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Expressing His Independence

21 Apr


The Bird rarely spits up. In his four and a half months, he’s spit up only around 10 times. Maybe 15. At least half of these occurrences have taken place minutes after someone asked us, “Does he spit up much?” and we have answered, “Hardly ever.”

I’m fairly confident he doesn’t speak
English yet … but these events make me wonder. They also concern me. If this is the Bird expressing his independence to prove us wrong, we’re in trouble later.

“Does he make good grades?” a coworker might ask one of us.

“Straight As,” we’ll answer just before he comes home with a failing report card.

“Is he well behaved?” someone will ask.

“He’s a very good boy,” we’ll reply even as he’s being given a suspension notice at that very instant.

“Is he good with the dog,” an animal-loving friend will inquire.

“Oh yes,” we’ll say as Casey comes into the room with a large chunk of missing fur.

Or maybe he just had to spit up.

What We Learned from Parenting Books

17 Apr

Like all parents, Don and I bought, downloaded and borrowed a myriad of parenting books. You’ll note that I did not say we read these books, only that we obtained them.

This is because:

1. We have an infant. There is no time for reading about him. We are too tired to read and would rather gaze upon him than read anyway. And also,

2. They are sort-of pointless.

When my friend and new mom Karen shared the Portalandia clip above with me, I laughed for five minutes.

“Ryan, did you actually read the book?”

“Of course I read the book!”

No one reads the books.

Actually, we did read a little bit of all the books.  About three pages or so. I’m pretty sure that makes me an expert at parenting techniques so I thought I would share my wisdom with you and save you the trouble of acquiring these books yourself. Unless you want them to fool people into thinking you are well read on the subject of your baby’s development and want to place them in strategic locations around the house. In that case, by all means purchase a few. Don’t forget to leave one open on the coffee table for unexpected visitors.

Let’s start with the book above, Your Baby’s First Year Week by Week. In this book we learn that every week your baby will do things things radically different than the week before. For example, in week one your baby will focus on objects 8 – 12 inches away and in week two your baby will stare at objects 8 – 12 inches away. Wow. It’s crazy, right? I didn’t make that up; it’s in the book.

In Baby 411 we learn that all parents have questions. In fact, all parents have the same questions. For example: “My baby usually poops with every feeding. Now he hasn’t gone in 24 hours. Is he constipated?” The answer, I am both happy and sad to tell you, is no. Turns out constipation in infants is determined by the consistency of the output, not the frequency. That’s why as a new parent you will spend far too much time thinking about poop. People who don’t have children think that they will never be that parent. But you will. It’s inevitable. And really, you won’t even care.

I read my three pages of What to Expect the First Year on the plane ride to California to collect the Bird. I read those three pages for six hours because it was hard to concentrate for some reason. Therefore I am an extreme expert on pages 49  and 54-55. In the edition of the book we have those are the pages on infant reflexes (bottom line: he has them) and bottle feeding. I got to skip over pages 50 – 53 since those were the pages on breast feeding. Skipping pages was exciting to me. I felt like I had been promoted a grade in school. I stopped reading when I realized a HUGE portion of the bottle feeding section was about sterilizing the bottles and I had no idea how we might accomplish that in a hotel room. I mean, I’ve seen the “Dateline” specials. Nothing about hotel rooms is sterile.

For reasons we didn’t fully understand, we knew we would be swaddling the Bird from birth until he started Kindergarten. We knew it was valuable, we just didn’t know why. That’s why I checked out a copy of Happiest Baby on the Block at the library. A note about checking out library books as the parent of a newborn: Don’t do it. In my sleep deprived state, the book languished on a side table in the living room for weeks after I learned all I needed from it and I never made it back to the library to return it. The overdue fee would have paid for a new copy on Amazon, I think. Plus, you don’t even need this book because I am going  to tell everything you need to know. If your baby is fussy, turn him on his side and make a loud SHHHH sound. It sounds horribly cruel – like a really mean librarian. But honest to Pampers it works. We were already swaddling so we didn’t learn anything new about that, but the shushing was helpful when the Bird turned 6 weeks old and went crazy. I even downloaded a shushing app for my phone because I was getting dry mouth.

We put copies of Dr. Spock’s Baby and Childcare on our Kindles. Every time I have turned on my Kindle since December 13 I have fallen asleep so I can’t tell you much about this one. Nonetheless, I still feel I can offer two pieces of expert advice on this book having tried to read it a dozen times. 1. It’s an excellent sleep aid and 2.  Your parents read an earlier edition of this book and look how you turned out. Interpret that in any way you like.

Finally, I was excited to learn that Cindy Crawford wrote the forward for Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. Did you know she was a correspondent for “Good Morning, America”? I didn’t either until I read this book. See how much I learned? Actually, along with Happiest Baby on the Block, this book has been helpful even though I read so little of it. We started putting the Bird to bed earlier and even though it hasn’t stopped him from waking up twice a night to eat, we get a little more rest because of it. We had been putting him to bed between 9 and 10 p.m. when he fell asleep and he would wake up at 1 a.m. for a bottle. Now we put him into his crib at 8 p.m. and he coos to himself for 10 – 20 minutes before drifting off. He sometimes still wakes us up at 1 a.m., but we have an extra two hours of down time.

I think those are all the books I “read” to gain my expert parent status. Do you have a parenting book you would like me to review? I won’t actually read it, but I will be happy to read ABOUT it on Amazon and then tell you everything you need to know.

Monthly Photos: One Month

28 Jan

We took this photo way back on January 10 when our little bird turned one month old, but there’s a fair amount of Photoshop involved here so it took us this long to finish the edit. Please pardon our tardiness. We’ll try to be more prompt with the two month photo.

You can see a larger version of the photo here.

The goal is to take a picture of the Bird each month on the same chair with the same stuffed Casey toy and then put it on this chalkboard background with some type of fun facts about his development that month for the first year. It’s pretty easy right now when he’ll do just about anything we want … but I think it will be a challenge as he becomes more mobile. Wish us luck.

Did you document your baby’s first year? Remember those monthly onesies I made for Jaimie?

Spoiler Alert: Call Me Mommy

31 Dec

If you have not heard the news by now, there’s no point in dragging it out.

Don and I are the proud, excited, exhausted and overwhelmed parents of a tiny and perfect boy. Our little bird arrived on December 10, but we didn’t know about him for about 36 hours. When  we did find out about him, we had a to jump on a plane and travel clear across the country to meet him.

The minute he was placed in my arms, I melted. I mean, look at this face. Who wouldn’t melt?

Seriously. This was my first look at him. I took the picture about 4 minutes after I first held him. I was still holding him when I took it. He’s so beautiful. And calm. And peaceful. Totally, 100 percent in love.

The next three weeks were a whirlwind for all three of us (and I’ll tell you all about it in future posts), but we’re happy and healthy and home.

Thank you for your love and support. Stay tuned to hear the story of how we filled our nest.

And Happy New Year to you. It was tough year in so many ways, but for our family it ended on a sweet note. I hope your family will also receive joy and happiness in the year ahead.

40 weeks and counting

24 Jul

Source: via Katie on Pinterest


A typical pregnancy last 40 weeks – nine full months. A typical adoption lasts a lot longer.

Case in point, 40 weeks ago today we had the first of three meetings with a social worker required for our home study. We had been working on an adoption plan for a long time before we even got to that point.

Here’s a look our timeline to date:

Summer of 2010 – Attended three open houses for local agencies that provide home study services.

Fall of 2010 – Bought our first home and selected our home study agency. Put further progress on hold as we began home renovation projects

Spring 2011 – Decide to begin working on adoption in July despite on-going renovation efforts

August 2011 – Met with adoption attorney to learn more about independent / parent-placed adoptions, met with Datz Foundation and started paperwork

September 30, 2011 – Submitted application and first round of paperwork to Datz Foundation

October 13, 2011 – Realize application was lost in the mail

October 14, 2011 – Resubmitted application electronically

October 21, 2011 – First home study interview

November 1, 2011 – Second home study interview

November 15, 2011 – Third and final home study interview

(and between September 30 and November 15, we did a whole bunch of other required tasks like getting fingerprinted, lining up our letters of reference, getting our state background checks, submitting to a FBI clearance and getting medical exams.)

November 19, 2011 – Attended American Adoptions open house in Northern Virginia

November 28, 2011 – Applied to American Adoptions, and began APQ process

November 30, 2011 – Home study draft received, and changes submitted

December 4, 2011 – Completed home study arrives in the mail

December 5, 2011 – Launched our independent adoption profile website and ordered adoption business cards (actually 4 x 6 photo prints)

January 2012 – Completed our APQ and began the process of planning our family profile

April 16, 2012 – Family profile completed

May 2, 2012 – Signed activation contract with American Adoptions and paid the hefty $10,000 activation fee

June 4, 2012 – Profile live on site and being shown to birth moms

July 2012 – Working on adoption video profile

July 12, 2012 – While on the phone about something else, adoption specialist mentions that our profile has been shown 24 times

July 24, 2012 – Wrote this post

So there you have it. It’s been two years since the day we went to our first adoption open house, about a year since we started getting serious about it and 40 weeks since we became actively engaged in the process. In short, long enough to have given birth to two children if that was the route we had decided to take.

Adoption is not easy. It takes a long time. It’s emotional. There is more paperwork than you can imagine. It’s expensive.

And it’s going to be worth every minute, every paper cut, every dollar and every tear.

Even Golfers Who Wear the Green Jacket Can’t Skirt Adoption Laws

23 Apr

Uhm, I’m seriously overdue in mentioning this and probably everyone in the world already knows about it.

The golfer who won the Masters in Augusta, Ga. earlier this month is the brand new dad to an adopted son named Caleb.

Photo courtesy of c r z
I got your ball, daddy!
courtesy of c r z

Bubba Watson and his wife Angie started the process to adopt about four years ago and on March 22 of this year they received a call that they had been chosen to parent a one month old baby living in Florida. At the time of the call Bubba was getting ready for the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando. They couple headed down to South Florida to meet their son a few days later.

But as luck would have it, Bubba had to turn around and head up to Georgia almost immediately to compete in the biggest tournament of his life.  Readers who are involved in the world of adoption must know that Angie and Caleb were not allowed to go with him.

Why? The ICPC of course.

ICPC is the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children. It’s a law in place in all 50 states, DC and the Virgin Islands that governs the placement of children from one state to another. In short, it means that the child’s origin state and the home state of the  adoptive parents must first sign off on all paperwork to acknowledge the child will be leaving one state and headed to the other in the custody of the adoptive parents. Until all this paperwork is completed the adoptive parents must remain in the child’s home state.

That’s why Bubba had to head to Georgia alone; one parent was required to remain in Florida with Caleb until the ICPC period was over. This usually takes between 7 – 14 days.

So, let’s say that Don and I adopt a baby who is born in Florida. We’re allowed to go anywhere in the state of Florida during the ICPC (say, to visit Grandma and Grandpa W in Miami), but we can’t come back to Virginia until Florida and Virginia agree that we can move the child across state lines. During the ICPC period most people stay in extended stay hotels with little mini kitchens, though. The likelihood of finding your child in the same state as people willing to let you move in with an infant for two weeks is very slim.

Where did you spend your ICPC waiting period? How long were you there? Are you willing to let Don and I crash at your place with a brand new baby if we adopt from your state?

(One last thing – you can read more about Bubba, Angie and Caleb in People magazine online.)

I Just Haven’t Met You Yet

13 Apr

For a whole bunch of reasons, I’m feeling anxious today. It mostly has nothing to do with the adoption.

Well, I guess that’s not entirely true. I think when you reach a certain point in the game EVERYTHING is about the adoption.

We’re so so so close to activating, but there’s still one outstanding piece of paperwork and then we’re live on the site and waiting to meet our birth mom and our baby.

And I know someday that it’ll all turn out
You’ll make me work, so we can work to work it out
And I promise you, kid, that I give so much more than I get
I just haven’t met you yet

I might have to wait, I’ll never give up
I guess it’s half timing, and the other half’s luck
Wherever you are, whenever it’s right
You’ll come out of nowhere and into my life

Yeah, I have Michael Buble on a playlist. So what?

Our baby is coming. I don’t know when, but I can’t wait.


We Won a Baby Book!

27 Mar

Somewhere in my parents’ house, there is a baby book. It’s has a yellow cloth cover and several cards stuffed in the back, but it’s mostly empty. My mom and dad didn’t meet me until I was eight months old, tw0-thirds of the way through my first year.

Truthfully, I know plenty of   people who have yet to fill in a single page of the books they bought for their own babies so this is not something unique to adopted kids. However, there are pages and pages in the typical baby book that don’t really tell the whole story when it comes to adoption.

I should I have assumed that some enterprising folks out there would remedy that situation.

A few weeks ago our agency announced on Twitter that it would give away one copy of an adoption-specific baby book to someone who re-tweeted them. I did, and I won.

The book is really cute. Here are some photographs of the pages in the book that are different than the traditional baby books you’ve seen on the market.

All the requisite stuff is there with spots for highlights and firsts, but there are also pages about the match (when and how it happened) and the birth family. There’s also a page where you can explain why you chose adoption and a page to describe what the waiting was like. Instead of baby’s first year or baby’s first birthday, the language is written more carefully to fit a variety of circumstances  like “Your First Birthday with Us”. I think it’s unlikely that someone who adopts a 5-year old is going to want a baby book, but it’s entirely believable that people who complete international adoptions and bring home children just slightly over a year old would enjoy the tradition.

The best page in the book comes right after “Your First Year With Us”. It’s titled “Your Adoption Day”.

It might be a long time before we can use that book. In fact, if the experience of other moms and dads we know is a guide, we may never use the book. But I’m glad to know that if we’re so inclined there is a book tailor-made to the unique way our family will be made.

Did you fill out your child’s baby book? Did you have an adoption-specific book?

Made to Feel Guilty About the Status of Our Fertility

13 Feb

Photo courtesy of VirtualErn
And in one moment…
courtesy of VirtualErn

The application for our placement agency includes a long section of essay questions and five of the 24 questions are about how we’ve managed to work through our infertility.

Which is hard for us to answer because, you know, that’s not our situation.

Quick review for the newcomers. I have an auto-immune condition in my retina. To protect my vision I take a mild form of chemotherapy that suppresses my immune system but causes miscarriages and birth defects. I will likely have to keep up this course of treatment for the next decade at which time I’ll be in my mid-40s. So … adoption it is.

The fact of the matter is that most people who adopt have tried without success to conceive. Sadly, infertility affects 7 million American women (about 12 percent of the female population of child-bearing age). A lot of the adoption blogs I read are actually about both adoption and infertility since they often go hand in hand.

But not always. Sometime single people adopt. Sometimes same sex couples adopt. Sometimes people with hereditary medical conditions adopt. It’s easy to forget that we’re not the lone fertile people in the world of adoption when you consider how much of the content is geared toward couples working through fertility issues. There are even agencies who won’t accept couples like us, agencies that only help people who have struggled with infertility.

I alternate between feeling sad / mad / excluded, and feeling guilty that I have to work at NOT getting pregnant.

Take those five essay questions about infertility. There’s not a question about your ability (or lack thereof) to conceive. There’s an assumption. What have you done to deal with your infertility? What has been the hardest thing to cope with? Have you had the opportunity to close the door on other attempts to become parents?

I didn’t even have the opportunity to open the door.

And that’s okay. But it would be nice if I didn’t feel like I constantly have to defend our decision. You know how people always tell you that most of the time when you think you’re being judged, it’s all in your head? Well, in this case, it’s really not.

It’s not just the agencies that make me feel bad; sometimes it’s the other hopeful adoptive parents. Please – please – know that most people I encounter are kind and nice and not at all judgey … but sometimes I read forum posts like this one that make me feel really bad. Thankfully most of the respondents jump to the defense of people like me / couples like us, but the point is made. Some people engaged in this process don’t think I should qualify to adopt a healthy infant and that breaks my heart a little bit. Thankfully it’s a minority of people who feel that way, but it’s not exactly isolated.

Here’s another post in which the question about fertility is posed and there’s a lot discussion on both sides, with most people saying everyone should be allowed to adopt without prejudice and some people saying things like, “I do kind of think that childless couples who are infertile should be considered first and foremost and their profiles should be shown first.” Another person says that she doesn’t understand why a Caucasian couple who is not infertile would want to adopt a Caucasian baby when the wait is so long and there are people who are infertile waiting for those children – but she doesn’t think there should be a law about it or anything. Well, that’s good. At least she doesn’t want to legislate us out of the system (although, in fairness, since we’re open to children of mixed race heritage maybe she’s not talking about us specifically).

At any rate, it’s not something I spend tons of time dwelling on – we’re happy to have found an agency that doesn’t require infertility and I know there’s a birth mom out there who won’t care either. It’s just that occasionally, like while filling out our essay questions, it crosses my mind and stirs up these icky feelings.

Do you think that couples who are infertile should be given priority over people who are choosing adoption for other reasons? Do you think it shouldn’t matter WHY people are adopting as long as they can provide a stable, loving home?

The Decor, the Game and the Favor Bags

8 Feb

I think this is my last baby shower post. Thanks for hanging in with me guys.

To recap:
For our Book Worm Baby Shower, there were invitations, there was food, there were onesies (not actually book worm-themed) and there were Hershey Kisses.

Today we’re going to take a look at the decor, plus reveal Katy’s fun game and cute favors.

First the decor. Back in early December when I scored those Hershey Kisses for 70 percent off, I also found this great Hanukkah banner on super sale. It was a semi-DIY kit – the ribbon, blue circles and white circles are all separate pieces. There were also felt letter that I discarded. I printed out new letters to spell out BABY and Jaimie and Dean’s last name (you’ll have to use your imagination on the image below since I had to block out the last name to respect their privacy).

Here’s a closer look:

The mantle also sports those cute little blue tissue paper puffs. Here’s a tutorial from Pinterest, or you can do what I did and buy the kit from Martha Stewart. When I first looked at a tutorial (I’m not sure if it was that one or another one), it seemed kind of confusing. Now that I have done it from the MS kit,  I know it’s actually pretty easy and if I ever have to do it again I will start from scratch (and make them bigger).

Here’s a look at the table centerpiece:

It’s pretty simply – just a couple of white flowers in a square-ish vase on top of a small pile of children’s books. I was inspired by the awesome book themed party I saw on Pinterest.

Now, on to the games and swag. Cooking and decor is a lot easier for me than games, so when Katy offered to pitch in I gladly took her up on the offer. As you may remember, Katy is herself a new mom (I couldn’t help but link here and above to different pictures of Katy’s cute little man).

Well, when it came to the party game, Katy rocked it! She came up with Kiddo Catch Phrase, a game in which (much like the real Catch Phrase) teams compete to see how long it takes them to guess 20 correct answers in a randomly assigned category. In keeping with our literary themed shower, Katy came up with appropriate categories like fairy tales and nursery rhymes (my team was assigned fairy tales). Katy started the timer and handed the first person a card, then you had to get your teammates to guess what was on the card without saying any of the words on it. So for example, one of my cards read “Puss in Boots” and I gave the clue, “It’s a cat who wears shoes.”

Some of them were so hard and I was really impressed with the teams who had super heroes and nursery rhymes. It was also funny to see who knew some of the more obscure things like “Wee Willy Winkie”. Katy’s mom is a recently retired librarian so I bet she was very proud of Katy for coming up with this game – especially since it required making something like 120 unique cards and knowing what all of those things were so she could help us out (which she did pretty liberally – thanks, Katy!).

Here’s the sign she made for the game:

Can you tell what the pictures are on the outside edges of the poster? They’re little cards / stickers depicting The Cat and the Fiddle nursery rhyme. Here’s a closer shot:

I think everyone really liked the game … and you just never know with this things. No one wants to smell and taste any more melted candy in baby diapers, right?

Katy also put together the darling little favor bags with our Hershey Kisses and these cute little notebooks that look like a library collection:

Yup. That pictures says it all: Thanks Katy!

Okay – back soon with actual adoption stuff.