July 14, 2020

You Think I'm Crazy

When I was pregnant with Reggie or Curly, a song was popular on the radio by Gnarls Barkley called 'Crazy'.  It might have been released when I was expecting Reg but then the lyrics remained relevant when I was pregnant with Curly. 

Specifically, when I told people I was pregnant with a 6th child, they looked at me with THAT look, the one that said: 


My best friend and I sang this song long distance every time we talked on the phone during that pregnancy.

Just to clarify, I am NOT pregnant (people you knew this right?  Because I am old), but when you read this you will most likely share that same expression that I saw on people's faces at that time.  I may not be able to see you, but I am familiar with THE look.  You can tell me in the comments if you had the look.

If you know me personally, please do not share this.  This space is meant to be anonymous.  Our kids know all about this, but our families do not.  This has been a very private ordeal, (that has become incredibly painful) that we have only shared with very close friends.

To simplify I am going to try to explain with bullet points/timeline:

Aug. '16 - I rented a movie at the library called 'The Good Lie' with Reese Witherspoon.  Coach and I watched it in the basement with Ed, Mini, and Tank.  I think.  Lad -at college.  The movie:  kids in the Sudan manage to escape an attack on their village.  They watch all the adults die and they walk for days or weeks to a refugee camp - long journey.  Eventually they're selected to travel to the US to get jobs.  They are now 19, 20, etc.  Heartbreaking.

This movie spoke to us.  Coach and I could hardly sleep.  Staring at the ceiling I finally asked him, "Are you thinking what I am thinking?  We need to adopt from the Sudan?  Those kids, Coach!  They had no one.  What the hell!  That was so unsettling.  We have space.  Well, we could make space.  We have food in the fridge."  Coach was like, "Yeah, I can't sleep.  Thinking the same thing."  We slept.  

Me:  (the next day, or a few days later)  Coach are we really doing this?

Coach:  Huh?  Oh, was that really a thing?  I thought we were just talking.  Oh.  You're serious?  I guess I will pray about it.

Signs:  #1.  I started having dreams about kids in need.  #2.  Sports channel is always on our TV.  On father's day, they did a human interest story on a sportscaster named Ernie Johnson.  He and his wife had adopted kids with special needs.  He wrote a book about it.  We got the book and we both read it.  #3.  Curly came bounding up to me at a dancing competition.  She wanted me to meet her new best friend from class, and the mom.  They wanted to play outside of dancing class.  The mom and I chatted.  She and her husband had two biological kids and had adopted two kids from Ethiopia.  

Nov. '17 - We went to mass Thanksgiving weekend on Saturday night.  Curly and Mini competed at the Midwest championships not far from home on Sunday.  Coach watched a few dances but was home in bed during the awards ceremony.  I stopped by his clinic the next morning to tell him how great the girls had done.  He pulled me into his office.  

Coach:  I'm ready.  

Me:  For what?

Coach:  Fr. Bernie's homily on Saturday, do you remember what he said?  He said, "You can do more."  It clicked.  We CAN do more.  Let's find some kids who need us and adopt them.

Me:  Oh.  Wow!  

Jan. '17 -  At the end of Christmas break we told the kids that adopting was something we had been praying about and we felt called.  Siblings.  A pair of kids is what we had decided.  Mindset:  they'll always know where the other one has been and what they have gone through.  We tried to imagine our own kids and how much better they would be if they had each other.  

The kids were excited.  I tired to explain this was different than a sleepover.  Ed was a little hesitant, 'How will we afford this?' the 4 youngest on board in 'sleepover' mode, and Lad was like 'Sure.'

Dec. '17 - April '18  We looked for the right place, agency.  Randomly.  Not easy, because this isn't something you post looking for recommendations on Facebook.  We told the kids this was family business.  We were not sharing until it was all said and done.  Mindset:  not interested in other people weighing in on whether or not we should or shouldn't do this.  In the same way that we never asked anyone if they felt we could handle having #6.  

International or Domestic:  So, you have to choose before you dive in because the home study that represents you is written differently.  We were leaning towards International because of the Good Lie movie.  Some countries could take our money and then decide to close and we would be out $$, energy, and time.  Plus some countries would not let us adopt because of the size of our family.  Plus we would have to travel to a country for 2 weeks two different times during the process.  That might be a tad tricky.  

Coach:  a needy kid is a needy kid, no matter if the kid is here or overseas.  

We chose domestic.  

Paperwork, licensing, education:  I can't even begin to explain, so let's just leave it at this:  the worst.  

6 months - In the state of Illinois the background checks (also needed for our kids who were over 18) took FOR.EVER, as in over 6 months.  

39 hours - We took online classes that took about 36 or 39 hours, I think.  Class was called Pride.  This is what I was working on in my down time around the time that I was chasing a cab through the early morning heat of Orlando after leaving a dance bag in the backseat.  

Sept. '18Our license to foster/adopt in the state of Illinois arrived in the mail.  

Jan. '19 - Background checks finally done, we were good to go.  We could now browse domestic websites and inquire about kids who we thought might be a good match.  We knew that we would not be able to adopt kids with severe issues.  

Alice -During the paperwork phase a woman came to our house to check that we had fire extinguishers, smoke detectors, etc.  She was wonderful and she loved us.  She said she could tell that we had our hearts in the right place.  We weren't trying to foster to get a check from the govt.  She warned us that adopting kids was competitive.  I was blown away, didn't believe her.

Me:  Nice lady that Alice, but she cray-cray.  We aren't looking for babies to adopt, why would it be competitive if we are looking for kids around 8, 9 or 10-ish - close in age to Reg and Curly?  

My vision:  I assumed people would be knocking down our door the minute we were licensed.  I mean, hey - we're good people, with essentially a stay at home mom available, look no further.  Turns out Alice was right.  I still cannot explain it, except that kids with few issues must be high in demand.   

Doing Ashlyn's job:  On a subsequent visit Alice asked me how things were going with our social worker, Ashlyn.  Well, I use the term 'worker' lightly.  She had me sending our home study to the kids' agencies (most want it to come directly from the worker so who knows if anyone was looking at it), and then she asked me to keep a spread sheet so I could track updates, etc.  Alice sort of tipped me off that I was not alone in feeling frustrated, she worked on the licensing side and she met with families who were equally frustrated with Ashlyn's lack of involvement.  

April - June '19:  We got an email letting us know that we might be matched with two boys in Kansas.  We were thrilled, hopeful.  They sounded like a great fit.  

There was a conference call.  We were excited about them.  They shared more of the boys' background - they had a tough start in life including living in a tent and finding their own food for a time while their mom was on drugs.  

There were 6 families being considered.  We made the cut to the final 3.  Stupid Ashlyn told us that we were the number one choice, the front runner.  Bad, bad worker.  Our hopes were UP.

Then the boys' foster care arrangment changed unexpectedly.  They were being moved and all progress stopped.  The people at the new placement (a group home, if memory serves) could not assess the boys until they had lived there for awhile, no one could say how long.   

We waited all summer.  Prayed.  Waited.  Hoped.  In August, we heard that it was time for a family to be chosen.  In Sept, we heard that it was NOT us.  Heart break.  I eluded to this in a post in September right around the time that woman cancelled my babysitting services and cost me a bundle.  Repeat after me:  when it rains it pours.  

Dec. '19 - Our home study was a year old.  Needed to be renewed for $$.  We decided to jump ship and start over at another agency.  You know what's fun?  More paperwork.  

Christmas Eve Mass '19 - We sat directly behind a family (with 5 kids) that we were acquainted with.  I don't think this was an accident . . . They had 2 additional kids with them.  Their son played high school football with Lad and the younger son played on a b-ball freshman team with Tank.  Lad asked the brother:  What's with the extra kids?  

They were in the process of adopting them.

Dec. 26 '19 - I reached out to the mom.  We talked for a long time.  She and her husband had a similar mindset as Coach and I.  I was blown away.  They wanted siblings, so they would always have each other.  She loved her worker, Amy.  We got Amy's info, called her up, and switched out license to Amy's agency.  We love Amy.

Ack - this is long.  There's more.  I'll post the next chapter tomorrow and the next chapter the day after that.  Hope you can carve out some time to read this long saga, but I understand if you can't.  I did warn you that this was a VERY long story.  Understatement.  Very difficult to recap and share.  Was hoping it would be cathartic, but the jury is still out there.  I hope that having it all down might help me down the line if I need to look back.  I have gone back and forth about whether or not to post it at all, even after I have it all written out.  


Kari said...

Oh wow, this IS big news although I have no idea if it is news because of the way you cut this post.
Saying prayers for you. :)

Ernie said...

Kari- I guess you could call it news in the sense that very few people kbow that this was our goal. The next part is more about how we proceeded and then how things played out. Thanks for the prayers. This has not been easy.

Cheryl said...

I have to admit it, I gave you the look. However, once you have six, what's a couple more, right? Good luck to you guys in this journey.

Busy Bee Suz said...

WOW. I didn't know what to expect at all and this certainly wasn't on my radar even a little.

I LOVE that you guys want/wanted to do this. I'm not sure if that's still on the table, but I applaud you both for wanting to help children who need a good family. And as cray-cray as you are, YOU ARE A GREAT FAMILY!!

FYI, it's never a too long post because your posts are interesting. Remember that.

Many, many moons ago the Coach and I talked about being foster parents. We felt we had the qualities to help some deserving kids; steady/stable business, stay at home mom, both clearly sane. (HA!) Lolo was super excited about it and asked if we could ask for specifics such as black and gay. Yes, she wanted a black, gay brother. That kid...
Surprisingly Linds wanted nothing to do with it. I suppose she was worried that she would have less attention? Not sure exactly, but she was about 9 at the time. We eventually let it drop.

I can't imagine the heartache you've both been through with this saga. Waiting to read more.

Anonymous said...

I will say I did not give “the look”, more a sense of awe that you both agreed that even in the chaos of raising a big family, you’d like to share the love with more kiddos. I think that’s great. I would never have guessed adoption of older kids would be so competitive, I thought the foster care system was flooded with kids.
And I’m with Suz, you apologize often for being too long but it’s never too long, your stories are interesting and written in ways that make me want to keep reading,
Prayers for your heart and your family.

Pat Birnie said...

Wow I am so in awe of you and your whole family. What wonderful big hearts you must have. I can imagine how difficult, emotional and never-ending this journey must feel. I did not give the look - I have 4 and would have loved to have more kids had certain things lined up. I'm looking forward to reading the next installments and really hoping for a beautiful happy ending for all. Pat

Ernie said...

Cheryl - We have been sitting with this information for years now, so for us it is normal, but I know that when we share it - it sounds a little nutty. It has been a journey, to say the least.

Suz - Ha - yes, I should have written a post to see who could guess, but I imagine that no one would have guessed this. It has been totally different than what I expected. Big time. Thanks for the compliments on the fam - good family, but way messier than your average clan, we feel like we have a good formula over here though and that other kids would benefit from it. How about great minds thinking alike, you guys considered fostering? Hilarious that Lolo wanted a gay, black brother. I think when my guys were younger when we started this process, that they imagined extra playmates - just that simple. Glad you aren't opposed to long posts . . . the next two are lengthy. It was really impossible to summarize.

Anonymous - we live by the saying "the more the merrier" - and we have found that to usually be the case. Adopting older kids with 'mild' issues is competitive. I believe the foster care system is on overload but we are not trying to foster. Just adopt. We fear fostering because the ultimate goal there is reunification. The courts give foster parents so many tries to get it together - meanwhile the kids are sitting waiting to either be reunified or for the courts to say OK - someone can adopt them. By then the kids might not be considered 'mild' after being in several different homes, or whatever. It is a broken system to put it mildly. I'm glad you enjoy my writing - I really had no idea how to shorten this and give you the full scope of what cropped up recently. Thanks for the prayers. I was hesitant to share, but additional prayers and positive thoughts are never a bad thing. ;)

ccr in MA said...

Wow, that is big! It's great that you're all on the same page about doing it. I can't wait for the rest of the story.

Charlie said...

Yes I definitely had that look Ernie! But really it’s one of awe and admiration. You have such big hearts. I’m really emotional at the moment and just this first post has got me a little watery eyed

Gigi said...

You are not crazy - your hearts are filled with love and compassion. I hope this works out for you soon because there are two kids out there that need you.

Ernie said...

Pat - Thanks so much. I so appreciate your kind words. You summed it up with difficult, never-ending and emotional. Without a doubt. I was going to wait to share when we HAD a happy ending, but the end is not final yet.

ccr - Big, yes - some times if feels so very big and heavy. Other times I am filled with hope. And then there are the days when I just feel exhausted. :)

Charlie - After seeing that movie it just suddenly became clear to both of us that our family was not complete. I appreciate your generous words and I have tried to tuck a few laughs in here and there, but really if you are emotional now . . . uh oh. I have added a bonus Mary Ann tidbit to the Thursday post to lighten the mood. Or I just could not wait to share because I cracked myself up.

Gigi- Thanks, we are hoping that it will work out too. Every time something doesn't work, I tell myself that we are just one step closer to finding the right kids.

Anonymous said...

I was excited to read your update. Thanks for posting. I think adoption is great. My husband is adopted and we talked about it but we never did it. I wish we had explored it more. I am very interested in the whole process like what exactly came up in the home study and how was the interaction with the various social workers. Thanks for writing about this!
(Not anonymous Marisa)

Ernie said...

Marissa - I imagine if you poll many people, there would be many different experiences. So far ours has been different from what I anticipated. If you are interested, then you have your reading cut out for you in the next few days cause I have lots to detail. :)

Beth Cotell said...

I knew it! I'm not sure if you remember this or not but you mentioned this or maybe alluded to it in an email to me about my sweet Rebecca. The adoption process is not one for the faint of heart but if I know anything about your from your blog it is that you are NOT faint of heart.

I love that your husband said he was going to pray about it and that you guys didn't make a move until you were both ready. And it does seem like God is pointing you in this direction with all the signs.

I'm excited to read the rest but I have a feeling it isn't going to end the way you were hoping. :(

Ernie said...

Beth- I do remember emailing you but I did not remember sharing what was in my heart. Makes sense though. My hear may not have been faint before but it has taken a beating lately. Yes, we definitely needed to be on the same page.