Christmas Letters 2016

To my oldest Greyson,
I have sure been thinking about you a lot this Christmas season. I have so many blessings and I try to count every one but you are one blessing I am constantly missing. As the days go by and your aunts bring presents to your sister and we go to various holiday events, I always wonder how you would have liked the lights or the live nativity or baking cookies.

You’d be in kindergarten this year, my big boy. I know I would have cried and cried on your first day but I hope you would have been brave. You’d probably be in the same classroom I was in for kindergarten and maybe you would have a little crush on your teacher. Maybe you’d be reading a little bit by now or at least picking out words in the Christmas books I keep under the tree.

Would you have a chore or two on our farm?… I know you’d be PawPaw’s pride and joy and Uncle E’s little helper. Would this be the year for a big two wheel bike under the tree or a puppy dog for you to grow up with?

I often envision you as a serious boy…quite the opposite of your sister. I hope you’d be the best of friends but I know there would have been squabbles and tattletales.

I wish you were here, my precious one. I miss you and I want you here. I always want you here.

Love,
Mama
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Dear Jack and Aaron,
As I sit here listening to your sister singing in the shower, I can’t help but wonder what it would have been like with you here. Three years old…one of the best “Santa” years of your life. You would have so much wonder on your face at the #Christmas lights and decorations. Would you have been shy when visiting Santa? What would it have been like preparing 4 Christmas eve boxes instead of just one? Little boy footie pajamas and Christmas books, hot coco and popcorn.

I always imagine you, Jack, leading your brother into mischief and you, Aaron, trying to lead him out of it. I think you would have run rough shod over our farm, making it your playground. I can just hear your laughter and myself yelling after you both. Would you have been my helper at home too? Would you have constantly gotten into your sister and brother’s stuff and annoyed them by tagging along when they were doing big kid stuff?

Oh the two of you…how do I get along down here without you. I think about you all the time and I miss you so much, my little ones.
Love
Mama

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We’re Adopted!!

Friends,  So much has happened in my blogging absence.  I’m so sorry to have kept you waiting so long.  Truth is things are pretty stable and I’m ok.. I’m good.. We’re good. (I’m afraid to actually say the h-@-P-p-? word)  Sunny and I have been through a lot in the past few months up to our adoption.  Temper tantrums, emotional manipulation, lying, bed wetting, bickering, screaming fights, the whole gamut.  Hopefully I will get back into the habit of blogging and write about some of it.  There has also been bonding, teaching, cuddling, laughing, playing, note writing, inside jokes, overall a lot of that H word I mentioned earlier.

Here’s our adoption story.

First of all, her middle brother was adopted the Monday before our adoption so we were able to attend.  We called it the “dress rehearsal” for our own big day.  At the courthouse, we went through the metal detector and Sunny asked a lot of questions.  The brother was acting a little weird I thought.  Kind of off by himself and at one point lying down on a bench while we were waiting.  We waited a long time but finally were called into the courtroom which was huge and there was a lot of happy nervousness.  The lawyer asked the foster parents a lot of questions like where they lived and other stuff for the record, then went into questions about the child.  Asking if they understood that in case of divorce there would be custody and support agreements.  Foster mother joked there better NOT be a divorce.  She asked the brother some questions too.  And then the judge made a little speech about how this family had been on her radar for a long time and how glad she was to be able to preside over the adoption.  Pictures were taken and that was it.  It took less than 20 minutes.

Sunny was kind of tearful later that day and a couple days after.  Finally, I got her to tell me she was worried her brother wasn’t her brother any more.  I assured her that her brother would always be her brother and that the three of them were the only ones with the same set of memories about her parents and family, that she could still call and see her brothers anytime she wanted.  I told her that her family was only getting bigger by adoption, not smaller.  Although we had talked a little about it beforehand, I hadn’t anticipated this being so difficult for her.

Three days later was our adoption.  We were both so excited and nervous and happy. We were going to have a little reception in our church basement so she and I went there first to set up tables and decorate a little.  We ended up being way a head of time and MB came to hang out for a few minutes and be giddy with us.

Off to the courthouse… I walked in trailing our entourage of 20+ people.  We were in a different courtroom which was very small so a lot of people had to stand.  Also, a few people had trouble passing through security because of lighters, soda, etc in their purses. My mother was one of them and so was late.  The judge was ready a few minutes early so it was kind of a rush to get every one in.  It was kind of a nervous time.  I didn’t want to be adopted without my mom there.  Nobody offered and I didn’t think to ask someone to stay by the elevators to let the late comers know which courtroom we were in.  Anyway, they waited and eventually every one made it into the courtroom except MC who’d gotten stuck in security.

Sunny was just so bright eyed sitting next to me in the court room.  Seemed like we couldn’t believe it was happening.  I was asked to sign a paper.  The judge came in and started asking questions of a young man who I’d never seen before.  Eventually I figured out it was the kids’ guardian ad litem. The judge asked him if he’d checked out and researched the homes.  I immediately got uncomfortable because obviously he hadn’t. Shelly said she’d never met the man.  He answered that he didn’t see the home himself but had gotten reports from social workers and CASA workers.    The judge was the brother of SC, a long time friend of mine.  He asked me a little about where I was living and commented on how long he’d known me.  He said a few things about how wonderful it was to see a successful story like this after so many that don’t turn out so well.  He made a couple very dry jokes and to me he was the image of his father who I’d grown up hearing shout down the stairs that our slumber party at SC’s house was getting too loud.  That was about it.  It was a little anticlimactic to tell the truth.  Sunny actually turned to me afterwards and said, “Is that it?  Are we adopted?”

Luckily, everyone who was there crowded around with hugs and laughs and tears. Pastor J offered my mom a tissue from a wad of soggy ones in her hand.  We took photos with the judge.  The 15 year old brother actually smiled.  The courtroom next door sent someone over to tell us we were being too loud.  My lawyer herded us downstairs to wait for paperwork.

The whole thing was very surreal.  I kept thinking about my little boys and being their mother and now becoming Sunny’s mom.  Such a journey.  I was happy… I mean I was smiling and laughing and talking to people and hugging and keeping my hand on Sunny’s shoulder but I have to admit there was this feeling of something in my chest.  Like a bubble of pure happiness that just sat there.  I couldn’t seem to release it all the way.  Very strange and it stayed with me for days.  Really it’s still with me a little now…I’m hoping journaling will help me feel the full emotions.

Afterwards everyone trouped to the church and we had adorable little bluebird cookies with ice cream and lots of gifts for Sunny.  Many of the gifts were sentimental.  My coworker and her grandson made a stepping stone with our names and the date on it.  The one that got me crying was a Willow Tree figure from SC.  My friends had given me one when Greyson died and I spent a lot of time looking at that sad little angel.  Now I have a mother/daughter one and Sunny has a little girl one.  Such a silly thing but it really touched me.

In the days that followed, Sunny was very clinging and it was totally obvious how happy and relieved she was.  We tend to forget just unsure their lives are.  She is now working on calling me Mom.  So far this summer my name has officially been, “Paige, Watch This!”, now it is, “Paige, Paige….Mom”.

I’m a Mom.
Adoption Selfie Bluebird eating Cookie

Sleepover

Very exciting happenings here….Sunny has had a friend over (who is not related to me) for the first time.  Squeee!  I thought this might never happen.  She talks about this friend of her’s from school every day…EVERY day.  And sometimes the stories aren’t too nice but I’m sure the stories about Sunny aren’t all nice either.

They got off the bus together giggling and very quickly my house became the victim of Hurricane Girl.  Running around, screaming, laughing, dancing, singing..all in high heels and dress up gowns.  At bedtime, I found myself sighing in contentment, as the noise in the next room went from loud laughter and squeals to softer giggles and whispering finally to silence..  This is a big step for Sunny.

I have to say the girl is annoying and very bossy and eats with her mouth open and she talks about making her mom do and buy stuff but who cares.  She’s also creative and fun and has a strong personality which is a good counterpart for Sunny’s.

The friend had told Sunny that she was also a foster kid who had been abandoned as a baby which may explain the attraction. Later on we found out that was a mistake or a “story”. Anyway, I’m thrilled for Sunny to have made this transition from school friend to a friend that visits us at home.

One exchange I enjoyed:

Sunny:  Paige, can we….                                                                                                                                   JR:  Call her Mom!                                                                                                                                               Sunny:  Umm I do sometimes.                                                                                                                        JR:  You live with her so you should call her Mom ALL the time.

 

 

Adoption Worker

Our usual SW is young, energetic and friendly, ASW is serious, older and not too humorous.  She made Sunny uncomfortable from the start.  This lady was very into her paperwork and asking me to clarify some of my answers.  She asked me some pretty personal stuff, like why I was on antidepressants and if I hadn’t been married, how did my pregnancies come about.  She also asked some not too personal stuff such as what do Sunny and I like to do together.  She took notes on everything.

Although, Sunny gave it her best adorable shot, ASW was having none of it.  She just didn’t chat much at all or want to talk or play with Sunny.  In fact, the only time she got remotely animated was when I asked her how long she’d been in social work and about her family. She has 7 kids, 4 of them adopted.

But regardless of personal observations, she seems to be competent.  She said she was ready to mail off our packet with the exception of one little missing piece.  I have to call Sunny’s dentist and have them write a letter stating that Sunny may someday need braces. Obscure, no?

Next steps?  ASW will mail a two inch stack of paperwork off to DC.FS.  She will also mail a packet to my lawyer.  In a week or two, the lawyer will set up an appointment to go over every thing with me.  After that, provided all goes smoothly and there are no corrections to do on the paperwork, it’s just waiting on the government and the court system.

Hired A Lawyer

I’ve hired an adoption lawyer.  I had a choice of hiring my own, DC.FS would reimburse up to a certain amount, or choosing a lawyer who contracts with DC.FS and all costs would be covered.  The lawyer who SC and I talked to when her student was pregnant is one who contracts with DC.FS so I felt comfortable choosing her.  I just called her office and answered a few questions for the assistant, they mailed me a contract which I signed and mailed back.

Adoption Classes

I’ve taken three classes required for adoption:  Foster to Adopt, Lifebooks and Journey to Attachment. There was not much new information for me in these classes but there were good reminders and some good ideas.  Although there are physical classes too, I took these online.  It was nice to work at my own pace.  I think they each took about an hour maybe a bit more.  Just be warned, if you are taking these, Lifebooks and Attachment classes have essay evaluations at the end.  If I had know that, I probably would have taken notes.  Good to have them out of the way.

Home Study Questions

The Adoption Social Work has been communicating with me through email and has scheduled a visit.  She asked me to answer a whole bunch of questions and return it via email.  Some very personal questions on there, many of the same questions I’d answered for the foster parenting application.  Here is the questionnaire in case anyone is interested.

Home Study Questionnaire

Name (Full name), including maiden name, Date of Birth and where you born:

Parents Names, including maiden name, married/divorced/decease (due to what), if they are remarried, please provide that information

Describe your relationship with them.

Siblings? First and last names, age and where they live:

Describe your relationship with them

Where did you grow up (do you still have ties to that community, if so why/how)

Describe your childhood and describe a fond memory from your childhood and a bad memory:

Please describe discipline used by your parents when you misbehaved:

Physical description: height, weight, eye color, hair color:

Date of Marriage and where it took place:

How did you meet your spouse:

Information on your children, name and date of birth:

Is this your first marriage, if not list previous marriages and children that are the result of it:

Include date(s) of marriage, divorce date(s), child(ren) from the union(s), and reason(s) for divorce.

Describe your marriage:

Employment History (Starting from last 20 years until current job, please include years of employment, job title, where, and why no longer employed)

Financial support:
Annual Income –
Utilities –
Phone –
Car Payment –
Insurance (Auto, home, life) –
House payment/rent:
Retirement –
Credit Cards/Loans –
Trash/water/sewer –
Groceries:
Prescription medication –
Recreational activities –

Describe your home:  how many bedrooms, bathrooms, dining room, kitchen, laundry room, basement, garage, who rooms in each room with who, etc.. If children share a room do they have their own bed?

Education History (List schools and dates attended) and degrees obtained

Suspensions/expulsions? If so why?

Grades/activities in school and growing up

Military training?

What branch and dates:

Do you participate in any religious activities, if so what denomination?

Where do you participate in religious activities?

How often do you participate in religious activities?

What made you decide to adopt?

Back-up caregiver:  Name/relation, phone, and address

(Is back-up caregiver in agreement with being back-up caregiver?)

How is the back-up caregiver involved with the family?

Physical health conditions? How often do you see the dr for this condition?

Do you take any prescribed medications, if so name, frequency and dosage?

Any substance abuse issues or mental health issues?

What are your hobbies?

How do you think people in the community would describe you? Please describe personal character.

What is your child care plan: (I.e. babysitter, daycare):

What is your response to behavioral issues (Mean of discipline)?

What are your adoptive child’s strengths?  What are the hobbies of the child?  What do they enjoy doing?

How do you feel about contact with their biological family (parents, siblings and other family?)

Do you understand the child’s background and history?

Do you know the community resources available to you and how to utilize them if needed?

Proposed name of child:

Child’s Dr name and phone number:

Child’s school name, address and phone of school

Teachers name and phone and email

Child’s daycare name and phone number

Teachers at daycare or owner name:

Personal reference name and phone number:

Please feel free to add any additional information that you feel might be important or something that I may have missed.

If there are ANY charges or hits on your background please go into detail about the circumstances of the charges.  Please include dates, what happened to the charges (dismissed, fine paid, jail time served).  Please be very specific.

Sunny’s Baptism

First off, I’d like to say I in no way pushed this child into this.  We were volunteering this summer at Mt. J. Baptist Church.  When she read the sign, she shouted, “I want to be baptized!”  and she didn’t drop the subject for weeks.  DC.FS has a rule that the kids can’t be baptized unless they have been placed 6 months or longer and also it’s one of the few things the birth parents can control, although not in our case because the parents surrendered their rights. So when we realized that six months time came close to Valentine’s Day and it fell on a Sunday it seemed like the perfect day to do it.  It might have been my most memorable V day ever.

Sunny was so so excited.  She’s been telling people for weeks about the upcoming event. I’ve been working hard on decorations and food, etc.  The biggest snow storm of the year occurred on the same day so we fought our way through the weather as did quite a few of our guests.  I was gratified to see so many people gather around for Sunny and me.  We both felt very loved.

Earlier in the service during children’s time, Pastor J mentioned that there was a lot going on this Sunday.  First Sunday of Lent, Valentine’s Day and Sunny’s baptism at which point Sunny turned around and “princess waved” to the congregation.

I was surprised to be so emotional on this day.  I was just so proud of her and so happy to see her happy.  I was tearful…I remembered Jack and Aaron’s baptism in the hospital after they were born and I wished my boys could all be there.  To make them part of the day in a small way, I had dedicated the flowers to the memory of Greyson, Mavis, Jack and Aaron.

After she baptizes babies, Pastor J always walks, with them in her arms, up and down the aisle showing them to every one.  She tells the congregation that forever forward, when they see this child running in the aisle or playing in the nursery he or she belongs to us.  They are part of our church family now.  It’s the part that’s toughest for me because envision every thing that should have been for my boys.  But this time it was nothing but pure joy.  Sunny was so happy and looked so “light”.

Afterwards, Pastor J said God had really “showed up” for this one and she was so overwhelmed, she nearly forgot what to do next.

Sunny was so sweet and adorable and so in love with this day.

We went down to the church’s hospitality room, decorated with pink and hearts and flowers.  It was awfully cute, even if I do say so myself.  Sunny had practiced a little speech welcoming every one and thanking them for coming before inviting them to pray together and eat.  She charmed every one.

I hope Sunny will always remember this day with joy.  I know I will.

Here are a few of the decorations:
We had a hot chocolate bar and Sunny helped with some of the signs:
Coco Sign   Coco Bar Instructions
Baptism Desserts

 

Granddaughter From Another

Sunny is a lot like my mom.  Colorful personality and will say anything.  On a recent trip to a discount store, Dad went in with Sunny looking for a watch battery while Mom and I chatted in the car.

Sunny comes tooting out having talked PawPaw into buying her a St. Patrick’s Day pair of long fingerless gloves made out of sort of a crocheted netting with a St. Patrick’s Day button pinned onto one.

Who would buy such gaudy things you ask… My Mother:  “I bought the same ones!”

I don’t know where she thinks she’s going to wear such a tacky accessory.  But the really funny thing was this, “Oh, Sunny, I took that button off too…that was tacky!”

Umbilical Cords

This morning Sunny asked me if babies had some sort of “black thing” on them.  After questioning her further and her coming out with the phrases “dried up” and “like a stick”. I deduced she was talking about the umbilical cord.  Apparently, this was mentioned in one of the “D.iary of a W.impy K.id” books?  Strange topic for a kids’ book, I thought.  We had a long talk about the umbilical cord and what it does and how does it do that?? and where it goes after the baby is born and had she had one and had I and does every one?

This evening Sunny brought home a S.cholastic book order.  As I’m sure many of you know, this is a source of great anticipation and excitement for kids.  We spent a long time pouring over the pages making decision about which book (and other junk like a fake cell phone that squirts water) should be had.  Sunny asked me if she could pick out a book for this kid at school who she had found out likes to read but has no books at home.  He wished he had a G.oose B.umps book.  She wanted to spend her own money for it.

What remarkable and surprising conversations to have in my life!  What a remarkable and surprising girl!  And giving and curious….   Never could have imagined….

What will come out of that brain of her’s next….stay tuned…