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God Found Us You

Friday night we were excited to be able to attend the fundraising event A Triad of Love for Catholic Charities’ Adoption Program in Lakeland.  If it were not for this program and these people our lives would be drastically different and I dare say not near as complete.

Again it was Friday night after work and a bit of a hike, so we made our way as fast as we could and arrived about an hour and a half late.  This meant that we walked in just as the silent auction was ending.  They had a bunch of really great items including an autographed Miami Dolphins’ Jason Taylor jersey that my sister (aka Aunt Elmo) and her friends generously helped us secure for the event.

I am a big fan of silent auctions and although I didn’t get a chance to make it all the way around the table before they started to close the auction, I quickly made a last-minute bid and left feeling a little disappointed that I would probably walk away without anything. Continue reading “God Found Us You”

The 2nd Annual Adoption Picnic

I have been excited for this past Saturday for a while now.  It was our first second.  What I mean by that, is that Saturday’s 2nd Annual Adoption Picnic was the first event to come back around for us since Nolin was born.

To be fair, they moved the picnic up to April because last summer it was unbearably hot, but it was still our first repeat event.  I remember last year being very excited to meet other families that had been through the process as well as hopefully see some familiar faces from our class. While the event was a lot of fun last year, it definitely put into perspective just how lucky our family has been because we were the only ones from our class with a child in attendance.

This year we couldn’t wait to see who else was there.  Jenn and I  loaded up the car with supplies for the picnic, the baby bag, camera, super cool flip video camera, Nolin and of course Don (who I think was equally as excited about the picnic).  When we got there, we immediately saw some familiar faces and began to catch up.  Jenn was also greeted with a big hug from a lady who was in our class.  We came to find out that they had matched before our classes were over and their daughter Erika was 14 months old and may have had a little crush on Nolin.

Jenn, Erika and Nolin

We waited, but no one else from our class ever showed up.  Erika’s mother told us that she had heard there was one other couple from our group that had matched and were not able to make it.  I keep my fingers crossed that more of our friends have also become parents that we are just not aware of, but again it was a stark reminder of exactly how lucky we have been.

This year’s picnic was also neat because as the kids get older, they are able to set up more activities for entertainment.  This year, they had a bounce house, pictures with the Easter Bunny (who had to be hot in the 90 degree heat) and an Easter Egg Hunt.

With the Easter theme, they also had a lot of decorations and toys.  Nolin was a big fan of chasing the wind-up chickens.  He quickly drew a crowd and soon Jenn became the chicken master.  Kids would walk up to her hand her a chicken and wait for her to wind them up so they could crawl around and chase them.  It was quite the scene.

Nolin actually caught on to how the Easter Egg Hunt worked and would put the eggs in his basket, but he seemed to be more excited about crawling around in the woods, looking at the trees, playing in the dirt and eating leaves.  He didn’t even mind sharing his eggs with a few of the other kids.

Before we got ready to leave, Erika came over to try and get Nolin to walk towards the car with her.  She didn’t fully understand that Nolin wasn’t walking like her, so she grabbed his hand and started to pull him with her.  That’s when they had their moment.  Nolin looked at her and she looked at Nolin and seemed to communicate with their eyes that they weren’t going to be able to walk together, so she held Nolin’s hands, he grabbed her face and kissed her…

In a bit of shock and amusement we all started to laugh at which point Nolin looked at us as if we had just ruined his mojo.  Both parents agreed that maybe when they are 25 they can rekindle their relationship, but for now it was like the ending of summer camp (Summer lovin’ had me a blast).

We said goodbye to the other families and as each of us began to head back to our own lives, I know we are all looking forward to next year to see how the kids continue to grow and to find out who else will be there.

The Gravity of Parenthood

For some reason this week, the gravity of parenthood and how truly lucky Jenn and I are has weighed on my mind.  Every time I turn around it seems I have been reminded of what a miracle this whole journey has been.  I mean there are so many things that had they turned out just a little different would have completely changed our lives.  More than ever I feel that Nolin was meant to be part of our family and that I was meant to be his father.

I have been thinking about what would have happened if we had not chosen to move to Florida, if Jenn had not seen the mention in our church bulletin about Catholic Charities adoption classes or even if we had not decided to wait for a little bit before pursuing adoption.  Would things have turned out the same or differently.  What if Nolin’s birth mother had chosen another family?  Jenn and I often comment to each other that Nolin is the perfect child for us.

It may be because we took time to get Nolin’s passport.  As we were waiting in line, I started thinking about  our upcoming guys’ trip to the Cayman Islands for my cousin’s wedding and then our trip to Europe to visit Axelle and Jenn’s family in Ireland.  I also saw Nolin’s passport as his ticket to all the adventures that his life will have in store for him…and it’s just the beginning.

It may also have been because we had the opportunity to spend time with Nolin’s birth mother again this week.  While these get-togethers are still emotional, it is a good type of emotional.  For her I believe these days serve as positive reinforcement of the selfless decision that she and Nolin’s birth father made.  She often mentions that it also helps her feel confident that she made the right decision as she sees him growing up happy.  For me these days remind me how truly special the adoption process is and how fortunate we have been.  It is also nice to be able to share all of Nolin’s accomplishments with them and see that they are both doing well.

This week, it also became quite evident that Nolin is now in the period of his life where milestones and changes are happening every day not every few weeks.  Just this week alone, Nolin started clapping, waving hello and goodbye and picking up food on his own and feeding himself.  It was always funny because Nolin will put anything in his mouth and would eat anything that you would feed him, but it never occurred to him that he could play a part in that process.  He will sometimes grab the food in his fist and then try to suck the food out of his fist, but eventually he figures out that it is much easier if you just place the food in your mouth.

Friday night we took Nolin to the Hollerbach with the traditional German musicians and Saturday we went to the 2011 World’s Festival in which they showcased dancers and styles from all over the world.  Nolin would just start laughing and clapping wildly at these performances.  Jenn’s aunt noted that she is pretty sure he will be a performer of some sort.

As Nolin’s personality continues to develop and he becomes more of an individual the responsibility that I have to help shape the man he becomes is getting more clear.  As we search for meaning in everything, I can’t help being thankful that all the events in my life (large and small) have led me to this place and I couldn’t be happier.  Next week I am sure I will be back to stories of dirty diapers and awkward moments, maybe even the one about Jenn being told that Nolin has her eyes and eyebrows (which I guess means he gets the rest of his good looks from me), but for now I am just going to reflect  on what a miracle my son is.

A Different Road To The Same Destination

Last weekend, Jenn, Nolin and I had a chance to speak to a class of perspective adoptive parents through Catholic Charities about our experiences with open adoption and interracial adoptions.  We feel so blessed to have the experiences that we have had and more importantly to have Nolin in our lives that I was extremely excited to be able to share this with others.

It was very interesting to walk into a room of strangers, but instantly have a connection based on our choice of adoption.  I talked about how we came to meet our birth mother, spend time in the hospital with her and why it was important to us to be able to have her be involved in some aspect of Nolin’s life.  I have always said that the two days in the hospital when Nolin was born, were the most exciting and scariest moments of my life.  Meeting with Nolin’s birth parents always brings me right back to the excitement and happiness of those days.

Jenn spoke about why we chose interracial adoption and how confidence in that decision will help others feel comfortable in embracing it.  As an interracial adoptive parent we were told that there may be a time in our lives when an individual makes a comment that is uncomfortable or even ugly.  These comments may be intentional or unintentional, but we both feel that if you are confident with your decision this can help dictate how to handle these situations appropriately.  We have found that if it is not an issue for you, it most likely will not be an issue for those around you.

Our counselors helped us understand that there may be people in our lives that could be apprehensive about our decision to adopt for various reasons, but we haven’t found that to be the case. Nolin is the greatest blessing we could have asked for. 

The one thing that our day did magnify was the fact that there are so many different faces and stories in the adoption triad.  There were several families we spoke to that were already parents.  I was very intrigued by one man who had an 18 month old daughter, but has always wanted to adopt interracially because of a friend he had in grade school.  It is true that you will never realize how much of an impact you may have on someone else’s life even in minor interactions.   

Unfortunately there are also tragic stories in the road to adoption.  Several couples had faced years of unsuccessful infertility treatments, while another couple had experienced multiple still-born births.  Some couples still may not have fully processed their grief over infertility, while others were so excited to move to the next step.

During our journey, I think Jenn and I fit into the excited group.  We were very lucky because our journey was not as long and tumultuous as many others.  We found out pretty quickly and easily that biological children would probably not be in our future, so we were able to move on.  Luckily it was something that we had discussed in the past and for both of us it was sort of a non-issue.

I have always looked at our adoption story as a different road to the same destination.  Sure there are some things we didn’t have a chance to experience, but it is also exciting that there are many experiences that we have enjoyed that are unique to our family.

Moving Forward

So things have been pretty active the past few days in moving forward with the finalization of Nolin’s adoption. 

While we were on vacation, we found out that at the end of June the judge granted the petition for TPR (termination of parental rights).  In essence this means that Nolin’s biological parents were removed of all rights and responsibilities and allows Nolin to be adopted. 

Thirty days seems to be the magic number.  The petition for TPR was filed 30 days after Nolin was born, and then we can start the formal adoption process 30 days after the petition was granted.  So this week, our lawyer will file the paperwork to finalize the adoption and then we will wait to have a court date set.  When talking about it, it all seems kind of sterile and official, but we plan on making it a party.  It will be the day that we have the chance to stand up in front of the court and say that we are honored to raise Nolin as our child.

We also found out the question that has been on our minds for the past few weeks…exactly how much has Nolin grown since we brought him home.  I am proud to say that he is now 11 lbs 10 oz., which is almost double his birth weight in 2 months! It is also close to that magic number of 12 lbs. in which everyone says he will begin sleeping through the night.  He has moved from the 5th percentile to the 50th percentile.  We were very excited by this news….he’s quickly becoming my little man.

Finally we are continuing with our open adoption plans and will be meeting with Nolin’s birth mother tomorrow.  This will be our second meeting with his birth mother since we brought him home.  It is this part of our adoption journey that I think scares people the most.

I think that there are a lot of misconceptions about open adoption, the biggest being that our child will one day say I want to live with my birth parent(s).  Right now, I think we are pretty safe on that front (on account that Nolin isn’t quite using his words yet), but as Nolin gets older, I always want him to have a strong sense of self and grow up to be a confident and respectable individual…we hope that he will have a better understanding of self if he knows where he came from and who he is. With adoption, children can sometimes feel as if they were not wanted or loved, and I have found that is quite the opposite and would never want to deny Nolin of understanding just how much he truly is loved.

Open adoption is something that will always be different for every adoptive family, but I think much in the same way that all parents figure out how to raise a child as they go along, we will continue to figure this out too.  There are no set rules or guidelines we just plan on all working together to figure out the right balance for us.  Luckily our counselor at Catholic Charities has been a huge help in keeping this process easy and comfortable. 

I won’t lie and say that each time that we have met with Nolin’s birth mother that I don’t get a little nervous because I know it will be an emotional reunion, but just as quickly as those fears come up I am instantly brought back to those days back in the hospital. 

Before there were 1000 pictures, a few sleepless nights and a laundry list of things to assemble there was just the four of us sitting in a hospital room getting to know each other and realizing how Nolin would change all of our lives.  It was a great time in my life and one that I am happy to reconnect with from time to time.

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