The REAL Deal

The REAL Deal
Here you will find the chronicals of the Crazy Crook Crew...enjoy:)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Forever Family!

I'm writing this on the day after our adoption hearing.  I'm writing this as the forever mother of 3 beautiful children.  I'm writing this as quite possibly the happiest mama on earth.  It took us 2 1/2 years to get here...2 1/2 years full of uncertainty, fear, heartache, and complete and utter joy.  2 years ago, we were getting ready to celebrate our 1st and what we thought would be our only Christmas with Jayde and Chandler.  Our adoption had just fallen through and we had two beautiful children in our home to pick up the pieces of our broken hearts.  We were in love with them but trying (and failing) not to give our hearts completely as we "knew" they would soon be leaving.  My sovereign God knew they would never leave and He knew our precious Rowan was on the way.  And we just knew He was holding us tight through every bit of our journey.  We didn't know the ending...just knew we'd be okay because He wrote it.  Well...as it turns out, we'll NEVER miss another Christmas, birthday, or milestone in their lives.  God chose us to be theirs.  And we are honored and amazed at His choice.  I've been reading the cards we received over and over and just trying to process our reality.  We knew our day was coming...but the gravity of it all is fabulously overwhelming. I thought about reading through the last few years of my prayer journal, but I fear the tears might just flood my house:) 
The hearing went smoothly, all 3 kids behaved perfectly, I was able to keep my emotions in check...well until I saw another adoptive family exiting the court room we were about to enter.  Our attorney told us they had just adopted their 5th and 6th child and I just looked at their beautiful family and the tears came rolling.  This was before our hearing even started so I was a bit nervous I was now out of control.  But I recovered and even made it through our attorney's questions with very happy dry eyes:)  Our friends and family were there with us and we had a party in the evening to celebrate... the whole day was just plain perfect.  I feel so complete, so in love, SO blessed.  The wait is over.  We have 3 children with our last name and there are no words that could justly describe how I feel.  I'm on a high and I never want to come down:)  When we began our journey as foster parents, I never would have dared to dream this big.  Saying goodbye was a job requirement...and now we'll never have to say goodbye...not like that.  We're forever family and every chapter of our story now seems more beautiful than ever!
Love,
Crazy Mama Crook  

Monday, November 7, 2011

December 14th!!!

After 21 months of living and loving life with Sissy and Bubby, termination was granted in April 2011.  We were on cloud nine, on the path to adoption, and in a little disbelief that this was real life.  Just 2 years earlier, our hearts were broken when our first adoption fell through, 2 1/2 years before that, our hearts were broken when we lost our pregnancy...and now we were on our way to becoming the forever mom and dad of three beautiful babies...THREE!  God is so, so good.  We had an amazing spring and summer and life felt close to perfect.  There was lots of paperwork...court, DCS, attorney stuff, and lots of waiting.  We were filled with hope and peace while we waited so we were in a good place.  By July, it had been two full years since the bigs walked into our lives, a crazy two years, two years of crazy growth.  There was a baby dedication Sunday at our church that summer.  I was a little sad we weren't up there, but I was sure we'd be up there by the next one coming up in the fall.  We had another in September and again we sat and watched, this time I was alot sad.  I still had hope and peace and I knew they were already ours, but I was growing frustrated, starting to feel like we were sitting in a pile of paperwork on a desk somewhere.  We realize that things can move slowly when dealing with DCS, but it had been 5 months since termination.  So we waited.  We had new family pictures taken...and we waited.  I took a sick little Bubby to the Dr, where I spelled his biological last name wrong...and we waited.  Before you judge me, know that we'd been calling them by their adopted names since April AND his bio last name is spelled weird:)  Ugh...that was so embarrassing.  I began homeschooling the first of many consecutive years of preschool...and we waited.  I communicated more than regularly with our family case manager and adoption attorney...and we waited.  And then it happened...I got a phonecall from our attorney just last week.  She asked me if I had plans on December 14th and I said "I'll be doing whatever you have planned for me".  And there you have it!  We have a date, a court date to finalize our adoptions!  There is a catch... DCS still doesn't have all of their paperwork figured out, but our attorney seems to think that if we have a court date, that will give them a deadline, and someone somewhere will be motivated to do their job (my words, not hers:).  So we're very excited, but we also know there's a chance it could get pushed back.  We're praying hard that December 14, 2011 is the date God has given us.  How wonderful to get two little Crooks for Christmas!  They've been ours for quite a while, but having 3 children with the same last name is a gift we will treasure for sure:) 

Thanks for taking this journey through our history book!  We're all caught up but I'm sure there's much more to come:)  I'll continue to blog although I'm not sure I'll be posting every Monday.  I'll do my best;)  We're constantly learning, growing, facing new challenges, and laughing until we cry.  Raising children is a huge challenge in itself, raising adopted children, with diverse stories, backgrounds, and skin color has been and will continue to be a challenge full of fears, tears, and triumphs.  It's still hard to believe God would trust us this much...but He does, and He's designed and defined our family in His perfect way.  I'm sure I'll continue to have plenty to write about...there isn't a dull moment around here  December 14, December 14, December 14.....
Love,
Crazy Mama Crook 

Monday, October 31, 2011

God's got this:)

It's April 2011...Sissy is three, Bubby just turned two, and Rowan is one.  They're no longer my 3 under 3 and it hurts my heart a little, but I will say my days are ALOT easier.  There are no more bottles, no more burpies, I only have two in diapers, and I'm no longer changing spit-up saturated clothes multiple times a day.  It's still constant chaos at the Crook house, it just looked a little different.  Biting replaced the bottles, and I had three wild walking, talking children.  Life was good and we had a hearing that month that made life great.  It was a pretrial for another termination hearing coming up...this was our 2nd time around.  Both 'L' and one of the birth fathers ('M') had given our family case manager a verbal indication that they were going to voluntarily terminate their rights and sign consents for our adoptions.  We were hopeful that this would be the case, but also guarded as we had a crazy emotional winter with all the termination talk.  We were coming up on two years since the babies were removed, zero progress had been made toward reunification, and I had poured my heart out to both 'L' and 'M' in conversations that I felt were a bit counterproductive.  We prayed and prayed and prayed that it would be God's will for our babies to become forever ours, and this hearing could be the 1st step to getting us "legally" there.  The morning of the hearing I checked my facebook and a sweet friend had written the words, "God's got this".  Oh how I wanted to feel that confidence...I treasured those words and it was off to the hearing. 
When we got there, it was just like every other time...there were plenty of hugs, stories, and pictures shared.  It was a blessing and relief to me that everything could feel so normal between all of us.  The consents for us to adopt were signed before the hearing even started, the day from beginning to end was better than I could have ever imagined.  That evening I sent an e-mail to our prayer warriors, I also posted it to facebook so many of you may have already read it.  But it tells the story so much better than I could tell it today...it's authentic and in the moment.  So here it is...I'm taking you back to April 20, 2011, a HUGE day in the life of the Crazy Crook Crew. 

Wow.
I really have no words to describe how we're feeling. I know that God's hands were all over this day. He already knew this was our forever family, and He might have been gitty in heaven just waiting for us to know that too. Consents were signed before the hearing even started (although we had no idea). The hearing itself was smooth, L and M handled every bit of it with grace and composure. V didn't show up as usual and the judge just decided to terminate his rights there on the spot!!! Um...Yay God! Once DCS files their petition to terminate with the court, V will have 30 days to file an appeal. I don't know if he will or not but we have absolute peace either way. By moving to terminate his rights on the spot without him being present, the judge basically skipped months of annoying and tedious court hearings thus expediting the process of finalizing our adoptions! My mind has been spinning all day...replaying July 22nd 2009, the day the DCS investigator brought Sissy to our (HER) home, July 23rd, the day we picked up a teeny broken Bubby from the hospital. We had NO idea what God had in store for us, that these precious children He was entrusting to us weren't just temporary gifts...SO thankful. Amazed really. Amazed at the journey, since and prior to their arrival. God is SO good! We are thrilled for us, for them, and for Rowan! Our hearts would break a little every time we dwelled on the idea that he could lose his big brother and sister, whom he LOVES and adores. They were here when we brought him home from the hospital, and they are his favorite thing for sure:) Blessed, blessed, blessed.
The kids had a visit with M and L after the hearing, I brought a comb, squirt bottle, and hair scissors and asked L if she would give Sissy her 1st hair cut (she went to beauty school). Her reaction was SUCH a blessing to me. I could tell it meant alot to her and she was SO glad to do it. The visit ended with lots of hugs, promises of phone calls and visits which will no longer be regulated and supervised through DCS...YAY!!! We can call L and M friends and I am so grateful for that gift. My heart is so full right now...to God be the Glory! I praise Him for His favor, for His plan revealed, for these amazing, beautiful, resilient children, for His calling to be foster parents, for the crazy show the Price is Right, for filling our home, hearts, and hands with 3 babies in a 6 month time span, for the endless amount of energy He's blessed JT and I with, for family, friends, prayers on our behalf...If I keep going this e-mail will go on FOREVER!
Please continue to pray for M and L, for peace and healing. The choice they both made today was out of love for their children, their decision was beautiful, nothing less. Don't get me wrong, they've made (and continue to make) quite a few bad decisions in their lives. But they didn't have to sign papers today consenting to our adoptions, giving up every right they have as parents. They could have faught until the bitter end and they didn't...out of love.
The Laura Story song 'Blessings in Disguise' keeps playing in my forever spinning mind. The words speak so true to our story. I think all of you know about the babies lost, through pregnancy, and fall through adoptions...the years we spent wanting so badly to love a baby we would never have to "give back". Ancient history, I tell ya:) But it's so clear now, the purpose, the blessings waiting, the family God was carefully and beautifully designing for us. I'm thankful for the trials, the heartbreak, and the renewed joy every day...it all lead us here. And here...at this moment, tastes a little bit like heaven I think:) Thank you all so much for your prayers throughout the past 2 years...it's been a wild ride, that's for sure!

In His Amazing Love,
Crazy Mama Crook

Monday, October 17, 2011

Stressed, blessed, and a bit of a mess:)

It's July 2010...Sissy and Bubby have been with us for a year and DCS has filed for termination of the birth parents rights.  We would have court hearings in August, October, and December.  The birth parents were given public defenders, JT and I were served subpeonas, and in the end we would accomplish nothing.  By January, termination was canceled and the bp's (birth parents) were given opportunities to "complete services" (required for reunification) by local agencies.  There was actually talk of moving the children to a northern Indiana foster home where it would be easier for the bp's to have visitation with them.  Their bond with the children had essentially dissolved due to the lack of time spent together.  Since 'L' had moved out of state, she and one of the birth fathers had only seen them 5 or 6 times.  The other birth father was a no show to every court hearing, and had made one visit to Indiana where it was very obvious the children didn't know who he was.      
Anyway, those months were a constant rollercoaster...we didn't feel like we knew what was going on, one moment termination, adoption, the next moment moving the kids to a new foster home closer to the bp's so they could work toward reunification.  It was just a mess and nothing made sense to us.  As you can imagine, after nearly 18 months of life with them combined with the anticipation of adoption, we were mortified each time we felt we were taking a step backward. 
One evening in January 2011, I was feeling particularly fearful.  The reality of losing our children, of Rowan losing the siblings he's had his entire first year of life, was weighing heavy on my heart.  Nothing was certain, but the idea that it was even an option at this point created a desperation within me that I can't describe.  I talked it over with my husband and then I made the phone call.  Until this point, I hadn't been completely real with 'L'.  DCS filing for termination obviously had nothing to do with us, and as far as she knew we were still supportive of reunification.  I hadn't really told her otherwise.  During our conversation I poured my heart out.  I told her what we felt was best for the children, that it had just been too long and to them, we were mom and dad.  They were too young, unable to comprehend what was going on.  They were so happy, healthy, bonded to us and our family, and they had no voice in all this.  They had already been through so much, and the thought of them losing everything they had and starting over with a new life that has zero resemblance to the one they're living now seemed so wrong.  I explained the very real possibility that she may not get custody at all and the children could end up with their birth fathers and separated from eachother.  The two of them together was their only constant.  Since Bubby's birth, they had never been separated.  If anything I said to her that night hit a nerve...that was it.  I told her that it wasn't her fault, but that it wasn't their fault either, and we just needed to take ourselves out of the equation and do what is best for them.  I made sure she knew that she would always be a part of their lives if they became ours, and that she would become a part of our family as well.   She cried, I cried, we were friends and this was the hardest conversation I have ever had with a friend in my life.  We hung up with no conclusions made, but a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders.  I held nothing back, I said everything I felt, and I did it with love.  We had a hearing coming up in February and I knew seeing her would feel so different but I was prepared.  We were still friends, but now she knew where I stood.  I was no longer "Sammysaveherlife", I was advocating for her children, our children, and I had nothing to be ashamed of. 
How on earth did we get here?  We weren't planning to adopt through foster care, we weren't planning to ever feel like this.  And once again, God shows me how overrated my plans are.  The position we found ourselves in was a blessing for sure...but it was easy to neglect that fact and just be frustrated about the process.  18 months earlier, we were wondering if we would have the children for a month, and now we had spent 2 Christmases with them!  There was a good chance they would become forever ours...a chance that didn't even exist for the first year.  We had come so far and although fear played a very real part in our lives, we had a lot to be grateful for. 
The following is an e-mail I sent on January 14th, 2011.  It was sent to our prayer warriors during this particular phase of our journey.  It was a hard day, an emotional day, so I asked for prayer while also self medicating myself through writing:)  It's the perfect picture of how I felt... and I'm SO thankful I don't feel like this anymore!
 
Please pray for me ...the constant uncertainty of the existence of my family is really wearing on my heart today. Most days I'm a positive patty and I can easily snap myself out of it by focusing on God's plan... I don't know the ending but I know I'll be okay because He wrote it. But today, in this moment, that feeling is drowned out by fear. And I don't spend too much time worrying about my ending, but I'm scared to death for theirs. At this point, if they leave, it will feel like they are being taken away from their parents, not going back to them. What on earth will they go through? They have no idea what is going on in all this. They just know they have two parents that love them more than life itself, and we get that love right back from them. The thought of them losing everything they have, including eachother, brings me to my knees... as it should. I do know that you all pray for us... and I thank you. Please be a prayer warrior on our behalf. Sometimes I don't even feel like I can ask God to make them forever ours. I know His plan will prevail...and what if ours doesn't align with His? But I know the truth...I need to pray with faith, believing, that God can give us the desire of our hearts. He knows what is best for His children, it's in His hands, it always has been. These children make our lives full of purpose, there is a reason for their presence in all of our lives. And I am so glad God chose us. Even just writing all of this out is calming my spirit right now. I bet this letter is all over the place, sorry. My prayer for all 3 of our children is that they grow to know God and fall in love with Him and that His arms of protection will always be wrapped around them. I think once you fall in love with our Savior, everything else falls into place. For the 1st year of life with them, my purpose was to love them, and love their parents even stronger....to  minister to and be a resource for them, and help their parents to get better whatever their struggle. Well, the compassion has faded, and I struggle with that too. I am done being a resource and encourager for them. My #1 priorty has become their children and what is best for them. And after 18 months in our home, I'm as positive as I can be of what "best" is. Okay... I'm rambling... but I'm not crying anymore :) Thank you and I love you!   

Until next Monday....
Love,
Crazy Mama Crook

Monday, October 10, 2011

Our favorite word...

It's May 2010, our son is 3 months old, and our foster (it's growing harder and harder to say that 'F' word) children are one and two. It's been a month since God changed our hearts and we began loving and living as a forever family of five...things couldn't be better.
The road to getting to this place was long.  We loved our babies and we loved their birthmom ('L')...she had our support.  We wanted her to succeed so bad and I wanted God to use me to make that happen.  I really thought it was a job God gave specifically to me and I took it very seriously.  I worked hard on our relationship while she was here and I encouraged her to come back after she moved.  I wrote letter after letter pleading with her to move back and work toward reunification with her children. The whole moving the kids out of state thing was beginning to feel a little out of reach, it was proving to be much more difficult than was first believed. And the longer they were in state care, the harder it would be for her to get them back, especially considering their ages. Because they were under 2 when they came into care, DCS could have filed for termination after just 6 months, but they didn't because of 'L's' unique circumstances. Since she moved to have the support of her family, they gave her the benefit of the doubt and exhausted many options in helping her.
I gave her a call on Mother's Day and my heart was broken, for may reasons.  One thing lead to another and I ended up asking our FCM if she could move in with us.  She could live here, work toward reunification, we could find her a job, provide transportation, and what better way to learn to be a good mother than to live with her children under our supervision and let us help her!  Right?  Or wrong...very wrong, not even allowed actually.  The truth is, despite my intensity and passion for all of this, my FCM giggled when I asked her.  There were several reasons why this was a bad idea...I'm sure where you're sitting, you can think of plenty.  At the time, I was determined to be the person who believed in 'L' when no one else did, I knew that God could use me in a big way and I was so willing.  So from here, I called our community works pastor in hopes of finding her a job and I called a local shelter in hopes of finding her a place to stay.  In order to work toward getting her babies back, she had to come back, no one was actually saying this...but I knew it.  I kept hitting dead ends and I was working much harder than 'L' was, which frustrated my husband.  He has always been much wiser in the ways of this world than myself, and I was fixated on being "Sammysaveherlife". 
It was during a home vist that summer, our FCM mentioned it casually...we were coming up on a year since the "bigs" came to our home and like I said earlier, DCS could have filed for termination at six months.  When she mentioned the beloved 'A' word, I let myself go there. It was an idea that JT and I had not let ourselves entertain. We couldn't.  Foster parent rule #1...It was a bad, bad idea to start dreaming up their adoptions. There had never been any mention of it, and JT and I were still supportive of 'L', although we were finding it harder and harder. But now the seed was planted, she said it, not me...so it wasn't my fault. I talked to JT about it and our wheels were turning. Could this be the beginning of the end...the beginning of a new beginning...the end of the beginning we began a year ago? Okay...sorry about that, but you get the idea:) 
Adoption...adoption!  Is this real life?  Could these babies that we've been loving like our own really become our own?  Could loving our "forever family of five" become our truth?  Thanks to my husband and several others in my life, it was pretty easy for me to begin letting 'L' take care of 'L'.  My loyalty was easily transferred from her to her children.  I had put her first for a year and made her my priority.  Now it was their turn.  What was really best for them?  Their mom was in a much worse place than she was when they were removed a year ago.  Our once neglected, broken babies were happy, healthy, and thriving.  We were their mom and dad.  They had already been through so much trauma in their short lives, and leaving us after an entire year would add to that already too long, heartbreaking list.  At this point, "reunification" would feel more like being ripped away from their parents than going back to them.  And once I let myself feel all of this, my intensity was redirected in a major way. 
Termination was filed that summer and that would prove to be another long road...seemingly endless.  But it's a place we were grateful for, it was totally unexpected and proof that I really have NO idea what God's plans are for my life.  I've learned that if I'm moving in a direction that lines up with His heart, He'll do what He wants and surprises are His specialty.  And nothing was certain, it still isn't...but we are full of a hope and peace that only He can provide.  Until next Monday....
Blessed,
Crazy Mama Crook

Monday, October 3, 2011

A family of 5:)

I'm keepin it real here in the blog world and my sinful nature and selfish qualities play a big part in this one.  I'm actually quite ashamed of this phase in our journey...but God challenged and grew us through our flaws so I suppose our inequities served a purpose.
Allow me to paint a picture for you... There was this little couple who wanted a baby with all of their hearts.  On their path to finding their baby, their hearts were broken repeatedly, deepening their desire to be parents.  While they waited, they welcomed two lovely little houseguests into their home.  They quickly grew to love these precious babies, but also knew their stay was only temporary.  Unaware, their hearts were guarded.  Then their baby was born.  This was a time they had waited so long for, prayed for, and dreamed about.  In their minds, having their first child looked a certain way...having all the time in the world to sit and stare at the baby in their arms played a big part of that look.  Focusing all of their attention on their long awaited new addition was their plan.  When they brought their baby home, their houseguests were 25 months and 10 months old.  This fact severely disrupted their "dream" of what having their first baby looked like.  Because of the every day chaos that having three children under the age of three creates, because of the lack of attention they felt their new baby was receiving, because the nursery they had painted for their baby years ago was occupied, the couple was wearing down, exhausted by the every day and saddened by the experience they felt they were missing.  Their houseguests were scheduled to leave in April, about 2 months after the birth of their son.  The couple was not looking forward to their departure, but they were looking forward to the relief and the "dream life" they anticipated with their little one. 
Hopefully, that "story" helped you to understand what we were experiencing.  Without realizing what was going on, we were definitely guarding our hearts from the hurt of losing them... don't get me wrong, it was still going to hurt.  But I think we were subconsciously avoiding complete devastation by not loving them as strong and as completely as we could have been...thus creating something ugly when we brought our baby home.  If they had moved before Rowan was born, we would have gone on and never knew we had done any wrong.  We would have missed this opportunity to grow our character, to change our hearts, to allow God to develop something within us that we weren't capable of ourselves. 
 We got a phone call in early April, the children wouldn't be moving any time soon, the plan to get them out of state and closer to their mom fell through.  I remember it like it was yesterday.  JT and I were driving out to my parents house, I hung up the phone and told him the news.  Neither of us said anything for a while and then I asked him...are you disappointed?  He nodded his head yes and I admitted that I felt the same.  We were both ashamed and what followed was a discussion that would change everything.  We talked about why we felt that way, we laid it all on the table, and we talked about how to fix it.  Our conclusion...to love them as if they were ours.  They deserved the same love and devotion we felt for Rowan, but we were denying them that because we were guarded.  Loving them like they were ours meant losing them like they were ours, and that's a pain no parent can prepare themselves for.  I know we weren't denying them this kind of love intentionally...afterall, our motto was "it's not about us".  "Whatever we have to go through for the sake of loving these children is worth it", was our stance on fostering.  But I guess we were just making sure that "what we went through" wasn't the hell that it had the potential to be.  Being a foster parent is hard, being a good foster parent takes a heart only God can create.  Loving other people's children identical to the way you love your own isn't something that comes naturally...not in our society.  We didn't have children first and then decide to become foster parents, which is much more typical.  We became foster parents and then had our first child.  We found ourselves in a unique and complex situation that we weren't prepared for.  But God was prepared and He chose us to love like this, He knew we were up for the challenge when we had no clue we were even being challenged.  So it was on that drive that JT and I decided to live like this family of five was OUR family.  Of course, we knew they were our foster children, but we released our hearts to love them in a new, better way.  I know God's hands were all over our plan, because it was instant.  We instantly had 3 forever children, we felt it, and we loved it.  The crazy chaos in our home was now OUR chaos, we owned it:)  Life was easy, love was real, and our days became happy and healthy.  We didn't really spend any time thinking about the consequences of this newfound joy...we just lived and loved and life was good.
It's a humbling thing to think you're doing something so right and then realize you're very wrong.  It's a humbling thing to believe your life isn't about you and then realize it very much is.  We were so ashamed when God opened our eyes, but we are so grateful that He created something beautiful out of our failures.  Our journey is not yet complete, but we're well on our way to His final masterpiece...for this chapter anyway;)
Until next Monday,
Love,
Crazy Mama Crook

Monday, September 26, 2011

It's a boy!

On February 5th, I went to bed with two instinctual feelings...we were having a boy, and he would be here soon.  Around 7:00 the next morning, the phone rang.  I jumped out of bed and did my best to answer without a sleep voice.  It was 'A' (what I'm calling our birthmom), and she was in labor.  We had heavy snowfall on the 4th and 5th and she was snowed in.  She was home alone with her girls and her car doors were frozen shut.  Her voice was so desperate, she had no one else she could call...she needed us to come get her and take her to the hospital.  I was calm with her on the phone, but once I hung up, I went into panic mode.  We had a plan for this moment, but our plan didn't account for all the snow.  I needed to call our close friends (who live about a mile away) to come stay with the babies until my mom and sister could get here.  JT needed to shovel the driveway so we could get out of the garage.  I knew we wouldn't be able to drive the way we normally would and we'd have to take a much longer route by the interstate.  I set all plans in motion and called 'A' back.  I told her what was going on and she told me how close her contractions were.  I let her know that we were moving as fast as possible, but she may need to get an ambulance.  I packed some things and got myself ready while JT shoveled the drive.  Our friends got stuck on their drive over...there was literally feet of snow in the neighborhoods, and our departure was delayed.  Once they arrived, we left and had to drive down the interstate at about 10 to 20 miles an hour.  There were cars off the road as far as we could see.  We were anxious, nervous, excited, scared, and very frustrated with the weather created circumstances.  'A' called me during the drive, she was in an ambulance on her way to the hospital, and dialating quickly.  Her girls were riding to the hospital in a police car and she asked me if JT would mind sitting with them once we arrived.  Everything was happening so fast...I was a little heart broken.  She wanted me to be there with her, she had no one.  When I first met her, she told me that I was her baby's mother and she wanted me to be a part of the delivery.  She said that as his mom, I should share in the experience and she wanted me to cut the umbilical cord... how amazing is that?!  So, although I was beyond excited to meet our baby and find out if he was a boy or a girl, I was also sad that I was missing out on something so huge.  I wanted to be there for her and I felt like I was letting her down.
When we arrived, a nurse showed JT to the waiting room where the girls were playing.  Another nurse rushed me back to 'A's room and spoiled the surprise on the way:)  It's a boy!  I walked into the room, she had just delivered him minutes ago.  I'll never forget the first time my eyes saw my baby...I'm pretty sure I turned into a puddle of mommy mush right there on the floor.  Is this real life?  I made my way over to him and a nurse wrapped him up and put him in my arms.  It was like holding a piece of heaven...I had prayed for this baby for years, my heart beat for this moment, and it was finally here.  I was his mom and he would be ours forever.  I walked over to 'A' when the doctor was done with her and asked if she'd like to hold him.  She hesitated and then accepted my offer.  She filled me in on how fast it all happened...she was only at the hospital for 20 minutes before she delivered.  The baby was very bruised and swollen from his speedy descent down the birth canal.  He looked perfect to me:)
Once 'A's roommate arrived to pick up the girls, JT was free to meet his son.  The nurse gave us our own room and our little family spent the afternoon together.  This is the baby God meant for us...everything we went through on our journey to finding him was suddenly so much more than worth it.  He's here, he's healthy, he's ours, he's perfect.  We decided to spend the night with our son, the nurses settled us into a room with a lovely labor bed and we spent our first night with Rowan Thomas Crook.  He slept a whole lot better than we did:)  Although we do like to cuddle, a night in a labor bed with your spouse brings a whole new meaning to the word.  We spent more time in 'A's room than we did our own and we let her have as much time with Rowan as she wanted.  Our friendship continued to grow and strengthen and man, I love that woman.  Unless you've had this experience, it's impossible to understand how I feel about her.  She gave us a child, she chose us, she chose a life with us for her baby.  It's a gift like no other, a love that requires so much sacrifice.  Adoption. Is. Beautiful...the act itself, the picture it portrays of God's love for His children, how easy and perfect this amazing love is, it's all beautiful.  
'A' decided not to spend her entire 48 hours in the hospital recovering, she left on Sunday evening and  JT and I headed home with our beautiful baby boy.  We made it just in time to watch the Colts lose the Super Bowl.  We weren't the slightest bit disappointed, we were sitting in our living room holding OUR baby boy and our world was perfect.  My parents were keeping Bubby and Sissy until Monday night and we enjoyed our day at home as the parents of one.  The anticipation of parenting a 25 month old, 10 month old, and our newborn made our heads spin.  The above picture was snapped while we were getting our "pose" ready for a family photo.  I absolutely love it because this one is the REAL deal.  Yes, we have the pretty, perfect one hanging on our living room wall.  But we also have a 5x7 of this one on our end table...it just makes me smile.  I mean really, it looks like Bubby is swinging circles around JT's neck, and Sissy is watching with sincere concern as I'm about to drop the baby.  Anyway, I'll fill you in on what that life was life next Monday.  I thought the arrival of the "bigs" was a shock to our system...throw a newborn in there and we were all of the sudden just keeping our heads above water.  We became the parents of three children under the age of three in about 6 months.  And although becoming a mother was my heart's desire...this wasn't quite the way my heart and I had imagined it:)  We had grown so much over the last 6 months, but we still had a long way to go.  I'll wrap this up with a poem today.  I wrote this about 2 months after Rowan's birth and I mailed it to 'A' to let her know what she means to me...she loved it:)

We think of you so often
One word always comes to mind
That word is amazing
You are strong, courageous, kind
The gift that you have given
We could never begin to repay
We cherish you and our beautiful baby
Every single day
Our hearts are overflowing
We’ve never known a love like this
One that intensifies every day
With every single kiss

I hope you know you’ve changed our lives

You have made our dreams come true
Through you our prayers were answered
That makes you our angel too
There are other choices
You could have made so easily
You chose to give your baby life
And give two strangers a family

Well at first we were strangers

Knowing only the minimum
Now we’ve become friends
And a forever bond has begun
We’ve been through many heartbreaks
One disappointment after another
Then along came you
And you let me become a mother

I wanted something I didn’t have

For quite a few years
I thought about it every day
And cried many tears

Now Rowan has arrived

Those years of hurt have been erased
All those painful feelings
Have now been replaced

With a love that you provided

A gift that you chose to give
And we’ll adore this child that binds us
As long as there’s life to live


~Samantha

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

2010 throwback for giggles:) A perfectly no good very bad Monday

This is something I wrote exactly one year ago today.  I came across it and had to share...hope it makes you chuckle:)  I remember this like it was yesterday.

So...Rowan and I woke up (we're still roommates:) and came downstairs like we do every day. I always put him on the floor and give him some toys to play with so I can get back upstairs to get babies #2 and #3. Only this time I reached into the toybox to find several of his toys covered in cat puke, GROSS! I got some clean ones off the bottom and then ran upstairs to get baby #2. I walked into Bubby's room and almost passed out from the smell...his entire bed was covered in poop, his pillow even had to be thrown away. Uh oh, this isn't part of the routine...don't panic spaz mom. I carefully airlifted him out of bed and stuck him right in the bathtub. Meanwhile, Rowan is downstairs unattended and I hadn't raised the blinds, hung up the curtain or put the cat food and water on the counter (all opportunities for destruction). And Sissy is still in bed waiting ever so patiently for my arrival. She simply refuses to get out of bed on her own, odd but kinda nice. Leaving Bubby in the bathtub unsupervised is not an option so I calmly sweat through the bathing process, wrap him up in a towel and hurry to get his sister. She was less than thrilled that her brother had taken a bath without her and she informed me that she had pooped in her pull-up. We all rush down the stairs and I stick Sissy on the potty (she had a false alarm thank goodness) and start lotioning the Bubster. As soon as he was smelling fresh and ready to start the day, Rowan poops. So I begin to change him while Sissy is yelling " I'm done Mama" stranded on the toilet... poor thing. Have I mentioned that I have to use the bathroom? Anyway, everyone is now cleaned and changed and ready for breakfast. They are all in their chairs waiting patiently when I spill Sissy's milk cup ALL OVER the counter, floor, rug, cabinets, and box of applejacks. Good job me. I get their breakfast and the clean up begins. After I'm done with the great milk spill of 2010, I sweep the kitchen floor and lint roll (cats) the furniture like I do every day. Then I move on to vaccum the living room. I don't always do this but it was very necessary and my husband had forgotten to do it the night before. Okay...breath. No wait! I have to completely disinfect Bubby's crib and all the cat puke toys! Oh my...they're wrapping up breakfast, there's no time. The sweating begins again. It's not like I can go upstairs when my babies are downstairs playing, they're all under 3 and it's simply a bad idea:) I leave them in their chairs and head on up...oh that smell. I got everything out and cloroxed the entire crib and come down to find them all quietly watching sesame street (I strategically placed them so they could see the TV). I start the stinkiest load of laundry I've ever started and moved on to the cat puke toys. You know, those cats used to be our babies, we showered them with attention and had our camera aimed at them all the time. Now it seems they just get in the way, cost us money, and make messes...sad. Have I mentioned I have to use the bathroom? Anyway, after the chaos is over I realize that I did it! JT didn't have to come home from work, my babies all survived, my botched routine didn't kill me, and I did it! Six months ago this story would have read much differently. There would have been tears, a 911 call to my hubby, a blemish or two would have sprung up in all the chaos, and a morning of mayhem would have set the tone for a rough day. I'm still high strung and slightly dramatic, but I think those qualities are essential for survival in my situation:) I am SO glad God is continually molding me. There are still many improvements to be made, but it's just refreshing to realize how far I've come. I LOVE this life God has created for me. If my life had gone according to my plans, I would have missed SO much. Oh, and the rest of my day was fabulous...complete with simultaneous triple napping, a new word from the one year old, a giggling teether (abnormal), and an accident free two year old (typical)! And it was all topped off with 2 super sweet friends coming to my house to watch all three babies so we could go to our life group. I hope this glimpse into my life made you giggle:)

Livin and Lovin Life~Crazy Mama Crook

Monday, September 19, 2011

THE Match!

It's January 2010, and we just had an amazing Christmas and New Years.  We were loving on our babies and I was working on being content...trying to focus on the blessings I did have and not on the things I didn't.  My sister Caryn came up almost every Friday to hang out and love on the babies.  On Friday, January 15, I was leaving her at home with Sissy so I could take Bubby to an appointment.  I was in the car getting ready to pull out of the garage when she ran outside with the phone in her hand.  It was our adoption couseler and yes...we had another match.  She told me all about the birthmom who chose us, and that she was due in just two weeks and wanted to meet us!  After Bubby's appointment, I drove to JT's school and walked into a gym full of kiddos.  I wanted to tell him the news in person.  He must have been super excited because he went in for a kiss!  Right there in front of his students!  I denied him in a nick of time, those 4th graders would have went nuts!  Everything about this felt different, I think the fact that she chose us and wanted to meet us made it seem more real.  I left this out of my last blog, but when we were matched before, the birthmom didn't actually choose us.  We were her only option, there was no one else to choose from.  This time the birthmom (I'll call her A) did have other couples to choose from, and she chose us!  That in and of itself was a wonderful feeling.  A woman chose US to be her baby's mom and dad.  We met her 2 days later and it was just plain perfect.  She was perfect.  She explained everything, why she chose adoption, why she chose us, what she wanted for her baby, everything.  She was beautiful, smart, well-spoken, kind, and just...I'm going to say it again...perfect.  She was wearing jeans and a hoodie and I was surprised at how small she was for being almost 9 months pregnant.  If I hadn't already known, I wouldn't have guessed she was pergnant at all.  She told us a little about the birth father, he wasn't involved in any way and that was how she wanted it.  We don't even know his name.  She explained her family situation, she is a single mom struggling to take care of her two daughters, they were 1 and 2 at the time.  She is very close to her parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and they all live in the same town.  She chose to keep her pregnancy a secret from them because they didn't know about and wouldn't approve of her previous relationship with the birthfather.  Her family has a very sad history of racism and her fear was that she and her girls would be disowned if they even knew she was pregnant with a biracial baby.  Very sad.  She loved and needed her family, she relied heavily on them for support.  She also wanted more for her baby.  She said that he deserved a big family and that was one thing that made us stand out.  My side of the family is kind of huge.  She also said she loved how happy we looked in all of our pictures, she loved our smiles.  Music is a big part of her life and so the fact that I sang was important to her.  She loved that JT was a teacher and that I planned to stay home with the baby.  She had read our bio which explained what we had been through with Julie...she said that it broke her heart and she assured us that she was not going to do that to us again.  I would have never asked her anything like that, but the fact that she brought it up and said that to me made me cry...right there in front of her.  It was like she knew our biggest fear and wanted us to wait on our baby with peace.  That was something we thought was impossible in the adoption process, but she gave us that gift and we accepted with complete trust.  She talked about her girls and we shared funny stories.  She was very matter of fact and unemotional.  She didn't know the sex of the baby and had no prenatal care.  I think she avoided these things to keep herself from getting attached, it was almost like she tried to hide her pregnancy from herself until inevitably, she had to deal with it.  She didn't even call the agency to start the adoption process.  She went to the hospital for an unrelated reason around 37 weeks, and they asked her about her pregnancy.  When she told them her intentions, they connected her with an attorney who was connected with the agency.  A couple phone calls and a meeting at Starbucks later, we were chosen...beautiful.  After our dinner we walked to the parking lot together, we hugged, shared a few fears, and talked about how relieved we both were that it was so easy to be friends.  We were authentic...and for me, given the situation, it was surprisingly easy.  She really wanted us to meet her girls so we set up another dinner date for the next week. 
I spent our drive home talking a mile and minute with my heart pounding in my chest.  Is this real life?  Is this really, finally, happening to us?  It was so surreal.  We were chatting away and loving our la la land until we saw the red and blue flashing lights behind us.  We were driving through a small town, unfamiliar with the area, and probably not paying much attention.  We got off without a ticket but it wouldn't have mattered either way, we were having a baby in 2 weeks!  We just met and fell in love with the birthmom of our child and nothing was getting us down:)  Well...then I got the flu during the week, the bad flu.  I hadn't thrown up in years, maybe decades, and it was horrible.  I threw up until I was throwing up air, I couldn't breath, and was too weak to move.  I remember laying on the bathroom floor after an attempted shower and telling JT that I was ready to go home to Jesus.  It was bad.  That being said, I believe it's semi important to note here that one of my many nicknames (given by my husband) is "weak sauce".  Anyway, I guess you could say I was physically down, but my heart was still good...just a little nervous that A could go into labor early and I would be in this gross sickly state.  But she didn't and I was fully recovered by our next dinner date.
She called me almost every day and I loved it.  I could feel how important our friendship was to her and I could also tell that she didn't really have anyone else to talk to.  We talked a little about the baby and alot about life.  We were unlikely friends with something HUGE in common.  She was giving life to the very child we had been praying for for years.  Adoption. Is. Beautiful.  We met her girls and it was a delight and privilege.  The following Saturday we had a foster care training class in her town, it was also her due date!  I was on edge, cell phone in hand the entire time...no call.  We continued to talk every day and with each one that passed, we both grew more anxious.  On Friday, February 5th, I walked in Bubby's room to pray over him before I went to bed.  Afterward, I just stood there watching him sleep and this feeling came over me.  I looked behind me at all the baby boy things I had gotten at my shower in December and I just knew it was going to be a boy.  And I had a feeling he was coming very soon.
You'll have to wait to find out how soon until next Monday...this blog is getting way long.  The memories of his birth are flooding my mind right now and the joy is manifesting in an enormous smile as I sit here at the computer.  I can't wait to tell you about it:)  I am going to post an extra blog this week just for giggles...look for it on Wednesday.  Thanks for reading friends!
Love,
Crazy Mama Crook

Monday, September 12, 2011

We have match! No we don't...wait...do we?

In the coming months after the arrival of our sweet babies, things settled down drastically.  Bubby was sleeping through the night, his reflux was finally properly medicated, and we would say goodbye to his cast.  He began physical, occupational, and nutritional therapies to get him healthy and caught up developmentally.  Sissy would learn to love and trust my husband and also develop a pesky case of separation anxiety.  We all bonded so quickly...I won't say it was "easy" to take care of two children this small but it was SO easy to love them.  We had no idea how long they would be with us but I decided to quit my job to stay home with them.  I wanted to give them all of my love and attention and really invest in them while we were blessed to have them in our home.  I had wanted to be a mother for a long time, we were in the process of adopting a baby.  And right now God was trusting me to mother two fragile babies and I wanted to give it my all. 
I worked very hard at my relationship with their birthmom, I'll call her L.  I took the babies to visit her twice a week and I remember every detail about our first meeting.  I didn't know anything about her but when I walked into the waiting room, I knew who she was.  I had this plan to hug her as soon as I saw her... I thought that would thwart any intention she had to hate me.  I had taken several pictures in the one week I'd had them so I put them all in an album for her.  I could tell the hug made her feel awkward but I do believe my plan worked;)  And she loved the album of her babies. I wouldn't say we "hit it off" but we were kind to eachother and considering my worst fear...kind worked for me!  My interactions with her were short and sweet until the day I was taking Bubby to the doctor after a visit.  I felt God tugging at my heart to ask her to come along.  I didn't really want to, my anxiety was through the roof as I contemplated.  I knew I had to get permission and  my phone call wasn't returned until we were already on our way to the Dr.'s office.  Our family case manager said inviting L to come along was a great idea so I turned the car around and found her walking down the street.  I pulled over, yelled my invite out the window and she gladly accepted.  I ended up taking her to work after Bubby's appointment and we spent several hours together.  I would say that is the day I felt like we became friends.  We had regular visits through September and then for various reasons she moved out of state where she had family.  This created quite a few problems and DCS immediately began working on moving the kids to live with relatives where they could continue visits with their mother.  The process was long and complicated, lots of paperwork and communication between states, I was informed it would take a while which was perfectly fine with us.  We were selfishly hoping to be with them for Thanksgiving. 
Now we were still working on our adoption through the fall...November came and as soon as we became an "active" couple we had a match!  Actually we were matched shortly before we were "active". There was such a great need for plan 3 adoptive couples and the birthmom we were matched with was due in 3 weeks!  Thanksgiving came and the babies were still with us, we were expecting our baby in 2 weeks and we had ALOT to be thankful for...we were also a little overwhelmed at the thought of having three babies under two.  The girls in our small group immediately began planning my baby shower...which was AMAZING:)  My favorite part was the recreation of the game I played on The Price is Right...at the end I won the Vera Bradley diaper bag of my dreams (way better than a pool table;).  It was a beautiful evening I will never forget, a time I had waited for for so long, a celebration of a life on the way, a celebration for OUR baby.  We knew he was a boy and he was due December 8th, we didn't get to meet his birthparents, we were told they weren't really concerned about having any contact.  December 8th came and went, it was her first child and she was induced a week later.  I got a phone call from the adoption agency, she decided to keep him.  My sister was with me at the time and I handed her the phone, I had no words, my breath was knocked out of me, I was devastated.  I waited to tell JT after he got home from work.  We were shocked really...in that evening I felt SO sorry for myself.  I remember thinking, how pathetic are we?  Who does this happen to again and again?  Pathetic us.  And this time I had a nursery full of baby boy things to look at every day...perfect.  What I also had was an almost 2 year old baby girl and a 9 month old baby boy.  They needed me and the Lord grew my strength and restored my joy once again.  They made healing so much easier...it's hard to keep the tears coming when you're potty training, playing, reading, rocking, and just plain busy with babies:)  Again, healing was quick for JT because he was hardened and guarded after our previous heartbreak.  He wasn't vulnerable like I was.  To complete the crazy story, I'll tell you that 2 days after that call, we got another call.  It was time for the birthmom to leave the hospital with the baby and her boyfriend had disappeared, she had no carseat, no ride home, and nothing for the baby when she got home.  She called the agency and changed her mind again.  So I called my mom to come stay with the kids and off we went to the hopital to pick up our baby...a rollercoaster of emotions.  We had a long drive and alot to process...we're having a baby!  No we're not.  We having a baby again and on our way to get him!  All of this in 48 hours...needless to say we got a call during our drive and turned around to drive back home.  I'll spare you the details but I will tell you I didn't shed a tear.  At this point I think I could have laughed, but my heart ached for the baby whose life was hanging in the balance.  Here was this young little couple speeding to the hospital to get him, and then there were these relatives berating his birthmom in the hospital for giving her child to a white couple.  He was so close to a different future and that was a hard truth...I tried not to think about it.  I do know he ended up in foster care, maybe he has been adopted by a sweet little couple who waited and waited for him.  I'll choose to believe that.
We were blessed to celebrate Sissy's 2nd birthday with her later in the month and we weren't holding our new baby that Christmas but we WERE holding our Stinkerman and Princess.  What a gift to have them...it was our first Christmas with children in our home and it was wonderful.  It brought new meaning to the season and as time went on we were growing more and more attached to our sweet babies.  By Christmas, they had been with us for 5 months, DCS was still working to get them out of state and in the home of relatives but they were running into some major bumps in the road.  Again, that was okay with us.  While we were supportive of L, we were also in love with our babies and considered our time with them a gift.
When we became foster parents, people would say things like "I could never do that, how can you give them back?  I couldn't handle it emotionally, I'd get too attached".  And our response was always something like: Well, it will be hard when they leave, it'll probably break our hearts.  But it's not about us, and whatever we have to go through for the sake of loving them is worth it (which is very easy to say when you haven't experienced it yet).  Though I know that there are, I can't imagine a foster parent who doesn't get attached.  It's hard for me to fathom bringing a hurting child into a home where there is no bonding or attachment.  These kids need all the love in the world and depriving them so we don't get hurt ourselves is a tragedy.  Okay...I'll get off my soapbox that barely has anything to do with my blog.  Thanks for reading:)  Until next Monday...
Love,
Crazy Mama Crook

Monday, September 5, 2011

And Here Comes Stinkerman!

On July 23rd, 2009, we loaded our sweet baby girl in the car and drove to the hospital to pick up her little brother.  He's 4 months old and he's in the hospital because the humurus in his left arm has been snapped and during a full body x-ray they found an old healing break in his left tibia.  We knew that becoming instaparents of two hurting children would be hard...we didn't know how hard.  I remember seeing his teeny broken body for the first time.  He was wearing a diaper and a cast, he weighed 11 lbs.  I didn't know how to hold him, he made me nervous.  The nurses weren't really much help, they filled us in on how much they spoiled him but they told us very little about how to care for him.  He cried when we put him in his carseat, he cried the whole ride home.  When we got home we fed him...that's what you do when babies cry, right?  He kept crying, we kept feeding, he was throwing up everywhere.  While we were trying to cope with this, there was a knock at the door.  It was a guy selling security systems.  Has someone been casing our house?  Our life?  Remember when I said that I had a huge fear that a parent of one of our children was going to find me and kill me?  Well here was this guy, showing up the very day we bring the baby home, coming to ease my fears.  We invited him in, we signed a 3 year contract, and the security system was installed that evening.  Wow...yeah I know.  So...in all this chaos, the baby definitely threw up all over us, the couch, the carpet, and the sales guy.  I'm ashamed to say this but I believe he was the one that suggested we might be overfeeding him.  We googled it and fixed one of our many new parent oopsies:)  He was a baby who cried almost constantly.  Just like his sister, he was traumatized, taken from his mother, and found himself in the home of complete strangers...combine that with broken bones, severe acid reflux, and an opposition to sleep and you have a new parent's nightmare.  We had no idea what to do with a healthy baby, we were simply not qualified to care for a baby diagnosed failure to thrive.  But a wise friend had just told us a few months earlier that "God doesn't call the qualified, He qualifies the called".  That was a powerful statement and we believed it. 
My heart was broken for this baby.  He was at an age where he wanted to start scooting and rolling over.  But he couldn't move because of the huge cast on his arm which was wrapped against his body.  He reeked of sour milk because he spit up constantly (even when he wasn't overfed;), as in 70% of every bottle, and it soaked into his cast wrap.  The material used to cast and wrap him had irritated and cut the skin on his chest, armpit, and back.  He had a horrible bloody rash under his chin from the continuous flow of acid in his spit up.  He was near impossible to bathe.  He slept between 3 and 4 hours a night and napping was not on his favorite things list.  He cried SO much.  I was advised to get a baby bjourn and I was able to borrow one from a friend.  I owe my sanity to that beautiful contraption.  I would have him strapped to my body for months to come and that was perfectly fine with me.  It was a huge comfort to him and he liked to fall asleep in it...bonus:)  I dealt with alot of guilt because I didn't have time to love on his sister the way I wanted to.  He took almost every bit of my time, attention, and energy.  It was better when JT got home from work, but I spent alot of time crying during the day.  I was a new parent of two, I slept between 3 and 4 hours a night right along with our new roommate, eating didn't cross my mind all day, my heart was broken by the state of the baby, I was just plain overwhelmed by it all...as was my husband.  I'm a naturally scrawny person, but I got down to 94 lbs in that first week or two.  I ran on adrenaline and Jesus.  This wasn't quite how I pictured entering into motherhood, but the pictures God paints for me are much more beautiful than the ones I scribble:)  God was molding my character and growing my strength.  He was forcing us to live out our "it's not about us" motto:)  
In our first week as this unconventional family of four, I called the ortheopedic medical facility who took care of Bubby and cried to the lady on the phone about what I was experiencing with his sour smelling, skin irritating cast.  She told me to come in and a man named Gilbert would help us out.  I'm pretty sure Gilbert was an angel...he took our tiny baby and cut all the material off his body.  The sight of his arm literally made me nautious.  He talked to the baby through the entire process and then rewrapped his arm with a gentleness I can't describe.  He took a big soft wrap and secured his arm against his body.  The wrap velcroed together at the desired level of tightness and when it got dirty, we could take it off and wash it, he gave us two of them.  I cried...sobbed actually, almost the entire time Gilbert worked on him.  There were some interns watching him work and they kept asking me if I was okay.  I think JT tried to blame it on lack of sleep, and that may have been partly it. But the other part was the ache in my heart for what this baby has been through combined with immense gratitude for the love and compassion this stranger was showing our precious baby.  Bubby didn't cry at all...I know Gilbert was an angel;)
Despite the chaos and craziness that now consumed our lives, despite all of the difficulties, I was more in love with life than I had ever been.  Just before we started training to become foster parents, I had read a book titled 'Seizing your Divine Moment' by Erwin Raphael McManus.  In his book he explains that Christians generally have the good and evil part of life down...as in we know the difference and do our best to live a good life.  What Christians really struggle with is the doing something or doing nothing part.  Living a good but passive and comfortable life is our specialty.  He poses the question "What can I do today to make a difference in the world?"  That struck a chord with us and is definitely something God used to inspire us to become foster parents.  So for the first time in my life, I really felt like I was doing something, putting my heart out there, giving of myself, and loving in a way I'd never loved before.  It felt amazing and at this point I had no idea what God had in store for us.  His ways are perfect. 
Our teeny broken bundle of baby boy is now a happy, healthy, hyper, ROTTEN 2 1/2 year old who just started potty training and is doing great!  His little body is perfect and he's developmentally exactly where he should be!  We are full of hope and peace that he will soon be forever ours...God is SO good!  Until next Monday...
Love,
Crazy Mama Crook

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Princess Arrives!

It was late July 2009...JT and I were keeping busy with our summer jobs, working on our adoption, and daydreaming about our baby.  On July 21st, I beat my husband home from work and I got the call.  It was a call from DCS wanting to know if we would be able to care for a 19 month old baby girl and her 4 month old baby brother.  The baby girl would be coming tomorrow (22nd) and we would be picking up her brother from the hospital the next day (23rd).  Mind racing, heart pounding, I said yes.  Then I called my husband...I know that happened in the wrong order.  But I also knew how he felt and that he would say yes too...and he did:)  So, we would soon be welcoming two babies into our home...and we had nothing.  There was nothing in our home for babies.  We spent our evening making phone calls, shopping, and driving around to friends' homes to pick up donations:)  I had to call the family I was nannying for that summer and tell them what was going on, that I wouldn't be able to finish the summer with her kiddos.  Her response still blesses me today...not only did she let me go with grace, but she gave us a pack-n-play, a high chair, and lots of toys.  Friends, family, and people we didn't know gave us carseats, clothes, toys, diapers, a crib, a baby monitor, a stroller... just about everything we needed.  My sister and a sweet friend took me shopping to get small wardrobes for our houseguests as they would be coming with nothing.  The support we received in a pinch was incredible.  We had one evening to process this, to prepare ourselves for becoming the temporary parents of two babies, two hurting babies.  Oh by the way, there's no way to prepare yourself for that;)  One evening to get all we would need to care for them...all the "must haves" anyway.  My sister/ best friend rushed up to our house as soon as I called her with the news, it was a crazy evening and sleepless night.  Is this real life? 
Our sweet baby girl arrived around 11:00 the next day.  She was incredibly shy and scared.  She was traumatized and taken from her mother and now she found herself in the home of complete strangers, I really can't imagine.  She didn't smile, didn't say a word, and within a few short hours fell asleep in my sister's arms...still jealous about that.  By the evening, she let us know that she had a few words...her favorite..."uh uh uh a bite".  She said that constantly;)  She also let us know that she didn't approve of men...in general...none of them.  I felt bad for my husband because he just wanted to love on our new bundle of baby girl and she screamed if he touched her or even if she saw him touch me.  That was a long hard phase that we finally overcame with time and trust.  That night we gave her a bath that was not well received, she hated it.  We didn't really know how to put her to bed so I rocked her, she cried, I gave her a newly purchased pacifier which she spit out with a confused look, I rocked her, she cried, my friend walked around with her, she fell asleep in her arms...of course.  We really had no idea what we were doing, I would say much more so than typical 1st time parents.  We didn't have 9 months to read books and magazines and ask questions.  We had one evening that we spent frantically collecting items just so we could function.  We reminisce alot about those first few weeks, in hindsight it was a little humurous.  Thankfully, we are quick learners:)  We had to be.  She spent her 1st night in a pack-n-play in our room and she ended up in bed with me in the morning.  We cuddled and she finally fell asleep in MY arms.  As I held her I remember thinking this is what this feels like...even better than I imagined.  She woke up playing and giggling, a completely different baby than the one I met yesterday.  She smiled her way through breakfast and we went on a walk, made a trip to the park, and just played the morning away.  While I was making her lunch she came into the kitchen and said "mama?".  I just smiled at her, I was a bit confused about what to do...she said it again, in the form of a question.  I answered back with a "yes".  And she smiled from ear to ear.  As foster parents we aren't supposed to encourage our children to call us mom and dad, so I felt like I was breaking a rule.  But how do you say no to a baby asking if she can call you mama?  I don't know how and I didn't.  So mama it was.  I would later learn that any female who changed her diaper or fed her would also be in what I called "the mommy club".  I believe there were 5 of us.  Anyway, our time together was wonderful and easy.  I was home for a full 24 hours with one 19 month old baby girl and I loved it.  I had a beautiful, sweet, smart, cuddly, well mannered baby that slept through the night.  This would be the only time in my life when I would experience having one child, it was lovely:)  I remember walking home from the park and thinking "this is the last time just she and I will be doing this...easy is about to end.  And boy was it...my intuition was right on target.  We were in no way prepared for the hard that was headed our way.  We packed up the car that afternoon and headed to the hospital where our little guy was waiting...I'll save that experience for next week.
It was so fun to remember and write about our first hours with her.  I can't believe that was over two years ago now!  Our "houseguest" is still here and so close to becoming our forever family.  Our traumatized, terrified, and timid baby girl is a happy, healthy, rotten 3 1/2 year old today.  She has spent the majority of her life in our home and if you met her, you'd never know she was anywhere else.  When I look back, I can see so many of God's whispers throughout our circumstances.  I think He was speaking to me when she first asked if she could call me mama...I obviously didn't know that at the time, but I think He approved of my response.  We've been through alot these last two years and we're now waiting with hope and peace...a good place to be;)  But I do think we'll breathe differently when we all have the same last name...we long for that feeling of security that permanency will bring, the forever feeling.  It's worth can't be measured.  It's something easily taken for granted as most families don't spend too much time worrying about their children becoming forever family.  But no matter if our children are adopted or biological or even "houseguests", our time with them is a gift.  God chose us and trusts us to love His children, blessed.  Until next Monday...
Love,
Crazy Mama Crook

Monday, August 22, 2011

Mountains and Valleys

It's July 2009 and we're now home from the craziest vacation ever!  Our Price is Right experience inspired us to get home and get to work.  We were crazy motivated to get the adoption process rolling...let the research begin!  At first, we were very interested in international adoption, our hearts were in Haiti.  I had made 5 trips to that country and sponsored my Wisly there since I was in the 8th grade and he was only 6 months old.  My husband made one of those trips with me when he was my boyfriend.  The fact that he had saved up his money for months working part time nights at FedEx to go on that trip is kinda what made me fall for him;)  Anyway, that's neither here nor there (always wanted to say that:).  We loved the country and loved it's people.  However, one of us had to be 35 to adopt from Haiti and since we'd already been waiting nearly 4 years to start our family, waiting 7 more wasn't really an option.  We looked at Ethiopia, South Korea, Taiwan, the Phillipines...not because of any connection we felt to those countries but because we had qualifying ages.  We looked at things like: where the adoptions were finalized, how long annual reports on the children were required, the ages of the children, the wait for adoption, and of course, the cost.  The estimate on adoptions in all of these countries was roughly $30,000, there was no such thing as a newborn baby, and the waits...agonizingly long.  It's hard to put into words but when you want a baby like yesterday, years ago actually, the thought of waiting for more years just kinda breaks your heart.  At this point I was definitely over pregnancy, for a few reasons, but one of them was that 9 months was even too long to wait.  We wanted the baby we conceived so badly, we loved her, and she was lost (I just know she was a girl).  That was now almost 3 years ago.  We loved Julie's baby, and he was lost.  We were so close twice, I was so close to being a mom, and I just didn't want to wait anymore, we didn't want to wait anymore.  So domestic adoption it is. 
Okay, before I go deeper into that, I have to tell you about a phone call that took place in the midst of our research.  A few days after we got back from vaca, I got a call from DCS (dept of child services).  The call was about a preadoptive placement.  She wanted to know if we would be available to pick up a baby (born that day) from the hospital in two days.  Um...yes!  Yes yes yes!  We're available!  Is this real life?  I may have actually asked her that, it was a common question that summer;)  I hung up the phone in a fog like condition, somewhat like I did after hearing about Julie, only this time I was in a different place and was WAY more excited.  When I told my husband, he was excited but guarded.  He remembered how much it hurt before and was in protective mode.  Not me, I was thrilled to death.  I was in a state of praise and I couldn't stop thinking about holding that baby, just picking him up from the hospital and holding him.  My arms were SO ready.  I was supposed to wait for a phone call the next day but I couldn't, so I called her.  Fear was creeping in and I remember telling her I was afraid "Aunt Rita" was gonna crawl out of the woodwork and come to get him.  She giggled and said "well that could happen, but it hasn't yet, I'll give you a call tomorrow".  Tomorrow came and I waited, I got a call, Aunt Rita had come.  I was devastated.  Why in the world did that happen?  What was the purpose for breaking my spirit again?  It felt like an awful joke, my hearts desire dangled in my face for 48 hours and then quickly snatched away for no reason at all.  It hurt.  My husband was wise for being guarded, I don't think he shed a tear that time.   I won't pretend to know God's purpose in this.  I don't and that's okay, we're not supposed to know all the ways of a God we can't fully comprehend.  What I do know is that He faithfully restores my joy and wants what's best for us.  I know that Romans 8:28 says "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose".  Love Him...check:)  And we ARE called, I have NO lingering questions about that:)  Healing was quick.  We were in the middle of a mission and our sense of urgency was only heightened by this experience.   
We began researching local agencies.  I'll tell you what made my heart pound.  I found an agency on the internet, it offered 3 different adoption plans.  What was I looking at on each plan?  The waits.  The plan 3 wait was 0-3 months...0-3 months!!!  This can't be right, how is that even possible?  So I called...it wasn't a typo.  Plan 3 was the plan that defined African American/ biracial adoptions within this agency.  The fact was that they had many more African American birthmoms than white birthmoms waiting for adoptive couples.  There were more white couples than there were white babies being born, so the wait was a long one.   There was close to zero AA/biracial couples signed on with the agency.  And there weren't may white couples interested in transracial adoptions.  Therefore, if a white couple was interested in a transracial adoption, the wait was 0-3 months because they had moms that were 9 months pregnant and still didn't have a match.  After she was done explaining, I explained that I didn't care if our baby was hot pink.  I asked her if all of this meant that we could have a baby by Christmas and her response, "absolutely".  That was it, we talked it over and that was our agency.  Our most important criteria was met far above any expectations we had...we were going to have a baby, and it would be here soon:)  The process to becoming an active adoptive couple with this agency would take more time than we would spend waiting to be matched and waiting for the baby after the match combined.  Let the paperwork, seminars, interviews, physicals, blood tests, background checks, and homestudy begin!  We were so grateful for the clarity and definition we now had.  We did something...something big, and it felt good.  We were an excited little couple in the middle of our summer vacation as we both worked in education.  Our hearts had been broken a few times but we were mended and ready to love.  We were ready to go back to school in the fall and continue completing our adoption work in the evenings.  Life is good and God is great.  Little did we know what He had in store for us next...just around the corner our world would be rocked...and rolled...and turned inside out and upside down.  Our rollercoaster was just getting started!  Stay tuned for details:)
I love our history book and I love sharing it...thanks for reading along!
Love,
Crazy Mama Crook

Monday, August 15, 2011

Samantha Crook...Come on Down!

In July of 2009, my husband and I enjoyed a family vacation in San Diego, California.  I come from a large family and when we all do a vacation together it's kind of a big deal:)  We were staying in a beautiful home with a beautiful pool and the weather...well it was beautiful.  For me personally, that's all I need.  I do not need to sight see, and eating out and shopping are nice but very optional.  On one particular evening, my siblings concocted a plan to drive to Los Angeles and get on 'The Price is Right' game show.  The drive was over 4 hours from where we were staying and we would have to get up around 3:00 a.m. to get on the road, get in line and HOPE that we would all get to go on the show.  To me, that was SO not worth it and my husband agreed.  We would much rather sleep in and lay around all day by the pool.  However, my brother called the studio and found out that groups of 10 people are guaranteed to get on the show.  Without JT and I, there wasn't 10... boo.  There were 3 grand babies, one sister that wasn't 18, and one Granny that stayed back to hang out with the youngins.  I'll admit we were brats about it, two cranky complaining Crooks, but we went.  It was a family vacation to celebrate my sister's graduation and it was something that she really wanted to do, so we took one for the team;) 
I wish I could say it was bright and early...but on July 7th, we left in the dark, eyes burning.  Oh and I forgot to mention, this was also the day of Michael Jackson's memorial service...in LA.  So on top of the forever long drive, were we anticipating massive amounts of traffic.  I do remember getting there with plenty of time though, and I was slightly annoyed that we left so early...cranky complaining Crooks I tell ya.  I also remember getting out of the car with my nail polish remover and cotton balls and getting to work, much to my older sister's dismay.  Her close to exact words were "It's not like you're going to get on TV and they'll zoom in on your hands...it doesn't matter".  I snapped back and took my chipped polish off anyway.  So there we sat, all 10 of us in matching shirts, waiting to get in to the show.  Everyone was given a card to write information about ourselves.  The girl who collected them told me she loved my purse and I said thanks and told her where I got it for sale online, we had a sweet little conversation.  After a few more hours of sitting, our group of 10 was interviewed.  We were each asked a couple questions based on the information we had written on our cards.  I remember writing that we were foster parents. I worked in special education.  And that I had auditioned for American Idol twice and never made it past the first round, so I felt really rejected and I knew that getting called down on The Price is Right would heal my pain.  The interviewer asked me about working in special education and asked if my husband had any special needs.  Well that was a weird thing to say and I was a little caught off guard.  I said "well he was born with two thumbs on one hand but he had one surgically removed when he was a baby so it really doesn't affect him today".  The guy cracked up and I apologized to my husband afterwards and told him that if I get called down and win anything, I'll give half of it all to him;)
As we were all herded into the studio to be seated, I realized I really had to use the bathroom (i.e. check my hair).  I ducked out of line (we're all put in a particular order) and made a new friend in the ladies room... I was convinced that if I did get on stage my poof would deflate and I would have a serious hair malfunction.  I shared my fear with my new friend and we shared a few giggles.  Before I walked out, she told me that she just knew I was going to get called down on the show....okay, rrrrrrrrright:)  Anyway, when I walked in the studio I couldn't find my family...a nervous looking usher asked for my number and quickly showed me to my seat.  JT said people kept coming over and asking where the person for my seat was...interesting.  Anyway, due to my rendezvous in the power room, I had missed out on some instructions...like don't listen for your name to be called, look on stage for a giant cue card with your name on it.  It will be way too loud to hear anything because everyone will be instructed to cheer as loud as they can when we're back from a commercial break.  I had the cheering part down.  And we're on!  There were so many cameras zooming around my head from the ceiling...this was my chance!  I cheered, I clapped, I jumped, and I cheered and clapped and jumped.  I was getting on TV, the cameras were aimed in my direction...I'm as good as famous!  As I cheer and clap and jump some more in complete oblivion my brother turns around, grabs my arm and points at the stage...my name!  It's my name on a giant cue card!!!!  As I run past my husband and down the aisle high fiving all the way, he didn't even notice!  He was still cheering at the cameras for his chance at stardom too:)  Once he noticed I was gone...and I was down front, he freaked.  I was the first contestant called down and therefore had the last bid on "A braaaaand newwwww billiard table!"  My bid..."$2499 Drew."  And what do you know?  I won me (well half was my husbands:) a pool table!  I walked up on stage shocked with my hands on my head.  I remember these details only because I have the dvd:)  When I got on stage I said "Is this real life?"  Drew said "I don't know, wanna pinch me?"  So...I pinched him, he said "ouch", and then I played a riveting game of 'In the Bag'.  I was told the rules, but they didn't sink in...I was still freaking.  I have severe focusing issues on a normal day;)  I had a list of prices and had to match the groceries to the appropriate amounts.  I knew that much.  I put them all in order based a little on what I thought, and alot on what my family was yelling at me...still freaking.  It was done and at this point I didn't know the rules anymore.  The first item was a match!  I won $1000!  And then there was more jumping clapping, jumping clapping, but this time cameras were the last thing on my mind...I could NOT control myself.  Drew said I could either keep going and double my money if I'm right, lose my money if I'm wrong, or stop now and keep my $1000.  Well that was news to me!  And in shock my hands were pressed tightly against my cheeks, the camera closed in, and my nails were highly visible...just saying:)  Did I mention I've watched the dvd a couple times?  I chose to go on...the next item was a match and I had $2000!  Jump, clap, squeal, freak, you get the idea.  To go or stay, that was the question...my family said go, so I went.  I was right again and now had $4000!  I looked at my family and didn't get much input...alot of shoulder shrugs and unsure looks, so I stayed.  Then I found out that lint roller wasn't 3.99 after all:)  So I made the right choice because if I'd continued I would have lost it all.  The show then went to a commercial break and my exit from the stage was just as awkward as my "come on down" entrance.  Again...I missed the directions on what to do.  I went to one side, then the other, then couldn't see anything, and had to be ushered off.  I think the majority of that display didn't make the actual show:)  I was taken to a seat on the opposite side of the studio from my family to await the showcase showdown.  And guess who I was seated by...my new friend from the bathroom!  She hugged me and said "I told you that you would make it!"  I squeezed her kneecap off and said "that money is for my baby"...at which point I got a tad emotional and she thought I was nutso.  Our relationship wasn't that deep. 
Back track with me to July 4th when my husband and I were on our flight to San Diego.  We had decided earlier in the spring, after our Julie encounter, that we were ready to adopt.  It was on this flight that JT and I brainstormed on ways to raise money.  The hard truth was that he is a teacher, I was an instructional assistant, and adoption is expensive.  We were 100% sure that this is where God was leading us and we knew He would provide, but in our human nature we were a bit discouraged trying to figure out how we would pay the high price tag.  We brainstormed, prayed, talked to our family, and BAM!  Three short days later God stuck me on the Price is Right!  Talk about affirmation...that was my crazy fun God screaming, "this is what I want for you, be encouraged and here is your head start!"
Okay..back to the show.  It was time for the showcase showdown and I was back on stage with two other contestants.  The gentleman before me spun a whopping $.95 so my $.85 fell short.  I was less than bummed, my high was still lingering:)  After our taping was over and I went through some paperwork backstage, I was reunited with my family outside.  I ran into JT's arms and we both had tears in our eyes, we were on the same page, with the same thoughts racing through our minds.  My family teared up with us. Everyone knew our intentions for our newfound small fortune without saying a word.  In all the excitement of the experience, we also received a new hope, a new sense of urgency, and a fresh dose of encouragement.
  Three days later we wrapped up our family vaca with my 27th birthday celebration.  That was and most likely will always be my favorite family vacation.  Now my $4000 was before California state taxes were deducted, and my $2800 pool table sold for a mere $1000 after taking JT's spot in the garage for nearly 9 months.  Oh... and don't forget half of all of that was JT's...SO glad we don't do that separate account stuff;)  But the $4500 we did receive was a great head start and $4500 more than we had before.  It was enough to get the ball rolling and we were ready to get home and get to work, so that's exactly what we did!

I giggled my way through writing this...such fun memories:)  Getting to this point was a journey for sure and a new journey was just beginning.  I absolutely adore this life God has given me and the unorthodox way He brought us here is simply beautiful.  My God is good!
On a separate note, here are some tips if you really want to get on the Price is Right:  Go in a group of 10 or more and wear matching t-shirts.  Be kind and personable to anyone working for the show that you might come in contact with.  I'm almost certain they send out spotters (the girl who liked my purse).  Your group will be interviewed all together so be the personality who stands out (I didn't do that on purpose).  They love to pick people out of large groups...it looks good on camera.  And lastly, don't take any last minute bathroom breaks...it could cost you some embarrassment.  I looked like a complete ding dong at least twice on camera:)  That's it for now...there's much more to come, I'm really just getting started.  We don't even have any kids yet!
Love,
Crazy Mama Crook