Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Our First Visit

In my last post about adoption plans I mentioned we had a visit scheduled for baby D’s mom and dad the day after Christmas. I had been worried about giving her parents my number but from the time we left court that day until Monday at 3:00 pm they had not called. They called Monday just before the visit to let me know they were on their way and to make sure I would still be there. We were getting ready to head out for the visit so I said I’d see them shortly.

We met at a local McDonald's that had a play area so that the older kids could run around and they could visit with the baby and that we could all eat and visit. Bio mom, bio dad, bio brother, his girl friend and her daughter came. Her daughter was 3 so it worked out really well because Miss M had a friend to play with. Dude had a friend with him as well, so that was nice he just played but did get to meet them. He still hasn’t really asked any questions, but I did explain to him that Bio Mom carried baby D in her tummy just like I carried him and that her Bio Dad is just like his dad. I really struggled to explain that. It is much easier to say the mom is the one who carried in tummy but how do you explain dad when he has very limited concept of where babies come from.

They brought some gifts for the three kids, so that my older two wouldn’t feel excluded and I was happily surprised that they thought of that. I thought it was very sweet and thoughtful.

Her bio dad has usually been very quiet and stand offish, letting bio mom take the lead. But, he reached out his arms and held her immediately and also fed her yogurt. He was still pretty quiet, but interacted with her quite nicely. Bio brother 2 (second oldest son of mom) really paid a lot of attention to her and wanted to hold her a lot. She happily shuffled between then three of them most of the visit, just touching base with me every once in a while. I am really happy that she felt secure enough to go to them and let them dote on her. I think maybe part of it is our comfort with them and her familiarity with them from the visits at social services.

I gave them each small presents, a frame with a picture and pictures. For Bio Mom I made a memory box with pictures of baby D mod podged onto it and pictures inside. I got dad a metal tin to keep pictures of the baby in. They got me a hat and scarf.

Bio Mom told me she was really happy with baby D and that she is smart and happy and beautiful and she is thankful that we are doing a good job with her. I feel like most days we are, but it is nice to hear it from her Bio Mom.

Overall, the visit went really well. I think everyone was at ease and I am confident the visits will likely continue. We talked about doing another visit at Easter. I think trying to schedule them close to holidays will make it easy. I do have more pictures that hadn't printed before I was leaving to the visit, so I have to decide if I meet again soon to give them to them or just wait. I kind of want to meet sooner as the prints that I have are a shot of them with her. We'll see.

Here is baby D and her older brother:

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Merry Christmas Part 2

We had a wonderful Christmas with the kids. It was very low key and we just got them a few things each. We had a nice dinner the five of us on Christmas eve. After the girls went to bed, me, hubs, and dude read twas the night before Christmas and the story of Jesus' birth together snuggled in his bed.
Then I got to wrap presents and put together toys. I only had two this year, a plasmacar and a doll house. The doll house took me a good hour to put together.
The kids got up Christmas morning and we opened presents before breakfast and then headed off to my in-laws. We spent the afternoon with my MIL, FIL, and my sister-in-law's family. The kids got more presents of course and got to ride their bikes and play outside.
We then headed to friends' house for a few hours for Christmas dinner. The kids had such a great time and it was nice and low key.

Here are a few pictures from the day. 

With Grandma and Grandpa: 
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Christmas Girls: 
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With cousin: 
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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Court This Week

I know not many foster parents can say this regularly, but court was great. It was better than expected this week. It definitely had its sad moments, but I really feel we are moving forward with an open adoption so it doesn’t have to be entirely sad.

Court opened and immediately the judge called the four lawyers into her chambers. Everyone looked shocked like this doesn’t usually happen and why is this happening. I had that brief moment of fear that something was going wrong and they were going to take sweet baby D. I was afraid that something went wrong with the relinquishment. But, they came back and no one looked shell shocked. It seemed to be okay. There are four lawyers because there is one for DCS, one for the GAL, one for mom, and one for dad.

Mom and Dad did not need to be at court since they relinquished but I think they wanted to make sure things were okay. I looked at it like they needed a little more assurance that baby D was staying with us like they had decided and wanted.

The first thing the judge asked was about paternity and Dad did have a paternity test and he is her biological father. Then the State got to say what they prepared. They basically said that Mom and Dad were active in the case, attended visits, foster parents were active, the bio parents relinquished and that foster parents wanted to adopt. The GAL Lawyer asked if there were any concerns and Mom and Dad’s lawyers had no questions.

We got asked a few questions by the lawyers like how she was doing, any concerns, and any parameters set on visits, etc. The judge commented that we looked very happy.

The Judge spoke to the parents first and commended them on making sure their baby girl was taken care of, making the best decision for her, and realizing that they loved her so much they knew that maybe someone else needed to do the day-to-day care of their baby. The judge said the SW, GAL, foster parents, and parents showed the way the system should work with everyone working together.

I can’t say what made this case different, but everyone was engaged and looking out for baby D. She had a very proactive Social Worker, her GAL was always available and made sure she was spoken for, we had a great mediator, and we were involved. Bio parents were welcoming and involved. I just go back to the very first visit when dad walked in and his first words were “I am so grateful to you two for taking care of my baby”. I think it set the tone going forward. I always made sure that they were kept up-to-date, I liked sending pictures, and I liked writing notes on how she was doing and what she was doing.

Whether the goal is reunification or adoption, I think this is how it is supposed to work, a whole unit of people working together and looking out for the best interests of the child who can’t speak for themselves.

We set the first visit with her parents the day after Christmas. I don’t want to get my hopes up, but I think it is going to be a good thing. We met mom and dad on Monday and set up the visit and at court Tuesday mom said she already took the bus by the location and she knows where it is. I got an address and contact number for mom (I hope it stays reliable, it is her mom’s number and the address is the shelter). I reluctantly gave them my number. I had meant to research getting a number to use for them, but I think it will be okay. I don’t think they will abuse it.

I struggle a little with what I will tell Miss M going forward as we don’t know her dad and her mom stopped showing for visits the visit before the final visit (after faithfully showing up for almost the entire year). I will have a few years before she questions why D has another mom and dad but she doesn’t. I just don’t want her hurt by it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Am I ready?

This Friday, me and the kids will fly to California to see my family. I am still a little in denial that I will be taking three kids through the airport on a plane, then a layover, and another plane all by myself. Yikes! Did I mention by myself? We are flying through Memphis on the way there and total travel time is about 8 1/2 hours not including getting to airport early, waiting and then getting bags on other end or driving to my dad's house. If I included all of that, I would estimate from door to door to be about 12 hours of travel time.

So the things I am most worried about are:

Security. No, not the actual security, but getting through it in one piece. Taking three kids shoes off, my shoes, off putting everything through the scanner, hoping a kid doesn't try to bolt or crawl away and then getting all our stuff and then getting our shoes back on. See, just typing it is making me exhausted. I can already anticipate the looks of annoyance from the person that will be standing behind me in the line.

Potty Time. Miss M is newly potty trained. I really just want to stick a pull up on her and tell her to pee in it, but that would be setting us back and probably wouldn't be a good thing in the long run. We traveled to Hawaii with the dude when he was freshly potty trained but there were two adults to shift potty duties between. I am sure Miss M will need to pee a billion times because peeing means freedom from the car seat on the plane. The dude has already volunteered to help me watch the girls, but he said no diapers or potty help. I am sure we will manage and maybe just in case I will bring two extra outfits and some pull ups just in case.

Packing for plane: The baby just turned one, so she isn't off bottles yet so I need to make sure she has bottles, then I need sippy cups for Miss M, snacks, entertainment, toys, clothes, car seats. I can just imagine I will look like a sherpa guide with all the crap I think I will need.

Packing in general: Three kids, myself, one week where the day time temp is 80's and night time temp is 30-40's. This means I think I will need a crap load of clothes to layer for the different temperatures. I think I am going to buy diapers, formula, etc. in California. If I pack the girls lightweight jackets I can probably minimize some stuff.

I usually feel really confident in traveling with the kid, but I actually have only ever flown by myself with the dude and we have done some serious traveling together. The only trips Miss M has gone on were with both me and hubs. I am dreading the travel, but I want to see my family so I will just go for it and usually my anticipation is much worse than what usually ends up happening.

I got the letter to travel with the baby, so at least all is well in that realm. Luckily, the social worker was really good about getting permission for her to travel. Also, her parents were excited about her getting to travel.

I went to the Target dollar spot and got some coloring activity books, a small magnetic drawing board, then got snacks, too. I am also bringing the iPad, DSi, iTouch, and phones so maybe I will have enough to entertain the kids on the flights and in the airport.

What are the best travel toys that you have used?

Monday, November 14, 2011

News on Baby D

I got a call today from the social worker on Baby D's case. I wasn't surprised to see her name pop up as sometimes her parents will have a question for me while they are visiting. I had wrote a really long letter today for them because I had a lot of good things to report. She had her one year well visit, she had her first birthday, her first Halloween, she is cruising, and moving quickly with her crawling. I like to keep them updated with her status and they really appreciate it. I also sent (well, really the hubs sent) two sets of pictures, one for mom and one for dad. They last saw her on Halloween, the day before her first birthday.
What I was shocked to hear was that they wanted to talk visitation, they wanted to recall what exactly we had agreed to in mediation about visitation. It was 2-3 visits a year and quarterly update letters like what I do for visits now with pictures. They wanted to know this because today they decided to sign the conditional relinquishment. A conditional relinquishment in this case means, they only relinquish to us to adopt. If the adoption is not filed, then their rights are retained. I am still in shock, this means they have 7 days to change their mind. I am still very unsure on timelines and where things go from here, but my rough estimates are we are still several months away from the adoption decree. They have to staff the adoption in social services, we have to get finger printed again, we have to re-do our adoption home study, then we file and wait. The wait time right now is estimated at 3-6 months for decree from adoption filing. We got our decree for Miss M 8 weeks from filing, but that is really uncommon.
They set the final visit for November 28th which I realized I wondered why after we got off phone. It seems that visits could continue until the adoption is finalized, but maybe we will set our first open adoption visit around the holidays. In the coming days/weeks, we will figure it out. With Miss M, her termination was when she was around 8 1/2 months but her visitation continued until her first birthday. I guess it just means we need to work diligently on figuring out what this whole open adoption is about and make sure that we follow-through.
I still can't believe it.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

An Outtake

I was looking through our disc of pictures and found the cutest outtake that I can share of the three kids. Here is dude, baby looking down, and Miss M kinda smiling. We had over 200 pictures taken that day. I have found only two where the baby wasn't looking at the camera. She was quite the photogenic ham during the pictures despite having a cold that day.

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Don't get much cuter...

This was the year that I was actually organized and scheduled a photo shoot outdoors for the family in order to do Christmas Pictures. I scheduled it early enough in the year that we wouldn't have to cancel due to a freeze warning. So we went on October 24th to Duke Gardens and met with Annie of Red Bridge Photography and got some family pictures done. The day was beautiful and we got some great pictures of the family. They don't get much cuter than this:

The Dude:
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The Chica1:
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The Chica2:
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Monday, October 24, 2011

The NC State Fair

Against better judgment we went to the fair on a weekend. I dreaded the experience, but it was the only time we could go. I was sure it would be wall to wall crowded and just a mess. But, it actually turned out really well. Remember, we live in the Bible belt so we ventured to the fair at 930 am on a Sunday morning with the rest of the heathens.

We ate breakfast at the fair and it was so yummy, biscuits, eggs, grits, coffee. Miss M was too excited to eat, but dude and little lady ate most of the food. The baby ate half a biscuit, grits, and eggs. The dude ate every piece of egg that was on all of our plates. Miss M saw a clown and wasn’t afraid, even let the clown hold her hand and give her a sticker.

After breakfast we went to the rides and the kids loved the swing and a pirate ship. The two older ones went down a big slide. The dude rode this flying swing where he laid flat (he was afraid of this ride in years previous). It was then that Miss M wanted a snack. One of her favorite words, she asks for “snack” at least 50 times a day.

After a few rides we went to the petting zoo, the biggest hit with the two older kids. Baby napped during this. Miss M even fed the goats and a camel directly from her hand. Then, we went to the apple shack and got peeled, sliced, cored apples for the kids and a dumpling for us. Then got kettle corn (our routine) and headed to ride a few more rides. The dude went on two huge slides and then both girls got to ride the carousel and we were done. We did miss the stunt show that we watch every year and were kind of bummed about that. But we headed home about three hours after we arrived just as the crowds were piling in. Guess I would do the fair on a weekend again, but still would prefer a weekday so I could see some exhibits. We missed all of them.

The petting zoo:

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The slide:



Friday, October 7, 2011

Random Post and Updates

I forgot wordless Wednesday so I am going to start my post with a picture I took this week while out on a walk. The girls are big enough for the wagon and they are super cute riding in the wagon together, talking, playing, laughing, giggling. Purely magical.

The Wagon:

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I actually have had the wagon since my mother-in-law bought it for the dude's first birthday. It got used a lot when he was younger then sat outside for the last few years until this year when I started using it again. The only thing I had to do was order new straps from Radio Flyer and it is as good as new. Love when toys and stuff can be passed down. I think it will get a lot of use this Fall and next Spring/Summer for little walks around the neighborhood and if I get real ambitious to the pool next summer, but that is a long walk.

The dude is doing good and is actually turning 8 this week. Pretty big deal! I still can't believe how big he is getting. This was the first year that he has realized he is younger than most/all of the kids in his class. He got mad when I put 8th Birthday Party on the invite. Said, "why'd you have to write that?" Um, I think because that is what you are turning. But, he is very excited about his upcoming party. Wondering if he will get presents on his actual birthday and for his party. I think we will do a small dinner/cake/presents on the actual day.

Baby D was sick this week and I took her to doctor only to realize that she had ruptured her ear drums and had a sinus infection. Her only symptoms were she was a little cranky Sunday night and Monday she had stuff oozing from her ear. She is a real trooper and never really complained. The doctor even pointed out that she is cutting her molars. I am surprised she is not complaining much because she really let us know when her first few teeth were coming in. Screeched, cried, gnawed non-stop. Of course, when you start teething at 3 1/2 months, I am sure it is pretty uncomfortable.

In big news for Miss M, she is wearing underwear (or panties as she calls them) starting this week. I am pretty impressed with how well she has done, too. On Monday she had one accident at lunch, I am sure she thought someone would steal her food at daycare if she left the table. Tuesday it was during outside time, she couldn't be bothered to finish peeing on the potty when she could be outside playing. Wednesday was at snack time and right after the picture above was taken. No accidents on Thursday or Friday. Still in diaper at nap and bed time, but I am getting closer to only have one in diapers vs. two. Her quote of the week "Mama, I big girl, go pee pee potty!"

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Bad Hair Day

I have been struggling with M’s hair a little lately. I think part of it, maybe feeling a little insecure. I know perceive that I am judged more as a white woman doing her hair. I am learning slowly but surely and some days we have really good hair days and it looks super cute and some days I struggle and it looks a bit rough. I need to experiment a little because I just don’t feel like she needs to rock the twists in pony tails all the time. I mean there is only so much you can do to make it look different, 5 pony tails with braids, 7 pony tails with twists, barrettes on the ends, no barrettes, scrunchies, colored bands, bows, no bows, etc. I want her to be able to wear it down, but I haven’t been able to master that yet though without a 30 minute detangling session afterwards.

I also want to make sure I am taking good care of it. So I read a lot about products and have spent a good bit experimenting with products. I know I got her conditioner down and I like the leave in I am using, but not sure if her shampoo is getting it clean enough while still helping and not doing any damage. Sometimes I only condition and sometimes I wash and condition (never washing more than once a week except this week which I will get to in a minute).

I read a lot of blogs on hair and follow one in particular pretty closely, Happy Girl Hair. Ironically, I think M’s hair is very similar to her one daughter and Baby D’s hair is very similar to the other daughter. I also recently started reading Chocolate Hair, Vanilla Care. I used the latter to learn a new style, rope twists and flat rope twists and decided to try it out.

I left M’s hair out yesterday knowing I was going to wash yesterday or today. It was pretty cute, but her dad just rolled his eyes. Last night I washed it, got all the stuff together and styled it. It took about 2 ½ hours and I was so proud of myself. It turned out pretty darn cute for my first try and I was excited that it would probably last 2-3 weeks. She was so good and patient through it all. I took one picture of it.

Her Hair:

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Fast forward to this afternoon, we went to the pool but it was closed so we came back home and I decided to cook dinner. I let Miss M watch some TV and started cooking. The show was almost over (all 30 minutes of it) when I hear her say “Ouch Mama”. I rush over to the couch to find her comb stuck in her hair, her hair and face covered in hair grease, her hands covered in hair grease, nice little hand prints in grease on my couch (about 5 of them). Her hair style was ruined and that was just the start of it, she had used about 2/3 of the bottle of hair grease on her hair mostly.

I was so mad, not just at her, but at myself for leaving her hair stuff out. Who knew she could open the bottle. We finished last night around 11:30 and I was tired and didn’t want to mess putting it back in her room where the baby was sleeping. (Will never make that mistake again)

I had to wash her clothes and wash her hair four times and I didn’t even remotely get most of the grease out. It is so bad. I re-styled it tonight in larger rope twists but I think I will need to wash again soon. I just have no clue how to get it all out. Ugh! It is also not how I planned to spend my Sunday night before a busy week. The washing and re-styling probably took 2 hours.

I know people that don’t have a kid with hair to do won’t really understand how crushed I was when I saw what had happened.

Hubs says I should just keep taking her to get her hair braided but I don’t think that can be the only solution; I need to be able to fix it, too. I am learning, it just seems like it is such a steep learning curve. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, this is what I wanted a little girl to do her hair and dress up. It doesn’t mean it can’t also be a little stressful.

When I feel really bad I tell myself it took me almost 30 years to learn how to take care of my curls and I still have bad hair days, so I can’t expect myself to know everything right away. People love to be helpful and tell me, Miss D’s hair will be easier. I am not so sure, it will be different, maybe a little easier in the sense it is closer to mine and the dude’s. I think I will still need to learn some. I also don’t want to start the mindset that it is hard because I want her to love her hair (I LOVE her beautiful curls, I love how cute she looks in the water and bath with her curls circling her face). It isn’t hard, it is just different than what I am used to.

I didn’t take any pictures of the mess. At one point I did laugh to myself that I actually had something worthy to send in to Shit My Kids Ruined. I was just too caught up in trying to fix the situation.