Wednesday, December 31, 2014

E and S FAQ

E and S are in foster care. What does that mean?
E and S are one of the 58,000 children in foster care in California who need permanent, loving homes. These children are placed in foster care due to no fault of their own, and just need someone to be their parent. In California, all non-private adoptions are foster-to-adopt, which means that adoptive parents must first foster their children. If other foster children are anything like E and S, then there are thousands of amazing, sweet, perfect children out there waiting for adoption. 

What is the foster/adopt process like?
A year ago, Kate and I went to a foster/adopt orientation. In February, we submitted our paperwork, and in March we started PRIDE training. We signed our home study in September and identified children we were interested in. Over a two-month period we said we were interested in about a dozen children, and were eventually matched with E and S in November. We first met the girls November 14, and have spent many hours commuting back and forth to and from Sacramento for pre-placement meetings. The girls have spent the night at our house, and we’ve gone out to Sacramento to just spend a few hours with them doing homework because we missed them during the week. There’s a lot of people involved with the decision for them to be placed in our home, but we’re lucky to work with a great social worker. After placement, we’ll continue to have a social worker visit our home and the girls – to make sure everything is going well – and then the social worker will submit them for adoption. For more information on the foster/adopt process, please click here.

How soon will you be able to adopt E and S?
We expect to be able to adopt E and S in 6-24 months. The timeline is determined by their social worker. She will consider a number of different factors, including the status of the biological families, how well the kids are adapting to our family life, and what she thinks the courts will do in this timeline.

Why were E and S in foster care?
The reality is that most children in foster care are regular children who had to be removed from their biological families due to abuse or neglect. E and S are no different – they are amazing, sweet, and resilient girls who are a pleasure to be around. We want to preserve E and S’s privacy, and therefore cannot tell you about the circumstances that placed them in foster care, just that they are regular, wonderful children.

Are they Jewish?

The girls were not raised Jewish, but we keep a Jewish home. Every night, we say the shema with the girls, and we say blessings before each meal. Every Friday we’ll celebrate Shabbat, and as holidays come around, we will celebrate them together. Children in foster care have the right to have whatever religion they chose for themselves, but like most seven and eight year olds, their religious exploration is limited to enjoying Christmas presents and asking us what “religion” means. We hope the girls will also find meaning in living a Jewish life, just like we do.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The girls are cleared for placement!

“Why don’t cell phones have a redial button anymore?” I wondered as I called the doctor’s office for the fourteenth time. “Doctor’s office,” says the receptionist on the other line. “Oh…uh…hi. Wow, I thought I was going to get another busy signal or you were going to ask me to hold.” The receptionist laughed in a way that told me she was grateful I didn’t yell at her for the busy signals and hold times, but that she wasn’t actually amused by what I had to say.

I had called the doctor’s office repeatedly for the last two weeks, wondering about test results that never appeared, trying to wrangle clearance from a doctor who was always busy. My average hold time was just short of 10 minutes, but that didn’t factor in the amount of times I called and called and called, repeatedly getting a busy signal. I was a pro at their phone system, at re-dialing, at being put on hold.

All these calls weren’t necessary, of course, but they were necessary for me to do. Something was keeping me from my girls, and  - darn it – I was going to do everything I absolutely could to get the girls home. The test results would have eventually come in, the doctor would have eventually given us clearance, but I am not patient enough for eventually. I want my girls home now.

I had spent the day before calling and waiting and calling again, and the doctor’s office had finally given us clearance to take the girls to our dog-infested home. When I talked to their social worker, Pascale, the next day, she said that was great, she would just have to confirm that information with the doctor. Knowing it was just as likely that the doctor would call Pascale back as it was that I would win the lottery, my elated mood plummeted. I had done all this work to get the doctor’s office to clear the girls and write it in the chart, only for all the work to get lost in that darn doctor’s office again.

I waited three hours, figuring three hours was enough time to differentiate between over-the-top and persistent, and then I called Pascale back. “Any news?” Of course there wasn’t. She said that she still needed to talk with the doctor or the person who wrote it in the chart. I can make that work.

“Oh, well, hi!” I said to the receptionist, still flustered. “Is Marcy there?” “Sure,” she said, “she’ll be on in just a moment.” Marcy was the only competent receptionist at this doctor’s office, and yesterday she figured out that the tests had never been run AND talked to the doctor on our behalf. She was a miracle, and soon she was on the phone. She apologized for not calling back the social worker yet, and said she’d do it the moment we hung up. And then she did it.

Within a few minutes of hanging up, Pascale called and told me I was “very resourceful” for calling the doctor’s office. Then she said what the words we had been waiting for – the girls were cleared for placement!!

After hanging up the phone, Kate and I folded into each other’s arms. Exhausted and excited, I jumped and swayed with her, yelling “I did it! I did it!” And it really felt like I had fought through all the red tape and bad doctors and helped bring our girls home weeks earlier than if I had waited patiently by the phone. Sometimes it’s good that patience isn’t my virtue.

The girls will probably come home tomorrow. We’re waiting for the foster mom’s call to make arrangements. She has 22 more minutes to call back before my follow up phone call. I may not be patient, but I’m stubborn, persistent, excited, and resourceful, and most of all, I’m thrilled that the girls get to come home.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Great Miracle Happened There: Waiting

We hoped a Chanukah miracle would bring the girls to us, but on the eighth night of Chanukah we lit the candles as a two-person family.  We sang the blessings and the light was lifted up, from the shamash (the “helper candle”) to the eight other flames, and we were sad that a miracle didn’t happen here, didn’t happen today.

There is a tradition to place your Chanukah menorah (called a chanukiah) outside to publicize the miracle, lighting the way for neighbors and passersbys.  Our friends and family have been our light this year, asking how we’re doing, what we need.  They have reassured us that the girls will come, that this is just a delay in a lifelong commitment.  Most importantly, they’ve been angry.  My anger bubbles up constantly, as the bureaucratic system pushes between our family members.  Reassurance that this anger is justified, that we are not alone, has given me the needed support to refrain from watching Netflix and ordering in Chinese all day, every day.

Last Tuesday, December 16, the rain aggressively attacked my windshield as I drove first to Sonoma then to Sacramento.  I had just said goodbye to my puppy, for whom I had magically found a home on a beach-side horse ranch among the redwoods.  My sobs had subsided to occasional crying fits, and I started to drive to Sacramento to see the girls.  Before long, Pascale, the girls’ social worker, interrupted the drive with a phone call.

After we hung up, the sobs from earlier in the day returned.  E and S are not allowed to come to our house until a doctor has cleared their placement.  Suddenly, the animals that the girls loved - and were fine around - were culprits against their health, according to the doctor.   We did not know when or if the doctor would clear them.  We still don’t.

It’s over a week later, and the doctor’s office is forever delayed.  The tests that were drawn last Monday - and would take “a week” to return are expected next Monday – two weeks from the test date.  In the meantime, we’re waiting, anxious anytime the phone rings. 

I am a pessimistic person, and I was certain we would have to get rid of all our animals.  But after talking with doctors, nurses, their therapist, and their social worker, I am reassured that the future will hold more than the doom and gloom our social worker predicted.  Our house has is now full of air purifiers, cleaner animals, and cleaner floors – just not rambunctious, messy children. 

I know the real miracle is that we get to have these two girls in our lives, but waiting is so hard.  May the light of the season carry us through the dark times and may these girls come home soon. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Lights of My Life

My aunt saying Chanukah prayers as a child with my Papa, Oma, Opa & Oma Oma
We are a singing family. From Old MacDonald to Mary Mack, singing is my default for boredom or simply getting the munchkins’ attention. But there’s one song I only sing because I love them, “You are my sunshine.” Whenever there’s a crying or grumpy child, I am there rubbing her back and singing. They request the song in the car sometimes, and I sing it over and over, the repetitiveness speaking to my need to drill into them “I love you” and “You are safe here.” The song comes naturally to me, and I like the themes in it – YOU are MY brilliance, my light, and I don’t want to let you go.

Chanukah is a holiday of light. We celebrate the miracle of eight days of illuminating fire, when there was only enough oil for one night. It’s a holiday celebrating radiance, trusting in abundance during a time of scarcity. I want to teach my children these lessons, but most importantly, I was to teach them to be the light.

A candle’s flame can light an infinite number of candles and never diminish its own brilliance. In Judaism there is a teaching that the soul of a person is G-d’s candle. I interpret this to mean that our goodness – and our criticalness too – is holy and should shine brightly. As a parent, it is my duty to help kindle that light, to bring it out of the darkness so that it can be shared by the community – ablaze with personal triumph. 

This Chanukah will be the first Jewish holiday we get to share with the girls. It’s a perfect first holiday to spend with a seven and eight year old. Chanukah is not a major holiday in Judaism, and allows for a low-key introduction to our non-daily religious experiences. Like many Jewish holidays, it’s child-friendly with great rituals. We’ll spin the dreidel, light the menorah, give small gifts, eat latkes, and spend time with friends. 

At least, that’s what we hope. This process is full of waiting and uncertainty. The placement paperwork has been submitted to the judge, and we hope he’ll approve it before this Saturday, but we can’t be certain to the decision or the timing. I keep reminding myself to trust in abundance during times of scarcity, though my heart yearns for the warmth of E & S in my arms.

As I am anxious and trying to guard my heart, I am also very excited. This Saturday, E and S could come home. Come to our house and be home. Because this Saturday, they can come and never leave, never have to go back to their foster mother, and stay forever and always. This Saturday, I might be able to finally call them my children and not feel as if I’m announcing a baby before its birth, fating a G!d that I don’t believe controls these things. This Saturday, we could become parents to two amazing children who light up my life, and I’m sure will light up yours too. But still we wait, keeping our own candles burning until we can share them with two amazing kids.

Chag sameach to those who celebrate! Here’s a song for the season.

Monday, December 1, 2014


Kate and I are still in the honeymoon period with the girls, but already we can tell we got really lucky. We don’t know why we get to have the luck – to find one another, to find these perfect-for-us kids – but I can’t imagine a better life for myself.

We brought the girls to Thanksgiving at Aunt Annie’s house. As Robb family gatherings go, it was a small one with only 15 people, and a great introduction to Robb family love. Everyone was thrilled to meet E & S. It was just about as perfect as I could have imagined. The girls ran around the house, playing with each other, with us, and with family. There was lots of love, laughs, and compliments. S fell in love with cousin Ellen, both E & S loved staying at Aunt Jane and Uncle Jim’s cabin, and they giggled madly around “The Man Who Built The House” (Uncle Michel). Uncle Jim said we looked like a beautiful family, a huge compliment from a man of few words on subjects like family, love, and emotions. Grandmas Chris and C.C. were head over heels in love with the little munchkins, and it’s easy to see why. They’re amazing children.

Thanksgiving was a beautiful event, but it was the day after that really cemented my love of this family and our girls:

Cousin Max supervised the girls’ little hands as they chopped mushrooms and cilantro for breakfast. He entertained them with stories of his own youth, and the table was full of giggles.

The family went shopping in a local town. The girls were exhausted by days of festivities, and one was particularly moody. I asked if she wanted a piggyback ride, and the rest of the afternoon was spent with an awesome child on my back. “Keep hands and feet inside the ride at all times” I yelled as I jumped, hopped, twirled, and ran through the free sidewalks, a giggling appendage behind me.

On the drive home from Thanksgiving, our car vibrated with children’s songs, our voices coming together in laughter and love. An hour later, there were two exhausted children in the back seat, asleep. 

These moments, I late told Kate, feel like heaven. I cannot imagine a better life.

I love being able to share beautiful moments with you, but there have been hard moments too. An exhausted child ran off farther than I liked and didn’t come back when I called. Conversations about placement followed by “I really wish I could see my mom.” A two hour drive punctuated by “Are we close yet?” literally every minute, on the minute, as the clock turns.

But even these hard moments are deeply wonderful. Being present for these children is the most important thing I can do with my life right now, and I feel so grateful I can do it.

It’s hard sometimes to share these moments with you, my blog readers. People who don’t know us or S & E have more critical things to say to us. It’s overwhelming putting myself out there – keeping this blog, asking questions, being emotionally vulnerable. All the quotes are things that have been said to us:

“I have seen many placements fall apart in the first 6 months so I’d be careful about promises until things are settled.”

“Also this might sound cruel, but…” (it was cruel and it was unnecessary)

“It is CRITICAL to …” (opinion)

“Don’t let family overwhelm them with STUFF (you’ll know better, right?)”

“Don’t you think it would be better if…”

“Won’t they be sad when you take away Christmas?” (for those of you wondering – we won’t. Christmas will be celebrated at friends and family’s homes.)

“Have you even thought about [subject we were just discussing]?!”

These things irk me, of course, but only because Kate and I have spent so much time thinking about this placement, reading adoption books, and trying our best to prepare to be parents to two amazing girls.

I keep this blog in hopes that I can help others who are thinking about adoption and to keep our friends and family in the loop during this (overwhelming) process. In person responses have been mostly positive, and it’s a testament to you – our amazing family and friends – that we can even do this right now.

There’s so much to tell you all, but so little too. We’ve fallen deeply in love with these girls, and – really – that’s all that matters.