Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A Letter From The Pool

Dear Mom of the little blond girl at the pool,

Jacob and I had a great time swimming at the new pool. The sprinklers were fun and the slide was fast!

I am sorry you chose not to join us. You chose to direct your daughter away from us whenever we came near. You refused to share your toy and wouldn't let your daughter play with the toys Jacob touched. You seemed nervous whenever we were nearby.

I realize you may not see too many families that look like ours. You probably come from a neighborhood where everyone looks alike. Maybe you have never had friends who did not come from your culture or part of the world. I just want you to know what you are missing.

While your daughter sat shivering under her towel (because you finally led her away from the pool), Jacob and I had a great time playing together. Jacob barely noticed you and really did not care that you were not being friendly. I noticed but only felt pitty. You see, we do not care if you agree with our family or the way we look.

Jacob and I went to the pool to have fun and play. We are sorry you chose not to join us. I hope that next time you will show your daughter how to share, be friendly and play with others. If not, I will continue to feel sorry as your daughter is forced to watch from the side.

Jacob and I will be in the pool when you are ready to join us. Until that time, enjoy watching from the side.


The beautiful family from the pool.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

A Taste of Summer

I know everyone must think I'm crazy. We are still living in the snow covered mid-west and dreaming of Summer. We got a taste of the good things to come in just a few months.

The church went to an area athletic club to go swimming. Jacob loved the sprinklers in the toddler pool. I loved the very warm water in the larger swimming pool where we practiced going under the water and throwing diving sticks for the older children. Jacob did wonderful. He swam both with and without his life jacket.

More snow is expected for tomorrow. The good news is that it is also suppose to be above freezing again later in the week. I guess today's break from the snow and cold can hold us over for awhile. I plan to continue to look for ways to beat the winter blues but have hope that winter will be over soon. Of course, I can always stop and get a pool schedule for future trips if we get too much more snow.

Jacob is now in bed and probably already asleep. He didn't even have the energy to fight me about which bed he was sleeping in (his or mine). I think I heard two whines and then nothing but quiet. It is so nice to have him exhausted after a full day of fun.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Where Is Spring?!?

The weather is finally a little warmer today. It has been very cold (highs only in the low teens on good days) for about the past month. The problem is that while the weather has begun to warm up (high in the 20s) there is too much ice on the ground to play outside. It will take a couple days of warmer weather before we can go outside again.
Jacob (and everyone else around here) are very tired of being outside. The above mess was created in about 2 seconds. I told Jacob "don't make a mess" while giving him the crayons. After I found the crayons and play-doh supplies all over the floor, Jacob replied, "Colors dump out up high." I am preparing to clean up the mess while dreaming about warm Summer days in a park with green grass (not snow) and a 2 year old boy running off all of his energy. I can only hope those days are here soon.

Don't Forget Dog Treats

I woke up this morning when I heard Jacob in the kitchen. At least once a day, I have to remind Jacob not to cook without my help. People always laugh when I ask Jacob what the rule is and his little voice says, "No cooking!" If they lived with him, they wouldn't laugh :)

This morning I knew enough to get out of bed immediately and find out what kind of mess he was making. I walked out to the kitchen to find that I had forgotten to lock the dog treats where he could not reach them. The dog's water bowl was emptied of water and filled instead with dog biscuits. So many biscuits that the dog couldn't even eat them all! I rescued the dog treats and put them back in the locked cabinet. Jacob and I then worked together to "cook" bagels for breakfast.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Reaching Out to Friends and Family

Jacob and I have had a great week. Not only have we passed the initial classes and home visit for foster care, but we also saw new and old friends tonight. Jacob and I attended a meet and greet with other families who have adopted from Ethiopia or are hoping to adopt from Ethiopia. We met two of the adoption social workers who either met Jacob or knew about him while he waited for a family. Jacob had a great time running around with the other children and playing with them. Everyone had a great time.

This weekend is another busy weekend. We are going to a friend's house to be with other families headed by single-mothers-by-choice. The girls I mentor are spending the night on Saturday and we are all going swimming with the church on Sunday. I don't remember a month that has been as busy as this past month has been for us. I always thought this time of year slowed down! I'm not complaining though. It has been great making new friends and seeing our old friends lately. I can't believe that one year ago I was dreaming of busy family weekends like this.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Officially Waiting Again

I am excited to announce that Jacob and I are waiting for a new (but temporary) family member. I spoke to my social worker this morning and was told I would be considered for any young children who needs foster homes. I have my hopes of course. I dream of having a baby that becomes adoptable. I also know that may not be what happens. It is fine if it doesn't.

I feel guilty being excited about welcoming in a new child. Having a foster child assigned means that a child is going through instability, grief and possibly abuse or neglect. If the call comes in the middle of the night, I am almost guaranteed that the child is going through a major crisis. Either way, it means that the child will have to grieve before he or she can feel comfortable here. Just the thought of the child's pain is enough to make me feel horrible about being excited and anxious to meet this child. I just remind myself that my desire to have a foster child has nothing to do with the circumstances the child is in now.

I am open to any child under 4 with problems that I believe I can handle. The child does not need to be headed for adoption but I have expressed that desire eventually. I do hope that I can get a child who will teach me to be a better parent while I pay off some bills and begin saving for another adoption. If my next child comes through the foster care system, that will be wonderful. If he or she comes through international adoption or birth, that is fine too. I am leaving it in God's hands and trust it will work out like He desires.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Friends are Fun

I recently started my home visits for foster care licensing. One of the questions the social worker, T, asked was about my support system. I have said before that being a single parent is wonderful but a support system is very important. I am blessed with many friends, including D shown above, who help us out. Jacob was very happy to show her his traditional Ethiopian shirt while she was over. He also had two friends help him go to a party last night to celebrate a friend's first "gotcha day." They had a great time and I was grateful that we had friends who were willing to take him while I worked. I may have missed the party but I heard about it from a very excited 2 year old boy at 2:30 this morning!

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Best Valentine Ever!

I received the best valentine ever last year. It was Valentine's Day 2007 that I received the phone call that we had made it through court and I could travel March 10. I made a frantic call to my dad who started calling the travel agent for tickets. I called work and told them I was leaving on March 8 to travel to Ethiopia to meet my son. I can be single the rest of my life but Valentine's Day will always be special in my heart.

This year I received the second best valentine ever. I received a card and some soap from my son. The card was "signed" by him and given to me with a huge grin on his face. Jacob may be my best valentine's day gift but his cards, art projects and smiles will always be special.

Happy Valentine's Day everyone (one day late)!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Celebrating Ethiopia and Adoption

I gave a presentation on Ethiopia and adoption at my church. It was a presentation for a group of church members over 55 years old. I really enjoy teaching people about the culture and history of Ethiopia. I want people to see the rich culture of the country and not just the extreme poverty. Hopefully, they will take the information and learn to appreciate the country. At least a comple people seemed interested in trying to find ways to help the people in Ethiopia so that is always good too.

A New Bed!

As part of our process to prepare for a foster child, Jacob is changing bedrooms. When he first came home, I was planning on having au pairs live here and watch him. I gave Jacob the smaller of the spare rooms so that the adults would have the larger rooms. Now that we are preparing for a new child to live here, I decided it was time to give Jacob the larger room. I also need to make sure that I have him ready to move out of his crib/toddler bed in case we need the crib for a young toddler or infant.
I took Jacob to the store and let him pick whatever bed he wanted. His eyes grew wide and he smiled from ear to ear as he yelled, "Choo choo bed!" Our family friend, Diane, helped us pick the bed up later that day and put it together. Jacob now loves his choo choo bed. He isn't crazy about sleeping in it at night but he has never been crazy about sleeping in his own bed at night. Hopefully with time, he will learn to spend the night in his room. For now, just having it there and using it for naps is a start.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

A Night Alone

Last night was the first night I have been away from Jacob in the almost eleven months I have had Jacob. It wasn't planned and I am very grateful my dad agreed to take him in the middle of the night for me.

I had an incident occur at work at 10:30 last night. I normally get off at 11:00 and pick Jacob up from the babysitters' house after that. It is very rare that I am late getting off and when I am my dad will take him and we spend the night at his house. I am usually there within an hour or so.

Last night was different. I am one of only a handful of Spanish speakers at work. The incident at 10:30 resulted in a large amount of paperwork. While I was just starting the hour plus of paperwork, another incident occurred that tied me up for two more hours. I had spoken to my dad at midnight and was told to just leave Jacob at their house and sleep at mine when I got off. At the time, I thought I would be home shortly after 1:00 AM. I was wrong. I was finally cleared to leave work at 3:45 AM! I am so glad these types of nights are extremely rare!

I got home shortly after 4 AM and went directly to bed. I got up at 8:30 AM to take the kids I mentor to church and meet my parents and Jacob for breakfast. I was happy to see Jacob again and really did miss him I just wasn't happy t only get 4+ hours of sleep.

Jacob is now in bed. As soon as I am sure he is asleep, I will be going to sleep myself. We had a busy day despite my lack of sleep and I look forward to writing about it soon. For now, I think it is time to dream about our big plans for tomorrow and the rest of the week.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Remembering Court

It was one year ago yesterday that Jacob's case made it through the Ethiopian courts. On the other side of the world in a different continent, country and culture, a little boy I had never met was declared my son. It would be a few weeks before I would be allowed to travel and meet him. I wouldn't even know that my case was approved until next week. Stay tuned for the anniversary of many important milestones in Jacob's journey to our home and family. It has been a busy, wonderful and blessed year.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

God Bless....

The past 5 days have been very difficult days for Jacob. His favorite word is "no" this week. He even says it when he means yes and has to quickly correct himself. Although he is only doing slightly better with being cooperative, I was reminded about how sweet he can be tonight in the car. The following is what I heard him saying as we drove down a snow covered highway.

"Uncle Cuck (Uncle Chuck)
Papi (Grandpa)
Ma (Grandma)
Uncle Cuck
Yeah Pray!"

This is the list that Jacob normally says at bedtime when I ask him who he wants to pray for. It is hard to stay angry and frustrated at someone who can be so sweet.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Special Needs

I have discovered many parents have a fear of the unknown. They want a child without any "special needs" They often forget that we all have special needs. Some are mental, some physical and some are a combination. When parents give birth to a child, they love that child from the moment they see it. They don't make judgements based on the child's appearance or how much it cries. As the child grows, they raise the child to their best ability.
Jacob was a child who was labeled as being at risk of having long term special needs. While the chances of him having serious long term problems were minimal, many prospective parents turned away. It was lucky for me and I believe he is happy to be my son. It is still sad that so many parents are looking for the perfect child. That child does not exist.
Jacob has proven to the doctors and to me that he does not have any of the long term problems they (not me) feared. He is physically and mentally healthy. He is also 2 1/2. He does have special needs but they just aren't labelled as that. You see, every child has abilities in some areas and is only "average" in others. He may not need special services or medications or surgery. He needs a loving family that supports him and encourages him. It is what every child needs no matter what kind of special services they require.
As a parent, it is my job to expose Jacob to as much as I can and help him find his way. He has some natural physical abilities that are not possessed by other members of our family. He was walking 4 months before most children in orphanages. He is mastering motor skills most children do not master until 3 years of age. He knows that "h" is the first letter in happy meal and points out every "h" he sees even when in the middle of another word. Yet he is "average" in his language skills. He is still struggling with learning his ABCs and counting past 2.
This is where he is today. It may not be where his talents are in the future. He could grow up to be a great writer, a great artist or a star athlete. He could also grow up to be "average" working in a business, stocking shelves, serving food, or teaching children. It doesn't matter to me. I will be a successful parent as long as I have given him the tools and opportunities to become the best Jacob he can be. Special needs don't scare me. Not giving him the tools he deserves terrifies me.
The above pictures are some of the ways I try to help him learn now. Through cooking, he learns that things look different and taste different after being exposed to heat. He learnes how to pour, stir and measure. He learns that biting into a hot cookie can burn his mouth and he must wait for it to cool down. Through going outdoors in winter, he learns about snow, ice and cold weather. He learns that he is warmer when moving than when standing still. He learns that the sun can be very bright and warm or very bright and still cold. Through scarves and bandanas, he learns to dress himself and express himself through play. By banging on the drum, he learns about rhythm, vibrations and sounds.
I try to expose Jacob to many different things through play and every day life. It is my job as a parent. It is his job as a person to learn about himself and what gifts he has to offer the world. It would be the same if he had medical, emotional or psychological problems.