The “Escape Room”

Have you ever just wanted to disappear for a bit so that no one could find you? I often find myself trying to “escape” for a few minutes of serenity. However, I’ve discovered this is next to impossible with a toddler. For instance, a trip to the bathroom by myself is rare these days.

The bathroom used to be a good place to escape and catch a few minutes of peace. Now, I usually have company. Fortunately, Baby Boy shuts the door behind us. The only problem is, there are sometimes he doesn’t want to open it when our time in the “escape room” has come to an end. It truly becomes a situation where I truly am desperate to escape from the “escape room.”

Maybe next time we go in I’ll teach Baby Boy how to clean. He already knows how to use the TV remote, so why not put a mop in his hands and put him to work. Perhaps, I then can escape to the bedroom while he is not looking. I certainly can find some peace in there. Oh wait, the cats are always in the bedroom!

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?

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?

Huh, What Was That?

Amanda and I have spent the last hour whispering to each other. No, they haven’t been the whispers of sweet nothings. They have been the whispers of weary foster parents. You see Baby Boy has been asleep for the last few hours. We have been trying to stretch out his feeding times. When he is hungry he lets us know it by screaming at the top of his lungs.

Therefore, we have eaten dinner tonight in whispered conversation. This is a miracle in and of itself because we both have problems hearing when we are using our normal speaking voices. We have had conversations about the day’s events. Likewise, we have even whispered to each other about the movie Top Gun.

We have been trying to recall the names of the main characters. We have recalled that there was a “Goose” and a “Maverick,” but we don’t recall any of the others. If you do, drop me a line in the comments below.

Really, the only thing I have wanted to do for the last hour is break out into song, particularly the theme song to Top Gun. Kenny Loggins wrote some great theme songs to movies of the 80’s.

I guess I’ll just have to hum them silently to myself until Baby Boy wakes up. Then the real fun can begin. It will be a bottle for Baby Boy while I sing “Highway to the Danger Zone” to him. What is your favorite Kenny Loggins theme song?

Paint Your Pets and Other Love Stories

Yesterday I met the love of my life. Well, it only seems like yesterday. However, it was actually 10 years ago yesterday. Amanda and I met for the first time on February 13, 2010. She was, and still is, a St. Louis girl. We were introduced through my cousin Brad, who was Amanda’s pastor at the time.

Our relationship began through late-night chats on Facebook, and then progressed to nightly phone calls that would last for several hours at a time. About a month after phone calls, texts, and Facebook messages we decided to meet face-to-face.

I decided I would travel to St. Louis from my home in Sterling, Illinois. It is approximately a 4-hour drive, so I had a long time to think about what our first meeting would be like. Would Amanda run and hide when she saw me for the first time? Would I be so nervous I would be unable to speak? These are some of the things that were racing through my mind as the miles began to melt away.

After a few hours I arrived at my cousin Brad’s house. This is where Amanda and I would meet for the first time. After settling in Amanda arrived at the door. Fortunately, she did not run away when she saw me. However, she thought about it as she heard me creak my way across the floor. I’ll never find work as a ninja, as my crutches squeak too much as I walk.

I think it helped that Amanda and I had spoken on the phone quite a bit before meeting for the first time, as it helped to make face-to-face conversation flow more effortlessly. Amanda and I had an easy time getting to know each other as we had lunch. We then went to the art museum, stopped for a cupcake at The Cup, a little shop that makes the best cupcakes ever! We then ended the night with The King’s Speech, a movie that we have since adopted as “our movie.” The next day we spent some time at the zoo. Simply put, it was a perfect weekend.

Amanda and I spent the next several months getting to know each other. I then asked her to marry me. Fortunately, she said yes, and we tied the knot on August 11, 2012. About a week later I started a new job in Northen Illinois and Amanda returned to St. Louis. For the first few months of our marriage Amanda and I only saw each other on the weekends. This was a very difficult situation, However, it only lasted until October when Amanda moved north to join me. In December 2012, we purchased our house and have added two cats to our lives since.

Amanda and I enjoyed being with each other that very first day, and we still enjoy being together. Today is Valentine’s Day, but we did not exchange gifts. However, we were together. That has been enough and will always be enough for each of us.

This morning we took a painting class together. We each painted a portrait of our cats, Dot and Cat. I chose Dot, and Amanda painted Cat. You can see the results below. I think I’ll hold on to my day job, as an artist I will never be.

Learning to live with another person was an adjustment for the both of us. I like organization. Amanda enjoys spreading her things throughout the house. This isn’t always easy for me. However, my stubborness is not something she always enjoys about me either. However, I can still say that Amanda is easy to be with. We laugh and we cry together. However, we are always together.

Being one has helped us adapt to our newest challenge, foster care. Since December 29th, we have been the proud foster parents of a sweet baby boy. He has transformed our lives. Sleep is hard to come by these days, but love is always there, even amongst the frustration of poopy diapers and midnight feedings.

We are now three, plus two cats. Love is never in short supply in our house. We are together and that is enough for all of us. Material things are good to have, and we have been blessed with far more than we deserve. However, time is the most important thing. Time is what allows us to create memories. Ten years of memories has made me a rich man. I am rich because I have a woman who loves me despite my faults.

Hopes

Baby Boy is a month old today. He is growing and becoming more aware of his surroundings every day. He is still ours and it is fun to see him grow out of clothes that fit him just a few weeks ago. Clothes he was once “swimming in” fit him just perfectly now. He is such a long, little boy. He uses those long legs to his advantage during a diaper change.

It is still difficult to imagine that one day he may be taken from us. This realization becomes harder to accept with each passing day. Amanda and I are his parents. We feed him, we clothe him, and we love him like he is our own.

Baby Boy and I have some good weekend “chats” as he lays on my chest in the morning. Of course, I am the one doing all of the talking. He just coos, grunts, and puckers his lips as he listens. I hope we can continue these “chats” for quite some time, as they help me relieve stresses of the week. Baby Boy is a good listener.

In those quiet moments of the morning he and I sometimes listen to music. He will be a Beatles fan some day, he just doesn’t know it yet. I think I’ll wait to introduce him to other favorites of mine later. Listening to Jimi Hendrix in the morning may not be as calming as the acoustic renderings of John, Paul, George, and Ringo.

Hopefully, Baby Boy is still here once baseball begins. There would be nothing better than introducing him to a game that I love. While I am not holding out much hope for the Cubs this coming season, it is always a joy to see Wrigley Field on the television. It would be a thrill to be able to take him to his first game there. The sights, sounds, and smells would have us both enthralled.

Amanda and I still have no idea how long Baby Boy will be with us. It could be a few days, a month, a year, or even longer. In the month that he has been, he has already left his fingerprints on our hearts. Our hope is that he is ours for a long time to come, but we know that may not be the case. In the meantime, he is ours to love, to teach, and to guide. God give us the strength to do all of those things.

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

Take a Sad Song and Make it Better.

Adapting to change is usually a difficult process. We often like to stay in our comfort zone. That way we don’t have to take any unnecessary risks or encounter difficulties that might prove inconvenient for us. Personally, I have always been a person who is perfectly content to maintain the status quo. Perhaps, this is out of fear. I don’t always enjoy letting others into my inner sanctum. You could say I am like Superman and his Fortress of Solitude. However, I am not a “man of steel.” I have doubts, fears, and insecurities. I have let these hold me back from experiencing many of the things life has to offer. This was especially true when I was younger.

When I was a teenager, girls were my kryptonite. I was perfectly fine hiding behind the walls of my fortress. If I didn’t take any chances then there was no opportunity to get hurt. I approached many of my relationships like this as I grew into adulthood. I’d only let people in so far, never letting them see the real me. I think for a long time I wasn’t even sure who the “real me” was. However, as I reached my 20’s I began to feel like a change needed to occur. I was tired of hiding.

I’ve always enjoyed the music of Pink Floyd. As an angst-ridden teen I could relate to the lyrics of many of their songs. There is a line in a song from their album The Wall that seemed to fit my life perfectly. The name of the song is called “Waiting for the Worms.” The line is: “In perfect isolation here behind my wall.” That is how I often felt as a teen. I was putting walls up around myself so that I’d never have to take risks. Risks, after all, might lead to heartbreak. Therefore, The Wall became the soundtrack for my teenage years. With its themes of abandonment and isolation I felt it perfectly described who I was at the time.

However, no one can truly live their life in such a way and be happy. I realized this after about a year of counseling, which I went through in my early twenties. I had a counselor who helped me to see that it was okay to let others in to my life. The walls could come down. I no longer had to seek out “perfect isolation.” It was okay to be me.

With this new found freedom, I began to open up to new experiences. I even began to date. This is something that I thought I’d never do. For, I used to ask myself “who would want to date a man who walked with crutches, and had other physical challenges?” Fortunately, this was only a misconception. I did find that there were people that wanted to be my friend, and there were even ladies who wanted to date me. I even found one that said “yes” when I asked her to marry me!

I have been married to Amanda for 7 years now. There are times when I still want to hide behind some walls. However, I think we are all like that at times. Together, Amanda and I are about to break down a huge wall. We will soon be foster parents. As I type this tonight, we are getting bedrooms ready to welcome children who need love and support. We are both ready for this challenge.

In the coming days and weeks, bunk beds will be assembled, walls will be painted, and Amanda will pass her FBI background check, at least we hope! The next few months will be all about breaking down walls. I am sure there will be children who will come through our door feeling much the same way I did as a young person. I think maybe we’ll put The Wall away in the closet and pull out some Beatles music instead. After all, it is time to “take a sad song and make it better.” For those who missed that reference, stop reading this and go listen to the song “Hey Jude.” On second thought just stay right here, sit back and watch the video below.

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