Why Our Foster Son is No Longer with Us

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What It’s Like to Adopt Kids

When It’s Stupid to Play with Your Kids

Life is like a casino. You gamblers know what I mean. You win some, you lose some. But you lose A LOT! And you win just enough to keep going.

Life’s pattern:

Good day. Okay day. Bad day. Bad day. Good day. Bad day. Bad daybaddaybaddaybadday. Bad day.

At this point you want to take yourself out, but before you do make that jump…

MY GOD I FOUND A QUARTER! GOOD DAY!!! 

And then your cat dies. So, bad day again. Then you find out your upstairs neighbor is running a brothel. Another bad day. You’re wondering if it’s possible to knock yourself out with a bat. But wait…

TACO BELL’S COMING OUT WITH A NEW WAY TO EAT A TACO! So you decide to keep going until you try that taco.

All the while the goons upstairs are laughing at us like, “He bought it! He thought his life was actually going to turn around!”

We’re like those horses following carrots on a stick. We keep walking for just one more tiny little nip…

I took a walk with my family yesterday. My 3 year old daughter and I found a tree and we climbed it. (She climbed it, I hauled myself up then got stuck.) Well, it turns out climbing a tree was the dumbest thing I could have done. Midnight rolls around and I have to pee. I go to climb out of bed and I cursed loud enough for my wife to shoot up. She thought it was finally TIME. You know, THE heart attack or THE stroke we’re all just waiting for.

She wasn’t so fortunate.

“What’s wrong?” she asks.

“Mie buck huts.”

“What?”

“My bake horts.” (I can’t very well point to my back because, you know, your back gives and takes away movement.)

“What?” she asks again.

“Well now my freaking throat hurts because I’ve been straining to tell you that my back hurts!!!!”

I almost beg her to just stick a tube up my ding-a-ling so I don’t have to move. We have one of those Nosefrida’s for the baby, and I was wondering how to make that work…

Anyway. I settle for just the heating pad because when I go number one at home, I sit down so I don’t run the risk of making a mess. I never got the hang of Say It, Don’t Spray It.

ANYway. My wife gets the heating pad. She’s tying all these pulleys to me and hoisting me up and maneuvering me and rolls me on top of the heating pad. As soon as she gets back in bed I grab that controller and crank it all the way up like I’m Trump set loose in the room with the Red Button.

I woke up this morning feeling a thousand times worse. I almost called in sick for the year. Like, I felt like Han Solo frozen in carbonite. I couldn’t move a muscle.

So we get an IcyHot patch. My wife lifts my shirt to stick it on, and when she does, she screams.

Which, of course, makes me scream, because immediately I’m thinking I’ve been gashed or something and she’s staring at my intestines.

So we’re both screaming. And that makes the kids scream.

“What’s wrong! What’s wrong!” I scream.

“Your back! It has… It has… lines!”

An image of me turning into a zebra crosses my mind. Like, Pinocchio smoked and turned into a jack-ass. I thought I might turn into a zebra because I snuck a milkshake without sharing with anyone two nights ago (this falls under No. 3 in the 7 Deadliest Father Sins).

She grabs my phone and takes a picture. (How cool is it that our phones can work as mirrors?)

And she shows me this:

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Yes. Those are 2nd degree burn marks from the heating pad I had cranked up all night. (I knew I was dreaming about barbecue!

So what does this have to do with casinos and life and good days/bad days?

You can avoid a bad day if you don’t gamble on your body doing more than you’re capable. Let your kid climb the damn tree, don’t try it yourself.

 

 

 

We’ve Adopted James!

Last week we officially became the proud parents of our foster son James (it’s his middle name). We’ve had him in our home for two years. In those two years the courts stalled and paperwork was filled out and lost (by the state, not by us), and James was assigned more social workers than we could count. I think it reached close to eight or nine.

It’s been a wild two years.

My favorite part of our entire adoption day was when the judge asked Sarabeth and me if we understood fully that in the eyes of the state, the country, and everyone else in the world, James is considered fully and entirely our son just as though he had been born to us.

I love that.

But unfortunately we live in a society that, generally speaking, frowns upon adoption. Sure, for many people it sounds lovely and poetic, but if legs are given to the idea, then people freak out for varying reasons:

“He’s going to wonder who his parents are.”

“She’s going to be a trouble-maker.”

And my favorite one to hate: “He’s not the same skin color.”

For being a country that prides itself on being the melting pot of the world, we sure are averse to interracial marriage, breeding, and adoption. But that’s a topic for another time. (Let me just say that racism would be long dead if we weren’t so preoccupied with  keeping black black and white white. Just saying.)

But even though people applaud adoption on the outside, there is a ton of animosity stirring even within the best-intentioned people. There are those that claim adoption can be harmful for children because they’ll grow up with more questions than answers.

Well, that may be true, but I wasn’t adopted and I still have questions about my past, but I don’t let it rule my life. We all have questions about our upbringing and our lives. Questions are just a part of life. As parents we’ll teach our kids to ask questions about themselves and the world, but we’ll also encourage them not to be driven by them.

To people who say that foster kids are trouble makers, I’m sorry but you need to jump off a cliff or chew on some dynamite sticks. We’ve all known terrible trouble-makers in our lives, and chances are, they weren’t adopted or in foster care. Some people are just wired that way, or they weren’t raised strict enough. But our two kids (from the foster care system) are the best behaved kids you’ll ever meet.

And of course they can be trouble-makers! They’re kids! As parents, we choose what they can and cannot get away with. My rule as a parent is simple: Do anything you want; just don’t hurt anyone else. My only exception to that is I won’t let them touch the stove.

Even governments and world leaders are against adoption. Just look at Russia closing the doors. China’s requirements are pretty hefty. The individual American states themselves jump through every imaginable hoop to reunify children with their parents before allowing a good family to adopt them, even (or I should say especially) when that puts the child at great danger to his/her life.

But this is supposed to be a happy post. In the darkness, light prevails every now and then. The state of Kentucky allowed my wife and me to become the official parents of James. I don’t call that good because we got what we wanted. I call that good because this little boy was given a home where he will be loved and cared for forever, no matter what. And even better, he’s not in the hands of an alcoholic, or a drug user, and he won’t be abused or neglected, and Sarabeth and I will move any mountain we can to make sure they are provided with every opportunity possible for them to be anything they want to be, whether that’s a trash picker, an opera singer, or a CEO.

Welcome home, buddy. Our home isn’t perfect, but you’ll always belong and we’ll keep you as safe as possible.

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Happy Birthday, Kat!

My favorite little girl on the planet turns three today.

She can drive me up a wall at times, and I’ve had my share of losing my cool, but she knows that she’s daddy’s most prized possession.

We drove two hours north to IKEA yesterday to pick up a kitchen set for her birthday. (In fact, as I write this, I’m sitting on the living room couch, listening to her and her brother waking up in their room. In just a couple of moments, she’s going to totter out here and stumbled upon the kitchen set I have set up for her by our living room windows.)

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She has no idea what’s in the big box I purchased for her, because at IKEA, you never know what you’re really getting.

We’ll be having donuts for breakfast from our favorite bakery down the street. It’s going to be  good morning. But really, it’s been a good three years. A lot of bad things happened last year, and the waters have been rough for quite a while, but my daughter has always been a constant. It’s guaranteed that she’ll laugh if I tickle her in just the right spot, and that she’ll always want me to kiss her goodnight even if we’ve had a bad day.

She loves the things I obsess over (chips and salsa, ice cream, Toy Story), and her dancing always makes me laugh, even if life seems too much at times.

I never really knew what it was like to be proud until we brought her home from the hospital, and now I get to experience that feeling every day as I watch her grow, learn, speak, and sing, and discover who she is a little more each day.

I can hear her brother trying to coax her out of their room. I better get the light on…

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Why We Don’t Tell Our Kids They Can be Anything They Want

It’s preached everywhere: “Believe, and it will happen.”

“Trust and you will find.”

“Try and you will succeed.”

“You can be anything you want to be and more.”

Once you get to a certain age you realize that’s all crap. Because, you know, when I was little, I believed I’d be an astronaut and go to the moon (there have only been twelve manned moon landings since 1969). I also wanted to be a cartoonist for a newspaper strip, but that was before I learned that Jim Davis already had the market cornered in that department.

The problem with me, then? Well, I believe there were two issues.

  1. My expectations were unrealistic. I hate science and always have, so any chance of me becoming an astronaut were doomed to begin with. And, even after some art classes, my cartoons were mediocre at best.
  2. I wasn’t consistent. I bounced around from one cool potential career to the next, whichever sounded most appealing at the time. Usually I was inspired by pop culture, and never really tapped into what I – little Andy – really wanted to do with my life.

Now that I’m a dad, I’m careful not to tell my kids they can be anything they want to be when they grow up, because let’s be honest: My daughter is too tall to be an Olympic gymnast. My son is too sensitive to be a linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys, and so far his hand-eye coordination is as great as his dad’s – never mind hitting the broadside of a barn, we’re lucky just to make the ball past the fence.

I love the movie Wreck-It Ralph. Ralph didn’t want to be a bad guy anymore, and no matter 982468_032how many medals he won or good deeds he performed, he was always going to be a bad guy. But he learned to make peace with it.

An even better one is the bold Monsters University, where young Mike wants to be a scarer, but he really just sucks at it. He’s small, puny, and pretty funny looking.

No, as much as I would like to change things, our kids cannot be anything they want to be. It’s just not realistic, and beyond that, it’s a lie.

That’s not to say that if they worked and studied hard enough that they can’t become doctors and lawyers, business owners and CEO’s, or any other profession that requires a large degree of panache and brains. And as their parents, we’ll support them in every way.

But if my son dreams of making it on Juggling with the Stars in sixteen years but he can’t juggle any more than his daily chores, then I’m going to be flat-out honest with him and suggest that maybe he could coach someone to juggle or something.

But whatever they set their mind to, it is my hope that not only is it achievable within their skill set, but that they stick with it and don’t give up.

Why Our Playground-Parenting Would Likely Tick You Off

90-degree-spiral-tube-slideOur oldest kids are about to turn two and three. With the weather being on its last stitch of niceness here in Louisville, Sarabeth and I decided to take them for one last hurrah at one of our neighborhood playgrounds.

Our oldest, Kat, is extremely agile and surprisingly skilled. Like, more coordinated than I was at seven. She’s also courageous and is a risk-taker.

Sometimes it’s hard to watch her climb to the top of the big kids’ skyscraper playground and keeping up with the toughest of them, but I’m not going to stop her. It’s my job as a parent to encourage growth and challenge – not hold her back.

At this particular playground we were at this last weekend, Kat got the whacky idea to climb on top – not inside of it, but up on top of the tube. So we let her, much to the chagrin of a couple of other parents whose older kids quickly followed suit.

I stood next to Kat as she attempted it the first time. She got a quarter of the way up, paused, said “no,” and I helped her down. The next time she tried it, she got a little further. I rooted her on the whole time while Sarabeth watched approvingly.

Why do we allow our kids to be such dangerous, risk-taking, rebel-rousing rule-breakers?

A couple of reasons: First off, there’s no rule that says she can’t climb on top of the tube slide. We were proud of her for thinking outside the box and discovering not only a new way to have fun, but to push herself.

Another reason: She was not hurting anybody. Sure, she inspired other kids to throw off their shoes and scurry up the top side of the tube slide, but you should have seen their exultant faces when they reached the top (even while their parents were yelling at them to climb down – I wanted to ask them why).

Also, what’s up with our obsession of obeying rules? I’ve been giving this a lot of thought lately. I’m coming closer and closer to the opinion that our obsession to conform is actually what’s killing us inside. More on this in a later post. Much more.

But back to my daughter climbing up the top of the tube slide. I was teaching my youngest to hang on to the zip slide all by himself (successfully), when I heard Sarabeth call me. She pointed to the highest point of the playground, and there, on just her third attempt, my daughter sat high and proud.

My little girl on top of her own personal Everest. All because she found a better and slightly more challenging way to play. She refused to conform. And I encourage that in almost every way.