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.

The Perfect Gift

It will be a week ago tomorrow that the call came. It was a call that would change our lives forever. We were in St. Louis visiting Amanda’s family for Christmas. It was so unexpected, however, it was something we have been waiting to hear for months.

The social worker on the line told us we would be getting our first placement as foster parents. Amanda and I never dreamed that we would be getting a newborn as our first placement. In fact, we had heard that it was such a longshot that we had prepared only to receive older children. However, God had other plans for us.

Last Friday evening we were told to make way for a day-old baby boy who had been born a month premature. Thruthfully, I think both Amanda and I were terrified. We have never been parents before. However, we now had two days to prepare for the arrival of the new life. Usually, people have 9 months. We had 48 hours! Fortunately, we have a wonderful support network of family and friends who have stepped up and provided many of the things we’d needed to take care of this precious new life.

After getting the phone call, Amanda and I decided we’d head home from St. Louis. However, that was not before Amanda’s mom and sister took us to Target for an improptu shopping spree. My only thought the whole time we were there was, “I know how to take care of my needs, but I have no idea how to take care of a newborn!” Reality was beginning to settle in. We were now going to be caring for another human being!

We had no information about the baby before we went shopping, other than he was a boy. Therefore, we did our best picking out clothes, diapers, and other items we would need. Once we were loaded up, Amanda and I made a late-night trip back home from St. Louis. The following day was spent preparing our home to welcome this new baby boy.

We also had friends from church stop by to drop off items for the baby. Family came as well to bring things to help us. The outpouring of love and support from church and family has been a blessing.

As foster parents we are not allowed to divulge much information about this tiny boy who has come to capture our hearts. He is a perfectly healthy baby who has already brought lots of joy and laughter to our lives. There have been many hilarious moments in just a few short days. For instance, the baby was circumcised before he left the hospital, which led Amanda to note his “penis looks angry.” Being a huge fan of bathroom humor this only made me laugh.

Being foster parents your heart goes out to the biological parents. They have had their child removed from their care. Despite what we make think of these people, it still makes us empathize with how they must be hurting. However, it is such a great feeling to know Amanda and I can provide a safe place for this little boy. He has only been with us since Sunday afternoon, but he is already loved so much. We both love holding this new life in our hands. It is impossible not be thankful for being given the opportunity to care for this defenseless little boy.

We are getting a routine down. Feedings are becoming easier, sleep deprivation is starting to feel normal, and being peed and pooped on is no big deal. In fact, I have been quite inpressed with this little guy’s skills to shoot poop around the room. We have learned quite quickly to use a shield when changing diapers.

Amanda and I do not know for sure how long we will have this baby boy, but we hope it is for a while. He already means so much to us. He will be loved and cared for as long as he is with us. He is a gift that came to us at Christmas. This baby boy is the greatest gift we could have received.

“Call 911 and Get Me an IED!”

I was awake at 4:30 this morning. I don’t know if it was the excitement of having to sit through a long day of training, or the fact that Amanda had rolled over to my side of the bed and was squeezing me out of my space. Whatever it was, I knew it was going to be a long day. However, it was also a good day, despite having to sit through a six-hour class on child/adult CPR and first aid. This was one of the last hurdles that Amanda and I had to jump over before we become certified for foster care. Therefore, once the class ended it was a great feeling. Just one background check to complete and one more home visit to go and we should have our certification!

Initially, I was under the impression that today’s class was going to run from 8 a.m. to noon. So, with that in mind I thought it would be a piece of cake. Four hours would go by quickly and we’d be free to enjoy the rest of the day. Our class was about an hour away from home, so we left at 6:45 this morning. That left us plenty of time to get to the hospital where our was class was being held. This is good because once we arrived I needed to use the restroom, where I proceeded to overflow the toilet. This is a specialty of mine. I have overflowed toilets from London to Rock Island, Illinois. Unfortunately, there was no custodian around to notify, which was probably just as well since I was now running late to get to class.

To my relief, Amanda met me in the hallway once I left the bathroom, since I had no idea where I needed to go for our class. Showing up fashionably late is not something I enjoy, as I always feel all eyes are on the stragglers. However, class had not started yet, so we made our way to the front row. Two things I love, being late and sitting in the front row! Once we got situated class was underway.

The first topic was CPR. This part of the class moved rather quickly, as there were lots of activities involving mannequins. It made me feel as if we were recreating an episode of one of my favorite television shows, The Office. In this particular episode things go horrifically wrong as the staff undergoes CPR training. If you are unfamiliar with this show I’d suggest finding it on Netflix and watching the two-part episode called, “Stress Relief” from season five. Fortunately, no mannequins were injured during today’s class, except for the one the instructor dropped on its head at least three or four times. This woman is also a volunteer EMT. I am hoping she never has to come to my aide in an emergency situation.

The CPR portion of the class was over by 10:30, which had me thinking, “yes, only another hour and a half to go and we’d be done!” Oh, was I sadly mistaken. As it turns out, class was not scheduled to be over until 2 p.m. I am actually glad that I did not know this until class had already started. Despite this devastating bit of news, Amanda and I made the best of it, as we learned all about first aid. We actually did learn quite a lot. For instance, in any emergency situation one must first “check the scene for safety” before stopping to help an injured person. This to me makes perfect sense, especially if electrical lines are down.

Then, you should always direct someone to “call 911” while someone else should “go grab an Automated External Defibrillator or AED.” I think after running through several different emergency scenarios I was beginning to get delirious, or perhaps I was just really ready to go home. For instance, as we were practicing proper emergency procedures for someone who is having an allergic reaction I instructed Amanda to “call 911” and “then go find me an IED, instead of an AED.” I am glad the instructor didn’t hear me, otherwise, she might have thought I was asking for some explosives, as IED actually stands for “Improvised Explosive Device.” Again, it was getting late and I was ready to go home after running through what seemed like every emergency situation one could ever possibly face!

However, then came instructions on what to do if bitten by a venomous creature. This led to what seemed like an hour-long discussion on the difference between being bitten by a rattlesnake and a coral snake, followed by what to do if you ever encounter a poisonous tree frog, you know the kind that can excrete toxins directly from its skin. By this point I was actually hoping for a coral snake to crawl up my leg and just start going to town on my thigh. Apparently, the way they deliver their venom is by gnawing on you for a bit. In the end, I learned that rattlesnakes are probably more deadly, as they can just clamp onto you while the coral snake has to actually do some work before it kills you.

All of the questions regarding poisonous reptiles and amphibians were asked by one particular person in the back of the room. I think perhaps she would have been content to stay all day and discuss the stings and bites of various animals. I say this because after we finished discussing snakes and frogs we moved on to jellyfish. Strangely, I knew where her line of questioning was going as she inquired about there “being any truth to the rumor that human urine” is effective in taking the pain out of the sting of a jellyfish. Fortunately, this ended the discussion on all things poisonous when the instructor stated that “urine is indeed useful in relieving the pain of a jellyfish sting.”

In conclusion, I do not want you to think that I am making light of all the useful things that we learned today. Much of the information was very important. It will be helpful to have this knowledge if we are ever faced with a situation in which someone needs CPR or first aid. Likewise, going through this class got us one step closer to our goal of becoming foster parents. However, I can safely say that after today, we will never be going for a hike in the woods. We will have an AED with us at all times, and we will never be visiting the tropics. Finally, if I am ever stung by a jellyfish, just back off and leave me alone. I’ll go find some vinegar, or some meat tenderizer, as that apparently aids in pain relief as well. For now I am off to work on putting together a first aid kit. Where did I put that tourniquet?

https://youtu.be/ssIY8NYwvh4