Thursday, December 30, 2010

Just soak it in...

This Christmas was definitely different...better...more fantastic than any Christmas of my adult life. I just wanted to soak it in, capture all of the little details of a day that I know she'll ask me about when she's older. There were presents, and the eating of wrapping paper but for me there was a little girl sitting in my lap that wasn't there last year. Just the idea of her really. The weird surreal reality that I'm a mom is growing on me a little. I still feel the same as before for the most part, I just have someone new that's along for the ride. She has been the most amazing little sidekick ever! At 12:01 on Christmas day I was holding my new little gal while she ate a bottle and the three of us, in our bed wished each other a Merry Christmas. I kissed her little face and Tyler and I just looked at each other...Merry Christmas sissy.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

My heart and arms are happy...

"For you see, each day I love you more. Today more than yesterday and less than tomorrow."
-Rosemonde Gerard
*WARNING, MUSHY POST AHEAD*
This little girl. She has really done a number on us. People always told me that they were amazed at how much love they could feel for another person, other than their spouse. They would tell me I'd be overwhelmed because it just grows every day more and more. They would be right. I feel like each day with her is a new adventure, like I get to plan out our escapades together even if it's just a trip to the grocery or the bank. We are exploring this new world of mother and daughter together and I love it. Yes it's more work to lug around a huge carrier or whip out the stroller because the store we're visiting doesn't have carts....but I just plain don't care. I go to bed thinking about her, I wake in the night thinking about her, I wake in the morning thinking about her, in between calls and clients at work, on my way home...I just can't help it. She has taught me so much about myself, about how capable I really am of this mother thing. I doubted myself a lot in the beginning, which surprised me and probably some close to me too. I've always been good with kids, worked in the nursery at church, babysat, nannied, worked at a preschool, I have A LOT of experience but when it came time to bring her home and take full responsibility for her 24 hours a day....I discovered that I didn't really know that much at all. I questioned everything I thought was right, I worried about her nutrition, her developmental milestones...etc. Until my mom said to me one night on the phone..."Kari, just trust yourself. Trust that you know what you're doing...use the knowledge that you know you have and make it work for you." I remember sitting on the couch with my mom and dad two days after we brought Emery home, and just crying. Everything was changing so quickly and I was powerless to stop it. Over the last two and half months she has been the most patient baby with the two of us and I love it.
Tonight, at work, I told HER story again. You know, the unbelievable story of how she came to us? The most magnificent five day ride EVER. It had been a while since I was able to share it and I found myself getting emotional reliving the details with a woman who knew me as a child and now knows me as a mother. She's ours. All ours. These arms of mine are filled with the most precious little brown baby ever, and my heart is happy with the love of the most precious little brown baby ever.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Behold! Teeth are finally here...

So after what I seriously believe is about two months of teething, last Wednesday FINALLY a little tooth broke through. Well, a little part of a tooth broke through. Then two days later its next door neighbor broke through too and this morning you can actually see the entire top of them! I have never been more proud in my life...and I think that's so weird. I mean my heart was swelling for my little girl, over a silly tooth! I kept thinking..."These are the most beautiful teeth I've ever laid eyes on". Freak.
It got me thinking about the future with my little gal and how there will be so many moments much bigger than this that make me a proud mama. I mean I'm already proud to have her as my own but to see her grow and change has been one of the coolest things about motherhood. You just want the best for them, even if it's something as silly as the best teething experience.

Monday, December 6, 2010

I held her a little closer tonight...

Today made for interesting thoughts and conversations.
This morning I lazed around avoiding the craziness of getting a six month old ready for 5 hours of travel. Bottles, diapers, change of clothes, her favorite dangling toy thing, pacifiers...you get the picture. When we first brought her home our drive was over three hours and seriously you wouldn't have ever guessed we had an infant in the back seat. HOWEVER, it was almost 10pm when we were heading home so she was cashed out. Today, we were hoping for only a meltdown or two out of sheer boredom and she didn't deliver. She was seriously fantastic both there and back, YIPPEE! The actual visit was pretty much what I imagined it would be. FM was super excited to see her and got right back into the groove of what used to soothe her, only it didn't work. Emery was fussy because she's teething and not eating when we think she's hungry so she was pretty much fussy on and off the entire time which is what I hoped wouldn't happen. Our social worker was there (as well as FM's) and it was great to have her kind of facilitating this unknown territory and be there as a support to us as well. At one point in time I had to convince myself to not cry, it was just so overwhelming to see Emery staring at her first mama. To see FM stare back and just take each other in was something I honestly don't think I'll ever forget. It was weird to see MY girl in the arms of someone who carried her, and it made me think of how unbelievably grateful I am to have this little woman in my life. Our conversations were polite, we discussed milestones and funny things she's doing. I asked FM how her 14th birthday was and marveled at how much she has grown physically in the last two months. I listened to her call sissy by her given name and wondered at what point in these visits will we transition completely to Emery. Will that be an issue? Who is counseling FM on how hard these visits will be for her, especially as Emery gets older? As we said goodbye I continued forward and Tyler remained behind talking to a stalling FM. She observed, out loud, that it's like she doesn't remember her...and I fear it's really because she doesn't.
So tonight, when I dressed my little bug in her warmest fleece jammies, I held her closer. I looked at her longer and breathed in her scent deeper because I simply can't imagine my life without her.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

I'm just a little nervous...

I've been dreading this day for a few weeks now. Tomorrow is our first visit with FM since we took Emery home, and I just don't know how it's going to go. It's not that I'm afraid she can take her back, because she really can't. It's not that I'm afraid we'll get into arguments over her care or anything. It's just...truthfully...if I'm keeping in time with the entire essence of my blog (unedited honesty)...I'm afraid I'll be jealous. Like I'm the new girlfriend going to a party where I know the old girlfriend will be. I'm afraid I'll be satisfied if Emery cries and wants me to hold her. It's not right, this I know, but there's little I can do to stop it! On the other hand, I hope she isn't so cranky that FM feels like she didn't really get to spend time enough time with her because I'm sure she has high hopes for what tomorrow holds. It'll be good though. The benefits of this weird arrangement far outweigh my incessant need to worry about every little thing. When she's older she'll thank me...she'll respect me for it, she'll respect FM for it. I've talked to many adoptees who were very thankful for their open adoptions because it allowed them to have many of their questions answered almost immediately. I'll do it for her! I'll do anything for her...

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Is there anything more delicious than this face?...

I'm feeling slightly inspired to write a blog post after waking this little bundle from a semi-deep sleep. It's my desperate attempt to fill her belly with a formula/oatmeal so she sleeps through the night, and I'm telling you right now if it works...I'll be sending flowers to the client friend of mine who suggested it.
But seriously, is there anything more delicious than this face? I honestly can't get enough. We've recently taken to calling her "sissy". Tyler just blurted it out one day and I said..."did you just call her sissy?". He said "yes". I said "That's kinda cute!". From then on, she has been sissy. This may be cheesy to some, and we generally aren't nickname people but for some strange reason it fits. Here are some things she does that make me melt into a puddle on the floor.
1. When I come home from being gone for a while she cranes her neck to see me, and then studies my face before bursting out into a big grin. Almost like she's saying..."I knew you'd come back!".
2. When she wakes in the morning she lays in her crib and just has chat with her mobile.
3. She's stubborn, this isn't necessarily a good thing, but I'm stubborn so we share that sometimes immobilizing character trait. =)
4. Tyler is able to sing and play through and entire set of worship songs for Sunday while she sits and stares at him. No crying. No talking. Just watching.
5. She's spoiled by being held all the time. I don't see why this is an issue.

Anywho, things are moving along with our sweet little sissy. She's sitting up a lot better, although still a little behind in the whole rolling over thing. Her physical therapy appointments for her flat head are making a huge difference, and she's totally off of her prescription Zantac. She has managed to dazzle most everyone she comes into contact with. I can't imagine any other face I'd rather look at, even if it's at 3 in the morning.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Denial is a risky game...

Often times when we are updated during our finalization process we learn new details of the bio parents situations. For instance, we only know the Bio Dad's age. We don't know his specific ethnicity (FM is from Haiti) but him...we don't know if he's just your average American born African American. We don't know his name, or his story. He was served papers a couple times before we adopted Emery and never responded, until the final time he was served. Which was about a month ago...when he denied completely that he was even her father. I know he's young. I know that he probably doesn't have wise counsel from the adults in his life, and that he thinks just denying the whole thing might make it easier but it doesn't make it true. I really have found myself feeling a deep sense of loss for Emery. I experience her fabulousness every single day and I think to myself...you're going to deny this???? That smile, that face, that laugh, that entire living being...just wish it away??? Sometimes I think closed adoption is a cop out. It allows you (the parents) to be completely unknowing of the gory details behind your child's story. Which then, in turn, means you don't have to answer any of those difficult questions because you simply do not have the answers. Then other times I think it's genius because you yourself are spared the hurt of knowing certain things about the situation. Sometimes the details we learn are hurtful and a little scarring. They make me defensive. Like if I encountered the birth dad on the street I would want to throw down and make him admit that he knows she's his. Just admit that you couldn't handle it. That you made a mistake...COP TO IT you little punk! At least FM had the unbelievable strength to carry a baby full term, go through child birth, try it on her own at the ripe old age of 13 before she realized she just couldn't handle it. There is nothing, I repeat, NOTHING in my opinion that will ever make me question WHY they couldn't handle it, but to deny it totally is just plain crappy. So, in the mean time the question in my head remains...what will I tell my sweet bug when she starts asking about her bio dad? Obviously not what I truly feel otherwise she might turn me in to the authorities. There are details that won't be shared until she's much older, but I'll tell you one thing. She'll know how brave her FM was. That's for sure. That woman...ahem...girl is a saint in my book. Yes she made a very poor decision but don't we all? Part of what makes someone fabulous is admitting it, and figuring out how to fix it. Until then, I'll savor her innocence. These next few years when her world is just as it should be, how it should have always been. The three musketeers.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What I have to be thankful for...

When I look back on this last year and how much it has brought us I seriously can't believe it. Such a roller coaster and the end result was everything I had imagined. So to be ultra cheesy I'll start a giant list of things I am grateful for.
1. I'm thankful for being able to mend a relationship that was broken between myself and my dad.
2. I'm thankful for a job that valued me enough to hang on for three weeks while I learned to be a mama.
3. I'm thankful for my very best friend Jaci and her prayers and support.
4. I'm thankful for my very best sister friend, Kelly and our understanding of what is means to value each others friendship and lean on each other during our struggles to become mamas. Her struggle continues on and she has shown so much grace during her difficult times.
5. I'm thankful for God answering our prayers directly with the home we're living in.
6. I'm thankful that He provided us with places to live/stay in July when our home wasn't ready yet.
7. I'm thankful for the generosity of my friend Fran when we brought Emery home. She went grocery shopping for me, hit her friends up for baby stuff, and even offered to do the dishes and fold laundry. She called me almost every day to check on us and I seriously was so touched.
8. I'm thankful for God showing us that He is bigger than any obstacle we could ever imagine. He blessed us with an amazing adoption story and journey, one that can only be described as completely Him so that Emery's story will always be a way for us to share Him with others.
9. I'm thankful for an amazing husband who has surpassed my expectations. He's a good leader, friend, talented musician and absolutely amazing dad. I have been thankful for him for the last nine years.
10. Finally, I'm thankful for the little brown eyed girl in the next room. I'm thankful that she makes me laugh with her silly faces and noises, and that when I'm away from her I feel like part of me is missing. I've always felt that way during this process, like part of me was missing. She fits into our family so well, she's so easy going and chill.
I'm thankful that when we look at each other we know we belong together...like Batman and Robin, my little sidekick.

Monday, November 15, 2010

First update letter...

I've been avoiding this task for a week now. Actually, over a week. I don't know why, I guess I'm just experiencing the unrest and newness of an open adoption a little differently than I thought I would. I have to write an update letter and send some photos to our social worker so she can forward them on to FM's social worker and I'm just dreading it. Or was dreading it for that matter because about five minutes ago I did it. SO I kept it simple. Included random silly little things that are fantastic about her but not overly fantastic because I don't want her to know how much she's missing out on. Like I said in my last post...I understand the benefits but right now I'm just a protective mama bear who doesn't want to see my child in the arms of her child mother. I'm struggling. I'm dreading. I'm jealous. Jealous because I will never EVER be able to offer Emery what she'll feel she has lost by not spending a lifetime with her FM. I will never be able to fill that void. I'll fill a different one, but not THAT one. I know that by sacrificing some privacy right now (updates and pictures to FM) I'll be able to answer some questions Emery will have later on in life. I'll be able to show her pictures of FM pregnant with her and ultrasound pictures. I'll be able to show her pictures of the the four of us together, on a day where FM made the ultimate sacrifice. Emery's quality of life above hers. FM may be too young to understand the gravity of the entire situation, she may not be feeling the loss as deeply right now as she will when she's older and maybe gets married, and has another child. But her decision to allow Emery a better life because she wanted a better life for herself is something I will always be thankful for but at the same time never quite understand.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

What will we say?...

As we near our very first visit with FM, on December 6th, I start to get a little nervous. We haven't seen her in a couple months, Emery is getting bigger and healthier and she's just so gorgeous...I'm afraid she'll want her back. Legally, a lot of things would have to take place in order for that to actually happen so my concern isn't warranted really. For now these visits will be pretty easy, in my opinion. Emery won't be talking yet, she won't be trying to figure out the connection, she won't be asking questions. When you step into this unknown world of open adoption at first it seems fantastic. It seems like the perfect situation, you are able to get so much information because you maintain contact with the birth family but I'm not sold on it yet. Not until I get this first visit under my belt.
This whole thing has me thinking about what we'll say when Emery gets older in regards to FM. I mean obviously Emery will always know she's adopted (even if her skin color was the same as ours). What will we have Emery call her FM? It's just such a huge responsibility to be honest about the situation and represent the facts well but also to generate a little compassion in the situation too. Who knows if FM will continue the visits, I mean really it's up to her. I'm scattered in this post...usually at this point I'll erase certain parts of it and try and start over but this time what you see is what you get.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Pretty girl...

One of the most disgustingly sweet things I've noticed about our new life as parents is that Tyler always refers to Emery as "pretty girl". He picks her up from her crib..."hey pretty girl". She's cranky in her car seat..."It's ok pretty girl". When he arrives home after being away all day..."I missed you pretty girl". I can't get enough. I hope it never changes. One of the greatest things a father can do for his daughter is to help instill self confidence and self worth at an early age. Make her feel like she is, in fact, the "prettiest girl" in the world. My man, is an amazing dad. He is calming, nurturing, funny, and compassionate. This morning he was discussing quarterbacks with her and gearing her up for the Steelers game this evening and I discovered...parenting really highlights things about each other that you never knew existed. I mean after eight and a half years of being married I'm learning something new about Tyler just about every day. It's refreshing. Never, ever in a million years did I anticipate how amazing of a father he'd be. I knew he would be awesome, but this seriously has exceeded my expectations ten fold.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Persuasion via creative writing...

***From this post forward I will refer to Emery's biological mother as FM (first mama), for her privacy I won't include her name and I no longer am referring to her as "Her mom".***

The day before we learned Emery was ours I had a conversation with my mom, on her lunch break in the car...don't ask, and I said to her..."I feel like if I were given the opportunity to be IN THE ROOM with FM I could 100% convince her that we were the right people, I could convince her, I'm great at convincing, it's a proven fact". So when we had to fill out a little packet about ourselves for and the last section gave us the opportunity to add any additional details, boy howdy did I jump on that! I had to, this was my opportunity to convince, this was my meeting room. I started to think about FM, about the hard unnatural choice she was about to make and live with for the rest of her life...and I started writing. I didn't use big words, I didn't talk down to her, I did however write..."You will always be a part of her story, you will never be kept a secret." That sentence was the deal maker. That sentence is what made FM change her mind and pick us. Unbelievable. Seriously, when I think about it I still can't believe it. I still can't believe that this last Friday marked 4 weeks we brought this amazing little bug home. She has been fantastic to get to know....she's funny, and sweet but loud and demanding. Her personality is already big and today when Tyler was up on stage singing she sat and stared....and craned her neck to see him. My heart is full to the brim of love for my little wild woman.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sometime's I forget...

That she hasn't always been ours. That she wasn't born out of my womb but out of my heart instead. That I wasn't there to see her take her first breath or cry her first cry...and not only those first days but first months. It's weird how we've transitioned from being total strangers to lifelong companions...and I truthfully can't imagine my life without her. I was worried in the beginning that I wouldn't connect with her, that I would always feel like she was at arms length away from belonging to me and now it's gone. Today I said to Tyler...I feel like she's mine now. I feel like I know her better and she knows me better...I feel closer to her. This week was my last week before going back to work. No, I wasn't afforded the opportunity to take a full six weeks but I feel like these three weeks have NOT flown by and that I've had so much time to spend with her. I am also glad that my work schedule allows me to only have her with a sitter two days a week...that is a HUGE blessing.
So, my little brown girl and I continue to to form an unshakable bond that I was afraid wouldn't happen in the first place.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Can I just say...

I love my little brown baby. I love being her mama. We have made serious strides in working out our "stranger" issues and have begun the journey of connecting. She knows me now...she knows my voice and my face. Little girl has the sweetest disposition. She laughs the cutest little laugh and smiles the gummiest widest smile...I can't get enough. Now begins the time when I go from "terrified new mama" to "hey I think I got this mama".
One random prayer request if you don't mind. It generally takes 2-3 months for finalization to be completed and Emery truly becomes our child according to the law. We'd LOVE to have this finished by the end of the year so we can spend the holiday's together for real as a legal family. Our social worker doesn't think this is possible but then again she didn't think that the birth mom would pick us either...heeheehee.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Let's play a game called...


Things you wouldn't have found in Kari & Tyler's house two weeks ago...
Our mad scientist bottle setup...

I still think this "nursery water" thing is fake, just to get you buy special water but whatev's...

And last but certainly NOT least...


Thursday, October 14, 2010

She likes it....

Among the many amazing things about Emery's journey to us we have since discovered that homegirl LOVES music. Coincidence? I think not. She sits quietly when I comb through her hair only if I'm singing to her. When Tyler busted out his guitar a few nights ago she sat there for a solid 30 minutes and just stared at him and the guitar. To think that He "knit her together" (Psalm 139:13) with Tyler and I in mind is humbling. He was thinking of us when He made her, He knew she'd eventually make her way to us and as a little fantastic bonus he let her share in our love of music. It's a huge part of our lives. It's Tyler's job, it's something we talk about and debate together. Now we can enjoy it together as a family...

Monday, October 11, 2010

Clarification...

I feel like I need to clarify. I never ever will ever make our adoption story or adoption out to be something that only people who adopt can understand...just like with anything if you know someone who has done it or is doing it, you tend to relate more. Now that we actually have her here a lot of my musing's are probably typical new mother musing's with little sprinkles of adoption fears and concerns. I have absolutely LOVED the emails and comments of encouragement from mother's who have biological children and faced the same fears that I am facing....it makes me feel like less of a freak. So please, I beg of you, don't think that I'm trying to glorify my experience as something more superior and sacrificial than actually going through a pregnancy and birthing your own child.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

This connection game is for the birds...

In my opinion adoption has one very alarming down side...connecting with a child that isn't your flesh and blood. You know, nothing major. I think I psyched myself up for this too much when we brought Emery home. I kept thinking...why aren't I totally 100% head over heels for this little being? Shouldn't I be? Don't get me wrong she is completely and utterly fantastic. Her smile melts me into a blubbering puddle and when she stares at me I feel like once we get to know each other it's going to be astronomical. For now though, it's an ebb and flow. Some days I'm on like donkey kong, we are a well oiled machine...I pick up on her non verbal cues, soothe her and we go to bed fulfilled and happy at this little connection dance we've done. Other days she revolts, she screams, she won't soothe for me, she defies my need for connecting with her and I feel like we have to get to know each other all over again. My nerves and anxiety creep up on me like a pesky neighbor and I'm back to square one with my little brown baby. I wonder if sometimes she knows...that I'm not her bio mama. I wonder if she misses her voice. I wonder if in those times of revolt she's trying one last time to change her situation in hopes that when she wakes up it's not my eyes she's staring into but her first mama's. Ahhhh the dance...the pesky connection dance. It's this mama's nemesis, but one day I know we'll lick it. She'll say my name, run to me with open arms for comfort and safety...she'll wake up one morning and stare into my eyes with hers and think..."there you are...I've been waiting for you mama".

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Coming to terms with "not the same"...

My "normal" first time as a mother is unlike any other...it's all mine, and Emery's of course. There isn't a single thing I would change. My sister said something interesting tonight after a less than stellar turn out at my first ever, first time mama baby shower..."I just wanted you to have everything in this experience that a first time mom would have". That is something I'm coming to terms with. I missed the first 4 months of my daughter's life, I only had 3 hours to plan for her arrival, I had to fundraise for her, save all my pennies for her, and not know who she was for a whole year. These are all things that make up The Ballad of Emery Brooke. She's one of a kind, she's unconventional. When you think back on the dream of motherhood it almost never involves registering by yourself at Babies R Us while your four month old sleeps at home. However, it almost always involves the beginning of an amazing journey of self discovery as a new mom.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

What most new mom's don't talk about...

I'm telling you, when we brought her home it was so weird. When we were driving the almost three hours home and she slept the entire way it as like she didn't exist. When we brought her into our house and went to bed that night it was like I was babysitting. When I woke up in the morning on Saturday and she was still there that's when I started panicking. What's this going to be like? What if she is a horribly needy fussy child? What if I don't "connect" with her like I need to. What if I get bored with her and need a break? What if I want to "return" her? How can I be thinking these things??? She's an answer to prayer, direct prayer and a year of waiting. I can't be thinking these things. Why doesn't anyone talk about this? Does this only happen to people who adopt? I mean don't get me wrong everyone talks about not being prepared for sleepless nights, eating dinners cold, snot and puke everywhere, being peed on, and not being able to go to the bathroom without being interrupted but no one talks about the true fears of things changing. This was pure unadulterated anxiety. I truly mourned the loss of my "old" life. I cried for the first two days. Does this make me selfish? Uh no. This makes me normal. I've been married to Tyler for 8 1/2 years and I've pretty much been able to do whatever I want, whenever I want. I was sad that we wouldn't be able to spend the same kind of time together without more planning involved. I love my husband, and I love spending time with him. We truly are each others best friends and I was really worried how this was going to change "us". The new "us" was going to take some getting used to...but here's the cool thing.
I love the new "us". We're exhausted, we talk about poop but just like with the old "us" we make a great team. Also, Emery, is fantastic. She smiles all the time, she's talking like a crazy person and she has the most adorable facial expressions. Her sleep schedule is pretty average and she smells absolutely fantastic. SO, all of this to say. I'm not crazy for being sad that the old "us" is gone, and one of these days we'll be alone in our house again missing the other "us".

Monday, October 4, 2010

I love it when a plan comes together...

And boy was this plan in the works for a lot longer than we thought. The middle of September marked one year of this wild adoption ride and we are far removed from the original destination BUT we have the same result.
If you'll read this post first then you'll have a better understanding of exactly how this started. This is going to be a pretty long post so if you're not in it to win it you can always come back later!
First lets clear up a few things that even Tyler and I didn't know until about two hours before we met Emery.
1. She is four months old, not two and a half, obviously not a deal breaker...she smells the same as a two month and she eats, pees and poops the same as a newborn.
2. Both of her parents are not in the picture. The dad who is also 13, hasn't had any contact with her since she became pregnant.
3. Her birth mom is an orphan. About six years ago, her parents and sister moved here from Haiti and shortly after both parents became ill and passed away.
4. Birth mom was in the same foster home as birth dad and that's how it all happened.
5. Birth mom took care of Emery for two months right after she was born and then after that she was in two different foster homes, one short term placement, and the second was supposed to be permanent.

Now on the to the good stuff...
We were told from the very beginning that the possibility of this actually happening was slim to none. We were told that unless the birth mother loved our profile even after someone had been taking care of her for three weeks that it most likely was not going to happen, however we were told to BE PREPARED BUT DON'T GET YOUR HOPES UP. On thursday I had a melt down about the very high likelihood of this not happening and I just couldn't wrap my mind around why in the world this opportunity would sprout out of nowhere and meet all requirements but not work out. I was praying for understanding, harder than I've ever prayed before. On Friday I gave Tyler specific instructions on how to notify me of the final decision. Text me if it's a "no", call me if it's "yes". At 2:05 I received the call to end all calls..."Kari, she picked us". Me: "No way...no way...I can't believe this, are you serious, I can't believe this". Tyler: "Yes I'm serious, and we have to leave to get pick her up now!". Thus began the Friday that I thought would never end. I woke up that morning at 7:00 am, a married woman without children and I went to bed at 3:00 am with a little girl asleep in her bassinet. I have never ever in my life pleaded with God more than I did on that Friday. Tyler and I had our whole family and a few close friends praying for this little girl. Praying that if we were meant to be her parents that the birth mom would choose us. I had to believe that day we were meant for her life. I had to. I had to risk the chance of some heartbreak to have faith that God provided us this opportunity for a reason. We all know how the story ends...or really actually begins. There are parts of Emery's story that I'll never tell people, sacred private moments shared between First Mama and Forever Mama and Papa. Secret glances and mental pictures that I try and drive into my memory forever. This little one is amazing.
I'll be doing some additional posts that kind of branch off of this one a little, there is absolutely no way I could actually type out the whole experience in one post!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"Don't get your hopes up, but be prepared!"...

Those are the not so soothing words of our social worker in an email I got this afternoon. A little ironic given my last post! Oh you know, it was nothing major, just a "by the way if the birth parents do pick you, the baby will need to be picked up that evening" kind of email. If I had a nickel for every time I got one of those...oh wait, that's right I'VE NEVER GOTTEN AN EMAIL LIKE THAT!
Then I started to think....God is bigger than all of this. He is the one who orchestrated this whole thing, whether it turns out the way we want it to or not. For some reason we were meant to be a part of this chaos this week and if it's all in the name of parenthood then by all means, count me in. I don't know why He chose this for us this week. I don't know if it was to show the other people what they would be missing if they passed on the opportunity to be this child's parents. I just plain don't know.
I'm on my knees this week and I would love it if you would be too...whoever you are.

Is it bad that I hope?...

That the foster parents decide to get freaked out again over an open adoption? That there's some little spark of confidence we can install into the birth parents brain from just our photo and the questionnaire we had to fill out? That one week from today I'll have met her? That if it doesn't work out I wish I would have never known about her?
Hope can be a positive thing that's for sure...it just depends how you choose to hope. In this case, my hope is a lot selfish.

Monday, September 27, 2010

I hate this, I love this...

Well...today started like any other fabulous day off. Slept in, had a few things on my plate that needed finished but overall it was meant to be a pretty chill day. Until. I received an email from our old fab social worker, Jan. Two and half month old little girl, African American, parents are VERY young and in foster care, baby is in foster home. She thought of us, how badly she wants to place a child with us and wanted to let us know that they were going to be using special needs pricing for this adoption even though she's perfectly healthy, because she's african american and not a newborn they were having a hard time placing her. Through a series of emails it all boiled down to this...$3625.00 (instead of $12,900) not including legal fees ($1500) and she's ours if the birth "parents" like us. I seriously couldn't believe it, this really couldn't be happening. What are the odds???? After we'd decided that fostering was for us and that we were completely discounting domestic adoption any longer and this happens. So we said yes, please consider us and Jan said she had to make a phone call to the caseworker and she'd get back to me ASAP with details. Long story short, the foster parents who had the little girl from the beginning want to adopt her...after they said they didn't want to adopt her because they weren't comfortable having an open adoption. They changed their minds. Suck. Being on the receiving end of someone changing their mind really seriously bites. We aren't out of the running completely...Jan still wants to send our file over to the other case worker and have her present it to the birth parents. There is smidge...and itty bitt little speck of "maybe" involved in this right now. What about our file would cause these two very young teenagers to choose us and not the people who have already cared for this little girl for two and a half months? Probably nothing.

I hate this...because I hate having my heart broken. I hate getting my hopes up. I hate dreaming about holding and loving a child I've never met. I hate the uncertainty, and the miscommunication.

BUT

I love this...because I love that a child will have a home with someone who deserves to know them. I love that a forever family will be formed. I love that one day I'll be on the receiving end of this wild ride whether through fostering, domestic, or international adoption. I love that it makes me thankful for my family and the fact that my parents made a decision to keep me and love me. The loves outweigh the hates, it's just the hates that hurt the most.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

To rise above and persevere...

I've had this rolling around in my noggin' for the last week or so and it's only just now that I'm able to put my fingers to these buttons and put these thoughts to words. A friend of mine has a foster daughter right now who has been through the ringer...I mean if you even THINK you've had it bad, her story is just unreal. Abandoned by her mother, her father was unable to care for her, she's been bounced from foster home to foster home, was adopted for two years and then "returned" because they couldn't "handle" her behavior, and is now in her 3rd or 4th foster home since March. A couple weeks ago her father (whom she had seen just a couple months ago for the first time in like 6 years) passed away. Her 19 year old brother is left to plan a funeral. Seriously??? As if this 12 year old hasn't had enough challenges in her little life, enough heartache to fill a life time. After hearing this I asked Tyler, "How the heck do you teach a young child to rise above and persevere through such horror?". I mean there are plenty of people who have experienced horrible things in their life and have gone on to be very successful and notable individuals, but who taught them that? Is it just something built inside every one of us and we just have to be lucky enough to unearth it? How do I teach my future foster children that they can change their lot in life when the most pain and suffering I've been through in 27 years of living doesn't even begin to compare to their ten? I'm asking all these questions to myself and I have yet to come up with any good answers. If you ever wonder what the heck Tyler and I are thinking by doing fostering (which I can't imagine that you would since I've made it abundantly clear in most posts) this is why. That little girl is the answer. She's hurting, she's callous, she's distant, unemotional, abandoned, an orphan, and in her eyes...not good enough for not only one, but two sets of "parents". She doesn't want a new mommy or daddy, she wants HER mommy and HER daddy. She wants what everyone talks about, normalcy. Her normal isn't anything like her friends normal. She is why we want this for our family right now. I know it'll hurt and I know that we'll encounter children on many occasions who don't appreciate the home and bed we'll give them but guess what...I don't care. Later in life, if we're the only friendly and loving face they can remember that's enough for me.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Almost baby...

I saw a picture of you today. You have beautiful, big brown eyes and curly hair and even though your daddy is african american and your mama white, you still have creamy white skin. You were sitting in the tub with your sister and brother, smiling, splashing in the water. I'm sure I would have this exact same picture of you if you were mine...sans the brother and sister of course. Maybe it would have been a picture of your almost papa making your hair into a sudsy mohawk, or me swaddling your squishy clean little body into a towel. It would have most certainly preceded a book reading, rocking chair cuddling, hair smelling, kissing you over and over again bedtime routine. I would have told you I loved you more now than I did yesterday, and that I was proud to be your mama. I guess I can still be proud that I was your almost mama. That you'll never ever know for the rest of your life someone out there thinks about you in the same way your own mother does. That every year on your birthday I'll say a little prayer wishing you safety and a life full of love. I miss you my almost son...and even though seeing your face today brought back some memories I don't prefer to have, it gave me a glimpse into your life now, your life without me...splashing in a tub.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Can't have it all...yet

So, I received an email from fab social worker last week. She was just checking in, touching base to see if we were still interested in going this domestic adoption route. Wondering if any of our grants and loans came through, seeing if we had moved yet or if either of us had switched jobs recently. The answers, yes we are still interested, none of the grants and loans came through, yes we've moved, and our jobs are still the same BUT...how does all this fit together with Fostering? That is the big question...and here was her answer...


With regards to fostering and domestic adoption, although we look at each case separately, as a general rule, we don’t mix the two. The reason for this is, the wellbeing of the newborn being adopted has to be our #1 priority. Unfortunately, children in the foster care system are there due to abuse and/or neglect, and they usually have traumatic histories. Because of the trauma they have endured, some of them can have behavioral and aggression issues which could pose a threat to a baby’s wellbeing. I actually worked in the field of abuse and neglect is several different capacities before I came to adoptions, and I have seen first hand the damage that is done to these poor little children before they are removed from their parents/caregivers and put into foster care. For example, if children have been sexually abused, they sometimes become perpetrators of sexual abuse on children younger than them. They also can have anger issues and strike out at anyone, including an infant. It’s difficult to know what issues foster children might bring with them, and how that will effect their behavior towards others. Abandonment issues could cause them to be very jealous of a new baby as well. So that is why we generally don’t mix the two.

So, we're at a crossroads in this process. I had an inkling that this may be the case which is probably why I avoided emailing her at the start of our classes. I always go back and forth between do I want to give up the domestic adoption path or don't I? I never imagined that raising funds would have been this slow and impossible...I never imagined that I would be so passionate about fostering. So we pray...and ask...and think...and talk...about what to do next.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

To my future babies...

I think about you often, whoever you are. I think about the situations you might be going through right now and the confusion you are undoubtedly experiencing. I dream about your hugs and kisses, your laughs, smiles...but I dread your tears, hurt, rejection, emotional and physical pain. I dread it because I can't fix it. I can only alleviate it, or try to at least. I dread it because I'll love you in your own special way and even though we'll have just met my mama bear instincts will want to protect you from that pain continuing. I'll try my hardest to help you make new memories, good ones that won't be able to replace the bad but we'll make enough to outnumber them. You may never call me mom, you may never actually legally be my child but you'll remember me. Your "Kari" even if it was just for a little bit. I'll certainly remember you.

Monday, August 9, 2010

My search for "everything"...

I've started my search for clothes of all shapes and sizes to prepare us for our future foster placements since we don't have anything. Craig's List is a great place to find lots of clothes for cheap AND tonight Target had quite a bit of summer stuff that was on clearance too so I snatched it up! We also will be in need of a twin size bed, and a toddler bed too. I already have a crib so that's not a worry. I also am not entirely sure how I should decorate the room...obviously gender neutral and definitely kid like. I don't want them walking in the room and not have it be completely fun! Lots to prepare for and lots to be excited about!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Bittersweet & what's next...

So what's next for us? We have to go through the licensing process. Unfortunately because of our weirdo July-no house-live with someone else transition we could not get a jump start on any of that. We have to do another home study also, and I'm not entirely sure what that means for us since we've already done one so we'll have to see. Once our home is licensed and our home study is completed we simply wait for a phone call for our first placement!
I have connected more with the other 10 people (12 including instructors) in this class than I have with other relationships that I currently have. They get it. They know why Tyler and I are doing this, they support us, they're excited for us, we're excited for them.
I know that I've touched on this a little in previous posts but I'd just like to reiterate how much I learned about myself through these foster parent classes. I've learned that I know nothing about what I'm going to be doing and that's ok. I've learned that I have a lot of love to give these children and they may not reciprocate it right away or ever and I'm ok with that heartache. I've learned that I can't imagine my life without taking these classes, without knowing these people, and learning from our amazing teachers.


Monday, August 2, 2010

Where the crap did July go...

We had an interesting July...and I'm telling you it felt like it passed in only a couple of days. On June 30th we moved out of a place we called home for two years, and I'll seriously miss it and the memories we made there were irreplaceable. We had to ship our dog babies off because the couple of different places we were staying at wouldn't allow for animals. Guster stayed with my sister Kelly and her hubby and their two canine boys Wrigley and Jackson. Rowdy stayed with my other sister Michelle and her hubs Chris and the joke is that he, in fact, went to fat camp. He had packed on the pounds this fall after we brought Gus home and since Michelle had recently rehabilitated her grossly overweight pug, Molly, it seemed to be a great fit. We stayed the duration at our friends Fran and Ron's house. They were wildly gracious hosts and it certainly didn't hurt that Franny went to culinary school which in turn provided us with some flipping fantastic 4th of July cake with homemade whipped cream icing...among other delights. So to recap in the month of July...
We moved four times, flew two times, drove through three states, saw a bear on multiple occasions, a black panther (the actual animal NOT the group) and trained a new girl at work in two weeks so I could go on my vacation worry free.
This Wednesday we will finish our last foster parent class. It makes me sad...I seriously will miss these people and the passion that we share. I'm making Chicken 'n Dumplings which I'm expecting to turn out perfectly (heheee). Last weeks class Anna (our teacher) told us she wouldn't be here for the last one. It made me super sad because I'm a closure kind of girl, and I like to mentally prepare myself for things like that. I would have gotten her a card, a treat, or something but no she told us as we were walking out...I know it won't be the last that I see of her. We have to schedule a few meetings and such in order to finalize some things but I'm a weirdo...I thought I had mentioned that before?
Goodbye July 2010...if you were this wild and crazy I can't even imagine what July 2011 will look like...

Friday, July 16, 2010

Tyler & Kari Zielasko or The Zielasko's?

I had a momentary little glimpse of the good life we've been so patiently waiting for the last few months. I went online the other day to order some address labels for our new place and I couldn't resist the owl ones I found, address labels have come a long way since the last time I ordered them like 5 years ago! I got to the usual part where you have to enter your name and address as you'd like it to appear on the label and I was bouncing back and forth between Tyler & Kari Zielasko or just The Zielasko's. After going back and forth way too long, I had an epiphany. We will be The Zielasko's no matter the number of children we have. If I made our labels Tyler & Kari I'd be leaving out all of the fabulous individuals that'll be joining our ranks sooner than later! So...I'll leave you with the reveal of the our new address labels.



Monday, July 5, 2010

Oh neglected blog...

There have been an insurmountable amount of changes for us in the last couple weeks and I just have not been able to gather my thoughts enough to blog about anything. Since the last post we have packed and moved out of a place that we called home for two years, shipped our dogs off to both of my sister's houses, celebrated the 4th, slept at one sisters house, a coworkers house while she's on vacation, and now tomorrow we'll start our new stay at friends of ours house (hopefully only for about a week before we're in our new place). It's a wonder in and of itself that my head hasn't exploded or that I haven't started rocking weirdly in a corner!
There's a negative quality about myself...ok wait, there's a quality about myself that if used improperly can be a very negative quality. Control. I must have it in certain situations....and like I mentioned before there are times where I definitely need to lay off and just let go. Our current living situation is one in particular where I feel that I have zero control. None. I can't single handedly move these people across the country, I can't close on their house for them, organize the moving company, pack their home or anything. I just have to wait. Which sucks. I keep going through all these scenarios in my head, "what if we don't get in before our vacation?", "what if we can't get in right after we get back?", "what if this whole thing falls through and we're the idiots who don't have a place to live?" I can't tell you how many times Tyler has said to me "KARI! Just let it go!". Needless to say, that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to enjoy and soak up all the love and hospitality that friends and family of ours have given us through places to stay and meals and dog sitting and just enjoy this time. No big house to clean, no puppies to let out and break up fights with...our next place we're staying at will have a pool and a lake view. Now that's what I'm talkin' about!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Silence...

Sometimes I struggle with the lack of communication from my Creator. I can't explain it...ebb and flow is normal in a relationship but as of recently its just been a little quiet. I found this poem on a blog tonight, and it was...to say the very least, appropriate for me. Right here. Right now.

Silence by Bradley Hathaway

What’s happening here?
I was once so alive and now I’m so full of dread and almost dead
Show me Your wounded head that is lead to communion with the Father

But where did He go?

His presence seems farther and farther away each day
but I’m trying so hard to steer His way
Yet still lonely and confused on this cold hard ground I lay

Speak to me wise mouth and say “it’s all good kid, it’s nothing that you did, and though it feels like I’m not here with you right now just be still and silent and listen for that sound..

Shhh..
Did you hear it?
Listen again.
Did you hear it?

That silent voice that just spoke nothing, that is Me, I’m listening to your plea with open ears
Counting all your tears flowing from your irritated eyes
Searching the skies looking for that hope that beyond there lies.

Oh you young worrisome sparrow, find rest
Lay your battered head upon My omnipresent breast and make it your nest
No strong cold wind could ever blow and carry you from this your home

Look around, see the life shooting up from the ground
Spring colors springing fourth and celebration of your trusting

It’s a constant process this is
Growing you into the person you are to become
But when you sense the setting of the sun know it is only rising and has just begun
Now go fourth, sing songs of faith, and lift up others in the midst of this race

And if you can’t keep the pace or lose sight of My face
Know that I’m always near so you need not fear

But don’t worry about all that right now

Just sit here and enjoy the peace I offer in My silence
When I am silent I am listening, and not abandoning.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Tonight I cried...

Our class tonight was heavy...to say the least. I know I've shared in the past that I'm a crier, but not in front of people. I clam up, but tonight I realized that I was in the company of friends, new friends, different friends than I've ever made before and I cried during a video. I was so overtaken by what loss actually means for these children and it really affected me. Not to mention the entire video was just us reading text as it appeared on the screen (with bagpipe music in the background) and different children's voices reading the text out loud as well. I don't know what it is about bagpipes but they either conjure up an image of Mel Gibson with a painted face or give me the chills and make me cry. Either way I look like a crazy person I'm sure. We discussed different types of loss that our kids will suffer, and how their grieving process will really be extended throughout their entire life. We also discussed how much they will unknowingly rely on us to help them through the process and not try and replace the family that they've already lost. Our other teacher Stephanie led us through what's called a guided imagery, which is kind of creepy at first but I understand why they're helpful. Basically you close your eyes, take a deep breath and she reads a script that brings you through a particular situation. Obviously the benefit being that try and take on the experience as much as you possibly can without actually "taking on the experience". Tonight she had us imagine ourselves in our homes, in our favorite room, surrounded by our favorite people....then someone shows up at the door and they inform me that I'll be leaving this house and going to another place where the new family has been waiting a long time for someone like me. I don't have a lot of time to pack, and I can only take a few things. It's not communicated to me when or if I'll return to my old family, but my new family sure is excited to meet me, they've been waiting a long time. I get to my new "home" and I'm greeted by my new children, my new husband and my new belonging's. They are so excited to have me and my new house is so much nicer than my old one. I spend a year with my new family, and I never hear from or visit with my old one, no one ever set that up they were too busy. After a year the "people mover" shows up at my new home and tells me that it's time to go back to my old home again. Will my old family remember me? Will they have moved on?...you get the picture. It's what these children deal with on a daily basis, removed from their familiar surroundings (even though it might be a negative situation), and placed with a family that's excited to be their new family. The fact is, I'm not going to be their "new family", I'm going to be their "for a little while family". Their innocence lost, their stability shattered.
I'm really going to miss this class when it's over. I love nothing more than to be in a room surrounded by people who get why it is that we're agreeing to do this. I love that sense of community.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I just don't think I can blog enough about this...

You know that one thing that you're super passionate about? The one thing that you research, engage in, learn and grow in? The one thing that you could do/talk about for hours on end? For me, that one thing is foster parenting and adoption, and what's so strange to me is that I technically haven't done "it" yet but at the same time I feel like I have. Every Wednesday night I jam my ADHD self into a stuffy room for 3 hours and 15 minutes so I can learn how to be the best foster parent to these broken babies and I'm telling you...time flies. I wish it were six hours long. I can't soak up enough info or ask enough questions or share my passion for this enough in 3 hours! What's even better about the whole thing is that the other 10 people in my class feel the same way. Most of them are going straight adoption but that's ok because we all get "it". We've all answered the call to foster or adopt and we're excited to be around other people who are doing the same. My heart literally aches for these children who are abused and neglected or might age out of the system, but when I look around the room at all of us there is such hope! That at the end of this class there will be 11 viable parenting options. People who are willing to go through the nitty gritty of the foster care system in order to be "parents" to these damaged children.
Right now I'm freaking out. I'm freaking out because the place we're supposed to move into isn't going to be ready by the first of July like it was supposed to. We have to be out by the first because someone is moving in right after us. I'm panicking because I'm packing boxes and arranging things without any knowledge of where me, Tyler and the pups will go. I don't know where I should forward our mail to, whether or not I'll be able to get into the new place before we head off for vacation in July. I just don't like the unknown when it comes to our living situation and it really has me thinking the last couple of days....in some small way I can relate to my future "for a little bit" children and how they must feel most of the time. What will the foster parents look like? Will the bed be comfortable? What kind of food will they be feeding me? Will they have other children? What if someone needs to get a hold of me? How long will I be here? They have to deal with so much unrest in their life, for most of their life and here I am freaking out because I might have to find some place to stay for the first two weeks in July. I honestly can't imagine laying my head down on my pillow at night and having it not mean "home" to me.
Tyler and I both said to each other tonight that we are more excited about foster parenting than we ever were about international adoption. We still love the idea and want to do it some day but the path we're on right now seems so much clearer than any path we've been on in the last nine months.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

This is not our backup plan...

Sometimes when I look at where we were in the beginning of this process 9 months ago, I start to think that if someone doesn't know us and our situation they might think we're scraping the bottom of the adoption barrel. I hate that. Adoption is not a "second best" alternative. At this time, this is our "first choice" route to adding to our family. Why is this so hard for people to understand? Foster care is not the "easy way out". In fact, I think it's the harder option, the most challenging and unpredictable option.
I can't control what people think about us when they hear we're adopting. I can't, without making myself look completely insecure and weird, tell them that "I'm not barren". That's just weird, and none of their business. I can only speak volumes of how adoption has changed Tyler and I and we haven't even completed the process yet. I can only tell them that from the start our goal has always been the same, no matter the country, age, the color, or the family that he/she comes from, they still need US, or they need US to love them until their families can take care of them again. I'm excited to be spent at the end of the day with my foster kids. I know I won't always feel that way but at least I'll know that sometimes at the end of a difficult day I've given my best to a child who hasn't ever gotten anyone's best.

Please continue to pray that Tyler and I make the right decision regarding our domestic adoption. We still realistically have a few more months before our home is licensed for foster care and we start incurring some costs (i.e. supplies, extra furniture for the bedroom, clothing etc.) and we really honestly want to make the right decision. If you know of any millionaires who'd like to do a good deed, please by all means point them in our direction.

1 John 4:19
"We love each other because He first loved us."

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Another one bites the dust...

We got another grant refusal in the mail on Friday. This was the very last one that we were waiting on and truthfully since we began our foster parent classes I hadn't really given much thought about it, which was nice. The other three I was psycho about. I'm struggling here. I'm wondering if the fact that we haven't gotten any assistance from any of the grants means we should can it all together. At what point do you say, ok this is a definite no. We are at a completely different place today with adoption than where we started. I mean seriously? We started with these grandiose plans of international adoption, then we moved on to domestic infant adoption, and now we're doing foster care. Don't get me wrong, it's not that I think foster care is the bottom of the adoption food chain, it's just such a different animal than what we started with, it's kinda crazy. Truthfully I've always had this thing for helping the kids that no one else wants. In any situation that I was involved in with children I always gravitated towards the ones that caused the most trouble or looked the least loved. That doesn't make me a saint, it makes me....me.
So the question is, do we continue or don't we? Do we use the resources we've raised to create a a suitable temporary environment for our future foster children? Do we save it for the future children we hope to adopt? Do we save it for a.....I can't believe I'm typing this....MINIVAN!
Our foster parent class was changed from Wednesday to tonight (Tuesday) and it was, as usual, informative, thought provoking, excitement inducing, poignant, inspiring....and the list goes on and on. I feel like I can be really open and honest with the Anna as well as the people in our class. We also met with our Licensing Specialist from Children's Home Society and she gave us a little bit of a rundown on what to expect when we actually have her come by and inspect our house. She was so nice and so excited that we were excited to be foster parents! Overall our experience so far has been completely enriching. It has put so many different things into perspective for us...I love it.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

I was spared my worst nightmare tonight...

SO, we have our weekly foster parent class on Wednesday's right? The first couple weeks were my ADHD self's worst nightmare. The classes were very dry but SUPER informative, our instructors kept telling us they would get better and more interactive. I picked up on interactive and discovered this would mean role playing. Which I loathe. I don't understand how it really helps you understand something when you're pretending to be a part of the situation. I had to do it for a training at a job once and I just get so embarrassed by the way certain people really "blossom" in their acting careers. Last week Anna, fab foster mom/teacher, told us that this week would be role playing. Ugh. I was dreading it. Well as it turns out, my worst nightmare class was actually my favorite class so far. It was super informative and took us through an entire scenario from the reason why children were taken from the family all the way to reunification. There was obviously a lot in between most of which would be too hard to explain via text but overall it really just made me more excited for this journey. It showed me even more the desperate need our county has for foster homes and how desperately these children need to be in a home that is excited to have them, and able to offer them a lot of stability in a super chaotic time. It gave me more confidence that WE can really do this! I'm ready for a lot of things both positive and negative to come from this, and I know this will provide huge growth for me personally. I mentioned before how I've been reading this book, "Another Place at the Table" and here is something else I came across that put things into perspective a little more, for me. "I whispered a prayer and a promise, my mantra, my mission: You are safe. I will keep you safe. You will always be safe". That too will be my mission when broken children come into our home. This book has taught me a lot about the way foster care will look for our family. It has taught me a lot about how many situations and scenarios my own parents protected me from, and how much impact that has on me as an adult. How often do we take that for granted? I can answer that question for myself. A lot. When I was little I laid my head down on the same pillow in the same bed every night. I woke up in the same house with the same siblings. When I was scared I crawled into the same bed with the same parents who offered me the same comfort that I was always used to. Those little things add up and are considered very major things to these children in foster care. I promise these children that they will indeed wake up to the same foster mama offering them the same promise that my own mama and dad offered me, a safe home and unconditional love.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Uneasy, uncomfortable means growth...

"It comes as no surprise that finding families willing to open their doors to the rigors of foster parenting is so hard. Fostering means knowing about things most of us would prefer to forget. It means recognizing that our best is often not good enough. It means only knowing the difficult beginnings of a story and being forced to imagine the end. It means loving children who will ultimately leave us, then drying our tears and letting ourselves love again."
This book is exactly what I've been looking for. "Another Place at the Table" is written in the first person by a lady who, along with her husband, have fostered over 100 children over the course of 20 years. She highlights about 6 of the children she fostered and chose to tell their stories individually. I'll highlight those over the next few posts but I just wanted to share with you this quote that really, honestly, wholeheartedly opened my eyes to what it is we'll be dealing with. I will learn more about myself in the next 8 weeks of our foster parent classes than I probably have my entire life. I will recognize my limits and I will identify the uneasy, uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach means I'm growing as a person, as a future mama and foster mama. There will be points in our classes where Tyler and I will have to make changes to our original plan and that doesn't show our weaknesses it shows our ability to recognize what we are capable of offering these children.
Please continue to pray for our fundraising efforts for our domestic adoption. Please pray for us as we continue on the foster parenting route!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Focusing on the purpose of this journey...

I'm scared. I'm not gonna lie. I'm apprehensive, but curious. This process is a lot more involved and a lot more invasive than just a regular adoption (believe it or not). Because the original intent is to place these children with us temporarily they have to be extra cautious. They even want neighbor references! We're moving in about 5 weeks, and we don't really know our current neighbors...what does that say about us??? In my opinion, nothing, we live in a townhouse community and didn't have neighbors on either side for almost a year and a half but will they think that's weird? I guess what they're looking for is our neighbors to tell them if the cops are here all the time and if we have all night raves or something. I have to remain focused on the reasons why we're doing this, why we feel the need to do this. We both have a passion to help children who are in familial situations NOT of their choosing. The child did not choose who their parents would be, or that they'd have to be in foster care because none of their other family would take them. Whether or not I can pinpoint the exact moment where I thought to myself..."one day I want to be a foster mom", I can pinpoint multiple times in my life where I thought..."I want to help children with behavioral issues become who they really want to be in life, and not allow their sucky originating circumstances dictate their future". The purpose is to offer a stable home environment to a child who doesn't even know what that looks like. To offer love to a child who, once again, doesn't even know what that looks like....

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Gearing up for heatbreak...

How do you gear up for having your heart broken? It's inevitable with foster parenting, that's what Anna, our foster parenting class teacher (woah that's a lot of adjectives, I'll come up with a clever name for her in my next post) says. She also says that even with that heart ache and heart break she continues fostering, for the last 4 years to be exact. People like her inspire me to be a better person. I think about what my day looks like and compare it what her day looks like and I just feel like a putz! I mean she's dealing with situations that really matter in life, not what color polish someone wants to put on their toes or what color they want to dye their hair, but REAL things. Whether or not they'll go back to their mom and dad, or bounce from foster home to foster home. The statistics we heard tonight were mind blowing and humbling and in my opinion canNOT be ignored. 83% of children that come into care have been sexualized (sexually abused, seen a sexual act, viewed pornography). I can't process that. I'm so protected in my little "normal childhood" cocoon that this is just not a reality to me. This is happening. Children can't possibly be treated this way. No way.
I think these classes will really stretch me emotionally. If I'm shaken by just a few statistics tonight I can't imagine what it'll be like to hear the real stories and prepare myself for the possibilities of fostering children with MAJOR issues. Tyler not so much, because he used to be a therapist and has seen a lot when it comes to children being mistreated or in group homes. When I left tonight I didn't want to know more, but then I did, you know? It's weird. These next ten weeks will undoubtedly be the biggest learning experience of my life. More on that later...this woman can barely keep her eyes open.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

This is it...

Tomorrow night's the night. Where we begin a journey into the true blue unknown! Where we learn to parent children that may not permanently be ours. That's weird. I'm excited to learn more, if you know anything about me (besides the fact that I'm stubborn, impatient, and scared of clowns) you know that I love to learn new processes...which is weird since I have a little bit of a learning disability. I can't wait to meet the people we'll go through these next 10 weeks with, and here a little more of their stories.
There's something about this path that just seems right. It feels like it's truly going to be our niche. I keep thinking about our house full of children, bursting at the seems! I love it. I asked Tyler last night if it freaked him out that we might go from zero to three kids in a year? He said "nope". Love it.
In other news regarding our domestic adoption, we're still waiting for another grant application to be processed. We should hear something mid June! HOORAY!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What if...

Since we've turned a corner with foster adopting of course I've done some research and tried to feed my brain with all the necessary (sometimes unnecessary) information. I've already had two people reach out to me to chat about their experience with foster parenting and adopting. There is such community with this, it's so encouraging. Everyone wants to discuss their experiences and trials and offer their advice, which I love. I never understand why people shy away from listening to advice. They should be flattered that someone used their breath and time to try and help them out. I have a lot of questions...and a lot of concerns, which I also had when we started out with adoption at first, these are just different.
What if I'm ill equipped to care for a child with some pretty severe emotional issues? What if we don't connect with our foster child? What if they don't connect with us? What if our friends and family don't support us? What if I fall completely in love and they go back to their first family? I should be happy about that right? Them reconciling and living a life accepted by the very people who helped create them. I know I mentioned before about childbirth and adoption being "risky" but why don't I just admit it? There's a risk when you get into your car and drive to work but there's a whole lot more risk putting a harness and a parachute on and jumping out of an airplane!
So here's what I'm thinking in response to those what ifs...
I'm married to someone who has their masters degree in counseling, and who has worked with children before who have been in foster care situations. He will teach me what I need to know and help me recognize my strengths in these situations.
Connections like these take time, we'll face the facts when or if it happens, but I'll have to be understanding towards any setbacks we may have.
I can't take it personally, I have to do what is in the best interest of that child (and maybe buy them candy, just kidding.)
Not everyone supported our decision to adopt, and not everyone will support our decision to foster adopt. We are doing what we feel is what God wants for our family, and to us nothing else matters. How many things does someone do in a lifetime where they are actually supported 100%? Exactly.
I will undoubtedly have a broken heart. I will take solace in the fact that I showed one little person enough love in a short amount of time, that if they ever find themselves in a deficit they will think back on the time with us and pull from that. I will take comfort in knowing they won't forget us.
I'm not going to lie. I'll be skeptical that the change the parents made isn't genuine, I will want to check up on them and make sure they are safe, but eventually after the success of the situation I will, of course, be happy that they could make it work for the sake of their child.
For you, future child, whether you're 2, 9, or 15 I'm willing to open my arms and my heart to YOU. Whether you love me back or not. Without condition.


P.s.
We are also continuing to raise money for our domestic adoption, we can do both!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Nagging thoughts...

I know there has been a few times when I blog a good tangent or two, most of them have to deal with the unfair hands that children are dealt, whether its being born to a drug addict mother who loves her addiction too much to change herself to care for her child, or all of the orphaned children in Haiti, or in the world for that matter, and don't even get me started again on the children whose parents contract AIDS and have to give them away because they're going to die, and most certainly don't forget about the ones who can't have clean water so they die from contamination...what a stupid completely easy problem to fix. (yes I know that was a run on sentence). I just can't get "those" kinds of kids out of my brain...not even for a little bit. I think about my future family, mine and Tyler's future family for that matter, and it's just not conventional. I used to struggle with that, but in the last year I've come to accept the fact that our family will be different than most. Our children will be different ages, from different countries, different mothers, different colors, just different. In the beginning of this whole process we wanted to be as "conventional" as possible, adoption isn't conventional in the first place but you get what I'm saying. Pick a country. Pick an agency. Have them pick a child for us. Bring them home. Adjust. Love. Foster adoption has always been on my brain. I know people who have done it for a long time and who have managed to help children get through their adolescence with some sort of family in tact. I've known foster children, I've read about foster children, seen movies about foster children but I still wanted "conventional". For my sake. As a new mom, I wanted to try and get a little experience with it before I got all "unconventional". As it turns out, God wants us to be a little, nay a lot, more unconventional than we originally had intended. We are seriously considering foster adoption as our first ever means of being parents. We went to a meeting on Saturday night and had a lot of questions answered. They had pictures up of children who were available and I wanted to snatch them all, even if they were teenagers which most of them were. We realize people may think we're weird or that maybe we haven't thought this through. There may be family members who won't connect on levels that we'd like them to, or coworkers who probably think I've lost my marbles. What can I say? Deal with it. It's who we are as the Zielasko's, it's what we want for us right now, and what God wants for us right now. Yes there are risks, much bigger risks than any other kind of adoption BUT we all know how I feel about that .
Here's the truth as I know it. Every type of adoption is necessary, whether it's bringing a child from another country because their living conditions are horrifying, or adopting a child from a teenage mother, or recognizing the need a child has for some stability because their mother loves drugs and her abusive boyfriend more than them...they need me. They need my boring routines in life...my tucking them in at night...my pancakes I'd make them for breakfast...my Candy Land game playing...my understanding that they won't love me just the same as they love their bio family...my promise to be the best and maybe only parent they'd know their whole life...they need us, badly, and I've finally come to realize that I need them just as much.

Colossians 1:11 "We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy".

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A little truth...

I started to think today, because it's Mother's Day, that truly being a mom is a big freaking deal. I think about the things that my mom does even now for her adult children and I'm blown away about how your entire life is truly devoted to your children. I mean there are varying degrees I suppose, starting from changing, and feeding all the way up to listening and offering advice to your adult children, but seriously, a mother's job never ends. She's the first person I call when I need to know the difference between a rump roast or round roast...the one I call when when I can't think of that last ingredient, when things go bad, when things are good, when things are funny, when I want to complain, and when I want to cry. I can't wait until I've got someone on the other side of the phone or conversation that needs those useless but priceless pieces of information from me.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

So...curiosity tried to kill the cat but it didn't work...

The cat typed an email to fab social worker about a few different changes the cat was making (minor things of course) and in the content of the email the cat may have asked fab social worker what the outcome of the little girl was. The cat couldn't help it...that's why the saying rings true, except for today. Fab social worker was bound legally and could not discuss what the outcome was. Boo said the cat...and then we she went on her merry way.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Curiosity will not kill this cat...

So this is the week. The little girl that we said no to will be entering the world, and I don't know the outcome of it. I'm not running around getting things organized and put together for her arrival or looking forward to some time away from work (even if that means sleepless nights with a newborn), Tyler and I didn't celebrate our anniversary last night with our phones by our side in case we got a call from fab social worker. I don't know if the mom is deciding to keep her or if she has decided to give her up. I've been out of that loop since we said "thanks but no thanks". I prayed for her the other night...the mom. What if she still hasn't decided what she's going to do? These whole nine months and it's up in the air? What is that even like? Well I think she's amazing no matter if she chooses to keep her or give her up.
I'll tell you this much. As much as these fingers want to type an email to fab social worker inquiring the status of that situation, they won't. Wondering what it's like to be unsure of what you'll do with the child growing inside you...
For once curiosity will not kill this cat.

Monday, April 26, 2010

These eight years...


Yes we were thinner...and definitely young, but we still have the most fun with each other and it's actually even more fun now. It's hard to believe that eight years has gone by since I began life with this guy. We had a whirlwind relationship...met in a hallway between my sisters dorm and the conversation went something like this...
Kelly: "Tyler this is my sister Kari"
We exchange hello's...initially I thought he was cute.
Tyler: "Want some beef jerky?"
Me: "Uh, no thanks"
Tyler: "Huh, well more for me".
He worked in my dorm at the information desk, and I stalked him. I couldn't help it though, he was so cute and VERY funny. He didn't consider me a dumb girl that was involved in ridiculous drama or lamo brother/sister hall activities. We continued our few times weekly conversations while he "worked" and I fell for him, hook, line and sinker. We were wrapping up our spring semester and I was ready to head back home to Florida for the summer so we didn't even begin a dating relationship. "Just friends" was our motto at the time. I was worried about leaving for home, I didn't know what would happen to whatever it was that was happening. This was "pre-everybody had cell phones" era so I knew that we wouldn't be able to chat all the time on the phone and we really hadn't gotten to that point yet anyway. We stuck with email for the first few weeks and even hand writing letters as well, then we graduated to long phone convo's and before you knew it I was headed back to the good ole WL (Winona Lake) for a wedding. He met me at the airport with daisies and a kit kat. We went to a field and watched for shooting stars...I waited for him to bring up the whole "lets ditch the just friends label" but he wouldn't do it. It wasn't until a couple days later while we were on a walk that we stopped at the amphitheater and told each other "I love you". We talked about our wedding that night and our future together. He asked to hold my hand. July 13th 2001. Fast forward to late November we're engaged and then April 27th, 2002 and we were MARRIED!
He is my perfect match. He is my very best friend. He is who knows me to my core and loves me despite what he sees. He is considerate, smart, hilarious, compassionate, a gentleman, a good provider, intuitive, sensitive and lets not forget cute as a button! Waking up to him next to me for the last eight years has been nothing short of fantastic and I find comfort in our candid conversations and admissions.
Tyler, these eight years have brought us through many changes. Job changes, church changes, family changes, physical and emotional changes. These eight years have brought us so much laughter, and tears and growth. These eight years I have been blessed to have someone like you by my side every step of the way. I can't imagine doing this life without you, here's to these NEXT eight years, love.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Through the good and the bad, the quiet and the loud...

These last couple months have been hard...to say the very least. As you've noticed in a few of my posts and also in my lack of posting lately. It's been slow going with raising money and we're just struggling to make the right decisions for our family and to help, not hurt, this adoption process. My focus has been nonexistent, which as someone with ADHD that's really saying somethin'! Our midwest family has been completely a dream since we began this adoption process...specifically Tyler's parents, his brother and wife, and my bestie Jaci. They've collected change, given us bonuses, padded our Christmas checks with some extra $$$, and lifted us and our child up in prayer. Words absolutely positively canNOT express what this does for my heart. When I think about bringing this child home, which is just about every second of the day, I think of all the amazing stories we'll be able to tell them when they get here. I'll be able to show them pictures or point out the people who gave up time or money or both to help bring them to us. People that invested in their future without even knowing if they would ever get to meet them.
This morning my in-laws (mom, dad, bro in law, sis in law) put together a garage sale. They've been collecting donations for over a month, and advertising to friends and family for donations. Well my dear friends at the end of the day today they raised $1,050! I can't even believe it! When they told us what the final total was I was completely blown away! That teeny small town raised more in their garage sale than our booming metropolis. Terri (MIL) told me that there were people who showed up because it was an adoption fundraiser and began sharing their adoption stories as well, whether it was they had adopted or had BEEN adopted. The adoption community gets it...they really do. It doesn't matter if it's here in the U.S. or Internationally this process is so grueling and rewarding at the same time. After I hung up the phone I just cried...it was such a blessing to know that people stand behind us enough to use an entire Saturday, probably some of their own money, their house and yard just for us. No just for almost baby.
So thanks. Thanks to Jim and Terri for using their home, you two have supported us 100% from the beginning. Thanks to Chris and Crystal for rallying behind us to make this a reality, all the while growing your own baby in your belly. Thanks to every last one of you that donated stuff, even if it was a teeny box of random stuff, we don't care. We're learning serious truth behind the saying "every little bit counts".
Through the good and the bad, the quiet and the loud this child, whenever they do finally make it into our arms will have the biggest family ever.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Swirling...

my thoughts can't be anymore scattered right now.
job opportunity, less money, schedule friendly,
calmer and more stable work environment.
continuing relationship family issues.
church is stalled out a bit.
we're moving again.
adoption.

truth.
no tax bill.
our anniversary.
cheap rent, big house.
thriving marital relationship.
making positive changes in our health.
adoption fundraisers from our midwest fam.
Jesus died for me. Gave his life for me. Loves me, always.



Wednesday, April 21, 2010

And another one bites the dust...

So, I've been checking my mailbox like an idiot for the last three weeks waiting impatiently for the ShowHope decision. They told me the end of March beginning of April, and they were definitely last minute that's for sure. Finally on Friday night we got the answer we had certainly NOT been hoping for. Basically due to the hundreds of applications they receive monthly there's no way they could give everyone financial assistance. This sucks. I'm not asking for them to give us the rest of the money. But not even a little bit? We were both sad but like I mentioned before, I was not expecting this one to come through at all. We still have another one out there that we won't hear from until June I think, maybe that one will turn up some results. Until then we continue to collect our change, sell some things and make changes in our budget in an effort to try and cover the cost of this bad boy...I've come to the conclusion that I have to stop planning life around this baby. There are necessary plans that have to be made, this I know, but I have to stop thinking our child will be here soon because each holiday or vacation that has come and gone without them only breaks my heart. I have to plan that maybe baby won't be here, that way I'm not devastated when the trip or holiday has come and gone. Why I didn't figure this out earlier on in the process I don't know...oh wait, I'm impatient that's right, that's why I torture myself.
In the meantime we wait another 6-8 weeks to hear back from the another grant place. Another 6-8 weeks...we'll be moving by then, almost on vacation by then, this year is flying by and in our case I wish it would just slow down, just a little.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Uncomfortable feeling...

We've had to make a lot of decisions together over the course of our almost nine year relationship, but when it comes to this adoption we've like accelerated our tough decision making by a lot. We're trying to raise money right? We're selling some of our things, cutting most fun things out of our budget, saving our change, had a garage sale, pimping Just Love Coffee to facebook friends and family, applied like crazy to a lot of grant places...but there has been one thing the both of us have been avoiding since the beginning. Sending out a support letter to friends and family. This has been hands down the second most difficult thing in this journey, the first of course being almost baby in January. You see we don't view this experience or this chosen path as someone else's responsibility to foot the bill, or an easy way out. We do not expect that the teeny amount of support letters we sent out will cover the whole balance that we have left. We're mainly using this avenue as a way to help make a little bit of a dent in that very large $15,000+. I talked to Tyler a lot about this. I kept going back and forth, should we or shouldn't we. I'm afraid of what people will think when they get the letter. Will they be mad? Annoyed? Offended? Confused? Will they talk about it to other people and think badly of us for doing this? Because here's a secret...I care a lot about what my friends and close family think of me. It's a problem most days. I talk a big game sometimes and generally have a pretty thick skin about most things but I don't want people who have received the letter to see me and be put off. Here's the cold hard truth. We can't do this adoption without sending a support letter out. SO if you read this and you received a letter, please know that it was covered in prayer before we sent it out, please know that we agonized over whether or not this was the right move, please know that we don't expect one million dollars, know that you were special enough to us that we really felt this letter would be received positivity.