By: Tanya Dodd-Hise
Three Weeks Ago:
I get the phone call that I had been waiting for, from my best friend and attorney, Kim. She had finally gotten ahold of the ad litem attorney in San Antonio, and they were trying to pin down a date for court. I had wanted to go on my birthday, August 6th, but it wasn’t feasible as they were still waiting for one last document from Austin. So what about the 10th of August? Kim thought it would be okay, but then upon examination of my dear wife’s work schedule, she said there was no way that she would be able to go on the 10th. Since we were aiming at a Friday, in order for all of the attorneys involved (Kim and Erikka primarily) to only miss one day in the office, I then asked for the next Friday – August 17th. It seemed to work for everyone, and all she had to do was get it confirmed with our ad litem attorney. I awaited confirmation (impatiently, as usual) so that I could book rooms, reserve a rental vehicle, etc. A few days later I got the text: August 17, 2012 @ 11:15 A.M. in front of Judge Peter Sakai, 4th floor Bexar County Courthouse. Hot damn we have a court date! Finally – it’s REALLY going to happen! I am finally going to adopt our baby girl – for real!
One Week Ago:
We had originally planned to travel to San Antonio the Thursday evening before court, and stay through the weekend as a mini-vacation for our family. Turns out, however, that I would have a wedding to photograph on the 18th of August. (It had been a little up-in-the-air for a few weeks there and we thought that it might be postponed.) So it was decided that we would go to San Antonio on Wednesday, take the kids to Sea World on Thursday, Erikka’s parents and Kim would all arrive Thursday afternoon/evening, court on Friday morning with lunch after to celebrate, and then travel home Friday afternoon so that I could be at the wedding Saturday evening. Dear Lord if I had only known THEN how exhausting all of that was really going to be!
Wednesday, August 15th:
Our morning was, as most starts to trips can be, a bit chaotic. Did you pack this? Did we remember to put that in the car? Do we have the baby’s bath seat? We took the dog to my mom’s last night, right? Extra food and water for the cats – check. OK. Let’s load up. Noah, do you have your headphones, iPod, Kindle, and my laptop for watching movies?
Sheesh. Do you remember how WE had to travel when we were kids? A piece of duct tape down the middle of the back seat so that my brother couldn’t get on my side, no books for me because I got car sick, and we were stuck listening to whatever Mom and/or Dad was listening to on the radio. Oh but there was always the alphabet game with billboards or license plates! But most of our travel time was actually spent fighting, pushing, or trying to go to sleep to get through the boredom that my younger A.D.H.D. brain was raging against. But I digress. We get all loaded up and make our way through Dallas. We get to Hillsboro, Texas (just North of Waco) when I have to stop and pee already. Just before I stop I gasp as I realize that, HOLY CRAP, I forgot to pack the diapers. ANY diapers. Not a one. Great.
Here I am, off on the trip of my life – to adopt my baby girl – and I forget to pack her diapers. But at least I remembered to buckle in her carseat before I put her in it! A quick stop in Waco at the Wal Mart, and we were back in business, with a full package of diapers in the back. We made pitstops in Austin for lunch, and New Braunfels to visit the new Bucee’s roadside stop (like a couple of fanatical loons, I might add), until finally we were in San Antonio and checking in at our bed & breakfast. After getting our stuff to our room and cleaning up a bit, we headed out for a wonderful dinner with our awesome friends, Jay and Christopher. It was a great ending to our travel day, and we soon were back at the B&B and falling into bed with a very cranky baby girl.
Thursday, August 16th:
After a long night with very little sleep, thanks to our beautiful baby girl, we got up, had breakfast, and got ready for a day at Sea World. We loaded up and took off, spending the day with both of our children having fun just being a family. Harrison loved all of the Sesame Street characters that were out and about, and smiled and giggled every time she got near one. We took her on her first carousel ride, and even Noah willingly rode, too. I love that he will do things like that for and with his baby sister, and simply because he loves her so much. She was so much fun to watch because she seemed absolutely amazed about everything – it was awesome! By about 5 PM we were all pretty much worn out and ready to go, so we headed back to the B&B to meet Erikka’s parents, who had arrived earlier in the afternoon. We all went to dinner before coming back and passing out again, eagerly anticipating court in the morning.
Friday, August 17th:
I was awake before the alarm went off – which almost NEVER happens. It was finally here! This was the day that I had waited almost ten months for – the day that our baby girl would legally be mine. I was finally going to be recognized, under the law, as her mother…just like Erikka. Soon, everyone was up, including Kim and Erikka’s parents. We had breakfast and began getting ready for pictures, as I had hired a photographer to come and take some family photos, as well as to take photos during the proceedings at court. Photos were taken outside of the B&B, and soon we were on our way to the courthouse, which was about two blocks away.
I was nervous, although I’m not sure why – I guess because I had never anticipated that the judge might say “no.” While we waited for our court appointment, we all sat outside of the courtroom on old, wooden benches, where Kim prepped me for how things would go, and we finally all got to meet Harrison’s attorney (the ad litem). I had, in my mind, of how the courtroom would look and that it would be filled with other people awaiting their turn (like when Noah’s dad adopted Nicholas), so I was shocked when we were ushered inside to a small courtroom that was completely empty. It was just going to be our family, our attorneys, and the judge. Wow! Harrison had fallen asleep while waiting in the hallway, so I was starting to get her out of the stroller when the judge came in. It was weird because I’m not sure how many of us noticed him come in, until I said, “Oh hey there’s the judge!” We were all invited to come up to the front of the courtroom, in front of the judge – Us, Noah, Erikka’s parents – we were all invited to join in! The photographer moved about however she wanted, which was awesome! The judge wanted to know who everyone was, and we all went around and gave our names. Kim then introduced me as the adoptive parent, and established for the judge my relationship with Harrison; then she did the same with Erikka. She had laid out a plan of questions for me, Erikka, and even Noah, but before she was able to carry them out, the judge kind of took over. He asked me if I knew that it was irreversible, with “no exchanges, returns, or refunds,” and asked us both to promise to raise her in a loving home, educate her, and help her grow into an honest and upstanding citizen. We promised that we would, and before any of us knew it, he had granted the adoption and it was over! Just like that! I think the whole process took five minutes!
She is finally legally my daughter. While everyone who knows us knows that Harrison is my little girl, now I finally have the letter of the law declaring that she is such, and no one can ever take her away from me. We walked out of the courthouse knowing that the security of our family was finally in place, and there is no longer a fear hanging over my head. It is such a huge burden taken off of my shoulders, and while it was a pain to have to go down this road, I can say that in the end it was totally and completely worth every bit of it to give me the peace of mind that I now have. It was a day that changed my life forever.
By Tanya Dodd-Hise
I think that I need therapy.
No really. I have been obsessing a little bit about things that I have absolutely no control over. And what have I been obsessing over, you might ask?
As everyone knows, I am a new mom again. Our baby girl is 11 months old. I was 41 years old when she was born. And I know that nowdays, all kinds of women are having babies at 35, 40, 45, even 50 years old. But I remember, before she was born, standing in the shower when the thought hit me: when this baby is MY age, I will be 82. Oh my God.
I guess because I don’t feel 42 years old, this was a realization that hit me hard and has been hitting me regularly since. I feel young, I feel healthy (for the most part – working on it), I feel active – I mean hell, I didn’t run my first 5K until I was 42 years old! But the fact of the matter is that I actually have been on this earth for close to half of the time that will (I hope) be alotted.
To top it off, my oldest son, Nicholas, and his wife are going to make me a grandmother in the near future (January). Now don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled and excited to meet my granddaughter! And this is the ONE scenario where I actually feel young – WAY too young to be a grandmother! It’s like I am caught in a very odd place, where I feel kind of old to be a new mom, but still feel very young to be a grandmother. I tell people that my darling son has done me wrong, because now when I am out and about with both of the baby girls, people are likely to ask me if they are both my granddaughters. Then there will be explanations about Harrison being my daughter and Zoe being my granddaughter. Son…you did me wrong…
But there are times when my mortality hits me, and I freak out, despite the knowledge that there’s nothing I can do about it. None of us can! I was driving the other day with Erikka and the kids, and she started daydreaming about Harrison getting married. That set off the sad thoughts in my head of how old I could be when that happens. What if she doesn’t marry until she is in her 30s? That puts me in my 70s. What if she doesn’t have kids until her 30s or 40s, like her mommies? That puts me in my 70s or 80s, God willing. Then the thoughts hit me that anything could happen between now and then, and I could very well not be here at all. These thoughts start a landslide of scenarios that are always in the back of my mind that would prevent me from seeing my kids and grandkids grow up, or experiencing a lifetime with my wife. I obsess about car accidents almost every time I go out, with or without kids. I worry about plane crashes every time I step foot on one (should NEVER have watched “Lost”). I worry about breast cancer with each passing year, because it is so prevalent in my family, and because I, as a small business owner, am going on another year without health insurance. As these thoughts and fears came swirling in my head as we drove that day, I got so emotional and said, “I just hate knowing that there is an expiration date. I want to be with my family, with my wife, forever. I don’t want it to end.” I know. It is probably not healthy to have these thoughts on a regular basis. I just want to be here for them and with them…always. It’s probably not normal, I know this.
But like I said in the beginning, I think that I need therapy.
By Tanya Dodd Hise
So what has been going on around Dodd-Hise Paradise since the adoption excitement three weeks ago? Life as usual – never stopping and moving at breakneck speeds. It is rare that we are just sitting around, without anything to do or anywhere to go. Some days it drives me crazy to be so busy all of the time; other days I am totally comfortable in the ADHD world in which I live.
The end of August came and went, and Noah started back to school, beginning the 7th grade. Last year was a struggle for most of the year, both socially AND academically for him. We had all spent many a breath over the summer talking to him about chalking up 6th grade as a learning experience, but now it is time to get it together and take care of business. His mornings now consist of tennis practice before school, advanced classes throughout the day, sectionals and/or band practice each day after school. It is my deepest hope that all of these activities will be enough to fill his time and keep trouble at bay. He still is adjusting to having to get up quite a bit earlier than before, and our mornings have been a bit rocky, to say the least. He still doesn’t have the door back on his bedroom (from having it removed over the summer), and has very limited video game privileges. Our main goal in life with Noah right now is to help him succeed in all that he is doing right now: academics, tennis, and band. For some families, we understand that these things come easy and there is rarely an issue with making sure that they’re done. For other families with extraordinary children, it takes more creativity, structure, and observation. Many outsiders look at us interact with Noah and say that we are too hard on him, or that we should cut him some slack, give him a break. But they haven’t had to help get him out the door on time before school. So I am currently reading some books to help us with re-direction, as well as working WITH him in those areas in which he struggles. I am hoping that we can quickly implement some new strategies that will take some of the stress off of him, as well as us, and give us all some relaxed mornings.
Harrison is now 10 ½ months old, if you can believe THAT! Since the adoption, absolutely nothing has changed in her little world. She still has her two mommies that love her beyond anything else that she has ever known, and the addition of the adoption papers meant nothing whatsoever to her. For me, it means the world (obviously), and while nothing has changed in my heart or mind, it has taken the legal weight of the world OFF of my shoulders and given me the security that I needed to finally relax for my family.
Nicholas and Krystal Fay, as some of you may remember, are expecting a baby at the beginning of January. She is about 23 weeks along, I believe, and it has taken me most of that time (since they told us at around five weeks) to get used to the idea of even being a grandmother. For a while there, I couldn’t even bring myself to SAY the word – mainly because I felt way too young, not because I didn’t think I would love the little tot! And besides, Erikka is going to be 37 when their baby is born – even younger! But it is what it is, and I am okay with the fact that they love each other and seem to have a strong and secure marriage. Yes, they are young. But I told Nicholas that I was young when he was born, and that he just needs to get used to us older folks making comments about the fact that they are young – it’s true! We found out in the last couple of weeks that the baby is a girl, and can’t wait to welcome Zoe Nora-Jayne into our family. I hope that Harrison and Zoe become the best of friends from the beginning, and I know that Noah will be a fantastic uncle. After talking to a new friend the other night at dinner, and discovering what HER grandkids call her, I decided to totally steal it and use it for Zoe. I will be…YaYa! Doesn’t sound grandmotherly, just like I wanted! The process has already started in going through Harrison’s things and loading them up for the kids to take home for Zoe.
Erikka and I are just cruising along, doing our thing like we do, and already anticipating Harrison’s first birthday at the end of October. It’s hard to believe that a year has already passed almost, but yet, it has. We look at her and think of how much she has changed in ten short months – the time went too quickly! Erikka is working all the time: full-time as an attorney, and part-time teaching business law classes online. I have several photo shoots scheduled at Noah’s school for various groups, as well as some family holiday shoots on the books already. We are so blessed to have the opportunity for me to stay home with Harrison, and to work when I can. And we are so thankful for all of these blessings that we share in this crazy life with our amazing kids (and soon-to-be grandkid). Life is good!
By: Tanya Dodd-Hise
So we all know and have heard the latest broohaha regarding fast food chain Chick-Fil-A. Our social network sites have blown up with constant updates, stories, blogs, feeds, protests, counter-protests and such about it. Most people, by now, are pretty sick of it – at times, myself included. About a week or so after the news broke that the CEO openly and proudly declared his stance of anti-marriage equality (and thus speaking for the entire company, franchises and all), I read an interesting blog written on The Huffington Post regarding the whole situation. Here was my comment about the blog, as well as a link to the blog itself:
“It is sometimes so hard to sit by while people who say they are my friend/family who care about MY family, will also say that they have no intentions of boycotting anything. That’s fine. As long as they are fully aware that their money goes to organizations who are determined to keep my family from being equal to theirs. It’s not about the chicken sandwich. And yes, everyone is entitled to free speech, freedom of religion, and an opinion. But please think about it, before you go and spend your money there, of all the times that you have said that you support my family – and then don’t. Either don’t spend your money at a business that supports inequality, or don’t tell me that you love and adore my family. These are the kinds of organizations that keep MY marriage from being recognized, and require ME to adopt my own daughter. Just so you know.”
I encourage anyone who reads my blog to read Conor Gaughan’s piece. It is just another real person writing from his real perspective, trying to reach his readers so that they can see where he is REALLY coming from.
So the supporters of Chik-Fil-A have now planned a Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day on August 1st, and the opposers have planned all sorts of protests on the same day. There will be same-sex PDAs/kiss-ins at some chains, while others plan to wait in line and order water, or order food and then cancel. To me this seems like an open show of hostility that will only make us, the LGBT community, seem petty and ridiculous. Get mad at me if you want, but I think that the best way to show our opposition to the company’s declared stance is to first NOT GO THERE. And if we choose to go there for an organized protest, then fine, exercise the right to peaceably gather with signs that show our thoughts and feelings (grammar and spelling correct, of course).
All of this has also got me to thinking about my children. What would I want my children to learn about all of this? Yes, we used to eat at Chick-Fil-A, but it has been a long time, as we stopped going there over a year ago when we first learned of the company’s donations towards hate and anti-equality groups. When we stopped going there, Noah didn’t really get it, and we didn’t really try to explain it. But now that he is twelve years old, with all of it in the news and on the lips of virtually everyone, I did try to explain to him the reason why WE, our family, doesn’t go there anymore. I’m not sure if he understands completely, but I wanted to take the time to explain to him this stand that we are taking. I also explained to him that yes, one small group (ie: our family) CAN make a difference in the bottom line when there are lots and lots of small groups doing the same thing. I also explained to him that it is no difference than in school, where I expect him to stand up for anyone who is getting treated differently, for any reason, because it is simply the right thing to do. Nicholas, on the other hand, is a grown man who lives on his own. He worked at our local Chick-Fil-A when he was a teenager, and has decidedly chosen to continue to frequent there. Sure, it is disappointing to hear him say that he loves his gay moms, but he also loves their chicken sandwich. Did I not teach him to take a stand against bigotry and inequality? I thought I had, but once they are grown and gone, it really isn’t my decision to make for him. I love him regardless of where he eats. And I know that he is young, and one day he will be faced with something in HIS life that will force him to either make a stand for what is right, even if it means giving up something he likes or doing something that might be uncomfortable.
This is the conclusion that I have come to, since I have many conservative friends and family, who think that all of us should just “shut up and get over it”: It doesn’t affect them personally, so it isn’t as important to most as it is to those of us fighting for marriage equality and equal treatment. Their marriage is always recognized, and they enjoy all of the rights and privileges that go along with that. But as for me and my house, I will always and continually teach them about taking a stand in the face of something that is wrong. And I will continue to teach them to take a stand against anybody doing wrong against another group, whether it directly affects them or not.
“In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock”
~ Thomas Jefferson
July 18, 2012
A Letter to My Beautiful Wife:
Wow. I can’t believe it has been three years since we stood by the beautiful ocean water in Connecticut and promised our lives to each other. I remember every moment of our trip as if it were yesterday, and would gladly repeat the process over and over again every year (well, maybe except the misplacement of your driver’s license when we went to get our marriage license).
In the four years that we have been together, and three that we have been married, we have seen a lot of things, gone so many places, and experienced life in such a way that I could never thank you enough for doing it with me. Standing outside of the nation’s Capitol with you (and 250,000 others) and fighting for marriage equality was a highlight of our first year of marriage. While some states have gotten on board with same-sex marriage, while others continually try to take it away and repeal the progress that has been made, here we are, living our lives every day and becoming a part of our community just like everyone else. I guess what we have is just normal, everyday, boring MARRIAGE. I don’t think that we’re special or set apart. I think that we do the same things as other people, gay or straight: keep a house, do laundry and dishes, grocery shop, cook dinners, raise kids, pay bills. What some might be surprised to know is that we don’t go around doing everything in big gay parade fashion, with rainbow beads and balloons leading the way. Lawmakers would probably be surprised to know that we are not the deviants that they think we are, huh? I think that if one or two of them looked into our windows when we weren’t looking, they would be disappointed at the sheer normalness going on in here. And I guess we SHOULD apologize to all of the hetero couples of the world to being one of those couples who are destroying the sanctity of their marriage. I had no idea, when we got married three years ago, all of the countless affairs and divorces that our marriage would cause – did you? It is a huge burden and responsibility that we should take seriously, right?
It sucks that we still are not treated equally in the eyes of the law, but I pray that with each anniversary, we will be one step closer to progress. I am confident that we will see change during our lifetime, and hopefully our children will grow into adults who respect everyone for who they are as a person and not the color or their skin or who they love. I am blessed beyond measure to be going down this journey of life beside you. During our third year, you have gave me a beautiful daughter, and a sister to Nicholas and Noah – there are no words to say how grateful I am for this completion to our family. I am so excited for all of the many adventures that we will experience together with these beautiful kids we have been given! And during this upcoming fourth year of marriage, we will be blessed with a (cough) grandbaby. Yes, I know we are entirely too young for the role of grandmother, but as with any unexpected situation that has come our way, we adapt and roll with it, and just spread the love a little more!
So here we go, starting another year together as wife and wife. I love you beyond measure and I love the life that we have built together. Happy, happy anniversary with a promise of many more to come.
I love you always,
By: Tanya Dodd-Hise
So we’re kind of at a stand still right now with Harrison’s adoption. After we found out that we had to have an ad litem attorney (in San Antonio) to represent Harrison, that is where things have slowed down. Everything else is done, and now we are waiting for this last step to fall into place so that we can get a court date. I anxiously await for the phone call that says when we can go!
In the meantime, all across the nation, LGBT Pride was celebrated throughout the month of June. Dallas has its Pride parade each year in September, rather than June (like the rest of the world). But while most of the world celebrates equality and pride, there are still hate crimes and suicides happening to young gay and lesbians in our country. Just last week, in Portland, Texas (a suburb of Corpus Christi) a young lesbian couple was found in a waterside park, having each been shot in the head. One of the young ladies, Mollie, died from her injuries; her girlfriend, Kristene, remains in the hospital, recovering from hers. It did not make the news here in Dallas, but word traveled swiftly on news websites and social media. Soon, LGBT communities across the country reacted, planning candlelight vigils on behalf of Mollie and Kristene, signing and sending rainbow flags to their families, and raising money to assist Kristene’s family with her growing medical bills. Sadness, anger, outrage, and fear have spread throughout our communities, and only recently is there hope – the Portland police have reported that they have a possible suspect. The shooting has, however, been minimized in some media outlets, saying that they “aren’t sure that it was a hate crime.” Um, really? Somebody took this young couple and SHOT THEM IN THE HEAD. Whether or not it was because they were gay is irrelevant – it was fueled by hate.
Last weekend, before we headed to Dallas for the candlelight vigil in our gayborhood, we dropped the kids off with my mother and decided to catch a movie. We went to see Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter for some mindless entertainment. Since I have degrees in History, and we both enjoy a good vampire movie, we thought it would be right up our alley for a good time. Now, there wasn’t a whole lot about it that was historically accurate, except maybe for some names and dates, and few events. But when it got toward the end of the movie, and President Lincoln was delivering the Gettysburg Address, it hit me – Abraham Lincoln GOT IT. He valued life – ALL life – and maintained that all man[kind] deserved freedom and equality, as set forth by our founding fathers. Think about it:
“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.”
The second paragraph reminds me of the LGBT community now, in 2012, and what could be equated as a modern “great civil war.” We are engaged in our great civil war, testing whether WE, so conceived and so dedicated, can endure. How many have given their lives so that WE, as a community, might live? How many Harvey Milks have there been over the years? How many young men and women have lost their fight on the battlefield of homophobia, and taken their own lives? How many Mollie and Kristenes have their been, losing their lives to hatred and violence?
“But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” ~ President Abraham Lincoln, Nov. 19, 1863
Just like President Lincoln being unable to consecrate the ground in Gettysburg, neither we can consecrate or hallow any ground where our LGBT sisters and brothers have lost their fight. It is they who do so for us. And while we have our marches, our rallies, our parades, and our vigils, most of what is said will be soon forgotten by our peers. But we cannot forget those lives, and we must always resolve that they, too, will not have died in vain. We can see change on the horizon, but there is still so much work to be done. I have hope that I will see our new birth of freedom during my lifetime, and that our government will return to the thought (and hopefully practice) that it is one of the people, by the people, and FOR the people – ALL people.
Lincoln had it right, even in 1863.
By: Tanya Dodd-Hise
Fingerprinting was the step that I took to kick off our adoption process. My next step, which I did the day after my trip to the police station, was to meet with my attorney (aka, BFF Kim). I had filled out the Adoption Intake Form, which I have blogged about previously, to take to her, along with a copy of our marriage license and a copy of Harrison’s birth certificate.
We went over what else needed to be done, and I wrote the first check to her for the first phase.
Once we were past the initial paperwork and the fingerprinting (which I turned over to her), my next step was to get ahold of the social worker that Kim had for us to use for our home study. In the very beginning, when we first started talking and planning for the adoption, I had wanted Kim to petition the court to waive the home study, given that I thought it was absolutely ridiculous that I had to do it in order to adopt my own child. Unfortunately, after speaking with some advising attorneys, she didn’t feel that it was worth it to even attempt a waiver of the home study – after all, we DO live in conservative Texas. With every step I want to stomp my feet and rebel against the system, or go to the state capital building in Austin and scream at Rick Perry while throwing tomatoes at the beautiful, domed rotunda. However, I won’t, since I would rather be granted this adoption instead of spending time behind bars…haha.
I was soon put into contact with the woman who would either become my new best friend, or who could possibly decide my fate in a less-than-positive way. My experience (which has been one time) with a social worker was several years ago, when Noah’s father was doing a step-parent adoption of Nicholas. That home study, with a social worker chosen from a list, was very nerve wracking for me. Hours of tense questions and answers, delving deep into our pasts – and he was MY kid! I wasn’t even the one adopting him! So when I knew that I would have to have a home study for Harrison’s adoption, all I could think about was how stressful the last one was. I spoke with her on the phone to schedule the visit, and she was very warm and laid back, telling me that she preferred to have two visits in order to cover everything that she needed to for a complete report. We scheduled it for a Monday, and I spent the days leading up to it tidying the house of clutter and cleaning what I could, without making it look TOO polished and unlived in. When she arrived, I was instantly put at ease by her capri pants and flip flops, along with her reassuring smile and personality. She took a quick tour of the house, not very in depth at all (which made me VERY happy), then we sat down in the den for almost three hours and talked, just she and I. She asked me questions about my marital history (now THAT was fun to explain), my history with Erikka, and about my relationships with both Noah and Harrison. She didn’t ask very many questions about Nicholas; I’m sure mainly because he is off and married now. It was very relaxing, and I felt like I was sitting and chatting with a new friend. When it came time for her to go, I called Erikka and we scheduled the second visit – for the next day. No time like the present, right?
So she returned the next afternoon, where she visited with Erikka for a bit, and then the two of us together. It was a wonderful experience, with no negatives whatsoever. Within two days, she emailed me her report and asked me to look over it before she sent it over to Kim for submission to the court. I couldn’t believe that the process was going this quickly! This could soon be a reality, one that is signed, sealed, and delivered in court! Our adoption process for Bud to adopt Nicholas took from August until December the year that we did it; this might very well all be done within a month or six weeks. I am simply amazed that it has gone this smoothly – and pray that it continues to do so.
Tomorrow I meet with Kim again to hand over a few more documents that we had to sign and have notarized. She found out at the end of last week that we will have to also hire an ad litem attorney in San Antonio – an attorney who will represent Harrison (also another ridiculous, but required, expense). I will cut a check to Kim for this attorney’s fees tomorrow, and then I believe that we will be done with all of the steps, aside from traveling to Bexar county to attend a hearing in court. She will send off my fingerprints to the DPS in Austin, and then all we have to do is wait for my criminal history report to be submitted to the court, as well as back to Kim. That’s it. Now we wait. I’m not very good at waiting…
By: Tanya Dodd-Hise
“You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.” ~Desmond Tutu
The time has finally arrived, and the adoption journey has begun. While we had to wait until Harrison was at least six months old to do it, it ended up being 7 1/2 months for financial reasons. Now I am sure that some of you have gotten the impression from me before, but I will say it again – it is utterly ridiculous and unfair that we have to go through all of these extra steps and a lot of extra money for me to adopt my own daughter. Every step of the process is just a reminder of the fact that we live under a state that is willing to change a constitution to make discrimination state law. But no matter how unfair it is, how inconvenient it is, how infuriating it is, or how expensive it is…I will do it, because it is THAT important to me that this little girl is legally and forever mine, too. I look at her, and she flashes me that crinkled-up-nose snaggly-one-toothed grin, and all I know is that I will do whatever it takes to make it happen.
And the first step in my journey to becoming Harrison’s other mommy legally…began with some fingerprints.
I have known for a while all of the things that have to be done to get this adoption completed: file the petition with the district court in San Antonio, have a home study done by a social worker, get a set of fingerprints for my attorney to send to Austin for a report, then plan our trip down to San Antonio for our court date. I don’t know if there is a particular order, but I decided to go ahead and get the fingerprinting done, so that when I visited the attorney (aka my BFF Kim) with the paperwork to get started, then I could also have those with me for her to send off.
So last week I loaded up the baby and waited for a lull in the storms that were raging outside, and off we went to the police station around the corner. When we arrived, I loaded her into the baby carrier and strapped her to my front, grabbed my camera and off we went. My first stop was at the clerk’s window for the court, who directed me down a hall to another little window at the police station. Once I got to THAT window, I was then directed to a door leading outside, and told to walk all the way around the police station’s building to the new jail entrance. Ah. Okay. So off I went again, hoping that the dark, ominous sky would hold off until we got this done and back to the Jeep. When I got to the jail’s entrance and waiting room, I was once again at a little window – with no one behind it. Great. Um, hellooooooo? Anyone home?? I pressed a button on an intercom – nothing. Finally, a few minutes later, I hear the nice Southern drawl of an older lady come on the intercom, “What can we help you with honey?” Oh! “I need to get my fingerprints.” She came back with, “Alright sugar. I’ll let the jailer know that you’re up there. That’s an awfully pretty baby you have there.” Thank you ma’am.
Soon a nice young police jailer dude was at the window, asking for my driver’s license. He then called someone from somewhere in the back on his little batphone in there, and soon I heard locks clicking and he came out to the waiting area. He humored me while I took pictures, and even assisted in taking some himself while he proceeded to take me through the fingerprinting process. I asked him if he had ever fingerprinted anyone before who had a baby strapped to their chest, and he just laughed and said, “Well no. This would be the first.”
He was very nice and helpful, and I was glad to be happily fingerprinted – and unfortunately, I have done it unhappily before! Once he was done, we headed outside and trucked back over to the parking lot where I got Harrison back into her carseat just before the bottom dropped out and the torrential rains started again. But I didn’t care. I was thrilled to have taken the first step to begin the process! It was a beautiful, beautiful day.
By: Tanya Dodd-Hise
We didn’t get much of a spring in Texas, so as May comes to a close, we are already embracing temperatures in the 80s and 90s, hosing down the grills, and cleaning up our swimming pools. What better time for a California friend – well, MORE than just a great friend – to come to visit than Memorial Day weekend?
As most of you know, our dear friend here at The Next Family – Madge – has recently embarked on a whirlwind adventure across Canada and parts of the United States. We were honored to be the last leg of her journey, which started in Northern California and progressed into Toronto, Cape Cod, Boston, New York, Minneapolis, and finally here, Dallas. As the days passed leading up to Madge’s arrival last week, I grew more and more excited and filled with anticipation. I told my wife that I felt like my mom was coming to see me for the first time. Over the past year or so, I have been so blessed to have gotten to know her and become close with her. We have emailed and written, texted and called, and talked about oh so much. And now she was coming here, to see me, my family! So much to do to get ready for her arrival – I couldn’t have her coming into my messy house for the first time! I mean, once she has been here for her first visit, then she is more than welcome to see how we REALLY live, clutter and all…hahaha.
This past Sunday morning, we all got up and referenced the fairly long chore list that Erikka and I had developed. Noah did great doing his part and helping to get things done. She was due to arrive at the Dallas-Ft. Worth airport just before 4 PM, and Noah went with me to pick her up. By the time she actually arrived in the baggage claim area, I think he was as excited as I was to meet her! I saw her before she saw me, so I ran up yelling, “You’re here!!!” with a big hug. How awesome it was to finally get to wrap her in a hug and introduce her to my Noah, who promptly hugged her as well.
Soon we had her suitcase (which felt like it was packed with pounds and pounds of rocks) and were off. I had to make a stop at Target for an extension cord, where she and Noah took off for the toy section and she let him pick out a couple of action figures. Already acting like a Mimi, or Grammy, or Auntie….whichever. From there we ran over to her hotel, where we got her checked in and suitcase put away, and then off again to our house. It was so sweet to watch as she met Erikka and finally, Harrison. The baby was a little skeptical of her at first, but finally warmed up to her and was soon smiling and squealing.
We soon loaded up and went out for a fabulous dinner, showing Madge some of our area and making plans for the next day – Memorial Day. Soon I was dropping off Madge AND Noah at her hotel; she discovered she had two queen beds, and after a joking comment from me, said that she would love to have him come hang out with her at the hotel for the night. He was thrilled, and was already saying that he thought she was “awesome.”
Monday morning, I woke up to scones and coffee, made by my sweet wife after she had fed the baby. I ate and showered, and then was soon dressed and ready to go pick up Madge and the boy. Erikka stayed home with Harrison so that she could get some work done, while I was to spend a good part of the day being tour guide for our California visitor who had never been to Dallas.
I picked the duo up and we headed to downtown Dallas, where we visited some historical sites. We walked around Dealey Plaza and the Grassy Knoll, where JFK had been assassinated. We also walked to a JFK Memorial, just past the Old Red Courthouse, which I had no idea even existed! We then walked past a small, cabin-looking building, which turned out to be a historic post office from the 1800s! Around 11 AM, we decided to go to the Dallas Holocaust Memorial Center for Tolerance, where we toured both the special exhibit on children from the Holocaust, as well as the permanent exhibit. When we left there, we walked about two blocks and got in line for The Sixth Floor Museum – a tour of the school book depository where Lee Harvey Oswald worked and perched from a window in order to shoot at JFK’s motorcade so many years ago. It was amazing. I have lived here, in North Dallas, my entire life and had NEVER been there. Even Noah was engaged and paid attention to everything, taking in the recount of the events that happened leading up to and following the death of John F. Kennedy. All of the photos, newspapers, audio, and video were put together in such a way that it felt like I was back in 1963, living it, hearing it happen – it made me cry. I felt really stupid for standing there crying as I listened to the audio of phone calls and A.P. wire calls, considering that I wasn’t even born yet! But I got a taste of what it was like for our country to have such a tragedy happen to the president, and it reminded me of where I was and how I felt the day that tragedy hit America on September 11, 2001. It was a great trip through a museum, and I am so glad that we decided to go there. We were soon on our way back to the North, and we stopped to introduce Madge to Fuzzy’s Tacos (which she seemed to enjoy). A trip to Dimples Cupcakes was in order, as well as the grocery store for the makings for our Memorial Day dinner cookout.
By about 6 PM, our good friend Holly (the friend that introduced Erikka and me) and her family had arrived and we all started changing to move the party out to the pool. We put Harrison into the pool for the first time, and she wasn’t really a fan at first.
Most of us swam for a bit, and then we got out to start getting dinner on the grill. I was thrilled to have Madge there to meet our friends, as they are very much like our family. It was a great, relaxing evening, just talking and laughing and eating and drinking.
This morning, Noah was off to school, after having said his goodbyes to Madge last night (he woke up saying that he missed her already). Erikka was off to work, so after I fed Harrison, we ran over to the hotel to pick up Madge and come back to the house to relax and hang out. We had a nice lunch at one of our favorite restaurants, and Erikka left work to come meet us and be able to say goodbye to Madge. From there, Erikka and the baby came home while I took Madge to the airport. I hated to say goodbye and give that last hug, finding myself wishing for more time. I’m hoping that it will be sooner than later before we can see each other again, either here or in California. I know that Noah would love going to see his new pal, so hopefully sometime soon we can make that happen. Right now she is in the air, heading towards Los Angeles and back to her real life after what has been, I am sure, an amazing adventure. Thank you sweet Madge for visiting, and we hope to see you again very soon!
By: Tanya Dodd-Hise
“A good example holds twice the value of good advice” ~ Unknown
As the days have gone by since receiving the phone call from the assistant principal regarding Noah and his bullying incident, I have had a lot of time to think about all of the outside (and inside) influences that are in his life that may have contributed to his actions. I look at those of us in his life, as well as things like television and video games. I am constantly telling him that he needs to keep himself in check because he is now an example to his baby sister. But what kind of example am I being to my children?
In all of our talks that we had during the initial phase of him getting into trouble at school, I told Noah repeatedly that he was no better than anyone else. I asked him where he ever got the idea that he had any place to stand and ridicule anybody else for his perception of their failures. “How dare you!” I said sternly. But when I stop and think about it, I would be lying if I said that I never acted better than, or superior to, someone else; we all would. I can remember, as a middle schooler, being in choir, knowing that I had a relatively good singing voice. I had done my first solo as a fourth grader, so sure I knew I could sing – and I knew that I could sing better than some of my classmates in choir class. Did I ever make fun of any of them, acting like I was better? I hope not, but I honestly don’t remember. In high school, I joined journalism and became an editor on the school newspaper, and yeah, I knew that I could write. I knew that I wanted to write as an adult, for my profession, because I was “just that good.” Did I ever make fun of any of my classmates for their spelling and grammar mistakes? Probably. I will openly admit that one. I have a hard time even now keeping my mouth shut on those. However, just because I may write better than someone else doesn’t mean that I believe myself to be better as a person than they are. But now, years later and all grown up, what kind of example am I to my very easily influenced twelve-year-old, and for that matter, my soon-to-be seven-month-old baby girl?
I know that there have been times that I have been out and about and have seen someone who was dressed in what I decide is “odd,” with body parts hanging out that, in my opinion, should NOT be. So I am sure that I have made remarks, and yes, in front of my child. We ALL have done this – and nobody better comment and tell me that they haven’t – or else www.peopleofwalmart.com wouldn’t exist. We all have pointed and laughed at others, as adults, for one reason or another. But just because we have all done it doesn’t make it any more okay. I have been more and more aware of these kinds of actions in the past few weeks, keenly aware that I can no longer stand in ridicule of anyone else if I expect my children to hold to those same standards. Yesterday, this thought came blaring back to me as we were leaving, of all places, Wal Mart. A woman that I have seen there before was entering as we were about to leave. She is in a motorized chair because of a disfigurement – she has a regular sized, large torso, but with very small and disfigured arms and legs. I saw her out of the corner of my eye as I was checking out, and soon Noah was staring and saying, “Mom! Pssst. Look. Over there.” I kept checking out, refusing to turn in her direction. This then prompted a long lecture as we were leaving about staring or making comments or making fun of anybody, much less someone with a handicap or disfigurement. I was mortified once again. I know that young children stare and say things about people because they don’t yet understand that they shouldn’t – but HE is old enough to know. But kids learn that it is okay to do it by their parent’s example, don’t they? It really got me thinking, and it really got me thinking that while I don’t do that on a regular basis, I AM guilty of it, which probably makes me a hypocrite in Noah’s eyes. So just like he, together we will have to start thinking before speaking and/or reacting. I want my children to treat everyone as their equal, not ever as inferior or less than. I have been treated that way and don’t like it; so I know that others don’t either. Now, if everyone else could just take a self-examining look within, just think of how different the world would be and how differently we would – and could – all treat each other?
Change begins with a whisper ~ The Help