Thursday, May 28, 2009


I didn’t feel alone. I felt like I actually belonged here. The warmth of my family comforted me. The feeling of being hugged by relatives. I loved the warm smiles on their faces. It was as if my happiness and love had been locked up. Now the door had been opened.
(written by Madison earlier this year.)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

On The Edge Of Eternity

Last Thursday morning, while my husband was out on a bike ride, he stopped on 36th st at the Shea intersection, and waited for a light to turn green. A truck sat in the intersection on Shea, waiting to turn left onto 36th street. The lights started to turn. A car ran the red light and the truck turning left honks at him and then turns left. Another car runs the red light, t-bones the truck and sends the truck skidding sideways, on 2 wheels, toward my husband.
Kirk tried to get out of the way, but the high-speed impact caught up to him. Just as the truck reached Kirk and his bike, the truck flipped on its side and landed right on Kirks legs and skidded before it came to a stop. Somehow when everything came to a standstill, Kirk pulled himself free of the wreckage and sat on the curb. A number of people had stopped. Someone brought Kirk a blanket and told him to keep still. Blood was seeping from a deep gash around his ankle and he had road rash on his leg. Fine grains of shattered glass covered his legs and small pieces of carbon fiber were in a wound where the bike had snapped on his leg.
The driver of the truck that landed on its side was trapped inside his vehicle for about 10 minutes before rescue crews gave him a blanket for protection and smashed his window out. News crews must have been in the area, as channels 5 and 15 were on the scene almost immediately.

The accident happened around 7am and I received a phone call around 7:20. It was Kirk. “Tina, don’t say anything to the kids, but I need you to take them to school and then come pick me up. I’m at the corner of 36th st and Shea. I’m ok, but you will need to take me to the hospital.”
Madison was sitting at the island counter, watching me pack lunches. I knew I couldn’t ask any questions without arousing suspicion. I said “ok” and hung up. As I worked on the sandwiches I started to wonder what had happened. I had a funny feeling in my stomach and my heart started to race. When I finished the lunches I had the kids get their shoes on, and we took off for school. I get another phone call. It was Kirk again, “Are you almost here?” I didn’t know what to think, “No honey, I just pulled out of the driveway. I will get there as fast as I can.” On the way to school, I received 3 more phone calls from Kirk, checking where I was. Every time the phone rang my heart raced a little faster. Was Kirk bleeding to death and there was no one to take him to the hospital? I started to drive a little faster. Mason sensed something was up, “Is something wrong with dad, mom?” I didn’t want to alarm the kids., “No, dad just has a flat tire and I have to pick him up.” Mason breathed a sigh of relief, “Good, I thought maybe he was in an accident or something.” I felt a little bad not letting on, but I couldn’t drop them off at school with uncertain bad news. I didn’t even know what was going on yet.
When I left the kids at school I got to 36th ST. and Shea as quickly as morning traffic and lights would allow. When I got close, Kirk called and asked if I had my camera, and he said that I would not be able to get through the intersection. I would have to go into the parking lot of the church on the corner. When I got to the intersection I could see the police cars, and a smashed up car and a truck on its side. Kirk was standing on the corner with a bandaged leg. I whipped into the parking lot, grabbed the camera, and went to meet Kirk. When I got the scene of the accident, I could see the top of Kirk’s bike sticking out from under the side of the truck. I got choked up and hugged Kirk. People were asking if I was his wife, and all I could do was nod and shake their hands. I couldn’t talk for a little bit.

The news crews were filming the scene. When they asked Kirk for an interview he said no. He was still too shook up. After collecting his shoes and helmet and saying good-bye to the other drivers, he told the news guys he was ready.

We finally left for the emergency room. When we got there, the ER was empty. Kirk filled out his paper work and handed it to the lady behind the desk. They didn’t even look at his paper work and continued a conversation they were having. Kirk stood up and that is when they noticed the bandage on his leg. He told them what had happened and they kind of started jumping around and got him in an ER room right away. We were there for a long time as they cleaned the wounds and put 8 stitches in the ankle area.
I couldn’t sit still, so I stepped out and made all the phone calls to Kirk’s work and to the relatives. Just as I finished up a phone call, a police car pulled up the ER. He got out and came over to me, “I have your husbands bike in the back of the car. I went to your house but no one was there, so I wondered if you would be here.” He got the bike out and loaded it in the Element for me. I could see where the bike had literally been crushed. The frame was broken in several places, and the tires and parts were messed up bad. The policeman was shaking his head. He couldn’t believe that Kirk had survived that accident. He asked how Kirk was doing. I said, “You want to come in and see him?” I took him right into the ER and he talked with Kirk while they were working on him. The policeman said that when they pulled the truck up off the bike, there was a huge dent in the drivers’ door where Kirk and his bike had been. He recommended that Kirk get an ID bracelet just in case he ever got knocked out, and then told him he should buy a lottery ticket because it was his lucky day.
We got home around 11:30am. I fixed something to eat. We had both missed breakfast. At noon we caught the news and saw his interview with channel 5 News. As soon as the story was over, Kirk’s phone rang. It was his sister. She had just happened to be watching the news on her lunch break and saw the interview. She couldn’t believe what had happened either. At dinner that evening, Kirk sat down and said, “Well let’s pray for our meal and we have a lot to thank God for.” Madison said, “Yeah, we should pray all night.”
The next couple of days were a blur of phone calls, e-mails, and Facebook exclamations. Word got around fast. People from as far away as Seattle and Pennsylvania, that we hadn’t heard from in years, were sending their best wishes and prayers. People who had experienced close calls were talking with me about what had happened. It was comforting.
At church on Sunday, they played the news clip and Kirk said a few words. He mentioned that he felt like hugging his family more, and Mason, from his seat, raised his hands up toward Kirk in a symbolic hug.
We felt exhausted and emotionally raw. We had come so close to losing Kirk. The more we talked about the accident, the more we saw how much of a miracle it was. If that truck had flipped one more turn, it would have crushed Kirk. The rack on the top of the truck was holding 300 lbs. of ladders and piping. How did that miss Kirk’s head? The truck could have crushed his legs. He could have lost his life. When Kirk was reflecting in church, he said, “We really live on the edge of eternity.” The accident happened so quickly that he didn’t have time to get out of the way. He had no control over what happened that morning. That’s how life is. You watch your husband leave for work, or send the kids off to school and assume that they are coming back. We all hug a little more since the accident. We realize how fragile life is, and that we really do live on the edge of eternity.

After note: Both the drivers and Kirk are Christ followers who attend local community churches. The testimony in the TV interviews was loud and clear. God didn’t just show up at that accident, He was there the whole time.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

My Trip To Disneyland (by Madison)

As I stepped inside I gasped, I was drowned with bright colors surrounding me. The towering castle was not like any thing I had ever seen. So many long years of waiting…I was here now…Disneyland.

My normal life had been withdrawn from me. I was drenched with the voices around me. I could see sleeping beauty in her light azure dress. The sun scorched me, yet the melody of the wind soothed the heat.

I stood in line and wondered what Space Mountain would be like. As I walked inside a shiver went down my spine. There it was, Space Mountain. The faint screaming made me even more exhilarated.

As I sat down in the seat, once again, a chill ran down my spine. I could smell the fear around me. The ride started to move, and I wanted to go back. There was no going back now. I was surrounded by glowing lights moving around me so fast that I felt dizzy.
Once I got off the ride I entered the real world, surrounded by people. As I stood there, I felt like I had been reborn, like my life had only just begun.

Monday, February 23, 2009

A Second Chance With Dumbo

(As a note-Now that we have finalized our adoption I will be using the real names of Mason and Madison)

It was quiet in the car. Mason and Madison were reclined in the back seat and sleeping. A stuffed monkey with a Mickey Mouse hat lay next to Madison and Mason was snuggled up with a smile on his face. It had been a good trip and we were headed home.
Kirk was driving, so I clicked on my camera and started to flip through the pictures I had taken. My small view finder was hardly adequate for really looking at the pictures but I couldn’t resist. I paused on one picture in particular, and zoomed in to see the faces closer. I smiled at the facial expressions and reveled in the memories that were captured in that moment.
My mother in law will, on occasion, tell a story about when they took Kirk to Disneyworld when he was 5 years old. Mom was looking forward to seeing Disney through the eyes of a child. It was a day of getting pictures with Disney characters and going on rides. By the time they headed back to the hotel, they were exhausted. The car was quiet. Mom glanced in the back seat expecting to see a sleeping little boy, but instead, Kirk was sitting in his seat with tears running down his cheeks. She was alarmed, “What’s wrong Kirk?” His sad answer was, “I didn’t get to ride Dumbo.” She would always end the story with, “Isn’t that the saddest thing you ever heard?”
30 years later history got to repeat itself-kind of. The day that Mason and Madison were adopted, a court volunteer, who had worked with the kids since they had been in care, took us out to lunch. We had been warned in advance that she was surprising the kids, and us, with a trip to Disney to celebrate the adoption. It was so fun to see their reaction as their eyes went from unbelief, confusion, and then excitement, as the reality of the gift hit them.
Two months later, in early November, we walked through the entry gates to Disneyland in California. We already knew that we were going to ride Dumbo. Mason rode with Kirk in one elephant and I rode with Madison in another elelphant directly in front of the boys. As the ride took off, and we started flying, I looked back and snapped a picture of Kirk and Mason smiling.
“Snap”… A mothers sad tale was redeemed, and two children were skimming the sky with their new dreams.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Adoption Day

The day had finally come when the adoption of Brian and Faith would be finalized. I had told the kids the night before that they could sleep in because they would be skipping school. Both of them woke up early. I let them watch some cartoons for 1/2 hr. in their pajamas. I cooked up a special breakfast of maple sausage, fried eggs, and toasted english muffins with jelly.

When I got ready to go for my morning walk, Kirk decided to go with me, and the kids rode ahead of us, on their bikes. They were able to get to the park ahead of us, and had time to play on the playground, before we turned back for home. By the time we got back home, it was time to get dressed and head to the court house which would be about a 40 minute drive away.

Brian was a little nervous about going to the court house. He was afraid that bad memories would surface. The court house was the last place he had seen his birth mother. We did what we could to reassure him that we were going to the court house for a good reason. On the drive there, he kept giggling, which is his sign that he is having a hard time dealing with the emotions he is feeling.

When we got to the court house, we went through security and met our attorney, AASK case worker, CASA (court appointed special advocate), and DES case worker by the court room where our case would be held. The attorney went through the procedure of the case with Kirk and I and made sure the kids were comfortable with the procedings too.

When we were finally called, we went into a very small court room. We sat together at a table that faced the judge. The questions were asked and then the judge asked Faith and Brian if they were good with the adoption. Faith said, "yes". Brian said, "definitely!" The judge and recorders smiled. When the judge asked them their names, Brian introduced himself with his entire name, including new middle and last name. He is very proud of his new name, and introduces himself that way very often.

After the case was done, we had pictures taken with the judge and our case workers.
Faith and Brian's CASA, who had worked with them since being put into care, took our family out to lunch at the Olive Garden. At lunch, she gave the children and Kirk and I gifts. Faith opened her's first. She pulled out a printed paper that read: "Faith is going to Disneyland", and an admission ticket was attached to the lower right corner. She just stared at the piece of paper.
I said, "Faith, what does your paper say?"
"What else does it say?"
"Faith is going do Disneyland."
She continued to stare at the paper.
Brian pulled his out and looked around at everyone with a puzzled expression.
Faith started to smile.
Kirk and I opened our gift. The casa had framed a family picture, given us tickets to Disney and a 2 night stay in a hotel. When we showed Brian and Faith our tickets, they suddenly realized that they were really going to Disneyland. This was not just a trick.
Faith smiled and laughed. "This is the best day of my life."
Brian was excited too. It was hard for him to stay seated at the table. Fortunately we were in a quiet corner, so Brian was able to get up and walk around a little bit. On the way home, they could hardly contain themselves.

We made a quick stop at the library, and while we were there we got their library cards switched over to their new names. Both of them signed their cards and included the middle initial of their new middle names.

That night we had dinner at Aunt Lisa's. You could tell the kids were happy and relieved that this process was finally over. I was kind of out of it. I had underestimated the emotional energy that this day would take.
It was a good day. It was great that now we didn't just "feel" like a family, we were a family.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Before you adopt...

It is tempting to watch the story of a child that needs a home and get this idealized fantasy of what adopting is like. You may call the agency to find out about "Joey" that was just featured on your local news. It might be discouraging when you find out that you can't just go down and sign the kid out of the "orphanage".

When my husband and I were going through our training and background checks, which took the better part of a year, I would get asked questions like: "aren't there all kinds of kids waiting for homes?" "why do you have to jump through so many hoops when they need a family so bad?" "what takes so long?"

The time it takes to prepare for bringing these children into your home is worth it. While going through 10 weeks of training , Kirk and I were better able to understand our choice and solidify our decision to "foster to adopt". During training we got all kinds of ideas on handling various behaviors. We met other people with the same interests. We gained a better understanding of how the "system" works and how to use it to our advantage.

The state wants to do everything they can to make sure they are placing theses children into safe homes. Sometimes families get through the cracks. We learned in class that 25% of foster homes end up being abusive homes. That is one reason why it is so important that we take the time to go through the screening and training. 

In preparation for you decision to adopt:

Step back and get a realistic view of adoption.
Be patient. You don't want to hurry this decision.
Think about it. Do research.
Decide if you want to adopt an infant, an international infant, an older child. Find out what agencies are in your area.
Talk to people you know, who have adopted.

One thing that was hard for Kirk and I is that we didn't know anyone who had adopted older children. Most people we talked to were afraid of that, thinking that children are somehow stamped and sealed by the age of 3. Sometimes television and internet stories that tell worst case scenarios, stereotype older children "in the system". The thing that finally turned our opinion was meeting someone who had adopted an older child, and going to the agency that they had gone through.

Make sure your agency has a good support system. Prepare family members for the change and see if they can help out. You do not want to be alone! Adopting older children comes with its own unique issues. Most of your friends will not understand how special these kids are. You almost have to experience it to believe it. My husband grew up with 17 different foster kids in his home as he was growing up and we were still shocked at some of the things we experienced.

Adopt for the sake of the child, not to fill a hole in your heart. Become satisfied with who you are, without children. You will set yourself up for disappointment and exasperate the child if you expect the child to fill your own personal needs.

Prepare yourself for what I call "post placement depression". When you choose to invite these children into your life, nothing will be the same. Kirk and I had been alone for 16 years and then brought a brother and sister into our lives. Our personal space and everything else was suddenly invaded. Some the idealistic ideas I had in my mind went out the window pretty quick.

It is hard work. The children will be going through their own shock and grief cycle as they adjust to your family. It took our family about 8 months of hard work before we started enjoy being a family. I had an eye twitch most of those 8 months-I laugh about that now. It was totally worth the hard work. They gradually bond. Give them time. After all, you are all strangers when you meet.

Sure these kids have unique needs, but they are just kids. They want to be wanted and loved. They want a stable family. What better thing could you do with your life than to give a child unconditional love. 


Strange Conversations

When you adopt an older child, you have interesting conversations and questions. It is a unique family experience. Sometimes "precious", sometimes "heart breaking", they are conversations that tell me how far we have come as a family and how blessed I am to have these children as my own. Here are some of our conversations, most of which come from Faith:

First time we meet Brian and Faith-"What should we call you?" and "Are we going to live with you forever?"

"So is this your car or our car?" "Are these your cats, or our cats?"

A couple of hours after moving into our home-"Do you like having us live here?"

As we were signing up for library cards with the librarian-"Can I change my last name? I don't like my last name."

"Am I being good?"

"Would you ever hit me?"

1 week after they had been living with us, Faith asks- "How long are we going to live here?"
and "Are we going to be here at Christmas?"

When Christmas started to get close-"Are you going to buy our presents at the dollar store?" "If we get christmas money, are you going to take it?"

They went for a visit to their foster mom's one last time- "Are you tricking us and sending us back for good?"

"Are you my real mom?"

"Do you love me?"


Coming Home

On Saturday we attended a birthday party, put on by their foster mother. Brian and Faith's birthdays are 4 days apart so they were celebrating together. Now that the reality of what we were embarking on had hit us, and Kirk and I were scared. I felt like I was in a daze the day of the birthday party, and probably looked it too. We met their grandmother and her husband and their older half brother.

It was a strange day, and I can't imagine what was going through their little heads. Everyone was taking pictures of the new "family". Everyone was so happy for this happy ending. We were scared, and the kids barely understood what was really going on.

Saturday night, I again felt a panic attack coming on. I had to quiet myself by reading before I went to bed. I kept waking up. Faith and Brian were moving in tomorrow after church.
We were scheduled to pick the kids up a 1 pm at their foster mom's. We left early to stop by IKEA to purchase a dresser for Brian's room. Then we stopped at a coffee shop near the foster mom's to relax for a little bit.

I received a call soon after we got the the coffee shop from their foster mom. she said that the kids had gotten up early that morning and had been asking her every five minutes when "mom and dad" were coming by. They were making her crazy and she wanted to let us know if we were running early, it was fine with her if we came early.

We left right away. As soon as we pulled into their street the kids ran outside to give us hugs. Brian and Faith had gotten us special key chains. Kirk's chain was a cross and mine was an angel with the word "mom" on it. I realized then that it was going to be an up and down, up and down emotional experience.

They were very excited to arrive "home". Brian helped "dad" put his dresser together. He started calling Kirk "dad" immediately. I was "Tina". Faith avoided the terms by calling us indirectly "you" or something else. 

Faith spent a lot of time in her room arranging her "things". For being 9 and 10 years old, they had very little. Their clothes were kind of ragged and they didn't have any toys. It was a little overwhelming to think about all the things they needed. Over the next few weeks we would receive generous gifts from friends and family that enabled us to get clothes and basic needs.

After 2 hours of being in her new home, Faith asked us, "Do you like having me live here?"
Later she asked, "Are we going to live with you forever?"

We ended the day watching some tv. Brian snuggled up next to me. Faith sat right next to me on the opposite side. The whole time we were watching tv, she made constant gutteral, throat sounds that sounded almost like a whimper.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The lighter side

This list records the funny things that happen. Brian is the one that expresses himself loudly-he is all heart. Faith is the quiet, thoughtful one, so this list will be mostly Brian incidents.

I picked the kids up from school one day. Brian hops in the car and says, "mom drive like a maniac all the way home, I have to pee bad!"

I get a note from Brian one day on red construction paper with pasty white letters spelling out the words "I Love you mom". He tells me later that he couldn't find a marker so he used his deodorant instead.

Brian was attending a children's program at church and the pastor came to give the children a pep talk before a big performance in church. Pastor ended the talk by asking if anyone had a question. Brian's hand popped up right away. 
"Yes, Brian, you have a question?"
Brian looked shocked that he had been called on. "Ummm. Ummmmm. Ughhhh."  "YOU ROCK!" he shouted really loud.
Everyone laughed and the pastor said, "I knew I always liked you."   

One night I went to tuck Mason in bed. He held out his hand and said, "That will be $10 please."
I looked at him, and then bent down and kissed his cheek. "That kiss was worth $10."
He kissed my cheek, smiled and said, "That kiss was priceless."

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Almost Home

We met Faith and Brian on a Tuesday. Wednesday we scheduled time to take them out for a short visit with us. We met their foster mom at their day school and took them out to Wendy’s.  On the way into Wendy’s Faith asked what they should call us. When Kirk asked them what they thought, Brian piped up right away, “mom and dad”. Faith looked like she was thinking or waiting to see what we said. We told them that if they felt comfortable with mom and dad that was fine with us, but if they weren’t ready they could take their time .

Over dinner we were getting all kinds of questions. Faith asked, “So, the Element, is that your car or our car?” and she made a motion with her hand to indicate all of us. I said, “our car.” She seemed to get a kick out of that. They started saying things like, “when do we get to see our house. What are the names of our cats again?  On and on with our.

After Wendy’s, we went bowling, Faith was very chatty with me. Brian followed Kirk everywhere and took every opportunity to say “dad.”

When our visit was over, none of us wanted to leave each other.

The next day was Faith’s birthday so we called her on the phone to wish her a happy birthday and that we would be at their birthday party on Saturday. As soon as Kirk hung up, the phone rang-it was Brian saying, “Hi”.

Friday we picked them up and brought them to the house to show them their home and their bedrooms.  They loved seeing their rooms and meeting the cats. We had some dinner, strawberry shortcake and went swimming. As soon as we told them it was almost time to go back and that they needed to dry off, Brian had a meltdown. He refused to get out of the pool and just went completely wild. It was the first time we had seen this side of Brian and it was a startling dose of reality. He had this crazy look in his eyes and took some time to get him to comply. 

On the way home he was pretty wild and was getting his sister worked up. We lost our way for a little while on the way back to the foster home. Faith asked if we were going to have to spend the night in the car.  Brian started laughing uncontrollably.

By the time we reached their foster home we were all a wreck. Brian ran out of the car, arms flailing like crazy and ran into the arms of his foster mom. Faith just walked with her head down. The foster mom looked at us and then at them, “Is everything ok?” I wondered if the kids were thinking they had messed up and we would change our minds.

On the way home I kept seeing Brian’s’ crazy eyes and playing over and over what had happened. The reality of what we were about to take on was heavy on us. We had a hard time sleeping that night. For the first time in my life I felt like I was going to have a panic attack. I kept imagining that the next 10 years would be like this.

Kirk and I had long conversations. Could we do this? They were already calling us “mom” and “dad”.  We felt like we had no choice but to make the hard commitment to do whatever we had to do and get whatever support system we needed, to make this work. For the sake of the kids we had to do this. We were going to wear our knees out in prayer, and we were going to have to stick together as a couple like we never had before. 

Monday, August 25, 2008

Monsoon Emotions

During a good Monsoon a dust storm is followed by rain.  The heat increases and draws out all the moisture from the desert as the day goes on. In the late afternoon the moisture explodes into high thunderclouds that reach up into the atmosphere at a rapid rate. The downdrafts from these forming thunderstorms kick up dirt. A well-formed storm can kick up a wall of dirt miles wide and thousands of feet high, causing traffic accidents, and dusting everything in its path. When the dust passes a downpour of rain almost always follows it.

After spending a year with our kids we have gotten so we can see the signs that something inside of them is brewing into a storm. This past weekend, Brian regressed in his behavior a little. He would be swimming in the pool and we would hear him growling. His play was unusually energetic and he was having a hard time calming down. His emotional strength was low and he reacted or cried over everything.

After 2 days of watching this behavior and giving each other puzzled looks, Kirk and I had a talk. We both agreed that Brian must be thinking about something. Kirk had some grocery shopping to do and he took Brian along. On the way to the store, Kirk talked to Brian.

“How are you doing, Brian?”

“Good” was the answer.

“Well, you are giving me signs that something might be bothering you. Are you thinking about anything?”

Brian hemmed and hawed and tried to change the subject by asking what kind of car had just passed them.   He finally said, “Yeah, I’m sad that I might never see my mom again.” He again changed the subject by asking about another car they passed.

Later that evening we had a family talk. We have talks occasionally where we open the floor for them to ask us questions or talk about things they are thinking about. Brian brought it up again, “I am sad that I might never see my mom again.” He started to rock back and forth, buried his head in a pillow and started to laugh hysterically.

Faith looked at Brian, and then at us, “He does that when he is upset.” She then scooted over to where I was sitting and grabbed my hand, “I’m scared”. I held her hand. We let Brian laugh and rock for a while. Then I got on the floor, sat next to him and put my hand on his back. He sat up and rested against me. Faith moved over to my other side and rested up against me on that side.

We talked. Brian was cycling through grief again and he needed a safe place to go through it. I was reminded how wounded theses kids are.  

Sunday, August 24, 2008

How I met my kids

Kirk pulled into the cul-de-sac and parked in front of our case workers white Silverado. My heart was pounding and my head throbbing. I looked at Kirk. I saw it in his eyes too. Did we make the right decision? What if they hated us? What if we weren’t ready for this?

Kirk moved first, “We might as well go in”. I moved, but slowly. It was like in a dream where you can’t seem to get your body to move fast enough to run away from the monster. He took my hand. We walked toward the 2-story house, up the front stairs to the porch, and Kirk reached his hand out to ring the doorbell. I knew now that there was no turning back. Ready or not, here we were.


About 1 year earlier, Kirk and I had gone to an orientation at AASK, the Arizona Adoption of Special Kids. We were really impressed with the presentation and signed up that we were interested in more information on foster to adopt*. We had thought about this for many years. Kirk and I had been married for 16 years and were unable to have children of our own. We felt like this was the right time in our lives to move forward with adopting children.

It took us about 8 months to go through the paper work, background checks, and the 10 weeks of training.  Once we were certified, we started to receive e-mails on profiles of children that were available for foster/adopt. Sometimes it was overwhelming to just read the cold hard facts on the kids. Sometimes I wondered if I was in over my head.

About 2 weeks before we met our kids, I got a crazy idea. I called Kirk at work and asked him how he felt about adopting siblings. I didn’t see myself raising an only child and I felt that it would be a hard adjustment for the first child we adopted, to bring another stranger into the home. Ideally, I thought it would be nice to adopt a brother and a sister too. Kirk and I agreed, so I sent an  e-mail to my case worker. I got an  e-mail back right away. It said, “Funny you should mention that. I will send over a profile that just came through, that you might find interesting.”

We thought the profile sounded right for us, so I called our case manager. He agreed to represent us at a meeting regarding the children. Five families in all sent their caseworkers to represent them at the meeting.

I was getting ready to leave for a movie night at church when I got the call. Out of the five couples, we were unanimously voted to take in Faith and Brian. It was so exciting and scary all at the same time. I called my sister and let her know. I told a few friends at church that night too. It was almost overwhelming to feel all the emotions of the drastic change that we were about to experience in our lives.

1 month later we met with our case worker, the state workers representing the children, their court appointed special advocate (CASA) and a supervisor or two. At that meeting we were presented with all the known facts of the case.  Every issue, every single good or bad deed that they had done.

Their CASA had taken a photo of the kids recently and passed it down to us. In the photos, they were hiding behind a tree, poking their faces out and smiling ear to ear. They were so cute. It was Friday and we were given until Monday to make our decision. When we left the office, I remember standing outside with our caseworker and Kirk said, “It sounded pretty good to me. We will let you know as soon as we decide.” Our case manager agreed that this sounded like a good case. When we got in the car to leave we both looked at each other. “What do you think?”, said Kirk. “It sounded good to me”, I returned. “Lets go for it.” We felt very at peace with our decision. I didn’t feel any conflicting feelings or misgivings.

On Saturday, I called the CASA (who had given me permission to do so) to ask more questions. When she answered her phone and started talking I heard the voice of a little girl in the background, “who is that?” That was the first time I heard Faith’s voice.

On Monday we alerted everyone that we decided that we were going to take these kids in. Everyone was excited to have finally found a home that would take both Faith and Brian.  Placements for older siblings can be very hard. Faith was 10 and Brian 9. Our first meeting was set for the following Wednesday. We would have dinner with the kids at the foster home where they were currently living.

The state worker told us that she would get to the foster home early and talk to the children before we got there. She would tell them that a couple had chosen them out of all the other children in Arizona, to be a part of their family. She would then show them pictures of our home and tell them a little bit about us. Then we would show up…..


So Kirk rang the doorbell.  We heard a little commotion inside. A skinny little boy with big eyes swung the door open. He looked right at me and hollered, “She’s pretty!” and ran back inside. When we came in out of the sun, I saw a little girl in a flowered jumper, sitting on the couch, holding the pictures of our home in her hand.

We sat down and the case worker encouraged the kids to ask us questions. I don’t remember what they asked us. I do remember Faith was quiet and seemed to be studying our faces. Brian couldn’t wait to show us the tricks that he could do on the trampoline that was in the backyard. We were only supposed to stay about 2 hours to keep the first visit simple.

Later, the state caseworker said that she had never seen a visit go so well and it seemed like we all got along so quickly. Maybe she tells everyone that, but then maybe not.

 At a photo shoot with friends that night I told them, “I just met my kids and I have fallen head over heels in love with them.”



*Foster to adopt is when you are willing to take in a foster child whose case plan has moved toward adoption. The risk factor (or emotional risk) is higher, because that can change.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Thirsty Living

I was running errands with my daughter on Sunday afternoon, when I realized my mistake. Faith and I had forgotten our water bottles-something a desert dweller is never without.  I was thirsty, so thirsty my mouth was dry when I tried to swallow.  It was the 32nd day in a row that temperatures had soared over 110. Wind blew like waves out of a just opened oven. I licked my dry lips out of impulse, but knew they would just chap. To the east monsoon clouds were building over the McDowell Mountains, and I hoped they would bring rain. It seemed lately though, that even the most threatening storms passed over or fizzled out.  Sometimes a few fat drops would hit the sidewalk and evaporate seconds later on the sizzling pavement.

I was not only thirsty but I wanted to see water-not water in the pool, real, natural water.  When the passing storm caused temperatures to drop below 100 that evening, I knew I had an opportunity. I wanted to visit my favorite spot in the desert.  I knew that there was enough for the hike before the sunset or before a storm would reach us. When I told my family where I was headed, they all wanted to go too. There was a sense of excitement.

We quickly filled our camelbacks and put on hiking shoes and drove out to REACH 11, a desert preserve at the north edge of Phoenix. If you judged a trail by how it looks when you start, you would not choose this trail. A sandy path winds through sparse mesquite shrubs and scorched grass. An old saguaro cactus, pitted with holes from cactus wren and gila woodpeckers, is a sentinel near the beginning of the path.

We started the trail, knowing there was water at the end of our path. We knew that the desert would give way to something that few people know about. The mesquite shrubs got bigger and closer together, and then the path became cooler as overgrown mesquite boughs reached overhead. Tall green African grass grew thick in the shade. Coolness was rising up from the ground in surprising drafts.  Rabbits were darting across the path in a crazy scurry to get away from us and we briefly saw the faint outline of a javelina ahead of us on the path. Then we came around a corner and there it was, the pond, a little pond surrounded by trees and grass and teaming with life, in the middle of a barren desert. Dragonflies dipped their tails in the water. The surface of the water was teaming with water spiders and knats. Fish of all size swam to the edge when we stooped down to the surface of the water. In the dried mud around the edge were footprints of desert animals that had come for water.

I have visited this place of solitude for 7 years and have never seen it dry, even in the strongest heat blast. To a desert dweller like me, this is a refreshing sight, to know that even in the desert there is water.  There is nothing spectacular about this pond, except that there is not supposed to be any water here.

In the past year it has also become a place of hope for me. I have had desert experiences. I know that there are droughts in life too. Last summer I had come to a desert place in my life. I was burned out, empty. It had been a year of tremendous life change, and my mind and body said,  “stop”.  When I tallied up the year it wasn’t surprising to find myself in this emotional desert. I had ended a job and my boss unexpectedly died two weeks later. I started my own business and taught myself web design, which sometimes made me want to pull my hair out. I was dealing with conflict with a family member. At the same time, my husband and I had decided to adopt and we had gone through 10 weeks of training and a lot of paper work. Kirk and I were just around the corner from major life change and sometimes I didn’t know if I was ready. I was confident about the decision but not about my ability to be a parent. I was scared.

I was thirsty and their wasn’t anything to swallow, or so it seemed. I didn’t have the emotional energy to lift my Bible and figure out what I should read. I went to a Christian bookstore and found a devotional that looked like it was written for me titled,  “Dancing in the Desert”. I started to work my way through the book, knowing that there was water, even if I was in the desert. It took a week for me to finish 1 chapter.  I took my time drinking it in.

A close friend knew I was depleted. I don’t remember everything she said, but she encouraged me that God must be preparing me for something. There was a reason for this barren desert.

This is what I found: Rest in God, A path to quietness with God, and a surrender of control. I began to loose my fear of the desert and started to embrace the thirst for God that it was giving me.  Slowly, quietly, the cool refreshing rain began to fall. Some of the bonds I was holding onto gave way.  I kept on the path and eventually I came to the water.

It was after this time in the desert that God brought Faith and Brian in our home, who eventually became our adopted son and daughter. That chapter would become the most difficult period of my life thus far. I was glad that I had found rest in God and was ready to surrender control of my life. He had work to do in the lives of 2 little kids and he was going to use my husband, and he was going to use me. He used that desert to strip away some excess baggage and strengthen me for what was ahead. My friend was right. 

When I visit my pond I think about my journey through the desert. I know now that even when I don’t know what is at the end of a path, I can trust what God has for me.