Thursday, July 31, 2008

Eye Problems

Jacob had an eye exam two days ago. I was told by the doctor that he probably has glaucoma. It is in the eye affected by his birth mark. I always knew that he could someday develop glaucoma in that eye but it still was painful to hear. His vision is still perfect in the eye so that was good.

We returned to the doctor yesterday and were told that it is most likely a kind of glaucoma that can be treated with eye drops. He probably will not need surgery and it is an easier kind to treat. Yeah! I was very relieved to hear that. We go in for an eye exam under anesthesia in a couple weeks to make sure it is glaucoma and that there aren't any other problems with his eye.

As much as I hate to hear a scary diagnosis like glaucoma, I am relieved that it can probably be treated. I am also very happy that the doctor caught it before Jacob's vision was affected. Who knows? Maybe he will be able to hit a 90 mph fast ball and be a major league baseball player after all.

Of course, prayers that the doctors are able to treat it quickly without surgery are greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


I played softball for the first time in about 15 years this year. While I wasn't the best player on the team, I did make some good plays and got some RBIs. Last night was the championship for our league. We won 4-3. It was great to be on a winning team and winning the championship was just a nice way to end the season. We won our last 6 games and I was kind of sad to see the season come to an end. Only 9 months until next year's season begins!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Single Parenting Not Always Bad

Barack Obama has made the news lately calling for African American men to take parenting seriously. A lot of attention has been made to the fact that he is from a single mom. While I don't know a lot about his mother or why she made the decisions she did, I do know that single parents shouldn't always be discussed as a problem. Becoming a single mom is not a decision I took lightly but it is one that I am glad I made. My son and I are blessed to have each other and love each other dearly. Sure there are days that he wishes he had a father just as their are days I wish I had found the right person to marry. There were also days when I was younger that I wished I had a sister, lived closer to cousins, was more athletic, etc.

Ninety-nine percent of the time being a single parent does not affect Jacob and me. There are many benefits to having a spouse to help raise children but there are also many benefits to being single. I have met many women who stay in bad relationships because they are afraid to raise their children alone. Children need loving and stable homes but that does not always mean having two parents. They need a home that has enough financial stability to know that there will be food on the table, school supplies on the first day of school and electricity to turn on the lights.

For all of those people who are in bad relationships and afraid to leave or just considering becoming a single parent, here are some of the benefits:

1) You get to make ALL the decisions. Yes, it is important to have friends and family you can discuss these decisions with but in the end it is your decision. If you want to enroll your child in a program or make attending church mandatory, you can.

2) Your child will know at the end of the day that you will be there and that home is a safe place. While this occurs in many two parent families, it does not always occur. A single parent home is much better than one where one parent is always moving out or threatening to move out. It is much better than when a parent is constantly coming and going from the child's life.

3) You get to do everything traditionally done by the father. I get to teach my son how to through a football and hit a baseball. I get to take him on his first fishing trip and camping trip. I get to show him that a woman can fix an outlet, change a doorknob, mow the lawn and do all of the other things traditionally thought of as chores for men.

4) Your child will motivate you to take a good look at your family and friends and try to expand your social networking. I am always on the lookout for positive male role models as well as diverse activities. I want Jacob to grow up celebrating the different ways families are created as well as the many different cultures out there.

It is wonderful when fathers are involoved in their children's lives. Fathers should remain involved when they can contribute in a healthy way. The problem of fathers not supporting their child emotionally and financially does not mean that all single parent families are problems. There is a huge difference in a single mother without the means to support her children, without a good support network, and without stability in the home. That is not the life of many single mothers. Many single mothers work hard to produce a stable home with male role models and healthy adult friendships for the children. They have the money and careers necessary to have a stable home and provide their childern with what they need.

There are days that I need a break and a helping hand. That is true for all mothers. There are days that I wish I could spend more time with my son and that is also true for all mothers. Jacob may not have a dad but he does have an Uncle Chuck, Papi, male pastors, coaches, neighbors and friends. He will always have men around him who can teach him how to be a good man.

The problem is when children live in neighborhoods without men near them to show them how to be a good man. Who can't show them how to have a stable job because they have never had one. Who choose to be around people who abuse drugs or alcohol and teach the children that the way to make money is to commit illegal acts. Many of the children in these situation live with single mothers but not all of them. Some have fathers who are in the home but still make these same poor choices. Other children are living with abusive fathers who are teaching them that the way to be a man is to control the people around you.

These are the children who need the love and support of caring adults. These are the families we should be concerned about. It's not that they have a single mom. It's that they don't have stability and positive adult role models showing them how to be a responsible and good adult. How to behave as a man and what a good man is. Without this, these children are at greater risk of growing up to commit crimes, abuse alcohol and drugs, believe that everyone goes to jail and breaks the law and will believe that all men hit and call people names.

Let's not focus on the single parent family as a problem. Instead, let's focus on the abusive and neglectful family. Let's focus on the neighborhoods with crimes being commited daily in front of children. Let's focus on those families that are not showing the children how to be responsible and good citizens. Single parents aren't the problem. Irresponsible parents and abusive parents are the problem.

A Big Thank You

Jacob and I have been blessed with some very special friends. We are currently watching a TV given to us by a friend of my dad's. The TV is on a stand that a friend no longer could use. Yesterday, Jacob was able to ride his first 2 wheel bike (with training wheels). A friend gave us that after her grandchildren outgrew it. Last night he played on his Vsmile system. This is a video game system for preschoolers that works on colors, counting, alphabet, etc. I was hoping to get him one for Christmas but then we got it for free from the woman whose grandchildren are a few years older than Jacob.

As I look around my house, I often wonder how we can accumulate so much stuff. Then I realize that most of the things we have gotten over the past year and a half have been gifts and many of them used. I really appreciate all of the help that I receive from other people.

I would like to say thank you to the person who gave us so many children's books that it fills an entire book case. I don't know if we will ever read them all. A thank you to the neighbor who realized one tricycle is not enough when I have two toddler (when E was still here) and gave us a second tricycle. Thank you to all of the friends who see a need and fill it with their gently used things. Jacob and I are really grateful for the generosity. Many of the things we get are either good for his development or education. That is something that was very important to Jacob's Ethiopian family and is also very important to me.

For those of you with small children, look around. As your children outgrow their toys and clothing, see if there is someone around who could use them. If not, have a garage sale. While some of the people are professional garage salers, many are not. They are just people trying to find cheap toys and clothes to give to their children. I am sure that they will enjoy the things you can no longer use. It feels good to know these items are being used by other children and not just sitting in a landfill somewhere.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

25 Things You May Not Know About Jacob and Me

Here is a list of things you may not know about Jacob and me.

1) My favorite color is pink.

2) Jacob's favorite color is green followed by pink.

3) I swam on the swim team in high school.

4) My favorite sport is baseball (I'm watching it right now).

5) My favorite team is the Cubs followed very closely by the Brewers. Yes, that does make years like last year and this year difficult. I look at it as I can't lose if they are both winning or playing each other.

6) Jacob will start kindergarten in 2011.

7) Jacob will graduate high school in 2023.

8) Jacob wants Uncle Chuck, Mommy and Papi to go to college with him.

9) Jacob still has nightmares that I leave him. I am almost certain this is related to his 11 months in the orphanage where nice people played with him but then left with other children.

10) Jacob loves soccer and baseball. He wants to play both when he is old enough.

11) Jacob and I both love to sleep in on the weekends. We usually get up about 3 hours later than we do during the week.

12) We have 3 cats and 1 dog. I love all of them but will probably have fewer cats someday.

13) Jacob is very observant. At his school's treasure hunt, he found almost all of the treasure himself.

14) Jacob still loves to pretend he is a dog. He will pretend to be other things also but a dog is still his favorite.

15) Jacob wants a girl baby. I don't care if our next foster child is a girl or boy. I also don't care how old it is as long as it is not older than Jacob.

16) We recently began attending a new church with Saturday evening services. We really like the contemporary style.
17) We are now a family match with Big Brothers/Big Sisters. That means Jacob is just as important to the match as I am.
18) I thrive off chaos and activity. I really do not like to have a lot of down time. Some relaxation is fine but not more than an occasional afternoon or evening please.
19) We have 5 carseats. All of which were purchased over the past two years. There is one for a child 5-40 lbs, 2 for a child 20-100 lbs and one for a child over 40 lbs.
20) We have at least a couple outfits in sizes newborn to 4T. We really are prepared for any child they place with us.
21) We were recently approved to be considered for a sibling group of 2 as long as one child is between 18 months and 3 years and walking.
22) I have been trying to become much more frugal. So far my success has been limited but I won't give up.
23) Unless I change careers, I plan to retire 23 years from yesterday. That will make me 53 years old and 30 years on the job. Yes, I will qualify for full retirement benefits at that time.
24) Jacob loves to pretend to make coffee. Since no one in our family drinks a lot of coffee, this must be something he remembers from Ethiopia. Everyone drinks coffee in Ethiopia and it is a major part of their culture.
25) Jacob's Ethiopian name and American name have the same meaning and his initials are the same as my dad's.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A Weekend At The Cottage

After my recent posts regarding Jacob swimming, I thought it was time to take some pictures of him in the water. Our friends G and K rented a house on a lake in central Wisconsin. Jacob and I spent some time there this weekend. Jacob loved it and spent almost all of his free time in the water and sand.

G is one of Jacob's best friends. He loves playing with her and they both get excited to see each other. They play nicely together and seem t really enjoy each other's company. I am sure that G is just as tired as Jacob is.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Swimming Amazement

Jacob amazed me and several other parents last night. We were at the city swimming pool and I decided to see if Jacob could swim without me holding him and in water over his head. Before you call social services, I was right there with my hands within inches of his body.

Jacob has been doing excellent in the pool. He has been floating on his stomach for a couple weeks now. Last time we were swimming, he was able to doggy paddle around the pool in a life jacket. So last night I thought I would see how he did without the life jacket.

I was amazed! Not only did he not sink, he is able to doggy paddle and swim about five feet before reaching for my hand. He spent about 40 minutes swimming between me, J, B and the wall. It was a great time.

Friday, July 18, 2008

A New Little Sister

Many of you know that I try to do volunteer work regularly. I love finding things that I can do with Jacob as a family. I have been involved with Big Brothers/Big Sisters for almost 8 years now. It seems like just yesterday that I met J, B and T for the first time. J was my official match but it wasn't long before B and T began coming with us too. Now it is very rare for me to have just J.

J is now 15, B is 13 and T is 16. I still love each of those kids and enjoy spending time with them. They are like family and act like eat. They come over, drink my soda, eat my food, use my computer and TV and just feel at home. That is how I want it and hope it will be for a long time. We have almost a family relationship with the teens being invited to our family gatherings, going to church with us and coming over pretty much anytime they want to.

I told my case worker that I definitelly want to continue my match with J but also was considering starting a new match with a younger child. I would love to have a younger match to take to the zoo, swimming and other area events. I want someone who is young enough to enjoy some of the same things Jacob enjoys.

Normally mentors are only allowed one match at a time. My case worker stated that since J and I have such a special relationship that has gone on for years, her supervisor has approved for me to have a second match. That will allow J, B and T to continue to do things with the agency and me but also allow Jacob and I to have a new relationship with a new child.

I should be starting the matching process soon. I am excited. It means that Jacob and I will spend about one evening a week with our new match. I am hoping to be matched soon. Through mentoring and other volunteer work, I hope Jacob will learn that giving to others is just part of life. It is a value I want him to have. Of course, he will probably be enrolled in the program as a little brother himself in about 3 years. At that time, we will have a unique situation of being a family match to a child and a little brother and parent of a little. I think I will enjoy seeing how the program works from all sides.

Swimming, The County Fair and More

It has been a very busy and fun week. I decided that I was tired of wasting my late afternoons and evenings around the house. Summer is passing by just too quickly.
Jacob and I went swimming twice this week. As I mentioned in my last post, he is getting much better at it. It is one of our favorite activities so I decided we need to do it more often. We have a membership to the YMCA so there is no reason not to use the pool there more often. I also plan to try the city swimming pool either tonight or next week.
The county fair is in town this week. Jacob went with his daycare on Wednesday. He had so much fun that I took him back with a friend last night. Today his grandmother wanted to go, so we went again. He loves the animals. Today he was able to pet two rabbits, week old twin goats and a cow. He played a game at the midway and won a ball. We ate tons of food that is very bad for us and enjoyed playing at some of the indoor exhibits. Jacob loved the sandbox full of corn.
Jacob and I are meeting with other families with single moms tomorrow morning. We are leaving from there and going directly to our friend's house on the lake. She is another single-mother-by-choice with a daughter about Jacob's age. They are renting this house for the week. Jacob and I are returning home sometime on Sunday. Hopefully, we will be ready to start another work week on Monday. I guess we are making up for some of the Summer that slipped by us.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

From Terrified To A Fish In One Year

I received a social report on Jacob the night before I met him for the first time. It stated that he is fearful of water and cries during baths. That turned out to be a huge understatement. He wasn't just fearful, he was terrified. I have never bathed a child so fast in my life. He would shake with fear and just scream. It took about 3 baths before he stopped screaming and several baths before he realized he was safe.

I signed Jacob up for swimming lessons in April last year. He cried and clung to me during the first two lessons. On the third lesson, my dad took him and Jacob did just fine. He continued to learn to trust me and the water after that. I still didn't believe he would ever love water like I do.

Just 15 months later, you would never believe Jacob is the same child. Numerous parents as well as life guards comment about how good he is in the water. He has not been in lessons except that one session just over a year ago. He can now float on his stomach for several seconds, glide about 3 feet on his stomach, float on his back for about 2 seconds and hold his breath for about 45 seconds. He quickly learned how to doggy paddle with a life jacket on today. He loved being able to swim by himself and was able to move fairly quickly through the water.

In order to take actual lessons, Jacob needs to be 3 years old and potty trained. They have lessons for infants but it focused on helping the children become comfortable in the water and doesn't teach them any actual swimming skills. Jacob is definitelly past that level now and would not get much out of it. You can believe that he will be in lessons as soon as the next session starts after his 3rd birthday. That is only in 2 months. Until then, he will just have to continue to amaze the other parents and lifeguards. And I will continue to be amazed that my terrified child is now one of the best swimming 2 year olds in the pool!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

An Unexpected Mixed Blessing

I had a pleasant surprise for Jacob today. Jacob's daycare is in it's special Summer session right now. That means that they have almost weekly field trips and the older kids actually go on several outings a week. While Jacob enjoys the outings, his favorite part is all of the bus rides. Every week he asks me if I will go with him. I always tell him I have to work but someday I would love to go with him.
Today was that someday. I found out late last night that the overtime shift I had scheduled for today was cancelled. That meant that I was free to be a "parent" volunteer on his trip to a state park. It was a twenty minute bus ride their, 1 hour of playing on the playground, a short lunch and a twenty minute bus ride back to the school. Jacob loved having his mom there. I was very busy putting bug spray on 3 year olds, asking two and three year olds why they were crying, reminding them not to hit, kick, push, etc, making several runs to the drinking fountain and chasing Jacob around the playground. While Jacob was a little more clingy than usual, he did play with his friends and did a very nice job.
I really enjoyed being a parent volunteer and look forward to future outings with him and his classmates. I took a short nap afterwards and Jacob is still asleep now.
The mixed blessing comes from the money I won't make working today. It was worth it to spend a day with Jacob.

Fourth Of July Celebrations

Jacob and I had a nice fourth of July. I had to work so Jacob got to spend the daytime hours with his grandparents. They were all excited. Grandma and Grandpa (Papi) wanted to take him to a state park about an hour from here. Due to the recent flooding, the beach was covered with water but was open for swimming. They had push-up ice cream treats, hotdogs, pizza and went swimming. After about 3 hours there, Jacob was still complaining when it was time to leave. He felt better after riding the ferry and was telling everyone that Papi's car went on a boat ride.
After dinner, Jacob and I picked up our teenage friends, T and B, and headed to the church for some fireworks. The firworks are very visible from the church lawn. For the past five years, the Senior High youth group has sold snacks as a fund raiser to all of the people sitting on the church lawn and walking by the church on their way to the park. Sales went well, the fireworks were good and everyone had fun. Jacob still complains that the fireworks were too loud but he also states they were pretty and he wants to go back next year.
The only sad part of the day was a phone call from my aunt. My great Aunt, Aunt Dot, had major stroke and wasn't responding. It took a day but she woke up and is now doing better. Prayers are still very much needed.