Monday, March 22, 2010

Slip Slidin' Away...

Up to this point I've focused a lot on the difficulties we faced (because it was very difficult) but I want to share some of the special things that happened as well.  We got our children on November 2nd and we had a timeshare in Virginia for Thanksgiving weekend.  I was really sick and told Rob that I didn't think we should go.  A six hour drive with three kids was not appealing to me.  Rob was pretty adament about going though so I gave in....boy am I glad I did!

I prepared really well.  I had snacks, drinks, kid's music and anything else I could think of to make the trip go smoothly.  The preperation paid off.  Other than the frequent potty breaks, we had a good trip.  It was completely new for them.  They had never traveled outside of the small town they lived in so leaving our county then state was pretty exciting for them.

We arrived at the timeshare in the evening and it was so fun to see their excitement at "the apartment" we were staying in.  They loved it with the exception of a picture that Connor said was stupid.  He was only three at the time and quite the art critic.  The main bathroom had a huge whirlpool tub that could fit four adults in it.  The kids called it the pool.  They had just as much fun in that tub as they did at the indoor water park at the resort.   It was fun to watch all of them going down the slides and having buckets of water dump down on them.  Christian had so much fun being in the warm pool with me.  We hadn't seen him smile too much up until that time.

One of the most special moments happened one day leaving the water park. Rob asked, "Who had fun?" and raised his hand and said, "Me!" The rest of the kids followed suit, yes, even Christian. That was the first word we heard him utter.

It was wonderful to get away for a whole week without thinking about their birth father, caseworkers, visits, school...we needed that.  It was just us - a family.

I can't think about that trip without feeling an overwhelming joy and gratitude.  When asked to write about something special or her favorite thing, Emily still writes about our trip to the water park we took over two years ago.  We've taken many other trips since then but that trip was special. 

It was the birth of our family.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


The most difficult part was the lack of help I had.  I am surrounded by great I don't want you to think that it was the fault of others.  It was due to the circumstances of our placement.  The support system that I had been planning to use was my church family.  However, since we went to church with their biological family, we needed to do our best to keep things confidential and to keep things neutral.  We didn't want to have any hurt feelings or misunderstandings because of us sharing too much.  I'm glad we did that because we were able to continue a good relationship with their family.  My mom lives about an hour and a half away but she was pretty much bedridden due to extreme pain in her lower back and hips for the first couple months after we got our children.  We found out later that her tailbone was turned backwards.  It certainly made things hard on us.

The Wednesday after our children were placed with us I had been dealing with an infected wisdom tooth for two days and had to have it removed.  I couldn't leave my kids with anyone so I made the appointment and a dear friend of mine agreed to drive me there and watch Connor and Christian in the waiting room while I had it pulled.

When I got home I went to get Emily from school.  Emily's teacher couldn't believe I was out there waiting in the cold after just having my tooth pulled.  Every time I met with her she would shake her head and repeat how impressed she was over that.  I didn't think anything of it.  I was in survival mode and I was pretty tough.  The Lord doesn't give us more than we can handle, right?

Thank goodness for Mrs. Miller!  I don't know what I would have done if she hadn't been Emily's teacher that year.  We spent many meetings together with tears streaming down our faces.  She is another angel God sent to us.  I'm overwhelmed with gratitude when I think back to the understanding and compassion she showed Emily.  Emily didn't have a single friend that year except for Mrs. Miller.

Emily wasn't the only one who felt alone that year...

Monday, March 15, 2010


It was Monday, third day of motherhood, and I was exhausted!  We had no toys and a limited number of movies that were kid-friendly.  We also were finding there were a lot of behaviors that needed correcting.  Lying was a constant thing with them.  Even for the simplest question, Emily would pause and think about how she was going to answer.  Her thought bubble would have read, "What should I make up in order to get the result I want"?  That was the first thing we tackled because I believe without honesty there is nothing to build on.  We told the kids that if they did something wrong they would go to timeout but if they did something wrong and lied about it they would go to timeout and lose priviledges.  It didn't take long for them to figure out that honesty was the best policy.

Another challenge was the boys' destructive behavior.  Connor thought it was a lot of fun to run full speed with his head into the wall and to drag his face on the carpet until he had rug burn.  Christian (who still had not uttered a single sound) was into everything.  He pulled everything from every drawer within his reach and then he took apart anything that was possible to be taken apart (he is still very good at taking things apart and putting things together).  I felt like my life was nothing but putting kids in timeout.  It was tiresome and monotonous but we knew that we had to let them know right away what was and was not acceptable.

That day I took Emily to school and got her enrolled.  She was very behind.  She was in the first grade but couldn't count to ten properly and didn't know her sounds.  This was very difficult for her since the homework that was being sent home was addition and she was expected to read by then.  This was an ongoing struggle we faced with her.  The most difficult thing to handle though was Emily's social behaviors.    She did odd things like suddenly whaling at the top of her lungs.  She would make rude comments about people in a voice loud enough for them to hear.  She was also obsessive about meals.  Every night she would ask me about breakfast...Were we going to have it?  What were we going to have?  Before she'd leave for school she would be asking me about lunch and dinner.  She was so worried that I was going to forget to feed them.

I was dressing Christian's burn every morning and night. I can only imagine how painful it was for him. I can still see the pain and fear in his eyes but not a sound from him. It was haunting and heartbreaking. I remember how thankful I was to finally hear him cry after he'd been with us for about a week. I could tell that he had learned to survive by not being noticed.

Despite these behaviors and all my concerns, I knew that they would be fine.  They just needed to be loved and cared for.  They needed structure and they needed to know they had a home with us and that they were safe.  This doesn't mean that I wasn't scared out of my mind though.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

One Big Family

I did mention that our children's last name was the same as some people we went to church with, right?  We had spent some time wondering if they were related and how they might be related.  We didn't have to wonder for very long.

Our first Sunday was so exciting for me.  There is just something special about being able to go to church with your family and this was the first time our family included children.  We drove into the church parking lot and almost right away Emily said, "I've been here before with my Grandma!  There's her car!"  We walked into the chapel and their biological relatives (three pews full) all turned to look at us.

After the meeting, our children's great-grandparents told us they knew the children were going to be going into foster care and that they had been praying they would go to a good home.  They told us how God had answered their prayers and how happy they were that the children were with us.

When I heard this, I was overwhelmed by how much our Heavenly Father loves us and amazed by the miracles he sends us.  We knew then why we had to move to Pittsburgh, why we decided to buy a home in Beaver County, why we had become foster parents.  God knew all along that they were our children just waiting for us to come for them.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Train Wreck

The common thing we heard from everyone was, "What a blessing!"  I wish I could say that was how I felt but I felt like I had just been hit by a speeding train.  I laid awake that whole night feeling completely overwhelmed.  Most people get nine months to prepare for one baby.  I had a few hours to prepare for three children who were certainly not babies.  They came with "baggage".

The next morning I had to call a pediatrician first thing to make a same day appointment for Christian's burn.  I took him at 10:00 that morning leaving the other two children with Rob.  Christian threw up all over himself on our way there.  The doctor instructed me in how to care for Christian's burn and told me that the marks that were all over him (and the other two) was Scabies.  He gave me a prescription for a cream that I had to smear on all the kids from head to toe each night and said that I would have to change and wash all their bedding each morning.  I had to do this for two days.

When I got home I had to shop for clothes and other things we needed for the children.  I left the boys with Rob and took Emily with me.  Let me just say that it was not a pleasant experience.  I had two shopping carts mounded with stuff and a little girl who did not understand how to behave appropriately in public.  I walked out to the car pushing these two carts and was at my breaking point.  I had been holding it together this whole time determined not to let the children see me cry.  They needed me to be strong.  I remember loading the bags into the trunk and being thankful that it was dark because Emily wouldn't see the tears streaming down my face and my body shaking as it stifled uncontrollable sobs.  As I was doing this, I noticed that the people parked next to me had arrived and my cart was blocking them.  I thought, "Great! Just what I need right now!" and I began apologizing to the man.  I was surprised when the man told me not to worry and started helping me unload my carts.  He then took both of my carts and returned them for me.  I thanked him and he told me that his daughter had twins and that he knew how hard it was for her.  I got into the car and cried even more but for a different reason.  I don't know who that man was or why he had decided to help me and I'm sure he has no idea how much his actions meant to me.  It was a simple act but it made all the difference in my world.  There are tears on my face as I think back to that day.  God sends his angels to us in the moments we need him most.  I'm so thankful for the angel he sent me that night.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Phone Call

When we were approved as foster parents we were told that it may take a few weeks to several months before we would have a placement and that they would most likely start us out with some respites (which consists of caring for a foster child over a short period of time while their foster parents may go on vacation or may just need a break). We figured after several weeks we might have a child placed with us.

The phone call came two days after we were approved as foster parents. I was visiting my parents who live about an hour and a half away from me. A caseworker from CYS asked us if we would be willing to take a sibling group of three children. I told him I would have to speak with my husband before I could agree to it. I was a little concerned about being able to take care of three children but Rob said that he felt good about it. I let CYS know that we would take them. This was at about 3:00pm and they needed me to pick them up by 5:00 or as soon as I could make it back. I remember shaking because I was so anxious and I couldn't think clearly.

Rob and I met at CYS. We were lead to a room with a large conference table and several caseworkers inside. They had a few stacks of paperwork that we started going through and signing. We were amazed when we recognized the last name of the children. We went to church with people having the same name. We wondered if they were somehow related and figured we would find out on Sunday.

My heart leaps when I think back to the moment I first saw my children. I could tell they were worried about what would happen to them but at the same time I was a little surprised by how well they responded to us.

Emily (7) was softly crying. She came up to me and said, "My mom is dead." I hugged her and told her I was sorry. She stopped crying right away. I still have the striped sweater she was wearing that day.

Connor (3) was laughing and hyper (something he does when he is worried or nervous). He was very friendly and outgoing and very easy to like.

Christian (1) was so small for his age and he just slumped over and shrunk from anyone seeing him. He wouldn't look at anyone and kept his head down. He had a second degree burn the size of a softball on his stomach. He didn't make a sound.

This was our first meeting. We left CYS a little after 6:00 with three children who had nothing but the clothes on their backs. We took them to Burger King to eat where Christian threw up. The poor thing was suffering so much. We then went to Walmart to get some things that would be needed (pajamas, underwear, toothbrushes, clothing, diapers, etc.)

On the way home, Emily rode with me in the car. I told her that she could call us mom and dad if she wanted but that she didn't have to and that we could come up with something else for her to call us if she wanted. She thought about it for a moment and then said that she would like to call us mommy and daddy.

I am a mom...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

It All Started...

Rob and I had been married a little over five years and had already lived in three different states and six different homes. We had struggled as most young couples do while adjusting to married life. But one of the trials I never thought I would go through was being childless. You see, I come from a family of eight children and Rob from a family of six children. I just thought that I would decide how many children I could handle and they would come. Obviously that didn't happen.

It was especially hard for me. I didn't know how to identify myself. My mom was a wife but foremost she was a mother. I had no idea how to separate the two. I shared how I felt with Rob but, like most men, he couldn't even begin to comprehend what I was going through. I felt inadequate and alone.

We had been living in Colonial Beach, Virginia for three years when I had an undeniable prompting that we needed to move. Rob thought I was a little crazy but said he'd experienced enough to know that we should follow my "intuition". It really didn't make any sense to move. Rob had a stable job working for the Department of Defense, we owned a home we were remodeling, and had some great friends there. At first we didn't know where to go but we finally decided to try Pittsburgh, PA. Just four weeks after beginning the job search we had obtained employment for Rob and had already moved to Pittsburgh.

Things were good for us but we still felt a void in our lives. It's amazing how difficult it is to make friends with other couples or be involved when you don't have children. I'm sure in some circles this wouldn't be a problem but Rob and I are devout Latter-day Saints (Mormons). In our faith, family is the most important thing. It is not a question of if you will have children but of when you will have them. We were definitely the exception among our acquaintances and friends.

In the Spring of 2006 we decided to try IUT (Artificial Insemination). This involved invasive examinations, daily shots of strong hormones, and a slight loss of dignity. The hormones made me very ill and moody (Rob might have used a different word for this). The day of insemination came and as the doctor was taking care of business she told Rob and I to look into each others eyes. Perhaps for some it may feel like a magical moment but for me her saying that just added to the humiliation. Who are we kidding? It was a medical procedure not a special intimate moment. Maybe I would feel differently about that moment if we had been successful in conceiving but a month later I felt the bitter sting of disappointment. Actually heartbreak would be a better description of what I felt. Rob wanted to try again but I just couldn't go through it again. I was ill from messing with my hormones and emotionally drained. We decided at that point that we would have to complete our family in a different way.

Choosing to adopt is not an easy decision. It's one thing for God to bless you with a "child of your own" but to convince yourself that you are ready and acceptable to parent "another person's child" was difficult for me. Not only did I have to convince myself but we also had to convince an adoption agency and an expectant mother. We all know that an expectant mother and agency are much more discriminating than God. God doesn't care what your income is, what kind of home you live in, what you look like or how much education you have but if you want to adopt then you better shine in all those areas. We also considered becoming foster parents but had obvious concerns about doing that. We came to realize that whichever we chose there was a risk of heartbreak. I've summed this up in a paragraph but it was a decision that took us many months to make.

October 30, 2007 we became foster parents. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.