If you have read our story from the beginning (you can find that here) you know that we had the incredible fortune to have made the decision to foster-adopt, completely unknown and at the same time, as some of our dearest friends. I like to think that was a “God-thang”. Lisa and Bobby Johnson are amazing people. Lisa is, like me, a confident and independent woman who speaks her mind. Unlike me; however, she is fierce in her proclamation of her faith. She amazes me in that way.
I grew up in a church that frowned upon things like prophesy and speaking in tongues. Not that it was outright banned or anything, but if it had happened, I am sure there would have been quiet murmurings and the perpetrator would have gotten the side eye, if you know what I mean. To personally experience such an event is another thing. For me, what at the time was a quite ordinary conversation, later had such significance that it continues to blow my mind. It has been evidence to me that the God who performed all kinds of miracles throughout history was the same God performing them all around me, and in my own puny little life.
It was one of the early foster-adoption classes we had together; it was a hard one. We were shown pictures of children who were currently in foster care and waiting for a family to adopt them. Every single picture was of a kid that needed a family. One in particular was of a sibling group. We were informed that sibling groups were one of the hardest to place. It was during that conversation that Lisa joyfully proclaimed that adopting a sibling group was what she wanted to do. I do not think Bobby was there yet, but Lisa’s mind was made up. She jokingly looked at me and Curtis and said, “you just watch, I believe you all are going to have lots of babies too.” Curtis and I just laughed it off. “Nope, one is enough for us!” She wasn’t having any of it and we laughed some more and the conversation fell off and was largely forgotten.
About a month before we received Jake, Lisa and Bobby, true to their word, received their first placement, a sibling group. Two girls, T & T. A newborn baby and an 11-year-old girl. We were SO HAPPY for our friends. What they had hoped and prayed for had come true. It was so wonderful to watch. And these precious girls. They had been through so much. We had the privilege of watching them both thrive in a safe and loving environment. About a month later we received Jake and during that first year, our families spent lots of time with each other. Our babies even went to daycare and were in the same infant room together. We adjusted to our new life with three children. It was good.
As time went on, Lisa and Bobby’s family grew. And grew. And grew. Like us they had two older bio children and in no time, with their foster and adopted children they were up to seven children fairly quickly. Two sibling groups and a newborn little boy were added to their family. Lisa would often joke. She would say, “You’ll see. There are more coming for you guys.” And we always laughed but stood firm, “no, this is it for us.” (Back when we got the call about Jaycob’s brothers, that should have been my first clue to just listen to Lisa.)
Fast forward….We had now had Jaycob’s brothers for about four months and we knew they were leaving us, we just didn’t know when. When the phone rang. This time, when it rang, it was not CPS, it was Lisa. Lisa, started off a bit hesitant and then barely stopping to take a breath, said, “I know you all still have Jaycob’s brothers and I don’t know if you’d be interested or not, but our case manager is trying to place these two little boys, they are brothers and are separated in different foster homes and will be up for adoption soon, and my case manager is looking for a family that will adopt both of them…..” WHOA WHOA WHOA……and you thought of us??? I was in shock. Our hearts were already preparing for the boys to leave. I was going to start back at school and complete the MBA program. Curt was for sure leaving to CA soon…..Take 2 more? But none of that came out of my mouth. Instead, I told her I would need to talk to Curt. Wait? What? And when I did, to my surprise, he didn’t say, “no.” HOLD ON HERE. And then we called a family meeting and brought in Madison and Michael and discussed it with them and they were on board and suddenly, instead of, coming up with a way to tell my sweet friend “no”, I found myself on the phone with her case manager telling her we wanted to meet the boys and we made arrangements to go see the boys in their current foster homes. WHAT JUST HAPPENED HERE??? (another of those “God-thangs” – if you didn’t guess)
Everything else was a whirlwind. We met Aydyn first. Oh man, Love at first sight is real! He was SO smart and talked and looked like a five-year old, even though he was only three and a half. If you’ve never met him, he has the most beautiful eyelashes that curl up. To die for. Just the sweetest little boy. Ezra we visited next and he was, even then, a bouncing baby boy. Seven-months old at the time and a ball of energy. He’s our bruiser and full of life. By the time we were on the forty-five-minute drive home, I had already made up my mind. I was just waiting for Curt to say it out loud, though I already knew in my heart he had come to the same conclusion as well. We were adding to our family, again!
We got Aydyn on my birthday, the day after Valentine’s day, 2013 (the best birthday gift ever!) and Ezra followed two weeks later. Aydyn came to us with 3 things. A pair of pants that were too small, a jacket that was too big and too heavy for Arizona and some pajamas. Ezra, on the other hand came with boxes of his things. He had been with a family that truly adored him, and reluctantly let him go because they believed, as do we, that sibling groups should be kept together, if at all possible. We are forever grateful for their choice. We know what that loss is like.
Aydyn bonded with my husband immediately and the very first night started calling him dad. They were in the loft and Curt was putting together a shelf and the boys were all around him trying to help and Aydyn wanted to be part of it and called out “Dad, dad, dad” with the other boys. My heart melted when I heard it. Curt didn’t make a fuss, just quietly acknowledged to me what had happened with a glance. Aydyn did not bond with me as quickly and I know, because of some of the things that have come out over the years, that had more to do with his trust issues with mother figures than with me. It hurt my Momma heart to know what he must have experienced so far in his little life. But He did eventually bond with me and he and I share a very strong mother-son connection now. He is, and always has been, my tender-hearted boy.
When we received Aydyn and Ezra we also still had Jake’s brothers, so for a time, we had seven children in our home. It was pure CHAOS. But it was also a special time. We spent most every afternoon after work on the back patio, the babies in bouncers and the Littles throwing balls and running around in the grass. It was an amazing time. As we approached Easter that year the time came that J and J were leaving. It happened the day after Easter, so we did it up. We had all our family over for an egg hunt and bar-b-que. We wanted our babies to know how special they were to us. It was such a fun day but also a present undercurrent of sadness. Tomorrow would be hard.
The next day, while everyone was at work and all the other kids were at school and at daycare, the case manager arrived. It was just me and the babies. I hugged them hard and cried as I packed up all their boxes of things. It all happened very quietly. And then they were gone. I cried a lot that day. The grief is still with me. Then, it was unbearable. It has softened. But it is still with me. Sharing this with all of you brings it to the surface. I wish with all my heart that things did not happen the way they did. I wish they were still here. I question why we had to experience such grief and loss. In my mind I still picture my babies, though I know they are little boys now. One almost 4 and the other almost 3. I am sure they would not even remember us. But I treasure that time. I treasure that my son, Jake, had the opportunity to have that time with his brothers. I pray they are loved and know love and are growing into amazing little boys. That time mattered and the love that was poured into them during that time mattered. It was not for nothing.
But they gave us something else. They gave us a love we had not experienced before. They, like Little Acari, opened up our hearts and prepared us for the life we have now. A life with seven children. Yes, seven….If you are counting, at this time in our story we were back to only five. As I have said before, our story is a long one…I have learned to listen to my friend Lisa and when she says to me, “I don’t think you are done.” Now my laughter has a tinge of nervousness to it, because I know something, or someone rather, is coming.