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.

17098427_10212565443795274_2528537132680630379_n

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.)

img_0453

 

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…

img_0455

 

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.

Why My Daughter’s Crying Made Me Proud

Our nearly-three-year-old daughter mostly cries for legitimate reasons. Like, she doesn’t just cry just to get attention. She cries because she genuinely wants something, or is trying to get us to do something she can’t yet communicate.

It’s fall, and we like to celebrate that in our house in any way we can. We’ve got the pumpkins out, the glass turkeys, and soon the house will be smelling like butterbeer and apple cinnamon stuff.

We’re already playing Christmas music to hype the kids up. This is the first year they’ll be old enough to understand the concept of Santa (who’s currently called Ho-Ho-Ho).

There aren’t really fall movies. Except one that we try to watch this time of year, which is still a freakishly good movie:

We put in Homeward Bound yesterday for the kids for the first time. I was at the dining room table drafting a new book or something, Sarabeth was on the couch presumably birthday gift shopping for me on her phone, and Katherine, our aforementioned nearly-three-year-old, was standing in the living room watching the dogs-and-cat movie. Our son might have been in time out because he’s still learning to obey his parents.

Suddenly, as I was working, I realized something was wrong. It was quiet.

Too quiet.

I looked up at my daughter and she had the most pathetic, heart-breaking look on her face I’ve ever seen on any kid in my life.

Her eyes were red, her bottom lip was jutted out (and quivering), and her eyebrows slanted down the sides of her eyes. Nothing had fallen on her, the weather didn’t shift, literally nothing had changed around us to cause such a sudden display of emotion.

Except this:

7bdc50ad2f8e5ca6d3c9aa17a5eccdc9

I looked at the movie on the screen and it was the scene where the family was leaving Shadow, Chance, and Sassy behind. Hugs. Promises. Driving away. Tears.

My daughter, who has never shown more emotion during a movie other than dancing along with Walter and Kermit in The Muppets  and fist-bumping me like Baymax during Big Hero Six, showed the deepest remorse for these new animal friends of hers.

It was the cutest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.

So I held her and rocked her and she cried. A lot. And I hugged her some more. I knew how she felt. In fact, I knew exactly how she felt. Because, in that moment, my daughter and I built another bond: Homeward Bound was the first movie ever cried in as well.

Even though it made my little girl cry, I was totally proud of her, because it meant she’s growing up. She’s able to follow plot points now and recognize emotional arches in a story. As an author, I couldn’t be any more proud of my daughter’s broken heart.

The movie didn’t hold her attention until the end (and how could it when your brother is running around with a balloon?) but I did make it a point to show her the ending when we woke up this morning so that she knew the outcome of yesterday’s parting turned out okay.

The look on her face was just as priceless when Peter hugged Shadow and all was well once more in my little girl’s world.

(Wait. Peter. Shadow. Is that some metaphor for Peter Pan losing his …shadow??)

May everything always be well in my little girl’s world, and if it’s not, may she endure the adventures to get there.

 

A Big October Scare

14448907_10210932544653816_335374217269917758_nAs of now we have three kids in our family. Our oldest, two, we adopted last summer. Our middle, almost two, should have been adopted forever ago but bureaucracy’s a disease that lingers for no good reason.

Our youngest, six weeks old, came home to us a couple of weeks ago. Without going into detail, he’s been back in the hospital since Wednesday night when he went pale and lost oxygen on us and vomited up blood.

Even in the hospital, hooked up to monitors and breathing machines, there have been many terrifying moments. We were even both called into the hospital yesterday morning in case we needed to say goodbye.

That sucked really bad.

He’s doing moderately better now.

My heart goes out to my wife and kids because they are so connected with him. I don’t connect with babies or bond with them well, and won’t pretend to. But the thing that hurts most is that, as I sit in the ICU holding his marshmallowy-sedated hand between paragraphs, he might not give us his first laugh or cheer and applaud with the other kids when the Disney castle comes on the TV. To be apart of our family is to love Disney, pizza, and Volkswagens.

This little guy is supposed to be there under the Christmas tree in a couple of months so our kids can obnoxiously shove their new toys in his face. We’re supposed to see his eyes widen as we drive by Christmas lights. He’s supposed to take his first steps in our house and make messes learning to eat with a spoon and go see Toy Story 4 with all of us.

He’s supposed to toughen our middle kid up and I’m supposed to help him pick out his first car.

Yes, we always assume we will adopt the kids we foster because that’s what we signed up for.

It’s been an incredibly bad year on pretty much every level, one that I will be happy to forget. We just want 2016 to be over, and we want this little baby to be there to wave goodbye to it and step with us into a better year. Despite who the president-elect is.

As the CEO of Endever Publishing Studios, we still plan on releasing our first two novels later this month. Please stay updated with Endever news as we continue to work hard at delivering the best quality entertainment the book industry can offer. Endever on Twitter, Facebook, and now Instagram.

This Post Breaks All the Rules

Socially speaking, I’m not allowed to write this post.

Even the business world would frown on me.

Because we’re supposed to only present our best selves, right? And as a business owner, I’m supposed to give the impression that I’ve got it all under control.

To a degree, these are good rules. Personally, I don’t like it when people show up to work and start crying about their broken marriage. But I don’t hold it against them. I don’t tell them to stop. I just ignore them if I don’t want to hear it.

So if you don’t want to hear it, I suggest you stop reading now. Because I’m about to unleash as a father, a husband, a middle-class citizen, an aspiring bestselling author, and a brand-new business owner.

This post breaks all the rules. I trust you’ll forgive me.

I’m mad. No, I’m perpetually pissed off. My wife sees it, my kids see it, and I wake up and go to sleep each day feeling it.

Today I had to take our foster son to the doctor to get staples removed from his head. A quick two-minute procedure. But since Kentucky passed a new law mandating that foster parents have to get consent from the kids’ social workers before a doctor can do anything, they have to get permission from the already-hard-to-reach social workers. We were at the doctor this morning for almost an hour. No response. We called and called. I ended up having to reschedule and leave with the staples still in his head so I wouldn’t be late for work.

Because, you know, being a law-abiding, working middle-class citizen is no different than grade school. Can’t be tardy! (My particular day job is actually good in this regard compared to others’, but you get my point.)

Which is half the reason I’ve started my own business. I’m tired of being told when to show up to work and when I’m allowed to go on vacation. That is, if my insurance hasn’t robbed me as blind as the previous month.  I’m tired of getting permission to be sick.

I hate that the foster care system is crap deteriorating to shit that even makes the bacteria sick, never getting better, always getting worse.

I hate the state giving drug-addicts every chance under the sun (and then years-worth-of-chances after that) to get their kids back only for them to likely be abused and neglected even more, just so the faceless assholes running our government can come out looking like the good guys. All the while we foster parents are trying to do a good thing for these kids and we’re treated worse than the felons!

I can’t do a single thing about it and that really pisses me off!!!

I hate that running a business and writing a book takes nearly all the risk and energy in the world. And it’s driven by pure fear. I hate that no hours in a day is not just a cliche saying. It’s really, really, really, really true. And that sucks so bad.

I’m terrified that I’m going to fail. I’m terrified that you’re all going to read my book and hate it. (I’m not so terrified that you’re going to hate the other authors’ books because they’ve got more talent than I have in one of my graying hairs.) But the bigger fear is that you’re not going to buy our books. You’ll like the pages and posts and share the excerpts, but come book release, you’ll shrug it off.

I’m terrified that my kids won’t discover their passions until late in life, like me. And they’ll be stuck clocking in at a job they don’t care for making money for someone they don’t even know.

I’m terrified that my wife and I will just be done with each other. I’m terrified that I really can’t change. I hate that I love my kids so much and that one day they’re not going to care. I hate that I can’t take care of babies. I make them cry. My rapid heart-rate and boiling blood freaks them out.

I hate that I don’t know how to raise my kids.

Just on my way to work this morning (I made it on time, no thanks to the foster care system), blasted the music and just screamed. I’m sick of working my ass off and being robbed nearly half of my paycheck by our insurance. If you don’t know that money is only going to fatten corporate wallets, then you need to do your homework. (Where do you think your premiums are going if you still have to pay extreme medical bills?) And that doesn’t account for taxes.

I’m sick of the hardest working people getting paid nickels and dimes and the comfortable corner-office inhabitants getting perks and hiring maids to dust out their Ferraris.

I can go on. And believe me, each day I do. But I’m not going to be another one of those bloggers who pretends everything is great and that my life is all peaches and flowers. I’m a human being with real issues and real problems and real effed up emotions.

I’m a terrible husband at best.

I’m a paranoid and angry father.

I’m a terrible writer.

I’m a terrified business owner.

I’m completely unraveled.

You’re all going to comment and say things like, “It’s okay, we feel your pain,” or “You’re a great writer! I’ve been following you for years!”

Don’t.

In fact, you’re as messed up and in as bad of a situation as I am. Gripe. Just let it out. Writing this didn’t fix anything, and honestly, it didn’t make me feel better. But at least I’m not lying or presenting a false image. Because this is who I am. This is how I feel.

And I’m really sorry, but I’m going to keep trying my hardest. Because I’m just. That. Stupid.