Tuesday, December 13, 2016


These last few months have been a whirlwind.

There have been school conferences, standardized testing weeks, family days picking pumpkins, football games, decorating for Christmas, shopping trips, and even a couple lazy days where we ordered pizza and snuggled on the couch with a movie.

One day in particular included quite a nice party celebrating our family. :)

There have also been arguments, tears, late nights talking through meltdowns, tantrums thrown over bedtimes, crazy visits with therapists, and complicated extended family discussions.

But it all has led us to today.

Today we woke up crazy early, drove practically to Tennessee, and waited quietly in a courtroom for our name to be called.

Today a judge signed a piece of paper making us a forever family.

Today my children share our last name for the first time.

Days like today remind me of why hope and faith are so important. Because two years ago this day was just a daydream... almost an impossibility.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

pieces are clicking into place

Monday we saw both caseworkers and the kids' CASA. Plus their therapist. It was a super busy day, but also a really positive day since we got some great news.

Our finalization has been moved up!

Instead of waiting until after Christmas like we initially thought, it looks like e will get to finalize shortly after Thanksgiving! No specific dates have been decided upon yet, but November 8th is when we petition and we have been told that there has been approximately a two week turn around lately.

The tentative date range is the week after Thanksgiving.

I am overjoyed and suddenly very aware of how little time that truly is. I have so much to do to get everyone (and our house) ready for such an awesome event! We need nice, cool weather appropriate, clothes for court. I need to figure out what decorations we will have in our home for the finalization party we will host. Not to mention begin creating a guest list and alert family members to the change so they can plan accordingly.

My principal has been amazing and has already promised to help me work out time off issues if the dates fall during school time (since I was planning on the event happening during a school break). The woman is so incredibly supportive. I love her for it.

Some may think it silly, but I booked a photographer for the actual finalization in court. I want pictures from that day. Good quality pictures with all of us in them. Some candid moments we didn't realize were happening. Moments you can't catch on an iPhone during court proceedings.

Through all of the excitement and rush to plan, I find myself reflecting on the timing of this incredible event. It will be during Advent. A time of the year when even the most cynical people take a step back and let the world believe in magic. A time when people believe in miracles. How fitting that the greatest miracle of my life would occur during a time like that.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Virecit vulnere virtus

My family heritage can be traced back to Clan Stewart, a group which originated in the Scottish Highlands and has an absolutely beautiful tartan.

The picture above is the clan crest. It depicts a pelican piercing her own breast to feed her young... an image from an old Scottish folktale... and the inspiration for the clan motto seen in Latin around the image. It translates to "Courage grows strong at a wound".

I have never identified with that mama pelican more than I have in the last few months.

I have never fully understood this motto more until we met our children a few months ago.

September 2016 has been a month of enormous personal growth for me. At the beginning of the month it felt like the hits would never stop coming. In the middle of the month I thought the confusion and pain would beat me and I would lose everything.  Now, at the end of the month, I am grateful for the fight because it strengthened me.

It showed me how tough I am. And it showed me that my strength comes from a deep reservoir of love and courage I never knew ran that deep. It comes from seeing myself in a dark place and recognizing how I have conquered that particular demon before.

It comes from trusting in the gifts God has given me.

This week in kindergarten was different. I stopped doing it the way my team recommended and started doing it the way that felt right to me. Far less paper and much more movement. More spontaneous songs. More teamwork. And you know what? The kids were different.

Nobody had to go see the principal. Nobody threw fits. Nobody went home crying... not even me.

I'm still figuring out the mom thing, but I know how to be a teacher. I know how to be a good one. And I suspect that the two are more closely related than I realize.

I have to follow my instincts. I have to trust myself.

And I have to have courage.

The pain I've been though has gifted me that and I refuse to squander it.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Living on a prayer

The big move happened. I was told I would be displaced 10 days before the county actually gave me my official assignment. Last Monday I actually worked as a substitute teacher because my room was packed up and they needed an extra sub.

After all was said and done, I was sent to a much smaller school than the one I was at previously (1300 students to just barely 700) and I went from 1st grade to kindergarten. I also went from a 10-15 minute commute to a 40-45 minute commute.

The school I ended up at is a lovely school in and of itself. The principal has been amazing thus far and my grade level team (all 3 of them) have been as welcoming and helpful as possible. They began the year with 30 kids each, so they are thrilled to have some relief. The school has a lot of community involvement and does so many of those nostalgic, quintessentially elementary school things so many of us miss like dressing up for Halloween, pajama day, assemblys for special days, and school spirit events involving water/slime/etc. Both of my kids have great teachers who also have kids attending the school. They seem to be adjusting well and both have already made several friends.

I was given a full 4 days in my room to prepare for the kids and the bookkeeper for the school gave me free reign on ordering supplies for my classroom, so that was awesome. I got data folders on my kids my very first day as well, which was helpful.

It's not a bad place to be.

That said, I feel like I'm drowning and I feel insanely guilty for having such a difficult time adjusting.

Kindergarten is NOTHING like first grade. It's nothing like I have ever seen or experienced before. I did my practicum in kindergarten for my degree during the end of the school year when they were practically 1st graders. These kids are sweet as can be, but they have no idea how to be in school. They are not independent in any capacity other than using the bathroom on their own. That's a huge difference from 1st graders who can at least focus on a task for a few minutes without direct teacher direction. I've drafted a letter to my Alma mater letting them know of this gap in teacher preparation. It's that much of a big deal.

The other teachers on my grade level are providing as much support as possible, and they truly have been a great resource, but they are also teaching and trying to rearrange their classrooms to accommodate the new status quo. Our paraprofessional is basically a saint, but she is also helping 4 different classrooms. It's like the first week of school again for all of kindergarten, but the school year itself is continuing to go on as planned.

I have parent teacher conferences this week. All of the data I am discussing for my 22 students is data collected by other people 8 weeks ago. I have been able to observe these kids in class for 1 week, so my ability to give feedback on their progress is limited at best. Yet I have to produce conference forms detailing their progress for each of the 5 subject areas. And I already have parents emailing me asking for pre-conference data. I didn't even know this was a thing. In my last school it was like pulling teeth to get parents to show up for conferences in the first place and all they wanted to know was if their kid was behaving.

On Wednesday I had a parent come in for a conference and request SST services. I've never done that process before without being the person who collected the RTI data as well. I don't even really know this child, but I need to give my professional opinion on her academic ability?

Because I am ESOL certified, I was given all of the ESOL served kids in kindergarten (all 6 of them) which is fine with me since I love ESOL instruction. However, I'm finding that ESOL instruction in an upper middle class suburban school is much different than in an urban, lower socioeconomic level school. Parents don't like walking into the room and seeing labels and pictures on everything. They don't want to see alternative work spaces and hands on, authentic experiences. They want "more rigor" than that. They want to see graded worksheets with 100 written at the top in red pen. *rolling my eyes* I thought kindergarten would appreciate that more....

Then, this week, I received a student new to the school. His family literally arrived in the US on Friday and he began school on Monday. He was put in my class because he speaks only Spanish and I speak enough to be able to communicate with him and understand most of his responses. However, this child is clearly very angry at the changes in his life and I am the one receiving the brunt of his anger. On Friday I actually broke down and sent him to the principal's office because I could.not.deal. with his behavior. He threw pencils at me, hit me, kicked my Promethean board, was running around the room. And when I told him to stop (in Spanish) he looked at me, rolled his eyes, and continued acting out saying he didn't have to listen to me.

I've never had to send a child to the principal before. Not when a third grader was throwing chairs, not when a fifth grader lost control and was sobbing hysterically on the floor yelling curse words, not even when one of my first graders tried to start a fight club on the playground. I was able to diffuse all of those situations and come out the other side with all parties feeling able to move forward.

Not this week. And I feel like I failed that student.

Combine all of those school issues with the fact that I am coming home loaded down with work just to keep up, the kids are grumpy from being cooped up in the car so long, and the fact that Steve just this Wednesday returned to his normal 8-5 hours and you have a giant mess.

The kids are mad at me because I'm not able to do as much with them after school. I simply don't have the energy. I can barely make it through helping with homework. The home cooked dinners everyone has counted on for the last 2 months have also given way to ordering out more. I fell asleep boiling water for spaghetti one night and it freaked me out. The kids aren't happy that our routine is disrupted (even if they can't verbalize that's what it is) and they are directing all of that frustration towards me.

I'm pretty sure I'm only surviving on the prayers of my family and friends (hence the theme music for this post) and the grace of God at this point. Please, pray for me and my family. Pray that we make it through this season of change and uncertainty. Pray that we can see the positives and hold onto hope through seemingly impossible levels of stress.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Plot Twist

In all seriousness, it's been nuts around here.

As you know, I started a new job in a new county and school district this year. Still first grade, but everything else changed. So I settled into my routine there and somehow also settled into being a working mom. 

Ok... as settled as possible in a month. 

Then, Y quit dance because she felt she had no time to do her homework or play. Which was basically true. 

Then we got new furniture for the downstairs of our house. It's like a completely new space. 

Yay change! Right?

Steve's schedule got changed to 11am-8pm for the month of September. He gets home after bedtime and doesn't wake up until we are out of the house in the mornings. So I'm doing this daily parenting thing almost completely solo.

Then, on friday my principal told me that, due to low enrollment, I'm being moved to a new school with the opposite problem. Not sure where yet, not sure what grade you'll be teaching either. We'll let you know before you report to your new location in a week.

I spent this week gathering my student's work and data to put it in some sort of organized fashion for my students' new teachers. I also started prepping my 16 little 6 year-olds for the huge change or getting a new teacher after a month of school. 

All while not knowing anything about my own situation except that I'm leaving. And I have one work day to pack up my room. 

Oh yeah... and not sure when I'll be able to register my kids at the new school since they WILL be coming with me. Not sure how I'll juggle things if registration doesn't mesh with my new schedule. 

And let's not forget that, to my kids, a new school was always code for "new home". So they have been experiencing one giant emotional trigger for a full week. Lots of defiance and acting out which is not normal for them. Tons of fun for me. Because again, I'm pretty much on my own.

It's been a stressful September to say the least.

Our family could definitely use some prayers to get us through this crazy transition. 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

God Heals

About a week ago I went to confession. As I waited in line for my turn, an older woman walked into the sanctuary and walked to stand behind me in line. Before she got to her place in line, she looked up at me and caught my eye for just a second, then immediately began rummaging in her bag.

Shortly thereafter, I felt a tap on my shoulder.

She offered me a prayer card featuring St. Raphael the Archangel and said "Take this. You need this prayer".

St. Raphael's Prayer

St. Raphael, Archangel, medicine of God, revered friend and intercessor of those in need, healer of the blind, terror of the demons, accompany us on our life's journey here, guard us to our salvation in the next.

Bring healing and freedom to us from God, to praise and glorify Him as our Father. Protect and deliver us as we humbly pray from all temptation and bondage of the devil. 

Oh St. Raphael, guardian and defender of families, obedient messenger of God, Most High, assist us that our fiat to God may be firm, to carry our crosses daily, and follow Jesus in perfect surrender to His Most Holy Will for the greater praise and glory of God and the salvation of souls.


She was right. I did need that prayer. I need that prayer every day. 

Raphael means "God heals" and my family is in need of healing. The kids have their past traumas, Steve and I have our infertility, and each of us have our own insecurities and demons we battle daily. 

Call me crazy, but I needed this reminder that God has our back and that he has sent us the most amazing helpers to guide us on this journey. 

It is further proof to me that we are following God's will for us and listening to him. And that's all we ever wanted to do.

Look up the story of Raphael if you get the chance. It's truly incredible and encouraging. Especially to this mama of a family on the road to healing.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Like Billy Madison, I'm back to school

This past week was our first week of the school year and I am happy to report that we all survived!

The kids seem to be the ones adjusting to the new schedule the best. They have been awake and already preparing for the day by the time I make my way to their rooms to give them their scheduled wake up call. They have also handled all the time in my room before and after school well. M has been faithful in doing his homework each night (30 minutes of reading) despite being a self-proclaimed hater of all things book related. Y has not had homework yet, but I sense this is simply a small back to school gift from her teachers before the real hard work begins.

I, on the other hand, have been dragging. My body and brain are not used to this new schedule yet. My Spanish skills are a bit rusty from disuse over the summer which has made introductions interesting. I'm also trying to adjust to the fact that I have stuff to do with the kids in the afternoons now and can't rely on quiet evenings at home to handle school related stuff. Y has dance, both kids have various appointments, and errands to run.

It's a good change, but it's a big one.

Steve finished up his paternity leave and is back to enjoying the thrills of corporate American life. His group got a little behind on delivering trainings while he was gone, so he is busily playing catch up this week (and even on Saturday morning).

All things combined made this week a big challenge for us as a family. We made it through, but it was clear last night that we all needed some time to relax. The kids get really testy when they are tired and I have been pulling out all of my coping strategies to stay as calm and patient as I can.

It's one thing to read all the parenting strategies and books recommended by the agency, it's another to actually put them into practice when you have had no sleep and someone continues doing their "most annoying sound in the world" competition while I'm cooking dinner and attempting to create student login cards simultaneously.

One thing I'm trying not to stress about (but can't seem to help myself) is my class size and all the implications that come with it. I only have 16 kiddos. The entire grade level is hovering around 20 kids each, but I have the lowest by far. This wouldn't be a problem at all if it weren't for the fact that our 9 kindergarten classes are all hovering around 27 kids each.

Nobody has said anything official about moving teachers around yet, but as the newest hire of the grade level with the lowest official enrollment, AND having the smallest class in that grade level, there is a strong possibility that I could be moved to kindergarten. Obviously I'll make the best of the situation if it happens. I am just crossing my fingers that I get to stay put. I've got enough big transitions happening in my life right now. Adding the task of teaching a brand new grade level to the mix is not an appealing possibility at the moment.

Monday, August 1, 2016

More Beginnings

Today was my first official day back to work after the summer break.

As I mentioned previously, I'm in a new school this year but the same grade level. I am also in a regular classroom in the building now rather than a trailer. By some stroke of luck, I am by the teacher bathrooms, two sets of student bathrooms, the clinic, and the cafeteria.

Part of me feels like I have died and gone to teacher heaven.

My new grade level team is pretty awesome as well. I do miss my old teammates, but the new ones hold their own when it comes to being inclusive and communicating important information.

I won't even mention the ridiculous amount of resources (technology, manipulatives, books, etc.) at my disposal this year.

The kids will be attending school with me this year as well so they have stopped by a few times to help me set up my room and get a look at the teachers in their grades. Its so funny watching their faces get all shy when I introduce them to others in the building.

With last weekend full of back to school shopping during the tax free weekend, I think we are just about ready to get this year started!

To all my teacher friends, even those who will be starting closer to Labor Day, I wish you a fantastic school year!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

new beginnings and one sad goodbye

It has been an interesting week at our house.

We began the week with the death of Steve Jr, the dragon. It was actually quite a gruesome death and I'm glad I was the one to discover him rather than our son. M was a bit upset about the loss of his pet, but he seems to be coping okay.

There was also a debate as to what to do with poor dead Steve Jr. You see, our family offers a wide variety of pet memorial options. There is the family pet cemetery at my grandparents' home in New York, my parents' back yard in a newly designed pet cemetery, or a traditional backyard burial at our home.

Steve Jr. began to smell quite quickly so we went with the fastest option. I feel a little guilty about that. Human Steve thinks I'm nuts for feeling guilty that the dragon's funeral wasn't more fancy.

Anyway... it wasn't all doom and gloom around here.

The kids are now both registered for school! They will be attending the school where I will be teaching this year. My NEW school in my NEW district! I've met a bunch of my coworkers and they are AWESOME! I know Y and M are going to love it there.

We went by the school today to drop off some paperwork and we checked out the playground. It. Is. Incredible. Seriously, there is a musical section with outdoor xylophones and this wheel that makes sounds like those rain sticks everybody created at summer camp.

There are also two outdoor classroom spaces with chalkboards and three more class meeting spaces without boards. A full basketball court. A huge field with soccer goals. A traditional play structure. And my personal favorite, SWINGS!

It's the playground of my dreams. Y and M loved it, too.

This week we also signed the kids up for RCIC - the Rite of Christian Initiation for Children.

Since both of our kids are older than the age of reason, they will be going through a special program at church designed to help them complete the steps necessary to receive their sacraments. It's very similar to RCIA (the program Steve and I went through when we entered the church in 2013), just geared toward children.

The kids will attend classes at church after Mass on Sundays throughout the school year and then receive their sacraments at the Easter Vigil service. They will be baptized, receive their first holy communion, and be confirmed all in one night!

And they are actually pretty excited about it. At least, they are acting excited.

I don't know if I'll ever get used to this new normal we have created around here, but I am so grateful for this life I get to live and these kids I get to parent. It's exhausting and thrilling and never boring.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

let's have a chat about poetry

There is a poem that's really popular in adoption gifts and cards. It's like someone once declared it the official poem of adoption related things and everyone just ran with it. The poem goes like this:

Not flesh of my flesh
Nor bone of my bone,
But still miraculously my own.
Never forget for a single minute,
You didn't grow under my heart,
But in it.

It's cute and clearly meant to be sweet.

And I hate it.

Not the first two lines. Those are just stating fact. The third line is okay, too, I guess. Those last three lines are pure garbage though.

My kids are not biologically related to me. Steve and I are adopting children that, until June 4th, 2016 around 10am, were complete strangers to us. They were conceived, carried, and born to a woman I will very likely never meet.

My heart had nothing to do with the process.

My hope to one day have children was definitely growing in my heart at that time, but these specific children (or any children for that matter) were not.

I think my reaction to this poem is, at its root, a reaction to comments I have received and attitudes I have discovered about adoption among the people I know. Not the inner circle, but coworkers and other acquaintances. It's as if they think being adopted somehow erases all the traumas my kids have experienced to get to this point in their lives. That it takes away the pain Steve and I went through to get here. Or that it doesn't involve awkwardness or struggle now that the kids are here.

The truth is, adoption from foster care has no business being involved in cutesy poems. All four of us in this new family have fought tooth and nail to get here, to not give up on the hope of a life we wanted, to not let pain and bitterness steal our future or our joy. The kids even more so than Steve and I.

Even now as we adjust to life together as a family, there are struggles to be overcome. There are rough edges to be smoothed. There are old wounds needing mending. There is awkwardness.

I won't speak for all adoptions. Just ours. But for me and my family, this kind of poem does us and our journey no justice.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

New levels of crazy

Life with the kiddos has been pretty great!

By great I mean we have loved getting to know them and helping them get to know us. We haven't had any major issues and we are getting at least a little sleep.

Everybody told me that you get no sleep as a parent and I naively believed that was only parents of babies and toddlers.



My kids are 11 and 9 and, by some quirk of nature, I can not fall asleep unless I know they are asleep. And I wake up no later than 7am. If the kids haven't gotten up and knocked on the door for breakfast by then I'm still awake. Usually checking on them to make sure they're ok.

This weekend that meant I was up until 12:30am comforting them during the fireworks and then awake again at 6am because they were hungry and wanted me to cook breakfast.

Please don't misunderstand me. I am not complaining at all. Not even a little bit.

I am simply in awe of how much my life has changed in the span of one month.

That's how long I've known these kids. One month and two days.

On friday they move in permanently. All of their stuff will be here (including Steve, the bearded dragon belonging to my son) and we will finally stop the endless shuffle back and forth between foster homes and forever home.

Monday, July 11th, we sign the temporary custody paperwork.

That also happens to be our 7th wedding anniversary. Fried chicken and lemon cake for everybody! lol

Seriously though... someone pinch me. I can't even comprehend the blessings I've been given lately. My heart is so incredibly full it's bursting.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Parents for a weekend

Yesterday was Father's Day , Steve's very first one as a dad, and our last day of a three day visit with our kiddos.

Overall, it was a fantastic visit. There were some moments where I found myself going "this is NOTHING like teaching/babysitting" and feeling a little intimidated. But I think that must be pretty normal.

We watched a couple movies throughout the weekend and spent a lot of time at the pool. The kids wanted to hang out at the house rather than go to the park or out anywhere, so we had kind of a chill weekend.

My parents (the newly dubbed Nana and Pop) came for a visit on Saturday. They got a chance to meet the kids and spend time with us while we were at the pool. Seeing my parents interact with my kids was surreal and awesome all at the same time. They were acting like little kids again. My dad kept doing canon balls into the deep end and my mom was busting out the diving sticks and other pool toys.

We even got my dad to try one of the Mexican candies the kids love. It's a peach and chili candy. Seriously good, but very spicy.

Our last day together we took the kids to church which proved to be quite interesting since both of their foster placements go to Baptist churches and Steve and I are Catholic. They were so curious about the different areas of the church and then the various parts of Mass. As our son put it "That dude up front is cool looking, but I don't like having to sit on my knees so much."

By "that dude" he meant Jesus on the crucifix. lol

After lunch we loaded their stuff into the car and began what became the road trip that would not end. Our son was heading to camp for the week and our daughter was going back to her foster placement. Little did we know those two places were four hours apart. And the camp was 2 hours away from our house.

Long story short... after factoring in traffic we spent 10 hours in the car to get everyone where they needed to be and make it home again. I loved the time with the kids, but I was definitely happy to be back in my bed at the end of the day!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Important encounters

If you don't believe in love at first sight then I am here to tell you that you are wrong. It exists. I know it does because I have been lucky enough to experience it with three different humans (and two ridiculously spoiled dogs). 

The first human was my husband. He walked into the party in his purple dress shirt and Regis Philbin tie straight from work and my heart said "That's him. That is the man you are going to love for the rest of your life".

The second and third humans were my daughter and my son. Their caseworker pulled up to our meeting place, the kids stepped out of the car, and my heart said "That's them. Those are the kids you've been praying for and dreaming of since you first realized you were meant to be a mom".

Steve and I have met our children.

In fact, we spent a morning with them and then, a week later, an entire day. On Friday morning I am picking them up to spend the weekend together. They are spending three days and two nights here. In their rooms. 

The first time we met the kids was a brief 2 hour meet and greet type thing in a park near their foster placements. Super casual (in theory) so everyone can make sure we don't hate each other right off the bat. I was so afraid it would be awkward. Like: Hey, I just met you. And this is crazy, but I wanna adopt you. Call me Mama maybe?

Despite my own highly awkward and weird personality, the first meeting went so well. Steve was a complete natural at being a dad. The time together FLEW by. 

I genuinely think there is some sort of parent-child time warp thing going on because time without kids seems to go at a reasonably normal pace. When the kids are around I blink and it's dinner time and they are leaving.

I hate that part. The leaving.

When they spent the day with us on Sunday I very nearly cried when they left. I held it back only by thinking of move in day and the fact there will come a day very soon when I won't have to send them back to their foster placements. They will be home to stay. 

Monday, June 6, 2016

Adopting an Older Child: setting up their bedroom

Welcome back for the second installment of my series about preparing for an older child adoption from foster care!

Steve and I have been doing little things here and there for our kids' rooms since we began our homestudy. We knew we wanted to adopt a sibling group, so we began preparing both of our guest bedrooms to accommodate up to two children each. Now that we know the specific children that will be moving in, we are making more specific changes.

We went in with a strategy of keeping things pretty gender neutral until we had reason to do otherwise. considering the number of failed potential matches we went through before finding our kiddos, I am so grateful we went that direction. Everything we acquired is still able to be used.

I think this may be easier to explain in a list form so... here you go. Our process for preparing a room for an older child adopted from U.S. foster care:

step 1: Assess your furniture needs based on your homestudy - We were approved for up to 4 children, so we needed beds and clothing storage for up to 4 children. Both rooms have closet space, and we already owned one spare dresser, so really it was just a matter of finding one more dresser and 4 kid friendly beds.

Our first option we pursued was friends and family. My brother was moving in with his fiancee so we got his dresser and she gave us the twin bed from her guest room they no longer needed. My parents also had a spare twin sized bed they said we could have. Then we turned to Craigslist. We live in a large metro area and we can typically find furniture on that site without a lot of wear and tear for not a lot of money.

Luck was on our side and we managed to get two XL twin beds with necessary equipment to securely stack them into bunk beds. Add in mattresses still in the plastic from the factory and we managed to furnish the rooms for less than $100.

step 2: Make the walls presentable - Our two spare rooms had been kids rooms when the previous owners of our home lived here and extra storage for us since then. It's safe to say they needed some TLC. We put putty in the areas that needed them and then gave each room a fresh coat of paint. One room became a greenish-grey color. The other a cheerful blue. Both were colors my husband and I both liked so we figured they were gender neutral enough for now.

**Note** We do intend for our kids to redecorate once they get closer to their move in date. We just painted because the walls had been well loved and needed it. If your walls are in good shape already then you can skip this step.

step 3: basic necessities -  Older kids have a very different set of needs than babies. They don't need storage for diapers and a changing table, but they do need study space to do homework and store their backpacks. We decided to add some personality and extra functionality to our rooms in addition to the basics so the kids could sense a bit of our excitement to have them move in but without making them think they can't change anything later.

Here are some things we added:
- curtains and shades
- comfy chair for reading
- small shelf with age appropriate books (I'll go into more detail about the books we got for them in another post)
- reversible comforter/ bed-in-a-bag type thing
- solid color jersey sheets
- throw blanket
- desk/ study area
- cork board/ photo and memento holder
- one cool wall hanging or piece of artwork (my daughter's room has tissue paper pom poms hanging over her reading area. My son has comic book art I found on clearance)
- picture frame with a picture of my husband and I
- empty picture frame for a picture of all of us together

The important thing to remember is that many of these objects should be basics. Good quality items that can be used in concert with more specifically chosen items once the child moves in. We got our comforter sets during the Bed Bath & Beyond Memorial Day clearance sale for $15 each. If the kids love them and want to keep them then that's awesome! But we (and our bank account) won't be sad to put them away as back up if the kids would rather have something different.

step 4: Personalized project - Don't do this step until after you have met your kids. Once you do, choose one special project or item to place in their room that they can keep no matter how differently they want to decorate. I chose to do a decorated initial to hang on the outside of their doors. My daughter is a bit of a girly girl and loves greens, blues, and nature. So her initial will be one of the super popular floral letters I've seen all over Pinterest. My son is an avid xbox player, so his initial will reflect that.

Your kids may not be a good fit for a door decoration. That's fine. Maybe you aren't really a DIYer with art projects, but you love to sew or crochet or knit. Use that talent to make them something to use in their room! Maybe you are a musician or a graphic artist. Maybe you are more into technology and gadgets. Whatever your talent is, find a way to use it to do something unique for your kids BEFORE they move in.

A note about clothes and toiletries - My kids are in a situation where they have an adequate number of clothes and toiletry items that we did not feel the need to purchase any additional supplies prior to their first visits to our home. From what I understand, that is not always the case. Your kids may need socks, underwear, toothpaste, etc. We have a jar of travel sized toiletries in the kids' bathroom for their use if they forget something, but we know they have items available to them to bring when they travel. We will also be going clothes shopping with them closer to the start of the school year so their clothes are more likely to still fit them.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Adopting an Older Child: preparing the house

Adoption is an interesting and confusing process. It's emotional and heartbreaking long before you ever meet your children. The confusion doesn't go away once you know who your kids are either. If anything, it gets more confusing.

I am the type of person that likes to do as much research as possible about parts of my life that have become confusing or challenging. I make lists and methodically prepare for every conceivable situation.

Unfortunately for me, there isn't a ton of information out there about the logistics of going from no children to multiple school-aged children. Tons about attachment (and if we were adopting a baby we would be totally set), but none about logistical things like how many extra towels to have on hand and how to go about setting up a welcoming temporary bedroom.

Please don't misunderstand me. Attachment is incredibly important and my husband and I are absolutely doing work to prepare for that aspect of welcoming kids into our family.

But pretending like there aren't logistical issues to consider would be almost equally as foolish as ignoring attachment. I mean... the kids will be spending the night before they move in and they will need towels and sheets and other necessities. Things they won't be able to give their opinion on until they need those things. Items my husband and I, as the adults, need to consider. Like toothpaste.

So... with all of that said, I am going to begin a series of posts chronicling what Steve and I figure out as we prepare our home for our kiddos. This first one is about general preparations and categories of things we plan to tackle before the kids spend the night for the first time.... which should happen some time in June.

1. create simple, welcoming bedrooms for kids - Closer to move-in the kids will be able to make these spaces their own, but they should be able to spend their first overnight visit in a room that reflects how excited we are to have them with us.

2. Creating a bathroom space for kids - Our guest bathroom is going through a transition along with us. What do the kids need and what can wait?

3. Prepare our fridge, pantry, and kitchen - Some of this was done for our homestudy, but some things are just logistical in nature like organizing the fridge to include a "quick snacks" section and making sure our Tupperware is kid friendly.

4. BOOKS - Adding to and sorting through our current library collection to include reading material for the kids at their reading level and within their range of interest.

5. Technology - What gadgets are we planning to use? What are we doing with our current tech items to keep the kids safe? What about social media?

6. Adoption registry for the older child - We may not be adopting a baby, but our friends and family have definitely been asking about celebrating with us and helping us stock up on essentials.

7. preparing our extended family - Discussing relevant issues with them and figuring out who and when to go about introducing everyone.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Closing one door and opening another

Today was my very last day at my school for the 2015-2016 school year.

We said goodbye to the kids yesterday (with no small amount of tears on my part) and finished packing up our classrooms and saying goodbyes to other teachers today. My room was mostly packed already since I have had a group of very helpful little firsties this year. They were ALL ABOUT helping me box things up and take them to my car. They especially liked our donation trips where I let them take left over consumable supplies like paper towels, soap, and notebook paper to other teachers' classrooms.

I finished everything before lunch time today and drove back home with a conflicted heart.

While I cherish the memories made and lessons learned about myself and my teaching style, I can't help but look forward to my next adventures at my new school with an incredible amount of enthusiasm.

And then there's the excitement about what this summer has in store for Steve and me.

We had a document review last week which went incredibly well. Now we are anxiously awaiting the formal staffing and first visit with our children!

I'm going to withhold more details about the children at least until we are further along in the visitation process, but we are beyond thrilled to have found these kids and to be able to meet them so soon.

Assuming things go well with the initial meet and greet and the formal staffing, we will be spending our summer visiting with our kids and moving them into our home.

I am so incredibly hopeful for this new journey and thankful for all the prayers which have brought us this far. I have a feeling that summer 2016 is going to be one of those life changing summers people write songs and stories about.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

that one kid

If you're a teacher you know exactly who I am talking about...

That one kid in class who can't sit still, refuses to participate, is constantly playing around instead of working, and generally just tap dances on your very last nerve.

Yup... let's talk about that kid.

Last year I had one. I've got another one this year. All of my teacher friends have one in their classrooms as well. I've had one in every classroom I've ever been in.

If I am being completely honest: I absolutely adore "that kid" each and every year. They force me to check my attitude and ego at the door and do all I can to meet each of my students where they are. There is no "phoning it in" if you want to reach them. They aren't the type to give in and do what you want just because you are the teacher and they definitely aren't the type to draw you pictures and bring you apples just to get on your good side.

They are unapologetically themselves. And it is inspiring to see such individuality even in first grade. Even if it is a bit trying.

I won't lie... it isn't all rainbows and puppies with these kids. They can be forces to be reckoned with even in the best of circumstances. And I'm no saint. I've definitely lost my cool and made a small behavior into a giant issue without meaning to. It happens.

I bring this all up today because there are exactly 10 days left in the school year.

10 days with my sweet first graders before we all leave for the break and I leave my school for a new one.

As I pack my things and plan our end-of-year activities I know who I will miss the most.

That kid.

My special snowflake who can't sit still for more than 2 seconds and begs me to let him play "cool math" or do GoNoodle dances after every center rotation.

It hit me especially hard today because of something that happened at dismissal. 

You see... this little boy does not really show affection. If he is close to you then you have a better chance of getting sand thrown at you than getting a hug.

But he hugged me today. I called him to get on his bus and, before stepping onto the bus stairs, he stopped and gave me a huge bear hug and said "I see you tomorrow, Mrs. Riecke!"

It felt like I had just been crowned Queen of England. And I promptly teared up because I'm going to miss that kid. And I only have 10 days left.

Friday, April 29, 2016

the beginning of the end

My brain can't really handle the fact that Sunday is May 1st.

I mean, I know I have been there with my kids day in and day out since August, but this school year seems to have FLOWN by. It's like I turned around and my sweet firsties are composing informational texts and subtracting two digit numbers with ease!

I'm so proud of these kiddos. Really.

I'm also going to miss them.

My district is redrawing some zoning lines in an effort to alleviate overcrowding in my school and others in our cluster. As a result, many of my students will not be at our school next year. On top of the large amounts of people which move as a result of our community being highly transient.

But the students are not the only ones leaving. I'm leaving, too.

At the end of this school year I'll be packing up my things and moving to another school closer to my home. New school, new district, new county... same grade level though. :)

My choice to switch school districts wasn't easy and I agonized over the decision for months. In the end though, I knew it was going to be the best choice in the long run. This school is within the district where I grew up and attended school myself when I was a kid. It's one of the best in the state. It's also within the school system our house is zoned for which means our kids could come to school with me, yet still make friends with kids who live near us.

There will be perks like having a regular classroom inside the building and more resources than you could shake a stick at.

It also has a population similar to the school where I currently teach which was a HUGE deal for me when making the decision. I'm still going to be working with a high immigrant population and a good deal of students receiving ESOL services.

The only thing it won't have are my former students and the amazing coworkers I have come to know and love. But I am confident that, through the connectivity tool that is facebook and my own willingness to jump in with optimism, this move will be for the best.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The quotable Mr. Thoreau

This is an insanely popular quote. To the point that people have had these words tattooed on their bodies.

It also served as the inspiration for the title of my little corner of the internet here on this blog due to it being my favorite quote from a literary figure I have revered since reading an excerpt of Walden when I was 15.

You see, I can most assuredly be classified as a Transcendentalist. It has been thrown at me by professors as an insult before (literary nerds have weird insults). The whole "people and nature are inherently good" philosophy is practically my life motto. Actively engaging in life to benefit your circumstances or the circumstances of causes that you hold dear is what I do. 

My current job and choice of employer is clear evidence of that.

However, the events of last week ignited all of my pent up frustration about this waiting game and I found my brain raging against this quote. I was pretty angry and felt that this quote, which has had a deeply rooted place in my heart for over 10 years, was deeply flawed.

After all... I have spent years going quite confidently in the direction of my lifelong dream of motherhood and I am nowhere NEAR living the life I have imagined. In fact, that aspect of my life is playing out more like a nightmare at the moment. All the self reliance in the world will not fix my broken reproductive system OR our adoption struggles. 

I actually planned to write this very blog post about how wrong this quote was and how I would be changing the name of this blog to something new and different.

In my search for a new quote, I stumbled across the Walden Woods Project misquotations page. This quote I have loved for so long is actually a famous MISQUOTE . The actual quote as it appears in Walden is:

“I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

Henry David Thoreau

Isn't it amazing how a few words can make all the difference? I love the inclusion of the word "endeavor". I love that there is more there than a simple cause and effect structure. Whereas I have always understood the quote to be almost an "if, then" statement (IF you go confidently in the direction of your dreams, THEN you will live the life you've imagined), it is, in fact, an anecdotal observation that we all must try our best to be the people we wish to be and be open to a fluid interpretation of success.

That is something I think we can all embrace. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

this is not my week

It's been an emotional week.

That's also a gross understatement.

We had our document presentation on Monday with our caseworker and, even now, I fail to be able to explain my emotions upon leaving.


Suffice it to say.... we are no longer pursuing our most recent match. It felt like a punch to the gut to read through the documentation and realize that we are so poorly suited for these kids. I can't go into detail about why for privacy reasons, but they were significant.

And they did not apply to just one child either.

As I mentioned in my last post, adoption is forever. Whatever kids we do bring into our family will be there for a lifetime. It's permanent. We have to be honest about what we are willing and able to handle for forever.

One thing that made the situation particularly rough is that this is not the first time this has happened to us. And we had zero time to process our emotions about the failed match because we couldn't afford to take more time off of work for an adoption that wasn't going to happen.

Add in state testing this week for my school and you have one long, emotionally draining week.

I stumbled across this music video while browsing YouTube the other day and it has brought me a certain amount of peace the last couple of days. Enjoy! And I hope you have been having a better week than me.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

the potential match

Shortly after we started back to work after spring break we had a discussion with our caseworker. The two boys we were hoping to match with found their match with a different family. Its a weird emotion to experience joy for the kids' potentially forever match and sorrow for your missed match at the same time. That's adoption from foster care for you.

I'm told we will experience a lot of those weird conflicting emotions in our journey.

Our conversation was not all bittersweet though. We found out that our previous caseworker (the one we loved that went out on maternity leave) had been in contact with another caseworker about a different sibling group of children for us before she went on maternity leave. That caseworker hadn't said anything else since we made the switch to our new caseworker, so nobody had told Steve and I that there was a possible match in the works.

Turns out, there was. We have a match!

For those of you who have never been in this position, let me be the first to tell you: it is intense. Before, we worked in generalities for the most part.
Yes- we will consider these special needs.
No - we will not consider that diagnosis.
Now we have a specific set of children to consider with all kinds of specifics to pour over and make decisions about. How do we feel about this situation, can we handle that behavior.... Are we even capable of going from no kids to 4 kids practically overnight?

All of this within the context of forever. If we proceed with this match the end result is this set of kids becoming ours forever. This formal match process is the only time we have to decide whether we are the right adults to take on the privilege of parenting these specific children.

Do our strengths with regard to their situation and specific needs outweigh our weaknesses?

I promise I'm not trying to be a downer. I'm just trying to express what a complete mindfuck this last week has been. And I know those experiences have just begun.

Let me tell you what the next steps are... That's always the question I get asked by people when we talk about the adoption:

1) document presentation: Sit down with our caseworker and go over every piece of paperwork related to these kids since they came into care. Usually psychological evaluations, reports, medical reports, school records, IEPs if there are any... that kind of thing. It's exciting because you find out little things like names, birthdays, favorite foods, what they like to do... but also sobering things like why and when they came into care. Ours is scheduled for Monday afternoon.

2) formal staffing: meeting with everyone involved with the case - Steve and I, our caseworker, the kids' caseworker, foster parent, and regional adoption coordinator. We meet at the DFCS office in the county where the kids reside and Steve and I get to ask all of our questions about the kids we have based on their documentation. We also get to talk with people who actually know the kids and get their input since no kid is as one-dimensional as they seem on paper. This meeting is also when we create our visitation plan.

3) visitation - This is when we finally meet the kids. It starts with a brief meeting (around 2 hours, usually at the kids' foster home) and proceeds from there with visits gradually increasing in duration and eventually leading to visitations in our home with the kids spending the night.

4) move in - If all the previous steps go well, the kids move in with Steve and I permanently. We have them 24/7, every day. This period before finalization allows us to get an idea of what day to day life will be like with the kids. We experience getting them ready for school, eating dinner together, taking them to their various appointments and activities, interacting with friends and family.... the things that make up real life.

5) finalization - a minimum of 6 months from move in day is when finalization occurs. This is when we go down to the courthouse and a judge issues the final adoption paperwork. From this point we are officially, legally, a forever family.

If I haven't made this clear... I am BEYOND excited to begin this process and potentially meet my kids. I am trying to be cautiously optimistic, but I'm the kind of person who puts my whole heart into something or none at all. Staring down potential heartbreak is intense... but it is way better than the alternative of never experiencing something worth risking my heart for.

Sunday, April 10, 2016


I love my job. I do. really. But, as with everything we put our whole self into, it can be draining.

Enter: spring break!

Steve and I both needed an opportunity to get the heck out of dodge and try to remember how to relax. So, we went to the capitol of relaxation... the beach.

We left bright and early Monday morning to drop the dogs off at K9 Planet (their very favorite doggy daycare/boarding facility) to play with their friends. After that we jumped on the interstate and drove south until we hit ocean.

Not literally. We stopped in the parking lot of a hotel and walked the rest of the way to the water. ;)

We spent three GLORIOUS days lounging on the beach and generally being lazy bums.

It. was. FABULOUS!

Yes, the all caps is necessary. I don't think anyone, least of all Steve and I, knew how much we absolutely needed to have that down time together. It wasn't until we were laying on beach loungers, covered in sunscreen, soaking up the warm rays that we noticed just how much the last few years have been weighing on us.

I'm not talking about just adoption and baby-making stuff either. Obviously that has been a giant issue, but little things have been weighing us down too. Things like walking that fine line of building up our savings while also paying down debt.

Things like the day-to-day stress of dealing with traffic and workplace drama.

Things like health issues both physical and mental. After all, I had pneumonia and the flu this year in addition to two broken toes and a multitude of ear infections.

Normally we deal with these things and they roll off our backs. But when you haven't had a break from that day-to-day craziness in almost 4 years (not including our trip to DC for my cousin's graduation since that trip was about helping family, not relaxing) it becomes significantly more difficult to let it go at the end of the day.

Now that we have had that time to recharge, we are ready again to face the issues life is planning to throw at us. We are still waiting for news regarding our potential match. We are still working out the little home renovation things we are doing to prepare for whatever kiddos we get.

Friday, April 1, 2016

The Waiting Game

I promise I haven't been silent so long on purpose. Just as I tell my friends when they ask me at work and on Facebook, there is't much to report.

I have come to understand that this process of adoptin through Foster Care is very much a "hurry up and wait" kind of situation. When something DOES happen, it must be done quickly. But you go through long periods where nothing is really happening.

Okay, that's not really true. You go through long periods where it APPEARS that nothing is happening. Behind the scenes at agencies and state facilities there is a lot going on. We just aren't privy to those things.

And a good thing too because it would likely bore us out of our skulls.

Suffice it to say, we are awaiting a response from the caseworker for a sibling group we are interested in matching with. It's the season for Spring Break vacations, so we likely will not hear anything back until the middle of this month.

Our [substitute] caseworker has assured me that, if we do get paperwork back after spring break confirming our selection as a match, things will move very quickly and we may even be able to begin visitation before April ends. That would be awesome. Not the least of which because it puts the kiddos moving in just after school ends over Memorial Day weekend and gives all of us lots of time to settle in before next school year begins.

But I'm getting ahead of myself....

Right now we are continuing our prayers for guidance, patience in this period of waiting, and wisdom for everyone involved.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

State Adoption Match Meeting recap

This past Thursday was the big state-wide adoption event for DFCS called the State Adoption Match Meeting. It's essentially an opportunity for every region and county in the state to present all of their waiting children to families looking to adopt from foster care. It's not just for people with an approved homestudy either, it's for anyone interested in adopting older children from foster care.

Our caseworker recommended we go since we are not exclusively matched with anyone yet and, in the end, I'm incredibly glad we went.

The event was held at the Hilton Atlanta Airport and was much more organized than I was expecting! They had a check-in table for families set up outside of the main event space when you first walked in. Then, there was a space with tables and chairs for families to sit and sort through information away from the matching event space. They also had food, drinks, and snacks. A HUGE perk in my opinion.

Inside the main event space each region had their own space which was decorated in a unique theme. One was railroad themed, one baseball, one was the beach, and there were actually two regions with Star Wars themes! Within each region's area they had their caseworkers and adoption coordinators present to answer questions and help families identify children matching their preferences.

I thought I would be overwhelmed by the event, but it wasn't as crazy as I expected. There were a lot of people and a lot going on, but being able to leave and sit in a separate room to gather my thoughts was incredibly helpful to staying in a clam state of mind.

Major kudos to the state offices for thinking of that!

Our agency and caseworker were also there to provide support for us. We met with several caseworkers about various families and walked away feeling confident that something good would come from attending. We spoke with the caseworker for the kids we currently have a pending match with. She gave us some helpful information about the state of things with that. We also found out about another sibling set we might pursue a match with.

It felt good to walk away from an event feeling so positive after such an emotional week.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

another maybe

I feel like lately Steve and I have been on this weird loop. We get a match, it falls through, we go back to waiting.

We have another match. We are still waiting for confirmation of everything and a "game plan" of sorts. There are many possibilities, of course, but nothing concrete. I am not fond of uncertainty, but I'm told that parenthood comes with a lot of it and to get used to it.

I'm making a concentrated effort.

I also feel like I am annoying the poo out of our caseworker. We have only called her twice this week. But it's also only Tuesday. Once per day isn't too bad, right? Right?!?!?

This month also marks 3 years since we have been actively trying to grow our family. I think that in and of itself is having an effect on my ability to deal lately. I find myself reflecting on the past few years of trying to conceive/ trying to adopt and the years before of patiently waiting for us to be able to try. I go through all of the woulda, coulda, shouldas. I end up being really harsh on myself without really meaning to.

The hardest part of it all? Making peace with my body.

Since starting the TTC journey I have gained 50 pounds. Not that weight is everything, but it makes me uncomfortable. Once we hit the 1 year TTC mark I stopped exercising because I thought THAT was preventing me from getting pregnant. Then, once we realized something was really wrong, I was so angry at my body for what I perceived as betrayal, I stopped caring enough to make healthy choices.

Now, here I am with a large physical reminder of my emotional journey.

Today, I look at myself in the mirror and I see all of the pain and sorrow from the last three years. If it weren't for the tiny spark of hope I have now in the form of being homestudy approved and potentially matched, I wouldn't recognize myself at all.

The red hair doesn't help.

This journey has completely changed me, not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually. I can admit now that maybe some of those changes needed to happen. Maybe I needed to change in order to be the parent I want to be... maybe even the parent I need to be. It doesn't make the process hurt any less, but I do find comfort in the knowledge that God doesn't allow us to suffer without using it for our own spiritual refinement.

My prayer at this weird, emotional time of my life is to honor the journey I've already gone through and look forward with hope and optimism.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

not so much

The potential match I posted about recently did not work out.

It was our decision not to move forward and we had some genuine, big reasons for not pursuing it further. Still, it stings. 

It stings because we met and bonded with these children. It stings because we dared to hope that our journey toward parenthood was coming to an end.

To quote John Green, "It hurts because it mattered".

One positive thing to come out of this mess is that we received our official state approval earlier than expected. We are officially "paper pregnant" as of February 10, 2016.

That term feels so weird. I'm not sure I like it, but it seems fitting and others around us have sort of latched onto the saying. 

Meh. Whatever makes them happy, I guess.

As disappointed and saddened as we are, we are still moving forward and open to any new matches that might come our way. Our caseworker is awesome (as is our agency) and this team behind us is working with us toward finding our family. 

This process has shown me time and time again that God's timing is perfect.

I'm trusting him with this completely.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Is this real life?

I can't say much right now, but things are happening. They are happening quickly.

Children (yes, children. three of them to be exact) have been identified for us and we have a pending match. We are expecting word from the state in the next day or so.

Things just got really real.

I will update when I can.

Monday, February 15, 2016

I'm not exactly Ty Pennington

There isn't much to update on with the adoption except that Steve and I put on our DIY hats and planned a large scale home makeover in preparation for kiddos.

Well, Steve drove me to Home Depot and gave input on paint swatches. Then he napped because he had a man cold and hates painting.

I put on my super cheap yoga pants from the grocery store, cranked up my "getting stuff done" playlist, and pretty much attacked the walls of our largest guest bedroom with a paintbrush and rollers. It went from a dirty looking yellow color to the most amazing shade of blue. It's called "Yucutan" by Behr and I'm in love.

Although gender neutrality was a large factor in our choice of paint since we don't know the specific children who will share our home or their color preferences, it was much more about which colors I was drawn to at the store.

Our smaller bedroom will be painted a warm grey color called Shitake, also by Behr.

The last room to receive a makeover will be the bathroom which we are painting a bright green color by Behr called "Citrus Peel".

In that picture it looks a little like split pea soup, but it is actually almost lime green in the lighting of our bathroom. 

So far we have only made it through the one bedroom with paint, but the other two rooms are not far behind. With Valentine's Day yesterday and Steve being sick, painting got pushed to the back burner. I spent the morning with my parents, older brother and his fiancee, and my grandmother at brunch before coming home to snuggle my sweet baboo. Much better than sequestering myself in a bedroom with a bucket of paint. Time will tell which room will be finished today.

Next weekend I have a reading intervention program training to attend that I am ridiculously excited about. Hopefully by the time I return the state will have made a decision and we can go out and find our children! 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Ash Wednesday

It's that time of year when your Catholic friends walk around with black smudges on their foreheads and get creative with seafood recipes.

Yup... it's officially Lent.

In the past, this season of the liturgical year has seemed like a serious and sad time. The church is draped in purple, we can't sing the Gloria at mass, people are fasting, everyone has given up something they love. I always associated this period between Mardi Gras and Easter to be the gloomiest part of the year. I mean... we're all just pushing through until Easter, am I right?

This year I am seeing this season of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving in a new light. It has always been a season of preparation, but I don't think I truly honored the purpose of preparation before this year.

Steve and I have been in a season of preparation for our family for a while now. We got final approval from our agency at the end of last month and are only waiting on one letter from the state before we can begin matching with children. The day when we can finally meet our children and bring them home is imminent. 

But, we aren't quite there yet. And it's a good thing because we have a few things we need to do still. Little things like painting the bathroom, washing the new towels and bedding we purchased. As well as big things like meet with case workers to identify which kids we are willing to match with.

This process is a microcosm of what is happening our hearts as we prepare for Easter. That day when Christ rises from the dead will be filled with a joy worthy of a southern banana pudding celebration. But you can't truly appreciate it and enjoy that day without buckling down and honoring the journey. 

By fasting, praying, and giving alms we are doing those big and little tasks which prepare the way for celebrating the gift that is Christ's resurrection. Just as we must prepare for the gift of parenthood, we must prepare our hearts and minds for the greatest gift we will ever receive, which is Jesus on the cross.

I have said it before, but I'll say it again. I may never know the full list of reasons behind our infertility in God's plan for us, but I know without a doubt that he is using our adoption journey to draw me incredibly close to him and rekindle the relationship which all but died between us over the last few years.

I hope all of you who are fasting have an easy fast and that you use this Lent to grow your own spiritual relationship.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

A lesson on love

There are some verses of the Bible which are so well known they become intertwined with secular culture. It like everyone just kind of agrees, independently of religion, that this is just a basic truth of the universe.

One such verse, in my opinion, is 1 Corinthians 4-7.

Yes, the verse everyone and their mama has read at their wedding. I know we had the preacher read it at mine!

There is no denying this verse is beautiful. If it weren't I doubt it would be such a popular reading at weddings and anniversaries. My non-religious friends actually had it read at their wedding because they liked the sentiment and my brother, whom is not religious in the least, has hinted at possibly using it in his wedding this summer.

Bottom line, we in Western culture have pretty much accepted this verse as an instruction manual for perfect romantic love. And it is a tall order.

However, lately I have been studying this verse with a new lens and it has completely blown my mind.

That lens, of course, is the lens of a potential adoptive parent.

"Love is PATIENT, love is KIND": There is no patience quite like that of the person waiting for the day they can welcome their child into their family through adoption. First, the waiting involved with infertility. Then, the waiting between trainings and paperwork and certifications and homestudy writing and matching. If it were not wrapped in unconditional love for a child (or children) not yet met, I doubt many would be able to endure it.

"Love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way. It is not irritable or resentful": There is a sort of forced humility which comes from trying to adopt after infertility. You come to realize that, if it were not for some sacrifice or trauma on the part of another, you would never be able to grow your family. It's hard to be rude or boastful after coming to that realization, and it's almost impossible to insist on your own way. You come to love and respect the journey others are walking which will eventually bring you to your child.

"It does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.": As someone planning to adopt from foster care, this part hits me particularly strongly. I know my children will come to me due to some type of trauma. Without that trauma they would never become mine. Nobody involved in this adoption triad is grateful for that trauma. Nobody is happy about the circumstances that cause biological parent and biological child to be separated. However, we all rejoice in the truth that this child is loved enough by everyone involved to receive the opportunity to heal and thrive. 

"It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.":  If you have seen the mountain of paperwork adoptive parents must fill out just to be eligible for a homestudy, you would understand this last part. Adoptive parents go through several different rounds of education, paperwork, meetings, interviews, etc. just to be considered as a possible match for a child. These are good things designed to help keep adopted children safe in the long run and they are generally good things. However, it is a long journey. Sometimes it's hard to deal with the fact that we must attend ANOTHER training or fill out yet ANOTHER form to become parents. It's our belief and hope that we will eventually grow our family that gets us through those particularly rough days. 

I may not always love this journey, but this journey has taught me more about my capacity for love than I ever thought possible. 

Someday (maybe even someday soon) Steve and I will bring our children home and it will be one of the most joyful days of our lives. That joy will come from a well of abundant, unconditional love cultivated during this period of waiting.