He’s our boy forever and ever!

Each month our adoption case worker would say, “next month should be the month!” Well, we’ve heard that since October, unfortunately. We kept asking our lawyer if he heard anything from the courts and then last Friday, we got the news!

Thursday March 5, 2015 would be the day that we get to adopt our boy!

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Yes, this silly boy!

We took the day off and went down to the courthouse. We told Xander (aka Buddy) that today would be the day that he would be our boy forever and ever! I’ve had an outfit ready for him for a couple of months now and my husband was able to find something that closely matched. My parents and sister and brother were there as well as three different caseworkers we’ve worked with.

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Aren’t they handsome?!

The judge came over and asked Xander a couple of questions about if he had a dog or cat and what their names were. How old he was, etc. She gave him a nice book on adoption and a couple other people had gifts for him on his special day. She asked him if he knew how to do a drum roll and we all practiced how to do one by patting our fingers on the table. She said, “when I tell you, do a drum roll and we’ll all shout Yeahhhh!!!” She signed three papers, asked for a drum roll and we all cheered!

It took us longer to take all the pictures than the actual adoption, but it was a perfect ending and such a great day. We walked out of that court room a little taller and a little prouder that our boy was officially ours at last!

We went and picked up a cake and came home to rest before going out to eat. I went and changed out of the dreadful dress and pantyhose that were much less comfortable than my maternity yoga pants. Then, I heard my husband’s frantic yell, “Noooooo!!!!!” Xander’s kitty sat on the cake box! At first I was really upset that the cake was ruined. My husband desperately tried to fix the frosting to make it less of a wreck. Then, I realized that I can’t let a cake ruin my wonderful day. It’s just a symbol for our family. We are not perfect and we will wear that badge proudly. I kissed and hugged my husband and handed him some sprinkles. “Sprinkles make everything better, right?!”

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Sprinkles make everything better!

We enjoyed our dinner out with our family and Xander didn’t want the day to end. We reminded him that this is his family forever and ever. He was okay with that.

We headed home and my husband Matt’s aunt called me to congratulate us on our special day. She said that it was also Matt’s Dad’s birthday. He had passed when Matt was a teenager. We gave Xander his name as a middle name. So he’s Alexander Allen Cole. His Dad must have been looking down on us the whole time and made this day even more special, if that is even possible!

We are truly blessed to have this wonderful, amazing and imaginative little boy in our lives who we’re lucky enough to call our son! While this journey has been difficult, I would do it a million times over to have Xander in our lives. He will also be a big brother in a month or less! He is going to be the best big brother ever! We love our boy to pieces!

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Giving Myself Permission to be Selfish

Again we sat in the waiting room as lawyers were allowed into the court room. It’s really starting to sound like Groundhog’s Day isn’t it?
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When we were allowed in, it was just a repeat of the month before. Bio-mom wants a chance to prove herself once she gets out of jail in June. The fact-finding porting of the TPR is still set for next month, but they’re holding off until August for disposition. My heart sank. August? Why? The caseworker said that it’s a really big deal to take away a parent’s rights. They want to give her every possible chance.

Oh, and by the way, they heard from supposed bio-dad. UMMMM, WHATTTTT????!!!! He is on a ship (Navy, Marines?) until June. The DSS lawyer had a cell phone number. The caseworker didn’t even know about it. I’m hoping that he’s just sick of the letters he’s been receiving for the past year and a half and is going to sign a paper saying that he wants nothing to do with Buddy after never seeing him or having contact with him in 3 years. They did the same thing with bio-mom’s estranged husband a few months back. DSS is all about the drama, I swear!

Anyway, I understand that it’s a big deal to take away a person’s rights to their child. I couldn’t imagine being in bio-mom’s position. The thing is that, I never would be. I’ve never tried a drug in my life and I’ve got a very supportive family. I’ve thought before, how selfish I am for wanting her to give up her child to me. How selfish it is to think I am any more deserving than she is. In the end, what it comes down to is that, she will go right back to her old ways. She will go back to her old friends. She unfortunately has no family to support her. This is about what is best for Buddy and being with us is what is best for him. That might be selfish on my part, but he deserves the safe, secure, nurturing and loving home that we can provide. She is dragging court out for herself, not for him. She didn’t even send him a letter for Christmas or his birthday. How is that being a parent?

So again we wait, but I thought about it and said, so, we’re looking to adopt him in the next six months. That doesn’t sound too bad! We’ve got a lawyer now and he even coached the judge’s son’s soccer team and they’re good friends! These are all positive things.

Hurry Up and Wait

I wrote this after last month’s court date, so here it is, better late than never.

We all filed into the court room with nervous anticipation of what the day could bring. Would we be celebrating the end of Buddy’s 18 months in foster care or disappointed when we’re strung out until another court date?

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When the judge asked the court appointed lawyer about bio-mom’s intentions, he commented that despite having sent her a letter at the jail, he received no response from her and had only met with his client moments before court. He was however, able to find out that she wants Buddy back when she gets out of jail in June.

I know bio-mom will not get Buddy back. It’s too late for that. I’ve been told numerous times that this is a really solid case. I also see her side of things and realize that the closer we get to her release date, the more she thinks she can get him back. Gone are the days of sentimentality surrounding the Christmas holiday and any hints to the possibility of surrender. The lawyer for DSS said that they would offer her a picture and a letter on the condition of a surrender, but had no incentives for her. The judge set up a pretrial date for April to give her one last chance to surrender. She also set aside two full days for the TPR hearing in May.

So, not surprisingly, we were strung out for more court dates. Yes, I’m desperately hoping for a surrender, but I will try not to keep my hopes up. The part that bothered me was actually before court even started. I like Buddy’s caseworker and lawyer. They’re probably among the best, however they are not without their faults. While waiting for court to start in the little waiting room, my husband and I are on pins and needles in anticipation of what the future holds with our little man. Buddy’s lawyer was more concerned with a criminal trial he had to get to and pick a jury for. The caseworker was shooting the breeze with the court police officer. I know it’s just another day for these guys. I’m sure that they have to distance themselves in order to keep sane. However, I couldn’t help but feel that it was all really unprofessional to do in front of us. We felt like nobody cared about Buddy. It was just another day for them.

My husband decided to call an adoption attorney. There are only two in our city that specifically deal with adoptions. I met the woman attorney twice before and wasn’t impressed. She fostered teenagers and basically just let them run the streets. She wasn’t in it to be a “mom.” The other attorney came highly recommended. However, I’m still not working, and the thought of having thousands of dollars in attorney fees just didn’t appeal to me. However, Hubby said he’d work all the overtime he had to, to make sure we had a voice. As it turns out, there is actually a grant available and the costs will be minimal if anything at all! This was good news.

One Year Ago Today…

One year ago today we opened our home and our hearts to a little man who has forever changed our world. Our Buddy came in with his bright blue eyes, long eye lashes and a head full of blonde curls. He immediately got out some toys and quietly began to play. We were smitten immediately.

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I didn’t think that I could ever foster again after the pain of losing a previous foster baby. Yet my heart longed for a child so badly that I was willing to risk the pain one last time. I’m so glad that we did. Buddy had already spent six months in the system with another family in another county, so he was half way through his year. We have had some rough moments, but there have been plenty of good and I know that it’s a combination of his past and just being three years old. Now, in 10 days we go back to court and hopefully bio-mom will sign the surrender and he will forever be ours.

I love you Buddy, and even though I think of you as my son already, I can’t wait for the day when it’s official and we can celebrate your adoption! Happy One Year Buddy!

The Waiting Game

I so wish you could see the expression on his face! This boy has swagger!

I so wish you could see the expression on his face! This boy has swagger!

Our TPR court date was postponed again. We don’t know why this time. The caseworker just got an email saying that the date was pushed back to March.

At our last home visit, she also told us that, even if bio-mom relinquished her rights, the adoption probably wouldn’t be finalized until around November (so much for my hope of summer). I figured it would happen right away. So much for what I know. I guess I can always keep my fingers crossed for a really efficient adoption caseworker.

I don’t know about other people, but my earliest memories in life are from when I was three years old. So, with Buddy turning 3, I just want all this to be over for him. I want him to have happy memories. I don’t want him to remember jail visits and having anxiety from different workers coming to the house. I just want him to be “our” kid and not a “foster” kid.

We also found out that bio-mom’s felony charges were reduced to misdemeanors and her sentencing is running concurrently, so she won’t get more time. What that teaches her; I don’t know. It made me sick to my stomach, but it is what it is.

The most ironic thing has been the visits. I was really upset when this program started, and now he’s only had to go once and we got a different worker! So, things have really worked out in our favor as far as all that stuff is concerned. Which is great! How crazy is it that we have had snow days on 3 separate visits (the program follows the school districts)?! Fingers crossed, the last scheduled visit can be a good bye visit and we’ll be done!

We have a call in to Buddy’s lawyer asking him to persuade bio-mom’s lawyer to go talk to her about relinquishing her rights. The caseworker said that her lawyer is lazy and probably wouldn’t see her until five minutes before court started. Buddy’s lawyer is awesome and said that he’d do whatever he could to help the process, so we’re hoping he has some influence.

So, more waiting until next month.

Super Birthday

ImageLast weekend was a special one for us all. It was Buddy’s 3rd birthday and the first one we’ve gotten to celebrate with him. We decorated the dining room with a big Avengers backdrop. There were Spider-man balloons and a banner that said Happy 3rd Birthday. I made a big 3 and decorated it in red, white and blue. Silver spirals hung from the ceiling with dangling stars.

ImageI made him a shirt with his name and superheroes inside a big 3, with a cape (see pics). I requested that everyone wear a Superhero shirt if they had one to go along with our theme. Buddy always calls me Wonder Woman and I actually found a shirt (with a cape, he, he!) on sale at Walmart. Daddy was Batman (of course, that’s his favorite). My sister outfitted the whole family with super shirts; it was awesome!

ImageBuddy requested green frosting for his cupcakes that he brought to daycare the day before. I decorated them with Spider-man faces and wrappers. They played birthday games and sang to him. We invited some friends to the bounce house and played for a couple of hours. He jumped, ran, maneuvered through obstacles and went down the slide to his heart’s content. Then we all came back to the house for pizza and salad and a chocolate (his request) Avenger’s cake. Still not understanding how presents work exactly, he came into the room singing Jingle Bells thinking that Santa had brought him his birthday gifts. We got him a train set and a play set that’s interchangeable with a workbench, school desk or kitchen. He got lots of super heroes and more. It was a great day.

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A Buddy for Buddy

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In a little over two years (boy it seems longer!), we have gotten calls for 9 foster children and accepted three into our home. Yesterday was the first time we have been asked to foster a girl!

Let’s see… 1. A medically fragile child call during the night but was placed by the time we heard the message. 2. A 12 year old boy we took; which turned out not to be a good fit. 3. A boy who was a run away and truant in school that we declined since we were having enough problems with the current child. 4. A few months later we got a call for a newborn who ended up going with family before even being placed with us. 5. A three month old baby who stayed with us for six months. 6. A baby on respite, but two babies would have been too much. 7. After the baby went back to his parents we got a call for a three year old, but it was just too soon. 8. Our beloved Buddy. 9. The baby girl.

I started to wonder if there was something written in our file saying that we didn’t want girls or something, since we’ve never been asked to take one. We had been out running some errands when I saw that there was a message on my phone. It was Child and Family Services asking if we would take a baby girl for a few weeks. By the time I had called back, someone had already taken her. The worker asked if we were going to take her and I said I would have liked to ask a few question first. No, we most likely wouldn’t have taken her.

I know, that’s what we signed up for, to foster children, whether they stay or not. I don’t know what the circumstances were surrounding this child since someone already said they’d take her, but I think a baby would be too difficult for me to take into my home and then let go, no matter how long.

Today we went to Wendy’s for dinner so Mommy didn’t have to cook. There was another little boy Buddy’s age and he immediately gravitated toward Buddy and they wanted to play instead of eat. As we left, my husband said, “it’s too bad that we’re all strangers, it would be nice to set up a play date. It looked like that little boy could really use a friend.” Buddy chimes in, “Yeah, me too!” To which we both went, “Awwwwwww!!!”

As he gets older, I’m sure he’ll have many more little playmates from school. I’d love for Buddy to have another little brother or sister, but I don’t know how he would feel if we had another child in our home and then they had to go back into foster care. I know I wouldn’t do well.

Photo credit: mikebaird / Foter.com / CC BY

Taking the Good with the Bad

This is our lab mix Frannie, who is completely mortified for having to wear antlers.

This is our lab mix Frannie, who is completely mortified for having to wear antlers.

I have been busy, as I’m sure everyone has, with the holidays. Thanksgiving was wonderful. I was able to eat freely for the first time in 2 years, my mom is healthy and my little man was with us. He got to play in the snow with the cousins.¬†Great times all around.

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The reason why I blog is because I want others to know the truth. I’m not one to sugar coat anything. I tell it how it is. So, more times than not, my blogs are negative. It’s not how I want to be as a person, it’s just reality sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, every day is a blessing in it’s own way, but a lot of the times the bad outweighs the good. I don’t want to seem like I’m always down on the foster care system, but it does nothing to help itself. If it wasn’t for Buddy’s amazing caseworker, I would think that there was nobody in his corner.

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He is supposed to visit his bio-mom in jail. The first visit went fine, the second visit was pure torture and we had to force him to see her. That still kills me. Now, he’s going to this program that bio-mom got approved for, and with every word I hear about what it entails, the more I hate it, and the more I wish I could say NO!

Buddy will go for 1-1/2 hour visits with bio-mom at the jail in a pre-school type setting, where I’m told, that she will teach Buddy a lesson in an effort to reconnect. Yes, reconnect with the woman he hasn’t regularly seen in a year. Then, twice a month a worker from the program will come to our home (more than even social services) to teach us the lesson, so that we can re-enforce it here. This is just what I gathered over the phone. Tomorrow someone is coming to the house to tell us more. What exactly bio-mom is going to teach him, I can’t even imagine. I’m so beside myself about it.

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I keep trying to think of the positives. Buddy is the most resilient little man I know. Somehow he always manages to do alright. It’s only 3 hours a month. If TPR goes through it will end.

However, the negatives creep in: there will be behaviors, there will be anxiety for him and me, there will be night terrors, there will be things we have to deal with because she was so selfish and enlisted in this program (by selfish, I mean thinking of herself and not how it will impact Buddy). I don’t think that this will end at TPR because she is so disillusioned that she thinks she’s getting him back when she gets out of jail. So, she’s going to drag this out further, and confuse Buddy some more.

Since the jail visits have started, Buddy has started to hate going to daycare. He’s fine once he’s there, but getting him up in the morning is another story. Once he gets home, he clings to me or my husband and is afraid to leave our sides.

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Anyway, for the good days that aren’t anxiety ridden… Buddy doesn’t like the way I play superheroes with him, so I’ll try to do fun activities he likes, whether it’s going out somewhere, playing a game, play dough or doing a craft. We made a gingerbread house. Buddy liked putting the candy on and putting it all together with icing and some of his leftover Halloween candy. Most of the candy went on the house as oppose to his belly, but he really liked the icing and kept taking swipes of it off the roof. He was proud of himself when it was done. He didn’t quite get that it was just to look at and not eat (not as fun).

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We took him to the mall to see Santa and get his picture taken. We talked about this for quite a while and Buddy was pretty scared. When you think about it, who wouldn’t be? You want a child to sit on some strange man’s lap? You wouldn’t go for that in any other setting. So we practiced at home and my husband pretended to be Santa. We practiced what he would say. We went to a small mall near us where I knew there wouldn’t be a ton of people and he was a champ! It took a little effort to get him to smile for his picture, but he did really great. He said he wanted Ninja Turtles and still doesn’t quite get how the concept of Christmas works, so when I’ve gotten packages in the mail, he asks if those are his turtles from Santa. “Not yet, Santa will leave them under the tree for you to open on Christmas morning. You have a few more weeks yet.” Then he said, “No, Santa’s not going to leave the presents under the tree, there is no room.” “Okay, okay, you’re right, so he’ll probably put them next to the tree,” I said. “No, he’ll put them AROUND the tree,” Buddy says very matter of factly. He is going to be three years old in a month after all, so he should know!

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One afternoon I asked him if he wanted to help me put the tree up and he said no that he was watching Avengers Assemble. Him and TV (insert eye roll here!). So that night I brought the tree down (yes artificial, I never realized how much effort my dad put into a real tree. Plus pine needles! Yuck!), sorted out the non-breakable from the breakable ornaments and left the latter up in the attic. The next morning he came down stairs and said, “who did that?” I said, I brought down the tree; I thought we’d decorate after breakfast. He did awesome. He picked out ornaments and hung them on the tree. Sometimes multiple on one branch, but not bad. Then once we ran out, he asked for a couple back: a cat, a soldier and a ship and he took them on the couch to play with (not breakable, see, thinking ahead!). I told him that they needed to stay on the tree, and that was that. He hasn’t touched an ornament since. I also have this big Sesame Street Snow Globe (about a foot and a half around) that I have in front of the tree and he will turn that on and it will snow and play music, so he’s been happy doing that. Of course, he did it continuously when I was trying to make a phone call to see where one of my Christmas gifts was that was on back-order (I wasn’t paying attention to him you see).

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The other day we made salt dough ornaments. It was my first time making them, so they didn’t turn out great, but he had fun helping me roll out the dough, use the cookie cutters and make them into designs. Then he “did the dishes,” which consists of him rinsing off already washed dishes from the dish rack, getting really wet and drinking from the faucet with a spoon, but he had a good time doing it!

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So, while I’m not always the most positive person, I hope that at least someone else out there can go, “wow, she had to deal with that crap too!” and feel a little bit better that they’re not alone. I have really taken solace in reading other people’s blogs and thank my lucky stars that I’m not the only one going through this. If any one else has stories about jail visits, I’d love to hear them.

Before and After

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When I got married I was 70 lbs. heavier. I had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, pre-diabetes, hypothyroidism and PCOS. I knew that if I wanted to have a family that I needed to get healthy STAT. I had been heavy all of my life and I knew that I couldn’t lose weight the regular way, so I opted for weight reduction surgery. Both my GP and my surgeon said that gastric bypass was the way to go. However, that would put me out of work, I wouldn’t be able to try to get pregnant for three years and having my stomach cut out seemed too drastic. So, I opted for Lapband surgery instead. My cousin had good results with it, there was less risk and less recovery time. I could also get try to get pregnant whenever I wanted.

Fast forward 2 1/2 years and I no longer have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or pre-diabetes. Unfortunately I still wasn’t able to get pregnant and the Lapband has given me so many problems that it has to come out on Thursday. I’m pretty bummed about it. While I have achieved some success, I still have a good 60 lbs. to lose. My husband went for the gastric bypass earlier in the year and looks amazing! He’s lost over 100 lbs. I’ve gone through vomiting, regurgitation, acid reflux, bile come out my nose at night, coughing fits that hurt my chest, etc. It’s gotten to the point that when I had an Upper GI done last week, no barium went past my band at all. That’s with them having taken out all the fluid in the band the day before. My esophagus just isn’t handling it very well.

When I talked to the surgeon afterwards, he said he’d take the band out that night. I thought that was a little drastic, so they put it off a week. I was hoping for a couple of months. I’m just afraid of gaining all of the weight back. I’ve given away all of my fat clothes. As it is I have gained 30 lbs. since April (I had originally lost 100 lbs. total). I do take steps to watch my weight. I walk the dog every day. We eat on dessert sized plates instead of dinner plates. I always choose “light” options. We don’t eat out as much anymore. I’m using the My Fitness Pal App again to keep track of my intake. I might join the gym again, but hate to spend the money when I’m not working. I’m just bummed that I went through all this only for it to fail. The surgeon said that they no longer put Lapbands in because it has only a 9% success rate. Most people end up having it taken out after a few years.

I’d like to get the gastric bypass operation that my husband had such great results with. However, there are a few problems with that. I have to switch surgeons for insurance reasons and I can’t get a consultation until February. I had a job interview yesterday and am hoping to get a job soon (fingers crossed) which would put the surgery off until the summer. My BMI is under 35 which is the cut off point for insurance companies when you want to get gastric bypass done, but sometimes the surgeon will write a letter to help persuade them. Then there is the whole pregnancy issue.

Two weeks ago we renewed our foster care certification. We said we would be interested in another little girl or boy so that Buddy could have a brother or sister. However, the system is so daunting that I really don’t know if I want to go through another couple years of that. But, if it’s our only choice, then I guess I have to do what I have to do.

TPR is all set, just waiting for a court date.

Rescheduled permanency hearing is tomorrow.

Here is us now. Isn’t my hubby handsome!

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Mommy’s Little Shopper

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Buddy is very independent. He likes to do everything himself: change his clothes, put on his shoes, get into his seat, etc. (except eat for some reason, I’m still feeding him the majority of the time). Shopping apparently is no exception! He always asks to go to the mall. What two-year-old does that? I guess with video games (we let him sit on the car & motorcycle ones) and the carousel, what’s not to like?

I’ve had a lot of anxiety lately with the upcoming jail visit and I don’t know if Buddy senses that or if he’s just going through more of his terrible two’s, but we’ve had some meltdowns lately. We had to go to the grocery store last minute last week to pick up some apple cider that was on sale & mozzarella cheese to go with our dinner. Of course this store has car carts (the top looks like a car complete with steering wheel), so Buddy wanted to sit in one. Well, being that it was almost dinner time and the store was bustling, the two car carts the store has were being used. Buddy refused to go in a regular cart. Needless to say, there was a major meltdown with him lying across the aisle kicking & screaming when he saw a little girl sitting in the very cart he wanted.

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So, when I had to go to the grocery store yesterday, I was really dreading it. We went to a store without the car carts, but they had little kid carts that they could push themselves. Buddy insisted that HE needed to go shopping. I begrudgingly let him. He really surprised me because he did awesome! He was quite the little shopper! He looked at the ads (upside down!) & pushed his cart. We put in the food that we needed. He helped me put the groceries on the belt at the checkout and he even helped me pay.

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He was a champ at the visit with bio-mom today too. I told him we were going on an adventure and Miss B, the caseworker was going to take him to see Mommy M. He didn’t really remember her, but looked forward to going. We told him that Mommy and Daddy would be waiting for him to come back and he could tell Miss B if he was scared or wanted to end the visit. He lasted a good half hour and did way better than his Nervous Nelly Mommy. We took him to dinner to get his favorite, burgers and french fries and he fell asleep on the way home. He’s such a good boy.

The caseworker said that our TPR hearing will most likely be the 1st week in December with it concluding in May or June. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that it does not get dragged out any further than that, especially since we don’t know if bio-mom’s other charges are going to extend her stay or not. In the meantime, I’m going to take a cue from my little man and try to chill out and look forward to us being a forever family by summer time.