Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The best vacation we ever had!

I feel like I need a vacation. And then I remember we just had one! Although it seems like an eternity ago, we went on vacation about a month ago. We went on a cruise. We squeezed it in between visits we had with the kids.

I'm so glad we did; I had no idea how much I would be needing that vacation!!

We had never been on a cruise before. And now we can't wait to go again! It was the best vacation ever. And I mean EVER!

We cruised on Carnival - it was the only cruise line we could afford. But it didn't disappoint. It was so much fun for all of us. The kids loved it. We all did. I wasn't sure about being stuck on a boat - but there was enough room to roam around and not feel trapped.

Yes, some areas were quite tight and a bit crowded...

but honestly... we never felt crowded. We really didn't.

My parents went with us. Look how happy we all were!

Who says (way too much!) money and sunshine can't buy happiness? Oh yes it does! ha.

We made new friends....

We saw crystal clear blue waters and soft as flour white sand...

Nothing like a froo-froo drink on the beach, even if it was $10!

The fun just didn't stop. After all, we were on the Fun Ship, weren't we??!!

Dance Parties R Us!

Well, most of us had fun. ha ha ha. Just kidding dad!! (He really did have a good time!)

Luke ate like a king. He had lobster, lamb, and escargot. Emma had a cheesburger and fries for every lunch and dinner. Yep, every one.

Dinner was really stretched out and exhausting. I mean, really, who can eat so much food and not get tired?? Emma didn't make it to the end of many dinners... poor thing missed out on dessert most nights!

But we could have ice cream any time we wanted - and we sure took advantage of that!

Yes, the decor was a bit tacky. Must've been an older ship?? That ceiling looked like an octopus. How about this Grand Atrium? Vegas anyone??? But man, oh man, did the woman at the bar here know how to make strong drinks. They were so strong, they'd last all day. Yowza!!

I'm already checking out cruise fares again. I just can't help it!! Carnival has a slogan that proved to be so true: "Make your other memories jealous."

Yep, our other memories sure are.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


I've really been feeling a lot of guilt the past few days. I've been thinking about the kids a lot.... I'm wondering if we could've made it work....

I'm remembering the glimpses of sanity we had while the kids were here and I'm expanding on those in my mind. How long would the transition have taken? Would things have been normal? Good even? We all really liked the idea of it all, could we have turned that idea into reality?

For awhile I was feeling guilt about what would happen to them. Where would they end up? Would they be okay?

But now that guilt is turned onto - me. Did we give up too soon? Did we take the easy road? Did we show the 4 year old that she really can't trust adults and no one is really there for her??? Did we show Luke and Emma that when the going gets tough, you just walk away???

I was looking at pictures I took. There really were some pictures where there was pure joy on all 4 kids' faces. Did we give up all that future joy?? Did we allow a few days of hell to distract us from what was meant to be?

I look at Luke. I see a "success story" with him. I can't imagine our lives without him. I saw a lot of similarities between him and the little girl. Granted, he was NEVER violent towards anyone. Yes, he was an angry, confused child when we first adopted him. But he never hurt anyone. Could she have gotten past her anger and confusion too?

Emma had a terrible behavior day today. When she and I were talking about the importance of making good decisions, she said, "So when she comes back again I can show her what it's like to make good decisions?" I reminded Emma that she's not coming back. She looked surprised. We've only been through this how many times. She said, "Why couldn't we have just taken care of them, mommy?"

Oh. Good. Grief. GUILT.

Life would be great without regrets. But with life, you just don't know what could've been. I'm not sure I can say I regret our decision - I still think we made the right decision for everyone involved.

I'm 99% sure of that.

But there is that 1% that is kind of haunting me right now. Ugh.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

My kids are finally asking questions

Oddly, Luke and Emma haven't asked much about the other two that were here. After we said goodbye, Luke and I had a moment of a few tears and hugs as we watched them drive away. Joe and Emma hide their emotions much better than we do - but I'm sure they were a bit teary as well.

They literally seemed to forget about them in about 5 minutes.

Instead of having a depressing mood, we decided to set the tone to be as positive as possible when we said goodbye. The night before they left, we had a going away party without really calling it that. We took them to TJMaxx and let them pick out a few outfits and toys. Then we came home and had ice cream, then we sang songs, and then we had movie night with popcorn. We wanted to celebrate that they were here - but we also wanted to say goodbye in a positive way.

When we met the social worker, there was no lengthy goodbye. In fact, the social worker was trying to push it along rather quickly - we did have to slow things down a bit. Everyone hugged and a few tears were shed, but it really wasn't a negative experience.

We explained to Luke and Emma that they couldn't stay with us. I think they got it. They saw the havoc that was being wrecked. But there was still that part of them that wished it could work out.

We all had that little part in us.

After we dropped them off, we had a fun family day. We went to the park and went out to lunch. Luke actually thanked me. "Thank you, mommy, for wanting to take care of us first. I love you! They'll be okay, right?" as he hugged me super-tight.

Fast forward a week and a half and things are getting back to normal. I've finally put away all the baby stuff. There's really no "evidence" left that we had two more kids here. And yet - finally - the questions are starting.

Luke just asked me, "Mommy, do you think she and Emma will get along better the next time we see them?" I answered, "Honey, we're not going to see them anymore." " never?" "Yes honey, never." "Oh...Not even for a visit?" "No baby." "Oh...Well, do you think someone else will take care of them then? Maybe someone who doesn't have kids can take care of them because she couldn't get along with me and Emma, right?"

Emma didn't hear this conversation between Luke and I, but she also brought it up. We were in Target and she wanted to buy the baby some clothes. I reminded her we won't see them anymore. She pretty much asked the same questions Luke did. Later she said, "What happened to them before they came to our house?" I said, "What do you mean, sweetheart?" She said, "I mean, why did their mom decide she didn't want them anymore? And how come she decided that?"

I explained to her that I think their mom just wanted a better life for them. That she realized that she couldn't do a good job taking care of them and wanted to find someone who could do a good job.

"Do all birthmothers do that?" she innocently asked.

Oh boy. The conversation suddenly got deep with my 5 year old.

And so I explained that most birthmothers keep their children. I explained that her birthmother wanted a better life for her. "Luke's too?" she asked. "Yes, Luke's too." "Why aren't you a birthmother, mommy?" "I don't know, sweetheart, but I am your mommy now." "I know, mommy. Thank you!" Then she asked if our friend was the birthmother to her dogs. HA!

Thank God for humor in the middle of deep conversations.

I do think the kids get it. I really do. For as much as any of us can really grasp what has happened here.

If nothing else, this has certainly given me a glimpse into the mind of birthmothers. I now know what it's like to walk away and never see children again - all for the sake of wanting what's best for them - and for us.

I could never wrap my head around it before. I barely can now.

It is all still so surreal....

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

It's been a week and a half...

It's hard to believe the kids were here just a week and a half ago. It seems much longer ago. The last 11 days have been really long. I've been thinking a LOT. I've been praying a LOT. And I've been confused. A LOT.

I know we made the right decision for our family. I know that. But a part of me can't help but wonder, "What if..."

The past 6 months we have been preparing ourselves that these kids could be a part of our family. It was a long - and CRAZY! - road. But we moved forward in faith, despite all the craziness encountered. I was always afraid that we may not see them again. I thought their mom would change her mind.

I never thought we would.

If I hadn't lived through it myself, I never would've understood it. Never. Not much of this journey makes sense. Why did the mom go to our adoption agency and pick us? Why did all 4 kids have a supernatural bond the first time they met? Why did we continue to pursue the adoption if it wasn't meant to happen? Why did the mom disappear - and come back! - so many times if it wasn't meant to be? Why did things always feel so natural when we were all together - until this last time? Why did I have dreams that it did work out - and then have dreams that it didn't?

Why? Why? Why?

I am an anayltical person by nature. I am constantly asking why and trying to figure things out. This has thrown me for a loop. I just don't get it.

All along, we have said we didn't know if we were being called for a moment or a lifetime with these kids. Obviously, we were meant for a moment. We can only hope that this moment wasn't wasted.

I do believe with all of my heart that we WERE called for this moment. I don't know why. But I trust that God does. It's driving me nuts that I don't get it. But that's part of faith. Trusting even when things don't make sense.

And while I question if this moment was wasted, deep down in my heart I know it wasn't. We serve a God that knows what He's doing. No doubt.

I've been all over the map emotionally. I've been grateful that God directed us so clearly. I'm thankful that Joe never waivered in his decision and was able to stand firm to protect our family. I've been sad, glad, regretful, hopeful, guilt-ridden, unashamed, emotionally drained and emotionally lifted - sometimes all at one time.

Having adopted twice before, we "just knew" that Luke and Emma were meant to be our children. We didn't feel that way with these kids. Yes, we loved them. Yes, we cared for them. Yes, we opened our hearts, our family, and our future to them.

But once we spent all those days together, we realized we felt more like babysitters than parents. And quite frankly, we don't want to babysit for the rest of our lives - we want to be parents.

Quite often in my life, things don't turn out the way I expected or imagined. So many times throughout this journey, we were thrown twists and turns. I can't say that anything over the last 6 months would've been what I expected or imagined. And certainly, this isn't the ending I was expecting.

But God promises that despite circumstances, He works for the good of those who love Him. I believe that. I know that. And I trust that.

And for that, I am grateful.

Friday, July 1, 2011

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.

We had an 11 day visit with the kids. Some moments were pure joy. Most moments were pure hell.

We had more time with them this visit than we had combined with the previous visits. It was devastating to watch the 4 year old girl get out of her honeymoon stage with us. She started wrecking havoc quickly. We were expecting it - poor behavior is "text book" behavior for children who are in this position.

And understandably so. We have been confused and scared over the past almost 6 months as we emotionally sort through this. Are these our children? Would their mom change her mind? It was hard for Joe and I as adults to process all this. How much harder it must be for a child.

We had first hand experience with this text book behavior. We adopted Luke when he was 3. We witnessed a lot with Luke when we first adopted him. So we were expecting it this time as well.

But not to this extent.

She punched Emma in the face, kicked her in her mouth, and shoved her into her into her closet with so much brute force that toys came flying off the shelves. She kicked the dogs. She'd scream any time Luke and Emma tried to communicate with the baby, "He hates you, stop talking to him!" We told our kids to walk away when she started screaming and crying. It didn't work. She'd chase them with her arms flailing - still screaming - to try to tackle them down to get them to do what she wanted.

We were exhausted.

There was always someone crying. We couldn't pull her out of her fits because we had to do damage control instead. We couldn't give anyone what they needed because we felt spread way too thin.

It was devastating.

We really wanted to do it - and we tried. Wow, did we try. We tried until we exhausted ourselves. We prayed. We talked with each other and with friends and family we trust. We talked with our pastor. We talked with another adoption agency who adopts kids out of the foster system and then works with them post-adoption. And then we prayed some more.

Joe's answer was clear. Mine was not.

He knew we couldn't adopt these kids. He knew we had to protect our exisiting family. He knew she needed more than we could give her. He knew that our kids needed more than we were giving them. He knew we needed to protect our marriage.

I knew all that too. But my emotions couldn't kick off.

We have grown to love these kids. We were imagining our lives with them, as a part of our family. I saw glimpses of normal that melted my heart. I took all 4 kids shopping - by myself! - I could handle this logistics stuff. The baby was a gem, and even the 4 year old had her moments of joy. I knew that when we got past her transition period that everything would be okay, just like it was with Luke.

Except sometimes, everything doesn't turn out okay.

Right in the middle of all this, I received an e-mail from a friend who is STILL struggling with post-adoption issues with her son 3 1/2 years later. He never "got over it". Love hasn't been enough for their family, and I couldn't help but wonder if it wouldn't be enough for our family either.

"At what cost?" I started asking myself. A quick look around our home showed me what this visit had done to all of us. We had lost our joy. Luke and Emma were crying and stressed out. Joe looked more exhausted than I had ever seen him before. And when I looked in the mirror, I saw an emotional wreck.

So while poor behavior is expected in this situation, we could not handle the phsyical or emotional harm. We had to protect what has already been given to us - we had to protect Luke and Emma. And our marriage. And our family.

And so we called the adoption agency and told them we could not adopt them.

At what cost? I have guilt about what will happen to them. All I can do is pray that God will protect them. That wasn't meant to be my job. I was not meant to be their mom.

It really was devastating to admit that. We really were in love with the idea of it all. But we are thankful that this visit was so telling, that God was able to guide us so clearly to a decision that is best for our family.

I don't know why we have been on this road for so many months to end up here - at the end of this road, surrendering the kids back to the adoption agency. (No, they weren't legally ours yet.) But I do know that we were called to just a moment with these children... and not a lifetime. And whatever reason that moment was for - well, we are trusting that God had a purpose and that purpose was fulfilled by our obedience to His call. Even if we don't know what that purpose was - He does.

And that takes away the hurt. That hurt is replaced with His peace, the peace that passes all understanding.

We don't often know where we're going - but we know Who we are following. We place our trust in His promises in His Word as we allow Him to guide our steps:

Joshua 1:9
...Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 19:21
Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails.

This road might not have been easy or what we expected. But we thank God that He never left us to navigate this journey on our own.

Thank you, Jesus. Joy and peace are already back in our home.
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