Saturday, June 23, 2012

One week closer

We had our first week of unsupervised visits with our little guy this past week. He really got to see what life would be like living in our home. Just the routine, mundane, day in day out stuff. T is babysitting full time and not home until after 5 each day. R was away at her first youth camp. K was here with us most of the time. Michael had to work late, an unfortunate reality of our lives, and didn't get to see J a couple of nights. Better this than his initial visits being filled with expectations of being the center of the universe and trips to Disney World and Legoland - this is real life. Don't get me wrong the Disney and Legoland trips will come later but for now we just want to maintain the monotony. Tuesday we had a 4 hour visit that I detailed in this earlier post.

It was just the two of us for a while on Wednesday's visit. When I asked what he wanted to do until K got home from school (K is participating in extended school year) he suggested WE make chocolate chip cookies.  So we stopped to buy chocolate chips on the way home. This is where he met Bryana - she is the first family friend to have met our son. I'm sure his take was that we have extremely friendly cashiers at our local Publix. It was SO much fun to bake with him. Initially when we got home he went to his room and commenced playing Legos and told me to 'let him know when the cookies were ready.' I explained that this is not how WE bake cookies. So together WE made his first ever batch of chocolate chip cookies and then continued to make a batch of gingersnaps that K could have. Half way through the first batch of cookies, after he cracked an egg to perfection, he suggested he and I get our own TV cooking show. He obviously felt more confident in his baking abilities. He frequently reminds me of the significance of the small things I have done and continue to do with our girls. From the time they were able to stand on a chair in the kitchen and almost reach the counter top the girls were baking with me or Grammie Susan.

K and R baking up a storm in Charter's Settlement.

Wednesday's visit also included a trip to the Y for his swimming lessons in the middle of our visit. K and T got to come along and watch him at his lesson.

Our official visit schedule is 4 hours Tuesday & Thursday afternoons. so we had another visit on Thursday. Any other mutually agreeable visitation times between his foster mom & I are just a bonus. For example Friday for 8 hours! On Friday R got home from youth camp and her brother was with us when we picked her up from church and he met many people there. Later when we asked him if he remembered this person or that person - he couldn't remember who any of them were. Sorry everyone. It was a bit overwhelming I'm sure because they have all been hearing about him for weeks but they were all new to him. In true brotherly fashion he grabbed onto her pretty pink suitcase and pulled it around the parking lot while we each introduced him to this friend and that friend. I'm not sure how this came to be that J took her suitcase from her but I was impressed by this chivalrous act. I'm sure there will come a point in the future that their brother- sister relationship takes a turn in a different direction and I'll be happy for this small act of kindness.

For now we will have a quiet weekend at home and see our boy again on Tuesday.
Have a wonderful weekend everyone!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A whole new world - transitioning to unsupervised visits


You can't even imagine how exciting today's visit with J was. K and I went to pick up J and the three of us went to the library (more on that later) then to Publix to get food to grill for dinner. We went swimming and just hung out at home.  Can't you just feel the excitement? No - well maybe it is just us. Unfortunately R is away at Youth Camp this week and she gave us strict instructions "not to do anything fun" while she is at camp this week. She was particularly concerned that we not do anything on our Summer Bucket List with J while she is away.

FaceTime with Grammie Susan, Grampy Terry and Uncle Ian was fun. We all got to see a new side to our sweet mannerly boy - competition on the Wii!!!! He likes to win! Of course so does everyone here so he is in good company and has stiff competition.

So allow me to elaborate on the visit in more detail. J's Guardian ad litem gave him a Rays flier the other day about their summer reading incentives, so I took him to the library - we spend a lot of time there and I figured he should have his own library card. Brace yourselves, guess what you need to get a library card for a child?  A BIRTH CERTIFICATE OR A PASSPORT!!! I could have died right there. For any of you who have been following along you know that we have been trying to obtain a passport for J since our May disclosure meeting with the intent to bring him on vacation to Canada in August. So now I can't even get my sweet son a library card let alone flying across international borders - the boy just wants to borrow a book or two. That was like a slap in the face to start the visit but we moved on and went shopping - grocery shopping but shopping none the less.

Just an FYI to our local Publix shoppers, Publix has not instituted a new sound track for your listening pleasure that is my son walking skipping around Publix singing "Mom, Mom, Mom, do we need chips mom? What time is dad getting home mom? Mom, let sis pick out which salad we get, mom." All the while grinning from ear to ear. He looked at me at one point and said. "I'm getting used to this mom" referring to using the family words he was trying to wear out. :-)

At home we waited for T & Michael to get home from work. J snacked on some grapes and then got to see his new bedding.  He liked it! Time being short we fired up the grill right away and hit the pool - well the kids hit the pool and Michael fired up the grill I just smiled a lot at each one of them. Now let me tell you, this boy may be small for his age but he can eat!!! Two burgers, one hot dog and a good helping of barbque chips washed down with a huge glass of milk. Vanilla ice cream came later for dessert. I think the size 8 swim trunks I bought him will fit a little better by the end of the summer if he continues eatting like this. :-)

We played on the Wii for a few games of baseball. J obviously had to create a Mii profile before he could play. That was interesting. Watching him design how he sees himself. Also he named his profile JJ -  he only has one J in his name but this made me think of you Jana. I didn't mind that he wanted to be creative with his name because when we first got the Wii the girls created all kinds of Mii's with all kinds of names, Oprah, Dr Phil, Simon Baker, Archie comic characters you get the picture so JJ isn't a stretch by any means. This was obviously more involved than I thought though. On the drive to his foster home J started a conversation about "What should my new first name be?" That was interesting. He tossed around a few possibilities. Jay, Ben, Michael (wonder where he got that one?) In MAPP classes we heard about children sometimes wanting to change their names to signify their new start in life. I really didn't see this coming and we really like his given name but if he wants to change his name we will support him. I'll keep you posted on this, I'm anxious to see how it turns out.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Awesomeness and fancy restaurants

There is no other way to describe this past week. Monday afternoon Michael & I met our son, our daughters met their brother and J met his forever family. Tuesday afternoon I went to his school and met with his teachers who all sang his praises in the behavior and work ethic departments. J struggles in school and will need some intensive instruction to catch up with his peers. I'm hoping with enough structured one on one directed instruction he will make significant gains this next school year. Before I left school I got to say a quick hello to J and get one of those hugs. Wednesday was J's swimming lesson and his foster mom REALLY wanted me to have an individual visit with him without the "distraction" of Michael and the girls. Heehee, she really has strong opinions but she does love J. So J and I had a nice 1 hour visit with just the two of us. I took along the video camera which, let's be honest, has spent the majority of the past 5+ years collecting dust.  I had planned on video taping his swimming lesson but when I was telling that to my mom the night before she suggested he and I interview each other on tape. So we did! It was fun. I asked him some very basic "getting to know you" stuff. He giggled lots and I learned a little more about him. He has never been to Disney World and has his sights set on visiting there and Legoland. He LOVES all things Lego and baseball. He definitely wants to please us, when I asked him if he could travel anywhere in the world to visit where would he go - his response was Canada. I accused him of playing favorites because we are Canadian, his response was a sheepish grin and denial. We are still hopeful to have him travel with us but there are legal steps to be taken to ensure he can get a passport. Unfortunately we have no control over these kinds of things at this point so I just keep asking and asking to see if others are getting done whatever they need to do.  So far no progress but I will hold out hope for a complete family trip to New Brunswick in August. Thursday was just an ordinary day. Yesterday J and his foster parents came to our house for dinner. Yup - our son came home - just for a two hour visit but he was here.  He came through the door and very shortly after greeting each of us he looked at me and said, "I wonder which one is my room?" I told him we would check it out after dinner.  So we all sat down to eat and then began the house tour.  Of course we started with his room. It is almost complete - at least there is a bed in there now - that just got established yesterday morning. We ordered his bedding but it hadn't arrived yet. Hope he likes it.

He then got the complete house tour including his sisters rooms and our room. He was very excited about seeing the pool which, thanks to the monsoon that was happening when they arrived, was filled to the brim.

After the tour J and the girls hung out in his room and visited and he explored some of the things in his room. Most of which are hand me downs from his sisters. His favorite find was a Nintendo DS that T no longer uses. Michael said J opened the case it was in and said, "It's just like new." For those of you who know T that will come as no surprise. All three girls went through their DS games and he now has quite a collection of games to choose from. To our surprise he did not ask to take anything with him when he left. He put everything back in its place and it will all be waiting for him on his next visit.

We then gathered at the table for dessert and J showed us the homemade bracelet he was wearing.  It had the initials "J" & "M" on it and a number of colored beads.  The J & M obviously stand for his new name. The other beads represented each of us in his life and each of our pets and he had one bead to represent sports which he obviously loves. It was very cute to see that he is thinking about us just like we think about him when we are not together.

When the time came to say goodbye for the night he ran straight into Michael's arms for a great big full on man style bear hug - good grief - then the girls and I each got snugly little side hugs and big grins. He is going to love having a daddy, and in my humble opinion Michael is the best there is.

So the obvious question is when will our next visit be? Right now all we have scheduled is a visit on Thursday afternoon. Hoping we get another one between now and then. Also related to visitation is the fact that his worker told me on Thursday that she would like to see us begin our UNSUPERVISED visits with J on June 24th. That is not too far away.

If you are taking prayer requests, here are ours for this next week, more than one visit with J, positive movement towards obtaining a passport for J to travel to Canada with us, and more unsupervised visits on the official calendar.

Oh and back to the interviews we did, his cutest question for me was, "Do you like to eat at fancy restaurants?" Of course I said, "Yes!"

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Houston, we have a hugger - and it's not a problem.

How do I even begin? There really aren't enough words in the English language to express the experience of meeting our son yesterday. Family and friends, I know you will all love him as much as we do. He is as cute as a button and sweet and polite and friendly and has a beautiful smile... I don't sound like a proud mama already do I?

I had so many thoughts about how the initial meeting might go.  None of them looked remotely similar to what we experienced.  He is a stranger to us as we are to him. I've read stories about people who meet their child and just "know" immediately this is their child. I really didn't hope or expect this to be the case.  I expected him to be reserved, I expected our girls to be reserved and maybe even awkward around him.  After the first two minutes of introductions it was smooth sailing.

The introductions went well, his foster mom had been prepping him to learn our names from the family profile book. She had him say hello and shake our hands. He knew each of us and was very brave in these few moments that had to be intimidating. We brought him a gift of a soccer ball. He opened that and there wasn't another second of awkwardness. Michael took J and our girls over to a field to kick around the new ball while I stood by and snapped a few photos. Sorry I can't share these photos online as the "at risk" placement is still in effect. Of course it wasn't long until they were all hot and sweaty - it is Florida after all - so they stopped for a snack.  I had packed up cookies, grapes, juice and water so we sat down to share our snacks.  I was getting everything out and as I usually do I asked, to no one in particular but generally thinking of my girls, "Does someone want to pass out the napkins?" Without missing a beat J said "Sure, I will." Well alright then, just step right up and join the family!!!!! The girls all smiled and took the grapes and cookies and passed them around to the adults.  Oh yes the adults.... also present at the meeting were J's foster mom and foster dad - great folks, they have loved him and taught him well for the 16 months he has lived with them. His case worker and Guardian ad litem were also there. I love that so many people love our son.

His foster mom repeatedly said how much she liked our family profile book.  She brought it with her to the visit and had each of us sign and date it by our photos so we could document the day. So thoughtful. She also pointed out that one of J's favorite photos was this one of R and he told her he wants to have his picture taken like that too.

After snack J and the girls went off to play on the playground and Michael and I sat and talked with the adults. As our visit was drawing near an end we took the opportunity to take a few more photos. His foster dad took a "new" family photo for us, and we took one of J with his foster parents and their cute little dog "Princess."

Saying goodbye was difficult. In an effort to say an appropriate goodbye Michael offered up a masculine fist bump... but J went in for a hug. My heart melted.  J really connected with Michael, and it was mutual. He then proceeded to hug the girls and I and went back for another Michael hug. I mean seriously????? His foster parents are very friendly and affection is shown easily in their home, we were greeted with hugs by his foster mom and hugged by both foster mom and foster dad when we left.  On the drive home K said "J will get along good with our family in Canada because he likes hugs." Now those of you who "like" hugs know who you are and those of you less huggy folks might need to brace yourself because our boy is a hugger.