Friday, October 7, 2016

a canceled visit.

I stood there in my kitchen with tears in my eyes, surprised with the amount of sadness I felt for baby M.  I was prepared to feel a sense of relief.  Glad that I didn't have to drag him and two other boys to children's services for a visit with his mom.  But I wasn't.  I was devastated.  For him.  He's not old enough to feel all these emotions and so I felt like I was feeling them for him.  Because she didn't show up.

How our agency does visits with mom and/or dad is that they have to show up a half hour early, us foster parents get a text or call that they are there and then we drive to meet them at the office.   I'm very grateful they do it this way as to not waste our time if they don't show up.

Today was the first visit with mom.  She said she was going to be there.  I took extra care in making sure M looked super cute (didn't take much because he's just adorable no matter what!) but I put him in a brand new outfit, combed his long hair, got everything ready to jump in the car after we got back from the bus stop and head to his visit.

We got back from the bus stop right at 8:30 and I waited for the text.  Nothing yet.  This isn't a good sign.  Got a text saying that his case worker was going to give her 5 extra minutes.  Those 5 minutes went by and she still wasn't there.  Visit cancelled.  I stood there with M in his carseat at my feet in the kitchen and just started crying.  Right then and there it all became so real to me.  How HARD this is on foster kids when they are old enough to realize what's going on and can feel the rejection.  M is so lucky that he's a newborn and doesn't have a clue what just happened and I can at least protect him from that for a little while.  But my heart was broken into a million pieces for all foster kiddos, who experience that on a weekly basis.  "Will my mom show up this time?"  "Does she love me enough to try and fight for me?"  "Why didn't she come to see me today?"

It just revealed to me just how much more important our job is as foster parents to try our best to show unconditional love to our kids in care so that they learn that it exists.  So that they know they are loved and wanted and cherished.  I tell M that every time I give him a bottle.  To do as much as we can and pray the stuff we can't control, doesn't harm them any further.

I struggled with being on mom's side.  But after this, I realized that I AM on her side.  I was cheering for her to make it to the visit.  To show up for him.  I'll still cheer for her and pray that she can make choices that help to turn her life in the right direction because that's the ultimate goal.  For families to be reunited.  Because that's how it's supposed to be.  Foster care and adoption isn't how God wanted it to happen.  Before sin enter the world, it was perfect.  But now our world isn't perfect and we hope and pray that families can be restored but I'm so glad that there is an option like foster care and then adoption for children who have been hurt by their family.  Adoption is the safety net.  We are here for him for as long as he needs us.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

a phone call...

A phone call.  That's all it takes to change how the rest of your day plays out or even your life.  And as a foster parent without a placement, every time my phone rings my heart races a little.  When I see the name of our placement coordinator on my screen, the feeling of excitement and the unknown is the same feeling I got going into each of our 20 week ultrasounds to find out if we were have a boy or a girl and how baby was growing.  I take a deep breath and answer, of course trying to mask my excitement a tad so our placement coordinator doesn't think I'm completely crazy, wondering what's in store for us on the other end of the line.  How old?  Boy or Girl? How soon will they come?  Will we have to say "no" for the first time?  

So it was Tuesday September 18th during the crazy rush of after school bus stop pick up, rush home to get a quick snack and change of clothes so Lincoln can get to his FMU class when I looked down at my phone in the car and realized I had a missed call from our agency and a voicemail.  All three boys were in the car ready to go and I pressed play to listen to the message.  I listened and jotted down notes, did a giddy screech, held back tears of excitement and called Tyler to tell him the details.  I got the go ahead from him, called our agency back and said a quick YES when she asked if we would be willing to take this sweet baby in.  This placement was a lot different, timing-wise, than our first placement.  With baby G I had a whopping 2 hours to get ready before he came to us.  This time I was first told it would be two days until M would be ready to be discharged from the hospital.  

Needless to say, Lincoln was way late for his class but it was well worth it :)  

Our last call was similar where we were waiting a couples days for baby to be discharged before she came to us and a relative stepped up literally an hour before she was supposed to be at our house.  So we were cautiously excited for M.  We now knew that a relative could step in at any point before he was discharged.  Because he was a preemie (born at 34 weeks) his discharge date kept getting pushed back.  Thursday turned into the weekend and the weekend turned into "maybe" Monday.  So we were prepared to go get him Monday afternoon but I wasn't counting on it.  I had the nursery all swapped out from newborn baby girl things back to newborn baby boy :)  I'm getting quite the workout with retrieving and putting away of clothes in the attic!!  Because I know how unpredictable preemies can be (thanks for all that experience, Lincoln!)  So I went to MOPS that morning and got the call during the meeting that he was ready to go and if I could meet the case worker at the NICU at 1:30.  Thankfully Tyler was able to come home early to take over for me at home with the boys and get Lincoln off the bus and I started on the 40 minute drive downtown to meet the newest member of our family.  

I found the hospital, drove up a couple floors in the parking garage, grabbed the infant carseat and headed toward the elevator.  The carseat must've given me away to the lady in the elevator and she asked if I was going to pick up my baby (it's a children's hospital) and I said yes but I told her I had no idea how to get to get NICU floor.  Which as I look back must have seemed odd because why would I be going to pick up a baby if I haven't been there before to visit that baby?  But thankfully she told me where to go.  I felt so weird getting up to the NICU floor and telling them I was there to pick up baby M but I didn't know his last name or anything else.  Thankfully his case worker got there shortly after and she took over :)

The actual discharge process took much longer than I anticipated.  I was on the phone for 45 minutes trying to get him registered and a newborn appointment since they won't discharge without an appointment with a pediatrician scheduled.  I asked his nurses lots of questions about his care, got to feed him once and then it was time to go!  And just like that I followed the case worker out of the hospital with this tiny 4 lb 11oz baby boy in my carseat.  And even though we've jumped through SO many hoops to get licensed, background checked and basically they know everything about us,  I still felt so weird that they just let me leave with him!  

We parted ways in the elevator as she got off on the floor where she parked and told me she would be back by our house in about an hour after she dropped off some paperwork, in order to do more paperwork with us :)  I then panicked a little as I realized I actually had no idea which floor of the parking garage I had parked on!  I was in la-la land when I got there, excited to meet our new baby that I didn't even take note of which floor I was one.  So then began the fun game of trying every floor except one (there were 10 stories, guys, this took forever!) and I finally found our van!  I even hit the panic button on my key fob and it didn't work through the cement floors!  And I kept praying that no one was noticing this lady with a baby who seems to have lost her car!  I was laughing at myself for the first 3 wrong floors and then got a little scared that maybe our van was stolen or that I was in the wrong parking garage and I was never going to find it!  I'm then thinking, they aren't going to let us keep M in our home if I can't even get him to our van because I can't keep track of it!  Come on, Marie! sheesh!  But I found it, took a deep sigh of relief and headed home, in rush hour traffic.  yay! 

Baby M slept peacefully the entire way home and until the case worker got to our house a couple hours later.  I fed him while we signed all the paperwork and braced myself for the "crazy first week" of foster care with a new placement.  Dr appointments, WIC appointment, 1 week visit from both his case worker and our support worker, and setting up visits with his mom and dad.  And that's how our story with M began...

Sunday, June 5, 2016

how has foster care affected our boys?

We have been talking to our boys about adoption for years now.  They have come to understand what that means and what that might look like.  For so long they have waited and waited for a new baby and have been SO, SO, SO excited for a new baby brother or sister.  And then mom and dad go and change things up on them and get licensed in foster care.  Each step of the way we've been honest and told the boys about the changes and how foster care looks different than adoption.  When we got the call for baby G, they all had such sweet reactions.  Lincoln smiled ear to ear and started jumping up and down saying "yay! finally!," Caedmon was more subdued and was a calm "excited" and Dietrich just said "yay, baby!! yay baby!"  That night after baby G came, they all fought over who got to hold him again and again.  Lincoln was overly helpful constantly asking me "can I feed him? can I hold him?  can I hold his bottle for you?"  And anytime I would lay baby G down it was an instant swarm of big brother RIGHT there in his face talking to him, making silly faces at him, gently stroking his head and talking about his cute little toes.  It's safe to say they all attached as quickly to him as they would have if I'd had a baby biologically.  Instant brotherly love.

When we switched to foster care I was at a loss as to how to explain it all to the boys in a way that didn't tell it ALL.  So our social worker gave me some good advice.  She said to explain it as the parents of these sweet babies that come into our home, are sick.  They are so sick that they can't take care of their kids and so while they are getting better, we get to take care of their child.  But then to go further and explain that even if mom and dad don't get better, that the child might go live with an aunt, uncle, grandma or grandpa etc.  And then asking the boys, if we were sick, you would want to go live with one of your aunts and uncles or grandmas and grandpas, right?  Of course they said yes so it made it a little easier for them to understand why a child will leave after living with us for awhile.

Fast forward to now.  We are in the middle of saying good-bye to baby G.  Last week I was informed that we would be doing a visit with his relative and that kind of solidified it for me.  This was moving forward.  So that night we told the boys what was happening, about the visit coming up and that baby G was eventually going to go live with this relative.  Dietrich and Caedmon didn't really respond much but Lincoln was instant tears.  And lots of tears.  So we cuddled and cried with him and talked him through it, answering his questions as he had them and reminding him of what our job was as a foster family to love him as long as he's with us.  After that sad night each of the boys has made comments daily about baby G leaving.  On the way to the splash pad last week Caedmon randomly asked me how many more days we had left with baby G and I told him we didn't know yet.  I look back and see him thinking hard about it all and then he spotted a water tower out the window and moved on (seeing water towers and shouting out that you see one is a fun game we do right now in the car lol).

We took baby G to his visit this past Thursday and how that looks it us taking him to the children services office and then meeting his case worker and the relative in the waiting room, we hand him over and the relative has a supervised 2 hour visit.  Of course I had all three boys with me as well and as we are giving him to his relative the boys said "wait! I need to give him a hug!" so all three proceeded to hug and kiss him in his carseat carrier.  We all laughed and I told the relative that baby G is VERY loved!  We leave the building and as I'm buckling Dietrich in his carseat he keeps sadly saying, "I miss baby, I miss baby."  Tear my heart right out and stomp on it.  Sheesh.  But it was short lived and he moved on.

I say all this just to show you all how it's affecting my boys.  I know some people don't want to get involved in foster care because they think it'll be bad or hard on their biological or current children.  Guys I'm here to say, kids are so resilient and my boys are learning so much about loving and caring for the fatherless through this.  They are seeing what it means to see a need, take a step out in faith and meet that need.  They are seeing how to put other's needs first.  Just last night as Lincoln was helping me fold laundry out of the blue he said to me, "mom I hope baby G's mom and dad appreciate our help when they aren't sick anymore."  And it wasn't said in a harsh tone like we deserve for them to be appreciative, no it was more of just a straight forward thought that he had.  He knows that we are helping them and helping baby G and it just showed me how much he is being affected in a good way by this experience.

We will find out more about when baby G will leave, this Tuesday at our meeting with his case worker but I know it's coming soon and I'm bracing myself.  Every time I pick him up my heart hurts because I love him so much.  But it's a love that I feel to my core every. single. day. when I look into those big dark eyes.  So straight to my core that it could bring me to tears at almost any moment.   We ask that if you think of it, would you pray for us as we say good-bye to our first foster-love.  :)

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

worth the risk

It was only a short 6 weeks ago that we got our first call for a placement of a 3 week old baby boy.  And ever since, we have fallen head over heals in love with him.  A baby who came to us needing love and that's what he's gotten.  Lots of it.  We have all since gotten attached to him and him to us.  It's been so fun to watch attachment happen with a child who is not biologically yours.  Little things like him turning his head towards my voice after just a week, how his crying changes and calms once he hears my voice, now the eye contact and smiles.  When he came to us, it was a little bit of a unique situation and we kind of got our hopes up that since they weren't working a case plan with mom or dad that he would be headed toward adoption.  Of course they had to look into all relatives but because of his situation, relatives, for the most part, had already been asked about taking him and said they couldn't.  So I let my heart "go there" about possible adoption.  I thought about what it would look like and how he would fit so perfectly into our family for the long run.  Then a week after he came, his case workers came to visit and said that he had a relative that was very interested in taking him.  {insert my heart dropping into my stomach} It was then that I realized that we needed to put our "foster care" hats back on.  That is what we are doing and we needed to mentally be there too.

Fast forward 5 weeks and this relative has now passed their background checks, the home study (which is not as in depth as ours was) starts this week and on Thursday I will take him for his first ever visit with this family member.  So the ball is rolling and unless something drastic happens with the home study or they change their mind, this is where baby G will go.  I'm not sure when or how fast this will happen but it's coming.

I know nothing about this family member other than what the case workers have told me but I'm trying to be supportive.  As far as I know, this is a good situation.  He is wanted by them and that makes a huge difference.  It doesn't matter if I think he'd be better off with us or not, family reunification is always the first priority and we need to support that.  We are foster parents and our job is to love these kiddos for as long as they are with us and that's what we are doing with baby G.  He is so, so loved here and we've given him the best start to life we possibly could and now we will watch him reunify with family and pray for him the rest of his life, even as our hearts are shredded to pieces.  Because this hurts to much, I know that we did our job well.  We didn't hold back and protect our hearts, we dove in head first and put his need for love above our own protection

It seems like every time we are out in public with baby G and someone finds out he's in foster care/we are foster parents, the first thing they say is, "oh I could never do that, I'd get too attached!  I would have 100 kids because I could never give them back!"  And they are so right, yes they probably would get attached, because that's what we do!  That statement makes me feel a little like they think I must have a cold heart or that I'm somehow stronger than your average mom and can keep myself from getting attached and that's why I can do foster care and they can't.  And that's just not the case.  It implies that only certain people can do foster care when really more people  can, they just don't realize it yet :)  The only thing that you need to be able to do in order to do foster care is to put these kiddos ahead of yourself.  I'm just a regular mom who said, "yes."   Another foster mom said it really well, "Did you know that we are never promised tomorrow, even with our birth children?  But knowing that you stood the risk of somehow losing your child did not stop you from having that child, did it?  It would be tragic and earth shattering if something happened to my birth son.  It would be tragic and earth shattering if something happened to my adopted sons.  And guess what, it is tragic and earth shattering when we lose our foster sons and daughters too.  But, the possibility of loss doesn't stop us from letting them in.  They are worth the risk of loss, just like my biological and adopted sons have been.  We are only promised THIS moment in time with anyone in our lives.  So why let the fear of losing a foster child stop you from investing in them?  You don't let it stop you from investing in anyone else in your world.  Choose to use the moments you have to the fullest and impact the world around you  for the good.  Because - ya know, you just might gain more than you ever lose!"  @libbyarnoldwan

This transition of letting go of baby G is going to be crushing.  It's going to be one of the hardest things I've ever done, but he is so worth it.  Worth every tear we will cry.  I've been stretched so much starting this journey and it's a beautiful thing.  Just like my stretch marks from my biological children are still on my body like beautiful reminders of what I did for them, I am stretching in other ways as a foster parent.  It's going to stretch me to say good-bye to this baby that I love like my own.   All this stretching requires a strength I've only been able to have because of fully leaning on Jesus through it. This is going to be hard but I can do these hard things for these kiddos.  Because they deserve at least one person in their life who is willing to do that.

So here we are getting ready to say the hardest good-bye of our lives and guess what we'll do?  We'll grieve and cry but then sign right up to do it all over again.  Are we crazy?  No, just willing to sacrifice a little for a child who needs love. :)


Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Call.

Today is the 4th full day that we have had Baby G with us and it has been such a whirlwind!  And what a wonderful whirlwind it has been!  There is so much I want to blog about, so much that I've learned already about myself, the foster system and just fostering in general.  But for today all my sleep deprived mind can handle is that first day.  I want to remember the details so I have to get it down before I start to forget some of it.  

We knew it could be any day that we would get a call.  We were able to meet our support worker and her supervisor last Friday.  They came out to our house to see it and to just get to know us a little better.  And before they left they said, "who knows, you could get the call this weekend or a month from now."  Little did we all know it would be 4 days later. :)

 I had been on high alert constantly and Tuesday was no different.  Monday Tyler had worked a long day.  18 hours to be exact and so he decided to take the morning off and just go in for a little while in the afternoon.  I had planned on going to Y to workout so we all just ended up going together.  We got home, ate lunch, and sent Lincoln off on the bus.  Tyler left for work and I put Caedmon and Dietrich down for naps.  I made myself something for lunch and after doing a load of laundry and picking up around the house I sat down to do my quiet time.  My "first 5" app devotion was on having faith and what faith exactly is.  "Faith is being sure and certain.  It's having complete assurance and trust in something or someone.   It's believing in action first -- even before we experience a hopeful outcome or receive fulfillment of a promise made."  It was exactly what I needed to read as I was trying not to get discouraged while we were waiting.  To have faith in God's perfect timing.  

I had a little extra time after I was done so I opened up my iBooks app and was reading "Crazy Love" by Francis Chan. So I was sitting on my couch just staring at my phone, deep into a book when my screen changed and it started ringing.  It was from our agency.  I jumped right up as I answered and told myself to stay calm, they are probably just calling to talk about something else.  And then I heard the words, "Hi Marie, I'm _________ and I'm calling about a possible placement."

She proceeded to tell me details and I frantically searched for a pen and paper to write down as much as I could.  I was also darting around trying to find my sheet that they gave us with questions to ask about a possible placement.  I finally found it and by this time I'm shaking uncontrollably.  All my writing is hardly legible because I was literally shaking so hard.  At the end of the call I told her it was most likely a yes but I of course had to call Tyler to ask for sure.  

I called him right away and after telling him everything he just said, "so this is really happening?!  ok, tell her yes!  I'll be home ASAP"

He's so even keeled and I'm over here having to change my shirt because I'm sweating so bad from the adrenaline rush LOL.  

I called the agency back and gave our official "yes" and this all happened around 2:45 and she tells me that the social worker will be bringing Baby G to our house sometime between 5-6pm that same evening.  Excited. Nervous.  Scared.  Panicked. Overjoyed.  What do I do first?  I stood in the middle of my kitchen just frozen, trying to organize my scrambled thoughts and making a mental list of what I needed to do to get ready for a newborn to come live with us in 2 HOURS!  The first thing I knew I had to do was get up in our attic and get the newborn tub of clothes down and get them in the washing machine.  So I'm tearing apart our attic looking for it, bringing tubs inside, trying to find all our baby items that we might need.  I broke a light socket in my rushing and almost fell down the stairs but eventually I got everything out that I needed and by that time Lincoln was getting off the bus.  I told the boys what was going on and they were all so excited!  Caedmon's first words out of his mouth are, "do we get to keep him forever?"  Bless his heart, we have been and still are, trying to explain it all the the boys but it's a hard thing to wrap their little minds around, a baby coming to live with us for a short time or possibly could turn into forever.  

Tyler got home around 4:30, I pulled a frozen lasagna out of the freezer and stuck it in the oven so we would have something to eat once the case workers were done with paperwork, and then we just waited.  We all just sat in the front room staring out the window like crazy people.  ha!  And right at 5pm on the dot, our case worker pulls into our driveway.  We aren't sure what to do, do we wait inside for her to bring him in? Do we run out there?  :)  We met her on the front porch and she took us over to her vehicle, opened the door, got this sweet baby out of his carseat, turned to me and said, "are you ready?" and just handed him to me.  Just like that!  Oh my heart.  In that instant our world collided with his and our lives are all changed forever.  He was so tiny and I was told he was super fussy.  I held him from that point on while we did an hour or so of paperwork and he didn't make a peep.  He was perfect.  

It was all a bit overwhelming and it's still kinda crazy but we are so in love with this little boy.  We are adjusting to having four BOYS and I love that I get to do this journey with Tyler.  We are not guaranteed tomorrow with Baby G, but in reality we aren't guaranteed tomorrow with any of our boys.  So for as long as he is with us we will love him fiercely, like he deserves.  


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

A letter to our future foster child

The whole process of adoption and then getting licensed in foster care has been a continual marathon of "hurry up" and "wait."  Hurry, hurry, hurry get all that paperwork filled out, notarized, signed, and turned back in, hurry and get all your inspections scheduled and done, hurry and get your classes done.  And now wait for your paperwork to get processed, your inspections to be approved and for your license to come in the mail.  So now we are back in the waiting game.  We have been licensed for 3 weeks now and I'm in such a weird phase of mixed emotions.  We have been told all along that there is a huge need for us and the age range we specified so I was prepared to get a call within the first week.  That obviously hasn't happened and it's weird.  I'm so anxious to get a call that I want it to happen soon BUT the truth remains that if we get a call that means something bad has happened.  Something REALLY bad has happened to this sweet, little child who didn't ask for this.  He/She will be coming to us because the world is broken, THEIR world is broken.  So I'm stuck in this strange place of emotions.  I'm not sure how to feel.  We want to add to our family because we know it's not complete yet but adding to our family through foster care comes only because something has been broken.  There is hurt and pain involved with adoption of any kind.  So we are hear and waiting.  To be ready if/when we are needed to care for a child who has been hurt.  Unfortunately it's going to happen, a child will be traumatized or neglected and we have been on our knees praying for that child.  That whatever is happening to them at this very second, that God would protect them like only He can.  So we wait.  We pray.  And I never let my phone out of my sight or put it on silent! :)

So while I wait to meet you here is a letter I've written to you...

Dear little one(s),

I can't stop thinking about you.  Who you are, what you look like, how old you are, what you are doing at this moment.  Are you 2, 6 months, a newborn or still in your moms womb?  Are you hearing or seeing things that make you scared?  Is a chaotic, scary world all you know so far in your life?  I want so badly for you to know that you are already loved by us.

I'm constantly thinking about how our lives will change once we meet you.  When will the call come?  What will I be doing?  You might be scared of this new place and these strange new people.  We are not scary people and you will soon learn that.  You'll have three protective big brothers who are SO excited to meet you.  They will all fight over who gets to hold you first (even if you are 2, they are going to want to try and hold you) :)  Our routines will change to add you in and I think often about how I will probably be up a lot at night with you and how more coffee will become part of my life.  I've prepared a beautiful room just for you.  This might be the first time you have your own room and I've tried very hard to make it special just for you.

Ours lives will soon be intertwined.  We will learn all sorts of things about each other.  I will learn your favorite toys, your favorite foods etc and you will learn things about me like how I use a soft, soothing voice when you are crying, how I will hold you tight and rock you and hopefully you will learn to trust me as a safe person who really loves you and will care for you like you need.

Maybe we will be together for a lifetime or maybe for just a season but I'm so excited to meet you.











Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Foster Care: getting the room ready

It's been quite awhile since I've blogged over here and I kinda miss it.  I didn't miss it for a long time. Life is so busy that this was one thing that I had to let go of in this season of life.  It's fun for me but it was also just one more thing to do.  But now that we are going to be doing foster care, my goal is to blog along the way not only to document things but also to inform all of you of what foster care really looks like.  The good, bad and the ugly.  Foster care gets such a bad rep and all you ever hear about are all the out of control kids and bad behaving teenagers etc.  I hope to shed some light on the other side of foster care and show you all what it's really like.  I'm not going to sugar coat it though either.  We know it won't be all rainbows and stars.  It's going to be hard.  But it's gonna be worth it.  God has called us to this and even though we know we aren't anything special, we know He will equip us what what we need as we go.  

So I heard from the supervisor that is reviewing our home study and she said she has 3 other home studies to approve before ours so it's looking like we will be approved and then licensed beginning of next week!!!!!  

So since we could potentially get a call the day we get licensed, we've been getting ready for awhile now and the nursery is officially done and ready for our first placement!  So I thought I'd show you all what it looks like.  When trying to figure out how I wanted to decorate it to not only be gender neutral but also for a foster placement and of course cheap or free, so I did a lot of searching for foster rooms on Pinterest to get ideas.   I found quite a few free printables, I used frames that I had on hand and painted them white, changed up the curtains a little, painted a dresser white and used it as the changing table and got creative with storage solutions.  Here is how it turned out...

I love how this collage turned out!  And even better, it was free!  I had all these frames already and the prints I searched high and low on pinterest for and they were all free printables.  But I didn't just find free printables and that was it, I carefully chose each one specifically for this room.  











And here is the finished dresser/changing table, I absolutely love how it turned out.
(the pictures of Dietrich will be replaced with pictures of the child)

Because we live in a split level home, we have a grand total of ZERO storage. So this closet has many functions.  Right now it has all of Dietrichs hanging clothes, a dresser for storage of baby items that we may need on a short notice once we get a placement, several sizes of diapers, extra blankets, and this is even where we have to store our luggage when it's not being used and up on the top shelf is my wedding dress all boxed up! We make it work :)


So there is the room!  All we need is a 0-2 year old to come stay in it!  We truly cannot wait to start this journey and I hope you all follow along as we wade these unknown waters and bring you along for the journey!