Our Imperfect Lives


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It’s a Date!

It’s been 1 year, 6 months and 8 days since Sport and Sunshine moved into our home and after all that time of not knowing when we’d be a legal family – we finally know! We were given a list from our adoption social worker with four possible dates to appear in court to finalize the adoption. We picked May 5th, so naturally we intend to celebrate with Mexican food.

We were given more time to prepare for court than we had expected. We also had the option of a date two weeks earlier, but we wanted to be sure ourselves and our close family would be available to help us celebrate. Although we’ve been preparing for this day for a while, we still have things we want to do.

First of which, was to start talking to Sport and Sunshine about the upcoming event. While we had already discussed how different families are created and read stories about adoption – we had never specifically addressed their adoption.

In an unknowingly helpful way, Sport opened the door right up to discuss our day in court. Out of the blue he announced his current full and legal name. We have rarely heard him refer to himself using his last name, so Meg took the opportunity to begin the discussion. She told him that his last name would be changing so that it would match Mommy’s and Mama’s. They also discussed how she changed her name when we married. He was reminded that he would keep his first name – given to him by his birth parents, but change his last name to show that he is part of our family as well. He seemed to like the idea of the whole family having the same last name.

Next up on our list of to-dos was our outfits. Such an occasion requires nice new duds – something dressy but comfortable and clearly we want the whole family to coordinate. We’re also going to include a special component that will tie all of our outfits together, but we won’t reveal that until the big day.

Since we’re working so hard to put together these adorable new outfits we would obviously like to take family photos, so our to-do list also includes scheduling time with a photographer. Thankfully we have a very talented friend Jen, of Adventurous Moms, who agreed to take family photographs of us to help commemorate the special day.

We also have to prepare for some more practical things, such as taking over the full cost of Sport and Sunshine’s daycare bills. Currently Sport gets a small subsidy and Sunshine benefits from a free slot provided by the state. We enrolled Sport in his daycare and pay the center directly, so the adoption will only impact the legal name they have on record for Sport. Sunshine, however, will lose her state provided daycare slot soon after the adoption is finalized and she is no longer a ward of the state. Thankfully, we have already discussed the possibility of Sunshine continuing on at her current daycare and her provider doesn’t anticipate any problems. We just have to work out the specifics now that we have a date.

We also have a few other plans up our sleeves to commemorate the day, but we’ll let those be a surprise.

The news of our upcoming court date is mostly just a formality – these kids are a part of our family – but it’s still a big day. In the meantime, we still have our everyday lives to live and lots of fun things to do. What fun things you ask? Check out some of our recent photos:


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Winter Wonders

Well, a lot has happened since we last posted – we celebrated Christmas and New Year’s, went hiking and skiing, but not much has happened on the adoption front. However, it’s mostly just a matter of formalities at this point; paperwork that needs to be pushed and legal matters settled to make us a family in the eyes of the law.

The first piece of paperwork is for the subsidy. If a child has a special need of some kind – such as a medical or psychological condition – the state may offer a subsidy to help cover these particular expenses. While pre-adoptive kids may not always qualify for a subsidy at the time of adoption that could change as the child grows, for example a medical condition may be diagnosed sometime after the finalization of the adoption or an early trauma might later manifest as some type of serious behavior problem. If a child is to qualify for the subsidy later, after the adoption, the subsidy must have initially been requested and denied prior to adoption. Then, and only then, may the adoptive family reapply for the subsidy.

Next up is the adoption petition. This document includes some information about us, but mostly information about the kids, verifies they are legally free to be adopted and have lived in our home for at least 6 months. Along with this document is paperwork for both of us to be re-CORIed (have another background check).

It’s not clear when all of this paperwork will be done and ready to be filed with the court, but once it is it could be just weeks after that we’ll have our day in court. Unfortunately, other families we know have been waiting months to hear back regarding the subsidy and we’re told that the DCF paralegal is swamped with paperwork, so it could be weeks before she’s able to review the paperwork and send it to the court. We’re hoping for a March court date, but there’s really no way to know for sure.

So, as always, life continues for us as we wait all of this out. And we’re trying to make life as fun and normal as it can be.

We celebrated Christmas – the kids were absolutely spoiled by our family and friends – and we did our best to begin teaching Sport the real meaning behind Christmas: giving to others. We held a holiday party for our friends where we asked that instead of exchanging gifts everyone bring hats and/or gloves for a child or adult that we could then bring to a local soup kitchen for them to distribute over the holiday. While Sport may not have fully understood what we were doing he had a blast at the party (so didn’t Sunshine), enjoyed picking out mitten and hat sets to donate and was a great help collecting all the donations.

The kids were also able to celebrate Christmas with their bio parents during their December visit (until the adoption is finalized they have a monthly visit with their bio parents, following the adoption it will be quarterly). Unfortunately, they did once again receive a few gifts that were not age appropriate (e.g. clothes not the correct size and toys for older children), but they seemed to have had a positive celebration.

This winter we’ve also done some great hiking – both in spring like conditions the day after Christmas and on snow covered paths on New Year’s Day. Sport also spent his first afternoon on the slopes testing out the skis he got for Christmas. We also hit the science museum a couple of times and a few different indoor play facilities (including our own home where we created an indoor obstacle course!). So far we’re having a great winter (even if we haven’t had that much snow)! Check out photos of our adventures here:


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Finally – An Update!

When we agreed to be placed with two children just over a year ago, we knew that they were considered “legal risk” and that we were going to be heading down a pretty long path. At that time the termination of parental rights (TPR) trial hadn’t even begun. We had to wait five months before TPR even got under way.

When the trial finally began, we knew it could be long and would likely be followed by a drawn out appeals process. With that in mind, we offered an open adoption agreement to the bio parents that included three annual visits with the kids in an effort to avoid a lengthy trial. However, it was rejected a number of times, generally by bio Dad and his attorney. He believed, whether rightfully so or not, that he would prevail in court, or at the very least that the children might be placed with his mother-in-law instead of us. So, we had relegated ourselves to the fact that we would have to live through a lengthy trial and appeals process before any final determination would be made.

We were wrong. Sort of.

On Friday, the 13th of November, after eight months of court dates, we received that fateful call from the kids’ attorney and the DCF attorney – the bio parents were willing to consider an open adoption agreement. We were supposed to be at our desk (Marcy) or teaching a class (Meg) but instead we spent much of our afternoon on the phone with each other or attorneys, trying not to be overwhelmed by emotions in front of our colleagues and students.

On the phone we hashed out details of the agreement and what we were willing to offer to the bio parents. We discussed how we as adoptive parents would communicate regarding the visits, who would supervise visits and when/if the agreement would need to be voided, among other legal points.

By the end of that day we were hopeful and anxious. We told very few people. Nothing was confirmed and the adoption agreement hadn’t even been written yet. When asked about the process we still answered with “the trial is ongoing.”

By Tuesday afternoon we had reviewed the legal agreement and were scooting out of work early to get the adoption agreement signed and notarized. This step, however, proved to be a bit tricky when the first bank we visited informed us that they couldn’t notarize the document because we weren’t signing our legal names. You see, we signed the document Ms. X and Ms. Y to insure our anonymity. Then we signed an addendum to be filed with the court with our real and legal signatures. Both documents had to be notarized. Thankfully, bank number two had no problem notarizing all of the documents in question and we were ready to have the papers picked up by our adoption social worker bright and early the next morning and brought to court.

The plan was that the parents would stipulate to the termination of their rights and sign the adoption agreement in court on Thursday. But as they say about the best laid plans – they often go awry. It seems that same day the bio parents were to sign the document there was an adoption taking place in the courthouse – filled will balloons, celebrations and the taking of new last names. This caused some hesitation – they realized the children would have new last names and Sport would no longer be a junior. The day passed and no paperwork was signed.

The bio parents hadn’t turned down the offer and we, along with the kids’ attorney and DCF, were all hopeful that the document would be signed at the next court date, which meant we had to wait another 10 days. All while keeping our potential news under wraps.

Yesterday was day ten and we were hopeful and nervous. The end of the day was starting to get close and we hadn’t heard and then – we got the news, they signed the agreement!

Once again we found ourselves at work trying to keep ourselves together. We could finally say, with confidence, that our kids were staying. We frantically called our immediate families and texted our best friends to share the news!

Sport and Sunshine were now legally free and ready to be adopted!

While we’re overcome with relief, we do recognize that their bio Mom and Dad are overcome with sadness. No matter how we feel about the bio parents – they are and will always be a part of our children – whether they’re able to maintain a relationship and follow through with their portion of the adoption agreement or not.

The adoption is still several months away but the paperwork that must be filed before we can get that long coveted court date to make Sport and Sunshine members of our family (in the eyes of the law) can get started. So, while we still have a little ways to go, the biggest hurdle has now been cleared.

Family

Family❤


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The Toddler Years

Whoever coined the phrase “terrible twos” had a greater predilection for alliteration than for reality. We had heard it before, “three is worse than two,” but now we really know what people mean… Don’t get us wrong, Sport is an awesome little guy and actually very well behaved, but, oh, does he know how to push buttons!

The difference between two and three is understanding. Two year olds don’t always understand what you’re asking, nor do they understand the consequences. Three year olds may still not fully grasp the consequences but they sure know what you’re saying when you ask them to stop doing something. They also understand what’s going to drive a parent up the wall and give them a whole lot of attention – even if that means getting in trouble.

Couple being a three year old with having a little sister who’s turning into a toddler herself and throw that on top of all the baggage that comes with being in foster care for two thirds of your life and you get a whole lot of tantrums, button pushing and toddler terrorism. Thankfully most of it manifests itself out of the public eye. To the rest of the world Sport is a perfect angel – and for that we are grateful.

We’re pretty sure a lot of the acting up is purely about getting attention. He’s fighting to regain the attention that is garnered by learning to talk, run, and climb (along with every other new thing his 16 month old sister does). Our new approach to a lot of his antics is to simply ignore them. We don’t want to encourage his “bugger-ness” as we like to call it by giving him any attention for it.

We ignore things like “toddler swear words” (thank God he hasn’t picked up any real swear words yet) and when he is pretending to do things that he knows are against the rules. We also try to be as consistent as possible and still follow the same warning/consequence model we’ve been using for months, which is referred to as “1-2-3 magic.”

If Sport is doing something he shouldn’t be doing, something not too serious or dangerous, we ask him to stop and if he doesn’t he gets a one.  The next time he’ll get a two and if he makes another “bad choice” as we like to say, he’ll get a three. Once he gets a three he has to “practice listening,” which is essentially a timeout. The time served is dependent on his age, so when we started this system he was two years old and had to practice listening for two minutes. Now that he’s three years old he practices listening for three minutes. Another part of the system is that it lacks lectures. We try to keep our words to a minimum and just let the consequence do the work. In the same vein, he gets a fresh start after the three minutes are up.

Originally he’d serve his time in his room, but we decided that perhaps it wasn’t the best idea to continue using his room. Lately he would be upset for maybe the first 20 or 30 seconds or so and then he’d just play in his room, read his books and not care that he was in his room for three minutes. His new location for practicing listening when at home is to sit on the bottom stair or, if we’re upstairs, to sit in the hallway outside of his room. If we’re away from home we just try and find a quiet, private spot. If he gets very upset, we will help him do some deep breathing to calm down before he returns to his activity.

We know we’re not dealing with any behavior that millions of other parents haven’t dealt with before, but we do get the added bonus of wanting to bang our heads against the wall due to court dates, piles of paperwork, and appointments with social workers. The trial continues to drag on, we have yet another social worker (the kids’ adoption worker) who is less than attentive to emails, and their visitation schedule is continuously changing. We continue to try and stay positive through it all. This month is National Adoption Month – a month long celebration that brings with it the sharing of many stories of triumph and happy families, which help us to remember that in the end it should all be worth it.

Of course none of our blogs are complete without some adorable photos of our kids:

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Almost a Year

It’s hard to believe but we’re getting close to celebrating one full year with the kids. And unfortunately, we still don’t have much of a sense of when, or if, we’ll be able to call them legally ours (emotionally we already see them as ours and nothing will change the bond we’ve created – they are our son and our daughter). The trial continues to drag on and while there is currently a final court date scheduled, there’s no way to know if it will actually be the final date – at least not until that fateful day rolls around.

We recently met with K, the attorney representing the children, and she still couldn’t say for sure if additional court dates would be added. She did, however, say that after this week she’ll have an idea of when she’ll call one of us to testify and if any additional court dates will be necessary.

This week the trial is on the docket twice and hopefully after the first day K will be able to get a better grip on how the rest of the trial will play out. The first day will likely bring the father’s testimony to a close. Following his testimony will be the remaining social workers on the case: the adoption worker and the previous ongoing worker.

Next up: the parents’ attorneys will make their cases and it’s unclear at the moment how long this will take but K theorizes it shouldn’t be too time consuming. The other adoption option, the children’s maternal grandmother, is expected to testify. If she does, then K has already stated she intends to have one of us testify as well. We briefly discussed who would testify, but no decision has been finalized. We’ll make our decision once we have a date to appear and we start preparing. Either way we hope to both take the day off from work and head to the courthouse. Even though we both can’t physically be in the court room at the same time, we can be in the court house and available for support.

As always we’re trying to stay optimistic and yet realistic about this whole process. It’s admittedly frustrating hearing from many of the other couples from our MAPP class as one by one they announce that their foster children are legally free. In their cases the birth parents of their children have had their rights terminated, either by the parents signing an agreement voluntarily, or by the court forcing it upon them. These families can now start the legal adoption process.

We are of course happy for everyone in our class who is making their dream come true by becoming official parents, but we wish we could celebrate too. It’s difficult being the only ones from our class (that we know of) having to experience the headache of a trial. We can’t help but feel a bit jealous.

Needless to say though, no matter how the adoption happens, it’s difficult – one family is being torn apart while another is being built up. One couple from our MAPP class did share some of the heart wrenching emotions that went into the signing of the TPR (terminating parental rights) paperwork. The adoptive parents described how they cried with the biological parents and promised to care for their little girl.

Right now we can’t envision having any such moment as the biological father is fighting to keep the children. While K has discussed an open adoption agreement that would allow a couple of supervised visits each year along with pictures and letters, we’re told he refuses to even consider such an offer. While we sympathize with him not wanting to give up, it’s hard to imagine him being equipped to raise his children. He also risks losing all access to the children. The judge could rule to terminate the biological parents’ rights and to not allow any visitation or communication.

Marcy can’t help but wonder how much the fight is about the love he has for his children and how much it is about losing. Perhaps it is a mixture of both. While she doesn’t question that he does, on some level, love his children, how is it that he can’t make a greater effort to see his children. (He has now missed several consecutive scheduled visits with them.) She admits he faces some very real obstacles to making the visits, but to not be able to make a visit in the last month and a half?

Regardless of the reasons for the legal fights, one thing is very clear – these children are loved. We love Sport and Sunshine as much as any parent can, all while trying to stay positive about their relationships with their biological family, who also love them.

While we know the lives of these two adorable and yet troublesome kiddos aren’t normal and are maybe a bit more turbulent than most children their age, we’re giving them all the opportunities kids should have to have fun! In fact, this summer they may have been a bit spoiled with the amount of trips and fun activities that they took part in. We’ve already shared some of the excitement from this summer in previous posts but in the last month or two there’s been even more! There was the YMCA family camp (a boy’s camp that is opened at the end of the summer for one week for families to come and stay and take part in all sorts of camp activities like swimming, boating, sports, arts and crafts and more), tent camping in the White Mountains National Forest, and a Unitarian Universalist beach weekend retreat!

Check out photos from all the fun:

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Visitation

One of the many responsibilities of foster/pre-adoptive parents is making the children available for visits with their biological family. Biological parents who are at least partially in compliance with their DCF service plan and have not had their rights terminated by the courts are given supervised visits with their children. In our case these visits were one hour each week, but since the DCF office is a bit of a drive from our home, the visits are now every other week for two hours.

Technically it is the ongoing case worker’s responsibility to provide the transportation to and from visits – but they love it when foster parents can help out. With us, we provide the transportation whenever we can and with Meg being a teacher, who decided to take the summer off from working (pre-kids she would work summer school and such), she’s been able to provide the transportation to and from the visits. We decided that this would make the visits a bit easier for the kids.

Not to say that the visits are particularly hard on the kids. In fact, Sport gets excited when we tell him he’ll be having a visit with his Dad. Sunshine hasn’t spent much time with her biological parents, but doesn’t seem to be impacted negatively aside from all the time in a car seat. However, recently, we’ve decided to only reveal the news of the visit once the kids pile into the car and head to DCF. And unfortunately we had to learn this the hard way.

We stopped telling Sport about his visit a day or two beforehand after a few visits didn’t happen. The first time it was that Dad didn’t show up for a visit. In his defense, the visit was changed for that week and he claims to have not been told and he showed up later that afternoon. Regardless of what actually transpired, our kids got stuck at the DCF office crying – Sport upset that he didn’t get to see his dad and Sunshine upset that she had spent several straight hours in her “bucket” also known as the carrier that clicks into the infant car seat base. The social worker, presumably expecting to leave at any minute, didn’t even remove Sunshine from her seat while in the office.

After Dad’s no show/time confusion, the social worker instituted a practice, which actually seems like a fairly common practice for many workers, that requires Dad to confirm he will be coming the day before the visit.

The next time it was on the morning of the visit. Dad had confirmed the visit the day before. We told Sport who was coming and where he was going – the social worker was coming and he was going to see his Dad. Marcy had stayed home with the kids to wait for her arrival before heading to work herself. Then, about thirty minutes before she was to arrive, we got the phone call. The social worker had a migraine and was cancelling the visit.

Sport was upset.

Thankfully, Sport recovered fairly quickly and he only cried for a short few minutes. Marcy was able to get him settled down and get both children packed up and off to daycare. While the experience could have been worse, it wasn’t one we appreciated.

This summer we’ve had two additional missed visits: one Dad cancelled and another he just never confirmed. With our new system of not telling Sport that a visit is coming up, the missed visits came and went without any fanfare.

We do find it somewhat peculiar that before this summer (excluding the supposed mix up) Dad had never missed a visit, at least not while the children were placed with us. Now (at least to us) seems like the ideal time for him to see the children as much as possible and to “make nice” with the social workers, because the trial is currently ongoing. Next week two court dates are scheduled, which another two in September and likely more to come.

Although, we certainly don’t mind the missed visits – it’s one less thing we need to worry about. And who knows, it may be strengthening the case to keep the kids in our care (or it may have absolutely no impact – who knows…?) Sport may be noticing that he hasn’t seen his Dad in a while. This morning, with no prompting, when discussing what he was going to do after preschool, he asked if he was going to see his Dad. He was not going to see his Dad after school and while a visit is scheduled for tomorrow, it had not yet been confirmed so we weren’t going to mention it. We merely responded with a, “No, you aren’t going to see your Daddy after school but maybe soon.”

Sport kept pressing, asking about going over to his Daddy’s house – “No, Sport, we’re sorry, but you can’t visit your Daddy at his house.”

Sport continued on the subject asking if Daddy could come to his house – “No, Sport we’re sorry, your Daddy can’t come visit you at our house, but maybe you’ll see him soon.”

Thankfully he didn’t ask why.

While we do of course have to make ourselves and the children available for visits and social worker meetings, we still have time to fit in lots of fun activities in this summer! Check out some more of our adventures here:

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Summer Time Fun

It’s been a while since we last shared with you all, which means a whole lot has happened (not much on the legal front) but there have been first steps, first solo swims and Meg and the kids have traversed three states – we’ve been busy!

Now, before we get into the fun stuff let’s get the handwringing, headshaking legal updates out of the way… First off, one of the most noteworthy legal developments over the last two months is that we will likely have to testify. The trial is now combined with a decision about placement, so the lawyers will call witnesses and argue not only for the question of parental rights but also where the children should be placed, if the parental rights are terminated. As a result, we’ll be presented as an adoption option/placement by the Department of Children and Families. As you may remember from a previous post, the birth parents are also presenting their own option for placement (a grandparent). Of course, it still remains to be seen when we’ll be called to testify.

The trial dates we laid out in our last post are all in the books and the lawyers burned all of their time in court questioning one witness. That’s right, they spent all that time on testimony from one person, the first ongoing social worker on the case. As a result, four more court dates have been scheduled through late September. Time will tell if more dates will need to be scheduled come September, but it seems pretty likely.

As always, we just sit and wait and hope for the best. We also take some comfort in the notion that the children’s lawyer and social workers believe the longer Sport and Sunshine are with us, the less willing a judge will be to remove them from our home. In fact, they will have been with us for one year in October – making us the longest placement for both children since they were born.

OK, we promised you fun stuff….

Let’s begin with Sunshine’s first birthday! It’s hard to think of how the day could have been any better than it was –the early morning rain clouds scattered, the sun came out to play, it was warm – but not too warm – the birthday girl was in good spirits and so were her Moms. We had about twenty adults and a handful of kids running around in the background, a table full of snacks and a grill turning out tasty food.

Our birthday girl, who had to have three costume changes because of all the messy fun she was having, was all smiles and made the happy discovery that she loves cake! She ate as much cake as a grown adult and wore an equal amount on her face, hair and shirt.

The next big adventure was a trip to Vermont, but sadly it wasn’t a trip for the whole family since Marcy and the dogs had to stay home. Even though they were short one Mom, Meg and the kids headed to the Green Mountain State to meet up with our friends and their three kids and had a great time. They got to do very “Vermont” things like feed chickens, pick strawberries and go hiking. Sport even got the privilege of sleeping in a bunk bed and in the top bunk no less. Although before he got the official go ahead to claim the top bunk for his own for the night he had to prove he could safely get up and down the very short (the top bunk was only about 4 feet high) ladder and make his way to the bathroom, which, being the athletic little guy that he is, he had no trouble doing.

We enjoy the great outdoors so naturally we’ve spent a good amount of time soaking in the sun, playing in the yard, splashing in the water and walking in the woods. And we’re lucky enough to have a pretty good sized back yard for living in a fairly dense city, so we’ve spent plenty of time out back. Sport has played almost all of the major American sports in our yard including football, soccer, baseball and basketball. He also is working to develop a bit of a green thumb by helping Meg plant and care for the vegetable garden.

In addition to the joys of gardening we’ve been teaching Sport the wonders of a walk in the woods. At not quite three years old he can spot and follow trail blazes. He also loves to find walking sticks to carry with him as we make our trek. Sunshine has also started to enjoy riding in our new-to-us child carrier for hiking. She gets to face forward and sit up nice and high and take in everything around her. She particularly enjoys when we get nice and close to a tree so she can reach out and run her tiny fingers along the rough bark.

A new favorite outdoor toy from Sunshine’s birthday was a water table, which has brought a splashing good time in the backyard, but not the only fun splashing the kids have taken in this summer! We also took a trip to a park with a splash pad with our friends and their two year old daughter. Sport wasn’t a huge fan of not knowing when the water was going to spray and while he wouldn’t get too close to any of the water elements he managed to have a splashing good time. Even Sunshine, who was under the weather, enjoyed the park – maybe a little too much since she kept trying to crawl across the paved splash pad, scraping up her knees.

And yet the splashing fun didn’t end there! We’ve been taking full advantage of Meg’s parents’ pool. Sport started off the summer being very hesitant about swimming, even with his new life jacket he doesn’t like to be in the pool without having contact with an adult, even if it was just a hand on the life jacket buckle. However, fast forward a few pool sessions and he’s finally able to “swim” a little on his own. He swam from Marcy to Meg a whole five or so yards apart. It’s not much but it’s a start!

In other big milestone news Sunshine took her first steps! She started about a week before she turned 13 months old with only 2 teeny tiny steps! Of course they happened pretty quickly and she didn’t want to do it for the camera so we didn’t get any video or photographic documentation but we’re excited that we were both in the room when it happened (only Marcy was there for her first crawl). It’s been a couple weeks now and she’s only up to about 4 steps at a time. She still prefers to crawl because boy oh boy is she fast when she crawls now!

We recently took the kids to Marcy’s old college stomping grounds – Portland, Maine. We visited the children’s museum and the Portland Headlight. Meg’s cousin and her husband live nearby with their daughter who is two weeks older than Sunshine, so we hit a nice park in Portland and swung on the swings, raced down the slides and played in the sand. We also stopped at a tasty BBQ restaurant where Sunshine drank from a cup using a straw for the first time while her forgetful Mom had to run out to the car to retrieve her sippy cup.

We did so much so far this summer we just can’t even cover it all in this one blog but here’s a quick rundown in photos of our summer so far:

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And we still have a lot more fun planned for the remainder of the summer – Meg will actually be taking the kids on another road trip this coming week while Marcy stays home and we still have the YMCA Family Camp at the end of the summer. It is important to note that before we took off on any out of state escapades we received permission from DCF to do so. Also, when planning any of our trips we must plan them around the children’s bi-weekly visits with their birth father at the DCF office.

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