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Posts from the ‘Adoption’ Category

Military School? Good or Bad?

G is 16.  She has been with us since she was 6.  We had a 3 day honeymoon when she moved in and then BAM.  It was over and life was a struggle.  Gracious, the behaviours, the lies, the manipulation…..bad memories.  After several years, we had had all we could handle.  I could not physically do much because she may be short, but she had grown in strength and was starting to get physical.  We made a tough decision to send her to military school 3 1/2 hours away…..for 22 weeks.  We had one visit for a few days, over July 4th, weekly phone calls that lasted about 2-3 minutes, and letters/emails.

As a family, we stepped back and we began to heal.  Military school was not what we thought it was going to be.  She gained more weight while she was there because the kids found ways to get out of PT.  Her excuses ranged from she was going blind to she was lame.  I finally had to forbid her to go to the nurses station 12x a day.  The nurses also, unbeknownst to me at the time, forbade her from going because it was excessive.  She watched movies that we would NEVER allow that are 100% inappropriate for adults, much less, troubled teens.  I had to let it go.  I started looking at it as a break.  A much needed break for all of us.

We took this time to reconnect, heal, talk about things, work through some things, and focus on peace.  We had forgotten what peace was like.  The kids wrote letters/emails to each other and my prayer was that healing would begin and bridges would be built.  Bridges were not rebuilt.  My kids disclosed such painful things that they had kept to themselves.  It hurt my heart and frankly, I didn’t want her to come back.  During her time away, our baby was diagnosed with OPSOCLONUS MYOCLONUS SYNDROME and was hospitalized for 2 weeks.  There is no way I could have handled G and being 4 hrs away for 2 weeks.  I also had surgery and was able to recover.

When time grew closer for her to be done and come home…..I had already mentally and physically prepared it.  I had already set in motion a few places that she could go because I anticipated that things would not be different.  It broke my heart, but my other kids were afraid, the baby was not well, and I was spent.  I had had enough and my tolerance level was in the negative.

Bart went to go and get her….well, go to the graduation and then bring her home.  I was only 2 weeks out of major surgery.  My big girls had to work and my sister watched the baby.  They got home and after an hour or so, she made her way upstairs to my bedroom, where I had been resting.  It was not a “Little House on the Prairie” reunion.  It was stoic and tense.  I laid out the law for her.  I was not going to yield, I was not going to put my kids in danger, I was not going to deal with what I had been dealing with.  It was a one strike and you are out policy.

It has been 2 1/2 months since she has returned home.  In that time, I can count on 1 hand how many times I had to have a conversation with her or correct her.  I can count on 1 finger how many times things escalated to an almost point of no return.  For the most part, she has been able to self regulate.  She is NOT medicated.  She was on a lot of medication and mood stabilizers before she was gone and during most of her time at military school.  I took her off of two before she left and she ran out of one at the end of her time there.  When she came home, I was recovering, Bart didn’t know where her meds were and neither did she.  She has done incredibly well, shockingly enough.

I once thought she had torched those bridges and relationships with her family…like ashes and then a wind storm and it blew the ashes from here to there.  I now see, that she just singed them pretty well.  It has taken a bit of time for some of the kids to warm back up and allow forgiveness to take place, but there is still healing.  Her relationship with Big Daddy has gotten a bit better.  She accepts discipline, she self regulates, she is getting her schoolwork done, she is quick to do what is asked, and she laughs again.  We all do.

For a gal that is 5’1″ tall…she gained weight while she was there.  Since she has been home, she has been continuing her PT twice a day and we’ve thrown in a 3 mile walk several days a week.  She has lost 14 lbs since being home.  Her skin has cleared up, she is learning proper eating, she has stopped stealing food/gorging, she has cut out soda, and she has learned portion control.

All in all military school was not as disciplined as I thought it would be, but God is bigger.  He gave us all a time apart to gather ourselves and to realize that, somewhere deep down, there was still love.  Don’t get me wrong FASD still sucks.  RAD still sucks.  I have to “parent” her more than what I should, if that makes sense.  Chronologically, she is 16 but mentally/emotionally/physically she is between 8-13.  It just is what it is.  I’ve accepted it and she has accepted it.  She just asks a LOT of questions and I don’t get irritated because I think she “should” know the answers….because she doesn’t.

I feel like a huge cloud has lifted off of our family.  I know that it will not always be easy.  I know that we will have bad days, but I also know that I remember why I chose her, through adoption.  Her eyes sparkle when she smiles.  She is tenacious.  Her laugh is infectious.  She tries really hard and she is wonderful with the baby (most days).

So, this is what it is like to have 7 abnormal kids 🙂

Maybe, I need 8 abnormal kids…..who knows…..

 

 

 

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We are Finished

I hope you all have enjoyed my series on adoption.  I am so thankful for each person sharing their stories of the good, the bad, the hard, and the glorious.  God gets all the glory for each family represented.

If you have any questions, you can always click on the “Adoption” link in the above menu bar.  There, you will find some information on my types of adoption.  You can always email me at thebarefoothomeschooler@gmail.com or you can comment here.  I will be happy to help in any way possible.

Remember…..we are not all called to adopt, but we are all called to do something.

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The Waiting Child’s Lullaby

KISSES IN THE WIND (The Waiting Child’s Lullabye)

I hold you in my heart and touch you in my dreams.
You are here each day with me, at least that’s how it seems.

I know you wonder where we are… what’s taking us so long.
But remember child, I love you so and God will keep you strong.

Now go outside and feel the breeze and let it touch your skin…
Because tonight, just as always, I blow you kisses in the wind.

May God hold you in His hand until I can be with you.
I promise you, my darling, I’m doing all that I can do.

Very soon, you’ll have a family for real, not just pretend.
But for tonight, just as always, I blow you kisses in the wind.

May God wrap you in His arms and hold you very tight.
And let the angels bring the kisses that I send to you each night.

— © Pamela Durkota, written for Josh

Guest Blogger: Brittany

Hi! My name is Brittany.  My husband, Eric, and I have been married for 13 years. We have 7 children (in our home) and quite a few more that we have the privilege of being mom and dad to.  Our family is made up of biological, adopted, and foster children, but no one “wears” that label; they’re just ALL my children.  We also have the amazing opportunity to serve the Lord as missionaries in Arizona on the Gila River and Tohono O’odham Reservations.  And in my spare time, I decided to go back to college and get my degree in social work. I graduate in 2 weeks!  

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Adoption is something that I have thought about since I was a little girl.  I dreamed of having a big family and being a mom to many. Not long after Eric and I started dating in high school, we had a conversation about each of our desires and dreams for having a family one day. We both had said that we were interested in adoption. Several years down the road, when we were engaged, we had the conversation again. We definitely agreed in this area.

 

Eric and I were married on May 1, 2004.  About 6 months into our marriage, we started researching international adoption. We had no idea really where to begin so we started requesting information from different agencies. We were just trying to wrap our minds around the process and the cost. We noticed that most requirements were for couples to be married a minimum of 2 years. We were bummed, but wanted to keep researching over the next couple of months.  Then we found out that I was pregnant, and all adoption conversation came to a halt.

 

We spent the next couple of years focused on having and raising our 2 biological children. Our desire to adopt never really went away, but we had put it on the back burner for a while.  Then we became involved with an organization called Starfish Orphan Ministry. The more we learned about orphan statistics and orphan care, the more our desire grew to begin the adoption process.  Then I went on a mission trip to El Salvador to work with orphans, and my life was totally changed. I was no longer hearing statistics, I was holding an actual orphan in my arms. My heart was broken, and I knew that God was calling me and my family to action.

 

Not long after that trip, Eric and I really began to pray for God to show us where we should adopt from.  I literally researched for months. I would go through each country and read through all the requirements to see which ones we qualified for. I would seek out recommendations for agencies that we were considering. And then we prayed over each country. Each time we would do this, we felt led to the Democratic Republic of Congo. We had no idea why. We literally knew nothing about the country, but knew that was the direction the Lord was leading. So, we decided to jump in!

Although we knew that the adoption process was not going to be easy, we had no idea how hard it would actually be.  For this first adoption, we had 2 failed referrals. This means that the agency we were using had given us a referral for 2 different children that we thought we would be adopting only to find out that we no longer could adopt them.  Our emotions were all over the place. When we finally received the referral for our daughter, Emmalyn, we were ecstatic but also afraid to get our hopes up. We had been told that the adoption process would only take 9-12 months, but it was taking much longer. We also found out that our agency had hired an attorney that was corrupt. He was taking the money we were sending each month for our daughter’s care and keeping it for himself. Although the process was extremely hard, it was all worth it the moment we held our daughter in our arms for the first time on November 7, 2012.

 

Through the 2-year process of Emmalyn’s adoption, Eric and I also became foster parents through Tribal Social Services.  5 months before traveling to Congo, we were placed with an adorable 11-month-old little boy. He had a rough start in life, but we were going to love him and help him grow as much as we could for as long as he was placed with us.  After we realized that his case plan was going from reunification to permanency placement, we knew that we wanted to be his forever family. However, we had been told that adoption was not a possibility through the tribe. The next best option was to seek guardianship so that is what we did. On August 11, 2013 we were made permanent legal guardians to Santos.

 

Just one week later, we received a phone call from Tribal Social Services letting us know that Santos’s older sister was in need of placement. They were wondering if we were willing to open our home to her as well.  We didn’t need to take very long to think about that. Of course, we said yes!  We spent the next two months doing transition visits, and on October 4, 2013 Audri came to live with us. Her case plan was not the same as Santos’s, and we had no idea how long she would stay with us, but we were committed to her no matter how long.  We had many ups and downs through this process, mainly disagreements with the case manager, but we were able to eventually become Audri’s guardians on December 1, 2015.

 

Although we were Santos and Audri’s legal guardians, we wanted to make everything official and legally adopt them. We knew that the process would not be easy, but we decided to try anyway. We began the process in February 2015, and had delay upon delay. (One being that we had to become Audri’s guardians before they would consider adoption.) I won’t go into all the details of this adoption because many of the details are about other people involved in the case and it would not be appropriate to discuss those details for the whole world to read, but please know this was one of the most difficult things that I have even been through. Eric and I literally had no idea what the outcome would be. We just knew that we were going to trust God no matter what. On August 3, 2017 Santos and Audri officially received our last name.  For those of you counting, that was 5 years that Santos was in our home and 4 years for Audri. Wow!

 

And in the middle of all of that, we had begun the process to adopt a sweet 4-year-old boy from the Democratic Republic of Congo in March 2013 (4 months after Emmalyn had come home, not knowing what was going to happen with Santos’s case plan, before Audri came to live with us). He was from the same orphanage as our daughter, Emmalyn. We thought things would go much faster and easier this time around since we were familiar with the process and were not using the same agency we had before. Boy, were we wrong. This time around the government of Congo issued a suspension on exit letters. Exit letters were not necessary to complete an adoption, but were necessary for the adopted child to leave the country. Isaiah was officially adopted on October 9, 2013 in the country of DRC but could not leave due to the exit letter suspension. We were told it could take up to 2 years before the government decided to change the policy. This wait was brutal. We watched our son grow up in pictures. We watched his personality change from that of a sweet little boy to a strong, tough boy that showed no emotion. I cannot accurately describe to you how hard this wait was.  But, we were finally united with our son on September 19, 2016. It was a long 4-year wait, but so worth it to finally have our son home!

Would I do it all over again? Absolutely! I have seen God work miracles. I have learned what it means to truly trust Him. I have been able to watch God start the healing process in my children. I have seen them grow and flourish in our family.

I read this quote the other day from Jason Johnson, and I think it accurately describes the foster care and/or adoption journey: “It’s the mercy of God that He doesn’t show us everything that will unfold in the foster care and adoption journey the moment we first say “yes” to it. All the hard would be too unbearable and all the good would be too unbelievable.”

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Guest Bloggers: Victoria, Alyssa, and Noah

Meet my people.  Our family began with Big Daddy and me….then entered Victoria, then Alyssa, and lastly Noah.  Our story wasn’t finished, though……here is where you can read how adoption changed the lives of my people.  The good, the bad, the ugly and how Jesus is at the center…..continuing to write our stories.

 


VICTORIA (22):

When you walk into a room with 7 kids, you tend to get all the strange looks and the stranger comments/questions: “Are they all real?!”, “Your poor mother.”, “I wish I had the strength to do that.”. And my mom would just smile and approach those comments/questions the only way she knew how.

The thing is, the “strength” these people wish they had is not a human strength. You don’t go into adoption on your own strength and your own resources. I remember so many times that my mom would just be mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually drained. It is taxing on everyone in the family, but the rewards are being reaped.

If it weren’t for the divine will of God, we would not have 4 beautiful, talented, amazing kids that no one wanted to give them a chance. What some people fail to remember, is that God gave us a chance. A chance to follow Him and once we decide to do that, He will bless you in ways you cannot even imagine.

Believe, it isn’t like frolicking in the field of roses all the time. It also means hurt, heartache, and exhaustion. But, if it wasn’t for adoption, these kids wouldn’t have the same chance as I did. A chance to be loved, a chance to be a kid, a chance to be someone in this world. And my family wouldn’t have had the chance to grow and become stronger.

So, to answer those questions…. Yes, they are all “real”. They may not be directly related to me, but they are as real as any biological sibling. The connection we have is a deeper one, a connection of the soul and the heart. My mother is not poor, but blessed. She may spend every waking moment being drained, but she is incredibly blessed and she will tell you that all day and all night. And no, that strength you are referring to is not something you possess. It’s the strength of God that put us all together and sees us through every twist and turn.

That’s what adoption means to me.


ALYSSA (19):

So, November is Adoption Month and my mom has asked me to write about my experience being a biological child and growing up with several siblings that were not biologically related to me.

The very first thing I remember as a young child was when my mom and dad brought home Tay and Shay. I loved those sweet babies and I treated them like family. Shay was particularly attached to me, she even bit my brother when he was being a turd to me which I thought was hilarious. Tay was just as sweet as could be, he had the cutest laugh and he loved to play and cuddle. And then I remember my mom was really upset one day and then the kids were gone. I was confused because I didn’t know where they went at that time and I didn’t know where they were until I was older. I missed them so much but I knew not to ask questions about it until my mom healed from that tragic time.

And then Grayce and Daniel came along a little while later. Grayce was 6 and Daniel was 2 ½ and I was thrilled to have another sister to play with since Victoria always had her nose in a book (sorry V, I love you though!). So I do not remember the exact day they got adopted but I do remember how hard it was to raise them both, especially for my mom. Grayce always had some sort of behavior and some sort of issue with almost everything and Daniel could hardly talk, and it only got worse as Grayce got older. When we moved to the new house I had to share a room with Grayce while Victoria got her own room, it was hard for me because as I got older and I went through my “rebellious” phase I noticed Grayce would take on my characteristics. I was her role model and she did everything I did. For most of the time we had her, to be honest, I didn’t like her. I was always mad at her because she always lied to me or stole my stuff without telling me, I didn’t like inviting over friends because she would always try to wedge herself into our conversations and make them think she was a perfect angel. I know that seems selfish but it was true at that time. We always fought and most times I really just wanted to live out in the extra room in the garage just to get away from her.

But then I re-dedicated my life to Jesus and I forgave Grayce, although it was extremely hard I still did it. Grayce has had a lot of trouble these past few years and it got to the point to where I was in a bawling heap because I tried to show her grace and she could not seem to change her ways and act normal. I thought it was all my fault and I was a terrible sister because she looks up to me and I tried to be the best person I could be for her so maybe she might change her ways. But she didn’t.

That is what is so hard about adoption. It is a hard and beautiful mess but we have to learn to be patient and love that child because we do not know what they went through before they came to us. We have to be Jesus with skin on no matter how hard it might be at times. It was incredibly difficult for me to forgive and forget but with God’s help anything is possible.

So I try to be the best role model I can be for her and I always tell myself that her whole situation is not my fault and that I am doing the best I can to be the best sister to her since she never really had a good sister figure. So, after we got Grayce and Daniel, I was much older and my mom approached me with saying she wanted to adopt from Africa. I was so excited when I saw Jude’s picture! He was the cutest baby with adorable baby cheeks and I couldn’t wait to meet him, but it was so incredibly hard to get him home because we did not have the finances. I had to be put in middle school because Victoria could not watch all the kids and my mom had to get a job and my dad worked as well. I did not particularly like being put in middle school because I do not do very well in social environments but I went anyway to help out my parents. My mom and dad were always tired and something always managed to come up and give us trouble. I remember we set up a vendor at Tater Day to try and raise money to get him home, it took us the longest time to finally get him to America. I remember my Mom was jumping up and down and she was screaming and crying to get in the van and go tell dad that he was coming home. I was so excited!

When he finally did arrive he did not know very much English. He was very shy and adorable. He did have some issues with his anger and frustration because he could not communicate very well with us. Although, he did not have as hard of a time adjusting as the other kids did.

And then, to all of our surprise, we got Hunter. Hunter was still very much a baby and I was a lot older so I knew his situation he was in. I did not think we would adopt him until it actually happened. He had almost no verbal skills, he acted like a dog, he didn’t know how to play, and he had absolutely no social skills whatsoever. And I remember me being so angry with how he was raised and treated because no baby should ever have to go through with what he went through. But then God comforted me and told me that as long as Hunter was safe everything would turn out right, and it did. The “dad” fought for custody but we won and I was thrilled. We adopted him a short time later and he is a precious child. I love him with all my heart.

So, to say the least, adoption is hard. Not only the financial and governmental part of it but the adjusting for the parents and the kids themselves is so hard. I’m not saying adoption is all rainbows and sunshine but it’s not all dark and gloom either. It’s important to find the balance within it all and roll with the punches that come against you. Seeing my mom and dad fight for my siblings has shown me that with love and with God they can do anything, and one day when I am married I hope to adopt children as well. Everyone deserves a chance at being loved and to have a family and I want to share that love and the love of God with every child I meet. I hope this sheds some light on what adoption is and how it is such a beautiful mess. Every child deserves to be loved so please consider and pray about taking in a child and adopting, it is hard but it is an unforgettable journey that God takes you on.


NOAH (16):

To me, adoption meant more fun and more brothers and sisters.  I don’t remember much about Tay and Shay, but I do remember Shay biting me and it hurt.  I remember when Daniel and Grayce came to our old house and I thought it would be a lot of fun having them.

When Jude came home, he didn’t speak any English, I stayed up all night because he couldn’t sleep.  He also attacked Daniel because of something.  Then he started learning English and was actually enjoyable.  Sometimes he can be a pain in the butt but he’s family, and I don’t leave family behind.

Hunter didn’t speak when he came home.  He had mats in his hair and his hair was long.  When we got tubes in his ears he started talking immediately.  He started walking and has been adorable since.  When he was adopted, mom started crying.  It was a great day when he came home.


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Guest Blogger: Big Daddy

After having three biological children, we decided to enter the realm of adoption.  We believed that our quiver wasn’t full so the decision was easy.  What we didn’t realize is that adoption is HARD.  It doesn’t really matter what kind of adoption it is, whether its through foster care, international adoption or one of you own relatives, adoption is not for the faint of heart.  However, adoption is very rewarding.  To know that you have taken a life into your home that otherwise was not wanted or was being mistreated, abused, neglected, is an amazing miracle.  God intended for children to be raised by their parents, but circumstances sometimes does not allow that to happen.  That’s why we took the plunge.  To care for the orphans.

As for our journey, it has been a wild ride to say the least.  We have had a lot of good days and plenty of bad ones.  But so far, we have stayed the course.  We have tried to instill Godly values in all of our children while teaching them honesty, integrity, responsibility and character.  Sometimes we think that we are not making much progress but truly we believe if we are consistent with the kids, they will turn out fine.  Each child is different and we have had to learn how to parent each child with their different behaviors and personalities.

I guess at first I was resistant to adoption but after I met the little girl my sister-in-law and her husband adopted from the Philipines, my heart melted.  I saw the love shown and given to her and believed I could do the same.  So we decided to do it.

Our first experience with fostering to adopt, started out pretty good other than the fact that these children were brought to us and we knew nothing about them.  It was hard especially with Shay because she was non verbal at 2 years old.  She never did warm up to me very much.  Tay on the other hand, was very happy and always smiling.  Also, they were very sick…we just could not get them well.  Then the day that nearly broke us to the world of fostering/adoption happened.  The kids were suddenly taken away from us by the Cabinet.  We had no idea….one minute we are raising these kids and the next minute they are gone.  We were told the reason but truly believed the social worker lied about us in a court hearing that we were not present at.  I was furious and it literally crushed my wife.  To this day, she still has the scars of them being taken from us.  We just had to believe that the Lord had different plans for us and those sweet children.

At that time we told ourselves we would not go through a horrible experience like we just had but decided to give it another go around.  We started fosetering Daniel and Grayce in the spring of 2007.  At first, it was really good but we learned quickly how damaged a lot of these children can be who have been in the child services system.  To find out the kids you just took into your home were previosly abused is a tough pill to swallow.  Having to raise children in the midst of an investigation of abuse and ensuing court proceedings is not the way it should be.  But the kids were safe and we did our best to cope with the behaviors stemming from their past.  We finally were able to adopt them about two and half years later.  Since then, we’ve pretty much run the gamut on ups and downs with them.  Some days are good and some days are bad but in the end they are loved and hopefully they will be able to overcome the terrible start they had on life.

Our next adoption was a foray into international adoption.  My wife had always dreamed of adopting from the county of Ethiopia and after I met my new nephew from Ethiopia, my sister-in-law’s second adopted child, I was ready to go to Africa.  The process was a lot of paperwork and a lot of money.  (Not sure why it costs so much to adopt a child who has no home or no one else wants).  Within a few months we had a referral and got a picture of our son.  It was amazing how we could love someone so much whom we had never met.  The anticipation was unbearable.  But soon after that, we were able to travel to Africa and meet our son.  It was an experience like none other.  We got to meet our son and spend three or four days with him.  We went to court and were granted the adoption.  The hardest part was leaving him there.  But we were told that it should only be about 8 weeks before we could come back and bring him home.  Little did we know at the time that 8 weeks would turn into 14 months.

A huge mistake was made by our home study agency and we were told by the US government that we did not make enough money to bring him home.  How ridiculous is that?  Its a shame that money, or the lack thereof, keeps so many people form adopting children that need good homes.  When we found this out we desperately tried everything we could to get clearance from USCIS but were flat out denied two months later.  My wife was crushed  beyond all  belief.  From December 2010 to about November 2011, she was just a shell of a person.  Yes, she lived and breathed but that was about it.  She was vacant.  And there was nothing I could do about it.  For me, I believed that there was no way God would allow us to travel 7000 miles to meet a boy and tell him he would be our son, then him not ever come home.  Not neccessarily for our sake but for his.  He was an innocent child growing up in an orphanage with 50 or 60 other children just like him.  But God made a way for us to get our clearance to bring him home and in December 2011, we brought Jude to his forever home.  We were made whole.

After we brought Jude home, we thought our quiver was full.  But God had other plans for our family.  In November of 2015, we had an opportunity to take in our great nephew, Hunter.  His mother, our niece, had been in trouble with the law and was not able to take care of him.  Hunter had been living with a man who believed he was the father.  He had troubles of his own an agreed for us to keep Hunter for a while.  We decided to file for emergency custody of Hunter mainly for his safety at the time.  The man who he was living with turned out not to be the biological father and we were granted temporary custody of Hunter.  His mother got into even more trouble later and was facing a lot of time in prison.  She made a very hard yet mature decision to terminate her rights and allow us to adopt Hunter.  I can’t imagine how hard that was for her but am very proud of her for sacrificing for her son.  Hunter invigorated our family with joy.  He has so much energy and is very sweet and funny.  However, back in June he was diagnosed with an extremely rare neurological disorder called OMS.  It has really been tough because it is a one in ten million case and there is no cure.  He has been through a lot already and its been really tough on him and us.  But we take it one day at a time and trust in God for healing and comfort.

So to those of you reading this and considering adopting…..do not have preconceived notions of lollipops and rainbows.  Adoption is tough and not for the faint of heart.  But the rewards are unending.  Giving a child a home and stability is a beautiful thing.  Children, whether they know it or not, crave structure, discipline and a sense of worth.

Thats the beauty of adoption.

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Content? It is a 7 Letter Word.

On October 14, 2015…..I remember sitting on the pot (yes, my revelations come in the bathroom) and contemplating life.  I have always yearned to have more children.  Big Daddy and I took that matter into our own hands and chose to “get him fixed” when Noah was about 2 maybe 3….at the time, he was 14.  I was looking up at a picture that my kids had made.  Each one had done their handprint in yellow and decorated it.  My frame was full….literally and figuratively.  We even traded in our suburban that, easily, fit 9 people for a smaller mini van.  Yep.  My life was complete.  Next up:  Grandchildren.

Ethiopia was closing.  Foster system…..yep…..did that.  We couldn’t really afford any other type of adoption, so I just sat there, praising God for the children that I have and I uttered the words “Lord, I choose to be content.  I am content.  My kids are getting bigger.  I have more freedoms.  Life is good and I’m thankful.”

I am thinking He was sitting on His heavenly throne, eating popcorn, and laughing hysterically at me.

The very next day.  THE.  VERY.  NEXT.  DAY.  Bart was home and it was the tail end of fall break.  I was on cloud nine.  I felt like a thousand elephants had jumped off my chest and I was excited about letting go of a dream and moving forward.  In moving forward, we decided to throw caution to the wind and take 5 of our 6 kids to the movie.  Our oldest daughter was working.

We were all getting dressed and almost out the door when the phone rang.  Normally, since most of us were in the van, I would ignore the phone and go on….I didn’t for some reason (or a God reason) and I looked at the caller ID and it was my oldest sister.  At little mini back story about my sister and I.  We come from a very close knit family and when one of us is hurt or threatened, we surround that person and become a barrier of protection and love.  Yet…my sister and I were never really close.  She is close with my oldest brother and I’m was super close to my sister 2 yrs older than me.  K is 6 yrs older and my brother is 10 yrs older.  We loved each other….that has always held true, but that was about it.

About a year prior to this event, I had an appt with my number 6 child and it is close to where my sister worked.  I ran by there to say hi….get an update on her kids/grandkids and to give her an update on my family.  I suggested that we go to lunch together.  To get to know each other and to figure out who we are, as adults.  To my surprise, she said yes.  Faithfully, for a year, we met for lunch once a month.  It came to be a time that we both loved and we didn’t want to miss it.  We started calling each other….texting each other….having jokes…solving the world’s problems.  I would now consider her one of my best friends.  My sisters are my strength and they hold me up with love, consistency, prayers, devotion, honesty, and fussing at me when I need it.  When we told our other sister what all had transpired between us….she just cried and said that is what she had been praying about for years….

So when I saw her name, I picked up the phone.  I knew she and her husband were out of town so my first line was “what is wrong.”  I heard panic in her voice…..she kept saying “can you go and get the babies.  Go and get them.  Mom is out of town.  I’m out of town.  Daddy is with them but can you get them.”  Uhm…..YES, I can.  We all loaded up and headed to town and when we pulled up tears and chaos surrounded us.  I will not go into detail because first, I do not have my sister’s permission….second it is her and the babies stories….not mine to share.

We kept the babies that weekend (by babies they were 5 and 2) and she picked them up on Sunday.  I remember thinking “God, I have helped the least of these…may You bless them and protect them during this journey they are walking on.”  Then, I went to bed cause I was tired LOL.  I have not had a little one here since Daniel and he was 2 1/2 when he moved in.  Jude was 5 when he came home.  To thrust me into little people clothes and diapers…..no thank you….I am good LOL.

Fast forward just a little bit to November 2015.  See….K and J had a little brother, Hunter.  He was living with, whom we thought was his father, but in reality he was not.  His mom, my niece was living in the streets wheeling and dealing and drugging.  Broke our hearts.  My heart broke for this little dude.  I knew my sister and her husband were working full time and had a toddler and a 5 yr old who are both dealing with PTSD and severe trauma from their beginnings.  Could she take on a baby who was 21 mths old?  Yep….would she go bald and run down the road naked screaming at the top of her lungs?  Yep.

I talked to Big Daddy.  I talked to my kids.  I talked to my other sister.  I talked to my mama.  Then………..I talked to Kim.  One of the most raw, difficult, blessed events that has occurred between us.  We cried.  She agreed.  Niece agreed.  Judge agreed.

So here I am, just turning 43 yrs old.  One out of the house, one almost in college, one in highschool, one in middle school, two in grade school and a baby…..a baby who wasn’t rocked that often.  My life consisted of standing in the baby aisle crying because I didn’t know what he needed.  Sippy cups.  Diapers.  Baby toys.  Diaper bags.  Smooshed up foods.  Car seats.  My van didn’t accommodate everyone.  Oh.  My.  Stars.  What have I freaking done!  I have a BABY!

There is SO much more to this story……so much fighting.  So many days in court.  So many tears.  So many “thank yous” from my sister and her husband.  So much therapy.  So many hospital stays……….So.  Very.  Much.  You can read, from my sister’s perspective here on her blog Mom By Proxy….and God’s Grace.

We “officially” adopted him right before Christmas, last year.

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Through it all…..God knew what He was doing since before He created the Earth.  He knew how my family would be shaped.  He knew that my relationship with my sister would be healed.  He knew that I would be in my 40s still raising babies.

This boy……..this baby………he has binded my crew together.  He has changed one of my daughters.  He has his biggest brother wrapped around his little finger.  He is loved so deeply and completely.  His laugh………His smile………..His “I love you mom.”  His “daddy you are my favorite.”  His “MaMaw is my girlfriend.”  His imagination.  His drive.  His determination.

He is my joy.

He is my calm in the storm.

He is my baby.

He melts me.

Am I finished with babies?  I don’t know.  Grandkids are in my future…one day….but so may a little one who needs a family.  We shall see what God wants.  Till then, I will NEVER utter the phrase again “Lord, I am content.”

 

Bringing Home Jude

The first time I heard his sweet voice………..he was also wearing this same outfit in the first picture we ever received of him.

As God would have it…the little boy to his left, lived in the same village as Jude.  I imagine their families could have been friends and the boys could have been friends when they lived in region.  They left, together, on a bus to Addis Ababa, to the orphanage.  There, they spoke each other’s tribal language.  They played together, ate together, remained friends.

Then God stepped in.

He had other plans

Once they were just friends….now they are cousins, as my sister adopted that little cutie, and because they both know Jesus as their personal Savior, they are brothers in Christ.

You just can’t get much better than that!

We started our process in Feb 2010, with minor paperwork snags (to be expected), we got our referral on our anniversary in June, we traveled in October and met him….there are no other experiences, that I have had, that could’ve prepared me for the awe, love and deep fulfillment as when I stepped off the plane onto the soil of a country I loved so very much.  It was like I was home.  Very strange feeling beings I had never been there before.  It was instant.

The noise, the smells, the sights, the people….it was overwhelming.  It was a smoggy piece of heaven.  Then, to drive up, see the orphanage and these giant iron gates open and to see the faces of all these children………..words can not describe.  We were instantly surrounded by children (there were 83, in all)….all who wanted a hug, a hand, to play ball, candy, bubbles, they all wanted to be loved.

I scanned the crowd and my eyes landed on this sweet little boy, sitting by himself with his soccer ball, not paying attention to anyone.  I touched my husbands arm and said “there he is.”  My heart leapt, I couldn’t move, I couldn’t find my words…my body moved without my knowledge.  It was almost like I was floating to him.  I squatted down, beside him and made eye contact.  It was then, I saw my husband looking back at me.  He looked so much like my husband it took my breath away.  My heart stopped, all the worries of the world went away and I thought to myself “I have found you…in this far away place, you have been waiting for me and I have been waiting for you.”

It was a joyous time.  Playing with him, learning his language, his culture and the sweet women (and some men) who took care of him.  We met with the judge, heard the blessed words “he is yours” and and from that day forward, he was mine.  A mere glimpse in my eye when I was a child was reality.  We were blessed to do a “mini” tour of his country.  We visited museums, churches, the local market and ate glorious food.  We swatted mosquitoes the size of my head, we slept to the music being played next door.  Blessed.  Humbling.  Wishing my kids were all there to see it with me.

In the blink of an eye, we had to head back to the US to wait for our Embassy appointment.  We were told it was to be 6 weeks before returning to get our son forever….that 6 weeks turned into over a year.

We got home and the day after we returned home, still on a high, we received a letter from OUR government stating that we would not be able to bring him to the US.  We had 6 weeks to get more income in or we would be denied, not by Africa, but by America.  It stated that we didn’t make enough money and that no matter what we said or did, he would not be in our arms.  I remember feeling my legs go out from under me and a wave of sadness and despair flooded me.  I couldn’t speak.  I couldn’t function.  That depression I went through years ago, emerged.

I called the government and asked what I could do. They said I could go back to work, up our income, reapply and then we would see.  I called our homestudy agency, both of our adoption agencies….they said that we would win, there would be a few phone calls made, letters typed, money borrowed and it would be okay.  6 weeks later, between my birthday and Thanksgiving, we were officially denied.  In ET, he was ours.  In America, he wasn’t.

My heart broke, in half.  I was told to just let it go, what are they gonna do, take me to court for not going to get him?  I was told that I should think of my other children and let it go.  I was told that we could fight, but the chance of winning against immigration was slim.  Every person we spoke too had an opinion.  I tried to explain to them that I had held him, rocked him, wiped his nose, fed him and loved him….when he is just a picture, that people see, it is different than touching him.  He was my son and I would move Heaven and earth to get him in my arms.

We had decided to sell everything and the children and I were simply going to move to ET for 2 yrs, while Big Daddy stayed here to work.  We had a place to live, we knew people there and I could have all my children under one roof…without the glue that holds our family together…Big Daddy.  Then, we were all going to move.  We were going to do what it took to reunite our family.

We tried one last ditch effort to change things.  We hired the best adoption immigration attorney around, we got a new homestudy agency, we lit fires under our adoption agencies, we put all the kids in public school (after home schooling for close to 12 years) and I went back to work, full time.  Our lives turned upside down.  I got a job at a department store and I worked my butt off.  Those working moms, out there, hats off to you all!  We worked for a year…we sacrificed.  We almost gave up because the longer we waited the more our knowledge grew that he would become “unadoptable” because of his age and gender.

The Lord worked miracles.  He provided the funds, through family, friends, yardsales, wreath sales, etc to pay for our adoption, not once but twice.  In three days, we raised $3000 with a YARD SALE!  Tell me that isn’t MY God showing up!!!!!!!!!!!!  It was enough to pay for our attorney, visas, fingerprinting…..so many things in 3 days (remember who rose in 3 days, just sayin’).

I remember meeting our new social worker with the new homestudy agency.  We sat in a restaurant, eating (me being skeptical and not so nice because we had been down this road before and I wasn’t up for more disappointment).  Then she said these magical words “you did it.  You made enough money for your family and you are going to bring your son home.”  The world stopped spinning.  I couldn’t eat, I just sat there with my head on Big Daddy’s shoulders weeping because I never thought I’d hear those words.  We still had a long way to go, but this was a HUGE step.

More fighting, more paperwork, more money, more more more.  Again, the Lord showed up big because Jude had been transferred to the “Transition House”.  There, he was loved by thirty nannies and his next door neighbors were our good friends.  My friend Betty, came almost daily, to love on my son and have her children play with him.  She was me.  She was the mommy he needed in a time of uncertainty and pain for us and for him.  We are SO incredibly grateful to Woudneh Mulugeta and Betty Mamo and their children.

I got a call, one day, and it was our immigration worker.  I was told not to talk to them because the last worker was nasty and she denied our case.  This officer was different, she heard my plea for my son and she worked with us and for us.  She kept saying, “I need this paper or I need that paper.”  I would fax it and then call to confirm she received it.  During one of those faxing/calling moments, I was sitting in the closet talking to her and I heard these words “you are approved.”  I sat there.  Silence.  She said it again.  I sat there.  I asked her to repeat herself at least 5 times and then I burst tears thanking her, blessing her, praising God and shaking like there was no tomorrow.  I couldn’t keep it together.  I was on my knees, on my face, praising our God.  She kept saying “please don’t cry, get your stuff together and go get your son….you deserve him and he deserves you.”

I stood at my bedroom door and screamed for my girls and I told them, through tears and praises.  We all stood and cried.  I through on my shoes and we went to where Big Daddy works (in a factory, at the time).  I flew in and I couldn’t even get the words out.  I finally muttered “I need to see my husband, it is an emergency.”  The lady didn’t ask, didn’t flinch, she just escorted me to a room because, I’m assuming, she thought I was nuts.  Moments later and he walks into the room.  It was, again, like slow motion…I ran into his arms crying saying “we did it, we are bringing home our baby, we did it.”  We both sat, with tears in our eyes.  A blessed moment.

We flew out a year to the date that he “should have” been home.  God’s timing is perfect ya know and He has a sense of humor.  I remember stepping off that plane and seeing sweet Woudneh in the crowd and his smile…that radiant smile of his.  He escorted us to his car.  I sat, frightened and thought “will he remember me, will he be “institutionalized”, will he have RAD, will he hate us, what will I say, what will I do?”  We pulled up to the transition house and the giant gate opened.  My first thought was “where are all the kids?”  There was NO ONE in the court yard.  He told us to stay in the car because he wanted to capture all of this on camera and video.  I remember thinking “he is nuts…I’m not staying  in this car LOL.”

We parked under the tree and I looked around and I saw a group of nannies walking towards us and in the center of these beautiful women, there he was….my son….decked out in his best whites and holding a bouquet of flowers.  I was speechless.  I no more squatted down to see if he would remember me or want to hug me and he started running towards me and hugged me like I’ve never been hugged before.  We laughed, I cried, Big Daddy cried….he just patted my face.  I kept saying to him “I told you I would be back to get you.  I told you I would never leave you here or forget you.”  He couldn’t understand my words but he knew.

Our story didn’t end there, it began.  He has been pure joy.  He is full of life and love.  He is smart, athletic, loving and he is joy.  He exudes joy.  He laughs, all the time, he is humble and forgiving and he eats….he eats so much LOL

Is our story finished?  Your guess is as good as mine.

All I know is….

The Lord remembered.

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Choosing for My Heart to Be Broken

My oh my…my story is coming full circle in so many ways.  It is a story that I choose to hold so tightly to my heart because the pain is almost unbearable.  It isn’t almost unbearable it is all the way unbearable.

Almost 10 years ago, Big Daddy and I decided to expand our family through the blessing of adoption.  We had had 3 biological children and we decided when our youngest was 2, that he would “get fixed” and that would be that.  We later regretted that decision and our conviction was to step out of our comfort zone and embark on an adventure.

Adventure it has been.

We quickly realized that international adoption was out of the question because the cost was astronomical.  We also decided that we had already done the baby thing, so we focused on older children through our state foster care system.  We took all the required steps.  We did 10 weeks of PS-MAPP classes, we filled out paperwork, worked on our home, got our homestudy, background checks, criminal checks, so much paperwork.  We were finally approved after what seemed like forever.  I believe it was over the summer when we were approved.

We were approved in June.  I was ecstatic.  We did not want to foster because I just couldn’t.  My heart couldn’t take that uncertainty.  We were going to adopt.  That was our grand plan.  The next month, my sweet granny decided it was time for her to see Jesus.  My heart….I can’t even begin to describe what her loss did to me. I knew she was better off.  I knew she would never want to come back here for anything.  I know I will see her again, but she was my person.  She was my source of strength.  That hole is still very much in my heart.  I began to sink into a depression.

Depression is nothing new to me.  I’ve struggled with it my entire life.  It was a black time filled with many tears.  In October of that year, we got the call.  My goodness….I thought we had won the lottery.  We wanted just one more child and we were getting two!  A girl (2) and a boy (10 mths).  I immediately began gathering things, preparing my heart, my other children, my family.  I was on cloud nine.  My babies …I remember when they walked in…so frightened.  So tiny.  My daughter couldn’t speak.  My son looked like Don King LOL.  His hair LOL…still makes me chuckle.  The social worker came in and stayed while we all met. My kids had a carseat, a coat, a sippy cup, a bottle and the clothes on their backs.  That was it.  We were set to adopt because they had already been in the system, returned and now back in the system.  We were preparing for these precious babies to be a forever part of our family.

We lived in a 1000 sq ft home with 5 kids and us and one bathroom.  It was crowded but doable.  I remember taking my son out of that 6 mth onesie he was wearing and when I did….he looked like an octopus unfolding…he had LOTS of rolls, lots of leg, lots of arms and he had been shoved in that onesie that was entirely too small for him.  He was wearing, comfortably 18 mth clothes.  He had never eat food.  All he did was drink out of a bottle.  When we introduced food to him…..he ate and ate and ate.  I’ve never in my life seen such a phenom.  His laughter.  Oh my, it would light up a room.  He laughed from the top of his head all the way down and his eyes would dance all over the room. He was contagious.

My daughter was a bit more reserved.  She was a bit pickier of an eater. She like to eat shoes and struggled with sleep.  Her teeth….I used to laugh and say she could eat a corn cob through a picket fence…those babies stuck straight out of her head.  She was shy but loved to be held and loved to look around.  She was mesmerized by the kids and all of the new surroundings.  She loved cats and flowers.  So precious.

My kids were VERY sick when they came to us. Our son had asthma and our daughter had a bit of it, so I would sit them in their high chairs and do breathing treatments for them, together.  My daughter had ringworm which spread to all of us.  It seemed like whatever was going around we ended up with.  It was hard.  It was also joyous.

Our social worker (or the kids worker) was a deceitful woman.  Her intentions (as stated to us) was that SHE wanted to adopt them but couldn’t because it was an ethical issue.  I sent pictures, gave updates, she came for visits…I did everything I was taught to do and then some.  After Thanksgiving…we ALL got the flu.  I was in bed, the babies were in bed with me (all 5 babies)…we were all so sick. I called the worker to see if she could possibly take the babies to their doctors appointment. She had previously told me that she would be there to help in any way.  I stupidly took her up on that offer.  When she got there, my babies were needing to be admitted for dehydration.  I immediately pulled my vomiting self out of the bed, got childcare for my other children and I hauled off to the hospital.  I stayed day and night for a couple of days. I thought everything was okay.

It was not okay.

When the SW went back to her office, she called for a court date.  She told me that I did not need to be there, it was just a review.  I needed to stay home with the babies and she would call if any changes with visitation were changing or if TPR (termination of parental rights) date was set.  I did that.  The babies and I were home.  I was deep cleaning the house, but first I had to set the babies in their chairs for their breathing treatments. I got the call.  The call was not from the SW, it was from her supervisor. All I remember hearing was “you have been deemed unfit as a parent and we are coming to get the babies.  Have them ready in an hour.”  I sat in silence.  The supervisor had to repeat herself several times because I was not comprehending what she said to me.  I was unfit because my kids had had the flu.  Because I had the flu.  I was unfit.  My babies were leaving.

I called Big Daddy, who was at work….I don’t remember all I said to him.  I do remember screaming and saying “she is coming to get my babies.  She is coming.  Please come home.  The babies are leaving.”  He got home and I was in the floor with all my kids surrounding me and the sound of me wailing was heard in the driveway.  Everyone was crying but my cry was from the pits of my soul…animalistic almost.  She pulled up and we all stood at the door. The kids were screaming.  They were holding onto us and screaming MOMMY MOMMY MOMMY.  My daughter was screaming, my son was screaming, I was screaming.  That worker looked like evil had just taken hold of her.  I asked her why she lied to me…why was I unfit…why was she doing this?  Her goal was for her to adopt or get them close to her so she could have constant access.

I finally ran to the bathroom because I was trying to muffle out their screams.  Those screams still haunt me.  I told my husband that I was going to bed.  When I woke up…I wanted to sign that they EVER lived in my house.  I wanted to erase all the memories….as short lived as they were….they were still my kids.  They stole my heart.  I told him I would not get up until I knew it was all gone.  He took care of everything.  Losing children in that manner is like my kids died and I didn’t even get a visitation to say goodbye.  I didn’t know where they were, if they were safe, if they were back with an unsafe mom, were they hurt…I knew nothing.  I still don’t.

My depression escalated quickly…to the point where the doctor thought I was going to kill myself (which I wasn’t).  He put me on antidepressants and some other meds to help even me out and get me out of bed.  That was in January of the next year.  I don’t really remember much of the rest of that time. My next good memory was when Gigi and Catfish moved in with us in March.  That is a whole new chapter.

In December of that next year, was the annual foster child Christmas party.  It was huge..Santa was there, food, gifts, lots of people.  I came in and sat down. I knew my kids were 3 and 2 and my prayer was that they were not there.  We all came in and sat down and I looked across the room and there sat my babies.  I just stared.  Bart wanted to go and speak to them and I told him that I simply couldn’t do it.  I told him my two fears. 1) That they would not remember me. Let’s face it.  They weren’t with us for long, they were 2 and almost 12 mths…they were babies.  That would break my heart.  2) That they would remember me and wonder where I’ve been.

I did walk up to that table.  They were with another foster family. Their birthmom couldn’t do it.  I squatted down and I simply whispered “hello babies.”  They both looked across the way and saw me squatted between tables.  I was prepared for them to not know me.  What happened in those following moments is what I hold in my heart so tightly….they both jumped off their foster mother’s lap and came running screaming MOMMY! MOMMY!  I cried as they jumped in my arms.  We all hugged so tight.  I kissed every part of their faces.  I thanked their foster mother for letting me hold them and love them and for her loving them so well.  My heart was full of joy…for a moment…until that evil social worker saw what was happening and she walked over and ripped them out of my arms again.  Again, the were screaming and crying while she physically removed them from me.

I left.  I couldn’t be that close to my kids and not be allowed to love them. I couldn’t be safe around that evil woman whom I still have not forgiven.  I simply couldn’t.  Bart did go the next year and he did take a couple of pictures for me but they didn’t remember him.  That is the last pic I have of them.

So when we are again, embarking down a similar road…a road where I’m forced to relive this pain and hurt…my sister said that someone told her this “when you are a foster parent…..it is my job for my heart to be broken so the hearts of the baby’s (regardless of age) do not have to be broken.”  I step in..my heart is shattered….their heart is whole.  I take the blows, I take the beatings.  I take the pain to prevent it from falling and permanently damaging these children.

Grayce and Daniel came to live with us in March of that following year.  It has been difficult with moments of glory.  Our adoption was about 2 years after they moved in with us.  We had to do LOTS of therapy, lots of counsel, lots of trials (you know, where there is a judge) and lots of red tape to get through, but we did it.

Would I change it?  No, I wouldn’t.  Even though satan tried to use the difficulties of our children’s past (reactive attachment disorder, fetal alcohol syndrome disorder, learning disabilities, behavioral issues, trust issues, food issues, adhd, odd, ptsd, blah blah blah), he did not steal our joy.  Jesus is constantly refining us, through our trials to be more like Him.  It hurts to be stretched and pulled and refined…..but through His grace, mercy, love and forgiveness…we are plugging along.

They are all my blessings.  Every single one of them are worth it.

I Saw What I Saw

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