The Toothbrush Roadie

Baby Boy has been learning a lot of new skills lately. As his father, I too am learning a few new tricks of the trade. If you’ve ever been to a concert, you certainly have seen a “roadie” at work. They are the individuals who haul pieces of musical equipment to various venues, set it up, and make sure it is ready to go for the night’s performance.

I too am a “roadie,” except I work a little closer to home each night. In fact, I don’t have to leave my bathroom. Baby Boy has a set of toothbrushes. One features Sesame Street’s “Cookie Monster,” while the other has a picture of “Elmo.” It is my job to fine tune these instruments. Essentially, that means putting a dab of training toothpaste on each brush, as he likes to use both each night. Then it is time to watch the maestro at work.

I wish I could say it is like watching a great guitar virtuoso perform a jaw-dropping solo. However, it is more like viewing a road construction crew on an Illinois highway in the dead of summer. Lots of digging around in holes, but not much actual work being done. I think the best part is watching him rinse each brush and toss it back in the drawer. For this is when he usually finds both of Amanda’s brushes and decides he will perform an encore for his audience of one. This is generally done sans toothpaste.

It makes me nervous when he exits the bathroom while eyeing the toilet brush. I begin to wondering if he thinks he should grab that and end the night with a real showstopper. If that happens, I think I’ll take a page out of Jimi Hendrix’s notebook and set fire to all of the brushes in the house.

Laying My Burden Down

I am scared. Life is full of ups and downs. One moment things seem to be fine. Then the next everything changes. In these moments writing has always been very therapeutic for me. Therefore, I am going to let my fingers do the talking today.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Amanda and I have taken in a new foster child. This baby was born with the mosaic form of trisomy 18, which means some of his cells have three copies of chromosome 18 while other cells have two copies of chromosome 18. This defect in the cells can lead to a host of developmental problems. No one really knows precisely in which cells the chromosomal abnormalities are present.

Currently, Our Little Fighter’s only visible issue is a cleft lip, which makes feeding a little more difficult. His breathing is also a bit labored. However, he sleeps, poops, and pees just like any other baby. What scares me is that the prognosis for babies born with trisomy 18 is very poor. Only between 10-15% of children with this condition live past their first birthday.

Life has thrown a lot at us since December of 2019. That is when we first became foster parents. Shortly after that the world seemed to come to a standstill due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Through this period my work life has changed a lot. The office where I work has lost two employees to retirement. One transferred to another office. Three others left to pursue other careers. Then, this past Tuesday I found out the manager of my office opted for early retirement and was gone the same day. Needless to say, there is a lot of uncertainty in life at the moment.

I wish I could say I knew how to deal with all of this better. Fortunately, Amanda and I have great support from family and friends. However, the uncertainty remains. We have had our first foster child for over 2.5 years now. To us he is our’s. I love him like I never knew that I could. He is still a ward of the state officially, which scares me more than anything else. Any day he could leave us and be given back to his birth parents.

I have to put all of this in God’s hands. Mine are not big enough to carry this load. He is faithful and just. My head says to trust Him and His will. However, my flesh is so very weak. My middle name is Thomas for good reason. I am filled with doubt on a daily basis.

There is an old spiritual song that has been covered by musicians across several genres of music. I believe I first became aware of the song via a recording done by Mississippi John Hurt, a blues musician who passed away in the mid 1960’s. The song is about laying down the hardships of life now and focusing on the good that is yet to come, especially in a spiritual sense.

This is something I still struggle with on a daily basis. Just when I go to “lay my burden down” I pick it right back up again. Hopefully, one of these days I’ll truly realize my hands are not big enough and I’ll “lay all of my my burdens down.” I do believe better days are ahead.

Toilet Cucumbers

Having a toddler is a learning experience. Baby Boy is always on the go when he is awake. I love his sense of wonder and his willingness to try new things. However, I have learned to be cautious when he is around, especially when he tries to hand me things.

I am now the keeper of half-eaten bananas, empty applesauce pouches, and anything else he decides to hand me. Keeping my mouth closed when Baby Boy is around is a good idea. This is because he likes to share his food with me. I guess he thinks I am a baby bird that needs to be fed. For instance, yesterday, he was eating cucumbers. This is a vegetable of which I am not fond. However, he came running towards me with a slice of cucumber and jammed it into my mouth.

This is where I must tell you that Baby Boy has also recently discovered how much fun it is to play with the toilet seat in the bathroom. He loves to open and shut it. Likewise, if it is up he has been known to drop things in the toilet. It doesn’t matter what it is, he’ll dunk it and then retrieve it. We try to keep the bathroom door shut when he is on the prowl. However, he is now tall enough to open the door.

Yesterday, when he was snacking on cucumbers he made a trip into the bathroom. I was blissfully unaware of this, as I was getting ready to leave the house. As I noted above, he came running towards me with a slice of cucumber and jammed it into my mouth. I had no time to react! It went straight in and I swallowed it after a couple of quick chews. This is when I was informed by Amanda that Baby Boy had just come from the bathroom.

I am trying to avoid thoughts that it had been dipped in the toilet, but I don’t know for sure. All that I know is that I went to bed last night with a bad stomachache. Fortunately, it subsided by this morning. I guess I am immune to just about everything now. Who wouldn’t be after eating a toilet cucumber?

Paducah – Day 1

Amanda, Baby Boy, and I set out on a trip yesterday. I thought I’d chronicle our adventures over the next week here in my blog.

We left our home in Sterling, Illinois last night around 6:00 p.m. Our final destination will be Panama City Beach, Florida. However, for the sake of everyone’s sanity, we thought we’d do the 1,003 mile journey in stages. Last night we stopped in Paducah, Kentucky. We arrived at our hotel just after midnight. Fortunately, Baby Boy slept quite a bit in the car.

On the way down through Illinois there was a lot of road construction, which means there was also a plethora of flashing lights. There also seemed to be quite a few cars broken down along the highway. I am not sure if I have ever seen so many flashing lights in one night. We were even “lucky” enough to have a flashing light in our hotel room!

As I write this I am running on about 3 hours of sleep. That is because in addition to the flashing light blaring in my eyes, I also had a little boy keeping me awake. He has learned how to play peek-a-boo, which he was doing with me. We left his “pack ‘n play” in the car and he slept with me. Amanda had a bed to herself. I could tell Baby Boy had his eyes open, as our room was almost bright as day. When he saw me look at him he’d quickly put his head under the covers and giggle. I love this little boy so much. Anyway, after about thirty minutes of this we both settled down for a restless night sleep.

I think I was elbowed in the face at least ten times. I was also almost disembowled by Baby Boy’s dagger-like toenails. He will be getting these trimmed before we beddown in Montgomery, Alabama tonight.

After our three hour “nap” we were awoken by the rumbling of Harley Davidsons leaving the hotel parking lot. This was just like being at home, as a Harley barrels down our street every morning at 6:30.

I am looking forward to seeing some of the historical sites around Montgomery. Tropical Storm Claudette looks like it has drenched the Gulf Coast, which is where we are headed. I believe by the time we reach the coast on Sunday things will be okay, at least I hope. Stay tuned for more of our travelogue.

Hello Again…

It has been quite some time since my last post. I just haven’t felt like writing for some reason. Perhaps, life has just been too hectic, or maybe I just have been a bit lazy. Sometimes, it is difficult to just stop and take stock of the things going on around you.

Life can seem fairly monotonous. Working from home, as I have been doing for over a year, has added to this feeling. Things seem to be slowy getting back to “normal.” I have returned to my office a few days a week. This has brought back some much needed structure to my life. Staying home everyday to work while I am in my pajamas didn’t seem to give me much of a purpose.

A lot has changed within the last year. Baby Boy is now walking and saying a few words, such as “dad.” Being a dad is such a wonderful experience. I have learned a lot about myself. In addition, I think I have learned the entire catalog of “Wiggles” songs. YouTube and Netflix come in handy when you are quarantined.

Amanda and I have been blessed with so much good. Despite, challenges related to health, 2020 was a very prosperous year. It is hard to believe that we are almost halfway through 2021. God has been good to us, even when we have not taken notice.

I look forward to seeing what the rest of the year holds. We will be taking a family vacation to Florida in June. I am excited to see Baby Boy play on the beach. I’m wondering what his reaction will be when he first sees the Gulf of Mexico. I’m sure we will build some sandcastles. Well, I’ll build and he will sit on them halfway through their construction.

Looking at life through the eyes of a little one has given me a new perspective. Everything is new and exciting. Nothing is left untouched. Everything has to be tasted, even cat food. Maybe life is not so monotonous after all. How can it be when every day is a new experience?

The Polite Elephant

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been a fan of Richard Scarry since I was young boy. For those of you unfamilar with his work, he was a prolific author and illustrator of children’s books. The characters in his books were often anthropomorphized animals, who Scarry used to teach his readers various things, such as manners. One such book is called “Polite Elephant.” This is a book that we often read to Baby Boy.

It is a pleasant story about a young, male elephant who has impeccable manners. For instance, he always remembers to say “please” and “thank you.” Furthermore, when waiting “for the bus, he takes his place in line.” Likewise, he seems to be the perfect guest when visiting a friend’s home. Who wouldn’t want a friend like the “Polite Elephant?” There are just a few questions that I have.

First, we know he has a car, but he sometimes takes the bus. However, I am not sure how an elephant would drive a car since they don’t have hands. Perhaps this is the reason his car appears to have no steering wheel, at least on one page. If this is so, he maybe should just stick to riding the bus permanently.

Second, one of his friends is Mrs. Smith, a small mouse who lives in a house built out of a tree stump. The “Polite Elephant” goes to Mrs. Smith’s house, where we see him inside. I don’t know many elephants who would fit inside of a house so small.

Third, before sitting down to dinner with his mother, he washes his “hands” and face at the bathroom sink. Again, with no hands and fingers, how is he turning the knobs? I know, this is a children’s book and we are supposed to suspend our disbelief somewhat. However, it is difficult throughout this book.

Fourth, as noted above, the “Polite Elephant” has his own car. However, the relationship that he has with his mother still seems pretty childlike. For instance, he still calls her “mommy.” He also is still playing with children’s toys. Likewise, he introduces his friends to his mother, as if they have all come over to play after school. I don’t know many grade-school aged children who drive cars, do you?

Despite my questions this a good book that teaches children manners. The illustrations are enjoyable, but there are just those nagging questions that I have. Where is the steering wheel? How does the “Polite Elephant” drive with no hands? However, my biggest question is, why hasn’t he moved out yet and gotten a job?

He needs to put down the toys, grab the want ads, hop on the bus and make his way to some job interviews. With his people skills and the polite way in which he interacts with others, he’d make a great customer service representative.

The Tarantella

Recently someone asked us how our lives have changed since becoming foster parents. I don’t think Amanda or I have experienced any huge changes, other than we get fewer hours of sleep now. We are also not able to just take off on the weekends and go somewhere. Likewise, there is a lot more “stuff” in our house, such as a baby swing and toys. Finally, getting ready for work takes more time in the morning.

Starting out with a newborn was something we thought would never happen. However, Baby Boy has been very easy to raise so far. He is a gentle soul that seems to be happy most of the time. His smile is infectious.

Of course, for the first couple of months there were round-the-clock feedings, but that soon faded. He now is sleeping through the night, except for a few times here and there. I think Amanda and I picked up on his “non-verbal” cues pretty quickly. For instance, a demanding, unrelenting scream usually means he needs to poop. Watching this process is actually quite humorus, as there is a lot of grunting and contorting of the face.

When he wants to be fed, we usually hear a cry that is a bit less unrelenting than the “poop cry.” However, it is certainly enough to get our attention. Baby Boy is also very stubborn when it comes to burping. You would think we were asking him to go run a mile. He tends to stiffen up as flat as a board and starts to cry. This is when we talk to him gently to try and calm him down.

One thing that baby boy seems to enjoy is music. Just today we started to play music to help him burp. I think the song we chose is one we will stick with for a while. I am not sure why it popped into my head, but it is a song that is often played at Italian weddings. It is called the “Wedding Tarantella.” It is a pretty lively song, which probably confuses Baby Boy more than anything. However, he did not cry as he was burping today. The only problem we have now is that we feel like dancing while he burps.

Someday when he grows up I envision Baby Boy going to a wedding of an Italian couple. The “Wedding Tarantella” will play at the reception and he will be able to do nothing but burp. I hope I am there as well so that I can see what happens.

An Open Letter to an Absent Parent

You gave birth to a sweet baby boy, however, your selfishness has kept you from him. In a few days he turns 5 months old. He has begun to smile, laugh, and chatter. He is slowly learning how to roll over. You are missing this because you cannot move past the stumbling blocks in your life. In a sense this infuriates me. In another it makes me hurt for you. However, it makes me hurt most for the precious life you brought into this world.

This baby boy is growing up in a home where he is loved. He is taken care of by two parents who are raising a child for the first time. I am sure we are making mistakes, and will in the future. However, you made the biggest mistake by letting this beautiful boy slip through your fingers. It angers me that you were allowed to have children, while my wife and I were not. Life is not fair, which is something your child will learn as he grows and matures.

I know life certainly must seem unfair to you. I am sure you have seen your share of hardship. You certainly have experienced hurt and heartache along the way, as every person has. I pray that you find healing. Likewise, I pray for the baby boy that you unwittingly gifted us with. Even if he is not our’s to keep forever, he has brought us so much joy in the few short months he has been a part of our lives.

Each month that you stall out on your legal obligations, you fill my wife and I with yet more uncertainty. Will we get to keep this little boy? Are we going to lose him after growing to love him like he was our own? These are questions that play over and over again in my mind. His young mind is beginning to see us as his parents. Are you going to take him back when he is just a stranger to you? How much will that destroy his psyche?

My wife and I knew what we were getting ourselves into when we took your child into our home. We welcomed him with open arms. We have fed him, bathed him, clothed him, and we have dried his tears when he has cried. Most of all we have loved him and nurtured him in an environment where he is thriving. You are missing out because you cannot see past your own wants and desires. I empathize with your plight. However, that does nothing to quell the anger I feel towards you. I pray that God will work on my heart to look past this anger. Likewise, I pray that He will give me a heart of forgiveness and love.

Adventures in Foster Care

Baby Boy has been with Amanda and me for three weeks as of tomorrow. In that time we haven’t gotten much sleep. However, the sleep deprivation has been worth all of the joy this new life has brought into our home.

Today, we were asked by the agency, through which we are fostering, if we’d be willing to provide respite care for an 8-year-old boy. Not knowing exactly what to do, we said yes. So now we have two little boys who have been entrusted to us.

The newest addition to our home loves Nintendo, “Captain Underpants,” tacos, and pizza. He is a boy after my own heart. This young man will be with us just a short time, but he seems to be fitting in quite well. Foster care is indeed a bumpy ride. We are just now seeing all of its twists and turns.

Please pray for strength for our family in the coming days, weeks, and months. Sleep will have to wait, there are too many things to explore on this journey. Thank goodness this is a long weekend. That will give us plenty of time for games, poopy diapers, tacos, and the joy of spending time together. Now if someone could just explain to me why baby formula smells so horrific…

Baby Boy

It is just past 2:00 a.m. as I write this. My thoughts cannot help but turn to how infuriating life can be at times. It is simply unfair. I just got done feeding Baby Boy. That is what I will call our foster child, as I will never divulge his name on this blog.

I am angry with this precious child’s biological parents. They are missing out on seeing him develop and grow. Amanda and I have had Baby Boy for nearly two weeks. In that time he has become more aware of his surroundings, he has begun to show pieces of his personality, and he has brought us happiness.

As I look into this baby’s beautiful eyes it infuriates me that there are people who seem to have no struggle at all bearing children. Amanda and I are unable to have a baby of our own. So, why is it so easy for people who seemingly couldn’t care less about the children they bring into this world? It is unfair! It is painful to know that baby boy may go back to parents who lack the ability to provide the things that he needs. We want to be those people in his life.

In the time we have had this child, we have grown to love him as if he was our flesh and blood. He is a sweet baby who has given us a desire to learn all that we can to be the best parents for him, even if it is just for a short time.

It is so difficult to wish for Baby Boy to be reunited with his parents. We don’t know them, but it is heartbreaking to think that this child whom we love will be given back to parents who may not give him the same love and support he needs to grow into a healthy adult. Life is unfair, especially for this little boy who needs two parents to raise him in a loving, caring environment.

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