Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Adoption Loss

The boys every other week visit landed on Christmas Eve. I requested to reschedule for an earlier time. The CPS office was planning to be open, but agreed to check with birth mom. Her phone was disconnected and they were unable to reach her. We were told we had to keep the agreed upon time and date.

The boys always have a hard few days after visits. I was really bummed, thinking it would ruin our first Christmas together. I was thinking of them, and wanting it to be special. I was also being selfish. I really struggle with patience on visit days. It makes my heart hurt so much for them. I feel helpless, and upset they have to go through the emotional stress. I can't give any details of the case... but, CPS doesn't get involved unless they need to. So the stress of remembering their past, and then being removed from their birth mother again, and back to us.. it's all very hard and confusing for them. Needless to say, planning to send them off Christmas Eve morning made my heart ache. I miss them dearly when they are gone for the day. I worry about them, and I absolutely hate not being there to help them cope, calm them down, and protect them. Visits are a huge area I need to grow in. 

Turns out, CPS got approval to close their office tomorrow. Which means, no visit for the boys!! Our family will be whole for the holidays. We are thrilled and honored to have these boys with us.

Which leads me to the point of this blog... adoption loss is real, it's hard, and it should not be overlooked. Everyone involved in this has experienced loss. We began this journey with infertility (loss), birth mothers experience great loss in mothering their kids, and adoptees lose family. fact. While the gains are obvious.. the loss is often overlooked. 

We are in a healthy place with infertility, but it is still a loss. It still hurts. It is a hurt I will never forget. The emotions early on were so strong I can almost taste them. It sounds weird, but when I remember the doctor visits, the negative pregnancy tests, the charts, the medication.. I get a taste in my mouth, I can't swallow, and I get sick to my stomach. The kind of sick that takes your breath away. The feeling doesn't last long, and doesn't happen near as often as it used to. For us, grieving infertility and choosing adoption were two different things. We LOVE adoption. We are also still infertile, going on seven and a half years. I know loss, I'm not grateful we've been unable to conceive. I am thankful for the Lord's goodness. I'm thankful for learning to grieve with hope. I'm thankful for the family I have. I'm thankful I'm an adoptive mom. I'm thankful I'm a foster mom. 

I pray all of our kids (lord willing we will have several!) are proud of their adoption. Carson already loves his adoption story, but he is young and will have harder questions as he's older. Not every adoptee is the same, not every adoptee will struggle the same, but they will all have questions. They all have loss. "Adoption loss is the only trauma in the world where the victims are expected by the whole of society to be grateful." Reverend Keith C. Griffith. Adoption loss is confilicting. While I'm not sure I agree with the word victim, I agree with the spirit of the quote. Grateful for the loss, yes and no. Without the loss we wouldn't have Carson, or the boys... Grateful to belong to a loving family, yes. Grateful for their adoption, I sure hope so. But, grateful they were removed from the only family they've known? no. Grateful for the trauma they had to endure as babies, absolutely not. So perhaps we don't insist they be grateful for everything.. how about we ask them how they feel, listen, and bravely support them as they work through their losses and their gains. 

I think of Kim every day. We text often, and I will never fully understand how much she misses her son. I know she believes in her choice, she's proud of the parents we are to him, and she loves us and him very much. And I love her. I love her so much, I hurt for her. This is a strange thing to navigate, but it is good and beautiful. She chose us and we love her for that. It's hard and emotional, but it's also easy in a way. We have a relationship with her I pray helps Carson deal with the loss. 

Flip over to the boys birth mother. This is ridiculously hard for me to navigate. I am so happy the boys don't have a visit. I am thankful every day we get to spend with them. I really hope we are able to adopt them. I believe it's what's best for the boys. I really do. Having said that, I can't help but hurt for her. My heart breaks for her. Her phone was disconnected, she was not informed the offices are closed. If she shows up to find nobody is there, I can only imagine the hurt and rejection she will feel. It's Christmas Eve and she will be alone. She will not have her children with her. I know she hurts and misses her boys. She continues to make poor choices, and for that I don't think she should be allowed to mother them; but, she is their birth mother. Holidays will no doubt amplify this loss for her. I continue to pray she gets the helps she needs. For her sake, and for the boys. I would love to be able to tell my sons (hopefully) their mother turned her life around. In a situation where our boys have already lost so much, their birth mother, their innocence, their trust... I'm thankful to be a part of their healing, and I hope to be the person to help them navigate the loss and celebration of their adoption. 

There are many complex layers to adoption. Please ask me to coffee, look through my posts, or stay tuned for many more posts if you want to know all the many many thoughts I have about it. Adoption is absolutely something we celebrate in this house. We love it, every single part of it. I just happen to be discussing the loss aspect tonight. Adoption is not possible without loss.

I'm thankful for those of you who take time to read this. Blessings to you and yours. Merry Christmas. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

God is love.

Today started as a normal day. I got up and got ready for the day, then went to get the boys. Took Carson potty, got him dressed, changed boys diapers, got them dressed. Headed to the table for breakfast. Mundane breakfast (oatmeal, banana, milk, waffles)... Prepped lunches, packed their little back packs, socks, shoes, and then at 8:47 something amazing happened. As I went to zip their little jackets, I looked into their eyes, and all of a sudden God broke my heart and His love flowed out of me. I am officially, completely in love with our foster kids. I started bawling, it was an overwhelming supernatural type of love. Praise the Lord! I hugged them and asked their forgiveness for not loving them the way I've wanted to. I promised them things will change and I will love them forever.

I have struggled with this so much. I have been willing to love these boys. I've lovingly and faithfully met all their needs. I've loved them so much and not at all. I've prayed for unconditional love. I did my best to trust the Lord. I praised Him, for He is love. I asked for patience. I stayed obedient in my role. I waited for what seemed like a very long time. I felt brokenhearted going to bed each night knowing I still wasn't there. I meditated on His promises. I tried, but I could not force it. I could not make myself trust the Lord completely in this.

"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is [a]born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested [b]in us, that God has sent His [c]only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has [d]for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear [e]involves punishment, and the one who fears is notperfected in love. 19 We love, because He first loved us. 20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also." -1 John 4:7-21 

Although I am not perfect. By the grace and goodness of God, I am able to show these boys perfect love. Amen.

**I cried off and on all day today! Carson kept asking "mommy sad?".. 
No, Carson, mommy is happy. Very happy. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Foster First

brrrrrrr. It's cold. Like, actually cold. We had a pretty wimpy snow last night, but I can't remember it being 1) this cold and 2) snowing before Thanksgiving. Ever. I'm a summer person. I love sun, being tan, sweating... but, I have to say, this year I was over the summer heat. Loading three toddlers in and out of the car in 100 degree weather was rough. I love fall, which lasts about a week here in Texas.. This year we jumped to the 20s and 30s fast. Normally this would irritate me, but I'm loving every minute of footie pj cuddles and needing slippers in my house! Alright, I'll get on with it. I'm cozy by the fire, drinking wassail, watching Gilmore Girls (tradition), and decided I'd work out a few feelings on here.

We have very little information about the case. We were told we would know something in November, well, turns out we will know a lot of nothing in November! Fostering is a long process, but we ignorantly put our hope in what we were being "told." Turns out it's only a quicker process if the bio parent is refusing to work services. Bio mom is working services, so we are in it for the long haul.

Last week the boys had a bonding assessment with their birth mother. Basically, a specialist evaluated their time with her and are weighing out if they have appropriate bonds, or if the visits are too emotionally stressful for the boys (short version). We are waiting for the results. I'll be honest, if visits stopped it would make our day to day much easier. However, our goal is to do what's best for the boys. Right now, the emotional state in which they return home makes us think it's emotional abuse. I've been documenting their behavior leading up to visits and after they come home. They revert to the behavior they entered our home with. They have nightmares, refuse to eat, act out, cry easily, and have more/longer fits. It seems like we finally get back to "normal" when the next visit rolls around. Okay, so yes, I think it would be easier and better for the boys if they didn't have visits. I'm not trying to take anything away from their birth mother. But, if she isn't able to make the changes, and reunification isn't going to happen, it's too hard on the boys to see her every other week. I wish they could move on and heal. On the flip side, if they are able to return to her care, I'm not sure the visits help anyway. In my opinion, the visits are for the mom, not the boys. The process is hard to watch.. I know the state has timelines and services to give her every chance in the world to keep custody of her children. But, the ones who really suffer during this limbo period are the boys. They are too young to fully process, they can't voice their confusion, fear, frustrations, emotions, etc. I feel selfish for wanting visits to stop... but, ultimately I want what's best for the boys. If the specialist says it's okay to continue visits, I'll be a little disappointed, but I know it will help me process everything. I'm concerned it's continued abuse and damaging to their current state. If they say it's not, I'll have to trust it'll all be okay.

Which brings me to another realization. It is impossible to hold back love from these kids, we are not holding back. It's also hard to realize it's a different love than the love I have for Carson. Carson is our son, he is ours forever... These boys need love, we are willing to love them, but they aren't ours. It's something you can't fully prepare yourself for until your faced with it. Carson's love was instant. This love is taking time. I love them well in meeting needs, protecting them, cuddling them, etc. But, my heart is not fully in it, and at the same time, I pour ALL of myself into them daily. I can't give more than I have. I do not have love for them the way I will if they are ours forever. But, I also don't know they will be ours. I pray daily for the Lord to grow my love for them. Sometimes I feel so guilty because I don't love them more than I do right now, and I want to. I really do. ** I am sharing this to be honest about our process. I don't know if this is how all foster parents feel. Everyone is different, every kid different, and please keep ugly comments to yourself.**

We are foster to adopt. Foster first. We get questions all the time, "so are you adopting them?" "when will you adopt them?".. Our hope is to adopt several more children, and our hope is to adopt children from foster care. We have zero control over it. So, we are learning to foster first, the goal is reunification. We have a long road ahead of us. We probably won't know anything about the case until April or May.

There you have it. Yes, we want to adopt. Right now that's not even an option. We are foster parents first.

"As foster parents, we are asked to not only care for the basic needs of a child, but also sit alongside them as they digest the hurt and damage they have undeservingly experienced." 
-Carrie Dahlin 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Adoption Awareness Month

Our life is consumed with a lot of Foster to Adopt business these days. I'll try and post this week with some small updates. We have few updates on the case, and are settling in for the long process. However, not a day goes by I don't thank God for our son's adoption. November happens to be Adoption Awareness Month and we were fortunate enough to meet up with Kim and her family today!

We brought our son home over two years ago! We had minimal contact with his birth mother, Kim. If you read back through some posts, look for Miss K... We didn't disclose her name until our relationship was established. We've always loved her and knew we would always feel grateful for her choice. Her selflessness in carrying our boy, birthing him, and then choosing us to parent him is hard to fully grasp. She is unbelievably strong and I'm so thankful our relationship has grown. We started with letters and gifts through our agency. Meeting at the agency. Photobucket. Email. Meeting at public places. Texting. Yep, it's awesome. I am thoroughly enjoying having her in our life. I realize I have zero control over our future, but I'm thankful we are all putting in the effort to grow our relationship. I hope Carson is proud of his birth mother, and enjoys her involvement in his life. I feel honored to mother Carson and help him sort through his adoption during each stage of his life.

She is so sweet. Today we met at Chuck E. Cheese and had a great time. We've been prepping Carson for this visit. He is starting to love his adoption. He asks to read his adoption book (our profile book) and watch his adoption movies. :) Now, we get to show pictures of Kim and explain her vital role in all of this! It's really neat. He asks to pray for Kim and "his sister Katei" almost every night. We also met her new baby, Hannah. I love cuddling sweet babes. Here are a few photos from our time:

We love our son. We love Kim and her family. We love adoption. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Half Ironman

We drove to Austin Saturday morning with the Haley's. Carson stayed with my parents, thank you Teeny and Bebol!! Dan, Bridgette, and Eva graciously stayed at our house with the boys, THANK YOU! I was happy to head down there knowing all our kiddos were in the best hands! It was really strange leaving the boys. This was our first time to leave them over night. They did great.

We arrived at the Expo around 1 and checked in. Everything went smooth and we headed over to drop off my bike. I was nervous about the logistics of this race. I've never done a mandatory bike check-in, or experienced different locations for T1 and T2. It turned out to be a lot less stressful than I thought. Mostly because Ironman did a wonderful job putting this race together. It was well thought out!! 

So, we headed to eat. I was starving at this point.. Jake was asking Siri where to go, oh brother. We drove by two "top rated" places before finding a spot to eat... I had to say no- I was not going to risk brazilian tacos from a house and who knows what else he tried to pick, the day before the race. lol. I'm sure the places were great, but better safe than sorry! I agreed to Gourmand's. It was tasty! We headed to check in at the hotel with full happy bellies.

We stayed at the Hilton Austin Airport. It was lovely. I unpacked and looked over race details. Put my clothes by their designated bags, showered, and crawled in bed. I planned to watch TV until dinner, but ended up taking a little nap. The bed was soooo comfortable! We ate in the hotel because I didn't want to get out late and wanted to stay cozy. I left dinner a few minutes before everyone else; took a bath; bagged up my gear; packed up for early check out; and went to bed! I slept pretty great. I was in bed by 9:00. Slept from 10:45-5:20. Not bad for race day! 

Woke up, checked out, loaded up, headed to the race. It was nice having Jake for the support, and so he could help me carry all my stuff! :) Jake is such good help (family saying). 

We arrived in plenty of time to drop my run bag off, shuttle over to T1 and get my bike gear all ready to go. The only hiccup came when I didn't get water in my bottles. I only had ice and no time to find the water fill station. I figured it would melt enough to wet my mouth after the swim and I would just stop at the first aid station. Transition closed at 7:15 and the pros started at 7:30. My wave was at 8:30. Jake and I had a good time watching the pros, but I was too nervous to say much.

Pros hit the water:

.. and I'm off.

My small warm up to the start line felt great. The water was not too cold, and almost warm enough to ditch the wetsuit. I took a deep breath and waited for the signal. The first 200m I was just trying to slow my breathing. I was so nervous. I am not confident in the water and had several people kicking me/running into me. I finally found a safe place on the outside of my group, put my face in the water, and started swimming. I made the mistake of cruising closer to the buoys. I was in a rhythm, on the inside, when I felt a huge body swim OVER me. yes, over me. The men's wave caught up to me (again, I'm slow) and they were aggressive. For about 3 min, I just tried to get out of the way, and I don't think I made any forward progress. I wasn't tired, I wasn't afraid for my life, I just couldn't get in a rhythm. My pace was slower than I planned, but all in all I felt pretty good. I swam faster than I did my first 1 mile open water. *this was only my second open water race*

It felt really good to get out of the water and on my bike. 1) my wetsuit was rubbing my neck raw and 2) I'm much more comfortable on my bike. I took the first 15 miles easy, but it was a fast part in the course, so I was cruising. I hit the first aid station and dumped water in my bottles. It was no trouble at all. The weather felt great! Then, sadly (TMI), I started my period at mile 25 on the bike, which caused some longer stops for the rest of the race. I made it to mile 40 and there were feminine supplies in the port-a-potty!! how lucky. The last 15 miles were pretty brutal- head wind and several loong hills. I kept telling myself QBKS! Several times I looked out from the top of a hill and reminded myself to enjoy the whole thing. It was beautiful. I felt blessed to be healthy and on my bike. I thought of my Uncle often and felt proud to do this race, and thankful for the many ways he's encouraged me and helped me along the way.

By the time I rolled into T2 I was really hot! I grabbed some supplies from Jake, and took off. The first two miles of the run were brutal. By mile 3 I felt like I was in a rhythm, but going very slow. I decided around mile 6 there was no way to "push pace" and I settled in for a very hilly, hot, long run. Whoever thought up the course was cruel. Very cruel. It was a hilly 3 loop course with ZERO shade! It was also very mentally tough to run by the "finish" twice. It was nice to know what to expect for each loop; but, it was rough to turn and go back out for another loop. I loved having a support team there..  I knew if I could just make it one more loop, they would be there to cheer for me! I just kept moving, I was slow, and had to walk some.

But, I finished, and nobody can take that away from me!!! Austin 70.3. Took me 7:43:52.

I am tired, I'm a little sore, but not too bad. I'm sunburned and my skin is sensitive from chafing. My neck hurts the worst, but I was also rubbed raw under my arms and around my sports bra. My left hip flexor may need a little extra attention during rest week. My little toe is one big blister. But, overall, I came out of this race in great shape.

Today I rested, cuddled my boys, and enjoyed Takis for breakfast, mac n cheese for lunch, and I'm ordering pizza for dinner.

My plan is to rest for one week, do minimal training next week, follow a light training plan through the holidays, then back at it! I don't want to lose my base. I'm very proud of myself for finishing. Based on how the race went, and how I feel today.. I'm looking to get my next check mark November 2015.

Hard to believe a year and a half ago I only had two check marks!

August 2013


** Although they are very different, I still say fostering is harder than a half ironman. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

All about Carson.

Carson, our dear sweet boy! He is such a joy. We truly love him more than life itself. He is smart, fun, wild, crazy, and loving.

Two things I want to accomplish in this post: A quick Carson update and our new normal. 

The Update:

Carson still loves trash trucks. He gets excited every tuesday night because he knows they come on Wednesdays. It's become a special time because I get him out of bed a little early and we wait for the trash truck to come. He loves it!

He is still on the small side, but he eats pretty well and stays active. He's just a little peanut. He is starting to understand his adoption. He asks to read his adoption book and watch his adoption movie. He would probably watch it all day. 

He is really smart. I'm his mom so I have to say that, but no really... this kid is sharp. He knows his abc's, can count to 10, potty trained before 2, sleeps in a big boy bed, knows a lot of his colors, and communicates ridiculously well. He also knows Psalm 119: 1-9. Okay, brag much? 

His little mind is so funny. The other day we were driving late from visiting our new niece and the moon was out. 
Carson: I can see the moon from back here.
Me: Cool, the moon is really big and bright tonight.
Carson: hold it, hold the moon?

The conversation went on for a while, and was pretty funny. But, right then and there I wished I could give him the moon to hold. I would have done anything to make that possible... which brings me to my next point. Fostering is hard with a two year old. It's also beautiful. 

The last thing I want in this world is for Carson to be entitled. It's a fine line between being crazy about our kids and being crazy about them. I struggle with wanting to shelter him, achieve perfection, and with pride. I'm a mom, okay?

Carson had to learn how to share his parents, his home, his life with twin boys over night. As a two year old, he doesn't fully understand why they are here; however, we do our best to explain. He knows they were hurt and needed a home. For the most part he loves playing with them, but there are major moments of jealousy. They do require a lot of attention from us. On top of that, they have appointments all the time! People are always coming to the house to visit them, check on them, ECI (early childhood intervention) comes for in home play therapy. Well, Carson tends to get a little frustrated when we have long days "all about the boys." We do make an effort to spend special time with him, as we do with all the boys. One on one time is precious and we will always try to have those moments. We are doing our best to show him grace during this transition period. However, seeing a spoiled little two year old throw a fit over sharing toys and attention is not an easy thing to stomach. It's also hard when the reason could give him an excuse. Many people have expressed we should take it easy on him... We do understand the difficulty in the change, but do our best to teach him a better way to cope. Every 2 year old has their own struggle, and for Carson, it's learning his role as a foster brother. We have good moments, and we have bad ones.. It brings me so much joy to see him soften and grow and learn to accept this as his new norm. It is absolutely beautiful. It's an adjustment for all of us. Sometimes I miss the days when it was just me and C hanging out. I fear he will be overshadowed, I fear he doesn't get enough attention, I fear it will change him for the worst. Now that we are here, I see it changing him, it is hard for him. It's hard for all of us. But, the reality is: the world is broken.. we have welcomed the brokenness into our home and something would be wrong if it didn't change all of us. 

So, dear Carson, our sweet sweet Carson... we love you enough to show you it's not all about you! Our prayer for you is you grow up impacted by your role as a foster brother, an adopted son, but most of all as a child of Christ.

Fostering is hard, and Lord willing we will do it again, and again, and again.