Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Country Bear Jamboree

We are now 7 weeks in. We are getting to the point where we are ironing out ALL the logistics. And I never knew how many things there were to schedule. When and where doctors, counselor, mother and social worker visits occur. What time we need to get up to be on time to school. Who picks London up from school on which days. Who is going to be at which soccer game. Who is going to bring the camera and dinner to the soccer game. Even defining the words we use around the house. When I say “your hoodie is in your laundry basket,” I mean the clean laundry basket, not the dirty clothes basket. I never realized it but there is a distinction in my mind between the two baskets. Something doesn’t become “laundry” until it is clean. Until then it is “dirty clothes.”
We are realizing the differences in our cultures. We didn’t realize that public school in TN was so vastly different from the private schools we attended just down the street. Did you know at the beginning of a basket ball season they have a Jamboree. That’s a gathering of several teams to play several games at one time to kick off the season. I thought only Boy Scouts and bears had jamborees. Who knew? Did you know that middle school has a homecoming dance? Did you know that Doritos are their own food group? Me neither.  Did you realize that there are gangs? In middle school? Apparently so.
She is realizing that not all cookies come from a Pillsbury tube and not all waffles come from a box in the freezer. She is learning that sodas have LOTS of sugar and Scott and Kelly don’t really eat a lot of kid food, like macaroni and cheese or beef jerky or even PopTarts. 
We are trying to figure out how to shelter her from all the pressures and bad influences coming at her. Unhealthy food, movies, music, TV, magazines, kids at her school, her mom’s opinion all support her doubts about herself. We are trying to introduce her to good music and media. We are trying to reiterate everyday that she is enough, just the way she is. 
Sometimes she tells us we are “so mean,” but we just grin and know that someday she will appreciate the boundaries.  Other times she can’t sit close enough to me on the sofa and she asks me to play with her hair.  You can tell she just needs love and attention.
We’ve gotten little feedback from her except the occasional “I love you too” or sheepish grin.  But we have gotten feedback from both our agency and DCS (Department of Children’s Services) that we are doing a good job. They seem pleasantly surprised that we have gone so long without a blowup of some kind. We are hoping it doesn’t happen, but won’t be surprised if there is some kind of event. We don’t know what  or when it will be, but we have a plan for when it happens, if it happens.
We are realizing that the occasional emotional outbursts are not really about the situation at hand. They are many times symptoms of deeper issues. She is sometimes reminded by current events that we don’t witness of memories or bad experiences that we were not part of. It takes time and some tears to get to the root of an issue. We can’t imagine the pain and hurt she has seen, so sometimes it takes us by surprise when she is extra sensitive to seeing a homeless person or seeing a fight at school. It beautiful to know she is still sensitive and caring. But it is scary and intimidating to think she worries it may be her turn next.
Our goals are to, first, make her feel as secure and safe as possible, second, to help her live up to her potential, and third, EAT MORE VEGETABLES.  I think we are off to a good start!

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Myth of the Fixer-Upper

In high school and college, I was equally amused and frustrated by girl who dated known "bad boys" with the hope that their love would be so strong that the "bad boy" would change his ways.  I was not a "bad boy" by any stretch of the imagination, often living (against in my will) in the Friend Zone.  I would tell them, I would try to warn them, "they're not going to change."

No-one would listen to me and a few months later, they could concede I was right -- the must frustrating instance being also including the explanation, "he's just the kind of boy you have to date.  You're the kind of guy a girl marries.  He's the kind of guy a girl dates."  It is the single most memorable back-handed compliment I have ever received.  I will cherish/loathe it forever.

I bring all this up because there's a boy that London likes.  For the sake of anonymity, we'll call him Zitty McPimple.  Apparently, Zitty McPimple is ever-so dreamy and a known player.  He's had an on-again, off-again relationship with a different girl at school.  They're currently in their off-again relationship status (as of Tuesday, methinks).  Yesterday, he told London "I love you."  Today he said, "I think you and I should go together."  London's conflicted.  Zitty is super dreamy and the entire eighth grade class thinks they should be together.  But, as previously stated, he's a known player.  London knows this and doesn't really like but, she reasons, "maybe I can change him."

The sentence that used to frustrate and amuse me now terrifies me.  I've seen too many girls and women return to abusive relationships thinking their man had changed or that they could change them and I just don't want London to be one of those statistics.  London knows, from her own life story, that a person can't change if they don't want to.  She knows she can't change him.  But yet there's that look in her eye that says, "but maybe . . ."  I've thrown this question out to the world for fifteen years and no-one has ever been able to answer it, but here I go again:

Why do girls think they can change boys?  Why do women think they can change men?

And, because of this new special place I find myself in:

How do I communicate to her that his boy has no desire to change?  Why would he want to?  He's bouncing from cute girl to cute girl.  He has no reason to change.

I know.  I know.  This is one of those things she's going to have to learn for herself.  I'm a big believer in learning lessons for one's self.  But what is it about having two X chromosomes that makes a person think they can change or fix anything that has a Y chromosome?  And why, if you have a certain standard or idea of what the perfect man would be, wouldn't you pursue that?

A frustrated father wants to know.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Kelly called it.  The first week -- maybe the first full day -- that London was with us, Kelly said "six weeks in, we're going to have trouble.  It will be her way of testing us.  She's going to want to see if we'll still love her even if she gets in trouble."

She was alerted to this phenomenon by the very excellent Foster Parenting Podcast.  It's a podcast we can't recommend enough.  It's put on by a couple who, like us, have decided to share their experiences as they foster and adopt children needing a home.  We discovered them fairly early in our adoption process and they have served as inspiration and an encouragement throughout this entire process for us.    Their trials, tribulations, and guarded transparency have emboldened us to be equally transparent with our own trials and tribulations -- in hopes that we might encourage others going through the same things we're going through.  It's been a comfort to us to know we're not alone and we want to make sure that you, too, know that you're not alone.

Sorry.  That was a bit of a tangent.  But it was because of that podcast, as well as other outside reading, that we were completely unsurprised when London called and said she was being sent to detention.  London was super-worried and stressed out.  She was supposed to serve her detention at the same time she was supposed to be playing her first soccer game (did we mention she made the soccer team?  She made the soccer team!).

I called the school to find out what had happened.  Her teacher, a cantankerous woman who sounded like she was in sixties, made no effort to hide the fact that she has given up on London's particular section of science.  To quote her verbatim, "I'm done with them.  They think because this is the last period of the day they can goof off."*  I asked what London, specifically, had done to warrant detention.  "She's been turning in incomplete work and she wasn't paying attention when I showed them the video they were supposed to be watching and the handbook -- and the Vice Principal -- says I can use detention to get a student's attention to help improve their behavior."

Two very important things needed to happen:  (1)  We needed to let London know that even she had gotten in trouble, we still loved her.  (2)  We needed to not undermine the authority of the teacher.

I drove down to the school a little early that day so I could catch London in between school and soccer practice.  I brought her a sweet tea from Sonic, which immediately seemed to ease her foul mood.  We talked things over a bit.  I told her I had found out we could reschedule her detention, so she wouldn't have to miss her game -- and that I had already begun that process.  "Could you get me out of detention?" she asked hopefully.  I shook my head.  "I talked to your teacher.  It sounds like you've earned it."  She grumbled a bit under her breath but didn't disagree.  After soccer, Kelly asked her what she was going to do to make sure this didn't happen again.  And together, led by London, we formulated a plan to overcome the tired and cantankerous science teacher, improve her grade in science, and generally stay out of detention in the future.

I doubt this cry for help was pre-meditated.  But I don't believe the timing of it was coincidental.  It was exactly at the six week mark.  She's had such a history of bouncing from house to house, it only makes sense that she would test the length and breadth of our patience and love.  But hopefully now she realizes that while she may frustrate or worry or even anger us, none of those will actually displace or replace our love for her or our determination to make her a success.

* It's important to note that this is the same science teacher who elected to show her class Short Circuit to teach them about robots and The Little Mermaid to teach them about . . . life under the sea?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Not As Deep As You Might Think

The #1 conversation starter in the past two weeks has been, "how's it feel to be thrown in the deep end?"  And I can understand why people would assume that's the way it would feel.  When we first got the call and were told that "there is a thirteen year-old girl who needs a home tonight," I was undoubtedly daunted.  But then she arrived and now people either don't believe me or don't know how to respond when I say, "not that bad," and by "not that bad," I mean "this feels like the shallow end, not the deep end."

London sleeps through the night.  We don't even have to make her go to bed.  She heads to bed as soon as she can't keep her eyes open -- or when we bore her with a third Daily Show in a row.  Even better, if we ignore her, she'll sleep right in.  If and when she wakes up before us, she pulls out a book or quietly opens Netflix.

Which is in stark contrast to what our friends went through when their little ones came home from the hospital -- which is really what makes it feel like got the easy end of the deal.  She dresses herself.  She's potty-trained.  She has a full vocabulary and knows how to express her ideas and her needs.  Any problem we have can be addressed with a rational conversation.  We can have legitimately deep and meaningful conversations.  We're going to dance class.  We can share and enjoy the same TV shows, movies, music, and books.  And, maybe most importantly of all, she makes a mean pitcher of sweet tea.

There is a trade-off, of course.  We still don't know what it's like to hear our little one's first word.  We haven't been able to film her first steps.  We weren't able to ease into or mentally prepare for interest in the opposite sex (or, more accurately, the opposite sex's interest).  Every day, I can't help but worry -- even just a little bit -- about all the boys peacocking around at her school.  She's come home three times already talking about fights.

And there's still the not-knowing.  Parental rights for London have not been terminated.  We don't actually know if they will be.  We'll find out in a couple of months.  I have faith they will be, as London's mother has a history of . . . well, being a customer of Walter White.  But there's no security yet.  No matter what we do or what plans we make, there's still a certain sense that our foundation is fairly thin ice.

But, and this is the part where people stop believing me again, it honestly doesn't feel like the deep end.  We're in the pool, to be sure.  But it only feels like we're waist-deep in the water that could potentially drown us.  It's not that there's not danger or things to worry about -- people have drowned in less and if we have to remind her one more time to put sunscreen on . . . -- but it's fine.  More than fine, it's fun.


Saturday, September 8, 2012

I See London, I See Disney

It's so strange the way life plays out.  "Strange" is the best word for it, really, but I don't mean that in a negative way at all.  I mean strange as in "unexpected" or "unpredictable" or "exciting" or "funny" or "not at all in the way I would have ever imagined it."  You know, strange.

Tuesday night we got a call.  It was about 9:30.  We had just come back from dinner with the Norths.  Kelly was sitting down to do her homework and I was sitting down to get more writing done.  The phone rang.  It was Omni.  "We have a thirteen year-old girl and she needs a home tonight."

Omni had called us before, telling us about ten and eleven year olds who needed foster care.  Our response was always the same:  "I'm sorry, but we're not prepared for that.  We're looking for a child who is five years old or younger."  Writing that sentence feels awful.  We always felt awful turning children away, but we've never had children before.  We wanted to have the closest thing to a natural experience as we could.  We have spent the past couple of years preparing for a baby.  But there was something different about this call.

Kelly hung up the phone and we discussed it.  At first I was wondering why we were discussing it.  Thirteen is well out of our "five or under" range.  But as Kelly started sharing London's story, there was a tickling in the back of my brain.  Call it the still-small voice or call it my spider sense, but there was something about this story and this child I couldn't ignore either.  We called Omni back.  We had a few more questions.  Listening to more of London's story, Kelly looked over at me with a silent, "what do you think?"  I nodded back, "let's do this."

London showed up thirty minutes later.  She was with two Omni coordinators and a trash bag full of her clothes.  While that was the first time we met her, we didn't really get to meet her till the next day.  The people from Omni talked for so long, London was asleep in her bed before we got to say two words to her.

Since then, we've gotten to play and talk and get to know each other.  London is one of the sweetest girls I've ever met.  The glimpses into her past infuriate me.  Knowing she's been in foster care for two years saddens me, as I would have loved to have brought her into this home two years ago, and give her two more years of love and stability than she's had.

We've only had her for four full days, but we're already making plans for the future.  She wants to take dance lessons.  She wants to be a veterinarian.  We're saving every five and ten dollar bill we find for a trip to Disney.  She's never been and really, really wants to go.  She also wants to go to New York, but for that "we'll have to save every ten and twenty we find, that's a whole lot more expensive!"

And Kelly and I already know we're going to do everything to make her dreams come true.  Today's her 14th birthday.  We have a pool party planned.  Tonight we'll introduce her to Doctor Who, tomorrow we'll finish preparing her for school and Monday she goes back to 8th grade.

No-one ever imagines the strange.  Everyone imagines the traditional.  Go back in time to any point in my life and ask me about the family I would eventually have, and I never would have plotted something like this.  But now that I'm here, I wouldn't change a dot of it.

Here's to all the strange, strange years to come!


Sunday, September 2, 2012

We Are Not Alone (the Perks of a Rabid Fandom)

Kelly and I are, among other things, Whovians.  You probably have a Whovian in your life.  You'll know them by their insistence that "bow ties are cool," their use of words like "timey-wimey," "allons-y," or "fantastic."  They may own a mile-long scarf.  They may have a bumper sticker alleging "my other ride is a TARDIS."  If you are looking for a fun fandom to be a part of, look no further than the fandom of Doctor Who.

Fandoms can be a tricky thing.  I was a fan of Star Wars, for example, before it was cool (and then subsequently uncool again).  Star Wars fans have a complicated, love-hate relationship with that which they obsess over.  As much as they love everything George Lucas gave them, they hate everything he continues to give them (this is a broad stroke statement that doesn't describe every fan, but the fandom as a whole).  It can be a very frustrating fandom to be a part of.

Enter The Doctor.  If you know nothing about Doctor Who, it's a show that is celebrating it's 50th anniversary in 2013.  It's a fantastic British sci-fi show about an enigmatic time-traveller called The Doctor who uses his ability to travel all of time and space to leave things better than he found them.  As you can imagine, it's a show that can be daunting to get into -- it's been on for fifty years (more or less).

Enter The Whovians.  Doctor Who fans know how intimidating getting into the show can be.  But they know how rewarding it is being a Whovian that each and every one of them has their own recommended way of getting into the show.  They're a patient lot, who are more than willing to hold your hand and answer all your questions until you're addicted and running off on your own adventures with The Doctor.  That's not to say they don't bicker.  Every fandom has its arguments.  But in the case of Doctor Who, most of the arguments come down to being a clash of preferences.  Most of the time, everyone walks away still happy, still friends, and still hoping the TARDIS shows up in the back yard.  I believe this is because of the intelligence lying beneath most episodes of Doctor Who.

Doctor Who is a show about something.  It's easy to dismiss it as a silly sci-fi with lots of unnecessary running about, silly monsters, and implausible story lines.  At first glance, that's all it really is.  But then you notice the Daleks are a thinly veiled critique of fascism, and the Cybermen are a condemnation of mindless conformity and . . . oh my goodness . . . these are all metaphors!  Well, not all of them.  Some are just men in silly suits.  But even those Freak of the Week episodes are still filled with characters grounded in a relate-able reality that will often leave you with a few questions for you to ponder about your own life.  If you find yourself on a Doctor Who message board or swapping favorite stories with a fellow Whovian, it's not at all uncommon for someone to bring up how a particular episode, or a particular character, helped them through a particularly tough time.

Take Amy and Rory -- the Eleventh Doctor's current companions -- for example.  They've had a rocky relationship since we first met them.  But they've also had an endearing and enduring relationship.  Collectively, as a fandom, we're rooting for them just as much as we're rooting for The Doctor.  This most recent episode, well . . .

Amy drops the very large bomb in Rory's lap (as well as the audience's lap) that she's incapable of having children.  I was not expecting that.  I don't expect other people, especially people who have been in the TARDIS, to have any idea of what it's like to be me.  Yet here are these two fictitious characters crying and fighting and using words that have been used by me and people I know who have also fought and cried over the exact same thing.  It hit me right in the back of the throat.  The room started to blur and I was suddenly very glad I was watching the episode by myself.  The moment passed and I loved the show all the more.

Enter The Whovians.  I was not alone with all of these feelings.  Megan Lavey-Heaton, co-author of the webcomic Namesake, shared a glimpse into her and her husband's struggle with infertility.  You can read the whole blog post here (which also serves as a review of the Doctor Who episode, "Asylum of the Daleks").  But I had to share a couple of exceprts here because the post was so refreshingly honest that my heart broke as I was being encouraged and reminded that, indeed, we are not alone.

Infertility is a horrible, horrible beast. There are days that you’re perfectly fine, that you can go “I’m OK with this. I’ve got a wonderful career and a husband who loves me and medical science that can do a lot. I’m under 35, I can do this.”
Then there are other days when you hate yourself. When you feel that your husband, who moved across an ocean for you, could do much better. You want kids, and he wants kids. But what you’re trying isn’t working. You go to the doctor. The drugs aren’t working. There’s more drugs you can take. Expensive procedures, but where do you draw the line? And even though you can and do live an fantastic life, surrounded by love, opportunities to travel and a fulfilling career, you feel like a failure — especially when you’re surrounded by a culture and social media that rubs it in your face. It is so hard to go on places like Facebook and see hundreds of photos of your peer’s newborn babies.
You’re also in mourning, dealing with this. You have to go through the grieving process, even if you never planned on having kids. 
Different people react in different ways.
Amy is so much a mirror of the Doctor emotionally. No wonder they get along so well. Amy handled the infertility issue in a way that was in-character for her and that mirroring of the Doctor. They both run away so much until forced to confront themselves by a catalyst: River for the Doctor and Rory for Amy. Then they act and grow. When you look at Amy now and the Amy we met in “The Eleventh Hour,” it’s such a brilliant story of growth. Amy then acted in such a selfish manner in running away. Now, she’s grown to where she loves Rory so damn much that she is willing to sacrifice everything for him to be happy. And that is gorgeous — and all Moffat.
The "Moffat" she refers to in that last sentence is the show's incorrigible show-runner, Steven Moffat.  He delights in our pain and torture and we love him for it.

The fact that Steven Moffat was willing to approach this topic in a show that could just be about its special effects and its quippy, banter-filled scripts meant so much to me.  It gave courage to people.  For some, it was a "if Amy and Rory can figure this out, so can I" moment.  For others, it provided catharsis.  For others yet, it provided a time and place to talk about something they might not have -- and I think that's important.

It's important to know we are not alone.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Lesson Learned: Dogs Cannot Be Trusted to Make a Bargain

Quick post to give you an update. We have recovered from the drama that was the beginning of this month.

We had the opportunity this weekend to do Respite Care for two boys ages 10 and 11. Respite is the foster care word for giving foster parents a break. It’s also a word meaning “Scott and Kelly get to borrow children to do cool things with that we might look weird doing without children.”  Really, foster parents take on a lot when they take children into their home, so the agency says you get two weekends off a month and we (the agency) will find childcare for you (oh and pay the childcare givers).

So we had these boys for a couple hours last month and then all weekend this month. WE HAD A BALL.
  • -          We played Lego Batman 2 on the Xbox. FYI: we do that even without children; that’s how cool we are [Scott's note:  "Cool" seems like such a strong word].
  • -          We made a fire in our fire pit and roasted marshmallows and hot dogs.
  • -          We tried to blow up a bar of soap in our microwave. FYI: Don’t trust a 10 year old when he says it turns into a fluffy cloud. Maybe we had the wrong kind of soap. The house smelled like burned soap for several hours.
  • -          We read stories. We played with real Legos.
  • -          One of the boys took a “shower” outside under the water hose. The water was really cold. They other said he would prefer a bubble bath inside with warm water please and thank you.
  • -          We went swimming at my mom’s house.
  • -          They tried to teach me how to throw a football. FYI: I’m not so good at that. But Gwen Dogg is really good at catching the football and hiding it in the bushes.
  • -          We had French toast one morning – they didn’t know it could be homemade.
  • -          We ate a whole box of Froot Loops in one sitting.
  • -          We had mint chocolate chip ice cream.
  • -          We taste-test Oreo Cookies vs. the Target brand – thanks Heather!

We were really touched by how loving and polite these two boys were.  They said “Yes Ma’am” and “Yes Sir.” They gave hugs and even asked about Jesus. They put their dishes in the dishwasher.  They didn’t interrupt when adults were having conversations. The boys had tons of questions and were so excited to do everything.

When we explained that our little dog Mr. Tumnus is “a bad dog” because he begs for food from the table, chases cats, and sometimes potties in the house, they replied, “He is not a bad dog; he just makes bad choices.” Later that night that same boy was scolding Tumnus for not adhering to their “bargain.” Tumnus was only supposed to eat the outside of the hotdog that got burned over the fire and leave the inside for him. I told them not to trust a dog’s bargain. I think Tumnus ate at least 3 hotdogs, chips, and a cheese stick that night.

We discussed multiple times that eating grape seeds would not cause grapes to grow in your stomach, unless maybe you ate some dirt and a Starburst.

We discussed that despite what Jim said there are NOT sharks in the swimming pool.

It was a great weekend.  Maybe next time we can borrow girls and go see Disney Princesses on Ice!


Saturday, August 11, 2012

In Defense of Dark Days (or "Where's God When I'm Furious?")

In the wake of our infuriating and heart-breaking false alarm, a common condolence we heard was, "God has a plan for the two of you.  Don't be discouraged.  You'll find out soon enough."  No-one said that verbatim, but if you were to take everything everyone said, it would come out sounding something like that (possibly with some foul language, due to a couple of our more foul-mouthed -- but nonetheless heart-warming -- friends).

I learned a long time ago that I can't worry about God's plan for me.  I've begged, pleaded, and prayed for a peek and God, in His infinite mystery (and probably wisdom), has refused to show me.  In those moments of desperation, I am reminded of Deuteronomy 31:8.  "The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged."  This is quickly followed by Jeremiah 29:11, "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"  I'm reminded of these verses, yet, as pain leads to frustration and frustration to fury, their promises can seem so hollow.

The promises seem especially hollow when, from your vantage point, you can't see what you're doing wrong.  I'm not saying I (or we) have done everything right, but I can't look back and see what I (or we) have done wrong.  Kelly and I both try to live life as genuinely, as unguarded, and as fully as possible.  We have measured our talents and we have set about to use them for good.  We want to leave this world a better place than when we've found it and when people ask "why" we're more than happy to reply honestly and say, "because that's what God did for us."

It's a mistake to blame God for bad things happening to you.  Blaming God for your pain is like blaming the sun for your sunburn -- not to say all pain is avoidable or your own fault.  It's just a consequence of living in this world.  There is evil in this world, bent on your destruction.  There are people who act selfishly.  There are people who act foolishly.  There are well-meaning people who simply make mistakes.  There are lies.  There is miscommunication.  There are things, quite simply, that will lead to us getting hurt.  I do not believe any of them are part of God's plan.

God having a plan for me doesn't mean I will be immune to this world and the effects of sin.  God knowing what's best for me and me trying to allow for that to happen doesn't mean I'm going to get it right.  God's plan also, very honestly, may be something I am not at all comfortable with or interested in.  There are plenty of men and women in the Bible who wanted to follow God but did not want -- in any way -- to do what He asked them to do (see also:  Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Job, Esther, Jonah, Gideon, and at least eleven of the twelve apostles).  Perhaps that is what I take the most comfort in.

Feeling pain doesn't mean you're doing anything wrong.  Feeling pain means you're alive.  Feeling pain doesn't mean God has turned his back on you.  Feeling pain doesn't mean you're broken or that you need fixing.  Feeling pain does, for me, remind me why I need God in my life.  Without Him I would not have made it through the last couple of years.  Without Him I would not be where I am right now, looking forward to the future with a bit of hope and optimism.

So don't despair during your dark days.  You're not alone.  You're not the first to feel this.  The sun will come out and eventually this will all make sense.  That's what I've learned and that's what I'm still reminding myself of.


The cynical Bible reader (which I can be) should read the books of Job and Ecclesiastes.  They are wonderfully dark books that demand questions of God while pointing out all the general screwed-up-edness of the world.  They have guided me through (and of out of) many-a dark day.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

False Alarm

It's amazing how quickly you can plummet from the highest peak to the lowest valley.  The short version of the story is:  We were misinformed.

The longer version is:  We were told the boys were coming to our home.  We were given their Social Security cards and their medical histories.  We were told the boys were coming to our home.  We told the foster care people that we were taking time off to help the boys acclimate to their new home, because it was our intent to adopt these boys.  We were told that was a great idea.  Once we felt assured that the boys were coming, we announced it to all our friends and family.  Kelly had the major insurance company she works for rearrange her entire workload to make up for the fact that she wouldn't be there for a month.  We were told the boys were coming to our home.  At roughly 2pm, the coordinator told us she was going to go see and pick up the boys at 4:15 and then brought to our home.  We were told the boys were coming to our home.

At 6:30, when we hadn't heard anything, we texted our coordinator to see what was going on.  What was going on, it seems, is that the boys weren't coming to our home.  They were staying with the foster family they are currently with.  We were a back-up plan -- a Plan B.  The foster care coordinators had thought the family the boys were with were going to quit being foster parents.  When they heard this, they contacted us to see if were interested.

The thing of it is, we were never told we were a Plan B.  During all of our conversations, the only vagueness that was conveyed to us was at what time the boys would be coming to our home.

So . . . I'm sorry.  False Alarm.

Strychnine in the Well

We have been so amazed by people's support and love through this entire process.  Every time we announce another small victory, it seems like all of Facebook just erupts in joy.  It honestly has taken us very by surprise and has greatly humbled us.  We honestly expected more people like Rachel Lynde:

"Well, Marilla, I'll just tell you plain that I think you're doing a mighty foolish thing--a risky thing, that's what. You don't know what you're getting. You're bringing a strange child into your house and home and you don't know a single thing about him nor what his disposition is like nor what sort of parents he had nor how he's likely to turn out. Why, it was only last week I read in the paper how a man and his wife up west of the Island took a boy out of an orphan asylum and he set fire to the house at night--set it ON PURPOSE, Marilla--and nearly burnt them to a crisp in their beds. And I know another case where an adopted boy used to suck the eggs--they couldn't break him of it. If you had asked my advice in the matter--which you didn't do, Marilla--I'd have said for mercy's sake not to think of such a thing, that's what ... I hope it will turn out all right only don't say I didn't warn you if he burns Green Gables down or puts strychnine in the well--I heard of a case over in New Brunswick where an orphan asylum child did that and the whole family died in fearful agonies. Only, it was a girl in that instance."
And to be honest, we do have a couple Mrs. Lyndes in our life, but we don't blame them for being cautious.  We know they're only looking out for us and are trying to protect us from being hurt or harmed -- be it emotionally or physically.  And to be fair to them, there are a lot of horror stories out there.  It's important, however, to remember the context of these "horror stories."

Every child in the foster care system has gone, or is going through, trauma.  They've been taken from their homes.  Some of them have been abused and neglected their entire life up to this point.  Some haven't been neglected or abused; their parents may have done a good job of shielding them from their destructive behavior.  Regardless of the child's previous situation, they find themselves suddenly living with strangers.  How would you react if you were taken from the only home you've ever known and you were forced to live with people who may have absolutely nothing in common with you?

They may not be carrying any physical scars, but each and every one of them is carrying some emotional ones.  They're a little bit broken and it's our job to help them put those pieces back together.

We're supposed to meet them today.  They're supposed to come home with us today and sleep in the beds we've prepared for them.  Thank-you, everyone, for your words of comfort, encouragement, and caution.  We've appreciated it so much.

We can't wait for this next chapter to begin.


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Just Say No?

It has been almost a month since we were approved to be foster parents.

There are 408,000 children are in foster care in the US and 107,000 of those are eligible for adoption, per the FosterCare Statistics 2010 Fact Sheet.

We have gotten three calls with placement offers and one call for respite care. We said no to all three placement calls. The first was a toddler who only needed a temporary placement. The other two were teenage girls.  The first was a 17 y/o girl who “just needed someone to help get her through senior year.” She turns 18 in February. The second was a 16 year old girl who had just come into custody and desperately wanted to stay at the high school near our home. I was the one to have the conversations and ultimately say no.

We watched two brothers, ages 10 and 11, Saturday night as respite care for another foster family.  They were with us for four hours and we had a lot of fun. They walked right in and made themselves at home, asking a TON of questions. They were excited to meet our dogs and give them treats.

We introduced the boys to root beer floats and Legos. They were enamored with the chalk board on the wall in Scott’s office. “You can draw ON the wall?!?” They asked all about our family, how we met, and why we didn’t have any other kids. They were shocked that they were our first foster kids. They said that they had never been anyone’s first foster kids. They were extremely polite. They said yes ma’am and yes sir. They even put their dishes in the sink. For being 10 and 11 they knew a lot about the foster system. They insisted that we do a lot of thing other adults just don’t do – I guess we do play with Legos. . . By the end of the evening they both asked to stay with us.  We told them that not every day at our house was as much fun as that night. We also do laundry, clean the litter box, and do homework. They swore that they LOVE to fold laundry.

They did really well until it was time to be picked up by their foster family. They started arguing and fighting with each other as soon as their foster-mom called and said that she was on her way. It was interesting to see how reluctant they were to make the transition. Of course it was way past a reasonable bed time for 10 and 11 year olds, but we could read them like an open book. They were tired and had a lot of hurt behind their eyes. We don’t even know what that may be.

I am struggling with the emotional impact of saying no to children I don’t know and then also to these boys that we had in our home. It’s kind of heart wrenching to say no when the child asks you directly. We have said that we want to adopt rather than pursue fertility treatments so we can put our resources toward helping kids who are already here. We prayerfully and thoughtfully created a profile that says ages 0-5 years.  But it breaks my heart to say no to children who need a home. It will be much harder for the agency to find homes for these boys than a child under 5 years old. My rational side says remember the profile; stick to the profile you created when you were not emotional. But I feel like that may just be the excuse of a scared person. What if we say no to someone just because they don’t fit the picture of what we think our family looks like? What if it is just my fear or selfishness or doubts that keeps us from being parents to someone who needs us? Sometimes I don’t think I am mature enough for this.

Lots of thoughts…I’ll just keep waiting.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Wait For It . . .

Waiting. It may be the word we use the most on this blog. "Why" is the word we use most at home, but mostly that is because Scott’s little dog insists on pottying in the living room, and we don’t know why. But that is an issue for another day.

Our home study was approved last Tuesday. A week ago. We were pretty excited. I was instantly nervous (I realized we didn't have a waterproof cover for the mattress or plastic cups or plastic plates or plastic eating utensils or enough Legos).  It struck us that placement is close. Impending even.  We are in a kind of scary limbo. We have put our employers on notice that we may need some time off sometime in the next week, month or year. It is hard to plan when you don't know what to expect.

We actually got our first call on Friday, July 6. It was for a 3 year old little girl. She had more medical issues that we could probably handle and she only needed a temporary placement.  So the coordinator basically made the decision that she was not a match for us. This was a new coordinator that we had not spoken with before. She was very nice and took the time to listen to me about what type of child we are looking for.  I am excited by the conversation and feel good that we have experienced our first call. Now we wait for the next call. Maybe it will be about our children.

So again we wait. This waiting feels more exciting than all the other waiting we have done before.  But it is also more agonizing.  It feels like every time the phone rings my heart skips a beat.  Each day we wonder, "Will we meet our child today?" "By bedtime tonight will we be three instead of two?" I think after we take a placement we will look back on this waiting time that feels so long right now and say "That was just a short time. Why were we so anxious?"  At this point we have waited three and half years; what is another week or month?

We are praying for our child and the other children too. We are praying that we say yes to the child who is ours. We trust that God will work it all out. Any impatience we feel is really excitement about the upcoming arrival of our child.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Third Trimester

This must be what it feels like to in the third trimester of a pregnancy.  The end of The Beginning is fast approaching and while it has been filled with a wide range of emotions and in many ways feels like the end of an epic journey, it was just the prologue.  The real story begins now.

We vacillate between giddy, giggly excitement and sheer bloody terror.  Which, our rational sides tell us, is really to be expected and is probably a good sign.  Our rational side, of course, is nowhere to be seen when we're lying in bed, staring up at the ceiling and wondering what we've gotten ourselves into.  But then we think about what it's going to be like going on adventures, or teaching something new, or helping overcome an obstacle and we get giddy and excited again.

We're done.  We just wait to be approved now.

Last Thursday we were fingerprinted with a very cool digital scanner.  We were a little disappointed not to dip our fingers in ink, as we wanted to share that picture on Facebook and on the blog, but technology has apparently rendered ink moot.  We turned in a rather scary-to-complete contingent parent form -- which was as weird as it was scary.

We haven't met this child (or these children) yet.  We have no idea what he/she/they are going to be like and what needs they're going to have.  But we needed to decide what to do with our hypothetical children in the hypothetical situation that is both of us dying.  Then we took our pets have their rabies shots -- which the pets were super psyched about.  

Those last few pieces completely the home study information.  Our adoption coordinator "Darla" advised us, "your fingerprints should be back by Monday or Tuesday and if all goes well your home could be approved by the end of next week (which is now this week) or the first week of July!  P.S. you could get a placement call as soon as the day you are approved!!!"

Those are her exclaimation points, not ours.  But that is about how excited, scared, and nervous we are (!!!).

This is probably the closest we'll feel to what that last month of pregnancy feels like (unless, of course, everyone is right and we get pregnant as soon as we adopt because, apparently that's what "always happens"). You know a little one is coming, but you don’t know when. You kind of know what to expect, but really have NO IDEA how much your life is going to change. Except that instead of a newborn we could get a 4 year old or two children. Or maybe an infant. Our profile says 0-5 years. The more we think about it the bigger that range seems. We have bottles, but not sippy cups. We have a highchair, but no tricycle.  We just keep reminding each other that there is nothing that we can’t live without until morning and Walmart is only 3.7 miles away.

Somehow those material things are the things we worry about. Maybe because those are the things that are easier to approach and control? We know those things matter less than our home and family being welcoming. Those material things matter less than the attachment we want to form with this child. BTW, we are looking for a good book on attachment – let us know if you have found one.

The podcast we are listening to actually addressed a big question we have: What do we tell our friends and family about becoming attached to this child?

There is chance the child may leave our home and return to their birth parents. We have accepted that risk going in. We understand that is a big risk to ask our friends and family to accept as well. After talking and thinking about it, we have confirmed that we want to ask our friends and family to become as attached as possible to this child. Whether he/she is with us for a short time or the rest of our lives we want to him/her to have a foundation of love and fellowship. No parent knows how long they will have their child with them, so it important for us to shower love on this child while he/she is with us. As adults we have the capacity to experience love and loss and live through it. We are strong enough to give part of ourselves to this child. We are never reduced by loving; we only grow.

So. We are excited to be on this journey and glad to invite you along for the adventure. We hope you will join us in welcoming a little one into our home and family. Possibly very soon.

-- S&K

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Book Review: Parenting With Love and Logic

I read this book after hearing about it and the application of the Love and Logic principles on the Foster Parenting Podcast I listen too. Despite Scott working for a book store I paid full price and bought this one from B&N (Which apparently must bother me since I mention it every time I buy a full-price book).

Parenting with Love and Logic by Foster Kline and Jim Fay offers the principle of teaching children responsibility by allowing them to practice making choices and living with the consequences. Kline and Fay argue that responsibility is not a talent, but a learned, practiced skill. They suggest that by making choices and then living with the natural consequences of those choices children learn how to think through choices. I am all for natural consequences so that makes sense to me. Kline and Fay say that parents should not fight battles they cannot win. You can’t make a child stop throwing a tantrum but you can make them do it in another room away from you.  You might not be able to force a kid to eat this meal, but by empowering them to choose to not eat this meal they will surely by ready to eat by the time the next meal rolls around.

The book is laid out in two parts – the explanation of the philosophy and the practical application of that philosophy. Kline and Fay offer practical responses to 48 common parenting issues like grades, chores, bad language, getting ready for school, going to church and taking care of belongings. Kline and Fay argue that allowance is a tool to teach children the value of money and should not dependent on a child doing their chores. Chores are not optional; chores are a given. Everyone is expected to pitch in to the maintenance of the family’s home.

At times they get a bit judge-y about topics such as pacifiers, television time and video games. Their bias comes out on these topics and they fail to offer concrete advice on how to teach logic or allow personal choice with resulting consequences.

The pacifier chapter seems to the one most directed towards toddlers while many of the others are more appropriate to school age children or teenager. Kline and Fay argue that pacifiers are not natural and should not be allowed beyond infancy as it can become an addiction. Maybe they didn’t put a lot of time or thought into the pacifier chapter (it was only one page), but again it seems to miss the point. They don’t formulate the argument against pacifiers well except to stress that a child sucking a pacifier is not “cute.” They suggest that parents have a hard time encouraging their children to out-right quit sucking a pacifier, but the parent can control where the sucking occurs. So the parent should ask the toddler to leave the room if he/she must suck on the pacifier. I’m not a huge pacifier promoter but I do appreciate the welcome calm it can bring to my friends kids. Maybe they should have left this chapter out since it is somewhat of a controversial topic and they didn’t have a solid foundation for their objections.

Video Games. Maybe this is sensitive topic in our house because we are both gamers, as two creators of media we are also consumers of media, and, oh, half our income comes from the sale of video games.  Kline and Fay suggest discussing video games with the children to prompt thought on amount of time and content of the video games. That sounds reasonable. They spend several pages discussing video game addiction. Okay maybe this book is not the time or place, but possibly relevant (maybe). They then end the chapter stating “Certainly though, many parents handle the issue the simple way: from the time the children are young they simply do not have video games in the home. We applaud those folks!” This concluding thought misses the point of allowing children to choose and then allowing children to practice appropriate boundaries and self control.

I generally agree with the philosophy that responsibility can be taught by allowing children to practice making good choices then allowing them to suffer the consequences when they are young; however I finished this book with a rather sour taste in my mouth. I feel like the book was not specific enough to any particular age group, but in some aspects it was too limited to the writers’ biases. I’d love for someone else to read it so I can discuss with them, but I don’t enthusiastically want to recommend that anyone spend a lot of time on it.

Instead go back and read Equally Shared Parenting by Marc and Amy Vachon. It was fantastic! I got it for cheap and would be happy to loan it out.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Following PATH

So we completed the PATH classes this month, and we completed a ginormous stack of paperwork.  Yay!  We've bothered our friends, family, and even coworkers for reference forms (and special thanks to them!).  We've bought fire extinguishers and a carbon monoxide detector (and put the batteries back in the smoke detector over the stove).  Our Spare 'Oom is ready for a tiny occupant.  But the most exciting exciting step was yesterday.  It was out first chance to sit down with our adoption coordinator, Darla (not her real name).

She came to visit us at home and spent two and a half hours with us.  We worked through a questionnaire about our parenting skills.  What we are comfortable parenting, what we feel we might need help with, and things we feel are beyond our capacity.  It was a helpful exercise that gave her a chance to get to know us.  It was a pretty casual conversation and it gave us a chance to ask the questions we've been amassing:

  • How long does this take?  Another 6-8 weeks. During that time we may have two more meetings with her and she may call to speak with both of us individually. She will prepare a home study report and then we will do fingerprinting and background checks. She will pull all of that together and send to the state for approval. We will complete CPR and first aid training in early June.  We should be approved possible as early as sometime mid June.
  • After a placement what kind of support do we have if we have questions/problems?  A team is available 24/7 for questions and brainstorming. Support with practical issues of transportation and doctors appointments is available as well. They offer respite care if we need a break.
  • How long until we can adopt?  A placement may come quickly, but the child will be in our home for 6 months before we can complete the adoption.
  • What does this cost us?  Nothing. They cover the costs of the home study, background check, and legal fees. We would be paid a stipend monthly after a child is placed with us, even AFTER the adoption is completed.
  • Can our parents and friends help with occasional childcare?  Yes. They do not need to also go through a background check or home study. Omni trusts our judgment on who to leave our children with.
  • Can we travel with the children?  Yes, but we need to communicate those plans to Omni. We would need to get approval for overnight stays out of state.

What is hard to explain is the feeling we got from the meeting. We came away from the conversation very positive. Darla seems as excited to be working with us as we are to be working with her.  She said that she would talk to the other Omni adoption coordinator and they will be looking out for a child who would be a good fit for our family.


Saturday, May 12, 2012

A new PATH

After more than a year of waiting we are now starting on the home study process! It is good to feel like we are taking steps forward.

If you have been keeping up, for the past 14 months we have listed our profile with a local attorney and have been networking with anyone we come in contact with. We have been hesitant to work with an adoption agency for several reasons. We won't go into that here, except to say that cost is a factor. But after thoughtfully and tearfully considering a surrogate pregnancy we have again reassessed our plans of how to grow our family.

We are now connected with a local foster-to-adopt agency, Omni Visions, Inc. We have completed the 4-week PATH (Parents as Tender Healers) training class. We are almost, maybe, hopefully, nearly done with a two-inch stack of paperwork. We are collecting references and are scheduling a CPR class. All this will allow us to be approved resource parents in the state of Tennessee. Once approved we can be part of Omni’s foster-to-adopt program.

We are looking to provide a permanent and stable home for child under the age of five. It is a simultaneously exciting and scary process. We just keep reminding ourselves that we are doing this to serve a child, who is probably more scared that we are. We are not sure what to expect but glad to be taking a step forward on this journey.

The home study requires the house to be baby-/child-proofed. We have spent the past 3 weeks collecting a fire extinguisher, rearranging our cleaning supply storage, and developing a system to double lock our medications (prescription and OTC). We were asked to provide pictures of the inside and outside of our house as well as our pets. The house is the cleanest and most organized it has been since we moved in 5 years ago. Here are a couple our those pictures for your viewing pleasure.

Scott's Hero themed office.

Spare 'oom -  this is the future home of our little one. It is a woodland Narnia theme.

We will share more on this process as we learn more.

We found a new podcast on the foster-to-adopt process from a California couple - here. The process will be different state to state, but the feelings are the same no matter where you are.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Tot New Mobile

Kelly just took my Justice League tots that I collected from Sonic and turned them into the coolest mobile ever.  I had to share.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Oh, The Things You'll Do!

One of my favorite Dr Seuss books is Oh, The Places You'll Go!.  I kind of wish he had written a follow-up to that called Oh, The Things You'll Do! in which our reader is walked through their hypothetical life and shown some of the choices they'll get to make, the causes they'll take up, the projects they'll complete, the jobs they'll have, the people they'll meet and, well, the things they'll do.

As Kelly and I wait for God to reveal his plan for our family, I have found myself steeped in projects.  Some of them I've been planning for years, others I never saw coming.  For example, I'm currently working on a novel.  It's a science fiction story aimed at a young adult audience and it's a story I've been wrestling with for about six years now.

One thing I never saw coming was the podcast I'm currently working on.  My friends Loren and I have recorded over thirty episodes at this point and they all can be found at or on iTunes.  We both went to film school, so we're making our way through contemporary and classic films and analyzing them.  It's been a lot of fun, some hard work, and it's starting to pay off.  We're growing a little community over there and some really neat conversations are taking place.  And it's because of that podcast that I've come to have a small part in the documentary Until We Have Faces.

Until We Have Faces is a documentary from Leslie Foster, another one of my film school friends, that "explores the complexity of violent homophobia in Jamaica and the hope, bravery, and endurance of the amazing LGBT community there."  Leslie is now trying to raise the money he needs to finish post-production on the film and I'm doing my part to spread the word (you can read more about it here).  This is one of those fights that I would love to have had a hand in ending before my child is in the world -- but even if it isn't, even if we're still fighting this fifty years from now, I'll be proud to tell my little one "I did my best to make the world a little bit safer for you, your friends, and some people we might not ever meet."

Oh, the places you'll go . . . and the things you'll do . . .

Somehow you'll escape all the waiting and staying.
You'll find the bright places where Boom Bands are playing.
With banner flip-flapping, once more you'll ride high!
Ready for anything under the sky.
Ready because you're that kind of guy!

And will you succeed?
Yes!  You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Things I Have Learned Through Infertility

  1. It is okay to feel sad, angry, lonely, or jealous. But not okay to let those feelings consume you or define you.
  2. Ice cream with friends makes things a little brighter.
  3. Having friends who take you out for ice cream after failed fertility treatments are WONDERFUL.
  4. It is okay to say no to invitations to baby showers or other events. The friends and family who love you will understand. Those who don’t, don’t really matter.
  5. Laughter is good. Laughter about dark or sad things is even funnier.
  6. My husband and God love me more than I always understand.
  7. It does not make me less of a woman, no matter what the monologue in my head says.
  8. I am not the only one who is or has gone through this. More people than you know or imagine have experienced being reproductively challenged. You just need to reach out.
  9. It is good to be busy.
  10. You will reach a point where occasionally you won’t be thinking about it or counting days since ovulation. That still doesn’t mean you will get pregnant, despite what “they say.”
  11. People without children get to stay out late, sleep in, be spontaneous, go on overnight trips, go to movies, spend money on themselves, take dance lessons, go on dates, takes naps, buy Nerf guns to have battles in the living room, buy Legos just because they are cool, watch DVDs uninterrupted, and eat whatever they want.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

How About It?

Some friends recently expressed that they were excited to see us as parents as they felt that we deserve to have a baby and would be great parents. I don’t say that to brag, but to say, I hope we are as good of people as these friends think we are. Their faith in us is inspiring.

We’ve not posted in a couple months because we have been thinking. Thinking and talking don’t usually go together, at least for me. Those friends got us thinking about surrogacy.

Would we consider it?

Well, we would. We did.

We had decided even before we got married that IVF was not for us. We would prefer to spend that money, time, and emotional energy on adoption. But surrogacy with the option of being a significantly cheaper and with none of those crazy-lady inducing fertility drugs, now that could be an option. Did you know the internet sells convenient DIY kits for intra-vaginal insemination? Yup. Who would have thought?

That would mean asking a woman to donate her egg and carry her and Scott’s baby. That is a lot to ask of someone. That would be partially her child. That would be her son or daughter’s half sibling. That would be Scott’s baby with another woman. Could I and that hypothetical biological mother handle it? Sara and Hagar did not handle it with grace. Would I care once that baby was in my arms? Not sure, maybe.

It might not be so hard to find someone to carry our embryo. Even that would be a huge thing for someone to do. But we won’t do IVF, remember? The cost, the gamble, the crazy hormones. If we were considering IVF we would try it ourselves first; because remember, there is nothing wrong with either of us. We should be able to conceive and carry a pregnancy. So we are left with asking a surrogate to donate her egg and body. That is more than a 9 month commitment. That is a life-time commitment. That is more than we can ask of anyone.

So that’s us considering it.


Saturday, March 10, 2012

That I Would be Good

that I would be good even if I did nothing
that I would be good even if I got the thumbs down
that I would be good if I got and stayed sick
that I would be good even if I gained ten pounds

that I would be fine even if I went bankrupt
that I would be good if I lost my hair and my youth
that I would be great if I was no longer queen
that I would be grand if I was not all knowing

that I would be loved even when I numb myself
that I would be good even when I am overwhelmed
that I would be loved even when I was fuming
that I would be good even if I was clingy

that I would be good even if I lost sanity
that I would be good

-Alanis Morissette

I had a realization the other day (read: a couple months ago) when I was driving home. I am tired of feeling the way I have. I am tired of being in this place where there is something I want and desire, but where I have no way to affect my ability to get it. Tired of being sad about being out of control of the situation. I am just done with it.

If I can’t change the situation, I am at least ready to start accepting it.

That I would be good even if we don’t have a baby.

That I would be good even if I can’t have a baby.

That I would be confident even if I am not the person I thought I was or want to be.

2012 is already a brighter year.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Rough Approximation of the Greatest Day (That We Are Still Looking Forward To)

I mentioned the book we're working on, Alfonso & Beatrice and The Mermaid Princess, in a previous post. Beth Maurer, the book's illustrator, sent me this today and I have to share it. It's just a rough sketch, one I'm sure Beth would hate for me to share, but I adore it so.

This comes from the climax of the book, where Alfonso and Beatrice meet the mermaid princess. Look at Alfonso and the little girl in the bubble. That moment. Right there. That's what it's all about.