I'm so glad you're here! This is our story. God has lead us to adoption to build our family and here you will find my real and raw experiences with joys and triumphs as well as struggles and sadness. I hope you're encouraged by our story of God's faithfulness and His love for us!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Is this Right?

Well... We made it through this morning. I'm not going to say that it was easy but I WILL say that God is gracious and He does give us enough grace to handle the circumstances that we face! Thank you to everyone that was praying. This visit was heads above the last visit! I was able to be myself and that was my biggest thing. My desire is to break down the walls that are there while continuing to pray for voluntary relinquishment.

The thing that breaks my heart is that for the first time today I was able to see them together and actually think that maybe they belong together... But I want her at the same time. It's such a strange place to be and honestly I have no idea how to reconcile how I'm feeling. I feel so much compassion for mom and I want her to continue to do good but I can't imagine losing Dora either! All I can do is go to my heavenly Father and trust that He is working in this situation and brought us all together for a reason. Trusting His unknown plan is such a hard thing for me knowing that my heart could be broken in the end. But I'm reminded of His faithfulness in past circumstances and how he made the impossible possible. I know He is trustworthy and that I just need to continue to battle my emotions and seek the help of the Holy Spirit to help me keep them in check. I try not to think too much about the end result and focus on the present because my attitudes and actions in the present are the only things I have control over.

I AM thankful her creepy friends were not along today and we were able to converse really easily and even play with the girls together. She was thankful for the pictures and asked for me to continue bringing them. She noticed with graciousness that I cut Dora's bangs and said she liked it. She said she gives her approval to go this weekend to the wedding in Reno and overall is a really sweet, likable person who just needs Jesus as much as I do!

Outside of the ache in my heart as Dora walked off with them to the visitation room and the tears in the bathroom as I struggled with the reality that she is not mine and how easily Dora went with her it was a fine morning and it couldn't have gone any better. Dora cried when she came back to me but I have to remind myself that's why I keep such tight reigns on her because she attaches quickly and always cries when I take her back even if it's only been a few minutes that she's been playing with the other person. So as much as I want to leave her sometimes this is why I don't and this is why I don't encourage too much interaction with other adults, especially women, at this point. I'm confident that we have a strong bond but it does hurt when she cries when she comes back to me. I've never had that problem with Cinderella. So I guess I'm just reminding myself that it wasn't a cry that she was leaving "mom". It was a cry that she was leaving her playmate. She cries much worse when I leave her places or even in a different room!

I know it's not going to get any easier as we see mom more frequently but in my time walking with the Lord I've seen the pattern over and over that the biggest blessings following crazy amounts of pain. Just keeping my eyes on the prize at the end- a more intimate relationship with God, a better understanding if who He is, greater faith and a deeper dependency on Him than I've ever experienced before. Those are all things that are not in any jeopardy of being taken from me! Praying without ceasing and trusting as I've never trusted before!

Mixing with the Street

Today's our visit with mom and I already feel sick. Please be praying for us this morning. I have pictures ready to take to her and I really want to be able to be my normal chatty and friendly self without my nerves getting in the way. Last time I was so nervous I couldn't be myself and I so desire to be in control and purposeful in my actions this morning. It's not even just that she holds our future in her hands. I'm not good with being around drug addicts and people from the street. It's so foreign to me that it unnerves me. Hopefully through this experience I can really grow in my effectiveness to reach people that make me squirm and develop a true love for them. I'm really thankful Bryan can go with us this morning

A Crushed Spirit

Today is one of those days that bring me back to reality. It's easy to go on every day in the routine of having two children and outside of discipline really just treat them both and think of them both exactly the same. Days like today when I'm on the phone off and on all afternoon with various county workers and am jumping through hoops to make things happen really slaps me in the face and cause me to be rocked emotionally. Often it makes it more difficult to be loving and compassionate when I'm struggling and battling through the possible hurt that could be coming our way and I often find myself on these days putting up walls. Thankfully today it just made me treasure the moments that I do have with her and we had a really good evening even amongst the tried crankiness from a busy VBS week.

I really didn't give much thought to how things could change now that Dora has been moved from an adoption social worker to a regular foster care social worker, so today when a county worker called to tell me that she needed to set up a visit with Dora and her mom on a day when she could come pick her up I was caught completely off guard and felt somewhat blindsided. I'm just glad that I had called her previous worker so that I knew she had a new worker! Why I didn't get the call I'll never know. It's par for the course with her previous social worker. But That's kind of important information for me to know! Well... There is NO way I'm letting a stranger come pick her up to take her to her visit. I don't care if she is a foster child, a potential adopted child or my own child. I'm not sending her off with someone she doesn't know! So I was able to press her a bit and figure things out a little better. Fortunately she was pleased she didn't have to pick her up and my voice was able to be heard in the timing of visits etc. I'm feeling really unsettled with this new worker. I was just settling in with the old one and feeling like we had a relationship to go off of and it's hard for me to start over. Not to mention that this new worker is a constant reminder of Dora's categorical move.

We've been through our ups and downs in the past couple of weeks. She was doing so great with her speech that she didn't qualify for any speech services but we've faced some major regression in the last week. The only thing I can link it to is that she and I had a really rough week last week. We were just really butting heads and she was really being defiant. No matter how hard I would try to balance the love and positive interactions with the discipline it just wasn't equal last week and normally the discipline is SOOO much less than the positive interactions. It was really discouraging to see her rebel so strongly against both Bryan and I. I'm relieved that while we're still dealing with the defiance that it is sooo much less and is not the primary interaction with her this week. I'm starting to see the words come back and she's starting to make progress once again. Last night I was asking her to say "puh" as we're working to get "please" and she was thrilled to repeat it for tons of praise and she's been saying "Dora" plain as day for a couple of days and she's super proud of herself! I'm so thankful for these words that are once again exciting her to practice speaking!

I wish I knew better how to explain the emotions I'm feeling. Every visit with mom just completely crushes my spirit and brings me to my knees. Like most, I like control and being in this situation where I have none is a really humbling and scary place to be. My only comfort comes from the fact that I have a completely trustworthy God who is the great puppeteer directing every step, every word and every decision the court makes. Even knowing that doesn't erase my fear. It just gives me something to focus my thoughts on when I'm feeling afraid. Once again I'm in that place of taking every thought captive and replacing the bad ones with truth. My heart is a battlefield tonight as I struggle to not let fear overwhelm me and my emotions rule me. It's time to be purposeful in my actions with mom and make every moment I'm with her count because my continued prayer is for voluntary relinquishment. It's the impossible. Social workers tell me their parents don't do it but I'm still praying. I know how ever the situation ends up it's going to bring God the most glory but in my little human heart I can't think of anything that could possibly bring him more glory than for her mom to relinquish her on her own accord. I need to remind myself over and over again before I go to not just let myself be dragged along like i did last time but to go in in control of how I'm handling the situation and be purposeful in my actions and words. I believe God has brought us together for a reason and I need to take every opportunity to love her and build that relationship. I've started thinking about whether or not I should invite her to Dora's birthday party or not. It makes me uncomfortable to do that and I really need to talk to my social worker and see what she says but I also want to show mom that if she were to relinquish it wouldn't mean she'd never see her again and it would also give her a glimpse into our life... I've still got time. We shall see!


The social worker already called me back and is submitting it to court! I'm so thankful she's on top of things! No guarantees but I'm encouraged by her quick response. She isn't the most friendly person in the world though...

Crossing Borders

Sigh... Dora has been in the process of switching social workers and I told her previous social worker back in May that we needed to take Dora out of state for Rachel's wedding. Well, here we are only a week and a half away and they haven't even started getting the court order... I finally got her new worker's name today after having to call myself. I was supposed to receive a phone call when she was placed with a new worker. Please be praying that they move quickly for us so that we aren't faced with a difficult decision of who stays and who goes or if we should leave her behind... I can't even think about that. I'm not sure I would... Sigh... It's important to me to me that Cinderella's at this wedding. I know God can move mountains and is able to take care of this. I'm just feeling a little panicy right now.

The Dreaded Day...

Today is the day I've been dreading. The day Dora visits with her mom for the first time since coming into our care. It's so different than with Cinderella. In Cinderella's situation I encourage her relationship with her other family. I love to watch Cinderella and her birthmom play together, love on each other and bond! I want so desperately for her to know how much she is loved by her other family and I feel so privileged and blessed to have them in our lives! I in no way feel threatened by their relationship, just to opposite! I love her, trust her and will never stand in the way of them spending time together! People ask me all the time how I can deal with it and all I can say is that I love her! I chose in the beginning to nurture that relationship as much as I could so that Cinderella could be comfortable, confident and secure to explore a relationship with her and won't feel like she's been disloyal to me by having a relationship with Rachel. My hope is that in the future that she'll experience less loss as a result of seeing first hand the love of her other family. It's such the opposite with Dora. I'm in this insecure position where I have no say, no voice and no rights. mom has rights, Dora has rights, but I have nothing. I'm just in this incredibly vulnerable position.

I've been thinking about today all week. I think God has been merciful to me by placing this first visit following my busiest work week of the year! I didn't have time to think about it too much, or drive myself crazy, or let my fears take control of me. I simply had no time and the time that I did have I was so tired I couldn't waste too much more energy worrying! And then today was just the craziest day! I had planned to feed the girls lunch and stop by COSTCO to pick up pictures before heading out for the visit. But instead, Dora napped late and Addy and I were having so much fun that I completely lost track of time and when I finally looked at the clock it said 12:07! An entire hour later than I thought it was! I had to be in Richmond by 1 and Dora was still asleep, neither girl had shoes on or hair done, none of us had eaten since breakfast, my diaper bag wasn't ready and I didn't have anything to do with
Cinderella while we waited! Sigh... It was 12:18 when we left the Taco Bell drive through and were on our way to Richmond. Not too shabby if you ask me, but it was inevitable that we were going to be late. When we got there Cinderella had been asleep for about 20 minutes and she was in the uncomfortable spot where you didn't sleep enough so you feel worse than if you hadn't slept at all so she was just completely out of sorts! It was windy and I didn't see it, but Cinderella saw a paper fly out of the car and away and that just set her off. She was SOOOO upset about that paper flying away! My suspicion is that it was trash from lunch because when I was cleaning up later we were one cheese roll up wrapper short! Definitely nothing to be whining over! Well. She was just melting down while we're trying to get into the building. Then, as we near the door DORA starts squawking! She had dropped her doll, then once she got her doll, she dropped her water bottle and the whole while Cinderella is just in sobs! Again, a blessing right? It may not have felt like it in the moment, but looking back I realize that because of the chaos I was saved the nervous anticipation!

The SW then asked if I wanted her to take Dora because mom was already there and she didn't want me to be uncomfortable. Well, of course I was uncomfortable! how could I not be? But I certainly wasn't going let fear dictate my actions so I told her thanks for thinking of me but I was fine and walked in. We walked towards the woman calling Dora's name, though I would never have picked her to be Dora's mom. She looked nothing like I expected! Well.. she was short and I did expect that :) From there on it was kind of a blur. I remember the SW trying to take Dora and Dora would have none of it. When I went to hand her to mom she wouldn't go to her, but neither did she protest when mom took her from me. I didn't have the presence of mind to watch Dora's face. I wish I had... As they disappear behind the door seperating us in the lobby while they went to a visitation room I hear
Cinderella in inconsolable sobs, "My sister! I want my sister!" I reminded her that Dora had an appointment and that she would be back in a little while. I don't think Cinderella would have reacted that way had she not been in a sleep funk, but she did keep her eyes fixed on the door waiting for her sister to return! It breaks my heart to think of them being split up, but I just have to remind myself that God loves her more than I do and that God WILL protect us through this. The thought of my sweet, precious daughter losing her best friend, playmate and sister brings tears to my eyes and makes me question if we made the right decision, but I can't think like that and I WILL NOT let fear control me! There is always going to be risk in any past, present or future adoption. It is the path that God has chosen for us and our children. I can't forget that God is bringing our family specifically and purposefully together and he will equip not only us, but them as well for the events that will shape our lives.

I knew the visit was over when I heard Dora's giddy laughter coming from the direction of the door. She was chasing her mom out of the back rooms and into the lobby and no one would ever know that she barely knows her! It sounds bad, like she had this fantastic time and that she forgot all about us, but if you know Dora, you also know that she'll go to anyone and play with anyone and her playmate today was her mom - NOT that she even knows that she's mom. To her I'm mom and I'm secure in that. It's the courts that make me antsy!

While we had been waiting these two women came in. Their appearance and demeanor made me squirm from the moment they walked in, but what do you know? Yep! First thing mom did was take Dora right to them to show her to them! And then she brought them all over to me! What joy right? Now I'm literally surrounded by people who make me uncomfortable AND they're playing with my child! Sigh... It was at that moment that I was begrudgingly allowing Dora to give high fives to them that I thought to myself, "this can't be God's best for her. They offer her a rough, worldly lifestyle while we offer her a Godly. Christ-centered home where she will be introduced to the Gospel and be raised to love the Lord." I don't know how this will turn out, but I am confident that God wants all to be saved and she'll have a better shot at that living with us than going back to her mom! That's one point for us :)

This week as I've been praying over today I've struggled, as I have from the beginning, because I just can't pray that she'll mess up! So, my prayers have been and will continue to be for voluntary relinquishment. I can't think of anything that would bring God more glory than for this woman to see our lives, see our love for her daughter, and decide on her own that this is where she wants her daughter to be! It may seem like a long shot, but I've known God to change the hearts of people before and do way more impossible things than this! So, my goal is to befriend and love this woman who gave birth to my daughter! Next visit, I WILL be on time. I WILL bring pictures. I WILL be more present when I'm with mom. And I WILL let the Holy Spirit flow through me and see what God does!

My Heart is a Battlefield..

So... I'm positive most of the time, but I'm having a down moment. Dora's SW called to push back her visit on Wednesday because mom has a parenting class. Sigh.. That means she's doing what she needs to be doing. Trying hard to remind myself that it's really close to the hearing and that right now I should be expecting her to have her act together. But this morning I just woke up in prayer for my girls. They're becoming so attached to each other and I've had moments of fear and what if's all day. Really trying to focus my heart and mind to the things that I know to be true of my God. He's loving, desires my best, He loves my children more than I do and wants their best as well, He's trustworthy AND faithful. This mama's heart is a battlefield today!

Time is a passin'

I feel like the past two weeks have FLOWN by! Between trips to the zoo, Happy Hallow, Fairytale Town, my birthday, Easter, park days, WIC appointments for Dora, Speech Therapy, and daily life, most days pass in the blink of an eye. It's no wonder my cold and lost voice are hanging on so long!

My social worker came out today for a visit with me and to observe how things were going in our house. It's hard for me to imagine that the first go around she seemed like she hated us! This time she has been so positive and so encouraging! I know that the change of heart could only come from the Lord and I'm so thankful! Today she only had positive things to say and was really encouraging that both she and Dora's social worker are really pleased with this placement. It makes me feel so confident that we're right where God wants us to be!

Dora is improving so much! No one can deny her growth and again, it's encouraging to get good feedback from speech therapists. I don't like going to the class, but I do appreciate having them around so that they can watch her blossom too. The other day Dora ate something that was hot and without me telling her it was hot she said "haw" on her own. That's the sort of thing that keeps me going in being diligent to help her with her speech. And then today after I changed her diaper it sounded like she said "thank you" unprompted. These moments are becoming more and more frequent and I'm so thankful for them.

Dora has her first visit with mom since we have had her on the 11th and I'm a little nervous about it. I'm not sure if we'll see her that day or not. I know that I have to take her to the appointment, but I don't know if our paths will cross or not. Part of me really hopes that they do and the other part is nervous to see her. In a sense we are competing for Dora at this point and there's no question who "mom" is at this point and it's not her. I've heard that Dora shows no attachment to her mom at all and while she'll play with her she has no desire to be affectionate with her or any remembrance of who she is when she sees her. She hasn't seen her since March and I anticipate and fight when Dora is taken from me. We'll just have to see how it goes I guess.

I go back to work on Monday :( At least it's only four weeks and then I'm off again. Just got to get through the next few weeks and pray pray pray Bryan is able to secure a full time position by June so that I don't have to go back!

Living in God's Peace

I keep waiting to reach the place in my walk with God where my first response is faith. It seems that no matter what circumstance I face my first reaction is fear. I will say that what I do see in my life is a quicker response time. It takes less and less freak out before the faith kicks in every time I face a circumstance in my life that is uncomfortable or scary or painful. But, that's not what I desire for myself is just a quickER response. I want my response to be immediate. I was fearful when we got the call about Dora and was fearful when I got that phone call on Thursday. But the point is that my fear is irrational because I know that God is faithful in all circumstances in my life, the good and the bad. He has proven Himself over and over again and STILL I have problems trusting Him. It grieves my spirit. But, just so we're all clear, I'm OK now. By Thursday night I was fine. Exhausted and drained, but the line had been drawn, the decision had been made and I was confident in it.

As all of this has kind of settled in my mind and my heart I was reminded of two women from the Old Testament. Jocabed, the mother of Moses, and Hannah the mother of Samuel. Both women only had the infant and toddler years to teach their children Godly character and wisdom. Both men grew to be very influential and important figures in the history of His people which I think is such a testament to the teaching that their mothers did in the short time that they had them. And, it's such a blessing to their mothers as well to watch their children grow into men of God from afar. Even if I only have the next six months with Dora I have so much I can teach her! God put her in my life at this point in her life because we needed each other and I'm content in that. I pray that I have years and years to teach her many many things and that she can grow up in our family, but you better believe that I will seize every opportunity to teach her as much as possible between now and then. We're at this place where we choose to be hopeful that she will permanently be a member of our family and we need you to be there with us. We realize that we're putting you in a potentially emotionally risky position, but we're all adults here and we believe that God is gracious enough to help you through it. We have a child here who is very observant and very aware of how she is being treated and we expect our family and friends to treat her as a permanent member of our family. Both our children are equal.

Here's the thing that I've learned about the system. What we're experiencing is NORMAL! Why Dora's social worker made it seem like we're the first people this has ever happened to and that it was completely unexpected baffles my mind and it certainly caused me an inexcusable amount of confusion and pain. In talking with our SW it became very clear that this is 100% normal, expected and happens all the time and in most instances the child does not go back to their parent. The more I've thought about other families that have had experiences with the county the more I've realized that most/many/all have experienced something similar and all of these realizations provided the beginning of healing in my heart. Had our SW been the one to call to tell us the news I would have been saved a lot of pain! I really expected the court process to be drawn out than they expected because it just seems like nothing is as easy as people expect it to be. The amount of backtrack in the process caught me off guard though and really shocked my system. Just like in anything else it's scary until you have all the facts and then when you're educated it suddenly isn't as scary as it once was. So, we're living life in our new reality. It's a risky and potentially costly reality, but we're right where God wants us to be. We didn't go into this process with blinders only hearing what we wanted to hear. We were well aware of the risk and we made an educated decision. In many ways we're counting the cost of that decision now. It really makes me think about the Christian life. Receiving the gift of salvation is the easy part, but the cost of discipleship is great. If you think for a moment that the Christian walk is supposed to be easy, free of pain and suffering than you need to reconsider. Jesus said that we are to deny ourself, take up our cross DAILY and follow Him. For some that means losing friends, for others it means financial hardship or infertility or disability or death. But the thing is, the benefits far out way the cost. It's the same here. The decision to adopt was easy and now we're in the tough part, counting the cost of our decision. BUT, whether the time we have with Dora is 6 months, 12 months, 12 years or a lifetime, the benefits will far out way the cost.

The other thing that I've learned about the system is that they drag things out way longer than anyone thinks that they ought to so that they can say that they did everything they possibly could to reunify mom and child. I've heard it from foster parents and our social worker alike that often they run it out without ever having any intention of reuniting them. I don't fully understand why they do what they do, but I do know that God is STILL in control of the court's decisions. It isn't a surprise to Him and He already has a plan laid out in the best interest of everyone involved.

I've gotten the sense that people aren't sure what to say to us or are afraid of giving us false hope. Don't be. Our eyes are WIDE open, but instead of living in fear of the future we're living in hope. So please choose to hope with us. Don't be afraid that by encouraging us or admitting that there's hope is in any way giving us a false sense of security or hope. It's not going to hurt us in the future if you were hopeful with us along the way. It will hurt us now if you choose to live in fear, discouragement or doubt. We're living in hope of the future and we expect you to as well. If you can't do that then maybe we're better off without each other until this process is over. NO ONE is more aware of the risk than we are.

I think you can't really understand God's peace unless you have experienced it or are experiencing it. But I would be a wreck without it! God's peace is one of the many benefits of discipleship and it is what gives me the strength to walk through the trials I face

My hope is in the Lord

Today has been rough for me as I'm sure you all can imagine. But, I have to say that I felt a lot better after talking to my SW. She's been doing this a long time and she's much better at explaining things than Dora's worker. Dora's worker made everything sound like domsday was around the corner, where our worker was able to break it down for me a bit. She said that this often happens, where mom gets services back and gets those extra six months, but that in children under three that's all they get. This is her last chance. I kind of remember all this from the class we took, but it was explained poorly then too. She said that after the six months if mom doesn't do well then it will go to termination again, but that's after 120 days, another 4 months after services are terminated. Then mom can appeal it again. So we're looking at a really long road ahead of us. But she said that she's been doing this since 1985 and in her experience parents in the system are just who they are and that they'll fight hard to win the next court date, but that most of the time they eventually screw up again. I don't want anyone out there reading this to think that I'm hoping that this woman is going to continue to screw up her life. I do hope that something will happen that will allow us to keep Dora, but I hope that it's a change in heart of mom and not that she continues in her lifestyle. Mom has been doing good for a while and she's fighting hard, so there is no way to guarantee the outcome, but knowing that what we are experiencing is pretty normal gave me comfort. I was pretty much expecting another court date. Hopeful it would resolved today, but I went into it expecting it not to be over. What made it so hard was that it was so many steps back. We're basically back to last July when Dora was placed in her last foster home. So, the good news is that if it comes to the point of terminating parental rights we won't have to wait to sign our papers and make it official. We can immediately adopt her after rights are terminated because by then she'll have been in our home over six months. Silver lining, right? Also, if she messes up this time then when she appeals it again this will have been the third time she messed up and that will work in our favor. Silver lining again?? I was really hoping that we'd have a less high risk situation for our first go around with adopting through the county, but I guess that's not the case! No easing into it for this family! We DO have a heart for foster care, we just thought it would be further on down the road!

It will be interesting for me to have to start dealing with mom. Dora's visits with her are supposed to increase to twice a month and I'll be the one taking her. Who knows how God is going to use that. Maybe it will just be that once she sees us together, or sees Cinderella and Dora together that she'll have a change of heart, OR in seeing that we would be open to an open relationship as long as she is clean when we see her she'll sign voluntarily. Who knows. There are so many things that can happen along the way, I just have no idea!

The length of the process is what makes me the most uncomfortable. It's going to be a LONG road that prevents us from moving forward with other things in our life, or pursuing adding other children to our family and it just makes me squirm with discomfort and anxiety. I worry about Cinderella. Obviously, she's my first priority because she's the one that is mine forever, guaranteed. We're just going to have to keep a close eye on her. She'd definitely miss her if Dora ever has to leave, but I just need to remember that both of my children belong to God and that He has their best interest, and mine, at heart. He loves them more than I do, as impossible as that seems! Just when I think I'm getting a handle on this faith thing I'm stretched even more than I thought I could take. But, somehow (ok, I really do know how. He's called the Holy Spirit!) I'm always filled with the strength and the faith to handle each situation that comes my way. I always feel like I've hit my max and God has tested my faith beyond what any person should have to bear, but I always find that there's more room to grow! I'm not going to lie. It's hard work. It's exhausting work. It means taking EVERY thought captive. It means being in the WORD so that I can be filled. It means CHOOSING my attitude. It means PRAYING without ceasing. It means RESTING in God's promises. And it is one of the most exhausting things in my life! BUT, it really brings the peace that only comes from God and it's definitely worth every exhausting, tiring, gut-wrenching moment. It's developing my character and hopefully, it's bringing God glory.

I've shed hundreds of tears today and I'm sure there will be more, but even though my emotions are going CRAZY! I know that God causes all things to work together for good in the lives of people who are called according to HIS purposes. I keep going back to that and holding on to that. Because my hope is not in man, the courts or a mom who is trying to get her daughter back. It's in a loving Father who knows what I need in my life to continue to stretch and grow my faith. Just pray for me!

The Big News...

So....tired.... You all know we went into this process with our eyes wide open and we always knew that even though the SW's were confident that things were going to go in our favor that were was a possibility that it wouldn't. Well, once I finally got a response from the SW it was not what I wanted to hear. Basically, the court sided with mom and are giving her six months of services again. I'm still learning about the process, but I'm pretty sure that when parents are given six months of services that those kids are not classified as "adoptable." So, now Dora is unadoptable and she is no longer even in the adoptions unit which means that we have a choice. To choose to be her foster parents for the next six months and see where things are going to go or let her leave and be placed into a foster home. So, we've taken massive steps backwards in the process. I'm still waiting to talk to our social worker, I think she'll explain it better than Dora's social worker did. I'm just not sure what happens in six months if mom doesn't get her act together enough. I don't know how long it will drag on. I've been on the phone with the FM all afternoon off and on and the thing that I keep seeing is how unexpected this decision is. It just doesn't make sense from a human perspective. I saw it from SWD and I'm seeing it in the FM. Rights SHOULD have been terminated yesterday and something strange happened and they weren't.

My spirit is crushed and I'm exhausted beyond words, but I know that God is most glorified in hopeless situations. This decision came as a surprise to us, but not to God. It's taken me a few hours to come around, but I know that out of hopeless situations He makes miracles happen and He is glorified all the more because of it. I know it's weird, but I'm starting to feel confident in the fact that things are so messed up and the unexpected happened. It's almost like I can see God working in the situation. I don't think this is over. I don't know what the outcome will be and just as I went into it with eyes wide open the first time, I'll keep my eyes open and fixed on Jesus and pray for a miracle.

Ugh... Should have gone...

Totally regretting not going to the hearing today. If we ever have another one for Dora or any other children, I'm definitely going. I just need to keep reminding myself that I only stayed home because I felt it was in the best interest of Dora, but it's KILLING me not knowing what's going on. Once I found out we couldn't take her it really put a damper on things for me. If she had been with us a little longer then I would have gone, but I haven't had the chance to get her acclimated to other people yet and I really wanted to be really bonded before leaving her with anyone else. Sigh... I just need to trust the Lord right now and that He was the one leading my decision to stay home. I can't even remember what time the hearing is. I think she said 1:30, but I'm not sure. Resting in God's plan for my family.

Big Day's Coming Up!

Well, we are falling into a routine and I'm liking it! Before when Dora would come to visit our daily routine went out the window and that was really tough for me. I've always been a really structured mom and we've been able to be flexible within our routine, but having no routine made me just exhausted! So I'm SO relieved to have figured out how to make Dora's daily needs fit into our family routine, AND we are all thriving.

Wednesday's the big day. Please, please, please, keep us in your prayers between now and then. It's the hearing where the courts are planning to terminate Dora's mom's parental rights. I pushed the SW on Friday to hear from her perspective where things were at. I just wanted her to spell it out for me because they never have. I had made a lot of assumptions about what had happened and where we were in the process and what was going to happen next. I was pretty much right in what I had been thinking, but it was nice to have it spelled out clearly. The SW apparently asked for a continuance at the last hearing because she hadn't identified an adoptive family for Dora, but at the hearing on Wednesday her report and her testimony will be to terminate parental rights and move forward with us adopting her. I had originally wanted to go, but I guess we can't take Dora with us if we go, so I can't see how it would be in Dora's best interest if we go. The SW will fill us in, but I guess I'm just interested in the process. It's probably not as interesting as I think it will be =)

God works all things for good!

Today was the big day! Dora is officially living with us now! I'm so relieved. It has been really taxing to coordinate with the foster mom and get over there to pick her up and/or drop her off every day. I'll be so relieved to wake up and not be in a rush each morning to get out of the house to pick her up! And not only the extra business of all that, but also to get into a routine. The more she's here the easier it's getting. We've finally mastered naptime... I think. Yesterday I was losing it trying to figure out why both Cinderella AND Dora weren't sleeping but then I put a couple blankets up to cover the window and like magic Dora slept! Whew! I'm convinced that she needs to go back to two naps a day. I think with all the extra stimulation she's getting from living with us she needs the extra time for her brain to rest and digest. I'm thankful that she was able to take two naps today and I'm looking forward to the one on one time with Cinderella each day. I think it will be good for Cinderella. She's been my biggest challenge this week. People keep telling me it's normal for the other child to act out, but it just grieves my spirit to see my beloved child acting so sinful. Kerry told me today that her wise sister said that when your kids start acting out to love on them more and spend more time with them. So, I started working really hard to respond with love and affection EVEN when she deserves discipline. It's a hard balance for me and I'm sure I'm making so many mistakes along the way, but responding with love and understanding and following that with discipline seems to be helping. Not gonna lie though - it's tough when Cinderella's been down right defiant or just plain mean. I'm really thankful that God is patient with me when I'm down right defiant towards Him and that He loves me despite my own sinful behavior so I need to find it in myself to be Christ to my daughter, even when I have to say the same thing over and over and it just doesn't seem to make an impact. Such are the joys and challenges of parenthood :) I know I'm not the first, nor will I be the last to struggle with these things.

Dora is so happy! She seems to be the happiest when we are home and she's especially happy in the evening after dinner. I guess this morning she knew I would be coming to get her. I normally get her around 8, but this morning was more flexible so it was more like 8:45 and I guess for about a half an hour before I came Dora was waiting at the door for me. She was so happy to see me and so excited to go. Then when we got in the car she looked at Cinderella and she got a HUGE smile on her face! It is obvious to me that she's happy in our family. She started giving more kisses today and she loves being kissed, snuggled and tickled. Cinderella has had to give her hugs and kisses when she's apologizing for something and Dora is even responding to Cinderella’s affection now with big smiles. At first she got really upset and pushed her away, so even though they are in this constant power struggle over toys and mom they are developing a nice bond.

Tomorrow the SW comes to visit with us and for us to sign the placement papers! The foster mom told me that she expects that we'll have two more 2-6 hearings (the hearing to terminate rights) before we're done with the court process, but I'm praying that something unexpected happens and we're done on the 20th. I guess Dora has been slated for adoption from the beginning and that the day the FM picked her up she got her directly from the court. The judge couldn't even wait till the hearing was over before calling in care for her. She said that the diaper bag she was given had more drug paraphanilia than baby stuff. I have the disgusting bag sitting in my car now. I don't want it, but she said to hold on to it in case we have to give it back. yuck!

I'm just so grieved for the things that Dora experienced (including a chemical burn from cooking meth down her stomach) before she came into care. But, I can't waste too much time thinking and worrying about it because all those terrible things that happened to her are the very things that brought her to me and so in a way I'm thankful for them. "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28)

"I want Dora back in her bed!"

So our first weekend with Dora is over and it went well. She has assimilated into our family really easily and I think she likes the activity and stimulation at our house. We took her to the zoo on Saturday and we were really excited about it. I wasn't sure she'd be able to find the animals, but she did and she'd point and say "dog." We were hoping that seeing all the animals and hearing their names would excite her to say them and she did say giraffe! That's not an easy word and it's encouraging that she's trying new words!

It's always sad taking her back to the foster home after having her, but I think that my perspective has changed. Once I got my focus off myself and what was best for me and what I think is best for Dora and realized that there are more people involved it really helped me to be content in the place where God has me right now. I can see so much better now how this transition time isn't just about her bonding with me and my family, but also letting go of her foster family and them letting go of her. It makes taking her back purposeful and I get to enjoy the transition time too with just Cinderella. I think Cinderella misses her the most when she's not here. She really gets it that Dora is part of our family and I couldn't ask for a more understanding and sweeter daughter who is patient as Dora steals her parent's attention at times.

Last night was an interesting night in our house. Dora was tired early, 7:15. So... I put her to bed early, only she decided not to fall asleep! She takes a while to wind down, so I didn't think anything of her talking and spent some time with Cinderella! She was still awake when I put Cinderella to bed. Not too long after putting both girls down Dora starts screaming loudly. I guess she just needed some snuggle time so we snuggled and fell asleep together on the love seat! Well, Cinderella fell asleep knowing Dora was out with me and she didn't sleep well at all. She woke up so many times throughout the night. Bryan got up with her for most of them, but finally I went in since every time she was calling for mommy. I asked her what was the matter and why she was crying and she said "I want Dora to come back." I told her Dora was sleeping in her bed and Cinderella immediately said ok and rolled over and went back to sleep. In the end Cinderella ended up getting her special snuggle time this morning in our bed since she kept waking up!

The closer we get to the move in date and the court date the more nervous I become. But then I realize how silly I am because worrying about it isn't going to change the outcome. I keep reminding myself of the passage in Luke where Jesus is talking about worry and He says.. "Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?....Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need." So, I'm working hard to keep my heart and my mind focused on the goodness of God and His faithfulness to me in the past and expecting faithfulness and goodness in the future, even if that looks different than I think it should. It's a tough discipline to master and it's even harder to take every thought captive, but as tough as it is now. It will be so worth it in the future when I look back and see God's goodness and plan more fully than I can now. What I know about my God is that His plan for my life EXCEEDS my expectations and that He's trustworthy with my emotions, hopes, dreams AND children.

Naptimes are for Mommies :)

Whew... what a week! Tonight is our third night with Dora. Nights are going great. Naps... not so much. I'm one tired mama. Don't kids know that naptimes are just as important to mommies as they are to them? Today I really needed that naptime but in the end it just didn't happen and we went to the park instead. I think tomorrow we'll try naps in separate rooms.

We had speech again today, this time Cinderella was able to come with us. I'm so over it. I know, it's only two weeks in! I am just having a really hard time figuring out how it is benefiting Dora right now. I'm not saying I'm against speech therapy at all. I just don't see her benefiting at all from the classes at this moment. In fact going from no structure to a highly structured classroom she's getting frustrated. I think next week when we meet with her social worker to sign the placement papers (the papers saying that she is officially becoming out foster child - not adoption papers) I'm going to broach holding off for a little while so that I can work with her and prepare her for that kind of environment. In the short amount of time that she's been with us she's learned at least five words and I have a pretty good track record of getting non-verbal kids to speak and sing in my years of teaching through music. Of course I want what's best for her and if her SW says go, we'll go. I just really believe that what she needs more than anything is encouragement to speak and the example of her big sister.

So, between picking up Dora, taking Dora to speech, taking Cinderella to the doctor because she was wheezing all day (can you believe I called first thing this morning and we couldn't get in till 4!!!!!), and no nap, today has been kind of a stressful day. Thankfully, Cinderella is doing fine. She wasn't officially diagnosed with asthma, but she was given an inhaler, I think more for my peace of mind than anything. It was really tough watching her coughing and wheezing for so many hours. I'm so glad she's doing better and sleeping peacefully.

Tomorrow we're going to head to the zoo with the girls. Thank you so much to everyone who contributed to the carseat and double stroller! I don't even know who everyone is yet, but I thank you all so much!!! We took the stroller out on a walk to the park and Dora was giggling with glee for the first 10 minutes! Both girls enjoyed it and I loved watching them next to each other. They're sooo cute!!! Anyway, back to the zoo... I'm hoping it will help get Dora excited about animals so that she's eager to look at pictures of animals and to try saying their names and making animal sounds. Plus, we just have so much fun being outside and experiencing the world with our family! She really seems to thrive outside and with one on one interaction. I just love her smile and her little sense of humor!

One load of laundry left to fold and just waiting for the cheesecake to come out of the oven before heading to bed. Awww... bed...

Transition Woes

Just left Dora at the FM's house. SOOO sad!!! She would start walking away and come to me with arms wide open wanting to be held and then as I started heading to the door she came running after me holding on to my leg and screaming. Praying the social worker is willing to just let her stay after the weekend. I have a call into her. Waiting to hear back... My heart is so sad to see her confused and sad :(

Sisterly love

Today was our longest period of time with Dora to date. I picked her up this morning at 8am and she's here till tomorrow morning. At some point in the morning I have to take her home. :( But, she's with us all weekend! Yay!

This morning I had to take Dora to her hearing test. I guess they were trying to rule out that her speech delay doesn't have anything to do with her hearing. I knew she didn't have any hearing problems, but we went anyway. It was no easy feat! The FM and I both weren't thinking about the fact that I was going to need her mediCal card for the appointment and the FM had a busy morning! She was picking up twin three week old babies in Walnut Creek. We decided that it was best for me to just meet her there to get the card and then go straight from there to the CEID center in Berekley. Well, FM was 35 minutes late but we got there ALMOST on time! I think we were 5 minutes late. So this morning was crazy!

The messes my girls make are just crazy. I feel like I just can't keep up! Even though I do ask them to clean up as they go, they're still faster than I can keep up with and in moments the mess is out again. I think I may give up and clean up at nap and bedtime. It doesn't seem like Dora's been asked to clean up before, but she's doing a great job of contributing to the clean up. I wasn't really able to make a dent until Bryan woke up and helped me. My two hands to their four were just out numbered! Once we got it cleaned up it was much easier to keep up on and have them clean up. I'm pretty sure EVERY toy was on the floor from this morning when I was getting ready!

Cinderella is so sweet. I just love her! This morning Dora wanted to go out on our little balcony. She was starting to throw a fit and Cinderella was trying to help her open the door to go out. Well, by that time Dora was in a pretty good tizzy and pushed Cinderella in her tantrum. Cinderella didn't miss a beat. She said something like "Dora, you just pushed me when I was just trying to open the door for you!" She said it in the sweetest, most patient voice. **sigh** I just love her! Then in the car we were on our way to lunch and I had given them a small snack to hold them over and again Dora was starting to throw a fit and Cinderella says "No Sister, that's all you get!" again in a sweet voice. She seems to understand that Dora is special and part of our family now and she's so loving most of the time. They both have their moments and Cinderella just wants Dora to be comfortable and do all the things that she does. But Dora hasn't been raised in our family and she's doing SO good! The worst fits I've seen from her pale in comparison to some of Cinderella's over the years. They are very short lived and she seems to be correctable and she has a desire to please. I love her too!

I'm excited for the weekend! Placement is coming soon!

Transition Continues

The girls did great their first night sharing a room! They were both sleeping soundly this morning when I went in to transfer them to the car. When we got to the FM's house she smiled at the FM but again didn't reach for her or anything.

We have a bi-day today, no Dora. As much as we miss having her around it was nice to get things done that have been waiting to be done. Like, pull out Cinderella's clothes from last summer for Dora. She's definitely not lacking in clothing! I think there's enough there for two kids!

I thought I was going to have the morning and afternoon to kind of recoup before having her again overnight, but I got a call this afternoon asking me to take Dora to her SEID appointment where they're testing her hearing. I guess because of her speech delay they want to check it. I doubt there is any major issue because she can hear and respond when spoken to. It will be interesting for sure. Two children two and under, no double stroller yet...

The FM is ready for Dora to just move over here, but I'm really trying to make it through another work week (Tuesday afternoon) if possible. I'm just not ready for a sub at all. Things are so overwhelming right now for me. I'm beyond exhausted and I go crazy just thinking of preparing to be out of work for three weeks. There are so many details to be worked out it is crazy. With Cinderella I had 8 months to prepare for Cinderella's arrival and going out on maternity and with Dora I barely even have 8 days and the majority of that time is being spent focusing on her, not the tasks I need to accomplish! I'm just taking it one moment at a time and praying that it will all work out.

I'm just ready for the transition to be over and to settle into a new normal!

Dora's First Night in our Home!

Dora's spending the night! The FM has been weird all day. We were texting back and forth all day about what the visitation plan was for the week. Her story changed a bunch of times. I don't know if she just wasn't really paying attention or what, but I was left feeling really confused. Then I went to take Dora "home" today and she said she was out to dinner and that we could keep her till 8. It WAS 8???? Did she mean 9???? Nope. 8am! Well. I have to be at work no later than 7:30, but I'm still dropping her off in the morning before work. I think the FM sees how well Dora's doing and really just wants to get her here permanently. I NEVER thought it would be like this and I think we are just blessed that it's not dragging on.

Cinderella's doing really good. Of course she wants EVERY toy that Dora has. I don't really blame her. It would be hard to share all your toys with someone else! Overall she is doing a great job of sharing not just her toys but her parents, her room, her clothes, etc. I'm so proud of her!

I'm pretty sure Cinderella's asleep. Dora keeps getting quiet and then she babbles bit and then gets quiet again. She's doing GREAT! God has been so good to us in this process! Tomorrow morning's going to be CRAZY getting two children to two places in a very limited amount of time. I'm so thankful they're both close by!

I think it's quiet back there :) I think we have two sleeping children! Yay for tomorrow being my last work day of the week! Possibly for a few weeks!

Thanks everyone for following us in our journey. It really means a lot to me to have all of you guys support us in our journey. We are so blessed to have so many wonderful family members and friends in our life!

First Day of Work

Thanks to everyone who was praying for me this morning. I made it to work ON time with no stress at all! God is so good! Praising God for His strength and mercies that are new every morning!

Becoming a family of four

Today was a great day in the Hart house. Church was amazing, just what we needed today. God is just so good to us! His Word never grows old or stagnant and it ministers to my soul. It was an extra great day since Jon and Dana were with us. I just love ALL our friends!

Anyway, Dora came over after nap today. It broke my heart when she started crying when I took her from her FM. She had just woken up from her nap and I think she was disoriented and didn't remember who I was. She cried for all of probably 15 seconds, but it felt like forever. It was a hard moment for both the FM and me. She was fine by the time we got to the car and I took my time before getting her in the car. Once we got home she was a little more clingy than normal. She was STARVING and ate a snack while cuddling with me. :) Dora helped me make a batch of brownies and she had a blast! She didn't want stop stirring or eating! It brought such joy to my heart to see her enjoy helping me like Cinderella does. When the brownies were done we went back to snacking and cuddling. It was nice to have some one on one time with Dora without Cinderella and I enjoy the moments with Cinderella without Dora too! So, Cinderella was still asleep when I got home with Dora and once Cinderella woke up chill cuddle time was over and fun play took over. We played inside and then went outside to walk around, ride bikes, power wheels, push shopping cars and strollers... spy on the neighbor's dog. Dora LOVES dogs all of a sudden. When she first came she was afraid of Chloe, but I think since she learned to say the word "Dog" she likes dogs a lot. I think she's just really proud of herself and we're really proud of her too!

When I dropped her off it was the best moment of the day. Weird, right? Here's why. Previously when I've taken her "home" she's been really excited to see the FM smiling, happy, reaching for her. Tonight, she was NOT pleased to see the FM, not upset, just not happy. She wasn't anxious to get down or settle in to "home." I said bye to her and started heading to the door and she lets out a big grunt and came running to me with her arms wide open. She wanted to come with me and was sad I was leaving! This transition time is going to be painful... The FM is pushing to get her placed ASAP because she doesn't want to go on too long with her being confused about what and where home is and who's mom. I honestly think she'd be fine to just move in, but only the social worker can make the call. I plan to call her Tuesday. She's out of the office until then. We'll see what she has to say. I'm sure a visit in our home is going to take place soon...

I'm super tired. I've always thought it was extra tiring to watch kids on someone else's schedule and I'm anxious to see what we settle into a new family of four!

The turmoils of the heart

So I met Dora and her FM at her speech class this morning and felt completely in the dark. I had no idea why we were there or what we were going to be doing and apparently I didn't even know her name! The FM assumed we would change her name so she's tried to avoid calling her a name and when she does call her by a name it's Layla. Talk about feeling blindsided. I didn't know WHAT to call her! I settled on the name we'd been calling her (but here it will be Dora) because that's what we decided we were going to call her regardless of what her original name was. We like it and it just seems to fit her. So Dora it is.

Today was very informative and I'm really glad that we went. Turns out that they have yet to assess her for speech services.The FM is in social work and knows people and they're letting Dora come kind of "under the table" assuming that she'll need them because she was a drug baby. The people are super nice but they didn't do anything I couldn't do at home. In the short time we've had her she was babbling and learned the word "dog" and repeated several other words. I think what she really needs are loving parents and a supportive, consistent home environment. Of course a very verbal older sister will help too :)

So far she has taken to us really easily. As soon as FM left today she knew to look to me as her care provider which is great and her first time in our home went really well. She was extremely happy and just made herself right at home. Cinderella was really excited to see her when we walked in. She yelled "DORA!" And then they started playing! She's a little timid around our dog, Chloe, but don't think it will be long at all before she's comfortable around her. I get the impression from FM that she's been really sheltered by request from the social worker and hasn't left the FH that much. It was obvious by the way she behaved at the speech class that she hasn't had much discipline or many expectations and it doesn't seem like she's heard the word "no." I'm pretty confident that we'll see huge improvement in her as we invest in her.

Something that hit me today as I was driving to the appointment. I was praying and working through the emotions of bringing her into our home and our family with the knowledge that the parental rights haven't been terminated yet and it hit me that I can't do this half way. If I'm going to be the parent that I need to be for her and bring her in as a permanent member of our family than I need to fully commit and count the cost if for some reason she goes back to mom. From everything I've heard and observed it doesn't seem like that is going to happen, but with this type of adoption there is always that risk and because of that there is such a tendency to allow fear to control me and for worry to take over. Then I sit back and realize that God is fully in control of the situation and that it's my choice to trust Him or to live in anxiety and fear about it. So, the choice has been made to commit fully to this child and believe that if for some reason it doesn't work out that God will be there to pick up the pieces and put me back together again and that He has something even more beautiful in store for me. I'm praying fervently that that doesn't happen and I'm praying that God will allow me to see His signs of confirmation as they come.

We're super excited that we get to spend most of the day with her tomorrow! I really need to get to bed since I'm picking her up in six hours! This has been my life for the past several weeks. I just don't sleep well or very much anymore. I'm just ready to bring her home so that then I can hopefully rest...

Becoming a Family

Day two of having Dora in our home went well! I wonder what she thinks when she see me and if she remembers me. She gave me voluntary hugs and kisses today and came to me right away this morning!!! We had put them in matching dresses yesterday, but today we actually changed her clothes into something that I had bought for Cinderella last summer and for the first time I looked at my girls and saw how they could "look" like sisters and yet look almost nothing alike. But they looked like they belonged together! It's so fun to watch them playing together! Dora isn't very well socialized and does tend to keep to herself. left to her own devices she'd just sit at the little table in the corner doing her own thing. I'm not sure if it's an issue of is being pretty much strangers or of her just not knowing how to be a part if a family.

We took Dora to Contra Loma today for a hike and we pretty much had a perfect morning until naptime hit and we still had the whole second half of the hike left! Really poor timing on my part. I wasn't paying very close attention to the time because we were having so much fun! I quickly whipped up a mei tai yesterday when I realized we would have Dora for our hike. I'm so glad I did! She rode on my back for a while and was really content and then she walked and ran for a long time. When she (and Cinderella) started melting down I put her on my shoulders and she fell asleep right there riding on my shoulders! I moved her to the mei tai and she woke up and then fell asleep against me. Awww... Sweet times. I remember many times like that with Cinderella. Love. Love. Love. Love, love! When we got home she woke up when I laid her down in the crib and she and Cinderella talked and distracted each other and neither ever fell asleep! Fortunately they both handled the lack of sleep well.

We had her till about five so it was a nice long amount of time! We'll have her again tomorrow afternoon. I'm thinking that we'll probably see her every day even though the social worker said twice during the week and on weekends. The FM is eager to let us have her and we're eager to take her! I guess the FM talked with the social worker and we have a tentative move in date of April 14th. We'll see! That's soon! I'm so thankful she's such a great advocate for us and has the same philosophy as we do in this transition time!!! God has really blessed us in being paired with her

Joy Joy Joy!

I'm bursting with joy! I get to being Dora to our house after her appointment to have our first meal together! I'm so excited!!!!

Our First Visit with Baby Dora

If you've been following my posts today you know that we got to the County offices this morning early and had to wait around for a while before we checked in. Once we checked in we had to wait for Dora's social worker to come down and she came down about ten minutes after our scheduled time and no Foster mom and no Dora. The dreaded thing had happened. Dora was a no show. We waited for a while before SWD (Dora's social worker) called the FM (Rebecca too!) and found out that she thought we were meeting at her house! SWD said that she had a really full schedule today and it didn't sound like we were able to see her today. But when she came down from her office the second time after calling Rebecca she said that she was on her way! We waited, and waited and waited some more and still no Dora. Over an hour AFTER our scheduled time Rebecca comes rushing in with Dora on her hip! Dora is so small! She looked like a 9-12 month old baby on the Foster mom's hip. We went to a visitation room where we got to play with her. I was afraid that she would be nervous around us and not want to play with us, but I had been praying that that wouldn't happen and sure enough, she took to us right away. In fact, she took to Bryan first. She really seemed to like him a lot. We played with the helicopter we brought with us and she was really sharp and quick on picking things up. We played with her for an hour, but it felt like minutes. She is a sweetie pie with such a sweet personality. She loved to share and her smile lights up the room! She likes dolls, just like Cinderella and is practicing to be a mommy! The FM said that she prefers Asian food, particularly the noodles and can eat 2-3 slices of pizza!

I'll be seeing her Friday when I go with them to her speech appointment in Concord. That will be a weekly appointment that we'll have to go to because she's non-verbal. She said "ma" but that's it and I guess that's what she calls everyone. Bryan, Cinderella and I will all be able to visit with her over the weekend. This is the first time Cinderella will see her so you could be praying that it is a positive experience and that they enjoy each other. Cinderella kept asking if she could go with us today to see "D," but of course it was just us adults today.

We get to move forward and see her several times a week and the FM has been great. She basically said we could come anytime and since Dora has a nanny she doesn't even have to be home for us to come by! We should be seeing her about 2-3 times during the week and then also on the weekends. I'm not sure when the first time she'll spend the night is, but she'll for sure be staying with us April 14-17! It sounds like it will be about four weeks until she's living with us full time.

There is still the court date looming over our heads to terminate parental rights on April 20th so if you can all pray that things go well for us and that parental rights are terminated then so that we can move forward to adopt her I would appreciate it!