On Waiting.

“Hi guys, just wanted to let you know that the birthmom chose another family.”

It stung less when we were earlier in the process. Back when we thought we would be matched quickly and when adoption seemed more rainbow and less disappointments. After all, our profile book is ADORABLE. Smiling, laughing, Disney pictures, family pictures, vacation pictures, reading books, baking cookies-all things that should scream-We’re Cool! We’re fun-loving! We are great parents! For the love of Free Willy and Dory, there’s a picture of me kissing a dolphin in our profile book.

The most recent Not You email was this morning. It was a situation we got Monday. One that I was excited about, one that seemed right for our family. The birthmom, on paper, seemed like one that might not mind that we had another child, that I was 40, that we both worked a full time job. This one was a baby girl. Due at Thanksgiving-oh hey, Jesus-nice touch. In my mind this week, I had bought plane tickets, named her, bought her coming home outfit, put her in our Christmas card picture.

But then. The Not You email.

She’ll be in some other family’s Christmas picture. Maybe they’ve been waiting longer. Maybe they’ve had more heartache than us. Maybe they have more to offer. But probably. Mostly. It was just a perfect, right fit. And I can’t bemoan the sweetness that a family who has love to give has now been matched with a baby to love. God created our hearts with such stretchy abundant capacity. It has the ability to feel happy about the celebration of their match and still feel hugely disappointed that it wasn’t us. Current state: a little more on the disappointed side

One thing I worked out in my heart several years ago was moving towards more real conversations with God. Being less fluff and circumstance and more Real Housewives of North Carolina. This is Day 3 of waiting to see if we had been chosen. So this morning on my commute (in between duet-ing with Mick Jagger about Satisfaction) as I do most days, I prayed about the situation for which we had applied:

OK so, you know we haven’t heard anything yet. I mean-of course you know-but are you on it? Please be in the midst of her decision, God. Please give her courage and discernment on what you want her to do. Like if you could just maybe put our profile book at the top of the stack? I want to tell you to make her pick us. But I know that’s not how it works. I KNOW. Your timing is perfect. You have something for all of us and a plan perfectly designed for that baby. But seriously, can she pick us?”

Then after the Not You email:

Seriously God? No, for real. I’m over it with the waiting. Over IT. What’s the end game here? I KNOW. Your timing is perfect. But maybe we could get on the same page with that? You see because I thought we were ready. For the baby girl in Florida, for that baby boy in Texas, definitely for the one in Nebraska or really any  of the others-Minnesota, Arizona, Georgia. Please don’t make me wait for a Not You from every state in the union. Ok listen. I trust you. I DO. I know your plans are sovereign. I know it’s not all about me and my wants. But two years?? I’m starting to whine. I’m losing perspective. So, I need a minute here. I’ll talk to you in an hour (or three) when I’m not so OVER IT.  Because right now, God-I’m. Over. It.”

And then I really showed Him, I didn’t even give an “amen.”

So here I am. Mad. At the Creator of Like EVERYTHING. About a situation that I keep believing HE has ordained. Over here, jack hammer typing in all my human-ness. All my selfishness. Ignoring the knocks at the window of my conscious by the sometimes-annoying-as-crap-and-always-comes-at-the-wrong/right-time… Mr. Perspective (Hello wonderful family God has given to you already, Hello impossible decision this birthmom has to make, Oh, hi there- people who have waited longer, suffered harder and some who don’t ever even get the privilege and opportunity to adopt a child).

What I’m sure about is this. There are seasons in our lives when we wait. Those are hard seasons, and let me tell you dearies, Team Hucks should KNOW. We are professional waiters. But I also know, even as I ANGRY-TYPE this post, that waiting sometimes yields the most splendid fruits. I know this now-deep down somewhere past my disappointment about today’s Not You email and I will recognize it years from now when I look back at this time on our family timeline. Me and the Creator will make up at some point today. We always do. He wants me to be real with Him and I need to be able to tell Him, in the moment, and in the real-est Heather-From-The-Block way, my fears and frustrations-it’s how relationships work.

He knows how to pull me back in. Remind me of his faithfulness and my own. Sometimes Jesus, Spotify and Mick Jagger gang up on me.

You can’t always get what you want…but you get what you need.

Ok. I hear you. I hear you.

Amen, already.

 
“These things I have spoken to you. So that in ME you will have PEACE. In this life you will have trouble. But take HEART, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

 

 

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An ICU Love Story

Love stories are funny things. They show up and unfold unannounced, on ordinary days, in the strangest places. In the Dunkin’ Donuts line. At the airport.  In the parking lot of a Def Leppard concert (oh yes loves, ’tis true). But the one I’m going to spill here, began in a sterile low light Neonatal ICU. Try and write a love song about that one, kids.

She was blonde and so was he. She walked up to his isolette and thought he might be the smallest, but most adorable 1 pound baby she’d ever seen. He couldn’t see her yet-he was born at 24 weeks and his not-yet-developed eyes were still fused shut. But he could hear her sweet Elkin-twanged voice when she took his temperature, checked his heartbeat and adjusted his ventilator settings. She looked at the baseball themed sign taped to the end of his plexiglass box. “Tucker Hucks” it said.

We arrived a short time later and sat by his bedside. We really liked this new nurse that had been assigned to our days-old baby for her shift. Her name was Kayla. By the end of the shift we knew enough about her that we asked her to be Tucker’s primary nurse. She said yes. It meant that anytime Kayla was working, she would be assigned to him. From that day forward, Tucker and Kayla were joined in a way neither of them knew would change everything.

We got to know Kayla pretty quickly. When you’re sitting by your baby’s isolette, unable to hold him but also unable to leave him, there were lots of hours to fill getting to know each other’s story. We talked a lot as she took care of Tucker and the other baby assigned to her. We learned about her life, learned the timeline of all that led her here, to this hospital to be a nurse to the sickest, smallest, most medically fragile babies. A week or so in, Darrin and I whispered to each other when she walked over to the other baby, “We should totally set her up with Dave.” Darrin even sent Dave a text that night, “We met your future wife tonight”.

In typical Dave fashion, he ignored it. Dave was never getting married. He’d always tell me this when I brought up girls he dated. But I couldn’t understand it, and didn’t believe him. He was one of my favorite of Darrin’s friends. He was sweet and funny and thoughtful. And totally the marrying kind-in my book. He would never tell you this but when I had our first miscarriage, Dave (single, sports loving, never-gets-mushy Dave) sent us the sweetest hand written card with his sympathy, unprompted by anyone. Just because he knew it was a rough time. Good guy. And we had found his girl.

But I’ve digressed from the love story.

Kayla worked the night shift. So, when we left the NICU every night, we left Tucker with her all night long. That’s when the love story began. She talked to him, held him while she did her charts, watched his every movement until she learned what his cries meant, the direction he liked to face when he slept, and how he liked to be swaddled. Once he was well enough to hold, she made it a priority for Darrin and I to get in as much Tucker holding time as we needed. She sent us cute pictures of Tucker while she was on shift even though it was against hospital policy. Essentially, she was his mama in the middle of the night in a quiet NICU for 5 months when I couldn’t be there. She had taken care of other babies of course, but she’ll be the first to tell you-Tucker was different. She loved him differently. The other nurses knew and could see the bond Tucker and Kayla had formed and they knew one thing Darrin and I didn’t.

Nurses take on “primaries” often in the NICU. It’s so wonderful for the parents because they get consistency in who’s caring for their sick baby and that means everything. Nurses love it because they get to know the families and the babies so well and they love to watch these resilient kiddos do miraculous things. Primary nurses typically keep their primary baby for months, until discharge. The bonds are tight. So it’s devastating when they lose one. Every NICU nurse has. What we didn’t know is that Kayla had lost her last primary. In fact, she hadn’t taken on another primary for almost a year because she couldn’t bear to get that close to another baby.

Until Tucker.

The night before he was discharged, Kayla wasn’t supposed to work. She re-arranged the schedule. She wanted to take care of him one last night.

She came in with gifts. We had gifts for her too. We cried, all 3 of us, when it was time for us to leave for the night. I called around 2 a.m. like always to check on Tucker while I pumped. She had been holding him all night. She couldn’t put him down. After I hung up the phone, I opened the card that Kayla had written to Tucker and handed us that night. In it, she told Tucker that he had saved her. She told him about the baby before him and that she had been in one of the hardest, saddest, darkest places in her nursing career when he showed up to her pod in the NICU. He had changed her life, she told him. She was about to find out just how much.

The day after Tucker was discharged, he was re-admitted to a different hospital. Kayla, of course, came to visit. As fate would have it, Dave was visiting someone at the same hospital. I plotted a genius plan in about 7 minutes to somehow get them to meet. Like about half of my plans, it worked. Darrin executed the mission flawlessly. Dave and Kayla “accidentally” met in the hospital cafeteria. You’ve never seen that on the Bachelor’s dream date.

This past weekend, Dave and Kayla were married. Tucker walked down the aisle just before the glowing bride that he adores. Dave watched her, smitten. They have a love story for the ages. Darrin was a groomsman and fittingly, I was the wedding planner. As I held the train of her dress just before she walked down to join the guy-who-was-never-getting-married, I cried. It was the only time I cried all weekend.

I told you this was a love story. Kayla loved Tucker. She took the chance that it might end badly and she loved him anyway. That’s what NICU nurses do. They pour into these tiny patients who can offer nothing in return. They educate, advocate, celebrate and at the saddest times, grieve with the ragged parents of these babies. They spend 12 hours a day learning the babies and knowing when to wake a doctor if something isn’t right. They are mothers and fathers during the middle of the night when the parents can’t be there.

We love Kayla because she loved Tucker. We don’t know why he came into the world 4 months early-it was rough. Maybe Dave and Kayla would have found each other anyway. But this is the way it went down. Kayla saved Tucker and Tucker saved Kayla. Somehow, in the midst of of one of the scariest years of our lives, God was orchestrating a love story. Dave and Kayla made Tucker the star of their wedding. Towards the end of their first dance, they motioned for Tucker, he happily obliged. The three of them danced while the rest of us cried. Tucker will always be the beginning of their story. Kayla will always be the beginning of Tucker’s story. I adore the intertwining of it all.

We didn’t want our baby to spend 5 months in the NICU. Kayla didn’t want to get close to another baby. Dave didn’t want to get married.

But love.

And I love a good love story.

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Photo credits: Cindy Lauren Photography

Dave and Kayla Dancing

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Tucker and his beloved Kayla.

Tucker and his beloved Kayla.

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Kayla and Tucker, the night before his discharge. She had a long talk with him that night. Solving the world's problems.

Kayla and Tucker, the night before his discharge. She had a long talk with him that night. Solving the world’s problems.

 

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72 Hours

I just came back from the mall. I was there to return newborn baby clothes. The lady at the Janie & Jack outlet commented, “Oh did they not fit?“. Well, not exactly. Then she continued, even though my face and my eyes and everything about my countenance  was pleading to just shut it and do the flippin’ return, “But you were just here 2 days ago, isn’t there something else you want to choose?

Nope.” was my reply. There was nothing in that adorable store that was going to fit the baby for whom I had bought the blue and white striped newborn layette.

72 hours before this moment, we thought we were bringing home a baby boy.

And now we’re not.

Let that linger on the page for a minute.

We were matched. For 72 hours. And now we’re not.

Adoption is hard y’all. The fun celebrity adoption stories on the cover of People and grab-a-Kleenex movies (I’m talking to you The Blindside) make you believe that adoption is all butterfly kisses and easy peasy. The truth is that before it’s wonderful, and perfectly ordained (and it is) the process of adoption can be a big bag of suck. My mom just passed out, not only did I use suck in a sentence, I actually typed it out publicly for all of posterity.

But for real. The prep work and paperwork alone is daunting and exhausting. (we should know, we’ve done it three times now). But then there’s weeks like the one we had a few weeks ago and it reminds us that adopting a baby is full of joy, yes- but it’ll also take you out at the knees.

We got a call on Easter weekend about a baby boy, one that was being born in two weeks. We got the call around lunch and we were leaving for vacation within the hour. We frantically printed out a cover letter, got the agency address, grabbed our newly revised for the 3rd time profile book and overnight-ed it all to the agency.

Then like so many adoptive couples, we waited to see if we were chosen, if our smiles and stories and home were enough. The call came the following day. We were matched. MATCHED. How long have we been waiting for that word? We had but a millisecond to let it sink in and then my Monica Gellar kicked in and we started to plan. Where would we stay? Fly or drive? What would we do with Tucker? Where’s the bottle warmer?

We drove home from the mountains and brought down the stroller, the carseat, the infant seat, I ordered formula and diapers from Amazon. I ordered a gift for the birthmom-which is surreal and maybe one of the most awkward and seemingly underwhelming gifts to ever consider-seriously, what kind of gift could I ever give HER that would be sufficient?

And I went to the mall. I wanted just a few special outfits for this sweet baby boy that weren’t Tucker hand me downs. 10 outfits later (look-Darrin never accused me of being practical) (never mind that we have a zillion clothes from Tucker) (seriously 10 isn’t THAT MANY). I took the tags off some and washed them and the rest I folded into the baby travel suitcase. We made list after list and had the “money talk”-it seems crass I know, but in every adoption and for every situation, there is a money talk-it’s crude and hard but it’s a real thing. Adoptions cost money. The gift is worth every penny.

The next day though, we got a call from the agency, some things had changed with the situation. Now we had to sort through some stuff that was hard and sticky and brought many “what if” questions without concrete answers. Adoptions are never concrete. You never have all the answers. If adoptions had a middle name it would be “What If”. A lesson about life is somewhere in there I suppose. For many reasons and some of those unanswerable questions, by the next day-we were no longer matched.

And so. Today, here I am with no answer to give this lady at Janie and Jack about why I’m returning newborn outfits.

What I know is this. God is good always. Even when you’re returning newborn clothes. He’s good when you’re mourning something you’ve hoped for. He’s good when you don’t get the answer you were praying for. He was good when we got the first call that this baby would be our’s. And He was good when we hung up the phone knowing he wouldn’t come home with us. We feel at peace about the situation and we’re hopeful that the next situation that comes our way will be for our family. I wanted to write about it because this happens more often than you think. Failed matches at various points along the adoption journey. Things just don’t go as planned. It’s one of the tougher parts of the walk and I want you to know about it. Because adoption doesn’t always start and end with a linear easy-to-follow and sweet storyline. The adoption process is most often marked with a rough, rocky, zig zaggy course. A course that leads straight to the child and situation ordained for a chosen family.

It’s worth every step.

We’d love your prayers for this baby and the family who will take him home to love forever. For 72 hours we believed he would be a Hucks. We are so sad that it didn’t happen.

For our family too, we’d of course love your prayers. That a baby is coming soon.

And that I won’t be so old when it happens that Sandra Bullock can’t play me in The Blindside II.

Probably wouldn’t hurt for you to pray for my mom too. You know, because I used the word “suck” in my post. There I go again.

Love ya’ll. Thanks for reading. Thanks for loving us and praying. Thanks for following our story.

 

 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

 

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State of the Union

I have no good excuse whatsoever as to the length between my last post and this one. And now it’s the end of the year. Instead of a thoughtful and eloquent post about reflecting on the season, taking time to enjoy, slowing down and being present…I’m taking it to the gutter. Ok, not exactly. But I’ve got my sassy pants on today, seems my sappy pants are in the pile of laundry that Tucker is (piece by piece) hurling out of the hamper so he can use it as a cage. For the 3rd time in the last hour. So today, I am writing a real and honest post about the state of the union. The Team Hucks union. Enjoy. This should be good.

  • Preschool. It’s kickin’ my butt y’all. Tucker started preschool this year (totally adorable). It’s a mere 2 days a week and only half days at that, but the struggle for this workin’ girl is for real. Every day there’s something to bring, a donated can of peas,  a class gift to contribute, something to bake for the fundraiser, sprinkles to pack for the class fall festival. But, for a quick glance at the calendar on the fridge as I rushing-ly grabbed a non-organic juice box for his lunch, I almost sent the kid to school in orange when it was GREEN WEEK. Close call. Mercifully, there are room moms to help me stay somewhat on top of it. And despite my inability to keep up some days, Tucker loves it. Like, really, really, really loves it. On the first day, I had to chase him ’round the train table three times to get a goodbye hug. He drops his bookbag every day and doesn’t look back. It is such a wonderful place and he’s learning things we want him to learn like compassion, and service, and being humble (thanks to the Humble Bee story from chapel-see, how cute it that?). So truly, we couldn’t be more thrilled with his preschool. I just need Santa to bring me a planning assistant. Who keeps sprinkles and canned peas in her purse.

 

  • The House. There’s  a ring around our guest bedroom toilet. It’s been there going on I-lost-count-weeks. We’ve switched to a zone defense with the house cleaning. We clean the major zones. The rest? Sorry for your luck. How one 38 inch human can obliterate a living room in 43 minutes is astounding. And he’s begun hiding things. He calls it “trapping”. We’ve become mostly ok with knowing the house is perpetually in a state of halfway clean. And Lord help us if he ever “traps” the preschool calendar. It would make me feel so good to know that your house is in this state of disarray too? If you have nary a ring in any of your toilets at this very moment…just keep it to yourself. Show off.

 

  • Vacations. This was finally a year for us to get out of the house with our (not so fragile anymore!) toddler. It was really, really nice. We took our first trip to Disney where I cried all over the the park (read about it here), we had a wonderful family beach trip and in February Darrin and I are going to the Bahamas! It has felt weird and great at the same time to head into outings and vacations without lysol and Clorox wipes. We’re grateful.

 

  • 39 and Holding. There’s a nasty awful rumor circulating. That someone in this union is turning 40 in January. I can’t even. You may remember my post back in January of this year, about coming to terms with this sturdy body of mine. (Read it here). I’m working on it still. Eleven months later. The good news is, that in October, I joined a bootcamp. One of those crazy hard bootcamps that gets all Jillian Michaels on you for 45 minutes. But, I like it. It’s either the bootcamp or the impending less than a month away birthday that somehow gets me out of bed at 5:30 most mornings to work on building the strong body I would prefer to have instead of the jiggly one. I put it off a little (listen-I’m too busy trying to find orange and black sprinkles) but I’m committed. Six weeks in and I’m on track. Down 7 inches and 6% body fat. Most important though, is that, me and my hips have opened up peace talks. And that’s a big deal. I’m comin’ for you 40.

 

  • Tucker-isms. He calls the sheets cuddles. He calls m&m’s chocolate beans. He can literally name every animal in the kingdom (no, mom that’s a black footed ferret, not a weasel. Oh, my bad buddy). We told him he was going to meet Santa at preschool on Saturday, his response-“What car will he be in?”. His prayers at night are hilarious and perfect. “Dear God, please bring us a baby. And a monkey. Amen.” He’s taking a kid’s drama class and during his preschool Thanksgiving program, Tucker didn’t sing one note but he took about 27 bows throughout the performance, expecting applause. Something new and clever and funny spills out of his mouth every single day-and we love it.

 

  • No More Doctors. In November, Tucker was discharged from his very last specialist. When we left the NICU he was followed by about 6 different specialty doctors (Cardiology, Gastroenterology, Audiology, Neurology, Pulmonology, Opthamology, Developmental Pediatrician and regular pediatrician). They’ve each discharged him permanently along the last 3 years. He has passed every developmental milestone on time and at this point, the threat of any long term issues from his extreme prematurity is very, very low. We can’t articulate how thankful we are for this. We don’t know why he has had such a good road when others in his same situation have had a much much harder path. We know only that they are all fierce fighters and that Tucker is one lucky kid. God loves them all.

 

  • Our Rookie. This is the hardest update to write so I saved it for the end. We’re still waiting. The adoption is taking much longer than I ever thought. And it’s becoming much harder than I ever imagined. I’ve written a couple of posts about the adoption (read here). I really thought I would be ok with the wait. I’m kind of a professional waiter. But the last few months have been tough. Punctuated by the still un-embroidered stocking that I hung up again this year. When I packed it up last year, I was positive that when it came out of the box this season we would have a baby and a name to stitch. But it doesn’t look that way. So we’re trying to be patient. We made a video for potential birthmothers to watch (you can see it here) and while it felt somewhat awkward to “showcase our life”, we hope it speaks to her in a way that shows her what we’re like (you, know in 90 seconds or less). We would love your prayers. Pray for the perfect baby for our team and for his or her birth family. We are growing weary of the wait.

And there you have it. A real and honest state of the union for Team Hucks, toilet rings and all. Thanks as always, for following along with us. This Christmas season, we have given a donation to Bee Mighty in your honor. One of our favorite charities and one that means an awful lot to our family. We pray that you have the merriest of seasons. That you have time for cookies and table conversation with the people you love most. The thing about chaos and real-ness is that God takes it and makes it all glory-filled. The mess that we are, is the real-ness he craves in a relationship. The stable stunk, there’s no doubt. He chose real over ceremony, when it was time to send his boy into the world. And that worked out pretty darn perfect for all of us.

Merry Christmas from Team Hucks

 “But you, Bethlehem, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel” Michah 5:2

 

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Photo credits: Ashley Frisk Photography

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He was Jack Hannah for Halloween. What would you expect?

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My grandmother and her great grandkids. If only I can be as spry when I"m 82.

My grandmother and her great grandkids. If only I can be as spry when I”m 82.

I mean..

I mean..

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Keep Calm. It’s just a Home Study.

“You’ll need a completed home study.”

Scratch record.

They’re going to study this home? The one with baseboards that haven’t seen a damp paper towel in oh, 7 years? The one with full strength, non-organic, whole gallon chocolate milk in the fridge. There’s a dead plant on our back porch. Two on the front porch. In fact, flowers make the sign of the cross when I load them in my buggy at Lowes. There’s still a Christmas candle in one of the windows. And after the social worker enters “crayon decorated walls” as Exhibit Q in her little book, she’s going to ask us a bunch of ultra personal questions?

Well, that’s not awkward at all.

We recently had to renew our homestudy for the adoption. Renew as in, we’ve already done this. We’ve been waiting a year. A whole year. Sigh.

A home study is standard for every domestic, international, foster or private adoption. It sounds at the very least nerve wracking. We did one last year but since we haven’t been placed with a child yet, we had to do it again. The most daunting part actually, is the document gathering. Federal background clearances, fingerprints, state background clearances, tax returns, marriage certificates, birth certificates, medical releases, bloodwork results, notarized reference letters, child abuse clearances.

Once you gather the encyclopedia of forms, there begins a series of home study visits. The visit is conducted by a social worker who is tasked with understanding as much about us and our family as possible.

“Tell me about your parents.  How did they meet? What do they do? Where do they live? How old are they? How long have they been married? How often do you see them? Tell me about your childhood. What were your hobbies? Where did you go to school? How were you disciplined? What kind of kid were you? Did you get into trouble? How do you discipline Tucker? How do you handle conflict with each other? How did you meet? Tell me about Darrin. Tell me about Heather.”

And so on. And so on. For about an hour each visit. It wasn’t that bad, really. Our social worker was amazing.

The toughest part of the study if I truly search around in my heart, is like all the pre-work for adoption, it just doesn’t feel natural. The story doesn’t go this way right? About 4% of American families include an adopted child. For the other 96%, the two lines on a stick are all that’s required to bring a child into a family. So the paperwork, the inquisition, the scrutiny-it just feels so darn obtrusive. We must justify our worth and capability as parents. And that just feels icky.

Adoption is hard that way. For many couples adoption is where they were led after years and years and years of ruthless, heart shredding, physically draining infertility battles. To then start the adoption process off with a bang by registering your fingerprints…yikes. True story: when Darrin went for his prints, the guy doing them actually said, “So what’d you do?” As in, what crime did you commit that you have to get fingerprints registered. Whoa.

I get it though. Even knowing how unnatural and intrusive it feels , I totally get it. The process has to work this way. A perfect little human life is the beautiful culprit. These babies and children have rights and needs that absolutely must be represented with the most meticulous care. Their well-being matters more than a slightly uncomfortable and awkward inquisition. The details of the process matter. Every precaution should be considered before placing a baby with a family-it’s paramount.

So I’ll get papercuts and fill out as many forms as needed. We’ll answer questions til the cows come home if that’s what it takes. In the scheme of this process, it’s not a big deal. And it’s that important. The dead plant has been replaced by a bigger, deader plant on the backporch and I didn’t clean the baseboards. I did take the Christmas candle out of window. And a strategically placed candle was burning in the hopes it would overpower the burnt okra odor. She wrote a lot in that little notebook for our home study report, hopefully less about the pitiful demise of our foliage and more about the joyfulness of our 3 year old.

I prayed a lot before the home study and felt at peace after the social worker left. Mostly because God answered this prayer:

“Dear Lord in heaven, if ever there was a honest plea from my soul, please for the love of all things holy, don’t let her look in our closets.”

 

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