baby development

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

I Love Mail!!

Cookie loves getting the mail - and then dropping it on the floor for "someone" to pick up. (Or perhaps this is what she thinks of our insurance statements!)

Either way, my baby girl is turning into a big girl more and more every day.

Tell me you LOVE her new Gator gear! Go Gators!! And WHY are people so offended that we dress our girl (as they say) "like a boy!!" - as if she's in some way going to be harmed by this. Ugh. Gender-police, I swear. Yes, she wears lots of sports gear, and no, I don't think she looks like a boy. I think she looks like a CAPABLE girl who will soon be a CAPABLE WOMAN!

Her latest thing is standing up next to the sofa or coffee table and letting go - she'll stand there perfectly still for a few seconds, wobble a bit and try to use her arms for balance, then finally fall back on her bum. We are sure to applaud for her, as she looks to us for a reaction to her attempts to stand on her own.

She hates hats - rips them off as soon as you try to put them on. She also dislikes shoes about as much as we dislike trying to get them ON her.

She loves snuggling, chasing the cat, eating fruit puffs, tasting the food off our plates, zerberts (belly raspberries), and Ms. Razi at day care. Let me tell you a little about Ms. Razi:

Ms. Razi will tell you she is Persian (Persia is now Iran). She speaks Farsi, which is a form of Persian. She doesn't speak much English, and is relatively new to the infant/toddler room at daycare. But lemme tell you, folks, Cookie loves her some Ms. Razi. When Michael takes her in every morning, Ms. Razi comes right over and takes her away! And when one of us comes to pick her up, she's right there with her too - and always having a ball. But you should also know that whenever I hear Ms. Raszi talking to Cookie, it is not really in English. It's kind of a Farshlish blend of sorts. And I think Cookie speaks Farshlish, I really do. She seems to perfectly understand everything - even if it sounds to me like "Shadjjstsa ajdkjikjsa knnewata GOOD GIRL!" And just last night I swear Cookie was speaking that and looking at us and wondering why we didn't understand.

Language is so fabulous, isn't it? And the universal language of, well, love for children. That is easy to understand.

I'm so glad Cookie has a new friend when we can't be with her.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

I'm Absolutely Sick Of...

...people saying/writing that the "foster care system is broken" and not actively trying to make it better.

So, to put my money where my mouth is, I am becoming a trainer.

Yes, you read correctly.

Next year, I will be teaching a class for credit for training foster parents.

I will be teaching it on Newborn & Toddler Issues (all the things I wish someone had told me!).

I am extremely honored.

I designed a set of sample classes and submitted them, and was asked when I wanted to start, and to choose the topics I wanted to cover - just like that. (My MA and doctoral work is in Family Communication, in case you wanted my credentials above-and-beyond the "practical").

Now, 2 things I want from my readers:
1) feedback - what kind of training do you wish you had received (as a parent or a foster parent)? (this is a "hindsight" question)
2) tell me - what have you been complaining about that you can start to actively do something to make it better? (ooooh, Tamara asks the tough question...)

Why Adoption & Why Through Foster Care?

My parents did not understand why two intelligent individuals with multiple graduate degrees, with excellent careers and an adequate income would choose to adopt through foster care.

When we began this process of inquiry in May of 05 and classes in July 05, my parents were full of questions that carried the tone of "have you lost your ever-lovin' minds?". They wanted to know why.

They understood why we did not choose to put ourselves through fertility treatments. For those of you who don't know us, I'll try to be brief:

My husband and I are 35 (33 when we learned that I have PCOS and he is sub-fertile). We both read the medical literature - real publications in real journals, not just internet pap - and educated ourselves about the risks to my body and health and, more importantly, to the baby. Eggs age - and new research has revealed that older men's sperm carries more risk of genetic disorders. Our risks of having a baby with Down Syndrome are 1 in 400 - more than double what our risk would be if we were under 30. We would certainly deal with a child with Down Syndrome - and many fabulous couples (see Pajama Mama, for example) are extraordinary parents with extraordinary kids. We had to ponder the risks.

PCOS left me with an much greater risk of miscarriage should I ever be able to conceive (RE gave us a 15% chance with IUI and a 30% chance with IVF).

The costs seemed unimaginable - $500 per IUI treatment (RE recommended no more than 3 attempts before moving on to IVF at $20,000). We could have put ourselves into debt to attempt IVF, but at what cost?

Queen Bee at My Ebeneezer also helped me decide not to do fertility treatments, as did other women who had finally gotten off the IF rollercoaster and went another route. My mental health and emotional and spiritual well-being was also a factor in our deciding not to pursue fertility treatments

Once adoption was our option, we were left to decide a route.

A nice guy I work with and his wife adopted a little girl from China 4 years ago. They suffered through multiple miscarriages before deciding to get off the IF rollercoaster and adopt. They chose international adoption because there was no risk of a birthmother changing her mind, or a birthfather suddenly appearing on the horizon and hiring a lawyer to get his child back. His daughter was in an orphanage and free and clear for adoption.

So why did we not choose international adoption? Several reasons really, but the big one was a knowledge of how many children needed homes right here in the United States - in Kentucky - in Lexington! It seemed wrong (for us) to pass those children over simply because international adoption was "easier" (which is, by the way, and enormous myth).

Still, my parents persisted in calling us to say they saw a "Guatemalan family" and "Why don't you just fly down there and get one of them?" As if children are commodities that can be bought and sold, and negotiated. Unreal.

International adoption was also no cheaper than domestic adoption.

We attended multiple "adoption fairs" - open houses where multiple adoption agencies and service providers set up informational booths and gave talks about various subjects. It all felt awful. Every time I went, I felt queezy in my stomach. Were these children little prizes? Ugh.

Eventually, we decided that we wanted to do a domestic adoption. After careful comsideration, we also decided we would want to do a closed adoption. For us, it was the right decision. We did not want a realtionship with birthparents. We again read the real research about open adoption vs. closed adoption. The agencies pimping out open adoption seek to sell it like it's the salvation of all that is wrong with the system - and it's far from that. Open adoption works for some - but for many it becomes a nightmare of navigating relationships with individuals and entire families the cannot negotiate boundaries. The research demonstrates that children are no better adjusted coming from closed adoptions as they are coming from open adoptions - its merely different.

The problem for us was that every agency we talked to told us that they prefered to do open adoptions, and that we would have a hard time "getting chosen" by a birthmom if we did not allow the process to be open. They said they would do it, but they also all looked at us like we were bad people - as opposed to people who had made a reasonable decision for who they were and how they wanted to structure their family. Immediately, we were made to feel like we were a bad couple from the get-go. In addition, we had "strikes against us" that would make us "less desirable" to potential birth mothers: I was divorced, we are an interracial couple, we are a little older than most first-time parents, I would not be a SAHM, a child would not have grandparents close by, the child would be in daycare, we are both overweight..." The list went on and on. Looking at portfolios put together by prospective adoptive parents made me gag - perfect little couples with perfect little houses, perfect little yards, and perfect little lives. This was absolutely not us. Neither of us wanted to be in a competition for a child - ever, ever, ever.

Do I even need to mention that with domestic adoption, you can have a child placed with you at birth and the birth mother can change her mind anytime within 30 days - and it's just over. Your money, your time, your emotional investment - just ripped away. We didn't believe we could knowingly risk that.

We wanted a child who needed us. We wanted something different than all that we had seen.

My mother, of all people, was the catalyst.

I had been fostering kittens for the Humane Society.

Mom said I should "quit dinkin' around and go get a human foster baby". She was half-joking, but when I returned to work, I googled "foster parenting in Kentucky". I called. I said I wanted to know how to become a foster parent. At that point, I knew you could adopt through foster care, but I didn't know what it would take.

Off we went to classes. I found out that adopting through foster care is FREE. Free? Did you say FREE? Yup.

If we were willing to adopt an older child, there were dozens of children waiting for homes.

If we wanted a baby, we would probably begin getting placements as soon as we were licensed.

The risk was huge, but the job had the ultimate reward - care for children who have no place to go until they can be reunited with their parents or family. If they cannot be reunited, you can choose to adopt them or allow another waiting family to adopt them.

There's no competition - there's more children in foster care who need to be adopted than there are people willing to adopt through the state.

We have actually TURNED DOWN more children than we have taken in (due to circumstances or already having a child in the house).

Now, long-time readers know we'd have a total of 4 other children come and go from our home before we got Cookie. After each one left, we both cried and grieved. Do we still feel the pain of their departures? Absolutely not. No. We miss Howard and Autumn sometimes and wonder where they are and hope they are thriving, but we feel no pain. We do, however, feel like we have done wonderful things. We feel like we are blessed to even have had the opportunity to serve the community in the way we have.

Choosing to adopt through foster care was the right decision for us. I'm not sure many people even consider it when looking to adopt. I think a lot of people still carry many of the misconceptions that we did: that foster parents are in poverty, looking for extra money (what a CROCK that is!!), lower socio-economic level, less educated, etc. Here, those things could not be farther from the truth. And this was the best part - everyone - everyone we ever met who wanted to adopt got to adopt eventually. And it never took much longer than it would have to do an international adoption anyway. Even foster parents who weren't even looking to adopt eventually found themselves faced with a child they had cared for who now needed adoptive parents - quite unexpectedly. The foster parents I have met - in real life and online - are some of the most fabulous people I could ever have been fortunate enoug to meet.

August 11 marked a year since we "graduated" from foster parent classes. Nest month, we will have been liscenced for a year. And we already are looking at adopting our first child. Wowzers.

Notice I say "first". Yup, we will probably do this all over again. Why? Well, Cookie needs a brother - and last month there were 10 more cocaine-addicted babies born in Fayette county just like Cookie. That's 10 that our social worker knew about and saw placed - there may have very well been more. Those 10 babies have about a 50% chance of being placed with relatives. They have almost no chance of being returned to the birthmom who would have to go through drug treatment and get clean for at least 6 months. That, apparently, is almost imposible when it comes to cocaine.

There's no lack of babies here in my city. There's a need for more families willing to adopt, in fact.

Those are just some of the reasons why adopting through foster care was right for us. It clearly isn't right for everyone. I do hope that more women and more couples would at least consider it as an option and see the many new families that have been formed.

There's so many more out there where Cookie came from. At last count there were over 600 children in foster care in our county alone. Only 50-75% will eventually be reunited with family. The rest will need people willing to adopt them. That's staggering, isn't it?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Great News!

SW called this morning - to reschedule our home visit for the month and shift it to Thursday morning...AND to let me know that the Warning Lawyer has now been appointed! YES LORD!!

For those of you new to the situation, Biomom is AWOL. She left a drug treatment facility in June, and has not been seen since. This violates her probabtion BIG TIME. Biomom is a wanted woman. Whenever she is found - and she WILL be found (its just a matter of when) - she will be doing some time courtesy of the fine folks of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Since Biomom left before they could serve her with papers for TPR (Termination of Parental Rights), they have to follow due process and ask the court to appoint a Warning Lawyer to document the process that the porobation officer and the social workers have gone through to try to locate Biomom. (They are fairly convinced she has no gone into "hiding" and has pretty much just gone away.)

The Warning Lawyer was appointed on August 2nd (we didn't even know it had happened already) and will have either 60 or 90 days (SW wasn't positive, but thinks it is 60 days) to wait to then file paperwork with the court to say that they all tried hard to find Biomom to no avail. Then (THEN!) we will get a date for TPR. SW thinks we will be told the date sometime in October and get a TPR hearing date sometime in November.

Perhaps by her first birthday, Cookie will be free and clear and we will be able to transition to working with an adoption lawyer. That would be like another Christmas miracle.

I tell ya, this is the best news we could have gotten. Things are progressing like they should. SW even apologized for everything taking so long, but assured me that this case has moved about as fast as she's ever seen. I told her thanks, and that we did understand that this is all moving quickly compared to other situations out there. We really appreciate Cookie's worker - like I have written before, she's a no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is kind of woman - and she's a mom, and she "gets it". If I could have her as the kid's workers for all of my foster kids, I'd never hesitate to take more. She's amazing - and she digs our Cookie. We give her lots of pictures - she even told me over the phone that she needed some more because her boss stole one for her bulletin board because she thought it was so beautiful (what a lovely compliment!).

Thank you for your continued prayers. Life is good. God is good - all the time. We have been so blessed.

On a side note - I think you should know that the other Sunday Michael began writing out a check in church before the offering was taken up - and I was a bit confused because he always writes out our tithe check on the first Sunday of the month after we both get paid - and this was out of the routine. He leaned over at me and whispered that "he had forgotten to tithe on the money we get from the state for Cookie". I wasn't shocked, but I was surprised. He asked if that was okay, and I said "sure". I'm not even sure the amount would be that "significant", but it was the act of obedience that struck me. Michael is a man who actively seeks God's will - to the fullest. Tithing is something that he "just does" as a matter of course - and then he gives above and beyond whenever there is a special need of some kind. So, I imagine the check was for about $60 - no biggie, right?

Well, guess what - the Lord promises to give back to us abundantly, and that's exactly what happened. We couldn't put a pricetag on getting a Warning Lawyer appointed so quickly. But I can tell you, it's worth a lot more than our measly money.

That's my testimony today. Give God what's his - and in case you need reminding - that's EVERYTHING you've got.

On Christmas morning, 2005, we took our 5-day old baby girl to church and gave her back to the Lord. Since then, he has healed her and strengthed her and caused great things to happen in her life and in ours. We'd ask for more, but we can't imagine what that would be!

Monday, August 21, 2006

Happy 8 Month Birthday, Cookie!

Sunday was Cookie's 8 month birthday, so to document the milestone, I figured I'd give this Baby Meme a try (thanks to Sara).

3 Things That Scare Me
That Joe guy that mommy works with
Realizing I'm all alone in my crib and no one is around
When I fall down and bump my head

3 People That Make Me Laugh
Uncle David
Some of the old men at church

3 Things I Love
My touch n' feel book "Listen Peter Rabbit"
A warm bath, big fluffy white towel, and a warm post-bath bottle - ummm, ummm
Watching basketball with daddy

3 Things I Hate
People who think I should take a nap
Being overly tired
When mommy tells me "no" and moves my hand away from something I want

3 Things I Don’t Understand
Why the cat doesn't like it when I grab her fur
What these new hard white things are in my mouth that hurt
Why mommy and daddy insist on putting me in my crib (Don't they like sleeping with me? I like sleeping with them!)

3 Things On My Highchair
Crusted bits of sweet potato
A bib
A spoon

3 Things I’m Doing Right Now
Probably either crawling around the floor
Walking holding on to something

3 Things I Want to Do Before I Die
Go to basketball camp with coach DeMoss
Have a sibling
Help mommy buy a convertible

3 Things I Can Do
Stand up holding onto something
Feed myself fruit puffs
Say "dada"

3 Things I Can't Do
Walk unassisted
Say "mama"
Sleep through the entire night

3 Ways to Describe My Personality

3 Things I Think You Should Listen To
"We Want The Funk" - Daddy plays that when he changes my diaper
Me playing on my toy piano - I am so talented
The bee on my toy that makes the "Bzzzzzzzz" sound

3 Things I Think You Should Never Listen To
Mommy telling you "No" (she probably doesn't really mean it)
Bill O'Reilly
Conway Twitty (it can kill you)

3 Absolute Favorite Foods
Sweet potatoes
Banana puffs

3 Things I’d Like to Learn
How to walk
How to catch the cat
How to eat grown-up food

3 Beverages I Drink Regulary
Nestle Good Start
Apple-White Grape Juice
Apple-Carrot Juice

3 Shows I Watch
Golf (if Tiger Woods is playing)

OK, everyone with kids is tagged - this is great lifebook material!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Cha-cha-cha Changes

My husband used to be pretty certain about some things.

He used to be certain he didn't want children, certain he would remain single, and certain he would have specific kinds of successes in life.

He told me when we were dating that he wanted to be a "rock star" in his profession. He wanted to be that person who writes the quintessential theories and articles and books on a given subject. He wanted to be the person whom everyone comes to hear talk about his research. He wanted to be the first name that came to people's lips when they talked about research in his area of expertise. He wanted to be THE ultimate scholar. He was close to becoming that.

Then I came along.

I hated his work habits, and they way he lived his life like a hermit. I hated how he neglected me to the point of telling me I couldn't come visit him because he was "too busy" or "ovwewhelmed with work" or "had deadlines he was working on". There was always something. He neglected friends and his family. He went to movies alone, ate alone, and lived his life very much alone.

Yet, in all that he was beautiful. At times he was peaceful and calm, and relaxed just enough to enjoy some lovely moments. He was witty and brilliant, and kind when he could free himself up enough to live in-the-moment or invite others into his life for a bit. Interestingly enough, everyone liked him. Given a glimpse of him or even a brief conversation, people were drawn to him and spoke highly of him, his abilities, and his work. He is an award-winning scholar and an all-around "nice guy". He's the guy who doesn't drink, smoke, cuss, or do anything "bad".

One of the main reasons he ended our relationship (refusing to see me face-to-face for 6 months) was my desire to have children. It is still so painful to recall those conversations about children and family that I cry every time (as I am now). It was that horrific. Imagine having to verbally defend your desire to have children to the one person you believe to be your life partner, and having him speak about children as if they are the ultimate ruins of a satisfying and comfortable life. I felt like there was something wrong with me for wanting what I wanted - it wasn't what he said about me as much as it was what he said about other people we knew who had gotten married and had children. He spoke so badly of them - it was like he truly believed they had killed their careers and entered the Twilight Zone.

When Michael and I reunited, and when we got married, it was a compromise for him - a huge, overwhelming compromise. Even finding a date to get married was tough because it couldn't cut into his work schedule. We got married over Spring Break - he drove down from OH to GA, and together we drove to Mississippi to get married. We drove back, and he went back to OH and we both resumed our teaching for that semester.

From that point on, he said we could have children "if it was that important to me". He made it clear that he didn't want any, but that if it was important to me, it would be fine with him. Fine - it would be "fine". I hate the word "fine". To me, it means "it won't kill me".

Five months after we got married he finally agreed to let me get off birth control pills because we were finally living together in Kentucky. Five months after that I found out I had PCOS, and several months after that he found out about his low fertility as well.

It felt like he had won a prize, but in order to win that prize a little bit of me had to die.

I did foster care for the Humane Society and took in litters of kittens until they were old enough to be adopted.

It was my mom who suggested that we become foster parents to human babies instead of just kittens. I think she was half-teasing. I thought it was a great idea. I called the next day to find out how to do it.

Michael agreed to go to the classes with me "as long as there was no commitment". That was (sadly) good enough for me. He didn't say much in the classes, and many times seemed to resent being there. He made it a point to let me know how it cut into his writing time.

But in his defense, he did a lot of work to see to it that I got to be a foster parent. He cleaned out the front bedroom of our then-apartment. He helped set up the crib and made changes in his lifestyle that would accomodate being a parent.

And sometime between a year ago when we finished our foster parenting classes and now, things began to change. It wasn't a "whomp you upside the head" kind of change. If you hadn't been looking, you might not have seen it happening. But if you had known Michael and I before, and hadn't seen us in a while, you'd be amazed at the changes.

But when did it begin?

It might have begun doing respute care for a beautiful 3-yr. old little girl we called "Bumble Bee".

It might have been with the newborn baby boy who was our first placement - for 23 hours. It might have begun there in the hospital corridors as we were escorted by police and social workers to another area of the floor - away from the mother who was being arrested and led out of the hospital by police.

It might have begun when we got our first placement of siblings we thought could be permanent, and crying on the sofa together when they were sent to live with relatives 10 days later.

It might have begun last December 22nd when Cookie arrived in the arms of the social worker who told us the situation and that this newborn baby girl could quite possibly become our forever-daughter.

I remember the first time Michael fell asleep with a baby on his chest - a baby who stayed for 10 days and whom we both loved. This past weekend, I was sorting through baby clothes to sell and donate when I came across her little pumpkin onezie and booties that she wore on Haloween. Michael said it was "what our first Boo wore". It was sad.

As quickly as a baby arrived in our house, Michael was boiling water and sterilizing bottles, and cuddling with the kids. He was telling them he loved them, and meaning it. He was reading them bedtime stories, teaching them to wash their hands and count to 10, making sure they brushed their teeth, and saying prayers at night. Instead of working through the night, he was going to bed with me, taking kids to daycare in the mornings, and playing with them in the evenings. He was growing into a kinder, more tolerant, and more expressive person.

I did not grieve the departure of our first 4 foster children alone. He grieved their departure as much as I did, and had just as much difficulty hiding it publically as I did.

Michael's love for Cookie was clear right from the start. He did just as much work as I did - and he still does. He makes all of her bottles and loads the empties in the dishwasher. He plays with her, sings, dances, and talks with her. He takes her for walks in the stroller while I make dinner. He probably changes more diapers than I do, and feeds her just as often.

A few weeks ago, he purchased her an NFL jersey that has great meaning - it is an official jersey of a plater who shares our last name. So, here's the smallest 2T jersey we could find for her - with her future new last name on it. It's currently hanging up in her room. It wasn't even my idea.

When you see the pictures of Cookie, it's clear that she's a daddy's girl - all over him - laughing and dancing, and enjoying being in his presence. She knows he loves her all-out.

There's a wind of change I sense lately in our little family. It's as disturbing as it is comforting. That is, where do we want to go from here?

We moved here so Michael could be at a Research 1, grant powerhouse of a department. We moved here so we could both have a job at a university. We moved here for very different reasons than we are living out. And now, I am restless in my job - and my husband is looking at job postings. He's mentioning postings at schools that have no graduate programs, where publications and grants are less important.

He's saying that life is changing and priorities are changing. I never, ever thought anything or anyone could do that. I couldn't do that. Loving me, marrying me, and being with me didn't change him. My depression, crying, yelling, stomping around, threatening to leave...none of it did anything. I stopped all that. I had resigned myself to a life that wasn't at all what I'd wanted. I had chosen poorly...or so I thought.

Now it seems I'm getting more than I ever thought I wanted. It's mysterious and a little frightening. We just bought our house in January. Now, we might just leave this place a year from now if the cards fall that way. Now, he hasn't even applied for another job anywhere - but the deadlines are in November. By November, he will have either made a decision to stay here at least another year - or put himself on the marker again. That is a hard thing to wrap my brain around.

The implications for adoption? We've already asked. As long as TPR has happened, the workers are willing to process approval for us to move Cookie whereever we want to - as long as we would be willing to travel to get her here for mandatory monthly check-ins until the adoption is final. We'll do what it takes, but trust that we would never leave here if it meant leaving our daughter.

So many decisions we make anymore revolve around our lovely daughter.

That is a huge change, and neither of us seems to mind.

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Crib Saga Continues

Well, we moved the crib back into our bedroom. In retrospect (and after talking to my mom), we decided that the move may have been a bit too traumatic and sudden for Cookie.

Since birth she had been sleeping between us in our bed (co-sleeping). It was great for her, and especially good for the time that we were dealing with withdrawl symptoms and the restless sleep patterns that many drug-exposed babies experience. The constant getting up and down wore us out.

As the months moved on, it became harder and harder to get her into the crib, and it became "easier" to just bring her to bed with us. She always fell asleep quickly snuggled up next to us, and she was down to waking up only once or twice in the night (until teething hit - which was another story entirely). I'll admit it, the intimacy that we have experienced as a family there is that king-sized bed has been amazing. We can all fall asleep hearing and smelling and feeling each other. There is no other experience like it in the world.

When we tried to move her out of our bed and into her crib AND into the nursery - all at the same time, it probably felt to her like her world was ending. She looked like her world was ending, and cried like it too. I imagine I could have put her in the backyard or in the car in the garage and she's have felt the same way. It thought about how I would have felt - having to get used to sleeping alone, in a different bed (with bars!), and then being put in a different room all alone. It was probably too sudden.

Michael volunteered (yes, I said volunteered) to move the crib back into our bedroom last night, and I then volunteered to take Cookie grocery shopping while he did that so he could have a bit of peace in the house (though his "peace" was most likely accompanied by ESPN).

We decided to take the transition to the crib one step at a time for Cookie's sake, and for ours. So, last night she slept in the crib in our bedroom - about 5 feet away from my side of the bed against the wall in the corner. We have an enormous bedroom (I think it's 14' x 30' with vaulted ceilings which was one reason I loved this house), so its not a space issue at all.

Our one mistake was keeping Cookie up too late last night because she got a little "wired" and cranky, but she was in her crib fast asleep from 11:00 to 4:30 - that's a half-hour longer than the record! Now, I didn't say that I slept that long because, well, married folks need together time too. Hehehehe. Bom chicka bom bom! TMI! TMI!

When Cookie woke up at 4:30, Michael popped right up out of bed, scooped her up and carried her downstairs and rocked her back to sleep before I even knew what was going on. It was very, very sweet of him - and he said she really didn't want a bottle and was back to sleep in about 15 minutes, though he stayed downstairs about 30 minutes total and watched some TV to make sure she was fast asleep - then he put her back in the crib, and she slept there until my alarm went off at 6:30, and which point I laid her in bed with Michael while I showered and got ready for work - thinking she would be up and about. Nope - she fell back asleep next to him and they slept until it was time to take me to work (my car's in the shop).

So, I think this may be the answer. Cookie needs to learn that the crib is where she sleeps. After that, moving it to another room will be the next logical transition. I don't mind her in our bedroom. I do mind her in our bed all the time. Once I realized the toll it had taken on our intimate life and sex life, I knew something had to change.

For the record, we both agree that co-sleeping worked for us. It was the best bonding experience, and the closeness and intimacy we have with Cookie is amazing. She knows how we feel, and is so comfortable and happy and confident. It was a great decision for us. If/when we have another baby placed with us, we will co-sleep again. It is right for who we are as a couple, and who we want to be as a family.

In other developments, I cried in church yesterday. The message was about God talking to us, and how to discern God's talk and will, and how to separate that from other messages. I've been feeling a push lately to put our names back on the list for placements for foster-to-adopt. I know that in our state, that really means taking in children for foster care and letting the cards fall where they may - there is never a guarantee that a child will stay. But I feel drawn to this - and it repeats and won't go away. But it feels insane - I mean, we are just now getting sleep, and we have a good schedule and a semi-clean house, and adoption is still up in the air in terms of time frame. How could we possibly do that? I don't know why I'm feeling this way, and I don't know if that means I am supposed to have faith that God will provide and only send us the children we are supposed to have at the right time and that He will provide for our needs. If I weren't a believer, I'd never do it - knowing that the state will "dump" as many kids on you as they possibly can. Ugh. We are coming up on the time of year when we see a "baby boom". More babies are born in September than any other month. Our social worker told us that last month, there were 10 cocaine-addicted babies placed in foster care that she knew of. Dang. Guess there would be no lack of children. But I need to feel certain about this before I approach my husband. My logic tells me to wait until the adoption is final - but if I wait until then, will I be willing to do it?

So, there's lots of fascinating things going on here. But maybe I'm just supposed to say...

C is for Cookie. That's good enough for me.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Long Lost Loves

This post has absolutely nothing to do with being a fos*ter par*ent, or adop*tion - but I'm sure it will find its way in somehow:

I talked to an old ex-boyfriend the other day. I called him. He is going through a painful divorce. His wife had left him (and their two children) for another man while he was doing military cleanup efforts down in LA after Karina. Hard core. He had called my mom to tell her he was getting a divorce. My parents and gradparents had always been more of a family to him than his own was (while we were together, and for a while afterwards).

The last time I had even spoken to Rick was a tough conversation. It was right before he left for Desert Storm. We hadn't been together for quite some time, but I loved him. I loved him all out - down into my toes and all the way to the tips of my hair. He was beautiful - with curly red hair and freckles. He was a tight end on our high school football team. Being with him was exciting - he was older, more mature, and popular. Everyone liked Rick, and everyone knew me when I was with him. He was passionate, charasmatic, intelligent, clever, and funny. Rick was a force to be reconned with. Our fights were just as passionate. I suppose that was why the end was as traumatic for me as it was. That, and...

Rick was my first. *sigh*

There are those people we say "I will always love you" too, yet when it's over, so is the love. Not with me - not with Rick. I always missed him. I always loved him. I still do - differently, of course, but I still love him dearly.

He didn't respond to my letters and packages much during the war - I didn't expect it. But when I learned that he was getting married, I was crushed. We never spoke again - until about a month ago.

My mom (bless her heart) doesn't give out my information - any of it. When Rick called her, she pretty much told him I lived in KY, and when asked about marriage and kids, she was pretty tight lipped. But she did tell me that he had called and what was going on with him.

I was shocked. I didn't want my mom to know anything, so I scrounged the internet and found a phone number for him. I held onto it for day, afraid to call, afraid of saying the wrong thing.

One night, I couldn't rest and kept thinking about Rick, so after Michael and the baby were in bed, I wandered downstairs in the dark and called him.

He answered, and I knew it was him.

"Hi Rick. It's Tam. Tam Lastname. Mom told me you called, and I just wanted to say I'm so sorry for what you're going through. I know. I went through a divorce too.

"Tam. Oh my God. Tam. It's you. You sound so grown - you sound... You called. I'm so glad to hear from you."

And so it went for almost two hours. He told me the entire story, how it happened, how he felt, how the kids reacted and how they were doing now. We talked about Cookie, and how I couldn't have children. He said how sorry he was, and how awful that must have been to learn that. He said what a great mom I would make. We remembered some things, but nothing very imtimate. He sounded just as kind, just as passionate, just as lovely. It was nice to know that some people don't change much. I was glad he hadn't. He was nice just the way he was. I hear his wife looked a lot like me - everyone told me it was scary how much she looked like me.

I missed Rick a lot over the years. As folks would see him at various events over time, they'd tell me about it. I'd grin respectfully and sya nice things, and I'd be thankful I didn't have to be there to see him. Seeing him would have really hurt. He was my first love. I never really got over him.

Maybe I should have, and maybe not. Sometimes we are just meant to live with things. I think we are too quick to dismiss people and the impact they have on our lives, or on our hearts. I'm grateful for Rick. It is HIS kisses that I got to use as a standard (that few were ever able to exceed), it was HIS body that I came to know as lovely and wonderful. He admired me and saw me as beautiful and from then on I knew what that felt like. For a long time, he was a part of my life and a part of my family. Other men that would come into my life had a tough road. Rick set the stardard pretty high. I'm glad. I deserved a great man.

Thanks, Rick, for setting the bar so high.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Celebrating 5 Hours

Five blissful hours of uninterrupted sleep
In my own bed
Air conditioner on full-blast
Freshly cleaned house
Full tummy
Cookie fast asleep IN HER CRIB - IN THE NURSERY
From 10pm-3am

Dear sweet Jesus, THANK YOU!

The housekeeper came late yesterday, so Michael met me at Chili's with Cookie at 6:30. I feasted on fajitas while Cookie polished off a jar of turkey and sweet potatoes before playing with/eating some shredded cheese from my plate. Cookie tried playing with the thick paper coasters that they use underneath your drinks, but with her bottom teeth coming in so well, she managed to bite the entire corner off of one - and I never did find it. I think it may be in her tummy. Guess we might soon find it in her diaper!

After we got home, I bathed the Cookie, and Michael fed her while she was still wrapped in just a big fluffy towel. He then took her upstairs and put her in her pink jammies with feet. After I cleaned up, I found the two of them on the floor of the livingroom pretend wrestling. Michael will lay on the floor and put the baby on top of him in various "holds" and act very dramatic in wrestling fashion and announce her the winner of the match. This time she was sitting on top of him and giggling, and she looked like a big pink cotton candy. (secretly, I feared when the crying would start...)

She crawled after the cat for a good amount of time, and played on her toy piano with much gusto. After quite some time, she began to get sleepy so I fed her the last bottle of the night and she fell asleep right at 9:00. Since she was alreayd asleep on top of me, we sat up and watched "Last Comic Standing", and then at 10:00 I took her upstairs and laid her in the crib. Wonder of wonders - she did not wake up. I kept my hand on her back until she found her favorite sleep position, and then I walked out. The peace was unreal. No screaming or crying - just silence.

I changed into my pyjamas and hopped into bed and Michael followed. He cuddled up close to me, and didn't "make a move", so I opted not to either. The bed felt so cool and crisp. I don't think I moved until 3:00 when I went into a coughing fit (damn sinuses/allergies!) which I am pretty sure woke up the baby in her room across the hallway. Interestingly enough, as I woke up coughing and looked at the clock, I was terrified. Holy cow! Is the baby okay? Is she breathing? Did Michael get up with her? How long did I sleep?

The sudden crying after my coughing fit told me she was fine, but I opted to go in and check on her anyway. As soon as she saw me, she sat up in the crib and reached for me. Well, I did what I felt like doing and scooped her up and took her to our bedroom to offer her a bottle which she sucked down pretty quickly and fell back asleep almost immediately. Not wanting to risk the peace, I laid her down between Michael and I and went right back to sleep until the alarm went off 3 hours later.

For the first time in a long time, I wasn't waking up miffed. I was relieved. It is a small step, but it is a meaningful one.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

It's Hard

Sometimes I cross over into blog-land and check in on my friends and those I'm praying for and think, "Is there an echo in here?"

For those of us who went about getting our children "the hard way", or who (like me) are still waiting to "technically" get their children "for keeps", it seems even harder to admit it when things just aren't so rosy. We feel guilty for complaining. After all, if we worked so hard for this child, and wanted them so very badly, then why do we feel down?

Because we're parents?

The strain of parenthood has seeped into my marriage. Before that, it seeped into my body. Geez, I've gained weight, gotten even darker circles under my eyes, lost all my fingernails, deepened a few wrinkles, and lost a lot of my "sparkle".

I've gotten my hair done again - wow - twice in a period of 3 months. That, friends, is a major accomplishment. But if I hadn't had a $250 gift certificate that was going to expire soon, I'd never have spent that kind of time and money on my hair. But ooooh, has it been worth it. I look more like my avatar and less like my picture now. Gone are the long dark brown locks (*sigh*, they were pretty) - but taking their place are highlighs of auburn and chestnut over dark auburn short layered hair. I am funky-mom!

But, this parenting thing is tough.

Cookie DESPISES being put in the crib, and sleep in our home just isn't happening. That child can scream and cry for hours. We have yet to discover her limits because by the time midnight rolls around and she is still waking up every half hour screaming, WE HAVE to get some sleep. So, we give in.

"Baby steps on the bus." (guess the movie)

Anyone ever tried "Baby Bliss Gripe Water"? They sell it at Wild Oats, and I'm fixin' to give it a whirl. It's supposed to help with everything from colic to gas to teething. If it can get me another hour of sleep, I'll pay just about anything.

Still no change in my love life. That disgusts me, but then again, so does looking at my sleeping husband who is snoring while I lay listening to the baby screaming in her crib in the nursery across the hall. That does not endear me to him. Honestly, he does not even LOOK attractive to me anymore.

I want to slap him.

At least I shall return home today to a clean house. The woman who cleans for us should be done around the time I get home. I tell ya, it's the best $80 I could spend. It soulds expensive, but you should see how messy I can be. You'd want more than $80.

Oh, in good news, my parents have actually set a date to meet the November. She will be 11 months old before they meet her.

Sad, really. They are just too scared that if they meet her, she will be returned to birth relatives. Fear makes us do (or not do) really stupid things.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Make That 2 Teeth!

Well, the Cookie has two little teeth poking through her bottom gumline - cute and tiny and white and SHARP - yowzers - nobody warned me about these little razor-sharp things. The teething pain seems to have diminished for the time being, and it seems that the teeth have inspired her to make new sounds. Her two favorite are:

1) That "clicking" sound you make by putting your tongue on the roof of your mouth, forming a suction, and then breaking the suction forcefully by opening your mouth wider


There is the occasional MAMA, which kind of slips in there between the BA BAs.

Last night she was chattering away during outr play-time, and I said, "Hey Cookie, what does the sheep say?"

Sure enough, she loudly proclaimed, "BA BA BA BA BA". That's my girl. Just be sure not to ask her what sound the cat makes, or you'll likely get the same answer. Still, my girl is smart. Hehehe.

I'm looking forward to the weekend. Hopefully, either tonight or tomorrow I can get the crib moved and continue with Operation Get Cookie In The Crib.

Ah, my housecleaner returns on Tuesday. I think I love her. She cleans my bathroom. No one ever cleaned my bathroom besides my mom. Did I say I think I love her?

I shall try to get as much ish out of her way as possible - the more empty spaces and shelves she has, the more she can "deep clean". This time she's going to "detail" the Master Bedroom - meaning dust baseboards, etc. YES!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

How I Did...

Some success is still success, right?

Last night, I managed to:

Get home by 6
Play with Cookie
Make dinner
Talk to hubby a little about "issues"
Eat said dinner
Feed Cookie
Give Cookie medicine for stuffiness/teething
Bathe Cookie
Strip the crib of all accoutrements
Put clean crib bedding on
Get Cookie in said crib at 9:25
Get myself into bed by 9:45 - hot, sweaty, completely exhausted, and a bit angry

I didn't manage to:

Rearrange nursery to accomodate the crib
Get crib taken apart to get through the door and into the nursery
Get Cookie to sleep in the crib for longer than 2 hours

What went wrong:

By the time I finished doing everything I needed to do last night, Cookie had fallen asleep sitting up leaning against my husband who was lying in bed watching me strip the crib. I have gotten advice from other parents that you need to put the baby in the bed before she is completely asleep. Didn't happen last night - she was so racked out, she didn't move. I was grateful, but once I get her in the bed, I couldn't fall asleep because I was so wound up, angry at my husband for not having anything to say except "Is this about sex? If it's about sex, we can have more sex." Geez freakin' Louise. He's so smart, such a brilliant researcher and writer, but sometimes he seems clueless. I tried to explain that while technically yes, it was about sex, that it was about much more than just the mere act. It fell on deaf ears, I'm afraid. But we've had this talk so many times before and after marriage, that I'm just sick of having it. It cycles - I get upset enough about lack thereof, and I bring it up because I can't keep it inside any longer. I talk, cry, recover - he sits there - we eventually have some sex, then we don't, then it starts all over again. Same old story.

I also hadn't gotten the crib moved into the nursery - big mistake as then the crib is 5 feet away from our bed. And my Cookie can holler (she is from Kentucky after all).

So, I went to bed at 9:45 and frankly could have used the sleep, but it never happened. At 11:15, Cookie woke up screaming and crying. I laid in bed. Hubby never moved, and was snoring. 11:30 - still screaming and crying. I get up, comfort Cookie and pat her, slide her away from the bars where she has wedged herself in a corner with arms sticking through the bars and legs up under her. Cookie hollers worse, but I cover her and return to the bed. At ll:45 she is still going - stronger than ever. Hubby is still snoring. I finally pick her up and feed her a bottle and she falls asleep, but as soon as I put her down, she resumes screaming. The next time I go to the crib, she scrambles to her knees and literally claws at my arms to pick her up like she is drowning. Guess what? I gave in. Looking at the clock saying midnight and your husband sleeping clueless next to you - and you give in. I laid her beside me and she fell asleep amidst sobs. I shoved Michael awake because I had to pee and didn't want her to fall out of bed. He offered to "take her downstairs". A lot of good that would have done!

I must have fallen asleep around 1 because that's the last time I recall looking at the clock before Cookie woke up screaming next to me at 5:00. I fed her breakfast, and she fell back asleep. I laid in bed until the alarm went off, and went about getting ready for work - while hubby continued to sleep peacefully in the bed. By the time I left at 8 (very, very late for work), he had just gotten out of the bed. Lovely. Must be nice.

I am so, so tired today. Perhaps I should have tried to start this on a Friday night so I didn't have to get up at 6 the next morning. I so appreciate all of your support and encouragement - if you read through my comments of the last post, you can go to Andrew's post on the 5 Minute Method. I'm going to try that one - it seems to be the most sane for both parents and baby.

What Went Right:

Gosh, I didn't mean for this blog to take such a "downer" turn - but I am glad that my friends and readers have granted me "permission" to be honest. There are such joys, but we cannot overlook the very difficult and brush it aside and pretend we aren't struggling when we truly are. So, yup, I'm struggling - and praying, and talking (and writing) it out.

I am proud of myself for staying calm, not cussing at my husband or getting overly weepy (though tears did come when I tried to talk to him).

I stayed calm and loving with Cookie. I'm sure she probably sensed somehow that Mommy was not completely well and happy, but I followed through on the routine that I have come to know is so important.

I showered this morning (even shaved my legs), put on cool and comfortable cotton clothes, and thanked God that today my boss is working at home.

I blogged - which means I followed through on another promise, I get a sense of catharsis, and I get to connect with those of you who are going through this as well, who have gone before, or are going there in the near future.

Tonight I will give the crib-moving another shot, and if you stick with me, I'll continue to update my progress of growing into this motherhood role.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Tonight I Am Going To...

1) Rearrange Cookie's room so that there is room to...
2) Move the crib out of our master bedroom into the nursery (where it has never been before)
3) Remove crib bumber and mobile for safety reasons
4) Lower crib mattress now that Cookie can pull herself up to standing
5) Put pillows on the floor in front of the crib "just in case" Cookie learns a new skill in the middle of the night
6) Put Cookie in the crib no later than 9:00
7)Talk to the husband about "relational matters"

Numbers 1-6 worry me less than #7. I'm going to admit a few things here for a few reasons: 1) catharsis, and 2) maybe it will help someone fell less "odd" or "alone". So, consider yourself warned that I might break into pretty frank talk about S-E-X.

My husband has never been a real huge fan of physical intimacy. Guess when you get preached at about the evils of premarital sex, and you don't get married until you are 32, you learn not to want it so much. Add in his love of isolation, work, late nights working and writing and watching sports and you have a guy who can really "take it or leave it". Through the course of our relationship nothing has inherently changed, though he has compromised in many ways in order to please me. That makes sense - you can't ask someone to feel differently, though you can ask someone to alter their behavior. He gets enough intimacy by sitting on the sofa with me, eating dinner together, and sleeping in the same bed (even with a baby between us). Those are lovely forms of intimacy, but I crave other forms that are of a more sexual nature. I think most women would.

It has been almost a month since I/we were physically intimate. There have been plenty of times we've gone that long before we had a baby in the house. Having Cookie has just given him/us a good "excuse". Don't get me wrong, it's a damn good excuse. We both work full-time (though he has far more flexibility being a professor/researcher than I do being an 8-5er). By the time we pick Cookie up from daycare and make it home, it's close to 6:00 and we are tired and hungry. After feeding her and ourselves and watching the news and Jeopardy for some "down time", we are both exhausted. There are plenty of nights where sex is the furthest thing from my mind.

Lisa's comment about infertility is also so true - when our sex life revolved around "trying to conceive", I made more of an attempt to have said sex life. Once we gave up trying to conceive, I gave up trying to have sex. There was nobody there to make sure it happened anymore. I used to use a digital fertility monitor and pee sticks that you stuck in the monitor to keep track of when you might be fertile. If it showed a change in hormone levels, I was quick to attempt to woo my husband away from the television. Now, the fertility monitor and the boxes of pee sticks collect dust in the top of my bathroom closet (know anyone who wants to buy them??). And my Frederick's of Hollywood gear collects dust in the bottom dresser drawer (yes, they sell plus sizes).

(Do any of you ever feel resentment when you are the ones who always have to fix the relationship when its gone awry? Do you ever feel like you're the only one who cares? Are you the one who always brings up a problem?)

Becoming foster parents didn't kill our sex life. Heck, becoming parents didn't kill it. Not having two people who both valued it enough NOT to let it die killed it. Sure, becoming foster parents put a strain on our relationship - via our time, resources, energy, and mental health. Not knowing if the child who you call yours will remain yours is the most stressful thing I have ever experienced.

Becoming a mom added a lot to my life - but it is no substitute for an intimate marriage. My husband and I are gifted at navigating the every day, ordinary stuff of life. We figure out home and car maintenance, what we are going to eat, how we are going to spend our free time, and how errands will get run. What we've never been skilled at is the physical intimacy thing.

What's especially sad is how much I LOVE it. I had hoped to find a partner who would, too. There are many, many times when I realize that I got everything BUT that.

(What if you could get absolutely everything you ever wanted in a partner - except physical intimacy? Would that be enough for you? Would you celebrate all the things you have, or mourn the one thing you don't?)

In some ways, I feel guilty for complaining. But I can't stop feeling like HE should have taken more responsibility here for this part of our relationship. But I hear our former marriage counselor telling me that he never will feel the way about it that I want him to - and am I willing to stay with him knowing that. That has always been a hard truth for me.

Becoming parents has not been all roses and cuddles and laughs. It has been tremendously stressful too. The cost of diapers, wipes, and baby food alone will kill you. Teething will kill you. 8 or more poopy diapers in one day will kill you. Whining and endless crying will kill you. Going to the trouble of getting the baby in the high chair, strapped in, bib on her, baby food jar and spoon - and siting down only to have the baby refuse to open her mouth and then start whining and crying - will kill you. Add to it the knowledge that legally this child is not yours - oh yeah, over the edge you go.

We do laugh, and tell each other we love each other. We truly do. We are just vastly different. We've just put so much effort into being great parents that we have neglected being good partners. That just can't go on much longer.

Thanks for your advice and discussion - it has motivated me to tackle my above "list" tonight. Guess in the morning I'll be posting on how long she cries before she falls asleep and how many times she wakes up. Sweet mercy.