Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Adoption: Continued.

There are, of course, things that were left out of my novella on Tuesday. This post will serve as sort of a “fill the gaps” measure, just in case someone has come to this page or this blog looking for information about adopting.
We actually chose the state adoption process instead of the private adoption process because of several different reasons. The first, quite honestly, was money. For a private adoption, most agencies want to see $30-40,000 in your bank account before they’ll even get started. As I’ve said to many people, if we’d have had that kind of money, we would have spent it trying to get The Missus pregnant. There are also about three thousand kids in Oklahoma without families. Most of those will “age out” of the system, never having a family except their foster family, which may or may not include three or four other foster kids. We felt like we wanted to put a dent (however small) in that number.
One of the low points for me personally was going to an “Adoption Party.” I blogged about this previously, so I won’t go into detail, but it was terrible. It was literally the worst point of the whole process for me. I know they throw those parties so that families can interact with kids on sort of a neutral playing ground, but it was completely disheartening for me, and honestly made me want to quit the entire adoption process.
There were also two twin boys from Kansas that we looked at. It turns out if you are approved to adopt in Oklahoma, there are other states you can look at. We didn’t think Oklahoma was moving fast enough for us at one point, so we started looking in Kansas and found these two boys. We sent in an application, and got word back that the application was one day too late. That was a crushing blow that made The Missus want to quit. We simply couldn’t handle the rejection, and we thought there would be many more circumstances like that.
The whole process, training to finalization, lasted a little over one year. I know of families who have waited several years without getting a child and are continuously being rejected. Some of that is the fact that most families want babies. The Missus and I prayed about that, and both realized that a baby could come later, and decided to go with older children. The decision to go with siblings was also mutual, we both sort of figured if we were getting one we might as well get two, what’s the difference? Neither of us have regretted that for a second.
The Home Interviews were tough. We had a lady who constantly canceled on us, and always wanted to reschedule. She was very unprofessional, and really didn’t want to do any work at all during the month of December. I heard it said the other day that December is like the Friday of the months, and I couldn’t agree more. When we were calling the lawyer’s office to get the finalization taken care of, the first answer we got was, “Well, December is a pretty busy month…” Trying to get work done in December is almost impossible.
For those that just won’t be satisfied until I say something about it…yes, there are monetary benefits for adopting from the state. Both of our children will have free insurance until they are eighteen, unless we elect to have them covered by our personal insurance. Daycare is free until they are seven, and each of them receive a stipend every month that grows progressively until they turn eighteen. To give you somewhat of an idea, if we start saving that money for them when they turn ten, (which is the plan) then they each will have about $30,000 to put towards college educations and the like. That is of course with accrued interest.
One of the high points for both of us was going to see Akeeli’s dance recital. We got to pick them both up, take them to the recital, and then spent the afternoon with them eating at Pizza Hut and playing in a park. For me, that was the day when I truly got emotionally attached. I remember pulling out of the foster mom’s driveway and back on to the highway heading for home, and my heart ached at the thought of leaving them both in hands other than ours. And as an aside, I will say this about foster parents: for the most part, they are better people than me. I couldn’t do what they do. I understand not all of them are good people, but this one was.
Then of course, driving to pick them up, borrowing my brother’s huge diesel truck to pack all their stuff in, and praying it wouldn’t rain on us on the way back. I convinced them both on the way home that there was little man inside of the PikePass that wore blue pants and red shirt, and he waved at the tollbooth operators and they let us through because he was so nice. I fed this little guy peanuts and ice water, and he was very happy.
Seeing The Missus adapt to motherhood the way a duck adapts to water and knowing that when I had a choice to make a few years back I made the right one. I’ve always said she needed more people to love than just me, and I stick by that today.
Hearing Akeeli say “I love you” for the first time. Lord have mercy, that one broke me. Aven said it quickly, almost a conditioned response to us saying, as if it was expected. Keeli was different though. It took a while. But when she said it…wow.
Keeli also says the sweetest things without even knowing she says them. I posted something on Facebook a while back about how when she was faced with the choice of getting a necklace with “A” for Akeeli or “S” for Sloat, she picked the “S.” When she told that to me, I held it together long enough to get back to our bedroom, and I lost it. I thanked God for the blessings he gave us.
If you’re still reading this and you are wondering how we managed to get through this whole ordeal, I can tell you. Obviously, we are a Christian family who believes God has had this planned for a while now, and who believes that he truly wants the best for us. We are very fortunate to be surrounded by a group of friends and family who believe the same.
Our Sunday School Class - I can’t even begin to thank these people enough. When we started this process, they were there to surround us in prayer and encouragement. When things got tough, they just loved us. They didn’t offer false comforts, and they didn’t try to understand what was going on. They just loved us. That group of human beings is probably the most awesome to come together since Matchbox 20.
Family - Our families have been nothing but supportive. We were concerned that an adopted child wouldn’t really be seen as part of the family. Nothing has been proven more wrong. Both of our families have adapted splendidly, and love our children just as much as we do.
Personal Friends - There is a quote from Elbert Hubbard that says, “A friend is one who knows you and loves you just the same.” The Missus and I are very fortunate to have several of these people in our lives. Just being able to call someone and gripe about the stupid state, or the stupid DHS, or the stupid People, Inc. has had a huge impact on us keeping our sanity through this whole ordeal. Again, all of these are people who just shut up and loved us, and we can’t express our appreciation enough.
Blog Friends - Believe it or not, there have been several blog buddies that have soldiered through this with us. I have made friends for life in this giant online world where so often maintaining a reputation precedes maintaining relationships. Lauren, Ed, and Jeff are some special ones that I’ll never forget. Along with those, I want to make a special mention. When we moved the children in, I was contacted by someone named Kristin. Kristin runs the blogOnly Parent Chronicles. Kristin and I have been blog buddies for a while now, and I can say this; I knew she was a genuinely nice person who has been though hell and back in just about all aspects of her life. When Kristin got in touch with me, she asked me a few questions and then a few days later a “care package” showed up for the kids. This blew my mind. It reminded me of why I ever picked up blogging to begin with. People make fun of me for having “Internet friends,” but I can assure you, these are all real friends, and I thank them.
That’s all for now, I’m absolutely certain I left someone out, and if I did, remind me and you’ll probably wind up getting your own post. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

On Starting Over.

Well, I’m back.
EDIT: There was stuff here about my new blog, but I switched back to this one because it was a mistake to leave Blogger and I'm sorry and I'll never do it again. 
The answer is simple, my friends. I’m a father.
A little over a year ago, The Missus and I started a journey with the end goal of adopting a couple of children so that my wife could have more people to love than just me. I went along with it because, hey, I like to mold minds. So we sat down in a silly class for six weeks, then we had our house inspected to make sure we wouldn’t electrocute anyone, then we had our lives so thoroughly investigated that at one point I’m positive Barbara Walters did an interview, and THEN we had to get to the fun part. Picking out the children.
As I said on my older blog (which has been deleted, because I don’t want my children coming across pictures of me topless on the Internet) picking the children was the absolute worst experience of our lives. Imagine someone setting up a bunch of kids in front of you, and you having to say things like, “Well, we really don’t want one with six fingers or a predilection for starting fires on pets.” Or, “Yeah, we’ll take one with attachment issues but they have to have all their organs intact.” In short, it was very painful, and something I hope no one else on this earth ever has to go through.
But.
About seven months ago, we both were sat down in a small room with about one hundred case files of children needing to be adopted in the state of Oklahoma that mostly met our guidelines. A lot of them were simply too old for us to consider. I had imposed that I would not adopt a child older than five. My wife and I were in different rooms in different counties, and we both came across two names. Aven and Akeeli, a brother and sister from southern Oklahoma. She was five, he was three. They were gorgeous blonde-haired children who were smiling brightly in their photographs. When we got together afterwards, we both knew these were the children we wanted to look into.
The details were arranged, and before we knew it, we were driving to Oklahoma City with our case manager to meet the kids. We went to a Chuckie Cheese, and as we pulled into the parking lot, I had no idea what to expect. I can tell you this though, NEITHER of us were prepared for what happened.
Akeeli ran out of the van that she was in, jumped off of the ground into my wife’s arms and shouted “MOMMY!”
Folks, I’m here to tell you, I kept it together while we were there, but I’m on the verge of tears as I remember that. If we had any doubts, if we had any fears, they were gone in that moment. They simply evaporated, not able to stand up to the love a child who just needed someone to call “mommy.”
Aven was a bit more standoffish, but he still walked up to me and grabbed my hand, excited to be at Chuckie Cheese, ready to play. And play they did. Those kids wore us out that first visit. They also won our hearts. By the end of the day, both of the kids were calling use Mommy and Daddy, and it was the most natural thing in the world for us to hear it. This, quite simply, had been ordained in the heavens, God’s plan set in motion before the existence of the world. If you choose not to believe that, then it was fate, predestined for eternity, since the Big Bang and all that gooey stuff started making our DNA.
There was a tiny hiccup in the plan though, one that darkened our minds for about a week after that first visit. You see, there was another family that was interested in adopting Akeeli and Aven. A family that had fallen in love with them down in their hometown. The case manager for the kids mentioned this but didn’t dwell on it, which gave us grave concern after having such a positive visit.
We’ve since met that family, and yesterday at the finalization, that family drove six hours round trip to be with us and the kids on our special day. They are an amazing group of people, and the love they show our kids is astounding. I firmly believe that Akeeli and Aven had winners in EVERY corner of their adoption process, and had this other family adopted them, they would have had an equally incredible life as they will with us.
But as the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, the state chose us to be their parents.
We got the phone call that we were approved for the second visit, and that the final visit, an overnight, would be done in our home, where if all went well, the kids would be put in adoptive placement, the final stage before the adoption is finalized. This all took place at the end of May, and so we drove down south, picked them up, brought everything they owned with us, and brought them…home.
The last six months have been an absolute whirlwind of emotions, draining every last bit of strength from my wife and I, and probably the kids as well. We have emptied our hearts, our bank account, and our surprisingly short reserves of patience into these kids, and without realizing it immediately, have been paid back dividends beyond our wildest dreams. We have been blessed beyond measure, and I am prepared to spend the rest of my life thanking God for what he has done for our little family.
And so I’ve been on hiatus, staying away from the blog, devoting time to the kids, and in general trying not to post anything on the Internet that would make people question the morals of the state in trusting me with the lives of two people barely old enough to spell. It’s been a whole lot easier than I thought it would be, and even now, at the end of this first blog, it’s strange to be back “online.” There are so many other experiences that we’ve had in the last six months, but right now I’m at a thousand words and you’re probably getting bored. However, I have to close with the best news yet.
Yesterday, at around twelve noon CST, we stood in a courtroom that had been packed out by family and friends, in front of a judge who smiled at us, asked us if we were ready to accept responsibility for Aven and Akeeli, and when we said yes sir, said: “I pronounce this adoption final.”
Names will be changed, birth records will be altered, new Social Security cards will come out. These children now bear the surname Sloat, something that my father told me was the greatest thing that could have ever happened to me. We have a family. We have children. We have a journey.
In closing, I want to thank ALL of you who followed this crazy path with us from beginning to new beginning. Thank you for your prayers, your kind words, your shoulders, and your support. Without you all, I would have folded a long time ago, and simply ran into the woods naked, yelling things about tractor beams and blueberry pies, never to have been seen again except in the occasional “DeerCam” photo.
And here you are, after six months of waiting. Their first picture on a blog. At least it dang well better be.
"If a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, then OUR children are on mile number 1001."