Tuesday, November 14, 2017

T minus 88!

I'm counting down the hours until my boys are here for good! This last weekend was another amazing weekend in the books! The boys all experienced a little taste of school, church, and some cousin time. They finally got to watch "the pizza man throw the dough up in the air", went to a free movie at the theater, and revisited the sledding hill in town!  Amidst all the busyness of the weekend, there was a lot of playing, dressing up in costumes, building nerf war forts, painting, and just hanging out. 

It is so fun to watch each of the boys and observe how they are taking all this change in. 

 (6) is the most ready and excited to just be here already!  He wants a family, loves his siblings, and is attaching well to my hubby and I.  He is pumped to be the new kid at school especially after he had such a warm welcome on Friday! He is very conversational and asks a lot of questions, always starting with "can I ask/tell you something?" He is a natural firstborn - leader of the pack, watches out for the littler ones, coordinator of all the details. He was adorable in church when our pastor made reference to them being there. "Mom, how does he know us?" "Well the whole church has been praying for you boys for a couple months" "([huge smile spreading on face] Really!?" He raised his hand for prayer requests to pray for our army, and then his face lit up when the Pastor did so. 

(5) is a thinker. He processes things in his mind and then asks questions, always following our answers with, "ok, I got it!"  The first weekend we met them, I had picked him up and danced around the room humming a song from Cinderella, and ever since he asks me to dance with him. Melt my heart! He is such a sweetheart, he doesn't love kisses but he does love affection. He is attaching well, but still iffy on whether he will call me by my name or Mommy. Sometimes it's "Mommy. Mommy. Mommy! SARAH!" He will randomly be super sweet, like at bedtime when he said, "Hey, you know those things you put on your face instead of in your eyes?" "My glasses?" "Yeah! You look kind of pretty with those."  He's excited for school and asked me about 1,672 times what his teacher's name was again.

(4) is a little brute by appearance (and sometimes by action when interacting with his brothers), but don't let that fool you! He is the biggest softie of the bunch! "Mommy, can you hold me?" "Mommy, I love you." "Mommy, will you snuggle me?"  He has a mischievous little grin and a contagious little giggle. He, like (5), likes me to dance with him, and he loves his sister Caroline!  He liked seeing his class and meeting his teacher and Sunday School teacher, but doesn't gush about school like his brothers. He's so little yet, and this is all so new.  The exchange on Sunday was so hard. His emotions were on high as we sat in a conference room with his bio grandparents and colored. I colored something the wrong color and that let loose all the emotions he had been keeping inside.  When it came to say goodbye so that Grandma could drive them the rest of the way to their foster home he was still bawling, and when Grandpa lovingly took him out of my arms he scratched his nails on my arms trying to grasp tighter, screaming "Mommy! I want my mommy!"  Break. My. Heart. 💔

It's just so much for their little hearts and minds to understand.  They want and love their new family, but in order to move forward they have to say goodbye to the foster mama who has been with them through thick and thin the last 3 years. They have to say goodbye to their house, their school, everything that is familiar to them. I try to imagine my bio kids being in a situation like this and I can't even fathom.  

With adoption, it's easy to say "they are so lucky", but in reality they are so unlucky.  It's easy to assume, "they are so young, they are resilient", but they are not.  All kiddos who have experienced the system are deeply affected and suffer a profound loss.  Generally speaking, it doesn't matter how good their foster home(s) or foster parent(s) have been; they didn't enter the system because their home life was great. They endured trauma, or neglect, or exposure, or abuse, or some terrible circumstance(s) that made removing them from their biological family necessary.  It's so unfair that in one of the richest countries in the world, there are 428,000 kids in foster care and about a quarter of those kiddos are just waiting to be adopted. For these 111,820 kids, the biological parents and next of kin have all been eliminated as options. They've likely already tried to see if their foster family is interested in adopting and have explored any other non-relative connections to no avail. So there they sit, waiting for their "forever family". It's just so sad.

So now that I've gone down that sad reality of a bunny trail, I will pep back up and remember that in 88 hours we are picking up our boys and bringing them home forever! Yay!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Final Weekend

We're coming up on our fourth and final weekend visit with the boys before they officially relocate to our home on November 17th! I shared about our first amazing weekend together in my last post. The following weekend we had our 2nd weekend visit. This time we brought all our kiddos and spent two nights at the hotel.  We had to rent two hotel rooms to accommodate all 9 of us, but seriously, if money were no option, I'd choose adjoining rooms regardless of the number of people!  We created a "dining room" on our side by relocating/rearranging tables and chairs and utilizing the couch as a bench.  We spent a ton of time in the pool and playing in the room and had to laugh when we made up half the occupants in the hotel ning area for the continental breakfast!  It was so nice to have the kiddos all together! I am so thankful though that we had that first weekend with just the boys so we could connect with them one on one... or two on three at least!  We finished off that weekend with a trip to a trampoline park, which was on the boys wishlist, before bringing them back home!

The third weekend, the boys' current foster mama brought them up to our home and saw them into their new space. I had set up the boys' room in a superhero theme and they were so excited and immediately put on the capes and masks that were hung on the wall. We had a super fun-filled weekend, playing outside, making homemade playdoh, sledding at the hill, and playing at the house. We carried on our Saturday Night tradition of pizza and root beer floats followed by popcorn and a movie party! We had to bring them home on Sunday so most of that day was spent driving.  My biggest takeaway from the whole weekend was the importance of pillow talk. 

We have a pretty well-established bedtime routine at our place. 
1.Hygiene - brush teeth, go potty, get a drink 
2. Clothing - change into pjs, dirty clothes in basket, next day's clothes picked out 
3. Bedroom - remove toys from room, discard any garbage, clear anything left on floor
4. Routine - read books, highs and lows, prayers

Justin took care of putting our bios to bed and I focused on the boys.  We went through the usual routine, but per the advice of many other adoptive families, I stayed in the room until they fell asleep.  There is something about bedtime that makes kids want to talk. That makes them want to share what's been going on in their minds all day or week or even over the years. I could not be more grateful for those who advised me to stick around after the bedtime routine - I learned more about them and their history, firsthand. I know it is valuable even with my bios, but truth be told sometimes I am just ready to clock out at bedtime. But after my experience that weekend, I want to stick around a little longer than I would usually stay.  And as it has been said by those much wiser than me, if they know they have this time with you now, they'll know they will have this time with you in the future. I'm looking at you, future teens of mine!

This weekend starts tomorrow! They don't have school on Friday so I requested a Thursday pickup and they approved it! We have a lot of fun things planned - their first school experience at ECFE, a free showing of a movie at the theater, pizza at "the place where the guy throws the dough in the air", sledding at the hill, homemade cinnamon rolls (we've got 3 new sweet tooths on our hands) and maybe even church if they are up for it! Can't wait to see my little guys!  
And by the way, I can't share photos publicly because they are not legally my children until we finalize in court, but man do I wish that you could see just how cute these boys are!!


Thursday, October 26, 2017

The first weekend

 It is amazing to me how a space you didn't even know existed in your heart can be filled so quickly; and how once it is filled, being separated from that which filled it can feel like the greatest void.

Last weekend was absolutely amazing.  We met with the boys' team and had the opportunity to ask questions and learn more about these kiddos.  We established the transition plan and then got into the specifics of how the weekend would unfold.  We arranged to meet the boys with their caseworker at a park later that afternoon.  

The drive to the park felt like the drive to the hospital when you are in labor - only the contractions in my stomach were butterflies anxiously fluttering around.  We got there a little early and they got there a little late so it felt like the longest wait before their caseworker's vehicle pulled up.  They got out and stuck close by her as they walked our way.  She introduced us and they politely shook our hands before they ran off to play.  I was so grateful for their sake that we had met at a place that allowed them to escape the awkwardness that I am sure they felt.  I felt a nervous anxiousness, I can't imagine how they were feeling!

We spent a couple hours at the park and as the time went on, the boys began to warm up to us.  By the end, the oldest was asking questions a mile a minute, wondering what his new house was going to be like, what kind of toys he would have, if he would get to have a birthday party... all the things that are important to a 6 year old.  The younger two were giggly, interactive, and sweet.  We left the park with plans to pick them up at daycare the next morning.

The next day we picked them up at 10 and had them until 5.  We got them each a little gift bag with some car tape and cars, a mask, a little imaginink coloring book, a themed straw cup, and their own copy of the book I wrote. They saw the gift bags right when we got into the hotel room and opened them, thanking us for each item (which they would continue to do many times over the weekend).  We enjoyed the pool, a pb & j lunch in the room, and playing with all the toys we brought from home - like half the toys we own!

The very most heartwarming part of the day was when the oldest casually asked,
"Hey mom, why is the pool cold?"  
I'm not sure what answer I gave because I was too busy melting over being called mom!

 It was a great day overall and 5:00 rolled around far too quickly.  They went home with their provider with plans of coming back on Saturday. 

We picked them up on Saturday morning and visited for a while at their place before heading back to the hotel.  We spent another wonderful day playing in the room and the pool, and finished off the night with a pizza and root beer float party! This was our first overnight experience and it went so well. 

They had told their therapist that one thing we should know about them is that they always say their prayers before bed.  So when bedtime rolled around we started winding down and going through the motions:
Brush teeth - the littlest one had to gargle and spit 3 times and the oldest
wiped off the counter and inside the sink when they were all done;
Go potty - nothing is funnier than all three boys ringing around the toilet to pee at the same time!; Snuggle/Story/Highs & Lows - The younger two ran over to the bed I was on yelling
"I want to snuggle Mommy!"
(cue me melting again!)
and they loved the book and pointing out their bird, names, and pictures;
and finally prayers

I had prayed with the oldest while the other two were bouncing around on the bed but when we turned out the lights, all three boys protested in unison "WE DIDN'T SAY OUR PRAYERS!!"
My hubby reassured them we could pray with the lights off, but they flipped the light back on, all flipped onto their knees on the bed, and did the sign of the cross (Catholic foster father) before the oldest began praying "Now I lay me down to sleep" with the little ones repeating each line after him.  So stinking adorable!

The next morning we soaked up every last minute playing in the pool and room with them and then packed a picnic for the park where they would meet their siblings!  Tears welled up in my eyes as we pulled and I saw my four kiddos waiting excitedly to meet their new brothers.  We introduced them and snapped a few photos together before releasing them to play.  It was so sweet to see how quickly they clicked and played together.  We ate our picnic and played some more before heading back to drop them off.  Our goodbye was not tearful, more so excited for when we would meet again.

We were able to Facetime them Monday and Tuesday and they were excited to see their siblings and a little bit of the house and some of the toys!  Now we are set to head back tomorrow to spend the weekend with them!  Praying the weather cooperates enough to allow us to get down there!

I could write so many details about the boys and the amazing first weekend we spent together, but suffice it to say I am in love with three amazing little guys and I can't wait to spend our second weekend together!!


Monday, October 16, 2017

Two Little Lovebirds

Every minute things get a little more real!  I bought a dresser for the boys' room, got all the car seats in the vehicle, and am working through the rest of the garden harvest to get it into the freezer for when the boys are here!  Today the kiddos and I will take pictures of our home and around town to make photo books for the boys to look through as they are waiting to relocate with us.  We are still working through the full transition plan, but will be meeting them this weekend!!!

Today these got delivered in the mail!!


After we switched to the adoption-from-foster-care path back in March, I had the idea to write a book for the children we would adopt.  I knew we would make a photo book, but wanted more of a story book that showed how our family grew through the years to include them.  In a conference I had attended in April called Empowered to Connect, they had mentioned the importance of families "sticking together" and I immediately thought of the phrase "Birds of a feather flock together".  And so, with the help of clip art from Etsy, this book was created. When we heard about the boys, I added their names and pictures to the book so that as they read through it, they would see themselves, and what kid wouldn't love that!!  The night we found out we had been chosen, I placed an order of 4 books (one for each boy and one for the house) and I am so excited to have them now in hand!!

Click HERE to read Two Little Lovebirds.  *Names and pictures have been hidden for privacy*

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Seven

I have 7 children. 
I have 4 sons and 3 daughters. 
I have seven kids, ages 8 and under. 
My 7 kids are all within 6 years of each other. 
My kids are ages 8, 6, 6, 5, 4, 4, and 2.

I've rehearsed how to share our new additions and there is no way to say this that it doesn't sound crazy! 
Crazy awesome, that is! 

The experience of hearing our worker on the phone today telling us that we had been chosen, that we would soon be expanding our family by three, was absolutely indescribable! 

The experience of telling our children that the brothers they have been praying for are actually coming home was even better! Teddy's reaction was literally priceless! Why, oh why, did I not have my phone to video it!?!

So many logistics to coordinate and figure out now, but I am so excited and ready to begin this next chapter! Homme, Party of 9!

Praise God!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Prepared

Yesterday morning, after I got my children ready for school and off on the bus, I had a few moments of peace and quiet to myself. I prayed for the meeting that would begin in a few hours and prayed for God to show me something He wanted me to see when I opened my Bible.  I randomly opened to Ephesians 2 and began reading. After getting through the first few paragraphs, I came to verse 10, a verse I have read before many times, but this time the last words really stood out to me.

God prepared in advance for us to pursue this adoption journey.  As a child, when I watched as my mom's friend brought a little girl, and later her little sister, home from Haiti. As a teen, when I went on a missions trip to Mexico and was able to help with the impoverished children there. Ten years ago, when I met a family at my church in Bemidji that fostered.  When I moved back to Warroad, more families in my church were growing through adoption. When I had my first child, I discovered the MN Adopt website and scoured the list of waiting kids. When we worked in the church nursery in Grand Forks, and we cared for a few foster kiddos during the church service. When we witnessed my sister's family going through their first adoption, and then second and third the following year. Two years ago when a beautiful 11 year old girl on the MN Adopt site stole my heart and we began to seriously discuss adoption. The following year, when we began pursuing a domestic infant adoption. This year, when we changed our path to adoption of a sibling group from foster care. God has been there, stirring our hearts for the needs of children. He has orchestrated every detail that has led us to this point.

Now it was the day we would meet to interview for the placement of the case we have had on our hearts and minds since mid August. The three and a half week communication gap that had happened in September had been the worst. The waiting and wondering were very hard. I had busied myself with cleaning and organizing my house room by room. The inside of every closet, cupboard, fridge, and locker had been emptied and reorganized. Projects we had been putting off got checked off the list. Each room had been thoroughly cleaned, even the exterior windows had been washed. My freezer was filled with meals. I prettied up my menu wall, created my "household helpers" wall, and made nightly bedtime checklists for my kiddos (and yes they are laminated, need you even ask!) Everything that could be labeled got labeled... that laminator really has been working overtime!  All of this to say that God used that window of time that felt excruciatingly long to allow me to physically prepare my home for the visit we were about to have.




My mother, who in case you haven't met her, is nothing short of amazing, took my kids to her house all day Sunday to allow us to finish everything we wanted to prepare and clean, and even fed us supper and bathed our kids there so we wouldn't mess up our freshly cleaned kitchen and bathrooms. All of this led to me sitting down before our interview, peacefully relaxing and reading about how God prepares us in advance for what we are made to do.

At Bible study last week, our pastor shared verses that made you reflect on your purpose: What is your passion; What are your God-given gifts: What are your skills; What breaks your heart?  I left feeling like I needed to "do" something.  Dig into women's ministry, start a youth ministry program, reach out to the community... something.  I knew I couldn't commit to anything with this ongoing adoption process, but it wasn't until I sat down and read this verse that I really understood that this adoption is my purpose.  My God-given gifts are administratively based - hello organization and lamination - as well as compassion.  My skills are organizational and relational.  And it breaks my heart that any child is not living with a family who loves them and is committed to them forever.

The meeting yesterday went very well and time will tell if we will be the family that they move forward with.  Until then, I can rest easy in knowing that God has prepared in advance the path we will walk.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Collateral

Our collateral meeting has been scheduled for this Tuesday!  Their caseworker, along with a county permanency worker and an intern, will come to our home and spend a few hours discussing the case.  There will be opportunity for us to ask questions and for them to ask questions of us as well.  Our worker has been so helpful throughout this process and has given us pointers and things to be prepared to answer.  We did find out that there are two other families interviewing, so they have it narrowed down to the top three candidates.  It is all a bit nerve-wracking, but I have a peace about it and hope that we can convey our interest and dedication to bringing these kiddos home.  

Our kids are getting more excited as this becomes more real.  
Natalie, my mother hen, told me last night, "Mom, what is good about me being the oldest is that if they are sad and you need to be with them, I can help take care of Ingrid and Caroline."  
Teddy is probably the most excited of all the kiddos.  He prays for them every night and brings them up in conversation regularly.

Four and a half days for me to prepare and get my home prepped and ready!!  Can't wait!!