Sunday, October 31, 2010


We had a ton of kids come trick or treating to the house tonight. Some were in full regalia, others (the older ones) often in just the barest hint of a costume. Then there was the kid who didn't have a costume but was brazen enough to fake it ("I'm dressed as a skateboarder but forgot my skateboard" he says). I always loved Halloween, first because of the costumes and candy, and then the fun of giving away candy. One of my favorite books when I was growing up was "The Halloween Tree" by Ray Bradbury. I even named my second cat, Pipkin, after the character who goes missing in the book and must be pursued through time and to the edge of death itself by his friends. After the paperback I'd been given when I was 10 finally fell apart a few years ago, I went online and found a hardbound copy signed by Bradbury and bought it.

Last year at this time, we were in the final stages of pulling together our profile and home study materials. We didn't know what to expect but I think we both dreamed that by Halloween this year, we wouldn't just be handing out candy to kids but we'd be bundling a little one up as a peanut or a pumpkin or a tiny Red Sox player. Unfortunately, it looks like we need to set out sights on Halloween next year. I know our profile hasn't been up even a year yet and that many adoptive parents wait a lot longer than that. But seeing the parents tonight walking their kids up to our front door, hearing the kids chant "trick or treat" without even the hint of potential vandalism if we don't hand over a snack sized Twizzler, just makes me wish even more that this would have been the year we could have started the whole costumed kid tradition.

But instead we wait. I wonder if there are any Twizzlers left?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Picture This

I read a somewhat distressing article today in the New York Times about the decline in sales of picture books for kids. It's not all bad, of course -- kids are moving on to chapter books earlier -- but the idea that picture books are deemed too simple or won't help a child develop seems laughable to me. Our house is full of books and quite a few of them are absolutely brilliant picture books. Watching a child read again and again a stunning book like David Weisner's Tuesday or the more challenging Flotsam, you can see their minds working as they build the story in their mind, flipping back and forth between pages, totally immersed. I'm certainly all for moving on to chapter books but even at 41 years of age, there's a joy and a magic in a picture book that will never go away.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Making Strides Against Breast Cancer

As readers of my other blog, Walks in the Marsh, may know, last year my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She fought like a trooper and with the help of amazing doctors, nurses, and medical treatments she beat it (none of us doubted that she would).

The relief at that news was overwhelming for all of us and that's why I'm walking in this year's Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event on October 24 at Roger Williams Park in Providence. Other women and other families should all be given every chance to experience the relief and joy that comes at the end of the fear and heartache that appears when cancer steals stealthily into their lives. I hope to be the father of a little girl at some point in the future and I'd like that future to be one where she doesn't have to fear this particular spectre.

I encourage those of you in the region to come out for this walk. If you can't make it, I hope you'll consider making a donation to support our efforts to raise awareness and funds to support breast cancer research and treatment for our mothers, daughters, wives, sisters, aunts, friends, and coworkers.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Old friends with kids

This weekend, Jennifer and I attended a reunion of Troop 82 Providence, the Boy Scout troop that I belonged to when I was a kid. I hadn't seen most of these guys since we all gathered in December 1988 to mourn the passing of our scoutmaster, Donald C. Dewing. So it was a treat to see them all more than 20 years later, the boys I'd grown up with and almost all with kids of their own. Many were young, 6 or 7 years old, others were in their mid to late teens, and all were welcomed to the Troop 82 family. As we sat on a picnic table at Yawgoog Scout Reservation, Jennifer turned to me and said, "next time we have one of these reunions, we'll have one of our own running around." I'm looking forward to that and is just another reason I'm now eagerly awaiting the next get-together.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Fruity Holiday

Happy National Watermelon Day, everyone! As my wife will tell you, watermelon is, bar none, my absolute favorite fruit and it's worth putting up with hot humid summer days to get my hands on some. Which leads me to wonder...does every kid like watermelon? I hope so. Plus One will need to learn to like it, I expect, given the amount of the juicy delectable fruit is consumed around here.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A matter of degree

A thank you to Kate and Stephanie:

Thank you both for the great feedback to my In the Face of Statistics post. Your comments are extremely helpful as we think about how we want to proceed.

Part of this reassessment has been driven, in all honesty, by our own sense of impatience and a need for slightly less delayed gratification. However, the choices we made also were predicated on our desire to protect and nurture the child who will hopefully be entering our lives, even if we don't know who that child or her mother are right now.

Our initial placement profile with our agency, ANLC, included several highlights:
  • open to any race
  • preference for a girl (my wife says that she wouldn't have the faintest idea what to do with a little boy...I think she also likes little girl clothes better)
  • no smoking
  • willing to consider if the expectant mother had been drinking at some point (we figure that it's not unreasonable to expect that anyone might have a drink or two before she realized she was pregnant)
  • no hard drugs
  • no mental illness/disability or family history of schizophrenia, etc.
We're in our early 40s and I occasionally joke that we won't be getting extra points from the Russian judges based on degree of difficulty (yes, that's a joke, we know it will be challenging but absolutely worth it).

During our conversation with our new client account person, she made the observation that many of the choices above are not necessarily hard and fast yes/no or black/white answers but rather represent a spectrum of choices, a matter of degree.

As she remarked, we're already willing to consider something along that spectrum when it comes to drinking. If we said "no drinking at all", we immediately rule out the possibility of a placement with a mother who did have that beer or two before she got the news. Instead, by choosing the "willing to consider", it leaves our options open as well as increases the chance that an expectant mother who wishes to trust us will be able to do so.

We're now faced with considerations of a similar nature with smoking (neither of us smokes so like you, Stephanie, we'd be bringing our Plus One home to home with clean air) and mental disabilities (in ANLC's profile, apparently something like dislexia falls into the category). Are we willing consider a potential placement with those two factors present in some fashion? Are we going to stick to our hard and fast "no" on those?

In all honesty, we aren't sure. As part of our effort to put some "we're ready for Plus One" energy out into the world, we're beginning to talk to pediatricians to find one we trust and like. Those conversations include these topics as we try to get a better sense of what our decisions and choices might possibly mean to a baby who comes into our family.

Part of our decision is also to learn from other people who are facing the same questions, the same fears, the same brilliant and wonderful journey. Thanks, Kate and Stephanie, for sharing your thoughts. They are truly appreciated.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

In the face of statistics

According to our client account manager, 80% of expectant mothers who work with our chosen agency smoke throughout at least part if not all of their pregnancy in part as a response to stress. Seeing how our initial profile indicated we hoped to adopted from a non-smoking mother, we seem to have narrowed the potential number of expectant mothers who might select us pretty dramatically.

Our first client manager told us to consider loosening up on the “medical stuff” and accepting a child from a mother who is a heavy smoker because "really, the doctors we work with say that smoking doesn't really affect the babies all that much."

Our new client manager didn't actively promote this same change but she did make sure we understood the mathematics of the situation, recommended we speak with a pediatrician, and simply take this information into account in the event we decide to change our profile.

I'm curious...have other people run into this same issue? What did your placement agencies recommend? What decisions did you make?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Dog Day Thoughts

It's been a while since I wrote.

I keep finding other things to do or not to do as the case may be. Either way, I appear to have gone on hiatus. I didn't really mean to do so. It just happened. Things got busy. I got lazy...or apathetic...or I don't know what. The compulsion to write anything anywhere seems to have melted away in this god-awful heat and humidity.

After we had our conversation with our new client account manager at the adoption agency, I thought I'd be all fired up to write about it.

Hmmmm...not so much.

The conversation was generally positive -- more info than we'd received in months, some positive feedback about the number of expectant moms who are looking at our profile, some thoughts on how we might want to consider altering our expectations to increase the odds -- but nothing is actually all that different on the adoption front.

Is positive news that doesn't really change anything actually news or is it just a series of statements that find no anchor and have no impact?

The act of putting oneself out there to be selected as an adoptive parent strikes me as akin to being a job seeker who never actually gets the job. You send out resumes, you even interview sometimes, but you never get the job and you never get feedback as to why not.

At least as a job seeker, you have the opportunity to put yourself physically and emotionally in front of the person doing the hiring for the interview. In the adoption process, you don't even get that level of anticipation. Your profile is out there -- your interview -- and you're being viewed and judged with no feedback on who is taking a look at you and why they aren't hiring you (as it were).

It's too bloody hot.

Friday, June 4, 2010


An acquaintance of mine isn't a fan of flying. It's not a fear of flying or heights per se but rather the fact that someone else is in control. "How do I know if the pilot got enough sleep or isn't paying attention because he's pissed off at his spouse?"

For me, I approach it the other way. I'm fine with flying because I'm willing to put my trust -- hopefully not woefully misplaced -- in the professionalism and experience of the pilots. I'll drive my car from point A to point B but when it comes to getting from point A to point Z in the shortest time possible, I'll defer to the pilots who have the skills and knowledge that I lack. I'll simply sit in my seat, read a book, munch on the peanuts, and ignore the occasional turbulence on the journey. I'm a bystander, a passive passenger as the pilots -- the experts -- do the work and I'm OK with that.

Unfortunately, I've discovered that we've become bystanders on our adoption journey with pilots I'm having doubts about, and I'm definitely not OK with that.

The first stage of our adoption process felt like a crazy, stressful, invigorating road trip without a complete or altogether legible map. We plunged into the research, plowed through tons of paperwork, wrote checks, and participated in home study meetings and adoption classes. It was up to us to complete our tasks, drive the schedule, maintain the momentum, always knowing that we would determine where we ended up and how we got there.

But once we turned over our profile information and photos to our selected adoption agency, we suddenly had nothing to do but wait. And wait. And wait. We knew this was going to be the case. Unfortunately, we expected to be a bit more...well...involved in the waiting.

Instead, we watched as our profiles were posted and then heard nothing. No updates. No input. No news. We've had to actively seek out every scrap of information and feedback that we've received. Again, I can handle that if that was how the process had been described to us by the adoption counselor (aka sales person). But it wasn't.

(Danger, Will Robinson, Danger! Frustrated Prospective Adoptive Parental Rant Ahead!)

My first frustration...We were told that the significant number of expectant mothers in their system meant that clients were averaging a 2-4 month wait. We’re now told, but only after asking about the process four months into it, that the average wait has been extended to 6-18 months. OK, I can understand that the situation changes but there's a nagging question in the back of my mind whether or not we were sold a bill of goods at the start. If so, it's a bit like falling for a used car salesman's "only driven by a little old lady on Sunday" pitch and we have no one to blame but ourselves for believing it.

Frustration #2...Despite being assigned a client liaison at the start (and then a new one three months later) we haven't received the promised guidance on what else we might do to increase our chances of being selected above and beyond a recommendation to consider loosening up on the “medical stuff” and accepting a child from a mother who is a heavy smoker because "really, the doctors we work with say that smoking doesn't really affect the babies all that much. So, y'know, it's something you could consider." (Really?! And what doctors might these be? Drs. Kevorkian and Doom? Thanks but I'll go with the subtle guidance provided by the Surgeon General's warning on the side of a pack of cigarettes.)

And the most recent frustration...Despite being promised a detailed review and assessment of our profile after the first three months, we received no news on how our profiles were being received or feedback on how we might improve them. However, being diligent participants in this process, we took it upon ourselves to review the materials posted to our various profiles and then make minor updates to reflect changes in our lives.

Sadly, removing the mention of our three cats and downgrading to only one following the deaths of two of our kitties this winter was one of those changes. Not so sadly, we removed the cheesy statement that the agency inserted without our permission about "drinking hot cocoa, watching snowflakes fall and building snowmen" as our winter activities. WTF! I don't think my wife and I have ever built a snowman together! (Wait a minute...maybe we're missing out on something there. Do snowmen have aphrodisiac qualities?)

So we made relatively minor edits to the profiles that had already been live on the various profiles for the last five months, sent them in, and received a "Thanks! We will update your profiles ASAP!" response.

OK, standing by. Patiently.

Two weeks later...

No changes.

So I send a very polite "Hi there. Just wondering when the changes we sent two weeks ago might be made" inquiry.

The response? We were added to the schedule and it typically takes two weeks to make the changes. (Apparently the profile person missed the irony that she was responding to a follow-up message that I sent more than two weeks after sending the profile updates.)

Sigh...(ok home stretch on the rant, I promise).

A few days later, I receive an update that the changes were made and the new photos were added. So again, being the diligent person and adoption non-bystander than I hope to be, I go online to see the new versions of our profile.

Hmmm...they seem to be a bit shorter than what we submitted.

Yes, they're definitely a lot shorter. Like 20% shorter as the opening paragraph is just gone. Wiped out. Not there anymore. Like Alderaan after the Death Star dropped by for a visit.

Hmmm...perhaps it was an error. But on all of our profiles?

So I send yet another inquiry, assuming that it was an oversight.

Nope. They made the decision to lop off 20% off of the message to expectant mothers that Jennifer and I put our hearts into.

Apparently, feedback from the expectant mothers was that the letters are too long so the agency's new policy is to shorten them up dramatically.

Now, if their marketing department feels that letters should be shorter, wouldn't it have made sense to tell us this when we sent in our proposed revisions to our letters? We would have been thrilled to rewrite what we'd sent, knowing that doing so could strengthen the appeal of our profiles and increase our chances of being selected. (See...doing our best not to be bystanders.)

Instead, the agency simply lopped off the first 20% of our letters. What's even more frustrating was that the only way I knew it had happened was because I visited our profiles to see which of the new photos we'd sent had been incorporated. As a professional writer, that didn't go over too well. I try not to get overly attached to stuff that I write for work, knowing that what emerges from the lengthy review process will no doubt be different from my initial draft. But I do take a certain pride of authorship in what I write for my personal use, especially when it's this personal.

Given that we'd taken the initiative to update and resubmit our profile letters, wouldn’t it have made sense for the profile people at the agency to take a look at what we sent and then reply with a “you know, before we post these, we’ve received some feedback based on what we’re hearing from birth mothers” message? Adding to the annoyance was the fact that none of the other profiles we checked out had similar cuts. They were all longer and had opening paragraphs in a similar vein to what was deleted from ours! So if we'd never sent in our profile updates, they wouldn't have made the changes?


So I wrote to the profile person and our client liaison (you know, the "sacrifice your hopes for a healthy baby because it doesn't matter if moms smoke like chimneys" liaison). I tried to be calm and respectful.

OK, I'll admit that I did back off a bit after my wife commented that perhaps I'd gone a bit too far over the snarky line (I was tempted to use something like my "Dr. Doom" comment above in the e-mail). I just wanted them to know how much we cared about what we were doing and that it didn't feel good to be left in the dark over and over. I ended with:

When my wife and I embarked on this journey, we were told by my father that this might possibly be the most important thing we’ll ever do. We believe that he is right. Based on our conversations with your past clients and with a member of your staff, we also felt confident that we were making the right decision to work with your agency. We still do, and hope that you will help us succeed in this journey. All we are asking for is a level of communication, support, and feedback that enables us to be a part of this process, not simply bystanders.

And then my wife and I went back to waiting.

It's been 36 hours. And there's been no reply.

Standing by...

************ Update...12 hours later ************

I returned home tonight to find an e-mail from the agency and our new client liaison who wants to spend some serious time talking with us to ensure that we're happy and feeling confident and satisfied with our adoption journey. Apparently Mrs. Marlboro is no longer with the agency. I don't know the details -- maybe she left of her own accord, maybe she was let go. If the latter, I am sorry she lost her job but on the flip side, adoption facilitation seems to be one of those "customer service is paramount" types of jobs and sadly, we weren't getting it from her.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


I woke myself in the wee hours of Memorial Day, starting up from a dream. In it, I had been holding a little girl of Asian descent named Molly who had just been placed in my arms. She was going to be our daughter. It felt so excruciatingly good and right and I just couldn't bear to continue. I forced myself awake. I couldn't sleep much after that.


I've tried not to think about the adoption process as much lately as time keeps passing. Apparently, my subconscious feels differently. I'm not sure where the little girl's Asian background came from (though we are open to any race in our domestic adoption) and for some reason my brain latched onto the name of my mother's cat. Who knows why. All I know is that the joy I felt in my dream almost hurt, it was so extraordinary. And it was only a dream. What will it feel like for real? Tempered with a healthy dose of fear, no doubt. That part was blessedly missing from my nocturnal musings.

Still, I'm trying not to think about it, though deep down, I suppose some some fanciful part of my brain hopes that my dream is a portent of things to come. If it was, hopefully those things won't take too long to get here.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Revisit, revise, rewrite

Four months after our profiles went live on three different sites managed by our agency...spent a little time today rereading our profile answers and birthmother letters with an eye toward updating and refreshing them.

It was odd rewriting the sections where we previously discussed our three cats, two of whom sadly passed away in the time since we wrote our "birthmother letters" and other information. Other than that, not much else needed to change except a sentence that we hadn't written but our agency apparently inserted about watching snowflakes and building snowmen in winter, apparently to round out the seasons because we'd mentioned fall, spring, and summer. Yeah, that had to change. Not sure how we missed that one on the original review.

Other than that, there was a phrase here and there, some other minor updates, but in the grand scheme of things, we're the same people with the same interests, ideals, and beliefs that we were when we wrote these documents last winter. Time has simply moved on.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Not going it alone

During my 1-month hiatus from writing on this blog, all manner of adoption news raced across the front pages. Most focused on Torry Hansen, the Tennessee nurse who sent her 7-year old adopted son back to Russia alone with a note declaring that she could no longer cope with the child she'd brought home, along with Russia's subsequent freeze on all adoptions to U.S. families (a freeze that was since denied/lifted).

Amidst all of the blaring headlines, panicked postings, and vilification of Ms. Hansen, I was particularly struck by this column written by KJ Dell'Antonia, a mother of three, including a little girl from China. Her discussion of the challenges faced by adoptive parents and children, including the false expectation (myth?) that all will be happiness and light when adopted parents and children come together, is one that I found particularly powerful as we go through a similar process, though on a domestic basis rather than an international one.

Like me, Hansen must have thought she was prepared. She was screened, questioned, and evaluated. She would have sat through the mandatory "adoption education" session on institutionalized children featuring descriptions of sexual and other abuses, violent anger, and unpredictable procedural delays. She would have filled out forms, she would have been evaluated by social workers, and, because of Russia's strict travel requirements, she would have traveled there twice—the first time to meet the child she would adopt, and again, after a waiting period, to confirm her commitment to parenting him and to legalize their ties. But prospective adoptive parents are either incorrigible optimists (that was me) or people of deep and abiding faith, and it does not really sink in with most of them that things might end badly—might really end badly—until it is too late.

I started writing this blog, separate from my other "regular" blog, because I wanted a place to share my experience as a prospective adoptive dad. It's a perspective that I found to be rather rare in the blogosphere, at least compared to the avalanche of brilliant (and some not so much) blogs written by adoptive moms (here's where I insert a shameless plug for my wife's phenomenal blog) and birth moms.

But writing this blog and reading the others out there has also introduced me to a growing virtual community that helps me get a better understanding of what other people are going through, how they cope, how their lives have changed, and what we might expect. This is a powerful resource we need to take full advantage of if we're to move through this journey as smoothly as possible.

I wonder what Torry Hansen had in the way of support. Did she have resources to help her and her child? Perhaps they did but the difficulties eventually became just too overwhelming. I feel for Hansen as well as for the troubled son she put on a plane to Russia. I'm approaching our adoption in the "incorrigible optimist" camp but do so knowing that we have a remarkable support network of family and friends (both real and "virtual") who will be there to aid, advise, and encourage. I can't imagine trying to do this alone. Thankfully, we won't have to.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

No such thing as normal

Screw it...yesterday I said I was trying to put thoughts of the adoption aside and take a Zen "if you don't look for it, it will find you" approach. I lied.

Sure, the adoption process is not front and center as it was every day as we worked to get our home study done, but it's there, it's a part of my life and I'm embracing it. I'm just tired of it taking so long, especially when we were given indications early on that the normal timing going through our chosen agency was shorter than it's been so far.

However, there's no such thing as normal and I just need to accept that. Helping me along was this great article on about the myth of developmental milestones and calendars for children. Things happen in their own time and wishing for it won't rush it, any more than you can rush a kid's teething or potty training.

Actually, does anyone know of a way to rush those milestones along? I'd really like to know before it's our turn to deal with them.

And we will be dealing with them sometime soon. I do believe that.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Marking Time

Time passes.

...twelve months since we made the decision to adopt.

...eleven months since the adoption agency representative told us that adoption placements through their agency were typically taking three months or so months since we signed the agreement to work with the agency, spurred on in part due to discounts on certain options due to a large number of birth mothers seeking adoptive families

...three and a half months since our profiles were posted.

...a month since my last entry on this blog.

...two weeks since our new adoption advocate told us that adoptions through the agency are typically taking six to eighteen months (the same advocate who told us that we could speed things up if we accepted a child whose birth mother smoked throughout the pregnancy because, really, smoking doesn't actually affect children that much).

I'm tired of looking at the calendar. I'm tired of wondering if today will be the day we get THE CALL. I'm tired of seeing families with little children, some of whom are most likely adopted, and feeling a void in my life. I'm tired of not having anything new to tell our friends, family, and co-workers when asked I'm asked the same well-meaning and caring question.

"So, how are things going with the adoption?"
"Oh, we're in waiting mode. Our profiles are up and we're just waiting to be selected."
"Well, I'll be thinking/praying/hoping/keeping my fingers crossed for you."

Lately though, things have changed. If I'm not asked for an update, I now go whole days now without thinking about the adoption process. I don't remember the last time I referred to "Plus One." I'm setting aside our hopes and dreams of bringing a child into our family because it can be too hard to have it in the front of my mind all the time. Instead I focus on trying to deal with stuff at work, finding time to deal with the gardens, figuring out just how we're going to restore our basement from THE FLOOD several weeks ago.

Instead of thinking about our aching wish for a child, I am trying to put this out of my mind. Perhaps taking a Zen approach will help. If I stop thinking and hoping and searching for our future child, the child will find us when we least expect it.

The problem is that I don't want to forget. I don't want to stop thinking about it. For many years, I was resigned to the idea that I wouldn't have children, that Jenn and I would instead be vicariously enjoying and sharing in the lives of our friends' children and of our nieces. I had comes to terms with that over time. But now, there is the prospect of something more, something that I expect will be profoundly challenging and terrifying and fulfilling.

I don't want to waste any more time.

We only have so much of it to share with those we love.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


With the passage of the health care reform act earlier this week comes additional welcome news for adoptive families:
  • The maximum credit was increased from $12,150 to $13,170
  • The credit is extended through December 2011.
Apparently, it's also rather complicated so I guess I'll be reading up on the details and hoping that Turbo Tax can help out.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Real life intruding in the online realm

I can't help but be appalled by the news of the South Korean mother and father who allowed their 3-month old child to starve as they obsessed over an online game and their virtual child. Yes, both parents had lost their jobs and their daughter was premature but to never have named the child? To have only stopped by sporadically to give her powdered milk? To have lost themselves so completely within an online world that they allowed their child to die here in the real world?

Tragic isn't the right word here. Sure, we use tragedy to describe events that cause suffering, death or destruction. The loss of life in Haiti and Chile were tragic situations.

But these parents and the thoughtless death of their child in favor of a virtual child named Anima?

Horrifying is the word I would use.

I think of how long and hard my wife and I have worked in the hopes of bringing a child into our family. I think of friends and family and those we've met through their stories on their blogs and their efforts, the tears, the heartache, and the joy that comes from trying to get pregnant or adopting and eventually succeeding. I think of how much I will treasure every moment when Plus One enters our lives. Hell. I even treasure those right now as we wait hopefully day after day, knowing that eventually our family will be blessed by a new arrival.

The idea that you could bring a child into your life and then be so careless, so disconnected, to permit your child to die is beyond my comprehension.

Our friends joke about the hoops we've had to jump through, the seemingly endless process, the legal maze that we must navigate to prove that we are suitable and prepared to be parents and how it's more involved than getting a mortgage and certainly not as much fun as the whole "having sex and getting pregnant" way of having a child.

But on the flip side, I see the stories about kids have babies, children who grow up in neglect, children who are abused, and I wonder if we might be better off if the act of becoming a parent actually was harder than getting a driver's license or a puppy from the pound or buying a gun.

No, I'm not really advocating that all prospective parents should be required to pass through the same legal path that my wife and I are following but I'm baffled by people who can bring children into this world and then go out of their way to ignore them, to hurt them, to allow them to pass almost unnoticed.

Sadly, accidents happen. We all know that. Horrifying mistakes can be made. I remember sitting at my desk, shaking, with tears in my eyes after reading Gene Weingarten's Washington Post story, "Fatal Distraction," a heart-wrenching look at the tragic, accidental deaths of infants who were forgotten in a hot car by busy, distracted parents and how the legal system responds.

This article was published six weeks before my wife and I decided to make the adoption journey. At that time, I didn't think that I would ever have the opportunity to be a father. I couldn't imagine what those parents were going through -- the sense of loss, the sense of responsibility, the sense of guilt, the sense of failure. All I know is that simply the thought of such a loss almost makes me physically ill. Part of me also couldn't imagine how a parent could have been so careless, so forgetful, as to have allowed that to happen. But then I see my everyday life with phone calls and e-mails and deadlines and I realize I've got no right to take on a "holier than thou" attitude and just have to reflect on how lucky we all are that horrible events like this don't happen more often.

It's because as parents and as prospective parents, most of us bring children into this world or into our families because of an abiding and profound sense of love and responsibility. We enter into an unspoken pact with our spouse, our family, our friends, and with that tiny child: we are here to nurture, to protect, to teach, to guide, and to love. And that's why the stories Gene Weingarten told are so devastating (as is his own admission) -- because those parents entered that pact and were doing everything they could to live up to it and something went catastrophically wrong.

And that's why the death of that 3-month old little girl in South Korea is so horrifying -- because the parents couldn't bring themselves to care and instead sought an escape within an online world with fake monsters and shiny awards that can never measure up to the real world and the real monsters who sit at the keyboard for 12 hours a day engrossed in the game.

And with that, I'm going to shut down my computer, ignore the TV, and go give my wife a hug and look forward to a time when I can spend time with Plus One in the here and now. I hope you'll all take some time to do the same.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

82, 146, 22

Wow, has it really been a month since my last post here?

February was busy and Olympic fever settled in around our home for two solid weeks (still kicking myself for missing the gold medal match in Men's think I jest but you are oh so wrong). Work maintained its typical insane pace with occasional spikes of deadline-induced craziness just for a touch of variety. We saw friends and family, played cards, got caught up on various shows gathering dust in the DVR, and enjoyed a quick getaway to Boston.

And didn't do anything adoption-wise.

After months of effort, we finally got everything completed -- paperwork, profile information, photos, the whole shebang -- and then we were left with nothing to do. Sure, there's stuff we need to do around the house to prepare but with everything else going on, repainting the guest room just didn't make it too high on the priority list.

In truth, it's been pretty nice to just let the adoption initiative slide into the background for a little while after the intense adoption-related efforts that went on so long. That doesn't mean we haven't been thinking about it. On an almost daily basis, one of us gets asked by a friend, colleague, or family member "so what's new on the adoption?"

So far, the answer has remained the same -- we're just waiting right now. Our profiles are up but there's nothing really for us to do until we're a) picked by an expectant mother or b) three months passes and we then re-evaluate our profile in collaboration with the placement agency.

So far, zero expectant mothers have picked us and we've got 6 weeks to go before we revisit our profile information.

That doesn't mean, of course, that we aren't visiting our online profiles on a regular basis, well one of them at least. While our placement agency has posted our profile on three different sites, we have access to the visitor information for just one of them at this point. There's really nothing special about that access...the site and our profile look exactly as they would to a visitor to the site, we can't make changes, and we can't add new photos.

But we can see how many people have visited and in a lull like this, with little news and nothing to do, watching those numbers creep up is the only sign of progress, the only sense that something is happening in the adoption.

82 in January
146 in February
22 so far in March

As the numbers rise, I'll be honest that my feelings are mixed.

"Yay, someone is taking a look at us and the more people who do, the better the chance that we'll be picked!"

"A lot of people have viewed our come no one has picked us yet? Is there something wrong with us?"

Of course, we might have already been picked but just weren't told. The way things work is that when an expectant mother picks us, the agency reviews our profile and hers and if something doesn't match, we'd never know. "Oops, sorry, miss but you're horribly allergic to dogs and cats and your baby might be as well? Might not be a good fit because this couple loves to have pets as part of the family. Please pick again."

But people are coming to at least this one profile, which is a good thing. Who they are, we have no idea. Expectant mothers? I hope so. Other couples considering adoption or working on their profiles? Almost certainly (that's what we know, just to scope out the friendly competition). Friends and family trying to find our profile to see what we wrote and what pictures we posted? Maybe but hopefully not many because we don't want to skew the numbers.

They're all we've got right now to measure the progress being made.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Haiti revisited

Following up on my last post about concerns re: child trafficking in Haiti...

I've been following the story about the American Baptists who were arrested as they tried to cross into the Dominican Republic with 33 children. Initially, it seemed like there were just issues of communication and the general consensus was that they were trying to do a good thing, though certainly going about it in the wrong way.

Now, as the 10 Americans are jailed and charged with kidnapping and criminal association, other bits of information are trickling out that seem to raise additional questions:
Group leader Laura Silsby has said they were trying to take orphans and abandoned children to an orphanage in the neighboring Dominican Republic. She acknowledged they had not sought permission from Haitian officials, but said they just meant to help victims of the quake.


Several parents of the children in Callebas, a quake-wracked Haitian village near the capital, told The Associated Press Wednesday they had handed over their children willingly because they were unable to feed or clothe their children and the American missionaries promised to give them a better life.

Their accounts contradicted statements by Silsby, of Meridian, Idaho.

In a jailhouse interview Saturday, Silsby told the AP that most of the children had been delivered to the Americans by distant relatives, while some came from orphanages that had collapsed in the quake.

I'm not saying that these people rise to the level I would have defined as "evil" in my last post on the topic. I reserve that for those who would steal away children to exploit them or profit by them. Nevertheless, when you read:
  • that Silsby didn't believe that the children turned over to her were either orphans or brought by distant relatives,
  • that parents have clearly come forward about their children, and
  • an acknowledgment by that those children without parents might be have been put up for adoption
it does send a chill down my spine to think that an act of misguided and haphazard charity could have come so close to permanently separating children from their families.

As a prospective adoptive dad, I think long and hard about how our hoped-for Plus One will join our family. Thankfully, based on what I've read and experienced thus far, the adoption process and the people who work with the expectant mother (or orphans) and the adoptive parents are, by and large, doing things the right way and for the right reason to the benefit of the expectant mom (and perhaps dad), the child, and the adoptive parents.

However, there is still an element of the wild west out there in countries like Haiti and elsewhere. It's incumbent upon us, as participants in the process, to ensure that every step reflects the highest level of honesty, ethical behavior, and truth. Without it, there can be no trust and our families will be built upon a unstable, dangerous, and tragic foundation.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Adoption nightmares in Haiti

My mother called last night as she and my stepfather watched the Hope for Haiti Now telethon.

"I know it's not really what you were planning on but maybe you should consider adopting a child from Haiti."

I'm not quite sure how to respond.

"If I was 25 years younger, I think I would do it," she says.

"I'll go turn on the telethon, Mom," I reply.


The scope of the Haitian tragedy is, quite frankly, beyond my capacity to truly comprehend. I don't think the human mind is designed to wrap itself around death and destruction of this magnitude, even if you're sitting there in the middle of it. I see the photos, the videos, hear and read the stories, and it's overwhelming. Part of you just wants to say "This can't possibly be real." After all, we've all seen death and destruction on a grander scale in the movies and really, no one was actually hurt. But it is real. It's just so overwhelming.

But then you reduce the scope of your view, see the individual stories and the tragedy becomes far more tangible if no less horrifying. Truthfully, by narrowing your view the reality becomes almost more harrowing as it's easier for those of us safe and secure in our homes to put ourselves in one person's shoes rather than comprehend the horror inflicted upon millions.

As a prospective adoptive dad, the stories of the children and families have resonated most deeply for me. Amidst the wreckage, and death that now engulf Haiti, aid and government workers are overwhelmed as they try to cope with a flood of displaced children -- 45% of the population is under the age of 15 and UN observers estimate that 40,000 to 60,000 children were killed, orphaned or separated from their families. At the same time, adoptive parents in the U.S. and Europe struggle to find out the status of the children they'd hoped to bring home to join their families. The process is at a standstill as the country, its infrastructure, its social and government organizations all collapse.

Sadly, with this tragedy and the true agony of the children and adoptive parents comes a darker side. UNICEF and other international aid organizations are now calling for a halt to all adoptions in Haiti with the exception of those for which the paperwork was largely complete. Why? Because of the tremendous risk of child trafficking either with orphans or those children do have families and simply who hope to be reunited with them as the chaos is controlled. The threat is real -- UN workers have reported "people driving to the airport in expensive cars and putting children on outgoing flights without any documentation."

As if the tragedy in Haiti wasn't already horrific enough, these children continue to suffer due to the actions of evil men. I know "evil" is a strong word and one that can be tossed around a bit too easily but I do believe that it applies to those adults who knowingly take these and other children, whether it is to make money posing as legitimate adoption agencies or to exploit these children through the 21st century equivalent of slave labor or in the sex industry.

With time, effort, and funds, the lives of these children will hopefully improve and Haiti will be rebuilt in some fashion. Adoptive families will hopefully be able to bring their new family members home and aid will flow to the children who remain. However, it will be a long process and they need our help. If you haven't already done so, I urge you to please consider making a donation to the Haitian relief efforts now. You might not be able to make a large donation but for the people of Haiti, many of whom have nothing left, a little from each of us will add up.

Friday, January 15, 2010

And two more makes three

We've received word that our two remaining online profiles went live today AND that the long-delayed final home study report is being sent to our placement agency on Tuesday!

Great progress in the last few days.

And now we wait...

Thursday, January 14, 2010

OK, now it gets real

Holy cats! Our first profile page is now live with photos, a slightly modified version of our "Expectant Mother" letter (shockingly, the agency's edits didn't include changing the greeting to "Dear Birth Mother"), and some profile information. We're now out there in the wide world for expectant mothers to look at, consider, and hopefully choose.

Wow, this just got a whole lot more real!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Fear and Exhilaration

I've been thumbing through one of the Christmas gifts I received from my wife this year, a humorous yet extremely helpful book called "The Baby Owner's Manual: Operating Instructions, Trouble-Shooting Tips, and Advice on First-Year Maintenance". It's a perfect fit for me, catering to my overdeveloped geek side by writing about the care and handling of a newborn as if it could all be summed in a snarky manual for a cool new cell phone.

Snark aside, I'm finding it to be far more interesting and helpful than the massive tomes that traditionally pass for parenting guides, like the classic "What to Expect..." series, which I find absolutely overwhelming, not to mention tremendously boring. I'll use "What to Expect..." as a "hmmmm...I'd better look this up" resource but you're not going to find me sitting down and reading it from front to back. My tolerance for dry and dusty and, quite frankly, dull is limited.

All that aside, as I've been reading the Baby Owner's Manual and other books, I've become more and more cognizant of all that can go wrong. It's actually moderately terrifying. Diseases, household appliances, psychos in the outside world, all of them just lurking to ambush our child at some point in the future. Hell, the Owner's Manual even goes so far as to point out that you need to make sure to vacuum regularly to prevent bad things from being inhaled, licked, swallowed, etc.

Great, now I have to worry about kitty fur balls as deadly weapons.

And then there's the idea that when we come home with Plus One, it's all on us. Sure we'll have friends and family to support and guide us but really, the onus is on us to keep the child safe and healthy and I'll do whatever it takes to make certain of that. I have no doubt that luck will also play a large part in that and sometimes, it's better to be lucky than good. But I know that I'll be saying a prayer of thanks at the end of each day if major bodily, emotional, and psychological harm has been avoided.

Friends with more that one child routinely tell us "don't learn that kids bounce" and other flip comments like that. They tell of how they were focused like laser beams on every aspect of child #1's life and food, etc., but that when kids 2, 3, and more came along, it turns into "sure Johnny, go ahead and eat that twig, fiber's good for you!" But I know that deep down, whether it's child 1, 2, or 10, they must feel that same fear that their child will be hurt by something they can't anticipate or a stupid accident or, god forbid, a "bad person." Of course kids get hurt and bumped and bruised and scared. That's one way they learn. As a parent, you might understand that concept but it damn sure doesn't mean you have to like it.

I wonder about living with that fear, what it will be like to be entirely responsible for the life of a small person and constantly wondering if you're good enough or smart enough or observant enough to protect them. I also wonder if it ever stops. Did my parents lived with a kernel of fear when I went off to Boy Scout camp every summer or when I sailed over the horizon on a tall ship when I was 19?

However, I've also seen the smiles and heard the laughs that come from my sister and her husband, or my best friends E and J with their two kids and I know that I can live with that fear. I can deal with the worry and the fretting and the waking up in the middle of the night just to sneak into Plus One's bedroom to reassure myself that she's OK because the exhilaration, the joy, and the wonder of being a parent and being on the receiving end of those smiles and laughter will make it all worth it.

But I'll still keep the Owner's Guide handy. You never know when a good reference book and a healthy dose of snark might be useful.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A bright spot

Shortly after returning home from the vet where I received the news that our cat, Forest, like her late step-sister Annabel, is ill with inoperable cancer, I found the following message awaiting me in my e-mail InBox:


We have enough marketing material to build your three web profiles!

This will take approximately 2-3 weeks and you will be notified by email when your webpage is LIVE.

Thank you for your hard work, dedication and never losing momentum during this portion of the process.

Good luck in your adoption journey.

At least there's one bright spot in an otherwise awful day.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Progress? Maybe? Please?

With the start of the new year, hopefully we've started to get back on track when it comes to the adoption process after two months of frustration and bureaucratic delays.

First, we finally received the draft of our home study report about two months after we expected it. Thankfully, upon review, there were only minor factual corrections from our end. Of course, what would the adoption process be without previously unknown paperwork requirements cropping up at the last minute. Well, they weren't really unknown...they were simply requirements that our home study agency assured us in June that they would be taking of on our behalf.

Not so fast, little buckaroo! It turns out that:
  1. they hadn't gotten around to submitting the child abuse background checks to two states this summer or fall, and
  2. not only did we have to fill out the forms but there were additional administrative charges to go along with them

All this came to light in the days immediately before Christmas leading to a severe case of "bah humbugism" on my behalf when it came to the whole home study effort. Now those (hopefully) final forms have been submitted and barring some additional administrative rabbit hole, our home study final report should be ready to go in the next week or so.

And on the placement agency side of things, the saga of the "we need more than the 60 photos you've already provided to us because they don't match our cookie cutter templates" may also be drawing to a close thanks to a number of recent gatherings with family and friends and a concerted effort to remember to bring our camera. A suitable number of couple photos, entertaining photos, etc., were snapped.

Of course, all were taken without any sign of the many kids in our family because as we all know, photos of adoptive parents having loads of fun with their nieces and friends' children won't actually illustrate that the adoptive parents are good with kids but will instead confuse expectant mothers by making them think that the adoptive parents already have children.

Apparently, in the eyes of our placement agency, expectant mothers won't actually read captions or the multiple letters to the birth mothers that we wrote, all of which say that we don't have kids and can't wait to bring one into our family. Go figure.

But hey, I'm not the adoption professional so what do I know?

Hmmmm...perhaps a bit of that bah humbugism is lingering.

Nevertheless, with the last of the photos sent, the home study report almost final, and the last background checks requested, it's very possible that our adoptive parent profiles could be up and available for consideration by expectant mothers in as little as 10 to 14 days.

I think that's when I'll start to get nervous because then we're really out there. Someone may read our letters, review our stunning array of photos, and decide that, yes, these are the people I want to trust with my child. That's an idea that does freak me out a bit but when it happens, my oh my but that will make for a very happy new year!

And in the meantime, we'll just keep smiling in case we need to take more photos.

Well, if you've got to take some good pictures for an adoption profile, you might as well get into the holiday spirit and strike a heroic pose when you do it