The Yearbooks

We did it, guys, we did it!

Friday after posting about Jacob’s yearbooks, I made some phone calls and guess what? All the schools which produced yearbooks had a yearbook for him!!  Everyone was extremely nice and accomodating and it really made me believe that there are still good people in the world and not everything is buckled down under eight layers of red tape.

Like a Christmas miracle, both Scott and I were off work today while the kids had school so we spent the morning making the trips to the schools to get them. It was a beautiful day, very warm and the trees are just gorgeous right now. Scott and I were able to talk through some things and really, just relax.

At the second school, the one he attended when he was taken into foster care, we were able to talk to some of the admins that knew him. They were so gracious and very thankful that he was in a stable environment.  I wasn’t expecting it, but it was a good moment for me to hear that he’s in the right place.

After the kids got home from school, we told him we had a surprise for him and then showed him the yearbooks. He got a shocked look on his face and then started giggling when Scott started telling him how cute his picture was and chasing him around the dining room.  I mean, y’all, look at this face.

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Can you see those squishable, kissable cheeks? Even the girls were fawning over him.

My heart hurts a bit more, though, picturing him like that experiencing the things he did. As we’ve heard about his past, I’ve only had him as he is to try to imagine it. But with this picture, he’s younger and smaller and a bit more vulnerable. My compassion for him has grown. Yes, he’s in the right place.

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We sat in the recliner and we flipped through the pages as he pointed to this friend and that friend and he told me which teachers he liked and which he thought were mean and which ones knew him and which taught him math.  It was good to bridge that gap and bring his old life into our new life, even if it’s just in pictures.

If there has been a heartwarming moment, this is my favorite so far.

The Broken and Beautiful: My Biggest Misconception About Adoption

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Friday was a wonderful day. We signed the final papers as planned, without a hitch. Scott and Jacob went on their first camping trip Friday night. He initiated a hug with me to tell me goodbye and it all felt so very right.

It’s looking like our court date will be December 29th with a bunch of other adoption cases before the end of the year, but we’ve requested something before Christmas.

We really want him to feel secure going into the holidays as it’s an expectedly emotional time.

As wonderful and happy as we were to sign the final papers on Friday, I have to tell you I’m feeling quite torn and sad about the whole thing right now.

My biggest misconception about adopting from foster care is that it would be a happy event all around.

I thought the situation at home would be so terrible that he would be happy for us to “save him” from his family and even, the parents would be glad to be rid of the burden of a child, and of course, we would be very happy to do the saving and to bring a child into our family. How terribly inaccurate, at least in our case.

The truth is a child will likely love his parent no matter how terrible their decisions were. And mostly, a parent loves their child and does the best they can, even if that best is not good enough. And yes, we are more than happy to bring Jacob into our family, but it’s very bittersweet right now. I was not expecting this, but there’s a part of me that wants to make everything right for Jacob and his family.

As a mother, I simply cannot imagine my kids taken from me and as a daughter, I cannot imagine my parents being taken out of my life. My heart hurts in both ways for Jacob and his family and I know he is feeling a lot of sadness mixed with happiness too.

So while we are celebrating, we have to be very careful to honor the broken pieces of this story. While adoption creates a new family, it also must destroy another family. Our case worker likened his experience to the death of a parent, except worse because the parent is still alive and well. It’s truly heartbreaking.

So I guess amidst all this happiness as we stare down finalization, I’m feeling the heaviness of that truth. I’m trying to grieve, but also remember that things really weren’t enough in his home. He is in a much safer, more stable family where he can flourish—and he is.

I am very sure in years to come we will see all and only the beautiful in its glory, but right now I’m holding vigil for the broken.

It’s all a tricky balance I wasn’t expecting to have to strike. So, if he doesn’t seem as happy as you think he should be or maybe we don’t celebrate like you think we ought to, please know we are doing the best we can with all the pieces. It’s both broken and beautiful. And that’s ok.  Only the best things are.

The Yearbook and the Yes

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Jacob with my parents’ dog. He loves animals.

This morning on the drive to school with Jacob and Lexi, Jacob asks me if I signed his Tuesday folder. Mind you, it’s Friday. “No”, I tell him, “you didn’t show it to me. Get it out now and I’ll sign it.”

He gets it out and passes it to me in the driver’s seat. I sign my name as I lean it against the steering wheel. I flip through the papers and see it’s time for yearbook orders.

“Order my yearbook! I want a yearbook!” Jacob says from the back seat.

“OK, we always order yearbooks, so I’ll definitely do that.”

“Order it now! My teacher will be mad if I don’t take the form today.”

“Jacob, it has a due date of the 21st. I have plenty of time. I promise I’ll order the yearbook.”

“Do it or you’ll forget. You ALWAYS forget.”

“Jacob, no I don’t. I do what I say.”

“Well, Daddy doesn’t.”

“Yes, he does, Jacob. Daddy does what he says. Can you think of a time when Daddy didn’t?”

His silence is the answer.

“We do what we say, Jacob. I’ve bought yearbooks every single year for the girls. I promise I’ll get you one.”

He seems satisfied and then says, “I’ve never had a yearbook. Lexi, will you sign my yearbook?”

And there it is between the lines. Unmet promises, trust broken. He doesn’t explain, but I know he’s wanted a yearbook before and someone didn’t come through.

My heart breaks thinking of him in class when they’re passing yearbooks between friends. Someone let him down. He’s helpless and left out and hurt. No one is signing his yearbook because he doesn’t have one. He has no pictures to look back at, to remember. My girls flip through theirs constantly. They talk about their friends and their teachers and all their favorite memories.

I decide I’ll not only order this yearbook, but I want to call all his previous schools and see if I can gather his past yearbooks for him.

 

Today they come. It’s the 7th. Ninety days since his first day with us. We sign our final adoption papers at lunchtime. The one where we can take it to the attorney and make it all legal. And after the conversation this morning, I cannot sign that paper fast enough. I want to be the one that fights for him. The one that keeps promises and makes connections to his past and see his face light up when it’s redeemed. I want to be his advocate and his number one fan.

I want to be his mom.

Today is another yes to make that happen. It’s taken so many to get here, but we’re here and I’m so ready.

Parents, You’re Doing Better Than You Think

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One really nice side effect of adopting out of the foster care system is getting a new perspective on parenthood.

We parents do a great job of beating ourselves up. We could spend 16 hours a day making meals, carting kids around to lessons, dishing out discipline, reading books, playing family games, refereeing sibling fights, doing laundry, helping with homework, reminding them to brush their teeth, changing diapers, giving baths, and we still get to the end of the day and say Man, I did a really bad job at parenting today. Why can’t I get myself together?

I don’t know where these expectations of the perfect parent were created, but I know so many of us try to live up to them and live in a constant state of defeat.

In the process of adopting Jacob, I’ve learned just how much the little things matter to raising independent, compassionate, productive adults.

You really are getting so much right and want to encourage you in those things today.

Showing up. The simple fact that you are showing up is a huge win. Seriously guys, I don’t care if you sit on the couch all day and do nothing, the simple fact that you show up is a huge win. That doesn’t mean that you can’t ever leave. It just means when you do leave, the kids understand where you’re going, you go where you say you’re going and you show back up when you say you will. Maybe you have to do it by phone because you’re out of town, but do they know you’re out of town?  Maybe you are divorced and don’t have them for the week, but are they cared for?  If yes, you’ve shown up for them. Huge lessons of trust by just showing up.

Feeding your kids. I don’t care if it’s roast beef and mashed potatoes or McDonald’s. The simple fact that your kids are getting food in their bellies 3 times a day and not having to figure it out on their own or go without is huge. They are learning trust in huge doses. And believe me when I say even though you are worrying about their health with fast food, they probably prefer it.

Taking them to school. I don’t care if you homeschool, pay for private school or send them to public school. The simple fact that you are actually getting them to a place to learn is a big deal.

Caring for their needs. For younger ones, this looks like changing their diapers or giving them baths. For older ones, this might look like applying a band-aid to a scrape or helping with homework. Having someone react to them when there’s a problem—HUGE.

Correcting bad behavior. This includes all the annoying things kids do. Commenting loudly in public about a stranger, hitting someone when they’re mad, calling someone a name, snatching things out people’s hands, not saying thank you, etc. All of these things are TEDIOUS to correct as a parent, but it’s huge. This helps them be adults that are capable of having friends and jobs.

Encouraging them. Whether it’s when they share, or hold a door, or clean up after themselves after dinner, or they just look cute for the day, it’s HUGE for them to have someone behind them that believes in them.

And as a bonus:

Family moments. This includes all the extra things you do through the year…walks around the neighbhorhood, trips to the library, afternoons at the playground, pumpkin patches, trick or treating, birthday parties, Easter egg hunts, fireworks at July 4th, beach trips, visits to the zoo, the roller rink, bowling. These do not have to be expensive, blogworthy, Pinterest pretty moments.  Just simple efforts. It may feel like it’s not important and superfluous but it’s not. You’re teaching your kids about the world around them and it’s huge.

I was talking with the principal of our school and they said one kid they were helping came to school knowing nothing about how the world around her worked.  She didn’t know what a police officer or fireman was. They had to show her videos in the morning before school teaching her about her world. All of these trips and conversations and pointing out the fire trucks? HUGE.

That’s it.

And here’s what I know if you’re reading this.  You’re doing so much more than that.

But hear me when I say these simple things of consistently showing up, getting them their basic needs and trying to make them into halfway likable people is A LOT.  It doesn’t feel like a lot because you’re doing it by default, but it is.  It really is enough.  The simple things are teaching them trust and love and integrity and compassion and boundaries and about the world around them.

Sadly, Jacob came to us not getting a lot of what I just listed.   I honestly never realized how big of a deal just showing up was until 3 months ago. Seriously, when you get to the end of a hard day and you want to beat yourself up, pat yourself on your back if in some way you showed up for your kids.

The gymnastics lessons, the perfect grades, the trip to New York, the cooking lessons, the brand name outfits, the 3-point nightly sermons, the completely organized play room, the perfectly decorated holiday tablescape, etc, etc. those are great, but please, let’s not beat ourselves up about not doing them at the end of the day.  They are GRAVY.

You’re doing better than you think, parents.  You really are.

 

The Beginnings of Our Busy (And 3 Things I’m Into)

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The plaid! Father-son time! I can’t handle all the cuteness!

I wrote Monday’s post about ADHD and DORE last Friday and was feeling all the good feelings about where we were with the adoption transition.  Well, that couldn’t last too long, could it?

I’m not a fan of a super busy lifestyle.  In fact, did you know there’s a thing called Busy Lifestyle Syndrome? You start having memory lapses, feel overwhelmed and can’t handle stress. It’s not something to aspire to.

But we all have those weeks, right? Well, mine went sort of like this.

Friday was Halloween so I got all 3 kids ready and carted them around for a few hours (yes, I know, all of you other parents did this too.  Gold star, everyone!). I helped organize a coffee event for our church on Sunday so I organized a bunch of that on Saturday, did some laundry and got the kids to my niece’s birthday party Saturday night.

Sunday morning we attended two services, set up the church for the event, ate lunch, finished setting up for the event, attended and helped host the coffee event. I dumped all the decorations back at my mom’s and did a quick grocery store run while my sister and her husband (!) agreed to watch the kids a little longer.  I think I finally stopped about 8pm after a full day of running around. Did I mention that Scott worked 36 hours over the weekend while all this was happening?

Monday was Lexi’s birthday so I had to get cupcakes to her lunch and then host the family for dinner Monday night.

Tuesday I was gone at the office from 7am to 6pm (thank you Charlotte traffic for continually getting worse), grabbed some food at Moe’s, did an hour of algebra with Emma and then crashed.

I’m not bemoaning any of that. I love, love, love to do all of those things (OK, not laundry or traffic. And yes, even algebra.). I’m just saying all of that in 5 days was a lot.  All of that meant I was short on patience and hurrying through everything.

Monday evening I thought all of the progress we had made with the adoption transition must have went out the door.  By Monday night, Lexi was crying in her room asking why we ever adopted and Jacob was talking about leaving as soon as he was 18.  Not the kind of soul-nourishing conversations I wanted to be having during a busy few days. (We’re fine. Really.)

I’m exhausted this week and it’s only Wednesday.

I know the past few posts have been super positive and it seems like things are going well, and they are.  But let’s be clear, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.  And this is not even adoption related, really. We all have busy seasons and November is always, always ours.

So, I suppose this is simply a confessional post, but I thought I’d share 3 (super unspiritual) things that I’m into right now that are helping to lighten the load.

The Mindy Project

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Scott and I have been blowing through this show on Hulu.  Admittedly, it’s crass at times, but it’s funny. Really funny. Mindy + Danny 4EVA

Has anyone read Mindy’s book? I’m wondering if it’s worth the time. As much as I enjoy the show, it seems like I would like it.

Taylor Swift’s 1989

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Taylor Swift’s new album is on repeat everywhere I go. I’m obsessed with “Blank”. What’s your favorite?

Relay App

I saw Jen Hatmaker post about this new app Relay that has animated gifs you can text your friends. I had Lexi download it and we’re having a blast on it together. Look me up as @amyjbennett if you’d like to have some nonsensical fun.

 

So, there. I’m keeping sane by silly things and thought I’d share.  Happy Hump Day, folks!