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Monday, December 17, 2007

Happy 2nd Birthday, Cookie

Dear Cookie,
What a beautiful little girl you have become. Today you are two years old, but it seems like only a short while ago you were our little baby. Now you are a big sister, and capable of doing so much on your own.

So that one day you will know what you were like, I wanted to write about what you are doing these days.

You run and jump and climb like a great athlete on a mission. You have good coordination, and you are FAST. Mommy and daddy are out of shape. You love running away from us and making us chase you. Even if we scold you or punish you for running away - in the store, or airport, or church, or in a parking lot - you think it is great fun. It is a good thing you are so cute - watching your eyes light up as you get the idea in your head to run and seeing the smile you flash as you turn to run, then seeing silky blonde hair flying in the wind and hearing your laughter...well, it makes it all worthwhile.

You love to be with us, and with friends and family, but you are fiercely independent. You want to do everything yourself. You often refuse help and try and try to do something yourself, even if it means you get frustrated. I'll ask "Want mommy to help you?" repeatedly, and you will give a firm "No!" and struggle with something on your own until you figure it out.

You are loving and cuddly. You still love "woobies" like mommy's jammies and soft blankies. I recently bought your baby sister her first "woobie" with a silky side and a plush side with all kinds of soft tabs to feel, and you stole it. You do, however, let her "borrow" it.

We are struggling to get you out of our bed. If we put you to sleep in your toddler bed (which is only a few feet away from our bed), the moment you realize you are in it and not in bed with us, you holler and demand to be in between us. If we oblige, you are asleep in minutes. If we don't, you let us know how unhappy you are for hours, and nobody gets any sleep. You have yet to sleep through the night. Every night you wake up and demand a drink. We tried switching to water, but you still demand it just as much. Needless to say, none of us sleep very well. But I do like cuddling with you at night. Sometimes we watch a video, or just read or sing songs until you fall asleep lying right up against me. You still have to put a hand down the front of my jammies so you can have "boobie time". My boobies are your favorite woobie.

We think you are so, so smart. You can count to 10 with little assistance. You can sing some of your ABCs, and some parts of your favorite songs. You are working on learning your shapes, colors, and numbers. You like to use your crayons and tell us you are drawing circles (which you do quite well). You read books with us and will fill in where we stop - like if we say "One fish", you'll say "Two fish!" and we'll say "red fish" and you'll say "Blue fish!" That is one of my favorite books to read with you right now.

You still love Elmo, Sesame Street, old Gerbert videos, and Charlie Brown holiday specials. You've begged to watch "Noopy Bown" every night since Thanksgiving, and we were forced to buy the 3 DVD set so we could delete things from the DVR.

You love nature - birds, squirrels, and frogs are your absolute favorites. You love feeding the birds and squirrels and watching them come eat the food you put out for them.

In spite of your birth mom's problems, you are in excellent health. You weigh 29 pounds and are in the 70th percentile for height. Your ear infection problems from your first year of life have disappeared since getting ear tubes. You still have a runny nose and cough/congestion a lot, but that seems to be something that comes with you being in daycare.

You are loving to your baby sister, and have settled in well to her being a demanding part of our lives. You love going into her room at daycare to go get her at the end of the day. If you bump into her on accident, you pat her on the head and say "Sorry sissy." You really care about other people's feelings. When you see me upset, you will ask, "What's the matter, mommy?"

It's difficult to say what words you know and use, since you seem to use them all now. There's very little that you are unable to communicate with words. Sometimes you are downright chatty, and we find those times to be intoxicatingly beautiful.

We can't imagine loving you more than we do right now, though we know that love will surely grow stronger by the day. We thank God every day for the blessing of you and your sister. We can't imagine what our lives would be like without you. We are so proud of you and we can't wait to see what your 3rd year of life has in store. Surely it will be an adventure.

We love you, Mia Cookie.

Mommy and Daddy

Saturday, December 15, 2007

On Turning Two

Me: "Cookie, next week will be your birthday. You'll be two years old." I hold up my index and middle finger to indicate "two".

Cookie: holds up her two fingers and says... "Two! Peace!"

Peace. Indeed.

Honey Bun Progress

At 4 1/2 months old, Honey Bun weighs 13 lbs., 8 oz. and is 23.5 inches long - that's 50th percentile for weight, and about 25 percentile for length - so she's thriving. And her 2nd tooth on the bottom has popped through. Her shots did a real number on her, though, so she feels miserable and is letting us know.

We met our permanency worker yesterday, and she's amazing. We are waiting for HB's birth certificate and one other document before the 161 TPR paperwork can go to legal counsel and then on to the court. It could be a little while longer than we wanted, but we're on track. Our worker processed her first TPR in 1997, and proudly told us she had never lost an argument for one with a judge because she does her homework. Thank you, Lord!

They are absolutely not going to look for a biological father since there is a legal father. Even though his incarceration guarantees he is not her biological father, birthmom had her chance to prove who was the father and she failed that chance.

We're in a pretty progressive state...which sounds like an odd thing to say about Kentucky. When I asked the social worker about not having to go back to birthmom for another guess at the biological father, so said, "Oh, we don't do that anymore. That approach fell by the wayside long ago. When there's a legal father in a termination case, we'll go with the legal father and our judges agree." Wow. Nice.

I'm writing my own presentation summary based on Cookie's but just changing the information to fit Honey Bun.

Michael and I are knee-deep in final grading for the semester, and grades are due on Monday. I hope the Lord understands when we skip church tomorrow to finish grading. :)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

As Ma*ury Pov*ich Would Say...

"In the case of baby Honey Bun...Alleged Biodad, you are NOT the father."

Yup - DNA results are back. Big fat negative.

The case will now default back to Biomom's husband (who is incarcerated as well) as the state recognizes the legal spouse as the father of the child unless proven otherwise. Because in this case it wasn't proven otherwise, the state isn't going to go through the hassle of looking for anyone else. Biomom likely prostitutes herself for drugs, so finding a biological father is unlikely anyway.

Social worker is coming to the house on Friday to put together the paperwork for TPR - this will be on the same birthparents as Cookie, so it will be a slam dunk. She wants it over quickly. She called yesterday with the news and says she is going to finish the paperwork this weekend after we meet and turn it into court next week to get a date for TPR. This means we could have a court date for TPR in January 08, and adopt in the spring.

I was also told to go ahead and work on the medical paperwork and putting together things for the presentation summary myself (since I have all the documents anyway). That will make life easier for everyone involved since presenting any summary to me written by anyone else is a joke anyway - we've had both of these girls from birth and we already have Cookie's presentation summary on the birth parents. History doesn't change.

I'll be scrambling until Friday to pull things together.

So happy to report progress!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Cookie's Discovery

Last night while sitting on her potty, Cookie decided to entertain herself while I worked on putting away laundry in the bedroom. After a few minutes she emerged with a Kotex pad and exclaimed "mommy diaper" and then attempted to put it on herself.

The entertainment factor is extraordinary.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Honey Bun's Progress

At a little over 4 months old now, Honey Bun has one tooth fully erupted and it's neighbor tooth is about to push through. The drool is incredible!

In addition, we finally have roll-over. She started rolling over last week - about the same time the first tooth came through. Now she rolls over like a champ, and it seems like every time we check on her in the night she is asleep on her tummy (though we always put her down on her back). We don't bother to put her back now that she's so strong.

She's reaching out and grabbing things like toys on a toy bar now, and struggling to get things just out of reach.

She "talks" like crazy and smiles constantly with her whole face. She's just beautiful.

We don't have to wrap her into a baby burrito as much anymore. She seems to be quite peaceful.

Bath time is still a lot of work. Her last bath was the first one in her short little life that she didn't scream until she was beet red. She stared cautiously, but was still not happy about the whole thing. I've never seen a baby not love a bath, so I'm at a loss for how to make it better for her. I'm just assuming she'll outgrow the fear.

She's still pretty tiny - just now getting into the 3-6 month gear. She goes for her 4-month checkup and shots later this week, so we'll see how she's doing size-wise then.

Other than that, we're still praying for a speedy case.

Cookie will turn 2 on December 20th. Amazing how time has flown.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

I'm Now Thinking About...

what steps we will take next to PREVENT pregnancy (the chances would be a million to one, but anything is possible that isn't actively prevented). That sounds so odd considering where I was last year. But two is plenty for us. We are busting out of our 3 br/2.5 bath house of 1850sq. feet as it is (and that isn't considered a "small" house by some standards). We are done. Besides, when biomom gets out of jail one day she will still need a way to get her cocaine. She does produce lovely babies. But we are fairly convinced that if she produces more, those children will have to become part of yet another family. It's OK, it's someone else's turn to be blessed. Preventing pregnancy...now that's a hoot.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Hanging in There

I'm constantly on the go anymore, and no real time to write or reflect. It's typical for this point in the semester and the upcoming holidays.

Update on abused student: she won't go to police or get a restraining order because she has bench warrants out on HER. Lovely. She dropped the class today. She's with her mom. I didn't ask her anything because I could be subpoenaed should any case ever got to court. It's in the hands of college counselors and social services now, and from what I gathered today, she's relatively safe.

The girls are doing great. Honey Bun has cut her first tooth on the bottom, and it looks like its neighbor will break the surface any day now as well. She's handling it like a champ. She, unlike her big sister, sleeps in the crib and isn't nearly as clingy. She still enjoys being held, but it isn't as all-consuming as it was (and still is) with Cookie.

I've learned some good lessons this semester of teaching - many of which will propel me to be less of a push-over next semester. I'm learning why so many of my older professors were just downright mean. They'd had their fill. Honestly, if I only had this semester of teaching to base my opinions of college students on (as opposed to every semester since 1994), I'd be convinced the world was going to end any day now. I'm still scared for the future, and perhaps I shall share some horror stories later.

Meanwhile, I'm going to go crank out a final exam review guide that few will even use. *sigh*

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Reporting Abuse

For the first time in my life, I called the hotline to report abuse. One of my students admitted to me that she was being beaten and verbally abused (and even SPIT ON - WTF??) in front of her two children. To top it too, she is 2 months pregnant with his baby. And she wouldn't leave because she "couldn't afford to live". Um...she just hooked up with him 4 months ago. Again...WTF???

So, I did what I had to do. I reported it. After all, she had told me everything. I had a legal responsibility.

And this morning I got a call that the student had left a message for me that she was beaten badly last night and finally fled to her mom's house. But what about those 2 kids who see it all? Who's taking care of them? Shame on her for moving in with a guy she'd just met with a 14 yr. old son and a 9 yr. old daughter.

Research on domestic violence tells us that abuse is 33 TIMES more likely in a situation where a mother and her children cohabitate with a man that is not the children's father. 33 TIMES more likely. Not 33%...33 TIMES.

Even though it should have been easy, it wasn't easy to make that report. It sucked. I now know why so few people are willing to intervene. It is hard to make yourself get involved. It is, however, a matter of life or death.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

No News Is Good News

SW visited this morning, and court was uneventful. The DNA test results are not back yet, and she still has to go through the entire case file to complete the required paperwork for TPR (why she hasn't done that yet is beyond me). Alleged biodad has had no contact with the cabinet, and the biomom asked her social worker if the baby was OK and where she was. She was told that the baby is doing fine and with her sister in the adoptive family. Hopefully that will be enough to convince her to voluntarily relinquish rights this time. I would have thought the 3rd time would have been a charm, but maybe the 4th will be different. No more court dates are scheduled as we simply have to wait for DNA results and the social worker to put together the paperwork. I hate waiting.

Monday, November 26, 2007

This Time 2 Years Ago...

I was crying a lot.
We'd been through 4 foster children who were at high risk to not be returned to parents who all went to live with other relatives - two were newborn baby boys.
It was the holidays and I was reluctant to put up a Christmas tree with only my husband and I to appreciate it.
I cried out loud to God a lot and told him how unfair it all felt. I also apologized out loud to God for feeling that way.
Against the advice of social workers not to stay in town and avoid travel in hopes of getting a placement, we did just that. We bought no plane tickets and decided to stay home.
On December 21st, 2005, I cried all the way home from work. I sobbed out loud in the car as I drove. I just wanted a child to spend Christmas with. And on December 22nd a social worker brought Cookie to us.
It rained all day today, and it reminded me of the very dark place I was in two years ago at this time of year.
The holidays are tough for those who want children so much and yet can't (or don't yet) have them.
I write this to remind us all that in the darkest places there is hope that burns so bright.
Watching my daughter play with the Christmas decorations while my soon-to-be youngest daughter sleeps in my arms is simply amazing given that two years ago my heart ached so much.
There is always hope. Even when we have abandoned it, it's still there.
If your heart isn't yet out of the dark place, please know I've been there.

Court Today

Today Honey Bun's social worker goes before the judge to determine if all is in order to request a date for the TPR hearing. I'm praying the DNA test results have been processed. I'm praying for wisdom for the SW and the judge. I'm praying there are no surprises.

Tomorrow morning the SW comes to our house for her monthly home visit. I scheduled it that way on purpose.

Honey Bun will be 4 months old on Friday. I'm grateful so much is going on that is on her behalf, and that it is happening so quickly (compared to the vast majority of states and cases going on today).

Monday, November 19, 2007

Christmas Decorations

Yesterday we went to Big Lots and stocked up on decorations. Cookie even got to pick out something - a small red fiberoptic tinsel tree that is battery operated. She loves that tree so much that last night she insisted on SLEEPING with her new tree.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Things That Honestly Don't Bother Me

In light of how often I write about things that bother me, I figured it was worthwhile to write about things that don't.

When people ask about Michael and I as a bi-racial couple

Asking promotes understanding - which over time and experience can lead to acceptance, tolerance, and even appreciation. People as about how our families reacted to our relationship and marriage. They ask about discrimination. I'm happy to talk about it as I strongly believe openness is the first step in healing. I do, however, remind people that I am but one person and I am not the spokeswoman for biracial marriage.

When people stare at our family when we are out and about
Honestly, I'm very proud. I've got a drop-dead sexy espresso-skinned husband and two beautiful cream-skinned daughters. Who wouldn't look at us? Oh, and I have great big boobs. I'm sure they are really just astonished and can't help themselves.

When people ask Michael and I if one or both of our obviously white daughters is ours
I love to talk about adoption. I love the opportunity to tell people just how many waiting children there are in our county. I love to share our story with whoever is willing to listen. I wish more people would ask and sit for a spell - and then go tell someone else.

When people ask if we adopted because we couldn't have biological children
We absolutely did. I was devastated to learn I was infertile. I was terribly depressed (and medicated). I grieved hard, prayed hard, and cried a whole lot. We tried treating my PCOS. Michael took measures to boost hormone levels and sperm count and quality. But there comes a day when you simply know it's not worth it. A good internet buddy whom I've never met IRL (hi Cindy) shared with me her feelings about fertility treatments and what they could do to me/us/our marriage. She encouraged me to seek marriage counseling. We did. We went, we saw, we persevered. We kicked butt. We quit trying to conceive and asked God for a child. He gave us two. That's a pretty sweet deal. Now I love sharing the story.

When people ask if we considered IVF or even a surrogate
In this case, I like the opportunity to educate people about costs, risks, and low success rates of all kinds of fertility treatments. I am also keen on telling people of the risks associated with pregnancy after 35. The media downplays the risks. They are tremendous to both mother and baby (let alone the marriage). We never considered surrogacy. A child having our DNA was not important to us. The lengths that some will go to in order to produce offspring is astonishing to me. I'll admit that I just don't "get it". Of course, I also have seen the children who come into care who will need to be adopted. It's hard to know that and be so hell-bent on procreating.

When people ask why we opted for adopting through foster care as opposed to a private domestic or international adoption
Cost, baby! Few people know the costs of adoption. I'm glad to tell them all about it! I'm also very happy to tell them that Cookie's adoption cost us a whopping $86. That's correct. Eighty-six dollars. We kept the bill from the attorney. The state got billed their $1,000 and we got billed for the remainder. Shame on me for emailing her so much. It could have been free had she not billed out those 15 minute emails!
Of course, in addition to cost are the children. In our county, there are approximately 700 kids in foster care at any given time. Only about half will ever be able to be reunited. Our state has an enormous meth and cocaine problem, so if people are willing to deal with babies born drug addicted, they are very likely to be able to adopt.
Our state is a national model for the family court system. We are so fortunate for the changes made here by progressive judges in the 90s.

When people ask how our case is going, or if we know anything else
I feel the support. Sometimes you do get tired of saying, "No, we don't know anything", but I've learned to say it with a smile. In fact, now we say, "Nope, just enjoying our family." The vast majority of people who asked are trying to show support and truly want us to be finished with all this as quickly as possible.

And for those of you who are curious - next court date is Nov. 26th. It's for the judge and social worker to determine if we are ready to schedule TPR dates. We are hoping all of the DNA tests are back by that date.

Monday, November 12, 2007

My Oldest's Antics

While throwing food on the floor, she says in the most stern voice she can muster:
"No Mia - EAT!"

While looking at my boobs, points to one of the many age spots, and says:
"Mole!"

While sitting on the airplane awaiting takeoff for far too long, she looks around and shouts:
"Ready!"

Friday, November 2, 2007

And The New Name Will Be...

(insert dramatic musical interlude here)

We have decided on what Honey Bun's new name will be after the adoption (that we are now choosing to claim).

Her name will be Rebekah Ileana.

In other news, Michael took her to court on Thursday for her part of the DNA test. Her alleged biodad has already been and given his sample for testing. So now the 4-6 week wait begins for news. (Though a student of mine just had one done for her granddaughter and said it only took 3 weeks.)

Michael said the floor of the courthouse where the testing was done was standing room only - and testing is done once a week - every week. There were 4 "church pews" that were all full of people waiting for testing and many more standing. He also said there was much M*aury P*ovich show-like behavior going on which made him actually believe that what is on those "who my baby daddy" shows might actually be true.

The testing was just a cheek swab, but it took about 45 minutes for them to be seen even though he arrived by 8:30 in the morning. Amazing that there are that many people out there who don't know who the "baby daddy" is. So sad.

Next court date is November 26th to determine if all is lined up and ready to schedule the TPR date. Lisa mentioned how fast things happen in our state, and while that seems to be generally true, there are others whose cases have taken longer than ours. I don't know why we have been so blessed with quick turn-arounds, heavenly social workers, and a judge who does not suffer fools. From what I do know about our city, it appears we have 3 or 4 fabulous family court judges and 1 absolute nutjob. From what I heard about her, if we got a placement that was assigned to that judge, I would have asked for that child to be moved. I am dead serious. She is that awful (and new to the bench). Because Honey Bun's case is with the same birth mother, her case remains with the judge that was Cookie's judge throughout her case and adoption. So our judge knows the whole story - and us. It's no surprise then that she granted the goal change and supports TPR and adoption.

We're going to FL soon for an extended weekend, and my folks are driving over to where we are staying and getting a hotel room there too. It will be their first time seeing Honey Bun. I know they are excited and very nervous considering the horror stories and realities of the many children who are sent back to family after being in foster care for a long time - or even after promises of TPR to come. I can't wait though - they are going to fall in love all over again.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

This Could Have Been My Girls...

This could have easily been my girls in this situation:

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/5247464.html

Why some are spared and some are not remains one of the greatest mysteries to me. I can only pray that these children will be adopted, too.

My girls' birthparents are all cocaine addicts. My girls will never, ever have to experience a life like these children have. I wish I could save them all. I wish I could do more. I pray this encourages more families to foster and adopt. Here's 8 kids who desperately need families.

God, I don't understand why my girls were able to avoid this kind of existence while other children suffer. I am grateful, but humbled. Please keep these children safe. Please send them to permanent families that will never, ever abuse or neglect them ever again. Please show me ways I can do more.

Friday, October 26, 2007

GOAL CHANGED!!

The best news so far:

This week there was a court hearing for Honey Bun in which the new social worker petitioned for Honey Bun's goal to be changed from "return to parents" to "ADOPTION". And it was granted!

At the same time, she petitioned to deny services to incarcerated biomom, and that was GRANTED! Biomom isn't eligible for parole until May 08, and it isn't expected to be awarded then.

The social worker hasn't talked to alleged biodad, but he may have already gone for his DNA testing. I will be taking Honey Bun in on Thursday at 8:30 am for her part. At that point they will tell me if alleged biodad has done his part as well.

The next court date is November 26th. At that point, the social worker will appear before the judge and they will make sure all is in order for the TPR petition. Then, she will get a court date for TPR! They are wasting no time.

Even if alleged biodad turns up a positive match, they will petition to deny services and TPR on him. He's a vastly inappropriate placement. He would also have to pay child support to the state. If he makes contact, SW will counsel him to relinquish his rights voluntarily. Social worker says it would be best to get a positive DNA test as the legal paperwork would be faster and "tidier". If that's what she says, then that's what I'll pray for.

So, at best we will get at TPR date around the end of this year/beginning of next year. At worst, the DNA test will be negative and it will take an extra few months to do the legal work on legal husband as father and terminate his rights.

At any rate, I got all the answers I needed. I asked if there was any serious risk of Honey Bun leaving. I got a confident "No." I told the social worker how scared I was. She totally understood, and was very kind. She has 25 cases right now, and she's anxious to turn this one over to an adoption worker as soon as humanly possible. She's familiar enough with the case to know that TPR will be a major celebration.

This is indeed the best news we could have gotten at this point.

We celebrated with Chinese takeout. It was delicious. We are relieved.

Please leave Honey Bun your congratulations in the comments! She's one step closer to permanency! I'll put your comments in her lifebook. :)

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The New Social Worker DOES Exist!

...and she actually returned my call. She seemed extremely busy/preoccupied and just called to set the appointment with us for this month's home visit. We are supposed to meet tomorrow (Friday) at 4. I don't know how much she will know at that point. If she was just handed the case, it may very well be that WE will do more telling HER what the family history is. At any rate, we have a worker who has scheduled a visit. If she shows up as promised, those of you who took voted it would be before November 1st would have been correct. Of course, I may have helped out the cause by actually calling them...again.

Things I want to ask her tomorrow:
Have you talked with the alleged biodad? If so, what are his intentions?
How much do we know about this alleged biodad and his criminal background? Have you run the CBC on him yet?
How long does he have to go get the DNA testing done? Do we have to take Honey Bun in too?
When will you act for TPR on her birthmom who is incarcerated?
If alleged biodad does not prove to be the biological father, then what happens?
If he does prove to be the biodad, will Honey Bun have to go to visits?
Could Honey Bun go to him or his family? If that were to happen, how would you assure Honey Bun would be protected from biomom when she gets out of jail?
When will the next court date be, and what will happen at that next court session?

What I really want to know, but won't ask:
Who's really looking out for Honey Bun's best interest? Does the law actually take HER into account, or just the abusive drug addict felons - one with 3 prior involuntary TPRs against her?
Who's looking out for the best interest of MY DAUGHTER and the fact that you have placed HER SISTER with her to be raised as HER SISTER, and yet the goal remains "return to parents".
Who is looking out for Cookie, and how she feels in all this (besides us)?
Who is looking out for Michael and I in all this? Who is looking out for the best interest of OUR family? How are you going to ensure that is considered as well?

Let me assure you, no matter what happens with the state, we are prepared to fight. Michael assured me that we will do ALL we can to make sure Honey Bun does not leave. I will work round the clock scraping road kill if I have to. On next week, my baby girl will be 3 months old. We are the only mommy and daddy she has ever known (except Ms. Ann who did respite care for her first week home from the hospital - God Bless Ms. Ann). We are her parents. We were given 2 minutes to decide if we wanted to take her and come back from Florida. Yet this alleged biodad has had MONTHS to get off his butt and decide to do something. That's not fair. He should have had 2 minutes as well.

I will be play nice tomorrow. But Ms. New Social Worker will not be leaving until I am satisfied that she has answered my questions. She'll be on my turf, and it's my turn to get some answers. I've waited long enough for a visit and conversation - that's the least we deserve.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Oh, Great

Honey Bun's alleged biodad had contacted the county attorney's office to get set up to prove paternity. If he is the biological father, it will open up all kinds of potential for Honey Bun to be placed with any member of his family - even if he isn't a fit parent. My heart just stopped beating for a while.

She's been assigned her new worker - but I only learned THAT and the news above because I CALLED the supervisor. I hate that. I just hate it.

Update: It's midnight Tuesday night/Wed. morning. I can't sleep. I came home from teaching today and spilled my heart to Michael, who listened patiently while the girls were asleep. I cried. This is the first time I have cried in fear of loosing this child. I cried with Cookie's case, but there was a lot then that I didn't know. I feel wiser now, and more jaded. Michael feels very confident that Honey Bun isn't going anywhere - ever. I wish I felt that confident and calm.

When Honey Bun woke up at 10 tonight I fed her a fresh warm bottle, and she never took those huge grey-blue eyes off my face. She feels as if she came from my body in the same way Cookie feels that way to me.

Each morning Cookie runs into the nursery and sticks her hand through the bars of the crib to grab her sister's tiny hand. She usually cheerfully (and loudly) announces "Hi Sissy!" and grins the biggest grin. I can't imagine that not being there.

This is the hardest job I have ever had. Yet, ironically, it is the best as well.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

2nd Time Around Observations

Observations of the day:
1 - With our second child, there is much less angst and guilt involved in simply putting a wailing baby (who is obviously well, fed and changed, etc.) down in her crib and closing the door, and going about your business for a few minutes.

That used to freak me out to the point I would cry.

Now, I'm blogging for a moment while Honey Bun "cries it out" in the next room. She's fine. She's just extremely cranky today, and I refuse to let that rain on my Kentucky vs. Florida parade.

2 - It is much easier to put the baby to bed awake and even let her "fuss it out" if she's been fed and changed and held for a while beforehand.

It used to be so hard to even think about putting Cookie down. Now, bedtime is fantastic. Some days it can't come soon enough. I bring Honey Bun into bed on occasion when I'm really exhausted and she won't settle down. But those are much fewer the 2nd time around.

3 - I don't think near as many things are "my fault". If my baby isn't happy and smiling, it likely has little to do with me. There, I said it. :)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Student Question of the Year

When passing out the midterm exam in my 400-level, Persuasion class (in the major!), a student looks up and asks, "Is this a test??"

I reply, "It's the midterm exam" and calmly proceed to pass out the rest of the copies to the class.

I do not know how I kept from either cussing him out, smacking him upside his fool head, or laughing so hard I wet my pants. All of the above entered my mind.

(And, yes, I know what you are wondering. He did fail the exam.)

Monday, October 15, 2007

At Age 36...

...I am now the proud owner of my first BRAND NEW car ever. We bought a Saturn VUE over the weekend, and it feels downright luxurious. I highly recommend the heated leather seats, XM radio, and OnStar complete with your own phone number that rings right into your car and allows you to make calls with the push of a button and just talk as you drive. I swear, I think I'm having an affair with my car. Every time I look in the garage, I can't believe it. No more car shopping! Woo hoo!!

And I must say, the experience at Saturn was great. It was downright humane. We were treated like people, respected, and never pressured to do a thing. Every move was ours. And I walked away knowing that I would refer anyone to that dealership any time. Now that is one good experience. Imagine actually recommending a car dealership? And no, this isn't one of those blog-ads either. I really, really enjoyed picking out the car and buying it. it was a breeze once we got there.

Oh, and it's dark blue with tan leather interior. Delicious! Michael says I look good in it. :)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Heard At Our House Today...

Setting: 7:30 am - a baby can be heard wailing from the nursery

Cookie: (jumping up out of bed) Baby cry! (Cookie runs into nursery)
Cookie: (standing by the crib of said wailing baby) Don't cry baby!


Setting: the scene opens as Cookie runs into the closet and hides behind the clothes for the 2,347th game of "Where's Cookie?"

Mommy: Where's Cookie? Where did she go?
(giggling can be heard from behind the clothes)
Mommy: Is Cookie in the closet?
Faint Voice: Nooooo.
Mommy: She's not?
Faint Voice: No, NOT!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Today's Devotion



































I tell you, I think I am one of the most blessed people on the face of the earth.

Jeremiah 33:3
"Call upon me, and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know."

Indeed, I had no idea that when I called upon the Lord to bring me a child, that this is where I would be today.

"Give thanks to the Lord Almighty, for the Lord is good; his love endure forever."

As Jeremiah 33 shows us, the Lord will first judge his people, and then restore them in ways that they could never have imagined.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Honey Bun


This was taken a few weeks ago, but it took a while to get them back, and for us to get around to scanning and posting. Check out the hair on the kid!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

A Closed Door Opens

The family that adopted Cookie's 2 older siblings a year before she was born had previously had a closed adoption (even closed from us). They just contacted the cabinet office, and asked to be able to get in touch with us. The two children have had liver and heart problems, so they are coming out of their private state to be able to share medical information with us. They live in another county, and I have no idea how the conversation will go over the phone. I thrilled, and scared at the same time. The two kids went through hell on earth. My kids didn't. My heart breaks for them. I am so grateful they are now willing to let themselves be known to us, and share whatever information they have. What a miracle!

My latest struggles - Cookie biting other kids at daycare on occasion & having horrendous night terrors (google it - they are NOT nightmares, and will scare the ish outta you - you will think your kid is possessed and/or having a seizure).

My latest praises - Cookie now pee-pees and poopies in her potty just about every day. She's still in diapers, but she loves sitting on her potty while mommy sits on her potty (we do our business together - it's both weird and cool). She also loves dumping her pee-pee and poopie in the big potty and then flusing it, waving to the waste and shouting "Bye bye pee pee!! Bye bye poo poo!!" What a ham.
Honey Bun is down to 2 wake-ups in the night (around 1 or 2 and then at 4 0r 5). She slept in the big crib in the other room last night for the first time, and Michael put on the new Bruce Hornsby jazz CD, which apparently is good for baby sleep.

Off to finish writing a midterm exam review guide for my students...ciao.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Dang It

The reason that we haven't had a visit from Honey Bun's social worker is...(dum dah dah dum)

She's leaving and taking a new job. (insert sarcastic gasp and look of shock here)

Seasoned foster parents know this routine far too well. You wait and wait to find out what's going on in your child's case only to find out that nothing is going on and nothing will be going on for a while.

We learned of this from our R&C worker last night who did her quarterly home visit with us and went over our yearly renewal. She was the one to tell us - not the worker herself (whom we have never seen or heard from). The worker had apparently promised our R&C worker that she would come last night as well. She never showed. That's when our worker let us know her guess as to why.

I asked if we will get a visit this month. Her answer : "Well, since Friday is the last day of the month, then it's not likely."

I asked if we will get a new worker and a visit in October. Her answer: "I wouldn't count on it."

Dang it. (hence the title)

I asked her about the named biodad. If he doesn't take the DNA test to prove he is the father, it will default to J's husband (a husband is always the assumed legal father until proven otherwise) who is in jail for another 7 years, and voluntarily terminated his rights to Cookie when it came down to the wire. No one knows if HE knows his wife had another child with another man. Oh the drama.

So it looks like the best case scenario would be if he never shows face again. Then at the next court date, they will ask to deny services, then they will ask for another court date to change the goal to adoption, then another court date for TPR. It would still be a long process, but it could go about as fast as Cookie's case did (a total of 15 months to her adoption day).

I'm praying her never takes the DNA test. If he tests out as the father, it opens up a whole different time line of offering services and a case plan for him, offering visits, opening up his extended family as potential takers of Honey Bun. Awful stuff we don't want to think about.

So, let's pray he disappears. Our worker is under the impression he is back in jail, or still in jail. Who really knows.

But Honey Bun is doing great - and smiling. And Cookie is learning new words every day. Her cool words at dinner last night: salad, seeds (sunflower for her salad), olives, and hummus (yes, I eat hummus and Cookie loves it too on toasted pita bread). She must have said each of those words 20 times, she was so impressed with herself. Hummus!

Please pray for us to get a new worker for Honey Bun quickly. I think I'll wait a week or so, and then call the supervisor and ask her directly. Until then, prayers for a good worker!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

No News Must Be Good, Right?

Honey Bun will be 8 weeks old on Tuesday. We have a name and number for her social worker, but to date have gotten no phone call or email, and certainly no home visit. I called once several weeks ago, and talked to the supervisor, who asked if everything was OK and assured me that there was no news to report.

Anyone know how long birth dad will have to get his DNA testing done after being court ordered to do so? When we had the team meeting on August 14th, the court order had already been set? What would happen to him if he just didn't do it?

These are questions I'd like answered. We're happy being a family, but some days it's hard to ignore the truth of her status: "return to parent". The legal system will take a very long time.

Still, now Michael and I are taking bets on how long it takes to get even a call from Honey Bun's social worker. The over-under is November 1st. Anyone want to place a bet?

See, everyone in our cabinet office knows us, and knows we are a good family who recently adopted. And now we have Honey Bun. And all is well. With case loads of kids and families in crisis, we inevitably often fall to the bottom of the pile. And that usually doesn't bother me. Most days I appreciate knowing we are a "taken for granted" family just waiting for the justice system wheels to turn their slow turns.

We will see our R&C worker this Wed. for our quarterly home visit, and will ask her about it. Until then, I'll be taking your bets. So, what say you - before or after November 1st?

Friday, September 14, 2007

Cardiologist Says...

nothing to worry about!
Honey Bun had an EKG and an Echocardiogram (complete with ultrasound jelly all over her tiny chest)
Tests detected a small (2mm) opening that is normal for about 25% of the population (if it is what they think it is)
She will be listened to again at age 1 and have another ultrasound at about age 3
If there is any problem, it can be corrected without major surgery

And, no...no cardiomyopathy
Without knowing BM's family history, doctor said he would attribute it to cocaine use (70% of users have an enlarged heart)

Whew.

No need to check out Cookie until she is about 3 or 4 either, and even then it would just be a precaution since she shows no signs of trouble.

Praise God!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Cardiologist

appointment is Fri morning for Honey Bun
please pray that her birth mom's drug use caused her own cardiomyopathy, and not genetics
please pray Honey Bun has a healthy heart
if it turns out to be genetic and Honey Bun is affected, my Cookie will have to be tested too
this is the scariest doctor's appointment I will have had to go to yet
and yet i know most of you have endured far worse

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A Cookie Story

Last night when I came home from teaching, Cookie was VERY happy to see me and ran and gave me a huge hug

I sat on the floor with her and she began tugging on the sleeve of my blouse...hard

then she went over to my other side and began tugging at the other sleeve...hard

then she came in front of me and tried to unbutton my blouse..all this very deliberately and quietly

I then asked her "Cookie, what are you doing??"

She looked me in the eye and firmly replied, "WOOBIE!"

"Oh, I'm wearing the silky shirt you like. It's one of your woobies. You want me to take it off and give it to you?"

rapid head nods from the Cookie

I (of course) take it off and give it to her so now I am sitting in my dress pants and bra in the livingroom floor, and Michael is very amused

Cookie takes the shirt with much gusto, and holds it up to her face

She then comes over back in front of me and stick one of her chubby hands in EACH of my bra cups so that each of her hands is tucked in a boob-pocket

She then sits in front of me with her "woobie" draped over her with her hands in my bra

And life was good

She grinned and grinned and said "Boobie!"

And to think there was once a time when I worried that I would not be able to fully bond with an adopted child.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Day Care, Naming, and Other Random Thoughts

Today was the first day of daycare for my baby girl, and it was certainly easier on me than Cookie's first day was. There were no tears, and only a small amount of nervous energy. I called my husband who happened to be writing from home this afternoon, and declared my envy over the fact that he got to enjoy the first moments of a child-free work zone BEFORE I did.

(I've mostly recovered from my recent I-hate-him slump.)

Cookie's doing great, and running faster and getting into more mischief than I can count (or wish to contemplate). Honey Bun is closer to having a real-life name chosen by us, as we've narrowed down our list of names to a mere 4 choices: Rebekah, Ileana, Abigail, and Deborah. Her middle name is likely to be Grace. I feel excited that we've at least gotten this far, and we've agreed on most every step. But Honey Bun deserves a nice name, and deserves to be called that last name as early as possible. The folks at daycare even want to put her "new" name on her things and her crib, even though her legal name will be what it is for quite some time to come. I mean, legally she's still classified as "return to parent" as the goal. But we have faith. We have to. There is no other option.

Honey Bun is 6 weeks old today, and getting meatier and prettier each day. She focuses more on things around her, and on our faces. She drinks much more formula, and belches like a grown man. She even sleeps pretty well. She's a definite snuggle-bug, and we're grateful for that.

Still no word from her permanent social worker. We have our quarterly meeting with our R&C worker tomorrow evening, but that is just to make sure we're still sane and appropriate, and relatively tidy (LOL). I've called the cabinet office, and there's been no development in Honey Bun's case, giving everyone the feeling that no biological family member (including the named bio-dad) is very interested. So, we're proceeding as if she is our daughter too. Again, it's all we can do. We're sold out. I don't even want to speculate as to what would happen if she were to leave. I just can't fathom it. It's Cookie's sister. Even she's attached. I picked up Cookie from daycare the other day, and unlike every other day, I didn't have the baby with me (she was at school with Michael), and Cookie was WORRIED. All the way home in the backseat she kept pointing to the empty carseat base next to her and babbling about "baby bye bye" and "bakldb ajdbad BABY!!" (whatever that means). Clearly, she was NOT HAPPY about the absence of the baby. Every night she has to have her time to hold and pet the baby (either on the sofa, or on the bed, or sitting on the floor), and sometimes she asks me to pick up the baby and hold her up to her so she can give her a full-body hug (which is awkward and VERY cute).

I'm pleased to report Cookie is now sleeping in HER OWN BED - woo hooo!! Cosleeping was awesome, but it was time. We got her a toddler bed with Elmo bedding and that was that. Suddenly she had the better of the options for sleep. No fighting. It's nice not to be kicked in the back anymore.

Words my Cookie says on a regular basis that I find amusing enough to share:

"Mess!" (while admiring her work)
"Oh no Macy!" (while reprimanding cat)
"Whatz she doin'?" (while chasing one of the cats)
"Where did it go?" (playing hide and seek with toys)
"MINE! and NO!" (the only two words to "This Little Light of Mine" that she sings...the No! comes in response to the Hide it under a bushel? line)
"Baby night night" (when she sees the baby sleeping)
"Baby bath" (when she sees baby's in-sink bathtub)
"Pee pee" or "Poopie" (telling me which one is in her diaper that needs changing)
"Pizza pie!" (Michael taught her that one - and she gets very excited whenever we have pizza now)
"Marsh" (after reading a kids magazine about birds that live in the marsh, she found the word to be fabulous, and repeated the word for days on end - for no apparent reason)
"Boobie" (she loves putting her hand down my shirt and rubbing them - for comfort - and who knows, maybe good luck)
"Woobie" (for her woobies - blankets, lovies, and my soft pjs that she drags all over the house and into bed with her
"Meat" (her word for steak, or any hunk of protein)

Her favorite game is hiding behind the clothes in the closet and loudly asking in a sing-song voice "Where did she go?" and giggling (hoping I'll attempt to "try" to find her by asking "Where's Cookie? Where did she go?). There is much giggling and the game can go on WAY longer than I have stamina for it.

It's almost 1 am. I should go to bed and enjoy two sleeping girls. :)

Saturday, September 8, 2007

There Are Times...

when I truly believe - in the moment- that I hate my husband.
I just had to get that out there.
Too often, I write from the perspective that everything is perfect.
It's OK, but it's far from perfect.
He's a wonderful father to the kids, but as for being a partner...well, he says he's trying.
I was married once before...for 9 years. I often think my expectations are way too high. I expect my partner to do more, and most of the time the things I expect are just impossible for him to do.

It's been a rough week for me.

I was getting my hair cut on Friday, and the woman who cut my hair is a former student and friend. She's been married now for 2 years, and I asked her how she's enjoying it. She said, "You know, marriage is funny. Some days I just have to laugh, because if I didn't I'd cry." I think that about sums it up right there.

My husband has a lot of old friends from college days. All but ONE are female. Most are single. He maintains email, phone, and text message relationships with these "friends". From my perspective, there is a lot of flirting on their part. I don't really know how he responds. But I have to get this out. I saw a text message one girl sent to him. I didn't even know she existed. My husband had never even mentioned her name before. The message said she heard a song on the radio and thought of him, and it ended with "Love Ya". Now, I think this is highly inappropriate to send to a married man. Granted, she lives in FL and we are in KY, but give me a break. I feel disrespected. He has time to carry on like this and no time to give me any affection. Come on now. I'm not stupid.

I asked him about it. He didn't think there was anything wrong with the message she sent. He then said he would cut off the friendship and correspondence. He just doesn't get it, does he?

Friday, August 31, 2007

Lessons Learned

There are currently 4 kids in our home. One is ours. One feels like ours. Two are someone else's kids who happen to be their foster-kids.

Ours is 20 months. Baby sister is 1 month old today. The other two are 3 and 5.

We've had them for 5 hours and it seems like 5 days.

I do not want 4 children...ever. Never, ever, ever.

They are really cute.

But they are kids.

And our two are enough work as is.

We took them to a pizzeria for dinner. That was a mistake. For the rest of the weekend, food will be at home...or McDonalds at the most.

It is 10 at night and we started "bedtime" at 8:30. The 3 year old is still kinda awake and scared. Cookie, however, is asleep. She has a new toddler bed with Elmo bedding and loves it. She does sleep with my old rabbit fur coat. That's one of her several dozen woobies.

We are all OK. We love our two girls.

I called the social workers, and there has been no further contact from the supposed biodad. I guess "no news is good news". We are thinking of names. Her birth name is very, um...Kentucky, shall we say. We added "Nora" to our short list, along with Rebekah, Deborah, Katherine, Rachel, Lauren, Grace (as a middle name), Ashley, Laurel, Ileana, Abigail, Alexandra, and Laura. That's the list. We've been through baby name books and brainstorming sessions, and that is as long as it has gotten. I guess we're pretty simple folks when it comes to names.

Well, we're open to suggestions if you have favorites.

I'm off to try to get some sleep.

Did I mention I never want 4 kids? :)

Thank You, Jesus...for my girls, and for lessons learned from doing respite care.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Good Life

Cookie's been sick with a stomach virus, so I'm taking the opportunity to mention my blessings. This afternoon, Michael watched the girls so that I could make a Wal-Mart trip for groceries and assorted other goodies. I even got to talk to my friend Megan on my cell phone on the way there.

It's funny how often I've taken for granted this "me time". I even bought myself a nice new diaper bag that is roomy enough to fit the necessities for both girls, yet light and compact enough to not feel like luggage.

I brought home fried chicken and mac n' cheese, and found that Michael had assembled the double stroller and it was sitting in the middle of the living room in all its grandeur. The baby was asleep on his chest, and Cookie was sitting next to him all snuggly in her blankie on the sofa.

At this very moment, Michael is pushing the girls in the new double stroller on a walk through the neighborhood. If he didn't attract attention before with Cookie in the single stroller, he's definately going to now.

What a guy.

It is a lovely Saturday. Our house is absolutely filthy. Fil-thy. Filthy. But I am happy.

Oh, and I bought the girls little matching rompers that were on clearance for $2.50 a piece. Dang, that's a good Wal-Mart run if I do say so myself.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Pregnancy Convention

This weekend, all 4 of us went shopping for various baby items, and I'll have you know that on the weekends in our local Babies R Us, it is a sea of pregnant women. They all wanted to look at my kid-os. How cool is that? For a change, other people were envious of what I have instead of the other way around. Had I been in there a couple years ago, it would have sent me into a major depression. This time, I giggled and grinned. I've got my family, and no one can ever take my daughter away - and she is perfect, and I didn't even give birth.

Speaking of which...while signing my contracts at the college last week, a woman mentioned to me that I looked great for having given birth two 2 weeks ago. YEAH! OK, so I said thank-you, and then politely said I didn't birth that one. I guess I'll just be determined to feel good about looking good for a woman who recently gave birth.

And on to our major purchase of the weekend...dum dah dah dum...a DOUBLE STROLLER. Dang, I feel like yuppie supermom. Now all I need is a mini-van. (Um, no. No minivan will be bought by anyone in this household.) But seriously, it felt cool to buy it on faith that Honey Bun will stay.

Honey Bun now weighs 7 lbs, 4 oz. - a half pound weight gain in a week. She's drinking better now, and is much more alert. She does, however, scream when she poops, which is funny except in the middle of the night. We are still madly in love.

No news about anything in Honey Bun's case. We haven't even gotten a call from her assigned permanent worker. However, I think she's likely waiting to do her monthly home visit until she has more information to provide. It's fine with me. It's clear that we know as much as the workers know, and as long as that continues that way, I've got nothing to complain about. I've got faith that she's not going anywhere, at least for a long time.

I started teaching my classes at the college today - class 2 is tomorrow, and class 3 starts Thurs., and class 4 a week from tomorrow. Needless to say, for someone without a full-time job, this seems darn close to full time work.

We're seriously looking at mini-SUVs and wagons. Anyone have a Toyota Matrix or Plymouth Vibe or like? I'm looking for opinions as I do my homework on the web before facing the dealerships.

In two weeks, we are doing respite care for the weekend for a 3 and 5 year old. Yes, we have lost our minds. But the money will help buy Cookie's toddler bed. And it will also convince me to go ahead and get on birth control. :)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Warm Fuzzies

THIS was the face looking up at me as I dried her off after her bath tonight. We are so in love, it's unbelievable. I had no idea I had that much more in me to give. What a feeling!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Team Meeting Status Report

I'm pleased to report the meeting this morning went as well as could be expected. All of the workers - from the investigator, to our R&C worker, to the team supervisor - want this baby to stay and eventually be adopted by us. It's great to know that everyone involved is in our corner - and with good reason: J. (birthmom) is in jail and not eligible for parole until May '08, birthdad (not Cookie's birthdad - so she says) is only in jail for a couple days for "unpaid fines" (so he says) and did call to ask about "his daughter". He just got out of drug rehab - he's older as well - with 2 grown kids and a 15 year old daughter he's prohibited from having contact with (insert whatever guesses you have here - they are as good as ours right now). At any rate, he's vastly inappropriate as a placement. When asked if he had any family members that wanted the baby, he said he'd "have to think about it and call back". He asked about J's sister, but she was already ruled out when Cookie was born, and they are not about to go back there again.

If only this guy would have denied he was the father, J's husband (Cookie's supposed birthdad) would be legally assumed to be the father and that would be the end to that - no blood tests and just another TPR. But now wait. There has already been a court order put in for this new birthdad to have a DNA test. Even if he hightails it in to get it done, the results will take at least 4-8 weeks (according to the investigative worker). After that, we'll wait to see if he wants to work a case plan, or if his background check even comes back appropriate. If he's a sex offender, they will likely not recommend going further to return the baby. I asked if they plan to counsel him to voluntarily terminate his rights, and the answer was "absolutely". They will talk to him about the child support he will be required to pay if he is indeed the father. They said that changes a lot of minds right there.

So, good news: the case gets to stay with the same judge that did Cookie's case, and she ROCKS. I mean, this woman does not suffer fools and has a reputation for being the best and granting the rulings the social workers recommend. So, we are very relieved along those lines. She will also not be giving chance after chance to an addict to get clean.

More good news: No visits with birth parents. No jailhouse visits for J, and no visits for birthdad until the DNA test comes back showing he's the sperm donor. Even after that, he'd have to work a case plan to get visits, and they would likely be the minimum twice a month for an hour visits.

Until more is discovered, the goal on paper is still "return to parent". It makes me so sad, but that is the law. All we know about birthdad is he shacked up with a married, 24 yr. old cocaine addict who already had 3 kids adopted out. And we know he has 3 kids and is also a user. We don't know his drug of choice, but I can guess that's where J. went to get her cocaine. She apparently moved in with him when she went on the run from rehab - so there ya go.

Even more good news: J. was in jail for at least 6 months of her pregnancy, so the likelihood she used drugs during her 2nd and 3rd trimesters is very low (but still possible as we all know). The baby is doing just great and is a real cuddle bug. We both love her. We both want her to stay. We both know this will likely be a long journey even if it too is a successful one. But there are many good signs that she will stay. And the Lord works in all kinds of ways, and I won't even pretend to know His will for us. All I know is we are optimistic.

We are praying this man will admit that he would not be a fit parent to any child, and will choose to voluntarily terminate his parental rights so this baby can be adopted. They will tell him that if he does that she will be adopted by the family that adopted her sister - so maybe...just maybe - that will have some weight for his decision.

To all of you out there reading and praying and sending good vibes: we FELT IT this morning! I had so much peace in my heart and it was such a smooth process. We also got assigned a worker for the baby who has 11 years of experience, and used to be in special needs adoption, so we are very blessed to have her as the baby's worker. The supervisor hand-picked this woman to take the lead on the case because of her experience.

My parents are once again on the grandparent roller-coaster. They've seen pictures too and desperately want this baby as we do.

Again, all of your support means the world to me. I read your messages and words of encouragement and it is so uplifting. Please don't think that ONE more person praying won't make a difference - it does. And if WE can pray for you and your kids - let me know and we'll put you on our prayer list as well - even if you aren't one of my regulars on the blogroll. We're a living, breathing, thriving family example of the power of prayer - and that God answers in BIG, BIG ways - often when you have stopped begging and started praising, and often when you LEAST expect it.

2 am

I just finished trying to feed the baby...maybe I'll call her Honey Bun here.
She only drank 1 oz. with much encouragement from me.
I'm thinking about the meeting at 9.
I'm sure hoping we don't have to endure a lengthy roller coaster.
Here's another look at who you're praying for:

And here's Cookie at right about 1 month old:Sisters...wow.

Monday, August 13, 2007

And Baby Makes 4

What a whirlwind! We arrived back in KY late Friday night and picked up a car seat on Saturday morning (after learning it is hard to buy just an infant car seat without the stroller package too).

We arrived at Ann's house at 1:00 to meet the new addition to our family. Ann had seemed like a great woman on the phone, but it was fabulous to meet this angel of a foster mom in person. She was an EMT in a past career, and she had obviously taken great care of the baby.

Holding the baby for the first time was an awesome experience. At still only 6 lbs. 1 oz. at 11 days old, she looked teeny and fragile and felt so light. Yet she was perfect and beautiful, warm and velvety soft, and peaceful. Cookie was with us, and immediately came over to see the baby and without prompting just leaned in and kissed her face and grinned. We taught her how to say "sister".

We then came home for a well-earned nap - all 4 of us.

Saturday was a blur. Michael mowed the yard while Cookie played and I supervised her and watched the baby sunbathe to help the jaundice. That night we ordered pizza and ate ice cream to celebrate our new family.

Church yesterday was a trip - watching everyone's reactions to just seeing us with this tiny baby - and then introducing her as Cookie's sibling was just priceless.

Of course, I'm really beginning to fall in love with this baby. The doctors put her at 36 weeks, so technically she's a preemie. She's struggling to get over the jaundice, and to gain weight (she'd rather sleep than eat, and I often have to pry her jaw open, insert the bottle, and stroke her cheeks and the bottom of her feet to get her to suck. Even then, I'm lucky if I can get her to eat 1.5 oz at at time. I just keep trying ever two hours and each time she even looks remotely hungry. She goes in on Friday to get checked for weight and the jaundice. She'll go for an ultrasound on her hip in September, and also to the cardiologist sometime around then to be sure her heart is OK (mom apparently has cardiomyopathy, but I never heard anything about that when Cookie was born - we'll see). Other than those things, she's doing great. She's quite peaceful, and loves to cuddle and get pets and massages. I think she's downright beautiful.

Tomorrow morning is the team meeting with social workers. I pray they move this case quickly. I'm just gonna say it: I want her to stay.

Now all I need is for my dad to come up with her nickname. And yeah, Michael and I already have a short list of names we're coming up with...just in case.

Please pray for the meeting tomorrow.

Now, even though we arrived Friday night and today is Monday, I'm now going to go start unpacking. *sigh*

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Baby Update

It's taken me quite a while to get to posting an update for a couple of reasons. First is the hideous dial-up my parents have, and second is downright uncertainty. I just hate to post any news until we are certain. So, here's what we know so far.

I've talked to the respite care providers several times and they seem wonderful. They are very fond of the baby, and have sent pictures (see the bottom of this post for one I'll leave up only a few days). The baby weighs 6 lbs. 9 oz. as of Monday at her doctor's appointment. She had jaundice, and still has it, so they sent her home with a prescripton for sunshine. Since birthmom has Hepatitis B & C, they also have to do extra treatments for B, and tests for C later on. I remember having Cookie tested and holding our breath until the negative result came back from the lab. The doctors reported to the respite mom that the birthmom has Cardiomyopathy, and that the baby needs to see a cardiologist since it can be genetic. Funny though, I never heard anything about that with Cookie, so if it is true, Cookie will be getting a referral too. Ugh. Lastly, the doctor noticed what the respite mom called a "hitch in her hip", so is ordering an ultrasound to check it out and see if anything odd is there. All in all, this will be one of the best-checked-out babies I've ever seen.

There is a family team meeting on August 14th (we will be back on Friday the 10th and picking up baby on the 11th in the morning sometime). At the meeting, we will meet with the social workers. We have been told that birthmom (J.) is indeed in jail, and our R & C worker emailed to tell us that she was told biodad is also in jail. No relatives are being looked at (and none have come forward either). From all the workers can tell us now, it looks like a future adoption down the road. That being said, we all know there are no absolute certainties until the judge signs the order of adoption in court. I'd say as it looks right now, it feels about 75% certain to me. That's just a guess from a woman still in FL going off emails and talking with the respite care provider. Really, we will know much more on the 14th.

All of J's relatives were already checked out and declared unfit back when Cookie was placed with us, so I don't think they will go back there all over again. Also, there is much history there in her case. My old blog detailed all that, and I think most of my current readers remember the saga! In a nutshell, Cookie's birthmom had her first child at 16, her second at 18 - was in foster care herself, and in and out of jail for cocaine. She met Cookie's supposed birthdad when she was 12 and he was 36 - yes, 36. They got married at some point. He was also in and out of jail. They were both convicted of neglect and physical and sexual abuse of their children, and those 2 kids were adopted by another family in another county. The adoption is closed, and they do not wish to have contact. I totally understand. The kids were 4 and 6 when they were adopted - after having been in and out of foster care way too many times. The state didn't want to see Cookie suffer the same fate. So, the state acted a lot sooner.

Now enter Cookie's new half-sister. There is a different (and named) birth father since J's husband and Cookie's supposed birthdad (I say supposed b/c she looks nothing like him, and this new baby looks totally like Cookie did as a newborn) is still in jail. We know nothing about this new birthfather or his family. I guess that's why I have the uncertainty. My heart tells me that addicts hang with other addicts, and that he and his family are bound to be in the same cycle J. is...but we won't know. All of us think that this new birthdad is likely Cookie's biodad as well - I mean, she got pregnant again when Cookie was all of 10 months old. I don't think I could find a new man in that amount of time. But maybe she's just good at finding them.

We'll post more on the 11th once baby is with us once (and hopefully for all). We'll also post on the 14th after the family team meeting that morning. We are sure to find out a lot more information at that point. It's going to be a challenge to navigate because Cookie's adoption is a closed adoption for all of our safety - and bringing us to any meetings with family members makes us vulnerable. And, um, we're a pretty memorable couple. If you see us once, you're likely to recognize us if you see us again. :)

So, if I don't get around to posting until Saturday, here's a picture of our new little girl:


Thursday, August 2, 2007

Cookie's Sibling Is Born!

On July 31st, Cookie became the big sister to a baby girl. We got the phone call today - just a few minutes ago. We won't be home until the 10th (but we will be calling the airlines to see about changing our tickets and the costs therein), and the WONDERFUL social workers already arranged for the baby to go home today with angels of respite care providers. They will try to back date our contract so that we can pay the $22.90 a day daily rate and not have it be out of our own pockets.

We don't know anything else.

My assumption is that the baby is healthy - otherwise our R&C worker would have told us, and obviously the hospital wouldn't release a baby in 2 days thta wasn't OK.

No news on the name of the baby either - but then again, we will likely use pet-names for a while anyway until we learn about birth-fathers and how the state and social workers are going to handle the case. Then, we'll choose our own name for her.

Until I'm told otherwise, I'm choosing to believe that this baby will become our daughter forever, too.

Wow. Another girl.

I told Michael that would be a lot of girls in the house. He said, "Yeah, I had a dream like that once. But you were on the Swedish bikini team." :)

So, in your prayers today, please pray once more for J. and her broken world, this new baby girl, the wonderful people who have agreed to be her respite care providers until we get home, and the workers who made all this happen without even involving us in the details. God is SO amazing. I thought we'd have to do all kinds of arranging, and here it is all taken care of FOR us. I'm in awe.

I'm a mommy...again. I can't wait to see my new baby girl. I hope she's as sweet as her big sister.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Our World Gets ROCKED! And you won't believe HOW

There we were, sitting in ATL waiting to get on the next plane flight to my parent's when my phone rang. I didn't answer it, but when I got on the plane I listened to the voicemail. It was Melanie, our R&C worker. The message was simple:

"I need to talk to you and Michael about something very important. I need you to call me back ASAP - today."

The plane was about to take off and the cell-phone police would soon be scouring the isles looking for non-compliant passengers. I figured I could call her 90 minutes later when we landed and see what was up.

Michael and I played a fantasy guessing game about what she might be calling about. It was everything from Ginger's Aunt being arrested, to previous foster children who were back in the system again and needed a place to go, to benign things like our training hours or adoption subsidy. At any rate, we settled in to the flight with a wiggly toddler.

When we landed in FL, as soon as the seat belt sign went off, my phone began ringing again. It was Melanie. This time I answered. Here's how the conversation began:

T: "Hey Melanie!"
M: "Hi Tamara. Well, Cookie has a sibling."
T: (thinking I heard wrong). Huh?
M: "I said YOUR CHILD HAS A SIBLING."
T: OH MY GOD! THEY FOUND J!
M: Yup. I think she's in jail.
T: OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD...When was the baby born?
M: Actually, as of 8:30 this morning (the 25th), J was in labor, but the baby hasn't come yet.
T: OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD (I obviously loose linguistic creativity here)...
M: Do you want the baby?
T: OF COURSE we want the baby! But we just landed in Florida!

The rest of the conversation that transpired on the plane was Melanie telling me that if we wanted the baby, we had to immediately turn around and come home to get the baby from the hospital. I asked about letting the baby go to a temporary foster home until we got back. She said she could ask, but was certain "they" (I guess the social worker powers that be) would not approve that. She said she was sorry, but we had to decide NOW if we could commit to come back and abandon our vacation.

I said a quick prayer in my head. I looked at Michael sitting next to me holding a crying and exhausted Cookie. I saw flight attendants approaching us on a now vacant airplane. I gulped and gave the hardest answer of my life.

"We want this baby so bad, Melanie. But I'm sorry. Please ask for us if the baby can go elsewhere for now. But we can't come back right now. We just can't. We just landed. We won't even get to my parent's house for another two hours. I'm so sorry. I really am."

Melanie said she understood and would get back to us later.

Shaken to my core, I left the plane with Michael and Cookie.

My mom was waiting for us, worried that even the pilots had come off the plane, but we had not.

Clearly, I was shaken. I told mom the whole story. SHE then began the familiar freak-out. She called my sister-in-law who also freaked out. And we all agreed to at least stop for food before making the 90-minute trip to my parents home.

So there we were, in a fast-food chicken and seafood joint - me, Michael, Cookie, my mom, and later my brother and his wife. And we were all shaken by the story of Cookie's sibling being born. We were all brainstorming ways we could get back home and not ruin the vacation or Cookie's time with her grandparents.

Then...my phone rang.

It was Melanie.

"Tamara. They sent J. back to jail. Apparently she went into labor too early - at 36 weeks, so they stopped it and sent her back. She's not going to have the baby today, but will within the next 4 weeks. So, I guess you're off the hook!"

I started to tear up.

"Oh Melanie. This is great news. I'll keep the phone nearby, because we WILL get there to get this baby."

Melanie said she would call as soon as she knew anything.

I hung up and wiped away tears. I told my family at the table. We praised God.

HE had handled it all. We thought it was our job, but HE was in control all along.

It's Sat. night, and no news yet. We aren't scheduled to be back home for 2 more weeks, so we need prayer that the baby stays put! If not, we'll change our tickets and hightail it back.

We don't know if it's a boy or a girl. We don't know who the daddy might be (Cookie's biodad is incarcerated.) I imagine this one could take a while, too. I imagine the daddy could check out OK (and pigs might fly), or the family members of said daddy check out (and monkeys...). Well, but God's already working on all that.

As soon as I know, believe me, I'll run to the nearest computer. Meanwhile, please pray for all of us - and J. (who we learned is indeed in jail) and the unborn baby (who was likely exposed to incredible amounts of cocaine).

Love,
Tamara

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Date Night

Last night was "date night" for Michael and I, and it was truly enjoyable in it's simplicity. We went to Olive Garden for dinner as we hadn't been there in at least a year or more. Afterwards, we went across the street to Target for a little browsing as adults.

It's amazing how invigorating time together as adults without your child can be. It's highly underrated. We spend so much energy seeing to Cookie's needs that we put ours on the back burner far too often.

I thought last night about how nice it was to not talk about deep things, how nice a hot meal was uninterrupted by food sailing through the air and a whining child, and how nice my husband is to look at across the table.

We hadn't had a date night in a long, long time. But those 3 hours were so relaxing.

We're going to be leaving soon to spend a little over 2 weeks in Florida at my parent's place. Mom has set up the computer space and office area for Michael to write on some research he's been needing to work on, and mom and dad will be taking Cookie out for regular adventures and photography sessions with Grandpa. While we're there, we're welcome to come and go as we please - taking day excursions, or even short trips to other Florida locales. Last night really hit home how much I'm looking forward to getting help with Cookie and the opportunity to be alone with my husband from time to time.

Oh, and Cookie's personalized luggage arrived today - her little pink and black suitcase with "Mia" embroidered on the front, and her toiletry bag with "Cookie" embroidered on it, and lunch tote with "Cookie" on it (I have to give time to both her name and nickname - especially since my parents only call her "Cookie", and I pretty much call her "Mia Cookie", or just "Mia"). If you're interested in personalized things for your kids, I used Lillian Vernon online. I think everything turned out just great.

I'm now going to go act like I'm being productive today.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Cookie's First Haircut

There were tears, but they were short-lived. I didn't want to cut my child's bangs, but she just couldn't keep hair accouterments IN her hair and it just kept getting in her eyes. So, off we went this past weekend to get her first haircut.


(The rash under her eye is from the general anesthesia mask from her ear-tube surgery on Friday. All went well, and I believe the haircut was far more traumatizing than the surgery the day before!)

Pictures from the Mississippi Trip

After munching on mini-Oreos, she decided she was a chocolate-faced diva:



Cookie and cousin Deuce:

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Cookie's Little Light

The other day, Cookie was running around the bedroom with her index finger up twirling her little hand around and around. And she was mumbling (or was it singing?) something. And I thought, "Hmm. What in the world is she doing?" And she looked so excited, too.

Finally, it dawned on me. She had been watching the Gerbert videos I had gotten, and was clearly singing and signing one of the songs. To test my theory, I started quietly singing it. And suddenly she started singing LOUDER and twirling her little finger frantically in the air around and around.

You know what she was singing?

"This Little Light of Mine"

She does have such a wonderful little light, and it shines all over the place. She teaches me so much.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Back On Course

First, THANK YOU for your thoughts and prayers during our time of transition. Ginger left our house at 5:00 on Monday, and by 8:00 we were on the road headed to Mississippi! I highly recommend the "getting out of Dodge" technique for coping - especially if the getting out entails sweet tea, biscuits, 4th of July BBQ, and touching "home base" in some way or another.

We were at Michael's parents place until Friday afternoon, when we decided to head back. We ended up cutting the 10-hour trip in half both ways for our sanity and Cookie's comfort. She just can't stand to sit in the car seat that long, and I really can't blame her.

A good time was had by all, and now comes the planning for a 2-week trip to my parents in Florida. We have decided to hold off on accepting another placement until mid-August. That will give us time to vacation properly and get ready for the fall semester of teaching.

I'll post pictures from the Mississippi trip as soon as I can unpack...um, FIND the camera. :)

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Ginger's Moving On

If I wouldn't have let my cell phone die yesterday, I would have gotten the message earlier. Ginger's Great Aunt has checked out with the state, so Ginger will be going to live with her. It's a good thing, really. Her mom's case is workable. All she has to do is not smoke pot for at least 6 months and go to counseling and get a psych eval and on some appropriate and legal meds for whatever her condition is. She doesn't have to get her GED, a job, or transportation. All she has to do is get clean.

We'd much rather that happen with her with a family member than with us. Sure, we've gotten attached to her, but not bonded. Once again, the Lord looked out for us on this one. We did what we were supposed to do, and He gave us the strength and wisdom to be cautious. I'll miss the little Ginger Snap. What's worse will be that we will likely worry that she is well cared for. She will be living in poverty, but that is not something we can discriminate for.

We will ask that Ginger be moved on Monday morning. We will probably cry. Though this time it will be less about grieving over a child who could have been ours and more about grieving over the knowledge of a child's probable life course.

Then, we are considering packing up the car and taking Cookie to see Michael's parents. It's been a wild couple of weeks, and we will need some get-away before awaiting our next placement.

OF COURSE we're going to do it again! Once you are called, you're called. Period.

Still, your prayers for us on Monday as we say goodbye will be greatly appreciated.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Things said to us recently by children who are total strangers to us:

1) Upon taking Cookie out of the car to take her to daycare, a little black boy (about age 6 or 7) sees Michael and say to him, "You know, some black men have black babies." His mother proceeded to scold him about getting into other people's business. Michael, on the other hand, thought it was hilarious!

2) All 4 of us were out in the front yard, and Cookie was playing while Michael was watering the flowers and yard. I was holding Ginger while sitting on the front step. A little white girl (age 6 or 7) rides up on her bike and stops dead in her track in front of our house. She points to Cookie and asks me, "Did she grow in your belly?" Michael turns to me, and I say "No." Michael adds, "We adopted her." The little girl simply says, "Oh." and rides off down the street. We both think that was very cool.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Letter #1 to Ginger's Mom

Here's the letter she's getting in her goodie bag today:

June 26, 2007

Dear Ginger's Mom,

Thank you so much for the loving letter you wrote to us. It means so much to know how much you love your little girl, and we are grateful for your prayers. We think about you constantly, and pray for you every day. We can’t imagine how hard this must be for you. We only wish there was more we could do to help you. Please know we love Ginger very much. We tell her every day how much her parents love her.

We were so happy to get to meet you last week. You are so very beautiful. You CAN work your case plan with God’s help, and all the help the social workers have set up for you. Please know we don’t think bad things about you. Our hearts hurt for you, but we do not blame you for anything. We’ve all made bad choices in our lives. But GOD will always give you another chance to make things right! Isn’t that comforting?

Ginger is doing just great. My husband and I both teach, but I am not teaching this summer, so I am able to stay home with her. We bought a great bassinet for her to sleep in until she is too big, and then she will sleep in her crib. We have a UK mobile for her with little teddy bears dressed as UK football, baseball, basketball players, and cheerleader. She absolutely loves watching it!

She is eating good, and doesn’t even spit up at all. She sleeps very well and takes naps in the late morning and early afternoon, and then usually only wakes up once at night around 2 am for a warm bottle and clean diaper. Funny though, 2 am seems to be her favorite time to poop!

Ginger seems to really be smiling now, and she smiles a lot. She’s such a happy baby, and she only seems to cry when she is hungry, dirty, or wants to be held.

We take her to church every Sunday, and the people there just love her to bits! Everyone loves to hold her and kiss her chubby cheeks. You have lots of people at our church who are praying for you and for Ginger.

On Monday night, I took her to watch my husband play in the church softball game. Lots of women from the church were there and everyone kept saying how beautiful Ginger was. She was such a great little girl at the game. She seemed to love looking at what was going on, and really enjoyed being outside and all the interaction.

Thank you so much for sending her clothes and formula. We are glad we get to put the outfits on her that you picked out for her.

I want you to know how much we LOVE caring for Ginger. My husband and I became foster parents two years ago when we found out that we could not have children of our own (I cannot get pregnant). Earlier this year, we adopted our daughter who is now 18 months old (her mom is a cocaine addict and her dad is in jail for a long time). We were so happy to be able to adopt her, and she is beautiful and healthy. She also LOVES Ginger very much. She sits beside her when I am feeding her and pets her head and rubs her arms and legs. She loves to give her kisses on the top of her head! She also loves to watch her get her baths. It is just awesome to see her come over and out of nowhere just give her kisses.

I hope it will give you peace to know that Ginger is loved here. No matter what happens and no matter how long she is in our family, nothing will change that. We also care about YOU! Please know if there is anything you want to know about us, or anything special you would like us to do for Ginger – just ask.

Much love,

Ginger's Foster Parents

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

An Interesting Meeting

On Monday night at my husband's softball game, I met a woman who goes to our church whom I didn't even know. She and her husband had surmised that our family was not one of procreation due to our variety of skin-tones. She shared with me a bit of her agony.

She and her husband have tried for the entire 8 years of their marriage to conceive. They conceived 8 times successfully. She also had 8 miscarriages. Just six months ago they decided to adopt. They are adopting privately from Oklahoma for a number of reasons - to avoid as much pain as possible is the main reason. Oklahoma TPRs in 24 hours after birth for a woman relinquishing her child for adoption. In Kentucky, it's 30 long days. She told me they could never have done fostering to adopt. (I think a lot of people think that, and are wrong - but in her case, she may be right.)

I don't understand in her case why it took 8 years or that many miscarriages for them to come to this decision. She must have wanted to experience pregnancy very badly. What I do know is that now she seems happy (I didn't know her before Monday.) She gleams with joy and anticipation. She loved meeting Cookie and Ginger at the ball game. She asked lots of question - but our situation of adopting from foster care is so different.

I'm glad they are adopting. I'm also glad we took action as soon as we did when we learned we had dual fertility issues. I'm grateful we did not elect IUI or IVF. I'm so grateful.

Risking TMI here, I started my cycle on Monday, which means if I did ovulate, it happened the first day or so that we had Ginger. I think that is the ultimate confirmation right there. It just doesn't matter.

I'm glad I had the meeting I did. It once again confirmed that God has much better plans for us than we can ever conjure up - if we just have faith enough to lay it all down before His feet.