This year we decided to steal an idea from our lovely neighbors and only give our kids 4 gifts this year. We break the 4 gifts down into something you want, something you need, something you read, and something you wear. I like the simplicity of it. Plus, when you add in grandparent gifts and a sibling gift, Christmas is going to be just fine.
As part of this effort, last night each of our kids created a list for each of the 4 categories. It’s always fascinating to see what our kids put on the list. My favorite might have been our 6 year old who put a cheese head on the list. Last week we went to NYC for Thanksgiving week and we had a layover in Milwaukee on our way there and the kids all wanted to buy a cheese head. The funny part is that our 6 year old has no idea what it means, but he now really wants a cheese head for some reason. We’ll see if he gets it.
My favorite part of the experience was how few things my kids listed on the “need” category. It’s nice to think that most of their needs really are met and that they’re not lacking. Hopefully, they saw the same thing when we made these lists. They certainly had plenty of wants, but not many needs. That’s quite satisfying to see as a dad.
I was proud of my 6 year old son who put disc golf discs on his list of needs. It was on my needs list too.
I’ve been really poor at blogging on this blog. What can I say? I’ve been busy writing thousands of blog posts on my Healthcare IT blogs and my reality TV blogs (mostly Pure Dancing with the Stars now). One day those will disappear, be sold, I’ll shut them down, I’ll stop doing them, or some other major event. Maybe then I’ll have time to do this daddy blog. We’ll see if it happens before my kids move out of the house and the daddy stories really change.
Regardless, this blog has always just been for fun. I’ve often joked to people that this will be my retirement blog. It’s what I do if I ever sell my other blogs and “retire.”
That said, today I came across this incredible post by one of my favorite bloggers, a Venture Capitalist named Fred Wilson. He celebrated 15 years of blogging and I’m pretty sure I’ve read every post for at least 12 years and maybe more. I started blogging 13 years ago, so we’ve both been through a blogging journey that is very similar in many ways, but completely different in others. However, he captured my perspective on writing a book vs blogging quite well:
I regularly get people coming to me and asking me to write a book. I always pass because I can’t imagine writing in a format that has an end. I can’t imagine writing in a format that doesn’t provide instant feedback. I can’t imagine writing in a format that requires a structure. I can’t imagine writing in a format that isn’t a stream of consciousness. I can’t imagine thinking about what I am going to write more than ten minutes before writing it. I can’t imagine killing trees to carry my words. So I will continue to write a blog. It’s the perfect format for me. AVC is way more than a book. It is a living breathing thing that sustains me and that is me.
Sometimes people ask me what I’d do if I sold my blogs or if I stopped blogging. My response is always simple. I can’t ever see myself not blogging. 13 years in, blogging is part of my life. It’s something I love. I won’t likely keep blogging at the pace I’m blogging today, but I can’t imagine ever not blogging. It’s just part of who I am.
I remember watching the movie Hook when I was a kid and for some reason when Captain Hook repeatedly talked about death being the only great adventure, that line always stuck out to me. I don’t know why that was the case, but as my kids continue to watch that great movie (parenting win) I am more and more convinced how false that premise is. I realize it is just a movie, but movies provide a great viewpoint on life in many instances.
Everyday of our lives is an adventure, and if nothing else it is one more chapter, or page, or paragraph in our story that is taking us to the next adventure. The thing that I am learning more and more each day is that every decision we make, including not making decisions, leads us down the path that we are choosing to follow.
I am starting to wander a little from the initial premise I had in mind for this post, but sometimes you just need to write to get your thoughts out, and based on the fact that I haven’t posted here in almost a year, I guess I needed to get some thoughts out.
This has been one of the most uprooted, frustrating, happy, confusing, irritating, fun, crazy years I have had. We adopted our little boy, we moved back to the States, I left active duty, my parents left the country, my in-laws also left on a mission to the other side of the country, and my little kiddos are growing way too fast. Adoption has added an interesting dynamic to the whole thing as we have worked to take care of Ty’s medical conditions, as well as work out the final legal steps to get his paperwork complete. (Thank you Nevada for making us readopt our son in your state for some silly reason.)
I actually hate that I still associate my son with adoption. It isn’t that I am against the practice, obviously, or I wouldn’t have done it, but I really just want him to be my son who simply had a different set of circumstances for joining our family than the rest of my kids. I don’t want there to be an added stigma or any comma when it relates to his story, I just want him to be my son, period.
To be clear, no one has made me feel there is anything different about him, or that he should be treated any differently, it is just that his story is different. No matter how much I said I loved him when we first got him, it is different than it was with the other kids. Not better or worse, just different. As this year has progressed my love for him has grown stronger, and I know that it will eventually click at the same level, but it frustrates me that I don’t feel exactly the same way about him.
Fortunately, he does a pretty good job of endearing himself to me. One of his favorite things to do now is climb up in my lap and wrap my arms around him. It doesn’t matter where my arms are, or if I have stuff in my hands like a book, after he sits down, he grabs my arms and wraps them around him. It is a good reminder to me that he needs that warmth and affectionate connection because he did not have it for what is still the vast majority of his life.
It is also amazing that we are starting to see some real progress in his speech. He is starting to use phrases all by himself without prompting. He is stringing together three words at a time, and words that have three syllables. This may not seem like a big deal for a four and a half year old, but our lack of ability to truly communicate with him has been one of the hardest things about this last year. No kid is great at communicating clearly, but not being able to communicate at all about basic needs and wants with a four year old will drive you up the wall.
The most amazing thing about this whole last year has been the dedication of my dear sweet wife as she is the daily manager of this process. She has done countless hours of research, taken him to dozens of hours of therapy, searched for alternative methods to deal with his seizures, and at the same time taken care of our other three kids and our house while I was still in Japan for 2 months, and as I regularly leave town for work.
We would not have made it through this last year with her complete commitment to our family, and I could not be more grateful to have such an incredible blessing in my life.
Adoption is nothing like any of the videos we watched or the articles we read. No matter how much you try to prepare, I will promise you that it will be different than you think. But, I will also promise you that those sweet moments of love and affection, and the triumphs you see your kid make will completely outweigh any of the other struggles. That has been the true wonder to me in this last year. While the whole process has been significantly different, the end result is still the same.
As nice as it would have been to just hang out for the rest of the day, we couldn’t afford to waste any time in getting all of the paperwork done, or in some cases just started, so that we would be able to leave China on time. So after having a couple of minutes together, we put Ty into the baby carrier and headed downstairs for our first of a slew of appointments.
We really didn’t know how he would respond to being in the baby carrier since he had likely never been in such a device, and if he didn’t want to be in there we probably wouldn’t have been able to force him as big as he was. It actually was a little weird trying to put a three and a half year old into a baby carrier, but we didn’t really have much choice. It is also important in the early stages of adoption to bond as much as possible, so we really wanted to be able to keep him close to us. Fortunately, he didn’t seem to have too much issue with it so we put him in, and took off for our appointment.
This was a pretty simple appointment, or at least we thought it would be, as we were just supposed to get his picture taken for the passport application that needed to be turned in. However, Ty was not really interested in getting his picture taken. First we had to get a family picture taken and he did okay, though he really didn’t want to look at the camera. Once the family picture was done we had to get a picture of Ty by himself, and he simply was not having it.
They have very specific requirements for these pictures in terms of being able to see all of his facial features including his ears which means he had to look straight at the camera. If you think that would be challenging with a three and a half your old, you would be right, and it is even harder with a kid who is now being carried around by a bunch of strangers. He started screaming, and squirming and refused to sit still at all. I am sure this was very reassuring for the other family that was waiting to get their pictures taken. We did ultimately get the pictures done, but it was not fun.
Then it was back to the hotel to try and get him calmed down before bed time and clarifying with our guide what the rest of the week would hold. Our guide was kind enough to go and pick up some pizza for our dinner so that we could just stay in our room. When she came back with the food she also suggested we take some of his clothes off so he would be more comfortable. This may seem a little strange unless you understand what exactly he was wearing.
As you may have seen from the video in my previous post, Ty was wearing some super cute overalls and a sweatsuit. What you need to know about Chinese people is that they always think their children are cold so they put lots of clothes on them. (In fact, we got plenty of dirty looks while we were in China when we put Ty in shorts and it was only in the mid 90s.) As we took off the overalls we could feel how many clothes he had on. As we took off the first sweatsuit you could see in the video, we found another sweatsuit underneath, and you could tell he felt a lot more comfortable without so many clothes on.
It is always a bit of an uncertainty with how well adopted kids will eat initially, and as we have learned in the time since, those behaviors can change very rapidly. Some kids just inhale everything and make themselves sick. Others just cram it all in their mouth and try and save it for later which is called chipmunking. Other kids refuse to eat anything at all, and you find yourself having to almost force feed them just so they get some calories in their body. Fortunately, Ty ate like a champ that first night. He enjoyed what was probably his first ever pizza and some chicken wings. Apparently, he is not much of a connoisseur yet because Crash Uncle and Aunt did not enjoy the pizza nearly as much.
While we were eating, our guide went over our schedule for the rest of the week to make sure we understood when we needed to be where, and what paperwork to bring, and what we would actually be doing at each appointment. Once that was all clear, she left and for the first time for more than five minutes, we were alone as a partial family since our other three kids were at home with grandma.
I should take a moment right now to thank Crash Grandma for staying with our other kids. It was a great relief knowing that they would be well taken care of, and that we had nothing to worry about in that area. I would venture to guess they enjoyed her more than us in some ways since her complete focus was on taking care of them and not work and other responsibilities that we have. I am so grateful that my kids had this time with my mom to make some memories and bond a little more. I only wish I had gotten more time with her, but you take what you can get.
As we finished eating and the night wound down, it came time to get ready for bed, which was the next big uncertainty. Like most things, every kid is different when it comes to sleep, and for every different kid, their is a different self-proclaimed expert who knows how to get them to sleep. Anywhere from co-sleeping to letting them just cry it out until they get so tired they fall asleep. Co-sleeping is out of the question for us since neither of us would be able to sleep ever again, but fortunately we didn’t need to.
Don’t get me wrong, we had our struggles the whole time we were in China with getting to sleep, but once we got him to sleep he slept through the night. Some nights it took an hour or more of talking softly and rubbing his back to calm him down and get him to fall asleep, but we always got there eventually and he would sleep through until 7-8 the next morning. That was a huge blessing because despite all of the other challenges and struggles we would face, mom and dad were always at least relatively well rested. A blessing that I know not everyone else in our group was so fortunate to have. A common phrase that we heard, and used ourselves, was to just focus on getting home from China. You may not parent the same way when you get home, but your number one priority is just to get home. That meant a few nights of melatonin just to help him get to sleep, and it worked wonders.
As I think back now on that whole first day, it seems like moments of complete clarity surrounded by significant amounts of time that are just a blur. I remember people talking, or things happening, but the whole thing was incredibly overwhelming.
I can’t even imagine how overwhelming it must have been for Ty.
I was at least still in control of what was going on, he was just thrust into the hands of complete strangers, granted we are incredibly awesome strangers, but he didn’t know that. For all he knew we were just another pit stop in his life and he would be passed along to someone new. He was sleeping in a new bed in clothes that probably smelled funny to him having just eaten weird western food with people that kept making weird noises and giving him hugs and kisses. I am pretty sure his mind was about ready to pop.
For that matter, I don’t know that the overwhelmingness (that’s a real word, I promise) of the whole thing has even gone down for him even now. I remember looking at him, and even many of the other kids, and being impressed with how well they handled the whole thing. For the most part they were all relatively happy and taking in all of the change incredibly well.
Children are amazingly resilient little things. It sucks that so many of them are asked to take on such trying circumstances, but I am always impressed by what they are able to handle.
Gotcha Day is a term that I had never heard before starting the adoption process. Even when we started to research the adoption process and started to see the term it wasn’t immediately apparent what exactly it was. Fortunately, the wonder of Google allowed me to quickly discover what exactly it was.
Gotcha Day is the day that an orphan finally gets to meet their new adopted family.
As you can imagine it is quite a big deal for everyone involved. Lots of pictures are taken, sometimes videos, and memories are made that will never be forgotten. Because many of the children don’t know their actual birthday for sure, Gotcha Day is often the day that many families celebrate instead. It makes sense to me since it is the day that they joined your family, just like with your biological kids.
April 10th is now a day that I will never forget because that was our Gotcha Day with our son Ty.
The tension of Gotcha Day started the night before for us because we were told he was likely already in the city at another hotel. In China, you have to come to the provincial capital to file the paperwork for the adoption, but the city he lived in was six hours away so they came the night before to make the day a little less stressful for Ty. So there we were sitting in our hotel room knowing he was so close, yet still having to wait, after a year of waiting.
When we found out he was coming the night before, we were hopeful that we would get him early in the day, but unfortunately it would have to wait until the afternoon. So we ate a nervous breakfast, and walked aimlessly around this lonely city of five million people as the minutes crawled by. We tried to talk about anything other than Ty, but as you might imagine he was sort of on our mind at that moment.
I couldn’t help but start to wonder how he was going to react to the whole thing. I know that we are good parents, and that we would love him as much as our other kids, and always try and give him the best of everything we possibly could, but how long would it take for him to feel and accept that? What if he hated us for years to come and those were the first things he learned to say to us was that he wasn’t happy with us?
Then I started to wonder about how I would react to the whole thing. Would I actually come to love him as much as my other kids? Would I be able to give him everything he needs? Not just physically or medically, but emotionally? I am gone fairly often for work, and sometimes for long periods of time. I already feel bad for the times I have to leave my kids, and he would need as much stability in his life as possible.
Stability, the reason that everyone joins the military right? Holy crap, what was I thinking bringing a kid who needs as much stability in his life as possible into a military family, and on top of that an aircrew member whose job description literally includes leaving home and family on a very regular basis to fly all over the world for days, weeks, and even months at a time.
That is my problem when I have a lot of time to think, which we did in the hours leading up to his arrival. I started to question my decisions. I start to look past my generally optimistic desires and start to look for all of the reasons that something is a terrible idea. A lot of us do this with all kinds of decisions and choices we make in life. I guess you could call it a form of buyer’s remorse, only I hadn’t bought anything, and I didn’t even have him yet.
Finally, after one of the longest mornings of my life, made dramatically better by sharing it with my dear wife, we went up to our hotel room to anxiously await his arrival.
Our guide showed up at our room shortly thereafter to wait with us until the people from the orphanage called to say they had arrived. If you go to YouTube there are tons of videos of Gotcha Days that you can watch, but be warned they will make you cry. Oftentimes they involve a group of people all receiving their child at the same general time. This is because there are often multiple kids from a province, or even from the same orphanage, getting a family on the same day so the families all wait together.
We were literally in the middle of nowhere China with nobody else from our agency, in a city our agency hadn’t even sent someone to in years. Fortunately, there was a family from another agency there at the same time who became an essential lifeline for us the day before this, and in the ensuing week. I am so grateful for their presence, and the companionship and friendship they provided at this momentous time.
Sorry, there is just so much to say about this journey that it is easy to digress. As I mentioned, Gotcha Day often takes place in a hotel ballroom or conference room where many families wait together for their child to arrive. Because it was just us we were able to meet him in our hotel room which made the whole thing a lot more personal from my perspective. So there we sat with our guide waiting for her phone to ring to say he was finally in the building.
After what seemed like an eternity, the phone did ring and she headed downstairs with our camera to bring them up to the room. At this time I turned on my GoPro that was placed inside the room to get a little more of our perspective. Crash Aunt and I couldn’t sit down or stop moving for what seemed like an hour but was probably more like five minutes. We just nervously walked around the room talking just so that are nerves wouldn’t be accentuated by silence. Then came the knock on the door.
We went to open it and there stood an adorable little man wearing two sweat suits (more on this later), and awesome little overalls. As I type this I am actually getting speechless because I don’t know how to put into words what I was thinking or even what I saw. Based on the video I know he just kind of stared at us for a minute, then came in and touched hands with my wife before turning around and walking back out.
In a lot of ways I kind of feel like that has been symbolic of exactly how the last three and a half weeks have been. He gets closer and does better, and then walks away a little bit. It’s okay though because I knew this would happen, and the getting closer is much more than the walking away.
I won’t give you a play by play of what happened after that because you can see that in the video below. What you can’t see are my emotions in the first few minutes of him joining our family. As much as I would like to put them into words for you, I don’t know that I can. To help you understand, I would say I felt exactly the same way the first time I saw all of my other children.
For those first few minutes there was nothing else happening in the world. I wasn’t worried about money, or work, or politics, or any of the other stressors I have in my life. And just like the births of all of my other kids, all of those worries I had in the time leading up to it were blocked from my mind and all I could do was focus on this perfect little man that was changing our lives forever.
As anyone who understands the feeling that I am talking about can tell you, those concerns ultimately work their way back into your mind, but God has this incredible way of allowing you to see Heaven if only for a moment as you have these incredible life changing experiences. It doesn’t have to be the birth/adoption of a child either. It could be a wedding, or seeing a dear loved one finally recover from a sickness, or finding peace after a long struggle. It is something I have also experienced when I have been standing on top of a remote mountain top gazing over the wonders of the world, that we are so quick to ignore and overlook, and also in deep valleys where the soft sound of a small stream speaks peace to your soul.
You don’t have to be religious to understand the feeling I am talking about, you just have to be willing to open your heart enough to experience it, and experiencing it is the only way to ever really understand what I am talking about.
I hope I don’t make anyone feel left out or excluded by saying that because it is by no means an exclusive club. Anyone can experience the feeling that I am talking about if they are willing to do it. You just have to be willing to get past your fears and inhibitions, and open yourself up to a truly moving and memorable experience.
I had originally intended to write about the rest of our day, but I think this is as good a place as any to stop. I hope that reading these posts is as therapeutic as writing them because I am having the most amazing time writing them.
I think the reason I am so anxious to share this experience is because I am equally anxious to hear about similar experiences of other people to feel that deep emotional connection with even strangers. We just don’t do that very often these days, much to our detriment. So if you have something you would like to share I would love to hear about it in the comments. If it is something more personal then please feel free to use the Contact Us button at the top of the page.
I know this blog is generally lighthearted and fun, and I promise, there will be plenty of that coming in the future, but I hope you enjoy a little more personal side as well.
I originally intended to edit this video, but I decided to just let the whole thing roll for your enjoyment. We actually meet him around the 1:30 mark, and the rest is just us getting acquainted.
True Love Take 1
Going to Walmart at 10 pm to buy a burnable cd (when will schools learn about yhis thing we call the internet?) So you can burn a song for your daughter to audition for the elementary school talent show.
True Love Take 2
Doing dishes at 11 pm when you just want to sleep.
I really find it hard to believe that I am actually where I am at right now. I am laying on a bed in a hotel in Lanzhou, China anxiously awaiting the arrival of my new son tomorrow.
These words may not trip you out as much as me, but in a lot of ways I still find it hard to believe. It has taken about a year to get through this process that at times has felt like forever but the day is finally upon us.
I really can’t put into words what I am feeling right now, so naturally writing a blog post makes a lot of sense.
As a father to three other children I am not inexperienced with the anticipation that comes with the arrival of a new child. With both of my girls I also knew the date they would come since my wife was induced. My son didn’t feel like waiting for his induction date and came a few days early.
But obviously this one is different. My new son is already three and a half and has developed some of the skills and abilities that you would expect at that age. He does have some special needs that we will gain a better understanding of once we get him back home.
Oh yeah, and he only speaks Chinese.
So while I have never been able to communicate with any of my other children on the day they were first in my arms, this one is going to try, and I will have no idea what he is saying. It is hard enough as a parent when you are trying to love your child and give them everything they need but I worry about the struggles we will face as we all get used to each other.
I know that it will all work out, and that there will inevitably be some bumps along the way but isn’t that what life is all about? Moving forward in pursuit of what you know to be right. Finding things that you can put your whole heart behind no matter how daunting the task may be. Relying on those that you love most to fill in the gaps where you have weaknesses and working together to do something more grand and amazing than you ever could have imagined.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to stand on the Great Wall of China and wonder at the sacrifices and effort that countless people put into building that wall. I wonder how many of them really understood what they were doing, and how they would have felt if they had known it’s full purpose. With that being said, the work of those people has lasted thousands of years as a testament to their dedication and devotion to accomplishing something far more incredible and inspiring than they likely ever imagined.
So as I lay here wondering how this first day together will go tomorrow, other than the obvious waterworks that will be flowing from my eyes, I do have a certain sense of peace knowing that this little boy has the ability to change the world and leave a mark far more lasting than even a wall that is thousands of miles long and thousands of years old. He will ultimately choose his path and determine what that mark will actually be, I just hope that I can play my role well when I enter his life tomorrow.
I recently had Pinot’s Palette reach out to me about the grand opening celebration of their new location at Town Square (They also have one in Green Valley and Boca Park). As part of the invitation, I was offered a number of free classes so I could experience Pinot’s Palette first hand.
My first reaction to this was “I don’t drink.” They noted that I could still paint even if I didn’t drink and that many who attended didn’t go to drink. Little did they know that I don’t paint. I love doing most things in life, but art has never been one of them.
Once I got over my own selfish desires, I had an even better idea. I should see if the Crash Wife wanted to go and do some art. She’s a fantastic artist and has an incredibly creative mind. Didn’t take long after I asked for her to reply that she’d love to go.
The amazing part of this to me is that I loved that she went as much as she loved it. There’s just something special and beautiful about seeing your wife get out of the house, away from the kids, with a friend doing something she enjoys. I really loved it and I can’t wait for her to go and do it again.
As part of Pinot’s Palette’s Grand Opening celebration on Friday, April 7 and Saturday, April 8, participants can sign up for either of the two-hour 7 p.m. classes on Friday or Saturday for $39, with 100 percent of the painting proceeds to be donated to St. Jude. Guests interested in signing up for Friday’s class can register online and Saturday’s class registration is available.
I think we’re going to have more of the Crash Wife’s paintings around the house and that’s really exciting to think about.
Yesterday we were trying to figure out dinner. My wife was holding Crash Kid #4 when she sarcastically said, “I think we’re going to have a 5 course meal.”
Crash Kid #4 was having none of that (Although, it’s not clear that he knows what a 5 course meal really is). In his anger at her proposition, he said, “No…grrrr…I want a hot dog. Or Mac N Cheese.”
I can’t believe we would try and propose a 5 course meal when we could have a hot dog or Mac N Cheese. Seriously, what’s our problem?
Needless to say, we acquiesced and had Mac N Cheese for dinner. I added hamburger to take it to that next level of awesomeness. I know. We have very refined palettes. It’s tough being a father of children that are such foodies.
Today after lunch I went to grab a little treat from our remaining Halloween stash. When it comes to Halloween candy, we work on the consecration system. All the kids’ candy is mixed and we all eat out of the entire stash. Selecting the right piece of candy can be a challenge. Do I want chocolate? Do I want something fruity? etc etc I usually go for one of each.
When I went into the stash today, I saw one of my favorite candies of all time: Dots. I’m not sure why I’ve always loved them, but I do. It probably goes back to trips to the movies or this one time I was doing home teaching for my church and my older companion took me to the store and bought me this massive (at least that’s what I thought at the time) box of dots.
You know the excitement of opening your favorite box of candy. However, when I opened it, I discovered this:
I don’t want to be insensitive or ungrateful, but it was a disastrous result. If you’re a fan of dots, then you know what I mean. Yellow and green are the worst and this box was almost entirely full of yellow and green. Pink is the best, so at least the one that wasn’t yellow and green was pink. However, that hardly made up for all the yellow and green.
As I pondered on this situation, I thought “Sometimes Life Works Out Like This.” I really have nothing to complain about. Yes, it was a sad thing to open a box of Dots to almost all green and yellow, but if that’s the worst part of my day, then I live a pretty amazing life.
So, despite this extremely minor setback, I’m going to push through the day and hope that the next box I open in life will have a little better result. Plus, that Pink one was so delicious.
Note: Yes, it’s December and we still have plenty of Halloween candy. I guess that’s what happens when you have 4 kids and trick or treat at your church, school, and then Halloween night.