family

Parenting Class, Week 6: Special Guests, Sexual Abuse

Hello! So sorry for the delay in posting this. I’ve literally been carrying the piece of paper around for almost 2 weeks but haven’t gotten around to typing it up.

This was another great class! We had guest speakers – a couple and their 3 adopted children. The children were all half siblings and were 4 days shy of their adoptiversary and becoming a family. First the parents sat with us, told their story and answered questions. Then the kids came in – they’d been in the playroom with one of our teachers – to answer and ask questions and pass out cupcakes. Our class is 3 hours, and they were with us for about half of it.

Mom had quite a few tidbits to share with us both about adoption in general, and about their family struggles. The children had lots of issues including not wanting to be adopted, move in, or accept their new parents. In the end, they almost immediately referred to the couple as mom and dad once they moved into their home.

  • “You have to fix the past before you can work on the future.”
  • When you’re pregnant, you have 9 months to plan. They had far less as they intended to adopt 1 or 2 and ended up with 3. They fought for all 3 as everyone involved wanted to split the kids up. They said all or none and adopted all 3.
  • To break a trigger for one of the kids that was beat with kitchen utensils, she made that child first help her cook, then make his own creations. In the end, she said this one loves cooking more than anything. The utensils are no longer a trigger either.
  • When asked about their names, the children decided to give themselves new names. As 8, 11 and 12, they chose their names – new first and middle and taking on their new parents last names. These were finalized at the adoption, but they changed them prior to that to have people call them by their new names.

After the family left, we switched back to regular class stuff learning about sexual abuse and behaviors, safety guidelines, and the signs of abuse.

75-85% of children in foster care experience some form of sexual abuse or exposure.

All adults are abuse reporters – foster parents, teachers, family members, adoptive parents, therapists, etc. Even if it is revealed well after the fact, any abuse must be reported so the abuser can be held accountable. The majority of abusers are close family members or friends, which is both sad and disgusting to me!

We also need to think about safety as we will have a teenager in our home within the year – hopefully! We have to change our habits to remove computers and phones from our bedroom to set an example. Right now, his desktop is in the kids room, my laptop is on the couch or dining room table, and we keep our phones in the room to charge and act as alarm clocks. If we institute a “no tech in the bedroom” rule, then I will need to buy 75 alarm clocks apparently. I may have a problem waking up.

But anyhow… if our child does disclose abuse to us, we need to reassure him that it’s not his fault and that we believe him right off the bat. We will have to monitor his friends – even before disclosure – to ensure safety, set boundaries, and keep an open dialogue. Above all else, we cannot react badly and must be non-judgmental with any revelations he has. How I’m going to do that though… I’m not sure. My facial expressions suck for sure and can’t be controlled most of the time.

I have been a HUGE FAN of Lauren’s Kids for many years and have been sporting their license plate since the day it went into circulation. If you’re unfamiliar with them, they are an amazing organization founded by Lauren Book, a victim of childhood sexual abuse by her female nanny. They educate, advocate, and raise awareness for children’s sexual abuse prevention around the globe. They’re one of my favorite charities to support and love that they are South Florida locals.

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Moving North & Revisiting Adoption

Hello!

Thought I’d pop back in and share an updated photo. I’ve now lost over 165lbs. Also, this handsome little nugget is my amazing 16 month old nephew. The photo on the right was taken at his mama’s baby shower for baby brother due in 2 months.

Also ready for a crazy life update… Ready?
* I ran my first 10K in Disney World for the Princess Weekend. It was amazingly fun except that I got violently ill and spent 2 days seemingly on death’s door..
* We ran the Star Wars 10K also in Disney World for my 2nd 10K and his 1st. I shaved 10 minutes off my time from Princess and he finished about 40 minutes before me.
* We are moving! Getting out of Miami and heading about 80 miles north to Boynton Beach as I have accepted a position in Boca Raton.
* We have been trying (unsuccessfully) to get pregnant for a few months now since my body seems to be working for the first time in.. ever? This was definitely a result of my losing so much weight. Apparently my RE knew what he was talking about with weight and PCOS.
* There’s a lot more, but at this point, does it matter?
* As an offshoot of our moving away from Miami, we will be attempting to adopt again. We are both hoping that Palm Beach County has their shit together unlike Miami.
*Tonight I contacted the lead agency in Palm Beach and started looking again at the available children on AdoptFlorida.org. I am beyond disgusted that I recognized several children with updated photos from 3-4 years ago still listed and still looking for families. Children that we requested information about.

I’m not entirely certain if we are ready for this heartbreak again, but we want a family. We want a child or 2. We don’t know if I will be able to get pregnant and don’t want to miss out on being parents. We agree we’d love any child we bring into our family by any means. I always said if we didn’t get pregnant in X years, we would revisit adoption. Apparently it was more of, “if we get out of Miami, we will revisit adoption.”

So here we go again… adoption.

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Hello!

helloCan we just ignore that I promised to update more and haven’t? Seriously, I am sorry about that. Life is, as expected, crazy.

In the last 2.5 months, we (I) made the decision to pause our foster application due to all the insanity in our lives. Between my starting grad school, the 4-5 hour round trip commute to work each day (it’s gotten worse 🙁 ), being Communications Chair for the South Florida Foster and Adoptive Parent Association and my constant house hunting (I really want to own a home!)… PLUS Husband’s finishing his MBA and applying for a Doctorate and his work, we barely have time to sleep. Also, I have been actively job hunting and made it to the final rounds with 2 jobs but things happened and, wibbly wobbly, both fell through.

Then I turned 39! And we went to Painting With A Twist with a small group of friends. Husband, SIL, and I went off book and made our paintings our very own by not really following directions all that well…

And on October 10th is our 5th wedding anniversary!

Since we do, in fact, have the ability to time this avenue of bringing a child into our home, we are taking advantage. Also, in the last few weeks, I have been really drawn to changing our age range to teens or at least an older age range. Right now we are approved to adopt 3-8 year old children. I’ve been thinking about upping it to 12 or 13. The older kids are more rewarding from what I am getting from my friends that foster teens as you can speak to and reason with them. While I would love the cuddles of a little one, well I have plenty of friends with little ones plus, a new baby in my family is coming soon!!

Now, frequent visitors will have noticed that there is finally a new blog design. I changed my hosting, rearranged a few domains and hopefully it will speed everything up. Also, I plan on using FletcherFam.com as a family focused website as opposed to just this blog which is very child-focused. I will post here when that goes live.

From last post, my MPA classes are going well so far. This semester I am in an “intro” to Public Administration and a Human Resources course. I promised more info last time. With all the heartaches and hardship we’ve gone through with the adoption process in the last 2 years, I finally decided that something needed to be done. My ultimate “grown up” goal is to be the COO or CEO of a foster care agency or government entity working towards the protection of children. In 5 years, I hope to have graduated and be working in the industry. This MPA will supplement the knowledge I gained from my MBA to focus on non-profits and government agencies.

I hope you’re all well!

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Impromptu Playdate #2 with Ballerina

We crashed pretty hard Saturday night very early for both of us. To say it was an emotionally draining day would be putting it quite mildly. After all, it’s not every day that you get to spend several hours with a child that might be your daughter in the future.

OMW I can’t even write that without tearing up. Daughter.

ballerinaYesterday we woke up, dealt with what we needed to deal with then got out of the house to go walk around the mall. On the way there, we called Ballerina’s therapist (TH) to see if there was any way possible to see her again. About 45 minutes later after our first round around the [closed] mall, TH called back and said he’d see if he could coordinate it. About 15 minutes later he called back and said we could meet them in 2 hours. Great, we had time to chill and to take our lunch leftovers back home.

Our first stop was to get Ballerina some lunch, so we went to Johnny Rockets. We all got milkshakes, I had sweet potato fries, and Ballerina and TH had lunch. There was a balloon guy walking around and he called Husband “dad” when he asked if she wanted a balloon animal. She didn’t. I’m not sure if TH or B caught it, but we did! I also found out that she’s scared of balloons bc they pop and startle her. Of course while we were there, one popped and she jumped. She’d never had sweet potato fries and I offered for her to try mine. Apparently they taste like cake. I was seated across from her and we were trying to keep up the conversation but it was awkward and really loud in there. We would just look at each other then she’d get all shy and grin and hide behind her hands. Adorbs.

After lunch, we went to Hot Topic and she picked out a [Supernatural] Dean keychain and a Dean and Sam pin for herself and kept pointing out Doctor Who things for me. I picked out a car magnet and asked her which pin I should get. My choices were a Muggle pin, Whovian pin or Minion pin. She said to get the Whovian one bc I love it. Smart kid! I was holding the Dean keychain and she was going on and on about how he’s her future husband. I made a comment that I was holding her future in my hands… in more ways than one. Not sure the others picked up on that.

Afterwards we walked down to the Sanrio store. When we were walking around earlier, we spotted a sign on their door that said straight A students get 15% discounts and snapped a photo to show her. She was so excited bc she is a straight A student and loves Hello Kitty. I checked my phone and saw several missed calls and texts while Husband walked around with her. We were trying to give her some space but she was staying pretty close.

She showed TH her pin and keychain – he didn’t see us buy them – and he made a comment that [Crush] is out of the picture apparently. Of course, we had to ask her who he was. She got this big grin on her face and took out her phone to show us his photo. She showed me first and he was sitting with a dog. I told her Husband was going to mention the dog. He did. First thing. Crush is a cute kid, attends her school and they have 3 classes together.

Um, I never told my parents about my crushes, boyfriends, etc. they were lucky to know my friends names. They certainly never saw photos!

From Sanrio, we walked down to Game Stop to look at Wii and computer games. Ballerina and Husband bonded over games they’d both played and I picked out things that looked interesting. TH told us her ride was heading to the mall to pick her up so if we weren’t buying anything, we should head to the meeting point.

While we walked, I was in front with her and told her that this was her life too and, while we want to keep hanging out with and getting to know her, she had to be OK with it as well. I made sure she understood that. Her life. Our life. Everyone had to be good with it. She said she was. I said we had no plans next weekend if she wanted to see us again. She said she did. I kept getting that elusive smile of hers. What a gem it is!

She was exhausted – we all were – and sorta napped while we waited. I may have snapped a photo of her with her head on the table and hair covering her face. I may have posted it on my [private and very locked down] FB. Then again, maybe not. 😉 The group home van came to pick her up and she crawled into the back seat. No hugs today. But when they came back around the parking lot, her little arm waved at us from the back. [I think it was hers, but Husband says it was another girl’s arm.]

We sat there for a while talking to TH about Ballerina and the next steps. We’ve now had 2 supervised visits with him present. He is going to recommend that we be allowed to do unsupervised visits and pick her up and drop her off for some semblance of normalcy. He also suggested that we bring her to our house so she can see it and see her room. I don’t think the visit was supposed to focus on us staying here for a long time, just to show her then go do other stuff. Whatever the case, it means a deep and thorough cleaning as her room is currently storing boxes since we had no idea how long this process as going to take.

As we were leaving, he asked if we’d thought about names. He said calling us mom and dad [shiver. gulp.] was far too soon, but what would we like her to call us. I said “uh, Becca and Steve?” which I thought was a given, but whatever. He said he’d bring that up with her in their next session. Mom. Dad. Eeep!

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Play Date with Ballerina – the First of Many to Come!

ballerinaHi! I didn’t post after the CW and CM visit, but Thursday afternoon, Husband and I decided to meet Ballerina this morning. OMFG. I have been a ball of knots and nerves since we made the plans. We decided to go paint pottery figuring we could talk or not talk while painting.

We had a fantastic time!!

We started off the day at 7am even though my alarm was set for 9. Nerves. Nerves all around. While waffling on what to wear, Husband started playing fun music so we were dancing around the house in a wild frenzy. It was the perfect thing to help relax our nerves. I opted for a non-fangirl shirt which was, quite frankly, difficult. I have so many that they outnumber every other shirt in my closet. Anyhow, we planned on breakfast out our favorite diner, but the wait was just too long so we went to McDonald’s.

The pottery place opened at 11 and we were set to meet there at 11:15. We were there for about 20 minutes before they arrived. I was actually scared to pick up the pieces bc my hands were shaking so much! Husband was sitting up front and had started painting when he yelled back to me that they were there.

Poor Ballerina was so scared that she just stood in the doorway for several long minutes paralyzed with fear. We talked, tried to calm her then finally I said I was going back to pick my piece and he went back to painting. I did not want to rush this! We were all nervous as it was. I went back and talked to TH – this was a “therapeutic visit” – and he said she was really excited but so nervous. Yep, I get that. We were still talking when she came back and said she was ready now so we picked out a piece for her. She was deciding between a Hello Kitty figurine and a penguin piggy bank. I helped her debate the merits of both and she picked the penguin so she could save her money in it. <3

We picked paints, I grabbed a yarn bowl then we settled in at the table with Husband. The 3 of us proceeded to chat, paint, and learn about each other for the better part of 3 hours. The chaperones went “on a walk” but I could see them peeking around the corner to see how we were doing. When they came back, Ballerina said “oh do I know you? Who are you?” which I took to be a good sign that she was comfortable with us. While this was a supervised visit, they wanted to make sure we were able to get to know each other. For most of the time, they were in the back room.


Her penguin (Ms. Penguina), his drawing (Mr. Penguino), my yarn bowl and his chili bowl.
After we finished, we decided to across the highway to grab some lunch. She was really quiet, but sat next to me again. We were mostly talking to the chaperones, but still involving her. It seemed like she liked us, but was still super shy about everything that was happening. We talked about all the cool things to do in Miami – the zoo, Jungle Island, museums, the beach, etc – and for future visits.

As we were leaving, she looked sad and told me that it was her disappointed face. I wrapped my arm around her back and said this wasn’t the last time she was seeing us then steered her through the door. At the cars we gave her hugs then went our separate ways. TH told us that the ball is in our court, but we want it in hers too. We have tentative plans for next weekend but only if she wants to hang out with us again. This is her life and future too.

As much as we want this, it would not be fair to force anything upon her – or any child – if they were unsure or didn’t want it. I know that we made the decision to grow our family through adoption, but it didn’t fully click until we were matched what a huge and amazing decision this is for her as well. She is old enough to know and comprehend everything that is happening and decide “do I want these total strangers to be my new parents?” and in a relatively short time too. Yes, of course she has therapists, case workers and other adults helping her with the process as we have the same people plus our huge support system.

Honestly, I cannot imagine what thoughts must be going through her mind right now. I hope with all my heart and soul that she wants to see us again and move forward, but it is a huge and major decision to make in her young life.

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Fletchling’s Email

Hello my darling readers and friends! I know it’s been quite a long time since you had a substantial update from me. Unfortunately I don’t have much to write about now.

Adoption news? None really. We keep hitting and stumbling over and into the roadblocks our agency puts in our way. We are awaiting our back-ups background check and fingerprint results to come back. We are also awaiting the date to be set for us to meet with the Adoption Review Board.

I saw this on a friend’s Facebook page – and have seen it several other times – and decided to finally do something about it:



I couldn’t resist. Even though I have this blog and Facebook page, I don’t think I’ll really be posting every single thing about his/her life online. I do feel like I would be more likely to write letters and send tons of photos, videos, and tons of other things to the email. I also plan on letting friends and family use it to send notes, birthday wishes, and more to the little one.

I know there are a lot of folks here that I don’t personally know, so I won’t be openly sharing the email, but if you want it, by all means, ask!

My first email:

Dear Fletchling,

I set up this email account to send you anything and everything that I/ we want to give you one day. I planned on giving you the password on your 18th birthday, so…

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, my love!

In my next emails, I will tell you how daddy and I met and about our lives before you joined our family.

Much more later. I only just set up this account and need bed.

Love,
Mum

Apparently I’m channeling being a British mommy… mum. *giggles*

Have any of you done anything like this in any format? Someone suggested using a thumb drive or maybe creating a Livejournal or a private blog.

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Missing Karen

Dear Karen,

I cannot believe I missed your birthday on Sunday! Does this mean I have finally come to terms with you being gone? Not likely. Maybe getting my memorial tattoo actually helped. I got an awesome owl in memory of you, my grandmother, grandfather and baby Kayla Rose. Oh Kay loved you so! Just like I did.

Life has been so crazy hectic lately. Between our upcoming adoption, working full time at one job, part time at another and freelancing 2 websites, I am bloody exhausted and barely know what day it is. Thank goodness for Steve keeping me grounded. I so wish you’d met him.. You would have absolutely loved him.

Actually, I so wish you were around to meet my future little Fletchling. On second thought, you have a ton of dirt on me, so maybe that’s not a great idea.I was talking to a friend today about all the places we loved in Gainesville and I was thinking about all our old hangouts.

And to talk to me. Oh I miss you so much that just thinking about you makes me start sobbing. In fact, right now my eyes are so watery and my nose is so runny that I can barely type.

I have so many wonderful memories with you as my surrogate parent and closest friend in Gainesville. Thank you so much for helping me through those 4 years of college. I am truly so thankful at having spent much of the last 2 years of your life with you before you and Harry moved to Colorado.

Still miss you muchly.

+++++

Karen was my neighbor and surrogate parents during college. She passed away May 6, 2006 from a massive heart attack.

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Fingerprinting! And other good news..

This afternoon we are venturing to downtown Miami to get our fingerprinting done. For some odd reason – I’m sure it’s been explained but still – we have to go to our agency main office in order to have this done. So yay! We also get to finally meet our case worker as up to this point all our contact has been over the phone and via email.

I’m totally hoping we see our awesome teachers while we’re there! In fact, I emailed them last night to give them the heads up that we’re going to be there and to let them know that on Saturday…

We have our first Home Visit!! Um, with our Adoption Case Worker (ACW) as opposed to the one during our PRIDE training.

Yep, Saturday is our first home visit and she’ll be asking us eleventy billion questions from the Life Stories we turned in. When I mentioned them, she said she preferred to do it this way and then incorporate the written outlines later. Uh, OK. Glad we took the time to write them then.

We have to compile a bunch of documents, not limited to:

  • Our marriage license
  • Current lease
  • Paystubs to show we’re gainfully employed
  • Tax returns for the last few years
  • Bank statements for all our accounts- 3 months worth
  • Lola and Phoenix vaccine records
  • Steve’s divorce decree – the NC court website isn’t very user friendly 🙁
  • A voided check for the monthly stipend

This will be the first of 2-3 visits and will last about 2 hours. She said it is more of an informal meeting and to walk through our house. We don’t need to have everything child-proofed, have the office converted, or all the medication and chemicals locked up. It’s going to give us time to ask her all the questions we both have since up until now, we’ve not been able to ask an adoption person these questions. Well, not exactly. The awesome folks at Our Kids are crazy knowledgeable and we couldn’t have made it this far without their help.

By her next visit in a few weeks, we should have the bedroom furnished with “whatever [we] would buy as parents to furnish [my] child’s bedroom.”

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And in my 37th Year…

I interrupt this not-so-regularly updated adoption blog to say that in my 37th year (which, BTdubs, starts today) I plan on doing the following things (in no particular order):

  • Becoming a mommy to a sweet little child from foster care
  • Getting a job worthy of my degree, my experiences, and myself
  • Being the best darn wife and mommy I can be
  • Learning as many new web and design technologies as I can
  • Kicking butt on the technologies I already know
  • Being a better person
  • Learning to speak up for myself appropriately
  • Not letting certain people rule my mind simply bc I am related to them
  •              See also, growing a bigger pair (sorry for that graphic!)
  • Sheep2Skein, push it
  • RS Creative Solutions, push it
  • Bake more
  • Actually make the projects I pin on Pinterest

birthday-owl

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Family Research

The more I dig into the past, I think I might regret it. Hello can of worms!

I’ve been chatting with my [newly discovered] cousin several times a week and have found out some rather shocking things about my family. No, I’m not at liberty to give details. It’s not my place to reveal that stuff. Let’s just say that my family should be a lot more open to adoption. A lot.

This ties is really well with our classes the last few weeks. Last week we discussed Loss and this week was about Creating and Supporting Family Relationships. With all my new discoveries about my own family and finding new [to me] family members, I sort of feel like I will be able to better relate to my child. Where he’ll be removed from his family and may have questions later on, I would like to help him. We certainly plan on being the best possible parents, but I know about those gaping voids that family can fill. I’ve felt that I’ve had one for years and now it’s packed to bursting.

In class last night, we were reminded that family relationships are not just birth parents. They also include siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents and other extended family. Steve and I have been discussing this a lot. Every possible adult in a child’s family is given the opportunity to adopt a child once parental rights are terminated IF it is in the best interest of the child to remain with family. Obviously this isn’t always the case. We as prospective adoptive parents need to decide how little or how much we plan on being in contact with their families. We also have to decide on the relationships we maintain with his foster family. ultimately, we will allow him to decide how little or how much he wants and try to respect his wishes as best we can.

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Suddenly.. I have more cousins

Untitled-1Image Source

Ever since our Genogram project for class, I have been obsessing over my unknown family members. My genealogy kicks come and go every couple of months where I dig and research looking for any sliver of a relative. When my friend Sarah mentioned Geni.com, I created my free account and went to town adding family members. No surprise, mom’s side exploded as I started connecting existing trees. Almost immediately there were 4 generations dating back to the 1700s with my great-great-great-great-great grandfather… so maybe more than 4 generations.

Anyhow. Not surprising. There are some amazing genealogists in that side of the family.

Dad’s side looked sad and pathetic with him, his father, his mother and step-family. I googled my grandmother (I do this a lot) and – holy crap – I found her obituary. In it were names of her sister, brother and a few other family members.

*Flexes Google-fu muscles*

I searched, and searched and found her sister’s obituary with names of her family. Seriously, it was like hitting a winning jackpot. I googled the names I found and actually found one person on FB. I reached out to her and we’ve been chatting the last few days trying to piece things together with the help of her – and my! – family members.

This is so surreal bc I went from knowing nothing to having a bunch of family members and most of them live in Miami.

Not that it’s even remotely the same thing, but I kinda know how my future child will feel not knowing any of his family members. I was brought up in a loving family full of crazy people and still had that nagging feeling about something missing. My child won’t likely be able to do what I’ve just done and find his long lost family. We really don’t know how much information we will have about his ancestors.

I am putting together a family tree so he can see where his history is now. I know it’s not the same thing, but I hope it will comfort him just a little bit knowing that he isn’t the only adopted person in our family. Yes, I’ve discovered several adoptions and remarriages in my research.

I’d love to do Steve’s tree as well, but that’s something he needs to work on. My ancestral last names are pretty unique whereas his as much more common and I don’t even remotely know everyone’s names.

Have you done a family tree? How far back were you able to go and did you print it out? That’s my next task.. finding a big enough printer or pretty enough pre-made form to fill in.

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Genogram

My completed family genogram for class tonight. I decided, in the end, to do what was asked and not add the family that I’m close with aside from these. I wonder if it’ll be like “oh you know their names so you must be close,” as opposed to, “oh you know their birth dates so you must be close” like the example.

Yeah. I’m apparently terrible with numbers. Sure, I could’ve looked up the names and birth dates on FB, but I opted not to do so as we were supposed to go off memory.

Genogram

clicky clicky to see it all… even though most of the names are blurred out. 🙂

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