Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Important Lessons: In case of an accident

Some important things I have learned this past week:
-          If you loan your car to someone to drive out of state, notify your insurance company beforehand.  Common sense, Traci. Hello.  Insurance companies get a little testy about stuff like that.  They will grill both you and the driver individually, recorded deposition style and make you feel like a common criminal to get at the truth.  Fortunately, our (true) stories matched.  (AND we are sticking to it!)
-          If you loan your car to someone to drive out of state, make sure you have copies of all those important papers in the glove box.  You may never see them again and insurance people may hound you until you hunt down the receipt from your most recent oil change for verification of the true mileage of the car. (Right!  David has always changed his own oil.)  Fortunately the Civic was in at the dealer this summer for a recall on the airbags so we have that to fall back on.
-          Keep copies of all service records and receipts separate from the vehicle, not just shoved in the glove compartment.  If your car is totaled and you have bought a new battery or tires (or other things) in the last year and can prove it with receipts they will add that prorated amount to the total value of your vehicle!  
-          It is very fortunate that I had thought ahead enough to text the driver our electronic insurance cards prior to leaving on the trip.  That little detail probably went a long way toward convincing the officer who worked the accident that the driver had permission to have possession of our vehicle and operate it.  Even for day to day use I think it is important to keep an electronic version or picture of both sides of your insurance card available in an app on your phone.  Maybe a good place to keep medical insurance cards too.
-      First-Aid kits, emergency blankets and other 'In case of' items are important.  Make sure your vehicles are stocked.  A cold, dark, wet night on the side of an interstate would be a lot more pleasant if you had a way to keep warm and help keep yourselves from going into shock.
In short, be more diligent in your record keeping and accident preparedness than I have been!  We are so thankful that the accident wasn't any worse than it was.  Thankful for friends to be able to call on to help us pray for safety while they waited for help to come.  Thankful both precious driver and passenger were unharmed except for bumps and bruises despite the fact that none of the airbags deployed. (!)  Thankful our insurance company didn't deny the claim.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Wendy's Wonderful Kids

Placement Day 01.21.2014

Last month I was approached by the director of marketing for the Dave Thomas Foundation.  She asked if we would share our adoption story for future Wendy's Wonderful Kids promotions in Wendy's restaurants in central Indiana. I love sharing our stories of adoption.  Of course I knew I had to participate and support this incredible opportunity to encourage others in their adoption journeys.

First Overnight Visit, December 2013

In the early spring of 2013 I sat at my desk in our schoolroom one day in our rental house near Greenwood, Indiana.  Our three seventh graders were working quietly on their school work while I worked at my desk.  I took a break from my work and flipped through Facebook for a minute.  While I was there I was compelled to click on a link to the AdoptUSKids.org website.  Soon I was scrolling through a list of children eligible for adoption through foster care.  I looked around me at the huge house we had been blessed with and was overcome by the knowledge that we had it within our power to do more than we were currently doing.  I paused on the profile of a sibling group and thought…with just a few tweaks we could adopt again.  Just need a little bigger vehicle, a couple sets of bunk beds.  It was totally doable.  My girls noticed I was teary and sniffing and they asked me what was wrong?  I said, what would you think about adopting again? 

Fast forward to the late summer that year.  David and I had finished up our foster care/adoption home study.  Our family had been Special Needs Adoption Program certified.  David and I had already interviewed for one sibling group of three…but there were several families that were interviewing for that group.  We were in ‘wait and see’ mode.  I went out to the mailbox that day and had a little packet from a Wendy’sWonderful Kids recruiter.  She introduced herself and congratulated us on this big decision to grow our family through adoption.  She also included a number of short biographies of current WWK children and encouraged us to read through them and see if we felt any sparks.  I flipped through the pages.  Most of them were single adoptions.  All were older children with varying medical and or behavioral issues. One page stood out to me.  Two little brothers who loved Legos, Star Wars and Star Trek.  As I’m telling myself there is NO WAY, I picked up my phone and called our WWK recruiter.  I remember leaving her a voice mail and telling her we wanted more information about Elijah and Nate.  

Emails were exchanged.  Our recruiter sent me pictures and videos.  In one of the videos Elijah was holding a few Legos that he had fashioned into the shape of the starship Enterprise.  His foster Mom was asking what characters he liked on the shows and he said: “I love all the Captains.  All the heroes.”  We are huge Star Trek fans, and that kinda cemented it for me.  Their WWK recruiter tried to explain to us as best she could about their challenges, medications, doctors and background.  We made an appointment to meet with the boys’ team including their CASA and their case worker.  We found out later that the boys had been eligible for adoption for a couple of years.  They had been through eight previous foster homes and two failed pre-adoptive placements.  Their challenges were many, behaviorally and educationally.  David and I walked out of that meeting that day and said to each other…These boys need us.  If not us, who?  If not now, when?  We knew the other sibling group we had interviewed for had several other families interested.  The boys did not have that luxury.  David and I both felt convicted this was what we were to do.   

Visits were initiated pretty quickly after that.  We had the boys for overnight weekend visits for 4-5 weeks and then a longer visit over several days at Christmas.  Our placement date was MLK day in January 2014.   We never looked back.  Every month the boys’ CASA and case worker would make visits to us.  Every month they would look deep into my eyes and ask me how things were going?  I would tell them the truth.  The challenges.  The sweet moments.  The homework struggles.  Every month I think they were looking to see if or when we were going to cry ‘uncle’ and try to escape our commitment.  I didn’t see that as an option then.  I only had one goal in site: Finalization.  In November of that year we finalized their adoption on National Adoption Day.  November 21st, 2014.  It was on that cold and drizzly day just before Thanksgiving that we officially became a family of seven.  

Anniversary of D, B and HJ's placement July 1, 2017
photo courtesy of Martin Walker at http://martywalkerimages.zenfolio.com/

Saturday, April 23, 2016


Galatians 6:9 (NIV)
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

How many times have I read that verse?  It was only within the last week or so that it dawned on me that this first line “Let us not become weary…” implies that we have a choice if we are going to become weary or not. (!) 
I have always viewed weary as tired.  How can you avoid getting tired?  But as I was walking this morning it occurred to me that we have a choice as to whether or not we are going to “give up” and sink down into the weariness…or if we are going to press on and finish the task with excellence.
This realization comes along on the heels of a very difficult last few weeks for me.  I’ve been beat down and struggling over every element of my life it seems.  Pain has been a constant companion.  It came to a head last night.  I started to kneel by my bed and I just collapsed on the floor under the weight of it all.  I felt alone.  I felt bruised and beaten.  I cried, I pulled my comforter over my head and curled up in a ball.  I was done.  If I had a place to go I would have fled.  It felt as if an iron door falling into place with a loud *thunk*.  Shut down, log off, I can’t leave but I am checking out.
I was allowing myself to sink into the weariness.  It was a ginormous pity party.  Did I have many good reasons to feel beaten down?  Yes!  Was allowing myself the luxury of wallowing in the mire going to fix it?  No.  Thankfully God’s mercy is new every single morning.

James 1:2-8 (NIV)

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

Lord Jesus, thank you for the hard things in life.  Thank you for using them to make us realize we must persevere past the temptation to give in to weariness so that we may reap the good harvest at the proper time.   We want desperately to keep reaching for maturity and completeness in you and you alone.  We believe you for your promises.  Please forgive our unbelief!  Protect us from the enemy as he seeks to divide us, discourage us and destroy our relationships.  Protect us from the spirit of doubt that seeks to chip away at our solid foundation.  May we never be blown and tossed by the wind this way and that.  Make our foothold in you secure and strong, stable in every storm.

 Keep doing hard things.  Perservere.  Look for the joy in the trial.  Don't allow yourself the luxury of wallowing in the weariness.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Pre-Adoptive Foster Placement Failure: The Why

Pre-Adoptive Foster Placement Failure:  The Why

I have been struggling all week trying to deal with what happened the last several weeks in regard to the failed pre-adoptive placement of J & M.  To put it in round terms and not be terribly specific the only thing I can say with any authority is that I believe they are both pretty severe RAD * children.  (I was never given this diagnosis for them; this is totally my opinion from my own experience.)  J & M are victims of unthinkable neglect; which of course put me into high gear immediately.  I want to help, I want to fix, I want to make it better.  

Unfortunately we discovered over the course of a couple weeks that we are not going to be able to give them what they need.  In order to attempt this huge feat and survive myself, I knew one cost to make it happen would be to put all the kids in public school…and even then I’m not sure that we would all come out the other end sane.  E & N could go to public school for a few more years…but secondary school is pretty much out of the question in my mind.  What then?   E & N's need for attention is already pretty high.  How could we continue to fill their emotional cups every day and do the work it would take too to get J & M what they need?  B & HJ have no desire whatsoever to go to public high school.  (They witnessed it with me at the parent meeting at North yesterday for D's orientation. The girls practically RAN from the building afterward.)  To make them go to public high school at this point is heart breaking to me.  I could not do that.  We had to make a difficult decision.   I had to admit I do have limits to what I can do.  ("Son, your ego is writing checks your body can't cash.")  I’m sure you can imagine how devastating that is.  

One good thing I guess I can say I discovered in this process is I now know what my limits are.  I can better articulate to our Foster Care Specialist what we are able to do, what type of child we can help.  What strengths and weaknesses I have as a parent.  Before, I basically said bring it on, anything and everything, I'll do it.  

The most awesome thing did come out of the experience though too… an online homeschool friend and I had been texting back and forth about her pre-adoptive children for some time.  Actually since before they had custody.   This friend reached out to me in the midst of this mess with J & M (One of those zero sleep days.)  and asked for advice about her RAD child.  If I had not been in the throes of it myself, I’m not sure what I would have said to her.  I probably would have been pretty wishy-washy not wanting to speak with any authority on the situation.  Because I was hip deep with J & M the moment she contacted me I spoke boldly.  I told her to go right to her children’s team and speak to them that moment.  Be honest and open and tell them everything that is happening, what  isn’t working and ask them to advise you how to proceed.  

Yesterday afternoon as I was pushing a cart dragging myself through Target…totally dejected, weak, tired, worn from this experience…I got a text from her.  The issue had been resolved!  Decisions had been made and plans were in action.  I had such great joy in that moment for her and her family…THIS was the why...it made all the heartache over J & M worth it.  The timing of it all could not be coincidental.  God is good.  His timing is perfect.  His plans are always far better than my own. To him, all the Glory.

Don’t be afraid to follow your heart, to take that huge step out into the unknown.  Be a foster parent.  Be an adoptive parent.  Get out there and make a difference.   Don’t listen to the excuses the enemy tries to whisper in your ear.  Don’t be thwarted by the opinions of others.  This is your life and you live it as you know you should. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Even in the storms I'll follow you.

E (10), B(14), M(5), J(9), HJ(13), N(9), D(14)  
1st Overnight Visit

This past weekend we had our first overnight visit with J & M our (soon to be placed) pre-adoptive foster children.  Our new children.  Our new babies.  I did not give birth to them, but I think of them as mine already anyway.  My only thoughts this whole weekend was what THEY needed next.  What we as a family needed next.  What is the next thing that needs to be done?  It was completely overwhelming and THE hardest weekend of my life to date.  It was also so good too.

The first night, Friday night, they were happy, excited, wild.  Pushing the limits, seeing how far they could go before I stepped in.  Testing me to see if I mean what I say.  (I do.)  Bedtime was pretty rough.  We got home just in time to start bedtime routine.  That went okay, the routine itself...but neither of them were ready to go to sleep when it was time.  M was nothing short of a hot mess.  She is sharing a room with B & HJ.  I was up and down the stairs many times.  I think she finally fell into exhausted slumber around 1am.  David and I had decided to sleep on the couches that first night so we would hear if anything were amiss.  (Our bedroom is like a fort.  I often don't even hear it storming outside much less hear any of the kids making noise.) 

I was so tired.  My day had been so stressful leading up to the 5 hour drive to Anderson to get them.  (Did you know that I-69 is a parking lot on the north side during rush hour?  I knew it, forgot it, didn't anticipate it. Oy.)  The drive was chaotic.  The excitement, the stress.  The drive home was long.  They are not used to riding in the car so long.  As I laid on the couch and tried to close my eyes for the hundredth time the anxiety started to rise up.  Doubt started to creep in.  I had to sit up and get a drink, breathe deep and will the anxiety away.  I started singing a song in my head to help me refocus.  It is a song that some of my Selah Sisters and I used to sing all the time in college...in a round.  (I can hear you laughing)  I just kept singing it over and over in my mind.

Father, I adore You
I Lay my life before You
How I love You

Jesus, I adore You
I Lay my life before You
How I love You

Spirit, I adore You
I Lay my life before You
How I love You

The anxiety would ebb and I felt better but I still could not sleep knowing he wasn't asleep. 

At 1am I knew that J was still awake.  He was playing quietly with toys on the floor in his room.  I decided that no amount of talking was going to 'make' him go to bed until he was ready...so I just let him play.  He was happy, he was not being willfully disobedient...he just wasn't ready to get into that bed.  His exact words (at 4am!) were..."but my eyes just are not sleepy yet."  He was so sincere.  He was surrounded by a whole Lego diorama he had built on ever side of him.  (LOL)  I said okay.  I listened and it finally got quiet between 4:15 and 4:30.  I finally fell asleep for a little while after that. 

At 6am a dump truck rumbled down the road past our house so loudly it rattled me awake.  I sat up and all I heard was silence.  I crept over to his bedroom door and to my surprise ALL the toys were picked up, put away in the correct places. (!)  The floor was as clean as a whistle...and a certain little boy was in his bed...with the covers pulled all the way up to his chin.  He looked absolutely angelic.  I stood there with my mouth agape for a bit...then pulled his door shut and went back to the couch.

Psalm 30:5b
"weeping may stay for the night,
    but rejoicing comes in the morning."

All I could think was how YES LORD, your joy comes in the morning.  Thank you.  Praise you Lord Jesus.  Yes.  You are good.  Your love endures forever.  This is the work you have given my hands for this season and (Lord, help me) I want to do it, and do it well. 

Then David stirred on the other couch.  I looked at him and said "He is finally asleep, if you do anything to wake him, I will hurt you."  LOL  David is not known for his ability to be stealthy.  :D  

Our day moved on from there...it was chaotic.  I shed some tears.  I struggled with doubt still.  But I just kept thinking of that quiet moment at 6am when I saw God's word in vivid living color.  In a little boy.  Who desperately needs to call me Momma.  

I believe and I will follow you. 

This is the new song we sang in worship this weekend.  I do not believe in coincidences.   (click the song title to listen to it.)

JON GUERRA lyrics : "I Will Follow"

When the sea is calm and all is right
When I feel Your favor flood my life
Even in the good, I'll follow You
Even in the good, I'll follow You

When the boat is tossed upon the waves
When I wonder if You'll keep me safe
Even in the storms, I'll follow You
Even in the storms, I'll follow You

I believe everything that You say You are
I believe that I have seen Your unchanging heart
In the good things and in the hardest part
I believe and I will follow You
I believe and I will follow You

When I see the wicked prospering
When I feel I have no voice to sing
Even in the want, I'll follow You
Even in the want, I'll follow You

I believe everything that You say You are
I believe that I have seen Your unchanging heart
In the good things and in the hardest part
I believe and I will follow You
I believe and I will follow You

When I find myself so far from home
And You lead me somewhere that I don't wanna go
Even in my death, I'll follow You
Even in my death, I'll follow You

When I come to end this race I've run
And I receive the prize that Christ has won
I will be with You in Paradise
I will be with You in Paradise

I believe everything that You say You are
I believe that I have seen Your unchanging heart
In the good things and in the hardest part
I believe and I will follow You
I believe and I will follow You  


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

“May I ask what all of this is FOR?”

Missy (my older sister and next door neighbor) went to do her shopping today and took the 13 year old HJ to help. They called me from the store to tell me that Kroger had a big sale on hotdogs and bologna again this year. (10 for $10)  Missy asked me how much I wanted…and I asked her “Are you sure you won’t be embarrassed?”  LOL  I had her get 20 packs of hotdogs and 10 of bologna.  When they were checking out a very rude lady (other customer) poked her head around HJ and said “May I ask what all of this is FOR?”  In a very condescending who-do-you-think-you-are? tone of voice.

Let me be clear, there was a huge cold case full of these sale items.  We did not take so much that it was going to keep anyone else from getting all they wanted too.  There was no limit stated.  They are ADVERTISED as 10 for $10.  Why shouldn’t I buy a few sets?  I have a chest freezer, upright freezer and two fridges with freezers.  We have that particularly so we can buy meat in bulk when we get a good price.  Truth be told, I’m planning to go to the other Kroger later this week and buy a few more sets. 

We are still finishing up the ones we bought last year at this same sale and put in the freezer.  They are still very good.  No quality loss.  So this is an opportunity not to be missed as far as I'm concerned.  In a situation like this sale it is my policy to always buy as much as we can:

1.) reasonably store 
2.) to last as long as possible 
3.) at the very best price!  

As a family we go through 2-3 packages each time we make hotdogs.   20 packs will only last minimum of 10 meals over the course of a year.  We eat hotdogs at least once a week for a lunch or dinner.  Call me crazy if you want to lady, but I’m the one who is responsible for our budget.  I am not bothered at all by what you think of how we do things.

Missy might not want to shop for me anymore though.  LOL ;) 


Sunday, July 5, 2015

Addressing Questions Regarding Adding 2 More Children

Over the weekend I was confronted with some questions regarding the idea we may have two additional children soon via a pre-adoptive foster placement.  I hope the following can help alleviate any concerns you might have…

"How is adding another sibling group going to affect the five children you already have?"

My guess is that they will continue to develop a much deeper sense of:
-personal responsibility
-how precious life is
Along with learning lessons of understanding, the importance of sharing what we have and a deeper caring and love for each other and those around us.

Most of all I see the kids experiencing along side us how God blesses us above and beyond our wildest dreams when we do what we are called to do.  When we step out in faith and do the hard and scary things.  When we seek God’s good and perfect will and sacrifice of our own desires.  Foster care and adoption are our family ministry.  These opportunities would not come up on their own if it were not the will of God.  We could not selfishly MAKE the department of children’s services bend to our will.  

Is the road ahead going to be hard?  Without a doubt.  Will it be worth it?  No question in my mind.  Are David and I likeminded or am I running this circus and working him into the ground?  You will have to ask him that.  I know he will tell you the truth.

“The girls should not be caring for other people’s children/babies.”

-         First and foremost:  That is a decision only to be made by their father and mother.  You are entitled to your opinion, thank you for sharing, but we are not required to bend to it.

-         Second:  Why should they not care for other children if it is their hearts’ desire to care for and play with little kids or hold and rock a baby?  Give a bottle, change a diaper?  Why not?  Do you think they should not do that just because it wasn’t your heart’s desire when you were their age?  Just because that is not the heart’s desire of your teen?  I would hope you know me well enough to understand I would never MAKE any of our children take care of another child against their will.

-         Third:  All our teens are paid just as if they are babysitting for someone else when they help me give respite care for foster children.  

“What about Homeschool!?”

What about it?  I think that anyone who knows me and has a relationship with my children knows that I have done a pretty fair job of educating them these last seven years.  I feel pretty confident that I will continue to do a at least a fair job at it in the future.  If we are blessed with this placement we will have three in public school and only four at home this school year.  I think we can handle that.  If that changes, if I suddenly don't think I can "handle it" then I think you can trust David and I to make appropriate course corrections to ensure all of our children are properly educated.

“How can you think you can afford two more children?”

-Foster parents are paid a per diem for each child each day they are in our care.  It more than covers their needs and desires.  It contributes to the running of the household including mortgages and vehicle payments and the retirement of debt.  Sometimes this or a negotiated per diem is paid post adoption too.  

-Foster children have Medicaid and require no additional outlay for medical/prescription/dental/vision insurance.  Usually this continues post adoption also through at least age 18 and sometimes longer if they child has disabilities.

-Foster children have special state and national programs available to them to help cover college expenses.

-When you adopt from foster care even your adoption expenses are greatly reduced.  In some states it is almost free to the adopting family depending on the situation.  A Special Needs Adoption (Child older than 2 years or a sibling group or a child with special needs) in Indiana is paid for almost entirely by the state.  Homestudy fees, court filing fees, attorney fees all were covered in our first SNAP adoption…the only thing that David and I paid out of pocket to adopt E & N were our fingerprinting fees so that our criminal background checks could be run.  

I TOTALLY left out the adoption tax credit!  http://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc607.html  With a more typical adoption you get back what you spent on adoption expenses up to $13,190 (2014).  In the case of a special needs adoption (SNAP) you automatically get the whole credit FOR EACH CHILD.  So we received $26,380 in tax credit for E & N’s adoption.  You have to have had that much tax liability for the year to claim it all.  So it can be spread out over up to five years I believe.