It’s a boy – officially

When Cheryl and I got married, I wrote vows to Max as well as Cheryl, and gave him a tiny silver ring of his own (he was four at the time). I married both of them that day, since they came as a matched set.

Max at baseball
Max on the Bees

Today is our fourth wedding anniversary, and when I picked Max up from theater rehearsal I wished him a Happy Anniversary. He said “Oh, it’s your anniversary?” and I said “No, it’s OUR anniversary” and reminded him about the details of the day.

When we got home, there was a moist (it’s been drizzling) non-descript envelope waiting for us in the box. I tossed it on the counter and went to hang up my coat, and Cher grabbed it and opened it up. Interestingly, it was made out to her. Continue reading It’s a boy – officially

It's a boy!

signingToday I gained a son!

If you’ve been playing along at home, the past year has been in large part about jumping the hurdles and hoops and red tape of local, state and federal gummint in the hopes of making my stepson my legal son.

Finally all the parts came together, and we had our day in family court. There was no question of what might happen, really… all the papers have been signed, fees paid, interviews had.

We had to wait our turn in the hallway, while another family finalized their adoption. They had about a dozen friends and family in with them, balloons, cake, the whole works. We seemed so reserved by comparison. It was simply myself, my wife Cheryl and our son Max in the courtroom with our lawyer, the judge, the bailiff and two court reporters (secretarys? stenographers? legal assistants? I don’t know… but they looked busy). We had no cake, no friends and family, no balloons.

hugsBut it didn’t matter. This was about making it official, and we wanted it intimate (We had plans to have my older kids over to celebrate later in the evening anyway). The judge was awesome… very sweet. She spent some time chatting with Max about himself, his favorite activities, what he likes to do with me, and so on. She had him sign the paperwork (usually only kids older than 12 sign, but she felt he was “old enough and smart enough” to get to sign), then she took me by surprise. She had me raise my right hand, and take an oath:

I, William, solemnly swear

To treat Max

In all respects as my natural child

I am prepared to accept

This gift of a child to raise

I will share my life with him

Help to mold his mind

Nurture his body

And enrich his spirit

I will never betray his trust

Dampen his hopes or

Discourage his dreams

I will be patient and kind

I make this commitment willingly

I will cherish Max

All the days of my life.*

Now, any of you who know me well know I’m a bit of a crybaby, so I only got through one or two lines before falling apart and blubbering like a little girl (she took me by surprise!). But it was all okay, everyone laughed kindly and passed me tissues. I will say that although as birth father to my three older kids I never had to take such an oath (but wouldn’t it be cool if they had you do that?), I hope they know that I did so in my heart when they came into my life 20, 24 and 27 years ago, and I hope I’ve lived up to it.

familyWe’ll be framing and hanging said oath on the wall (they gave us a copy, nicely printed on parchment).

The bailiff was likewise a really nice guy, obviously loves this part of his job, and volunteered to take the pics for us.

Something I did not know is that there will be a new birth certificate generated, with my name on it. It’s all new, baby, just as it should be.

Ironically, to finalize that new birth certificate, our last stop was in another office to stand in line and turn in the signed papers… on which we discovered a mistake in Max’s birthdate (previously called out and fixed but never communicated to the court). Luckily, a little white out and hopefully that’s all done. We’ll see when the certificate arrives.

We left the courthouse newly galvanized, shared a happy lunch together, and headed home.

And that’s when the other shoe dropped.

*Based upon prayer in “Guide My Feet” by Marian Wright Edelman (c) 1995 Marian Wright Edelman

Note: All this happened back on May 22nd, so I’ve dated this post thusly. But there’s been a lot going on and I haven’t been able to write about it till today – June 2. 😛

It's (almost) a boy!

Just paid the last of the endless fees and paperwork associated with the adoption of my step-son!

Max on the Bees
Max on the Bees

We’ve already gone through all the associated paperwork and legal investigations, gotten a waiver of parental rights from the birth father, and been visited at home by a social worker (we had to hide the kids who sew our designer knock-offs in the basement — but that’s where they sleep anyway).

Today I gave a $700 check to the Superior Court and now all they have to do is set the court date for us to see the judge, have him/her smack a gavel, sign the papers, and it’s done! I have a brand spankin’ new 8 year old son to add to the collection. That makes three awesome boys (8, 19, 23) and one amazing girl (27). The three older ones I made the old fashioned way. This newest one came as a matched set with my lovely wife (she’s the one in green).

What a hellish process this has been… an absurd series of ineptitudes on the part of the County. They were all very nice, of course, and even apologetic, but ultimately couldn’t come to a consesus on how the whole thing works.

  • I was required to have my finger prints taken — but the State had initiated a new digital scanning system for fingerprinting, which the County hadn’t gotten completely installed yet. It was working for people who wanted to be cops or child-care workers, but not for adoptive parents… no option for adoption in the drop down menu of the software (I kid you not). Had to wait nearly a month for that to be fixed.
  • Then they lost the waiver of parental rights that the birth father had signed… yes, lost it. After months of our tracking the guy down, chasing him from one temporary address or job to another, and finally paying for the notary so he couldn’t claim lack of funds. Another week or two lost while they tracked that down (they finally realized it was in the file all along).
  • Then we had to wait for the case worker to come visit our house. That took some doing, but she finally came by and gave us the green light. At that meeting, she’s supposed to ask us for a $700 filing fee for the Family Services Department (a fee we learned, during this whole process, is not required by any State or Local Government, but was created by the Family Services Division).
  • She neglected to ask for the check, and we figured they’d decided to waive it given all the hassle we’d had, or they’d at least contact us for payment. Several weeks later, we got a phone call saying “Why haven’t you paid the $700? We’re waiting for it.” I pointed out that she was supposed to collect it at the home visit, to which they replied “No, you’re supposed to pay it separately.” To which I pointed out “The paperwork we got from your department says otherwise.” To which they replied “Really? Let me see. (rustle rustle) Oh, look at that. You’re right. Well, go pay it directly at room 110 of the County Building.”
  • Which took on a life of its own, as I tried four times over the next couple weeks to go in and pay… Once I discovered they were only open till 4 pm (I got there at 4:10, as every other office in the building was open till 5). Once they were closed early (for no apparent reason). Once I realized it was a Holiday (Cesar Chavez Day — who knew?) and once they were closed because the phone system was downed by a guy with pruning shears (big news story here). Of course, all the other offices found a way to stay open, just the one office I needed decided to close. (I also locked my keys in the car that day, it started raining, and with all the phones down [including my cell service] I had to borrow a Sheriff’s working phone to call AAA. But that’s my personal sob story.)
  • And when I finally got there today, I waited in line for 35 minutes, got to the window, told the woman I needed to pay my adoption filing fee, and she got this blank “I’ve never heard of that before” look on her face and said “Here? Really? Oh. I’ll have to ask.” My heart leapt into my temples, and I prepared for a showdown. She took off for 10 minutes, but when she came back she apologized, kindly took my money and gave me a receipt.

So all that’s over with now. All the papers are filed, fees are paid, and we simply await the final courtroom meeting, which we understand is a private affair, generally attended by many family members, and may even include cake and balloons.

And the coolest part is, Max (who has called me “Dad” for the past four years) is very excited, and can’t wait.

Yay us!