Introduction and Welcome

My name is David Robins. In March 2018, my wife left our home in Indiana with our seven-month old son David Geoffrey. David has been kept from me for most of time since.

This summer (2024) David has finally been able to come home, first for my graduation in May and then for alternating weeks after his school ended. We have a great time together, but it’s not enough. This site is for sharing pictures and stories with friends and family, and about my fight to bring my son “home to daddy” again, and, I hope, for others in similar situations to tell their stories and to obtain resources and encouragement.

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Finally home

It took six years, but finally, on May 2, 2024, forever “Homecoming Day,” David was able to come home (for a few days); and this is the way of it.

On Monday April 22, after a positive parenting evaluation, I filed a renewed motion to bring David home for my graduation (May 4). Like the first evaluation, the written report said I’m a fine parent, intelligent person, even used the word “talkative” (which isn’t like me for most of my life), should be able to bring David back to Indiana, and (in response to some unusual accusations) would not try to abscond with David to Canada (although we do hope to go there and spend some time with my parents there over the summer). The guardian ad litem filed a favorable response, which no doubt helped, and I received the emailed order on Thursday April 25, astoundingly fast in comparison to the general pace of things. I had specifically requested an emailed order as opposed to the usual postal mail (non-attorneys can’t use the online case system that WV finally set up), which was a good thing as I only got the mailed order Saturday.

Since David fortunately didn’t have school Friday, I picked him up Thursday after school, at his “nana”‘s house where he stays with Honey, with his clothes and a few toys (like a plush Dark Bowser and his Mario bridge and “people”), at about 3:45 p.m. after his bus dropped him off near her work. We headed straight out–up the hill road to the “Coalfields Expressway” (that we’d only ever taken once before to go to a playground in Beckley), and onto I-64. We stopped around 6:30 p.m. to eat at a Wendy’s, which may have become his new favorite restaurant (usually I cook for us at the place I rent), and it was dark by the time we were all the way home at around 10:00 p.m. David didn’t sleep any in the car–he tends to resist naps, but see later–and so he saw the lights of the “triangle house” as we drove in, into probably his first garage, and up the steps and unpacked. We quickly did his nighttime routine–no story because it was so late, which we made up for the next day–and had a good and refreshing sleep.

Friday was our main day together (because Saturday we had graduation and Sunday church and driving to WV). I’d unpacked the toys I traveled with so often in his room, and put in a bed there, even though he still sleeps with a parent (and now wasn’t the time to change that). He loved his room, where we had the road rug and his cars too, and some toys he hadn’t played with in a while–only so many could be carried in the car, and I tried to rotate them. We went outside and rode the tractor (with his ear protectors that I’d been saving for a long time) to the playhouse out back (needed a little vacuuming near the doors), which he loved, especially the small loft. We also went to look at the workshop and he climbed the ladder with me to its loft, too. I’d set up the same (original) Nintendo emulator on my TV as on the Raspberry Pi media player I travel with, and he played a few of his recent favorite games such as Blue Shadow (which also has two player mode) and Bonk’s Adventure, as well as the Mario classics. I cooked a hot breakfast, and I’d laid out my old Charlie Brown placemat for him, which he knows from the movies. In the afternoon, we mowed the back (I’d done the front/sides earlier and saved the back); I asked a couple times if he wanted to get off and sit and watch but he wanted to stay with daddy and finish it, so we did. We toured the upstairs and found the game room (with the “big” original 1980s Fireball Island game, as compared to the smaller recent remake we had). He was so happy to be there and I think it was the best time of his life; it certainly was of mine. We had steak and peas–steak in the sous vide then seared–I wasn’t sure if he’d want his cooked more but he was fine with how I made it.

My mom arrived around 9:00 p.m. that night, with two of her siblings, my Uncle Murray and Aunt Lois; David had just gotten to sleep, but opening the door set off the alarm (I hadn’t intended to leave the door unlocked, figuring they’d text first), so he woke up and he spent a little time with everyone, since he didn’t want to be alone in the bedroom (not a matter of a new place; he doesn’t in “house #2” we rent in WV, either, or with Honey (at “house #4”)). We got everyone settled in and then got back to sleep.

Saturday morning David and I got up around 7:30 a.m., which is typical for him, and tried to be quiet while others were sleeping. I made a big, but “progressive” brunch–coffee, of course, made the whole pot, and a round of sausages, banana pancakes (the secret ingredient is banana–and the Meijer mix), bacon, yogurt, and a second round of pancakes. It was the first time having that many people in the house for a long time–last time might have been having the old small group for dinner. We went outside and viewed the property some, and David rode his bike down the driveway and back (and I took some trash to the front), and then around the oval. While we did that everyone else went to see the playhouse (and then David got to show grandma again).

We left for graduation in Bloomington (it was nice not having to drive) a little after noon, which turned out to just get us to the East Garage and then (walking) to the Indiana University Auditorium for the required 2:15 p.m. for graduates, where I got a name card then got in line, and everyone else headed in for the 3:00 p.m. start (they wouldn’t let mom bring her bag in, so she prayerfully hid it in the bushes, and fortunately it remained). There is a recording of the proceedings (I’m at 1:34:56); great speeches, especially Prof. Krishnan’s (who I had for property), which emphasized having compassion and empathy as a lawyer.

David, I am told, was very good the entire time, which must have seemed interminable; he loves to clap, though, so he enjoyed that, and he loved to see me walk up there. Afterwards we didn’t stick around long; I talked to a few friends and professors, and they met David, but we had a 7:30 p.m. reservation at The Grindstone back in Noblesville, which we just made after heading out; Waze routed us around some particularly bad traffic on I-465. Mom and Dad (who wasn’t able to make it this time but sent a lovely letter) treated us to dinner–I had the ribeye, and David, who had had possibly his first steak yesterday (or at least the first he liked) had some and some shared fries and my fruit side. He napped, which he never does, while the food was coming–we were in a nice big semi-circular booth. I opened cards from Mom and Dad, George and Lois, Murray, and Bob and Cathy Cretney had also sent one. A surprise was one from David that Mom helped him write–“I am proud of you Daddy, love David.” They are all now displayed on the old welsh dresser from England.

On Sunday we went to the 8:00 a.m. service at Harvest Bible Chapel (I am not accepting of recent name changes), and then had brunch when we got back. We said goodbye before we headed over, as they had planned to leave while we were at church. David stayed with me in the auditorium during the service; I did get him set up in the Harvest Kids’ system for if he’s there other Sundays and wants to go to class, and I think he will, because while he enjoyed the singing, the sermon was a big long for him, although he was (mostly) very good and quiet, and I tried to explain, especially as it (Nehemiah 9) touched on some of the stories we’d read recently from his Story Bible about Moses, the Exodus from Egypt, the golden calf, and Korah. Was great to have him meet Phil and Sarah, Rob and Joy, Gary, Kevin, two Scotts, and Heather (coming out of the kindergarten classroom, which we went to see, in the second building that I hadn’t been in for ages). He played on the playground, which was pretty decent, then we drove home and I cooked us brunch. He played some more games while I packed up for the week in WV following the drive back, and we left a little after 1:30 p.m., aiming to get us to Honey’s mother’s at 8:30 p.m. with some time included for dinner and a rest break (for me). Dinner was at a Wendy’s in Ohio just outside WV, where he had a plain hamburger and got another dinosaur playdoh toy. It was sad having to drop him off (and no reason he couldn’t have stayed overnight with me, since it began our regular week), but we’ll see each other again at the bus stop after school Monday.

Of course the work isn’t over. David being home for three days is a start only. He should be able to come home for the summer, when his school is over (beginning of June), and then begin school in Indiana in fall. That’s how reunification must reasonably progress. I’m still traveling every other week to see him at least until school ends. That and caring for him makes finding legal jobs, which are not friendly to remote or even hybrid work, impossible. I am (quite happily) looking for remote software engineering roles again, hoping to find a challenging long-term (“permanent”) role, potentially embedded or high-performance applications. As David has said, “What if we have fifty days?” (as compared to the three to seven we usually get). “Then we will be so happy!”

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Overnights, Graduation, and Home?

I have had not been able to update this site as much as I had wished, and I have so many pictures and videos of David and the things we’ve done together Although I didn’t think I would be able to see David until I was done with law school—despite our every other week ordered time (even if only 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.)—but we have been able to spend some time together. He still hasn’t been able to come home, but there may be hope.

Starting in the second semester of 2L (second year of law school), January 2023, I only had classes Monday through Wednesday, and shifting Sundays, I could see David every other week from Thursday through Sunday, and sometimes the full week during breaks. That schedule has continued through 3L, and now I’m in my last semester of law school, graduating in May 2024. After that I don’t know; it will be easier to get a job, especially a legal job (which is not so friendly to remote work) if David can come home; taking care of him, which includes bringing him home to Indiana, has priority.

Over Christmas 2023 we finally got our first overnights (six, three sets of two, going into January). All were fine; David was very excited—we both were—but slept well after brushing his teeth, taking his medicine, getting pajamas on, reading, and prayers. He has a night light and sound machine that Honey sent with him. He likes a parent to go to sleep with him, and stay there—he checks around in his sleep, and can be quite indignant if I’ve left the room, but will go back to sleep on a quick return. He moves around a lot, and likes to climb on me. And when he gets up, usually a little before 7:30 a.m., he’ll ask what time it is until it’s time to get up (or, since I got him a clock for Christmas, he’ll announce to me each minute that passes). We then had three more overnights on the next Thursday to Sunday trip last week because the snow made driving treacherous: just about 72 consecutive hours (we Skyped with Honey at one point when she asked), from getting him at his bus stop Thursday, through school being canceled Friday, to the end of our (chilly) hike Sunday.

I graduate with my JD in May 2024. I have asked that David be allowed to come to my graduation—a trip home, even if only a visit at first, is the next reasonable step in what has been a progressive reunification. Because, sadly for all, he was not allowed to come home, and to Canada to see relatives, for Christmas, I’ve also requested he be able to come home for part of his spring break in April (and later for most of the summer). As he’s spent extensive time with me with no problems—it’s unfortunate that mere handwaving of potential for problems causes reunification to proceed at a crawl—there ought not to be any difficulty, as the only new thing would be the drive, which is no problem, and we can stop as-needed if any arise.

The Introduction post was written a long time ago—David was 3—and so has also been updated.

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Law school: another way to fight

Indiana University Maurer School of Law

I am a JD (Juris Doctor, law degree) candidate at Indiana University Maurer School of Law. I started there this August. It has been an amazing experience. My main “doctrinal” courses (required, no electives in “1L” year) are Civil Procedure, Torts, and Contracts, and I have great professors for each and enjoy class very much. There is a lot of reading, mostly cases (and Legal Eagle’s advice for briefing cases was spot on). Cold calls are not that bad, so long as one is prepared. Outside of doctrinal courses, I have a legal writing course, which has been challenging and useful, and a legal professions course, which has been… present (perhaps more useful for those who have never worked professionally). The 2024 class is amazing; I know way more people than I ever did in undergrad, and they come from diverse locations, backgrounds, and undergraduate studies, and I expect them to make the curve very difficult.

Mostly I don’t expect law school to benefit personally in my struggle to get justice for my son and I, to bring David home, to avoid being harmed by “stbx” (soon-to-be-ex) wife, although the way it’s been dragging out, maybe I’ll have graduated before it’s over.

Big picture, it’s wrong to haul someone into a foreign state with which they have no significant connection; it goes against 14th amendment due process rights. Public policy is against it too. There have been some interesting recent cases with family law judges in WV, for example, judges bringing armed bailiffs to parties’ houses to take property, which eventually made it to federal district court on a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim, which the court of appeals found was not within judicial immunity.

Purpose and Goal

But the larger picture is that I want to be able to help others finding themselves in this situation. While I admire what Melissa Isaak is doing fighting for fathers and men’s rights in family law and other areas in Alabama, fathers are not the only victims of difficulties like David and I have gone through–unjust separation, withholding, and so forth–and so I wouldn’t restrict my clients to fathers only. I want to fight to help reunite separated parents and children, and contribute in any way I can to justice for those parents and children in the more general sense, i.e., passing presumption of 50/50 custody that has been so wonderful in states where it is in effect, or helping make good case law that makes taking and withholding difficult. Running off and withholding a child from a fit parent ought not to be possible, and if done it ought not to take years to undo (justice delayed is justice denied), and nor reward the doer.

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Week 27: The last, until David can come home

For reasons that will be revealed later, I will no longer be able to travel the 400 miles presently required to see my son after this week. I never should have had to do that the first place.

David loves playing with Snap Circuits, despite being below the recommended age; he’ll swap out switches and lights and knows that the LED needs a resistor in the circuit. I didn’t want him to get frustrated and never be interested, so was willing to put them away and bring them back when he was older if he didn’t show interest.

We went on our usual Saturday morning hike, and also spent some time walking along the “wall” by the nearby road jumping and balancing, played some T-ball, and of course “catch daddy” on the grass.

The end of our hike Saturday would be the last time I would see my son for a while. By rights, he should be safely home with his daddy, and I continue to work to bring him home. David, daddy loves you very much and misses you a lot.

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Week 26: One year of David and Daddy

This week makes a full year of (sadly, only 5%) time with David.

We took a break from the Still Run Ridge trail on our walk this Saturday to go back to the Horsepen Knob trail, one of our favorites, since it’s a loop that can be completed during our time and has a bench that’s great for our picnic. We had some cherries this time—I brought a cherry pitter, which saves a lot of time.

We got back to Second Street Station with a few minutes left, so sat on the bench out front and read another book—The Tale of Peter Rabbit—before he had to go again.

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Week 25: G. I. Joe and the vegetable garden

Someone at the “Mullens Opportunity Center” (a converted high school across the road from where I usually stay) had planted a vegetable garden a few weeks ago; we saw it on our walks around the building, along the railing, down to the water, or to sit on the tractor, but it had seemed the weeds were getting the better of it, until this week; the beans had been provided stakes to climb, some weeding done, etc., and there were signs of growth.

David observed that one of the green tomatoes had fallen off the vine; I told him it would not grow any more–how like believers; we cannot grow unless we are connected to the true Vine (John 15).

I brought David a G. I. Joe this week; I don’t spoil him with toys, and he likes the same ones; they provide, I’m sure, a sense of stability and continuity when he’s with dad, but he’s about the right age for it. It came with a couple small accessories but they didn’t cause any issues; he likes that he has a hat, but put it on and forgot about it. Turns out what he likes to do is to play with G. I. Joe on the balconies (decks), either by walking him around the floor, jumping, or mostly, pulling out the camping chair’s cupholder netting then jumping Joe into the cupholder. I don’t know why, but so long as he’s having fun!

This was also the first week David went down the enclosed yellow slide at the village playground. He had liked to go up and down the steps to it before, but would balk at even going near the opening. But I convinced him to sit in the opening, facing the platform, and then to turn and look down, and went around to the bottom and waved at him through it. He still wouldn’t go down; he insisted that “you will sit on daddy’s lap”; so I crammed myself in there and down we went. After that he was more comfortable; and I had figured we’d save him going down it for another day, but gave it a try, and he was willing to go down with some encouragement, and then it was “do it again” until we left the playground

He’s also had a fluctuating relationship with the big regular slide (smaller slides are usually OK, like the ones at Twin Falls; he’ll climb the ladder and slide down repeatedly just fine, for a while now). He’ll always climb the steps and sit down, but then sometimes it takes me climbing up the slide to get him to go down, or he even wants to only go on my lap. This week it got to “daddy will help you” which meant me putting a hand up on the side (but catching him at the end wasn’t acceptable), although I didn’t need to do anything to help him down. He got back to sliding down himself too; I even sat off to the side on a bench.

We liked the Still Run Ridge trail so much last week that we hiked it again this week (one has part of my thumb, but it’s a great picture of David so I kept it anyway):

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Wyoming County roundabout

In my exile to see my son, we are limited (by court order and Honey’s refusal) to Wyoming County, West Virginia, one of the poorest counties in an already poor state, where the main industry is probably the service industry (Dollar Store or Dairy Queen, take your pick), with remnants of mining and railways, and some logging–but they don’t need the personnel they used to. Mullens (a misspelling that stuck) is the largest town (~1,000) but (to their eternal resentment), Pineville (~500) is the county seat, and where the courthouse is, and there are rumors of another town called Oceana (~500) somewhere in the hills. The rest is tiny unincorporated towns shallowly clawed out of the hills next to the main roads.

Education is viewed with suspicion (even by Honey’s family, although she has an uncle with a Ph.D–civil engineering–and her grandfather has his Bachelor’s from Emmaus Bible College, and had traveled to the Mediterranean).

(I took the title from a Ladybird book I loved as a child, Nature’s Roundabout. As far as I know there are no roundabouts of the other sort, also called “traffic circles.” in the county.)

Practically, with the limited time we have together, I am limited to areas near Mullens itself (Pineville is about 30 minutes away, maybe more with current construction). There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of navigable water in the county, although a shallow river runs through town; I would love to take David out in a canoe or kayak. So the spots we usually frequent are of course the Highwater Inn I stay at most of the time (see Travel and lodging in West Virginia), Twin Falls park, for the playgrounds, lodge (and pool!) when I stay there, a local playground (swings, slide, climbing tower, and there’s an old iron bridge over the creek there that we walk over and he walks on a low stone wall as far as we go on the other side), a couple places to eat (Second Street Station in town, the Rebel Smokehouse–not bad, but I don’t go there with David since he wouldn’t eat most of the menu, and Dairy Queen down the road a bit). There’s also a gas station and IGA, where I usually fill up and get groceries coming in on Sundays, near the DQ.

In contrast, when David gets to come home to Indiana, while I live on several quiet acres (despite being close to the highway, it is just one lane each way and goes up to farms and small towns to the north), there are a number of well-kept parks nearby in Noblesville, and good shopping within 10 minutes’ drive, and all the usual amenities. Hamilton County is the second-wealthiest in the state (Boone, the wealthiest, is nearby) and has great options for schools, on-site autism therapy (rather than having to be remote as now, since there seems to be no local options in WV), and healthcare (including dentists).

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Week 24: Red party streamers on the Still Run Ridge trail

I brought the guitar in from the trunk and we sang our two hits: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Jesus Loves Me, and then I played/sang a few other songs from the book–a book of hymns for guitar my dad loaned me; he enjoys listening to me play, like I enjoy listening to my father play (although he’s much better), and tries to sing along even when he doesn’t know the words. And we finished Finding Nemo–watching the fish in the credits is fun too–and started Toy Story. He asked to look at “triangle house” pictures (my house in Indiana has some triangular windows, which inspired the site white triangle logo and are in some of the rotating banner pictures), so we did; one of the security cameras points at the living room with the windows.

This week we hiked the Still Run Ridge trail at the park for the first time. We didn’t have time for the whole trail, but we made it to where the Pathfinder trail (yellow diamond) forks off; there’s a convenient “fall-down tree” there where we sit and have our picnic and read some books, then turn back (the rest of the loop is longer than turning around, and would probably exceed our limited time). There was some bright red construction tape tied to some of the trees along the way (close to the path, maybe marked for trimming?), and when David saw them he said, “Red party streamers like in Not Your Typical Dragon book!” It’s great to see him relating what he sees around him to what we read.

Mike E. was preaching at Otsego Bible Chapel this week at the Wednesday midweek meeting (it’s at the end of our time, and walking distance to wife’s mother’s house, so I drive him there and drop him off, and sometimes we get a few minutes to play “catch daddy” on the grass). Since I can only see David every other week and the two Mikes alternate, it had been Mike C. for a long time, so an occasional change is nice. The chapel had a Father’s Day display with the names of fathers at the chapel (although most people still don’t make it in person on Wednesdays at least); and they had gift bags; I shared my chocolate with David.

We sometimes Skype with my parents, and did this week–at first he didn’t want to break away from Toy Story; my dad played guitar some, and mom had some addition puzzles for him.

When I Skyped with David on Sunday (Honey allows 3x weekly, no more) he was good; the last time I had Skyped a week ago Friday he was hiding his face and they canceled the call, and I was concerned about alienation; but maybe he was just “out of sorts.” We talk as best he can–he is talking much more–and read a few books together (he can complete a lot of them).

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Victim to Hero: End Parental Alienation Now!

I came across this site today, The Empowered Alienated Parents: Victim to Hero. Looks like it’s regularly updated and has some great resources for parental alienation.

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Week 23: “Pieces” and the Buck Run trail

New book this week, Optical Physics for Babies (part of the series with Electro-Magnetism etc.), which he liked. I’d like to get a prism to show him dispersion (rainbow from white light).

On Sunday it rained hard, so we stayed inside after getting groceries. I brought some oatmeal raisin cookies from Indiana, which David enjoys. (Also brought some mini apple strudel, but he wasn’t interested – very much “no thank you”!)

This week I brought a set of Brickyard STEM toys – strips with 2, 3, or 5 holes for bolts (which we call “screws”), and some 3D blocks, wheels, and 90-degree angled connectors which we use as seats. He loved them; we built some vehicles, and shapes – like the triangle he’s holding, and a square which he found he could turn into a diamond by pushing the sides in. He took to the tools provided very quickly, screwing in wheels or bolts to “make it tight” and build things.

David called them “pieces” so that’s what I refer to them as. They even won out over playing with trucks! Definitely a hit.

We usually buy frozen garlic bread at the store and I cook it a few times a week for us. Months back he wasn’t sure about it but now it’s almost a staple. I also save him some bacon when I cook some for breakfast; it’s one of the few meats he’ll eat (maybe the only one?)

It was raining again Monday, and was raining when Honey came to take him away, so I ran out to the car and got my poncho and put it on him (was going to put it on me and take him under it but he didn’t appreciate that at all, understandably enough, and it was awkward); he looked cute in it, wish I had a picture. So I carried him out in the poncho and put him in his car seat.

We finished The Jungle Book (for, I don’t know, maybe the third time?) this week; it seems to be one of his favorites. We also got to taking the “pieces” apart – turn the screwdriver the other way and “make it loose.”

This week we walked the Buck Run Trail at the park, not too long but with some steep spots, and it was still damp; we put on lots of bug spray. Instead of picnicking on the trail we went back to the bench at the park playground, under the shade of a tree, and ate and read our books there – including Nobunny’s Perfect and Ten Apples Up On Top, and had some “chocolate mintens”–and played on the swings and slide.

Since I’m no longer racing back to D&D&D (Dungeons & Dragons & Discipleship) in Indiana, I stopped at Bob Evans in Ohio–Rio Grande, first civilization after driving through the slow two-lane “valley of the shadow” part of US-35 in WV – and tried their strawberry salad, which was very good, and read a little.

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