Twice as Good

Last year this weekend, we woke up one morning and took our two kiddos home to their family. We miss M & T every day but are in contact with their mom so often that we know they are doing so well and so is she. The steps she has taken to be a great mother to them in the past year never fail to impress me. She is amazing.

It was a hard time for us when we had to say goodbye to them even though we were happy to help a family come back together. I could not help but think of all our friends & family who have supported us through the last couple of years since we started doing foster care. I had to play this song a few times this week and think of each of you. Thank you!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_2K_QXxJ8yU]

when I am down and need to cry till morning
I know just where I am going
when I’m in need of sweet commiseration
to speak out loud

raise a glass to friendship and to knowing
you don’t have to go alone
we’ll raise our hearts to share each others burdens
on this road

with every burden I have carried
with every joy it’s understood
life with you is half as hard
and twice as good

with my good news your dancing on the table
babies born to celebration
the joy of life oh what a sweet communion
shared with you

I know we’re growing older
can you imagine what that will bring
it’s all a mystery to me now
but this one thing

will be half as hard, and twice as good

A Pregnancy Post

I have not really written much about being pregnant. If you are not into this sort of post, feel free to skip it. I totally understand.

I think I started realizing about last week that I really am actually pregnant. I know that sounds kind of crazy since I am 25 weeks but it has been fairly easy to forget with two (well, three, right now) other kiddos running around. I was nauseous but never sick really early on and that went away quickly. I have not had any strange cravings or been ravenously hungry. The only thing that has changed about my diet is that I don’t really like chicken anymore.

According to some websites, I’m in my third trimester. I divided 40 weeks by 3 and got 13.33 weeks makes a trimester. According to that, I have a couple more weeks to go until my third trimester which makes me feel a bit better because then I feel like I have more time until she arrives. But I know, I really don’t, and I’ve started reading a couple books to get me prepared for labor and delivery (this one & this one). Tonight, I am going to a meet & greet with the doulas and midwives from the hospital where we are planning to have the baby. We have not hired a doula (although, I am sure they are worth it the fee is expensive and not covered by insurance).

Last week, I found The Longest Shortest Time the way I find all good things (via random link on Twitter). Since then, I have listened to every episode and probably should have spaced them out a bit more since some of the stories are sad or a bit scary. But, truly, it is a great podcast/blog and I highly recommend it. Also, I may or may not have read every birth story I can find on the internet. We’ve had a newborn but I’ve never been through labor. I feel prepared for somethings and totally unprepared for others.

After a cool week last week, the temperature went back up Monday and, to me, it felt like it was the hottest day ever. I was doing the school pick-up (preschool > kindergarten > other neighborhood to get G off the bus) and was so angry at how hot it was. I am totally over summer. It can go far, far away for all I care. We are doing a lot these days and my energy level is not what I would like it to be and I have suddenly realized that I actually do have some physical limitations now (I mean, not that I was running marathons or anything before). A very kind neighbor of mine offered to help me last week and then, even better, came over and said, “Seriously. Let me help.” Sometimes you just need that.

Emotionally, I am dealing with mom guilt, mostly which is completely irrational. I have guilt that this little girl will grow up with us from day one. That I get to feel her kick me. That we will see her do all her firsts. I feel guilty for missing all this with the boys and I know that makes no sense because missing out on that with them has nothing to do with me. Adoption is joyful and wonderful but also full of loss. Pregnancy is highlighting that a bit for me right now but I am trying to focus on what I do get to do with these boys and remember every hilarious thing that they do (or at least write it down for when I can’t remember).

First Week of Kindergarten

Tuesday morning I woke up prepared for a whirlwind of activity all before nine o’clock in the morning. We had three kids that needed to be in three different places. Because of a genius idea I saw on Pinterest, I had the boys clothes picked out through the week. AIB & DIB were dressed minutes after getting out of bed. DIB & G had breakfast by eight and AIB was picked up by grandpa. I drove G over to her long-term foster family’s house. By 8:15 we were down to one very excited kindergartner.

We took him outside to take some pictures with his backpack. He humored us. Then we headed over to the elementary school which was full of activity. As we waited at the door that he will enter each day with the rest of the kids in his class, we could tell the nervousness was setting in for him. He kept saying, “I just want to be with Dad.” We reassured him that he was going to have a great time. As the first bell rang, we all walked into the school (yes, we did get to go in). As we walked to his room, I felt myself tearing up. He was obviously nervous so I didn’t want to make it any worse for him and I pulled it together.

There were only nine kids coming to class that day (they stagger the first days so that the kids are not overwhelmed). They all sat down at a table and were very quiet. The first activity was writing your name (if you can) and drawing a picture of yourself on your first day of school. This is where DIB started giving us the look – the “I’m not down with this” look. While he can write his name, he really does not enjoy doing so and he does not like drawing/coloring. We’ve worked on it minimally at home and talked a lot about how you have to do what the teacher asks. We know his fine-motor skills need work. Some kids sat down and got to work. Others sort of stared at the paper (DIB included). We decided that it was time to leave and encouraged him to follow the teachers instructions. We gave him a hug & let him know that mom would be there when school was over.

Picking him up that day has to be one of my favorite parenting experiences so far. He turned the corner and saw me, ran full speed and shouted, “Mom, I missed you so much!” Thankfully, I had sunglasses on so no one could see me welling up. I asked him how the day was and he said, “It was great. But, Mom, I didn’t learn how to read.” We’ve been telling him that was one of the things he would learn in kindergarten. I guess he thought it would be more immediate. We talked about the day over Slurpees and Cheetos. On Friday, he was eager to go back to school. So far, so good.

G also was able to start kindergarten last week despite not having a birth certificate, physical or immunization form yet. The school was kind enough to give us some grace on these requirements until it all came together so she could start the same week as the rest of the kindergartners. She is really missing her family and I am hoping that school will be a good distraction from all that she is going through right now. Her teacher has been really helpful and understanding. It has been fun getting a little girl ready in the morning. She is much more into clothes and hairstyles than the boys. I hope we are making what is such a hard time in her life a bit easier.

AIB starts preschool this afternoon and he could not be more excited. It was strange to pack three backpacks last night. All the kiddos are growing up!

Two Kindergartners & a Preschooler

We received a call from our agency early last week asking us if a little girl, G (age 5), could come stay with us for a few weeks. It is a long story but she has a long-term placement with her brother that is not available until the middle of the month. Since that foster family lives in our city, by staying with us she is able to start kindergarten next week (hopefully) without having to change again when she moves in with them. It has been a little crazy getting all the details worked out but it seems to be coming together.  I asked the boys how they felt about it and, DIB said, “Mom, I will not hit her.” Thanks, buddy. Both DIB and AIB understand that kids come to stay with us from time to time. It has not seemed to affect them much yet but G will be a little different since she is closer to their age than the babies we have cared for in respite. So far, it has been going well. DIB has been especially sweet and kind to her.

Watching TV and holding on to backpacks, which now seem to be needed for everything that we do.

Tomorrow is DIB’s first day of school. We’ve been getting ready by taking tours of the classroom, having a home visit from his teacher and meeting a few new friends. He has been fairly shy at first but I can tell he is already warming up to his teachers since he has met them twice now. The way our district starts for kids in kindergarten is that eight kids from the class go on Tuesday, another eight on Wednesday and another eight on Thursday. On Friday, they will all be there for their first full day as a full class. I’m not sure yet when G will start (her long-term foster family is in the process of getting her enrolled and set up).

AIB starts preschool in a little over a week and I think he is looking forward to it. I’m anticipating some shyness and reluctance from him at first but I think he is going to have a great time. It will be good for him to establish some independence from his brother.

It is safe to say that the person having the hardest time with the boys starting school is me. D just told me earlier today that we will have to drop DIB off and likely won’t be able to walk him into the classroom (he talked to our neighbor and another friend about it and apparently this is how it is done). When he told me this, I said, “No. That is not how it works.” He said, “I’m pretty sure that is how it goes. Are you going to be alright?” My response was, “I don’t want to talk about it” followed by a little crying. I’m weepy; I’m pregnant. I can’t help it. I know DIB is five years old but he has only be here nine months. It is like sending my nine month old to kindergarten in a way. So, yeah, I’m having a bit of a hard time. But we will all make it.

It is possible that G will be our last respite placement before the baby arrives in December. Fall means that D starts school two evenings per week, I head into a busy season at work, and we have a few home renovation projects going on that are going to make life pretty interesting. Never a dull moment at our house. Even though we are tired (okay, maybe, I’m just the one who is tired), I would not change a thing. I absolutely love our life.

Reading Material

I’ve been under the weather and it has slowed me down big time. Here is some great reading material I’ve found this this week.

This post is long but so great if you are a transracial family (from Claudia at My Fascinating Life).

Even though people are mostly well meaning and positive, we do get asked a lot of questions, and sometimes this wears me down. I get frustrated that I’ve gently educated on the same topic again and again and again and that makes me impatient with the next person who asks. But this new person hasn’t actually asked me before, and there’s very little transracial adoption in this country so it’s likely we’re the first transracial adoptive family they’ve met. And why should people know about adoption stuff, why should they be educated about a topic that they haven’t had any prior exposure to? Nothing is really a dumb question if you’re starting from zero. Even when the question itself isn’t appropriate, I’ve been really impressed by how graciously individuals tend to back off when I’ve explained this. Being aggressive about it, or getting offended doesn’t really do anybody any good. Not me, not the stranger, not my kids. Once upon a time, I didn’t know those questions were intrusive, and people took the trouble to educate me. I’m sure I wasn’t the first person they educated; I’m sure I wasn’t the last. And now it’s my turn.

After all, there is no such person as The Public. Telling one person doesn’t make a blind bit of difference to the next. The public only find things out one person at a time. That’s slow and frustrating for me, but that’s just the way it works. Expecting the guy I meet today to know something because I talked to someone else about it yesterday? Unreasonable. I might have been educating people for two years, but this particular guy has been learning for about ten seconds.

The Livesays are a family I met briefly at Together for Adoption. D and I both feel really encouraged and blessed by keeping up with their ministry through their blog. This is a post Tara wrote in regards to an abandoned child with special needs that they are currently caring for.
I don’t feel beautiful, I feel overwhelmed and uncertain. I feel inadequate and and short-tempered.  I feel weak and stressed. I feel very protective of Paige. I don’t know what the right thing to do is and I feel guilty that I don’t really want our family to be a long-term solution for Moses  – yet at the same time I don’t feel good about not being his long-term solution. I want him to go away and I want him to stay safe here. I tell myself not to get emotionally involved. It doesn’t work. At times I feel resentful at the weight of responsibility he represents — yet I  feel possessive ownership when it comes time to hand him off to someone kindly offering to help.  None of it makes sense. I hate learning I am capable of resenting a handicapped two year old. I hate that the world is full of this brokenness and loss. I hate my own brokenness. 

Adoption Party

This week we had party to celebrate the boys’ adoption. We are blessed with a supportive family and wonderful friends. My sister-in-law made some amazing decorations and created “time capsule” jars for the boys. Our guests wrote notes for each boy and put them in the jar. We will hold on to them until they are 18 but I might have to peak first.

We grilled hot dogs and ate watermelon. It was a team effort to get this party together. I could not be more thankful for those who helped us celebrate.  I need all the help I can get these days. It was so fun to see each person who is woven into our family’s story.

And then we all went home and crashed, just like our little niece, Annie (how sweet is she?).

Awkward Questions & a Crazy Brave Kiddo

We are getting ready to go back to school which means the boys both had to get physicals today. It is always interesting going to the doctor with your kids that came to you through adoption. For us, we know very little about their history so we cannot answer a lot of questions. I was able to get the boys’ insurance worked out so that they can go to the same doctor that I see (she is a family practice doctor). She was so supportive when I was in to get physicals done for both our foster care licensing and adoption approval. I was so excited for her to meet the boys today.

However, the office had residents working there and the one we got was, well, awkward. The first thing she said when she saw me and two boys was, “You are so young.” Granted, I am a little young to have a five and four-year old but it is not totally unheard of for someone my age to have preschoolers. She started asking me a bunch of questions. I explained that we finalized the boys adoption a few weeks ago. She asked me where they are from (Michigan) and how we got them (We were their foster parents and then we adopted them). Then she said to them,

A & D, who gave you those names?

They just stared at me and I said to them, “You’re first mommy gave you that name, didn’t she?” Then the resident said, “So, you adopted them from their parents?” I explained they were in foster care. I was afraid of where the questions might go from there. It is a whole different thing when you are answering questions in front of kids; I want to show them that adoption is nothing be ashamed of but that we don’t owe an explanation to everyone we meet just because they are curious. And, as in any situation, I want to model graciousness and good manners.

She continued on with her exam of them and the normal questions. She kept mentioning how cute they are (and who can blame her for that). Then, sort out of nowhere, she said,

They are so cute. Where did you find them?

I mean, really?!? Like I looked for them in a store or catalog. I pretty much ignored that question and decided that this woman knew nothing about foster care or adoption. The boys were mostly oblivious to her awkwardness and were fascinated by all the medical gear in the room.  Our regular doctor came in to say hi and was so nice and kind with the boys, treating them like the normal children that they are.

Even more amazing than the strange questions we were asked is my four-year old who received three shots and had blood drawn with no tears. The first shot, he merely said, “Oww.” The second shot, he laughed like it tickled. The third, a TB test, he watched and was fascinated by the bubble under his skin. And then for getting blood drawn he did not even flinch at the needle in his skin and watched the whole time as they took blood. He is four! He is crazy brave about this kind of stuff. I never watch when I get a shot or have blood drawn – ever! (You are all wondering how I’m going to deal with child-birth now, aren’t you? Trust me, so am I.)

So, that was our day today. Last night we had an amazing Adoption Party that I will share about when I get some pictures from those who were kind enough to bring cameras. Our boys are very loved.

Glad to Have Dad

D was away last week on a mission trip with the high school youth group. The boys were amazingly well behaved without their wrestling buddy. I did have to step up my Lego skills though. A friend of mine bought them each a new Lego set – a fire truck for DIB and a police truck for AIB. They were so excited since both sets represent the respective future professions (or so we are told).

At 7:30 am on Wednesday morning, I found myself assembling the Lego sets which is pretty tricky with two excited little boys who like to grab the needed pieces. I would not say they are excellent assistants. At some point, I messed up on the fire truck and we really needed to get on with our day so the sets were put on hold until Dad got home to help them. They didn’t miss a beat and promptly asked him to fix the Legos that mom messed up on Sunday after church.

It was fun to watch the three of them play together Sunday afternoon. I am pretty sure AIB said the word “Daddy” over 1,000 times within an hour. The last few days DIB has been serenading us with songs about Dad on our drives to and from places. Aunt Marcia even got a taste of this when she drove DIB around one day. Here is a sampling of lyrics…

Dad is good because of me.

I have strong muscles like my dad.

I love Dad. I will always do what my dad says!

I was especially glad to have D home because on Saturday morning we picked up Baby Girl R for a short respite placement. R is about the chillest baby around. She is nine months old, very sweet and a great sleeper. I had arranged to take her back to the agency on Monday morning where her foster mom would pick her up at some point that morning (or at least that is what I has assumed). However, at 5:30 pm yesterday I received a call saying the foster parent had just called to say she could not come get her and would come sometime on Tuesday. So, R was at the agency all day in the play room. We picked her back up and brought her home for the night and will hang on to her until her foster mom get back from out of town.

I’d blame it on pregnancy hormones but I know that the frustration I felt over this situation was nothing out of the norm for me. Who just doesn’t pick up their kid?!? Seriously. D reminded me that there may be a good reason why this foster mom was not able to come get her but, regardless, she could have let the agency know before the end of the day. I really hate when these kids get treated like they are not human.

But this is a post about my wonderful husband so I will hold off on any more ranting for now. We celebrated five years of marriage last week. He was gone on his trip but we have plans for a getaway later this month that I cannot wait for. People have asked me if foster care has been hard on our marriage but it has been the opposite. It has been a bonding experience for us. We’ve had challenging times and moments filled with stress and worry but God has been faithful to use this experience to strengthen our relationship and grow our love for each other.

Yesterday, as I pulled into our driveway after picking up the boys from my parents’ house, then Baby R from the agency, I saw D putting away the lawn mower. I said…

“There is Daddy. I just love that guy.”

From the backseat, AIB said…

“I just love that guy too.”

Adoption Day

I don’t remember being the boys age (or at least not much) so I wanted to write a letter to them on their adoption day…

Dear DIB & AIB,

This morning we officially adopted you. You have been our sons since you moved into our house in November but today the State of Michigan made it official. We have been falling madly in love with you over the last eight months.

You are still young and since I do not have a lot of memory of being four or five years old it is very possible you won’t remember today. All your in-town family came to court. We squished into the Judge’s chambers. You sat on mom and dad’s laps while she asked you a few questions. You were both a little shy (not really your typical demeanor). We had an early morning court date which meant you were spoiled by chocolate chip cookies for breakfast (courtesy of the court) followed by pancakes at a diner with your family.

Your cousins Ellie, Shay and Annie were there (so was your sister but she was still inside mom’s belly). The night before Aunt Jenni explained to Ellie what was going to happen the next day. They talked about what adoption meant. Ellie ended up in tears, upset that her parents did not adopt her. It is safe to say that you are in a family that loves kids no matter how they arrive. You are deeply loved by your grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins as well as an extended group of family and friends who sent us loving messages throughout the day.

It is possible that sometime in the future you might wonder how in the world you ended up with us. Right now your life is all about toys, swimming, wrestling with your dad and consuming as much sugar as we will allow (especially, you, AIB). You don’t seemed concerned with the hard things you have already experienced in your life. But someday you will wonder about your birth parents. You might feel frustrated, angry or confused about how your life started. You are allowed to feel that way and we will always do our best to answer any questions you may have.

We love you so much it is hard to comprehend. We loved you before we knew who you were. You are our boys and, as much as I beg you to please stop growing up, we cannot wait to see who you become.

Love,

Mom & Dad

We are feeling overwhelmingly blessed with all we have experienced in the last few days. The kindness and love of our family and friends is amazing. I am looking forward to sharing more but we still have some celebrating to do.