First, Most, Forever, More

Dear D,

It’s hard to put days like today into words.

It’s been cancelled at least 3 times.

It’s been promised for over a year.

And today, I held your Daddy’s hand while the judge terminated the rights of your biological parents so that we can adopt you.

The depth and the magnitude of the joy and the sorrow in that sentence will never leave me.

Someday, we’ll talk about it more. Someday we’ll talk about how your biological parents needed help, and loved you- but couldn’t care for you the way that you deserve. Someday we will help you weave together the story that is yours, so that you can make sense of it all.

Today is not that day. You’re only 3 after all.

Today, all you know is that we went to see the judge.

And the judge said that you will be part of our family,

“First, Most, Forever, More.”

And today, that’s all that really matters.

Love,

Mommy

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Happy 10th Birthday, Skeeter!!

Dear Skeeter,

IMG_1641People say a lot of things about you. They say you’re funny looking. They say you look like a little old man. With your charm- you win over just about everyone, within seconds. Even self proclaimed non-dog-people.

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You are a special dog. You have done a lot and seen a lot in your ten years! You got to come to work with me every day in your first year, and helped a lot of people get better with your gentle spirit.

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You traveled across the county with us! You smelled the Grand Canyon, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Rocky Mountains! You even watched Ol’ Faithful.

DSC_0651You are a wonderful family dog- and after 7 years, you’ve finally been able to play with kids! I think you mostly love that D feeds you under the table. But she also has endless energy to throw your toys for you. Thank you for your patience with her, and her neck choke-hold hugs.

DSC_0594I don’t know how many years we have left, my sweet boy, but I know it’s likely we have more behind us than ahead of us. Just know that I love you so much, and I’m so glad to have you by my side – and I will always be by yours.

IMG_19401Thank you for loving me so well. And all the joy you bring to so many with your silly faces, snuggles, snores, and giant kisses. We love you, Skeeter! Happy Birthday!

SkeeterIs10Happy Birthday!

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Resolutions

I mentioned that getting back to writing is part of my New Year resolutions. I don’t typically do many of these, but here are a few Casey and I are committing to this year.

  1. Movie Nights on Fridays
  2. Game Nights Twice a Month (and keep a 2016 chart of winners, so we can have a 2016 Family Game Champion!)
  3. Working Out regularly (trying to keep this realistic, 3-4 times a week).
  4. Starting a retirement account for me (I don’t have one through my job)
  5. Going to the doctor (groooooaaannnnn)
  6. Looking into short term and long term disability insurance
  7. Writing a will once D’s adoption is finalized.
  8. Hiking 3-4 times a month until summer
  9. Beaching it 3-4 times a month when summer begins
  10. Stop working Saturdays after May

So….. kind of boring, and not life changing. And very freaking adult-y. Ew. But all stuff that needs to be done. So this will be the year of becoming a “real” adult.

Wish me luck!

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Big and little

 

Dalilah3.5Sometimes I need you to be big. When we’re teaching you new things, I want you to understand. When I’m running late, I want you to be able to button your pants without my help. When plans change, I want you to be flexible. When we are at the doctor, I’m excited to see your numbers climb. When the anniversary of your arrival in our home or your birthday roll around, I marvel in the growth that only long spans of time reflect back to you.

But sometimes, I need you to be little. When I’m afraid that I haven’t taken in enough of the quirky little things you do. When I can’t remember the last time I carried you upstairs to bed. When you take my hand and lead me on a journey through your imagination. When I want to savor the goodnight kisses, the tight hugs, the unwavering faith that we know the answers for everything, the “I love you most first forever, Mommy” that you shout through your door at night.

The push and pull of big and little. I think you feel it too. Sometimes, you want to be big. You want to choose your own food, go to the bathroom by yourself, open your own drink, dress yourself, carry your own things. But sometimes, you want to be little. You want my help to fix your pants, kiss your boo-boo, cover you up with blankets at night, and pick you up when your legs are tired.

I try my hardest to be what you need, when you need it. Sometimes our needs are in sync, and sometimes we mismatch. But I am trying – to allow you to become big and make your choices – but also to be your safe place to fall – a place to still be little.

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Sometimes I need you to be big. To understand the consequences of your choices. To be considerate of others, and thoughtful around the house. To look ahead and think about your future and make decisions that make your future bright. Sometimes I need you to take initiative and be responsible for your own things, your own grades, your room, and your words. I need you to help me, your sister and yourself, and do things without being asked to do so.

Sometimes I need you to be little. I need you to play games with me, make silly faces with me, and stay still in this time that you are. When I feel that the hourglass is emptying too quickly, and there isn’t enough time to teach you everything you need to know to be successful. When it hits me that your first year of high school is almost over.

The push and pull of big and little. I think you feel it too. You can’t wait to be driving, to be in college, to have a job and make your own money. To make your own decisions and to be in charge of yourself. But sometimes, you put your head on my lap and ask me to tell you what to do – what decision to make. You ask for advice with friends, and when you are hurt you cling to me as I imagine you did when you were very little. You seek comfort, and support, and a soft place to land.

I try to be what you need when you need it – and sometimes we are in sync and sometimes we clash.  But I’m trying. To give you the roots that allow you to fly, to push you when I know you need to go forward- but to also be the safe place to come home to, when you don’t know what to do and the world is too scary and when you need to know how to cook that piece of chicken you just bought.

I want you both to know I am doing my best, and mostly I want you to remember –

I love you both most first forever more.

Love,

Mom

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Let’s go on an adventure…

This summer, we made a goal to spend as much time at the beach as is possible. And I’m proud of us -we did it. Instead of cleaning, we picked up almost every nice weekend and planted ourselves in the sand.

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When fall came, we decided we wanted to introduce the girls to something we loved in our dating years and in the first years of our marriage – hiking.

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It’s not easy to find hiking around here, but what we have found has been beautiful! All four of us love being outside, and we are allowing the kids to run through the woods, use their imaginations, play in the dirt, balance on logs, and be with nature.

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It’s one of my favorite memories as a kid- and I hope it will be theirs too.

Hiking4After all, this is the grand adventure!

 

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Wherever you are, my love will find you….

I wanted you more
than you ever will know
so I sent love to follow
wherever you go.

DSC_0987It’s high as you wish it. It’s quick as an elf.
You’ll never outgrow it…it stretches itself!

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So climb any mountain…
climb up to the sky!
My love will find you.
My love can fly!

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Make a big splash! Go out on a limb!
My love will find you. My love can swim!

It never gets lost, never fades, never ends…

if you’re working…or playing…or sitting with friends.

You can dance ’til you’re dizzy…paint ’til you’re blue…

There’s no place, not one,
that my love can’t find you.

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And if someday you’re lonely,
or someday you’re sad,
or you strike out at baseball,
or think you’ve been bad…

just lift up your face, feel the wind in your hair.
That’s me, my sweet baby, my love is right there.

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In the green of the grass…in the smell of the sea…
in the clouds floating by…at the top of a tree…
in the sound crickets make at the end of the day…

“You are loved. You are loved. You are loved,” they all say.

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My love is so high, and so wide and
so deep, it’s always right there, even
when you’re asleep.

So hold your head high
and don’t be afraid
to march to the front
of your own parade.

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If you’re still my small babe
or you’re all the way grown,
my promise to you
is you’re never alone.

You are my angel, my darling,
my star…and my love will find you,
wherever you are.

DSC_1102Happy New Year! Wishing you the best in 2016.

Words: “Wherever You Are, My Love Will Find You” by Nancy Tillman

PS: Did I mention, one of my resolutions is to get back to blogging? 😉

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Letting Go

Last night, I was doing the dishes and talking with my Mom. I was remarking how amazing it was that earlier in the day, we had taken D to the bounce house in the mall and she ran into it on her own and played with the other kids. Two months ago, when we tried it, I basically dragged her on it and she barely moved and then cried to leave. A heartful of confidence had built up in her within two months. She looked back for us, of course, but she didn’t need us right there with her. As I tell the story, I look up and see my emotions written all over my mother’s face.

Because, of course, she’s been there too. With me.

A memory springs to mind- it was September in the year 2000, and we had just finished bringing approximately 10,000 loads of crap to my very first dorm room located 4 hours from everything I had known for 17 years. The students that serve as Residential Assistants began ushering parents away from the students, yelling loudly that it was time for them to go. I can still recall the feeling in the pit of my stomach as my Mom looked at me, preparing to say goodbye. She hugged me tightly, kissed my forehead as she has done ten million times and whispered “there’s a girl over there standing alone, I think she could use a friend.” I nodded, we whispered our “Love you mores” and tears sprang to my eyes, knowing when I turned back around, my Mom would be gone.

And she was. When I turned back to wave, she didn’t turn around. I knew she couldn’t. I’m glad she didn’t, because I may have run back to her and driven all the way back to Vermont.

She let me go. And I her, in return. But she had to do it first, so I knew that it was okay to.

Raising kids, and life in general.. it’s all about knowing when to let go. Knowing you’ve done your part. Being there to hear all about the new adventures. Moving into new roles, that you will eventually let go of, as well.

Here’s hoping I learn to do it as gracefully as my Mom.

 

 

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The Truth About Foster Parenting

There is no way around it – there are a lot of eyes on you when you’re a foster parent.

The child’s social worker. The child’s Guardian Ad Litem. The children’s biological parents. Therapists. And pretty much everyone that knows that she or he is a foster child. We have already experienced our 2! TWO! year old being overly criticized for her behavior at daycare, with the suspicion that she is watched closely because…. she’s a foster child, you know. 

So imagine if you will, that any given month of parenting your child you have all of these extra people involved in your life. Interrupting dinner. Throwing off the schedule. Doing surprise “checks” on the child at daycare or school, or even your house. Judging you. Judging your foster children (who by now, in your heart, are your children).

It’s hard. I’m not saying it’s harder than any “typical” parenting, but it’s hard. And it’s different.

And we panic all the time, under that feeling of being judged. When we took our 2 year old to the doctor for hurting her ankle, the doctor asked intense questions (how often does she fall? would you say she ‘falls’ more than 3-4 times a week? how long have you been her foster parent again?) that made me feel like I was being interrogated for a 2 year old, who is accident prone, because she’s two! People indicate that we are overly sensitive to these kind of remarks, and likely that’s very true… because we have so many people to prove that we are good parents too. Good enough. Better than the alternative.

And then there is the flip side. All of the comments of “I don’t know how you do it!” “Those kids are so lucky!” “Your family is amazing!” I love these comments, they make me feel good, but also I want to say… that our family is no better than your family. We are not saints. You could do this, absolutely, if it was something that you wanted to do. It’s hard, but so many things in life are hard – aren’t they?

So, if you’ve ever considered being a foster parent – explore the idea! Because even though it’s crazy, and you deal with a lot, the payback is overwhelmingly worth it. Because you are a child’s advocate, protector, safe place to land. And so many children out there need that. So, our house has a revolving door now, c’mon in, whomever you are and judge away.

Because we’re doing the very best we can. Just like you are.

And every day, I hope it’s enough. Not for all of the people judging, but for the children entrusted to our care. It’s their opinions that matter to Casey and I.

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” It’s not where you come from, It’s where you belong. Nothing I would trade, I wouldn’t have it any other way…You’re surrounded by love and you’re wanted, So never feel alone…. You are home with me, right where you belong.” ~Kari Kimmel

 

 

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Just Right

On Sunday we received our second placement, a 14 year old girl! A very different situation; this is supposed to be a “temporary placement” of about 4 months until her next court date, where she will likely reunify with one of her parents.

This is our first foster care placement where biological parents are currently involved, and reunification is likely. D is not allowed contact with her biological parents, and they have not been actively trying to reunify (so we continue to hope we get to adopt her!).

The feedback we are given from family is friends is awesome, it truly is.

You guys are so great!

Y’all are awesome to take in these kids!

But as, the 14 year old C, reached out to give Casey and I hugs last night when we said goodnight I was overwhelmed… no…. O V E R W H E L M E D with gratitude for her. For them.

When we got into our bedroom, I squealed to Casey, “she hugged us!” and he replied back, “we must be doing something right.”

Our road here hasn’t been easy. And honestly, I can’t always subscribe to the “it all happens for a reason!” platitude. But last night, my heart was light and filled with joy.

The joy of being absolutely present in the moment you were meant to be in the whole time.

Like the day they pronounced my Mom “no evidence of disease.”

Like the day I saw the University of Southern Maine library the first time, on a college tour.

Like the day Stacey was wheeled away saying “I’ve gotta go rock” and donated her kidney to my Mom.

Like the day I married Casey.

Like the day baby D spontaneously said “Mommy? I love you!” for the first time.

Some moments are just right. Through and through. Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold.

Just right.

 

 

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Two

Dear D,

Today you are two!

On June 27, 2014 you said your first unprompted “I love you,” and my heart burst. We were camping, I was at the car and you were inside the tent with “MY Daddy” as you call him. You said “Mommy?” and I said “Yes, baby girl?” and you said “Yuv oooo!” and as I responded with an “I love you too!” I realized that it wast the first time you ever said that to us without being prompted by someone else. And I cried a little.

May the sunlight find your face
Even when the rain does fall
And get back on your feet again
Every time you slip and fall
Keep your heart wide open
And always taking in
And even when it’s broken
Be strong enough to fix it up again

Your words are increasing by the day. You emphatically state “MY Daddy” when you see your Dad, and my heart bursts some more. Watching your relationship with him grow has been beautiful. You love to dance on his feet, and sometimes only his hugs will do. He does “fly” where he zooms you around the room, and “Wee” where he flies you over my head. You hug his leg when he comes home from work, and every morning when I get you ready you say “My Daddy? My Daddy eat? My Daddy work?”

Oh little baby girl
Sweet little baby girl
I wish I could hold your hand in this great big world
Oh little baby girl

I don’t know what this world holds you for you, or for us. Of course I hope one day you’ll be officially ours forever, and we can drop the “Foster” in front of our Mom and Dad titles, but I can’t guarantee it. What I can guarantee is that we love you (to the moon and all the way back) and we always will, whether you live with us or not. You have made us Mommy and Daddy. You have captured our hearts. I want always to protect you, and although I know I can’t always, I will try.

And I hope your hands are steady
And never need to make a fist
And I hope that when you’re ready
You get one never ending kiss
And I hope that deep inside of you
There’s a sweet eternal song
And I hope the words are pretty
And that you’ll always sing along

You love to sing, to dance, and to headbang in the backseat to any song with a good beat. I love that you love music, because it’s so much of who I am, who your Dad is, who your Grammy is.. heck, all of our family is! You also love to give “huggies” to “Skeeer” and “Spiiiinn” and “Boch” who were formerly known as Skeeter, Master Splinter, and Spock.

And I hope your friends are many
And your laughter’s always loud
To help you when you’re lonely
And pick you up when you’re down
I hope your eyes shine bright love
And learn to see the light
Take the time to listen
Decide yourself what’s wrong or right

You are still figuring out your world. You get easily upset when you think I am leaving without you, and you struggle with transition. You are slow to warm up to people, but once you do, you charm them easily with your easy laughter and beautiful smile. You are making friends and like to play. Your favorite games involve putting your dolls to bed, being a doctor, and pouring tea. It’s amazing to see your imagination grow!

Oh little baby girl
Sweet little baby girl
Be strong in this great big world
Oh little baby girl

Baby girl, you are 2 today. I am honored to witness this day and celebrate all the wonderfulness that is you. I will read you “The Night You Were Born” and we will whisper and wiggle through the book, but truer words have never been spoken. You Are Loved.

DCollage

*Lyrics “Baby Girl” by Will Hoge

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