Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Adoption Update: Home Study

As I mentioned in my last post, after Braeden left to begin his LDS mission at the Provo MTC, we turned our efforts toward our home study for the adoption. This felt like a huge event, and in adoption it is very big. But because we'd had to put off our home study until after the move (it's usually one of the first things you get going on in the adoption process, but it must be done in the place you will be residing when you bring the child home) and then there is a "second gathering" of all the things we were already gathering for our adoption agency, GWCA (out of Texas), but now it was for the home study agency (here in Sumner, Washington), and a lot in the "gathering" requirements were different and added upon, it seemed huge-er. That was a long sentence. Throw in the grandbaby, the holidays, and the mission, not to mention I have two (somewhat) adjusted children with lives and a husband and "regular" things, and we could finally schedule the actual home study visit. And it was scheduled the weekend after getting Braeden off.

So, we attacked most of the remaining boxes still waiting for attention from the move. We cleaned and organized and made Goodwill piles and I did the one decorating thing I was determined to do before the visit.

I put our family pictures up on the stairway wall.

I've never had a stairway wall, or really a hallway, to put pictures up. They were up in different rooms in the house, but not like this. I love it. I left spaces for pictures of Sara and Carly, and a couple more collage frames. Everyone said it made the house feel like it belonged to us. Yay!

Bill, our social worker, came over Saturday afternoon. He asked questions and counseled us. We discussed behaviors, expectations, family and parenting strategies, finances, safety and transition. Brandon and I had each already filled out and submitted a 22 page autobiography form, so he had studied that before he came. He was really great. Down to earth and easy to talk to. He interviewed us as a couple and then the whole family, and then just the kids. Then us again. Then we took him on a tour of the whole house. We had worked right through dinner time until 8:30, so by the time he left we were all starving. I don't even remember what I threw together. Sandwiches? Anyway, the first part of the visit was done and the discussion had brought it home to all of us that this was real and it was happening. I was excited and anxious, but also felt like our little family was pretty great. Not perfect, not unblemished, but pretty great. We were all wiped out.
The next morning he arrived at 8:00 am for the rest of the visit. We'd let him know we had church at 11:30 so an early morning was necessary, so he could drive back to Sumner and be home before the Seahawks/49ers game. We live in Seahawks land now. So Brandon and I divided up and had our individual interviews with Bill. That was about an hour each.
His last question to me was, "What are you looking forward to most in this adoption?"
As I thought about it, I got emotional for the first time during the whole visit. "I think getting to know her, watching her experience new things, and my hope is that we can help her feel that she's a member of a family. That she wasn't just . . . left." I guess I meant that I hope we can teach her what her true value is.

I think if we all realized what our true value is in this life and beyond, there would be a lot less pain and sadness in this world. Some of us are born into families who give us that. Some of us aren't. The happy thing is, it can be shared. And received. Sometimes that takes a lot of work and sacrifice and love.

I have another big stack of documents and forms waiting to go out today. With the home study nearly complete (they are still waiting on some criminal clearances and this stack of papers) they can submit the I-800A Form, the Application for Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Convention Country. That's another big one. Then we gather up the remaining items for our Dossier (Home Study report, family pictures, more passport photos, our medical reports, another chunk of the contract fee, a couple Chuck E. Cheese tokens and a fistful of confetti).

(Not really those last two.)

I've filled out more forms in the last year than in all of my life combined.

I almost forgot to add that my sister directed me to a friend of hers who just adopted a 13 year old boy from China, and her blog has been a tremendous help in answering questions I didn't know I had, and she does a great job of sharing a real experience in adopting an older child. I loved the detail of their trip to China, I love that she shares the ups AND downs. I read her entire blog up-to-date in two days. I'm thankful for her accounts. Find her family's story here.

Wo men kuai dao la. 
We'll be there soon.

Elder Jensen Gets on a Plane

Never have I been more excited for him and more torn up because he's leaving. *rips out heart* "Here, take it. It loves you."

Some of you may remember when Braeden received his mission call. That was back in September. Four months is a long time to wait between call and reporting at the Missionary Training Center. He decided, with the move, that he would work and earn the money he needed. By the time he left, he'd earned his money, and he was chomping at the bit. He'd left his friends in Cody, his job was not the greatest after he transferred to Yakima, but he was grateful for that paycheck, and our barely social boy hesitated in making new friends in the YA scene when he knew he'd be leaving.

But this extra time with him was so necessary. We had big things happening. Aren't the top 5 biggest life stressors Moving, New Job, Adoption, Writing Deadlines, and Working at Walmart? Okay, maybe only one or two of those are right, but holy smokes, it was nice to have my "calm in the chaos" that is my son Braeden through all of this madness. I'm claiming this one: the Lord kept him here for me. Braeden has his quirks, but he is more like me than the other kids, and he has an uncanny sense to know when I need a hug, when I need him to make me smile or laugh, when I need space, and when I need a hand on my arm and an offer of help. He gets my doors for me, will spontaneously take my hand and dance me around the kitchen, and serenade me when I'm not feeling well. We have awesome discussions. He will throw a chocolate at me from across the room, or offer me one of his ginger ales if he's ticked me off. We laugh at the same jokes, we make the same jokes, and we are NOT morning people. I'm his mom, and he can be infuriating, but he's in my top Best Friends list. Top.

I was fine as the days started getting crossed off the calendar and his "things to pack" list was filled up with check marks. I was excited for him. He was finally doing what he'd been dreaming about for years. I knew he was doing the right thing! It was finally time! And most of me just chose to simply get the things checked off like any other list, because if I thought too long about him leaving I got really choked up really fast. So, we concentrated on the to-dos. And that was good. And I was fine until the day before we were to take him to the airport. I went up to his room to bring something to the suitcase piles downstairs. And I entered the room, in some disarray from the attacking of the closets and drawers, paper piles, laundry, and memory things to box up. But it was an emptied-out disarray. And it hit me hard. He was three again, my little Bwaeden Ewwol Jensen, going to run across the street and into the woods and I wouldn't be able to find him for a long long time. So I broke down and cried.

But of course, I got through it and we took a little break, then finished the packing and we went out to eat and laughed and talked and goofed off until I was so exhausted I did sleep.

We let the kids take the morning off school so they could be at the airport. Braeden asked me to help him pick out his tie. We all put on our brave faces and drank in his excitement. He was all smiles and eagerness and nervousness. It was wonderful to watch. It helped to know that Chelsea and baby Carly would be on the receiving end of that flight. Chelsea and Matt had planned a pot roast dinner and game night, a french toast breakfast in the morning, and then they were taking him to the MTC. Somehow, knowing that helped. The other thing that kept me together was that Maren was kind of a wreck, so I had to be brave for her. :)

We gave him his last hugs and we had a hard time letting go. He was very tolerant. But then it was time. I expected Brandon to suggest we leave soon after, but he just kept watching the gate area where we could still see Braeden through the glass waiting to board, and then we could see him go out onto the tarmac, and then up the stairs and into the plane. And that was when Jacob and Maren lost it. When we couldn't see him anymore.

Jacob recovered himself pretty quickly, but Maren had a hard time, and was still sniffling when Dad walked her into her school. 

Rough stuff this saying goodbye.

I was so excited for Braeden to fly. This was his first commercial flight. I just knew he'd be loving it. I was so excited for him to start learning Russian. I was so excited for him to have to get up early every morning and work his tail off. :) I was so excited for him to learn to serve others as he never has before, and to hear of the changes he experiences in his life and the lives of others.

And I was so torn up inside. I didn't like the feeling at all. Two extremes pulling at each other inside me. I'm the kind of person who just likes everything inside me to get along.

We have heard from him, of course. He sounds wonderful! He loves it. His teachers are impressed with how he's picking up the language. He is being challenged in good ways. He is doing everything I would wish for him to be doing right now. And that makes it not too bad, and I'm thankful and happy. The house is so quiet. But there are lots of things to work on. So I pray a lot and write letters late at night.

After we said goodbye to Elder Jensen, I had 1 1/2 days to feel sad and work through the "letting go", and then I had to pick up and refocus. We had three days until our home study visit and the house needed me!

I'll share more about that in my next post. For now, here are some pictures.

I made a Latvian meal of Beet Soup with Sour Cream, Crumb-fried Pork Chops, and Latvian Potato Salad.
They loved it!
Cousin Tanner came over and spent a few days with us before Braeden left. 

Our prayers are with you, Elder Jensen!

Monday, February 03, 2014

Entering Grandparenthood WAAAAAYYY Sooner Than We Thought: IT. ROCKS.

This post is LONG overdue. Last November I flew to Provo, Utah to be with my daughter and her husband for 10 glorious days to be part of the birth of my granddaughter. Chelsea was due on November 7, and since things were looking a bit on the late side, I planned my trip for the 9-19th. Her doctor promised he wouldn't let her go over 7 days, so that put her in the hospital on the 14th at the latest. Brandon and the kids would pick the nearest weekend to drive down and meet the baby. The preparation with Chelsea, and taking care of her and Matt, were a sweet way to wait out the birth! They are so fun and happy!
Carly Lynne Bare was born on November 13, 2013. 7 lbs 12 ozs of beautiful baby girlness. The pictures work better than me talking, but I will say that being there and falling in love with that baby was my absolute highlight of 2013.

Aren't they adorable? They picked me up from the airport and took me to breakfast.

I arrived on Chelsea's birthday. Yay, presents!

Getting a birthday song. Seriously, I could eat these two up.

But I ate this instead.

Tucanos for dinner! Yay, birthdays! Chelsea's hip had been out, so as she hobbled around, we got a lot of very concerned looks. She was determined to have her Tucanos before the baby came. 

After church.

Couldn't help it. There's a baby in there.

Final appointment before the baby comes.

I treated her to a pedicure. So fun!

Ready to go!

Chelsea did great. They anticipated a C-section, but Chelsea worked it differently. Her stubbornness paid off and she had a normal delivery. She rocked it.

Here she is!

Proud Daddy!

So sweet.


Going home!

I got to ride in back with the Precious.

Grandpa's here!

Aunt Maren and Uncles Jacob and Braeden.

Oh that Uncle Braeden. What a kidder.

This man was very humbled.

The family left and I got her all to myself again for a few more days.

Kinda. Gosh she's gorgeous.

Then it was time to go to the airport.

And say goodbye.

That was awful.
As difficult as it was to say goodbye to another piece of my heart, I knew it was only temporary. And a few weeks later we got this in the mail:

Being a grandma is the best. And I'm kind of glad it came sooner than we thought it would in life. I'm still pretty spry. ;)

Loves and kisses, CarlySmooch.