Friday, March 17, 2017

20 Fingers & 20 Toes || The Day of Transport

Relaxation Lullabies on YouTube are currently playing in the background as I type.  The time is 1:16pm and we are in the midst of naptime for our littles.  Yes, you read that correct, our littles. Not one, but two, and such a blessing they are.

On October 3, 2016 our lives forever changed, the road ahead unknown, however what we did know is that we would have our final State inspection at the same time as meeting our social worker face to face, and a transport van pulling into our driveway with our future.

The inspection went really well, we did have to pause while Jamie ran quickly to the store to grab an ace bandage and gauze pads for our first aide kits for our car.  These were considered a necessity and without them would have delayed the arrival of our official state license.  Jamie got back in record time, exactly 7 minutes.  

We finished up the paperwork with the State inspector, while simultaneously meeting our social worker.  About the same time, maybe a few minutes to spare, we saw the transport van.  There are no words to quite convey how surreal this moment was. We wondered for months what that moment would be like.  We felt more prepared, more than ever, until this moment in time became a reality.  The driver of the transport got out, an older woman in her sixties, and stated she had two little boys by the name of _______ and _______ with her today.  Jamie and I looked at each other, confused as the names and children she had, did not match up to those we had on our placement paperwork.  Watching our social worker leap across the lawn quickly, she asked to see the paperwork, and it was found that the names were changed for protection.  

At that moment I glanced over to the State inspector and saw tears in her eyes.  I smiled of course, with a curious look on my face, to which she nodded back, and quietly said, "In my line of work, I've never been in the position to see this happen. To see the children be transported to a foster family, and it's something I've needed to see."  Just as she finished, I turned around as the youngest leapt into my arms, squeezing me, and telling me his name. I too, then began to get tears in my eyes, as he is just so precious, so tiny, and ready to be loved.

His brother wouldn't let Jamie go.  Jamie carried him for quite awhile until he felt comfortable.  We had read quite a few helpful articles, and blogs about meeting the children. What to do, what to wait to do, so we kind of let them in the drivers seat for the first 48 hours.

After unloading the van of a few, not many belongings, we took them inside to show them their room first.  Give them a tour, so they knew where everything was located that they would need (READ: toys, drinks, snacks, and clothes).  They are so young, but offering them a snack and a drink was the first thing we did after showing them around.  We had a few things, a play kitchen we found at a local Foster Parent garage sale, some books, crayons, and other toys.  Preparing for the unknown, it was difficult, not knowing sizes for clothes, whether they were potty trained, and what they enjoyed playing with.  After drinks and snack, we let them play for a bit, before we gave them a bath, and put them in clothes as they came in pjs.

The evening was pretty uneventful, in that we allowed them to play as much as they chose, until we put them to bed at 8:00p.m.  After we put them to bed, and after the stories were read, I am pretty sure Jamie and I just stared at each other for an hour or so trying to process the day, and all of the feelings we were feeling in our hearts.  Saying so much, without saying anything at all.

The first 24 hours, or rather the first week flashed by so quickly, between dr appointments, dentist appointments, locating a school to get them enrolled in ASAP, and of course the visits with social workers in and out of the house, which created chaos for the boys.  During that first week, the oldest looked at Jamie, after having a moment of tears and tantrums, and asked Jamie if he was going to be his Daddy..  If Jamie would be sending them away again, and if he could please just stay here..

Jamie has shed more tears, as have I, than either care to admit, however they will never outweigh or out number the tears of these little boys.

As we enter month #6, I will be sharing about instances or experiences we have had as foster parents, as care givers, as protectors, as new parents of TWO, and as parents of two tiny special needs little boys.  Our journey has only just began, and we hope that sharing our journey, can only help someone out there beginning or in the middle of theirs.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Family Update | Adoption

I feel I should preface this post and tell you it is currently 2:30am, and sleep has been a lost treasure these past few weeks..

I'm very thankful to have these next few moments with you to share what has been going on, what we are currently going through, and what is to come for our family.  In the meantime, I feel that it is extremely important to say that though everything is in place, at any moment that could change.  Let me explain.

You may or may not have been on this journey with us since November 2014 when J and I decided to announce publicly our plans to adopt.  Though a happy announcement, it was the ending of our fertility treatments, and the beginning of a new, unknown quest to find our unicorn. We began very slowly, so we could take sometime to navigate our options, and take into account our preferences, and the needs of our journey.

This was not an overnight decision. We have prayed for our rainbow baby, but also acknowledged something I have not shared into too much detail until this moment.  At the very fragile age of 3, my mother was scooped up and placed into foster care along side many of her siblings. Malnourished, neglected, abused, and scared, my grandparents adopted her, loved her, and provided her a new chance at life.  Having witnessed, growing up the challenges, and the way adoption changed her life, I knew that one day I wanted to do the same for another child. To have all the love to give them, when they may not have had that chance before in another situation.. 

J and I had our plan laid out.  We knew when we began our journey we wanted and dreamed of adopting an infant through a private adoption. We both want that more than anything so we can experience that together.  However, we also know that we want to help a child or children in foster care. We would complete our private adoption first then move on to our foster care adoption. Or so we thought.

J and I spent hours reading all the information on a foster care adoption, but truly felt we needed more information.  We submitted an inquiry on siblings we found via One thing lead to another, and we began speaking with many agencies about the process and what it entails, but most importantly the licensing process.  

While waiting for our private adoption, we were approached with the idea of allowing whichever adoption happened first instead of waiting for the private adoption.  Shortly after this conversation we were given a photo of 3 girls currently waiting for adoption.  It was difficult to work through with so many emotions, knowing they were waiting for us, so J and I sat down, spoke with our pastor, and decided we want what God wants for us.  More than anything we want His will to be done.  So we opened the door.

When I started writing this blog post, more than anything, I wanted to say everything I possibly can, with respecting the laws, and requests from our agency.  Now, a few days later, here we are again, and it is the night before social services comes to our home for our first home meeting.  You might remember, that we went through a rigorous home study about 6 months ago, and needed our landlords assistance to fix a few things, so J and I feel more ready than ever for tomorrow.  Sadly that does not stop the anxiety in the unknown.

J and I began our last set of classes June 7, and they go through August 9th.  On August 2nd, all of the families, and friends and our family will gather together for dinner during our scheduled class time to meet with everyone.  Throughout this time, we were given the green light to fill out the application paperwork for our foster care license, and should have that back within one week.  Then we submit the sibling groups that we have, and find out late August who will be coming home.  Yes, I did say siblings, and the thought makes my heart beat a thousand beats per second.  J and I have decided to adopt siblings.  We have pictures of them, and have shared them with family, but the truth is, again, at any second that could change, and they could be adopted prior to our licensing end date.  Our agencies have advised we will be receiving phone calls, and given a very short time span to decide on children looking to be placed for adoption.  It could be as early as September 1 or as late as the end of October, but J and I are fully prepared for that, in every way we can, and until then we are preparing more every single day.  Our family is growing, thank you Jesus, our family is finally growing.

Where does this leave us?  We have been given a date, October 9th in which the children will be in our home by, so we are doing everything we can to prepare for that, if not before.  Buying new furniture, bedding, making sure each child will have their own space, getting a stand alone freezer so I can start making meals over the next few weeks to have when they come home.  It is here.  It is finally here, I honestly can not believe that I am able to type this.

For years we struggled tremendously.. The unknown.  The process.  We always knew the end result, and how worth it, it would be, but I guess I never thought of it that there would be a point in this journey where it would shift from instead of being about the long process, to actually being an end point in sight.  Truly such a beautiful moment, and one I am so happy I documented.

Where does this leave our private adoption?  No where, we are still fully in the process, and thankfully the both aide to help the other.  We are still very much waiting for our rainbow baby, and working hard for that every single day.  The fund is still in tact specifically for the private adoption, the paperwork is still being handed in, and soon we will submit our fingerprints, and profile books for the families.  I do want to say that we are not rushing into it by any means, as we want to give our children, plenty of time to get acclimated, familiar with their surroundings and us as well.  On the other hand, we also know we are not getting any younger either, and want to give all of our children the best lives possible.

There is an amazing group of women, most of whom I have never met in person, that scooped J and I up in October, and raised a tremendous amount of funds for our family, and we can never ever thank them enough.  Thousands, of thousands came together for our family, and even typing that still brings tears to my eyes..  With that said, those funds are still specifically for our private adoption.  The cost total is approximately $30,000, and we will work until the baby is home.  On the side of our foster care adoption, many have asked if you can send items, clothes, toys etc, and I just don't have the words to express how I feel about all of you who have helped and continue to help our family.  Once we get closer, we will setup a registry for the children, which you can purchase items there if you'd like to, but please know we are so thankful for everything that has been done, and by Gods grace he placed all of you in our lives, as he could see the mountains we would have to get through, and guys, we are almost there.

Have you made it this far with me?  Thank you.. I am a literal hot mess, I feel all over the place, and can hardly sit still long enough to eat, or blog, or have a conversation, to ensure I am getting every second out of every day, and remembering who I need to call, what appointments are where, if I have filled out the paperwork, and correctly..  I know I have not been very present on social media, and I miss everyone so much, I just try to share when I can, and pop in to say hello, as you all bring such sunshine in our lives.

Thank you does not seem sufficient.  Thank you for your love, your time, your friendships, your support, your encouragement, your surprises, your sweet treats, your coffee runs for us, and mostly more than anything, thank you, for walking with us on this journey.  The emotions often run very high, and at times we have had to step away and recharge.  Thank you for not giving up on us when things were less than perfect, thank you for not looking the other way on the days we felt defeated and destroyed.  We know we have a bit of journey left, and we know that this is only the beginning, and it won't be easy.  All in all, it will be so worth it.  Ab-so-lute-ly worth it.

Love you! No, seriously.  LOVE YOU!
J and Rachel

Thursday, April 14, 2016

April 14, 2016| Dear You, The Reader

This letter is to you, the person reading this..
Never was it ever supposed to be easy, or without heart ache.. However this time each year I open my heart a little more and more to all of you.  Without edit, without filters.  Crystal clear, shiny like a diamond, transparent so you can see me in my rawest form.

Friends, more than anyone, I know how hard it is to pop on to my social media accounts, reading bits of what my life was 11 years ago... Kneeling in the PICU, I knew I could never live a life where I didn't speak of my daughter..  We've met through various adventures on this path I am on, but this time, this season, is forever dedicated to the angel God so graciously blessed me with.

Through our daily lives, there is never an opportune time to discuss things that make our hearts weep, make us uncomfortable, when all we would rather do is turn the page, scroll a little faster through our timelines, or cover our eyes, because things hurt us.  I get that more than you could ever imagine.. However this story, Madilyne's story does not reside to have a devastating end as her life did.  Her legacy serves purpose, she lives in my heart, and the mountains we have claimed, the rocky paths that have cut our feet, this story is destined for the happiest ending it could have..

What I do know, is this subject bothers me just as it bothers you.  An innocent child taken too soon, in the most unimaginable way.  Looking back over the past 11 years, at times I have truly wondered how I have survived.  Then I remember that one string of hope I never ever let go of.. one I kept locked in my heart, huddled so closely.. that is this hope, this love, this desire to not just survive but to thrive, and that is God..

Thousands know her because of her legacy.. Many families brought into my life for various reasons all surrounding the loss of her life.  Having the chance to share her story with children, adults, and beyond is such a blessing in itself.. however the most delicate, most rewarding, is knowing that when I take off these bandages for the world to see my true wounds, I can give another grieving mother a glimmer of hope that it is possible to take steps forward, often tiny, unnoticed steps, that over time compile to make a beautiful journey, after tragedy..  We mustn't quick moving, because we will never ever move "past" what has happened to us, but we can navigate through the pain, the heartache, and paralyzing destruction that is the loss of our children.

To the mother reading this, that is somewhere on her journey, trying to push through, or grasping at strings, ready to give up.. Its ok to fall down, to release all the strings that we are grabbing at on our way down.  You are ok, you will be ok, I promise you.

To the friend reading this trying to comfort us, thank you.  Thank you for standing beside us, without pressure, without attempting to claim to know our pain.

To our family.  Our pain is so different for each of us.  On my good days, you may not approach me with your hurt, and on your good days I may not approach you with my heart ache.. Just stick together, and hold on, because without you this path and road is challenging and painful..

To you, my reader.. Thank you.  Thank you for allowing me to share my heart, to share Madilyne with you, and not having an expectation that this path gets any easier as time passes.  Thank you for speaking her name, and remembering her.  That is music to my heart, and the playlist to my being..

Today we release balloons, and we wear pink.. for you Madilyne.

Join us on Instagram @penpalhappyness

Thank you friends, so much,

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Word of the year + How I study the bible

Choosing a word, one little word for 2016, is a huge task for anyone.  However, I like to choose a word that is really going to help me focus, and make some big changes in my life.  Usually though, it is also something very close to my heart, but also very hard to share.  My word for 2016 is Courage.

Since the loss of my daughter, many have said and continue to say the strength I have, and the courage I have to continue on.  The positivity I have, and the happiness I portray, all there front and center.  Let's be honest though, things are never as they seem on the surface.  Strength and courage are the last two words to come to mind when I think of the last 11 years of my life.  Pain, grief, suffering, sensitive, emotional, are what comes to mind, but first and foremost, LOVE is always right there first.  Front and center.  

I can only assume looking in from the outside many see this bubbly outgoing person, which honestly as time goes on I am finding again.  Someone who loves bright colors, and happy things, and lets please not forget unicorns.  Sadly, I would not be who I am today without all of the hurt, all of the tears, and sacrifices made, and surely not without God and Madi.

Courage seems to fit for this year.  It is the first year, I really want to take some big leaps and bounds. With friendships, with traveling, with creating, and with my bible studies.  I want to open all the windows I have kept close for so long, due to fear of the unknown.

Bible Studies can be confusing, especially for a newbie.  Sometimes you truly need to catch them when they start, and others it is hard to be so in depth when you are not in a physical group to ask questions, work through study guides, etc.  Anyone else feel that way?  I could be alone in this. but I wanted to show you how I deal with this on a very personal level.

Truth be told, PTSD has greatly affected my ability to be able to grasp knowledge, especially new.  That does not stop me for two seconds though, there is just a process I need to go through so it can dissolve.  I think this can help you or anyone really, but especially those who are like me.  Reading was always a nemesis of mine, simply put, I would need to re-read what I had just read 3 to 4 times just to understand what all those letters formed together were trying to say.  Many times I would re-read books twice, or write it down, highlight, and then try to memorize it so my brain could finally understand what in the world was happening.  As I got older, the process simplified, and reading has gotten somewhat easier, and I really enjoy it as an adult.  With bible study, or anything I am attempting to learn, I grab the cutest notebook I can find and go to town.  For my bible, I pick a book of the bible.  Currently that the book of Isaiah.  Spending hours copying word for word into my journal, adding little bits and bobs here and there, adding wash tape to the edges, because this is what helps me to dissolve all of this information I am taking in.  Once I get through a chapter, I go into my bible and use bible marking to highlight each different word that holds meaning, and once that is done I re-read it.  Does it take me more time than so-and-so to get through it?  Absolutely!  Is it worth it?  YOU BET!

Yes I know, I can go over board with ephemera, but um its cute, so we will just have to leave that alone mmmkay?

Find a system that works for you, and use it intentionally every single day.  Repetition in itself makes any process easier, especially when studying the bible.  Read. Write. Grow.  Oh and hot chocolate with marshmallows and a peppermint stick, because hot chocolate.

There are many, MANY great resources to help you get into a groove, I think personally it is taking the time and being diligent about your studies that is really the first step to anything.  Let's be honest! I am no pro, but I am a learner just like the next person.  If you have any specific questions, please do let me know, but I think you've got a grasp!  What is your system?  Share it with me below in the comments!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Instagram ate my blog [true story]

Do you ever come to a point in your life when you are at a "T" in the road, and one way looks the same old road, and the other way looks so amazing, and makes your dreams go haywire, but so scary at the same time?  That is where I was in October 2014.  We had just finished our final fertility treatment appointment, and there was such sadness in my heart.  I wanted to keep pushing, but did not want to go into a really dark depression and have to spend even more time digging myself back out.
I am a firm believer, that if you are going through changes, may they be big or small, you truly have to look at the big picture to see just how big and how many changes you need to make.  That was me, in 2014.  I set out to find myself, and to see if the world could accept me as I am, as my heart is, and I knew once I let go of such control, and fear, that everything else would fall into place.  Now, this didn't come without sleepless nights, or sweaty palms!  I mean, I was opening up who I was!  Who I really and truly am inside!  Before the tragedy, before I became a technical supervisor at America's top tech company.  Before the failed fertility treatments, and before I ever met my first true love.  There was a Rachel hiding in there, not many have known in my life, and I wanted to see if it was possible to get back to square one.
Making changes IS scary!  Making changes can leave us so worrisome, it can make us never begin to pursue them.  I do believe though, that sometimes we have to get back to our roots, get back to square one, and give our hearts a second chance to be what we really and truly are meant to be.

In late 2014, I took off all of the bandages, let go of all my fear, and created my INSTAGRAM account.  I dove immediately into the snail mail revolution {search #snailmailrevolution on ig} and quickly fell in love all over again, meeting lovely women from around the globe.  Thanks to many amazing women, I was introduced to #mailart as well, and truly the rest in history.  I've always had a great love for pens (I have a collection in a 30 gallon tub tucked away in our garage), paper (i've always collected journals), and stickers (don't you dare touch my 1991 Lisa Frank sticker book).  Upon joining this community I was constantly finding more and more women who loved those same things too, and sharing a common interest with them lead to even more amazing women.  Then came time to share my love of rainbows, and unicorns, as I really felt that set me apart from anyone else.  Let's not forget my secret obsession with Popples (early 90s stuffed animals), or my ever growing unicorn squad I keep out all on a shelf in my, now office.  

For many months the mail art and I continued.  Clear to the point I was writing 10-20 letters per day because the excitement of checking the mail was just absolutely beyond the need for sleep!  I would find pretty little decorated envelopes, along with amazing letters, telling me all kinds of things from day to day life for them, sharing family recipes, and from time to time even little goodies tucked inside those envelopes.  Most amazing though, was the life long friendships I made with these women.  We would instantly connect, and couldn't wait to catch up with each letter.  Sometimes it would take quite a while to get some of the letters, it seems like from Singapore was the longest, as they would take 2-4 months to arrive, but the wait was always worth it.  

 Along with penpaling, came my journey through faith.  My time to spend with God, and to really enrich my relationship with Him.  I found the bible journaling community, and then Documented Faith, and Illustrated Faith, and a new excitement came, to know I can create little drawings or paintings just for God, for him to show Madilyne, or whatever the case may be, but that I was on a journey, just Him and I, and each and everyday was to learn more, read more, and create more.  I could never draw to save my life, but I could doodle, and I have done just that.  I purchased my first journaling bible in November 2014, and have not looked back since then.  I find myself craving the time with Him, to learn more, and so excited to read and understand the bible.  I was one of those people who was intimated by the bible, because I could never understand exactly what it was that I was reading, and I was so fearful for anyone to interpret it and it be wrong.  Having a desire so strong to read it and understand it has become so, so important in my life, and thanks to some amazing ladies, some amazing groups, and amazing bible studies, I can learn at my own pace, and truly understand what it is I am reading. 
All of these amazing things, all because I wanted people to get to know the me that I protected so much inside my heart, continued to lead in new directions.  I wasn't going to be lost anymore, I was truly going to have a purpose, but much bigger than I could have ever imagined.  
December 2014 J and I decided to officially announce publicly what had been on our hearts for months.  That we were going to begin our adoption journey.  Where it would lead us, we did not quite know at the time, but what we did know is it would take a village.  We would need a lot of people, and a lot of help, and we did not even know where you start.  We had setup a crowd rise website, but we knew and still know that anything worth having is worth working for. Anything worth working for, is worth the fight.  We also know we were not in a position to have our parents help us, as they have plenty on their own plates.  And if we are honest, our financial situation was mediocre, we both had good jobs, but when it came to loans or credit cards, NO was their favorite response.  We set out, and made some huge lifestyle changes.  Being two extreme introverts, asking for anything is always difficult, even if it "hey can you pass the ketchup", because we are very independent yes, but we also have a horrible time asking in general.  Well, we had a solution!  Work for it!  No matter the bumps in the road, no matter what it takes.  MAKE. IT. HAPPEN.  Doodle Box.  
We created a subscription box for paper lovers.

 While I would love to tell you it was a great, HUGE success, we learned a ton, and we made some conscious decisions.  In August 2015, we discontinued the Doodle Box.  Among many reasons, the biggest was simply space, and time.  It was rapidly getting much bigger than something just J and I could handle on our own.    

 From there, I was unsure where to go.  I began looking at new paper crafting techniques, and came across mix media.  Signed up for the swapbot website, and participated in many swaps.  There was still something very much missing, and I wasn't sure what it was, until a friend recommended I follow my heart, to see what I could do.  I hesitated at her thoughts, because i've never been one to hop on a bandwagon, or so it seemed at the time.  Making stickers.  How could I be unique?  Could I still incorporate penpaling or bible journaling into what I would build?  Could J and I handle it, should it become something large, or handle it if a venture turned into failure again?  Well, we would not have known had we not tried.  Fear not, right?
First I should preface this.  I am a planner newbie, I will never consider myself anything more than a newbie, as there is so much to learn from everyone.  Everyone has their own way and style, which is what I love most about creative planning, and I was excited to see what I could contribute.  Let me be very honest though, the first 3 or so months of "planning", it often times was awkward. Very, very awkward.  My to-do list often resided in my imaginary check list.  My sticker books often "threw up" on my spreads, to the point there wasn't much writing space.  No matter how I tried, it wasn't working, until I finally realized, it was a growing process.  A learning process all in its own.  Once I let go of expectations, I easily found my groove for what worked best for me, and my ever growing to-do list.  One will quickly find it to be exciting, and overwhelming, but once we let go of the comparison, and see what works for us, there really is a rhythm you get, and it stays with you.  Not having to have the perfect layout for pictures.  Allowing myself to often times write tasks down after they were completed, was okay too.  Whatever it turned out to be, I knew it had to be a system I could and would use, with the goal of it turning into something long term, vs day by day.

Pinterest and Youtube became a great source of inspiration.  As did the hashtags #plannercommunity #plannerlove #plannernerd on Instagram.  Gathering inspiration from everywhere I feel at ease with the system I use, even months later.  That is not to say I haven't tried every method there is, or every planner for that matter, but you can easily do it on a budget by finding preloved planners on Ebay, Instagram (#plannerforsale) and in one of the many Facebook Group Marketplaces from the various types of planners.  You don't have to have a money tree to make it happen, I promise.  So where do you start?  Where do you begin?  Anywhere, just jump right in, and try something, anything to see what works best.

While experimenting, we did find our groove to continue our fundraising efforts, but keeping our Easy shop open, and turning it into a sticky boutique called The Happy Doodle.  We have had our fair share of ups and downs, but the blessings places in our hands from hard work are simply and utterly amazing.  What else is amazing, women from this planner community came together, and raised over $13,000 for our adoption fund, and the number continues to grow a little bit each and every day.  There is no way to sufficiently say THANK YOU for that, or what it truly means.  I can, however, promise you that not one day passes without the thought of the generosity of the planner community, and how our lives will be changed once we bring home our little unicorn, Baby Puckett.
Friends, I know I have been away from blogging for quite some time, and I can not promise a certain schedule, or anything of the sort.  What I can promise you, as I always have, is my heart.  When I sit down to write, it is always in the raw, from my heart, with no expectations.  I know I can be long winded, and that is just part of the process, but I hope I can help you, if even just by making you smile, and that we too can connect, and form a life long friendship.  That is what this is all about!  Numbers are not important to this girls heart.  Friendship is, and knowing who I am talking to/sharing my heart with, is what I hold in a special place.