Sunday, November 6, 2016

Life Keeps Going

2016 has been a busy year. A is a junior and doing well in school this year. We are blessed to have his biological mom, L, living in our town now. They have really built a bond that is beneficial to both of them. It is great to see how my family has embraced L as a family member.

J & D moved into an apartment with their mom and sister this summer. Reunification is a beautiful thing. These boys were with us for nearly two years and will continue to be part of our lives. We are helping J with driver's education this fall, taking him for his required drives. Fifty hours of driving is required before he can get his license come spring. We celebrate holidays together and see them regularly.

After thinking we might be a one kid family for awhile, in October we took in another neighbor's son for the long term. AM is adjusting to our crazy clan. We have two goals with AM: (1) help him graduate high school and (2) help heal the relationship with his family.

Since we keep taking in teens not associated with foster care and the requirements to stay licensed get more stringent each year, we handed in our license. It did not make sense to us for our agency to send a caseworker for north Seattle once a year to inspect the house and interview the family when we were not taking in foster children. It is a waste of resources as I see it. We will continue to help local teens as needed by keeping them out of the foster care system and off the streets.

We officially added another family member to the clan - Hillary got married and we welcomed Johnny as our brother!

In late October we lost Isabel, our 17.5 year old cat. We got Izzy two weeks after we got married; Mike nursed her back to health the first night we got her because she got stepped on by a child. She gained the name "Rubbermaid Kitty" because she recovered overnight. This year she died in Mike's arms where she felt safe. She will be missed.

Isabel - the Christmas Village Monster

With all these changes, I threw in another one - I quit my job after 7.5 years and will begin a new job December 1. It is still fairly local so we will stay in Mason County. We are enjoying our kitchen remodel which took five months instead of six weeks. After five years of no usable kitchen, it is nice to having counters and cabinets. And we got the fridge moved from the dining room to the kitchen! Below are some before and after photos.



Sunday, November 8, 2015

Review of "Surviving the Holidays Without a Child - a multimedia guide for those trying to conceive or adopt"

When we began our adoption journey in 2009, I discovered a amazing resource, the Creating a Family website:, that I still use two years after finalization of our son's adotion. This holiday season, they have created a survival guide for those who are among the childless, but are trying to create their family either through conception or adoption. Surviving the Holidays Without a Child - a multimedia guide for those trying to conceive or adopt addresses many aspects of how the annual holiday season adds stress to the stressful situations of infertility treatments and the adoption process. Input for survival strategies came from studies, experts, and people "in the trenches" - women and men struggling with infertility, going through treatments, and wading through the adoption process. Holiday stress is not limited to Thanksgiving and Christmas. When you want a child, but achieving that goal is elusive, Mother's Day, Halloween, and Easter can be stressful as they are child-centered holidays. Yes, Easter has become a child-centered holiday with cute outfits, photos with the Easter Bunny, and Easter egg hunts. The Survival Guide provides strategies for creating allies, dealing with emotions, limiting physical stress, and minimizing financial stress. 

Page 9 of the Guide is the section about Let Your Family Know. Even if you view your infertility as a very private subject to not be broadcasted, the Guide recommends telling select family members who can become your allies during family gatherings. These allies will know not to ask the dreaded question, "So, when are you having children?" They can also change the subject when the conversation becomes too child-centric or make sure you get to hold the newest baby in the family, if that is what you desire.

The Survival Guide is easy to use for any family gathering such as family reunions, not just the holidays, Each section has links to blogs, videos, audio files, factsheets, all resources from the Creating a Family website. I did find that clicking on the links did not open a new window, but took my currently open tab to that link. When I clicked the back button on my browser, I was taken back to the beginning of the Survival Guide. It is a easily loadable PDF so scrolling through the 27 pages was not too difficult to get back to where I left off reading. I recommend reading through the entire guide then browsing the links afterwards. The Guide and the links are a very handy tool during the adoption process or the infertility conception/treatment process. You might consider having family members read Surviving the Holidays Without a Child so they better understand why the holidays are difficult for you.

Creating a Family is the national adoption & infertility education organization. Their mission is to provide support and unbiased information before, during and after adoption or fertility treatment to help create strong families. Check out their Five Core Values that they use to guide every decision.   They are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and you can check out their financials and IRS Form 990 at GuideStar. Executive Director is Dawn Davenport, author of  The Complete Book of International Adoption (Random House) plus many articles about infertility and adoption. The survival guide was developed with the help of several sponsors: Children's Connection Inc.; Jennifer Fairfax of Family Formation Law Offices; Walling Berg & Debele, PA; Advance Fertility Center of Chicago; Bierly & Rabuck; New Beginnings International Children's and Family Services; and Beacon House Adoption Services, Inc.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Mothers and Open Adoption

We just passed Mother's Day 2015. Within the adoption world there has been a lot of discussion about how, and if, adoptive mothers should honor the biological/birth/first mothers. Adoptions have varying degrees of openness from very open like our relationship with L and the other maternal relatives of Junior to the completely closed adoptions where some children do not even know they are adopted. This year, my third Mother's Day celebrating my motherhood, I thought a lot about L and of her biological mother. Yes, Junior is second generation adoptee. L's adoption was a typical 1970s adoption - young mother placed baby through a religious organization, most likely few knew she was even pregnant. L knows the geographic location of her birth and approximate age of her biological mother. This is so unlike the relationship she, Junior, and I have which allows for very open and sharing communication. Junior knows his beginning, any questions he may ever have he can ask his bio mom, he knows who he looks like because we have contact and we have photos. L and I have formed a bond beyond friends, beyond sisters- we are both the mother of Junior. Junior knows he has two mothers and two fathers.

There are strong advocates for open adoption who passionately believe all adoptions should have some form of communication between the biological family and the adoptive family. Then there are some situations where open adoption is not feasible - international adoption or safe haven adoption where child has been abandoned, foster care adoption where it is unsafe to maintain contact with the biological family, or after adoption a biological relative may choose to no longer maintain contact. This is the case of Junior's biological father. After termination of his parental rights, Mr. chose to no longer maintain communication with Junior or with us. He may share DNA with my son and memories, but he has severed the relationship. We were willing to foster a redefined relationship for our son with his biological father as we have with Junior's biological mother. It saddens me that Mr. chose to end communication; maybe, someday we will re-establish communication.

We are grateful and blessed by the relationship we have with Junior's maternal relatives. As my mother says, "You can never have too many people to love you." Not only has Junior blossomed in this love-filled, open relationship, but so have J and D who joined us last year. As we add children and their biological family to our family, we end up not with a single family tree, but with a network of trees where the roots are connected, each tree depends on the others. Through love, communication, and relationship, we can all become better humans.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Foster Care Normalacy

Once you adopt you get into a routine, a new normal. We achieved that with Junior once he became legally free in 2013. We had school, swim team, church, my work, family dinners, and family trips. Our lives did not have to include visits with caseworkers or guardian ad litums or report submittals or hearings. We could be a family.

Last September we welcomed two more kids into our family. Six months later we have somewhat of a routine, but it is dependent upon their mother's desires and schedule. We know we have the two boys every weekend. It is up to their mom if they attend church with us or with her. J spends every day after school with us until late evening. I never know during the week if we will have D so we can have two or three kids on any given day.

All three boys have adjusted to the new birth order - Junior went from an only to the oldest, J went from the oldest to the middle, and D went from the middle to the youngest. They all act like brothers with their teasing, their bickering, their joking, the laughing. This week I have been helping Junior and J figure out their high school classes with the changing regulations - Junior has one set of requirements while J has another set of requirements. They both have dreams of careers after high school. D is looking forward to entering middle school next year. It warms my heart to see our two newest additions be children, enjoy life, and feel safe. I wish we could have them full time so they could always be secure. We will see how their lives play out during the next six months. We are expecting some changes soon, but we will adjust. When arrangements are temporary you adapt as things change. Occasionally there are tears, you pray there are more smiles than frowns.

Through this all this I know God is walking with us. Protecting the boys and giving us all strength to get through the hard times. The Lord brought Junior into our lives so He could bring J and D into our lives. Three years ago we lost our battle with the state and were forced to sign with a private agency for foster-adopt. Within three years we went from no children to three children! Our cup overfloweth.

Deuteronomy 28:2 NRS
All these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the Lord you God.

Isaiah 26:4 KJV
Trust ye in the Lord for ever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Merry Christmas 2014 from the Grays!

We hope this note finds you well and prayers for those that are struggling.

This has been a wild ride of a year. We began with Nana's death after 100 years on this earth. Her life was celebrated with generations of family and friends. On the way to my mother's for Nana's service, I rolled the car with Junior and Mike as passengers. Though we walked away from the totaled vehicle, I suffered a concussion, lots of bruising, long term pain, and developed PTSD. The guys had minor bruising and only needed a few chiropractic adjustments; I am looking at 18 months for full recovery. The driver side window shattered when we hit a small tree, the side airbag protected me from the shattered glass. We ended up replacing our 5-passenger Honda with a 7-passenger Ford.

Passenger Side

Driver Side

In March, we welcomed the arrival of my niece, a strong-willed, intelligent baby. She is adorable! I got to cuddle more babies in April when my best friend delivered twins via IVF. It is a blessing to see two women who have struggled with infertility have adorable bundles to cuddle. For spring break, Mike and I took Junior and J to Portland to explore downtown for a few days. We explored the waterfront, Powell's Books, OMSI, Portland State University, and the Oregon Zoo.

Park in downtown Portland

Oregon Zoo

Mike and I celebrated 15 years of marriage with no fanfare. We acknowledged our anniversary, but no special celebration. Where do 15 years go? This fall marked 20 years since we met; yes, we were just kids, but our relationship is still strong with God's grace. Junior began marching with the high school marching band in June at Forest Fest, full rehearsals began in August with competitions and football games throughout the fall. As of December, marching band is complete until June. As soon as school ended, we sent Junior on a plane with the other 8th graders for a whirlwind trip of Williamsburg, Jamestown, and DC. The class had a wonderful time learning more about government and history. A few days after returning, we sent Junior off to my parents' for two weeks. He got to experience a heat wave (105+ temps), went shooting, helped my mom with painting without getting paint all over the floor, swam almost every night, and charmed all the relatives. Then we were off to Crater Lake National Park for several days during the prolonged heat wave plus we got to breathe the smoke from a forest fire in Klamath Falls. The lake was not deep blue, it was pale blue due to the smoky haze.

Crater Lake

In September before school began, Junior and I traveled to visit his biological family. It was a great weekend visiting with his relatives and some friends. We spent a day at the water slides and an evening at a state park.

September brought additions to our family. We became an unofficial Safe Family for our neighbors providing long term, part time care for their kids. We have two boys age 13 (J) and 10 (D) every weekend (nights included) and every day after school. In November we began caring for their 5 year sister (M) one day a week. We do not know how long we may care for these kids, but we love them as ours as long as we care for them. Mike even built the boys a bunk bed. We are learning to parent three kids. The Lord has blessed us with a smooth transition and good kids. Please pray for their family that they could return full time to their parents.

Bunk beds

Our family is gaining another member - a brother-in-law. My younger sister got engaged in November! In 2016 we will celebrate their marriage.

This year Mike has been having fun with his Ural which arrived in June. He has rode around Hood Canal and in Olympia. He participated in a Riders for Health Scavenger Hunt and Camp Out. In December he rode with his aunt in a local Toy Run where 10,000 motorcycles rode to raise toys and money for kids in need for Christmas. Junior and I have each rode as tub monkeys (the side car passenger). Junior is the kid with the cool dad who arrives at band practice in the motorcycle!

First ride after purchase

Rest break during Ride for Health Scavenger Hunt

Aunt T & Mike at Toy Run

While writing this year's letter, I realized there were no photos of me. I searched our 2014 photo archives and found three from work and few from our vacations. When I was not the photographer, I often was not around for the activity. Between work, shuttling children, and my health, life was too busy to take photos or not appropriate for photos. Besides work, I had several ER visits and medical issues - some related to the car accident, some not related. I am learning to navigate high school requirements for Junior and be an advocate for J and D. 

Me in front of USS Blueback, SS-581 at OMSI

2015 will have more adventures and surprises waiting for us. May the new year bring blessings to you!

Peace and Love,
Jocelyne, Mike, Junior, J, D, and M

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Extra kids

One of the things about being a foster parent is you are in tune to the troubled lives of other kids. While we have only adopted one son, we currently have two other young men at our house very frequently. Yes, a house full of smelly boys that make the house smell! The kids feel safe and protected at our home, life is stable, more normal. We include the boys on several family outings and at our family dinners. One of the brothers has joined us on vacation.

For now we are a safe place away from yelling and fights. I keep an eye out for signs of abuse, and have spoken to to CPS about the situation. For now, we are resource for the family which keeps the boys safe. We have one or both boys every weekend. I have grown to love these boys. I will protect them just as I protect my son. I will feed them, clothe them, give them shelter when needed, and always love them.

I knew one teenage boy ate a lot of food and made his bedroom and bathroom smell. Now with two teen boys and one preteen boy, they all eat a lot and, oh, do the bedroom and bathroom smell!!!! This bathroom is designated the "Boys' Bathroom" and only they use it. Us parents and our guests use the other bathroom. Andy is responsible for cleaning the Boys' Bathroom. The other week, he said he cleaned it, but it still smelled. Mike kept checking it and making Andy go in and clean it until he got all the spots on the toilet, around the toilet, and on the floor cleaned to Dad's specifications. After three or four tries, the bathroom stopped smelling. Andy's response is, "I'm not the one missing the toilet!" We told him it does not matter, he is still responsible for cleaning up the bathroom. It is times like these that I am grateful I do not smell well due to sinus problems. I know a smell is bad when I can smell it! Now that the other two boys are spending every weekend with us, we have begun to assign them some chores. They use the dishes, they create laundry, they make messes, so they might as well help clean up after themselves, take out the trash, and empty the dishwasher. These are all chores Andy does and he would be happy to share, even if just on the weekends.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Happy Son

When people find out we adopted a teenager, they always ask if we are having any problems. I admit, teens, in general, adopted or not, struggle through life trying to assert independence and determine identity. Adoption adds more layers to this struggle. I have a well adjusted 14 year old, almost 15 year old. He loves video games and band. He enjoys socializing, dislikes chores, enjoys sleeping in, trips over his own feet, and only listens to mom when I use my "listen to me now" tone of voice. He is messy, does not care what he wears (holes and frayed hems), is loyal to his friends, loves his family, is gentle with cats, is polite to strangers and elders, and treats his best friend like a brother.

Some teens don't want others to know they are adopted. We were talking the other morning and he says he lets everyone know about his adoption. He is comfortable with who he is and how he fits into our family. He is comfortable with how our family fits with his biological family. At 14, I sure was not comfortable with who I was, though I knew how I fit into my family. He is doing well in school. He is involved in wonderful extracurricular activities, many that he can continue into adulthood. He is self confident including able to give a speech to a few hundred people.

During the adoption process, we and our son attended counseling to smooth the transition. Also, he met with his Guardian Ad Litum (GAL) who has known him from infancy. The counselors and the GAL all stated our son was resilient and able to adjust to life very well. I pray this ability continues through his teens and adulthood. Resiliency is more than coping, it is the ability to deal with whatever life throws at you; many adults struggle with this skill, my teen possesses it already.

I have a happy, well-adjusted teenage son. We are blessed to be a family.