Friday, April 1, 2016

Losing Isaiah: It's not about blood

Years ago, I watched the movie Losing Isaiah (1995).    The most succinct description of this movie that I have found follows

An African-American baby, abandoned by his crack addicted mother is adopted by a white social worker and her husband. Several years later, the baby's mother finds out her son is not dead, as she thought before and goes to court to get him back.”

And here is the crux of it for me. There is nothing about the courts decision that actually takes into account the well being of the child in the present moment. The court does not acknowledge that to Isaiah, Margaret Lewin(Adoptive mother) is his mother. She is the voice he heard in the night. She is the one who understands his sensory issues and his needs. She is the absolute center of this child's world. The court sends him back to his birth mother without so much as a transition plan. The adoption is reversed and there is no going back. It is very simple...he shares her blood. His life up until that day means nothing. It is all about her rights. Sadly I have seen this story played out many times in real life(minus the legal reversal). 

Foster care is set up on the premise of "helping families"...they give parents more than a YEAR to get it together(minimum). I'll tell ya what...if someone took my child, it would not take me a YEAR to get off my butt and work a case plan.  I would not need 6 months to show progress and demonstrate that I was willing to do ANYTHING to regain custody of my child. I would not settle for waiting for a case worker to call me back. I would call. I would push, and I would do all I could to move things along. However, *most* of the parents whose children end up in foster care are not wired like the typical parent. The evidence is in their focus and determination, or the lack thereof.

The entire time we were fostering, we were told over and over that we had to support Reunification...we had no rights. Every day we got up and cared for our little ones who certainly *felt* like our children. We cared for them as our children. We invested our love and time and tears in them...just as we had with children we had been gifted by birth.  But, we were reminded constantly that they were not, in fact, our children...UNTIL the mothers who birthed them failed to do what needed to be done to regain custody.  It was quite bizarre to watch the system turn about-face and start pointing to my husband and myself as the parents of this child. Nothing had changed in our home...nothing had changed in our relationship with our children or the care we provided them. The only thing that had changed was that they had reached a point in the timeline where policy NOW recognized our relationship to these kids.  We were very blessed. I cannot explain how we ended up with our babies. Truly, I can't. In reality, that same timeline could be the point at which the state removes that child and sends them far away to a family member(or even "fictive kin" whom they have never seen before) to "reunify" them with total strangers and call it family.  

There are countless other families who had the exact same story that we did, *right up to the point where the state looked to the birth parents and said "enough, your time is up"*.  In many cases, a year or more into a child's life...the life of a child who was essentially born into the foster family(given the woman who birthed the child walked away and was MIA for the first year) is very suddenly having visits with a total stranger. A stranger who is given incredible importance and weight because of their biological connection to the child. And, NOW this person has decided they want to do what they need to do(albeit only the minimum in most cases)...they will be given one extension after another and all of the help, money and resources that the state can throw at them...and two years in, someone whom the child *might* know as well as a Sunday school teacher they had seen once a week for two hours is given back full-time custody. And, the mother of this child...the one who has cared for and nurtured and adored this child from the first time she laid eyes on him..for every single one of 730 plus asked to step aside, hand this child over, and told "gee, thanks. You took really good care of him! You really made a difference!".   In essence "nice babysitting!"  

And, in the same breath...if the tears start to flow...the loss mounting in their hearts...they are reminded that "this is what you signed up for".  No, no it's not. NO one signs up to have a child of their heart live and grow in their home well past the federal mandate of 15 our of 22 months and THEN have that child taken and returned to the parent who lost the privilege of caring for them to begin with(or worse some distant "relation" who has never seen the child before, nor made any effort to care for them since).  And, they are told that the bond does not matter...all that matters is blood. Even the blood of one who spilt their blood via physical abuse, or poisoned their blood with chemicals taken for a quick high during pregnancy...while the very foundations of their being were being laid. Even that person...because they share the same blood. 

Here is my experience of I said, I have birthed four children...sons whom I fifth child was born in my heart via a phone call at 10 am on a Monday. I called my husband, we didn't even know whether or not to take the placement. But, we decided to go ahead...I drove three miles down the road to a hospital where I had taken my sons for several emergency room visits(as is common for mothers of boys). I found my way to the locked maternity ward and waited on the case worker to join me. They buzzed me caseworker yet...and the nurse lead the way to a quiet room(my heart aches to remember this) where a tiny little baby boy was swaddled tight and lying quietly in his bassinet. He made no sound...I saw his body tremor and his quick and shallow breaths.  I was handed forms to sign and in total naiveté, I asked where I should sign, as, of course...the only line available said "mother". I was given an abrupt(and rather rude) lecture by the nurse on how I was NOT his mother(no kidding lady...not sure he really has one)!  And, then we discussed the timeline for taking him home.  I left feeling somewhat bewildered...and as if I were walking in a dream...carrying a car seat with the tiniest little scrap of human being.  I drove to the local DSHS office to pick up a coupon that should have been waiting for me at the hospital, so we could go get clothing and formula for the little man.   My heart ached every time I looked at him. We had been told, "they do not stay! Newborns do not stay! Family will come forward, etc." So, I held my heart closer than I held him...and tried to stay objective.  But, I can tell 2am...when you are holding a tiny warm quivering scrap of human being who nuzzles your neck and coos and struggles to feed (and, oh, how he struggled to feed) ...there is NO objectivity. THIS is where bonding happens, people...right here. In the quiet at 2am. This is where a mother's heart is born again and again. THIS is why extended NICU stays are a barrier to bonding. THIS is why his mother by birth had no bond with him. She saw him for two hours a day, three times a week. And, I have no doubt she tried to connect. I was already a the time he was two months old, anytime it hit me that he could leave any day, I could not breathe...I looked at his sweet smiling face, knowing that HE BELIEVED I WAS HIS MOTHER...and my heart ached like it never has before. I *longed* to shield him from all pain. To protect him from any loss. I despaired of finding a way to make it so that he would not feel abandoned by me, the mother of his little heart if they decided to move him to another home for any reason(and let me tell you this, too...they can...any time they want...and they don't really have to give you a reason). I lay awake at night listening to him breathing...and it did not matter how many times they told me I was not his heart knew better. My heart knew the truth. I did not need the title to know my role in this little persons life. 

Blood is not all that matters. Yes, blood can bring fun can see cherished relatives in the eyes of a child by birth. But, ...the birth of a child into our hearts, into our world,  can do the are simply reminded that we are ALL related...all human...we all have so much in common. I can see my sons by birth reflected in the eyes of the son of my heart...I can see my husbands sparkling, joyful smile in the eyes of our daughter who grew to BE our daughter every single day in our hearts. 

And, age three(and going on four), if someone were to try to come in and say that simply because they had a blood connection to either child, they should be allowed to take that child and leave...NO ONE could question the insanity of that!   But, honestly...what is the difference? A legal ceremony and a celebration that WE got to have with each child. That is the only difference between us and the foster family who has loved a child since birth and will have to let that child go tomorrow, well past the legal mandated time frame for permanency.  The rest of the story happens in their hearts and lives one single moment at a time. The only difference is that those of us who got to stand before a judge and have a party are now breathing just a little bit easier. Because the world has legally recognized our role in the lives of our children. Those who were not given that moment stare at the closed-door of an empty room and try to remember how to breathe. 

I recently heard of a mother who has raised two was a newborn...the other 18 months old when they first joined the family. Today they are four and five years old...and in a few weeks...they will be returned to their "mother". Because she birthed them and because she FINALLY decided to do what she had to do to get them back.   Explain that to me, will you? HOW is she their mother at this point? She is not their mother in their hearts! She did not birth their hearts again and again over the last four years. She did nothing to shape their experiences of life in this world. HOW can anyone believe that is right, just because they never had a legal ceremony and a party, their role no longer counts?  

And, WHAT MOTHER waits that long to do what needs to be done? 

I think we need to revisit the definition of "mother"...and that brings me back to that movie "Losing Isaiah".  I confess, I was relieved the first time I watched that movie when we got to the ending...but, now, as a mother by heart...I also hate it. The mother by birth tells the mother of Isaiah's heart that "she will let him live with them until he understands what is going on."  She, who left him for dead in a garbage heap. When exactly does she think that will be? When will he just "understand" that blood is more important than relationship?  When exactly will his "understanding" unravel the bond between his heart and that of his parents built over the first three years of his life?  His entire frame of reference for love and family is due to life with these parents...Really...someone explain that to me. Because, I don't think I will ever be able to understand that on my own.  

When did we decide that the only people on the planet who should NOT have to live with the consequences of their own choices...are parents of abused or neglected children?   Why is it that a child should pay for those poor choices?  And, what...what exactly about their shared blood is going to change the profound loss of foundational relationships and the ensuing devastation that the child will experience(and be shaped by) every day for the rest of their lives? Where is the pay off for their total loss of security and stability? 

I will never understand. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

Lord, I my unbelief(and using your cell phone ALL of the time. Why not?)

So...there are a thousand posts out there about how we all use our cell phones too much. Parents spend too much time staring at the screen of their phone, and so on and so forth. True, we do...but, I don't really see that changing in a big way...there are too many benefits to having a smart phone for us all to put them down and walk(or even look) away for long.

My life is chaotic...I am sure most moms feel that way...and I *know* most special needs moms feel that way! We have to live in a pretty tight structure especially for our son, but within that tight structure...there is a ton of chaos. Never being able to predict what might trigger screaming or a melt down will leave you feeling like you are walking through a very organized mine field...with mines every 2.5 inches. It is way too easy for me to  lose sight of what matters when I am focused so tightly on getting through THIS moment. It leaves me tired that when I do get a moment to think, it isn't often healthy thinking...I revert to negative or obsessive thoughts that would not be such a problem if I were fully armed. It's just reality.

I look at my phone...a lot! I am alone with two three year olds much of the time and I crave adult input on a dozen levels at any point in my day. By the time my husband gets home I am ready to explode, but I still cannot just let it all out, because if I do...I am setting myself up for frustration because the interruptions are limitless.

SO, I look at my phone...waiting for a friend to text back, waiting for someone to respond to a comment or post, waiting...lots of waiting. Lots of distraction + lots of chaos = a lady who totally forgets to look to Jesus. I end up back in old habits of automatically trying to solve my own problems without thought...without looking to my source. Self reliance is a sure recipe for a lack of wisdom...something I simply cannot afford if I want to  be  the best possible mom for my kids.

My life is SO chaotic that I have gotten to the point of using calendar reminders to keep me on track for cleaning bathrooms, setting out food to defrost for dinner, changing laundry and even brushing my own teeth...And, more recently keeping in mind what my goals are with my kids. 

My phone is not only my brain, it is often what reminds me to direct my heart in any given moment.  Which is why I have started using it to arm myself, mind and heart. I have calendar alerts set that say "Remember Jesus!! Look up!"  and, "My  resources are not depleted because God is my source!" , I am starting to add quotes of scripture, and other reminders. Why not? I already use it...I am already dependent on it to help me stay focused!

So, I are going to use it anyway...use it to help you remember what *really* matters!

Like this...

and this
and especially this...

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A Dream Named Hope

So, I had this bizarre dream this morning...Kelly and I found a box of babies. Yup. babies...three to be exact...the size of kittens, but distinctly human.  I asked him if we could keep one...a tiny little girl. NO idea what we did or what happened to the other two...but, I wrapped her up tight and tucked her into my bra, close to my heart...and we named her Hope.

Given all that has happened of late...I suppose I could do far worse than to nurture Hope.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Living with SPD...

This video is worth every second!!!
SPD from the perspective of a child who lives with it

I know a bright eyed little boy who is living with it every single day...

Some days are rough...but, there are many moments like this one to lighten the load!  He struggles with anxiety at times...over many things. But, he also loves sunshine...and shouts with excitement when he sees the moon!  He loves the breeze and flowers and birds and his sister...and his mommy(and obviously his Daddy is his hero!)...and I simply cannot imagine what my life would have been if I had never known this little boy...what a gift.

Always happiest outdoors, this one!!

His smile is worth fighting for!!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The mom scene...(sniff sniff)

{I wrote this draft over a year ago...decided to share it now, still applies today every bit as much as it did then!}

I always(man I seem to say that alot lately)! Toy Story 3...the mom scene...she has been running around getting Andy ready to leave for college...and she leads the way back into his bedroom saying "now, are you sure you have everything?"...and then "Oh....Andy..."the room is empty...and mama is suddenly hit by the reality that her boy is leaving..."I just wish I could always be with you..."  Yeah. that.

When that movie first came out, my sister was sending one off to college...and I had one graduating from high school and getting ready. I bawled...she bawled...the "mama letting go" thing is hard! But, this time...when I watched it, I was sitting with a two and very nearly a half year old boy and a two year old girl in my I still bawled...I still miss my older boys them so much. Ache for the days that went by too fast...seemed too few. But, this time...I realized, I get to do it all over again! What a thought! Lego's and funny faces and sweet little people hugs...stories and bedtime and up late wrapping up surprises for Christmas morning! All of it...I am SO grateful!

Friday, November 21, 2014

It has been forever! {And, intentional parenting}

Wow, last post was May?  Life flies by, doesn't it?  I would really like to be more intentional about blogging here...if for no other reason than the hope that someone will be encouraged!

Having said that, today I had this moment.

Most days I work really hard to parent my kids intentionally...and there does not seem to be much of an immediate payoff. But, today...I got a front row, up close and personal view of the payoff...

We have a play with your food, you get down and the meal is over(for you). Some days, I admit, I get irritated and slip into the "how many times do I have to tell you?" mode...pointless, but I do. Yes, I read the book "how to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk" *years* ago. But, I still slip into that place of using too many words. 

Well, today...I didn't. Zoe knows the rule. She was putting her fingers in her cereal bowl and making a mess with milk. I opened my mouth to say the usual...and, instead, just said "Oh! Well, you are done." Got the wash cloth, cleaned her up, and got her down...well, when getting her down, she wrapped her little arms around my neck and just held on for a hug(not unusual, but, never would have happened if I had given in to the urge to vent frustration...she would have cried...she is VERYsensitive to tone and word)...I just stood there holding her, smelling her hair and thinking "I would have missed this." Yup...payoff, right there.  I wish I could do that every day...I mean, stuff like that is SO not going to matter in 10 years, you know? They WILL outgrow it, no reason to waste time and energy OR make them feel shame of any kind...and what other reason is there for responding with a verbal tirade??    I would rather have more hugs...Lets face it, if she is still putting her fingers in her cereal when she gets to won't be because she didn't get the message at some point that most folks don't appreciate that! hehe

So grateful that, for today, I chose hugs. 

Here are some recent pics of the kiddos(and even of us!)! Isaiah is now three and (almost) a half...and Zoe turned three just a week or so ago!!

Sleeping beauty...I love photographing this kid sleeping, she sleeps in some adorable positions!

This was the family party on her actual bday...

 Feeling bashful as everyone sang "Happy Birthday!"

Took her no time at all to figure out where that Tiara goes!! hahaha

And, yes, she really did fall asleep with it on that night! haha

3 year portraits, courtesy of mommy!

Family Vacation!!

 Thank God for wonderful sons who catch good moments! ;-) We'd never be on the same side of the camera at once!

 Looking back at mama...

 Mr. Handsome Isaiah!!

 Mr. Man turning 3 years old!

 Such a sweet face!

Nothing like Daddy time!!


Proud of his McQueen shoes!!

First trip to the Zoo....Isaiah and the Walrus were mutually fascinated!

it was a wonderful summer! We are still so amazed on a daily basis that God would choose to lead us into this life with these wonderful little people! 

Thanks for stopping by!

National Adoption Day 2014

With National Adoption month, goes National Adoption Day...many communities will be celebrating tomorrow while watching multiple families be born! Such fond memories! We just celebrated our 2 year "Famiversary" on November 17th.  That was NAD the year we adopted Isaiah and Zoe! In remembering, I thought I'd share our photo and video memories here!!

This is the video I put together in celebration of our journey!

Michelsen Family Adoption Story 2012

Note the baby swap in each photo! hehe...Zoe was trying to deal with her sensory issues and would reach for me...and then when that didn't work, reach for Daddy...and then back again! Folks were giggling in the audience the whole time! I think they started taking wagers on whether or not we'd swap again!


THEY are OURS! Forever!!

 Such a sweet face!!!

My older son had a rough time waiting for the day they would officially be ours forever! What a fierce love he has for his little brother and sister!!

If you are going to be celebrating the start of your forever family this National Adoption Day, CONGRATULATIONS from the Michelsen clan! And, many blessings on the road ahead!

If you have never been, go to your local event! It is a wonder to sit and watch miracle after miracle take place in one day! The culmination of so many dreams! 

and, thanks for stopping by! 

If you have a story to share, feel free to tell me all about it in the comments! I love hearing from other families who have shared this journey!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Holy's May???

Haven't had much time, or frankly, energy for the blog...apparently for longer than I thought! So...trying to get back into it. Sharing a few pics...the kids are HUGE now! 

Loving the backyard(in spite of the dog spots!)

Mr. Isaiah looking suave and handsome! 

Miss Zoe, as her own world of color and texture! =)

There is SO much more to say...but, not today! Thanks for showing up and reading! I promise, I will have something new up soon!

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year folks! Welcome 2014~

The paint is peeling, the floors are dirty, the bathroom needs cleaning in the worst way...and I am living my dreams tonight. 

The steps need swept and the dishes need washed, there is laundry piled high...and I am living my dreams tonight.

Diapers need changing and noses wiped, my sweetheart leaves crumbs on the table and something smells not quite right...and I am living my dreams tonight.

There is a fire in the hearth and a tree lit with abandon. Dogs littering the floor, and piles of “things” that need organizing. Squealing toddlers fight over a cherished toy...and I am living my dreams tonight.

I don't always remember...but, right here in this moment, I am so aware...

I am living my dreams tonight.

Happy New Year, folks...let's remember that we are already blessed!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A "Better" Mom...

There is this beautiful video going around the web that was created to be a tribute to stay at home moms.

This Kid Just Called His Mom an Angel...

I love it. Truly the stuff of every day life...I fact, I cried the first four times I watched it in a row.  I know what you're thinking..."the big sap"...or "aww...she's so sentimental". Well, if that is what you were thinking, you'd be I cried, I found myself praying, over and over..."Lord, help me to be a better mom! I want to be a better mom than I am!"  Yup...every single time. I'm pretty sure this wasn't the creators intent...but, it was my gut level response to the video...

So, all of that leads me to a question..."what does a 'better' mom look like?"   I want to be a better mom. But, what does that mean?  More real face time with my kids? Does it mean a cleaner house? Or a messier house? Does it mean I never lose my patience? Cause, if that is the definition...then it's a good thing I believe in a BIG God, cause I am in trouble.  My house is clean enough to be healthy(although, I wouldn't suggest eating off the floor most days). But, I have never had a day when I was ok with dirty/messy/, that old saying "Clean enough to be healthy, dirty enough to be happy!"  ???Yeah, I don't get that one...I feel the guilt...I feel the dirt...I feel pressure to have everything beautifully organized and each item in it's place. Reality? That isn't where I live...not even close! There is never a day when I feel like I have it all done...all straightened...all cleaned...organized(what is that exactly?)...not one. I can't sit down to relax without feeling like I should be doing something. And, there is always something I could be doing!   So, honestly, tell me...I am asking my readers(if you're still out there!haha) to tell me. What does a "better" mom look like in real life? Remind me what matters most...what counts in the very end of it all...cause apparently, I am, once again, having trouble with grasping those concepts...I want to be a better mom. But, I'm pretty sure I don't know how.