Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Big 4-0

I used to be the queen of "to do" lists.  Personal, professional, you name it and I had a list for it.  Over this past year my only formalized to do lists revolved around my assignment calendar.  Earlier this week I tried to remember how I had been keeping my list of to do stuff organized and I couldn't ("Mommy brain" and my increasingly horrible memory will be a topic for a different day).

As a result I started from scratch.  I looked at bullet journals, but paper and I are not BFFs.  So I needed something electronic.  Sometimes I just have my phone.  Other times I couldn't tell you where I set my phone (see above) and my computer is easier since it is usually in the same place.  So I landed on Google Keep.

So far so good.  Nothing like a little check mark motivation to get me moving on things that have been occupying brains space for months.  You know like thank you cards for Isabella's first birthday that got mailed out almost two months after her party.  Forget better late than never here!

Speaking of list we did do another list earlier this year...bucket lists.  They are a list of things we want to do over the next 10 years.  Which I failed to recognize at the time will pretty much encapsulate my 40s.  40.  Dang that sounds old!

The 40 I picture in my head is old, but I am not old soooo time to to revise that image.  I had no qualms about turning 30 and have no qualms about turning 40.  23 now that was a different story.  Random I know.  I think it had something to do with becoming a full fledged adult.  I digress...

Back to the bucket lists.  We each made a personal one and then a collective one which is mostly comprised of places to which we would like to travel.   Here's what we've got.

The tiny creatures around me are getting restless so will share in more detail tomorrow...stay tuned!

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Counting Every Blessing

So I won't bore you with the details of them all today.  Rather I want to share two which I believe were delivered directly by the big guy upstairs at exactly the right time.

In all the cluster that was this past spring I held things together relatively well (on the outside at least!), but one area I pretty much just gave up was tracking my spending to stay in budget.  As a result we hemorrhaged money in 2018. 

This overage took a hit on our savings to which I honestly had not paid much attention to since I automated all of our payments back in January.  Actually had J.T. not asked last week what was going on with our savings account I would probably still be on budgeting autopilot and none the wiser.

This discovery led to our Saturday couch date night transforming into a State of the Keller Family Budget meeting.

Woo-hoo do we know how to have fun;).

Obviously it was not fun, but it was enlightening in more ways than one.

When we looked at J.T.'s medical expenses we figured out the amount that is needed to meet his deductible.   It is not a small figure and given the fact we were already concerned about our financial situation we were more than a little nervous.

Well wouldn't you know? The total is covered almost exactly by the tax refund we got at the end of April and hadn't touched.  It is no happy accident that the timing of its deposit into our savings account coincides directly with the discovery of the kidney stone and tumor.

When we looked at the spending over the last few months we figured out the amount that was used from our savings.  Again, no small figure.  Again it was covered.  This time it was covered almost exactly by the money we had saved for the legal and travel expenses for our anticipated but never meant to be adoption the door to which we officially closed the morning of the day J.T. noticed something was up with our savings.

Though I have always been a Christian I also used to believe there were coincidences.

Now I see them for what they are-God's handiwork.

Despite all of my many failings God has my back every. single. time.  For this I count EVERY blessing.

"I am counting every blessing, counting every blessing
Letting go and trusting when I cannot see
I am counting every blessing, counting every blessing
Surely every season You are good to me."

Sunday, June 10, 2018

One and that your final answer? Yes.

I got married when I was 30.  We started trying to start a family exactly one year later.  

When I was young I wanted 6 kids (Brady Bunch influence maybe?).  As I got older that number started to seem far too ambitious and so I settled on four.  My parents had four kids, so could I.  Then I met my husband who had been perfectly content as an only child and had spent no time around kids.  His party line was let’s start with one and take it from there.  I just knew he would be good with two and felt confident I could persuade him to have third when the time came.   

Then my thirties became one big run on sentence of chasing that very first kid and the possibility of an elusive second.    We tried for a year, then we visited a Fertility specialist, we tried IUIs, when faced with IVF or adoption we chose adoption, we waited years without success, we revisited assisted reproduction options, waffled back and forth between donor embryos or donor eggs, had success out of the gate with IVF using donor eggs, our miracle baby is born, turn back to adoption for #2, wait longer without success, my biological clock screamed “mercy” long ago, feel like we used our 50/50 shot to get our beautiful daughter so another $30k for a repeat seems like a long shot, 40 in a few months, nearly a decade revolved around family planning, time to make room for the next phase in life, finally accept the conclusion we are one and done.

If that period could convey the weight of my emotions in its placement it would need to be the size of a bowling ball.  We are one and done, but in my case it is not by choice.  My friends who have struggled with infertility fall in one of two categories.  Either they found success and completed their family through IVF, adoption or eventually naturally conceived or they are still fighting for #1.  When I look at the first group I am green with envy and when I look at the second I am wracked with guilt for not being 100% content with the beautiful and amazing gift we have been given already.

That’s the danger in looking side to side rather than looking forward. No good feelings ever come out of comparing our circumstances with anyone else’s.  So I’m
praying each morning for God to guide me through this and looking forward.

I just finished this book:

It provided great insight into the blessing of only childhood—both as a blessing to the
parents and to the child.  It provided a lot of excellent evidence that refuted my concerns (primarily a life of loneliness for Isabella as a child and a life of burden as we age in her adulthood and not being able to recreate the love and camaraderie my parents did for myself and my own much smaller family).

However even with the logical part of my brain satisfied their still remains a tiny grain of discontent which the author summarized perfectly:

"It’s an emotional struggle that, it turns out, no set of numbers and analysis can erase."

I am 99% at peace with being one and done but I am currently indulging that tiny 1%.  I’m giving myself a week to feel my feelings, seek out others who are one and done not by choice and then I am respecting the period at the end of our very long run on sentence and joyfully moving forward into the next phase of life as a family of three.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

Well finally found resolution on one front.  Hit my breaking point with the adoption agency.  Below you will see our final exchange.  After which I blocked all email addresses from the company and am working through the steps of my first break up of a long term "relationship" in about two decades.

Hi Beth,

I’m not sure how to answer what Land of Cricket’s success rate is.  You may think it is an easy answer, but it is not.  For instance, this week, we had a birth mother go into labor and choose a family on the same day.  The family had not updated their home study, and sadly could not move forward with the situation. Similarly last month, we had a mom due in about four weeks choose a family who had a trip abroad scheduled during that time and opted to pass.  How do we factor those into any type of success rate?? 

Similarly, we have families like yours, who we anticipated being able to present you to the many requests we get for couples without children. You were blessed with a beautiful baby, and this affects the opportunities we anticipated we would have for you. Or a family who narrows to Caucasian only, or no on visits, or any other preference narrowing. How do we factor this into the success rate?

And then there are families who simply don’t get chosen by a birth mother.  Would you suggest we force a woman to select a family she doesn’t want to pick?  We do call families who are not getting picked when a birth mother declines to choose, but even if she declines to choose, she often has requests, such as race, religion, location, or size of family that we need to honor.

And, what does “success” mean when we have families who don’t take our advice on the profiles, who don’t update photos, who don’t keep a home study current? 

I realize you haven’t adopted, and therefore don’t see a success for you.  I understand that.  And we are doing everything within our power to present you to birth mothers who have requested families like yours.  But there isn’t an easy answer to the success rate.  In the last year, we have been extremely busy, in fact in our recent audit in Florida the auditor noted that we are the only agency she has seen with an increase in adoptions.  But whatever that looks like, it hasn’t resulted in a baby for you – I understand that.


"How do we factor these into a success rate?  Let us offer our thoughts...

The first two you count as success because you offered them a match.  

You don't consider us a success because as you and P both fail to acknowledge it's not a though interest in our family suddenly dried up because we had a baby.  There was never interest in our family, so you can count us with families for whom no birth parent shows interest.  This group makes up your unsuccessful group.

We find it highly unlikely that families that narrow their preferences make up much of a statistically significant group, so feel free not to include those individuals in your rate.  Also feel free to discount families who have major illness and decide they no longer wish to adopt, divorce and no longer wish to adopt and/or have chosen they no longer wish to adopt for some other personal.  

So you take the total number of families, minus the third group, divide the number of families offered a match by that number and you have a success rate.

However, we all know that such a number makes it less likely for families to pay Land of Crickets tens of thousands of dollars for your "service" so this formula nor any other will be utilized to determine whether or not Lifetime is a successful or not.  Though messages like the one delivered in the FAQ that started this entire line of questioning sends a message that your success rate is higher than others are in fact false since you and P both claim to not know how to develop such a thing.

Yes, in Florida families have been very successful.  Living in the Southeast region we followed the website diligently and celebrated each family's success.  North Carolina was mostly stagnant for 2015-2016 though 2017 saw an uptick for which we were again pleased for these families.  

While we are happy for these families, it goes without saying, we have not been pleased with our experience with Land of Crickets.  As a result we are making the difficult choice to no longer live our lives in limbo.  Our contract ends June 12.  We are not requesting an extension.  We are done.

We understand you will send a letter for us to sign.  Save the postage.  We will not sign it.  We have done all the work we will ever do for Land of Crickets."

Anger and sadness are the current status post breakup...hoping that peace begins to enter the scene very soon...  

Friday, May 18, 2018

Summer Break, huh?

Honestly I feel like all I have done in 2018 is try to survive.  I know that sounds super dramatic, but I was so looking forward to the end of the semester in hopes of getting a break from the stress and here we are and I feel almost as stressed as before!

Classes, comps, and the first three chapters of my dissertation (in draft form) are complete, but replacing them are now health issues (cancer plus Isabella has been sick on and off since the middle of April), overwhelming frustration with our adoption agency (they can't seem to answer even basic questions now like what is your success rate? and often like to remind us that Isabella's birth is what has led it to be more difficult for us to adopt--sweet people aren't they), and the stress of coming fully to terms with having only one child. 

Some of these things have got to get better.  The good news with a small tumor is that it is not life threatening at the moment.  The bad news is that it seems to mean that getting it taken care of is not a top priority.  J.T. finally got he kidney stone taken care of and we met the doctor about the tumor.  It looks like he will need 4-6 weeks to recover, but they can't seem to commit to when the procedure will take place (apparently it could be months away rather than weeks).  J.T.'s anxiety level is super high because he just wants it out!

I keep emailing back and forth with the adoption people though they keep putting off my questions.  Our contract ends on June 12.  I know J.T. just wants to be done, but I keep trying to figure out how to make peace with a group of people who aren't all bad (they are successful for many of the people they serve), but use a hard sell that makes it seem that as long as you follow their strategy you will be successful.  That is not the case as three years and $20,000 later we have come to learn the hard way.  I just want to find a way to help others not get taken for the same ride we and our friends have.

I am trying to find some ways to reduce my stress level.  Started Couch to 5K again.  Making sure to get sleep.  Listening to some faith based podcasts.  Praying.  Hoping these things will help me get my mind right cuz right now it's a mess...

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Early Intervention

Isabella has been walking for months, can climb just about anything, tries to carry things bigger than she is, babbles from sun up to sun down BUT girlfriend has yet to utter even one intentional word used in context.  No Mama (in reference to me), No Dada (when referring to J.T.).    Though she can babble mamamama,  dadadada with the best of them!

So a few weeks ago I took a minute and looked up Early Intervention for our county.  One of the milestones they listed was 1-3 words by 12 months, so I decided to give them a call and see what was up.  They said they would come to the house and conduct a screening (free of charge).  J.T. wasn't super excited when I told him about it (this was before all of the health issues cropped up), but didn't want to stop getting Isabella help if she needed it.

So on Tuesday they came out and gave her a screening.  Not surprisingly she was above average in motor skills, average in cognitive and life skills, and qualified for services and additional testing for both receptive and expressive language skills as they noted she had a slight delay in both areas:(.

I took her for a vision and hearing screening today both of which she passed with flying colors.  BTW I was very curious as to what a hearing screening for a one year old would look like, but once we did it was super impressed with the work Birth-3 educators do to ensure even the littlest ones get the help they need.  What is even more amazing is that all of these screenings, assessments and plan development are free.  It is only once you get to the need for additional services that there is a charge on a sliding fee scale.

Two members of the team from Tuesday came back out today and we developed a plan for Isabella.  The process totally feels like the IEP process but for babies and toddlers!  Thank goodness I had been on the other side of the table before because had I not, even though they talked us through everything, seeing it through J.T.s eyes showed me just how intimidating this process can be.

So her goals currently revolve around increasing her attention span so she begin to acquire and then use more language, and then of course to begin to express wants/needs using gestures and label basic objects using words.  A speech language pathologist will also come out later this month to do a more in depth evaluation.  The plan lasts for 6 months and they provided some great suggestions for me to incorporate right now.

I am not SUPER concerned that there is a huge issue at hand, rather I just want to ensure I am doing everything I can to ensure Isabella can express herself.  Having worked with so many children the inability to effectively say what you want or need can be so frustrating and I was out of tricks so am super glad to have some more resources.