Friday, February 27, 2009

Meeting the (birth) Parents!

Before Andrew's birth, we were lucky enough to meet, get to know, and spend some quality time with his birth parents. On the day of our first meeting, at 4PM in a city 2 hours away, my car began acting a little funny, but nothing that I thought a full tank of premium gas wouldn't cure. We wanted to leave the van with the car seats for my parents, who were going to watch Alex and Austin that afternoon and evening, so we could have quiet, peaceful time with the parents without the distractions created by a two year old and a 5 month old.

So, off we go on the interstate. As we are gathering our speed on the interstate, the car starting acting very sluggish. We had left on time, but I'm afraid we'll be late if we turn around, go back home and switch out car sears and vehicles. Pete swears that the car will be fine. I actually prayed, out loud, 'Dear Lord, please get us to there to meet these parents on time. I don’t want to be late, I don’t want to break down, I don’t want to make a bad first impression.”

We make it to the restaurant and meet the birth parents, and it was a wonderful first meeting. We loved them and they loved us and it was the very beginning of what has become a relationship that we now consider extended family. Andrew's birth mother is like the little sister I never had, and her mother is one of the coolest women you'd ever want to meet. From the moment we all met, something just clicked and we knew our families all coming together in this way was going to be very special for everyone involved. I just cannot say enough about how well we all got along, and how much we all adored each from the very start...truly lucky, indeed, especially for little Andrew.

However, upon leaving, we turn from the restaurant parking lot onto the lane for the interstate. We get no more than the next exit up, and the car is dying. We stop at the first gas station, add oil, add water, do everything Pete knows how to do and can do without tools there, and the car is dying. It’s now 7PM, and places are closing.

We make it down to some auto service place down the road, barely able to chug our way in, and they tell us that they are closing, and it looks like they’ll have to order parts, which won’t arrive until morning. What to do? We have to get home! I have to work the next day! We have to get back to the boys! It’s a two-hour drive home! And a tow-truck home would be a killer!

There is no fixing the car that night. It’s deader than a doornail. We leave it parked at the auto repair shop and, after a lot of anxious decision making, land on the plan the only thing to do is have me rent a car and drive home while Pete spends the night. We assume it'll be only a few hours the next day for fix the car, and then he can drive right back home. Luckily, we’re close to a Holiday Inn. We walk over and check Pete in for the night. Then, we start calling around for a rental car, thinking that with a credit card, we can rent a cheap-o over the phone, have it delivered to us at the Holiday Inn, where I’ll get in and drive home. Don't I see commercials on TV like that all the time? Don't I? I swear I do. But in reality? No such luck. All the car rental places in town are closed, because it’s now almost 8:00 PM. The ONLY one that is open is the one at the airport, and they don’t deliver cars.

Next step: call a taxi and have it take me to the airport. That wait was forever. Finally, I get in the taxi, but the driver is Buddhist, and it now being 9PM, he has to do his evening prayers. So I sit in the taxi, while he finds a point due East, and prays. (I’m praying now, too, by the way....praying I will ever make it home to see my children again).

I finally make it to the airport (where the heck is it...this is the longest taxi ride EVER), and rent a car. Paperwork, paperwork and more paperwork. Get the keys, and since I’ve never been at this particular airport before, and I don’t know my way around this city very well, I decide to ask the rental clerk how to get to I-75. He tells me he doesn’t think I-75 is in in this city. Um, what? I mean, he’s a car rental agent, working at the airport, and he doesn’t know if I-75 even runs throught this city...hello? We argue over this for a few minutes until I give up. Whatever...this guy looks smart in this car rental agency suit and tie and jacket, but looks are apparently very deceiving. I grab a map, find my rental car and make my slow way home at the end of what is now a very long, stressful night. The final twist of lime to this story was the massively long, slimy snake that crossed the road in front of me on the interstate just as I was coming into Gainesville. And for those of you who don't know this already, I really, really hate snakes. But that's a post for another time.

I arrive home at about 1:00 in the morning. My mom is still there, but both boys are in bed asleep. I manage to get about 4 hours sleep that night before morning arrives and I have to get the boys up and get me ready for work. Mom comes to watch the boys while I go to work. I keep expecting a call from Pete that he's home, but the call never comes. The car did not get repaired the next day, and had to be towed to the Buick dealership for an exclusive Buick part, so Pete had to repeat my routine from the night before: take a taxi to the airport, rent a car, and drive home. He did, and kept the rental car overnight here at home and went back the following day, where he dropped the rental car off at the airport, and then had to take a taxi to the auto repair shop to pick up the Buick, where it ended up being the catalytic converter on the car which had blown up.

So, to summarize, here is what our little journey ended up costing us:

Dinner with the birth parents and our attorney 150.00
hotel for Pete 134.00
taxi to airport - Jamaica 56.00
rental car home first night- Jamaica 90.00
Pete - dinner at hotel 29.00
Car repairs - first auto shop 304.00
tow truck - Buick to dealership 172.00
Taxi to airport for Pete to pick up rental car - 65.00
car rental to drive home - Pete 44.00
Taxi from airport to Buick dealership after dropping off rental car 45.00
car repairs - Buick dealership 1095.00
TOTAL $ 2,184.00

It's like Gilligan's Island...they started out for a "three hour tour" and ended up stranded for years.
We started out thinking it'd be just one evening and maybe a couple hundred bucks, tops. Three days and two grand later, well, I'll just say this: when you adopt, you want to watch every penny. Adoptions can be expensive, and we're not rich. At least, monetarily. Our riches come from other sources: apparently, the unexpected, comical, embarrassing, and frustrating (i.e., character-building) moments that life throws our way. What's a family to do?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Summer 2007

We returned from our Sea World adventure happy, relaxed and proud of ourselves for tackling that adventure without any real mishaps. At least, no criminal, legal, financial, medical or majorly life altering mishaps. Dirt, dishevelment, embarrassment, tears, frustration...well, all that just goes with the territory, right? So summer begins.

We celebrated Father's Day with a trip to St. Augustine, Florida (one of our favorite cities), where we visited the fort, shopped and rode the river boat on the Matanzas River.

On July 3, 2007, Austin's adoption was final and we celebrated with a party/BBQ at the house. We invited our usual group of friends and family to join us, and as usual, it was a lively bunch. July 4th that year fell on a Wednesday, which I hate because I only the THE DAY of the 4th of July off from work, and without it falling on a Friday or a Monday, I never get a long weekend out of it. So we didn't do anything on the 4th of July itself, just used it as a bonus day in the middle of the week for Momma to log some heavy nap time.

Alex developed an odd obsession that summer. It began at the vet's office. One by one over the summer, we took all our cats to the vet for their yearly check-ups. Usually, Pete and Alex would drop off the cat early in the morning and leave me home with Austin, and then when the cat is ready, they go pick him up that afternoon. Now, you must know that taking Alex (and Austin, too, for that matter) to the vet's office is an absolute requirement, because all the technicians and office staff absolutely adore these boys. They always have a treat ready for Alex, talk to him, show him around, and generally just ham it up with him. And he's a very good sport about it. Anyways, our vet's office always has an animal up for adoption that they promote, usually an animal that was picked by ASPCA. The poor creature has usually been neglected or abused or abandoned. The animal has been nursed back to health by our vet's office and they keep it in a nice, roomy, comfy pet cage out front in the reception area with the adoption information. Over the summer, they had a cat looking for a home, named Isabelle. Isabelle was a soft, pretty, full grown, short-haired white kitty with black and orange spots. Poor Isabelle had been abused and had only one eye. She did well with her one little eye. The other eye had been taken out and the eye socket was sewn shut. This created unending curiosity for Alex: "Daddy, what wong (wrong) with cat eye?" "Where cat eye go?" "Daddy, fix cat eye!" "Hello, kitty cat, you see Alex?" Very curious and worried about poor kitty's eye. All this is great, I'm so glad Alex is caring and compassionate. But little Alex took it to another level. Over the 6-week Summer Time Fun program he attended at church, they did a lot of coloring and craft projects. At the end of the program, they sent home all of Alex's projects, a lot of which were animal and pet-themed pictures and crafts. And guess what? In each and every animal project of Alex's, every animal had only one eye! So we have a clay lion: only one eye. A color picture of a dog: only one eye. A felt project with a giraffe: only one eye. Even the "Jesus Loves Me" self portrait he did: Alex gave himself only one eye! Poor Alex, I'm just glad he hasn't gone after any of our cats to pull out their eyes!

Having a two year old in the house was proving to be a lot of fun, if you can find fun in dirt, mischief, misunderstandings, disobedience and the like. A sample: A Wednesday night, 8PM, after a long day at work, I was unloading a ton of groceries. Austin's crying, Alex is getting into all the grocery bags, dumping stuff out, knocking things over, generally just making a mess, trying to avoid us putting him to bed. I'm distracted trying to put everything away. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Alex getting into the cabinet where we keep the food processor and juicer. I ask him to stop. He doesn't. I ask him again. He still doesn't. I'm moving back and forth from counter to fridge to pantry, tripping over things, trying to hurry. Alex is digging deeper and deeper into the cabinet and I finally say, "Alex, does Mommy have to start counting? One....two..." I get distracted again by Austin and sort of forget to keep my eye on Alex to see what he's doing, so my counting stopped at two. Alex hesitantly comes over to me, sort of tip-toeing, and yanks on my pants and says, trying to be oh-so-helpful, "Free, mommy, free. One, two, free!" Big smile. Me: "Oh, yeah, that's right! Three!" Thanks, Alex, mommy forgot how to count there for a minute!

Next scene: a Sunday morning, after church, Perkins Restaurant: Pete, Jamaica, Alex, Austin, Aunt Chris all seated and waiting for our brunch. It's busy and we forgot to bring Alex a toy to keep him occupied. So he's into everything, grabbing napkins, glasses of water, silverware, and we're pulling things out of his way. Then he starts in on the salt, pepper, catsup and mustard containers, trying to pull the lids off. He's growling and really tugging on things. I ask him what's he doing. He says: "try to get lid off, want to see inside". When he's finally gone through everything on our table, and our table is completely bare and there's nothing left to grab, he bunches up his fists, and puts them under his chin, and starts grunting and pushing and pulling on his head. This goes on for a few minutes and although he's not hurting anything or making a mess, he's making an awful grunting noise and I finally ask him, "what on earth are you doing?" This sweet child looks at me with a very frustrated look on this face and says, "try to get my head off, want to see inside"!

Then, the last weekend before Andrew is born: Saturday night, 6PM, I was cleaning and polishing the house like a crazy woman all weekend. I wanted to bring our new baby home to a clean house. The kitchen floor was cleaned, mopped and waxed. It was time to feed the big boy. Alex wa in his high chair. I fixed him a plate of veggies and cheese and fruit. The fruit is a mix of berries, very ripe. Probably over-ripe. Blackberries and raspberries. But it was the last of them and I wanted to use them up. He nibbled on his dinner and was being very good. Pete and I are exhausted. We sat in the family room for just a few minutes to catch our breath and have some peace and quiet. It's too quiet. We lean back on the couch, assuming Alex is cleaning his plate. Well, he was. Just not how we had hoped he was. He has taken every piece of the berries, and thrown them on the floor, hard. And because the berries were over-ripe, they absolutely exploded when they hit the floor. It looked like blood. It looked like a crime scene with all that berry juice, everywhere. Some splashed on poor Crazy Luck-luck, who made the mistake of walking through the kitchen while Alex was having dinner. Crazy Luck-luck now had red berry juice on him and lookedlike he was the loser in a big cat fight. There was berry juice literally from the high chair to the kitchen door going outside. Everywhere. On my nice, clean floors. My fault, really, for cleaning before feeding him, and for feeding him berries, and most especially for leaving him alone for two minutes to feed himself. My fault entirely. I'm more mad at myself than mad at him. However, the fun has just begun.After scolding him about throwing food on the floor, I took him out of the high chair. I told him to go into the family room and let us clean up the mess. Well, Alex wanted to help clean it up. "Alex help". I told him this is really a mommy and daddy job. He says, "Alex get broom". I told him that this is really not a broom job, it's more of a mop job, so he needed to get out of the kitchen so we can clean up. He can tell we're upset and aggravated, mostly at ourselves, and he really wantedto help and make it all up to us, so he kept insisting on helping. We had a long talk with him about throwing food, explaining to him that when he makes messes that mommy and daddy have to clean up, that takes time away from doing fun things, like playing outside or reading a book. So we asked him to please wait for us in the family room, so he doesn't walk through the mess and make it any bigger. Alex went into the family room, watching us and chattering away. He kept coming back into the kitchen, stirring up the mess. I finally picked him up and really have a long talk with him and he can tell I'm upset. I go back to my hands and knees on the floor, mopping up the mess, with Pete's help. Alex is right in the doorway, watching. He bends over and leans against the chair. It is, just for a moment, completely quiet in the house as Pete and I were mopping up the floor. Austin is in his swing in the kitchen, watching and listening to everything that is going on. Alex says "Mommy, mommy", I turn around to look at him and he passes a big, loud gust of gas. Then it's "Mommy? Mommy? I farted. I farted, Mommy! Guess what? I farted!" It was timed so perfectly, and said so innocently, and it all just happened so funny, I burtst out laughing. Pete laughed so hard he cried. Literally, tears came out of his eyes. I began shaking with laughter. Pete tells me to quit shaking, because Alex will know I'm laughing and think it was funny and think he's off the hook for the food throwing. Well, it was funny, but I tell Pete to quit crying with laughter for the same reason. Alex knows something is going on with his parents, but he can't quite figure it out. He starts in with: "Daddy, mommy, what you doing?" "Mommy, daddy, what you say?" Pete and I laughed for a solid five minutes before we could get ourselves under control. Priceless.

A Thursday morning, 6:30 AM: a long, sleepless night with Andrew and Alex (Austin slept the whole night though). Got up and went into kitchen. Alex is there. He had gotten ahold of a box that had arrived the day before with a shipment for me. It was a huge box, filled with styrofoam packing peanuts. I do not know why they sent one small picture frame in a box big enough for a microwave oven, but they did. And filled it with packing peanuts. We should have gotten rid of the box immediately. But we got lazy the night before, and never gave a thought to Alex getting up at the crack of dawn to find it and play with it. But, he did. He emptied the entire box all over the kitchen and was making "big piles" for his trucks to drive through. So not only were the peanuts everywhere, but they have been ground down into an even finer, tiny, frothy, foamy mess by Alex driving over them with his trucks. Also, he had taken the huge empty box, and trapped two of the cats, Trouble and Crazy Luck-luck, inside and was pounding on the box with their food bowl, terrorizing the poor animals. So this is what I walked in on at 6:30 that Thursday morning. I look around, taking it all in, taking a deep, slow, cleansing breath and counted to 10 before I spoke. Alex sees me and says, "Hi, Mommy, what you doing? You waking up?" I begin: "Alex, what is going on here?" He replies: "Look, Mommy, big piles! Look, Mommy, Luck-luck and Bubbie in here!" He raises the box just a little bit so I can see the poor cats, who probably now have permanent hearing loss. Luck-luck needed only a split second, so he took off like a bat out of hell. Trouble, the older, heavier cat, couldn't run as quickly. He sort of trotted off, and Alex started running behind him, trying to drag him back to his box of torture. Trouble got as far as the kitchen/family room doorway and stopped, dead in his tracks, sensing Alex right on his tail, literally. So Trouble stopped, Alex did the same. Trouble remained standing, tail held high in the air. Alex dropped to his knees, face close to Trouble's behind. I stood, paralyzed, watching the whole thing. Alex leaned down and forward, stuck his nose against Trouble's behind, took a big whiff, wrinkled up his nose, looked at me and said, "Mommy, smells like poop!" After I picked myself up off the floor, laughing, I cleaned up the kitchen and went to work. Kid's lucky he's so cute and funny.

Well, we were preparing for the arrival of our newest baby. So life was feeling frantic and anxious at times. Good thing he had our two older boys around to break up the tension, huh. They sure do keep up laughing at times, and it was a good thing, because our first visit with Andrew's birth parents was right around the corner.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Sea World Adventure 2007

Our big fun was over Memorial Day weekend when we spent three nights in Orlando to go to SeaWorld! What a blast we had! We almost decided at the last minute to not go, though, because Alex was cranky and Austin was crying non-stop with a tummy ache. We actually had the reservation agent on the phone Thursday evening and were about to cancel and get a refund, but we decided to say a prayer and hope for the best, and forged ahead.

God must have a funny way of testing our resolve, however, because He really gave us one for the road. It was Friday, about 12 noon. We wanted to get on the road between 12 noon and 1PM, hoping to do most of the driving while the boys napped in the van. Pete was ready, the boys were ready, the van was completely packed, Mom had come to say good-bye to the boys, and my dad was there to say good-bye also. Pete was busy putting the final diaper bag and cooler in the van while I jumped in the shower. And it was while all this was going on, me in the shower with the water going from hot to cold, water pressure dropping down to nothing, that our hot water heater decided to spring a massive leak, and flood the laundry room, the garage and the kitchen! Luckily my dad was there to keep the boys occupied while Pete turned everything off and mopped of the watery mess! When I got out of the shower and found out what had happened, it made me very nervous to leave. But we would have had to spend the weekend in a hotel anyway, waiting on a new hot water heater to be installed, so we decided to just be brave, look upon this as an opportunity to really prove our parental mojo, and just march ahead with our vacation plans and didn't let anything get us down.

So that we did. Off to SeaWorld!Our first night was rather rough; Austin still had an upset stomach and cried and spit up a lot. Alex never did take a nap, so he was a wild child. When we got to the hotel, he went crazy over the waterfall in the lobby and wanted to jump in and get the pennies out that people had thrown in for good luck ("look, mommy, money"!). When we went upstairs to our room and took our luggage up on the trolley, Alex rode on the trolley, on top of the luggage. He had a blast, but after unloading the luggage, he wanted to keep riding it up and down the hallway. So Pete raced him on the trolley up and down the hall for a while, but we eventually had to take it back downstairs so other people could use it, and Alex threw a fit over that. So then for a while it was up and down on the elevator. And then running down the halls, tapping on the doors and asking, "Daddy? Who's in there?"

He acted up at dinner at Denny's restaurant, driving his dump truck all over his dinner plate, making a building out of pizza slices, making ambulances and fire trucks out of wadded-up napkins, telling a story about helping people get out of the "building fall down...big boom.... people get one shots" and throwing french fries everywhere. He did not want to leave the restaurant, so he wouldn't walk, and would just go limp and floppy when I tried to pick him up. So I took a deep breath, gritted my teeth and asked him if he wanted me to drag him out of the restaurant, he looked up at me, smiled sweetly, and said, "yes, mommy, peeeze?" We ended up getting Austin in his car seat, and then both of us, Pete grabbing his arms and me grabbing his legs, to carry Alex to the van, with Alex giggling and laughing the whole time, and saying "See Shamu! Go SeaWorld!" (He says SeaWorld like Sea-wo-wuld).

By 10:00 that night, we were all near tears. Alex screamed at taking a bath, was exhausted and kept saying, "Alex tired....go home." We could not get him to understand that this was home, for the next few nights. It ended up being 11:30 that night before he fell asleep, after watching Thomas the Tank Engine on DVD 3 times. He slept very well, for it being his first time ever sleeping away from home, and not being in his crib. Austin fell asleep around 10:30, and slept straight through until 5AM. Pretty good, too, for a three month old, but I think it was more pure exhaustion. Up with Austin at 5AM to give him a bottle, and Alex, afraid of missing out on any fun, woke up too.

So it's 5:00 AM, and the whole family is wide awake. Alex grabbed some juice and crackers, turns on the TV, opens the curtains, it's still pitch black outside. The day begins. At 7AM, Austin fell back asleep. Pete took Alex downstairs to have breakfast, while I took a shower. Pete and Alex came back, Alex woke Austin, Pete is trying to get Austin back to sleep, and Alex takes this chance to come into the bathroom, get Pete's shaving cream can, and sprayed shaving cream everywhere. EVERYWHERE. E V E R Y W H E R E. When I got out of the shower and saw it, I choked. I scolded Alex and told him he had made a very big mess. His reply? "Mommy vacuum!" I have no idea why he came up with that, because he sure don't see me vacuum very often at home, so why would he think I'd vacuum here on our long-awaited vacation? I asked him, and he just smiled very sweetly at me.

After cleaning up the shaving cream mess, I took Alex downstairs to breakfast with me so Pete could shower and get dressed, and Austin could sleep in peace for a short while. Downstairs is a beautiful lobby and breakfast area, just inside from the pool area beyond the french doors. Just lovely. And a delicious hot breakfast buffet. I so needed a good breakfast and some hot coffee. Alex heads straight for the waterfall again, only this time, he wants to give his dump truck a bubble bath in it. Since he had already eaten earlier with Pete, he didn't want much to eat, but I fixed him a plate just to try to keep him occupied while I eat. Eggs and sausage. I cut the sausage into little pieces for him, and he pretended they were logs for the back of his dump truck. Oh, well, at least he's quiet.That lasted long enough for me to eat one hard boiled egg and some fruit. A half cup of coffee. Alex got bored. Starts back over to the waterfall. Trying to keep him occupied, I grab him and put him on my lap and try to get him to practice saying his numbers, and telling me his body parts ("one, two: 2 eyes! one mouth! one-two: 2 ears! one, two, free, four, five, sits, seben, eight, [he always forgets 9] ten! 10 fingers! one, two: 2 hands! etc.). It's not really holding his interest, but we're trying. Remember, we are in the dining area near the pool. In from the pool walks a real hoochie-mamma: teased, bleached blonde hair, big sunglasses, long, ghetto-type fingernails, a lot of gold jewelry and a very, very low-cut two piece swim suit revealing her amply tattooed double-D cleavage. Trashy looking, as far as I was concerned, and should have been covered up while indoors, at least. Alex (along with everyone else in the dining room) took notice, stared at the woman, and my oh-so-discreet son says, out loud, at one of those rare but precise moments when the whole room is hushed: "one, two: 2 boobies! Two boobies, Mommy! Look!" At this point, I am beyond embarrassed. I figure better my 2-year-old noticing and pointing out another woman's chest, rather than my husband, right! I mean, he's two. Mostly, it was all families in the dining area, and if they didn't have toddlers right then, they all had toddlers at one point, so I've given up on being embarrassed by anything a toddler will say or do. Good thing, because the weekend had only just begun.

We eventually make it to SeaWorld. It was cloudy. We no more than made it through the ticket gates when it thundered and began pouring rain. Good thing we now have a double stroller: bigger than my first car. This thing is a monster. We almost could have driven IT to Orlando. We manage to cover Austin in the infant part, but Alex, once inside SeaWorld, is hard to contain in the toddler seat. We pull over by some boats and fake whales and a lighthouse, all sitting in a pond near the entrance, and I really am wondering what else can happen this weekend. We need to buy rain costs because I forgot to pack umbrellas. Just by the time I worked myself up into a tizzy over everything, the rain let up, the clouds drifted off, the sun came out and literally, from that point forward, both boys were pure, sugar-sweet, adorable, well-behaved, minding their manners, perfect little gentlemen. Austin's tummy ache must have cleared up. He was smiling and cooing and very content to ride in the stroller. Alex was curious and mesmerized and questioning everything, not difficult at all, just charming and adorable. It was literally like the quick rainstorm that hit, washed away all problems and irritations that were bugging any of us. Even with so little sleep, Alex was raring to go. We proceeded throughout SeaWorld, seeing ducks, flamingoes, turtles, dolphins, birds, stingrays, gators, penguins, whales, sharks, eels, you name it. Alex had his first taste of cotton candy. I was so excited for him. We waited in a long line, paid a ridiculous $2.99 for a tiny little bag of the stuff, I got ready with my camera, said, "OK, Pete, give it to him NOW!", because I so desperately wanted to catch the expression on his enchanted face of his first taste of the delicious cotton candy I remembered from my childhood. He put it in his mouth, smacked his lips, handed it back to me and said, "don't like, mommy." So much for my Kodak moment.

Alex and Pete took a paddle boat ride, in a huge pink paddle boat shaped like a flamingo. Austin and I stayed on the dock, of course, and it was so funny watching the two of them. The paddle boat seats either two adult and one child, or two children and one adult. It has a bench seat. So with just big of Pete on one side and little Alex on the other side, their pink flamingo paddled around the lake tipped almost completely to one side. It was so funny to watch. All you could see was Pete, you couldn't see Alex because of the way the boat was shaped. It looked like lonely ol' Pete was out there all by himself in the pink flamingo, tipped over to one side.

We saw Shamu, the Killer Whale, and even Austin was in a trance over the show. He would not be content in my arms or in my lap, Austin had to be held up, in the air, facing out, to see the show. Every show we went to, Austin had to see, too. Austin is not one to be happy when left alone. When he wakes up, if he hears any of the rest of us, he CRIES until someone comes to get him. We wants in on all the action, especially at SeaWorld.

Alex rode his first roller coaster at SeaWorld, too. The Shamu Express. He had been absolutely fascinated by some of the bigger, really huge roller coasters, but was too small to ride them, of course. But SeaWorld has a toddler play and pool and ride area, so we spent a lot of time there. Alex was big enough for the Shamu Express, but Austin was napping at that point, so it was just Alex and his daddy on that ride. I was waiting around front with Austin, and some woman was waiting there too, for her son and husband. She commented, "oh, are you waiting on your little one, too? I'm not so sure about it, it's his first time on a roller coaster....I'm kind of worried, I hope he'll be OK." So that, of course, sets me off. I said, "well, how old is your son?" "Five," she replied. So now I'm about to go crashing into line to grab Pete and Alex out of there, but I couldn't see them in line and couldn't leave Austin. I'm thinking "if she's worried, and her kid is 5, what the hell am I doing letting my 2 year old on this thing. I'm a horrible mother!" I was beginning to panic. So Pete and Alex come to the front of the line, and as luck would have it, they get seated in the very first seat on the ride. Right up front, where you can see everything. So I'm waving at Pete, trying to use sign language to make sure Alex is OK, but they just assume I'm waving to say hello, so they wave back at me. They take off, I try to take a picture, but it doesn't come out very well. I managed to see Alex's face as they went by me, and he has this look on his face of "what is my lunatic mom freaking out over? This ride is nothing." He actually looked puzzled. But: he had a blast. Not one tear, not one cry, not one shout or shriek. Nothing. He rode it like he was a pro. So much for all my worries. He's just one tough kid.

The manatee exhibit was another story. First, you stroll along this wooden pathway and see the manatees from up above. Then, you can go below to see them from under the water, and learn all about them and their protected status and their habitat. You can't take strollers below, so Pete stayed above ground with Austin while Alex and I went below. We walk along, seeing all the manatees and other little fish. The aquarium is rather quiet, and at the time Alex and I were in there, it was filled with adults and older children, no toddlers in there except Alex. We get near the end of the aquarium and there is this absolutely huge, gigantic manatee. We stop to see it. Alex walks right up to the glass wall of the aquarium and is looking in. The manatee floats over to the wall and looks at Alex. Kinda neat. I kneel down by Alex and tell him to say hello to the manatee. He says, "Hi, man-tee!" Cute. The manatee looks at us, then flapped it's left flipper, so I tell Alex, "oh, look, the manatee is waving to you, Alex!" Alex grins, kind of jumps in place and waves back at the manatee, and says, "look, mommy, man-tee wave! Man-tee wave! Hi, man-tee! Hi, man-tee!" Everyone around us in the theater is oohh-ing and aahh-ing, charmed by the scene of the cute little boy and the manatee communicating. The manatee floats upwards head first and is now belly up against the glass, so we can see it's tummy. OK, we can deal with that. We see a big hole in the manatee's belly, and Alex asks "what's dat, mommy?" I tell him it's the manatee's belly button. Do manatee's have belly buttons? I'm not certain that's what it was, but I didn't want to tell him the other thing I was afraid it might be. The manatee's belly ripples, gives a big gurgle. Then another big gurgle. Bubbles start coming out of the manatee. I think I know what is happening. Another gurgle. More bubbles. Uh-oh. Yup, sure thing. The manatee's belly heaves and jiggles and right out of the manatee's "belly button" comes a huge, yellow-orange colored turd. Alex and I are still crouched down, looking up at the manatee, with about a 15 or 16 other people all nearby watching the manatee wave at the cute little boy. I'm thinking to myself, "with all these people around, please don't ask me what that is, Alex, please don't." I'm trying to think of a delicate word to use for what is, in fact, manatee doodoo. Well, Alex is just way too smart and is so far beyond me. That enormous manatee turd floated towards the glass wall, hit it, and broke into dozens of tiny, little pieces. Mini manatee doo-doo's. All bright yellow-orange in color. Heaven help me. Alex takes one look, jumps in place up and down, again and again, waves and says, loudly, of course, because Alex knows no other way to speak except loudly: "Oh, look, mommy! Goldfish! Hi, goldfish! Hi there, goldfish! Mommy, look at the baby goldfish! The man-tee had baby goldfish" I laughed until I almost peed my pants. Thank goodness everyone else around us did, too.

So what's left after that performance...not much. Our SeaWorld 2007 vacation was wonderful. Full of events and surprises I could never have predicted. But who can, with a 2 year old. I think our first Family of Four vacation went very well over all. I mean, you gotta laugh, right?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

May 2007

Alex was now 2 years old....and talking. Because we, his parents, had taught his how to talk. Apparently, however, we never taught him how to SHUT UP! EVER! The child talked non-stop.

He went on a bug kick. He loves his bug book, and decided to re-name every family member by a bug name. Daddy is now "roach", mommy is now "lady bug", Austin is now "beetle" and Alex himself is now a "grasshopper". He even gave our social worker, Candace, a bug name when she came to the house to do the final homestudy visit for Austin's adoption: Candace is now "lightning bug". When he told her that, she just melted. He can really charm the ladies, this boy. Not long after the bug kick, it became a fruit kick: but mostly, we're all apples or bananas. Or something called a "rootie-tootie". Don't ask, coz I don't know what that is, except at one time or another, all last month, we have all been "rootie-tootie's".

I took quite a bit of time off from work in May, so we had a lot of adventures. We went to Cedar Key for Mother's Day. We shopped, went to the park, walked the beach and watched the boats. Alex became fascinated by the boaters loading up and coming ashore at the end of the day when the tide went out. We had dinner at a very nice seafood restaurant on a pier stuck way out overlooking the water. Both boys were very well-behaved, and Alex, of course, had the waitress eating out of his hand. On Mother's Day, after church, we went to a Mother's Day brunch at the Elk's Lodge and the following evening, when Mom was off from work, we went to GrillMasters (Mom's favorite restaurant) for dinner. A funny thing began happening at dinner in Cedar Key: Alex at one point was rather feisty and began throwing things, so we had to scold him one or twice. Later on, he accidently knocked something over, and looked worried that we would scold him again, but we told him "that's OK, it was an accident. You didn't mean to do that, you have to be careful, but it was an accident." And we gave him hugs and kisses, so he would know we were not mad at him. Ever since then, when he is naughty and throws things, he'll look up and smile and say "uh-oh! Accident!" (Only it sounds like "assident" when he says it!)

The following weekend was Pete's birthday and we had a cook-out/party at the house. Nothing fancy, just family and a few friends, but it was a great time. We've gotten so much work done in the back yard, and Pete wanted to use his brand new stainless steel gas grill, so it was time for a party! The best part, as far as Alex is concerned, is the bounce house we bought for the back yard. He and our grandson, Jared, or "my Dared" as Alex calls him, and the other kids, Mason and Kiley, had so much fun in that thing! They bounced and screamed and jumped and ran around in that thing for hours. It was so much fun to watch them have so much fun! I can't wait until Austin can join in. Alex really has bonded with Jared and gets jealous when Jared plays with any other kids that come to our house. When Jared is around it's: "Dared, watch dis!" "Dared, come here!" and "Dared, play dat!" Luckily, for the most part, Jared is pretty indulgent to Alex's case of hero worship. Only a few times have I had to explain to Jared that he needs to pay attention to Alex, because Alex looks up to him so much. Jared is actually pretty cool with the whole thing, as Jared is an only child, and tells us all the time how much he would love a brother or sister. Ashley has vetoed that idea permanently, and is glad we keep adopting kids to "let her off the baby hook"! Jared says it's "not fair, he has no brothers, and his mom [Ashley] has three!" So having a baby uncle for a "little brother" is the next best thing, I guess!

We got some really big news on the day of Pete's party however. We were finally going to do this adoption thing, I don't know if it would really be considered "old-fashioned" or "standard" or just what. Maybe "conventional" is the word I'm looking for. See, with Alex's adoption, his birth mother being my cousin, Tabatha, we actually circumvented the whole profile-submission-waiting-to-be-matched-with-a-birth-mother route. She was pregnant, knew we wanted a family, and that was that, perfect match. With Austin, we submitted our home study and profile, and, expecting a long wait, were united with our new child less than 2 weeks later. A speed record, according to everyone who heard about it.

This time, however, things were going to go "by the book". We had submitted our profiles to several different places back in early February. With Austin's birth happening so quickly, we didn't even have time to think about withdrawing our submissions from elsewhere. So we got a call in early May that there was a pregnant teenage birth mother in Central Florida that would like to look at our profiles, and were we interested? Hhmmm, well, we went on to explain about Austin's abrupt arrival, and asked if we were "allowed", or was it "legal" to adopt two babies in one year. Well, if we were up for the challenge, it certainly was! So we were asked to supplement the profile we had previously submitted to now include pictures of us with Austin, just so this birth mother could see the entire family. We did, and lo and behold, that was it!We got the call the morning of Pete's birthday party that these birth parents, a 15 year old Caucasian girl and a 14 year old African-American boy, were very impressed with our family profile and had chosen us because we had one son of each race. They felt that their unborn child would grow up just the way they wanted him to, with two big brothers, one white and one ethnically blended family that would love and care for him as they did. Another bonus: the birth father was from Jamaica, and my name being Jamaica, they felt, just confirmed their choice!

So here we were with 2-year-old Alex, 2 month old Austin, and "pregnant" again!The baby was a boy, due in September, so we actually had time this time to prepare for our 3rd son. First off: his name. Our "second" choice for a name when we were considering names for Austin was the name Andrew. So: Andrew Joseph it is! We did not have a lot of prep for in terms of clothes, toys, bottles, etc. because...well....Austin was still so newborn and we already had everything we needed! Just needed a little more of everything now. It was going to be like having twins!

There was much more to celebrate at Pete's party than just his birthday...we announced to everyone about being chosen for yet another little boy to join our family. Big sister Ashley, excited and so very happy for us, made the comment, however, that she would like at some point to so shopping for some pink! A lot of people thought we were nuts, but we've always believed WHY BE NORMAL? We never have been, why start now? So we'd have 3 boys under 3...oh, the fun we'd have, they noise they'd make, the messes the would be in the middle of...but oh, the love...the little boys under 3! Start your engines!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Spring 2007; A Family of Four

So life begins as a family of four. Alex adored Austin...calling him “Ossin” since he couldn’t quite pronounce the “T” sound yet. More often he calls him “Ossin baby brudder”. He loved to hold Austin on his lap, asking “Alex hold Ossin, peez?” He would pet him, kiss him, talk to him, cuddle him and burp him. He loved to watch Austin get his diaper changed, explaining to me, “Mommy! Ossin doo-doo diaper!” Loved to help with Austin’s bubble bath, and let us know everything Austin did: “Ossin eyes open!”, “Ossin goin’ night-night”, “Ossin burp!”, “Ossin crying!”. He made sure to point out all of Austin’s body parts: “Ossin fingers”, “Ossin toes”, “Ossin mouf [mouth]”, “Ossin ears”. And as soon as Alex would wake up in the morning, his first question, every time, was “Where Ossin?” and “What Ossin doin’?”. We were truly blessed for the acceptance and affection Alex had (and still has) for his baby brother, especially since we had no real time to prepare Alex for Austin’s arrival.

So began a very exciting and busy time in our lives. We had visitors galore, family and friends stopping by to meet the new baby and bring him something. My dear friend Wendy threw a baby shower for me and it was, again, the loveliest, best time a mommy could have. We took Austin to his first church serve when he was only 5 days old. Everyone at church was stunned and thrilled for us, and just adored Austin. Alex was so proud to be the big brother, showing Austin off to the child care workers in the nursery where he used to stay when he was a newborn.

We (finally) made our much-planned trip to SeaWorld on St. Patrick’s day weekend. With a 2 year old, and a three week old. It was such a fun visit. Alex got to see ducks, horses, donkeys, flamingos, birds, dolphins, turtles, you name it. We also received our first dirty look, being an interracial family. I was posed near the ducks holding Austin, with Alex next to me, and Pete taking the picture. A old, old couple walked past us, shooting us a hateful look. I did not catch it at first, Pete did. He mentioned it to me when the photo was snapped, and I turned around and caught the hateful expression. I briefly considered going after the couple and addressing them, but I let it go. Had they said something, I definitely would have gone after them, but my thought was, “well, this is the first of what could me many comments, looks, stares and racism we’ll face throughout life, and I’m not going to let someone else’s small mindedness ruin a beautiful day for my family.” So I let it slide......that time.....

We did a number of things for Easter that year. First, there was the Easter party/egg hunt with our adoption support group, where a friend dressed as the Easter bunny to visit the kids and hand out eggs and gifts and candy....and where Alex refused (again) to go anywhere near the furry beast. Then, there was the egg hunt/cook out at our church on the day before Easter, where we listened to the story of Easter, sang songs, played games and, of course, hunted for eggs, all while freezing our bunny butts off. And then, the big day, with church services that morning, and a scrumptious brunch buffet at Banyan’s Restaurant with the family and some friends. It was a perfect weekend.

With two boys in tow, we decided to take the plunge and....bought a van. That meant no more driving the POS bomb for mommy. It had been Pete’s truck, which got handed down to me when Alex came along, so Pete could drive my nice Buick with the car seat in it. I hated that truck....dirty, smelly, dented, dinged, yucky...and gave me so much trouble that one time (well, OK, you got me..more than one time) I screamed at it: “You piece of S#%T”! And horribly, Alex overheard me once and asked what I had just said....I was so fuming mad at the truck at the time, I could not trust myself to answer, so Pete answered for me and explained to Alex that Mommy was mad at the truck and called it a piece of doo-doo. From that point on, the old green truck was lovingly or hatedly (depending on who was referring to it: Alex or mommy) called the doo-doo truck.Well, the doo-doo truck brought us a measly $500.00 closer to our down payment on our new Nissan Quest. I loved it! Although I hardly drove, since it was now Pete’s dad van, it meant I got to go back to driving my nice Buick. Aaaahhhh, happy mommy!

So we settled into Spring of 2007...still-working Mommy, still staying-at-home-with-the boys Daddy, and the Double A Team: Alex and Austin. We were enjoying life so very much and counting our blessings every day. Alex was healthy and growing, and talking up a storm, repeating everything anyone said. His favorite expressions were: “Mommy doin’?” or “Daddy doin’?”; “Mommy sit down”, “Up, Daddy”, “What dis?” and our favorite, “Juice honey” (because whenever his grandma asks him if he wants juice, she asks, “do you want more juice, honey?” so Alex thinks juice is juice honey. Actually, he began to put honey on the end of every food word he knew, so asking him what he would like for breakfast or lunch or dinner was an earful: “eggs honey”, “saus-is [for sausage] honey”, “cer-we-wal [for cereal] honey”, “hot dog honey”, “mac-roni honey” and “popsicle honey” were some of his favorites. And he got into an odd habit of naming random objects he either saw or came in contact with throughout the day when he said his prayers at night: after the usual “Now I lay me....” we’d go through everyone in the family asking that they be blessed “Mommy, Daddy”, etc. But then Alex would add in “God bess the van, God bess Daddy’s hammer, God bess Mommy’s vacuum cleaner”, etc. He also began to get really good about his manners, most times saying “peas” and “fank ooo”. Funny, and endearing....he began growing up so fast.So life was great and we were doing very, very well, if tired a lot of the time. Both boys were happy, well-adjusted and healthy. Alex couldn’t wait for Austin to get big enough to play bull dozers and dumptrucks with him. I could tell they were going to be great brothers and most of all...great friends. It was already such a thrill and such a blessing to watch them together. We had the fair-haired, blue-eyed, beach bum surfer looking boy, and our dark skinned, dreamy-eyed, exotic islander boy! The perfect pair! Life was good....and was only going to get better!

Monday, February 9, 2009 Austin!

So we arrived home with our newborn. And just so Austin would know exactly what kind of West Virginia and Tennessee hillbilly families he was joining, he arrived to his new home with, of all things, a broken toilet sitting on the front porch. When Pete had gotten the call on the 20th about Austin's early arrival and us being chosen as his adoptive family, he was in the process of installing a new toilet in our guest bathroom, which was now going to be the "boys" bathroom, and where potty training Alex would begin very soon. Potty training tends to work better with an actual flushing toilet, so when our clogged and broke down beyond repair, Pete (the family handyman) was installing a new one. But when we got the call, toilet be damned! You can wait....we still have the master bathroom toilet, and Alex can keep peeing his pullups for a few days....we were off to meet and bring home our new son! But we had to put the broken old toilet somewhere until trash pick up day, because Alex still had to be bathed.....what the heck! To the front porch it is! Let's really show off our roots!

We eventually installed our new toilet. We survived the BUFA incident. It was time to let the rest of the family know about our latest bundle of joy. The last time we did it, we kind of ticked some family members off, because it was Christmas time, we did not tell anyone ahead of time besides my parents where we were going or what we were going for, we traveled out of state for Alex's birth, and we were gone for a month. So I can understand people getting peeved. But this time, even we didn't know about Austin until the week prior, and even then, it was only a possibility.

So on Friday, February, February 23, we called Ashley and Adrian and invited both of them to meet us for lunch that day. We called Jessica, too, but with her living and working a ways away from us, she couldn't make it, as we predicted. We told the girls that I had taken a mental health day from work and we wanted to catch up and enjoy a day with the family.

We arranged for the family to meet at a local restaurant that is run by a friend of the family. We had basically the whole place to ourselves, as we made it a late lunch. Pete and the boys and I got there first and "set up". Ashley was the first to arrive and she came in and kissed and hugged Alex, her baby brother, and then kissed her dad, and then kissed and hugged me. And for those of you who know Ashley, you know she is always a flurry of activity, a busy bee of hustle and bustle. So after hurrying around and kissing and hugging everyone, she finally settled down in her chair and said, "So, how's everyone doing? What's up?" And she looked from face to face, going around the table, and her eyes finally landed on Austin. She said, "What? Who's that? Oh, my gosh, there's a baby....who's baby?....oh, my gosh, is this your new baby?!?!?! Is this my new brother?!?!?!" And with a huge smile on her face, she immediately got up and went over to meet her new baby brother. She went on to explain and apologize for not noticing, saying that she noticed the car seat out of the corner of her eye, but that she just didn't pay it much attention, thinking it was something for Alex. That moment was so perfect, so.....Ashley.....I couldn't have scripted a more perfect introduction between big sis and baby brother.

Next, Adrian arrived....and it was the exact opposite of Ashley. Adrian arrived apologizing and sheepish, saying, "I'm sorry, I know it was supposed to be a surprise, but I already know!" She had had to take her car out to Joe's place early that morning (Joe being a mechanic, a minister, and Alex's godfather and one of Pete's best friends). Joe had asked her what she thought of her new baby brother....oops, the cat's out of the bag now. So Adrian knew, but she had yet to meet him....and when she did, she fell in love with her new baby brother the same as Ashley.

So all local siblings were present and accounted for. We went through the story for Adrian and Ashley and had a wonderful, delicious lunch. While everyone was gathered there, we also called Matthew out in Mississippi, and Jessica in Ocala, to let them in on the news. And from there, the news spread. By the end of lunch, the entire family knew and were calling our cells to congratulate us on Austin's arrival.

Lunch lasted so long that Ashley had to leave to pick up Jared from school. When she did, she brought him back to the restaurant, where we stayed to linger over dessert and coffee. When Jared arrived, he was full of his usual happiness and 6 year old gusto. We pointed out Austin to him right away. Jared did not look too happy, asking "who's that?" And we must have just said something along the lines of "his name is Austin". We must not have explained that he was our newly adopted son, or that he was Alex's new brother and Jared's new uncle, because when I told Jared that Austin was coming home with us, he looked and acted rather upset. It was not until many months later that Jared explained to us that he did not understand that Austin was our new baby....Jared thought that Austin was "just some baby that someone left behind at the restaurant" and that we were just going to pick up that baby and bring him home on a whim! Wow! What a note to selves....on next and future babies....clue Jared in!

So we ran the gamut of situations in bringing Austin to meet his family. From Ashley, to Adrian, to Jared, to Matthew and Jessica on the phone. But I'm blessed to be able to say that whatever the introduction, Austin was welcomed, loved, and warmly brought into the fold. We managed to trick the family again, this time without really meaning to. The family has come to not know what to expect from us, especially when I take a day off from work, or we both leave town for a few days. And believe it or not....we had more surprises coming their way!

Friday, February 6, 2009


So we made it home with Austin the afternoon of Thursday, February 22, 2007. Since we were driving right past his place anyway, we stopped along the way home to see the boys' godfather, one of Pete' best friends, "Uncle" Joe. After that, we came straight home. After putting Austin and Alex both down for naps, and then staring with awe and wonder at both boys for what seemed like hours, we began to settle in and sort through all the paperwork that the hospital and our attorney had given us upon Austin's discharge.

Now, it's important to note that over the course of the 48 hours he remained in the hospital nursery after his birth, we asked tons of questions of the nurses and our attorney, Jack Gibney, as well as Austin's birth family. We had been assured a number of times that he was healthy, came from a healthy birth mother, and that the birth mother had been drug-alcohol-and cigarette free, with a healthy pregnancy and no known physical or mental health problems.

At home, now, reading everything through more thoroughly, one thing I noticed in his medical records was a note in the 'Maternal Risk Factors' Section, saying BUFA. All caps. No other explanation. Then, it was also in the doctor's discharge summary, the handwritten notes section. BUFA. Then I remembered seeing this phrase, this "BUFA" on his hospital nursery crib. On the paper card that the stick to the end of the crib, stating the weight, length and date of birth of the baby. I wondered what this was and really, the more I thought about it, the more worried I became. I called my mom, a nurse, and she had never heard of such a thing. I asked a couple of other immediate family members and friends who were either parents or in the medical field if they knew what BUFA meant. No one knew. I got online and put BUFA in several search engines....nothing explained this mystery ailment known as BUFA.

I ended up calling my pediatrician and asking the nurse, who had never heard of BUFA. I was now in a panic. I called back to the hospital and left messages for a return call. I was near full-blown hysteria, scared of this BUFA syndrome or BUFA disease my new child had. What was his prognosis, what would be his disability, what were the long-term effects of BUFA? Would my health insurance cover it? Could he go to school, would he be able to walk and talk and function like a normal child? Please someone tell me: WHAT IS BUFA?

I got a return call from my pediatrician's office. Our beloved Dr. B was on the phone.

U - UP

Cut to mommy, not knowing whether to laugh or cry with relief!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Welcome little one!

.....and like so much of the time, "the best laid plans......." and all.

But happily, they were interrupted with good news. Tuesday, February 20, 2007, 12 noon, the phone rings at our house just at Alex and Pete are walking in the door. Pete grabs the phone and a woman's voice said, "you need to come get your son." Pete, bewildered, looks around for Alex, who has just wandered into the family room. Pete asks, "excuse me?" and the woman's voice says, "Your son. Your new son. He was just born. You need to come get him." Pete is still a little befuddled and asks, "who is this?" Caroline answers with her name and title and says, "I talked to your wife last week about a baby...didn't she tell you?" Pete says, "Yes, but ...what? That baby...we never got a call....were we chosen? What?" He's not sure even what questions to ask. So Caroline cuts in and gets serious. She goes on to explain that we had been presented to that birth mother, who had chosen us to adopt her baby, but (as predicted) wanted to go home and "sleep on her decision" for a while and discuss it with her family. So she went home and then went into early labor at 2:00 the next morning, delivering our beloved Austin at 6:30 A.M. on February 20, 2007. Our new son!

Caroline says that we need to get over there and start the ball rolling! We need to meet with the birth mother and her family, meet with her (Caroline) and meet with our attorney to get the paperwork started! So Pete calls me at work and asks me if I'm sitting down. I told him yes, and, prepared for the worst, asked him why. He said, "we have a new son!" "WHAT!?!" "You heard me, we have a new son. He was born this morning...that birth mother, she picked us and then went into early labor.....he's ours!" I actually got dizzy. I almost fainted. Just like that, from one moment to the next, I'm a mother of two. He said we needed to get over there and get things started, so I left the office and told my boss I'd be back when I could.

I head home, only to have to sit and wait. Turns out, with the baby coming early and no pre-adoption paperwork prepared, and with the heightened security for newborns in hospital nurseries, we cannot actually get into the hospital nursery to see our baby without some legal documentation from our attorney, who was stuck in court all day. So I ended up at home the rest of the afternoon, not able to go anywhere. But: the time was not wasted. We had to pick a name for our new baby. When Pete and I first started talking kids in our marriage, we picked out two names: a girl's name (yet to be used) and a boy's name: Alex. Now with our second son, we needed to pick something out fast. We ended up going onto one of those baby name center websites, started with the letter "A", came across Austin, and liked it. Austin Christpher it is! Christopher for two reasons: 1) my dad really likes that name; and 2) Christopher to honor my beloved Aunt Chris, who has been such a support and help to us in many of our decisions and troubled moments. Well, make that three reasons, now that I think about it: we just really liked the name.

Next, baby Austin needed some clothes. Alex had been born at a whopping almost 9 pounds, and little Austin weighed only 5 pounds at birth, with coming a month early. So it was off to Wal-Mart for preemie diapers and a couple of preemie outfits, and some formula, bottles and a few other newborn necessities. We were still waiting to hear from our attorney, and in the meantime, we wanted to talk to the birth mother and thank her. But she was asleep all afternoon, and it was late that night before she could stay awake long enough to talk to me over the phone.

We had a very short chat and then she asked me to speak to a family member of hers, which I did. They wanted to meet me and my family the next day, just to have some sense of who we are. We happily agreed. So Wednesday dawns and off we set for the East coast. We make it there, and it's more of the same...sitting and waiting. We met with the birth mother's aunt and cousin, and were very pleased with everything we learned of them, and they seemed pleased with the birth mother's choice of us as the baby's adoptive family. We learned some interesting things about the family that we are anxious to see if genetically predispose Austin to a particular ability (I'll give you a little hint: think of football)!

Finally, we're allowed back into the nursery. We pass the big nursery window, and there is only one little baby in there. All bundled up and all alone. He had the newborn baby cap on his head, and was burrito bundled, so it was hard to see if it was a he or a she, a black or a white child. But...what a sad sight. A little newborn, in there all alone. We asked if that was him and we were told yes. We both teared up and held hands, and made a vow right then and there, "little baby, you will never be so alone again, ever in your life." And in we went to hold our precious son.

Words will never accurately describe seeing and holding Austin for the first time. Nor Alex's reaction. He has so tiny: almost half of the size that Alex was at birth! But he was still an armful.....of love! And to see Alex be so gentle and loving and curious about the baby! What a joy to watch! One thing to note: it was with baby Austin that Alex's baby-foot fetish began. Austin's feet, with him having come early, were so incredibly tiny...Alex just could not comprehend that those were his baby brother's feet. He kept pulling off Austin's socks and just tickling and looking at those tiny little feet.

So we spent the entire morning and afternoon visiting with our newborn in the breast pump education room of the nurse's station at the hospital. Finally, it was time to go for the night. We had met with our attorney and the paperwork was all in order. But first, there was another surprise for Alex. We had always been aware that a new baby can cause some jealousy in the first born, so to hopefully circumvent that, we had brought along and hidden in the trunk a "present" that Austin "brought with him" when he arrived to share with his new big brother: a HUGE Tonka dump truck (in honor of what he wanted to name the new baby)! We let him tear into that right then and there and he just loved it! He wanted more baby brothers after that!

So the three of us (and the new dump truck, of course) loaded up in the car and headed back home. About halfway home, there was road construction going on on one of the county roads in a little town that we had to pass through. It was now dark, and Alex was sleepy. Pete up front driving and I'm in back with Alex. Someone got impatient with the back log of traffic and came roaring around from back behind us, and when they saw the construction on the road, had to slam on brakes, and almost spun around and hit us. I got mad and was spewing, more to myself than anyone else, "Yeah, that's right, go ahead....get in a hurry and hit our car and kill us...a family..... of four."

And then the sweetest moment, the happiest realization came to me...what I had just said...a family of four....I'd only seen him for the first time less than 12 hours earlier. He was only 36 hours old, and had never really opened his eyes much to look at us, the paperwork was far from done, the adoption was months away from final, we wasn't even with us in the car at the moment, but back in the nursery at the hospital for one more night...but he was OURS...our son, our second born, our Austin Christopher, Alex's baby brother, our beloved child. We were, already, a family of four. Welcome to the world, my precious newborn son!

Let the good times roll!