Friday, November 2, 2012

Our Home Study and an Improvised Family Night

So thankful that the first half of our home study is over. After interviewing my husband and I (yes, he was his usual self cracking jokes that I couldn't believe he said, but again..thank the Lord she always laughed and thought he was funny) for awhile she then spent some time with T alone. Afterwards we all talked for a bit. I couldn't help but ask, "How long do you think it may take?" I know she probably hates trying to answer questions like this but I just couldn't help myself.

It's different for everyone, but as I've mentioned, our age range is a little wider than most and we are hoping for siblings, these types of things can speed up the process. The best she could really come up with was "I don't think it will take more than a year, but I can't be for certain." Hmmmm....not sure how I felt about that answer, but not much I can do about that.

Overall I thought everything went well. Took a couple of hours for the interviews and to inspect the house. We are missing two things so we will have to get those completed before the 2nd interview next week. Afterwards, we attempted to complete something that resembled Family Night, which we normally do on Wednesdays. Since Wednesday was Halloween and T wanted to spend some time with friends, we rescheduled to tonight.

Our Dinner Table: My cute Halloween S&P shakers and sad wilting flowers which were replaced yesterday with flowers my husband bought :)

I usually make sure everyone is home on time (I made it very clear that this rule can not be broken!), I cook, and we sit together with no interruptions eating dinner. We take turns on who gets to pick the background music, although this doesn't seem very "cool" to T and he usually just leaves it on whatever music channel was already playing. We forgot about the music tonight though. Instead we finished eating a thrown together meal talking, discussing and laughing. T informed us that out of 450 students he's been nominated for "Most fun to be around" in his senior class, which I think is pretty darn cool. I would tend to agree as well.
Appetizers for our Home Study, wasn't sure how long it would be and didn't want the boys to get to hungry, turned out to be our main course for dinner + a few pantry finds for T

I then forced the boys to play a game of Trouble, which I would like to note that I am undefeated despite my husbands cheating. I think the years of playing with my Papa and the thumps in the head when we made a 'bad' move have finally paid off. When we played growing up, and we played a lot, I think the rule was that we were not allowed to jump ourselves when going around the board, but my husband refuses to follow that rule and I keep forgetting to look it up on the Internet. Any takers on what the rule is?
This is me (the blue) winning Trouble!

So thankful for these family nights and time spent just the 3 of us around the table. Love when T gets philosophical on us, even though he can often prove me wrong or teach me a thing or two. I will quickly admit that with many things he is much smarter than me, despite my MBA achievement. He's the first to admit he's not big on small talk, but if you want to talk about philosophy, his friends, sports (the Green Bay Packers or fantasy football especially) or academics (tonight it was about derivatives in calculus) you can get a good and full conversation out of him, well....thats as long as you can keep up. Love when he is happy and confident like tonight, makes me heart happy. I'm typing away on my computer as he is playing his guitar in the next room, it's the cherry on top of my evening listening to his soft song.

I feel like I can finally relax a little with the home study half way over and our family night tonight was a great way to end this stressful day. I now realize that I really did stress way more than I needed to. I figured I would, but that is just how I am. Next on the To-Do-List, is to hide my list and try and have a great Friday and weekend!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Bittersweet Halloween

This Halloween I didn't hand sew a costume or scrounge through the costume racks looking for something we just couldn't do without. No Halloween candy buckets were purchased.  We never visited a pumpkin patch. I didn't make use of my camera snapping all I could of any cute munchkin sitting with the pumpkins. No carving here either. We're even skipping our Wednesday Family Dinner so T can spend the evening out with friends, far away from us (typical teen). I won't be walking around trying to race after anyone while they collect the candy they've been impatiently waiting for all month. Instead, this evening I'll be happily hiding in my home with the lights off, not passing out candy, but preparing for tomorrows home study that will hopefully lead to the fun and chaos that will come next Halloween or some future Halloween.

We have one thing left on our adoption application to complete, T has to have a doctor check-up and needs a letter stating he's up to date on immunizations. That's it. Everything else has been turned in. Such a good feeling to know that we've completed the application part.

Tomorrow is the big day and we've been trying to prepare. Our To-Do-List isn't disappearing as fast as we would like but somehow it will all get done in time before our agency's rep comes tomorrow evening at 5:30pm. Please pray for our home inspection, that I remember to put all the electrical plugs back in, that I found every medication and locked it away, that ever screwdriver is accounted for and safely stored in the locked shed, and that we communicate with her the best we can during our interviews (feel free to add anything you would like to your prayer!). She'll be back out a 2nd time at a later date to recheck things, so if we accidentally miss something we will just have to have it fixed by her second visit, so I'm trying not to stress to much.

Also, prayers for my sweet Kati who had a vet appointment during my lunch hour today for a small lump on her chest. After taking a sample and viewing it under the microscope the vet announced the mass was pre-cancerous. Most of the cells were fat but there were some that looked like cancer. Surgery in her near future to remove the mass.

The average life span of a Boxer is 9-10 years, she'll be 10 in February. She's slowed down a bit in her old age and is a little banged up from a horse accident but overall she does great. Hopefully we can get this mass removed and she'll be good to go for a few more good years. I know she would enjoy some extra hands (or feet, she doesn't discriminate) around the house for petting!

While it's mostly been a pretty discouraging day finding out my Kati is sick, I'm trying to keep my sights on Him and to all he has in store for us. I read a biography a while back written by a woman who survived WWII and eventually made it to America. During the war when she was in a concentration camp she talked about how she longed for the days she considered boring, the days she sat around her home reading, doing homework, and feeling like her life was just plain dull. On many occasions in the past I have complained to my husband about how boring we are and begged to do something, although I didn't know what. After reading that book I am trying to be more thankful, for all things good and boring.

On a more positive note, we are looking forward to my husband's best friend and his wife from WI visiting this weekend. We'll be eating lots I'm sure and enjoying spinning tires, deafening loud engines, tire pieces flying up on our faces, and checkered flags waving on Sunday while cheering on our favorite NASCAR drivers.

Prayers for a safe Halloween for all of you!

Monday, October 22, 2012

To-do-lists, our life in a PowerPoint slide show and a home study on the horizon!

We finished our training this past Saturday (we will have to renew some training every year until the adoption is final). It was a long day but not as torturous as the past Saturday. There is an incredible amount of information to take in. I was so thankful there were two sets of ears instead of just one. Before we left training they gave us an idea of what would all be required once we were foster parents. I hope and pray that somehow I can remember everything that I need to when the time comes.

This was us scouting a wedding location almost 9 years ago. Sorry for the blurriness, had to scan it in.

Home studies were discussed in more detail this Saturday as well. We will have a family interview/meeting, a couples meeting, and all three of us will have individual interviews. They'll also go through our house and inspect everything. We were given a check list and discovered that much of what we had done for our home health inspection through the county and the fire inspection through the city will not be enough. Another fire extinguisher needs to be hung upstairs, tools need to be locked up, and cleaning supplies need to be locked. All have been added to the already long "To Do List."

Can you imagine having to unlock your cabinet or go outside to your locked storage unit to get dishwasher liquid, soap for laundry, counter cleaner, bleach, etc? All vitamins and anything topical also has to be locked. This is going to take some getting use to. We had been told that cabinet latches and placing cleaners high enough would be okay, but not the it gets added to the list.
My husband and Me at a Packers Football Game probably 6 years ago.

After training we enjoyed some time with new foster-to-adopt friends we met during training at one of our favorite Italian chains. It was great to be able to let our guards down after feeling so judged and scrutinized in training and to be able to talk about the process with people who understand what we are going through.

Sunday my husband left for Graham to get some mowing done and to check on some things. T and I stayed behind mowing, pulling weeds, doing laundry and cleaning around the house. I can't remember the last time I was this sore, yuck. But I appreciated his help mowing!
My husband and his sister sledding.

My mind has been full of lists of what I need to do (and mostly what my husband needs to do), what I need to buy, stores I need to visit, things that need to be cleaned and the like. I have lists everywhere and feel a little disorganized right now. Feeling slightly overwhelmed I opened my email this evening and noticed an email from our agency asking if we could do the home study NEXT WEEK! I guess I better get on top of my lists and get some things checked off. So glad T and I got the yard work done and some house cleaning. My cake decorating classes and training for a 15K have gone down the toilet lately, they have fallen on my priority list for the time being, but for what I feel is a good reason.
Love this picture of hubby and T 

The home study will consist of 2-3 visits. After it's completed and all other forms have been turned in (we still need finger prints and a couple of other things), it will be written up by the agency and then....that's it. Our agency will forward us broadcast when they feel it's a good match. We will then review the broadcast and okay it or not. If we give the okay to continue they will submit our home study to CPS. We were encouraged to make a PowerPoint to send in with the home study of 4-5 pages about our family including pictures. Not sure how I'm going to fit our life into 5 slides on a PowerPoint, but I'll try (something else to add to my lists). I started going through pictures this evening and have included some in this post.
Me in Paris on our honeymoon at Notre Dame Cathedral
Then CPS chooses which family is the best fit. We will be judged by a few written pages from the home study and a PowerPoint slide show. Doesn't that seem crazy?! One of the biggest decisions in our life will be mostly controlled by someone else and they will be making their decision based on a few interviews, how safe our home is and a PowerPoint with pictures. When I think about it, it just sounds, that's all I can really do, is trust in Him. If/When we are chosen we'll have pre-placement visits and wait, perhaps a few weeks or maybe even months, before "they/he/or she" will actually come home. I'm obviously simplifying this piece of the process a little but you get the idea. We were told that because we chose sibling groups and are a little more open on age it may not take as long as it does others.

T in the middle, our cousin on the left, and my nephew on the right

I do not know how things will unfold this next week, next month, before Christmas, or next year but I am trusting in God to see us through this. I imagine over the next week or so my blogging will be limited as I'll be quite a busy bee preparing for our home study, or should I say "judgement period." If you catch me during this busy time I ask that you please encourage me. I promise you I have heard all the horror stories of how this has gone wrong for so many others and all the "what ifs." That is not where I want my thoughts to be nor do I feel like that gets me anywhere.

Me in NYC in the lobby of the Empire State building----->

While sometimes I'm a bit of a dreamer we are quite realistic about this process and aren't expecting roses and rainbows every second of everyday. We expect it will be pretty tough most days. We are preparing the best we can through discussions, education and prayer. I ask that you pray for us too. In the mean time I'll try to keep you updated.

To include or not to include, that is the question. I think I would have an angry teenager if I snuck this one in. Love this picture of him being silly though. Ultimately we will all have a say on which pictures make the cut.

Thought I would end on a good scripture that I find uplifting: "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." -Isaiah 41:10

My husband surprised me on our 1 year anniversary with a hot air balloon ride. A very nice stranger saw us and followed us around taking a couple of pictures, found where we landed, got our email address and then emailed them to us. So glad to have this photo!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Waiting Mothers Wonder

This was a journal entry I wrote around 1 or 2 in the morning. After laying in bed for what felt like hours I snuck off to the closet and wrote for a bit not to disturb my husband and to help clear my head.

At night when the lights have long been out I lay in bed and a joyous wonder slowly fills my head and heart.

I wonder...what it will be like to know you are sleeping upstairs, if you will hate mornings as much as we do, if you will like dessert as much as I do, if you will cheer for the Green Bay Packers with us, what your favorites are (movies, TV shows, foods, colors), will you like art, do you enjoy sports, how old you were when you began to talk, are you even old enough to do these things??.

I will you want your room decorated, if you will be shy or outgoing.

I try to force myself to be sleepy, to close my eyes tight, to clear my head....but then I wonder if you will like bike riding with us, if you like school, if you've even started school, what your style is, if you know about Jesus and how much he has always loved you, what your hopes and dreams are.

My wondering turns to hope. Hope for....our family's future and all it holds, all God has in store for the family he will have created himself.

Suddenly, and regrettably, what I can only assume is fear and/or reality, sneaks up and takes root and I began to realize that there will be times you 'hate' me, you might shout at me and beg for your 'real' mom, you may even threaten to run away. Sometimes you will probably misbehave at school, refuse to pick up your stuff, or throw a fit in target.

I wonder if you'll get tired of talking about adoption when others ask, if you'll be sad because....
-I can't tell you over & over again the story of how you were born
-you will not look like me or your Dad
-we most likely won't be able to go back and look through your baby pictures

I begin to pray. For you. For Me. For Us. For our Family. These nights seem so long.

I prefer to go to bed dead tired to avoid this vicious cycle. But in the end I'm thankful that I believe in God, how sad and so much more scared I would feel if I didn't. See...when those negative thoughts cross my mind, they always end with hope and trust in His plan. If these things I fear do happen I will try my hardest in the moment to still find joy because it means I have you. Perhaps sometime soon I will finally fall asleep I guess I must try. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Survival, Guilt and What's to Come

We survived! Yesterday, after work and school we rushed to downtown Dallas. Feeling like we just barely made it we shoved our faces with McDonald's (yuck, I know) and took our seats. Hours later the three of us emerged exhausted, beaten (not really but it felt like it) and even more hungry.... but we are now officially CPR & First Aid Certified!! Part of the process. "T" didn't have to take the class but we thought it would be nice for him to know as he prepares to leave for college.
Our certificates, YIPPEE! One thing we can check off our "To Do" list. 

After this grueling week I thought I would share some of the process that we've gone through and are about to go through and the type of adoption we chose.

There are several ways to go when adopting including: international, domestic (open, semi-open or closed) and foster-to-adopt through the state. We've chose foster-to-adopt which means we will be foster parents for at least six months. At that point if parental rights are terminated we will then be able to legally adopt (more on this to come in a later post).

I guess I'll start from the beginning though. Many moons ago we attended an information session regarding fostering and foster-to-adoption hosted by several agencies that gather together to provide general information to those showing interest. After gathering information and doing our homework we picked the adoption agency that we felt was best for us.

We scheduled a meeting and had our first interview. This was a while back but I can remember the whole thing like it was yesterday. If you've met my husband you know sometimes it can be hard to tell when he is kidding and when he's serious. He makes up stories or teases people and they think he's being serious, I feel so bad for them. This often comes out more so in the check out line at grocery stores, poor checkers.

I can remember before going into the interview begging him to be on his best behavior.....he started off good. I won't lie or sugar coat it though, the whole thing is awkward. Your meeting someone for the first time who is ultimately going to decide if your dreams should come true or not. Your future lies in their hands. I would find myself slouching,sweating or messing with my hair and would quickly correct myself wondering if she noticed, hoping she doesn't think that somehow this will make me a bad parent. It's quite stressful.

Anyways, my husband did what he does bet. Throwing in sarcasm to lighten the mood, I would hurriedly correct him to make sure she knew he was kidding. A feeling of relief each time he would say something and she laughed. So glad she's a trooper and went right along with him. Somehow we made it threw that but I can remember walking out of the interview and feeling such relief that it was over. Before we left she informed us that only those who "pass" the interview are mailed an application.

After waiting a few days a huge manila packet filled every inch of our mailbox.  Never so excited for a filled mailbox. That was until we started filling out the application. There was a ton of paperwork. It kept us busy for quite some time. So many questions about: our childhoods, our relationships with our family and even stuff on the most intimate parts of our life. It felt so weird to write stuff like that down on paper and send to a stranger.

Included in the application process is a signed health inspection form from our county rep and a fire safety inspection by our town fire marshal.

We spent a few weeks carefully and hurriedly preparing the house. We were perhaps a little on the overachiever side which we didn't realize until afterwards. We got a list of things that needed to be completed but I just kept thinking they would come into our house and notice others things and fail us proclaiming us as FAILURES TO BE ADOPTED PARENTS. I just kept envisioning a big red "FAIL" across our form and me bawling like a baby

We covered every plug, packed away all medicines in new secure lock boxes, cleaned the entire house, secured every tall shelf that's climbable, mounted the fire extinguisher, posted the fire escape plans, checked and rechecked the smoke detectors, child proofed the kitchen cabinets and drawers necessary, replaced all our trash cans and attached "Grip-n-twists" on door knobs. Then we again checked the long lists for both inspections over and over and over and over again.
You can go ahead and judge me, I know, the "Canned Food" section is a little depleted. Grocery shopping is on the "To Do" list, but here's proof of the mounted fire extinguisher.  
I did some research online and found that many inspections check your blind cords...oh no! I hadn't even thought about it. I rushed out the night before and bought the entire stock of cord protectors at Home Depot. Only to research more that night that many people feel these are just as unsafe. It wasn't on the list anyways so I ended up just stressing all morning and returning them a week later. 

I'm pretty sure I have one of the safest houses in my neighborhood. But I was sweating bullets when the inspector came over and then again a week later when the Fire Marshal visited. The health inspector walked through the house checking her list and finally handed me a paper with a big "PASS." Not really, she just checked the boxes and signed the form we needed. But on her way out she said, "Everything looks great. I can tell your going to do great with this process."
Such awesome news to a new foster-to-adopt parent, that some stranger even thinks you might be able to get through this. I did ask about the blind cords and she said no one had ever even asked her about that, but that was definitely something she would look into. Oops....I did not mean to give her more ideas.

The Fire Marshal's personality was a little more on the serious side and made sure to check everything on his list personally. Again, another "PASS." Yippee. On his way out he said he was "impressed." He felt we went above and beyond with our fire escape plans, he had never seen anyone actually post them around the house. More relief.

Our posted Fire Escape Plans. Now if your a guest in our house you'll know where to go if there's a fire... OUT!
If you've noticed, so far this process seems to be high stress, then relief, then more stress, and hopefully more relief. It comes and goes as we complete and approach each step in this process.

We submitted our application what seems like months ago, but really was just about two weeks ago. We started training this past Saturday with one full torturous long day in the classroom. Felt like school all over again for my husband. We left feeling so brain fried only to go back Monday night for our CPR and First Aid training. I've sat through at least 2 CPR classes, but this was by far the most brutal class. But I must add that I did learn more than I had before.

This weekend we have another full day in the classroom. We have a few more things to finish up paper work wise, finger prints, etc. But then we wait for our home study: more poking, prodding, answering questions, judging, and searching through our home. I'm already wrapping my mind around the situation the best way I can but would appreciate any prayers. I tend to over analyze and scrutinize a little to much. But there is good news, the young lady who we've been working with from the beginning will see us through the whole process and will be the one completing the home study so she'll be prepared for my husband's humor.

After the home study I'm not sure what is to come. If our background checks and references are good, I think at that point we wait, for a match, for a "broadcast" as they call it, for .....our child(ren). When there is a "match" we'll have the chance to continue or not and then perhaps have pre-visits where we meet the children in a neutral location. Then we decide.

Such a scary thing. This decision can and will have a huge impact on our lives, our marriage, my step-son and our family as a whole and will change the future completely. Such a powerful little decision. This is actually the scariest part for me. Many mothers tell of a "you'll just know" feeling, but what if I don't feel that? What if I pass my children and don't even notice? I fear the guilt of letting down other children we meet in the process. Meeting them and enjoying their company, only for them to later discover they perhaps weren't a good fit for our family. I hurt for these children. I can only imagine how they will feel after not being chosen, feelings of not being "good enough," and that is enough for the tears to flow.

Guidance, yes.... guidance, faith and a sign from God. That is my prayer. That is where most of my thoughts are. I will try to remind myself that there is a plan for them set in place, perhaps there is a longing mother who a week from now will have that "I just knew" feeling when she meets the child we did not feel was a good fit for our family. But lets be real, this is the best case scenario. So many kids out grow the foster system, perhaps this is somehow their plan. It is super difficult to talk myself out of the guilt, just when I think it's gone, it creeps up on me at the most awkward times.

In training we talked a lot about the experiences foster children go through and the process that takes place before they arrive in our home and how it affects them (more guilt). I couldn't help but think about our child(ren) and what they may have seen or heard, what they've experienced, the pain they are feeling, the let downs, and the tremendous amount of loss. The loss of their mother, their father, their extended family, their traditions, their history, their structure and the feeling of being needed.... wanted. I am thinking of them, who ever they may be, praying for them and their little heart, and trying to patiently await their arrival.  

In efforts to prepare and wait for our new family members I've been working on my nieces stocking, cross stitching one x at a time, cake decorating and knitting stocking stuffers. Tonight I also attended a mothers group for those who are hoping to go through or are going through this process. It was nice to hear in person, instead of reading a blog, adoption stories and the trials and joys experienced. It also gave me a great idea for a Christmas present for the children in my extended family. Hopefully these activities will help dissipate this guilt I'm feeling.