It's been a beautiful day with loads of emotions. Literally, loads. Today was Zaylee's adoption day. We've not been able to share much over the past two years because of DCFS, but as of today, the DCFS case was closed and we don't have to worry about what they say or think any longer...because it doesn't matter one bit! Now, I can share my thoughts and feelings without worrying that the "jello sheriff" would come knocking!
We are thrilled for Zaylee to have been legally adopted today by Amy and Conner! Zaylee got a new middle and last name today. Her initials are now ZJ, which makes her very happy. She says that she is ZJ2. She thinks that's pretty sweet!
Doug and I had not even mentioned the adoption date to the kids until this morning. Or to Liza and Buddy. The feelings around here regarding Zaylee have been pretty raw since the story took a new turn in April, in which we were all informed that Liza and Buddy would not be adopting Zaylee. But, this morning, Doug and I discussed it and decided that we would let the kids know, give them some time to talk and think about it, then let them decide if they wanted to go to court for the adoption. We called Liza, then called the kids upstairs for a family counsel.
Their reaction was mixed, at first. The kids have really struggled with this nightmare that Zaylee has lived for the past two years... for her whole six year life, to be honest. It was two years and three weeks ago that she was removed from Kelly's husband's care by a SWAT team (men in turtle suits, as Zaylee called them) in a drug raid. After over seven months of having her live with us, she was placed in the most awesome foster family, then returned to Kelly, and removed again twice to live with two other great families. During that time, the kids have been frustrated that we couldn't just adopt her ourselves, the the B's couldn't adopt her and she and Miki could be full sisters, that Liza and Buddy were taken out of the equation for reasons which no one really understood, but mostly that Kelly couldn't just leave Kevin AND take responsibility herself! That's a whole other story, we all know.
So, this morning, all of the above were discussed. ZJ and Zaylee have always been the closest. She was the first to get up and start getting ready. Quayd was the last to leave the living room. He had to process the whole thing, but minutes later, we could hear him singing in the shower and getting his church clothes on. Grace has been the most quiet about the whole situation.
The main fact that was established with the kids was that it's taken Zaylee the longest (almost seven years) to get to a family. She's been through more than any of the other seven children. She's had the roughest journey, but she's finally there!! We counted our blessings that all of the children had found wonderful families and each are very blessed to be where they are today! AND that prayers were answered, in the Lord's time. (Trust in the Lord and trust in His timing!) Each child has had to go through their own trials, for whatever reason, we may never understand in this lifetime. But, they all landed where they are supposed to be! The fact that Zaylee has been through so much is heartbreaking to us all, but, things have fallen into place, and for whatever reasons, all of the previous plans had failed and now, she is where she is! We support this and trust that it will be, eternally, for her good.
We arrived twenty minutes early at the courthouse because our Corbridge Rule is that"early is on time". This was great because it gave us time to visit with our friend, Paul, who also happens to be the J's attorney. Also, Maurene, Zaylee's therapist, who I've spent hours with, came early. So, I was able to chat with her a bit.
Zaylee and her family were the last to arrive, just as the doors were opened for us to enter the courtroom. She looked adorable and was grinning from ear to ear! Her siblings were equally excited and they all looked adorable! I'd imagined getting seven kids Sunday dressed on a weekday summer morning and the excitement in the air at their home all morning long, as I remembered our own adoption day!
Zaylee's caseworker, Courtney, others from DCFS, the Guardian ad Litem, the CASA worker, Zaylee's new grandma, her parents and six siblings were all present. Paul presented the information to the judge, asked the standard questions to Zaylee's new parents, Amy and Conner.
At the end of the prepared list of questions, he asked them each to share their feelings and thoughts about adopting Zaylee. Both parents shared tender feelings. Amy mentioned how Zaylee is not only breathtakingly beautiful on the outside, she is a beautiful person inside and so easy to love, how they had connected from the very first time they met, how close they feel to each other now. Conner's final words were "It is an honor to be Zaylee's father." Zaylee crawled back and forth from each of their laps, hugging them, leaning on them, just loving on them. It was so sweet to see her so happy. I noticed at this point that Quayd had tears running down his cheeks. I knew at that moment that it had been a good decision to include the kids in witnessing the adoption. Witnessing the adoption brought closure and understanding to each of us.
Recently, we have learned some things about one of the other children that Kelly had given birth to. Since that news, we have felt even more blessed that the babes had been left in our care before they had to experience some of the things that this particular child had to before their removal. As we discussed it with the kids before court this morning, we felt strongly that it was divine intervention that protected them from those experiences. And now, Zaylee will never be in a similar situation again and will be protected and nurtured by a loving family. That alone, is a tremendous relief to Doug and I! Many, many prayers and much fasting had taken place. Our prayers were heard. Our feeling as we witnessed this adoption, were, again, confirmed that things are as they are as they are supposed to be.
The judge then, asked a few other questions and signed the documents. Then, as always, it's picture time! There were tons of photos taken. We all chatted inside and out of the courtroom for a bit longer, made plans for Zaylee to come and have a sleepover at our home. DCFS has no say anymore! (That never did make sense... she lived with us for eight months, but couldn't have a sleepover at our home because she was in foster care????? REALLY?) There were hugs and kisses and tears. It was awesome!
One other sweet little moment. Zaylee came over and was just hugging me and holding my neck. Then, she hugged Doug, who was sitting next to me. Just as she let go of my neck, her little brother ran up to me and threw his arms around my neck, just giving me the biggest and longest squeeze. It was adorable. Again, I could feel that Zaylee is experiencing this everyday in a very loving home! HAPPINESS!
We left the court and went to Firehouse for lunch. We'd ordered our food and were being served our salads when I looked up and in walked Zaylee and her entire family! She came running over to our table and gave us big hugs. She said, "Gram! I knew you would be here!!!" Amy said that Zaylee had chosen Firehouse because it was my favorite place. It touched my heart to know that she was thinking she would get see us, if she came there. We visited back and forth throughout the meal and before we said our goodbyes, we made a solid sleepover plan. We left one big happy and smiling family eating their pizza! Best of all, our family was one big, happy, smiling family too!
As we got into the truck, the kids all commented that, now, they knew that it was a good thing. Their biggest concern has been that we were "losing" Zaylee. They felt better, seeing that Zaylee will still be a part of our lives, that Amy and Conner are so open to our connection. Truth is, Amy and Conner have seven adopted children and are experienced at open adoptions. They get it. They love that their children can be loved by even more people and still have their roots and connections. They are good people and want what's best for Zaylee. She is happy, she is safe, she is free! Miss Zaylee, or ZJ2 is blessed! Prayers answered! We are thrilled. It was a great day.
Life is good.