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

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.