Wednesday, January 31, 2007


It's been a few posts since I graced the blog with pictures of the kids. If you've been slogging through my lengthy kvetching, thanks for returning-- and see? Your reward is photos. They are old, but they are still cute.

I may have posted this before-- it's my favorite picture of the two of them. They are both looking at the camera and smiling. Not an easy feat!

I saved my prom dress and my college formals and even my wedding gown-- so that one day my daughter(s) could play dress-up. I didn't anticipate my son wanting "in," too. Not sure why I didn't contemplate that-- I'm fully prepared for the day he asks me to help him put on my lipstick or my nail polish (much to his father's chagrin). After all, kids imitate what they see. Come to think of it, as someone who doesn't wear nailpolish and often forgets the lipstick, it's not suprising he hasn't asked. Anyway, he does like dress up. Not in my old dresses-- but in costumes. He now has Buzz Lightyear, Mr. Incredible (or Dash), Spiderman, and Superman (with the blow-up muscles). He could start a Super Hero club!

I just love, love, love her expression in this photo-- which dates all the way back to Christmas. This last weekend our friends Jennie and Max gave Marcie a monkey with velcro arms and legs. I had to let her take it to her grandmother's house on Monday because she didn't want to separate from it! I think it's great that she's into hugging stuffed animals!

Cleaning Up His Own Mess

Last night while Jason was using the restroom, Marcie was sleeping, and I was away at school, we had an . . . uh . . . incident. Here is how Casey explained it to me this morning:

Me: Good morning, Casey. Did you sleep well?

Casey: Mm. Hmm. (a bunch of babbling that clearly he intends to be words but I cannot understand). Casey poo poo in his pants. Daddy got mad.

Me: You pooped in your pants and Daddy got mad at you?

Casey: Mm. Hm. No poo poo in pants. Poo poo in potty.

Me: That's right, Casey. Big boys poo poo in the potty. Why did you poo poo in your pants?

Casey: Daddy going potty. Casey go potty. Poo poo in pants.

Me: Daddy was using the bathroom, so you didn't know where to go?

Casey: Mm. Hmm.

Me: Casey, next time you have to go potty and someone is using your potty, you use Mommy and Daddy's potty, okay?

Casey: Ok.

Jason's telling was a little different. To understand the situation, you need to know that we live in a two-bathroom home. It's a one-story house, and the kids' bathroom is also the bathroom that sits in the hallway between the family room and the bedrooms. So it's the bathroom that gets used the most (for obvious reasons). It's not like we prohibit the kids from using our bathroom-- not at all. It's just not as convenient, so it's not common.

In any case, I won't go into all the details, but here are the basics. Jason noticed a grape-fruit sized, brown stain in Casey's bedroom. Thinking Casey had done a poor job of wiping, then sat on his floor to change into his pajamas, he pulled out the cleaning supplies and cleaned.

Then he went into the kitchen to throw away all the trash. Where he discovered more poop. On the floor. On the counter. Pieces in the sink. (I didn't think to ask where he found Casey's dirty clothes). Water drenching the countertop, and some water on the floor. From what he could put together, Casey had pooped in his pants, then realized he'd made a mess and tried to clean it up by himself. After he'd done the best he could, he went into his bedroom where he had, indeed, changed himself into his pajamas.

Jason managed to clean it all up (probably through a series of gagging fits) before I got home (yay for me!). Casey asked to take a shower, but this is tricky-- because he loves showers, and while we like a clean child, we certainly don't want to encourage pant-pooping just so he can get a shower out of the ordeal. Anyway, Jason cleaned up Casey, too.

I really do think it was an accident because Jason was in Casey's bathroom.

I love that the first words out of Casey's mouth were to tell me what he'd done "wrong." And I love that he tried to clean it up all by himself. So gross as it may be, I can still find the cuteness in it all. Of course, I'm not the one who had to clean it up!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Milk, Mommy!

This morning:
Me: Okay, Casey, while you finish brushing your teeth, I'm going to help Marcie get dressed.

Casey: Okay Mommy.

Me (thinking): Hmm. This is odd. He's not arguing with me. . .

Me (to Marcie): Good morning, Sweetheart!

Marcie: Eh. Eh. Eh.

Casey (while I walk past with Marcie): MARCIE!

While I was preparing Marcie's bottle:

Casey: I want milk.

Me: In your cereal?

Casey: No. In cup. With lid. Like Marcie.

Me: Ok. Just a second. (I pour Casey a cup half full of milk while he runs off, distracted by some toy. Then I sit down to feed Marcie in her sippy cup.)

Casey: I want milk.

Me: It's on the counter, Casey. (Marcie finishes her milk. Yes, that fast. She drinks the whole sippy cup full in about 1 minute-- maybe even less. I think she might hold a record. . .)

Casey: I want hot, Mommy.

Me: You want me to heat it up?

Casey: Yes please. And top.

Me: Okay. (I microwave the milk and put the lid on it, thinking about how crazy it is to put the lid on it with the stopper because despite Marcie's amazing sucking ability, Casey still can't suck liquid from a sippy with a stopper.)

Casey (as I hand him the cup): Sit down, Mommy.

Me: Why?

Casey: Like Marcie. Sit down.

I sit down and he crawls up on my lap, so he can be just like Marcie.

Marcie: Up! Up!

Casey: NO! No, Marcie! Casey's turn!

Me (to Casey): Casey, I let you sit on my lap when Marcie's eating, so you need to share my lap with Marcie.

Casey: (No comment)

Marcie: Eh.

But you know what? It was the best feeling. Sitting there, holding my two most precious gifts. And on a weekday no less. How lucky am I to steal a moment like that on a weekday morning.

And in case you're wondering-- no, Casey wasn't actually able to get any of the milk out of the cup. But don't worry, he had plenty of milk in his cereal bowl!

Monday, January 29, 2007

COFFEE TO THE PEOPLE: San Francisco's Best Coffeehouse


(I'm using the word we quite loosely.)

To all of you who got online and voted for Coffee to the People as the AOL Cityguide best coffeehouse in San Francisco-- whether you learned about the voting through this blog or not-- thank you.

Hopefully this award will bring through more foot traffic-- more tourists, more regulars, just plain-old more people. Even though the owners have done a terrific job opening the joint and running it for the past year and half, mom & pop business are hard to keep afloat (and that's being generous).

So don't assume that just because they won this award, they are rolling in the dough. They welcome your patronage. They thrive on it. This isn't just a business to them, this is their dream. So please help keep it alive, and next time you're in San Francisco, stop on by the Haight District and pop in for some java and conversation. Or just java.

And spread the word.

And thanks again!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Stupid Video Camera

I insisted we buy a video camera. I wanted to capture our trip to China on tape. We didn't own a video camera when Casey was born, but our friends loaned us there for the trip, and I'm really glad we have some video of what it was like when Casey was first born. I work in an online professional development office were we have our own video specialists and an editing suite. They don't use work equipment for anything personal, but they know what they are doing. So when I was ready to purchase a camera, I did a boatload of research and took their advice.

I ended up with the Canon Optura 400.

Generally I've been pleased with it. It is very small and light-- two key elements of a camera I was trekking halfway around the world (literally) to capture the arrival of our daughter.

I started using it last spring-- April of 2006, to be exact. And I haven't done a thing with anyof the video I've captured. I still prefer my regular old digital camera (well, actually it's a new camera-- a Fuji one with a continuous shooting function, but you get my point). But this is nice for some things. Like our reactions to seeing Marcie's face for the first time.

Or Casey singing "the blues" with his Uncle Jason in Ohio. Bless their hearts, I promised I would download the video of Casey and Uncle Jason singing the blues as soon as I had a free minute. The recording happened in May. And I got some nice editing software for Christmas, which I've now downloaded onto my laptop.

But I'll be darned if I can get any of the video to download so I can edit it and throw it on a CD. I am not super computer techno savvy. I know my way around the basics, and that's it. I followed the instructions that came with the editing software, but every time I plug in my video camera, the computer tells me the hardware needs drivers installed. I've gone to the Canon site, but it insists no drivers are necessary for Windows XP. I've read the instructions on the editing software, and it explains that I need a 2.0 USB port and a video class 1.0 driver installed. I have no idea what that means or where to get it.

And so now I have (what I like to at least pretend is) tapes of incredible footage of Casey doing all sorts of clever things, visiting with his cousins in the summer, visiting his birth family, of our adoption adventure, and of our recent Christmas trip-- including Timour's proposal to Megan. But I can't put it on a DVD because I can't figure out how to make my stupid video camera download the video.

Oh, and in case you are wondering, I'm sure it did come with some CD with the driver on it, but of course that was months ago now-- and I'm not likely to find it in the piles of junk . . . uh, I mean mounds of important paperwork and computer cables in our study.


The (Almost) Babysitter Blues-- Take 2

For Christmas Jason bought us a meal package at a place called the Dinner A'Fare. I've been to other places like this (namely Dinner Studio), and it seems to work well for us. The way it works is that you pick out your menu based on the available main entree selections and sign up for a session. Then you show up, throw together 6 or 12 meals (portioned for 3 or 6 people), store them in freezer bags (or other appropriate containers), stick them in your freezer, and have ready-made meals for when you are super-busy. Which for most people is all the time. They say it takes about two hours, but it never does. And you don't do any of the dishes or clean-up. And not only do they provide the recipes (and the nutritional information), but they have all the ingredients pre-chopped up for you and sitting out with proper measuring spoons. For me this is great because I never have time to prep food in advance. And I don't have a lot of spices to use for one-time meals (like the 5-Chinese spices spice or Cumin or a number of other things).

This is also great for us, because we just throw the food in the oven and prep some veggies, and we have a meal in about an hour. The only real preparation is remembering to put the meat in the fridge to defrost the night before. But that's just the kind of planning I like!

Anyway, Jason bought us 12 meals for Christmas, and we scheduled to go make them today. But somehow we hadn't actually contemplated who would watch the kids while we went to do this. Fortunately our scheduled time fell during nap time. Unfortunately Marcie decided to nap early today while we were out on a walk. And if you read the other Babysitter Blues post, you know exactly where this is headed.

We asked the babysitter to arrive over 30 minutes before we had to leave so Marcie could get familiar with him. We even asked him to come during her lunch so he could help feed her. Marcie loves to eat, and so I thought she'd love whomever was feeding her.

Not so much.

The minute she saw our babysitter, she burst into tears and was nearly inconsolable. She wouldn't take any food from him. She sealed up her mouth and sobbed. She wouldn't even calm down for Jason. Still, the babysitter stuck close by, so she could see we thought he was okay. And by the time Marcie was done eating, she would at least high-five him. Though she never took any food from him.

I was insanely worried. I even made Jason call his sister to come over and babysit with the babysitter. My rationale was that then Marcie would at least have a familiar face here. But she didn't answer her cell phone.

So I put Marcie down for her nap. She fell asleep after about 10 minutes of alternately screaching, sobbing, and quietly crying. And we left behind strict instructions to call us if she cried for more than 15 minutes because we weren't far away.

Two hours later, when we pulled into the driveway, there was no sign of the babysitter's mom's car. There was no sound of sobbing leaking out through the door from the house to the garage. In fact, there was our babysitter playing video games right where we'd left him. Both kids still fast asleep (until I woke them up).

Marcie got to see the babysitter again before he left. But she wouldn't let go of me-- she was not happy we would consider leaving her behind. Not. Happy. At. All. But we can't be stuck to her like glue forever, so we'll continue taking these baby steps for now.

In other news, today Marcie skipped her morning bottle and took her milk in her sippy cup! I think we will do the same thing tomorrow. And if it works, for the rest of the week. And then we'll take away the nighttime bottle and repeat the process. Heck, maybe we'll try to eliminate the nighttime bottle tonight. If she's willing to sit on our lap and suck down a sippy cup contentedly, there's just no reason to keep the bottle anymore that I can think of.

AND Marcie officially has a "name" for Casey. It's ga ga (or ge ge, or ga gah with the emphasis on the second gah). The Mandarin word for "big brother." It's taken us a while to figure out that's what she's saying. But it is so consistent now-- and so clear, that it is definitely what's going on.

She's also blowing kisses. Now that's something worth capturing on video!

Friday, January 26, 2007


Tonight we went to Friday's for dinner. We were impressed by the variety on their children's menu, but not impressed by the speed of service. The kids were both very well-behaved. Casey even ate several carrots, chewed them up, and . . . drumroll . . . swallowed them. (Yeah he did it because I promised him a lollipop-- but, folks, my boy ATE CARROTS!)

While we were waiting for our server to collect our bill (this took quite a long time), Casey decided he was ready to leave. He headed for the door, and because we'd arrived from separate locations, we had two cars. I was going to go home with Casey, pull in the trash cans, and feed the dogs. Jason would follow as soon as he paid the bill.

In the amount of time it took me to pull my keys and Marcie's jacket out of the backpack, Casey wandered all the way to the door of the restaurant. Although we couldn't see the door, we could see right outside the door-- so he couldn't have left without our knowing. . .

As I threw the backpack over my shoulder, Casey came running back toward me with an expression that crossed between panic and sheer terror. As soon as he caught up to me, he literally lept into my arms and began weeping and wailing. I sat back down with him, and I helped him breathe so he could calm down. I checked him all over to see if he was hurt, and then he finally said to me, "I scared."

He realized he was all alone when he got to the door, and this frightened him. I feel badly that he felt so afraid, but I think this is probably a healthy fear-- particularly given not only the recent stranger kidnapping in Missouri of a boy getting off a school bus, but also of the recent near-attempt at kidnapping in a local neighborhood of a couple boys walking home from school together (the boys ran to a neighborhood home and called 911, smart kids).

I know "stranger danger" is a little alarmist, but at least that means Casey will be sticking a little closer for a while. He's usually so fearless, I think this will help temper that impulse. At least I hope.

It turns out the local attempted kidnapping case was not an attempted kidnapping at all. The boys thought a man in a truck was trying to entice him into the vehicle, when the driver was actually trying to wave him across the street (literally). Also, the boy didn't call 9-1-1. He called his parents. Really, just as good (though I wonder how he knew which random house was actually safe to go to and ask to use the phone). This still doesn't change my point-- a little bit of fear, of awareness, goes a looooong way.

Behavior Modification

When we were trying to toilet train Casey, we weren't having much luck. The Montessori school he was attending was really pressuring us-- and really not being very helpful in training him. And he was the youngest kid in his class. One weekend when Jason had the flu, I turned off the ringer on the phone, pulled Casey's potty into the kitchen, and proceeded to follow the directions in the book How to Toilet Train Your Child in One Day. The book is kind of old-school, and I was worried that saying things like, "Bad Casey. Good boys do not pee pee in their pants. You are a bad boy," and then making him clean himself up might be a little much. Not to mention that Casey didn't even have the skills to dress and undress himself at this point-- despite the fact that he was 3. But I went through the motions anyway.

We started by teaching Potty Scotty, an anatomically correct doll, how to go pee pee in the potty. And I tried having Casey sit on his potty every 10 minutes (or whatever the book said to do).

It wasn't exactly successful. At least, not at first. Of course, once Casey was finally ready to be toilet trained, that first, all-day training paid off. I'm still convinced it helped teach him what to do. But what really did it was Thomas the Tank Engine. One day Jason told Casey that if he went in the potty like a big boy, Jason would buy him a Thomas train (Casey owned maybe two at this time). Casey didn't listen at first. But Jason sat him in front of the TV on the potty religiously-- in fact, the only time Casey was allowed to watch TV is if he was sitting on his potty for a while (that's how we motivated him to try in the first place).

And then one day the stars aligned and Casey peed in his potty. Of course, we all did the potty dance. And then we went out to buy Casey a Thomas train. We started with the least expensive ones-- the battery-operated ones that come with the pieces of blue track (they sell at Walmart). And when we were there picking out a Thomas, we picked up more than one. We came home and set them up on the shelf above the TV, where Casey could see them but not reach them. A few times each day, Casey would "visit" the Thomas trains. We might let him hold the box, but he couldn't have them unless he went potty. It didn't take long before he'd collected them all. And we went out for more-- until we realized he was playing us. Holding it in until we were there to watch him pee, so he could demand another Thomas toy. I'm sure we spent more than $200 on this endeavor-- was it worth it? Probably. We probably saved that much in diapers, actually. Not to mention the priceless value of his self esteem at school. We did have to actually ask the preschool to please remember to walk him to the bathroom every hour. But once they started following through, he was toilet trained.

At least we thought he was. After we'd been in China for two and a half weeks and returned home, Casey went through a readjustment period which lasted, I'd say, about a week. During that time, he'd poop in his nighttime pull-up. Intentionally. He'd actually find a quiet, kind-of-private place to do it. I'm actually not sure what ended it, but he started using the toilet again relatively quickly, and all was right in the world.

Until Vegas.

When we returned from Vegas, Monday and Tuesday mornings he pooped in his nighttime pull-up again. On purpose. After I asked him to go to the bathroom, he slipped off into his bedroom to poop. In his pull-up. Yuck. In a moment of (I'm guessing) exasperation, on Tuesday Jason told him if he was a good boy and didn't poop in his pull-up on Wednesday morning, we'd take him to the Totally Thomas Toy Depot Wednesday evening. Of course Casey didn't poop in his pull-up on Wednesday, and so we took him to the store.

He was all over the place. He liked the Thomas tent. And the Truckee character (from Jay Jay the Jet Plane). And another plane character. And finally he settled on wooden rail train characters 'Arry and 'Bert. Just before bedtime, Casey asks me for the Thomas tent. The one that cost $35. The one we didn't buy. (He sleeps with a Lightning McQueen tent on his bed already.) I explained that we didn't have enough tickets to get the tent (Casey calls money "tickets). He seemed fine with that explanation and went to bed.

Then Thursday morning he asked for one of the planes. I reminded him we didn't get the plane-- he picked out some trains. I kissed him good-bye and I left for work.

After I left, he troddled off into our bedroom to tell Jason he didn't poop in his pants. As if to say, "so now I get another toy, right?" Apparently he responds well to rewards.

And so today marks the day we officially begin our behavior modification program. We have a chart. We have pictures of the things we want him to do (without screaming): get dressed, go to the bathroom, eat breakfast, brush teeth, wash face, wash hands, comb hair, be nice to the dog, avoid hitting Marcie, etc. For the next couple days, each time he completes a sequence without melting down, he gets a reward-- an extra book at bedtime, a 1/2 hour of Dragon Tales, etc.. And each item he completes earns him a sticker. When he gets to 10 stickers, we'll get him a Thomas toy. Then we'll up the ante-- some things won't earn him a sticker. And he'll need more stickers to get a toy. We're hopeful that this behavior modification will help him make better choices. Now if only it were a strong enough incentive to help him with his (lack of) impulse control. I swear, sometimes he just. can't. help. himself.

Oh! And if you're wondering, Marcie got a toy, too. She's been very well-behaved (if you don't count waking up at 4am). She picked out Ice Bat (an Ugly Doll toy), which she's been carrying around, hugged to her body. She's also been carrying around a little Marcie-sized gift bag, which she uses like a little purse. I have to get a photo of that!

And Marcie has definitely been holding her own with Casey. This morning when Casey swiped her stuffed bear away from her, she squatted in front of him and shrieked. Just once. He looked stunned and gave it right back. I couldn't help but think, "That's my girl!"

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

On Preschool and Applesauce

I'm exhausted. It's 10:30pm, and I just walked in the door. Today I've been feeling badly about the fact that I am now spending only . . . oh, say around 20 minutes with Marcie directly each day. That doesn't include the car ride to Grandma's house, but a car ride together hardly counts. I know it feels like I see next to nothing of her (or Casey, for that matter)-- and I suppose that would be a fair assessment-- but it's not much less time than before I went back to school at night. I mean, in January, I still had to be at work at 8am. And I wasn't picking her up until 5:30 or 6:00pm (depending on traffic). After getting home and disposing of jackets, that only leaves around an hour and a half. At least 30 minutes of that time I was preparing dinner. Another 30 minutes was devoted to Daddy for bath time. So that left maybe another 30 minutes of time-- an hour if I was lucky-- with Marcie. Which means all I've really reduced our time together by is that final 30-60 minutes of the day. I have no idea if that made sense to anyone reading this-- but I'm glad I got that off my chest anyway.

Now 30-60 minutes isn't nothin'. Don't get me wrong. But when I'm not getting home until after 10:00pm, it sure feels like more than a lost hour. It feels like many lost hours. So it'll take some adjusting. And continuous reminding that it's just until May . . .

Last night when I got home, I just couldn't resist picking her up. I knew I shouldn't, but I couldn't help myself. Of course, it woke her up. And then she didn't want me to put her back down, so I rocked her to sleep on my lap while I (unsuccessfully) attempted to watch television. As I started dozing off myself, I slipped her back into her crib, and she slept peacefully until the usual 4:00am.

Is it odd that I now consider waking up at 4:00am for 20 minutes normal? I mean, at 14 months, I'd think she could last 12 hours without eating . . . hmm.

Anyway, none of this is the reason for this post. I wanted to share our happy news of the day. Marcie has been accepted to preschool. Yup. My girl has been placed for the fall! The way the law works, she can't start preschool in a 2-year-old class until she is 22 months old, which will be September 15th. The school year starts the first week of July. Which means the preschool is holding her spot for 2 1/2 months! How great is that? We are so glad that Casey and Marcie will be at the same school for the next year. We think it'll really help Marcie's transition to preschool (and my transition to life in a law firm). It's such a great school, and Marcie goes every day to drop off and pick up Casey, so she's familiar with it-- and with the staff. Yay for Marcie.

The other reason for this post is our recent Applesauce Experience. Marcie is so good at stealing her brother's left-behind spoon and eating whatever remains of his apple sauce or yogurt that I thought I'd let her try it on her own. And we followed the apple sauce with a meatball sandwich chaser (she loves meatballs). Of course we broke up the bread and the meatballs into little pieces, but somehow that didn't reduce the mess. In fact, after dinner it took me a while to figure out how to get her out of the highchair without making things worse. Check it out:

And just for good measure, lest you think Marcie gets all the attention around here, check out what a good giggler our Casey is:

Who couldn't love such a cutie?

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Park

This morning I wandered out with the kids to the nearby park. It's a bit chilly, but not too bad. And the sun is out. And I needed the exercise. Here are some photos:

Casey with his new sunglasses from Grandma Linda, Grandpa Jim, Big Sister Haley, and Big Brother Bryce (sent from Ohio last week).

First time on the swings with a smile. (Last time I took her, she kind of wimpered the whole time.)

Monkeying around-- trying to climb on the equipment all by herself (she has quite an idependent streak!).

Marcie crawling through a tunnel. She wanted to stand up and try to walk through-- I had to insist she crawl.

He looks so grown up, doesn't he? Casey was pretty patient with Marcie while he was playing.

Coming down the tube slide-- all smiles!

Good Time (in Vegas) Had By All

So I've been wondering how I'd handle this semester with the lack of sleep I've been experiencing. During my Winter Break, I've been able to crash around 9:30pm each night, and I've still be exhausted when I wake up in the morning. But now that I'm back in school, a 9:30pm bedtime is just simply not an option. Last week Marcie slept all the way through the night every night, so I thought we'd turned a corner. Except that last week Casey decided to start joining us in bed every night, and he is too wiggly for me to sleep with. But we let him join us because he was feeling sick.

Then, I got a little spoiled when we went to Vegas for the weekend. No, I didn't go to bed at 9:30pm either night. In fact, the first night, we didn't even leave San Diego unti the 9:00pm flight out. But while we waited for our flight, we sat in the airport bar, where I consumed a Vodka and Red Bull (a double, thank you very much) and a hot dog. Jason had a beer, I think, and a sandwich. Apparently that Red Bull did the trick, because we fell into bed some time between 3:30am and 4:00am (maybe even after 4:00am) Friday morning.

That was after several hours of gambling at Binions (which used to be the Golden Horseshoe) downtown. The nice thing about gambling downtown on a Thursday night is that it's a $5 minimum. So you can play for a much longer time. Yeah, you don't win big. But I don't ever actually plan to win when I go to Vegas (maybe that's the wrong attitude, huh?). I'd show you photos, but they don't really like it when people take pictures in the casino, so I don't have any from Thursday night. I can tell you, though, that Pai Gow is the game to play if you want to play for a long time without losing much. I was ahead after a couple hours of pai gow, and Jason was a little down-- but overall we were up.

Then we moved to blackjack. There, I was down and Jason was up. But I was more down than he was up. Still, all in all, losing only $25 after playing for four or so hours isn't bad. Especially when you consider all the free alcohol we consumed-- more than $25 worth, I'd wager.

We wisely stopped off at Fat Burger before heading back to our home base-- the Mirage-- to grab a bite. Jason and I shared a fatburger and fries. And some diet coke. I think that did the nice trick of ensuring we wouldn't be hung over the next day (well, I don't really get hung over-- knock on wood-- so it was really good for him, I guess).

The next morning/ early afternoon, we headed downstairs for some coffee (I haven't had a mocha in probably 3 or 4 years, and mine was delicious). Jason, Matt and I stopped by the White Tiger, which was out playing in the water. Then Grace met up with us. While the boys chatted, we popped over to DKNY where they were having a great sale.

We wandered over to the Paris hotel for crepes (did you know that word is actually pronounced more like "craps"? I didn't know this until Lisa, our French-teacher-friend-who-is-adopting-from-China kept saying it that way and I finally asked, "Is crapes the wrong way to say it?" I guess it is!). I've never had food crepes-- just dessert crepes. So it was cool to try a ham and cheese crepe for a lunch snack. We actually walked to the Paris from the Mirage, even though it's a bit of a hike. Though it was on the chilly side, the sun was nice-- and it was great to get out in the fresh air for a while. This is a picture of Grace and me and Lisa. I forgot my sunglasses. It was just coincidence that we all opted for black for the day-- and I always forget how short I am until I see a photo with normal-sized people in it next to me. Anyway, there we are.

After we stopped off at Paris for a snack, we continued out to see if we could find some more, inexpensive pai gow-- on the strip. This is not an easy thing to do. After stopping in Casino Royale, we sent the boys on to Barbary Coast and we swung into Sephora, which was right outside the Casino Royale. The Sephora experience was actually pretty cool. We asked for some advice for lipstick for Lisa, and Lisa and Grace both proceeded to get (unintended) make-overs with surprising (in a good way results)! We weren't without our hesitation-- when the woman started putting a coral-colored lipstick on Grace, Lisa and I were definitely worried. But by the time she was finished, she had made believers of us!

Then we wandered over to the Venetian for a snack. We weren't there for long though because either they were piping in the gawd-awful perfume, or some "more distinguished" woman without a great sense of smell and wearing a boatload of perfume was nearby. All I know is that the smell made me feel so nauseous, I had to go back to the Mirage to lay down for a bit! We did manage to snap a photo of the boys on our walk outdoors, too. You can see that to the left. That's Jason, Tito, and Matt.

Now Jason and I haven't spent all that much time with Lisa and Tito. I met Lisa when I was in grad school and she helped me get set up to teach Spanish (at Grace's request). But I've only ever met Tito at a couple parties. Our major commonality (other than the fact that Lisa and I both love Grace to pieces and have taught foreign language) is that they are adopting a baby girl from China through CCAI. We are so excited for them. I wish we'd been able to travel overseas together, but it's still a cool thing to have in common. And they are just really neat people. Lisa is Persian and Tito is Spanish. They speak Spanish and English in their home. And they will be introducing Chinese culture into the mix soon. Their daughter will be multi-lingual, which I think is just so incredible. Anyway, they are just really easy people to be around-- and it was nice to spend the time with them.

So Matt and Jason have been to Vegas quite a number of times without me and Grace to see UFC fights. Every time they go, they have dinner at Mona Mi Gabi, a restaurant in the Paris hotel. They always, always get the hanger steak. And this time they invited the rest of us to join them at "their" restuarant. (This is a picture of the two of them. ) The food was excellent. I had filet mignon, and the bread was delicious. And the wine was great. If you know Matt, you know that he is the guy to take with you when you want to drink good wine. He has impeccable taste.
Here is a picture of each of us couples at dinner:

Me and Jason

Matt and Grace

Lisa and Tito

After dinner, we headed back to the Mirage to see the newest Cirque show-- Love, which is sort of a tribute to the Beatles. It was beautiful. It wasn't all acrobatic like I thought it would be, but there was a lot of stunning choreography. I was exhausted after the show, and we went to bed around 12:30am. As it turned out, my dad was going to be arriving in Vegas that Friday night/Saturday morning around 10pm and would get to his hotel around midnight. It was a total coincidence, which I didn't even discover except that my mom called me on Friday during the day and told me I should call him if I want because he might be in Vegas, too. (My dad is a pilot and one of his routes is through Vegas, which he does relatively frequently.)

It took a tiny bit of cajoling, but I convinced my dad to meet the gang for brunch at the Four Seasons on Saturday morning. Jason and I met up with him a bit earlier so we could chit chat. Then we went over to the Four Seasons. Now this is not a cheap brunch, but it. is. amazing. I love getting the weekend brunch there. They have a guy who makes donuts on the spot! Anyway, I don't get to see my dad as often as I'd like (he used to do San Diego overnights so we'd see him once a month, but now Las Vegas is the closest he gets). We had a lovely brunch conversation, and I know my dad was glad he came to join us.

Before Jason and I headed off to the airport, I insisted we take some photos of me and my dad. When I was a kid, we used to do this thing-- which is probably really dumb, but I loved it as a kid. We would pick a funny face to make and then we call out to my mom (or whoever was nearby), "HEY! Don't we look alike?!?" And then we'd make the silly face. So I say to my dad, "Hey let's do a 'don't we look alike face' for the camera." And he says, "Ok. Stick out your tongue and look to the left. Ready?" And then Jason shot the photo. But my dad played a trick on me! Here's how the picture came out:

But it was too funny for me to be at all mad at him! After that we had to say our goodbyes, and Jason and I took a cab to the airport, my dad walked to his hotel, and the other two couples headed off to a movie (they were taking a later flight home). I wrote in my last post about how we talked about our children all. weekend. long. We missed them. But it was the perfect time to be away for the first time.

And since I got consecutive and uninterrupted hours of sleep while in Vegas, you can imagine how very grumpy I was that both the kids insisted on sleeping WITH us last night or crying. Marcie was up no fewer than FOUR TIMES. Every time I'd put her back in her own bed, she'd wake up again. And Casey tried to come to bed with us once (I walked him back to his own bed and laid with him for a while because Marcie was already in our bed at that point, and four bodies in our queen-sized bed is just too many bodies!). I am so glad we don't do the family bed thing-- but this was a little ridiculous. If we have a repeat performance tonight, I may have to resort to shutting off my baby monitor and putting a pillow over my head for 20 minutes at a time. I have no idea where our kids got the idea that we wanted them to join us in our bed; it's certainly not our usual routine. And not much makes me crankier than lack of sleep (though lack of food comes in a pretty close second!). Don't get me wrong-- I still love them to pieces. Just in their own beds.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Our First Big Outing Without the Kiddos

Despite our less than successful trip to the local Brigantine restaurant last week, we headed out to Las Vegas this weekend-- sans kids. I planned the trip a while ago. I wrote about it cheerily on this blog (I realize I could refer you to this post, but I'm too lazy to look through my own archives, and I certainly don't expect you to). We spent our time with two couples-- one of which is adopting a baby girl from China through the CCAI, our agency. Their Log-In-Date was less than 6 months after ours, and they have already passed their one-year-0f-waiting mark and are looking forward to another 6 months or so of waiting.

We had a terrific time with both couples-- and I'll post more about the trip (complete with photos) later, but I'm tired now and I just wanted to let you know how Casey and Marcie did without us.

We left town late on Thursday night (our flight was around 9pm) and returned this afternoon, just in time to pick up the kids after their afternoon nap. We called Friday evening, just around dinner time to check in with the kids. Here is how our conversation went:

Me: Hi Marcie. Are you being a good girl for Grandma? Mommy and Daddy miss you so much, but we'll be home tomorrow.

Marcie: UH. (that's a grunt of some kind.) Followed by a bunch of static that was probably Marcie chewing on the phone receiver.

Jason: Sweetheart, are you still there? Daddy and Mommy love you!

Marcie: Uh. (another grunt.) Followed by a series of beeps in our ear that told us Marcie had hit the re-dial button.

Grandma: Want me to get Casey for you? He just finished taking a shower.

Jason: That'd be great.

In the background: Caaaaaaa-seeeey. Mommy and Daddy are on the phone for you. She said something in Cantonese that I didn't understand, but I'm sure Casey did-- and I'm pretty sure it was to come talk to me on the phone. Then: Casey, come say hi to your Mommy and Daddy.

Casey (still in the background): No. Don't want Mommy and Daddy.

Grandma (still in the background): Come on Casey. Your Mommy and Daddy want to talk to you.

Casey (still in the background): No. No no no no. (And then we could hear him running around.)

Us: It's okay. Sounds like he's having fun. We'll just talk to him tomorrow.

So they didn't really miss us. Which is actually kind of a relief. Marcie clung to Grandma like super glue most of the time we were away, but she felt safe and that's what matters most. And they were super-excited to see us when we rang the doorbell to pick them up. We could hear Casey yelling, "Mommy and Daddy are here! Grandma and Grandpa! It's Mommy and Daddy!" It's always nice to feel loved.

It was a good length of time for us to be gone and alone. We haven't actually been on any dates (other than that one last week) at night because we've been so militant about keeping the kids on our bedtime routine. So it was nice to spend some time, just the two of us. Of course, we talked about the kids the whole time we were gone. But it was still nice.

And yes. We know how lucky we are to have Jason's parents nearby, responsible, and willing (and actually wanting) to watch our kids.

I'll post some blog-appropriate Vegas photos soon. And Mom, if you're reading this-- you can look forward to one of me and Dad (who happened to be in Vegas this morning for work and we talked him into joining us for brunch).

Monday, January 15, 2007

Happy 4th Birthday, Casey!

Today is Casey's 4th birthday. And for the first time, I think, he actually understands what is going on! He picked out this Thomas cake. And he's sleeping with the little wind-up train as I write.
We actually celebrated his birthday twice. Once last night at his favorite restaurant (Red Robin), and then again today at My Kids Clubhouse, which is his favorite indoor play place. He had fun both times. Here are a few highlights. Suffice to say that I can hardly believe my little boy is actually 4 years old. I remember commenting once that time seemed to go faster after I got married. Well multiply that by a billion once you have kids!

Dinner at Red Robin

In attendance were Grandma and Grandpa, Auntie Tiffy, Mark & Godmother Ann, Marcie, and of course-- us. Casey was a little distracted and didn't really eat the pizza. But he did play with Grandma (and his new birthday hat) for a while:

And he did crawl up into Ann's lap to enjoy the entire restaurant clapping and singing happy birthday to him:

And of course, there were the presents. Casey loved opening them all-- the paints, the books (boy do we love books), and the Cars toys from his sister. Of course the shake 'em King car won the prize for the night of the most-played with toy (he took it to bed with him last night), but we have read the Where's Waldo style Cars book no fewer than 5 times since last night. Anyway, here are a few snapshots of gift opening. And a special thanks to Mark for being our personal photographer for the evening!

Yes, that last shot is of him using his new camera to take a photo. He also took one of his new "The King" toy.

Casey's Birthday Party with Friends

This morning we continued the celebrating with a party where his school friends came to play at the My Kids Clubhouse, a great indoor play place in our home town. I'm not going to post many photos from this experience-- not because Casey didn't have a blast (he did), but because I don't feel comfortable posting a bunch of photos of kids from his class on the Internet for the world to see. First, here he is playing on the slides:

And here are some photos of the birthday song. We used our last Lotus candle-- one of the ones my bought and brought back with us from China. It always gets a big wow from the kids, and even though Casey looks a bit frightened, this was his third time seeing it. It was a big hit with his friends.

If you'd like to see a little video of the kids singing happy birthday and Casey blowing out his candles, click here.

We opened presents after we got home, and Jason's mom joined us. It was a huge help with Marcie while Casey tore through the gifts. We were trying to slow him down so that we could do thank you notes as we went. One of my favorite things about birthdays with Jason's family is his mom's rendition of Happy Birthday. She sings it to the birthday boy or girl in Chinese-- I think Cantonese. It's the same tune, just different words. You'd think I'd know all the words after all these years, but I still don't. But I love the song. And of course, Jason's mom sang it for Casey while we were at home.

In Other News

Though the rest of the day was relatively uneventful, there are a few newsworthy items to share. First is that Marcie has finally uttered the magic word. You know, the one I have been waiting for. Mama. She said it today four times, and each time to me. She's had a word for Grandma and for Daddy for a while now (Daddy is Dad-ow, by the way). She's even been saying: all done, more, duck, cow, ow, uh-oh, up, down, and good girl. But today she said Mama. What a glorious sound! I wish she were feeling better (she has yet another cold). Check out these rosy cheeks:

I should get back to studying. Tomorrow is my first day back to school. Thanks to all the people wishing me luck on my last semester of law school (God willing). I just spent the last half hour reading in the bathroom while Casey took a bath and a shower. He woke up around 10pm to go to bathroom. That never happens. Which tells us we need to keep him home from school tomorrow-- poor kid. I was half tempted to use Desitin on him! At the start of this post, he was snuggled in his own bed with his wind-up Thomas and one of his Lightning McQueens, and the Birthday Thomas he got from a friend today, and the Sally. Now he's gathered them all and is sleeping in our bed, where he'll be until I transfer him later tonight.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Casey's Birth Story-- Part II

I left off with Jason agreeing to stay with me instead of driving an hour up to Columbus to pick up my mom. . .

Instead of schlepping through the soft snow, Jason and I stayed with Angie and played cards and chit-chatted. Angie told us about her two children. She told us how she had wanted to be in the hospital over the weekend instead of the middle of the week so they wouldn't miss her. Their father was going to spend the weekend with them anyway. She explained that she had been away for a while and the kids, then around age 4 and 7, thought she had just gained a lot of weight. They didn't know she was pregnant. We talked about how helpful her parents were. We talked about how we picked Casey's name-- and his middle name in particular (which is my maiden name). When they came around with the paperwork for his birth certificate, Angie kindly handed it to us and asked us to fill it in so she could sign it. I was a little surprised she didn't want to pick out a name for the baby, but she told us she hadn't picked any of her kids' names, so this wasn't a huge deal to her. I thought about how lucky we were that Angie really wanted this to be our child from the start. We also played cards. We taught Angie how to play crazy 8s.

So we left off at 10am, when they broke Angie's water. The doctor commented to Angie at the time that the baby seemed to have a lot of hair. We weren't in the room for this procedure, so we got the information from Angie-- though, in retrospect I have to wonder how they could tell that from breaking the water.

Then, around 10:30am, Angie finally asked for some pain medication. This was right around the same time, I think, that Tina (our facilitator) showed up. She had driven across the state of Indiana and part way across Ohio to be there for Angie. They gave her something to "take the edge off," but when I asked her if it helped, she just said it made her feel funny, but it didn't really dull the pain. By 10:45am, she was dilated enough to get an epidural, and they sent in the anesthesiologist to do the epidural. At this point, they moved us into a birthing room. This room was much bigger than the original room, which barely had enough space for two chairs alongside the bed.

In it was a bed, a station for the baby following the birth, a scale, a rocking chair, and a small-ish television on the far side of the room. We turned on the television to Lifetime. I remember because Jason joked, "You women are all the same!" The sign near the door said that only two people were permitted to be in the birthing room with the mother. But no one said anything when we showed up, along with Angie's mom and Tina, the facilitator. We left the room each time they did an epidural so Angie would have some privacy, and Jason and I of course offered to leave the room any time Angie wanted.

The anesthesiologist took about 15 minutes with epidural. He had some trouble-- and Angie complained that it didn't work. By 11:10am, the nurses realized there had been a problem with it, and they paged the anesthesiologist to return. He attempted the epidural a second time. Again, he struggled. Angie commented that he had given up and left. By 11:30am, the obstetrician was in the room with us, and they were telling Angie it was time to start pushing. I remember the doctor calling out: "PUSH. pushpushpushpush. PUSH. pushpushpushpush." Angie's mom was on one side of her, helping hold her upper body up. Tina was next to her. And Jason was helping hold up Angie on the other side, and I was next to him.

Around 11:45am (only 15 minutes later), the doctor commented that she'd need to really push or they'd have to go to an emergency c-section. I didn't realize it at the moment, but apparently Casey's heart rate had started to drop. Angie pushed. Hard. The doctor said she could see the baby's head. The doctor squirted a bunch of iodine-colored liquid all over Angie (in fact, maybe it was iodine). Then she grabbed a pair of forceps-- which were wide and two separate pieces of equipment (the delivery was considered one with "low forceps") and reached in to help slide Casey out.

It seemed like he practically flew out of Angie. The doctor lifted him up and asked if we wanted to cut the umbilical cord. Of course we did. Jason did the honors-- he said it was much tougher than he thought it would be. They counted the three chambers of the umbilical cord and moved Casey over to the station to clean him up and to do the APGAR tests. I followed Casey over to the table, where the nurse said it was okay for me to touch him. I mostly held his leg, as he wriggled and squealed and screeched and screamed. They asked us to cut the umbilical cord a second time here, closer to his belly button. Then they carried him to the scale, where he weighed in at 6 lbs. 12 oz. Somewhere in there, I managed to snap a couple photos of him on the table, and him at the scale. And Jason got one of him being footprinted.

They sat me down in the rocking chair with a bottle of sugar water. He cried and cried and cried. Casey didn't want the sugar water. Jason tried to help me feed him, and he eventually calmed down.

In the meantime, the doctor was checking out Angie to make sure she was okay. I asked Angie if she wanted to hold the baby-- to see him. And she said no. So did her mom. So we followed the nurses to the nursery with Casey to give him his first bath.

In the nursery, we bathed him by holding him under the sink. They showed us how to swaddle him, then they sat me in the rocking chair in the nursery to try feeding him some more. One kind nurse told me I could even try to breast-feed Casey if I wanted to. But I didn't. I couldn't be one hundred percent sure Angie wouldn't change her mind, and I didn't want those hormones coarsing through my body. Plus I hadn't done any research, and I just didn't know what to expect. So bottle-feeding it would be.

The hospital social worker showed up right around then and told us that the maternity ward had some extra space, and they'd arranged for us to have our own room with Casey. The state would be picking up the costs for the first three days in the hospital until Angie signed her paperwork-- and as long as we didn't eat the hospital food, the room was free to us. Of course we jumped at this opportunity. We didn't use the shower or anything (though I suspect we could have because they actually gave us a room with a private shower; all the rooms were private). But we had our own space, four doors down from Angie.

A few hours after the delivery, after Angie woke up, I walked down to her room to see if she wanted to visit with Casey. She said she did. She explained that Tina, the faciliator, told her it was hard to say good bye when she hadn't even said hello. She also revealed that the epidural hadn't kicked in until after the delivery. Nice timing.

I returned to our room, and placed Casey in his wheely basinet, and I wheeled him down to Angie's room. I put Casey in her arms, and Angie commented how beautiful he was. We agreed. We asked to take a photo of them together, but she declined (she agreed the next day). At some point that afternoon, the adoption agency social worker Danni called. She couldn't believe we were all hanging out together in the same room! We offered to leave the room so she could have some privacy, and I don't remember if we did or not. Apparently that kind of thing is pretty rare.

My mom showed up around 1:30pm. We talked about how funny it would have been if Jason had missed his son's birth because he'd gone to pick up his mother-in-law from the airport! We spent the afternoon in Angie's room. Her mom came back later in the day and agreed to hold the baby for a while. And Tina came by for a while and hung out with everyone.

When the night came, we offered to let Casey stay in the room with Angie. I told her if she wanted, she could just call me to come feed him whenever he woke up in the night. Angie said, "No thank you. I don't need that middle-of-the-night stuff!" And we all laughed. Casey and Jason and I slept in our own room together that first night. Our first night together as a family.

The next day, Tina left. Angie was getting ready for a medical procedure, and they brought her some paperwork for Casey-- Angie told them to bring the paperwork to us four doors down and that she'd sign it after we completed it. Yet another example of her generosity.

That evening, while we were in Angie's room and she was holding Casey, her mom came with her two kids. Haley, the oldest said, "Mommy has a new baby!" And Angie said, "This is Karen and Jason's son Casey-- would you like to see him?" Of course they wanted to. I remember them so clearly-- in fact, Bryce was 4 years old-- the age Casey will be tomorrow. I remember buying him a soda from the machine in the waiting area. And now that Casey will be 4, I'm super-impressed by how articulate he was at 4 years old.

Angie went home that afternoon, I think. We stayed at the hospital with Casey. It was strange to be there with him and without her-- like something was missing. We still hadn't even told Jason's mom about Casey yet. We didn't want to get anyone's hopes up until papers were signed. But Angie gently prodded, "What does Jason's mom think about all of this?"

So finally we had to call her and tell her. I wasn't on the phone when he told her, but he claims the exchange went like this:

"Hi, Mom. Sorry we got tied up and stuck you with the dogs for some extra time. It's been really snowy in Ohio."

"That's okay, son. I hope you had a good time."

"Oh we are, Mom. I just wanted to say hi to Grandma."

"There's no Grandma here."

"Yeah there is, Mom. YOU. You're Grandma. We are in Ohio because one of the birthmothers we've been talking to had a baby boy and she picked us to be his parents. That mean you're a grandma."

At that point, the phone was silent, and all Jason could hear was screaming in the background. Shouts of joy and jubilation. Jason's mom was, needless to say, ecstatic. (And as a side-bar, in the four years since Casey's birth she has forged quite a special relationship with him!)

Of course, nothing was final until Angie signed the paperwork terminating her parental rights. And that couldn't be done for 72 hours following Casey's birth. And because Angie had had the medical procedure, she wasn't really in any condition to sign such important paperwork 72 hours after his birth. Somehow while we waited Jason and I managed to eat three meals a day, shower, buy baby clothes and a car seat and a stroller (because we had nothing ready for a new baby!) and take probably hundreds of photos. I actually kept a hand-written journal of everything, which I will share with Casey some day when he is older. And I'm really glad I did because it's all such a blur already.

On the 19th, when Angie showed up at the hospital to sign paperwork, she stopped by our room first. As Casey's legal parent, she had to take him with her to sign the paperwork. And we, of course, had to "let" her. After four days with this child, the next 2 hours would be insanely nerve-racking. It was out of our hands. . .

And you all know it's a happy ending for us because Casey is still our son. I asked Angie what happened in that room-- the room we went into after she did. The room where we signed the paperwork agreeing to be Casey's parents. Where our lives as parents legally began. She admitted it was much harder than she thought it would be. Having him in the room with her made her ache for him. And even though she knew that placing him with me and Jason was the right thing to do-- he'd grow up with a mom and a dad in a diverse and populated part of the country, and he'd grow up still knowing her and his half-siblings-- it was still so hard. Because she loved him so much. I think she went through a lot of kleenex during that meeting. But she did sign the paperwork. And in doing so, she changed our lives forever. I could never thank her enough for the joy that she has given us. For helping us feel more complete as a family unit.

In the meantime, Casey's billirubin count was off and there was some talk of keeping him another day in the hospital because of the jaundice. Which of course we didn't want. After some re-testing, they decided it was minor, that he was eating well, and they let us go.

Jason, my mom, and I joined Angie, her parents, and her kids at their home for a delicious home-cooked meal (our first one in well over a week!). Angie's mom Linda made Texas sheet cake (which she makes every time we visit). There was ham and biscuits, too. We looked at old photo albums and just hung out with the newest extension to our family. As the sun began to set, we had to leave because we were driving back to Cincinnati to stay with my aunt while the paperwork processed (we needed permission from Ohio to take Casey back to California), and Angie's brother (whose name is also Jason) showed up with some Buckeyes gear for Casey. You see, the year 2003 was a championship year for the Ohio State Buckeyes-- and we have the blanket and the penant to prove it. . .

For those of you out there reading this, thinking about what a Disney-happy-story it was, remember that you are reading it only from my perspective. I'll never really know what Angie was thinking that night of January 19th when she said good bye to Casey because she passed away in a tragic car accident in October of 2004, when Casey was just 21 months old. But in my journal I wrote about how Angie had been holding Casey and how I didn't want to take him away from her. But we needed to get on the road because we had a two-hour drive ahead of us in the snow. I wrote about how Angie was sobbing as I placed Casey in his carrier and we moved toward the door-- about how awful I felt for her, almost as if I was outside my own body watching Angie's heart break a little bit more. And I wondered how I could be so selfish-- to feel so happy for me when someone else was aching so badly-- how my joy was causing her pain. Or perhaps it was the other way around. It was so clear to me in that moment how much she loved him. And yet she had not only chosen us despite the difficulty of the decision, but she had also opened her home, her life, her family, her heart to us. How lucky we are that a woman so strong was willing to endure such pain for our benefit. For Casey's benefit.

Angie and her parents and her kids and her brother -- well, they set the tone for our relationship with them. They treated us like family, and that's how we think of them. Every year we look forward to visiting with them in person, seeing how much they've grown and hearing the stories from the year. I've written before how lucky we feel to be connected to them forever through Casey. How much we cherish our time for them. And it's all true. We are lucky in so many ways-- to have known Angie (as briefly as we did). To have Casey in our lives. To know his birth family and to call them our family.

On the eve of Casey's birthday-- four years after he came into our life, I remember how nervous I was four years ago. But mostly I just feel very blessed.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Casey's Birth Story-- Part I

Four years ago Monday, Casey entered the world. We were so lucky to be present and witness his arrival. And in honor of his fourth birthday, I thought I'd share our story.

Jason and I decided to pursue adoption some time around November or December 2001. We had attended a seminar in Orange County which had convinced us that open adoption was for us. That following January (2002) we attended a weekend-long seminar in Los Angeles to begin the process. I remember coming home from that weekend feeling like for the first time in a long time, we were finally in control. (How we arrived at this point is unimportant to this story-- and maybe a post for another day.)

We scheduled our physical exams, requested our birth certificates and marriage license, made appointments for fingerprinting, and met our assigned social worker. The months that followed were a hurricane of paperwork. We wrote long and detailed auto-biographies, harassed our closest friends for letters of recommendations (outlining why we would be such good parents), got proof of good driving records and lacking criminal records, and began writing a letter to potential birth mothers. We also baby-proofed our home, cleaned and prepared for our homestudy visit, and set up an 800 numbers so women interested in interviewing us could reach us.

It took us around 6 months to finish all our paperwork. The first month we had two phone calls from prospective birth mothers. The second month we had two more. And that July we drove up to Santa Clara to meet G, who we liked immediately. By the end of our two days visiting, she revealed that she wanted to match with us, and we were in heaven. She even gave us photographs of the baby's ultrasound. But then G stopped calling. Days passed, then weeks, then months-- and because she'd never called our agency, we were still officially waiting. And receiving phone calls every couple weeks.

In the meantime, I felt at a complete loss. For the first time in my life, things were not going as planned. In that first six months of 2002, I switched jobs, studied for the LSAT to apply for law school, and trained for a marathon. I was going crazy trying to keep my mind off the one thing that mattered more to me than anything else: starting a family.

Thanksgiving weekend we got a phone call from a facilitator in Indiana who had a birthmother who was interested in us after seeing our profile online (we had a website). She was going to call us back in a few days. And true to her word, she did. But the birthmother had changed her mind already and decided to parent. In the meantime, we'd received a phone call from a lovely woman in Georgia-- M. M and I talked pretty regularly over the next 6 weeks or so. She already had two boys and her life was pretty complicated, and her boyfriend didn't think they were in an emotional or financial position to parent. At the same time, he was kind of in denial about the fact the baby was coming soon, and he didn't want to interview prospective families.

M hadn't committed to us, so we kept our information out there. I really wanted things to work out with M. But I couldn't put all my eggs in one basket. Then, a couple weeks later, we got another phone call from the facilitator. This time she had a birthmother in Ohio who was interested in us. This birthmother wanted to talk to us-- and the facilitator gave us her phone number.

I called, but there was no answer. I called 30 minutes later. No answer. I repeated again 30 minutes later. Still no answer. I called the facilitator back. "She's avoiding me," I said. The facilitator told me she'd investigate and call me back. She did and told me to try one last time. So I did. It turned out Angie, the birthmother I was trying to reach, had been at a doctor's appointment over an hour away and it was snowing so it took a long time to get home, so she wasn't there when I called. Anyway, Angie and I hit it off over the phone. Still, no one made any promises or committments.

Angie was due January 21, 2003. M was due at the end of April 2003. Angie was having a boy. M didn't know if she was having a boy or a girl. We were headed to Florida the second week of January because I'd been signed up for Disneyworld's 10th Annual Marathon. I actually ended up with a stress fracture over the Thanksgiving holiday (or the weekend after), but I had paid all that money for the trip-- and we were going. And our good friends (the Goulds) were going to Disney, too. Jessica Gould was pregnant with J.T. at the time, and Erik was fixing to run the marathon, too.

Anyway, long story short, I fan (and finished) the marathon on a stress fracture (read: broken) leg. It took me forever, but I finished it. And I have the metal to prove it! The next day (a Monday) Angie called to let us know they had decided to induce her, and she was certain she wanted us to parent, and could we please get to Ohio by Wednesday morning at 7:30am? Um, YES!

We rearranged our return tickets (we were scheduled to return to San Diego on Wednesday the 15th, so we just changed our tickets to Tuesday). As luck would have it, we were already scheduled to fly through Ohio! So we just needed an extended layover. The only down side to all of this is that we were on vacation. In Florida. Which means we were completely unprepared for winter snow, which we were destined to experience in Ohio in January. We also had nothing ready. We had purchased no nursery furniture. We had no baby clothes, no carrier, no changing table, no diapers. Nothing. Nada. Zip. I didn't want a nursery in our house until we were sure we were having a baby-- no reason to remind myself of what we were missing day in and day out.

Anyway, on January 14th we spent the morning at Disneyworld's Wild Kingdom, hopped a shuttle to the hotel, grabbed our bags, took another shuttle to the airport, and go on an airplane to Ohio. We told everyone why we were going to Ohio in shorts in the dead of winter. And everyone on the plane was so excited for us.

We flew into Cincinnati, but Angie was going to be induced in a rather small city about an hour south of Columbus. When we arrived late at night, the rental agency had us set up in an economy-sized car (which is what we requested). As she was helping us with directions to Casey's birth city, we explained to her why we were flying into an airport several hours away. And why Jason was wearing shorts. She was so excited for us-- and immediately surmised that two Californians driving across the state of Ohio in the middle of the night in the dead of winter probably needed something a little safer than an econo-box. So she upgraded us to an SUV (thankfully!).

We drove through the night. In the snow. And we got to Chilicothe, Ohio around 2am. We checked into our hotel room (which had two double beds because my mom was going to fly up from North Carolina the following day to meet us). And we crashed.

Angie-- who we had never actually met asked us to meet her at the hospital the next morning, where they were planning to induce her. And so we got up eary and went over to the hospital. I remember telling Jason I was nervous about knowing who she was. After all, she had our picture-- but we didn't have hers. He told me she'd be the pregnant one, and I replied that his comment wasn't funny, seeing as how we'd be meeting her in the maternity ward. But we really had no problem finding Angie at all. She was the pregnant one-- the only pregnant one wandering the hallways and not in labor. And I remember her big grin when we first met.

I don't remember what we did while she checked in. Maybe we waited in the hallway? What I remember is her in her hospital bed and us in chairs in the room, and meeting Linda, her mom. Linda (Grandma Linda to Casey) had to get back home to the kids (Angie's other two children) to get them to school. So she left us with her cell phone number and their home phone number in instructions to call when it looked like Angie was getting close. And then we were alone with Angie.

Conversation flowed very easily. We taught her some card games. And then the hosptial social worker showed up and literally kicked us out of the room. Told us to go down to the cafeteria so she could have a chat with Angie. Basically, the hospital had to make sure Angie was okay with us hanging around her while she was in labor. And they didn't want us to be around while they asked her a million questions. We sat in the cafeteria, picking at the food, wondering what questions they were asking and how Angie was responding. And when we returned 30 minutes or so later, Angie invited us back into her room.

They'd started her pitocin drip around 8:00am, and then at 10:00am, the doctor came in and asked us to leave the room again so they could break Angie's water. The whole time we were in with Angie, she never indicated she was in pain, but after they broke her water, one of the nurses turned up the volume of the monitor so we could hear when the contractions were occurring. Jason and I were both surprised and impressed with how calmly Angie was handling it-- those contractions seemed to be coming awfully frequently!

In the meantime, Jason and I debated whether or not he should drive to Columbus to pick up my mom. She was scheduled to arrive around noon, so he'd only we away from the hospital from 11am to 1pm, and we'd heard that induced labor often lasts forever. My mom offered to take a bus, but Jason thought we should go pick her up. In the end, he stayed with me (and Angie). And boy, it's a good thing he did. . .

So this has been a very long and uneventful post so far. . . but it gets more exciting (I promise). Still, I'm tired, so I'll have to add to this tomorrow. Hopefully by the actual day of Casey's birthday I'll have told his whole birth story!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Babysitter Blues

Tonight was our first night out on a date since we met Marcie. Sure, we've hung out during day time hours, when Marcie is accustomed to being with Grandma. But I've haven't been ready to go out at night just yet. And, to be honest, I wouldn't have gone this evening. But my friend convinced me that everything would be okay if I did-- and we hatched a plan.

We would put Marcie to bed at the usual time, then head over to our local Brigantine for dinner. We know the assistant general manager there, and they've recently done a major renovation. I don't think we've been there in like 6 or 7 years-- maybe more-- even though it's less than 10 minutes down the road.

We hired a great kid down the street-- Jason told me he was 13, so I assumed he was in 8th or 9th grade. Now this concerned me a little. I mean 13 is on the young side for babysitting two wily kids. But this babysitter is a Boy Scout. And he's been through babysitter training and the Red Cross classes. And he took care of our dog while we were out of town over Christmas. Most importantly, his parents won't let him babysit unless they are home. And they only live a few houses away.

So our babysitter showed up-- and Casey was ecstatic to have a new playmate. We started telling Casey about tonight yesterday so he wouldn't be surprised. I showed the babysitter how to operate our universal remote, we walked him through the house and told him what to do just in case Marcie woke up while we were gone. We did Marcie's bedtime routine, she went right down, and we were off.

Dinner was yummy. We were in good company (though one of our friends couldn't make it because of a stomach-bug-type-thing). And around 10pm we headed home. The babysitter had arrived at 7:30, and we would be home around 7:10pm. Our plan was for Jason to drive the babysitter back down the street and then come home.

But as we pulled up, we noticed a minivan parked in front of our house. No. No one had bought us a gift. I immediately recognized it as the babysitter's mom's car. Uh oh. I said to Jason, "Hmm. That can't be good." But in my head, I added: though the kids must be okay because there are no emergency vehicles parked out front.

As we entered the home, we saw our babysitter's mom cradling Marcie, feeding her a bottle. Marcie swung her head over, and as soon as she saw us started screaming. Poor, poor Marcie. Even more-- our poor babysitter and his mom! She hadn't been awake even 15 minutes at this point, but he called his mom because she was kind of inconsolable, and he remembered us saying she hadn't been with us long-- and he didn't want us to cut our evening short.

I feel a little bit horrible. Bad, bad mommy. What was I thinking leaving my baby girl so soon? I should have at least introduced her to the babysitter before we left the house-- just in case something like this were to happen. But she doesn't usually wake up two hours after going to bed. And we have to get out every once in a while. And it makes sense to have her at home in her own bed and not at Grandma and Grandpa's every time we want to go out without the kids.

So my point is that I know intellectually that I'm not a bad mommy. And I hope Marcie has learned from this experience that Mommy and Daddy always come back. And if nothing else, our little outing has made me insanely grateful that Marcie has spent all her time away from me and Jason with family (and Ann that one time I drove Jason's parents to the airport-- but she's kind of family anyway).

It might be a while before we hire the babysitter to hang with the kids again. He did a terrific job, but I just don't know that I can handle that kind of stress!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

So Many Toys, So Little Time

Yesterday we received our Christmas loot in the mail. We left a huge chunk of stuff back in North Carolina (we couldn't fit it all in our suitcases), and my parents shipped it to us. It didn't look like that much stuff when we were at my parents' house, but now that we've unpacked the boxes into our (much smaller) home, I'm not sure where to put it all. . . You see, I don't know what to do with all our toys.

I do realize this is one of those good problems to have in life (Oh no. Too many toys! What ever shall we do?!?). But seriously. I need a reality check. I have one basket filled just with stuffed animals. Do I put them in Marcie's room? Leave them out? Just pull out a couple and box up the rest for our next kid? Casey occasionally plays with them, but very occasionally. And Marcie has only shown interest in them when Casey plays with them.

I have a giant Little People doll house and a Little People School bus. Do I box these up or keep them out? Neither of my children has ever shown any interest in the Little People stuff. We are boxing up our Little People Noah's Ark and our Little People Farm because of this lacking interest. But maybe Marcie just doesn't know how to pretend play with the stuff and I need to show her? Or should I put them away for now.

What about all the blocks we have? We have a tub of blocks. Casey loved blocks when he was Marcie's age. Mainly, he liked to stack things high and knock them down. But he has never really been into building. And Marcie will knock down my creations, but she hasn't expressed any interest in building . . . yet. My instincts tell me to definitely keep the blocks out-- but I'm not 100% sure.

We have a tub of musical instruments, toy food, and LeapPad readers. Casey has recently expressed interest in the LeapPad thingy for kids Marcie's age (that figures), and he went through a period of time where he was more interested in his. Do I put them away for now because we are reading to them anyway (when Marcie pulls a book out of her mouth long enough to allow me to read it to her, that is)? They are bulky, and I question their value.

We have a basket of balls. I think I'll keep that out. We have a basket of trains and matchbox-sized cars. I will keep that out. And we have a giant basket of large-sized cars, which Marcie has occasionally expressed interest in, so I'm keeping that out. We also have a boatload of puzzles-- the wooden kind-- with many missing pieces. Do I toss these? Keep them out?

We have threading activities with giant beads for Casey, which we haven't used in a long while-- but I feel compelled to keep out because we should be using them more with him. And we have the LeapPad table, a vacuum cleaner, and a stroller with a baby doll all taking up space. Marcie only uses the table if I set her at it, so I'm thinking of packing this up and passing it along to friends. Casey has never used the vacuum cleaner, and he mainly pushes the stroller into walls. But Marcie is getting to the age where she might like them both-- and I'm afraid if I put them into storage, I'll forget to take them out until she is too old for them. . .

And last (I think) is our Bounce and Spin Zebra and each of the kids ride-on car toys. These actually get used quite a bit by Marcie, who is impressively able to navigate them, wheel herself around, and bounce along on the zebra. The thing is that all these toys are in our family room/dining room area. Which actually has furniture in it. I suppose I should just start calling it our "play room" (especially given that the coffee table has been turned into a train table for Casey). And these are the toys I'm contemplating keeping out after putting away many other toys. . .

Now add to that list Marcie's new dinosaur roar ball toy, the ball bopper, the gumball machine, and Casey giant Lightning McQueen-- all pretty large-sized items for the space. Where do I put them? Will Marcie even play with these toys? Should I send one or two of them over to Grandma's, where she plays all day (I think I might, but that doesn't resolve all my space issues).

And also consider that Casey is having a birthday on Monday. And a pretty big party. Which probably means more toys . . . So how many toys are too many? How do you decide which toys should be kept out? Should we just rotate the toys through the room? How often? In doing that, do we leave everything out, but just less of everything-- or do we have toys that are available for just a couple weeks at a time? The thought of rotating the toys frightens me if only because it's another thing to add to my to-do list, which is already much too long. But we can't live as guests in the home so full of toys that we can't walk anywhere without tripping over one, either.

What do others out there do?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Marcie's "First Sisters"

One of the nice things about having an open adoption here in the U.S. is that Casey gets to know his birth family. He has an aunt and an uncle, a couple cousins, and a brother and sister in Ohio (by the way, Uncle Jason-- sorry about the Buckeyes!). We are so grateful for this. It means Casey will always have a strong sense of his roots-- he'll know people who can tell him all about his birthmother. And he'll have a relationship with his siblings. One of the things that initially worried me about adopting from China is that Marcie would miss out on those similar relationships. We'll never know the details of her birth, what her "first family" was like-- and we won't be able to provide her ready access to people from her infant past.

But one thing I didn't anticipate was the wonderful relationships we'd forge with other people who have children from the same orphanage. I don't know why I didn't consider this. I just didn't. But we were so lucky to meet some really cool people on our trip overseas. Emma's mom, Annette, for instance, thoughtfully sent Marcie a birthday card (and a Christmas card). We were just admiring the picture at dinner this evening, in fact (Marcie was eating Emma's picture). And our big, exciting news is that two of Marcie's "first sisters" are coming to visit in February!

I call them her "first sisters" because I think of the orphanage as her first family-- her home before she came home with us. It may not be an ideal environment for a child, but I have no doubt those nannies loved Marcie and took very good care of her. And she was very attached to them. When the nine girls in Marcie's group were referred for adoption, they were moved into their own section of Yunyang orphanage together. They lived together for a couple months before their new families could come get them. I thought this was wonderful-- it meant that when they were finally placed in our arms, in a strange environment (the Golden Resources Hotel in Chongqing), they would at least have the comfort of each other while they got to know these strange American faces. I really believed this was a tremendous comfort to Marcie-- because the last day we were in Guanzhou-- the day we were the only remaining family from our travel group, Marcie was definitely different. I think she missed all her little sisters from the orphanage.

So when one of the families let us know they'd be in San Diego for work, of course we wanted to visit with them! And then when another said they thought it might be nice to get out of the Colorado snow for some sunshine (though I make no promises about the sun) for a February weekend, we told them to come on over! And they are! They're all coming the same weekend! I can hardly wait to see how big Ava and Cassidy have grown. And I'm looking forward to meeting Ava's older and younger brother's too.

They tell me they've booked their flights-- which means it's really happening! Our house will be loud and chaotic and nutty and maybe a bit cramped. But, boy won't it be fun!?! I can hardly wait!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Animals-- Not the Kids, the Real Thing!

We've spent portions of each of the last two weekends at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. We are members. And it is so worth the membership cost (which is, incidentally, fully tax-deductible). Living so close to both the World Famous Zoo and the Wild Animal Park make them great places to visit. And because we are members, we never feel guilty about just staying for a while.

As luck would have it, both times we visited, the weather was gorgeous. So here are some photos:

First is the white rhino, which is the icon for the Wild Animal Park.

This particular rhinocerous is famous for producing a ridiculous amout of offspring-- enough to help keep the species going. This isn't him, actually-- he died. But this is a statue in his memory.

The first time we went to the Park, we took the tram/train ride to see all the animals in their Asia and Africa enclosures. There were several new babies to see:

Here is one of the baby elephants.

And that one is of the baby rhinocerous. Of course I think they are both adorable. Then again, I don't clean the enclosures!

On our next visit, Casey was enamored with the birds-- the ducks, the flamingoes. He was just crazy about the birds!

Over at South Cackalackin, my good friend recently published a post about our ecological footprints. Jason likes to give Danielle a hard time-- you see, she worked for many years at the Bronx Zoo in New York, and she has a real love of animals and a real knack for teaching about them. But somehow, every time we get together with Danielle, Jason and Dani get into some conversation about benobo monkeys (not even sure I'm spelling that right!). Anyway, these next two photos are for Danielle-- I do know that gorillas are not the same as monkeys (the gorilla doesn't have a tail, for instance). But our visit made me think of her.

So those are the animal photos. I personally prefer the people photos, like these: