Friday, March 27, 2009


I haven't updated in forever. Which I'm pretty sure is ok because I have no regular reader's LOL I decided to name this entry "Spill!" because that's what I feel like I need to do. I've gotten so far away from the original feeling/intention of this whole blog. The negativity that I've found myself in, on and off, for the past - oh - 2 years or so, has been so dark and so scary. I don't stay there, Thank God, but we've been through so much and I honestly don't know where to start.


*thinking "where to start"*

I could go from where it started or backwards from where we are today, but that might be confusing. So, I'll go back to where it started I guess and proceed from there.

I think I have to start on my 30th B-day. April 28, 2007. I broke a tooth that night, as my friends and I sat around a fire in my backyard. I was munching on a Dorito and suddenly felt a molar crack. I got to the dentist as quickly as I could in the days that followed. They couldn't save it. Years ago I had had a root canal but then didn't get the crown that I needed to protect it. (Crowns are very expensive by the way) I had no choice but to have an extraction. A very painful one at that. Because the tooth was cracked down the middle and very fragile as it was from the root canal, they had to literally PRY the tooth out of my skull. They couldn't really get a grip on it. From the body language of the dentist, you would've thought he was pumping up a jack to change a tire...only the car was my jaw, his instrument the jack. How this is relevant to "Choosing Zoey" is that for about 2 weeks after that horrible experience, which was exactly the time of our one year anniversary of having Zoey live with us, I was in complete mind altering pain.

It was if during that time, all the patience I had for Zoey suddenly dried up. Because of the pain I was in, I suddenly couldn't deal with her "stuff" in the same calm and nurturing way I had up to that point. I didn't loose my cool or anything, I just sort of made the jump from understanding and excusing her behavior to being offended by it. Looking back it's clear to me now that it was simply burn out, exacerbated by the physical pain I was in.

We were heading into summer with Zoey #2. The first summer had been horrendous. Thankfully, summer #2/2007 did go much more smoothly than the previous had. In the fall of 2007, I suffered yet another physical blow. While walking out of my back door with Maddie in my arms, I missed a step and my left ankle twisted under me. I fell to the ground, hearing a lous "SNAP!" as I did. I immediately assessed the situation. Maddie was fine but slightly scared from the fall and the obvious look of pain on my face. I assured her mommy was ok, just a little hurt, and then examined my own injury, checking for range of motion. I could move it, Thank God. I hobbled back into the house and made the necessary phone calls. Later at the doctors office, I was told I did have a fracture, but it was from a similiarly severe sprain years earlier that had never been caught by my former physican. This new sprain did, however, have me on crutches for days. I also spent weeks in physical therapy and even today, as I am writing this, my foot and ankle ache at times as if the injury were fresh.

In October of 2007, we accepted a foster placement - a little boy, just over a year old. We were excited to be providing care, but soon realized this little boy screamed like a tea kettle over the littlest things. It was hard. In my limited experience doing foster care, I learned each child brings a whole new experience and foster parents must be willing to learn about new and challenging behaviors. We enjoyed this little boy but by the end of December, things were breaking down. Maddie was picking up the screaming. I had just had yet another physical challenge, by way of a breast reduction surgery right before Christmas, and not being able to lift - as well as some complications in my healing - made it difficult to continue caring for him. I was supposed to be down for about a week and when one of my incisions decided not to heal properly, that week or so turned into over a month of being off work and having weight restrictions. We had to move this adorable, but very challenging, little boy to another caregiver. That was a really difficult thing for us because we know how disruptions in a child's life can compound and end up. Our experience with Zoey made that crystal clear to us, but we just couldn't continue. It wouldn't have been fair to him or to us. (As a side note to this part of the story, we did get a chance in Summer '08 to do a weekend respite for this boy and we enjoyed every minute of it!)

Zoey was busy attending an after school program 3 or 4 nights a weeks, which provided us the break we needed from having to keep her busy and well behaved at home. Police calls were fewer and farther between. Things were ok but I felt a distance from Zoey that I was having a hard time making sense of. It wasn't regreat. I could still feel connected to having claimed her as my child but I just like lost my patience with her and her behavior. I think I just saw the patterns in her behavior and wondered why she still behaved that way. Hadn't we made it clear that we weren't going to abandon her? Why did she still insist on testing us? Would this ever finally stop? Or would we be dealing with some of these outrageous behaviors forever?

We would finally get those answers in the Fall of 2008 when we had Zoey's neuropsyhological evaluation done. The answers were sad and a bit stunning to me. Yet another brutal reality of what years of neglect and abandonment had done to her. Mildly Mentally Retarded it said. Mental age equivalent 7-10 years it said. Our 17 year old was really more like an elementary aged child than a high schooler. Suddenly, while very saddened by the results, we felt we finally understood her better. It wasn't all just behavioral, there are some real concrete developmental delays going on here. We began to see her less as a problem child from the system and more as a developmentally delayed young woman that was going to need our support in one way or another for the rest of her life.

That was the end of October.

In mid-November, we would learn that our mortgage servicing company was attempting to force us into escrow. We were half way through a Chapter 13 bankruptcy plan. We paid our mortgage every month, as well as a payment to the trustee, under terms to repay our creditors. I scoured the internet looking up the term "escrow fraud" and what I uncovered still mortifies me to this day. Someone on a credit related forum I belong to told me I was barking up the wrong tree with the term escrow fraud - "try mortgage servicing fraud" they suggested. We reeled for days, and somedays still do - from what I discovered. Story after story of other families driven to bankruptcy, foreclosure, and ruin by this "mortgage servicing fraud." At first we were intent on fighting with all we had, but taking a look at our financial outlook, our family obligations, Zoey being a huge factor, and the very scary story I read about a couple making it all the way through a Chapter 13 repayment plan only to have the mortgage servicer (the same servicer we had) come and say "you owe us $20K+ in fees, pay us or get out!" we realized the best thing for us was to give up the house and get as far from this servicer as we could. Refinancing wasn't an option because servicing fraud will ruin your credit. We were devastated to loose our home and our hard earned credit history, but we had our family.

When we sat Zoey down and told her we would have to move, she reacted sadly. We assured her that this time she would be moving we all would be moving together, but it was tough. It was tough on both of the girls.

Here is where I'm going to take a break...

Monday, October 01, 2007

Oultine - Ready to Go

Well, it certainly has been awhile since I've written anything! I have no excuses other than plain old busy-ness. But I just finished the outline for "Choosing Zoey" (the book) and decided to post it here for the world to see...

Chapter One/The Journey Begins
The journey begins as we make the decision to adopt/foster parent, after years of infertility and indecision about parenting other people's children.

Chapter Two/Peace, Be Still
After making peace with the thought of never having biological children, we joyfully moved towards adoption without regret.

Chapter Three/Thank You, Thank You, Thank You - my Miss America moment
Finding out we are unexpectedly pregnant, we decide to continue our adoption plan - to the surprise of the people around us

Chapter Four/Meeting the Glitter Fairy?
We meet Missy and go through the process of being selected to parent her

Chapter Five/Our Girl is Finally Home
The moment I claimed Zoey as my child

Chapter Six/From Here to There
We begin to get to know Missy and experience the ups and downs of all she has to offer.

Chapter Seven/You Don’t Want This
Zoey moves in and the testing begins

Chapter Eight/Bottom
We find out about the rape, my friends pull their support, Zoey pulls out all her hair, Lino Lakes, no more boyfriends for Zoey

Chapter Nine/God Bless The Broken Road
We survive the rape and the tests, we make it to finalization

Chapter Ten/Choosing Zoey Without Loosing Me
How I parent this kid without loosing it or loosing myself

Feedback anyone?

Friday, March 09, 2007

One wait about to come to an end

Well, it's official - we're going to court on March 23rd, 2 weeks from today, to have this forever family formally finalized!

We got word on February 23rd and I just haven't had a chance to blog lately. I've become much more active in community and church activities, that's eaten up a nice sized chunk of my time. We're so excited though that this is finally about to be "real" to Zoey. It's been real to me since Day 1, since the day I made my claim to Zoey. Zoey on the other hand needs that legal reassurance that we're not going anywhere. It was so rewarding to see her in those first couple of days after getting our finalization date calling people to excitedly tell them "I'm finally getting adopted!" She was claiming this as an important day in her life, one that she's been waiting for for so long. It was such a beautiful sight. I felt so blessed to be the one that has given her this experience and to be experiencing it in return.

Within those first few days things were going great and then we started to notice a "bad vibe" creeping in here and there. Zoey started getting a little more agitated and defiant again. Behaviors that have been extraordinarily absent or diminished were coming back. I recognized immediately that this must be a RAD dream - sorry, I couldn't help it! LOL No seriously, this was RAD stuff pure and simple. It all came to a head on Feb. 27th. She began by getting upset about small things that normally wouldn't invoke such a bad attitude and quickly escalated into negative attention seeking behaviors, nearly having a tantrum. Which, thankfully, is something we haven't seen a long time. I had to take my brother to the airport 70 miles away that night and was not wanting to see this get as ugly as I know she's capable of. It wasn't life or death that I was facing that night, but I had someone counting on me to get them to their plane on time! I felt the pressure, let me tell you. After going around and around with her and getting nowhere, finally I just said "look, you have 2 minutes to drop this crap and tell me what's really going on here because I have somewhere to be and I don't have the time to play 'guess what's bothering Zoey!' " Almost immediately, she began sobbing and PTSD-like behavior just jumped to the surface. She rocked back and forth, was in "another place" and even at times said to me "you're not real" She was ABSOLUTELY convinced in those moments that we were going to leave her like everyone else has and she just cried and cried "this isn't going to happen, you're going to leave me. EVERYONE SAID THEY WANTED ME AND THEY DIDN'T!" She screamed. She sobbed. She let out some real crap that's been hanging around in there. It was hard to watch. It always is. Yet it almost always ends in relief. Torn between my responsibility to her and my brother relying on me to get him to the airport, I needed to get her under control before I could leave. I didn't want to leave Dan to deal with her if she was spinning out of control and needed to be hospitalized. It occured to me to try this tactic - I said "sweetie, this has been final all along for Dad and me. All we need from court is the judge to sign his name on some papers. If you don't believe me, let's do it right now. Let's finalize! Dan, do you take this child to be your daughter?" Dan said yes. I motioned to him to ask me the same. "Absolutely, without a doubt, YES!" I said. Then I patted her back and said "Congratulations, we're final. You're ours and it's forever. " I was super casual, almost glib about it to try to lighten her up. "There's no getting rid of us now!" I joked. I pronounced to friends that were going to the airport with us, "hey everyone, we're final!" Everyone played along and clapped and congratulated Zoey. She seemed in a daze and continued to tell me I wasn't real. I insisted that I was real, or that I certainly hoped I was real, and before long she was calm and apologizing for holding up the trip to the airport.

Since that night, she's gotten occasionally a bit more agitated and defiant, but overall it feels like the progress that we've seen is nothing short of a miracle. She quickly apologizes now when she's been rude or short with someone. She can get mad at us one minute and then laugh about it the next. She's developed that kind of family intimacy that allows us to be mad one minute and laughing at each other the next. Typing that just now brings joyful tears to my eyes because I can see this journey has passed through it's darkest days. Zoey is never, ever, going to be alone in this world again. Even if Dan or I are no longer here, she has a sister that squeals with excitement to see her, extended family and friends that have taken her in just as much as we have, and most profoundly, she herself has begun to feel that someone really does want/choose her.

On March 23rd, we will affirm this choice to Zoey and to the world. Zoey Rose is finally home.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

If they only knew...

With the holidays upon us, we're starting off the round of family get-togethers this weekend. We'll be seeing family members we only see once a year. Last year at this time we were just getting ready for our first visit with Zoey and announcing the news to our family that we would be adopting a 15 year old daughter. This news was met with both excitement and skepticism, which is perfectly understandable. As this year has gone by, we've kept closer family informed of all the vital developments - visits, breakthroughs, when Zoey moved in, etc. But only those that really knew Zoey, our parents and siblings mostly, got the phone calls when we had to call the police, which initially resulted in trips to the ER and eventually to juvenile detention. As Zoey's behavior escalated, there were times when I thought to myself "man! If only so-and-so knew what I was dealing with!" I imagine people would be perplexed as to why I would subject myself to such horrible circumstances, but I also imagine that once the shock wears off, if they could understand just a fraction of what and why I choose this, I'd like to think they'd say to themselves "Wow, I never knew how strong April is!" That's when I'd say "no, I'm not any more or less strong than you. I just made up my mind to do something and you could, too."

With the weekend approaching, not to mention I have to get my cards sent out, I've thought about whether or not to share this blog with my family. Our silence with the majority of our family has served the motive to protect Zoey. We didn't want family members to hate her for some of the nasty things she's done. But eventually, people will know. I do intend, after all, to write this book. And of course I hope that my family will read it. And not that it really matters, but I hope they would be proud of the choice I've made, or perhaps more importantly inspired.

Here's a moment that happened last night that inspired me - I tucked Zoey in and she gave me a big hug and said "I'm so glad you're my mom!" I, of course, replied with "and I'm so glad you're my daughter!" She's, we're all, doing so great lately. We've had a few snags since she was last in jail, but no police calls and sometimes there's a change that you just hear, and see, and notice in each moment. That's where we are. We're all ease. And it feels GRRRREAT! Our family therapist and I are even wondering if we really need attachment therapy anymore. I don't know. Why fix it if it ain't broke? But then again, I imagine Zoey's behaviors could be cyclical. After only a year and us being the first ones to stick with her, we have no way of knowing for sure. Really, it doesn't matter. If she gets out of control again, we'll just do what we've done for the past year, make it through it. That's what real parents do. I have faith, though, in Zoey. Zoey's my life, love, and God child. Life, love, and God endure. So has Zoey and so will she continue to. She's not alone anymore and able to twist and turn life, love, and God all up into craziness, she's got her Dad and I standing strong beside her. She might fight that or forget that from time to time throughout her life, but the truth that we're here will always be there for her to come back to.

Which brings me back to our families. I love all of these people so much. Dan's uncle passed away last week. Our weekend plans to celebrate Christmas grew to include 2 more days away from home to attend his funeral. We're leaving tonight after school and will be gone until Sunday. Zoey will be meeting alot of new faces during the next 5 or 6 days. I think it's going to go well. We're all such wonderful people after all! LOL Someday my family's going to read this, someday Zoey will read this, and if you all only know one thing let it be this - know love. Know you are loved. Know you can love - even those that seem completely unlovable. Zoey reminds me of this daily. Everyone should have a Zoey - but until then I'm happy to share mine!


Thursday, November 02, 2006

Waiting, waiting, waiting....

Don't ask me what provoked me to visit the Minnesota's Waiting Children website just a few minutes ago, but I did and now I must spill my feelings.

I happened to come across a woman on TV that has adopted like 15, or maybe it was 17, children. Thirteen of whom have Down's. Knowing the mom of a large family now myself, I'm finding that large families really intrigue me. So I Googled the woman on TV, read more about her and her family and then found myself visiting MN's Waiting Children for the first time in nearly six months. I hadn't looked at those faces since shortly after Zoey moved in and I checked to see if she had been removed from the list of available kids. Earlier in the evening I had thought to myself "I wonder how long they'd make us wait to adopt again?" To be perfectly honest, I haven't been sure lately about future plans to adopt or even to foster. We have one hell of a hard kid right now (now I could make the joke - and a toddler OR and a 16 year old) Point being I have 2 demanding kids as it is! Could I really survive any more? As the website loaded and I began to scroll through the faces, many all too familiar as they've been on there for years now, rationality seemed to escape me and all I could feel was anger and sadness. With each passing day these kids get closer and closer to aging out. It makes me so frustrated. I then realized that unless I dig my head into the sand and forget I know about these kids, these waiting children, how can I not adopt more? Not only that, but I am "experienced" now. I have needed skills and strengths to parent these terribly hurt and demanding kids. The quote "if not now, when? if not you, who?" comes to mind.

Dan and I would like to have at least one more biological child. I'd like to experience being pregnant again and we'd like to try for a son, even Zoey has been asking me almost daily now when will we have another baby. I think it is too soon to try right now, I just don't think I could handle being pregnant now and in the immediate future, but we know we'd like at least one more. I'd try to do an infant adoption, since I believe so much in adoption, but I would like to be pregnant one more time. I enjoyed my pregnancy with Maddie so much I actually miss it! Maddie and I were getting dressed today, just doing normal routine things and I just had this moment when I said to myself "this is your bliss." I can be with my kids doing nothing really and feel so joyful. They definitely drive me nuts but I wouldn't trade them for anything. I'm wondering now if I have what it takes to adopt more. Not 15. I'll leave that to the pro's! *waving at Paula* But there is an adorable sibling group of 4....

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Raising the bar

Zoey's been home about 3 weeks now. It's been pretty smooth sailing, I must say. We had an "episode" last night which seemed to be heading in a unfortunate direction. Zoey put up a fight over doing the dishes which resulted in her loosing her stereo and being assigned more sentences to write - after saying I could "F off" Sunday evening, she needs to write 5 pages of "Disrespect will get me nowhere."

I also had to lock her glasses up in my desk drawer because she was throwing them and threatening to break them. Interestingly, I have a destruction of property rule that didn't include eye glasses until last night. LOL I quickly thought up a consequence, necessity being the mother of invention and all. Deliberate destruction of property costs twice the replacement value, so I guess glasses would be a couple hundred dollars for her to replace. I could have my house sparkling! LOL I wouldn't have to clean a thing myself for a couple of months! hehehe

She screamed at me, pulled some of the usual punches in an attempt to make me feel as out of control as she does. Finally, I just looked her in the eye and said "in about 30 seconds, you're going to be screaming at yourself because I refuse to be talked to in this way and I am not going to sit here and take this." Then I got up and calmly walked away. She sat there and cried, which is an improvement over her following me around the house to continue her verbal assaults, what she generally does. After a few minutes, she calmed down and completed half the dishes - vowing to finish the rest today, which she did. I don't like making that kind of compromise, but sometimes I gotta do what works and if I can avoid pushing her beyond her limit, I will.

She had no privileges last night and before bed she read to me. I bought the girls a 'Precious Moments' book of prayers and little inspirational stories last Easter, I chose that book for her to read. This regression strategy is really working well. We encourage reading simpler stories, playing with dolls, anything that helps regress her and get her back to earlier developmental stages. I haven't even heard her talk about boys in about a week! Hooray she's playing with dolls instead!

As she does better and we are seeing that, yes, she can control herself, we're gently raising the bar. I push a little harder when I can and she's allowed a bad day here and there, she is afterall a 15 year old and I would want the same allowance for messing up on days that I'm in a pissy mood. But, overall, she seems to be doing very well and has been more receptive than ever to changing her self-destructive ways. It's good and I'm enjoying every minute of it!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Kicking Zoey out of MySpace!

Welcome to my new blog! I had been sharing this story on my MySpace, but I decided to let MySpace be for me, as it is called MySpace. LOL Also, I don't think my friends there always know what to say to the far out things that go on in my daily life now! Anyone wanting to follow this adventure can do so here from now on, while I save MySpace for goofing off with my friends. I'll move my blog posts over here soon. Thanks for stopping by!