life changes


A 4 year-old boy, whose name on the blog will be “Kabooyah,” has joined our family on a “short term” basis. He’s been with us for a handful of days so far, and I gotta say, this is a steep learning curve. He is a sweet, loving boy, who loves cuddles, playing, drawing and putting together puzzles. Bedtime with him is a breeze, and he seems to be okay with having Todd and I be his caregiver for the time-being.

Now the steep part:
We have to suddenly be more organized in how we run the household. MUST’s include actual meal planning beyond glancing in the fridge at quarter past 5; doing a load of laundry from start to finish every day; doing dishes every evening after bedtime. These may all be things you already do — we sometimes did them, and sometimes let things slide and would play catch up the next day because there would be time for that.

Now the steeper part:
S has been an only child for over 5 years. As far as we know, Kabooyah is also an only child. There have been countless arguments, needling, trouble with sharing, and hurt feelings on both sides…since K arrived. There have also been twice the giggles, epic games of hide-and-seek, and a whole lot of fun. But helping these two boys navigate this new relationship has me at times feeling more like a referee than a mom. Who knows if this is the way a lot of natural siblings act toward each other? Or if circumstances or personalities (or, give them a break, Betsy — it’s been 5 days!) are making it so tough? Anyway, I have a newly-heightened respect for all of you folks parenting more than one child. I’ll be praying for harmony at your house, as hopefully you can pray for harmony at ours.

About that “short term”: it seems to be a flexible term. If, say, a relative asks that K come stay with them, he could be moved tomorrow. Or he could stay with us until his parents are able to take care of him again, which could be six months or longer…

The only mention of Eelfang 2: The Sequel was back in July 2012. Oof! There is a lot of information to fill in between then and now, but for the moment, I’ll simply throw out the teaser that we are within spitting distance of getting our foster care license.

In our search to educate ourselves about this new (to us) world of foster care, I stumbled upon fosterpodcast.com. I have listened to a number of their episodes, and have mentioned them to a number of family members and friends. They even point you to three good starting episodes on their About page. You should check it out!

first day of preschool!

Seth started preschool a few weeks ago, and he is having a blast. It’s a co-op preschool, so I work in the classroom one out of every three days. The first day of school was not one of my work days, so I dropped him off with a hug and kiss (no tears! yeah!), and went on my way.

It was super weird simply walking back to my car, having 2.5 hours to do…what ever I wanted! Not to say that I haven’t had that before, as Todd and Seth’s grandparents have often given me time off, but with those times, I often have an agenda. Knowing that I will have two of these mornings off every week until next spring kinda takes the pressure off to Get Stuff Done.

When I picked Seth up, and asked about preschool, he didn’t tell me much. That’s the usual at dinnertime these days. Todd: what did you do today, Seth? Seth: Nothing. But within just a few minutes, he was telling me, “Teacher P__ is soooo nice.” I asked if he liked preschool. He said, ” I loooove it!” He also told Teacher on the first day that Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States. That’s my fact-collecting boy!

He continues to really enjoy it, and they are always doing really fun things. They spend time in the community garden, and even meet with master gardeners once a month. Teacher P__ is bringing in some Reggio Emilia ideas into the already play-based classroom, so they end up following the children’s interests. The sensory table theme changes weekly, and there are always child-led, open-ended art projects. I’m really happy that he likes it so much, I’m loving the free time, and we’re both making new friends. Yay!

The final chapter of our old home is still being written, but in the meantime, it’s for sale! Own a piece of eelfang history!

homeforsalealtered

North End, here we come! Details to follow…

Email from coworker, to internal “parents” email list:

My wife is expecting and I am a mess. What do I do?? My options are,

1. Drink heavily
2. Ride it out
3. Run away
4. Just tell yourself that parents have been having kids for 100s of thousands of years.. it will be fine and your finances and schedule will somehow magically work itself out.

How have other expecting parents moved through and past the anxiety stage of having new borns? Thank you everyone.

My response:

Re: #4 in your options below:

I wouldn’t go in expecting your finances and schedule to “magically work themselves out”. In my experience, at least, there’s a lot of change in those two areas, and to be perfect honest, a lot of that change is unpleasant. Your life is going to be very different, and if you weren’t nervous about it, you probably haven’t been paying attention.

But what will magically work itself out is the fact that it is so worth it. The amount of love you’ll feel for those kids will make every change (even the painful ones) insignificant in comparison to the happiness you feel when they smile at you for the first time.

It’s going to be a tidal wave of change, and if you try to fight it or stand firm against it, you’ll expend a lot of energy to get nowhere. But if you swim with the current, learning new things every day and adapting to change as it comes along, you’re in for the most amazing ride of your life.

I’d say that you should make peace with the fact that, yes, you are in trouble. But that trouble is going to be so WONDERFUL.

Within the last couple months, Seth has really gotten good at answering questions and telling us what he wants by either nodding or shaking his head. Occasionally it seems arbitrary; I’ll ask, “Are you a monkey?” and he’ll nod (every time! At least he’s consistent in his thinking that he’s a monkey :] ). But for the most part, it really is him communicating his preferences and needs to us, whether or not we ask.

Also starting a few months ago, Seth lets us know that he notices when he pees. For a week there he was even peeing on purpose when we would change his diaper (we thought that was only a newborn thing!). This has really ramped up within the past month, because he has a spot of rash that gets aggravated with cloth diapers. I have been putting him in ‘sposies often because it helps a lot more than constant changes and diaper cream do. But he’s also about to graduate to the next size of disposable diapers, which of course means less diapers per package for the same price — not to mention feeling bad already for using and throwing away disposable diapers.

A couple friends use “Elimination communication” with their kids, and I knew a little bit about it already from Our Babies, Ourselves: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Parent. I checked out a book on EC yesterday just to start learning more, and read all of about 10 pages, when I decided that we might as well get a potty now. We would have to get one eventually, right?

Which leads us to today: I asked Seth if he would like to get a potty to use. He nodded emphatically, and yipped and yelled with excitement. We picked one up at the consignment store, and stationed it in the bathroom. I hadn’t really thought how it would work beyond that, but Seth wanted to use it right away. He peed a little in the potty, and then a little on the floor (mostly Mama’s fault, as I’m obviously a slower learner than he is), and then some more in the potty. We poured the contents into the real potty, and waved bye-bye to it. Then because the remaining clothes got wet, I let Seth run around naked for a while. He was thrilled about that also. I put him back in diaper & clothes before dinner, but then after dinner he ran into the bathroom and wanted to use the potty again. We took his diaper down, and he peed in the potty again! Since it was getting close to bath time anyway, he got some more naked time. During the two naked-times, Seth did have two minor accidents outside the bathroom, but I must say, I’m floored by how much he is into peeing in the potty. I really don’t want to rush or push it (other than finding a good solution for his rash), but it’s almost as if he has been waiting for us to see his readiness for, if not total potty training, at least EC. Woot! now I gotta catch up and read that book!

A few months back, one of our priests at church asked if I knew of anyone who could give a talk on Community Supported Agriculture (CSA’s) at our Sunday morning adult education (I work for a farm that has a produce box program similar to a CSA, so the question wasn’t completely out of nowhere ;] ). I volunteered myself, and then put off planning until the very last minute, but in the end, gave what I thought was a pretty nice talk that mentioned CSA’s as part of a larger picture of making sure our food choices are sustainable, and honor Creation.

In preparation of the talk, I finally watched Food, Inc.– if you haven’t seen it, I encourage you to, or you could take Todd’s suggestion and read The Omnivore’s Dilemma instead if you would rather read about than see slaughtering imagery… Long story short, I am a newly minted vegetarian unless I know the source of the meat I’m eating. What do you call that? Ethical omnivore? Flexitarian?

I’m hoping to be gracious about it, and if I’m at someone else’s home and they serve me meat, I’m not going to question, scold or refuse. We went over to Jake and Cerra’s house a few days ago, and when I mentioned that I wouldn’t be having a beef hamburger, Cerra found me an awesome black bean burger in the freezer. That was super accommodating of her, but I don’t expect that everywhere we go. (And plus, I later turned a blind eye and ate a marshmallow…:/ )

I also really have no intention of raising Seth as a vegetarian, nor could I impose a no-meat policy on Todd even if I wanted to, nor do I want to make two separate meals at dinnertime. I’m trying to find a good balance between veggie and meaty meals at home; few enough meat meals to not raise our grocery budget by too much, but enough so that Todd doesn’t go on Arby’s benders on the sly. Todd, lovely guy that he is, spends a lot of time making sure that I don’t feel stressed out as a mostly stay-at-home mama, and is hoping that I don’t feel undue stress by having to make special trips to find “happy” meat, as a friend calls it. So far, I would say that it’s actually renewed my excitement in grocery shopping and cooking. 101cookbooks.com is an all vegetarian recipe blog that is always fun to look at, but I’ve started a delicious account to bookmark the recipes that I think look especially good (and quick and Seth-friendly*). This also gave me an excuse to visit the Grainery, a natural foods store in Burien, for the first time. I probably got way too much joy out of buying french lentils in bulk. Anyway, we’ll see how this goes, but at the very least, I won’t feel guilty every time I sing a round of Old MacDonald to Seth.

*Seth is a really good eater so far. He likes lots of different veggies, and loves rice, other grains and beans (maybe he likes beans a little too much), so it’s less to cater to typical toddler tastes, but more to make sure that it’s something that he and the rest of us will enjoy. :]

Trouble for his parents today, trouble for your daughters’ hearts 17 years from now…

With a baby as active, curious and destructive as Seth, “baby-proofing” has always been a relative concept. The only way we could make things completely safe would be to put him in a featureless room with rubber walls, and then, there would still be the question of which we were trying to keep safe – our precious baby boy, or all of the books, pictures, electronics, toys and other things that he loves to chew and throw and mutilate.

His favorite activity is exploration, and he spends all day walking around and looking for something new or different that he hasn’t seen or tasted yet. His physical skills are still well beyond his capacity to recognize danger, though, so we spend a lot of time following him around, encouraging him when he sees something interesting and lifting him up to get a closer view, and doing our best to keep him our of harm’s way. (He still bonks his head at least once a day, despite our best efforts, but after a few hugs and kisses, he’s back on his way).

There’s really no way to make a house 100% safe for him or for our property without making it unlivable for the adults. That means there’s a number of places where he’s not allowed to go or things he’s not allowed to do, like chewing on books or yanking the Christmas tree over. We’ll correct him with a gentle “no-no” or “uh-uh”, and redirect his energy to something exciting in a safer part of the room.

About 2 months ago, he started to show that he understood the difference between what he was allowed to do and what he wasn’t – he’d stay away from turning off the computer or opening the cabinets he’s not allowed in, and play happily with the things he was allowed to touch. This has made things easier for everyone, and peace and happiness reigned in our kingdom (in relative terms, of course).

However, in the last week, he’s come up with a new game. He’ll intentionally go to the oven or another forbidden area, touch it, and look at us, waiting for a reaction. As soon as we move to redirect him to something else, he starts laughing like it’s the funniest thing in the world. We’ve created a rebel! And not only that, but a rebel who openly mocks our authority and laughs in our faces!

The motivation behind this is pretty obvious, too. These little acts of rebellion almost invariably happen when we’re trying to work on something on the computer or watch a bit of TV. He might be the happiest guy in the world, playing by himself quietly, but as soon as he notices that our attention is directed elsewhere, he begins acting up. I want to tell him, “Seth, misbehaving as a plea for attention is such a cliché. Can’t you try something a little more original than that, like learning how to yodel as a plea for attention? Or, at the very least, make your mischief more spectacular. By next week, I want to see you robbing banks or counterfeiting expensive works of art, not something silly like chewing up the spines of your books.”

Of course, as soon as we turn off the TV or computer and get down on the floor to play with him again, he wanders off, content to play by himself and ignore his parents. It feels less like he’s hungry for our attention, especially as he gets that attention 95% of the day, and more like he’s just jealous of us using the remaining 5% of our attention on anything other than him.

As Seth grows up into a little boy with his own personality and likes and dislikes, we’re all adjusting to being part of a family. We’re trying to show him positive attention and interaction as much as possible during the good times, keeping the corrective attention short and to the point, and figuring out times when Mom and Dad can relax without Seth feeling underappreciated. It works fairly well for everyone, and even in the last week, we’ve noticed Seth’s acting up has started to calm down. It should be noted, though, that I’m typing this on the bus on the way to work… there’s no way Seth would give me enough time to type this at home.

Before Seth was born, I pictured my life as a father being somewhere in the Bill Cosby or maybe Paul Reiser model. Sure, there would be spit-ups and diaper blow-outs early on, then maybe a baseball would break a neighbor’s window or someone would get caught fibbin’, and in later seasons some first girl troubles or trying to make the high school track team – in short, it certainly wasn’t going to be easy, but I’d get a chance to say something witty and/or profound, we’d share a hug, and everything would be wrapped up neatly in the space of 22 minutes. I may not be exactly what one would call “hip” (never have been), but I’d have my unique and likable style and generally be considered to have it all put together in my own idiosyncratic way.

Well, maybe I didn’t watch close enough, but I sure don’t remember the episode where Clare Huxtable comes down with bronchitis and is in bed most of the day, where Theo is teething and hyperactive and jumping and whining and drooling and spitting up all over Cliff’s sweaters, and where that episode just kept going, and going, and going…

Fatherhood isn’t just about dealing with the little disasters that blow up in your face when you least expect them – it’s about dealing with the long, drawn-out issues that keep blowing up in your face exactly the same way and all you can do is smile and take another. It’s an endurance event, not a sprint – or, rather, it’s an endurance event that keeps tossing sprints at you but expecting you to keep running when you’re done with each one.

In many ways, I’ve had it easy as a father so far. Seth has been officially certified by all relevant local, state and international boards as the World’s Most Beautiful Baby, and as such, he’s an absolute joy to spend time with. We’ve been incredibly lucky with how well he sleeps. He’s very good tempered, and really only fusses when he’s hungry or when he’s frustrated by the limits of his own arms and legs to explore the world around him. And above all, I have an amazing wife who is similarly certified as the World’s Best Mother (tied with my own).

This year, though, Father’s Day took one look at how lucky I’ve had it, and said that if I was going to celebrate this holiday, I was going to have to earn it. So just as I was starting to get my feet back underneath me from my recent illness, and still running at about 70% energy, sickness knocked Betsy down for the count and left me as the sole parent in charge. And Seth just wanted to explore and bite and pull and yank and chew on everything he could, all day long, with a “no naps over 10 minutes long” policy.

But that’s what you gotta do. The end credits don’t roll until everyone in the house is fast asleep, and the opening music starts up again way too early every day. We earn our right to be called a Father by picking up the rattle for the 100th time no matter how sore our back is, by working hard at work and then even harder at home day after day, and by just putting it all together with sweat, love, and yes, the occasional witty remark (even if it’s just to a baby who doesn’t understand yet).

Happy Father’s Day to Kyle, Jason, Gabe, Dave, Doug, Jake, Scott, Bobby, Zack, Casey, Jeff, Eric, Frank, (soon) Corey, (hopefully soon) Aaron, to anyone who I am forgetting to name in my half-asleep state, and above all, to the best father-in-law and to the most amazing father a guy could ask for.

And happy Father’s Day to Betsy, who is not a father, but she does everything I just mentioned above solo every day I’m at work, and pretty much every holiday belongs to her for that.

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