Our Imperfect Lives

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Happy National Adoption Month

November, widely known as Movember or Moustache November, is a month where many men grow facial hair in awareness of men’s health, specifically prostate cancer. Since Marcy’s father kicked prostate cancer’s butt not once but twice, we are all for promoting prostate cancer awareness; but it’s not the only awareness issue that November focuses on – it’s also National Adoption Month.

If you didn’t know it was National Adoption Month, don’t feel too badly because we weren’t aware of it before this year either. Adoption has been an important part of our lives for quite some time, especially Marcy’s life. Marcy’s older sister, Melissa, is adopted. Now, because adoption is such a huge part of our lives and the way Marcy’s parents chose to start theirs, we feel the need to pay a little attention to this celebration.

Our story, which we hope will soon become an adoption story, is just one of many, many adoption stories. Some adoption stories are created through familial adoptions, some international adoptions, others through state care like ours, and an additional route to take is through private agencies, which is what Marcy’s parents did over thirty years ago.

Many families turn to adoption when doctors say conceiving a child is not an option. We never bothered to speak with a doctor regarding one of us trying to conceive because we knew it wasn’t the path we wanted to take. We believed there were children in state custody who were waiting to complete our family. However, Marcy’s parents did speak with a doctor about conceiving a child, and he said it wasn’t possible. Obviously the doctor wasn’t one hundred percent correct in his prognosis, since Marcy is sitting here as we write this blog. Marcy’s parents, eager to start a family, started looking into adoption. Marcy’s parents chose to use Catholic Charities as their adoption agency, even though they are Protestant and not Catholic.

Marcy had always known, since she was old enough to understand, that her sister was adopted. The story was no secret in the family. In fact, Marcy and her siblings joke that Melissa is “The Chosen One” because she was adopted and Marcy is “The Miracle” because she wasn’t supposed to be able to happen. However, even though we previously knew the broad strokes of the story we had not discussed it in much detail until we started on our adoption path. For example, Marcy never knew that her parents didn’t care about the gender or ethnicity of the child they were placed with – they just wanted a child to share their lives with, just like us. Even though they didn’t care if their child looked like them, Marcy’s parents were placed with a baby girl with blond hair and blue eyes, just like Marcy’s mother. Coincidentally enough, even though we were open to children of any race, we were placed with two children who do share similar characteristics with us; Sport has dirty blond hair like Meg while Sunshine has darker, slightly curly hair like Marcy.

Our journey to adoption has also stimulated similar discussions with Melissa on the subject. She has shared her views on open adoptions, molded by her personal experiences. Melissa was born to two teenage parents who recognized that they could not care for a baby girl and gave her up for adoption. However, that is the bulk of the information we knew about Melissa’s parents until recently; she was adopted through a closed adoption. Marcy’s family was a happy family, and from what we know from Marcy’s experiences as a child and from Melissa’s words herself, Melissa had a happy childhood and she loves her parents dearly. Nonetheless, the older she got, the more she yearned to know about her birth parents (as an adult she has been able to unearth a bit more information through extensive research).

A large portion of this yearning came from wanting to know ethnic lineage and medical history. Melissa knew her adoptive family tree, which an aunt had tracked all the way to Governor Bradford and the Mayflower, however, it wasn’t her biological family. Were her health problems related to her family history or just dumb luck? These questions are a large reason why Melissa has encouraged us to have an open adoption if and when the time comes. And we have decided that if the situation is right, we will agree to an open adoption.

We love the adoption stories of real families, families we know personally and the ones we learn about through friends or on the internet. But we also enjoy the fictional story of an adoptive family portrayed on ABC Family’s “The Fosters.” We must note that we were particularly drawn to the show because the family is headed by a lesbian couple. For anyone who’s looking for a feel good, highly dramatized and simplified adoption story we encourage you to check it out.

To learn more about National Adoption Month, visit the National Adoption month website or the Adopt US Kids website.

Finally – here are some photo highlights of our weekend…

Swimming at the YMCA:



Basketball at the YMCA:

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Hiking at a local wooded preserve:

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Dance party in the living room:



Keep Moving

Parenting is hard. We’ve all heard it before and we had believed it, but we didn’t really understand it – until now. Going from no kids to a 4 month old and a 2 year old is a little like getting thrown in the deep end of the pool and having to learn to swim on the spot, and when learning to swim it’s good not to panic and to continue moving to keep your head above water. We’ve found those principles work pretty well with the kids; if we don’t panic and keep them (well really Sport) busy and always moving life is a whole lot easier.

And keep them busy we have! The past week has been jam packed with activities including many trips to the local children’s indoor playground, which we of course now have a membership to, swim lessons at the YMCA, a visit to a plaster painting studio, trick or treating, a trip to a science museum and even a new haircut.

The indoor playground has everything from a chalkboard wall to climbing apparatus to a bouncy house and it’s a perfect activity regardless of the weather! Plus Sport can make friends, or in one particular case, follow a child around until he wears them down convincing them to finally play.

Sport and his friend

Sport on the indoor slide

Sport in the bouncy house

Meg grew up swimming – her family had a pool, she attended summer camps where she spent every moment she could participating in water activities, she swam on her high school swim team, then as she got older she became a lifeguard and even the waterfront director for one of the YMCA camps she attended as a young girl – so it was only natural to sign Sport up for swim lessons at our local YMCA.  And he is shaping up to be a water bug too. After seeing his love for bath time we had a good idea that he’d probably take to the water like the fish decorating his room, and we were right. During his first lesson he was already dunking his head under the water with Meg.

Swim lessons

Swim lessons

Painting plaster was an absolute mess and a bit chaotic. Every time Sport got up from the table we got a small break from monitoring where he was putting the paint, but we then had the fear that he was going to break every plaster figurine on the wall, so we were on our toes the whole time. However, it was a perfect activity for us to take Sport, Sunshine and two 13 year old girls, since we met a friend and her 13 year old foster daughter along with her friend.

Painting plaster with Meg

Last weekend was Halloween, so we couldn’t resist dressing the kids up. Since Sunshine is still a baby we got to dress her up in whatever we wanted, so we picked out an adorable penguin costume we found while poking around the Halloween section of Target. Sport has taken to playing with fire trucks, a fire helicopter and firefighter action figures and since we were lucky enough to have a firefighter costume given to us, he was a firefighter for Halloween.

We only trick or treated at a handful of houses. Sunshine naturally didn’t do much of anything, and Sport was very shy, although excited about the candy – what kid wouldn’t be? He seemed to be more interested in handing out candy to the other children who came to our house. However, the real excitement for them was probably having Meg’s brother, his wife, and Meg’s sister all over for some homemade pizza.

Trick or treating

Trick or treating

This week Marcy went back to work but Meg still had another week home, so she decided to call in reinforcements, a friend who is still in college and conveniently only had an early morning class that day, and together they took Sport (Marcy took Sunshine to daycare on her way to work) to a science and nature museum. There they saw animals like otters, owls and eagles, checked out a hurricane booth where winds blew 70 mph, and inspected some dinosaur tracks.

Sport checking out the otter

Sport and Meg

Since Sport and Sunshine are foster children we have to get permission to alter their appearance in any way so we inquired about getting Sport’s hair cut. The biological parents said they would like his hair to be neatly kept so, we booked an appointment with our stylist. Normally, we probably wouldn’t bring a 2 year old to a nice salon to get his hair cut, especially since our city has a barbershop (or two) on every corner, but we love our stylist, Ana. She has a two year old boy herself and when we told her our plans to adopt through the foster care system she let us know that she would love to cut the kids’ hair.

Sport's Haircut

Next week we’ll both be back at work and both Sport and Sunshine will be at their daycares. We’re hoping to get a comfortable routine going and to give Sport some productive outlets for his energy at daycare. Until then we’re doing everything in our power to tucker the guy out, and it seems to be working.


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The Honeymoon is Over

The first week with the kids was pretty much a breeze as far as their behavior. Sport was well mannered, listened to us when we asked him to do something, and was generally a high energy sweetheart – there were few signs of the often storied behaviors of the “terrible twos.” Sunshine was equally delightful and rarely fussed or cried. And they both were sleeping like champs! But now, the honeymoon is over.

Sport began to rebel by ignoring our requests or refusing to do what we asked. Chasing and hugging (squeezing!) the dogs, feeding them from the table, snatching our phones, pressing all the buttons on the TV, drinking from our glasses, the list goes on! As much as possible we have tried to redirect him to a more appropriate behavior (give the dog a training treat, pat the dogs gently, find your… computer, phone, etc.). We have also emphasized “good listening,” and even rewarded his behavior with stickers and small prizes (those little plastic people that go with the toddler LEGOs). To be honest, we aren’t sure when he “gets it” and when things just fly over his toddler head, but happily – his listening has started to improve. He replaces our phones on the table, pats the dogs gently, and well, he still tries to drink from our glasses, but two out of three isn’t bad.

Sport has also started to work his tantrums. He can turn on the crying at a drop of a hat and turn it off just as quickly. However, we are lucky because once he does turn it “on” it only lasts a few minutes. Most of the time we just have to pick him up show him a little attention and the tantrum is over. There have been a handful of cases that weren’t that simple but not many. One of which we theorize was particularly lengthy only because he had an audience. This tantrum, or meltdown as we like to call them, came as a result of him biting the dog – yes, our problems are more him terrorizing the dogs than the dogs doing anything to him.

After he bit the dog we put him in what we call a “time in;” it’s essentially a few minutes he must spend with one of us away from toys and other activities while we sit and talk about what happened. This particular “time in” took place while Marcy’s sister and Meg’s mother were at the house visiting, so he had an audience to play to and boy did he pull out all of the stops. There was crying and wailing and pushing and kicking to get out of Marcy’s arms and let’s not forget the sad “save me” eyes he was giving to everyone else in the room. The meltdown lasted long enough for Marcy to bring him upstairs and wouldn’t you know, as soon as he got in his room and was put in his chair he flipped the switch to “off” and wanted to read a book.

In addition to his sometimes fighting back against being told “no” and being given “time ins,” Sport has chosen one thing to be particularly difficult about every couple of days. During the beginning of week two that thing was his bib, which he fought against wearing at every meal. The next few days it was his car seat and his refusal to get buckled in. We can’t wait to find out what comes next!

Along with this relatively normal behavior for a two year old, Sport started to have sleeping problems. He would cry and follow us out of his bedroom if we tried to leave the room before he fell asleep. He would also wake up in the middle of the night and then again in the morning and cry until he found us.

Thankfully Sunshine’s demeanor has changed very little from the honeymoon period. She still eats well and sleeps well. She did begin to cry a bit more and can be a little fussier, but she’s still a great and happy baby.

We’re told the end of the honeymoon period and Sport’s and Sunshine’s willingness to, well, act like normal children their age is a good sign. It can show that they are feeling comfortable and that it’s OK to act normal. So, while we can find it frustrating, we’re happy to manage a meltdown or two.

As far as Sport’s sleeping difficulties, our working theory is that he’s having a bit of anxiety about having to leave us or being placed with another foster family. This may have arisen from the confusion of being picked up for a visit with his biological parents by a social worker, since social workers were involved with most of his previous moves. We had driven the children to and from their first visit and it went fine; they showed no negative effects.

Marcy’s friend, who herself is a DCF social worker, suggested giving Sport something of ours to help him feel more comfortable during the night, to give him the feeling that we were always with him even if we weren’t in the room at that very moment. The idea behind this sounded great and since Marcy and Sport share a love of teddy bears we decided a teddy bear would be a perfect personal item that he could even snuggle at night if he wanted.

Marcy has two very loved and very tattered bears that are as old as she is (32 years old) so she grabbed a needle and thread and performed a little “surgery” on one of the bears, Ted, stitching up his many holes and securing the broken music box in his tummy. The bear was far from pretty and squishy (most of its stuffing has fallen out over the years) but it was a perfect little piece of Marcy to share with Sport.

Marcy performing surgery on TedThe first night Marcy gave Ted to Sport she left it on his night stand and told Sport that Ted would watch over him and by morning Ted was snuggled with Sport in the bed. The first couple of nights Ted slept with Sport he still got up in the middle of the night crying for us, but Ted had a welcome spot in Sport’s bed. The fourth night after having Ted join him he finally slept through the night again and hopefully he’ll sleep through the night again tonight!

Sport sleeping with teddy bears