The Call

The Call. Capital “T” capital “C”. I feel like we have been officially initiated into the world of foster care. Two and a half years after our first conversation about adopting from foster care we received our first Call. I know I should keep the outcome until the very end to keep you scrolling through my paragraphs but that’s a bit cruel for the people closest to us. So I will begin by explaining that yes, we received our first Call, but it was not The Call for us.

On Friday morning I had the rare chance to have a conversation with Mr. Something before we both left for work. Generally he is already out of the house by the time my eyes are squinting open. He asked me if I had heard anything from Licensing Rep 3 lately. Our Tiny Human Project had once again settled quietly into the corner of our lives, not quite ignored, but unnoticed for some time. It’s like when you call for your dog because you realize that the house is quiet and you haven’t seen him for a bit, only to discover that he’s been sleeping quietly under your chair the whole time. I told him that I hadn’t but I was meaning to email her to ask about getting the hours I spent on my CPR certification put on record with the agency. That was it, we were on our way, but it was the most we had discussed it in weeks.

Cut to about an hour later. I was well on my way to work and my phone rings. I didn’t recognize the number so I didn’t answer it. (Being introverted I seldom answer my phone when I do know the number if I’m not mentally prepared to have a conversation. It’s a thing. Look it up.) A few minutes later I noticed that the unknown number had left a voice message. I selected it and a voice filled me car, “Hi, Mrs. Something, my name is Important Guy I supervise Rep 3 at Your Agency and I was hoping to get in touch with you guys as DCFS has two kids that we would like the two of your to consider being placed with you…”

*Ding* Text message from Mr. Something, “Call me when you can”

Sure enough, Mr. Something had answered the call from Important Guy and spoken to him about the children that had been in DCFS custody since the night before. As he filled me in on the details my mind reeled, I’m pretty sure I blew a stop sign. Lesson one from this experience: Next time PULL OVER!  Luckily I was close to work, parked, and hunkered down in my car as he filled me in. The age of one of the siblings was perfectly in our decided range but the other was very very young, practically brand new. Our home isn’t even set up or equipped for an infant considering that we only have one kid’s room. (Our state doesn’t allow infants to share rooms with older children, even siblings.) Also, details about their home situation left us and Important Guy feeling like this was a solid foster case and not likely to lead toward adoption.

Even with those two major strikes against the case for us, my heart twisted in ways I didn’t know were possible. There was the shock in knowing that Mr. Something and I were making a decision to potentially change our lives forever there on the phone in our respective work parking lots. Even after two and a half years of preparing for this moment I never once realized how far away he would feel if The Call came when we weren’t together. I’ve imagined through the logistics of it, who could watch my students as I step out to discuss the details with Mr. Something on the phone, where in my building I could duck into to have this most private of conversations, etc. But the enormity of making this decision without being able to hold his hand, look into his eyes, read his feelings and emotions beyond the words he’s saying was like a blow to the gut.

Lesson number two of this experience: We are completely in tune with each other. We were exactly on the same page with every thought about this case. In step beside each other despite being 25 miles away. Mr. Something said he’d call Important Guy back and let him know of our decision. I hung up the phone and let the silence of my car surround me.

Now, I’m not a very religious person, spiritual, yes, but not religious. However, as I sat there and began to cry I also began to pray. I prayed for those two sweet children that had been taken from the only home they knew the night before. I prayed to calm their fears knowing that the first stop after being taken from home is the hospital for full body examinations. I prayed for their mother and the one single decision she needed to make to get her babies back. In an instant their story blazed into mine like a sudden lick of flame coming to life from quiet embers long glowing among the coals of our Tiny Human Project. I felt their warmth and I felt their hurt.

As I collected myself and prepared to go into my building, to face a day with twenty one children that got to sleep in their own beds last night, I was absolutely overwhelmed. But there’s no room for personal drama when you’re a teacher. (Especially on a day when an outside provider was coming in for an hour to observe you and a particular student.) In a complete fog I joined my colleagues in the teachers’ lounge for our traditional Friday breakfast together and quietly told my teammate what had just gone down. Not eating, I pulled up a text for Mr. Something and typed, “I wish I could hug you.” When my phone started to ring. He was calling me. I ducked out of the noisy lounge and back into the classroom.

“I talked to Important Guy and even though it’s not how DCFS operates he was wondering that if he placed the infant, would we take the other?”

My stomach fell to the floor. Very early on Mr. Something and I decided to be open to siblings because all too often they are separated to make them easier to place or adopt. We were horrified by this and vowed to work against that practice. Now here we were, dealing with our first Call and we were being asked to take part in that very situation. I couldn’t possibly care for a child knowing that their sibling could be with them if only we had been prepared differently or felt differently about a wider age range. Thankfully he wasn’t officially asking us, it was only an “if… then…” In talking to Important Guy, Mr. Something shared a bit of our background, our preferences, our story. Although told otherwise many times, we were worried that this first “No” from us would be a strike against us, but Important Guy explained that he would rather us be honest about what we are comfortable taking on instead of saying, “yes” out of guilt and having a failed placement. We like Important Guy and I have since saved his number so next time I will actually answer his call.

Shortly after the students arrived and my life began to settle into the familiar busy tempo of a second grade teacher, a student from my teammate’s class came in with a yellow sticky note. On it she had written, “No one said it would be easy, but it will be worth it.” -Someone Wise. I tacked it to the bulletin board by my desk like a shield to strengthen my resolve and turned to face my day.

After a long, exhausting Friday, I finally came home to Mr. Something and we got to have the moment that we both desperately needed earlier in the day. We ordered a pizza and prepared to settle in on the couch for an evening of hockey. My phone rang and I glanced at it. Instead of a number I didn’t recognize it simply said “No Caller ID.” Okay, sketchy. Probably some salesperson calling from the other side of the world. I silenced it. “Haha, wouldn’t it be funny if they were calling to give us more kids!”

*Ding*

Hmm, No Caller ID left a voicemail.

“Hi, this message is for Mrs. Something. This is Some Girl from Your Agency. I have a placement for twin very very young babies so I’m just calling to see if you are willing to have them placed with you…”

We had to laugh. It was slightly ridiculous. I’m now a bit afraid of my phone because as of Friday, every time it rang someone was trying to give us babies. No babies was the original thought that even lead us to this journey. Everyone loves babies. Those babies were snug and warm in someone else’s home by Friday night, I’m sure of it. As for us, we were asleep by 8:30.

Although on the surface, nothing has changed, I feel as if we have arrived at a new place. We worked through our first (and second!) calls for placements and even though they weren’t right for us, we grew, learned, and will be ready for the one that does change our lives. In the meantime, please don’t call me, texts are just fine. 🙂

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Official

Our quiet little Tiny Human Project is about to get blown wide open! Last week we received our official foster care license from DCFS. There it was, nestled between our regular ol’ mail. Photo Apr 30, 8 03 57 PM I opened it right there on the street. It’s flimsy like one leaf of a carbon copy pad, entirely unremarkable, but something we have been waiting for for a long time. Photo Apr 30, 8 00 54 PMThe more immediate news is that we are now able to pursue a new agency. I went right to work on the application packet and found myself filling out copies of the exact same forms I filled out a year ago, to the day. Once again I stood in line with a thick manilla envelope and tried to push away the sense of deja vu. One step forward, two steps back, right?

Photo May 05, 5 00 03 PMThe new licensing agent I have been in touch with seems a little more on top of things than our current Rep 2. It was almost a week by the time I received an email from Rep 2. “I received your license from DCFS. Did you?” No congratulations or here’s the next step… So I replied with an answer as simple as her correspondence “Yes, we did.” As soon as we have word that the new agency is interested in working with us, we are outa there!

In honor of becoming officially licensed, Mr. Something and I had been planning on sending out a formal announcement. Our circle of friends and family reaches far and wide so we wanted to share our news in our own way and not have it spread as hearsay. A talented friend of ours did a photo shoot with us last fall and I designed a card on Shutterfly. Photo May 08, 9 22 11 PMI was definitely inspired by the beautiful announcements created by Laurie over at The Adventures of S & L. After a few hours of addressing envelopes they are ready to be sent on their way come morning. Hence our little blog suddenly becoming very public!

With that, I’d like to welcome our friends and family, and thank you in advance for stopping by, checking in, and coming along with us on this journey. The one request I have is that for over two years we have existed as “Mr. and Mrs. Something” on this very public space. With respect to our own privacy and the sensitive privacy of our future children, please help us to remain as “Mr. and Mrs. Something.” With that said, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with thoughts, concerns, and questions. Our strong network of family and friends is one of the reasons we decided to pursue foster care adoption in the first place! We appreciate every one of you and we can’t wait to share this adventure with you!

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Lessons from a Pencil Skirt

BusinessPeopleSilhouetteWomanA few weeks ago I had parent/teacher conferences at school. It was a nice break in our routine and a good time to regroup and plan goals for each of my students for the remainder of the year. Plus, it provided three days in which I got to wear big girl clothes. We have a relaxed building when it comes to dress code, which is much appreciated considering most days I am sitting on the floor with my second graders. (I don’t trust primary teachers that come to work everyday looking like they’d never get on the floor.) In addition to working at the students’ level, on an average day I put in over three miles of walking. Don’t get me wrong, I love a pair of killer heels as much as the next girl but walk a 5k in heels and talk to me about fashion then. Uncomfortable shoes make me want to sit at my desk, when I’m sitting at my desk I am not working alongside my kids. Again, I don’t trust primary teachers that wear heels every day.

With that said, three days of sitting in a grownup chair, wanting to appear professional, and with the furthest distance I needed to cover being from my table to the door, it was a nice change to be in big girl clothes. On the last of our three days I busted out my black pencil skirt. It was originally purchased a few years ago for a Halloween costume in which Mr. Something and I dressed as the leading couple from Top Gun. 388492_10150481954097792_1834694537_nIt was perhaps my smartest Halloween costume ever; pencil skirt, white button-down, black heels, all great additions to my wardrobe (minus the blond wig! Ack!) As I went through my day I realized that functioning in my pencil skirt was teaching me a few important lessons. Since we don’t meet often I took notice and decided to take the lessons to heart.

1. A pencil skirt will immediately make you feel like you know what you’re talking about.

I’ve been teaching for eight years and given that these were the second round of conferences for the school year, I had an idea of which ones would be a breeze and which ones for which I needed to brace myself. It is a lot of stress and a lot of work leading up to the three days of conferences but when in the throws of them, I really do enjoy being able to sit down with my students’ parents and just talk about their child and what I love to do. However, because of a new report card format I was thrown off my game this time around and needed a confidence boost as I tried explaining something to parents that I was still unsure about myself. In addition to the pencil skirt induced confidence, it was helpful that my students selected work, prepared self-reflections and goals, and presented at the conference themselves. It is always so interesting to see which students sit at the table with confidence, sharing their prepared materials and which will barely glance up above their eyelashes. Students that are outspoken and confident in class can suddenly refuse to read their latest writing when at the table or, in reverse, the quiet and reserved ones can rise to the occasion with giggles and jokes, beaming with pride.

This year’s spring conferences were shaded with a different color. As I slid the folder of work across the table and excitedly announced, “<insert child’s name here> is going to start us off today with some work that he/she chose to share!” I wasn’t just waiting to see what version of my student was going to emerge, but instead I honed in on the family dynamic that was was now sitting at my table. At first the observations are superficial… he has his father’s eyes and his mother’s smile. Then I became a privileged spectator to twenty-two different child/parent relationships. If both parents were present, the child often spoke more directly to one, not the other. Some parents quietly allowed their child to share and nodded with approval over their child’s work. Some were grinning from ear-to-ear and exclaimed and high fived their child over each work sample. Some parents corrected their child while they were sharing or asked them more questions about the projects. Others sat quietly. I did not judge from my side of the table. Even now, weeks later, I have not drawn any conclusions from my three days of this unofficial sociological study, just an awareness. I often wonder what I will be like on the parent side of the table. When asked by Rep 2 about handling IEP meetings for our potential children I just smiled and chuckled a little,”My kids’ teachers are going to hate me.” I’ll have to wear my pencil skirt to the meetings.

2. No matter how much you try to hurry, your top speed is now significantly slower than normal.

This could seem like a detriment but as I attempted to hurry through our school library to return to my first family of the day that arrived ten minutes early when I still needed to get reports to be mailed delivered to the front office, I caught myself doing a little short step half jog. Pencil skirt combined with a pair of pointy black heels meant that this speed was just not going to happen today. I paused, took a deep breath and resumed my trek which inevitably turned into a saunter given the fact that heels were also involved. At my new pace I had a moment to greet our librarian and caught up with the parents of a former student. It’s a shame that pencil skirts are business wear. The pace they force you to take is more more suited to leisure time. It’s as if it was saying, “Slow down! Take in the world around you! You are rocking this skirt and heels! Soak it up!”

It’s easy to rush, to hurry, to find ways to save time but then fill the saved time with more work, more stress, more pencil skirted business. I’m reminded over and over again as we approach our fully licensed foster care status, that life is going to get very busy and very full very soon. I need to appreciate the pace my life has now while I have it. We are so close to being licensed. There are fully built and mattressed bunk beds in our second bedroom, there are plastic covers on our outlets, a new nightlight in the hallway, and a certified second floor fire escape ladder stashed in the closet. We are so close that most days it feels like an ache in my chest. There are kids out there right now that need us, we are going to help them heal and grow, and together we are going to be a family.

We saw Rep 2 last week. The “quick” checklist she needed to go over took about an hour and a half. 75% of the list did not apply to our current situation because there aren’t actually children in our home yet. But, on the upside, it was the last step needed before submitting our paperwork to the state and, thank goodness, the state says that she has two weeks to submit it. Finally a timeline that is not dictated by Rep 2, who really has no idea what she is doing. She followed up with us a few days later and said she asked another Rep that has actually licensed people and found out that our license should be arriving within the next month or so. As soon as we are licensed we can open our home to placements, or find a new agency which is the plan at the moment.

After calling the new agency every day requesting information, I finally heard back from someone. The cell phone buzzing in my pocket in the middle of one of my conferences drove me mad. I knew it was them but I couldn’t answer. She left a message telling me to call her back and leave my name and address so she could send us an informational packet. That was three weeks ago. I’ve only called and left my info once a week so far. Maybe I should go back to my every day calling like before to show that, yes, WE. WANT. TO. HELP. CHILDREN.

“Slow down. Enjoy the view for now.” Says pencil skirt. Okay, okay, I’ll listen for now but it’s not easy to resist the temptation to kick off the heels, hike it up, and start to run.

3. You thought you knew how to get into a car.

Once upon a time, ladies knew the proper way to get into a car. Sit. Lift both feet. Swivel. These ladies were never trying to get into the car with a school bag, a lunch bag, a purse, a yoga bag, and a violin case (welcome to my Tuesdays.) One of our second grade vocabulary words is clamber. It is safe to say that on a regular day, I clamber into my car and count it a success if I don’t drop my phone, my keys, or dump my lunch bag upside down in the process. Pencil skirt, had other plans. Sit. Lift. Swivel. Suddenly the mundanely familiar became complicated, even awkward. The other night, Mr. Something said to me, “Our relationship is going to change when we have kids, isn’t it?” It was a rhetorical question because the answer is apparent to both of us. The routine of our relationship is going to take a new shape. We will be forced to take a step back and decide upon a new approach to every situation. What was once easy and comfortable will somehow not work in quite the same way. One can’t deny the grace of: Sit. Lift. Swivel. But it will take some getting used to.

Am I worried? Not actively. Mr. Something and I have been together for 13 years, other than puberty, we’ve tackled all major life changes together so far.

-Graduating different high schools two years apart

-Attending different colleges, meeting new people, living with roommates

-Graduating from our respective colleges and moving back home

-Starting first jobs

-Getting engaged

-Building a house together

-Getting married

We both wavered in our relationship early on and we both made the decision to come back. We both committed to making it work and we have for over a decade. Think about who you were in high school. We are still here, together, as vastly different (kind of) grown up people. Just like before, there will be adjustments. The familiar will become uncertain and wrought with emotion but pencil skirt says, “It’s what you’ve done every day but this time just: Sit. Lift. Swivel. And you’ll be on your way.”

Two Year Idea-versary

Two years ago tonight I threw, what I thought might be my most ridiculous idea yet, across the table at Mr. Something and suddenly found us traveling down a two year path, arriving at our now. There’s a few different things happening with our now so I will break them down…

1. Giant Boxes

Yesterday, half fueled by the occasion of reaching our two year idea-versary and half by our tax return check, Mr. Something and I headed out to shop for furniture. So far our second bedroom sits about 1/3 of the way ready for children. There is a fresh coat of paint on the walls, curtains and lighting hung, and an empty dresser awaiting tiny human clothes. There is still a smattering of boxes, dresses, suit jackets, and tote bags still residing in the closet, which has been utilized as overflow storage for the last six years. These items are making a slow shuffle to donation piles and imaginary “elsewheres” in our home. However, one giant item was still waiting to be crossed off the list. A bed.

stick-familyLast Friday, Mr. Something sent me a message during a mid-day conversation. It was something to the effect of, “When I think about THP, there’s never just one child. There’s always two…” He may have typed something about “three” shortly there after but to avoid a mid-workday panic I let my eyes pass that one over. 😉

This is not the first time this has come up. We have been open and preferring a sibling group since the beginning. We learned early on that siblings are often separated because single children are more “adoptable.” The horror of this realization and the idea that a child in foster care is already losing his or her parents, extended family, neighbors, friends, teacher, classmates, etc. how could you possibly take away a sibling as well? Plus, growing up with parents that aren’t biological is a challenge within itself. A sibling can be a valuable ally when navigating a sense of self that comes with growing up. We’ve wanted two since the beginning so two means one thing… bunk beds!

There are currently three giant boxes leaning up against a dresser in the second bedroom right now waiting to be unpacked and assembled into a bunk bed. It is taking all of my willpower to sit here and compose the blog post that has been building itself in my head all day. It is taking all of my willpower not to stay up into the wee hours of the night to put it together despite the fact that my week is going to be nonstop work with report cards due and three days of parent teacher conferences. Not to mention that Mr. Something may lock me up if I tried to even get the parts out of the boxes that are too big or heavy for me to move alone. (However history has shown that that has not stopped me before!)

Nevertheless, we are days away from having two extra beds in our house awaiting the arrival of two little bodies. It’s such a simple and basic need that we are meeting; a safe place to sleep, but the importance of it speaks volumes compared to where our children may be coming from. They are out there, somewhere, and we are getting inch by inch closer to ready.

2. Brand New

I cannot ignore the biggest event of our weekend, the arrival of my sister’s second son, our second nephew. stick_figure_baby_c03070_1Being in the hospital, surrounded by all sorts of new babyness, my life-decision sensors were cranked to high. Five years ago when our first nephew was born, Mr. Something and I were still preparing for our wedding four months away. We’d been in our house just about a year and our life together was in its infancy. Babies were far off my radar. Becoming an aunt was awesome but I had enough big life changes happening in my own world that it was something my big sister was doing, I wasn’t there yet.

This time is different. We are preparing for children and since we are choosing foster care adoption as our Plan A, I am always listening to the female chromosome within me, will I feel the ache, the pull, to have a baby of my own? Saturday night I held my new nephew and fell so in love with him. Like my other nephew I knew that, within a moment of meeting him, if anything ever happened to my sister and brother-in-law I would be there. No matter how many children we end up with, those two boys will always have a place in our family and we wouldn’t think twice about it.

I may be biased but new nephew is freakin cute. He was announced “birth announcement ready” because, let’s be honest, not all newborns are. They are all precious, yes, but some littles just need time to beef up, to grow into their features a bit.

So it’s Saturday night, I’ve waiting all day… no.. I’ve waited months to meet this little guy and marvel at who he is going to become. He’s all bundled up in my arms, looking up at me, making little smooshy faces and inside I am so quiet, listening. Is my womb aching? Is there biological clock ticking? All I could think was, “I can’t wait to meet our kids.” Not, “I can’t wait to have our kids.” or “I can’t wait to have one of my own.” Major life decision reassured. In the wake of all that new babyness, Mr. Something and I rode the excitement of picking out bunk beds, not a crib, through the rest of the weekend. (I may have done a some gushing when a kid, about 7 years old, laid down on one of the beds we were looking at. “There’s a tiny human in the bed! It’s the perfect fit!” Yeah… I think we are on the right track.)

3. Clueless

After Mr. Something’s phone chase for the status of our licensing, we did hear from Rep 2. This is what her email said…

“I checked with DCFS and all of your background checks have gone through.  I should get confirmation in the mail soon and once I have that I can submit for your license.  If you have any questions please call me…”

Hmm… interesting. You checked with DCFS? We got our answers weeks ago when we called them and did your job. The bad news is that there’s more paperwork that has to go through Rep 2. We aren’t just awaiting an envelope from DCFS with our ticket to find a new agency. So we are waiting, again, for things to move along.

Today we got an email from Rep 2 of a different nature…

“We need to schedule a time when I can come out to do a full evaluation of your home (I fill out a big packet at this time), this needs to be completed within the next 30 days.  What time do you and [Mrs. Something] get home from work on a weekday?  I can come out early next week.”

checklist-clipartWhat? Home evaluation? I knew of these through my endless hours of internet research but the last time we saw Rep 2 we asked her about things that needed to be done in our home, outlet covers, knives off the counters, medication locked up, etc. and she made a passing comment about how our home looked okay. Thinking that she’s the professional and that every state is different, I took her response to mean that there wasn’t a rigorous list of home requirements to fulfill. Now we get this email and she wants to come by next week. We haven’t even received a list of things that need to be done. Of course we aren’t going to pass! Mr. Something responded ten minutes later…

“When you say full inspection do you mean we have to have locks on the cabinets and covers on outlets?

Could you please send out a list of everything we need for this inspection?

Also, could you please elaborate on the next steps and time frame for each step so we can be more prepared for things like this?”

She hasn’t responded.

There’s a joke going around on the internet. Who am I kidding? By “the internet” I mean Pinterest. It’s something to the effect of… “When you don’t get to the phone fast enough and you miss a call, then you call them right back and they don’t answer. What did they do? Call you, throw their phone, and run away?”

I mean, seriously, ten minutes later? I have fallen victim to overflowing email inboxes but ten minutes later at least allows us some sort of response.

Once the license is in our hands, we are outa there.

4. WE WANT TO HELP CHILDREN!

I finally said those words today. Out loud. To a voicemail recording.

Knowing that we want to switch agencies as soon as we are licensed means that I am trying to get in touch with other agencies. I found one that is a million times closer to our house and has all sorts of family and child services and therapies in our area. We want in.

I requested information through their website contact form a week or so ago, waited a few days, and called. Not knowing what extension I needed, I waited through all the menus and left a message at the beep, “Hello, my name is Mrs. Something. My husband and I are close to completing our foster care licensing through another agency and are looking to switch to an agency closer to home. We would love to get more information about fostering through your agency. Please get back to me…” After a day or so, I didn’t get a call or an email in return. So, on Thursday, I vowed to call everyday. I will call every day until someone calls me back. So I call, and leave various versions of my first message, with no results.

Finally tonight, fueled by Rep 2’s cluelessness, I call again and leave this message, “Hello my name is Mrs. Something. My husband and I are close to completing our foster care licensing and are interested in working with your agency. We would like more information because, honestly, WE WANT TO HELP CHILDREN. Please call me back at your soonest convenience.” I didn’t exactly shout it but it was punctuated.

We. Want. To. Help. Children.

It seems so ridiculous. I know that state agencies are vastly underfunded but shouldn’t they be pounding down our door? All I ever hear about is the unending need for good foster homes and we are here practically begging to be taken on and we can’t get a call returned. Sometimes I feel like we are going in circles.

Our now is currently a lot of things. Two years ago I didn’t know where we would be now but it’s a comfortable feeling knowing that, despite the frustrations, now still feels very right.

 

Avoiding Asphyxiation

::blows the cobwebs from the corners and coughs a bit on the dust:: Is anyone still here? It has been four months since my last blog post and at the tail end of the coldest winter in recorded history, it has been a very long four months. My lack of posts can be attributed to a few things; the holiday season, a two week family vacation across said holidays, and a vast and echoing nothingness coming from our licensing rep.

It was four months ago that we had completed our home study interviews. We sent Rep 2 off with pages and pages of, what we felt were, five solid hours of heartfelt and honest answers to her probing, yet necessary, questions. We told her that we weren’t in a rush to be licensed quite yet because of our upcoming family vacation that didn’t include one or two extra plane tickets for suddenly placed small children. Perhaps saying we weren’t in a rush was our biggest mistake, but we had the general agreement that we’d touch base after the first of the year to see what else, if anything, needed to be done.

(Recap: Rep 2 was assigned to us when Rep 1 was transferred to another office. The agency didn’t assign us a new rep until an afternoon of phone calls up the ladder got us some results. Unfortunately, they were hasty results and our case was thrown at a caseworker that never licensed anyone before and was more accustomed to working with families after children were placed in the home. Translation: She really didn’t know what she was doing.)

So, like planned, after the first of the year Mr. Something called up Rep 2 to see how things were coming along. She was short with him, said she didn’t have any information, that our background checks hadn’t come through, that there was nothing she could do right now.

Okay.

Latching on her comment about the background checks, we looked into the fingerprinting company that we had both gone through back in October to see if our prints had made it out of their database. They confirmed that they were sent to both the State Police and the FBI months ago. Thank goodness Mr. Something has a desk job that allows for him to make and take calls a little more freely than my roomful of second graders would, because next he called the State Police. Surprised by how pleasant and helpful they were, he found out that our state background checks had been completed and forwarded on to DCFS, again, months ago. The FBI background check might be harder to track so Mr. Something made yet another call (seriously, Husband of the Year award here!) to DCFS.

At first, the representative at DCFS said that she could not release the state of our licensing process to us, that she could only report to agencies and to have our rep call her. Mr. Something explained that Rep 2 was being far from helpful and that she told him that she couldn’t get the information from DCFS. Well, Mr. Something found an angel that day. She whispered into the phone that she would look into it and call him back.

It was like this scene from Pixar’s The Incredibles, finally someone goodhearted on the other end of the line that realized that “the rules” don’t always apply. She called him back.

“Actually, Mr. Something, I am the one that processed your license,” at this point she spouted off our home address. “It should be in the mail and arriving in a few days.” Finally, a small victory! Mr. Something professed his gratitude for her help and that if he was there he’d hug her. She was happy to accept the sentiment of the hug, because after all, it was Friday and who doesn’t want to end their week with making someone’s day?

The information from DCFS was the final straw of our decision to find another agency the moment our license was in our hands. Yes, it most likely means starting the home study process over again, but once again I am left feeling like I want to stand on the roof and shout, “WE JUST WANT TO HELP CHILDREN!!!!” It’s heartbreaking how difficult to has been to squeak our way into getting our license.

Our elation has been short lived. That angel on the phone at DCFS said that our license would arrive in the mail within a few days. That was now a week and a half ago. There’s a bitter chuckle that rises within me when I think of our first meeting with Rep 1, the woman that we thought would be our guide on this journey. She said that we could be licensed and ready for placement within three months. We weren’t ready for placements in three months and, at the time, the estimation startled me, but as months slip by I’m wondering how Rep 1 ever gets away with making that claim. It’s been 11 months since that meeting.

I’m still trying to decipher the algorithm needed to translate “foster care licensing” time into “real” time. If anyone knows the secret, please let me in on it.

So, for now, I am opening the mailbox each evening and hopefully scanning the envelopes for a DCFS return address. I have sent off an email inquiry to a new foster care agency 13 months after I stood in line at the post office to mail our application to our first agency. Waiting seems to be the name of the game.

Monday is our 2 year idea-versary for this Tiny Human Project. (Where we were two years ago and last year.) Maybe something poetic is in the works with the universe and we will have our license in our hands on that very anniversary. Since then we have ebbed and flowed through a sense of incredible urgency about the whole thing to the exact opposite feeling of, “life is good, why would we complicate it now?” But in my heart I know that our children are out there. In the meantime we are enjoying lazy weekends and quiet weeknights knowing that if our second agency is actually functioning at a normal speed, things could happen quickly from here on out.

I won’t hold my breath.

This is Your Life!

Three weeks ago we had our second meeting with Licensing Rep No. 2. We didn’t know what to expect. We had set the date at our previous (and first) meeting with her where we were given a new stack of paperwork and gave her a tour of our house. We were prepared to hand over our newly completed forms but were at a loss for what else we might do.

Upon arriving, as laid back as ever, she announced, “Well, I figured we could start the home study questions.” Surprised, but ready to jump in, Mr. Something volunteered to go first. So, sitting around the end of our dining room table, lead by Rep 2’s questions, Mr. Something recounted his childhood. Who were the people that made up his immediate and extended family? How was he disciplined? How did he know he was loved? What were his parents views on education? What are his? What is his highest degree?  What was the demographic of his school? Did anyone in his family have substance abuse problems? Did he ever make reckless decisions?

blogger-therapy-gary-larsonWe joked that perhaps he should lie down on the couch or perhaps share a bottle of wine with Rep 2 to ease this seemingly one-sided first date conversation. We jested that it wasn’t quite fair that she was getting to the very core of who we are and, yet, we knew next to nothing about her. She tossed it right back at us saying that she actually wasn’t with the agency but just showed up at our door to learn about every tedious detail of our lives. Again, I was relieved that she shares our knack for sarcasm and relaxed nature.

After two hours she drew the evening to a close, with still uncompleted questions for Mr. Something and my own questions untouched. We set another date on the calendar to continue and our evening came to a close.

Rep 2 has shared with us that she has never licensed anyone before. She is predominately a caseworker for the agency and works with families and children after placement. She would make side comments about the questions she had to ask us, many became redundant or were just worded strangely. As tedious as it was, I was constantly aware that she was working to build a profile of us as individuals and as a family, a profile that would be the first impression of us that a caseworker would receive when deciding if we would be a good fit for a child or children in need of a home and care. Suddenly, poorly worded questions and jokes about this impromptu therapy session became very real and very heavy.

Our followup meeting got cancelled and rescheduled just once, so after a few weeks when she returned I knew it was my turn to share. Before she arrived we did a quick cleanup of the house. The weekend before we had hosted our annual Halloween Party for 31 of our closest friends and family. Halloween is a serious holiday in our circle of friends and we tend to go all out.

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This year I dressed as the woman in a painting that we have in our living room. Everyone always thinks that she is me so for one night I got to be her!Mr. Something went as the “genius billionaire playboy philanthropist” Tony Stark aka Ironman. (Nerdom runs rampant in my house and I love it!) 1457679_10151655107800044_1898175691_n

So, Wednesday night, as I pulled shot glasses out of the dishwasher and stowed bottles and bottles of alcohol back on the top of the fridge, I couldn’t help but be slightly amused. Our Halloween parties tend to be far from tame, not that we partake in anything illegal, but no less than five people ended up getting sick before the end of the night. Our final guests went home around 4am (that was old time, daylight savings turned it into 3am but my brain was still saying 4.) We had guests for over 9 hours, not counting the friend that spent the night, and just four days later we were preparing take another step toward proving that we are suitable for raising children with special needs.  The juxtaposition of these two sides of ourselves were amusing at the time, if nothing else. Mr. Something and I discussed before the party on Saturday that next year might look very different. There are so many unknowns about the children that may end up with us and the timing of it all that we must simply be prepared for things to be different and take it all as it comes.

Knowing that this meeting would be another lengthy evening, we included Rep 2 on our pizza order and planned to continue the home study over dinner. I set the table, leaving enough room for papers and notepads. We checked and double checked the plates and silverware for spots or food that somehow survived the dishwasher as if the completion of our licensing depended upon clean dishes. Some day she will be coming by to check up on our foster children and I know that spotty glasses will be the furthest thing from my mind.

She wanted to start my questions to get me caught up to Mr. Something and then we’d do the remainder of the questions together. Either she was abbreviating the questions or I am simply not as wordy as Mr. Something but mine went by much quicker. It was still interesting to walk through the halls of my past. Thinking about what did my parents do exactly to make me feel loved. How did I know the difference between right and wrong? And the million dollar question, “Who was the single most influential person in your life?” Talk about loaded! Even then I had to say, “Aren’t we all the product of everyone we have encountered in our lives?” I could easily answer it if you asked me, “Who is the single most influential person of your professional life? Or in terms of your educational career?” But when it comes down to the fabric of family, and your own parenting philosophies (which we had to define by the way) we are a tapestry of both of our parents, our friends’ parents, our grandparents, our aunts and uncles, and siblings. We have grown our ideals through watching peers enter into parenthood and endless discussions about, what would you do if that was your child, your situation? I was surprised by my final answer and not sure if it really answered the question but, no matter what, it gave her an additional window in who I am and that really is the ultimate goal of the home study.

After I caught up to Mr. Something the questions continued about our current relationship and parenting philosophies. At one point when answering a question about how we communicate or deal with conflict in our relationship, Rep 2 said, “That’s very insightful, you could be a therapist.”  I had to laugh, having a sister that is a mental health counselor for adults with developmental disabilities shows that perhaps insight runs in the family but it also proves that we really are a tapestry of everyone in our lives.

At this point we also got to exercise some of the knowledge we gained during our 27 hours of PRIDE class that we completed over the summer. There were questions about how we felt about maintaining contact with birthparents/families, how we would handle having a child that might require an IEP (Hah! As a teacher I live in the land of IEPs and have often battled to get students on them to get them what they need for the future. Cake and pie.) and what we would do to accommodate a child living with trauma and grief.

After three hours I was mentally exhausted and felt like I had relived the last 31 years of my life and then some! It reminded me of “This is Your Life” which, sadly, I don’t have the real-life connection to but the Sesame Street parody was a regular clip during my PBS watching days.

We went from laughing about childhood memories to waves of emotions recalling some of the more difficult lessons learned. Another checkmark on the list. Rep 2 left us with a bit of homework, charged with taking her pages and pages of hand scribbled notes and turning it into a veritable term paper on “The Somethings” All I can do is hope that we were honest and clear and that she was able to build a picture of us in order to match us with the children that are meant to be our forever children. So for now, we wait.

Paperworking

Photo Oct 07, 7 03 52 PMWith our next meeting with Licensing Rep #2 just about a week away, we have been grateful for the deadline and have been moving through the paperwork involved with this step rather quickly. Reading, signing, making backup copies, digging up house measurements, running bath water over a kitchen thermometer, fire escape plans, work schedules, financial information… it goes on and on. At this point, with a few left to copy, we have over 60 pages of completed forms. So far they haven’t been all that bad. Nothing as complicated or laced with legal jargon as refinancing a house, which has been much appreciated.

Today, a few hours apart and about 50 miles between the two locations, Mr. Something and I got fingerprinted. He ran out on his lunch break. It turns out I didn’t give him one of the forms that he needed for them but the people working the service were kind enough to look up the form and print it for him. I was grateful that they were so accommodating and celebrated a “Thank goodness for the internet!” moment. I made a stop on my way home at our local community college. A fingerprinting service sets up shop in one of the main entryways once a week to provide the service. I was hoping to ask the person if I could take a picture of the process, which is like something from the future nowadays, but she was a bit gruff. (I did run in about ten minutes before she was supposed to close but the whole process didn’t even take ten minutes.)

Photo Oct 07, 5 47 10 PMAs I was sitting there waiting for her to enter my information into the computer, a rush of college students were coming into and out of the building. Evening classes start at 6:00? Mr. Something started his college career in that very building. On days I had early or late classes on my own college campus, I would come here and meet him for lunch. We’d shoot pool in the rec center or just steal some moments together during our “busy” college lives. It feels like a lifetime ago. 11 years? We were such different people then but somehow very much the same. Even then we were committed to a future together but what college student can even pretend to know what the future holds? If I could wander those halls and catch a glimpse of the ghost of myself sitting at a table, reading my education textbooks or researching Niccolo Paganini for my music history term paper, killing time before Mr. Something got out of class, what would I say to her?

Our Tiny Human Project has felt so right from the beginning. (Despite the “What the F- are we doing?” moments that Mr. Something and I pass back and forth every now and then.) But a decade ago I wasn’t dreaming of building my family this way. Was I dreaming of building a family at all? I always knew that there were children in my future but I never dreamed of being pregnant, giving birth, having a baby of our own. I’ve often related to other foster families that share that they were “called” to this life. Was there a seed of this calling in that 20 year-old armed with a pack of glitter gel pens struggling to take notes on the history of education in the common area of this very community college building? Even now, hours later, I still don’t know what I’d say to that ghost of me. What pearls of wisdom or insight could I impart? As far as I can see, life is turning out pretty damn good and I got here without a word of advice from future-me. I think I’d merely watch her from afar. I’d watch for the way she’d glance up every time someone came down the hallway, watching for him. I’d watch the way that their eyes would meet and they would greet each other when he finally did come out of class. I’d smile with the secret knowledge of how good things were going to be over a decade later for those two. Not always easy but definitely arriving at something so comfortable and right. Maybe I’d brush by as they embraced and whisper, “You’ve got this.” and return to my warm and happy present.

After I got the fingerprinting lady to chat a little bit, she finalized my paperwork and showed me what I needed to turn into our licensing rep. She sent me away with a, “Have a good evening, Mrs. Something, and good luck.” How am I going to look back on this moment a decade from now? Will I need every ounce of that “good luck” from this stranger? Will future-me have a secret smile, looking back at present-me knowing that it’s just going to get better from here? Or will I be wanting to shout to myself, “Brace yourself! You have no idea what you are getting into!” If it’s any sign, God had his water colors out tonight. This was the glorious sunset that I drove into the rest of the way home. For now, I’ll take that stranger’s “luck”, stash it in my pocket, and enjoy the glorious now.

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Added Later: Being pre-digital camera, 11 years ago was a bit tough to find without raiding photo albums and scanning. I did dig up this one though, give or take a few months… (I just love this guy!)

Photo Jun 08, 2 10 26 PM