Azoo Update

There’s a long story to share…

Back in September, I decided out of the blue to google D’s diagnosis again to see if any new treatments were available now that weren’t available 4 (!) years ago.  The consensus among the doctors we saw back in late 2009-early 2010 was that there was a blockage and to have children, he would need to undergo a biopsy and then proceed with IVF.  What I found when I started searching in September was that there is a surgical procedure to correct the blockage and allow for couples to conceive naturally- without having to do something major like in-vitro.  I searched more and found a doctor who is at the top of the male infertility field and scheduled a phone consult.  

During the initial phone conversation, we shared the results of all the testing D underwent a few years back.  He wasn’t able to tell us that D was definitely blocked because we lacked the testing of two particular hormone levels.  After sending us orders to get those tested, D made the appointment in December and had his blood drawn again.  The results came back a few days before Christmas, and, though we lack the expertise to assess the levels, we compared his numbers to the normal ranges given to us- and it all seemed to confirm what we had been told.  Normal hormone levels mean there’s most likely a blockage.

Fast forward to this week when we had our second phone conversation with the doctor and cue the somber music.  Turns out the ‘normal’ ranges we were given were inaccurate and one of the key hormone levels was higher than normal, which completely changes D’s diagnosis.  This takes us back to square one: IVF is still our only choice for having a biological child.

The news was more shocking than devastating.  When you’ve already been told this one time, how devastating can it be to be told the same thing again?   The shock came in that we didn’t expect for D’s diagnosis to be changed, especially after four years of believing one diagnosis to be correct.  

As far as any future children are concerned, we’re still licensed foster parents, though inactive at the time.  Our year of going inactive ends in April, while our license doesn’t expire until September.  At this point, I think we’ll close up shop in April.  There are a few reasons why we feel like this is the best decision for our family, but that’s another post!  

We have started to research domestic adoption agencies and feel like we’re being led down that road, but we’re definitely not done praying about it.  The agency that seems to best fit our family has a 6-9 month wait before they begin taking new adoptive families, which would likely put us about 2 years out from bringing a new baby into our family.  While that may seem like a long time, we’re actually both okay with the wait.  Two years means H will be 5(!) and A will be 7(!) which seem like good ages for an older brother and sister to be when a new family member arrives.

So there’s my long update which basically took us in a circle! 

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Conversation

Tonight A and I took our 2nd annual school supply shopping trip.  We did this last year and I really enjoyed spending time with him, one-on-one, even if it was just for glue and scissors.  In the car on the way to the store, he asked me if adults cry.  This conversation led to a completely different place so I’ll try my best to reenact it below:

A: Mama, do grown-ups cry?

Me: Yes, they do.  Grown-ups cry.

A: But why, Mama?

Me: Well, if a grown-up is sad, they might cry.

A: Oh, only when they’re sad?

Me: Grown-ups can cry tears when they’re happy, too.

A: No, they can’t!  You don’t cry when you’re happy!

Me: Yes, sometimes I do.  Like when your Daddy and I found out that we were chosen to be your mama and daddy, I cried because I was so happy!

A: You cried tears because you were happy?

Me: I did!  I was so happy because we waited so long for you, and we prayed that God would give us a little boy or a little girl to take care of, and love, and play with, and have fun together.  And God answered our prayer!

A: Were you sad?

Me: When we were waiting, we were sad.  We were lonely.  We wanted to be someone’s mama and daddy.

A: And then I came to live with you?

Me: Yep!  You came to live with us!  And when we found out that we were going to be your mama and daddy, I cried because I was so happy.

A: I’m glad you’re my mama.  I’m glad I came to live with you and Daddy. And I’m glad you’re not lonely anymore.  RIght, Mama?

Me: Right, A.  

 

Oh my goodness, I love this boy!  

My Advice to Prospective Foster Parents

A few months ago, I volunteered to be part of the foster parent panel at our agency for prospective foster parents to ask questions, hear our stories, and hopefully learn something.  Attending this class is a requirement for becoming licensed, and I remember how helpful it was to hear the stories of ‘real’ foster parents a few years ago when we were sitting in the class.  So I jumped at the chance to join the panel for the evening to share our story and prayed that someone sitting in the class would be helped by our experience.

After sharing how our family came to be, I wanted to pass on ideas that we had while we were going through the process and preparing for the arrival of a child or children.  

  • Gift Card Shower– many friends and family want to do something for you when they find out you’re becoming foster parents, but registering for gifts when you don’t know the age or gender of the child you’ll be caring for is just not practical.  My co-workers threw a gift card shower so that when the call came, we could go get the things we would need without worrying about the cost.  It was so helpful to have that to prepare for A’s arrival, but especially came in handy when H came to our home with only a few hours notice!  
  • Tour Daycare Centers– While we were waiting for our paperwork to go through to become licensed, we toured daycare facilities so we would be prepared and know which centers accepted CCMS.  We then had a narrowed-down list that we could go to when the call came.  And when the call came, the daycare that was at the top of our list had an opening!
  • Doctors– Another thing we did while waiting to become licensed was look for doctors on our insurance that would also take Medicaid.  By finding a doctor that took both insurances, we were hoping to lessen our chances of having to switch doctors if we did get to adopt.  Since adopting, we are blessed to have been able to stay with the same doctor who we love!
  • Babysitting Training Dinner- The last piece of advice that I have is something we did that I thought was kinda brilliant. 😉  One of the most difficult things about being a foster parent is not being able to call up any of your friends or family to baby-sit unless they’ve been approved by the agency/CPS.  When A and H were placed in our home, so many friends and family wanted to get on our babysitting list so we hosted a dinner at our house and asked our case worker to come teach the SIDS class.  (We’ve had the best case workers!) Then all that was needed was proof of CPR certification, copies of drivers’ licenses, and filling out a form for our agency (which we had copies of so they could do it that night).  We ended up having 5-10 people on our approved baby-sitting list, which made getting a date night out much easier!  It also helped that everyone was already CPR trained through their place of employment.

So there you have it!  My two (er, four) cents for prospective foster parents!

Unsolicited Opinions

A few months ago, I mentioned to someone who was asking about our future in foster care that we were praying about adopting internationally.  I was surprised at their response, especially since they are very aware of how our current family has come to be.

“But there are so many kids here who need homes!”

Seriously?  You’re telling the person who has gone through foster parent training, who has adopted two children through foster care, that there is a need for homes for foster kids here in the US?

It’s amazing (and not in a good way) the things that people feel they can say to you, especially about how your family is built.  It starts with the constant questioning after you’ve been married for an amount of time, then continues on until I guess you get old enough in age to where kids are out of the question or until you send a letter to cease and desist.  Then for us, as we’ve fostered two beautiful children and were blessed to adopt them into our family forever, we’ve been subjected to comments of all kinds.  Some of my personal favorites (ha!) have been:

  • “I could never do what you do.  I would get so attached!  It would break my heart if they were to leave our home.”  (Yep, lucky for us, we got to leave our heart at the door when we signed our papers the day we were licensed.)
  • “I could never take on someone else’s problems.” (This one breaks my heart and makes me feel sick simultaneously.)
  • “Don’t use that word around them!”  (The word? Adopted.  Yes, I was told when I took A and H to get haircuts last week that I should not tell them about being adopted.  I’m going to guess this has to do with something in this person’s history that left a negative connotation on the word, but D and I are committed to the kids knowing their history, and not feeling like we’re keeping anything from them.)

And the comment that started this post,

  • “But there are so many kids here who need homes!” 

It’s not a here vs. there, an us vs. them.  Kids need homes, families, people to come around them and love them through whatever trials, struggles, and challenges they may face.  To make it anything else is to place one’s importance over the other.

As for us, we’re not sure what the future holds.  With a three year old and a two year old, we’re pretty content (and too busy to even think about adding another member to our family).  We continue to pray about different avenues we feel God is leading us toward, and trust in God’s plan for our family.  We also have friends and family who are at different stages of exploring foster care and adoption, so we’re excited to see what happens in the lives around us and are hoping to be able to provide support and encouragement to them on their journey.

Here’s our newest little two year-old:

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 And here’s a picture I didn’t get to post from the night she arrived, but here she is at one month old- straight from the hospital to our home.

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 A on H’s birthday

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 A and H on Easter Day

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Budgeting 101

Most adoptions require a chunk of change, and even though foster-to-adopt was virtually free to finalize with the court, raising children costs some money as well.  (That’s kinda obvious.)  When A and H came into our lives, we were living off of two incomes plus the monthly stipend from the state for foster care.  So we didn’t really put a lot of our focus or attention on budgeting our money.  Between a 20 month-old and a 1 month-old, we were a little busy.

Even with a reduced income this fall with my move to teaching part-time, we didn’t get very serious about watching our dollars.  Well, I say ‘we’ but it would probably be more accurate to say that I’m not the best budgeter.  That all changed with the start of the new year- I read the book “7” by Jen Hatmaker.  She wrote the book as she conducted an experiment in her own life- to “fight against the machine of excess” in 7 areas of her life.  I was convicted and encouraged, and I wanted to get started right away.

Some things were easy to implement- like recycling.  We’ve been recyclers for the past few years, but with the move this past summer, we haven’t been as consistent as we once were.  So I found a trash can that would be short enough to store in the pantry and our recycling has probably tripled.  Recycling is such an easy thing to do- and I honestly haven’t understood why ideas like “Going Green” and recycling have been scoffed at by many Christians.  As people who believe that God created the world, why wouldn’t taking care of it be something we support?

Bountiful Basket Veggie

 

Bountiful Baskets fruitGrocery shopping looks a little different now as well.  I’ve joined Bountiful Baskets to support local farmers.  Here are the fruits and veggies I received in my last basket. Since the items that come in each basket are a surprise, I still may purchase a few additional items of produce at the local grocery store.  When I receive my basket every other Saturday, I go home and begin working on a menu that will incorporate the items I just received.  We’re eating more fresh fruits and vegetables and getting to try new ones we’ve never had before.

Something else we’ve never done before? Make a budget and actually stick to it! We started the year off with a drastic change in how we spent our money by challenging ourselves to only spend money on groceries and gas.  That meant that eating out would not be happening.  Impromptu trips to Target would not be allowed. (Ouch!)  And for D, taking his lunch to work would have to start becoming an everyday occurrence.  No more ordering pizza or running through Chick fil-a.  No more vanilla Cokes from Sonic.  We stuck to that pretty well- with the exception of eating out for D’s Dad’s birthday and 1-2 other times I’m sure I’m forgetting.  But even then, we used cash that D made from selling things on Craig’s List.  I used coupons at the grocery store and saved $30 on things we actually use (no extreme couponing for me!).  A and H helped me plant a vegetable garden in the backyard so we can eat off our own land this spring.  They are so excited about the garden- A checks it multiple times a day from the window and is slowly learning that gardens require patience. 😉

The result?  Our credit card bill (we put everything on our credit card each month and pay it off at the end of the month- we like to rack up rewards and often get cash back or great deals on gift cards) was cut by more than half!

So why are we doing this?  Our first goal is to finish paying off D’s truck and then tackle the remainder of our student loans.  When those things are accomplished, we hope to continue to build our savings and look for ways to give to those around us in need.  With the creation of our budget, we want to focus on spending less on ourselves in order to be generous to others.  For me, reading “7” was a wake-up call about the legacy I’m leaving.  Sure, it would be nice for others to look at our possessions, our home, our cars and be impressed.  But I don’t want to chase the Joneses anymore.  I want to instill the values of good stewardship, generosity, compassion, hospitality- into A and H.  We can talk to them about these until we’re blue in the face, but if they see us living these values out, we’re much more likely to make a difference.  Much more likely to leave a legacy worth leaving.

What values are important to you to see in your children?  What budgeting tips work for you?  Do you consider yourself to be a financial whiz or a financial flunkie?

Adoption Celebration

  In October, on the same day we were licensed two years prior, we celebrated the adoption of A and H.  We were so blessed by the presence of our family and friends, who stood by us, encouraged us, texted us on court dates, prayed for us, supported us, fed us, and were truly the … Continue reading

Christmas 2012

 

As our second Christmas as a family of four, it was fun to keep the traditions we started last year.  Attending our church’s Christmas Eve service, eating dinner together, A and H opening their Christmas pjs, and going to sleep in our own beds, in our house, ready to wake up and open gifts the next morning.  This year, A understood Christmas a little better so he actually showed excitement the next morning.  H gets excited about anything that her brother is excited about.  Except when she doesn’t.  😉

After opening gifts and eating breakfast together, we packed up and headed to my parents (it was their year to have everyone there on Christmas day).  There we ate lunch, opened more gifts, and just enjoyed spending time together.  The next day, the girls (read my sisters, mom and I) escaped to do some after-Christmas shopping.  We all ended the day by enjoying a meal out (which is always, um, interesting, with 5 kids under 7) but our time together was short-lived as sickness struck both sisters and my mom ended up taking a trip to the emergency room for chest pains.  I was the only sister left standing, but after making sure everyone was ok (Mom included!), we headed home the following evening.

With the Christmas festivities all wrapped up, I turned my attention to the upcoming new year and all that it might bring.  A 2nd birthday for H and a 4th birthday for A.  Nine (!) years of marriage for D and me.  D and I getting closer and closer to the numbers 3-0. And the thought of accepting a placement!  Yes, I’ve been checked and I’m certifiably insane for wanting another placement when we already have two little ones.  I know that God’s timing in growing our family is perfect, so I’m not going crazy.  I trust that God will bring another little one when it’s time (if it’s in His plan).

talking about adoption with A

“Where was Mama and Daddy while I was living with Nanny and Papa?”

That was how it started.  When I told A about having another mommy, that is.  A picture got the whole conversation going, actually.  A picture that had been packed away from the move and just recently gotten unpacked and placed within eyesight of little A.  

“Who’s that, Mama?”, he asked with a twinkle in his eye.  He knew who every person was in the picture.  

I turned the question around and asked, “Who is that, A?”

A grin appears on his face as he points and says, “That’s me.  And that’s Mama. And Daddy!”

“That’s right, A!  That was the first night Mama and Daddy met you!  This is our first family picture.”

He continues looking at the picture so I keep going.

“That was when you lived with Nanny and Papa, before Mama and Daddy knew you.”

“Where was Mama and Daddy while I was living with Nanny and Papa?”, he asks.

“We were at home.”  I pause.  “Waiting to meet you!”

Silence.  

“A, did you know that you came out of another mommy’s tummy?”

“I did?”

“Yes, you did.  Her name is Miss S.  And you came out of her tummy.”

“How did I come out of her tummy?”, he asks with a bewildered look on his face.

“I don’t know,” I answer, not ready to broach that subject yet.  First adoption, then the birds and the bees.

“Maybe I popped like a balloon!”, he says as he starts giggling.

“Maybe!”  

And that was our first conversation (of many, I’m sure!) about A’s life story.  I want so desperately for him to feel comfortable about his story.  To love and honor his parents that gave him life.  And to never be scared or feel intimidated to ask me questions.  

Fall update

Classrooms have been decorated, teacher in-service meetings have been held, cubbies have been labeled with the names of new students… and I didn’t do a single one of these things.  Starting a new ‘adventure’ if you will, was very strange.  With my new job came other things to get ready for- curriculum to decide on, reading and researching to be done, and I still got to buy school supplies!  A started a 2-day preschool while H attends a Mother’s Day Out at a local church.  Shopping for school supplies with A was a blast- he loved holding the list for me.Image

 

We’ve also celebrated someone’s 3rd birthday this month!  I can’t believe we’ve already had him for 18 months- the same amount of time he spent with the previous foster parents.  And H is almost 18 months old which just doesn’t seem right.  She can’t be the same age A was when he came to live with us.  She’s growing up so fast!

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A’s school experience has been great!  He loves his school and loves his teachers.  He is such a social child that he really needs to be around kids his age and he loves the structure of school.  On the days he’s home with me, he’s constantly asking, “What are we going to do next, Mama?”  Here’s a picture of us on his first day of school:

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H loves her new school as well.  She’s a happy, easy-going little girl who also has a spunky personality and a no-fear outlook on life.  We constantly hear from her teachers that she’s the only one who doesn’t cry, that she’s happy all the time, her face is always lit up with a smile.  We’re glad they get to see that side of her at school because we know she can throw fits like nobody’s business at home!  Here she is at her ‘Meet the Teacher’:

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She’s a climber, too!  And I have to empty the dishwasher very quietly so she doesn’t see me…

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It’s football season and the favorite color in our household is burnt orange!  A loves cheering during football games and will randomly break out in chants of, “Go, Hook ’em Horns!  Go Hook ’em Horns!”  Image

 

In other news, we’re in the middle of renewing our foster care license for two more years.  We haven’t really felt like this door has closed for us, so we’re going to continue to remain active and see what happens.  We can honestly say we’re content either way- whether our family grows or stays the same size.  A and H bring so much joy into our lives and we feel so undeserving of this opportunity to be their parents.  

We’re also in the midst of planning an adoption celebration- something we said we’d do when the adoption was finalized.  Adoption is such a bittersweet occasion- there’s joy and rejoicing for one side, and such deep pain and loss for the other side.  We want A and H to know that families are linked together by more than biological genes, that families are made of people who love and care for them, people who pray for them, people who want the very best for their little lives.  So we’re inviting all those who have traveled this journey with us- who prayed as we waited for our first call, who prayed with us as the decision was made to place A in our home, who rejoiced with us when H was placed, who brought us meals, clothing, diapers, toys, etc. last summer, who texted/called/emailed to find out how court dates went, who wrapped us in the loving arms of prayer and encouraged us every step of the way.  They are forever a part of our family because that’s what family does.  That’s what family is.  

Some of my favorites

I love getting blog recommendations from others- that’s how I’ve found some of my most favorite blogs.  So here’s a list of blogs you should check out!

  1. Under the Sycamore:  Ashley Ann is so creative and crafty.  Her blog is full of vintage finds, beautiful creations, and her writing is such a breath of fresh air.  She and her hubby have 4 adorable kids and are in the process of a special needs adoption through China.
  2. BowerPower: Katie Bower inspires me.  She makes me laugh.  She makes me feel completely normal.  And her little boy Will is cute!  She blogs mostly about the home improvement changes they are making to their home, but mixes in deep, thought-provoking posts as well.  And she’s honest.  What you see is what you get with Katie Bower.
  3. Young House Love: I feel kinda silly for putting their blog on this list because I feel like everyone knows about this blog.  But just in case you don’t, you should totally check it out.  Another DIY, home-renovating blog, this couple is meticulous in their tutorial posts and are always looking for the best deal!  And they’re not afraid to make fun of themselves- which is refreshing in a blog culture where you can paint your life with whatever brush you like.
  4. Waiting on a Word: To say that Leslie has a heart for adoption would be putting it mildly.  She and her husband are currently in the process of adopting internationally.  They are also licensed foster parents and currently care for a sweet baby boy.  Her heart for the brokenhearted, the fatherless, the orphans is so apparent in her posts.

What are some of your blog recommendations?