Monday, April 20, 2015

Misadventures of the Really Big Kid

I had a pretty nasty headache Sunday night, so I got up this morning long enough to get Oldest off to school, then woke Hubby and said, "Tag." He got the twins off to school before heading into the office, and I crashed.

Then I was awakened by a call from Hubby.

PeeJay was on his way to get me, he said.

Why?

Because Hubby was suffering (medically mild) convulsions at work. 

His doctor had put him on a new medication a little over a week ago, and he was having issues with it waking him up early, but didn't consider that to be more than an irritating inconvenience.

He'd gone into work and was fine, although he'd been awake for a long time this morning. But then he started to quiver and shake. He researched side effects of his new med. Convulsions were rare, but...wait, what are convulsions? The part of the medical definition fit what he was experiencing: uncontrollable limb movement.

It kept getting worse.

So he did something he's never done in the past nearly-four years he's been at PSC. He called PeeJay to his office.

PeeJay gave him a funny look as he walked into the office. Hubby acknowledged that this was weird. He then explained what had been going on, sitting there quivering the whole time.

PeeJay did really good at not reacting as Hubby talked.

Hubby wrapped up his explanation, saying deadpan, "I'm having a little trouble concentrating."

PeeJay chuckled. "I would imagine so!"

By the time PeeJay got me to the church office, Hubby had safely navigated downstairs and was chatting with their ministry assistant. Honestly, he looked like a blob of jello. (PeeJay said the same thing.) Hubby showed both of us how he could force the jitters to stop on one arm, but it would send the other into faster spasms.

He had a call in to the doc, but we haven't heard back yet.

I had to take his coffee when we got in the car, because he couldn't hold it without spilling and get into the car at the same time. "It's hard to balance on one foot when that foot's shaking!" he said.

We got home and he nuked his coffee. Then he tried to drink it.

His hand wouldn't hold still.

I almost told him to make sure his head quivered at the same rate as his hand so that he could synchronize and drink.

He tried three more times.

No soap.

"Will you get me a straw?"

I got him a bendy straw from the pantry.

He had to bend over and sip his coffee that way.

He decided the bed was the safest place for him (I said the couch; less distance to the floor should he rattle himself off).

"You may have to answer my phone when the doc calls back. I'm not sure I can," he commented.

He'd gone upstairs and I was contemplating lunch options when my phone chimed an incoming text.

It was Hubby.

"Well hey you should come up here. We wouldn't even need to put a quarter in the bed."

I laughed so loudly that he heard me.

I'm not sorry at all.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

OH-FIH-SHULL!

I've waited a couple of days to let the emotional dust settle before really writing about Thursday's hearing (best. hearing. EVAR!), but I'm finding it's still really hard to wrap my head around that day's events.

Everything is the same, and yet...everything is different.

We tried to take Thursday as easily as possible, but we still ended up rushing around right before we left. My husband was sure my parents weren't going to leave their house on time, and in an effort to assure me that they really were on their way and getting closer—while I was frantically trying to finish Small's special hairdo, still not dressed myself, with Hubby hollering about his missing white dress shirt, and holding a hot curling iron—Dad sent repeated texts with local landmarks they were passing.

JJ had been sending me hourly countdown texts all morning, which was great fun, but since I was holding a hot curling iron near a small-ish child, I couldn't just look at my phone, so I wasn't sure if it was her again (her last one said, "90 minutes! I think we can safely count by minutes now") or if it was Dad. When my phone bleated with what seemed like the twentieth text in as many seconds, I shouted, "Stop texting me!"

Had no idea who I was yelling at, really.

Turned out it was my dad. (He was amused when I told him.)

We were supposed to meet Ms. Sciuto on the second floor of the courthouse at 1:45. Dad and Hubby dropped off all of us outside the courthouse before parking the cars, in deference to my mother's tenuous and still-recovering health, my bad ankle, and my mother-in-law's fused ankle. We herded the kids inside the building and then tried to explain why they had to go through a metal detector. Ms. Sciuto had arrived ahead of us, and warned the deputies that we would be coming through with cameras, so we had no problems there once they went through the x-ray.

Dad and Hubby soon joined us on the second floor. The previous hearing in Courtroom 4 had concluded, and so we were able to get in and show the Fries what the courtroom looked like. Ms. Sciuto indicated the judge's bench and the witness stand and got enough chairs for all five of us to sit by her. Proud grandparents along with Jester and Mitzy got relegated to the gallery.

The bailiff announced the judge's entrance, and we all stood. Before she sat, she chose to administer the oath for those of us giving testimony, and asked us to raise our right hands. Hubby and I both knew we would be testifying, and that the judge might ask the kids some questions, but it was comical when all three of them raised their hands, too. (Large got it right, but the twins mirrored the judge's stance, and so we had to get them to raise the correct hands.) We all said, "I do," when prompted by the judge after she finished the oath to tell the truth.

Ms. Sciuto called me to the stand first, since Hubby had had such trouble with dates in our hearing last year. I was asked first to provide my name, address, age, and date of birth, then my husband's name, date of birth, and the date of our marriage. He's usually the one who has issues remembering dates, especially our wedding, but I blanked for about ten seconds on our anniversary. There was a chuckle as it was obvious that I'd had a momentary brain-blank...but, let me tell you, that showed the tone of the whole proceeding.
Moi.

Ms. Sciuto walked me through her questions. I described our home and our neighborhood. Yes, the statements and facts in the petition were true and correct, to the best of my knowledge. Yes, I did file three petitions to adopt the three children present. Yes, I felt I had developed a parent/child bond with Large. And Medium. And Small. (I managed to hold it together through that without losing it. Barely.) Yes, I understood that the granting of the adoption petition would make these children as though they were my natural children, that they were entitled to inherit as any natural child, that I would be responsible for them in all ways (physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, financially) until at least the age of 18 or possibly beyond. Yes, the disclosure of fees was correct (OUCH, but correct). Yes, these are the decrees, the correct current names, and the correct (and correctly spelled) proposed new names. Yes, we did discuss these with the children. Then Ms. Sciuto announced that she had no more questions.

Judge K turned to me. "How did you come up with these names? I am just really curious."

Yeah, wasn't quite expecting that one.

"Small and I share the same first name, and as Hubby and I were discussing the new names, we realized that having two of us in the same house with essentially the same name, the only difference being the middle name, was going to be a bad idea. We'd seen records get confused before, both with my late father-in-law and my husband's brother, and with other friends. We didn't want that," I said. "So we opted to make Small's first name her middle name, so that she could still be called that, but change her first name. The one we chose was in honor of my dad, since it's the feminine form of his name."

Watching and waiting while I testify.
I smiled at Small and then went on. "Small loved the new name, and so we then asked Medium what she would like, what changes she might want to have. She said she wanted more letters." At this, Medium vehemently shook her head, and chuckles came from the court gallery and the bench. "Yes, you did. I remember that discussion at bedtime." Medium continued shake her head. "We gave her the additional letters she wanted, keeping the same phonetics but changing the spelling.

"Large was a different story. At first, we were just going to drop the hyphenated part of her middle name. Then Hubby wanted to change her middle name to the feminine form of his dad's name, to honor him, which we liked, and so did Large...for a couple of months. Then she came to us and proposed a different name, because she said her friends didn't like the new one we had talked about. We thought it would be a passing phase, but she continued to talk about it. For a year. We discussed it several times, and the last time, she was able to tell us that she wanted a name that held good memories for her." It was hard to explain how we'd extrapolated from Large's explanation—that she associated her birth first name with "houses" and it gave her bad memories, and the new first name she wanted was associated with "good houses" and people she loved—that she was clearly trying to separate herself from the name given to her by the parents who had walked away from her, and take a name that was hers, one tied to the people she loves. And with all of the Fries there in court, I certainly didn't want to say that out loud. Judge K is a smart lady, and with the way I spoke, I was sure she could put two and two together.

"So, after that conversation, we agreed to the change that Large wanted," I finished.

Hubby's turn.
Judge K then dismissed me from the stand. "Thank you. That was the only question I really had."

Ms. Sciuto called Hubby to the stand. He went through the same litany of questions that I did, although Ms. Sciuto skipped the descriptive questions I had and simply asked if he substantially agreed to my testimony. When asked if he understood that he would be responsible for raising and disciplining and loving these children, Hubby smiled. "Yep, just keep doing what we're doing." More chuckles from the gallery (peanut and otherwise).

Ms. Sciuto addressed Judge K, and introduced all three girls. Judge K noted which girl was wearing what color, complimenting each of the girls' dresses as she did so. Then Ms. Sciuto said, "Your Honor, the girls have all said they would like to try sitting in the witness box."

Judge K nodded, and Ms. Sciuto called Large Fry up. "Who are these two people next to me?"

Large talks with Judge K.
"My mom and dad," Large Fry said quietly.

"Do you know why we're here today?"

"Yes, 'cause it's adoption day."

"Is this what you want, for them to be your real mom and dad?"

"Uh-huh."

Ms. Sciuto smiled encouragingly, and said she had no more questions.

Judge K scooted her chair down closer to the witness stand so she could more easily talk to Large. I wasn't sure what kinds of questions she would ask, but Judge K didn't disappoint. Her questions were very well oriented to the age of her young witnesses.

"Do you know what 'adoption' means?" Judge K asked first.

Large shook her head, and the court reporter turned so she could see and read body language and lips to get answers.

Judge K took some time to explain what adoption meant, avoiding the legalese and saying it meant that our family was going to be official now. Then she asked what grade Large was in, and what her favorite subject was.

And what kind of rules we have.

Large was intimidated enough by the events that she couldn't think of any, but nodded when the judge offered suggestions like keeping her room clean and doing her homework. Oh, I thought, I hope she doesn't ask Small Fry that, because Small has had one of those weeks where she's been on the wrong end of the rules quite a bit.

Judge K then asked if Large wanted us to be her real mom and dad. There was no hesitation. "Yes!"

Medium in the box.
Then it was Medium's turn. Ms. Sciuto asked the same general questions of her that she'd asked of Large, and turned it over to the judge.

"What's your favorite thing to do with your mom?"

"I just like to be with her."

"What's your favorite thing to do with your dad?"

"I like to be next to him. And another word for it is snuggle."

That brought grins and chuckles from more than a few of us, because, well, Hubby and I knew that's the word she'd use, and it was so quintessentially Medium that we couldn't help but laugh.

"And do you want them to be your real, official mom and dad?"

"Oh, yes!"

Small climbed up into the witness box next, and the bailiff helped her get close and adjusted the microphone, just as he had for her sisters. Ms. Sciuto repeated the same questions again for Small before nodding to the judge.

Judge K's questions for Small followed in the same vein as those she'd asked Large and Medium, ending with, "Do you want them to be your real mom and dad?"

Small's grin lit up her face as she nodded, and then said, "Yes!"

Small skipped back to her seat as the judge moved her chair back to the center of the bench.

Judge K shuffled papers across the desk, sorting out the ones she needed. "I have absolutely no doubt," she said, looking directly at Hubby and me, "that you will continue to care for these children and provide for all of their needs, emotionally, physically, and—" here her voice caught—"spiritually. This has been a long road for all of you, and now the end is in sight. I have no worries about the future of these children; they are in excellent hands. I have been through this journey with you, and I am convinced that these girls could not be loved more than they already are. Therefore, it is my great pleasure to sign these decrees and make you an official family, confirming what you've been for so long already." She looked over at the kids and smiled. "Judges don't often get to do fun things. Judges have to do sad things and hard things and scary things a lot of the time. This is the best sort of thing that I get to do." Judge K looked over at Ms. Sciuto. "So, I will sign these, just as you've prepared them, Ms. Sciuto."

Making it official.
She picked up her pen and began to sign her name. She addressed Large by name and said, "I've signed this decree, and it says your name will now be Oldest."

She slid that sheet over, and picked up Medium's. "Oh, Ms. Sciuto. There's an error on here. Um, see me afterward and we'll get this sorted out." She signed the decree anyway, and spoke to Medium. "I've signed this decree, and it says your name will now be Middle. And no one will ever say your middle name the wrong way again."

Then she took Small's decree and signed it before turning to Small. "I've signed this decree, and your name will now be Youngest."
Judge K, Middle, and Flat Stanley

Judge K's smile beamed through the room. "It gives me such delight to declare you an official family. Happy Adoption Day!"

There was lots of blinking back tears.

Judge K, Youngest, and Flat Stanley
Ms. Sciuto stood. "Your Honor, they would like to get some pictures with you, if that's okay. Especially the two youngest girls—they have Flat Stanleys."

Judge K laughed. "Flat Stanley has been all over Courtroom 1."

The judge was kind enough to pose for a whole mess of pictures, although she confessed to getting flustered over where to look. She posed with each twin and their respective Flat Stanleys, then with all three girls, and then with all five of us.

Officially official!
As Hubby and the girls drifted away and my mom came forward to show the judge the scrapbook she'd made to tell our adoption story, the judge's eyes met mine. Hers shimmered with happy tears. "I am so happy for you all," she told me. "I am so glad that you were finally able to do this. I really have no doubt that they're in great hands."
Judge K loved Mom's book.

We moved out of the courtroom amid hugs from everyone, including Jester and Mitzy. "You held it together so well up there!" Mitzy exclaimed.

Jester concurred. "I wasn't sure you were going to make it," he teased.

"Yeah, well, I wasn't sure I was going to make it, either."

We got some pictures with Ms. Sciuto, and then decided that, since the majority of us adults had skipped lunch (I don't know that you could count my Little Debbie Nutty Bars as lunch), we would go out for an early celebratory dinner. Since this hearing qualified as a religious experience, really, we decided that TGI Friday's was the best choice.
Jester, Mitzy, & girls.

"Besides, I have to get my keys back from the guards downstairs," Dad said.

"What?" I asked.

"They wouldn't let me take my keys up because of the pocketknife on my keychain."

I chuckled. "Those things are lethal, you know."

However, when we got to Friday's and I couldn't get the cross-hatches on Oldest's slushie lid to open up for her straw, Dad volunteered the services of his knife.

"See?" he said. "I told you it could come in handy."

Then he showed me this picture he'd taken on the way into the restaurant.



"Forever Family. It's everywhere!"


Thursday, April 9, 2015

More later...

...but I wanted to at least put up a quick post about today.

The hearing went great, and the adoption was happily signed off on by the judge.

Here we are, with my mother-in-law, in TGI Friday's, celebrating after court:

First family selfie!


We're officially a family!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Twenty-Two and a Half

That's how many hours we have until we all bear the same last name.

We're not counting days anymore, people. We're counting hours.

Hand-picked animal charm necklaces.
I spent four days panicking last week because I couldn't find the camera (I found it, by the way), and all I could think was we wouldn't have our own camera to document the most important day in our family's history.

I had very strange dreams involving Billy Ray Cyrus, a decidedly not-Miley Cyrus daughter, a Disney-fied version of the adoption hearing (complete with lines), and a 13-year-old or so Spencer Breslin as my makeup artist because, I was told, the hearing (despite it being closed) was going to be filmed and televised and I needed stage makeup as a result.

We bought new dresses for the girls, just for the occasion.

We bought them new necklaces.

We bought them really nice new necklaces.

Living Locket necklaces.
Mom and I wrote up text for our own adoption books, and Mom digitally scrapped them and had them made through Snapfish.

Jester and Mitzy took tomorrow off work as soon as I found out it was the date of the hearing, just to make sure they could be there.

And last night, my mother-in-law showed up unannounced, so that she could be here for the hearing, too. We were delighted that she decided to come. (I genuinely love having her come to visit, so I don't care that I didn't know she was coming.)

And in less than a day, we will be a legally-acknowledged family, for real. We've been a real family all along. This is, really, merely a formality to what we've been for nearly seven years now.



My heart is so full that I don't know what to do with myself.

Mini-Me

On Sunday, we drove out to my folks' after church for an Easter dinner together.

And we stayed several hours. Long enough for me to barely hold my personal title of "Amazing Wii Archer" for three rounds, and finally losing to my dad (I'm practicing, Dad).

Finally we rounded up the Fries and headed for home.

Since we retired the minivan for a Nissan Altima, the kids don't have quite the backseat view that they did before. Large Fry sits in the middle, with a twin on either side. Medium, who was behind me, was leaning over and apparently squishing Large, to Large's great consternation, and so there was a discussion about why Medium was encroaching on Large's personal space.

Medium explained that she can't see the dash and wanted to see what time it was.

She didn't enunciate "can't" well enough for her older sister...

Large: C-A-N-T?

Medium:  Can't.

Large: C-A-N-T.

Medium: C-A-N-apostrophe-T.

In the front, I smothered a chuckle.

Despite not giving birth to this child, and only having a smattering of shared genetics, she did exactly what I would have done.

I am in SO much trouble.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

ONE WEEK!!!!

One of my favorite pictures ever is this one:


Wee ones in the window.

I took this on June 2, 2008, four days into The Parenthood Experiment.

I had no idea on that day that they would still be here with us, seven years later.

Nor that, a week from now, this moment, their adoption will be official and we will be an official, legal family.

You'll note I didn't say we'd finally be a real family...but that's because we've been that for nearly seven years as it is. But now, when I say these precious Fries are my daughters, I'm not talking in theoreticals. I'll be talking in realities.

They'll be issued new birth certificates, with me (who's never even been pregnant) listed as their mother, Hubby as their father.

That just gets me every time. (It also entertains me to no end, but we all know I'm really weird.)

We're in the process of planning our big bash to celebrate, and I'm sorting through my rather extensive pictures over the last seven years. How in the world will I ever narrow down my choices? I have too many great ones!

 
Princess jammies! (August-ish, 2008)

Visiting Daddy's family for the first time, Sept. 2008

And we put the angel on top of the tree... (11/08)

Basket buddies, December 2008.

Enthroned Fries, Ice Fest 2009 (Feb).

Yes, that sucker is hand carved.
 
Park playtime, spring 2009.

Tire swings are fun! (Hubby took this one; spring 2009.)

Our first Easter together: 2009. I loved those dresses!

Spring fun at Gramma's, May 2009.

Straw horse at the farm where we got pumpkins in 2009!

First soft-serve ice cream! (November 2009, I think.)

Sledding for the first time! (January/February 2010)

Easter 2010, in Gramma & Boppa's backyard.

Four princesses! Downtown Disney, Orlando, FL (5/10)

"We love the Buckeyes!" (Fall 2010.)

Christmas 2010.

Easter 2011: blowing kisses!

Easter 2012: first one at our new house!

Christmas 2012: all tied up!

Christmas, 2013.

Easter, 2014.
Four princesses, round two: July 2014.

Christmas morning with Kimo, 2014!
 And these are just some of them!

How am I supposed to choose?

I suppose this is a good problem to have, after all...

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Bad Words

First, I must tell you a little about Hubby's upbringing.

He grew up in a small, Hee-Haw salute-population town in the panhandle of our great state. I mean small. Nearby "towns" barely qualify as towns, as they are no more than five houses, a bar, and an itty-bitty post office. (When we returned there for his dad's funeral, everyone who showed up at the funeral home to pay their respects during the calling hours knew who I was. I knew very few of them, by comparison.) Didn't get a McDonald's until 1994, and it's the smallest McDonald's I've ever seen. One traffic light...until sometime in the last year and a half, when it got another near the school. Moons ago there had been a blinking yellow light at that location, but it was gone by the time Hubby and I married in 1996. (We were surprised when we saw the new light when we arrived in town for Thanksgiving last year.)

The two closest NFL teams to this humble little borough are the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cleveland Browns.

Hubby, like his older brother and his late father, is a Cleveland Browns fan. Despite their abysmal win/loss ratio, they are his team. If the Browns aren't playing, he's rooting for whoever is playing the Steelers, their chosen archnemesis. When the Browns moved to Baltimore briefly and became the Ravens, he rooted for whoever was playing against both the Steelers and the Ravens, unless the two teams were playing each other. Then he was a Ravens fan. He was nearly ecstatic when the Browns returned to Cleveland.

Shortly after our marriage, we were back visiting his family, and Hubby's sister Lou informed me that, as a Henley female, I was now obligated to be a Steelers fan. All Henley women are Steelers fans, just to needle the Henley men.

Where we live now is solidly Steelers and Penn State territory, which makes Hubby something of a sports outcast, since he's not only a Browns fan but also an OSU Buckeyes fan. Hubby taught the girls to say they didn't like Penn State because "Joe Pa's too old!" And he's been raising them to not be Steelers fans.

Now, I told you that to tell you this.

I got an email from Small Fry's teacher late this afternoon. She explained that Small had been increasingly distracted today, pestering other students, and—the biggie—another student had reported that Small had used a "bad language word" during center time.

Oh boy.

I read this email about 15 minutes before Hubby needed to leave for tonight's worship team rehearsal. Good thing we only live five minutes from the church, and I pulled both him and Small Fry into the kitchen when it was ten minutes until practice time.

"I got an email from your teacher today," I said to Small, focusing on her, even though Hubby didn't know where this was going to be going. He's a smart guy. He'll catch up. "She said you weren't focusing and staying on task today. And she said another student said you said a bad word during center time."

Hubby chimed in. "What did you say?"

Small fidgeted. "It just slipped out."

Exactly what her teacher had said Small had said when asked about it. "What did you say?"

"The s word," Small mumbled.

"What s word?" I asked. Where in the world did she learn that word?

Small clammed up.

"You're not going to get in trouble," Hubby assured her. "But we need to know what you said."

Small looked back and forth between us.

"We need to know, honey," I said.

"I said stupid."

Okay, that's better than what I was fearing.

Hubby asked, "Did you call one of your classmates stupid?"

Small's ponytail swung as she shook her head no.

"Then what happened?"

Small related that center time conversation had been about sports.

Specifically, the Steelers.

Hubby and I looked at each other, understanding dawning.

"So I said 'The Steelers are stupid,'" Small concluded.

I clapped a hand over my mouth while Hubby's eyes widened to the point I thought his head would explode with the effort of keeping his laughter contained.

"Yes, you probably shouldn't have said that. And you probably should not use that word again." Hubby was somehow able to talk normally. "And you need to listen to your teacher and focus on what she tells you to do. But thank you for telling us." Hubby smiled at her. "You can go back to the den now."

Small beamed and skipped back.

We waited until we knew she was in the other room before we let ourselves laugh hysterically (and as quietly as possible).

Of all the things...

"This is your fault!" I whispered through giggles. "She's heard you say that!"

"I'm happy to take the blame for that one," Hubby giggled back.  "Hoo hoo hoo! That's just..." He broke off to chortle some more. "You've definitely got to email her teacher back."

"I know."

Hubby wiped his eyes and tried once again to contain his laughter. "I've gotta go. Oooo, gotta love second-grade bad words."