Mother of Three in 10 Weeks!

Buddy turned four-years-old on Sunday! We took him and his two, much admired, cousins to the movies to see Paddington Bear, followed by a family party. He requested corn dogs for dinner, but being that he’s really the only one that likes them, I made them for him for lunch and ordered pizza and wings for dinner. Besides, pizza is the favorite food of his latest obsession- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! He had a ninja turtle cake, decorations and even got a ninja turtle scooter for his birthday! He had a great day!

Xander 4th birthday cake

Then, on Monday, we FINALLY signed Buddy’s adoption papers with the lawyer! All we have to do now is go to court to make it official, which should take 4-6 weeks. Then, Buddy will legally be our son and take our name! It’s been 26 days shy of two years that we’ve waited for this day to come. That beautiful, curly, blonde haired, blue-eyed angel with the long eye lashes melted our hearts from day one. It’s been amazing watching his little personality come through and blossom into an outgoing pre-schooler who has one active imagination and is surely destined for great things!

The real kicker is that in 10 weeks or less, I will be the mother of three! We will go from being foster parents with no kids of our own, to legally being the parents of three kiddos! It’s unreal that I just entered my 3rd trimester with twin girls! It’s weird because, even though my belly is growing, I feel the girls kick, I see my belly move, get to see them develop and grow on the sono and hear the amazing sound of their hearts beating, it still doesn’t seem real yet. We tried for these babies for so long, that I think it’s going to take me holding them in my arms to fully grasp that they’re mine.

My mom, sister and sister-in-law are incredible enough to put on a baby shower for me in two weeks. I’m excited for it since I’ve never had a shower before. It should be a really fun time celebrating these two little miracle babies with friends and family!

We had lunch with friend’s of ours who have a little girl who’s 10 months old and the huge smile on Buddy’s face as he played with her, just melted my heart! He’s going to be a wonderful big brother!

Mom of three! Oh my goodness! I can’t wait!

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Adoption in Progress!

Our amazing foster care worker came over for her last home visit last week. It was bittersweet because she has been an awesome worker, but it means progress with Buddy’s adoption. We were assigned an adoption caseworker and besides a little hiccup with hubby’s physical, we have all the paperwork in order for her visit next week! I told her I wanted it to go as quickly and painlessly as possible to make our family complete!

The permanency hearing to change the plan from “return to parent” to “adoption” is at the end of the month which is great! Something not so great is that the lawyer for bio-mom can appeal the TPR and hold things up for up to 18 months! I asked the caseworker why he would appeal without a case, and being that he hasn’t seen his client in months. She said that it’s a paycheck. So if he is money hungry enough, he will appeal on her behalf. Fingers crossed and prayers that doesn’t happen!

In other crazy news I ran into bio-mom and her partner (yes, the same one she beat up) at the grocery store! I was talking to the pharmacist about a new prescription when she walked passed me! I said to the pharmacist, “I’m just going to keep talking to you because that’s my son’s bio-mom and there is a warrant out for her arrest and I’m freaking out a little right now!” He said he totally understood and he talked to me until they left in a loud huff: “I don’t want to walk by HER!” (Fine with me!) I immediately called my husband, who was luckily right down the street. He walked around the store with me to get my couple of groceries and then we left.

I called the caseworker from the store, but it was almost 5pm and I got voicemail. I was a mess all night long! I didn’t sleep a wink. She lives in the next town over; of course I was going to run into her eventually. But what if I had Buddy with me? What would she have done? Try to take him? Grab him and hug and kiss him? What could I do about it?

The next day the caseworker called and her only advice was not to go to that store anymore. If we do run into her somewhere else, allow one hug and immediately leave. I should also always carry around a copy of the court decision just in case she did try to grab him and say it was her son. Nerve wracking for sure!

So, fingers crossed that we’ll be planning an adoption party soon and Buddy can take on our name. Foster care has definitely been an adventure and I’m looking to complete that chapter and move on with our lives.

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Life is Amazing

At the time of my last post, I was pretty down in the dumps. I felt like I was just not good enough. I couldn’t land a job. I didn’t get the new foster baby. I didn’t know how things would go with Buddy. I was pretty depressed and feeling lower than low. Well… it’s amazing what a week does!

Buddy got to pet a peacock at the NYS Fair.

We took Buddy to the NYS Fair for opening day and he had a ball going on rides and seeing and petting animals like this peacock, and even got to walk a llama!

We had Buddy’s disposition hearing. I didn’t even have to testify. The judge terminated bio-mom’s rights! The reason why I had a little more confidence in how things would go, was that I knew bio-mom wouldn’t show up to court. She has a warrant out for her arrest for assaulting her partner and there was evidence of her actively using. However, you just never know what the judge is going to do, especially since this is a new judge and this is her first TPR case. Well, she brought up the supposed dad again. We all thought that was done and over with and they did their due diligence. Well, his rights still need to be terminated and that paperwork was never filed. Someone dropped the ball on that one. On a whim, the caseworker decided to give the “dad” a call while we were out on a break. While the caseworker was testifying on the stand, he actually called her back! This is the first contact he has made in the two years of Buddy being in foster care! He said that he was definitely not the dad and bio-mom was actually pregnant when they met! He agreed to sign off on any paperwork! So, we do have to go back to court again, but at least all loose ends will be tied up and then we can go on with the adoption! Well, as long as bio-mom’s lawyer doesn’t appeal and hold things up, but at least we know it’s going to happen!

Then I got offered a job! How awesome is that?! My last workplace was so abusive. So, it’s incredible to work with a nice group of people who truly care and have a passion for what they’re doing. It’s not a farce. Nobody has yelled and screamed at me and I don’t anticipate that they will. It was difficult leaving Buddy, but I got him into a daycare/preschool that I absolutely love. I know that he just craves interacting with other children and he will have the opportunity to do that every day and continue to learn and grow. I know it is the right decision for my family.

I have even more good news, but am going to keep it a secret for a few more weeks!

I’m just really counting my blessings right now. I feel very fortunate to have a loving husband, a beautiful little boy, great family and friends, a good job and more! Things are surely looking up for us and I’m really excited to continue on in this journey.

One Step Closer

“We would have been done in May if we had judge P,” the caseworker said after we walked out of court. Hurry up and wait is the catch phrase for foster care. The judge DID find bio-mom permanently neglectful! I’d love to jump up and down and do a little dance, but we’re not out of the woods yet. We still have to go to disposition in August to decide what’s in the best interest of Buddy.

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The judge said, “it doesn’t necessarily mean that adoption is what is in the best interest of Buddy.” That was like a slap in the face. She continued to say how she knows bio-mom did a bunch of wonderful things while in jail (what else was she going to do while she was in there?) and she should continue to do them while she is out. The caseworker listed the whole slew of things for her to do that she didn’t do previously: psychological evaluation, anger management classes, rehab, parenting classes, etc.

The lawyer for DSS said that at the disposition, the judge can make one of three decisions: Buddy can go back to bio-mom, bio-mom gets more time and Buddy stays in foster care, or he can be adopted. Obviously, we want to adopt him. Since we have had Buddy for over a year, we are able to testify and our lawyer and the DSS lawyer will ask me questions about what we’ve been doing since he’s been in our care. Bio-mom can also get on the stand again and the caseworker will as well. The only part that I’m semi-nervous about is bio-mom’s lawyer cross-examining me. I’ve never testified in court before, and while I think the lawyer has no idea what he’s doing based on how he handled court the last time, it still makes me nervous. And of course there is the judge’s decision.

Then today, the day after finding her permanently neglectful, Buddy had a visit with bio-mom. It was truly reminiscent of a horrible doctor’s appointment Buddy had months ago. I walked into the waiting room and she snatched him away from me and he looked at me in horror as she swung him around, hugging and kissing him. When she put him down and he reached out for me, she wouldn’t let him come to me. Then, a girl who was waiting next to me in the waiting room asked how old he is. I said that he’s three and bio-mom answered at the same time, then sighed and remarked out loud, to no one in particular that the caseworker needed to get here because it was getting really awkward. I was glad I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. I think next time I will wait until just before visit time before coming into the building to avoid these difficult interactions in the future. Once the caseworker came and the three of them played in one of the rooms, I could hear Buddy’s infectious giggle and silly laugh. I was glad that they were able to have fun and interact well with each other. When the hour was up, I scheduled future visits with the caseworker and bio-mom remarked about how hot it was in the room. It was comfortable and air conditioned to me, but it made me wonder if she was hot from playing hard with Buddy or if she is using drugs again already. Time will tell I guess.

The lawyers all seem to think that it will go in our favor. I sure hope so. I don’t know how life could exist without our little man. Hurry up and get here August so that we can complete our little family!

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.

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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Candy Apple Memories and Cotton Candy Dreams

ImageMy family has lived about a mile from the NYS fair for most of my life. I can’t remember a single summer when we didn’t go. I don’t know what the particular draw is for me. It’s not like it’s changed much, but there is just something about that aroma of fried food in the air, the interesting people that seem to come out of the woodwork and the thrill of winning a 50 cent goldfish for $5 that just brings out the little kid in me! Not to mention, we have Buddy this year and we can see it all through his eyes.

ImageTo tell you the truth, Buddy was just as thrilled that we were taking the shuttle bus from the mall to the fair as he was to see the animals and go on the rides. It’s easy to impress a two-year-old. He had been looking forward to this for the past couple of days, asking me several times a day when we’re going to see animals and go on rides, and the day was finally here!

ImageWe saw horses getting baths, cows getting baby oil rub downs before being showed, milked a fake cow, saw pigs that were sound asleep surrounded by their piglets, sheep being sheen, goats looking for head rubs, we held baby chicks, pet fuzzy bunnies, watched sea lions swim and even fed butterflies! He rode the swings, a cow, an atv, a car, a motorcycle, an airplane, a dump truck, an alligator, a dinosaur and went down a big slide with Daddy!

ImageThen we played a couple of games. He won a kick ball from picking ducks. He won a Minion when he helped Mommy pop a balloon on the water squirting game. He also won 2 gold fish when Mommy and Daddy each got a ping pong ball in a little fish bowl. I’m not sure what Mommy was thinking there, especially since we had to make a pit stop at Walmart on the way home to buy $60 in goldfish supplies! Iron Man and Captain America are currently hanging out in one of my mixing bowls until their aquarium water is all set.

ImageOf course we picked a day where they were expecting thunderstorms, but we got lucky and just had some rain in the evening. Buddy enjoyed jumping in every puddle he could find. It surly didn’t stop us from eating our way through the fair on maple cotton candy, blue raspberry kettle corn, caramel apples and of course, 25 cent chocolate milk!

ImageThere was a fleeting moment in my people watching that I wondered if we’d see Buddy’s bio-mom and the ramifications that could bring, but that thought went out as quickly as it went in. Buddy had a great time. There was only one minor meltdown when he was too little to go down a slide. So, Daddy went down and even bigger slide with him and then he cried because he wanted to do it again! Besides that, he did great, despite missing his nap and we all had a blast. I just beamed from ear to ear watching him beeping the horn on the cars and going around and around. I’m sure there is a picture of me somewhere riding a very similar ride a few years back!Image

Dealing with Unknown Health Issues

 

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One thing that makes me nervous for Buddy is the unknown as far as his health is concerned. His mom has obvious mental health and drug dependency issues and it’s always a possibility he could have them or a side effect from them, some day as well. His mom is also a compulsive liar and the health history she has given us has proven to be false. My mom, who was adopted, has had to deal with the same unknowns in her life. While she was able to find her birth mother, she doesn’t know anything about her birth father’s side of the family. Yesterday, she had to undergo a double mastectomy after finding out her breast cancer had returned.

My mom is a really strong woman and I love her very much. The first time she had breast cancer, she had to undergo a lumpectomy and then chemo and radiation. Not wanting to go through the ordeal again, she elected to endure a six hour surgery to remove and reconstruct her breasts. It was successful and initial test results show that they were able to remove all of the cancer. Hopefully, when the other tests come back in a few days, she will indeed be cancer free. Both instances of my mom’s breast cancer were only detectable because of yearly mammogram screenings. I know I will be scheduling my first one soon.

I’m sorry that my mom has had to endure this pain, yet, I’m glad that it was caught early enough to be treated. I’m grateful to her that I’m able to be proactive about my health as well. While we may not know what’s in store for our little Buddy down the road, at least he’ll know that he has a loving and supporting family to help him through any obstacles he may encounter.