Sunday, November 21, 2010

Is that my kid? Do the math.

DH found a photo on the ground in the yard at the end of our driveway. It was a photo from a professional portrait studio of a baby wearing a My First Christmas outfit. DH brought it inside and left it on the counter.  I asked him who it was.  He said he didn't know, but he didn't want to throw it out because he thought there was a chance it could be Phenix.  His thinking was that maybe it fell out of an envelope the social worker had given us with another photo of P from right before he came to live with us.  She'd found that photo in his file while preparing for finalization and gave it to us along with some other info. 

The photo DH found stayed on the counter for almost a week.  We couldn't tell if it was Phenix or not and we didn't want to risk throwing it out.  More than likely, it's just a photo that fell out of someone's early Christmas card and blew from the mail truck to our front yard. But when you adopt a child older than a newborn, early photos from before the adoption are treasures. Throwing one out would be like tossing your wedding album in the trash.  You just don't do it. 

Over the past couple of days I've started feeling guilty because I can't tell whether it's Phenix in the photo.  It sounds silly, but I've caught myself asking what kind of mother I am that I can't recognize my own kid.  Then I remind myself that I've always been horrible in those baby photo contests when you have to match the baby photo to the celebrity.  I can't find the similarities between the infant face and adult one.  I just can't do it, so this isn't really any different, right? Then I go back to examining the found photo and looking at Phenix and deciding and changing my mind a million times that it definitely is/isn't him.  And I ask myself what kind of mother doesn't recognize her own child.  

Today I realized that on the back of the photo someone had written the words "6 months."  I'd seen the words before, but for reasons I can't explain I didn't really attend to them.  I finally did the math and figured out that Phenix was only 3 1/2 months old for his first Christmas.  So unless someone labeled the photo incorrectly or had him take a first Christmas photo in March when he actually was 6 months old, Phenix is not the baby in the photo.  Other information had pointed in that direction: the baby in the photo was chubbier than P likely was (he had bad acid reflux and was about to be labeled failure to thrive at that age) and the mouth and ears weren't quite right. But the eyes and forehead were similar and I'd never seen him before he was 12 months old so how could I be sure?  The "6 months" math seems pretty conclusive. 

So the photo isn't sitting on our counter any longer.  It's in a drawer in our desk in the office.  I still can't bring myself to throw it out.  Why? Because. . .well. . .I just can't.  You know.  Just in case. 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Holiday Cards

I read about this offer (50 free Holiday Cards from Shutterfly) on Wendy's blog, Our Story.  Like a lot of people, I don't usually like to post stuff like this on my blog, but I loved the cards that Wendy showcased and I've had good experiences when I've used Shutterfly in the past when making mouse pads for P's Aunties and photo magnets for DH to put up in his locker at work. I figured it was worth a look.  I'm glad I did look because when I went to Shutterfly I found the perfect holiday card for us.

This has been a big year for us.  A lot has happened, including our finalization of P's adoption, and I'd like to share the news.  However, there's no way I'm going to find the time in the next few weeks to get a holiday letter written. When I saw this card, it looked like it was made for us.  I'm going to list different events from throughout the year.  The #1 moment will be "becoming a forever family." I'm going to put our adoption day photo in the middle and a photo of P on either side. I'm so excited to see the final product.  Last year, it took me forever to find a card I liked. On top of that, I spent about 3 days forcing P into various holiday outfits so I could take his photo and had to sort through probably 1,000 photos as a result before I decided on one photo that I liked enough to use. Since this card is about Top Ten Moments of 2010, I feel comfortable using some great photos from the summer and fall and don't feel like I have to use a Christmas one.  I may actually get my cards out early this year!

Monday, October 25, 2010


We finalized! Friday, October 22 was Phenix's adoption day. It was an amazing, joy-filled day with lots of friends and family helping us celebrate. He's been ours in hearts since we first met him, but now he's ours forever.  Nobody can take him away.  I didn't realize that I was holding my breath, until after the court ceremony, when I was getting congratulations hugs from Phenix's brother's parents.  Suddenly, I could breathe again and realized that I hadn't really been breathing for a while. What a difference a signature on a piece of paper makes!

I'm now able to write his real name, Phenix Jake, and share some pics of him. In all honesty, I'll probably freak out about privacy and take these down at some point, but here they are for now:

ETA: I did end up having my privacy freak out and took the photos down.  I have to decide how I'm going to deal with the battle between being open and honest and being private on here.  Maybe I'll write more about that in a future post. 

Saturday, October 9, 2010

We have a date!

In fewer than two weeks, we'll be finalizing our adoption of L!  I'm beyond excited.  Time can't move fast enough!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A year ago, I was a new mom: trying to figure out how to change a diaper without my baby arching away from me and screaming his lungs out, exactly how much food a one year old was supposed to eat, how to keep my little guy from rocking nonstop in his highchair during meal times, how to get him to fall asleep and then to sleep through the night.  My sister told me at the time that she and my BIL liked to look at a video they took of their oldest daughter's first diaper change at home because it made them feel like they'd come so far.  She laughed about how it took two of them a good five minutes to finish the task when soon after she could change a diaper by herself one-handed in 2.7 seconds.  

I remember wondering if I would ever feel like that as a parent. Competent, natural, like I had it under control.  Because those first few months I wasn't sure it would happen. I felt like an imposter.  Maybe it was because he was one and not calling me Mama.  Maybe it was because I was his fourth mom.  Maybe it was because he wasn't legally ours.* I loved him with everything I had in me, and in my heart he was my son, but I wasn't sure I would feel like I was his mom. Did anyone else feel that same distinction? When we went out in public and someone told me how cute he was, out loud I would say "thanks," but in my head would follow, "we're adopting him so we don't deserve any credit for it." Same when someone would say how well-behaved he was, or how smart he was,  or how happy he was.  

I'm happy to say that caveat (we're adopting him) has stopped popping into my head every time our guy gets compliments.  Not that we deserve or don't deserve credit, but just that it doesn't matter. My response, external and internal, stops at, "Thanks."  I don't know when or how it happened, except maybe time, daily living, building attachment, but there is no doubt that I'm my boy's mother.  I know he has another mother who would have given anything to have kept him and two more who mothered him when he was alone and most needed it, but I'm his now-mother, his everyday-mother, his forever-mother. I'm his mother. I no longer feel the need to qualify my motherhood. 

I've been looking back a lot as the one year anniversary of L joining our family came and went. Maybe it's the looking back that gives perspective. Perhaps it's got something to do with the one year mark.  Isn't that why one year old birthdays are such a huge deal to parents?  Because the first year is HARD and to have fumbled through it without major harm to baby or parents is surely something to celebrate. And, although I didn't start with a newborn, I feel pretty darn celebratory about making it through this year and coming out the other side feeling like a regular, normal parent. 

*We're still waiting for a finalization date for those who were wondering.  We've been told we should hear this week sometime about a few date possibilities.  

Friday, August 13, 2010

One Year Ago Today

One year ago today, we got THE call. Of course at the time we didn't know it was THE call. It was another call in a series of raised hopes and false starts. In fact, that's what I titled that blog entry: Another One. We'd just passed on the opportunity to move forward with placement of a four year old boy due to lots of legal ugliness between DCF and the boy's foster mother. We were feeling a little down, secure in our choice, knowing it was the best one for us and for the little boy, but wondering if we'd ever get a call about a placement that felt right.

I was at school trying to get set up for the school year to start in a few weeks. DH called me and left a message that our family resource worker had called about a one-year old boy. It was a legal risk placement and we weren't sure how much risk was involved. There was some talk about a grandmother who wanted him which turned out to be a complete misunderstanding due to his foster mom at the time being called Granny.

We placed a call to the child's worker to get more information. And waited. And started fantasizing about a little one in our home. And wondered how much of our hearts we were willing to risk.

It turns out we were willing to risk everything. I'm so thankful we did, because down the hall there's a little boy napping who will wake up and call for Mama and I'm the one he's calling for. He's the light of my heart, my beautiful boy, my wonderful child, and we first heard he existed in the world, one year ago today.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


I know it's been too long since I've posted.  I guess my reluctance to write a new post has much to do with that I feel we're at a standstill.  There's not much new to share. I'm still totally in love with my son.  He's still the most amazing little boy I've ever met.  And. . .we're still waiting for a finalization date.  So far the timeline has moved from finalizing in June, to finalizing in July, to possibly finalizing in August, to likely finalizing in September. 

What's the hold up you ask?  Sadly, the hold up is the choice of L's adoption worker (yes, the one we love/loved?).  She's been holding off on submitting L's paperwork until the family of his older brother, P, gets a court date.  Which DH and I were fine with because P has been with them for going on three years and they went through a lot more ups and downs than we did. That is we were fine with it until just about everything that could go wrong did go wrong with P's case.  Paperwork was lost.  Lawyers were reassigned.  Some steps took many, many times longer than they should have.  Their paperwork was submitted in March and they still don't have a date.  Despite that the process has taken months longer for P's family than it should have, L's adoption worker is convinced it will only be a matter of weeks after the process is started for L until we hear about a court date. However, after much pleading and a tiny bit of harassment on our part, she has finally decided to begin the process for L.  

So now we wait.  Some more.  Again.  Still. 

Sunday, April 25, 2010

To the rude mother at our recent adoptive families playgroup

Just for future reference, it's rude to make any kind of huffing/snorting sound when people are going around introducing themselves and their children.  Obviously, my son's name is new to you and perhaps it's not your favorite.  Hence, the "L_____ (repeating his name). Hmmph" response when I introduced him.  Your response should have been, ". . . . . . . . .".  Those dots symbolize silence. "Hi" would have been acceptable, too.  "Hmmph"---not acceptable.  

By the way, I held back my opinion in the interest of common courtesy, but your daughter's name, the name you changed her birthname name to, is a common stripper name.  Next time, you hmmph at my son's name, I'm going to share that info with you.  

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

TPR, Take 2

L's birthparents parental rights were terminated on Friday.  The parents were found to be unavailable rather than unfit. Death does tend to make one pretty much unavailable. Our social worker said that it's usually easier for kids in the long run if their birthparents are not found unfit.  We're going to talk more about that at our next appointment.  

So L is now officially legally free for adoption. Next step is getting our adoption paper work from L's worker, having it notarized, and submitting it to the court for a finalization date. We're still hoping for June.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Don't get too excited.  It hasn't happened yet.  However, we now have a date and a new lawyer who is appalled that it's taken so long to get a TPR decree for a case in which both parents are deceased and there are no family members interested.  April 2 is the court date.  Hopefully, she and our awesome social worker will walk out of court with decrees in hand. 

Speaking of our awesome social worker, she visited yesterday.  She's such a great resource.  I had some questions about family medical history.  We have minimal information and I hate to picture L at the doctor's office saying, "I don't know" in response to all the family medical history questions. I thought maybe since both L's biological mother, R, and father, J, were in state care at various points, there might be some additional information in their files.  Unfortunately, no such luck.  However, R has a sister who lives out of state and has completely separated herself from the family. She was the first person contacted about taking E when he came into care. She had no interest in rebuilding any connections with R and was very clear that she didn't want the boys.  Our social worker approached her again at various points throughout the years (when E's goal was changed to adoption, when L was taken into care, when R died, when L's goal was changed to adoption) and her answer has never changed.  Our social worker is going to try to get some medical history information from her. L's aunt has washed her hands of the family and may not want to talk about medical history, but at least it's a possibility. 

I'll admit that my first thought when I heard about the aunt was, "What if she wants the boys now?"  Our awesome social worker addressed my concerns before I spoke them and reassured me and DH that even if L's aunt expresses an interest, it's too late because she had numerous opportunities to take them and had very valid reasons for not doing so.  Awesome social worker said L has bonded with us, his third placement, and the court has accepted the adoption plan.  In fact, she said,"This is a done deal."  That's what I needed to hear.  However, I'm glad to know L has a more typical biological relative out there and I hope that maybe someday she'll be willing to meet him if he's interested. 

Awesome social worker and I also talked about lifebooks and discussing adoption with L (and how talking about adoption with a child adopted from foster care differs from talking about it with children adopted in other ways).  I'll share that discussion in my next post.  

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Adopted vs. Biological

Why does the U.S. Government, via the Census, need to know whether my son is my adopted son or my biological son?  I know, I know.  They use it to determine funding for different programs. Perhaps they'll use it to decide whether to extend the Adoption Tax Credit.  

Even though I know why they ask, it still bugs me somehow. 

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Well, at least I don't have to worry about that

I was talking with a good friend at work who has been having some weird period issues. She had recently been to the GYN and was filling me in on what the doctor said. Then she said, "Oh, yeah. Unrelated to my current issues, but it turns out my bladder is falling out."  

I had no idea this kind of thing happened.  She didn't either until her doctor told her it was happening to her.  Apparently, childbirth with vaginal delivery is the biggest risk factor. My friend, who birthed two children 18 months apart, has since heard from other women, including a friend whose mother actually reached down and felt her bladder coming out of her vajajay while she was in the middle of taking a shower!  

The only thing I could think was, "S&%#, that's one huge advantage to never getting pregnant. Score one point for infertility!"*

*At least until menopause.  The reduced estrogen of menopause can cause pelvic floor muscles to weaken and a cystocele to occur. Another reason to keep up those Kegels.  

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Super Secret Special Ops

Frustrated with lots of bureaucratic runaround for the last 4 months, a couple of family members initiated a clandestine operation: Operation Death Certificate. It was successful, and really much easier than anticipated (and all completely legal).  J's death certificate showed up in L's worker's mailbox and is now in the judge's hands.  Now that the judge has proof that L's birthparents are both deceased, we're hoping for TPR news this week. 

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Dry and Not in the Dark

The basement didn't flood!  Woohoo!  The sump pump hole stayed full of water but it didn't overflow.  My dad brought a generator by in the morning and he and DH got the pump going just in case it rained more, which it did.  The power came on around supper time. 

DH bought about 10 flashlights so I won't have to use a honking bulldozer flashlight if the power goes out in the future. 

Friday, February 26, 2010

Why didn't we buy a better pump?

I'm lying here in the dark. There's a raging wind outside. It sounds like a freight train rolling by our house nonstop.

The power went out about an hour ago. The only flashlight I could find was L's bulldozer one that honks when you push the wrong button.

The sump pump hole is full of water but the pump's not working because we didn't splurge on the pump with the battery back-up. I put everything in the finished basement up as high as I could but the new chairs and the new toy storage can't be put up.

The dog keeps barking every two minutes because the lack of light and the wind are freaking him out. Luckily L is sleeping through it all, but I'll be shocked if that continues.

Oh, and I'm alone because DH had to go into work to help other people because that's what cops do.

Please send "no flooding" vibes.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


I just started a new private blog.  I'm the only subscriber. It's basically an online journal about what our little guy is doing.  I don't want to forget any of these amazing moments.  Apparently I need a little more practice managing two blogs because the post that published here last night was meant for the other one. That's why it's gone today.  Oops!

Friday, February 19, 2010

R, L's biological mother, has been on my mind a lot lately. Sometimes I look at L and I feel such sadness for R, for her abusive childhood, for the choices she made as an adult, for how her life ended. R was not a bad person. She was just not capable of parenting for many reasons, especially given her relationship situation. I don't want to get into details, but trust me when I state that she was simply not capable.

I keep thinking about her in the hospital after giving birth to L. I have his hospital bassinet card, thanks to his awesome adoption worker. It has BF/F written on it. I'm interpreting that as meaning R was breastfeeding L and supplementing with formula. It touches me for some reason that she wanted to breastfeed him. She probably got the chance to try while she was in the hospital after her delivery. Did she think she would get to keep trying at home with L? Did she realize that she wouldn't get to leave the hospital with him? She must have had some idea because she was circumspect about her due date whenever L's brother's ongoing worker asked during monthly visits. R was getting prenatal care so she certainly knew when L was due. Did she buy a bassinet? Did she buy a going home outfit for him? Did she make plans, buy supplies, dream about having him home?

I'm sure she hoped the Department would give her a chance to parent L, even though her older son P, was already in care. However, L left the hospital with P's worker. Her signature is on his discharge papers. The home he went to was the foster home his brother had spent his first year in. I think about how L must have felt, being taken from the only mother he knew by a stranger and being handed to another stranger to be cared for. How confused he must have been. And I picture R leaving the hospital without her baby. I can only imagine how empty her arms must have felt.

I know the strangers were kind to him. I know the decision to remove L from R's care was the right one; he would not have been safe with R and J. I know that without these events happening L would not be our son.

But it's still all so very sad.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Paperwork, Photos, and Pack Rats

L's social worker, M, visited last week.  It's been a while and she was amazed by how much L has grown.  Now that he's coming up on 18 months, he looks so much more like a little boy than a baby.  Not to mention that he has started to walk!  He still has that just-got-off-the-horse-look when walking, but steps are steps. 

We love L's social worker.  She's very on top of things and has a gift for explaining a situation in a way that lets you know exactly where you stand.  The court is still waiting for L's biological father's death certificate from the Medical Examiner. They were told last week, by a reliable source, that it would be sent within the next two weeks.  Once the court receives the death certificate, it can issue a decree legally freeing the boys- L and his brother. When that's done, M will begin L's adoption paperwork.  We have our next meeting scheduled for the end of March.  At that point, she hopes to have the paperwork for us to sign and then she can submit it to the court for finalization dates.  The goal remains for us to finalize in June. L's brother's family hopes to finalize in March since he has already been with them for some time. 

I asked M about the possibility of getting photos of L from his first foster home where he lived until he was six months old.  The earliest photo I have of him is from when he was 11 months old. His second foster mothers weren't big picture takers. M was able to get us L's footprint and id bracelet from his hospital stay after his birth.  I know these are priceless treasures and we are so grateful to have them.  However, I would really like to have some early photos for his lifebook and for those rotten autobiography projects in elementary school. M is going to get me the address of the now-retired FM#1 so I can contact her.  FM#1 took care of L's brother for the first year of his life, until he was placed with his adoptive family, and I know she took lots of photos then.  L's brother's mom shared them with me last weekend when they visited.  I'm hoping FM#1 also took lots of pictures of L.  She has downsized and moved since taking care of L and my fear is that any photos might have been tossed.  I pray she's a pack rat. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Foster Care Review Meeting

This is a boring update, but I hope it explains yet another part of the fost/adopt process.

Every six months, children in state custody are required to have a foster care review meeting. The purpose of the review is to discuss progress toward the child's goals.  In the case of L, his goal is permanence which means adoption by us.  It's usually suggested that preadoptive parents attend the meetings, but in our case L's social worker told us not to.  We had been told at our disclosure meeting for L that it would not be in anyone's interest for us to attend the foster care review meetings. L's brother's preadoptive parents had never attended.  L's biological father was always there and the social workers were convinced that he would become confrontational with us.  They thought things would get ugly. After J, L's biodad, died, the worker felt like there was no need to change things.  We emailed L's worker a narrative of how he was adjusting to our family. 

So the meeting came and went.  Last week we got a written report about the meeting.  Nothing in there was surprising  They continue to recommend permanence through adoption by us.  It was nice to see us referred to as L's forever family.  The report also said the plan is for us to finalize in June.  

I would love for us to finalize in June, but it's highly unlikely.  For reasons I don't understand the medical examiner has been very slow with issuing a death certificate for J, L's biological father. Until the death certificate is issued, the court can't terminate parental rights.  Until the court terminates parental rights, the adoption paperwork can't be submitted. We're hoping it happens soon, but we're not holding our breath. We just keep telling ourselves that it will happen eventually.  

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Fortunately, Unfortunately, Fortunately*

Fortunately, I heard the word, "Mama" from L for the first time this morning.  Or at least the first time I was sure that it was actually Mama and not more, more, or something along those lines. 

Unfortunately,  he said it over and over as he was holding on to my leg, trying to keep me from leaving when I dropped him off at daycare this morning. 

Fortunately,  he loves our babysitter's children and they were able to distract him by getting out his breakfast bowl and getting him to bang his spoon around in it. When I left, he was all smiles.

Of course, he hasn't said Mama since.  

*I realized after I posted this that my "fortunately, unfortunately" reference is really obscure.  It's the children's book Fortunately, one of my many favorites. I had it in my head when I was thinking about the day.  

Friday, January 15, 2010

I Hate Fac.ebook

Posted on Fa.cebook by my clueless (formerly infertile??) cousin:

Next time, remind me not to have babies 15 months apart. 

Consider it done. 

Monday, January 4, 2010

Not So Bad

Thanks for the support!

Today wasn't awful after all.  I survived my first day back, in spite of my substitute not having done half of what I left and was kind of (very much) counting on her to do.  But it could have been much worse and I'll catch up. 

DH called his mother and she came to help out with L so DH didn't have to expose him too much to the awful stomach germ. We're still holding out hope that L's yucky diapers are due to teething and this stomach thing will bypass him.  MIL cooked a huge pot of chicken soup and she's a fantastic cook so that was a plus. Lunch for the rest of the week!

L remains happy despite his sour stomach and he's drinking and eating like himself.  He had fun with his grandmother and still remembered me when I got home, so not so bad.  

Tomorrow is the big drop off at the babysitters.  He'll go about 2-3 days per week.  The other days DH will have him.  Then in about 6 months, I'll be off for another 8 weeks or so and can spend all my time with L and DH.  

I'm luckier than many and am trying to count my blessings.  


Just spent two days sick, really, really, sick with the stomach bug

L has diarrhea

DH is getting sick now too,

But he's watching L today


my maternity leave ends today and I have to go back to work.  

This sucks!