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WE HAVE MOVED TO A NEW SITE!!! http://www.mommyhood-shivonne-costa.squarespace.com/ As of June 18, 2015, this is our new location. Please come join us!! I started blogging the week I got married. I thought it would be nice to blog the full first year, you know, to cherish those memories and share them with my family and friends. Little did I know, it was going to be my greatest coping skill for the craziness that comes with marriage! I found writing to be a fantastic way to reframe an ugly marital spat into a humorous event, allowing me to smile at the situation by the end of the post. And now, I am honored to share my struggles and joys of fostering, adopting, birthing, and raising 4 beautiful children. It's my hope that others gain laughter and new ways to see their own frustrating life situation through my writing. Because I love to write! PS, look for me on Facebook - "Mommyhood-Shivonne Costa"

Friday, August 30, 2013

On Running Away

     My son is going to run away. Don't be fooled by his 7-year-old frame and poorly thought out plan. He is going to run away. Nevermind that he is in his boxer shorts and only has a bag packed with t-shirts.... I think we should take this threat seriously. Afterall, if we neglected to believe every child that threatened to run away, there would be at least 4, maybe even 5 kids that would just be lost in the wilderness, never to be heard from again. So I think it necessary to inform him of what he's going to face out in the wild, on his own (in only his boxer shorts).
     But to back up for a minute, let me tell you that my son got in trouble at school today (hey, this is an improvement from last year.... he made it 3.5 days without a hitch this time!). He and another boy decided to spit loogies on the cafeteria floor during lunch time. 1) This is gross. 2) This is a slipping hazard. 3) This is unhealthy. 4) This is my son. However, I did not flip my lid. Nor did I dole out a ridiculous punishment. I did, however, inform him that I was going swimming at our friend's home this evening, and that if he wanted to join us, he would first need to clean my floors.... all of them. His ADHD little self sped through the house like a man on fire (stopping briefly to stare at nothing, ask a totally unrelated question, or to touch something shiny). Finally, the floors were clean (ish) and we hopped in the car to head to the pool.
     Not only did we have a fabulous time in the cool water after a miserably roasty-toasty day, but Cameron LEARNED HOW TO SWIM!!! I'm pretty sure he drank a few quarts of pool water, but bloatedness aside, it was fun and super exciting for him. I was thrilled and praised the trunks off him the entire way home. As we pulled into the driveway, I gave very clear instructions: "Cameron. You MUST change your wet clothes and then clean your room before going downstairs to play with your sister. I will inspect your room before you play. Do you understand me?" He affirmed that he understood. Yet, knowing this child's attention span, I repeated the instructions, at which time he huffed and said "I KNOW!" Ok then. No problem....
     I jumped in the shower to wash the chlorine off and popped out 5 minutes later. It was eerily quiet upstairs and I called to my children. No answer. Hmmm. Never a good sign. I dressed and headed to Cameron's room. Lo and behold, Cameron was nowhere to be found, yet his room was exactly as he had left it the day before.... filthy. I calmly (it has to be noted that I was calm) went downstairs to find him playing, at which time he told me he was "just helping Taylor find.... um.... something..." I patiently asked him to repeat the directions he was given in the car.
     "You said to change my clothes, and I did!"
     "What else did I tell you to do, Cameron? Here's a hint. It's the same thing you were told to do yesterday, which you didn't do, AND it's the same thing you were told to do right when you came home from school, which you didn't do."
     "Um, I don't know?"
     "Perhaps some time in your room will help jog your memory. Here's another hint.... YOUR ROOM."
     Twenty minutes later, I called the kids for dinner, at which time Cameron came down looking very grumpy. The kind of grumpy that makes you say to yourself, Ugh, here we go.... He sulked through the first part of his meal and then tried to pretend that he had been nothing but peaches and rainbows, and asked (in his sweetest voice) which story I was reading them tonight. I asked Cameron if he remembered what the instructions were for when he came home from swimming. He amazingly enough remembered that it was to clean his room... but that he DID clean his room, it just got dirty again. (Um, that's not even a nice try, kid.) To which I responded, "I'm sorry your room got dirty again.... that must be so frustrating for you. It is equally frustrating for me to have my son not follow my directions when I've said them repeatedly, and then to lie to me instead of just being honest. There will be no story, not tonight."
     "You hate me don't you!!!" This is the go-to response when he is a combination of in trouble, tired, and stressed.
     "Never have I hated you, Cameron. You're my son and I love you very much. And because I love you, there will be no story, in hopes that you remember to follow directions better tomorrow."
     "You hate me and I hate it here! I'm going to tell Lisa (our caseworker) that I'm leaving you.... she's gonna come and take me away to another foster home and you'll be sorry!"
     "First of all, Lisa doesn't work with us anymore, Bud. Secondly, you're adopted, so this is no longer your foster home... it's your permanent home, for better or worse. And most importantly, I do love you, but there is still no story."
     At this point, Cameron began to yell loudly and cover his ears when I tried to interrupt his rant as he stamped his feet on the ground. Taylor stared at him in amusement and, to her credit, did nothing to intervene. When Cam finished his tantrum, I told him that it was his bedtime, that I loved him, and good night.      "But what about the rest of my dinner?", he asked frantically.
     "You have to wait two hours after screaming to eat.... and you'll already be asleep by then. Goodnight."
     There were more wails as he stomped up the stairs. When I finished my dinner and cleaned up the kitchen, I went to check on my little grumpus. And that's when I saw him, in his boxers, book-bag packed, and look of determination on his face.
     "So.... where ya goin?" I asked.
     "Oh! I'm running away. You just wait!"
     "Where ya running to, exactly?"
     "I'm going to Lisa's office to tell on you."
     "Don't you mean tell on yourself, since you were the one that didn't follow directions and then lied? And you were the one that did all this carrying on instead of just apologizing and moving on with our night?"
     "Uh, no... I'm not telling her that. I'm telling her you're mean and that I hate it here!"
     "Well, OK then. I guess it's settled. You're running away. By the way, Lisa's office is about a 5-hour walk, that's about how long it takes to drive to Michigan... and it's dark out, which means you'll need your flashlight.... oh, shoot. I totally forgot, you lost your flashlight when you weren't following directions the other day. Too bad. Oh well, you'll figure it out. Remember to bundle up, 'cause it's getting chilly at night. And take a map. Can you read a map? Oh, nevermind, you'll find it. Maybe some nice kidnapper will show you the way if you get lost.... Be safe, OK? I'll miss you."
     Ten minutes later, my son was fast asleep on his bed. See? It's a good thing I took his threat seriously.

Thursday, August 29, 2013


     I love moments of nostalgia. Not the "I remember when..." kind, but the type of nostalgia that seems to drift in from Never Never Land and invade each of your senses, leaving you feeling like you just woke up from the most serene dream imaginable. These moments are few and far between, so I cherish them even more when they occur.
     Today was an exceptionally amazing day. Not because anything spectacular happened (because, seriously, nothing even remotely "eh" took place), but because I had several times today where I was flooded with sweet sensations and memories that I wasn't expecting... and I felt so grateful for just those few seconds to feel peace.
     An especially beautiful moment came over me while I was driving home. I worked the 11am-7pm shift tonight, and the sun was just in the best part of the sky where it's in your eyes at every turn. Most people hate this time of day for just that reason, but not me. It's always been my favorite. The way the sun starts to turn everything a glowy gold color and shadows begin to get long on the ground.... the time of year that is late-summer and it's perfect to ride with your windows down and your hand making waves out the window as you drive, the cool breeze (and occasional bug) tickling your skin as you go. I took a back road home tonight. It was covered with rich, green fields that housed cows lazily chewing away on their cud. I could smell the scent of farm animals, feel the cool wind and the warm sun simultaneously, and hear the sound of birds fading to crickets as the sun sank lower in the sky. And for a moment, I could almost close my eyes and picture my 10-year-old self back in my hometown, riding my bike in the breeze, trying to make the most of the remaining rays of sun before the streetlights sent me back inside for the night. I felt relaxed and happy. I felt free.
     It's funny about nostalgia. It's such a sweet thing, but it always brings a tear or two, almost as if honoring the past with that tear is more significant than just having a fleeting memory on its own. And today, I was moved to tears. I miss my home. I miss my family. I miss my baby. Memories are always bittersweet, sometimes more bitter, sometimes more sweet. If there is one thing that I learned in my nostalgia this evening, its that a peaceful memory, even one worth a tear or two, will eventually come. The blessed feeling is a calming reminder that you once went through something and you already overcame it. And in the end was your peace... unexpected, unearned, and unparalleled.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Happy Distractions

     I fear that if a professional were to do a mental status exam on me this week, I'd fail. I know there are stages to grief. I know there are ups and downs. And I even know that me and my family will probably feel a lot worse before we feel better about life once again. But all that "knowing" isn't exactly making this any easier! The day after Isaac left from his first visit home with us, I thought to myself, Hey, I think I can do this... We will get all our chores done during the week, get lots of sleep, and spend more time with the other two kiddos. And then on the weekends we'll focus all of our attention on Isaac. It's not ideal, but it may just work out.
     The very next day, I found myself sobbing in the corner of Dollar General because I passed the baby section and saw one of the bibs that Isaac wears hanging on the shelf. A Bib. I'd like to say the rest of the week perked up, but I'd be lying. I ran into Bear's biological father 3 times last week through my job, and twice this week (so far!). All five times were unexpected and left me gasping for breath as my heart felt like it was going to explode right out of my chest. And God bless the clients that ask me how my kids and baby are doing.... They don't know. They're just being friendly. But I'm terrified that I may punch one of them in a moment of weakness. (Ok, I don't think I'd punch them for real, but there is a huge likelihood that I'd dissolve into tears and make quite the fool of myself, as I am not a pretty crier. I'm the girl with the red, blotchy, mascara-stained face who has a trail of snot streaming from her nose to her upper lip, face contorted the entire time.)
     And it's not just me. Pat is snippy and angry. Taylor is weepy and emotional. And Cameron is literally not able to remember a single rule because he is so focused on the sadness going on inside of his little boy mind. By the time Isaac came for his second visit, we were all exhausted from grieving our good-bye from the weekend before! And it broke my heart, but my baby boy actually took a couple hours to warm up to us fully and to seem like himself again. But we loved on him the best we could Saturday, and we battled our hearts as we prepared for the third good-bye on Sunday. Pat recorded him singing with me in church this weekend and I've almost worn out my phone listening to it over and over and over again.
     So, I asked God for some much-needed distractions to get my mind off things. And then I was almost in a car accident, my transmission in my car went bad, my husband and I had a ridiculous fight, my phone now drops every call, and PMS came to show me that it's very possible to cry over things OTHER than losing my baby! I quietly looked up and raised my hands in utter defeat. What do You want from me? I'm trying my best... I'm trying to trust you and to hold it together, and to help my family through this, but I'm failing.... I don't know how much more I can handle. 
     God often talks to me in lyrics. Yesterday He chose the honest words of an broken artist. "My heart can't see, when I only look at me. My soul can't hear, when I only think of my own fears...." 
     And I understood His message. Eyes off me, eyes on Him and others. I have looked at my situation every which way from Sunday, and the fact of the matter is.... there's absolutely nothing I can do about it. And I don't want to miss out on answers because I'm too busy looking at the problem. I don't want to miss out on Love because I'm focused on fear.
     So, as a happy distraction, I helped my kids focus on the first day of school. We picked outfits, packed lunches, and readied up the book bags. I gave Taylor a mani-pedi, cut Cameron's nails, and cleaned their ears. I even helped them both scrub up (rather vigorously) in the tub to make sure that we could separate the dirt from the bruises. It was during bath time that I found another distraction. I realized that, despite my thorough and repeated instructions, my kids have no idea how to bathe themselves.
     Cameron sloshed away from me as I grabbed his foot and went at it with the wash cloth. "Since when do we have to wash between our toes??"
     "Since when HAVEN'T you had to wash between your toes?!? It's right up there with washing your elbows and behind your ears!"
     "We have to was our EARS, TOO???"
     This conversation also informed me that Cameron sometimes only brushes some of his teeth.... you know, just the new ones. What in the world..... ?
     Another distraction came at 3:30 this morning. In my benedryll haze, I was pretty sure I heard a tearful "Mommy!" coming from the direction of Taylor's room. I realized that all the lights were on in the upstairs and that she had woken Cameron up because her ear was hurting her. He sleepily informed her that he was not a doctor nor was he a mother and that he should wake me up instead. So she did. I sat on the edge of her bed as she hiccuped and cried. I asked her what the pain felt like and this is how she described it to me: "Mommy, my ear is beeping."
     Beeping? "Honey, I don't know what that means.... let me give you some ideas and tell me which one is closest. Does it itch, ache, throb, sting, or burn?" This was as descriptive as my brain allowed me to be at 3:30am. "Uh, noooo. I said it's BEEPING." Well, I don't know what the crap that means, but she didn't have a fever and she really seemed to want me to answer questions about school, so I thought that perhaps her nerves had manifested themselves in the form of a beeping ear. My daughter... the one who wore her back pack around the house for "practice" the other day.... is nervous for her first day of Kindergarten. Being the dutiful mother that I had just hours before determined to be, I laid with her for almost 45 minutes talking with her about her classroom and what she will get to learn this year. We prayed for her ear and her school day, and then I tucked her back into bed.
     At 6:00am, Taylor began to cry again, telling me the beeping was back. I told her that I was sure her beeping would go away by the time she got to school and realized how much fun she would have learning with all of her friends. She looked a little tired, but then again, she was up quite a bit throughout the night. And she was slightly pasty... and she didn't have much of an appetite for breakfast. So I'm pretty sure the Kindergarten nurse took away my Mother of the Year award when she sent my daughter home just a couple hours later with a fever and an ear infection. "I TOLD you my ear was beeping, Mommy!" Ok, so maybe I got a little too distracted by focusing the kids' on the first day of school. Lesson learned! And we will try again for tomorrow.... assuming Taylor's ankle doesn't start honking in her sleep tonight. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013


     If I could change the child welfare system, I would do it in a heart beat. There is no end to the distress any given family experiences at the hand of caseworkers, judges, and lawyers. Everyone passes the buck and no one takes responsibility for their actions... they simply blame it on "the system". One minute the system is on your side, the next minute, you're chopped liver. One hearing you're looking at adoption, the next you're looking at termination. There are so many ups and downs in this program, it's a wonder they haven't started handing out medication and psychiatric business cards with the foster parent sign-up packets. Even with all the irrational craziness my own family has gone through in the last two years, nothing prepared me for the court hearing my husband and I attended on Friday for Isaac.
     Originally, it seemed unfair, almost cruel, to make us attend a hearing for the child we had to give up just days prior. Still grieving our loss, we showed up and were greeted by the sweetest sight these eyes could've seen. Members from our church were sitting in the lobby, ready to surround us with loving arms of support, prayers, and blessed distraction! Even though they couldn't come into the court room, there was so much love radiating from our friends in the hallway that it was like they were right there in the seats next to us.
     When the hearing finally started, we sat and listened to testimony after testimony as lawyers discussed Isaac's father, determining if he was fit to parent an infant. After being told we were not allowed to have a lawyer of our own present, we were asked where our lawyer was.... with questioning glances, CYS told us that we absolutely could've had our lawyer attend, despite the fact that we have the letter from them stating that we couldn't. So, being the only ones unrepresented, I felt a little unarmed and defeated before we even started! (Particularly after each party (Including Isaac's father) was allowed to read the letter that we submitted to the judge, stating our concerns about this man taking our child.... nothing like awkward.) Isaac's mother purgered herself on numerous accounts, Isaac's father made us seem like quibbling nit-wits for writing our letter to the judge, and the CYS caseworker reported inaccurate fact after inaccurate fact. All in all, it was like being tied to railway tracks as you watch the train approaching at full speed.
     The hearing began to wrap up after an hour and a half, which made my upset tummy grateful. Each lawyer presented closing arguments and each lawyer recommended that Isaac be placed in his biological father's care. My heart sank and my stomach soured. And then it was time for the judge's declaration.
     "After hearing the closing arguments, it seems that everyone is in agreement. Everyone except for me."
     Wait, what? I found myself staring at the man dressed in black with my mouth hanging open. I looked around the room and it appeared that I was not alone. "I am here for the best interest of Isaac. And I feel that it is unfair to the Costa family, to Isaac's biological siblings that live with them, and to Isaac himself to sever ties so abruptly." The judge then addressed Isaac's birth father. "Furthermore, you have two older children that will be starting school again very soon, and you said they were very busy with extracurricular activities. Your schedule is going to be changing quite drastically and you need to make sure this is something you can handle. Therefore, I have decided that Isaac will remain in the foster care system for at least the next month. During this time, he will reside with his biological father from Monday through Friday and he will spend Saturday and Sunday with his foster family. This is scheduled to begin this Saturday, tomorrow. We will meet back here in a month to assess the situation again."
     I'm pretty sure we could've heard a pin drop in the court room. I was prepared for everything BUT joint custody... is that even something they do? I mean, children who have been with foster families for much longer than 10 months get ripped away and placed with their criminal parents all the time. I've never even heard of this! And neither had CYS, nor the lawyers, nor the other judges. Apparently, this is an unprecedented ruling, one that left everyone baffled. I want to say I was elated. My baby was coming home the very next morning!! But there was a part of me that felt angry at the judge. I had already gone through saying goodbye once... and now I have to do it over and over again each weekend? The grieving process was something I'd already started. It's like saying that the child you buried may not have been as dead as you thought when you buried them... I mean, they still may be dead and all, but you have to wait at least a month to know for sure what the end result will be. How do I deal with that??
     In the end, I chose to look at this ruling through a more eternal perspective. God knew the results of this hearing from the beginning of time, so obviously, He's got a plan. I have absolutely know idea what it is, mind you, but I know that there is one. So, I chose to take these extra weekends with my baby as a blessing, knowing that in the end, I may be forced to say a final goodbye again and to go through this pain all over again. Perhaps this is the judge's way of giving Isaac's dad time to adjust. Or perhaps it's his way of giving him time to prove he's not able to do this afterall. Or maybe he saw my eyes and knew that I needed more time to hold my little boy. I don't think I'll ever know the reasoning behind his decision, but I'm grateful for time to smother Isaac with more kisses than he can stand.
     Saturday morning came and my husband, the bolder of the two of us, met with Isaac's birth father for the Great Baby Transfer. I stared at the clock, waiting for them to return home; waiting to see my chubby cherub and his toothy smile. And when the car pulled into the driveway, it was like he had never left. We played the same, we cuddled the same, we bathed the same, and we loved the same. Cameron and Taylor were elated that they get to have visits with their baby brother. In fact, I was worried that this change in plans would put them into an emotional tailspin. But I have to say, I've never felt more proud of two kids than I have as they've gone through this entire ordeal. They've taught me a thing or two about coping and grieving. They've also shown me to be grateful for each moment. They weren't worried about what saying goodbye to Isaac later would mean for them. They were just so excited to have him for the next two days. I was inspired by their ability to live in the moment and to enjoy this special gift with abandon, holding nothing back.
     As expected, it was hard to let him leave again tonight. But this time I was able to console myself with thoughts of next weekend. I am able to focus 100% on my job, my husband, and my other two children this week, leaving us to focus all of our love, time, and attention on Baby Bear this weekend. I have no idea what the end of this situation holds. But I know what I hold. HOPE.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Goodbye, Sweet Boy

     The worst day of my life came and went. When I woke up yesterday morning, my eyes swollen from crying and my body weary from restless sleep and nightmares, our family was informed that Isaac was going to be leaving us at 8:30am. I had an hour and a half left to hold my baby, smell his skin, and kiss his chubby lips. There is no amount of preparation that can be done to get ready for a moment like this. My parents, my in-laws, our grandmother, my husband, my kids, and myself all stared at Isaac with solemn faces as the clock ticked loudly on the wall. Baby Bear played happily, excited to have so much attention, not understanding that he was going to be leaving the only family he knows in a matter of minutes. Will he be scared? Will he think we don't love him or that we abandoned him? Will they keep him safe? Did they read the 4.5 page letter we sent with all the necessary information about our baby, or did they toss it in the trash? Will he remember me?
     My mind swam with questions as I played with the dimples on Isaac's feet for the last time. It's so hard not to worry... It's so hard to muster up the amount of trust needed to send your most precious possession into an unsafe town, with people he doesn't know, to a man that engages in illegal and unsavory activities. How do you stay strong for your family when you're already collapsing from heartache? Even still, I tried to keep my tears in for the sake of my other babies. My husband asked my father to pray over Isaac in our remaining 5 minutes. And as we held him tightly, my little girl's heart broke and she began to wail with unharnessed tears. All bets were off.... there was no more being strong in that moment. Hearing her cries and watching my other son's chin quiver while I could feel my husband's shoulders shake was more than I could handle. Our circle of 9 surrounded Isaac with freely flowing tears as the car arrived to take him from us. I tried desperately to stop choking long enough to get another smile from him, but as my husband placed him in the car, Isaac began to scream and cry. I wanted so badly to grab him from that car and just start running, as fast as I could, knowing that I wouldn't get far, but feeling like it was the only option I hadn't yet tried. I wanted to take away his tears and hold him forever. But I couldn't. I had to give up my role as Isaac's mother in that moment.
     The last 24 hours have been a roller coaster. As a family, we tried to keep the kids occupied (or maybe we did that for ourselves). Taylor learned how to ride her bike without training wheels and she regaled us with children's songs, pleased to have an audience. Cameron helped cut fire wood and showed us how he can ride his bike standing up. But every time I walked past the empty high chair or glanced at his picture on the wall, I realized that my home now felt hollow. We are missing a vital part of our family and each of us is painfully aware. Despite my desire to not move anything from it's place, or even to wash the last of his dirty clothes (for fear I'll lose the memory of his baby smell), I know that my family needs me to pack up some of his things. The constant reminder in each room is too much for any of us, and we need to get his things ready to send to his new home. And so, today, I started the process. I finished filling out his baby book and added to his life book that was made by his caseworker with the intention of him being adopted into our family. And it was then that I realized something.... Pat and I never wrote our letters to Isaac that would be displayed in his life book. But how do I write one now knowing that he is gone? How do I write him a letter when I'm hurting so badly? And will his biological father throw it out or keep it from him? So, I came to this substitute conclusion. I will write the letter to my baby here.... and maybe one day he will find it, or maybe one day I will have the chance to give it to him face to face. Or maybe I just need to write it for me.

Dear Sweet Baby Boy,
     My first glimpse of you was through a glass window. You were swaddled tightly in a blanket, sleeping soundly. Your Daddy and I were outside the hospital nursery, waiting anxiously to be let inside so that we could start a relationship with you that would forever change us. As we touched your little fingers and kissed your tiny toes, we knew that, no matter what, you had our hearts. We promised to love you unconditionally, and that promise we have kept. You found a way to make me a better Mommy before you could even speak, and you left your stamp on my life and on this family in a way that cannot be put into words.
     When I would hold you in my arms, I would pray over your life. I prayed for safety from sickness, danger, and bad decisions. I prayed for wisdom to always do what was right, no matter what the cost. I prayed for love to find you at every turn... and it's safe to say that every person that's ever met you has loved you. And I prayed for happiness and laughter to be in your heart, not because the world is always happy or funny, but because Jesus has put a joy inside of you that can never be tainted, broken, or destroyed. Baby, your name, Isaac, means "He laughs". Your birth mom didn't always do everything right, but what she did do was pick a name that fits you more perfectly than any other could. Your very name is a testimony to the effect that you have on others. The joy that pours out of you, even as a little one, has overwhelmed everyone that you meet, giving them that contagious smile that won't quit.
     We gave you the nickname "Bear" when you outgrew "Bug".... which was rather quickly! Your size and outgoing personality, along with your many grunts seemed to make the name stick. You were my Baby Bear, my cuddle bug, and my sunshine. Every smile pulled me in deeper and each laugh turned me to mush. It kills me that I won't be able to tell you these things myself, but these are some things I want you to remember:

1) You are so smart, and I hope you always know that. I won't be there to help you with your homework or to teach you to ride your bike, but you have such amazing abilities to catch on to things so quickly.... you can do whatever you put your mind to, so never give up. Try your hardest and let others help you when you need it.
2) There's an amazing spirit inside of you. From the time you could make noise, you figured out your singing voice. Each time I sat at the piano, you calmed instantly. When I sang, you sang. When there was a beat to be heard, you found a way to make your own beat to join in. And when it came time to worship, you were at full attention. Praise Baby would put you into a trance and church would get you shouting. Always worship that boldly, Isaac. Unashamed, unharnessed, unleashed. Let it out and always be passionate about who you serve.
3) There will be many things that sound like good ideas. Most of them won't be. People in your life may offer you things to "help you loosen up" or to let you "have more fun". Remember that every action has a consequence and every seed planted eventually gets sowed. You're awesome just as you are. Don't let anyone make you feel pressured to act a certain way in order to fit in. YOU be the leader of the group. YOU be the example that others want to follow and fit in with. And in moments when you feel tempted, or you slip up because you have a weak minute, don't throw in the towel. Every wrong can be righted and you'll figure it out. I have faith in you. And remember, I'm always standing next to you in prayer about any problem you have.... you're not alone, baby boy.
4) Women are tricky. So just take one, okay? No one has ever made their life better by sleeping around, having a string of loves, or a full little black book. Know what you want before you start dating and be the type of person that you want to attract. Start praying for your wife as soon as you hit puberty. Chances are she'll need someone covering her in prayer during those crazy years, as well. Respect her, love her, romance her, and put her before yourself. You'll know you chose right if she is doing those things right back at you. So never settle. A moment of fun is never worth missing out on True Love.
5) The final thing I want to teach you, baby, is that you will never go wrong if you love the things that God loves. He loves humility, so be humble. He loves a peacemaker, so make peace. He loves the brokenhearted, so help pick up someone's pieces with them. He loves forgiveness, so don't hold grudges. Be kind to everyone, especially the underdog. Always show gratitude to others, stay away from pride (but be confident, Bear, you gotta be confident!), and love endlessly. If you follow God's heart, you'll never ever lose. Love always wins.
     When I first found out that you were being taken from our family, I was devastated. Our family was never going to be the same because we were going to be missing our Laughter. When trying to make sense of the grief I was experiencing, I opened my devotional and read the Bible lesson for the day. It was about Sarah and Isaac. (It's funny how God always knows what we need to hear, when we need to hear it... don't forget to look for those moments He gives you, baby, because those moments will get you through the toughest times of life.) Most of the time when we hear the story of Isaac, it's about how God asked Isaac's father, Abraham, to sacrifice Isaac in order to show his dedication and obedience to Him. At the last second, God sent and angel to stop Abraham and to thank him for his faithfulness. I feel like I can finally relate to how Abraham must have felt when he was instructed to sacrifice his son! The helplessness, the questions, the sorrow.... But the Bible lesson I wanted to share with you was about Sarah, not Abraham.
     Sarah was very old and she was unable to have children (that's me... without the old part... yet). She prayed for decades to be able to have a child, but it never happened. Finally, when she was 100 years old, she gave birth to her only child, Isaac. She named him Isaac, because his birth brought Laughter to her soul. The lesson went on to share how Isaac's name was referred to as Isaac's laughter at times, and in other passages it referred to the laughter of his parents. The devotion then showed something interesting....in the middle of Abraham's preparation to lose his beloved son, it referred to Isaac's name as giving laughter to his parents. In the middle of the worst experience of their lives, God reminded their hearts that Laughter was already there. In the middle of utter loss, was the Ultimate Joy.
     Sweet Boy, you are my Laughter. Even in losing you, I have gained so much. I wouldn't change a second of my time with you, nor will I regret this experience ever. My secret hope is that you will one day come back to me. But I know that even if that can't ever happen, I will never ever stop loving you with my entire heart. I will continue to pray over your life, just as I did when I held you each night. And I will find a way to trust God more than I trust myself, knowing that He can keep you better than I ever could. Remember that you are special. You are chosen by God and loved by so many.... it's no wonder everyone wanted you for their own. I may have lost out on getting to watch you grow, but because of you, I have grown myself. Thank you for your amazing spirit, pure joy, and endless laughter.

Always in my heart,

Your Mama

Saturday, August 3, 2013


     Things change so quickly. In a moment's time, you can be given everything you've ever wanted.... and in the very next moment, feel as if you can't catch your breath because your world is being shattered. And in a word, that's how I feel. Shattered.
     Within 36 hours of baby Isaac's father confirming that he would sign his rights over to us, he sent our lives into a tailspin. He informed us that he "might as well just take the baby". This man went from being pleasant and jovial to irritable and near-hostile. We have no idea what happened, all we know is that he has now decided to keep Isaac. Our caseworkers were unable to confirm nor deny what was going on, leaving us to simply wait for a phone call for an indefinite amount of time. Wait.  And as the days grew closer to Isaac's adoption, my husband and I realized that we would never make it to that last moment with the judge... the happy one where he shakes our hands, congratulates us, and we take a family photo. No. Our last day with the judge will be one of two grief-stricken parents, broken and shattered, saying goodbye to the baby they had planned to know and love the rest of their lives. And then finally, the wait was over and the call came.
     The worst news in the world was confirmed to me as I sat at a rest stop in the middle of Ohio, alone with my three, soon to be two, children. I rolled up the windows and screamed until I couldn't make anymore sound. Isaac slept through my wailing and the older two stared at me with large eyes until I could formulate the words to tell them that their baby brother was being taken away. Cameron cried instantly... a cry that comes from deep down and isn't intended to be muffled. A cry that breaks your heart. Taylor stared and questioned our sadness, later processing that she can't be sad until he leaves. He's still here now, and she doesn't want to waste a second being sad until she has to be. In a way, I envy her ability to experience emotions in this way. But I have a feeling the dam will break and, when it does, it will take a mighty force to stop it's flow.
     I drove the rest of the way to my parents' house in Michigan and used every last ounce of my energy to focus on pressing pedals, using turn signals, and breathing. I'm not sure that I did any of them well. I spent the next few days trying to remind myself that this man could change his mind again... he could realize he's too old, not in great shape, and has too many kids for his two-bedroom home as it is. I spent time begging God, rationalizing, and analyzing every word of every conversation to give myself any amount of hope I could to get to the end of each day.
     When I finally returned home, after leaving the older kids with my parents for the rest of the week, I met my husband and we hugged with a tiredness I couldn't believe. I watched my big, strong man sink to the floor, unable to speak past the sobs. We both knew it was over. There is no more begging to be done. There is no more praying for a change in this man and in this situation. There are only prayers that we survive it. That somehow, each day, we can get out of bed and feel proud of the love and life we gave to Isaac, even though he will never remember our names, nor will he recognize our faces if he sees us in the future. He's too young to remember that he loves us. And we're too old to forget.
     My emotions take turns appearing in unexpected waves. Anger. Despair. Rage. Disbelief. Gut-wrenching pain and sobs. Frantically seeking out countries without extradition. These moments cycle rapidly and frequently. If I see a child in a stroller, I dissolve into breathless tears. If people ask me about my baby, I try to not throw up, sometimes more successfully than others. If I see a dad holding the hand of a toddler as they walk down the street, I feel bitterness at the thought that I will never get to see Isaac's first steps and my husband will never get to walk with him hand in hand like this stranger in front of me. These moments have been stolen from me by a man that shares nothing more with my baby than his DNA. I held him when he was sick, I rocked him to sleep. I suffered his colic and fell in love with his smile. I have every inch of this perfect child memorized.... and I have to graciously hand him over to a man that can't even find it within himself to thank us for taking care of his child. My mind races like this constantly and then my emotions cycle all over again. I find myself having these moments while I'm working... while I'm at the store... while I'm in the shower... while I'm sleeping.  I haven't yet found a way to escape emotion.
     But I have strong moments, too. In those moments, I'm able to recognize that Isaac will be raised by his biological father, who seems to have a lot of family that are interested in helping with Isaac, and three other sons that live with him. Isaac will get to share his laughter and his incredible loving personality with those in a town that is in desperate need of God's love. He will get the opportunity to be a light to his new family and to his community, and he may experience a rougher life than had he lived with us, but maybe this is what God needs him to live in order to be who he is to become.
     In my strong moments, I feel like I can go to work and still be a good therapist, maybe even a better one, because I have experienced something that many of my clients have also endured... loss. I feel like I can continue to lead worship at my church and bless those around me. I feel like I can parent my remaining two children with just enough grace to get me through to the next moment.
     But my strong moments keep fading in and out. They get gray. Cloudy. I sometimes can't find them through tear-blurred eyes. I can't find the strength to grab at them as I'm clutching my heart at the same time. I know God's strength is still there.... even when it's hiding. And I know that the love of our family, friends, and all who have shared with us in this journey is still there as well. Please excuse my insensitivity when I forget to ask you how your job interview went or if your visit with your family was pleasant... I simply can't keep track of everything right now on top of keeping my emotions from getting the best of me, and I hope to get updates on all that I've missed when I'm in a better place to be a good friend and family member once again. I don't know when I'll feel "normal" again... I don't seem to have the energy to pick up my raw emotions from the floor every day, so if I seem fine one day and I accidentally bite your head off the next, please forgive me.... and know that I love you too much to have done it on purpose.
     Our last day with our little boy is August 12th. He has three day visits and an overnight visit between now and then, and we still have to attend the dreaded court hearing on the 16th, just to make it final. Each of those days are going to be the new hardest day of my life. And then each day after that will be a process to figure out how to grieve a child that didn't die, but died to me. I don't know how to do it and I won't pretend to have it all together. I won't tell you I'm "fine" when you ask, and I won't put a sugary spin on it, because that's not who I am. I need honesty and transparency in order to start processing my new life, so I can't pretend that everything is OK until I actually feel that it is. Those of you that know me would want nothing else from me and I love you for that. Thank you so very much for each prayer, each song, each letter/email/text/call/post. Even in the middle of being shattered, I am so incredibly blessed to have people willing to help put me and my family back together again.