This year's Thanksgiving was memorable to put it mildly. We invited my dad and sister to visit. My sister
also brought her two very large dobermans. They drove through the night Wednesday and arrived early Thursday morning. Just to make things interesting, we got a call for a placement of two little boys Wednesday night just after dinner. They showed up around 8pm and then the fun began. Thursday morning we awoke to 4 children (two of them brand new), 3 dogs, 2 cats (who quickly decided to go into hiding b/c of the new dogs!), and 4 adults. Kyle got right to work on the Thanksgiving feast and that left the other 3 adults to tend to the dogs and children. You would think 3 adults would be able to handle 4 children (after all I
handled 5 all by myself not all that long ago), but you would be wrong. It was absolute CHAOS. My poor dad spent most of the day underneath Hannah and Tater Tot which left Heather and I to tend to the new boys whom I'll call the Shrieker and Flop. The Shrieker decided he would only be happy if he was held, preferably by me, but Heather would do. Flop liked to wander and because of some serious medical needs and an inability to answer to his name he needed to be kept in eyesight pretty much at all times. It was an exhausting day! Dinner was delicious, but the actual act of eating was exhausting as well. I don't think I took a single bite that was actually warm! A first for us, both Shrieker and Flop will eat absolutely anything
you put in front of them so at least we didn't have any whining for treats instead of vegetables. There was however lots of whining for more food, vegetables accepted, by Shrieker! That kid can seriously put away the food! I think he, at 14 months, ate more food than any of the other kids aged 3-6 1/2! It's nice for once to not have to worry about meal times and whether or not I'm going to be able to get the kids to eat. At least I have 2 slam dunks that will make me feel like a good mom by eating their veggies when I serve them! Hannah, fortunately, really likes both of the boys and has been a big help with them now that my dad and Heather are gone and the children out number the adults 2 to 1. Tater Tot on the other hand is NOT impressed. She's not cool with the fact that the attention that was once lavished on her is now split 4 ways. She also has a serious issue sharing toys and neither boy is super good at that either. Consequently there have been numerous scuffles over toys and rivers of tears have flown. We have no idea what the boys' future looks like, but
we are praying through whether or not we will be able to care for them long term given the fact that they both have serious medical needs and we also have 2 other children to care for. Please pray for us that we would make the right decision for our family and for the boys.
Photo Notes: Since I can't post pictures of many of the people that were in my house this Thanksgiving you'll have to settle for some pictures of my handsome dog nephews, Maverick and Heinz.
Some of you locals knew Kyle and I's foster sibling set of 3 sisters. They arrived on our doorstep just before Easter Sunday last year. That Sunday Kyle heard Matt Redman's song, 10,000 Reasons for the first time sung in Easter service. It's a beautiful song and he went around singing/humming it for the next several weeks. Because of his constant singing of the song (and it's recent release and frequent play on KLove) the girls immediately took to the song as well. They christened it, "Daddy's Song" or sometimes, "Oh My Soul." From then on they went around singing it the best they could. Their lyrics were comical at best, but the intent was pure. They had finally replaced the trash they had walked into my home singing (songs with lyrics that actually made ME blush-think the Discovery Channel song and worse) with something much more appropriate and for that I was thankful. Every time it came on the radio all 5 children in my van belted it out. It was like a chorus of angels (or at least that was what I had to imagine to keep from going crazy from the earsplitting, off key voices!) For 5 months that song was a constant presence in my house. It was a frequently requested bedtime song and I soon wondered if they would ever move on to something else. I was getting a bit of tired of it despite the beautiful song it was.
Fast forward to a few weeks before the girls left us. I had to take them to emergency respite with a fellow foster mother in Fremont whom I had never met. I was not happy about it, but I had no choice. This amazing woman was not only a veteran foster and adoptive mom, but she was also at that very moment hosting 2 Italian high school foreign exchange students when she agreed to watch my girls. While there, the girls of course went around singing their song. KLove was also playing pretty much constantly at her house so eventually 10,000 Reasons came on and the girls shouted, "That's Daddy's Song! Turn it up!" Granted they could have asked a bit more politely, but hey, it was a big improvement from the grunts we got when they came. Anyway, as the day went on the girls asked to watch TV or a movie and instead this fellow foster mom got on You Tube and looked up the video to 10,000 Reasons. The girls were thrilled and watched it on constant replay for almost a half hour. All this time the foreign students were just watching, listening, and taking it all in (they had just arrived in the US the day before!) and probably wondering what on earth they had gotten themselves into. I picked the girls up at the end of the day and took them home and that was the end of the story. Or so I thought.
Fast forward again 3 more months. The girls have moved on to another foster home. We have another foster placement. Today I took Hannah and Tater Tot to Fremont for the National Adoption Day celebration. The foster mom who had helped me out happened to be there with her family (biological, adopted, foster, and foreign exchange). We chatted briefly and she asked where my girls were. I explained they had moved to another foster home closer to their birthmom. Beginning to choke up, my new friend said, "I think about them every day." She then went on to tell me that because of the insane number of times the girls watched that Matt Redman video, one of her exchange student daughters grew to like the song and bought the CD on itunes. She listened to the whole thing and eventually began asking questions about the messages in the songs. She then borrowed a bible from her host mother and started to read it. Because of my girls and that one song, this young woman was now very close to accepting Christ as her personal savior! My friend said that every time she hears that song she tears up and thinks of my girls and the eternal impact they've had on her exchange student.
Who would have ever thought that 3 little girls being neglected and abused coupled with an inept and unethical DHHS caseworker could ever have been used for good, not just good, but GLORY!?! But it happened my friends, it did. If my girls hadn't gone through what they did they wouldn't have come to my home. They wouldn't have heard that song and grown to love it. If their caseworker had done her job I wouldn't have needed respite that day. If I hadn't needed respite, if I had refused to leave them with someone I didn't know, I would have never met my friend and her new exchange students. If my girls hadn't played the heck out of that song who knows if that young woman would have bought that CD and grown to question the message on it. I often wonder if what I do makes any difference. Many of our kids will be destined to head right back into the same awful circumstances they came from. Our care won't have really changed anything. BUT God has a plan. Just because I don't see it doesn't mean it doesn't exist and just because I don't see the fruits of my labor doesn't mean they aren't there. I feel so fortunate to have seen my friend today and heard her story. It was the wake up I needed to snap me out of my pity party. To stop me from wondering, "Why on earth do we do this? Why do I subject my family to this chaos and upheaval that is foster care? Why do I allow myself to get attached to these children only to have my heart broken when they leave me for less than desirable situations? Can we really make a difference? Does their time with us even matter at all? Why do I set myself up for the lifetime of pain from not knowing what their future holds when they leave me?" This is why I do this. God can use me even if I don't know what He's using me for. I just have to be willing.
This year I participated in the Adoption Bloggers Interview Project again. I was paired with an amazing birthmother (or tummy mommy as her daughter refers to her) named Betty Anne Davidson who blogs at http://bettyannescott.blogspot.com/ Betty Anne placed her daughter Chloe for adoption 7 years ago and has an open adoption with her parents. She and her husband Scott now have a son, James, who is a year and a half old, as well as a new baby girl that is due to be born ANY DAY! Please head on over to her blog and show her some blog love (and to check out the tons of sweet new baby pictures that I'm sure will appear shortly!). She blogs about adoption, motherhood, and life in general as a NICU nurse.
1. What kind of a relationship do you have with Chloe? How often do you have contact and what kind?
Hmm...great question. I would describe our relationship as "acquaintances". She knows who I am. I know who she is. We hear lots ABOUT each other, but we don't really know each other all that well. Her parents have very open conversations with her about me whenever Chloe asks a question. I really appreciate their openness with her. It seems to me that she knows talking about me, or adoption, is not a taboo subject at all. It's part of her life story.
We see each other 2-3 times a year. Sometimes we (Chloe and her family, me and my family) meet up somewhere, like a park, and have a picnic and hang out for a few hours. Last year I went to their house (about 30 minutes from mine) to watch a Christmas parade. In the earlier years of her life, I went to their house frequently for game nights and other social gatherings. Her and her family came to my wedding, which meant THE WORLD to me
2. Do you wish you had more/less contact with her or are you happy with the amount of contact you have now?
I definitely wish I had more interaction with her than I do. She's this little person that has impacted my life more than anyone else on the planet and I want to know all about her. However, if I want to know her and I want to her to know me, we have to spend some time together! Hearing OF each other through mutual people isn't quite enough to have our own relationship. (Her mom and I talk and text way more frequently than we actually get together.) I feel it's important to mention that I can't blame anybody but myself for the amount of time I do or do not spend with Chloe. She is very, very available to me. She doesn't live far away. Her parents are reeeeally open to her having a relationship with me. The only barriers are time and effort. When Chloe was younger, I was single. I spent a lot more time with her then. Now that I'm married, working, and have a family of my own, time gets away from me. I hope and pray that our lack of face to face time doesn't translate to her as a lack of caring or interest on my part.
3. Has Chloe asked why you placed her for adoption? If so, how old was she when she asked and did you or her adoptive parents answer her? What was their/your answer?
She hasn't asked that yet. At least not of me. I'm not sure if her mom has fielded such a question in their many conversations about adoption. I look forward to the day she asks me this and DREAD that day all at the same time. My fear is that she won't understand. That she'll believe the lie that "I just didn't want her." That is so ridiculously absurd and couldn't be further from the truth. The truth is that I wanted more for her than I could provide at that time. I wanted a stable home environment with a mom AND a dad. Her mom may argue with me over this, but I believe I could have done the mother-role as well as her mom does. What I couldn't offer her, though, was the modeling of a healthy relationship with a husband, or a healthy relationship with a dad. Besides my inability to financially and emotionally provide for Chloe and I, the father/daughter relationship played a HUGE role in my decision to place Chloe for adoption.
4. What kind of a relationship do you have with Chloe's parents? How often do you talk/see each other?You mention in your blog that you met them through your parents' church. Do you still go to the same church?
I cannot say enough kind things about Chloe's parents. They are such incredibly giving, gracious, loving people. They allowed me to be so involved with Chloe the first year, which meant the world to me. They didn't seem to feel "threatened" by me having a relationship with Chloe directly. That speaks volumes to me about them. Melissa, Chloe's mom, and I touch base mostly through email and texting. We usually reconnect every 2 or 3 months or so. We don't all go to the same church anymore.
5. What kind of a relationship do your parents have with Chloe and her parents?
Chloe and her brother Shiloh both call my parents Meemaw and Poopah, just like my nieces do. They have grown up knowing my parents as another set of grandparents, although I'm sure the relationship connection is a little fuzzy to them. My mom provided child care for Shiloh and Chloe at various points. (ex: 1 or 2 days/week for a few months when Chloe was a baby. then 1 day every other week when Chloe was 6 or 7.) I love that my parents have gained another grandson through their relationship with Chloe and her parents. My parents knew Alvin and Melissa before I did. It was through their connection at church that I was able to know of them and picked them as parents for Chloe.
6. What does Chloe call you? Did you choose the name, her parents, or Chloe herself?
Chloe calls me Betty Anne. In her first few months of life, Chloe's parents and I had that conversation. They asked me what I wanted her to call me. Without hesitation I answered "Betty Anne". I didn't want to be labeled an "Aunt" or "Cousin" or some other relative that I really wasn't. I absolutely wasn't comfortable with "mom", because I didn't feel that was true of our relationship. She grew in my belly. I birthed her. Yes, that makes me her biological mother. But to me, "mom" is a term for whoever is there at 2am holding and rocking the crying child, making day to day parenting decisions on behalf of the child. That's not me. So we settled on her calling me by name. I think her parents do use the term "birthmother" as well when describing our relationship. In the past few years sometime, Chloe took a liking to the term "tummy mommy", as she understood she grew in my tummy before living with her parents.
7. Does Chloe wonder why she was adopted, but James and new baby on the way were not? How have you/do you plan to explain that to her?
If she hasn't already wondered this, I'm sure she will at some point. I think it's a great question and I hope she asks me one day. As I explained (in question 3), it all had to do with life circumstances at the time she was born. I'm now in a place (stable home, financially secure--or at least MORE so than before!, emotionally much more stable, married to an amazing man) to provide a loving home to a child. I think as a young adult, she will be able to understand this. I don't know, though, about her comprehension of this at age 8. Everything is so concrete to 8 year olds!
8. What has helped you cope during your hardest moments of grief?
Faith, supportive family and friends, reading adoption related blogs online, and TIME. These things all have played an important role in helping me get through the really rough days.
9. Have you ever wished you made a different decision or regretted the decision you did make?
Yes and no. I have always felt very assured of the decision I made to place Chloe for adoption, but that has certainly been painful at times. The day I left the hospital without Chloe was without a doubt the worst day of my life. It was so unnatural. It hurt.so.badly. I wanted to get her back to ease the pain! But at the same time, I knew that the decision I made was the right one, and "getting her back" wasn't in her best interests, it would just serve my own needs better. So I cried and mourned the loss of raising this incredible child. And (like I mentioned in #8) through faith, supportive family and friends and reading about other people's adoption stories online, time passed and the pain eased up significantly. With each passing year, the pain subsided a little and peace and contentment prevailed about the situation and my decision. Then I got married. Sometime during the first year, I was taken aback by my renewed grief and sadness I felt about Chloe. I think what was happening was that I knew beyond any doubt that I could not parent a newborn at the time I had Chloe. However, 4 years later when I got married and was in a much more stable situation, I could parent a 4 year old. I had to remind myself that if it was the right decision to place Chloe for adoption when she was born, it was still the right decision 4 years later. After repeating that to myself over and over, peace and contentment returned.
10. What does your husband think about open adoption?
Based on my husband's grunting answer from the couch just now, I guess we'll skip this question. Short answer: he's for it. But apparently he's not interested in elaborating at this time. :)
11. In your job as a NICU nurse, have you ever had the opportunity to counsel other women facing the same tough decisions as you did?
I have encountered a few birth mothers in my nursing career thus far. I haven't really shared my story with any of them because I wasn't sure of the appropriateness of that (since this is my place of employment and usually I was caring for the birth mother's baby). In each case I made sure the social worker involved with the birth mother knew that I was more than willing to talk with them or just listen.
We are back to being a family of 4. Today our 5th foster placement showed up. We had done respite for her back in September so we already know her which is nice. Hannah was both excited and a bit annoyed that she was coming back. She's glad to have a playmate and roommate again, but bummed that she's going to have to share her stuff again! Today after school they made "soup" together outside using leaves and dirt. They seemed to have a good time. Bedtime went ok too. I wonder how long the honeymoon will last before we see how our new family dynamics will turn out? Wish us luck! PS She came to us with a nick name already so from here on out I'll refer to her on the blog as Tater Tot!
It was a rough week at our house this week. Hannah had several major meltdowns during the after school hours. She managed to physically hurt me bad enough that I will bear the marks of her aggression for quite awhile. She also finished up kicking the last of her door jam off of her door so that the next kick fest could very well send the door off of its hinges. Anger management has not gotten any better with therapy or the meds thus far. However, I did get to spend some significant time with her today while under the influence of the meds and she exhibited control with another little boy at the museum rudely ripped the police cruiser radio out of her hand. I was quite proud of her for that and praised her profusely. As it was happening my heart went nuts, sure there was about to be a nasty scene, but my little one kept her cool! :) Today we had a fabulous day together. We needed it. When too many rough days/weeks pile on top of each other it's hard to drag yourself back up and remember the good times. Today helped me to remember the good times and to give me hope that maybe the right dose of meds can help her keep her anger/impulsivity under control enough to think about the consequences of her actions before she makes her choice of response to a situation.
Report cards came home last week and Hannah's academics were fine of course. We found out she's reading middle of third grade level and is right on benchmark for end of first quarter 3rd grade math. She's in first grade! Her work habits/social skills section on her report card wasn't quite as rosy, but it was better than I expected. The teacher listed that she needs to work on assuming responsibility, practicing self control, and respecting the rights and property of others. She loves writing stories and is actually pretty good at writing a coherent story with a beginning, middle, and end. They have not sent home an evaluation that lists where her written language skills are since most of her classmates are just focusing on getting a single complete sentence down on the page that is legible and uses basic writing conventions, but I would guess she is at least middle of second grade for it.
After the biting incident we started a trial on medication. At first we thought we were seeing some pretty severe side effects after the first day on the meds so we stopped them after one day and called the doctor the next business day to check in. She confirmed what we had already thought about which was that the medication SHOULD have been out of her system by the time we experienced what we thought might be the side effect so it was probably something else and simply a coincidence that it happened on the same day we started up the med trial. We tried the meds again that next day after talking to the doctor, and after 2 consecutive days on them we have seen no serious side effects and only a little bit of appetite suppression. We have also not seen any real improvements that can be measured, but she is on the very smallest dose possible and not even up to the normal starting dose for this particular medication. Apparently the doctor did not even expect any results at this stage, she was just ruling out negative side effects. I'm guessing that if things stay the same, sometime next week they will up her dosage.
Hannah's Halloween costume for the year is finally finished. Ever since she's been old enough to choose her own costume she's asked for something that was difficult (or impossible) to just go out and buy, so for the last 3 years I've had to make her costumes. I'm not a crafty lady and I can't operate a sewing machine on my own (even though I DO have one) so this is always a difficult task. I have to create something with as many premade parts as possible that needs a minimum amount of hand sewing to get me by. This year she wanted to be a grey wolf. I thought I was off the hook because surely wolf costumes existed. Well, they do, but only for toddlers or in the form of the Big Bad Wolf or werewolves for adults. So, I was stuck with making her costume yet again. At least this year I was able to cheat a bit because I managed to find a winter hat that was in the shape of a wolf's head to use as the head (in years past I've had to create a head on the hood of a hooded sweatshirt). That only left me with finding the appropriate color sweatshirt and sweatpants, stretchy gloves, and tube socks. The only thing I had to actually sew was the tail onto the sweatpants. It was a one afternoon job to get it all done. That was SO MUCH easier than her Bolt or Toothless costumes that I almost wept in relief. It's not the best wolf costume to ever come around the pike, but she likes it and that's all that matters.
Somehow September slipped right by me and now October is more than halfway over too! Since I last wrote, Hannah graduated from daily visits to the Severe Behavior Clinic to every other week once a day for an hour. That is much more doable although I still feel like we spend all of our time in the van! First grade seems to be moving right along for Hannah. Her teachers really have no complaints and she seems to be enjoying herself.
Report cards come out tomorrow so it will be interesting to see what her social skills are marked like. She did, however, have her first incident of aggression at school for the year. A little boy in her class pinched her (we have yet to figure out the reason-did Hannah do something to him first or was he completely unprovoked) so she bit him-hard. Of course this meant another office referral and it came at the absolute worst time as we were about to leave for a trip to Minnesota that very afternoon! After all the lying and omitting of the truth we think we finally got to the bottom of things.
Then yesterday I found out that the incident wasn't completely over because Hannah had neglected to return the signed office referral to her teacher. Apparently she had thrown it in the trash. It took quite awhile to wade through all the lies on that one too, but I think we eventually got there. After the biting incident we finally decided to give medication a try to help her control her impulses. We actually start that this weekend. I'm quite nervous about it, but I at least know that it's easy to change our minds and the meds leave no lasting side effects after they are out of her system if they don't work or we don't like what they do. Wish us luck as we embark on this latest leg of our journey. Last month we did a brief respite foster care stint with a little 3 year old girl. She and Hannah got on pretty well and I miss her now that she is gone, but BOY OH BOY was she a ball of energy. That kid went nonstop from the time she woke up until the time she finally crashed at night. The sad thing about her was that she was now our 5th placement we've had that had no idea how to cuddle and had never been read to or sung to at bedtime. Again and again I am amazed at how many of the basic "rights" of childhood these kids have never experienced. :( While the respite munchkin was here we also hosted a series of guests. My dad came to visit and then my best friend Sarah and her family stopped by for a night too. I am reminded again and again at what a blessing from God our house is that we can house extra children as well as guests and still have everyone be comfortable.
Hannah decided last night to try out for a speaking role in our church's Christmas program. I didn't get to watch the tryout, but Kyle said she did a great job and was one of the strongest readers he heard. He also said she was one of the youngest so that may very well affect her chances at actually getting a part. Still whatever happens, I'm proud that she tried and at least she'll be guaranteed a spot in the chorus despite her off key singing voice!
Next month I am participating in the Open Adoption Bloggers Interview Project again. Last year I interviewed a birthmom named Kate and it was an awesome experience. I can't wait to see who I get paired with this year. There is still time to sign up if you are interested and blog at least occasionally about adoption. Simply click on the button at the top of my page and it should take you to the registration page.
Photo Notes: The pictures are from a weekend trip we took in September to a local wildlife preserve. I think Hannah enjoyed chasing the chickens in the petting area more than she enjoyed the wild animals!
P.S. I hate the new blogger format and I cannot make my posts look like I want. My text and pictures keep getting all jumbled up. Until I figure it out, I apologize for the inconvenience of having to read the disjointed text.