We have it all here.
I was sitting on the beach in Santa Cruz. It was Friday, the 27th of May and we were nearing the end of our nine day family vacation to California. The sun-warmed sand felt delicious in between my toes.
Our teen and first-grader were running in the surf, shrieking, as the waves crashed. I had just knocked the umpteenth fistful of sand out of YumYum's tiny fist, foiling him once again from eating sand, when I heard my phone ding.
It had occurred to me just a few minutes after we plopped down on the beach that the day before had been a court date. One that we didn't attend since we were over 1,500 miles away. I had quickly typed an email to YumYum's caseworker and asked how court had gone and now I was getting her reply.
"The goal has changed from reunification to TPR (termination of parental rights) and adoption. We need to get your adoption profile filled out and hopefully get the adoption accelerated."
My heart leapt at the news. YumYum has nestled deep into our hearts, just as Little Miss has. We love them both so much and want them to have a permanent home with us.
Note: Per law, I cannot refer to either of our foster children by first name, hence the nicknames. Once they are ours legally and fully adopted, then we can post their names if we wish.
And just one week later, we found ourselves in a mediation with our 1st grader's mother and the entire team, hammering out points that we could all live with. We weren't overly hopeful, we had been down this road before with Little Miss's mother. This time she had a new lawyer and we had been parenting Little Miss for over four years, two-thirds of her young life.
We compromised over subjects like updates, phone/video calls, and actual face-to-face visits. When discussing visits, we focused on requiring drug-free interactions, which meant needing the results of clean drug tests provided to us prior to a visit.
Biomom's lawyer objected. "That's a big expense. A five-panel test is $60. Would you be willing to cover the cost for her?"
"NO." I barked back at him. Considering mom hasn't had to pay for a lawyer, drug testing, or any child-related costs for FOUR YEARS and we had just spent 20 minutes discussing how we would have to get a PO box in order for her to send presents and packages, I wasn't inclined to further encourage mom's free-living lifestyle.
Over the next 90 minutes, we hammered out an agreement. And the moment had finally arrived for the big question...
As the mediator asked biomom, "With this agreement that we have come to, would you be willing to relinquish your parental rights and allow Dave and Christine to adopt your child?" - I held my breath. I was certain she would say no. I was sure that we would spend another year, or two, possibly even more spinning our wheels and waiting for nothing to change.
After taking a moment to confer with her lawyer, she agreed to let us adopt Little Miss. My husband and I looked at each other, barely breathing, our brains spinning, trying not to look as flabbergasted as we both felt. Could the end truly be in sight? For both of our littles?
Cue a call to the wet blanket lawyer herein referred to simply as WBL. In the state of Missouri, foster parents are provided a lawyer by the state when the case gets to the end and adoption is approved. And WBL is one of the best. That said, he's also a top-level wet blanket.
I get it, I really do. He's seen some truly epic, heartbreaking shit. Kids placed with foster families from the day they are released from the hospital, with the only parents they know for two years or more, and just as an adoption is set to go through, an aunt or uncle pops up and the state hands the child over. Because kinship trumps foster.
So, while WBL launches into a long-winded monologue of potential problems every time I have the misfortune of speaking to him, I'm busy filling out paperwork, emailing caseworkers, and speaking with my licensing caseworker. Basically, the gist of all of it is that WBL feels compelled to remind me that...
Nothing is certain and can change on a dime
It will still take weeks if not months for everything to go through
Just in case you weren't listening the first time, nothing is certain and can change on a dime
No really, nothing is certain and can change on a dime
And just in case you are feeling positive - NOTHING IS CERTAIN AND CAN CHANGE ON A DIME
Yep, that's WBL in a nutshell. His repetitive nature is enough to drive me to begin day drinking. Okay, well, drinking, since even night drinking really isn't my thing.
In the end? Well, the end is in sight. A video call with the GAL yesterday indicated that if YumYum's adoption is uncontested, it might be official by his first birthday. And he is nine months old today!
Meanwhile, in the Garden...
With the help of my somewhat willing teen, we laid a nice wide (and curved) path to the trampoline. I used a couple of rounded tree circles to create the rounded parts that connect to the planted area. It makes it easier for my husband to mow. Eventually 1-2 feet on each side of the walkway will be planted with herbs, perennials, and more strawberries. So many strawberries. I placed an old wash tub off to one side and filled it with water and a little solar fountain. I still need to take the edging bricks away to the next project. You can see them lying there by the edges in the next to last photo.
The last photo shows you where I will install one last walkway this year. It will wrap around one side of the Airstream, curving around the old bee tree (a maple tree that we once had beehives at the base of). After that, I plan on laying all of the broken bricks into a wide path that will eventually connect to the gravel driveway.
It gets rid of a bunch of broken bricks (and believe me, we have a LOT of them)
Provides a solid surface for cars to park on and people to walk on
Less to mow, weed, et cetera
In the dead of winter, cars won't get stuck when they drive off of the gravel
I'm a thrifty, murderous soul. I try to upcycle everything I can around here. It might not look perfect and flat with tasteful, new stones - and that's perfectly okay. Or as my daughter likes to say, "You are perfectly imperfect, Mom."
Share the Library Love
Did you know that all of my books are available in libraries? Even if they aren't already in YOUR library, they can be. All it takes is you! Go to your favorite library, talk to the librarian and ask if you can get a book by Christine Shuck. Libraries are always looking for new content, and my books are available in ebook, paperback, hardcover, and large print versions - all of them!
Getting my books stocked in libraries is wonderful for all involved. I get paid, patrons read for free, and more people learn about my writing. What's not to like about that?
I'm seeing momentum build slowly on all bookselling platforms, a steady uptick in sales as I continue to produce more books. But libraries hold a special place in my heart. I want everyone to get the chance to read my books and you are essential in making that happen.
Here's a printed list of all of my books in print. Print it out and take it with you if you like!
Okay, well, ONE excuse. Change derails me. And life around here is always in flux but the pending adoptions are kind of major, you know? That said, I really need to get back on the writing horse and figure out what I'm going to write next. I sort of settle in a quasi-plan and then I jump back off and go and garden or paint my porch or read or fill out a mountain more of paperwork for these kids of mine.
I hope to begin work on SOMETHING by the end of this week. There, I've said it. By the end of the week I will have a plan for completing ONE of my book projects by the end of, say, July? August?
By next Tuesday I will update you all on what book I will be writing FOR SURE and WHEN it will be done (or at least a good guess). Hold me to that, okay?
What Are You Reading?
So what are YOU reading these days? Let me know. I'm always looking for great recommendations! I just finished The Third Son by S.E. Green and started on an urban fantasy novel last night... Hyde by Lauren Stewart.
Find Me on Facebook
Join my group General Malcontent's Grumbles and Scribbles on Facebook and get plenty of weird memes, the opportunity to read my newest releases for free, pics of the family, and other author news. I look forward to seeing you there!