Foster Cakes by Frost & Flour

Last week I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and I came across a shared post. A bakery in Albany, Oregon was offering free cakes to Foster Care children who had an upcoming birthday. Amazing, right? A simple gesture but one of the most compassionate and loving things you can do for a child. My husband said immediately to me as I had the same thought, I need to reach out to them!

Mariah & Tanner

Mariah & Tanner

This week I was able to speak with the family. They are absolute gems!

Mariah and Tanner have been foster parents for a little over 2 years. While they never had plans to foster or intended to, they knew they wanted to adopt. They got a call from a friend who told them about two kids who were in a desperate need of a roof of their heads and a safe and loving family dynamic. Without hesitation, Mariah and Tanner took in the children for a year and a half. It was then they realized they had a heart for it and could do this for other children as well.

They have had 16 children come in and out of their home, mostly short term but some have stayed for a while. They have 4 foster kids right now; 1 year old twins, a 4 year old and a 5 year old. Mariah said the twins are just an absolute trip; and are a mirror of each other…if one is happy, the other is happy, if one is upset then you best believe the other is as well. Mariah joked about her house being the best kind of chaos there could be. The couple is certainly hoping to adopt when the time is right.

Mariah’s husband, Tanner, works 40-60 hours outside of their home per week for the state to provide for their family, ensuring Mariah can pursue her passion of baking from their home. Last year in May is when Frost & Flour made their big debut. It has taken off and it’s success has both surprised and humbled the couple, who simply wanted to provide for their ever changing family. Both Tanner and herself are thankful for all the success. When they began to Foster, they quickly realized working full time jobs outside of their home was a feat with young children. There are lots of appointments, lots of drop ins, and their schedule has to be flexible at all times. Mariah and Tanner never know when they are going to get a call, and fostering children definitely keeps them on their toes as they have to be flexible.

Tanner also happens to be youth pastor at their local church. Mariah notes how hard he has worked to provide over the last few years so she could follow her dreams of baking. They amazing couple also donates a portion of all profits to the local church program for foster care and adoption. When asked what provoked the idea behind Foster Cakes, Mariah said they knew they wanted to do more. One of their foster children who came to their home had never had a birthday cake of their own. It broke their hearts that something so small was taken for granted by so many. She stated it is something that most people take for granted, and it truly opened her eyes and sparked a mission in her. Every child deserves a cake on their big day. Mariah and Tanner set off to change that. They started Foster Cakes last week. Foster Cakes has already gone viral with over 100,000 views and shared by even more.

Mariah and just some of her amazing creations!

Mariah and just some of her amazing creations!

Mariah and Tanner hope that they will inspire others. She states, “there are a million ways to help foster care children, this is just one of them.” Mariah and Tanner challenge everyone to find one way they can help foster care children, and put those actions into motion.

Mariah has received a total of 7 cake orders, and has 2 of them done so far. She still has a whole inbox full of messages that she has to get to. A lot of the messages they have received are of support and words of encouragement. She has a lot of people asking to help her. While they certainly wish to continue to do Foster Cakes for as long as they can, they still have to find the balance of maintaining a successful and profitable business that provides for their family as well. There are lots of ways that YOU can help programs like these and get involved yourself.

Oregon is proud to have Frost & Flour as a staple and leading the way for their community and Foster Care. If you haven’t already, go check them out and like them on Facebook!

http://www.frostandflour.com/

Cakes of magnificent design!

Cakes of magnificent design!








Princess Pigtails' diary: the first 97 days of a foster mom and the little girl in her care

By Shannon Colavecchio, special to the Tampa Bay Times

Published: January 19, 2018

Updated: January 19, 2018 at 09:17 AM

Editor’s note: Shannon Colavecchio, a former Tampa Bay Times reporter now living in Tallahassee, decided in the summer of 2016 to begin the process of becoming a foster parent. Having been raised by her grandparents after her biological mother battled drug and alcohol addiction, Shannon had always felt a tug of sorts to help children in similar circumstances. The process of getting licensed began in January 2017 with seven weeks of state-required parenting classes, and by the end of August 2017 — following much paperwork, a home study, background checks and more — she was licensed to foster children ages 0-5. Shannon, 40, is single and juggles her work as a public relations executive for Moore Communications Group with a fitness studio she owns. Her first child placement came Sept. 15, 2017, the day after she got a call that a 3-year-old "runaway" had been pulled from her home for neglect, the mother arrested and taken to jail. This is her story, told through excerpts of a diary she kept.

The minivan pulls up outside the house. All I know is her name. She is 3½ and was wandering the streets of her small town alone, half a mile or more from home, while no one back home even noticed she was gone.

I don’t know her favorite foods or colors. I don’t know if she has allergies, if she likes vegetables or refuses them. I don’t know if she likes dogs. I have two. I don’t know anything, really. Except that it’s now my job to take care of her. After a yearlong process to get licensed to foster a child, a child is here.

I walk outside and introduce myself to the investigator. She tells me the little girl won’t get out of the car. She was asleep and now she is awake again, and scared. She slept in a strange bed last night, and is an hour from home or anyone she knows.

So I walk around to her side of the minivan and look at her face. Even in her scowling, she is beautiful. Big green eyes. Blonde hair. Freckles sprinkled across her nose like fairy dust.

I don’t really know what to say. So I tell her my name, and I ask her what her name is. She says it softly, barely audible. And then I ask her, "Do you like puppies?"

Her face lights up.

"I have two puppies inside. Do you want to come meet them?"

She smiles and shakes her head yes, wriggles to get out of her car seat, and takes my hand.

Sept. 16

Lice. All over her head. An infestation that has clearly been growing on this little girl for a while.

I spot them Saturday morning, not even 24 hours after she arrived. I text some mom friends and my case manager from Florida Baptist Children’s Home.

"I’ll be right over with lice treatment," she says.

We bring the little girl to the bathroom and get her undressed. When we tell her we have to wash her hair to get the bugs out, she refuses to get in the tub.

"I not! I not! I not!" Crying, wailing, stiffening her body so that we can’t get her into the tub.

So I pick her up and get in with her — me fully clothed, her naked and hating every second of this. While the shampoo sits on her head, I just hold her and rock her to calm her down.

We will end up doing this once more over the weekend, and then letting a professional do a third treatment on Monday.

Already, on Day 2, I’m exhausted. But also having so much fun with this little girl who has a huge smile and an even bigger laugh.

Sept. 22

Today marks a week since the little girl I’ve dubbed Princess came into our world (‘us’ being me and the pups, Sir Burpee and Lady Bear!)! It has been a whirlwind of scheduling, preschool signup, emotions, new lessons, and confirmations about both the grace of God and the resiliency of little humans.

Being honest: I have cried a lot this week, both happy tears and sad ones, at the enormity of this responsibility but also the joy and blessing of it. I have cried in learning about the life she came from, but smiled in seeing how she is thriving with structure, nurturing and a routine that gives her the safety and security she needs to feel.

She is smart, independent, as sweet as she is sassy, and funny. She has a deep belly laugh that makes my level of fatigue worth it. She loves her morning chocolate milk, the Disney Jr. channel, and stroller runs. And pizza! She also loves the "puppies." When she puts her hands on her little hips and declares "no bark!," I see a glimpse of her in 10 years.

Sept. 27

The first couple of days I dropped her off at preschool, she cried. This is a whole new experience, this school thing — with teachers and nap time and rules and so many new little faces.

She’s never been enrolled in any kind of structured school or daycare until now, and coupled with the trauma of being yanked from home just a couple of weeks ago, I sense she is just overwhelmed.

I wonder every day if I’m "doing this right." Speaking of rules, there is no guidebook for regular parenting — much less "insta-parenting" that happens as a foster mom.

So I cling to little things — like a good note from her teacher, or how she has learned to start each meal by saying grace — as a sign that she and I are navigating this thing okay.

"Deah Word (Lord). Fank you food. Amen."

Sept. 28

Today, my friend Stacy asks "How is Princess Pigtails doing?," and suddenly we have an official nickname! Princess Pigtails. It is perfect.

Oct. 6

I just love it when I plan the entire afternoon — including missing an hour of work and Princess Pigtails missing an hour of school — for a case worker who calls half an hour late to inform me "I won’t be able to make it today ..." with no promise of a rescheduled appointment for a home visit check-up.

I am providing a safe and loving foster home. So whether he visits or not won’t change that for Princess Pigtails. But I am angry for all the other foster children out there who fall through the cracks because their foster homes are not safe or loving — and caseworkers (overworked and underpaid) fail to find out until it’s too late.

Oct. 10

So far this week, I have added the Disney app and YouTube Kids to my phone, and now we are at urgent care for a fever and cough that are kicking Princess Pigtails’ poor little hiney. And I feel so helpless because I can’t just instantly make her better. I think this means mom life is officially official.

Oct. 27

The mom brain fog is a real thing, and has officially set in. Somehow this morning, I managed to lose my keys in the middle of the street halfway between home and the studio, and had to drive back and slowly retrace the route to find them. Presumably, I left them on the hood of the car while getting Princess Pigtails into her car seat. But I have zero recollection of this.

I. Am. So. Tired.

Oct. 29

The star chart on our fridge, used to track good behavior goals, is full of stars! I am so proud of Princess Pigtails. We had a lot of empty spaces the first few weeks together. So much transition, so much change for a little human who missed everything she knew — even if much of that everything was not the best for her, dangerous even.

She arrived with zero structure, discipline or schooling. But five weeks later, she has grown so much — at home and in daycare. She reminds me every day of the joy and resilience that God gives children. Tomorrow night, we go out for an ice cream date!

Nov. 7

This morning Princess Pigtails looked sad as she was getting ready for school. I asked her why she looked sad.

"I miss my dad."

And my heart broke.

Because I know too much about why he is in jail, the things little girls in Princess Pigtails’ family say he did to them. But she doesn’t understand — nor should she yet. Because she isn’t even 4.

So I struggled with what to say.

I told her, "I miss my dad, too. He is really, really far away, and I hardly ever get to see him. So I get sad sometimes, too."

And she looked at me and said, "My dad far away."

I tried not to cry and told her, "Yes, but I bet he misses you, too. And I know he would be so proud of how amazing you are doing. And I’m proud of you, too, because you are so strong."

She smiled and said, "I strong."

And I hugged her as tight as I could.

I have no idea if I said the right things. But that was a really hard conversation.

Nov. 15

45 seconds of toddler convo:

Mama, what is that?

Mama, where we going?

Mama, what you doing?

Mama, what is that?

Mama, wook!

Mama, what is that?

Mama, what is that?

Mama, what you doing?

Mama, where you going?

Mama, what we doing?

Mama, I not tired.

That makes one of us!

Nov. 27

Princess Pigtails has a big, open heart. Which is awesome and heartbreaking at the same time.

After watching the Trolls Christmas movie on Friday, she could not stop smiling. She woke up the next morning and declared: "Trolls in my heart, mama!" (Translation: Trolls make me happy!)

And then this morning before school, she just plopped down onto the floor and hugged her knees to her chest and sadly declared, "I miss my mom. I want see her. I sad."

I love that she uses her words and trusts me enough to tell me how she feels. But I hate that no amount of Trolls can really fill the hurt she has in her heart, as a little girl who misses what she knew as home.

Dec. 4

Things that are true but not easy to be told: "You no mom. You Shannon."

She says this, matter of factly, as we drive home from preschool. I should have expected it, since her visitations with her mother started last week. Still, it hurts.

Dec. 6

"That’s crazy!" is Princess Pigtails’ new favorite phrase. As in:

Me: "GUESS what?! You’ll be four in FOUR weeks! And we’re having a big princess party!"

PP: Squeals and giggles. "WHAAATT?! That’s crazy, mama!"

Dec. 12

I’m standing with the other parents, watching the holiday show at Princess Pigtails’ preschool. She has been practicing her songs all week — including her favorite: "Tingle Bells! Tingle Bells! Tingle all the way!"

As she comes to center stage and rings her little bells, I hold back tears. She has come such a long way since her first preschool show two months ago. Her teachers are so patient, and they appreciate her strengths as much as they understand the reason behind her behavior struggles. I start wondering what the spring show will be like, but then I stop myself.

The caseworker mentioned in a recent email that he is going to do a home study of the grandmother who has had custody of Princess Pigtails’ half sister since 2011. The state always wants to reunify with the parent — and if they can’t do that, to place a child with family. But this grandmother wasn’t considered for the initial placement, so I am not sure what has changed now to make her more suitable than me.

But I know that there is a possibility — even though she is thriving here — the state will move her again, just to place her with a blood relative. I don’t want to think about that possibility.

Dec. 13

Me: Did you have a better second half of school today?

Princess Pigtails: Yes.

Me: Can you tell me why you don’t listen to your teachers sometimes, even though that is one of the rules?

PP: Mama, I no want talk you. No talk. Shhhh.

And so it begins. A flash of age 13.

Dec. 14

When you’re a foster parent, you lose control.

You cannot control how a child’s past hurts will impact their current behavior. You cannot control what kind of health insurance they get — or the fact that some random person assigned a St. Petersburg doctor as her primary care provider (even though you live five hours away).

You cannot control the case plan the state gives your foster child’s parent, to get them back — or how many chances they’ll give the parent to complete it. You cannot control how many caseworkers you’ll have to deal with, or when they’ll want to visit the house to check in.

But most of all, you cannot control the biological parent. And today, I could not control the fact that Princess Pigtails’ mother and grandmother failed to show up for their weekly visit. The one she asked me about this morning.

I could not control the fact that Princess got so hurt and angry when she realized they were not coming, she punched another child in the face at daycare. Because she is disappointed that someone she loves did not do what they promised.

She doesn’t know her mother has been here before and lost two other kids. But I do. And I remember how disappointed I was when my own parents, also addicts at the time, did not do what they promised.

Dec. 15

When you become a foster parent, you lose control. She is going to live with her grandmother, because DNA rules. And there is nothing I can do about it.

Dec. 17

This will be Princess Pigtails’ last Sunday at Fellowship Baptist Church. I have to lead a fitness training, so friends make sure her day at church is so much fun. After Sunday school she got to attend a pizza party, to decorate cookies. She went to see The Star, a movie about why we celebrate Christmas. My biggest prayer is that the seeds of what she has been given by our church family these past three months will remain with her no matter what. When I was little, and there were parents fighting or high, I would lie in the dark and just pray. My hope is she never needs those prayers. But that if she does, she knows God has her covered.

Dec. 20

97 days ago, she arrived in a brown minivan. Covered in lice and bug bites. Today, a white minivan pulls into the driveway. To take her away. This girl who is safe and thriving and happy and learning new things every day. I feel like throwing up.

Princess Pigtails is watching her Disney show, PJ Masks, holding the Paw Patrol sleeping bag Santa brought her that morning.

He came early because we left him cookies the night before, with a note. He brought Paw Patrol toys and coloring books and pajamas, a Minnie Mouse purse, puzzles, Disney princesses and a purple telephone that talks. He brought her favorite chocolate and strawberry sprinkle donuts for breakfast, with a note:

"You have been such a good girl. I am so proud of you and all you’ve learned at school. You can do and be whatever your heart desires because you are so very brave. Love, Santa."

I tuck the note into her suitcase. I’ve packed her favorite bedtime stories. Her Bible. Her favorite outfits. The red coat she wore for pictures that never became a Christmas card.

I get her dressed after lunch. Fix her pigtails one last time. She runs to the mirror like always. "Mama! I want see!"

I walk outside and greet the caseworker. He sees I’m trying to hold back tears and seems surprised. What did he think my emotions would be?

So now it’s time for them to go, and I lead her to the minivan. I’m keeping my head down because I can’t stop crying and don’t want to upset her. I get her buckled into her seat and tell her where she is going.

"I love you so much, Princess. Always remember that. And make sure to always follow the rules. What are the rules?"

She recites the rules we came up with for school. "No hitting. No fighting. Listen teachers. Follow rules. Go bed. Go potty."

"Good job," I say through tears. I kiss her on the cheek and hug her as tight as I can.

"I love you."

"I wuv you too, Mama."

Dec. 22: Epilogue

My phone rings this afternoon and it’s a number I don’t recognize from the hometown of Princess Pigtails and her family, including the grandmother she has been living with for two days.

I had asked the caseworker to give my number to her grandmother, in hopes she would call or let Princess Pigtails call me.

My heart jumps as I pick up. "Hello?"

But it’s not her grandmother. It’s her mother. This person I know so much about, but don’t really know. I’m not sure what to say.

She says she wants me to talk to Princess Pigtails, who has been asking about me. "I love you and I miss you," I tell her, imagining her chubby little fingers holding the phone.

Her mother comes back on. She tells me she and Princess Pigtails went through the photo album I made of our three months together, and she told her mom what all the photos were about.

"I can tell she was so happy with you," her mother says, almost wistfully. "Thank you for taking such good care of her."

I can hear in her voice that she is sad that those pictures showed her daughter getting experiences she could not provide. Or maybe just not yet?

So I tell her about my childhood. I tell her I was Princess Pigtails’ age when my mother struggled with addiction. That her heart for me was always huge, but the addiction for a long time was bigger. It never made her a bad person. Just someone fighting a really bad disease.

Now we’re both crying. She’s not the monster I wanted to think she was. I’m not the stranger who tried to take her daughter.

I tell her that Princess Pigtails is worth fighting for. Worth cleaning up her life for.

Somehow, this call gives me peace. I can see now that maybe these three months weren’t just about giving Princess Pigtails a second chance. Maybe it was about showing her mother — through that photo album — the life she wants to give her daughter.

This is my prayer, anyway.

Princess Pigtails is living with her grandmother and one of her half sisters, age 6, in a rural community about an hour from Tallahassee. Shannon saw Princess Pigtails a few weeks after state officials moved her there, on her fourth birthday. She gave her an American Girl doll named Willa, who has blonde pigtails and green eyes just like Princess Pigtails. Shannon is awaiting her next child placement, and hoping that Princess Pigtails’ family will allow her to be a mentor to her moving forward. There are typically about 24,000 children living in foster care at any given time in Florida. If you would like to learn more about becoming a foster parent, myflfamilies.com.

Wendy Pietromonico's Adoption Story

When I was a baby, I was adopted to a loving family from Staten Island, New York. They had a biological daughter. When I got to be 5 years old my adopted mom sat me down and told me I was adopted. She told me that I went through Sisters of Charity in Prince Edward, Island.
My adopted mom told me that the nun who handled my adoption was Sister Mary Henry.
As the years went on, I forgot about being adopted.

22538601_10210229093946814_7981542847929130225_o.jpg

One day my adopted parents asked me if I wanted to talk to Sister Mary Henry and I told them yes. When I spoke to Sister Mary Henry, she asked if I loved the family I was with. Again, the answer was yes. We talked several times more and then Sister Mary Henry told me that I had an older brother whose name was Kevin Michael, but she couldn't give me his last name. I told her that I was fine with that.

When I got pregnant with my daughter I wanted to find my biological mom, but as luck would have I tried everywhere and couldn't find her. In 1996 I got pregnant with my second child, my son John, and I started to look for my biological mom again. This time I was able to find her. I found her in May, four days before Mother's Day and I was beyond cloud nine. I then called her and we talked for hours on end. I would never ever trade the day that I found her.

In 2001 my ex flew her into New York. She only stayed for a month and then flew back home. While she was staying with me we talked for hours and she told me that I had an older brother. I told her that I knew and that Sister Mary Henry told me that I had a older brother. On June 28th, 2003 I got a phone call from my uncle Billy saying that my biological mom had died. I felt so alone and didn't know which way to turn. That's when I started thinking that I should find my brother Kevin. I tried and in April of 2015 I found my brother and my nephew, Thomas. My nephew was the first person that I spoke to and he told me that I was an aunt to his two girls. I was so thrilled to be an aunt. I wrote to my brother and told him that I was his biological sister. We finally talked on the phone on Mother's Day. I was and still am thrilled to have been given the chance to know my mom, brother, nephew and nieces. I had a hole in my heart and know it has been filled with joy.

Lauren Hanekom's Adoption Story

22049916_10155722112778767_9118518836521816272_n.jpg

I wanted to share my adoption story with you. I am 28 and live in South Africa. I was adopted out of foster care when i was 6 months old. I don't recall a time in my life that I didn't know that I was adopted. My mom used to tell me (and my other adopted sister, unrelated and 5 years younger) bed time stories of how there was another mother but I was especially chosen to be her daughter. In primary school, children used to tease me sometimes but my brother (2 years older, unrelated) always stood up for me.

I always wondered about my biological parents growing up and my mother always supported the inquisitiveness. When I turned 18, I was legally allowed to search for my biological parents so I tried to approach the adoption agency that handled my adoption but it turned out that they had closed down. Their records ended up at a welfare that is run by social workers for young mothers or pregnant teens who have nowhere else to go. I had to go through a screening process to see if i was mentally prepared to start the journey of discovery.

It took them 4 years to locate my biological mother. I was able to email her indirectly through the social worker. She has 2 daughters, of which one is only 3 years younger than me. It made me wonder how she could keep that child so soon after giving me up, but I realized that I had to keep an open mind because I don't know what her circumstances were at the time or how I came to exist. We sent about 3 emails to each other, she then decided that she wasn't ready to have contact. My biological father is to this day probably unaware of my existence. I did hire a private investigator last year to try and locate him but he could only provide me with more information on my biological mother due to lack of information.

I intend to try establish contact with my biological mother again since her children are grown up now. I never felt bad about being adopted, my family has always supported me and provided me with whatever I needed. I grew up in a house with 6 siblings. It was certainly interesting when we all hit the teenage phase at more or less the same time. I don't think that it will bother me if I never have contact with my biological family but I do wonder. Other children know whose hair or eyes they've got, I would simply like medical history, a picture and to find out what they've done with their lives. I have a 5 year old son, so I can definitely imagine how difficult it must've been to give up a child, I just don't know how people manage to do it, but in my case, I'm glad she did because my life could've been very different and less fortunate.

Meredith McCullough's Adoption Story

I've known I was adopted for as long as I can remember. Growing up in a house with an older sister who was adopted from another family and having a childhood friend who was adopted made it seem like a very “normal” thing to me. I actually found it to be a very special and unique part of me. My family and I celebrate my adoption day, as we call it my special day and that’s exactly how it always felt: special. Of course, growing up from time to time I would have those moments where I’d wonder about my roots but as far as I knew my birth mother loved me so much, she gave me a better life.

23244225_983749621400_8979483339990571737_n.jpg

Off and on throughout the years especially as I got older I would “search” but didn’t try very hard and would hit dead ends and give up. Then I’d revisit a few years later. It wasn’t until I got pregnant that I really began to push to search. I wanted answers not only for my soon to be baby but for myself. Unfortunately I didn’t feel comfortable talking about this with my parents so I moved forward with the support from others around me.   

Coming from a closed adoption in the 80's I was only allowed access to non-identifying information. I thought why not, let’s see if I get any new information. Low and behold after a lot of back and forth I found out there was a letter from my birth mother in my file which was written when I was just one week old. She said that she wanted to be contacted if I ever wanted to contact her. Some time went by but the social worker was able to find my birth mother, who oddly enough was married to my birth father.

Over the span of a few months we managed to start our contact through the social worker and after three letters we decided to exchange full information. Two months following I was headed to meet my birth family for the very first time. Turns out I not only had birth parents who were together still to this day, but I had a full blood brother and sister, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. There was an entire family waiting to welcome me.

Needless to say the first meeting was extremely overwhelming. I wish I had documented my feelings throughout the whole process. I remember sitting on the couch that first meeting and just answering question after question about my life to each new person who sat next to me.

It’s now five years into our reunion. It has come with many emotions – emotions that I didn’t even know I had. Navigating through new relationships and trying to manage old ones. I have to remind myself that no family is conventional anymore. My hope is that one day both of my families will meld together. This may never happen but I’m a believer in the fairy tale. I mean what person doesn’t want that?

Despite the emotions that come along with search and reunion I’m glad I did it. I would have always wanted answers and now I have another family who loves me. I had a great life because one woman loved me so much she was brave enough to let me go and another one loved me so much she never looked at me like I wasn’t her own. I will forever be thankful for the life I had. This is my new “normal” and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Melissa Corkum's Adoption Story

20111100web_image001-sm.jpg

We were backwards from most other couples. Patrick was ready to get married first, wanted more kids than me, was ready for kids first, and brought up adoption first. Ironically, I’m a Korean adult adoptee, so I was a fairly easy win-over for adoption (Let’s not talk about the others).

Because we had already been blessed with two healthy bio children, we were certain we didn’t want to get in line for an infant and felt called to provide a home to hard-to-place children. After initial research, we were discouraged by the cost of international adoption but didn’t feel called to foster care. We started doing research about what starting an adoption ministry would look like. While researching we came across a photo listing for waiting children. Naturally I gravitated toward the Korean children. We both felt drawn to the same little guy, and God lured us with grant money that had been specifically designated for this waiting toddler. In God’s humor, we never did get that grant money. In a providential series of events that involved an angel (that’s a story for another post), we went from “wanting to find out additional info and having no home study” to “committed to adopt a waiting child” in less than 24 hours. We were on a plane to Korea 365 days later. That was adoption #1 in which we brought home a toddler from Korea who was born extremely prematurely (15 weeks to be exact) and had a lot of unknowns and global developmental delays.

Parenting Ty was nothing like we expected. We falsely assumed he would be fine because he hadn’t been institutionalized, and I was a Korean adoptee. After two years of what I affectionately call “Ty Fog,” we discovered trust-based parenting and went to Texas to become parent trainers with EmpoweredToConnect.org. Attempting to address Ty’s needs holistically catapulted our family onto a journey of increased wellness that still continues today.

In 2011, not ready to have a placement yet as Patrick was still working on a Masters in Theology at night, but anticipating the increasing Ethiopia wait times, we applied to adopt from the second country that had captured our hearts. Still wanting to provide for hard-to-place children and wanting to get the most bang for our buck, we told our agency we would take a sibling group of up to 3 children—any ages, any gender. What we didn’t know was that the increased time to complete Ethiopian adoptions was in getting matched. That didn’t apply to families who were willing to take waiting children. Less than 24 hours after submitting our paperwork, in March 2012 (with another year still left in Patrick’s Masters program), we were matched with 2 unrelated children—a 13 year old girl (Kayla) and a 14 year old boy (John). Two weeks later, we received a court date in record time and, with all the kids in tow, were on a plane to meet our newest additions on April 30, 2012. Those were adoptions #2 and #3.

While reading through paperwork for our then 14 year old son, I noticed he had been raised with another girl. We were able to pursue her as well and went to court for her in August 2012 while picking up John and Kayla. Grace came home in October 2012. Have you been counting? Yup, that was 3 trips to Ethiopia in less than 6 months. That rounded out adoption #4.

The tools we gained through trust-based parenting and the grace of God have sustained us as bringing home three, unrelated adolescents is H.A.R.D. We have been blindsided by cultural differences (Ethopia vs. US and institution vs. family), laughed at the joy shared by all the kids, cried at the grief and trauma we’ve brought into our home, and screamed at broken mental healthcare systems. We’ve met amazing families walking this twisty road with us and been humbled to accept help again and again from our village. Our journey is far from over as we continue to cling to God and hold our breaths for what is around the next corner.

I recently started a podcast...The UnCorked Podcast. While it's not specifically adoption related, Episode 7 is a conversation with my best friend who is also a Korean adoptee and we talk about our experience as "happy" adoptees.

To view Melissa's blog and podcast, go here ------> http://www.thecorkums.com/

Our family.

Our family.

Dave Lintvedt's Adoption Story

family 1967.jpg

In a local library there is an interesting bit of folk-art: a model of a family tree made for a family reunion held about 140 years ago. It is made of carefully carved and polished pieces of wood, each branch representing a member of the family. Rather than a tree it looks more like a bush, with many branches springing from each other, to show children and grandchildren as they are added to the family tree. This model resonates with me, for it is a good metaphor for adoption, at least when it works well, as the new family member truly becomes a new branch of the family tree.

As an adoptee, I have often been asked about my “real family”, if I ever wonder about them: who they were, what they were like, and I tell them that I know exactly who my “real family” is: the family who raised me and cared about me and made me a part of their lives! While I have met my birth father, and even some half-brothers, they are not my family, and I never felt the need to stay in touch. After all, I am part of a good family already, and this is the story (as I know it) of how I became a branch of my family tree:

I was born in The Bronx, in May of 1963. Soon after, my biological parents moved to find a better life and wound up in Newark, New Jersey (not the first place that comes to mind when looking for a better life, but it worked out well for me), where they hoped to raise me as their son, as they had no intention of giving me up; however, things did not work out that way.

When I met my birth father as an adult, he described my mother as a “free spirit”, which is a nice way of telling me that she was unstable; he also told me that was also a classical dancer, and something of a spiritual seeker, which led her to become associated with many fringe groups in her search for enlightenment – of course some of these groups were rather questionable, and while he did not go into detail, it was clear that some of their beliefs were “unconventional” to say the least.

My birth father told me he worked long hours as a building manager in New York City, leaving me home alone with my mother (this was not a good choice).  It’s clear that she could not handle the responsibility of having a child, because while we were alone together she would abuse me.

I have often wondered why did she did this to me, but I will never know as she’s no longer around to ask, so I can only speculate. Maybe it was because I cried (as infants will do) or did not sleep enough, maybe she was just overwhelmed, or it could be because she was just a sick person.  Regardless of why, my birth father claimed that he did not know that there was anything wrong at home, as things seemed fine when he came back from work late at night.
In time, my birth mother probably would have killed me, but one day when I was about six months old, one of the neighbors had enough of the sounds coming from my parents’ apartment and the Police were called.  Upon seeing how badly I was battered, they took me to local Emergency Room where I was attended to by a doctor named Henry Kessler.

This is my story.

This is my story.

Dr. Kessler, who was the founder of the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, was a well-known and respected doctor.  When he found that every major bone in my body either was broken or had been broken, he recognized me as a victim of child abuse, so he immediately took custody of me and in doing so he saved my life.  Although my birth parents tried to get me back, the doctor’s prestige enabled him to keep me safe, and I stayed in his care while he treated my injuries for free.

Many years later, when I was trying to learn more about my early life, I spoke with a woman who had been one Doctor Kessler’s former nurses.  When I told her who I was, she became emotional and told me that I must have been one of the babies she used to buy clothes for.  Then she told me that Dr. Kessler helped many abused children during his career, and this was when many people did not want to talk about child abuse, and when some doctors would ignore the signs of abuse in order to avoid causing trouble for themselves.

After a few months in the care of Dr. Kessler, I was placed with Newark Child Welfare, who began the task of finding a foster family for me to stay with while I continued to heal.  One of the families they contacted were close friends of the people who were to become my parents.  They had an adopted son, and had recently adopted a daughter, and were considering adopting again in the future.  When asked if they were interested in taking me in, they wanted to say “yes” but felt it was too soon to add another child to the family…especially a child who was still recovering from numerous injuries.

While they could not take me in, they helped look for a family who could; and so they mentioned my case to some friends of theirs, a college professor and his wife.  They told these friends that I needed a good foster family to stay with while I continued my medical treatments, which would include surgery on both of my shoulders and months of rehabilitation.

They had made friends with the professor and his wife, while they were students at Upsala College, in East Orange, NJ.  After they graduated from Upsala, the couple settled in nearby West Orange, and remained close to the Lintvedts, they even joined the same church.

The Lintvedts had four children of their own, one girl and three boys.  When they heard about me, they wanted to help, but they led busy lives, and with four kids already, money was tight.  They were not sure if they could handle the responsibility of another child, not to mention one with medical issues like mine; however, after some thought, and much discussion they decided to take me in as a foster child…on a temporary basis.

Meetings were held, evaluations were done, and eventually Newark Child Welfare approved the Lintvedts as my new foster family.  Just before I was brought into the family, in February of 1964, the man who would become my father took his teen aged children aside and prepared them for my arrival.  He told them that due to my many injuries, I would probably be crying, unhappy and unsettled; so he told the kids to be ready for a rough time of adjustment.  He also told them not to get too attached to me, as I probably would not be staying with them too long.

When I got home, instead of being the crying and cranky baby they expected, I was laughing, smiling and eating up all the attention I could get. Within a few hours of my arrival at the house, my father told the family, “We have to keep him!”

As far as I know, there was not much of a transition period; even though it would take about a year and a half for the adoption to become legal, for all intents and purposes, I became part of the family right away!

For the first time in my life I had parents who loved and cared for me, rather than beating and neglecting me.  I also gained an older sister and three older brothers, who I would look up to and admire for the rest of my life!

At last, I had a real family!
Over the next few years I would have bouts of Pneumonia, surgery on my damaged shoulders, more time in the hospital, and I would spend many months in leg braces.  It was a tough time, and I know was not always happy but my family was there for me, through it all…putting up with my crankiness, and supporting me; just like they still do today.

While my new family went through all of these hardships with me, they in turn were supported by many of their friends from the college and the church, including of course, the couple who had told my parents about me, who were a big part of my early life.

When I was two years old, it all became official.  By order of judge Yancy, in a court room in Newark, New Jersey, I legally became “David Andrew Lintvedt”.

I always knew I was adopted, after all it was hardly a secret; with my red hair and fair skin, I stood out from the rest of my family, and when people would stop and ask me “Where did you get that red hair?” I would proudly tell them “Because I was adopted!”

I WAS proud of being adopted…proud that my family did not have to take me in, but that they choose to make me part of their family tree.

I have always seen being adopted as a blessing, and I was right, my adoptive family is my "real family".  As I grew up they continued to put up with me, teach me, support me, care for me and include me as they lived their lives.

I am still proud, and grateful for having been adopted, and to have be given the opportunity to become part of an amazing and loving (if not always perfect) family!

 

 

 

 

Elizabeth Gate's Adoption Story

Elizabeth's first birthday with her new family.

Elizabeth's first birthday with her new family.

I'm adopted. My Mother had me at the Florence Crittenton Home in Peoria Illinois. She met my Father who was younger than she was, so I believe that's why she was sent away to have me. And of course they weren't married. I was born November 15th 1958. My Mother and Grandmother kept me for a year. My Grandmother died of a stoke at the young age of 49. At that time my Mother ended up having to place me in an orphanage since she didn't have the help or means to keep me. Of course my Grandfather couldn't take care of me and my Father was way too young. So I was placed in the Alfred Fort and Villa in Bourbonnais Illinois. I was there till I was almost 3 years of age.

23379586_1917815668235074_1222431973_o.jpg

I was then adopted by two wonderful people. I remember that the day we went to the court house they had brought me a little pink tea set to play with. I remember talking to the judge. I know my Mom was terrified. I mean a judge was asking a little girl who isn't even 3 years old if you want these two people to be your parents. A toddler could say anything. It was all good. I had a new Brother, too which was wonderful. He is 3 years older than me. We got along great. I do remember my Mom saying one day she fixed me lunch and I was just beside myself. I didn't want to eat whatever it was. She called the orphanage and I guess we ate the same thing every day; peanut butter and jelly and chicken noodle soup. After that I was fine. I have had a wonderful life. I'm so appreciative of my parents. I have a Sister, too that was born 5 years later.

Elizabeth and her birth sister.

Elizabeth and her birth sister.

I found my Birth Mother when I was about 35. I saw her once which was amazing but she wasn't well and passed away about a year later. In the last year I had a friend who does geneolgy help me. I did the Ancestry DNA and to make a long story short, had a woman we found agree to do the DNA. We found my Father who was deceased but the other woman ended up being my half Sister. I met a new Aunt and Uncle and they came to Thanksgiving at my Son's house last year. My Sister and I get along great and get together whenever we can. I have other Brothers and Sisters that I haven't met yet also. I could have never imagined this. Also, my neighbor who lives right next door used to be married to my Aunt's Son so my neighbor's Son is my cousin. Really wild.

I just want to say even though I went through a lot as a baby and toddler it turned out wonderful and I've always been grateful to my Birth Parents for giving me up so I could have a better life and my Adoptive Parents for giving me that wonderful life. I hope my story will encourage others to seek out their birth family if they are curious. You just never know what you might find.

Sheena Stewart's Adoption Story

Hello, my name is Jae Sheena Mary Stewart. I am adopted. I was adopted at age 7. My life started off not so easy. My birth mother had some mental health issues and because of this I was born very small and had health issues. I was in the hospital for few months. Then was taken home by a nurse so she could help me. After I was better, a family took me in. I was bounced back and fourth to many foster homes till I found my forever home.

20638886_333318193790001_8163306270036253294_n.jpg

My adopted mother, Jan, knew I was special I just needed extra love and care. She was told by many personal health people that I wouldn’t be able to live a normal healthy life as I got older, due to my many disabilities and labels from the abuse I went through. My mom never listened to them.

I had many people who helped me teach me life skills and copying skills. I am now a 32 year old women who is loved by an amazing family. I have a wonderful partner and few great friends. I have my BA in early education and work as a preschool teacher assistant. I was told by many due to the things I went through I wouldn’t be able to handle many things. I have proved them all wrong and still do!! Being adopted has its moments with my other family it’s hard at times. I get triggered at times from my past stuff, but I work around my issues and being in therapy helps. I believe we all get the lives we have for a reason. I would not change anything because if it did I wouldn’t have found my Mom, Jan and my forever home.

My Adoption Story

IMG_20171104_0002.jpg

I've always known I was adopted. My parents have had me since I was 6 months old. My mother used to tell me it meant my birth mom loved me so much, she wanted me to have a family that would love me unconditionally. My mom and dad had two biological children and adopted six. If you ask them which ones are their 'real' children, they will tell you all of them. If you ask me if they are my real parents, they are. Growing up my favorite childhood book was "The Velveteen Rabbit." The best way I can describe our family and adoption is through the passage, "once you are real, you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always." My parents love and dedication to me has been real from the beginning. It's something that was not only seen but felt and heard as well. 

The day I was adopted I got to wear a dress. It was light pink with ruffles at the bottom. My shoes were shiny and white. My parents packed all their children into the van to the courthouse and off we went. My momma remembers it was always an adventure to get everyone into the car. This day was treated as a celebration. Pictures were taken with my father holding my younger sister and my mother holding me in her loving arms. Balloons were held while the rest of my siblings circled us and smiled for the photos. 

Adoption day.

Adoption day.

If I never told you, you wouldn't know I was adopted. I have my mother's sense of humor. My Grandma used to tell me I have my mother's laugh. I have my dad's ability to strike up a conversation with anyone. I have my parent's eagerness to help others. I have their hope and ability to heal others. I have my father's faith. I have my mother's peace. My parent's qualities have braided and weaved themselves into my foundation and blossomed outwards to my being. Their light cast itself on every untelling road mapped out before me. 

There's in-betweens in every story. There's stories of stories. There's journeys and mountains. There's the good and the bad. There's the wonderfuls and forgettables. There's the laughters and the crying. There's the hoping and the praying. There's the memories and the memories to be. There's the hugs and the fighting. There's the get togethers and the times apart. And all of these things as one are my family's story.

Adoption isn't our story. Family is our story. Two people who had so much extra love in their hearts, were able to create a home in which to raise eight happy and healthy souls. That's where it began. Where it ends is unforeseeable. I can only guess that this story WILL have no end. Our family will continue to stem and flourish from the roots we have been gifted with.

Starting Over With a New Foster Child

Foster Parent Diary

By MEGHAN MORAVCIK WALBERT MARCH 16, 2017   (Found in the New York Times online)

We stand in the bedroom together, side by side, clothes and toys piled up around us and empty boxes tossed into the hallway.

“So, tell me,” I say. “What do you want to keep on the walls, and what should come down?”

The colorful train decal on the wall of this bedroom looks babyish now compared to the basketball posters this 9-year-old boy brought with him today. So does the framed alphabet print and the stack of board books. The stuffed animals. Even the white bookshelf and small, matching dresser I picked out back when my husband and I were first licensed as foster parents two years ago. Back when the age of children we were willing and able to accept was capped at 5 years old.

It was the perfect room for our former foster son, a boy who came to us at 3 years old and lived here for nearly a year. Now, a year after that little boy left, another boy is standing next to me, surveying the room he’s been sleeping in every weekend for the past month. The room he dragged thousands of Legos into the week before. The room he’s now moving into, we hope, to stay.

I wasn’t sure I could do this again. Our first round of foster parenthood took a lot out of me. The physical toll from living in uncertainty. The mental toll from navigating around the inevitable potholes of a flawed system. The emotional toll of saying a permanent goodbye to a child I had parented and loved for a year.

Even once we decided to do it again, even once we decided that this time, we would pursue the adoption of a waiting child in the foster care system, I wasn’t totally sure I was up for it. I wanted to do it. I wanted to grow my family. I wanted to provide a family to a child who needed one and was waiting for one to present itself. But this time, I knew better than to feel ready for something so unpredictable.

The first time, our foster son left our home after 11 months to live with extended biological family members. It was an outcome we knew was a possibility, one we supported and one we tried to emotionally prepare ourselves for. Even so, it left me, my husband and our biological son, Ryan, who was 5 years old at the time, with a deep sense of loss.

This time, we think, will be different. This time, reunification with biological family isn’t an option. This time, with this boy, adoption isn’t just a possibility but a probability.

Still, I wasn’t sure until I saw his face. I wasn’t sure until the moment he turned toward me and met my eyes for just a second before looking back down toward the ground. The moment he said, with a soft but clear voice, that it was nice to meet us. Nice to meet us. Despite the fact that so much of what had happened in his life to bring him to this point, to this moment of meeting us, was anything but nice.

It was in that moment that I realized what had really been holding me back. I was afraid that my desire to adopt was actually rooted in a subconscious need to replace my first foster son, a free-spirited, wild little thing who could never be replaced. But like all parents who panic before meeting their newest child, like all parents who think they couldn’t possibly love the next one as much as the one that came before, all I had to do was see his face to know what a fool I had been to worry about such a thing.

The next child doesn’t replace or displace. The next child adds to.

I look down at him now, this boy who captured my heart with one quick glance. This sweet kid whose hugs are more like tight squeezes. The one with the dark, soulful eyes and the candy obsession. Yes, I can do this again. Because doing this means I get to have him in my life and already, so quickly, I can’t imagine it otherwise. “We can take it all down if you want,” I tell him. “We can start fresh.”

“I think that should come down,” he says, pointing first to the alphabet poster and then spinning slowly around the rest of the room. “And that, and probably that, too.”

He is polite in his dismantling of the room. He is deliberate in his word choice and careful with my feelings. In the end, he chooses to keep two things.

The first thing he keeps is a framed, hand-painted picture of a bird, which I hung in honor of our former foster son, whom we nicknamed BlueJay. He doesn’t understand its significance; he just likes it.

The second thing he keeps is something I hung long before we were even licensed. A wall sticker I had applied slowly, carefully, using the edge of a credit card to smooth out each and every air bubble. When I was done, a hot-air balloon hovered permanently on the wall above turquoise letters.

“That should stay?” I ask him.

“That should stay,” he says with a nod. For a moment, we stare at it together. We don’t read the words aloud, we keep them inside our own heads: “Oh, the places you’ll go.”

“O.K.,” I say. “Let’s keep unpacking.”

To see the original article click on the link below. 

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/16/well/family/starting-over-with-a-new-foster-child.html?rref=collection%2Ftimestopic%2FAdoptions&action=click&contentCollection=timestopics&region=stream&module=stream_unit&version=latest&contentPlacement=10&pgtype=collection

DNA Test

July 13th

Today came the day I have waited 28 years for. Today came the day I honestly never thought I would get to have. Today I was able to find answers along with more questions. Today I found out my ethnicity. 

I know for those who already know what they are, that it may not sound like such an incredible discovery. Those of you who are adopted or know someone who is must be able to imagine exactly how I felt when I woke up to the email stating my DNA results from Ancestry.com were in.

I could barely contain myself. My husband lay in bed, still asleep. It was 4:30 in the morning. I paced around my house for the next 30 minutes, wondering if I dare click to open the email yet. I can't really explain why, but I was scared to! My biggest fear is that it would be inconclusive. My mind raced with all the possibilities I could be facing.

My family has always suspected I have some Spanish in me. Two of my birth sisters are brown with clear ties to a Spanish ethnicity. Me on the other hand, well, I look Caucasian. I have brown, curly and thick hair. My eyes are a light green/blue. My facial features are very petite. As a little girl I used to make up stories in my mind on all the things I could be. Here it is 5:00 am. I have results in my hand yet not the "cahones" to open it. So I hopped in the shower while still trying to muster up the courage.

It's not until about 6:15 I finally wake my husband up to share the moment with me. Here's some honesty for you, his reaction was less than I had hoped for. It may have been because he was tired. I'm trying to tell myself that is the reason. I just can't help feeling that it's simply because he can't quite seem to grasp it. I mean honestly your heritage can play such a huge role in your life if you allow it to. He's known his whole life what he is! Here's some more honesty for you, I have always envied my sisters who are African-American. It's clear they have some African in them. They don't wonder on St. Patrick's day if they should be celebrating it or not, because that might just be their heritage. No! They have a clear path on their road to self discovery.

Back to the results, it ends up I have 29% Ireland, 22% Great Britain, 19% Scandinavia, 13% Italy/Greece, 10% Turkey/Syria/Iran, 5% Iberian Peninsula/Spain/Portugal, and 3% European Jewish in me. That was just the beginning of the news! It matched me to a 1st cousin, a bunch of 2nd cousins, and most excitingly a close match to an immediate family member also here in Portland. I couldn't believe it. I cried. Several times. All of these doors were opening up around me and I've lived my whole life thinking they were sealed shut with cement! Family with my DNA match started reaching out to me right away. They even shared what they had done on their family trees. The whole experience was such an incredibly BEAUTIFUL gift. 

For those of you who are considering doing a DNA test, I urge you to use Ancestry.com. The test was $99 with shipping. My results came in 9 weeks, although it normally takes 6-8 weeks. And their customer service was awesome. They have so many cool features. Like I said, it matches you to others with your same DNA, and it allows you to build a family tree. I couldn't be more tickled pink with this whole journey...I will update you guys as my story continues to unfold.

Erin Stewart: 'Is he yours?' and other things people ask about adoption

Erin Stewart: 'Is he yours?' and other things people ask about adoption

People ask a lot of questions when your child doesn’t exactly look like you. Some people look at my blond-haired, blue-eyed daughters and then at my darker-skinned, black-haired son and say things like, “Oh, my, he has a lot of dark hair, doesn’t he?”

Then, they wait for me to clarify or explain how this little pop of color came to be part of my family. Some people are a little less subtle and just come out and ask, “Does your husband have dark skin?” or “Is he adopted?”

I’m constantly amazed by the depth of questions people will ask a stranger while waiting in the fro-yo toppings line.

When we first brought our son home, I was so surprised by these questions that I felt the need to offer up an explanation to these well-meaning strangers. For some reason, I felt like I owed them the details, and so I found myself often telling them that my son is adopted, or I’d explain that his birth parents are of Mexican descent.

But recently, a lady asked a new form of the question that stopped me in my tracks. She told me how adorable he was and then, looking at my whitey-white husband and children, asked, “Is he yours?”

I quickly said, “Oh, he’s adopted.”

But as I thought about this incident later, I was so angry with myself. Why didn’t I just say yes?

Is he yours? Yes. Of course the answer is yes.

Why did I feel the need to explain that he wasn’t biologically mine? Does that make him any less mine?

No. It doesn’t. And after this incident, I’ve realized that it doesn’t do me, my daughters or my son any good to repeatedly hear, “He’s adopted,” every time someone compliments me on my new addition.

The fact that my blood does not run through his veins does not make him any less mine. But I am also keenly aware of the fact that my baby has another mother, and he is also hers.

I think this quote from Desha Wood, an adoption advocate and birth mother, sums it up: “He is mine in a way that he will never be hers, yet he is hers in a way he will never be mine, and so together, we are motherhood.”

We both claim him, just in different ways. That doesn’t make him less mine or less hers. It makes him ours.

That fact is filled with a certain sadness, but also a beautiful truth: This little baby has two women who love him, claim him and call him “mine.”

So, next time someone asks me, “Is he yours?” I won’t hesitate: Yes, he is mine. Mine to raise. Mine to love.

He is my 2 a.m. wake-up call. My good-morning giggles. My constant sidekick and bedtime snuggle partner. He is mine to hold, mine to worry about, mine to watch grow into a man.

And perhaps more importantly — I am his. I am the arms that hold him. I am his diaper changer and the answer to his midnight cry. He may not have my blood or my blue eyes, but he has my heart.

We belong to each other now, and so the answer to the question, “Is he yours?” is yes. A thousand times yes. He is mine. And I am his — forever.

Stewart, Erin. "Erin Stewart: 'Is He Yours?' and Other Things People Ask about Adoption."DeseretNews.com. Deseret News, 08 Nov. 2016. Web. 07 July 2017.