The View From Down Here

I was laying in bed thinking about the Easter weekend coming up. Would this be the year I finally caught the Easter bunny? As I pondered that, my thoughts were interupted. It started Tuesday night. One of the sounds that scares me the most (behind the sound of a empty snausage bag, the vacuum, and the door bell) was heard. Dad had gone downstairs to pull out the luggage. This means one of two things, they are leaving me, or we are being entombed in that vehicle for 11 hours.

I start to freak out. As I watch mom and dad gather things for the trip, it’s now obvious to me. We’re moving. Why else would we need so much stuff! I’m also noticing a trend. For me, one bag. For Mom and Dad, two bags. For Eva, 8 bajillion. What a diva.

Thursday night we crawl into the car after being tortured for two days not knowing when it would happen. I of course call shot gun, and relegate dad to the back seat. I have to be able to see what’s going on you know. Mom keeps telling me to go to sleep, but I’m too wired. Where are we going? Are we there yet? Where are we going? Are we there yet? I have to pee.

After two weeks in the car (or 11 hours as dad claims), we finally arrive back in Iowa. Finally a chance to stretch the legs and get all sorts of love, being the favoritist granddog.

Guess who steals the show. The diva. I guess I’ll let it slide. It is her first time back here.

The next day we went over to our other grandparents house. Same story there too. That’s alright, I did some exploring while everyone was occupied. I snuck into the bedroom and found the easter baskets left by the easter bunny. Drat! I was too late! Oh well, let’s see what I got. I knocked one basket over. Sniff sniff. Not mine. Knocked over another. Then, found mine. A squeaky toy!

I walked out to the living room and was proud of myself. Dad asked if grandma gave me my toy early. Um, yes? Later, when everyone was in the room, they slowly figured out that none of them had actually given it to me. I guess we know who the smart one in the room is.

They place Eva on the floor. Tummy time they declare. They cheer her on to move a bit. Pfft. I’ve been walking since I was born. Besides, she’s playing it all wrong. I can roll. I wouldn’t do it unless I got a treat. She trying to do it for free.

A couple of days later we’re heading back. I’m exhausted, so I sleep most of the way back.

It wasn’t all that bad of a trip though. I got to pee on four states, and according to dog law, I now own those four states. Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Iowa are now mine, so President Obama and Governor Romney better stop talking about the economy and social issues and start focusing on the real issues of the day, mainly more walks, more snasauges, and less kids on scooters going by my house.

Diapers

Paper or plastic? Pepsi or Coke? Romney or Obama? Being a Vikings fan or sanity? These are some of the choices that people have to decide about these days. Raising a baby requires many choices as well, and one of the bigger choices is diapers.

Since she has stubbernly decided not be potty trained at birth (how selfish of her), diapers were needed right away. The hospital provided them at the start, but when we got home it was on us. What choice would we make?

The choice of diapers is between disposables and cloth. We try to be a bit green in our house, so on top of recycling plastic bags and drinking soda from cans instead of bottles* we researched cloth diapers. Now at the beginning I listed a number of choices. You may have looked at them and chose a third option. Canvas Bag, Store Brand Cola, not voting, or crazy Jets fan. Or no bag, RC Cola, Ron Paul or depressed Vikings fan. No matter how nice it is to put things into two choices, our choices in life are far more varied.

* Aluminium cans are 100% recyclable, bottles are 60%, this fact was provided by one of those “Did You Know” facts at the movie theater before the trailers started, so you know it’s reliable

Disposables themselves are a number of choices. Which brand? Natural? What kind of disposal system will you use? Cloth is even more nuanced. There are multiple different types of cloth diapers, some with inserts, other not. Are you going to use a service, or wash them yourselves?

Up until birth, our choice was a cloth diaper service. The benefits of cloth are numerous. It’s green(er) than disposable, cheaper, and we get to avoid washing gross diapers. We get a gold star, and I’m pretty sure that somewhere in Dayton they are naming a street after us for saving the planet. Since we didn’t know when we would need to start the service, we decided to wait to call until after we got home.

Those of you who have children know how this is going to turn out. Two days of using disposables at the hospital and two days at home (it was Christmas after all) was all we needed to change our mind.

Now wait a minute. Let’s make a chart. On the left, benefits of cloth, on the right, benefits of disposable:

Cheaper in the long run Less bulky
No plastic bags Everyone else is doing it
No chemicals
Less diaper rash
All natural fabrics
Fun patterns
Less waste for the landfill
Toilet train faster
Resizable

How could this happen? How could we be so weak? Well, we only needed to have one benefit on the disposable side to tip the scale to them.

So flipping easy

As first time parents, this benefit is the trump card. After a number of sleepless nights, the crying that isn’t easily diagonosed, and the overall feeling that someday your child will end up on a talk show explaining about how you ruined her life, you gravitate to the easy and known. Disposables. You used them at the hospital and they did the job. With everything else in your life in disarray, why change that horse mid stream?

After a while when the rest of life slows down, the star that is disposables begins to dim. What do you mean we’re out of diapers? Didn’t I buy them last week? What do you mean she’s out grown them? Oh, and we’re out of bags for the diaper pail again? Still, it’s easier, right? Right?

If it had been up to me, we’d still be rocking the disposables. I may pound out this post touting our greenest, but really I would have kept on disposing in the name of ease. What really happened was that I was pulled in reluctantly. I’m glad I was.

There are two more things you can add to the cloth diaper side. First, we have friends who’s daughter is a mear 5 months older than ours. They use cloth diapers. Add Peer Pressure to the list. Don’t get me wrong here. They applied no pressure what so ever. The pressure was self applied, in the form of “If they can do it, can’t we?” Secondly, and probably most importantly, they let us borrow a few sets to try out on our own. This let us test some different types of cloth diaper, and affirmed the answer to the previous question with “Yes, we can do this“.

So if you’re contemplating using cloth over disposable, feel free to ask for advice and know that “Yes, you can do it.”

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One little fun note, actually this entire post was generated for this. With the purchase of the diapers from this particular website, you received a free gift with your order. A bar of soap.

Yeah free stuff! You see the problem though, right? No? Well, let me add an object for scale:

Careful not to sneeze around it, lest it might fly away.

Eva Goes To Church

Everything is different with a baby in tow. I wrote about Eva’s day at work, and how she changed how I viewed my office. Would her presence at church be the same?

Eva has attended a number of services, but just in the last few weeks she’s way more cognizent of the proceedings. This particular Sunday is the first one where we bring her to church without her car seat.

We find our pew and sit down. Eva engages in her favorite past time: people watching. She marvels at the number of people that walk in and sit down. This is super cool.

The coolness ends when service starts, and nobody is walking anymore. She’s mildly entertained by the standing and sitting, but that’s just not as interesting. First the robed person says something, everyone says something back. She starts to lose interest…and patience.

For one of the songs, a duet meets in the back to sing it for the congregation. Eva, being a baby, is not being constricted by the social norms we adults have. She’s free to turn around to watch this duet…and join them. She sings a bar or two, and feels she’s accomplished what she set out to do. She’s tired now, and is starting to get figity. The tears may come at any second.

We sing a hymn, and Eva is happy again. Being surrounded in sound can be calming for a baby. This hymn is Halleluia Jesus Lives (why yes, it was post Easter), and the second verse speaks to Eva :

Jesus lives! Why do you weep?
Why that sad and mournful sigh?
He who died our Brother here
Lives our Brother still on high
Lives forever to bestow
Blessings on His church below

With this comfort in mind, she closes her eyes and takes a nap.

She missed out on the sermon, where she could have learned aliteration. We pondered Peter’s punchy preaching. Eva sleeps the rest of the service away. It’s hard for me to remember a time when this was all new, when the rhythms of a service were not predictable. Eva sleeps not out of boredom of repetition, rather out of learning too much. When was the last time I learned too much?

The next Sunday we are back at church, with the same rhythms. Robed person says something, the people respond. I wonder if she has noticed the pattern I noticed when I was young. If the priest says something long (like a prayer), the response is short (amen). If the priest says something short (“The next hymn is 248”), the response is long (the hymn).

This Sunday, Eva is more energetic. No longer content to sit, she wants to stand and look around. Look at all these people who have yet to tell me how cute I am!

One things does capture her attention. Mommy singing. She will stare and smile at mommy when she sings (as do many people). Mommy is singing to me.

The lyrics to the song are about God, but does Eva know that even though we are looking directly at her, the lyrics are not for her?

We praise you,
we bless you,
we adore you,
we glorify you,
we give you thanks for your great glory…

Now we sit for the homily. Those of you who’ve taken infants to church probably know this already, but I’ve noticed that I take in about a third of what I used to. This is because it is hard to hear and process the words when trying to quietly entertain an infant. Today’s homily is no different, but one thing catches my ear :

“we are all adopted into God’s kingdom”

As Eva sits the rest of the service, she notices a difference in this crowd of people. No one is smiling. Everywhere she goes, people are smiling, except at church. Is it because we can’t take something serious if we’re smiling? Regardless, Eva doesn’t care. She’s going to smile. After all, didn’t you hear, we’re ALL adopted into God’s kingdom. What’s better than that?

The man in the robe asks us to greet each other. Each congregant turns to their spouse, their family, and their pew neighbor to express their sentiments through word, with a kiss or hand shake, and with a smile. Smiles. There they are. Eva loves it.

There are things that you are good at in this world, and they change over time. I used to be a fantastic pots and pans guy at the retirement home I worked at in high school, and at one point in my life I could predict the coin toss in Madden. Eva is only months old, but already has many things she’s good at, including this one : if you smile and share your joy with her, she will return it back to you ten fold.

The service concludes and we gather up our things and go. Eva comes away from these two weekends with a growing sense of church. She loves the music, and she sees and experiences the power of community and shared experience at church. That, and she will look at me and say “People should smile more.”

3 Men and a Baby

In my Black Friday post, I forgot to mention the fatherhood training video I bought. I had watched it years ago, and since it was on sale I thought it would be good to pickup and take a refresher course. I’m talking about 3 Men and a Baby, staring Magnum P.I., Sam, and Mahoney.

I love Wikipedia. Did you know that Leonard Nimoy directed this masterpiece? (Yeah!) Did you know that Adam Sandler wants to make a remake with Chris Rock, David Spade and Rob Schneider? (Boo! Didn’t they make a crappy movie together called Grown-Ups?)

For those of you who have yet to see this masterpiece of cinema, here’s the synopsis. Three successful men live together. A baby is left at their door and the men try to care for the baby and struggle because, you know, they’re men. There’s a sub plot line where they are being persued by drug dealers and the police, but that’s not really important.

Here are the lessons that every new dad can learn from this instructional video :

Feed every two hours is confusing – This I can attest to. They read in the baby book that she’s supposed to eat every two hours. Is that from when you start, or when you finish? As a new dad, it felt like it had to be after she finished, but the real answer is from the start. Those first days it felt like all you did was feed, change, rock to sleep and repeat.

It’s the tone, not the words – They read her Sports Illustrated, specifically an article about boxers beating each other.
“The champ caught Smith with a savage left hook…”
“What are you reading her?”
“It doesn’t matter what I read, it’s the tone you use. She doesn’t understand the words anyway”

Stay at home mothers are underpaid
“She did a doodle; your turn to change her”
“I’ll give you a thousand dollars if you’ll do it.”

The awkwardness of nudity – Men and women have seperate locker rooms and seperate bathrooms. You’re raised to know not to touch or look at a nude person without consent. Then less than a hour after she is born, you are told to strip her down and wipe down their unmentionables. I’ll admit to awkwardness with this at first, as did the gentlemen in the movie.

(during a diaper change) “Peter, this is a girl. Should we be doing this?”

Formula is easily mistaken for drugs – There was an exchange where the drug dealers thought that the baby formula was the drugs. So, the lesson is: keep your drugs in seperate place than your formula so you don’t confuse the two.

Explosion triggers – When sleep deprived and out of sorts, a seemingly innocuous things like the location of the baby powder can cause an explosion.
“Where’d you put the baby powder?”
“Down the hall, I’ll get it”
“What’d you put it out there for? We’re bathing her in here”
“It’s just down the hall!”
“Well, we’re not bathing her in the hall, are we?”
“Well maybe we should START, godd****t!”
[Slams baby powder container on the pool table, causing powder to explode everywhere]

Sometimes the anger can go too far, be careful not to say anything you can’t take back :

“I hate the cello!”

It’s difficult to guess the age of a baby – When the baby arrives at the doorstop, they needed to acquire baby supplies. Unfortunately, they didn’t know the age of the baby. This led to missized diapers, multiple sets of bottles, and this fun exchange :

“The druggist said you can tell how old she is by feeling her teeth”
“I can’t feel anything”
“What does that mean?”
“It means she doesn’t have any d*** teeth!”
“Well, neither did Gabby Hayes and he was 90, so what?”

The lost look at the store – When arriving at the store to buy emergency baby supplies, he turned the corner to the baby aisle. Shelf upon shelf of formulas, bottles, baby food, etc. It reminded me of my first trip to ‘R Us. The first row was just safety items. Hundreds of safety items. What had we got ourselves into?!

I’m old – I mention this movie to a friend, talking about how much more funny it is now that I have a child. She had never heard of it. I’m old. A good way to look at it is that the baby in that movie is probably 26 years old right now.

Belly No-No – There is a scene where they wake in the middle of the night to sirens and jump to protect the baby. The camera goes to the baby, and she is sleeping on her belly. Ahh! Don’t they know Back is Best! Just reminds you how much things have changed.

Dinner Theater

A few Fridays ago, Steph and I had a date night. We went and saw “Titanic : The Musical” at the local dinner theater (La Comedia for those of you local to the area). Let me tell you, it was a disaster. (ba da dum ching)

The meal was a buffett, and the food was very good. It was nice to get a night away, even if the musical left me with a sinking feeling (ba da dum ching)

The musical was about this boat called Titanic, and ….. sorry, I don’t want to spoil the ending for you. (ba da dum ching)

OK, so I’m being little silly here. While we did enjoy our night out, that’s not the dinner theater I wanted to talk about. Lately, Eva is distracted while eating. She’s at the point now where she can see better, and understands what is going on around her. The bottle is her dinner and the world is her theater….and it’s flipping annoying!

See, the time where she eats is also daddy decompress time. I get to sit down, not worry about much other than making sure the bottle is in the correct spot, and relax. She’s satisfied, and daddy is happy.

Eva has expanded her horizons though. She wants to see what’s going on, who’s in the room, etc. If you are moving around, you must be doing something more interesting than eating.

I thought we had a deal. I provide food, you eat the food and are happy and content. You broke the deal. Are you also going to go back on our other deals, to root for the Twins and not date until you are 22? Is it unreasonable for me to make deals with two month olds?

Daycare won’t look at her when she’s eating. That sounds cruel, but she can be so engaging that even looking at her will stop her from eating. What, you’re looking at me? Let’s play! I blame this on Quinton, who has a similar reaction to you sitting on the floor. Obviously the only reason to sit on the floor is to play fetch.

Our solution right now is end the theater. No one else in the room, or at least not moving. This works…mostly. Thing is, she’s growing up. Her main thoughts now aren’t “Where am I?” or “Am I safe?”, but “What’s that?”, or most specifically “I wonder what that tastes like”.

Eva has responded by saying “Mmpf”.

Will.I.Have

One of the things that you gain when you become a parent is a stake in the future. That is, a future past your due date. Since Steph and I agreed that we should go at the same time, it really didn’t matter as much what happens after that. Now we have our little girl to think about, and it’s time that we took that last step into adulthood*. We need a will.

* For the record, these are the steps into adulthood : Get a job, live on your own (or with a significant other, frat house doesn’t count), save for your retirement, have a conversation where you say “these kids today”, had a moment where you can’t remember how old you are, make a will.

Please hold for a public service announcement

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PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT
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If you have a child, you need awill, but maybe not for the reason you think. Our main concern was where she would go if Steph and I were hit by the preverbrial bus. Did you know (at least here in Ohio) that if I died, the house would go to Steph AND Eva? Even split. If Steph sold the house (presumably to move in with her new hubbie Josh Groban), half of the earnings from the house would be Eva’s and would need to be put into a trust. Get a will so your wife will have less trouble moving in with Josh Groban.

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END OF ANNOUNCEMENT
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So making a will should be easy, right? First question, read to me on the drive home: How do you want your remains handled? (Carefully, I suppose.) Where do you want to be buried? Hmm. I lived in Cedar Falls for 23 years, became my own person in Omaha, and adopted Eva here in Ohio. What takes precedent? How will my opinion on this change in five years? This is tougher than I thought.

So, I did what I usually do with tough work. I put it on the kitchen table and forgot about it. That’s where the worksheet sat for a few weeks until Steph prodded me to finish my part. The rest of the worksheet wasn’t as tough, as long as you have an idea of who you’d like your child to go to, where your estate should go, and who you trust to handle it.

There was one thing that was kind of hard to choose. We have our estate going to our kid(s), and you can set it up so that they won’t get the estate until they reach a certain age. This is to prevent the child from not establishing themselves and just living off your estate. I’d like to think that I’d be responsible with that at 22, but 22 year old me probably would have bought a really nice TV and season tickets to something. So, what age is appropriate? We chose 30, but who knows.

Anyway, I recommend getting a will. We are.

Adoption in the News

When we took our adoption classes, we were told that 80% (or was it 90%) of people approve of adoption. I wondered why not 100%? Here’s the reasons I could think of :

1. Someone could equate adoption with foster care (similar, but not the same). They may have, or know someone who had their kids put into to foster care, which causes all sorts of hard feelings.

2. Stories like the man in Ohio who adopted a number of children only to abuse them, passes a bad light on adoption

3. Some people have strong feelings on bloodlines, that nothing is more important than blood.

4. Perhaps some pushback on the number of celebrity adoption stories, like Angelina Jolie and Madonna. Perhaps you might not approve because you’d hate to agree with Madonna? (a reach, I suppose)

Well, I have a fifth reason now. Forced adoptions. This story I found on Yahoo was a sad one to read. Children taken from mothers knowingly (and unknowingly) all because of how someone defines what a good family is. Anyone who’s been affected by this will almost definately have trepidation about adoption.

We feel strongly that our daughter was brought to us by God, albeit through unconventional means. What shocks me is how these trusted people played God themselves, determining the parents of a child against their own standards. It’s a slippery slope. One person may find a single mother unfit, the next may find that we’re unfit because we both work. It’s a terrible story, and I’m glad that it’s been brought to light.

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Openness is adoption is the new norm

This is not a surprise to us, as we are one of 55% of adoptive families that have a fully open relationship with their birth parents. In fact, only 5% of adoptions are considered fully closed, the other 40% sending pictures/letters through an intermitterary.

The thing that made me think a little bit is the inverse trends over time of wanting contact between the two parties. Especially for the adopted child, the older they get, the more contact they’d likely want to have. Yet, interest usually diminishes for the birth parents over time. It should be interesting how our relationship with our birth parents evolves over the years.

I know you’re adoptive, but what am I

I’m a sports fan, and I like to wear shirts and hats of my favorite teams, whether its the Minnesota Twins, or my alma mater, University of Northern Iowa. Sometimes I’ll be walking around and someone who happens to also be a fan will stop and say something. My favorite now is when someone stops and asks if Northern Iowa is the same team that beat Kansas in the NCAA tournament a few years ago (yep!). It’s refreshing to meet a fellow fan in this sea of scarlett and gray that is Ohio. (Although, here you’ll run into Bengals and Reds fans. In Nebraska is was all red. They gave you a Cornhusker Flag when you crossed the border, and told you the nearest place to buy a red truck.)

We ate at a Fazoli’s one day, and there was a family sitting a table. Mom, Dad, and their two daughters were eating their fast, fresh, italian. I looked at them, and wanted to go talk to them. I knew that this was an adoptive family, and I wanted to say, “Us Too! Isn’t this great!” I didn’t. We ordered, and let them eat in peace.

I didn’t know them. I hadn’t met them before, but I knew they were adoptive. Why? Because both of their girls were oriental, and they weren’t. It’s an interesting situation. I wanted to connect to them on a level of similarity, and was making this connection because of their differences. Looking at it a different way, I wanted to say hey to them based off their looks.

Now, in the grand scheme of things, they probably wouldn’t want their meal disturbed, just like any other family wouldn’t, but isn’t this situation different? Maybe worse? “Hi, I noticed that you don’t all look the same, so you must be adopted. I’m an adoptive parent too.” Eek. Terrible introduction.

They will always be spottable as an adoptive family. We will not. Eva looks like us. Sure, she may have reddish hair, and her cute nose doesn’t match ours, but she looks like us. When random strangers tell you that her eyes look like yours, or she’s cute just like her mother, how do you respond? Thank them, because those statements are technically correct, or correct them on their likely misconception that the matches are due to biology?

We are not ashamed of our family. We’re actually rather proud of our adoptive family. (With this blog, I’ve written more about our adoption than I have anything else). We won’t hide it, but we won’t project it either. When a stranger makes a comment thats correct, but probably made on the assumption of biology, we tend to smile and say “Thank You”.

The main reason we say “Thank You” is that adoption is not a throwaway topic. If someone assumed that I grew up here in Ohio and I corrected them in saying I grew up in Iowa, I wouldn’t have to explain the differences between growing up in the two places. They’d say “OK”, and continue on with their day. When you mention adoption to someone, they typically can’t just say “OK” and walk away. All they wanted to do is complement our beautiful baby and now they are stuck having to make sure they didn’t offend us with the comment (which they didn’t), and then either show support for what we did, or pretend so. I’m not in the business of trapping people who only wanted to complement our baby.

So, with that in mind, I won’t trap that Fazolis family. There are better ways of connecting with adoptive families. We have bi-yearly meet ups with class members of our adoption class if I’m so inclined. Plus, you don’t have to be an adoptive family to be supportive or helpful. Besides, right now the things we need to talk about are not adoption related, just parenting related, and we know plenty of parents. Even if we didn’t meet them at a Fazolis.

Bouncer

We received a bouncer for Eva as a gift. Once assembled, I took it downstairs. We’d bring it up when she was old enough to use it. As I walked down the stairs awkwardly, I pictured tumbling down the stairs being impaled by this crazy thing, and what my tombstone would say.

“Here lies Scott, killed by a bouncer”

“No, a bouncer for a baby”

“No, a baby bouncer”

 

 

 

OK, a Baby Einstein Musical Motion 2 in 1 Stationary Jumper & Entertainer

 

When Two (Adoption Focus)

When writing the “When Two” post, I omitted some big elements of the decision. The fact that we are an adoptive family does add a few major elements to the decision process.

1. Money

First, we haven’t yet paid off the costs of the first adoption (I don’t mean to make this sound like waiting to buy a car after you’ve finished paying off the first, but it’s a reality). It’s a significant amount, so you can’t make the decision lightly. Plus, if the tax credit goes away, that makes it even more difficult.

2. Certification Expiration

If we submit our profile books within two years, all of our certifications will still be valid and won’t have to be redone. This is great because we wouldn’t have to pay for the home inspection, etc., and wouldn’t need to reattend the state parenting classes.

3. The Longer Wait

Let’s say you have tickets to Wicked, but can’t attend. You send an e-mail out to see who wants them and two people reply. First there is Adrian, who you know saw it last year. The other person is Toby, and he hasn’t seen it yet. Who are you more likely to give them to? Probably Toby, who hasn’t seen it yet. Same with adoption. Birthparents are more likely to make an adoption plan with a couple without children. Thus, the wait for parents with children is longer than for first time parents. It’s hard to resist the idea of “saving” a couple from a childless existence, easy to resist “saving” them from an only one child existence. I don’t know if this is true, but I would imagine the wait is even longer for families that have some biological children, as I imagine that birthparents would fear that their child would be treated differently.

Regardless the reasons, it is typical that parents with children will wait longer than childless couples. So, perhaps you submit your profile book early in anticipation of this? There’s risk there, as it still can happen at any moment.

4. The relationship with your child’s birthparents

You may be ready to add to your family, but this might make relations with your child’s birthparents different. Up until now, you’ve spent your entire focus on their child, but now you’ll be spliting your focus with another child. It also could become a problem if..

5. The time you have to visit with birthparents is split

With a second child, you’re visiting with twice the birthparents, sending out twice as many pictures, etc. This may strain those relationships, but you also have to account for the time it takes from your schedule.