Category Archive: Adoption

Our Story of Raising an Only Child

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I’ve often thought that God made babies so darn cute so that their parents continue to take good care of them. I’ll never forget holding our first foster baby from 3-6:00am one night, her giant brown eyes following me in the dark, and my two competing thoughts were, “WHY AREN’T YOU ASLEEP?” and “Gosh darn it, you are SO CUTE.” The world tends to adore babies, and when you’re up in the night for three hours straight with a newborn, those compliments you receive on social media might be the only thing keeping you going. Well, that and coffee. But babies grow. The compliments fade. And eventually you have a kid with gawky teeth who is taking awkward school pictures that even retake day can’t fix. Everyone loves a baby, but not so much the elementary kid whose has teeth five times too large for his mouth. Mama, Grandma and your BFF still love that one.

I don’t get asked childrearing questions very often anymore and I think it’s because I have one child who is now 12. Oh, and maybe it’s because I do a lot of my living alongside someone who blogs about parenting. She’s a professional question-answerer so that makes sense. A lot of my parenting experience, however, is hidden and no one can see it. I did the math recently and realized that if God had answered many of my desires for children with “yes’s” rather than “no’s” Jeremy and I would have six children. One privately adopted, one biological, and the final four adopted from foster care. For sure we still have those six in our hearts, with only the first one being the child God has given us to raise for good.

Our plans, as hopeful as they were, didn’t turn into our reality. I’m still coming to terms with this truth. I allow little daggers to enter my heart, to pierce those old desires and entice me to “what if’s” and “if only’s.” I let the memes and defensive lines from large families hurt my soul. I wanted to be one of those large families. I read about people who have more children because they value sibling relationships greatly, and I struggle to not to be filled with regret. As capable as I am, providing a sibling for Livia was not something I could arrange. I hear jokes about only children, about how spoiled they are, and allow these asides to fill me with irritation. I didn’t plan on one, I want to shout. I had hoped for more.

There was Livia. And a baby miscarried. And a very temporary foster daughter. Two foster sons gone home by a judge’s changed orders. And a beloved foster baby reunified with his beautiful family. Six total.

But that’s only the six that reside most deeply in our hearts. There were more.

There was the baby boy we got incredibly close to adopting, only to have his parents choose the other couple. There was the teenager we prayed over, raised in absolutely horrific conditions who, in the end, required much more than we could give. There was the toddler we spent the day with a small town nearby, the one we bought a stuffed animal for and fed Runza fries to, the one given to another family within 24 hours of coming to live with us permanently. There was the three year old girl who needed a family, the one who the state placed elsewhere with no reason whatsoever given to us. And in between those cases there were calls upon calls with hours upon hours of waiting for information, prayers of all kinds being raised up for wisdom and perfect timing.

So when I read a meme supporting large families or see beautiful pictures of siblings loving one another, I think of our story and have to draw a conclusion. Here is the one I’ve settled on:

God has created my family. And he is pleased to give me one child.

One daughter. One twelve year old now in middle school. No siblings older than her, and no siblings younger. But this is our one, and she is enough. I felt God asking me that question, the question of, “What will satisfy you?”
“Will another child make you content?”
“Why is one not enough?”
“When will you be satisfied?”

In my tears and sadness I had to admit that one is enough. ONE IS ENOUGH. Though I’ve been a mother to many and will carry them forever in my heart, one is what he’s given to me to care for daily and that. is. enough.

We all have different stories and no two stories are the same. No one’s story can be read entirely via a Facebook status or a picture on Instagram. We all have hurts and we all have joys, and to compare our stories will never bring us satisfaction. At the end of the day I cling to God’s promises and the knowledge I have of his character. He is good, he provides for ALL my needs, he is never asleep on the job, and I will only find my hope and joy in him. Not in babies, as cute as they are, and not in big kids in all their awkward glory. No job can complete my spirit, no spouse is perfect like God, no amount of travel or fine dining or hobbies or education can ever fill up my heart. It’s a real challenge to keep my eyes on the Lord and trust him, but that’s the goal, that’s MY goal, and He is where my soul will always be refreshed.

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**Note: Each image above represents one of the other children God has given Jeremy and me, for short periods of time. I carried a baby in my womb to the Grand Canyon upon our visit to Arizona. I remember getting carsick as we drove mountain paths and more than once I chose vegetables over french fries even though that was not my norm. I now feel incredibly grateful for such an eventful short pregnancy as I recall the little life I carried at that time.

The black and white image shows Livia with her first foster sister. What a joy she was even as I was stretched by sleeplessness! The second photo shows Jeremy and one of the little boys we had the privilege to love for five weeks. We anticipated a much longer journey with them, and I believe this image was captured the night before they went home. It was a stunning departure. The final image shows Livia and me on a train ride with our last foster baby. This little guy had lots of people in his life who adored him and we got to walk through that experience with his family, which was a privilege all its own. I still count his reunification as a huge joy.

Introducing Carolina Bradley

These images are almost a year late because that’s how things role in the world of foster care. No exposing a child’s face, careful preservation of anonymity as the child is a protected state ward. So there’s a certain joy when one is adopted and we can show her face to the world once more! Adoption was the path to family life for this little girl who I photographed last November as a one week old. Maralee brought her up to my bedroom for a quick photo shoot. I remember having a really bad head cold and feeling overwhelmed with the two little boys who had been placed in our care the previous week, but I knew this was a special moment with a special baby and I shot her one week pictures that night.

Little teeny Carrie. Little girl who is toddling around the house like she owns the place well before her first birthday. Happy girl with the big smile and even bigger eyes. You are loved. You are cherished. God made you and he adores you, little one!

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Just in case you ever wonder…

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I really don’t care if a book is written specifically for my kid or not. I’m a fast reader and a quick editor and all my theater talents of days past are now poured into reading aloud for my family. Each time I open a book, it’s my own personal stage. So when I read Max Lucado’s Just In Case You Ever Wonder—the board book edition—to my foster baby this morning, I wasn’t offended that it didn’t fit our little guy’s life whatsoever. I altered the words a bit so they were true and kept on reading.

I wasn’t offended by the words. I was broken by the reality that these words expose.

Just In Case You Ever Wonder is a charming and sweet book meant to remind a child that Mom and Dad love them, always, and are on their side. It’s a beautiful little book with big, gigantic, earth-shattering truths about who we are and who God is.

Long, long ago God made a decision—a very important decision… one that I’m really glad He made. He made the decision to make you.

The same hands that made the stars made you.
The same hands that made canyons made you.
The same hands that made trees and the moon and the sun made you.
That’s why you are so special. God made you.

Can you feel the power-packed punch of these words, oh adult who is reading this blog post? I can! These words clearly aren’t meant just for the little people in our lives, they are meant for us as well.

Lucado writes more of how special our children are, pointing out that “you were made like no one else.” And then I flip the page and land on the sentences that stop me in my tracks, that make me grieve for the foster kids in my city, that make me weep over the brokenness that exists in our world.

And since you are so special, God wanted to put you in just the right home…
where you would be warm when its cold,
where you’d be safe when you’re afraid,
where you’d have fun and learn about heaven.

Does your heart get heavy like mine does? Do you feel the incredible injustice of what it might be like to not be able to live with your parents—for your parents to not be able to provide a warm and safe home for you? It might actually be your parents who are causing your harm, or it might be that they simply can’t protect you from it for now. Either way, a child is deserving of a warm, safe home with the parents that gave birth to them, and the reality of this world is that brokenness exists.

The book goes on to detail how the reading parent will be there for the child. As you grow and change, I will be there. As you get scared—of the monsters in your closet or in your imagination, or the meanies on the playground—I will be there. Basically, as you experience the trials of life, I will be right there to hold you and teach you and love you through it.

[deep sigh]

A parent loving a child and providing the best for this child, this is the way life should be. If this is the way your childhood was, praise God for that. If this is the way your children were raised, or are being raised now, praise God for such blessings. At the same time, know that the provisions of a roof over your head, food in your pantry and a soft place to lay at night are not the reality for many people around you.

There’s a fine line to walk between getting all preachy and just sharing the truths I experience. I see that and I’m aware of it. So let me say a few final things about what I see right now. I see what might possibly be the cutest baby on the planet and he’s rolling around on my living room floor. He’s putting blocks and books and maybe even a little dog hair in his mouth (this after repeatedly grabbing the dog’s tail). He’s sitting up and falling over. He’s making hilarious growling noises and he’s drooling all over everything. He is LOVED. His mom loves him. His dad loves him. His foster mom and foster dad love him. He’s got some good things going on in his life right now and changes are being made every day to ensure he can go home again soon. He is doing well because someone intervened in his world to help. To encourage. To bless. To provide. From police officers to caseworkers to extended family to the friends and family members of us, his foster family, people have intervened. People have stopped, they’ve asked questions, they’ve pursued righteousness and goodness for this little one who cannot pursue such things on his own.

Sure, this world is marred with brokenness. But there’s always the work of redemption. Keep working, keep redeeming your own little corner of this world. And just in case you ever wonder, yes, Someone does love you.

Happy Joe Day!!

This little one, placed in his adoptive parents’ arms as a newborn discharged from the hospital, was adopted today! He turns two in a few days and, my goodness, this is an amazing birthday present. Happy adoption day to our boy Joe! We love you and your family so much and praise God for the joy you’ve brought to all of our lives. [Photos taken Fall 2013.]

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My Heart

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This kid’s got me. For almost ten years solid, she’s had my heart and now our stories are woven together forever.

On Waiting

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I have a calendar from Livia’s first year of life that I used to mark all her “firsts.” Across the weeks in the month of June 2004 there is one word: waiting.

First week of June. Waiting.
Second week of June. W a i t i n g.
Third week of June. W a i t i n g.

Then during the fourth week we got the call, the go-ahead and on June 26 Livia was laid in our arms for the first time. June 26 is our Gotcha Day, lovingly referred to as “Livia Day” in our house. And if you think we celebrate June 26 then you’d be right.

I recently came across this calendar and smiled upon those weeks of waiting. Compared to international adoption where you get a picture of your child and then wait a really long time for placement, those weeks seem short indeed. But honestly, the heart knows nothing of a short wait. Each month, each week, each day, each hour can feel very long when you are waiting for something so specific and so specially good like a child. Time seems to unfold in a mysterious fashion and the only thing I can compare adoption waiting to so that the general public can understand is to ask if you remember your wedding date.

Do you remember the weeks and months leading up to that day? Do you recall people asking you about your planning and how things were going and sometimes you honestly couldn’t concoct an answer because the whole process was very much “hurry up and wait”? Though you’ve found a florist and ordered the flowers, you can’t actually pick them up until the the day of the wedding. You’ve got an appointment to get your hair done and you’ve got the final fitting arranged for your wedding gown, but again, you can’t do those final things until your wedding is actually happening. So in the meantime, it’s hurry up and wait.

That’s very much what life is life for a parent waiting for a child to come home.

And then when you’re a foster parent, there are a few more twists and turns to expect.

It’s still hurry up and wait, but with a few major caveats. Hurry up and wait… and don’t get too excited because this kid might not ever set foot in your door after all. Or hurry up and wait… but be prepared to fall in love with this child while at the same time cheering on his biological parents and preparing for the day their family is reunited and your family lovingly grieves the loss. Or hurry up and wait… but there will be no welcoming baby showers or gifts freely given because no one expects this child to stay. Or hurry up and wait… but start tentatively planning for questioning looks and unique conversations you will have when this child is actually part of your family. Not only will you need to fairly represent him as a foster child, but you know you’ll actively try to present your own personal longing for permanency while balancing the reality of the tenuous nature of fostering. Deep deep down in your heart you have hopes and dreams, but they aren’t allowed to take root just yet and you need to give lip service to working in the system for as long as this case calls for. So mama, hurry up and wait already.

Waiting.
W a i t i n g.
W a i t i n g.

Oh, the intricate joys and pains of the waiting process.

And Then She Turned Ten

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Despite the fact there has been very little gender-stereotyping in this household, our daughter loves pink. It’s her self-proclaimed favorite color at the moment and she just can’t get enough of it. Requested: a pink heart-shaped birthday cake with red ladybugs on top. Delivered: a pink heart-shaped birthday cake with red ladybugs on top.

May is a month that takes me by surprise every single year. I’m starting to at least attempt to watch out for it with all its celebrations, and yet, still I am stunned by the madness. When you only have one child for ten years, her birthday becomes something of an intense time. Oh forget it, anyone who knows me knows that I enjoy celebrating birthdays. Even if I had five kids I bet I’d still make a big deal out of them! So there’s Liv’s birthday followed very quickly by Mother’s Day. We have lots of beloved mothers around here, including Livia’s birthmom and birthgrandma. I recently learned the Saturday before Mother’s Day Sunday is called Birthmother’s Day, but really? I can’t compete in all this. It’s so much! Because we love Liv’s first family we’ve always send them photos this time of year anyhow—see, celebrated! And then there’s Mother’s Day. And then there’s the Monday after Mother’s Day which is…

Silence.

Ah.

School is still in session. I can get out my bible and sit in the quiet of the morning, all by myself. Eventually I move on to the computer and the dog and the gerbils and greet my husband, too. Monday after Mother’s Day? I like you a lot.

The Cranford Family. At Last.

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Nine weeks of foster parenting classes together. One life-changing call for the placement of two little boys. Approximately a year and a half of watching them work through the foster care system like champs. Two family photo shoots. One profound and perfect adoption court date. One pregnant belly. Five people in the Cranford family by the end of the day on September 17, 2013 (and yes, I am counting wee Cranford in utero who we’ll meet face-to-face this winter).

Praising God with my friends today.

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Happy Livia Day!

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Today marks the day we became a family nine years ago! Happy Livia Day to our little girl who was first placed in our arms by a loving birthmother and birth grandmother. We are incredibly thankful for their love and grace towards our family, just as we’re incredibly grateful that God orchestrated Liv’s entire adoption.

We love you, Livia!!!

Photo Essay: Maralee Bradley at NET Studios

Maralee was invited to give positive parenting tips for a television segment sponsored by Nebraska Children and Families Foundation at NET last week. As any friend-tographer would do (am I spelling that word right, Maralee?), I volunteered to come along and document the experience with my camera. The morning began with makeup and hair by the beautiful Emily Lovelace at Tangled Up Salon, and from there we continued on to the NET studio on UNL’s East Campus.

Look for Maralee’s parenting spots on NET in coming weeks. I’ll put out more information on air times as soon as I can.

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