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Monthly Photos: Six Months

17 Jun

Late as usual, but totally worth it I think. The Bird was six months old on June 10. He is so darling that it almost makes us think we could have another baby (don’t get too excited, grandparents). Then we remember that we probably wouldn’t be so lucky next time. The adoption process could be much harder OR we could just have a crankier baby, or a baby who is not a good sleeper, or one who has colic.

You can see the full size picture here.

The Bird is getting extremely active. This month he fell in love with his Johnny Jump-Up. It hangs from the door in the kitchen and we created a playlist that amuses us. Among the selections:

Jump – Kris Kross

Jump Around – House of Pain

Jump – Van Halen

Brown Derby Jump – Cherry Poppin’ Daddies

One Jump Ahead – Aladdin soundtrack

We love to watch him in that thing and it makes us wish they made an adult-sized version for us. We could build one like this:

He can also roll over like a champ – sometimes both ways, but usually just onto his stomach. That’s his preferred method of sleeping now, much to Don’s dismay.

In other news, I have REALLY REALLY awful poison ivy. Or oak. Or sumac. Or, apparently, even Virginia Creeper.



Monthly Photos: Five Months

18 May

Gosh, a five-month-old kiddo keeps one busy. I just realized the last post I wrote was his four month post.

This was a big month for our little guy.

The weather finally warmed up so the Bird got to spend more time outside. We went on a boat cruise on the Potomac River. He went to several playgrounds and took a turn in the baby swings. Our whole family (including Casey) participated in a charity 5K for the Animal Welfare League of Arlington. Back at home there were some significant milestones as well. The Bird tried rice cereal several times and wasn’t too impressed. He also rolled over twice. In fairness, his play mat was half on and half off the carpet so Don thinks the Bird had an unfair advantage.

Here’s the larger version of the Bird’s five-month photo if you want to see it.

One day I’ll have to write a post with some of the outtakes from these photo shoots. There are some good ones.

Monthly Photos: Four Months

22 Apr

I can’t believe it’s been four months since we got the call that The Bird had arrived and we’d been selected as his very lucky parents. Although it was starting to happen in his three month picture, this month it’s safe to say that our little bird has crossed the threshold from newborn to baby. Take a look at our happy boy.

You can view the full size photo here.

This month we decided to list some of the places Harris has visited in his short life.

  • We went to Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf when we were in California during our ICPC stay. Suzanne and Trish were with us and Tori was working over at Alcatraz. We could, of course, see Alcatraz from Pier 39 so we we waved and took pictures.
  • Way back in January we had a warm spell. Dean and I took Hayden and Harris to the zoo. I actually went ahead and became a member of Friends of the National Zoo that day so I expect we’ll be back a few more times before next January.
  • The Bird has been to Baltimore a lot, unfortunately. He normally has to come with me when I go for my eye check ups at Hopkins. Poor kid. He’s been there so much he might end up with a Maryland accent.
  • We went to visit Grammy and Granddaddy in Ocean City for my mom’s birthday in March. The Bird even went to Assateague  Island for the first time, but it was too cold so he slept in the car with Grammy while Casey ran off some puppy energy on the beach.
  • When Grandma and Abuelo visited in earl April we went to Washington Nationals game (we won!) and took in the cherry blossoms at the National Arboretum. The Arboretum was packed, but we got some nice pictures.
What have you been up to this spring? Any baseball game or blossom peeping for you?

Monthly Photos: Three Months

19 Mar

The Bird is three months old as of March 10. While he doesn’t see the pediatrician again until next month, we put him on the postage scale to get his weight this month.

You can see the larger version of this image here.

Little man is closing in on 14 lbs which means he’s nearly doubled his post-birth weight (he was 7 lbs, 7 oz at birth, but 7 lbs even when we took him home).  He giggles and chats a lot, but he still loves to sleep.

Today is the last day of my maternity leave, and Don starts his paternity leave tomorrow. Good luck, Daddy!

Monthly Photos: Two Months

14 Feb

Our little bird was two months old on February 10. He’s an absolute delight. He’s pretty happy all the time now that we have more or less figured out the right formula for him. He takes after his mother with his champagne tastes; his preferred formula is pre-mixed Alimentum, the most expensive formula possible (of course).

You can see a larger version of the photo here.

I am still on maternity leave for another 5 weeks (almost). We have settled into our little routine. On Mondays we go to the Under One story hour at the library. On Tuesdays we have Mom and Baby Yoga. Sometime we rush from yoga to a new mom’s group at the hospital in the next town. Every other Wednesday we go to a new mom’s group at the hospital right down the street. On Thursdays and Fridays we try to have lunch with friends.

Don gets home from work around 7 p.m. – just as the Bird is finishing up his cranky hour (of course). We have family time for a bit, and then the Bird goes to bed between 8 and 8:30. He sleeps for a long time during his first night shift. Once as long as 9 1/2 hours (!), but usually between 6 and 7 hours. His second sleep lasts about 4 hours.

We just love him to bits.

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?

Cha Cha Cha

2 Oct

After our profile was posted, the agency instructed us to keep busy doing the things that would be harder to do in the first few months after the baby arrives – go to the movies, have quiet dinners out, travel.

With that advice in mind, we bought a Groupon back in July for a two-night stay aboard the Mississippi Delta Queen.

Ahoy. The Mississippi Delta Queen

The Delta Queen is a turn-of-the-century steamboat  that is now permanently (?) anchored in Chattanooga, Tenn. We dragged our feet booking the trip and before we knew it we were running out of time. When we finally called to reserve our room, the only days left were a Sunday and Monday night. As it turned out, the price difference in two plane tickets with a Saturday stay over was significantly less than a hotel room, so we booked our trip for three nights and used Priceline to get a good price on a hotel for one night.

Neither of us had been to Chattanooga and for a variety of reasons we didn’t have a lot of time to do any advance planning. We arrived at the airport with just a vague idea of what the next four days would hold.

Spoiler Alert – We had a blast.

After we checked in Saturday afternoon, we rented bikes and rode the 12 blocks or so to the waterfront area for lunch. Jumping on the bikes not only saved time, but helped us get the lay of the land. We also checked out the World Championship Dog Frisbee Competition because 1.) dogs and 2.) dogs catching frisbees. Duh.

Thanks to Chattanooga's awesome bike sharing program (very similar to the one here in the DC metro area), we were able to jump on bikes at a variety of places during our trip.

Saturday evening we were actually able to meet up with friends who live in Chattanooga. Jasmine used to write for Don’s first blog love, We Love DC, but moved to Chattanooga with her fiance Allan six months ago.  Somehow I failed to take a picture at dinner, but here they are just one week later.

They said, "I do!"

I know. So cute, right? Anyway, the restaurant we wanted to eat at (Taco Mamacita) was overrun by a high school homecoming, so we checked out a restaurant owned by Allan’s cousin called Brewhaus. It was excellent – the food and the company. And don’t be sad about Taco Mamacita. We ate there Sunday night instead.

Sunday we lazed around at the hotel, then hopped on the bikes again. First we cruised by the Chattanooga Choo Choo. Yes, it’s real.

Pardon me boys, is that the Chattanooga Choo? Why, yes. Yes, it is.

Then we rode the bikes downtown for brunch and bought tickets for the River Gorges Tour on the Tennessee River. Stunning.

It's just gorges. See what I did there?

After the two hour or so cruise, we visited the Tennessee Aquarium. Honestly it was the one thing that everyone who heard we were going to Chattanooga agreed we must see while there. It’s probably because of the penguins.

This little dude would not stop looking at me.

There were tons of other cool exhibits as well, including lots of tanks of the various kinds of jellyfish. I always find them beautiful to watch with the safety of glass between us.


After we finished up at the aquarium, we checked into the Delta Queen. I’m going to be honest; we didn’t have high expectations. After we booked it we read some really bad online reviews so I was totally prepared to chalk it up to an experience and ignore the dingy rooms.

There was no need. The room, though super small of course, was in great shape. None of the dirt or mold or mildew that I had read about.

For some reason I will not be able to explain now, we decided to get up at 6 a.m. Monday morning to watch the sunrise from Chattanooga’s awesome pedestrian bridge. Lovely.

After Sunrise

When  the sun was up, we went back to the hotel to get ready for the day’s activity – a visit to Lookout Mountain to SEE ROCK CITY. There are three big (tourist) attractions on Lookout Mountain: Rock City, Ruby Fall and the Incline. Being tourists, after all, we decided to do all three.

BUT, before we got to Rock City, our first stop, we pulled into a Civil War Battle location. While there we happened to glance at the trail map where Don noticed a label for “Whiteside Trail.” So you know we just had to find that.

But first, Rock City – which was surprisingly fun. The best part was definitely the swinging bridge, though.

What's Up? Nothing. I'm just hanging.

The Incline was pretty awesome, too. The steepest portion, near the top, is about a 77 degree angle.


Ruby Falls was just okay. The story of how it was discovered is pretty neat, but the inside of the cave today was nothing special (especially coming from Virginia – land of Lurray).  We did find Whiteside Trail, by the way.

Me on my trail.

AND we found Whiteside Street!

Don on his street

So we ended up loving this little city that we knew nothing about before we left home. It made us think we should visit more mid-sized towns soon – Charleston is next on our list I think.

You can see more Instagram pictures from our trip on Flickr.

Have you ever visited Chattanooga? Did you hike Whiteside Trail or is there a trail named after everyone there?

Documenting Your New Family

25 Jun

Photo courtesy of NickWeiler
1 for UK, 2 for Tennessee
courtesy of NickWeiler

Last week I read about a cool photography concept / project called the Red Thread Sessions. The project is the reason I looked up that old Chinese proverb about the invisible red string that connects us to everyone we are destined to meet our lives.

The photography project was designed to celebrate adoption in communities around the country by documenting new families. The Red Thread Sessions was started in 2011 by two photographers – one in Maryland and one in Texas. Both added to their own families through adoption. Soon they were joined by other photographers.

A Red Thread Session is a complimentary photo shoot held either when you bring your newly adopted child home or shortly thereafter. The photographer will capture your new family and your emotional homecoming, and will graciously waive their session fee. On top of that that they offer edited proofs from your session at no cost, though the exact particulars of how many, etc. is left to the judgement of each photographer.

In return, the adoptive families must agree to allow to the organization to share pictures of their session either in the gallery or on the blog. Seems fair to me.

Have you had a Red Thread Session? How did it turn out? Did you use a different professional to document your homecoming? My friend Chris, who is an excellent photographer, shot some video footage when his brother and sister-in-law returned from Ethiopia with their two sons. Did you have some standing by to film when you brought your children home?

Then, and Now

2 May

Three years ago today:

May 2, 2009: We were married



May 2, 2012: A different kind of contract

Choosing Profile Photos

21 Feb

Don and Susan: Walking on Boardwalk

Happy days are here. We're nearly done with the materials needed for our family profile.

We finally finished the 24 essay questions for our adoption specialist at the placement agency we’ve chosen to work with and moved on to the task of creating our family profile.

We knew we’d need photos – lots of photos – but I don’t think either of expected the exact magnitude. I thought we’d need to mark 20-25 photos that we didn’t hate. Instead we were asked to provide at least 50. Mostly of us. Photos in which we both look good and aren’t too squinty (we’re both super, super squinty folk).

Yeah. 50 very specific photos. Our agency provided guidelines for us and I think these are pretty great guidelines regardless of what agency you decide work with (or if you decide to pursue and independent / parent-placed adoption).

  • 8-10 Good, current photos of you and your spouse (and children, if applicable)
  • 8-10 Close-up photos of just you and your spouse together
  • 8-10 Holiday, vacation, fun photos
  • 2-5 Photos of your home (be sure to include outside and inside photos)
  • 2-5 Photos of a neighborhood park, pool, elementary school or other community space
  • 2-4 Photos of extended family and/or friends
  • 8-10 Photos of husband doing activities/hobbies
  • 8-10 Photos of wife doing activities/hobbies
  • 4-10 Hobby photos without people in them
  • Additional miscellaneous photos

This took a lot longer than I expected, especially since they do not want photos more than three years old. I fudged that part a little bit since the last three years we’ve been really busy planning a wedding, getting married, looking for a house, moving and renovating it so we’ve had less time and money to travel to fun places and indulge in hobbies and leisure. Though, actually, if you know us at all, you’ll know that a lot of our leisure activities (like Nice Mirror and We Love DC) aren’t all that leisurely – just a different kind of work than our employers pay us to do.

At any rate, we finally got them together. Our final submission is 58 photos showing what a fun, happy, loving life we share with each other – and many of you. Oh, you want to see some? Well, I’m so glad you asked. Have at it.

Don and Susan: Dressed Up as Colonial People

We have fun wherever we go. We found a trunk of costumes and props at this visitor's center.


Holidays, Vacations and Fun: Don and Susan in Seattle

We stopped by the Public Market while visiting friends in Seattle.


Hobbies: Craft Show Booth

A fair amount of our leisure time is spent making and selling mirrors like these at craft shows.


Don and Susan: Just Hanging Around Town
Oh this? Nothing special. Just enjoying a nice night in DC.


Hobbies: Don Juggling

Our friends' children always ask Don to juggle. It's a crowd pleaser.


Hobbies: Susan Hiking at Deadman's Trail

When we go on vacation, Susan finds hikes and nature trails for us nearly every day. This may not have been one of her better ideas.


Extended Family and Friends: Both Sides of Family

Both sides of our family at Mt. Vernon.


Extended Family and Friends: Enjoying Waterfront Dinner with Friends

Dinner on the water with friends. Two of these lovely ladies were pregnant in the picture. Since this picture was taken in July, one baby has been born in the group and another is due in 3 weeks.


Extended Family and Friends: Don and Sarah on Merry-Go-Round

Don and our friend Sarah on the Merry-Go-Around


Extended Family and Friends: Susan Playing Mini Golf with Grace
Susan playing mini-golf with our friend Grace.


This is just a fraction of the 58 photos we provided. Head over to Flickr if you want to see the rest.

Here are some other photo tips that you might helpful when choosing your own images for an adoption profile. Remember when we said it was a lot like online dating? We weren’t kidding.
Much like an online dating profile, these photos are really important. Sure, they show the birth family what you look like but, more importantly, they illustrate what your life is like. Everyone we’ve met in this process says you can’t under-estimate the importance of these photos. We know a couple whose birth mother said she picked them because she liked the hopeful dad’s sweater. Other birth moms have indicated they liked the adoptive mother’s hair, or the way the house was decorated, or their dog reminded her of a dog she had when she was kid. None of those things can come out in your written profile.
Here are some more helpful hints:
  • Take your camera with you wherever you go.  Ask people to take your picture – friends, family, even strangers. Don and I are famous for our self portaits. We love them and they are very fun for us, but they don’t make the best photos. We didn’t include a single photo like that. 
  • Make sure you can see your faces really well in MOST of the photos you include. This is tricky because you’re also trying to show the fun places you go and cool things you do.
  • Choose both portrait and landscape photos.
  • Avoid busy patterns and wear color … but not colors that are too bright (like neons)
  • Don’t go overboard on pictures of your wedding. One, maybe two.
  • Smile. Birth moms want to place into happy homes.

*I just realized we didn’t provide any photos of our wedding. Hmm. I loved our wedding and some of our pictures (like riding the old carousel in Ocean City, playing skee ball, posing in the photo booth and walking on the boardwalk) definitely show our fun and quirky sides, but I guess I felt like our every day lives were a better depiction of us.

Did you have to provide so many photos for your profile? Did Don and I miss any of your favorite photos? Should we have provided at least one wedding photo?