Wednesday, November 18, 2009

On Family - Honest Scrap Award

A couple weeks ago, Di from Voice in the Garden, Vrtlarica from Moj Vrt, and GrafixMuse from GrafixMuse's Garden Spot kindly hammered me with the Honest Scrap award. Thank you! If you haven't already done so, please check out their wonderful blogs!

So according to the rules of this award, I'm supposed to list ten personal truths about myself...hmmmm...But if it's ok with everyone, I'd rather share a bit of good news and say a few words about one particular social issue that has greatly affected me and my life during the past couple of years.

Marc and I have been married now for about two and a half years. Even early into our relationship, I knew that we would one day settle down and start a family together. About a year and a half ago, we started the process of adopting through the state of Massachusetts. We attended adoption seminars, completed the mandatory adoptive parenting course, took part in a home study and then waited. We figured that it would be six months to a year before we would be matched with a child. Somewhat unexpectedly, however, about two months after our home study was completed, our wish came true. It happened like this (as described in an email to close friends and family on March 28, 2009):

Hello Friends and Family,

It's about three in the morning right now and I can't seem to fall asleep (I feel like I won't be able to sleep for a long time). I think all of you know by now that Marc and I are now foster parents to a beautiful 18 month baby boy named Jonathan. I use the term "foster parents" because we can't legally refer to ourselves as his parents until the adoption is finalized, which can take as long as a year, maybe more. Anyway, I wanted to keep you all posted on our progress thus far.

On Wednesday, our social worker, Brook, called us to let us know that she had submitted our home study to a state social worker handling a very special case. By "special", I mean more like "emergency". Jonathan had been removed from an incredibly bad situation and placed into emergency foster care earlier this week. Brook had called us because unlike most child placements, the facts of this case would require that the Department of Children and Families (DCF, formerly the Department of Social Services) place Jonathan with a family within days (not weeks or months) and she needed to make sure we were on board for the ride. We told her that we were.

On Thursday morning, Brook called us to let us know that DCF had narrowed down the pool of perspective parents and that there was a good chance that we would be the one chosen. YIKES! She couldn't give us a definite answer but nevertheless we were both on cloud nine and scared sh*tless. (I have to admit that I'm still operating in a state of shock). However, Brook had sent out our home study several times before with no luck so we weren't exactly hopeful.

Friday morning, Brook called us to let us know that DCF had in fact made its decision, that they wanted to meet with us this afternoon, and that Jonathan would be packed up and ready for us to take him home. Needless to say, we were in scrambling mode. Marc left work to get a pack-and-play from his sister along with random blankets and toys. I ran to CVS to get some munchies for the 2-hour ride home.

We drove to western Massachusetts and met with Brook and the DCF folks. As we learned more about the facts of Jonathan's case, I became angrier and angrier at how innocent children are oftentimes treated in this world. Towards the end of the disclosure meeting, they asked us if we wanted to meet Jonathan. Five minutes later, there was a knock at the door and Jonathan walked into the room holding the hand of his baby-sitter. We had been told that he had a cold and was suffering from an ear infection. My first sight of Jonathan - he had flush red cheeks, wavy-brown hair slick from sweat, glassy eyes, and he was wearing a filthy polo shirt that exposed his belly (because he had outgrown it months before). He looked soooo exhausted and fragile, I can't begin to explain how I felt at that moment. The second he caught sight of everyone in the room, he began to cry. I broke down too, uncontrollably. Up until then, I had no idea what my reaction would be. I had no idea that I would connect with him so instantly.

Surprisingly, Jonathan stopped crying before I did. He was a little wary of us at first but then started accepting the legos I offered him. We played for about a half hour and then it was time to leave. The baby-sitter gave him a hug good-bye, then placed him in my arms. He started to cry but miraculously stopped after about 10 seconds. He went into the car-seat effortlessly (well, it took me a couple minutes to figure it out) and during the car ride home, he started to open up more. I offered him various toys and we both ate out of the same cheerios box (at one point, he started feeding me little 0s). We also had a couple of "firsts" during the ride home as well...he smiled and then laughed with us for the first time. I got him to drink from a sippy cup for the first time (the agency had been feeding him with a bottle). He threw food at me for the first time.

By the time we got home, he was definitely itching to get out of the car seat. As we walked him into our apartment building, he started to cry again. I guess the unfamiliar setting unnerved him. I picked him up and again, he stopped crying. When we got into the apartment, he was wary at first but then started to explore. I held him up to the window to look at the ocean (again, a first in his life) and we stared at the seagulls for a while. Brook showed up...she was kind enough to pick us up a pair of pajamas and a few other things from Target on the way back.

Fast forward a couple hours later, we were making a list of what we needed to get for Jonathan and from the grocery store immediately. The next thing we know, our friends Rachel and Brando showed up with bags and bags of baby stuff. They had gone to Costco and Babies-R-Us and had seemingly cleaned out the stores...I'm talking booster chair, first aid kit, bath kit, plates/cups/silverware, 20 different outfits, a mountain of toys, enough creams and cold medicine to fill a pharmacy, diapers, and a HUGE box of baby-wipes. We were completely overwhelmed and grateful. As it turned out, my only errand was to the grocery store tonight.

The duffel bag that DCF had given to us contained an old bottle with almost all of the paint chipped off, a baby blanket, a few items of worn out clothing- all of which no longer fit him, and the filthiest baby jacket I have ever seen. Needless to say, we will be getting rid of everything but his baby blanket, which we hope to give him one day when he is older).

To end a loooong story short, Jonathan has slept pretty quietly tonight....I hope I can find it in me to get a couple hours of sleep too.

To end this story on a happy note, last week, in one of many courtrooms in the state of Massachusetts, we sat and listened as Jonathan's biological parent agreed to relinquish all parental rights. Soon, his birth certificate will be changed legally to list Marc and I as his parents, and he will forever be our son. These past seven months have been by far the most challenging yet at the same time, most rewarding period of my life. Everyday, I learn something new about my son, and ultimately, about myself. And like Jonathan, Marc and I are also starting a new chapter in our lives.

Me and Jonathan
Going trick or treating with Jonathan the giraffe.

Everyday, there are on average 600 children waiting to be adopted in the state of Massachusetts. To learn more, visit the Massachusetts Adoption Resource Exchange.


  1. This is so wonderful story, my eye are full with tears...
    I’m so happy for you and Marc and wish you all the best with Jonathan!

  2. Okay. It's 5:20 in the morning and I'm already in tears. I'm an adopted kid. There's nothing like a family who loves you unconditionally.

  3. Wow! I am in tears here too. Congratulations to you and Marc on becoming parents to Johnathan! Thank you for sharing this with us.

  4. Tears rolling down my face as well. A family with love is what everyone deserves!

  5. You made me cry too. It was such a touching story.

  6. I can just see that little boy. What a life, and how much upheaval he went through. Congratulations to the three of you.

  7. Dear Thomas,

    When I asked to know something more about you, I already sensed a kind and loving soul, but little did I expect this huge tug of my heart strings! My immediate thought turned to our youngest son and grandson as I looked upon you and Jonathon walking side by side.

    I cannot imagine neither the neglect nor abuse of a child and then giving him up, but thank God there are people like you and Marc who were there to rescue him.

    Thomas, thank you for sharing your remarkable story with us. I am honored to know you. Diana

  8. Thomas,
    Such a moving story. I am glad that Mass allowed you and Marc to become not only foster parents but to adopt, not all states are as progressive. I think that what you and Marc are doing is wonderful, not just for your but for Jonathan as well. You have a great support network and Jonathan finally has a family and a home.

  9. Oh my, that's so moving, you have me in tears. You and Marc are so loving and generous, lucky Jonathan to have found you both.

  10. Oh my this made me weep uncontrollably. Congrats to you and your goregous family!

  11. Oh my second visit to your blog and I am bawling my eyes out. You write beautifully...and your description of when you first met Jonathan was moving...I felt as if I was in the room, too. And your description of the ride home made me laugh through my tears...especially the part about throwing food! He's lucky to have you...

  12. Thomas, what a precious story....but you stinker, you're not supposed to bring tears to Gran's eyes. I know exactly how you felt when you saw your son. We adopted a baby girl and, like you and Marc, we were caught unprepared. What we thought would take at least six months turned out to be (at our very first interview) "When would you like to take your new baby girl home? How about next week?" I lived through that scramble to put together an entire nursery in 7 days!

    I adored you when we first "met", Thomas...this only made my *heart* you more.

  13. Oh Thomas, my heart is in tatters and I've just wept buckets! Joy for you, Marc and Jonathan and rage at what Jonathan may have gone through before he found his true family. (I worked in Child Psychiatry for many years, so I have some idea about childrens pre-adoption experiences)

    I wish you all a long and happy life together ...... and I love the giraffe costume! :)

  14. Wow. Thank you for doing what more of us should.

    And you're not supposed to make people cry at their desks.

  15. Hi, I have an award for you on my blog. I enjoying reading your posts and thanks for blogging! No need to participate in the awards if you don't want to. =)

  16. *weeps with joy that you and your husband and your adorable Jonathan are now an official Happy Family and weeps with pride to live in Massachusetts, where this is possible*

  17. A heart-warmer, on several levels.
    And thumbs-up to the State for avoiding the quagmire.

  18. I am sitting on the couch...crying. and Marc are a treasure....What wonderful people you are. Your darling little son you now have, Johnathan...he is a gift to you and you to him.

    The photograph of him at Halloween ...what can I say? PERFECT.

    How can people treat an innocent child in such a breaks my heart.

    I am so happy for you and Marc and Johnathan...what a wonderful family.

    I wish you days and years of happiness together.


  19. Thanks everyone for your kind and supportive comments! I am lucky to have gotten a chance to get to know you all.

    And sorry I made some of you cry! :)

  20. What a wonderful story, Thomas ! (Tearjerker indeed) Jonathan has found the "bestest" of homes. Congratulations ! :)
    ps. That pic is just adorable !

  21. Thomas, I, I KNOW you have made many new lifetime friendships through your blog. It is we who are lucky to have gotten to know you!

  22. Thomas, thanks for rounding out the picture I have of you as a gardener. You even know how to grow giraffes. Hugs to you.

  23. Congratulations to you and Marc for finding Jonathon, and blessings upon you for committing to raising a child. It's an awesome responsibility, but I'm sure you'll be up to it. Wow, such a wonderful story.

  24. What a wonderful story. And the photo says it all: the love and trust between a child and parent is perfectly captured. I admire you.

  25. Congratulations, Thomas, Marc, Jonathon. Be happy!

  26. what a heartbreaking and heartwarming story, Thomas. You and Marc are very special people...and Jonathan is so lucky to have ended up with you as his parents. I'm one of the people who dissolved into tears reading your account...i can only imagine what Jonathan must have gone through in his first year and a half. But the picture of him confidently, sweetly, and cutely holding your hand says here's a little guy who is at home.

  27. A very touching story Thomas, beautiful!
    I'm so happy for little J that he has found such wonderful parents :)
    I can't remember how I found your blog but I'm so glad I did!
    I'm sending all three of you a virtual hug from the other side of the world :)

  28. Goodness! I just found my way to your blog site and this was the very first post I have read. Bless you and Marc for sharing your life, love, and resources with another soul who appears to be in need of large doses of all of the above.

  29. Your story was well told. It is sad what so many children in this country and around the world are subjected to. It is wonderful to know that there is one less child in a bad situation. You will make great parents.

  30. I've been reading your blog for some time and I'm glad I decided to read your old posts too. This is a beautiful story of how your family grew. I am work with the local CASA and love to hear stories with a happy (though may be bittersweet) ending. There are too many children that are lost in the system...they need stable homes! Thank you for sharing your story!

  31. new to the blog and reading some of your old posts now for background. this post made me sob (**SOB!!***) uncontrollably. thank you for the beautiful writing and for sharing. what a lucky threesome you are, and thank heavens for people like you and marc.

  32. After getting two copies of the Year Round Vegetable Gardener (one for myself, one for my coworker - we run a CSA service for other coworkers) and skimming through it today, I noticed the bit about you, tracked down your blog, and was looking through some old postings and, yup, you had me in tears as well!!

    My partner and I have talked about whether or not to adopt some time, but it's not something I'll hold my breath on. Finances, having five pets, busy schedules etc - I don't know that we'll ever pull it off (and it's not like we're getting any younger!). But it makes me happy to see that someone else has grown a family of their own...

    What first caught my interest was your postings on fig trees. I picked up a clearance Chicago Winter Hardy fig last year, and was amazed to get the half dozen or so fruits the first year. It's potted up and outdoors all winter here in NE Ohio - I'm trying to convince myself not to hold my breath on it producing much this year....but I'm also wondering if I won't be weak and bring home a few more trees this year. ;-)

    Keep up the great blog!