Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Our Adoption Journey In a Very Small Nut Shell

I'm not sure that I have ever put down in the blog our journey to adoption. With 9 adopted children and a story that started many years ago this could be a long post. I will try to give the most important information but I'm sure there will be holes left. If you would like to ask questions feel free to do so. If there is enough interest I will answer those questions in a separate post not just in the comments. If your questions are personal and you don't want to share you are welcome to email me and I promise I will get back to you!

Our first experience with adoption was in the first year of our marriage. We were approached with the possibility of adopting 3 girls under the age of 10. I was still working but had the plans to be a stay at home mom. If we were to take the girls I would need to stay home and Doug take full responsibility of the finances. It was a hard decision but we chose to go forward. The adoption fell through but the seeds were planted.

When our second baby was just a few weeks old I had the impression that there was a child that wanted to be a part of our family but they would not be born to me. After much prayer and pondering we received an answer that, yes, we were to adopt. I took foster care classes but when it came time for other licensing requirements we found out I was pregnant. We put the adoption on hold. Over the course of 12 years we started and stopped the adoption process a few times because I would find out I was pregnant again and didn't want two babies at the same time. When our 7th child was about 4 1/2 months old I felt an urgency to get our paperwork in order for our adoption. I spent 2 full weeks getting educated and pulling together homestudy paperwork. I talked on the phone most of the day for those two weeks to attorneys, agencies, social workers and people who had adopted. I needed to know all I could about adoption and what I was doing. 6 weeks from the time we first felt the urgency to find our baby we were in a hospital in Chicago picking up our newest son. This was May 2001. We now had two babies, a 6 month old and an infant. At the time most adoptions took  a year so we thought we had a lot more time. So much for not having 2 babies at once!

About January 2002 the feelings started coming again. We knew we would adopt again when we got Casey but not quite this soon. We were wise enough this time to realize that a baby could come quickly. After a failed adoption we were blessed with Niya the beginning of April 2002. While in Louisiana we got a call from our agency asking if we would adopt another baby, but this birthmom was already in labor. After 3 hours of preparing ourselves to be ready to hear what the Lord had to say we prayed. The answer was clear, we were to adopt again. Sadly, that situation fell through as we were in final preparations to go to the airport to pick up the baby. Our same agency called again in a week or so and asked if we would take a different baby since we were already willing. Doug right away said yes, this was our son. I picked Marshall up 3 weeks after Niya was born. We now had 4 children 18 months to infant and 6 older than that.

We had learned a lot about African American adoptions and the great need at the time for adoptive families. We couldn't stand by and allow so many babies to enter foster care because there were not enough families willing to embrace them. We started a non-profit organization to teach families of the need and walk them through the adoption process. At the same time we began to advocate for the children and agencies by helping them find families for specific babies. One of those babies came our way and I advocated hard. I was on the phone talking to anyone that I could about this little Down Syndrome baby. 5 families committed to sending in their profiles and with each one my stomach would drop. Within a day or so of each family committing to this baby they each called me back and had to back out because it just didn't feel right for them. At one point I called Doug and told him that if he didn't want another baby he needed to get on the phone and find a family. He quite work and started making calls. Despite the fact that we were completely opposite of what this birthmom wanted in a family she chose us to parent her daughter. We got Emma in August of 2003.

Two weeks after we got Emma I found out I was pregnant once again. We were unaware that Heavenly Father had another biological child for us so this news, or nausea, came as a surprise.. Clayson was born in April of 2004. We had 12 children with 7 of them being 7 and under. It was a busy life. We had grown out of our 5 bedroom house and needed to move. In the process of fixing up our new home I began to realize we had 2 more children that needed to come to our family. An Asian Girl and Boy with special needs. Somehow I didn't think of Down Syndrome as a special need and the thoughts of special needs were new to me. For the next 6 years we looked for our kids. We got fairly far into the process for a deaf little boy when he was found to be hearing. The orphanage director informed us that this child's referral would be pulled from us and given to a more deserving family, one with fewer children. That failed adoption hurt deeply and affected the family for quite some time. We then were turned down by China to adopt because of our family size then got caught in the Vietnam adoptions shut down with only one family ahead of us for a referral. We had spent a lot of money and had no child to show for it. I was spent emotionally and spiritually. Even my children had lost faith in what I thought I knew was to be.

After great hardship on many sides I received a glimmer or hope. A friend emailed to tell me China had just opened up to large families. I started researching right away and was completely drawn in. We began our international homestudy and found Bria on a waiting child list. A couple of weeks after that we saw Hyrum and I just had to go get him. In April of that same year while in process for Hyrum and Bria we were privileged to adopt Oliva who was 9 at the time. She was originally from India and had been adopted by a family in the US. Because of home circumstances Olivia needed a new family, or as I feel, she needed HER family. A short 5 months later we had our 2 Asian children in our laps headed home. On our way from China Doug informed me we were done (again) and I made him a promise I would never ask  to adopt again. I have kept that promise but credit for our last two children must be given to Doug for his willingness to feel the Spirit and trust what I feel.

We came home with Hyrum who was almost 4, and Bria, just turned 3 in October of 2011. It was not too long after getting home that I had a real longing to go back to China and get another child but I would keep my promise and not ask Doug to adopt again. I substituted adoption by trying to help a little heart baby possibly get a medical visa. When it started to look like this little boy could come to our family during his medical care Doug and I both recognized that if he came we could not let him go. The medical visa fell through and I stepped away from the situation. A few months later I received a call from a friend that was advocating for this same little boy that had heart issues. She informed me that he had been available for adoption for 2 months and no one had even looked at his file. She then asked, "Would you adopt him?". I was a teary mess for 3 days but I couldn't allow myself to consider this may be my son because I was not going to ask my husband ever again if we could adopt. In wisdom he decided to pray about this child. We both soon came to the conclusion that this was our son and we needed to go get him immediately. 5 months later, in April of 2013, we picked up Gideon when he was 2 years old. Gideon went in for surgery a week after being home to fix an irreparable heart.

I had been out of touch with the adoption world for a month. So when I had a moment, after getting home from the hospital, I  took care of emails and things. I began to see a 13 year old boy all over the internet that needed a home by the end of July or he would lose his chance for a family. We were flat broke and a little battle weary from our latest adoption. I was not considering this boy but I couldn't get away from all the posts about him. In his situation it took a family that had recently adopted to get the paperwork done in time for his adoption. There are not many families at one time available for the speed this adoption required. We were in that spot but had no money, however, the Lord took care of that and a generous family gave a grant for the entire adoption costs. I had no excuse not to look into this adoption. I needed the monkey off my back so I told Doug about him thinking he would say no. Well, history tells us that 13 year old boy became our son Scott In July of 2013 just days before he turned 14.

So, to sum it all up. Yes, we adopted in the midst of having biological children. We know many families that have raised the biological children then adopted. Adoption can work well either way. We knew early on in our marriage that we would adopt but many don't have that experience. We have felt strongly that God has been in the details. Are we done yet? No. We get asked often when we will stop. We just don't know that answer but will trust in the Lord to lead us. I will not ask Doug if we can adopt again but I will let him know if there are promptings or feelings and I know he will listen with an open heart. The decision to adopt is always mutual and NEEDS to be that way. Our children have adjusted well. There is emotional work to be done but there is with all kids. We are extra aware and watchful of bonding. It has become part of how we think so is no longer an added burden.

All of the children have done very well with our new additions. There is not one of our children in the home that has concerns of adding more to the family. As they say "It's who we are".  Everyone is welcoming and inclusive to each new child. The kids have a good understanding of the great loss of not having a mother and father that love them and desire other children to have that love too. They feel like there is something they have to offer as they partner with us to welcome someone else into our family. Some children blend  in faster than others but they all come around in their own time as they overcome their fears and mistrust. We have had only one child that has shown signs of jealousy. In talking with that child they were wise and aware enough to recognize the added attention given to the new child and wanted it for themselves. It was a clear cry for mom to step it up. There is a balancing act on mom and dad's part and sometimes we fail but we always get back up and try again.

We all have talents and the Lord uses them to our fullest if we allow him. God has used ours more fully than we ever expected or imagined. We do not advocate for all families to do what we have. Use your talents to bless the lives of others and you will do more than you ever thought you could, if you allow the Lord to magnify you. Trust him and believe in yourselves. (That is advice I tell myself all the time.)  :)


Monday, June 23, 2014

Museum of Natural Curiosity

A new museum opened up at Thanksgiving Point. We love that place. They have a Dinosaur Museum, Farm Country, beautiful Gardens, and now the Museum of Natural Curiosity. I have never seen a museum as cool as this one. We spent hours there and still didn't have time for everything. Here are some pictures of the family having fun.

The Museum has a great zip line. Not tall or very long but sturdy and
ALL my kids were able to enjoy it. Scott really liked it.
Olivia liked the zip line too but she is in the stage
of between. Between liking children things and
teen things. Wanting to be in both worlds.
She is growing into such a beautiful young woman.
Casey is never too old to play! However, he
loves things bigger and better but still easy to please.
6 of kids on the teeter totters.

They had an area with all water discoveries.
The floor was a cement tile with gaps between each square.
Underneath the tile was a water recovery system.
Pretty ingenious.
Emma was hard at work.

Niya, Clayson and Marshall, as well as Malia, figured out
how to divert all the water from a long trough to the trough
on top and have it dump out in a bucket
that overflowed onto the floor.

Clayson thinks with his tongue too!
We spent the most time with the water.

And of course, I HAD to get someone wet.
Hannah was the unlucky one.
It's all in who is the closest to me
when I hatch the evil thought.

Preston (grandson), loved the water too.
I enlisted him in helping me get Hannah wet.
I may not be the best example
but I will teach them all how to have fun. :)

Scott got bored pretty fast.
I think it was all the chaos. The place was packed.
You would think he would feel this way at home
but somehow that chaos is OK.

Bria loved her lunch so much she had to share it. 
ANYTHING but peanut butter and jelly AGAIN!

Grant was starving.
Jessica found out he likes cantaloupe.
Not quite as much as we like him though.

After a relaxing lunch and a little less chaos
Scott relaxed again. He never causes trouble when
he's out of sorts but he can get melancholy and grumpy.
Olivia made it her purpose to help bring him out again.
The laughing game did it.

This started out as a large game of ninja.
Don't ask me how to play but the kids enjoy it.
The last three standing were Clayson, Hannah, and Malia.

This is how we see Tyler whenever we are out.
If you want to talk to Tyler just get in the picture.

Sierra is growing up so fast.
There have been times when I couldn't
remember how old she was then,
I remember. She was born
4 days after Gideon died.
Her birthday will be easy to remember.
This little girl is our piece of Heaven on Earth!

And our sweet Sierra's mommy, Sereen!
No wonder Sierra is a piece of Heaven on Earth,
her mommy brought her here. Only the best for the best.
Hyrum was looking at the blog as I was pasting pictures.
He said, "I don't see me."
How could I do a blog post without Hyrum?!?! Silly me.
He'll regret this picture someday. Or maybe not.
He loves pictures of himself. He is so stinking cute.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A New Chapter and LDS Family Services

It is for the precious children like Sierra that
we dedicate our lives.
Keep rooting for me sweet girl!

Yesterday LDS Family Services made the announcement that they would no longer be doing adoptions as of August 1, 2014. There are several contributing factors in their decision. but with this change many people have no place to go to fill their adoption needs. Family Services provided a lower cost adoption option. They also created a place for birth moms to have hope and feel secure knowing they would find a strong family that met their criteria. With Family Services getting out of adoptions they leave a void.

LDS Family Services plans to refer all birthmoms to local adoption agencies and focus only on counseling. I'm glad they are still going to counsel but sending these mothers to local agencies may not be the best option. Once the birthmoms are affiliated with an agency they can then only choose from families that have paid fees and signed up with that agency. There is never a guarantee that these girls will find an LDS  family if that is their choice. Yes, the birthmom can make that one of their requirements but in the end they may have one choice of a family and that could be after a scramble on the agency's part to find an LDS family. We've been part of that scramble and one of the families found through that scramble. This scenario especially applies to agencies located outside of the state of Utah. Families are typically counseled by social workers and agency staff to put their religious affiliation down as "Christian". This makes it more difficult for the agency to sift through and find the LDS families if they are even willing to do so. Agency staff can be very intimidating and the whole process of choosing a family daunting and overwhelming. Birthmoms do not always feel they have the ability to voice their opinion or ask for more profiles of families if they don't feel comfortable with what they have been presented. We have seen this happen and advocated for birthmoms in this position. The birthmom needs to feel secure that she will have the opportunity to choose, not just a good family, but the best family that meets her desires. Agencies will limit the birhtmothers ability to find her family because they can only pull from the pool of families they have.

This change will also greatly affect the adoptive families. Most families at Family Services chose the agency because they are of the same religious affiliation and the fees are much lower than other agencies. Some of these families are now struggling with their faith and hope that they will ever find their child or even be parents. The typical agency fees are $30,000 - $50,000 with medical and travel expenses on top of that. Before the families even get to placement they have to pay for a homestudy that can be as high as $3,500 in some states. Not many families have this kind of money and many get second mortgages, private loans, cash out their 401k and any other thing they can do to come up with the money to adopt just one child. I fear so many of these wonderful families will never realize their dream of being parents.  This is one of the main reasons Doug and I want to help by building a network of affordable attorneys who can do it for less than $5,000, educate birthmoms about the practices of conventional agencies and develop a website that will match babies and families.  We feel strongly that we want to fill the gaps in guide couples along this journey that can still be very affordable.

All of my older children, who are still young in life and careers, have at least one friend that is hoping to adopt. Some of these deserving families are either still in college or just out. They can afford a baby but not the fees to the agencies. We can not turn our back on them. What if it was me or one of my children facing this challenge?  Or one of my daughters was in the position to place a child for adoption and I did not have the knowledge I do about adoption? I would be lost and feel very isolated and alone. Because of this Doug and I and our family have created a place for birthmothers and adoptive families to connect. A place that allows the birthmom to feel hope and security in knowing she has options. Where the adoptive family can add to their family and pay a much more reasonable amount to get the legal paperwork done. We have set up a Face Book page and are in the process of creating a website that will have a database of perspective adoptive families, adoption education and information and support for both birth families and adoptive families through the adoption process. In time we will provide resources for social workers and attorneys in different states. All of this will be done with no fees. That way the adoption can happen through an attorney or as a private placement with an agency, which is much cheaper. We are working on getting our non-profit status and plan for all of this to expand.

It is a big undertaking and at moments a little intimidating. Tyler, Jessica, Sereen, Jared, and Britton have all stepped up and given of their time in this cause. I know Ressa and Jason will too as soon as we have time to come up for breath and call them. I also have a person that is very close to me that has been a birthmother twice. She is part of our team and a very valuable source to understand the view of the birthmom.

We have a request. Please share our Face Book page and website with all those you know. No one wants to find out that someone they love is in a position of being pregnant at the wrong time, but it happens and we can help.

our links are:

Two days ago a lost quote ended up on my desk. At the time I remembered how much I loved it and wondered where it came from. Yesterday as all of this came to fruition I read the quote again and realized how fitting it was for this moment and knew that Heavenly Father meant for it to be there. This morning I decided that an angel must have put it on my desk as a source of encouragement and strength. I feel sure this is the path we are to take. So sure that I began to feel very anxious and inadequate at the prospects ahead. "How could I do this? Maybe I really don't want to after all. I just want to move to Tonga." At that moment I heard a whisper in my mind that this is what I prayed for and I could do it. Don't give up. I have read my lost quote many times in the last two days and am very grateful for it.

"God does not ask us about our ability but about our availability,
 and if we then prove our dependability he will increase our capability."
Neal A. Maxwell

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Another Hospital Visit

This week has been an eventful week and it's not over yet. It started out on Monday in the ER with Doug. He had some extreme pain in the lower stomach area. He had been talking about some pain for a couple of weeks and we came to the conclusion that he had an inguinal hernia. We are no strangers to hernia's. Two of the girls had a total of 5 hernia's and had them fixed. I popped two hernia's 16 years ago when I was pregnant with Pierce and Creed now has two as well. We most definitely have a genetic disposition for this. While in the ER the pain subsided and the Doctor decided it truly was a hernia. The hernia is on the right side and most of the pain was on his left. It made no sense. What did the doctor say? "Sometimes our bodies don't know what they are feeling" We were out and on our way in an hour.

I have to admit, I was less than sympathetic towards Doug. I have lived with hernia's for 16 years and through 4 pregnancies and lifting many children. I have never let it stop me from anything including moving furniture and all other hard labor. Sure it can be painful and at times have a dull ache that lasts for weeks to months even knowing how to take care of them. I tried to teach Doug but he wasn't too interested.

Tuesday Doug had an appointment with a surgeon to schedule surgery. If the hernia was causing that much pain it needed to be fixed immediately. We walked out with an appointment for Friday morning and an education on how to care for the hernia. Hmm, I think I told him all the same things. The doctor could clearly see I was thinking Doug was a wimp and he was right.

Wednesday morning came bright and early. 5:30 to be exact. It had been a late night so I was surprised Doug was up. Doug started moaning a little and eventually got out of bed. By 6:00am he was shaking and moaning so much that he kept me awake. I was not a happy camper so when he came in the bedroom just before 7:00 and said he needed to go to the ER I felt pretty impatient. I reminded him what to do to push the hernia in and told him to push harder. He said once again he needed to go in. I quickly got out of bed, dressed but did not brush my hair for some reason. I regretted that one. I gave the closest child instructions to get all the kids off to school and we were gone.

In the ER Doug was in terrible pain. The doctors were at a loss as to why it was so bad. Hernia's don't cause that pain. I saw evidences of the severity when Doug turned gray and his vitals would spike as he would begin to moan. They gave him pain meds that did nothing. They then tried another medicine that was fast acting but also left the system quickly. This one took the sever pain away but only lasted 20 minutes.  This was no hernia!! The doctors did an ultrasound and found nothing. They then did a CT scan. Doug and I sat there hoping and praying that it was not something life threatening. I, in no way, wanted to bury my husband and a son. So many emotions. I had to fight for faith. Faith in the Lord's will. Faith that I could do anything he asked and faith enough to feel peace.

The surprise results came back as a Kidney stone. A good size kidney stone. The symptoms did not appear as kidney nor anything the doctors had ever seen. From there a plan was laid out. We were admitted to the hospital for pain management and a urologist was called. The urologist put Doug on the schedule for surgery that afternoon to extract the stone.

What was to happen in the afternoon got bumped to 2:00am. Early this morning Doug had the stone removed plus 2 others that were still in the kidney. They couldn't grab the other two stones that were in there because they were too small. Doug has the gift of passing two more stones at some point but because of the size the pain should not be as bad and the doctor thinks they will only take an hour to pass.

I have clearly decided I don't like hospitals. I was looking at the IV and a flood of memories came back. Gideon was in so much pain and constantly had an IV hooked up. My son suffered deeply and I couldn't do anything for him. Tears streamed down my face as I turned away from Doug. I didn't want him to have the added stress. He needed to focus. I tried to control it but the pain was there and I couldn't' push it down. It was all the same, here I was again. Some feelings came up that I knew would surface one day but had not dealt with yet. I still could not feel and let go because Doug needed me.

Many times while in the hospital Doug and I asked what can we learn from this? We had a few ideas but nothings real concrete. I now know what I can learn. I can deal with new emotions regarding Gideon's passing. Another level of healing. I remember having the thought that even though this was hard I would still reach out to a child that would cause me to sit in the chair next to a hospital bed with pain in my soul for their suffering and my possible loss. Peace flooded over me and I knew that in those moments God is even stronger in my life and will sustain me and make me more like him. That all loss is made up for and my children that pass while young will be mine to raise when the Lord returns. They are mine. A gift from a loving, kind Father in Heaven.

Now instead of helping Doug heal from hernia surgery this weekend I will need to take some time to grieve for my son. Surgery was put off and will be rescheduled for August or September. Because we will now hit our insurance deductible Creed and I will get our hernia's fixed and I will have my nose fixed. I can't wait to breath clearly and rub my nose when it itches without causing pain. One big blessing from Doug's kidney stone.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Small and Simple Things

Scott and I have been working diligently on learning letter sounds. We have been working towards reading but it's been slow going. It's hard to find the balance, knowing what the child can do and what is too much. At an appointment for Scott's speech the doctor told me he will not learn to read but only memorize. I was pretty discouraged because reading opens up the world. Scott deserves the world.

I came home and continued our regimen of learning sounds and putting them together to make words. There were days I wanted to give up and give in but I knew I just couldn't do that. Last week I saw glimpses of progress. I didn't know if I could hope but I began to push a little more. Within just a couple of days we received the reward.

As of this morning Scott has read 3 books. That's THREE BOOKS!!!! He can do it! Miracles happen if we just allow ourselves to believe. We can never give up.

From a child treated like he could not do anything to now beginning to read in a new language in less than a year. All things are possible.

" Through small and simple things, great things shall come to pass. "


Monday, June 2, 2014

Little Blessings

A few weeks ago I walked into the front yard and this is what I found.

We had just had a rain storm that filled our water feature. A prefect place for the ducks to cool off.

Every Spring we get at least one set of ducks that hangs around our yard.
We all love having them.
This year we have a family of Quail that has made their nest in our bushes.
I love to hear the sounds of nature and see the green plants.
Listening to the song of the birds first thing in the morning stirs feelings of
gratitude and peace.
I love to start my day that way.

4 weeks ago our van gave out on us again. That was the last time I was going to
put money into the van and worry about getting stranded.
Overall the van was sturdy and has, for the most part, been reliable.
With 153,000 miles though it was getting old and tired.
Once the van was up and running we sold it.
We are now on the hunt, but in the mean time we drive the car or the bus.
It's a little inconvenient but we will continue this way until  we find something else.
15 passenger vans are very hard to come by unless you order them new.
We have been very blessed with our van. 14 years and 18 children have cycled through it.
Doug was a little teary to see it go but all was ok, due to the story
that unfolded from the family that bought the van. It was a blessing to be a part of their miracle
Heavenly Father is mindful of everyone's needs. He blesses all of us
and intertwines our lives in ways we don't recognize. Through the interaction with
the family that bought the van I was taught a couple of very important lessons.
 God allowed us to see a small part of his work and glory. We witnessed
God's love for all his children, including us, and we are grateful for the opportunity.
Now on to newer and more reliable transportation.
All thoughts and ideas on a new van will be greatly appreciated! :)