Our Family

Our Family
Our Family: Pops, Me, The Teenager, The Boy, The Freckle Faced Ninja, Miss Priss, Miss Sassy Pants, Madi-Lou-Who, & Dora the Explorer

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Gabby, adopting an angel

Here is Gabby with her
foster brother AJ
It all started when I said I would do respite care for the Smith* kids.  Their foster mom was having angioplasty and needed some help for a few days while she recuperated.  Now I loved their foster mom so I was willing despite the wild look in Tony's eyes when I told him they were coming to stay.  The oldest was sweet about 1/3 of the time and on her guard the rest.  Very protective of her younger siblings and not inclined to do homework with out a major ordeal.  The middle brother, as the only boy, viewed himself the "man" of the family and would give a tornado a run for its money in energy.  The youngest, would smile at everyone, run up and hug strangers everywhere we went, then tell them her daddy was in jail and her mama was buried.  Their first night with us she poured out a new bottle of shampoo so she could have a bubble bath.  My doubts began right away!  About my sanity and possible parenting abilities!!!   

Towards the end of their week with us, we went to a Memorial Day picnic with the other foster families in the community.  As I sat down near the playground I saw this little fuzzy headed blond thing toddle by me in her red checked dress.  She rummaged through a diaper bag, coming up triumphant with a bottle.  A teen in a wheelchair began fussing at her to put that back but as he didn't have the mobility to stop her, she ran off giggling.  I was fascinated!  I'd heard him call her name and knew who she was.  I had heard she had been adopted yet here she was, still with her foster family!  I wanted to swoop her up and take her home right there!   

Gabby at 2 with Grammy Alice
I left the picnic to take my three charges to visit their foster mom.  Mary and her husband, John, were dears who had had many foster children over the course of their marriage and had adopted several.  She and John treated us like we were kids of their own, feeding us and even doing daycare for us after our adoption.  That day at her house, all I could talk about was Gabby.  I was bubbling over with curiosity!!!  Was she still available to adopt? Would they let us have her?  The department was angry at us because my mother had contacted the National Foster Care Board about how our last adoption (see the post "Alyssa" for the story) was handled.  Apparently they'd come under some scrutiny for how they handled things!

Unbeknownst to me, God was directing paths to converge, starting with that picnic.  That same day, an adoption social worker called Mary, unofficially, to ask if I'd noticed Gabby.  Of course I had and Mary told her how I'd been so excited to know if she was available to adopt.  The worker let Mary know the situation about the department being angry at us and that they were hesitant to let us adopt a child now.  I guess when you mess up, take it out on the ones who suffered for your mistakes, huh?!

Anyway, once she told Mary that, Mary placed a phone call to the supervisor of the department.  She told him in no uncertain terms, that he better make sure that we were able to adopt this baby if she was available to be adopted.  If they didn't she and her husband would quit doing foster care that day!  Do NOT make a Hispanic mama mad about her babies!!!  Needless to say, the adoption worker paid us a visit before long to ask if we'd like to adopt Gabby!  :)

Things seemed to crawl after that but looking back, they moved quickly!  We met "Grammy Alice" soon after when we did respite care for one of her foster babies for 2 nights.  This baby was a few months old but looked newborn and was on a heart monitor.  She barely kept any food down, her reflux was so bad.  And she was super sensitive to touch.  All thanks to the gift of meth in her system in utero!  I'm happy to report that she's a happy, healthy teenager now, but I vividly remember not sleeping for 2 days while she stayed with me!!  Grammy Alice was Gabby's foster mom.  As a nurse, she usually only took very medically fragile children into her home.  She said Gabby was the first "normal" kid she'd had as a foster parent!

Grammy Alice's sweet note on finalizing our adoption
Reindeer Antlers.
Need I say more?
In the middle of talks with the social worker and staying up all night with a heart monitor going off, we left New Mexico for a few weeks to go visit family in Georgia.  While we were there, Gabby was all we talked about.  We asked everyone we knew which name was better, Ana Maria Gonzalez or Gabriela (after the angel Gabriel) Elise Gonzalez.  When we asked my grandfather, his response was, "Just don't call her Gabby.  It reminds me of this toothless, cowhand on a cowboy show back in the day."  :)

After we came back home there was more waiting.  It seems like adoption is all about the wait.  In the movie "Shadow Lands" CS Lewis makes a reference to a bleak winter and feeling discontent, calling it, "This waiting room of the world".  Sometimes it feels like that.  Going through the motions of daily living while really I'm in a waiting room, waiting for the real story to begin.  We filled out paperwork, took classes, and waited.  After a year we got a placement.  Before we could finalize, the child was sent back to her birth parents (read the post "Alyssa" for the story).  Heart break.  More waiting.  Now, months later, we were waiting again but hope had reared it head!

on her head!
In mid-July were finally told that things were a go for Operation Adopt the Cutest Little Fuzzy Headed Baby in the Southwest.  OK, so that's a long title, but we were so excited!  At least I was.  I think Tony was feeling on guard.  After the last heart break, he has talked about how he stayed at arms length for a little while after Gabby came.  As you can see in the picture, she quickly became "Daddy's Girl"!  The day they called, we went to visit her and tried to hold her for the first time (you try to hold a 15 month old who has discovered she can walk!).  My brother was in town visiting and he loved telling people he got to meet his niece before her grandparents did!  :)

Gabby and her cousin Madeline
Of course we got the huge history of her entire 15 months of life.  Thankfully, she had suffered no abuse, just neglect at the hands of a mom, who honestly didn't have the means to do any better.  She had been abused as a child herself, and that sadly left many scars.  For 2 weeks we visited, several of them overnight.  Our first overnight visit was right after she had tubes put in her ears (we weren't delaying for any obstacles!).  She came to live with us officially on August 4th and we moved to newer (as in not ready to be demolished as they did with our old duplex) base housing.

I'm sure Gabby had an adjustment phase with moving to a new home, but other than crying when I left her alone with Tony the first week or so, we didn't notice it!  She just became the center of our joy!  3 days before her 2nd birthday, we finalized her adoption.  We declined going to court because, although we loved the adoption worker, the less we had to see the other workers from the department, the better.  Now I regret that but I think we were holding on to a lot of anger from losing Alyssa still.

Dressed up for Pioneer Day in
3rd Grade complete with
American Girl Doll
Gabby has continued to be such a source of joy in our lives.  We left New Mexico a few months later to come home to Georgia and we're doing our best to raise a good southern, Georgia Bulldog!  Gabby is now 13 years old, in 8th grade.  She blesses all of us with her beautiful singing.  As a toddler, she learned to sing before she could talk!  She has always love to read and of course we think she's brilliant!  Her creativity and imagination are amazing.  She's always invented amazing stories and is in the middle of writing her first novel!

From age 1 until her 12th birthday, she was an only child.  Now, while we didn't spoil her materially and are definitely on the firm side as parents, being an only child gives you a sense that you are the center of all.  The day of her 12th birthday she became the oldest of 4 children when we brought Will, Lydia, and Madi home.  I know it rocked her world but today she is the best big sister I know.  She has helped them find their imaginations and loves to play with them.

With Pink Bear who after 12 years
is a rather grayish pink!
As you can tell, we're proud of her and abundantly blessed that God placed her in our family.  I read where someone once said that adoptive families are not God's plan A.  His plan A was for the biological family to work right!  That made me think.  Am I OK being plan B for when plan A fails for God's children?  Looking around at my messy house, hearing the children laugh and yell at each other.  Holding my son while he cries over words his foster family said that still hurt.  Helping our children cry over wounds they are too young to consciously remember.   Yes, I think I am OK with that.  Remember, this is all Plan B.  Plan A was a garden.  A garden where foster care, orphans, and pain didn't exist.  If Christ is OK with being Plan B, then I'm pretty sure I am too.  

*Not their real names

Shoe Diva!


  1. Katie, this is beautiful! Thanks so much for sharing your heart and your story! I'm sitting here with tears in my eyes as I know that you and Tony are a PHENOMENAL Plan B for your children, just as Jesus is a PHENOMENAL Plan B for all of us! Love you, my friend!

  2. Made me cry to think that my righteous anger could have cost us Gabby! I just wanted things to be different for other children than what happened to Alyssa, and I guess I made it worse. Well, thank God it turned out for the best.

  3. Anonymous...Mom!!! Do not feel badly about your well-placed righteous anger! God had a plan for that situation all along and because of your call, that department was cleaned up considerably after that! You didn't make anything worse, and you did make sure things were different for other children! It took courage to speak up and we thank you for being our mouthpieces when we didn't know what to do!