This past weekend we celebrated my dear husbands 31st birthday. In was a fun filled and busy weekend filled with friends, family, lots of go go go and lots of relaxing. It really was a perfect weekend. It was also a little bit surreal that this is potentially the last birthday either of us will go through before we become parents. As I have mentioned
This is where this story gets relevant to adoption. While we were sitting in the service listening to our awesome leadership team lead us through some fantastic praise and worship music, they put up a live feed from the lobby of the people getting baptized at this specific service. The first group of people were parents baptizing their children and I absolutely lost it. The tears just started rolling down my cheeks uncontrollably. Josh looked at me, laughed, and put his arm around me because he knew exactly why I was crying. While I truly hope that the children we are destined to be matched with will already know and love our savior Jesus Christ, how amazing would it be to lead our children to him if they didn’t know him? On top of that, the thought of getting to baptize my own children next to my husband… let’s just say it gets me a little teary eyed each time I think about it. It was such a joy to watch all of these parents get to baptize their children. The kids would come up from the water smiling and grab on to their parents and embrace them with the biggest most excited hug ever. I long for that day…
We have our days where we ask ourselves “what the heck are we doing?” But it’s days like yesterday that remind me why God has put us on this path. It is absolutely terrifying to think that we are going to be parents of potentially 3 children by Christmas of this year (granite it could be a shorter or longer wait and we are prepared for that). But our God has a plan for us, and for the first time in our lives we are listening to that plan and following it the best we know how.
Just so you can kind of understand the excitement that surrounds Baptism Weekend at Life Church, here is the promo video for this last weekend: http://youtu.be/zTC2TcZEtGg.
I’ve been putting off writing an update on our last classes because I was hoping for a tiny extra phone call to come through. But alas, the phone call didn’t go the way we expected so I decided to do an update anyways.
We finished our classes last Saturday the 25th…. YAY!!!! I can not even begin to express how much stress was lifted off of us after those classes ending. We aren’t big on large social situations with people we have never met, and we really don’t like hearing about random strangers problems. We will miss our awesome server from a local burger shop whom we shall call Lucy**, But we will get to her later. So we went out with our buddy Fro for dinner and enjoyed a small celebration of finishing our classes.
The first session and about half of the second session were informative but mostly based around common since as usual. The second part of session two and all of session three just involved a lot of inappropriate jokes by our teachers and lots of wasting of our time. These classes seriously should have been held online. The whole idea of a ‘pair and share’…. lets just say the people that sat across form us fully agreed that it was dumb. So we usually just made small talk and made it look like we were ‘sharing’ about the information we just learned. We did enjoy two analogies that were given during this class period though.
Icebergs and adoption really go hand in hand. Kind of like the reference to a box of chocolates, ice bergs can be unpredictable. When you approach an iceberg you only see the small mountain like object floating in the water. While it is neat to see a little white capped mountain in the ocean, what lurks beneath the surface is another whole adventure. Below the surface is where 90% of the iceberg is found. It is enormous and beautiful, but very intimidating as well. Now lets look at the world of adoption. When you meet your potential children you are given their file to go over. The file will include any medical visits they have ever been to, anything that they have been diagnosed with, medications, remaining family, reason for being in foster care, trauma experiences etc. But what you are really seeing is just the tip of the iceberg. On countless adoption blogs (because lets face it, I’m officially addicted to reading them) I have read experiences that have included the children moving in with the families and getting more comfortable and trusting of their new families. After a while, the children begin to open up about things that were not in their files or their siblings didn’t even know had happened to them. This can easily be seen as the bottom of the iceberg.
The analogy Josh and I really enjoyed was to ‘be like a duck.’ When you see a duck swimming in a pond they are always gracefully swimming and barely even causing a ripple. But in reality, their feet are almost always kicking like crazy stirring up lots of bubbles and ultimately propelling them forward. I (and LOTS of other people) am living my life like a duck. We do our best to be perceived as calm individuals, but in our brains we are moving a thousand miles an hour. While I have done MUCH better about not stressing over the little things and attempting to let more things go, my brain is still constantly swimming and thinking about what else needs to be done. There are often times Josh will make me sit on the couch to relax and attempt to shut down my brain. (More recently this has involved watching Parks and Rec. It’s a hilarious show if you can make it past season 1) As parents, it is so important to be like a duck. Our children do not need to know about the stress we have in our minds over budgeting, or the new tires that need to go on the car, or how you really need to be doing laundry, or scrubbing the bathroom, or meal planning for the next week, or… ok I could go on and on and on and I’m sure you could too. It is important especially in escalated situations that we remain calm with our ears and hearts open to these kiddos. They have already been through so much, they do not need the stress of our world on their shoulders as well. All they should have to worry about is the next page in the coloring book. (you get what I mean…).
So what happens next? Well, Monday morning I sent in copies of our certificates to our introductory case worker. After waiting until 4:00 I called her because I was impatient. She checked into a few things on our file and called me back the next morning just to let us know that our home study had not been approved yet. Apparently when our home study contracting company told us it would only be a week, they actually meant it would be one week for them to get it back to DHS. DHS now has to also approve of it and that can take up to 3 weeks. Once that is approved we will officially be approved for adoption! So….. we are in the waiting game. It’s looking like it could be as late as mid August before we are approved. Then it can take up to 3 weeks for us to be assigned a case worker that works in our zip code. BUT that is ok. We are in no rush, and we will sit and patiently enjoy our last couple months of only being a family of 2 (+4 if you count the rescue-ees that already occupy our home).
This past Saturday we had our second nine hour class session. We were absolutely dreading it.. The first session was so rough, but this one ended up not being so bad. People seemed to calm down on the stories they were sharing, which we appreciated greatly. One of the things that stood out to me was a quote our teacher said from the movie Forrest Gump. “Life’s like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get.” When I was a kid, my grandma (Nin) and I used to split boxes of Russell Stover’s chocolate. These used to come with a map on the inside of the box that would tell you which chocolates were where. The corners were always vanilla, nasty coconut was in the middle, and so on. For fun every now and then, we would switch the pieces on each other just to see the surprised look on each others face when you take a bite expecting orange, but it was actually lemon. Each piece was a new adventure, but it was always worth it in the end.
Now take this quote and look at it in terms of adoption, crazy how much it relates right? When adopting through DHS Foster Care we will get to look at a child’s history folder before we even meet them. This allows us to prepare for any disabilities or conditions they may have. It also allows us to see their history, which in turn will give us a view of their mannerisms and attitude towards life as a whole. I have talked to countless people who have adopted through OKDHS and they have all said the same thing: It is nice to be able to read their file and get a small idea of what has happened to these kids. However, there is always a LARGE chance that un-surfaced emotions, feelings, and conditions that will arise once they move in with you and sometimes these things will not surface until the adoption process has been finalized and these kids begin to feel truly safe in your home. So with that said, I think that quote fits perfectly in the adoption world. God is going to bless us with a box of chocolates. With each new bite (day) it will be a new adventure. This session, sessions 3, 4, and 5, based a lot on how to deal with traumatized children, discipline versus punishment, and other related topics. We learned a lot about ways that we can and cannot discipline our children due to them still being under State care. I think things will get interesting if all of our nieces and nephews are playing together with our children and then we have to discipline our children differently then the others. But, its a challenge that I can now say we are prepared for. We also learned a lot about children’s impressions of themselves. The below picture is a page in our book from a book/movie that we all know very well…. except apparently our instructors. While she read the quote she kept saying “Seeerus” rather then “Sirius”. Josh and I just kept looking at each other and giggling through this whole section. Regardless, the quote was a good representation of how children that have been through trauma perceive themselves.
One last exciting thing! We had part three of our home study on Tuesday July 21st. Which coincidently is also the day Josh and I got engaged 5 years ago, ironic right? Part 3 consisted of us reading the report our contractor wrote about our lives. Can I just say how weird it is reading a 17 page paper about you and your husbands lives since birth? Awkward, Strange, Intrusive, Depressing, Eye Opening…. all words I would use to describe this process. But, we signed off on it after some minor corrections and that’s it! The home study section is done. Our contractor from North Care will now give our file to her supervisor. Assuming the supervisor approves it, she/he will then send it back to our Introductory Case worker at DHS. Then is she approves it and we complete our last 9 hour class this weekend…. We will be approved! Our home study case worker said we should have nothing to worry about, she has seen worse get approved ha ha!! So now its just a waiting game for that phone call!
Sorry for the novel. Not much is happening in our adoption adventure right now. But when things do happen, they seem to all happen at once!
Woah… what a weekend. Friday night we went to a Shark Week party. It was nice to get some time with all of our friends to just be laid back and not have to worry about anything. Our friends the Macks** did a really good job on all of the smallest details. They had shark themed décor and food. The punch was DELICIOUS. And they had the cutest wreath up on the door as well. I might have to make one to have for during the summer on our own door!
Saturday we began our first day of parenting classes. OH. MY. GOSH. I have been trying since I stepped into that classroom to figure out how to put a positive spin on the classes but I just am not sure how. We did sessions 1-3. Each lasted 3 hours each with a 10-15 minute break in the middle. We have two very sweet ladies teaching the class. We are a class of 40-45 depending on the session and apparently that is much larger than the average class.
As you can see in the picture we each get a color name tag that has our name and agency that we are dealing with. The tags are color coated for rather you are a Kinship adoption, Foster, or just straight up Adoption (which is what we are). The majority of the class was Kinship because Kinship adoption makes up for about 70% of the adoptions in the state of Oklahoma. I think it is fantastic that there are so many families willing to step up and take care of one another when someone in their family messes up. These poor defenseless children have been put through so much at such a young age, at least they get to stay with a semi-familiar face. Anyways, back to the class.
Session 1 was an introduction to the class overall, introduction to your classmates, and going over an overview of what the class would be about. We then went to lunch and returned for session 2. I guess no one was listening when we went over the various privacy laws that we are required to follow because everyone felt the need to share their story. We learned about deceased drug addict parents, abusive parents, neglected children, kids that were born in hotel rooms, and so many other stories from people in our class. They shared names and locations of the children and parents as well. Where is the privacy for these poor kids!? The future adoptive/foster parents just walked into a class with 40+ people that they have never met before in their lives and are spilling their life stories. Josh and I had a lot of issues with this. It is weird to say in a blog that the entire world can see, but we are actually pretty private people. We aren’t the types to share every little detail of our personal lives, finances, or anything like that with others. Once we do get placed with children you won’t see their faces on this blog until they are officially ours through the court system. You will also never hear their entire story on here either (most likely). We want to share our Adoption Adventure with our friends, families, and any adoptive parents and random strangers that read this blog. But we also take great deal of care into making sure we are not damaging our children further by sharing their stories that shouldn’t be shared. I encourage you, the reader, to be mindful of how much you share about yourself to others. The world we live in is a crazy one. **stepping down from my soap box now**
So after our first full day of classes that were 8:30am to 7:15pm, you can say that we were pretty drained. The material itself is catered a lot more to foster parents then it is adoptive parents. But session 3 did touch on the power of a sibling bond and I really enjoyed that section. We are a third of the way done with classes!
Sunday morning at 9am we had part 2 of our home study. We went over all of our background checks that we have done, and part 1 of our home study. Nothing too surprising on our background checks. I will say it is interesting how the state keeps a record on you that you would never imagine. During this home study, which we thought was our last, we did another walk through of our home and also found out we actually have to do a part 3. Apparently this is standard protocol, we were just under the impression that we only had to have 2 parts. After part 2, our home study contractor will type up and combine her report with our background check and walk through that she did, and turn it into her supervisor. The supervisor will then either approve or deny us and give it back to the contractor. Then at part 3 we will meet up and go over what the final decision is. We should have part three at least scheduled by July 24th. So for this week we will continue to be patient that this is God’s calling on us as we wait for our results. Would you say a little prayer for us for patience and strength during this waiting time? I know our time isn’t nearly as long of a wait as some other blogs that I have been following so I am very grateful for that.
Until Next Time,
**As usual, names are changed. We do this with everyone from family, friends, to DHS workers to protect privacy.
Last night we have our very long 2 hour home study. Shelly* came in and got right to business. She was a very nice woman whom the more we talked to, we learned she was planning a trip to Walt Disney World for her family. Well, if you know Josh and I you know we go to WDW at least once a year… so we had PLENTY to talk about. The questions were pretty basic, mainly about family history, our upbringing, religious beliefs, etc. I have read on so many different blogs and websites sample questions from other states that I had very high expectations on what was going to be asked of us. Turns out this was pretty simple! She even wants to schedule Part 2 to be at the end of this week or early next week. It looks like our approval will all be waiting on Josh and I to finish our classes (assuming our home study passes and is approved by Shelly’s supervisor). That was the LAST thing that I expected!
Today I called and spoke with our case worker about our classes that start this weekend. She let me know that our fingerprints have come back and they were all clear. Yay! No one has my identity and is committing crazy crimes! ha ha!
Next comes our 27 hours of parenting classes… so for the next 3 weeks it will be pretty laid back on the adoption front. I have to admit, I’m kind of looking forward to coming home after work and not having to clean or do anything to prepare. Our house is spotless, we have no major plans during the week, it is looking pretty good. I mean, besides the fact that we have to spend 9 hours each Saturday in a classroom with 40 other people that don’t want to be there. But we will show up with a smile on our face and learn anything they want to teach us. There are a couple of disorders that are extremely common in foster children that I would like to learn more about, so hopefully they touch on those.
For now, its smooth sailing!
Until next time,
*Shelly is what we have named our Home Study Contract worker. This is not her real name.
The past 8 days have been absolutely crazy. We have been go go go non stop. But, as time passes that mean progress is also made on our adoption journey as well! And when we are busy, time moves much faster also. Heres a tiny break down of our past 8 days:
On Sunday I went with a weird gut feeling. I follow a couple different local garage sale pages for our community and surrounding areas. I decided to post on there asking for peoples left over garge sale items. I made sure to make it very clear that the items would be sold at a garage sale to benefit our adoption fundraising efforts. We have no intentions of doing a GoFundMe account or any other types of fundraisers. I instantly started receiving messages of different women on the pages offering to drop things off. I could not believe the amount of people who don’t even know me that were willing to give us their stuff.
Monday June 29th our Case Worker called to say that our paperwork had officially been turned into North Care (the contracting company that will be doing our home study).
Tuesday our Case Worker called me again to say that all of our references had been approved as well as our secondary care giver (in the case that something should happen to Josh and I at the exact same time, they want to know that they have someone to still take care of them). We then came home and could not believe our eyes… our porch was OVER FLOWING with donated items from random people. It was AMAZING. I was scared that we were only going to get gross items that wouldn’t be sellable but boy was I wrong! I wish we would have taken a picture before we dragged all of the items in. But lets just say the entire porch was full all the way to our door.
Wednesday we were in full preparation mode for our Adoption Fundraiser Garage Sale that we were planning to have on Friday and Saturday. We went shopping for signage, and some other last minute items that we were going to need.
Thursday we got off work early for the holiday weekend, and sorted and priced even more of our garage sale items. And then the unthinkable happened… it began to rain. Not just rain, but down pour. Our town that rarely sees the flooding waters that Oklahoma has been getting lately, was now underwater. Our sidewalk in front of our home had become a rapid river. We ended up canceling our sale for Friday. This was depressing, but we weren’t sure what kind of condition our yard was going to be in, so it was better safe than sorry.
Friday came along and we had everything ready for the next days sale. We had gone through all of the donations and were still absolutely shocked at the amount of things we were given from total strangers.
Hendrix, our black and white cat, was very pleased with the white fluffy rugs that were given to us to sell from my sister. In this picture you can also see just a tiny fraction of the items that were given to us. Our house was pure chaos leading up to our garage sale day.
Then comes Saturday. I had put on several different sites that our sale would be from 7:30am to 2pm. I did this knowing that people would probably begin to show up at 7am. I opened our garage door at 6:30 to begin pulling our tables and setting things up. At 6:51am we had our first customer. I couldn’t believe it! He walked up requesting a large antique bar that my father had given me to sell. He even paid full price for it! Then after that, it was pretty busy until about 10am. We had large families, lots of kids, and lots of people that wanted to wheel and deal us for every last penny. It was a little ridiculous at times, but it was well worth all of the effort that we put into it. We honestly couldn’t have done it without our buddy Fro that came and helped. He was a HUGE help for sure. If you are ever thinking of doing a garage sale, I strongly recommend having at least 3 people. We ended up making not only our first goal, but our stretch goal that we didn’t think was possible to make! I want to send a shout out to all of our family and friends that donated to our sale. It is because of you that we were able to make our goals!
Josh and I towards the end of our sale. It was 97 degrees, humid, and disgusting outside. We were absolutely beat.
After our sale we had the Shack family over for a little 4th of July fun. I finally got to take some sparkler pictures that I’ve been dying to take with my new camera and they came out great!
So then comes Sunday. We went to our first LifeGroup meeting (kind of like a community group). We go to a church called LifeChuch and everything is centered around ‘Who ever Finds God, Finds Life” (hence the name LifeGroups). The group we tried out is full of adoptive parents, foster parents, and everyone in between that has something to do with adoption. We actually ended up being the only people there with the leaders of the group because of the holiday weekend. But it worked out really well that way because we got to talk to them about their adoption story and things they have learned along the way. I think we are going to fit in really well with this group!
So while we were at our LifeGroups house, I received a missed call and voice mail from a strange number. When we were on our way home I checked it and low and behold… it was North Care! Our contractor… whom we shall call Shelly, wanted to set up a time for our home study. We are doing part 1 of our home study TOMORROW June 7th!! I was under the impression that we would have to wait at least 3 or 4 weeks before they come out, but nope! So needless to say, our home is a little dirty from the garage sale and having people over all weekend. But thank goodness she is as least coming AFTER our garage sale because that could have been a disaster. We don’t really know what to expect with the home study. We do know they as a lot of questions about out childhoods, parents, pets, aunts/uncles, and everything in between. Should be interesting! But if we pass this, and our classes, then we will officially be approved to adopt in the state of Oklahoma! Send all of your good vibes and prayers our way! Tonight we will be in full blown cleaning mode to make sure our home is spotless.
I’ll do my best to do an update either tomorrow night or Wednesday morning to let everyone know how the home study went.
Friday was a pretty big step forward for us in our adoption approval process. Friday afternoon we went to get our fingerprints done so that they could do our FBI background check. We were expecting to get all inked up and all that jazz. Turns out they did away with that process years ago and everything is digital now, kinda crazy! The whole process for both of us only took maybe 10 minutes tops. The lady that did it was super quick about it. She also complimented on how we both have very distinguished and good prints. Hey, I guess we all have to have one good feature right? HA!
We also got the call Friday that we are OFFICIALLY moving to the next step in the adoption process, the home study! Everything for the intro paperwork has been finalized and sent off to a contracting company called North Care. From the moment they receive the paperwork they have 60 days to complete both visits with us. They should receive it any day this week, the countdown is officially about to begin!
Even more good news came from that same phone call! As I had mentioned before we were put on a waiting list because the class we had requested in July was full. Well, we got in! This does however mean we officially are booked up every Saturday in the month of July. We prefer our Saturdays being given up rather then every week night from 6-9:30 for like 2 weeks though, that just sounded brutal.
July is looking to be a pretty crazy month. We will have the 27 hours of parenting classes, our wedding anniversary Josh’s birthday is also shortly after that. To top it all off, I am currently in 1 class and fixing to begin my final 2 classes to that I can be finished with my Bachelors degree and receive my degree in December. Part of one of those classes includes my capstone project which includes doing 20 hours of community service and then writing a 15 page paper over it. Not looking forward to that, but I am looking forward to being finished with school. July starts the day after tomorrow, bring on the waiting game!
This morning we had our Home Assessment with 2 DHS workers. We had to fill out an evacuation plan, evacuation map of our home, important safety numbers, and a tour of the home. We tried to warn them that we were Disney fanatics but I don’t think they really wrapped their mind around it until they actually walked through our home. We then had to give them a tour of our home. They took pictures of every room, smoke detector and even the tags on our cars to prove they were valid. Honestly, If I didn’t know the names of the two case workers before they came in, I would have thought they were stealing our identities, HA!
So next comes our finger printing appointment. We have to go have our finger prints professionally done and then they will send them into the FBI. The FBI will then clear our names of any types of records or crimes that we may have (which lets face it, I’m not really worried about it).
After finger printing, and all of our references are contacted, we then move on to our training classes. 27 glorious hours of training…. I have talked to a couple other adoptive parents in Oklahoma that have went through these exact classes and they have all had the same feelings towards these classes. In a short polite way, the classes do not prepare you for what you are walking into with the children that are in DHS custody. We are hoping to get into a class that is on 3 Saturdays in June but we are currently on a waiting list. We should hear by next week if we were able to get in.
Here is the crazy part…. from the moment that our introductory case worker turns in our application and paperwork (which should be the middle of next week) the contracting company that the state uses for home study then has 60 days to complete both visits and the report of our home study. After that, assuming our classes are completed, we will be approved! Now if you do the math…. that means we could be approved by the last week of August! AUGUST!!! This process is not taking near as long as I expected it to. But I do fully understand that the matching part is what takes the longest. While we don’t really have in mind what our ‘perfect children’ will look like, we do both firmly believe that once we lay our eyes on them for the first time… we will just know that they are meant to be Shacks.
This past Friday, June 12th, we received a call from our Introductory Social Worker that we had passed round one of two of our background checks… YAY! Today she called back to say that she had begun the paperwork for part 2 of our background check. This part is a check within the DHS system where they will call our references to verify that we are good people and all that jazz. We also were able to schedule our House Assessment as well. Our House Assessment is like an introductory Home Study. They will come in, make sure our smoke detectors work, that our chemicals and medications are out of children’s reach, all those types of things. We will also schedule our 27 hours of DHS training and our fingerprinting appointment during the House Assessment.
Josh and I have spent the past 2 weeks cleaning, de-cluttering, and throwing away so many useless things in our house to get ready for this first assessment and the eventual Home Study. We plan to have a garage sale in a couple of weeks to raise a little bit of funds to help furnish the new kiddos bedrooms with furniture, new mattresses, clothes and of course toys. Since we do not plan to do a GoFundMe or any other type of fundraising we went ahead and decided to ask on social media for donations for garage sale things from our friends. We can not believe the amount of support we have received from our friends and family. So many people, some that we haven’t talked to in years but remained friends on Facebook, are offering us things that they were getting ready to donate anyways. It is such a wonderful feeling knowing that we have so many people supporting this adventure that we have begun. We are SO grateful! However, if you are one of our friends reading this and are on the edge of donating your stuff to us, please still be encouraged to do so! We can never have too much stuff to sell! All of the funds raised will be going straight to our adoption costs and to our future kiddos.
That’s all for now. We will post again after our Home Assessment on Thursday 🙂
To be on the journey that we are now, we must be clinically insane. To take on two or three children that have been bounced around the DHS system will be the greatest challenge of our lives so far. Naturally Josh and I have talked about how crazy we must be for doing this. Below is just an average everyday conversation of ours…
K: We are crazy. You know that? Who in their right mind goes to the State and actually asks to take potentially “damaged” 6 year old kids home? We are absolutely insane…..
J: Yes we are, but we have never done things the “normal” way.
K: Now that is a very true statement.
J: We like jumping into the pool, while holding a rock and balancing a monkey and seeing if we can swim
K: now that is a pretty awesome visual…. Minus the fact of in my mind I am watching myself drown.
J: No, you get creative you realized that the water is really only 6ft deep. So you drop the rock and stand on it and wa-la
K: So what do I do with this pesky monkey? Feed him a banana and have him sit on the side of the pool quietly?
J: nah let him chill on your shoulder like Spike in Ace Ventura….easy peezy.
K: I love you…. you make me laugh like no one else ever could without a doubt.
K: Haha, is that our future sons room?
J: Sure or just a symbol of the danger we are entering and all we can do is laugh at times 🙂
K: I Choose both. 🙂
So I guess for now, all we can do is “Just Keep Swimming, Just Keep Swimming”.