hearts.

Her laugh is contagious.

Her cuddles and hugs are to die for.

Her kisses are pure sweetness.

Life with this one is going to be an extreme ride.  🙂

The adoption attorney has been hired and I’ve spoken to the adoption case worker.  Things are moving along and sometime in the next few months, I will be able to share her name and face with the world.

Forgiveness and Life Goes On

I started this post over a month ago, but couldn’t seem to finish it.  I suppose I’m not always sure where to draw the line between sharing enough and not sharing too much.    Sometimes, or in my case many times, it’s difficult to share something so personal.  We’ll see how it goes.


I was a young wife and mother.  Married (5 days prior to my 18th birthday), pregnant three months later, miscarried a couple of months later and pregnant again a couple of months after that.  By age 19 I was a first time mother of a beautiful baby boy and 17 months after baby #1 was born, I became a mother once again to another beautiful baby boy.  From the time I was a very young girl, my only real goal in life was to become a wife and mother.  I accomplished both of those things before I turned 20.

Life was good and it was a struggle at the same time.  Learning how to be a good wife and mother is difficult at any age, but at such a young age, it was especially challenging at times.  Having a partner who is there to learn alongside you and being able to support each other thru all the ups and downs is vital in making a marriage work.  I thought I had found such a partner, but when we discovered that our oldest son was not developing as most kids normally do, the struggle became very real.  Eventually a diagnosis that included the word ‘autism’ was more than my husband could bear.  He began to throw himself into his work even more.  He would take on extra shifts saying we needed the money, which wasn’t a lie, but it also wasn’t the truth.  Those extra shifts meant a lot of time sleeping when home and very little time interacting with his wife and two young sons.

During year 4 of our marriage I discovered there was a 3rd person in the relationship and that was the end.  We were divorced shortly after year 5 and I officially became a single mother.

After being a stay-at-home mom, I was thrown back into the workforce and got a small apartment.  The boys and I moved out of our 3-bedroom home with the big backyard, to a two-bedroom, 2nd floor apartment with a small balcony.  They spent their days with a grandparent, great-grandparent or an aunt while I worked.  It was exhausting, but I discovered that I was so much stronger than I knew.  I began to change and grow as a person.  For the first time in my life, I was learning who I was as an individual.  I wasn’t being taken care of by a parent or a husband.  I was now the one fully responsible for myself and my two little boys.

I was so very lucky to find love again after being so deeply hurt the first time around.  I really wasn’t convinced I could ever fully trust a man again, so I didn’t see it coming.  Yet, we have been happily married for 33 years now.  This time I found a true partner who I am able to lean on and support thru all our ups and downs.  Considering how major some of those ups and downs have been, I think it’s going to last.

Along the way though, I learned that sharing children with someone means that you are always connected to them and one of the things I had to be able to do was forgive.  Not just the man who had hurt me so terribly, but I had to forgive myself as well.  Marriage is two people and there are always mistakes made by each person.  While it might have been easier to just place blame on him for having an affair and tearing up our family, I had to be honest and look at all sides.  We both played roles in the demise of the relationship.  As he dove more deeply into his work, I dove more deeply into my work as a mother.  I also didn’t invest the time and attention necessary to make the relationship work.  I had to take responsibility for my role, place part of the blame on me and forgive myself so I could truly forgive him.  It wasn’t an over-night process and I worked very hard to blame him for everything first.  After all, while I was home taking care of our children, he was out having an affair, so why not?  He was an easy target and self-reflection can be a very difficult.

Eventually, forgiveness came and my relationship with my ex was okay.  There were still many struggles along the way when it came to the kids and I could give many different scenarios on the differences in how we dealt with situations along the way, but that would be another book post for another time.

Our boys are grown so for the last several years I have rarely spoken to my ex-husband.  There really hasn’t been a need to, so when he called me one day late in January, I was a little surprised.  That surprise turned to deep emotion when I learned the reason for his call.  After 35 years, he called to ask for my forgiveness.  He was making amends and I was able to honestly tell him that I had forgiven him a very long time ago and it was in that moment I realized just how important forgiveness truly is.

Ten days later, my ex-husband died.  He had battled cancer for 11 years and it was a hard-fought battle.

Forgiveness brought about thankfulness in me.  Thankful for the good years we spent together.  Thankful for our boys.  Thankful for what I learned along the way.   Thankful that the divorce that lead me to my husband who gave me another son and our two (soon to be three) beautiful daughters.  Thankful for the opportunity to become a foster parent.  Thankful for all the things in my life, both good and bad.  All these things have helped shape me into the person I am today, both the good and the bad.

Good-byes are hard and this particular good-bye closed the chapter to that part of my life while another chapter is being written.  The new chapter will include a grandchild.  The first grandchild my ex and I would share.

And life goes on . . .

 

 

Moving Forward

A few days ago, we had a visit from ANW’s case worker.  As all case workers are required to do in the State of Texas, she came for her monthly visit to make sure ANW is doing well and to give us an update.

She confirmed that the 90-day hearing was last week.  This is the required hearing after termination of parental rights.  There was nothing unexpected that happened at the hearing and she has now turned everything over to the adoption unit.  Hopefully before the end of the month, we’ll be contacted by the new adoption case worker to begin the adoption process.

I’m feeling a great sense of relief while also feeling some sadness that this chapter of her life will be coming to an end in the next few months.  Hubby and I are over the moon in love with this baby girl and can’t wait to legally become her parents.  At the same time, she has biological parents.  Unlike some other adoptive parents, I don’t feel that she was meant to be ours all along.  No child is born to be removed from their parents and placed with complete strangers, yet circumstances cause this to happen far too often.  Our choice to open our home to children coming into the foster care system allowed us to be the recipients of this beautiful and remarkable baby girl and now we will be raising her to adulthood.

Words can never fully express the millions of thoughts and feelings I have about adoption.  I feel great happiness for myself because I love her beyond words and don’t have to say good-bye.  I will continue to raise her, watching her grow, teaching her how to talk, walk, read, write, and all the other things parents get to do.  Equally, I feel great sadness for her biological family.  Not only do they miss out on knowing this marvelous little girl, but this miss out on all those milestones along the way.  For ANW, I have the mixture of emotions.  Without a doubt, she loves having me as her mommy, hubby as her daddy, and her sisters.  She would experience great trauma leaving us now, but at the same time, there will come a day when she will begin wondering why she isn’t being raised by her biological parents.  She will ask questions.  She will likely feel sadness and confusion.  You see adoption is never the first best option.  It’s never the second best option.  At best, it comes in third place and that’s a difficult place to be in for anyone.

The nice thing is that I do have the contact information for the caregivers of her siblings.  My hope is that we can establish a relationship so she continues to have a relationship with them throughout her life.

So we are moving forward by soon saying good-bye to this chapter in our lives and moving on to the next.