The girls began to regularly spend one or two nights a week at our house, and we continued to see them other days during the week too-babysitting and picking them up from school. We began to fall into a rhythm together, a familiar, comforting routine.
Our lives were changing dramatically. It was no longer just Matt and me, and we needed to make some pretty big changes to accommodate our growing number. It was time to give the girls their own space. We bought two twin beds, girlie bed linens, curtains, books, and toys to set up a little girls’ room for them to sleep and play in.
We got their room finished just in time for the girls’ nine-day stay at our home. Their grandparents were taking a trip and had asked us to care for the girls while they were away. I really could not believe that Matt and I were being entrusted with the care of the girls for NINE days. Nine days! We were nervous. And really, really excited.We continued to establish a family rhythm during those nine days-waking, eating, getting dressed, brushing teeth, getting to school, sleeping…. All the daily tasks. I knew how to do those things for myself. I knew how to care for my husband (most of the time.) But I had a lot to learn about how to care for two three-year-old girls. They woke up so early! There seemed to be so many hours in the day to keep them busy. They wanted to be with me all the time. By my side. I felt unsure of when I should get myself fed or dressed. When did I brush my teeth?
During this same period of time, it became apparent that becoming foster parents could be risky. The county could potentially place the girls with another foster family, and neither the grandparents, nor us were willing to take that risk. We had grown so attached to the girls, and them to us, that we wanted to take precautions where it was possible. So instead, we decided to pursue legal guardianship. This seemed to be a more secure situation for us and for the girls. So we found a lawyer and made an appointment.So many events were happening during this busy, crazy time. We traded in our sedan for a minivan, met with our attorney, began the task of filling out another mountain of paperwork, and continued spending more and more time with the girls.
They began refer to Matt as “Daddy.” That was such a sweet word to hear uttered from their lips. And I loved watching Matt take on the role of “Daddy.” He was such a natural. But they weren’t calling me “Mommy” yet, and I have to admit, that was hard for me.
Also, we needed to find a new home for one of our dogs, Lulu. She was cute and lots of fun, but a bit unpredictable around children. She would growl and snap, and we were afraid she might bite. So, off she went, to live on a farm in Fresno. We were sad to see her go, but knew this was a necessary part of transitioning into our new family.
Next a county social worker visited our home. She questioned us and the girls and checked out our space. She was vague and a bit aloof. Not exactly unfriendly, but not exactly warm either. We wondered what she was thinking and what she would report to the court.
And then the girls came to live with us full time! Even though the guardianship wasn’t finalized, our attorney thought it would be fine if they officially moved in. We gradually brought items over from their room at Grandma’s and Grandpa’s house. They began sleeping over at the grandparents’ house once or twice a week. We allowed them to take items back and forth between the two homes whenever they wanted, so they would feel a sense of continuity. We continued to learn how to be together 24 hours a day.
It was wonderful, amazing, and very difficult. I remember one day I stopped to get a sandwich for lunch before work and preschool. I had the girls with me. In the middle of the sandwich shop both girls broke into tears, screaming and writhing on the floor. I was stunned. I had no idea what was going on or what I should do. I hadn’t learned to read their moods, to know if they were hungry or tired or sick or angry. I was so bewildered. It was such an emotional time for all of us. I smiled at the cashier, grabbed my sandwich and hustled out to the car. I don’t think I’ve been back to that sandwich shop since.
The court date was set. I took the day off work. Matt took the day off work. I was anxious and unsure of what it would be like to sit in a courtroom and talk to a judge. I wrote Christmas thank you notes to my students to keep busy while we waited for our turn. I had a headache and felt exhausted.
When the judge called us up, he was kind and affirming. But he said our court date would have to be continued for another day because of an unresolved issue. Our new court date was set for two months later. We left the courthouse disappointed, but hopeful. So, we would wait two months for the next court date. We had plenty to keep us busy. Learning how to feed, bathe, console, teach, and understand two little girls was more than a full time job. In addition, Matt and I were trying to understand ourselves and each other in our new roles as parents. It was a challenge we accepted gladly, but also a job that required us to give every little bit of ourselves.
The next court date arrived. Again we were hopeful, but nervous. The issue from the previous court date remained unresolved. We hoped the judge would grant us the guardianship, but it was possible he might decide to reschedule the court date again.
By God’s grace, the judge was willing to accept our attorney’s testimony in place of a particular document. We were overjoyed when the judge appointed us as the legal guardians to these sweet twin girls. We were already living like a family, loving each other as a family, and it was reassuring to have the court system recognize us as a family.
Legal guardianship can be reversed, or it can continue until the child turns eighteen. We were given the right to make decisions regarding the girls’ medical needs and education. We were allowed to take the girls on trips-even out of the state. But there was still a possibility that the situation could change, and they would no longer be with us.
Legally, we would need to be their guardians for at least a year, maybe two, before we could begin the process of adoption. While this felt like such a long time to wait, we were so grateful to be able to be with girls every day, to tuck them into bed at night and to scramble their eggs and make their toast every morning. God had made us a family, had provided for every detail along the way, was giving us the strength and wisdom to be parents. We could trust Him as we waited and hoped for adoption.
chapter four coming soon!