Sympathetic Resonance

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Our eldest daughter has been noticing things lately… .

“Mom, is anyone else in my class adopted?”

“How about anyone else in my school?”

“Mom, I’m the only one in my class with darker skin.”

“Mom, I’m the only one in this family with dark skin.”

As much as our culture applauds individuality and following your own path (as long as that path fits in a particular box), doesn’t it sometimes just totally suck to feel like you’re the only one?

A few days ago Ana was particularly upset. She flung herself on our bed and wailed loudly. When she did that, my guitar, which was hanging on our wall untouched, responded with a sound to match. My guitar, WHICH WAS HANGING ON OUR WALL UNTOUCHED, responded to her cry with a sound to match.

The note startled her out of her despair. She looked at me scared. The whole situation just about had us both running right out of the house.

I did a little research, and it wasn’t a ghost… .
It’s a thing. It’s called sympathetic resonance. It’s when a “formerly passive string responds to external vibrations to which it has harmonic likeness.”

What for a moment was beyond creepy, now became one of the most beautiful things I had ever heard. That dang guitar, usually just literally hanging out doing nothing, internalized our daughter’s pain, identified a likeness, and responded to her with its own note of mourning. Ana felt scared, but I imagine she also felt heard.

1. Is this the craziest thing ever, or what?! 2. Does this strike a chord for you as it did me?!? (See what I did there?) It’s so easy to feel like we’re the only one… no matter what it is we’re going through. You’re not the only one. I promise. And it feels good to match pitch. So let’s not be passive strings. Let’s tell our stories. Let’s show up for each other.

I love you friends.

Daughter, This is Who You Are

A story about the honest, imperfect, messy love in adoption.

Hugs for Momma on Adoption Day. Photo cred to Adam Gilbert

Daughter,

It is the middle of the night. Your newborn brother is sleeping soundly next to me. I should be taking advantage of that by trying to sleep myself, but I can’t. There are things you need to know. Things you might wonder about when you are 12, or 15, or 20. Things I need to say before time turns the answers to your questions about memories and conversations and reasons why into foggy hues of grey.

November 24th, 2014 was your adoption hearing. You would no longer be “Little A,” a number in the state’s foster care system, or a child in limbo.

November 24th was the day we would be recognized for the family we had become.

November 24th was one of the best days of your daddy and I’s life.

November 24th was the day you would get a new name.

I had visions of the perfect celebration for your adoption day. I should have known. Instead, your adoption day turned out a lot like how adoptions really are.  It turned out a lot like how life really is. It was messy. And honest. And imperfect.

And it was beautiful.

Adoption Day!

“You wish to change your daughter’s name to Solana Alejandra Gilbert?” the judge inquired from the front of the courtroom.

You had skipped your nap that day and you were loaded up on a party weekend’s worth of sugar. There was a substantial audience of state workers present to witness our new beginning. We had tried to explain to you in advance what was going on, but it had to be more than a bit confusing. Any of these things may have thrown you off that day. Or maybe it was just the fact that you were two. At any rate, it was a court proceeding to write home about (or maybe one to keep a secret!).

That day your dad and I sat at the same desk your bio mom had occupied throughout her involvement with the court. The judge hammered us with questions about ourselves and our intentions and our family. During this time you made it your mission to distract us and everyone else from the business at hand. You fidgeted and squirmed, whined and loudly demanded your way, and splashed drinking water all over the expensive wooden desk. The floor beneath you was littered with your deconstructed paper cup. You paid zero attention to the judge’s questions or to my pleas for you to behave.

And then the judge came to the name change question.

“Adam and Kara, you wish to change your daughter’s name to Solana Alejandra Gilbert?”

Your over-stimulated little head shot up from your busy work. “I noooooottt Solana Gilbert,” you proclaimed to the world loudly. You said it with conviction. You looked the judge in the black robe straight in the eye.

Well… Crap.

I flinched.

The judge raised an eyebrow.

Your daddy kept his composure. “Yes. We do.”

Only a few months have passed since that day and you have already embraced your new name. We know this because when Santa Claus called out “Solana Gilbert” at your preschool, you bolted out of your seat and ran to his lap to retrieve your gifts. Your dad smirked. I know what he was thinking. “Who’s Solana Gilbert now?”

Your reaction in court on adoption day probably sums up adoption pretty well. It’s not lost on your dad or I that one of the best days of our lives may carry with it some heaviness for you. While your adoption day is a day to celebrate the making of our family, it is also forever a day that will represent the loss of your bio family. Your dad and I get that. We want you to know that however you feel about it throughout the years, it’s okay. And your feelings do not have to be a secret. You already made them clear when you were two. :o)

A messy beautiful adoption day in all its realness.

I am not sure if it was “Solana” or “Gilbert” that you were reacting to in court that day. I don’t think you were sure either. I do want you to know that changing your first name was a tough decision and one that your dad and I struggled through making. We spent months talking it over. Ultimately, here is why we did what we did…

Let me start by saying it really makes no difference what your name was yesterday, is today, or will be tomorrow. We love the person you are, the heart you have, and the fact that we get to call you daughter. Your name does not change YOU.

But…. we did reason that perhaps your name would impact the way you saw yourself. We wanted to give you a name that we felt fit who you were. We wanted to give you a name that would tell you what you meant to us.

There is a story in the Bible where God gives the gift of a name to a dude named Simon. Jesus says to Simon, “now I am going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock.”

I’ve always been a little jealous of this situation.

Some people… many people… spend their whole lives trying to figure out who they “really are.” Simon was lucky enough to have it stated for him by the freakin’ God of the universe. God said, “you are a rock,” (the rock on which I will build my church) and Simon left the conversation with a new name and a sense of purpose.

We chose the name Solana for you because it means sunshine. That is “who you are, really are.” (Unless that is not who you want to be and then when you are old enough we will talk.)

You are our sunshine

We also felt a new name would befit your new future.

Throughout our interactions with your bio parents one thing struck us. We could not help but notice how consistently alone they were.

In one particular meeting I watched as your lawyer delivered unpleasant scenario after unpleasant scenario to your bio mother. Your mom sat by herself on the lonely side of the room in a cold metal chair. She was told that she had made progress towards getting you back but that it probably was not good enough. She wiped a tear away. Nobody was there to hold her hand, pat her knee, or pass her a tissue.

My eyes were looking at your mother in that chair, Ana, but my heart was seeing you. Like a scene from A Christmas Carol, what could have been your future played out before us. Your papa and I left there that day determined. The lonely side of the room was for the girl you were and could have been. The lonely side of the room was not intended for the girl you were going to be.

Your father and I know we cannot control the decisions you will make as you grow up. You are your own person. But here is the deal. If as you get older you find yourself in a mess… a mess that involves a cold metal chair… my darling you better pull up two more. The girl named Solana will not be sitting by herself. Your papa will be holding your left hand, your momma will be holding your right, and daughter, I dare someone to tell you that you aren’t good enough.

This is who you are. Really are. You are Solana. You are our sunshine.

We love you,

Your Parents

 

gilberts adoption day

 

 

A Foster Child Is Home

melissayoungphotography.com

melissayoungphotography.com

I just love happy endings!

I have been wanting to update everyone on the court proceedings I discussed in my last post, but it has been a week and I am still speechless. Hospitalized, “potentially due to a ‘hormonal surge'” (don’t worry, I’m fine), and speechless…

So without any extra verbiage and with an awestruck faith, it is with tremendous joy and thankfulness that we share…

Little A will be adopted into the Gilbert family within the next few months!! 

Thank you for reading my stories. There are more to come.

Thank you for your prayers for Little A. I am more convinced than ever of their effectiveness and of God’s power.

When I can articulate more clearly I will share in greater depth.

For now, just so so joyful…

xo,

KG

melissayoungphotography.com

melissayoungphotography.com

(A big thank you to my sis for the stunning photos of Little A!)

Foster Care Judgment Day

Foster to Adopt

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Have you thought much about your own Judgment Day?

I hadn’t. That is until our more recent visits to the courtroom.

Last Tuesday was a pretrial hearing for Little A’s case. We sat in the gallery of the courtroom several pews behind A’s mother. She sat at the defendant’s table all alone. Her shoulders were shrugged into herself and she looked even smaller than she is in the black and grey hooded sweatshirt she wore. The judge’s bench loomed in front of her. On the other side of the courtroom at the prosecution’s table sat a gaggle of well and colorfully dressed blonde-headed ladies – lawyers and caseworkers – all representing the best interests of Little A. It was impossible not to notice just how lonesome A’s mother was, juxtaposed to the pack of older, educated women at the competing desk. My heart was in turmoil, oscillating between demands of justice for Little A and gut-wrenching empathy for the solitary young mother before me. Her lawyer had called in over the phone – distant representation without a face or physical presence to offer guidance and support.

This was an important day in the courtroom. It was a day to determine if the case would proceed to trial on September 2.

Let me give you a little foster care process background so that you know what brought us to this point…

Biological parents have a set amount of time to work on and complete their treatment plans. In A’s case, due to her young age, the “set amount of time” is one year. If representatives for the child can agree that enough progress has been made on the treatment plan prior to the one-year mark, visitation with bio parents is ramped up and a schedule for reunification of the child with bio parent(s) is put in place. On the other hand, if representatives for the child do not agree that reunification of the child with the bio parents is in the best interest of the child, yet the biological parents still seek to regain custody, the case is brought to trial.

Bringing a child’s case to trial is not ideal. I am told it is an emotional situation for everyone involved and is to be avoided if at all possible. A’s parents and their state appointed lawyers will face off against A’s team of lawyers, caseworkers, and volunteer advocates. A day and a half of testimony will be presented. Witnesses will be called to the stand. Experts will be asked to weigh in. A’s bio parents as well as Adam and I will likely have to take the stand (um – freaking out!). Supporters for either side will fill, or not fill, the seats in the gallery.

If A’s lawyer’s “win” this case, the rights of the biological parents will be immediately terminated. A would essentially become an orphan for a temporary period of time until her adoption day. If the bio parents “win” this case, A will remain in foster care for a newly specified amount of time while the parents continue work on their treatment plans. (“Win” is an inaccurate word to use in situations like this.) From what I understand the case would then go back to trial in some months for reevaluation.

It has been suggested that the experience of a trial will be devastating for A’s parents, win or lose. They will be faced with tough questions on the stand and hard to swallow presentations to the judge of them as people and as parents.

Did I mention that I am also freaking out about taking the stand? Speaking in front of people is hard enough for me. Speaking in front of people, about another person, who is also in the room, whom I hope to have a relationship with in the future, is going to be infinitely more terrifying. Oh man, I don’t even want to think about it. And I’m trying not to – too much – as I’m still praying for one of the other options to come to fruition.

The other options are voluntary relinquishment (best case scenario), or that the parents won’t show up on trial day and the case will default to termination.

Voluntary relinquishment was one of the major points of the pretrial hearing last Tuesday. The judge wanted to hear from the parents that they still intended to go to trial. They could, after all, throw their hands in the air and surrender custody of their daughter. Voluntary relinquishment is the preferred route because trial would be avoided, state imposed termination would be avoided, and more time in flux and in temporary foster care for Little A would be avoided. The parents would also avoid having a termination on their permanent record forever, which carries with it several implications including red flags if they have future children and the inability to ever work anywhere or anyplace involving children. Relinquishment, on the other hand, carries with it no legal ramifications.

It is a choice for A’s parents that I do not envy. It’s a battle for them of head versus heart, desire versus ability, pride versus honesty, and the fight for love versus the strength to surrender in light of it. It is a lot to process and A’s parents are young and largely unsupported. We can hardly imagine being in their shoes. Yet participating in this case has personified the faith we have in the nerve-wracking fact that we too will be sitting at the defendant’s table in front of The Judge some day. I had never visualized this occasion before. Seeing A’s mother there brought the whole thing to life and got me thinking about some important questions…

Will I have an advocate at my trial to represent me, or will I have to speak on my own behalf? Will it be a somber or joyous day? Who will I call to the stand? What will my witnesses say? Who will the witnesses for the prosecution be? Is there testimony I will be ashamed of? And most importantly, how can I make restitution for my choices now?

I have not and do not always love God or others well or enough, but I believe God’s “treatment plan,” in theory, is simple. The Bible says the greatest commandment is to love God and the second greatest is like it, to love people. Everything else [in the “treatment plan”] hangs on this. This case has reminded me to relinquish my rights on a daily basis and to continue to chip away at the treatment plan. I’d like to avoid the trial all together. How about you?

We should have some answers regarding Little A on September 3. I will keep you posted!

As always, thanks for reading and would love to hear from you.

Xo,

Kara

Foster Care Introduction – The Basics Part 1

Foster Child

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Visitation. Treatment Plans. The Team. Vacations. Here we go.

Visitation.

I am not exactly sure how visitation time with bio parents is determined. Little A gets an hour with mom and an hour with dad 3 times each week. In the beginning we were doing the driving to and from visits. Now that A is accustomed to the caseworkers, and because visits were moved to the middle of the workday, A is picked up and dropped off by caseworkers while at daycare. Unless something big happens at visits this is a part of her day that we often hear nothing about.

Sometimes there are behavior differences from one evening to the next. We don’t know whether to attribute these differences to visits or not.

As a concerned foster parent I want to know what A ate for lunch that day. I want to know if she calls her bio mom “momma.” I want to know if she caught some Z’s on the 30-minute car ride each way. But these are things that I just have to let go. It’s a bit of a challenge to not be in control.

Sometimes, when I’m able to stop focusing on us and how we feel, I think about A’s mom… She doesn’t know what A had for breakfast or dinner, how A slept at night, or what she’s been doing for fun. I wonder if there are behavior differences during visits and if mom considers attributing these to how we are raising her daughter? Sometimes I wish A’s mom had a blog I could peek in on. I wonder how she feels about all of this… to what level does she care?

Treatment Plans.

Bio parents don’t always show up for visits and this plays a part in how the case is presented to the judge. Also of importance is how parents are progressing on their treatment plan. The treatment plan is something that the team involved in the case comes up with for the bio parents. It is a checklist of things that parents need to do in order to regain custody of their child. Plans vary based on the individual and the reasons for the removal in the first place, but some examples of “to-dos” might be therapy, counseling, classes, drug tests, stable employment or housing, staying out of trouble with the law, etc. Bio parents review the treatment plan and sign off on it. Theoretically, they should then get to work on completing its contents. After a certain period of time, I think usually 60 or 90 days, the judge reviews the progress and decides next steps. In our case initial progress was presented in March and a follow-up date was scheduled for May. May was delayed and the hearing was rescheduled for June. Adam and I are anxious to get a sense of where our case stands when we attend court next week.

The Team.

There are quite a few people involved in cases like this. There is a lawyer appointed to represent each bio parent. There is a lawyer for the child. There is a caseworker for the child. There is a volunteer court advocate for the child. There is a caseworker for us. And, as this progresses, we can hire a lawyer to represent us if we choose. Both caseworkers, the child’s lawyer and the child’s volunteer advocate are all supposed to visit the child in the foster home on a fairly regular basis to ensure all is in the best interest of the child. These visits are in addition to other specialists who may be in and out of the home, such as therapists, parenting coaches, etc..

loveandacardboardbox.com

Vacations.

Oh, sweet, sweet vacations. They are not as easy to take as they once were. In order to leave the state with a foster child, foster parents need bio parent approval and/or judge’s orders. Leaving the country is not allowed. Any visitation time that is missed during vacation is made up for surrounding the trip. Despite the hoops, vacation time has been extra special for our family. Not knowing what A’s future might look like, being able to take her to the ocean, on an airplane ride, and to Disney World have been trips we have not taken for granted.

We are praying that God’s will be done in little A’s life, selfishly hoping that means many more trips with all of us together.

Thanks for reading and as always, love to hear your thoughts, comments, and questions!

Xo,

KG.

Parenting on the Foster Coaster

 

Little A loves baby dolls. She likes to put clothes on them, pretend to feed them, make cry noises and pat their backs and rock them. Particularly troubling to her is when another child is playing with a baby doll she wants to play with. She is communicating better now, but just a few short months ago she would point and fuss and whine, “mine.”

As her parents it is our job to teach her what is and is not socially acceptable behavior. Yet if ever my heart has been able to relate to hers, it is in these moments. Sometimes I want to act the same way.  I just wish little A was mine… Waaaa.

Have I mentioned that we are foster parenting with the hope of adopting? That wasn’t the original goal, per say. When you go through the process to get certified you can check all sorts of different boxes indicating what type of court case and / or child you would like to foster.

Within 12 hours of having A we knew we wanted to adopt her if that were to become an option. I’m not sure if it will be like that with every child we foster. I do suspect that wanting to adopt her has made foster care all the more emotional for us (or perhaps just me as Adam tends to have a great perspective and a level head).

At this point in the game the emotional roller coaster has become routine. About every two weeks we get an update from a lawyer or caseworker that either leaves me feeling elated or wanting to crawl into a hole. The emotions were intense at first. Now that we are a little more accustomed to how all of this works I understand that today’s update on the case may look nothing like tomorrows. Sometimes updates are based on how visitation with bio parents is going. Sometimes we get information regarding how A’s parents are doing on their treatment plans. Sometimes we hear about A’s extended family members and the interest and/or appropriateness of them adopting her.

I wish I could be more specific on details. Perhaps when this is all said and done I will be able to go back and fill in some gaps. Suffice it to say there are some days when I feel strongly that A will be ours forever. There are other days when I feel hopeless and have to remind myself that God is in control and knows what’s best. Little A is not “mine.” She is His.

All of this custody stuff will unfold over the next 4 months or so. We go back to court on June 20th (next Friday!).

How is parenting your own children a roller coaster? Or is it? Would love to hear your thoughts.

Xo,

KG.