Sunday, June 28, 2015

Date Night

Friday night was date night. 

 It was a new kind of date night.  

Friday night I shared my husband with two other beautiful young ladies.

Our daughters.

We picked up The Oldest first.  Another girl in her cottage had fixed her hair in a french braid that ended with beautiful blonde curls falling over her shoulder.  It was a sign to us of the excitement she had for the evening.  

The three of us walked across the street to pick up The Cheerleader.  In true girly girl fashion, she didn't want us to see her until she was completely ready.

It was in those moments that Our Dancer realized she was not going to dinner with us.  The tears came.  They came hard and fast.  Her house mom tried to comfort her.  We tried to help but it was one of those moments when it was best for us to just walk away.  We told her we would be back soon and would visit with her and then we slipped back into the hallway.

In the hallway we saw The Cheerleader all dressed up and ready for our date.  She had picked out a new dress to wear and had one of the other girls curl her hair.  She looked absolutely beautiful.

I smile every time I picture her in my mind.

We realized very quickly that night what a big deal this first date with us was to all them.  To be chosen to go first or to be staying behind...

We want them all to feel special.  We want to get to know all of them.  And they realize we need these small group dates to get to know them, but they each desire for their turn to be now.

There were so many times during the night when I wanted to pull out my phone and snap a picture or record the sound of their laughter and banter with one another.  But at the same time I didn't want anything to get in the way of me soaking up these moments.

We talked to The Oldest about soccer opportunities and watched as she beamed with excitement.

We watched The Cheerleader struggle with her feelings, being torn between what she currently has and what she could have.

Oh The Cheerleader.  She's a fun one.  It was raining when we left the restaurant.  Andrew and I, along with The Oldest, walked in the rain  sprinkle to the car.  The Cheerleader stayed under the awning of the restaurant until Andrew drove the car over to pick her up, which he happily did.  Then she took off her blue jean jacket and held it over head.  

We couldn't let the rain mess up those beautiful curls.  :)

After dinner we took them to get froyo.  As we enjoyed our froyo we showed them pictures of our house and their bedrooms.

Questions started to come out.

"If you adopt us..."

We looked them in the eye and told them we were in this.  We weren't going anywhere.

They've heard those words before and it breaks our hearts that they've been through a placement that didn't work out.

They have walls up that only time and love will bring down.

We are doing everything we can to assure them that we aren't going anywhere and that it is okay for them to feel both sadness and excitement at the same time.

We understand.

When we got back to the campus we were able to see all of the children.  We all met in the dining hall, the place that has become our private place to meet, and gave them supplies to make cards for their brother.  We will meet him on Tuesday and plan to give him these cards.  I think it meant a lot to them to be able to do this and I think it showed them that we care about him too.  Some of the kids were private about their cards and some asked us to read them before they sealed them.

It was a sweet time.

We then gave them each a small gift, a framed copy of our first family portrait from Tuesday along with a card with a note from Andrew and a note from myself.

The tears flowed.

Theirs as they soaked in the photo and read our words, and ours as we watched their tender hearts overflow.

One told us she had never had a family portrait before.

One asked, "When you adopt us can we have family nights where we do stuff together like on Friday nights?"

When she finished reading her card, Our Dancer looked at Andrew and asked if she could call him dad.  He told her she could call him whatever she wanted.

"Ok, Dad" she said.

And then she called him Dad a thousand times.

As we were walking to the dining hall, The Oldest was behind me and called out to me saying "Mom, I picked you a flower."

I heard her, but didn't even realize she was talking to me.

I'm mom?

I am mom.

I laughed throughout the night when different ones would say mom or dad and Andrew and I didn't answer immediately.

We are not used to those names.

But oh how we cherish hearing those names.

It's something we dreamed about for years.

It's something we never dreamed would happen so quickly in this process.

What we thought would be a thirty minute visit with all of the children quickly turned into a couple of hours.  It was late and we were all exhausted and ready for bed.

Yet it was hard to say goodbye and walk away.

As Andrew and I plan our next date it seems to far away.

We miss them the moment we leave.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

A Daddy's Love

I always knew my husband would make a wonderful daddy.  Watching him interact with nieces and nephews over years has been evidence of that over and over.  

And then as we began to talk about adoption and there were times when I wondered if his heart was in it the same way mine was.  Would he fall in love with kids that were not biologically ours?

I'm sitting here now shaking my head at those silly thoughts.  After all one of the things I love most about my husband is his big loving tender heart.

He told me last night when he got home from work that before he even opened his eyes yesterday he was thinking about the kids.  He was ready to see them again.  He spent the evening looking online for activities and things that we could go do with them.

And he was still up thinking about our kids long after I went to bed.

And as you will see he is much better with words than I am...

Elaina has already shared about our eventful day yesterday. I have not. I do not have a blog so one obscenely long Facebook post must suffice...
So simple a thing, saying "hello", has never felt more special, more important, more purposed.
We have had one picture of the children this whole time. One picture that's at least 18 months old today. We were to meet the children one-by-one starting at 11:00AM. Everyone was running late except for us and the kids. We caught a glancing view of them coming up the stairs a few minutes earlier than the DHS workers thought they would. Excited children running up the stairs to meet their forever parents; excited parents trying to steal an early glimpse of their forever children. The workers at the group home quickly shuffled them back down the stairs and out of view. My first thought: "they've grown!!!" Kids can do a lot of that in 18 months. What have we missed in those 18 months? What have they been through? What have they felt while waiting?
We then met with everyone that has anything to do with the kids. DHS workers, group home workers, the attorney that represents the children. Adults scheming away about how to say hello to children. It's comical to think we can control such a thing. There is only One that orchestrates the affairs of man. This day was His day and in the hours that followed we felt His hands. Words came from our mouths that He put there. When to speak, when to listen, when to interact and when to observe. He was good to us all on this day.
Finally it was time. We were to meet the first one they had chosen to introduce to us. We were to hear one of our children's voices for the first time. I'm sure he felt like we were staring holes through him as he entered. He was nervous. We were nervous. After a few minutes, most of the workers left and we were able to visit with him for a while. The nervousness went away and we talked. He asked questions, we asked questions. We showed him photos of our family, our home, our dogs. His calming demeanor put us all at ease. Then we met with his brother, then with his sisters... A new wave of excitement and nervousness each time the door opened. It opened four times, bringing with it seven children. One more was not available and we will meet him on Tuesday. Eight in all. Sounds like alot, sounds crazy, feels perfect and wonderful. Elaina has told this story and I won't repeat every detail, but I must say it was a special time. At one point one of the girls asked me point blank "when will you adopt us?" I said "there are many steps we have to go through and we have to wait until DHS and everyone else involved thinks we're ready. I can be ready and you can be ready, but we have to go through the process." She immediately responded "I'm ready." In an instant so was I.
After the introductions in smaller groups we went to the dining hall to have lunch. Our girl who was ready prayed for our meal and then we ate together. Our first family meal was pizza around a couple of folding cafeteria tables. Not exactly a fine feast in an ornate dining room, but it was home for a few minutes. We answered more questions from the kids, and watched as they talked with each other and picked on each other. They are definitely siblings. State workers and group home workers sat at the end of the table, observing it all. To be honest, it was like the workers weren't even there. My focus was elsewhere.
Elaina has told this next part but I must tell it again. As we finished eating, our little prayer leader asked me if I had "Church Clap" on my phone. I said that I didn't and she asked if I could find it online. I said I would try and she helped me locate the correct version on YouTube. So I hit play and sat my phone on the edge of the table. I then turn around to see my beautiful little girl dancing. With no shame. Doing the church clap. The youngest boy soon joined in. Then one of the older girls. I selfishly soaked in every second of it.
We then took a group photo. Our family's first portrait. I so wish I could share it with you. In time we will be able to, but it will be a long, long wait because of the rules in place to protect the children.
We then went outside and played a little and talked a little. We were treated to another dance of course. The children only get to be together so often right now, so eventually we just sat back and watched them visit. Viewing a close group that we hope to break into. We took the time to visit with two of the workers that have been there with the children from the beginning. Great people doing the Lords work. Such beautiful, helpful, gracious people. We are thankful for them.
Finally it was time to go. What was originally going to be a couple of hours had turned into three and half. Elaina told of our tiny dancer running and jumping into my arms. She has won my heart and I fear that she knows it. We exchanged hugs with the kids and told them we would see them all very soon.
As we walked back to our car, our dancer walked along side. I asked her "where are you going?" and she said "to my cottage, you come see where I stay." I said that I didn't think we were allowed but she insisted. So we followed her into the living room. The house mother soon entered the room and we exchanged niceties. Then a procession of girls made their way from the halls of the house to the Living Room. Beautiful young girls. Some hoping to go home soon, some having been told that they never will because their parents' parental rights have been terminated. Their only hope is adoption. Our dancer was proud to have us there, so we were there and we said hello to each of the girls. I recognized some of their faces from the heart gallery. I thought about what they'll look like in 18 months. What are their forever families going to miss? What will these girls go through? What will their eager hearts feel while they wait? They're each so beautiful and worth pursuing. Don't let them wait long.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A Day We Won't Forget

We won't ever forget today.

The day we met our children for the first time.

I cannot share their picture with you yet, so you will have to believe me when I tell you that we met 7 beautiful children today.

You could tell they felt like a piece of them was missing today with their middle brother not being there.  We will be meeting him next week.  We are less nervous about meeting him but just as excited.

I'm not sure what I expected today to be.  We've never experienced anything like this before.

Overall I would say it went very well.

For me, it was a roller coaster of emotions.

There were moments where I thought, "I am in love with these children.  Can we take them home with us today and start being a family?"

And then there were moments when I felt overwhelmed by it all.

Some of them are more outspoken than others.

Some of them are more affectionate than others.

They are all unique individuals and we look forward to getting to know each one of them.

We met the oldest boy first.  He had read our homestudy before meeting us.  He told Andrew he wants to be an architect and he wants to learn to play golf.

My heart about burst out of my chest at that moment.  

He and Andrew share two loves and immediately started talking about the projects they could do together and all the golf courses they could play together.

That connection put all of us at ease.

Then we met the youngest boy.

He is a ten year old little boy with LOTS of energy.

We took a few pictures with us to share with the kids and he just kept looking at them and looking at them.  He was soaking it all in.

He asked if we have a garden because he is good at watering things.

Maybe he can teach me how to keep a plant alive. :)

We met the two oldest girls next.  They were very quiet.  It was the only part of the day that was slightly awkward.  The oldest girl had a job interview this afternoon that we didn't know about.  She had a lot on her mind today.  

I would have been quiet too.

Next came meeting the other three girls.

(If you are keeping count that is 5 girls and 3 boys - one boy not being there today)

The youngest girl kept raising her hand to ask us questions.

She was very affectionate and gave us more hugs than we could count today.

Before we left she told Andrew to catch her.  She took off running and jumped into his arms.


Questions they had for us...

*What do you like to do for fun?
*Do you have soccer teams where you live?
*When are you going to adopt us?
*What are your rules?
*Who will share bedrooms?
*Will we have cell phones?
*Do you want a cat?
*Do you have our phone number?

I'm sure they will think of more as they have time to process today.

It was a lot to take in for all of us.

After the initial introductions and meetings we all went to the dining hall to have lunch together.  They opened up a little more at lunch.  That is when they asked most of their questions.  The two youngest made sure they go to sit by Andrew and me. A few of them showed us a dance they had learned at church camp.  

We spent a little bit of time outside after lunch.  Andrew shot hoops with a couple of them for a few minutes, but it was a thousand degrees outside.

During this time we kind of sat back and just watched them interact with each others.  It also gave us an opportunity visit with two people who know them better than anyone else.  

Andrew and I left emotionally exhausted.  There had been a lot of anticipation leading up to today.  We feel very good about how today went.  I don't think it could have gone any better.

Our next step will be to meet the middle brother next week and then we will start having visits with them in small groups to get to know them.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Twas the Night Before...

Tomorrow morning Andrew and I are going to meet our kids.

I can't even believe I just typed that sentence.

I can't believe we are finally to this point.

After years of infertility and months of paperwork the day is finally here.

We were officially matched with a sibling group last Wednesday and on last Friday we had a full disclosure meeting with their adoption specialist.

During that meeting we received the kids' full files and we were able to ask any and all questions that we had at the time.

Their full file included evaluations from when they entered foster care, every doctor appointment since then, their school records, and more information on their story and why they are in foster care.

It was a lot to take in.


I'm still not sure we've taken it all in.

That night I couldn't sleep.  I stayed up reading their files and crying.

I cried because of all they've been through.

I cried because I feel like they are ours.

I cried because it is not going to be an easy path ahead of us.

I just cried.

It felt so good to pour my heart out to my Father.  

I believe He has called us to this path and I believe He will carry us through every step.

But it can still feel extremely overwhelming.

I think I'm equal parts excited and terrified for what lies ahead.

I don't know how tomorrow is going to go.

Part of me wants love at first sight and instant connection.

But I know that might not be the case and that's okay.

I'm keep telling myself that tomorrow is simply about meeting them.  

We have time to get to know them and bond with them.  It doesn't all have to happen tomorrow.

I can't wait to see my husband interact with them.  

I can't wait to watch him fall in love with our kids.

To some extent we fell in love with them months ago when we first saw their picture.

We are told they want to be adopted and have been dreaming about their forever family for awhile now.  I hope tomorrow they find that forever family in us.

They are a beautiful group of 8 brothers and sisters.  Tomorrow we will meet 7 of them.  Unfortunately one of the boys is not currently in the same place as the others so we will meet him at another time.

I wonder what questions they will have for us.  They know why they are meeting us.  What are they thinking?  Are they as nervous and as excited as we are?

I've been praying since the beginning of this process that God would prepare our hearts to become part of our children's family and their hearts to become part of our family.

That is still my prayer as we walk down this path.

Tomorrow is a big day.

I can't wait.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Life Lately

Summer Vacation.

It's been a busy one so far.

Last Wednesday my best friend came to see me along with a few of our favorite students.  It was such a fun day.  I don't think I realized how much I missed those kiddos until they left that day.  I hope they come back again before summer is over.

Last week I had the blessing of hanging out with three of my favorite kiddos for a few days.  Andrew's dad and Cary came over to help put the roof on The Barn.  Sara wasn't able to join us so I got to hang out with Jackson, Millie, & Will.

We had the best time playing together.

While we played the guys made some progress on The Barn.

Saturday afternoon they all went home and I headed to my parents' house for a few hours.  They were babysitting Mikey & Ellie and I couldn't not go see those sweet babies.

I love this picture of him looking all alert with his little hands folded.

My teeny tiny and I took the best nap together.

Saturday we went to a going away party for Jill, Alex, Amelia, & Sydney.  They are moving to OKC.  We are sad to see them go but we are thrilled they are following God's calling.  He has big plans for them.

It's been a fun filled few days with family.

And a little adoption update...

Tomorrow the children's adoption specialist will have a meeting with 4 other key players.  They are going to sit down together and make sure that they are all in agreement that Andrew and I are a good match for these children.  After that we will get to meet with them to ask any questions that we might have as well as learn more information about the children.

Then it will be time to begin meeting them.

I can't believe it.

It seems to be happening very quickly all of a sudden.

 I am thrilled and terrified all at the same time.

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Little Mermaid and Golf

This past weekend we had a mini getaway with some of our favorite people.

Chris, Krystal, and Kandace picked me up Friday afternoon and we headed for Branson.

Andrew rode up with Cody & Pryce.

We all stayed in a condo at Willow Ridge Resort.  It was pretty nice and made us wish we could have stayed a couple of nights.  We were a little bummed about not getting to enjoy their pool.

The guys played Frisbee golf and miniature golf Friday evening.

The girls went to see The Little Mermaid.

Krystal and I may have been more excited than Kandace.

It was really good!  There were a few things that were different from the movie but for the most part they stuck to the story line.

One of my favorite parts was the wedding at the end.  When Ariel and Eric walked out, I was immediately taken back to my childhood.  They looked just like the dolls I received for Christmas one year.

Saturday morning the guys played a game of golf.  We weren't with them a whole lot through the weekend and apparently they didn't take selfies.  This is the only "guy" picture I have.  Thanks for the pic Cody.

We girls played a game of miniature golf and did some shopping.

It was a quick little get away, but so much fun.  Lots of laughter and fun memories.

The Process

We are officially an open home meaning we can now be matched with children.

When that happened is a little sketchy.

Our adoption journey has been a little tense lately.

The fun and excitement has been sucked out of it.

From the very beginning of the process we have been told that once we get to this point we would no longer have a state employee on our side.  We would pretty much be on our own.  We were told that if we saw a group we were interested in we were to contact their adoption specialist.

That's what we did.  

Last Thursday we met with an adoption specialist in our area.  She had matched us with a sibling group of three little girls.  

Through meeting with her about the three little girls we learned that we do have an adoption specialist on our side.

There is someone that serves as our go-between so to speak.

Things got ugly.

We side stepped a few steps of the process by talking to the adoption specialist of the group we are interested in.

Today the offer of the three little girls was withdrawn.  They will no longer consider us for that group.

Andrew and I had already determined that these three little girls were not meant to be ours.

Our adoption specialist that works for us has removed herself from the process of us pursuing the original group.  

It's been a very frustrating few days.

For the past several months we have been asking the right questions and have been getting the wrong answers.

We now know the process and will follow those procedures.

I'm writing this post simply to inform any one who might happen to read it and be pursuing adoption.  I know that it is different in every state, but here in Arkansas you DO have someone who will work with you and for you once you are an open home.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Adoption Update and SSMT Verse #11

One year ago last Thursday Andrew and I visited with an infertility specialist for the first time.  I remember having very mixed emotions that day.  There was a part of me that was thrilled to finally be doing something, to finally being taking another step toward building our family.  But there was also a part of me that wondered what we were doing there because we both felt like infertility treatments were not the path we would take.

Maybe things would have turned out differently if we had received a diagnosis other than unexplained infertility.  Maybe if the doctor had been able to pinpoint a reason as to why we had not gotten pregnant yet...

About three months after that diagnosis we very briefly discussed the idea of doing a round of IUI.  Again I was thrilled to be talking about another step forward, but deep down it didn't feel right.  I had no peace about that decision.

It was then that God stepped in in a very big way and opened the door to adoption.

That step forward was filled with a peace that can only come from God.

We felt and still feel certain that God is calling us to adopt a sibling group.

For several months now we have been praying about a sibling group of ten.

Sure some of our family and friends think we have lost our minds.

And maybe we have.

But we are seeking God's will and that makes it feel a little less crazy to us.

This past Saturday we were able to meet with that group's adoption specialist and learn a little more about their story.  

The two youngest are in a pre-adoptive placement and are a month away from having their adoption finalized.

Such mixed emotions.

I'm happy they have found a loving family.

But it breaks my heart that they have been separated from their older brothers and sisters.

For the rest of the day I just felt incomplete after hearing this news.

We talked with the adoption specialist for almost thirty minutes.  

Standing there talking about this group of children and calling them by name...

It made them feel more like my kids.

I can't count how many times we told her we wanted them - all of them.

I am so ready to meet my children, to bring them home, and to start becoming a family.

But I'm struggling with the separation of this group.

I hate that it happened.

I hate that we didn't start this process sooner so that we could have prevented this.

God is asking me to lean on him, to trust him.

And that's hard.

Really hard.

And that's why my 11th memory verse for SSMT is 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18