Sunday, October 30, 2005

Wiggly Bare Naked Ladies (oh my!)

Our family enjoys listening to music. We play music in the car, at home, and we sing all day long. But as much as we love music, we rarely get to a concert. I think Mark and I have seen 3 or 4 concerts in all of our dating/married years. The last one we went to was on New Years Eve, and I think the year was 1999. The band: Bare Naked Ladies [a stunned silence comes over the older generation]. The band is actually made of men, and their lyrics are not lewd - don't worry! That concert was great, but it was nothing like the concert we went to today. It's amazing how your tastes change when kids come along.

Today, we took our kids to their first big-venue concert experience. You know, the kind of event that requires a call to TicketMaster to arrange. We went and saw Abby's and Ethan's favorite children's group, The Wiggles. The concert was a little over an hour, and Mark and I enjoyed every minute of it. Abby sat stunned for the first half, then warmed up and participated in the second half. Ethan was entranced at first, but soon his 17 month-old attention span got the better of him and he was more interested in playing with the stadium seats than watching the action on the stage. Over all, it was worth it to give the kids their first taste of live music in an arena. We had fun! And of course, Mama sang every song. ;)

The Wiggles drove on stage in their Big Red Car. We had good seats, and could see all the action on stage.

Murray Wiggle (the red Wiggle) walked through the audience in the beginning and we were lucky enough to be seated in the right section! Abby's eyes were as big as saucers when he came about 5 feet away... I think she realized that we weren't watching TV, but the action was live!

We were a captive audience, clapping along with the songs.

Abby's favorite is Jeff Wiggle (the purple Wiggle). He is always falling asleep, and Abby was so excited that we got to call out "Wake up, Jeff!"during the conert.

About 3 minutes into the ride home, two exhausted toddlers couldn't keep their eyes open any longer. It was the end of a fun new experience!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Dog Days of Autumn

Well, just as everyone was getting over our week-long colds, another member of our family had a health concern. Our older dog, Casey, suffered an ear hematoma on Thursday. It basically means that her chronic ear infections have caused her to scratch her ear flap so much that she ruptured blood vessels inside. The skin actually separated from the cartilage, and a pocket was formed that filled with blood. Apparently, it is a common occurance in dogs. She had surgery yesterday to reattach the skin and cartilage (lots of stitches), which went without incident.

Unfortunately, she has to wear a cone for 2 weeks to prevent her from scratching her ear. Our other dog, Maggie, was so glad to have Casey back home... she is a little skittish about the cone, though. Ethan immediately noticed her "hat," and Abby proclaimed it "cute." Casey acts completely normal despite wearing a giant piece of plastic on her head - in fact, she is dying to play fetch. Sorry, CaseyFace, you have to take it easy until the stitches are out!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

They've finally arrived!!

After what seems like forever, Mark's sister Tracy and her two kids have arrived in Michigan for a month-long visit - yippee!! Their family moved to Florida 4 months ago, and we've missed them so much. The four cousins' ages break down as follows: Abby-26 months, Lana-23 months, Ethan-17 months, David-5 months. We are going to have a blast while they're here visiting. Here are some pictures from today's reunion. I'm sure there will be more posts to follow in the next month, as the 3 toddlers and 1 infant rediscover each other.

Ethan has missed Aunt Tracy a lot - when he wouldn't tolerate being held by anyone other than Mom a few months ago, Aunt Tracy was on his short list. He gave her about 100 hugs today, and was very upset if she walked out of sight from him.

Here's a picture of Lana - a bit blurry, but she is on the go and won't stop for a photo op! she seems so different in just 4 months; taller, her speech has taken off, and she's got a *little* bit of toddler sass now (I love it!!)

David has changed a TON since we saw him at 1 month old. What a chubby boy - built just like Ethan was at his age. He smiles huge now, but I really liked this inquisitive look. Cutie pie!

Abby is not usually very cuddly, but she snuck in on Aunt Tracy for this hug. She giggled tons at her silly aunt.

Just say, "Abby, make a silly face!"

And here is what you get.

(Photo taken 9/27)

Monday, October 24, 2005

Remembering healthier times...

... like last weekend, when we weren't sick yet. Mark is off to the doctor today (sinus infection?), and I'm getting ready to take a nap with the kids. Here are some pictures from a day at the park, taken just last weekend before illness struck our house.

Abby is such a sweet girl, dancing in the leaves.

Ethan likes to lay in the sand. I love his expression.

Mark was sprinkling leaves on them, which made Abby giggle.

Abby is getting very good on the gym equipment. She's always been brave.

A beautiful boy and his Daddy.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Coughing and fevers and runny noses, oh my!

Our house is usually bustling with play. Abby and Ethan always seem to find something fun to do, and its generally noisy, messy or both. Yeehaw!

These last two days have been relatively silent, except for the occasional spacing out in front of TV. Ethan has bronchitis, as diagnosed by the urgent care center on Friday morning. He had been up MOST of Thursday night, coughing and feverish. By Friday morning, his cough was more of a bark and he was wheezing terribly. So, off to the med center we went. After 2 hours and a chest x-ray ruling out pneumonia, the doctor proclaimed it to be bronchitis. We were sent home with a steroid prescription and told to get plenty of rest and fluids and ride it out. Today, to add insult to injury, he developed a really runny nose in addition to his other ailments.

Abby has been sluggish herself. She's been coughing (though not as much as Ethan), and has also been feverish. Today she lost her voice (poor squeeky baby!), but her spirits were up and she played today much more than yesterday. Yesterday was one of our "Slug Days."

Usually, we use a Slug Day as a Mental Health Day. When I was working, my boss respected an occasional Mental Health Day - a day off where no one was sick, but you just needed a break from work. Some days my family just needs a break from our regular routine, and enjoy staying in our pajamas all day playing, getting messy, watching movies, eating on the floor if we want and not worrying too much about rules and responsibility. It's an amazing pick-me-up. Sometimes, though a Slug Day is required to care for one or more of us being ill.

Yesterday, no one showered. I admit, I had to get dressed (just to take Ethan to the med center), but no one else did (including Mark). We relaxed, napped, read books, sung songs, watched The Wiggles and vegged out. It's unfortunate that the kids didn't feel well, but a good side-benefit was that it really helped recharge me. I've been holding one or both of my kids a lot over the last two days, and relishing the cuddle time we've had. Mark has actually been enjoying taking care of Ethan in the night (despite a clear lack of sleep), seeing it as bonding time for the two of them. I will be glad when my kids feel better, but will *selfishly* miss the snuggle-time we have been having.

Sometimes, you just need that time.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

One thought leads to another

As I was laying in bed last night, my mind was racing with things to do. One of the things I want to do soon is ask Ethan's birthfamily to send him a letter (subsequent posts on Abby and Ethan's birthfamilies to follow). I thought to myself, I should send them some self-addressed stamped envelopes to make it easy for them.

Suddenly, I had a flashback to a different time where I had made self-addressed stamped envelopes. In some ways, that time seems like a million years ago. In others, it feels like yesterday.

We don't talk much about our failed adoption any more. We seem so busy with our two children that it rarely comes into conversation. But it creeps into my thoughts at the most unexpected moments, and can bring me to tears in a second.

The first year and a half of our adoption pursuits were busy. I spent my time working on finding the adoption situation that was right for us. My days were filled with networking ("if you know of anyone considering adoption, please let them know about us"), adoption tear-sheets set up at grocery stores, a Val-Pak advertisement, a 1-800 birthmother line, and advertisements in local newspapers promising a "loving couple who looks forward to lots of fun with a baby." It was one of these ads that lead birthmother C. to us.

C. was 5 months pregnant at the time, and was looking at adoption because she could not afford another child. She knew it would be a tremendous financial burden and would require more emotional resources than she had at the time, in order to raise another baby. She was a single mom with 5 other children from 14 years to 18 months. She realized that her youngest children were almost being raised by her 14 year old (in fact, C. had held her out of school for a year to help with the kids). She didn't want that life for her 14 year old, and didn't want that life for another baby.

She was looking through the adoption ads in the paper, and reading them out loud. She read ours, and the baby kicked. "It must be a sign!" she said when she called me that day. And soon enough, I believed in the sign, too.

Over the next 4 months, C. and I got to know each other. I spoke with her almost daily on the phone. I came to sympathize with her troubles: a 16 year relationship with a man who drank too much and was rarely available for his 5 children (and was currently not living with them because of his drinking); a child who was in trouble almost daily at school which resulted in suspensions; a mother who thought C. was doing a bad job with her children; her loss of job because of her pregnancy; and the list went on. She seemed to have sound reasons for choosing adoption, and seemed to realize that the best place for her child was probably not in her family.

Mark and I got to know C.'s family well. Her children loved Mark's sense of humor and always wanted to play with him. Her mother really appeared to like us, as did her sister. They supported her adoption decision.

Along the way, there were red flags that the adoption may not happen. Her reluctance to deal with an adoption professional. Her claim that the birthfather was in agreement about the plan, but yet his paperwork got "lost in the mail" on the way to the adoption attorney. Her children (2 in particular) were against the adoption plan and were very vocal about it. There were definitely some questions we had leading up to the birth, but we remained hopeful.

2 days before C.'s labor was to be induced, we got together with her family. A last hurrah before everyone's lives were to change. We finally met C.'s boyfriend. It was a really nice day. At the end, C. told me that she had been so worried about the actual adoption over the last week, but our evening had affirmed her decision to place the baby for adoption. She felt no worries about it, and loved us so very much. We drove away feeling pretty sure the adoption would happen, and we would be parents in 2 short days - July 8, 2003.

On the 8th, Mark and I got to the hospital first and waited for C. to arrive with her mom and 14 year old daughter. We had our diaper bag, camera bag, bag of things to do while C. was laboring. We were prepared, darn it! When the 3 arrived, I immediately knew something was wrong. C. looked like she hadn't slept a wink and didn't smile. While she was being admitted, her mom said that C. was having a hard time with the adoption plan, and she wasn't sure how it would turn out. We sat in the waiting room, and awhile later the hospital social worker came to talk to us. She had spoken with C., and reiterated that C. was having a hard time handling her decision. But, C. really wanted us at the hospital that day while she tried to make her decision.

I wanted to run away. I wanted to go home and get in bed and cry myself to sleep. I didn't want to have to wait all day feeling so crushed while C. made up her mind. But, Mark and I decided to stay, even if it meant suffering.

A lot happened that day. It was emotionally draining for us. We tried to keep our interactions with C. positive, and tried to give her space to make her important decision. I cried tons in the parking lot and the bathroom. Mark became numb to the situation, becoming seemingly emotionless. We waited for what seemed like years. And finally, late in the afternoon, C. gave birth to a healthy baby boy.

After the baby was born, C.'s daughter asked us to come to see C. and the baby. I didn't want to. C.'s daughter insisted that C. wanted us there. So we reluctantly went. The room was filled with C.'s friends and family. I couldn't even look at the baby who was being bathed by the nurse - I knew it would be too painful for me. C. looked tired, and in no mood to talk. I went to her and told her that we were going to leave and that she could call our cell phone.

I talked to C. a few times during her hospital stay. She kept telling me that she knew that adoption was the right decision, but it was just so hard. She was obviously struggling. I ended every conversation telling her to get in touch with her adoption attorney if she wanted to choose adoption. I always hung up unsure of her next actions.

After 2 days, C. finally went home with her baby, telling her social worker that she was just going to take him home for a couple days to see how the baby would work in her family. We never heard from her again.

A week later, I found the self-addressed stamped envelopes I had prepared for C.'s family to write to our son. I remember being so hopeful when I put them together. They were going to be included in our first update packet to her family, with pictures of our baby. They were going to help keep our families in communication with one another in the open adoption situation that we both wanted.

I had no way of knowing that 7 weeks later, Abby would become our "meant-to-be" daughter. I just knew that this baby was not our "meant-to-be" son, and it hurt. I think of him sometimes, wondering what his life is like now. When he turned 2 this summer, I remembered him. I pray for his health and happiness and hope that he will become all that God wants for him to be.

I miss the boy I never knew.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Why Team MEAT?

Why not Team TEAM? Or Team TAME? Or the most appropriate, Team MATE??

It's just the funniest, that's all.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Laundry Day

I love to do laundry. I admit it. I love the whole process... the sorting, the pre-treating, the washing, the drying, the folding, the putting away. It's my favorite chore. Everything looks so nice when it's been put away in the drawers, the socks all lined up, the shirts folded just so. It's almost an obsession of mine... which is why it's hard to give away any control of it. I rarely want Mark to help, even.

Today, I recruited my little *female* helper to "help" me with the 5 loads of laundry I had to do. Mostly, because she was underfoot and bored, and needed something constructive to channel her energy. But, I have to say, Abby is on her way to being her Mama's protege! I'm so proud. And I learned what a very valuable tool recruiting a helper can be to a busy parent who just needs 5 minutes to switch the loads of laundry.

So here are the 4 steps to helping Mama with the laundry (for a 2 year old).

Step 1. Line up all of the hangers you will need --- the backs of bar stools work very well for this task.

Step 2. Sort the laundry by moving it from the hamper to the laundry basket and then back again. Repeat.

Step 3. Bring Mama the laundry basket when she asks.

Step 4. "Fold the laundry." This consists of moving the clean laundry from one side of the laundry basket to the other and smashing it down into a very wrinkly heap.

After today, I believe that you can never start too early in laundry training. :)

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

4 haircuts for $2.99

It all began in June. I went to a new haircut salon near us for my usual haircut (the Mommy-on-the-go, "flippy-uppy" haircut I have been enjoying recently). Since the salon was new, they were giving haircuts for $2.99 - what a deal! After waiting almost an hour, the stylist sat me in the chair and talked my ear off while she cut my hair.

Last week, I went in to the same salon for another haircut. My hair was looking really bad by then, as it had been 10 weeks since my previous haircut. I find it very difficult to actually get out and get a haircut, since it requires that I pre-plan and arrange for Mark to have the kids while I'm out. A haircut is something that ALWAYS happens about 3 weeks after it should.

Anyway, I had a different stylist this time (one of the salon managers), and after looking up what I had done last time in their fancy computer (1 inch off the interior, 3 inches off the bottom), she started to look at my hair. After a few minutes of playing with my hair, I started to wonder what was holding up my haircut. Why the close examination? Did I have lice or something? Was there a bald spot I didn't know about?

Finally, she said, "this is all wrong!" and showed me what my last haircut looked like. After holding up some of my layers from the front and then the back, it became obvious that my last stylist had only cut the layers on one side of my head! There was a 1 inch discrepancy ("1 inch off the interior"), and it looked really terrible. I had never noticed in the last 3 months. The stylist/manager was really appalled, and told me that I was not going to be paying for today's haircut. She then fixed my hair, and made sure that the layers were perfect. She rang me up for a free haircut, and after giving her a generous tip, I left the salon very pleased with the way that the problem was handled, and certain that I would be returning.

The next day, there was a letter in the mail from the salon, apologizing for the lack of quality. Enclosed was a coupon for a free haircut.

Yesterday, there was a second letter in the mail from the salon. The same letter as before, with the same coupon for a free haircut.

So.... one bad haircut for $2.99 has [so far] resulted in 3 free haircuts. The lesson I have learned from all of this: don't be afraid to try new places - you can really get some amazing deals!

Incidentally, I won't use the 2 free haircut coupons (I'd feel too guilty). Scratch that - I will use one to have them fix Ethan's hair (I have been butchering the back for 4 months now, and I need a little lesson in what to do!) But I will again tip generously!

Monday, October 10, 2005

Update on our lives 10/10/2005

I'm hoping to use this blog as a way to write down the things I've learned, as well as to provide periodic updates on our family. Today is the first of those updates.

Abby is 2 years old now (25 months), and such a funny girl. She is talking better and better each day. She is very stable in her walking and climbing now. She likes to sing along with music, and uses motions with songs. Her favorite music is from "The Wiggles," and she likes their TV show. On a daily basis, she asks to see "The Giggles on VC" (The Wiggles on TV). She is very concerned with equality, making sure that she and Ethan have the same things. She likes to run the show where he's concerned, telling him "your turn" and "my turn" while they play. Her favorite food is ice cream ("i- keem"), which she often mistakenly calls cake. She loves to play "wake up Daddy" by having Mark pretend he's asleep and then yell loudly "WAKE UP DADDY!!!" It cracks her up time and time again. I just cut her hair in this cute toddler haircut.

Ethan is 1 year old (16 months). He is such a smart boy! He says lots of words, and is very interested in learning more (he will watch your mouth while you say a word and then try to repeat it). His favorite word remains "baby," as he is the ultimate Baby-Spotter (he can spot a baby from 100 yards away). He has a talent for things musical. He loves to play music (drums, whistle, sing), and really likes dancing. He too loves the Wiggles. He has been amazing us lately with an interest in potty training (Abby couldn't care less). He has actually used the potty successfully 3 times, and asks to use it at least once a day. He covers his ears when he is playing peekaboo, which is so adorable. He loves his Mama tons, but his inner circle is definitely growing.

Today, we had a nice visit with Great Great Uncle Jay from California (Trista's Dad's Uncle). He is 78 years old, and still going strong! We were glad to see him. Abby had a fun time playing with him at dinner, and even Ethan was showing Uncle Jay some of his fancy dance moves. My parents were also there to share in the evening. Fun!

That's all for now! Thanks for reading!

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Joy can be found over grilled cheese sandwiches

I am writing this blog to document some of the things I am learning (even in my "old age" of 31). My mom always says, "you learn something new every day," and she's right. I don't take enough time to stop and reflect on just how much I am changed by everyone around me. Thanks to God for helping me to be moldable.

Sometimes (well, actually, a lot of the time) my kids are the ones to teach me lessons. Today they reminded me that I need to "chill out" a bit. I can be extremely silly, and so much fun to be around, but lately I have been a little too intense with them. I worry so much about them "getting out of control" that I try to keep too tight a reign on them. My daughter is a beautiful, passionate, hilarious, and very independent (strong-willed?) two year old. My overly controlling way with her causes a strain on our relationship that makes me sad late at night after she's gone to bed and the house is quiet. But today, she and my son reminded me that life is short - so stop and enjoy the grilled cheese.

Our family and Mark's parents were at a restaurant after a long day outdoors at an apple orchard. The kids had a great time on our trip, and were very well-behaved for the 3+ hours that we were gone. As we waited for dinner to arrive, they became surly and start to act up. Ethan was fascinated with the pepper shaker, while Abby was feverishly coloring her hair, clothes and arm with the restaurant crayons. I was just starting to feel my blood pressure rise when the food arrived (thank goodness for my husband's wisdom in pre-ordering the kids' meal). Suddenly, these two disagreeable children were immediately pacified. The meal went just fine. And after eating their sandwiches, my precious children started to laugh.

This was not just any sort of laughter, mind you. This was the belly laugh that erupts from a place of pure joy. There was absolutely nothing apparent that was funny. But Abby would start to giggle, and Ethan would follow suit. This exchange continued back and forth until the 6 of us were all laughing openly, marvelling in the joy that 2 toddlers could bring. The moment reminded me that kids can get happy again over simple grilled cheese just as quickly as they can get cranky after a long day. And thank God for that.