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Saturday, June 30th
How did our parents raise children without technology?  I mean, I still can’t figure out how we all got along without a remote control for our television?!  Did we really get out of the chair to change the channel?  Hard to fathom. We have lots of gadgets.  We have the Evenflo Whisper Connect Two Way Baby Monitor.  It’s basically a two way radio that lets you monitor the baby’s room for crying.  But you can also use it like an intercom to call downstairs if you’re up there and need someone to bring something up to you (although it didn’t work so well today when I wasn’t quite paying attention and finally heard John hollering at me to bring him up a clean pacifier.  Oops).  Anyway, I keep the radio next to the bed at night and can hear Caden when he starts to fuss for his bottle.  It picks up sounds pretty well, depending on how loud you turn it up.  You hear all the grunts and coo’s which is pretty cute.

And then of course we had to buy a camera and monitor.  This thing is actually pretty handy.  We keep the monitor next to the bed too.  It’s helpful because you can see what he’s up to.  Not that he is moving around too much yet, but if you hear some fussiness, you can check the facial expression to see how serious the fussiness is going to get.  You know, certain sounds matched with certain facial expressions mean that the kid is heading toward melt down.

On the two nights (so far) when Caden slept all night, I used the monitor in my fleeting moment of panic when I thought SOMETHING WAS WRONG.  (Yes, you’ve all done it!)  It’s one of those catch 22 situations where the restful sleep you just got from your child sleeping all night just got ruined by the massive adrenaline jolt your system gets because you can’t possibly believe that your child just slept all night, i.e., IS MY CHILD STILL BREATHING?!  Anyway, the camera is great for that!  “Whew!  He is still breathing. Holy crap…how did that happen? Since when does he sleep all night?!  Ok, Ok, I can lie back down and catch my breath … and maybe even doze off again after this adrenaline burns off from my veins.” 

Why can’t they just make a cheap heart monitor that we can all buy and hook onto on our kid for the first three months?  I’d buy one.  Not that I’m paranoid or anything.  It would just bring peace of mind.  But then again, it would be yet another gadget.

We also bought this little timer called an Itzbeen.  It counts down from the last time you fed, changed the diaper and it times how long the kid sleeps.  You can even time how long it’s been (get it … it’s been) between poops.  I’ve found it to be pretty useful to time how long it’s been between feedings.  I’m not sure any of it means anything because he still cries when he is hungry, but at least I get to say, “Oh, well, now he is eating every TWO hours, instead of every THREE hours.”  As if that matters. 

Gadgets can be fun, silly and sometimes even useful.  I think sometimes as we use gadgets and other tools to help us save time and become more efficient, we still have even less and less time available to us in our lives.  Both John and I have had to make a couple of “hard stops” in the past two weeks since Caden came into our lives.  We’ve recognized the fact that we need to keep reminding ourselves to slow things down whenever possible and try to put time on our side.  Caden is already growing and changing so fast.  I don’t want to look back at this time and feel like we blinked and missed something.  You’ve got to remind yourself to wake up every morning, take a deep breath and approach the day with eyes wide open.  Despite the fact that we’ve all got “to-do” lists a mile long, we can’t forget the most important priority of spending quality time with families and loved ones.

Y ¯ [ ÿ

 

Friday, June 29th
We have a cat.  Actually, a couple of cats.  OK, we have 7 cats.  Actually, they are kittens.  Now before you call the SPCA, CPS or the Sesame Street police, let me explain.  It’s a little bit of a long story but I promise to try to keep it brief.  John and I used to have two cats – for more than 14 years – that died of old age in the past year.  They were like members of our family and we were a wreck when they died.  We love pets and couldn’t see ourselves without having a cat or a dog in the future.  We thought about how we could approach getting another pet.  We really don’t have enough room for a dog, so we decided to get another cat or two.  Since Caden had not yet entered our lives at that point and we were still waiting for an adoption to become a reality, we decided to volunteer with a local animal rescue agency to foster orphaned kittens during the height of the upcoming kitten season.  We figured we could adopt one or two kittens from one of the litters we would foster. 

Within about a week, the phone rang and we were asked if we would be willing to take in a pregnant cat that had been hit by a car earlier that week and suffered a broken leg.  She was dropped off at the local animal shelter by her owner.  The cat’s owner refused to pay for any of her veterinary care but also refused to surrender her, so the pregnant momma cat was stuck there in the animal shelter in limbo for more than a week.  Our agency, Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary, eventually rescued her before she was euthanized.  Unfortunately, while she was there she also picked up a nasty respiratory infection. 

She was dropped off at our house with a big giant belly, a broken back leg and the sniffles.  The cat, which the agency named Gracie, was probably only about 8 months old herself.  She was so sweet and wonderful.  She seemed so grateful that we were taking care of her and showed so much love and affection.  A week later she delivered a litter of three kittens.

Within about three days, all of her kittens caught the upper respiratory infection and despite our best efforts to nurse them all back to health, two of the three kittens died.  The sole survivor, her little runt, was a tiny little calico kitten that recovered and turned out to be a very sweet little soul that we named LuLu.  We have since renamed Gracie too.  For whatever reason, the name just never seemed to fit her personality.  She was such a doting mother.  We needed a mother’s name.  She was such a … Marge.

Marge and LuLu have been inseparable ever since and – they’ve stolen our hearts.  We decided to adopt both of them despite the fact that we’re supposed to just be their foster parents. 

By the time LuLu was about 5 weeks old, I told the agency that we could probably take another litter if they needed us to.  I think we got a call by the next day.  A litter of five 4-week old kittens had been found in a dumpster just that morning.  Two black and white kittens and three all-black kittens.  We will foster these guys until they are ready for adoption in about 5 weeks. 

All seven of these cats have been such an incredible bunch of buddies since they came into our home.  Despite the fact that we are only keeping two of them, we have welcomed all of them into our home for a feeling of safety, security, warmth and definitely lots of food and water.  In return, they’ve given us back such amazing amount of gratitude and love that I could have never imagined such a tiny little creature having such a huge heart and amazing personality.

And then Caden arrived.  While we were in San Bernardino for Caden’s birth, my mom came to the house and managed the “Loony Bin”.  Now that we are home with Caden, we have an incredibly beautiful baby, a very cool mama cat and six incredibly fun little kittens all under one roof.  It’s about as much cuteness as you can fit in one place.  We laugh and smile all day long.

When we got home with Caden, we weren’t quite sure how the kittens and Marge were going to react to him.  From the moment she saw him, it seemed that Marge’s maternal instincts kicked in.  Of course, we always monitor who is around Caden and we never allow a cat to get close to him without supervision, but Marge seems to be the most in love with the baby.  In the middle of the night when Caden starts to fuss a little bit in his room, Marge will immediately proceed to our room, jump up on the bed, stand on my chest and meow at me until I wake up.  I keep telling her that I already have a baby monitor, but she seems to want to wake me up first.  She is my early warning system.  The conversation usually goes something like this:
Dave:        zzzzzzz.
Marge:      Meow (accompanied by heavy breathing in my face and fish breath).
Dave:        zzzzzzz.
Marge:      Meow.
Dave:        zzzzzz ... (snort) ... What Marge?
Marge:      Meow.
Dave:        Marge, he hasn't even started to cry yet ... I've only heard a few grunts.
Marge:      Meow .... purrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr ... Meow.
Dave:        Ah, Geez Marge, can't we wait until he cries some more?
Marge:      Meow. (Then she usually plants a wet willie on me or attempts a french kiss).
Dave:        Oh Alright!  I'll get up and feed him.  Come on, let's go (wiping my face as we go).
Then, when I get up to feed Caden, she follows me downstairs to warm up the formula, follows me back up stairs to feed him and rubs up against his feet while he sucks on his bottle.  She purrs the whole time louder than I’ve ever heard a cat purr before.  It’s pretty funny.

The little kittens are mostly cautious around Caden.  They are very interested in him but seem to keep their distance.  When they are allowed to get a little close (when we are holding him), they just want to sit next to him or sniff his feet.  They are all very gentle and purr up a storm. 

Unfortunately, our five foster kittens will be gone soon.  The adoption fairs started this weekend and they will likely get adopted soon.  It’s going to be hard to say goodbye to these guys.  They’ve been great houseguests and have brought more smiles and laughs to this household than we’ve had in a long, long time.  It is like slapstick comedy everyday around here.  We’re sure going to miss them but we look forward to seeing them adopted into homes that will take care of them forever.

When he is older, we will share the many pictures we’ve taken of them with Caden so that he can see the “house full’o kittens” that lived with him when he was first born.  We will teach Caden the importance of truly respecting animals as the living beings that they are.  Sometimes people treat their pets like “property” and don’t go the extra mile to really treat them with the extra care and dignity that they deserve.  We hope that Caden will grow up being able to treat animals with the same love and care that we do and articulate the importance of truly respecting animals to his friends and classmates by being a good role model.

Y ¯ [ ÿ

 

Thursday, June 28th
Caden had his first full melt down today.  Everything seemed to be going according to plan today and then it happened without any real warning.  We haven’t truly gotten him onto a “schedule” yet (if there is such a thing at this age) but his sleeping and eating patterns seem to be getting a little more predictable.  Mostly I’ve been trying to get him well fed and napped in the afternoon so that he is awake in the evenings when John gets home and hopefully so that he will start sleeping longer during the night.  Anyway, this afternoon he had his bottle and started to doze off.  For whatever reason, he seemed particularly “spirited” this afternoon despite having two very droopy eyes.  He slept for about 10 minutes and then woke up crying.  I picked him up and we walked around the house for a bit, rocking, trying to get back to sleep.

Suddenly, something clicked and this little baby started to lose control.  I began going down my checklist.  Well fed?  Check.  Clean diaper?  Check.  Too hot or too cold?  OK.  I checked everything I could think of and nothing was making sense for why he was so upset.  This was the first time I’d heard him really cry this hard – with guttural and audible anger to back it up.  Wow!  He’s not kidding around.  Time to fall back on our Happiest Baby on the Block training.  (1) Swaddling, (2) Shushing, (3) Suckling, etc.  I put all five things into place.  By the time I had him onto my lap and started to sway him a little bit, he went from a screaming crazy man to a smiling and quiet church mouse.  Thank God this technique works.  I almost passed out from shushing him so much, but it worked.  That would be my luck – the ambulance would come for me because I’ve hyperventilated and passed out on the floor.

I decided to cut Caden’s finger nails yesterday.  He’s really been scratching himself lately despite us putting long sleeves on him and socks on his hands.  Some books say to wait until they are three weeks old, but others say it is OK to do right away.  Our friend Beth bought us one of those cool little kits that have the baby nail clippers in it, so I got it out and waited for him to be asleep and still.  I couldn’t believe how nervous I got!  I mean, I’ve put tubes down people’s throats and needles into just about every part of the human body and here I am trembling because I’m about to cut my son’s finger nails.  It was actually trickier than I expected because their nails are so soft and it’s hard to tell their skin from their nails in some spots.  One of the nurses at the hospital told me that she tells mothers to bite them instead of cut them.  Uh, no thanks.  Anyway, Caden survived and he’s no longer scratching himself.  I survived too but it felt a little bit like starting my first IV all over again.

Y ¯ [ ÿ

 

Wednesday, June 27th
I think I’ve crossed over.  Already.  Crossed over into whatever world it is that perfectly sane adults go to after they have kids.  The one where they know how to talk that special form of gibberish and goo goo talk.  Plus, I’ve had children’s songs stuck in my head all day long.  And he’s not even listening to them yet!  We have a couple of little electronic toys that play music and they’re apparently already planting their subliminal tunes inside my brain.  Today it was “Skip skip skip to my Lou”.  ALL DAY LONG.  Oh Lord, I hope there is a support group out there for this.  I just couldn’t make it go away.  What’s worse is that I don’t really know the words to any of these songs yet so half the time I’m mumbling gibberish and half the time I’m making up my own words.  I looked over at Caden in the middle of one of my improvisations and he was staring at me with this disgusted look on his face as if to say, “Just what the hell are you saying Poppa?”  “Sorry, I promise I will learn the words Caden”, I told him. 

The goo goo talk does get a little silly after awhile.  I was listening to John talk to Caden last night and the pitch of his voice kept getting higher and higher the more he talked.  Finally I said, “Are you going to be able to keep up that tone of voice for five more years because you sound like you just took a hit off of a helium balloon.”  Talking goo goo with your normal voice does take practice. 

Talking to your infant in a way that feels comfortable at all just plain takes practice.  In some respects, I think it is kind of a fine line.  You don’t want to just talk goo goo all of the time.  You really do need to have meaningful conversations with them despite the dialogue being one-way right now.  On the other hand, you don’t want to become one of those parents (and you have all seen them) who sets an expectation with their kid that they’ll get a big long explanation for EVERYTHING whenever the kid asks something.  These are the parents who take the “but why?” question literally.  These parents need to realize that kids are somehow programmed in their little brains to ask this question over and over again.  It doesn’t mean you need to answer it every single time.

I was in Costco this morning and thought we would try some meaningful conversation.  As we went up and down the aisles, I told Caden about all of the things I was seeing and what they were for.  Trust me; I got a lot of funny looks from people.  But Caden seemed to really enjoy it and appeared to be quite engrossed.  And now he knows how much a 42” plasma television costs. 

Our friends Steve and Phil bought Caden the Rainforest Jungle Gym which arrived on our doorstep today.  It’s so cool!  Sometimes John and I get really excited about toys.  Whenever we buy something new (like a grown up toy), we usually get it home and fight over who gets to put it together and play with it first.  I can just see Caden sitting in the corner twiddling his thumbs while his two dads are fighting over who gets to play with his new toys first.  OK, we promise.  We will let him have first crack at them.  Anyway, he really loved the Jungle Gym.  He lies inside of it and it plays music (yes, “Skip, Skip…” is one of the songs!) and it has a bunch of different animals he can see and feel.  It also has lights that are synchronized with the music and nature sounds.

Y ¯ [ ÿ

 

Tuesday, June 26th
You knew it was coming.  It had to be brought up sooner or later.  After all, at this age babies pretty much only eat, sleep and… POOP.  Yes, let’s talk about poop.  Everyone has been telling us that baby poop at this age doesn’t smell and that it won’t smell until they start eating solid food.  Well, you’re all wrong!  For the first couple of days after he got home from the hospital, Caden was still having meconium poops, that dark greenish-black stuff.  As a paramedic, we actually know a lot about meconium because whenever you see it during the delivery of a baby in the pre-hospital setting it is usually a bad sign.  It usually means the baby was distressed somehow and will have to have his airway managed in a special way after delivery.  But in a normal case like Caden’s, his meconium poops were all normal and disappeared by about the fifth day.  Then the formula really kicked in and they started to turn yellow.  Explosive Dijon mustard yellow.  And they smell like stale
buttered popcorn.  Have you ever gone to see a movie at a really old movie theater that has probably just given up on mopping the floor near the popcorn machine?  I have and that is exactly what it smells like.  Sometimes it is stronger than other times but it is funny how everyone told us that his diaper would be “scent free” during this time.  Wrong.  All we can think about during diaper changing time is old movie theaters.  John says it reminds him of those buttered popcorn Jelly Bellies.  Eww.  I used to like those.

The good news is that Caden has slowed down to about one poop a day.  The pediatrician said that formula babies usually only poop about once a day.  That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have anything going on down there in diaper land.  This kid is the whiz and fart champion!  He is definitely proving to everyone that all of his parts and pieces are working just fine.  He manages to nail us with his super-soaker more than 50% of the time but we are getting better at gauging when it’s about to happen.  He tends to get really quiet (as if planning his attack) and then suddenly, BAM!  Watch out because this kid will get you almost every time!  He is supposed to have at least 5-6 wet diapers a day for us to know he’s maintaining good hydration.  Aside from his fire hydrant episodes, he seems to be right on target (no pun intended).  And being the big clinical weirdo that I am, I am writing it all down on what’s called an “In and Out” log.  It’s pretty self explanatory.  What goes in generally comes out – in one form or another.

Grandma Colleen was over to visit on Saturday and we all happened to be talking about baby gas.  Of course Grandma’s always have their pearls of wisdom they want to pass along and their volumes of advice.  She was holding Caden and telling us about this special technique you can use to help relieve a baby’s gas.  My sister Debbie and her son Connor were also there and we were all kind of talking to each other but simultaneously listening to Grandma Colleen as well.  She started to demonstrate.  “You just tuck the opposite shoulder down and the knee up and…” Before she could even finish, Caden let out the biggest fart I have ever heard.  We all stopped in dead silence for a moment not believing what we’d just heard.  Grandma then tucked the other shoulder and knee and Caden let out an equally loud fart.  In equal unison, we just burst out laughing.  We were in tears from laughing so hard.  And there was Grandma, sitting and smiling at Caden, proudly beaming with such satisfaction that her technique worked, probably thinking… “Now see, you should listen to Grandma more often!”  The best part of it all was that Caden seemed so downright refreshed afterward!

Enough bowel talk.  Everyone has been asking us what kind of formula we are using.  “Powdered”, I usually reply.  But that’s not what they are asking.  They want to hear that we are using some fancy new concoction of pasteurized milk from Genovese goats or vitamins from mineral mills in the mountains of Argentina.  Yea right.  Costco brand!  That’s what we’re using.  When you read all of the books, you find out that the federal government so highly regulates baby formula that it is all basically all the same no matter who makes it.  The experts say don’t waste your money on some fancy brand because it will be exactly the same as the cheap stuff.  Your choices these days are basically powdered or pre-mixed and with/without iron.  People seem surprised when we say we’re feeding our baby Costco formula, but it is really the same as the expensive Nestle or Simulac stuff.  We would never skimp on our baby of course but why throw money down the drain when you don’t need to?

We gave Caden a bath last night.  We’re still only able to give him sponge baths because his belly button stump has not fallen off yet.  They don’t want you to submerge it until it has completely dried up and fallen off.  He screamed during the whole bath.  He screams during his diaper changes too.  We’re not sure why.  Maybe he’s just modest?  He liked having his hair washed though.  As soon as John put his head under the faucet, he stopped crying and seemed to really relax.  Maybe he’s going to be a swimmer like me.

I had to quick run over to Target this afternoon to pick up a couple of things.  While we were there, I thought it would be cute to take a picture of Caden in front of their vast diaper aisle.  Well, the Target people didn’t.  I no more had the camera in my hand and up to my face and they swooped down on me.  “YOU can’t take photos in here!!” one of the workers barked at me.  I guess they thought I might be an undercover agent from K-Mart.  You know, with my shorts, flip-flops and 9-day old baby.  “Sorry”, I said sheepishly.  “Let’s go, Caden.  We’ve got shopping to do in another section.”  The last thing I would want is for us to be banned from Target!  God forbid.

Y ¯ [ ÿ

 

Monday, June 25th
John had to go back to work today, which sucked.  He could only take one week off from work at this point.  He just got a new job at Cisco Systems and had only been on the job for four days when Caden was born.  In some respects, it was good timing because he hadn’t gotten too deeply into things before he took the time off, but on the other hand, they were anxious for him to get started.  Hopefully he will be able to take some more time off later.  He doesn’t get Family Leave because you have to be employed for at least 12 months in order to qualify.

We were sad that he had to return today and couldn’t spend more time at home with me and Caden.  I am going to be a stay-at-home dad.  We made that decision pretty early on.  Both of us had very demanding jobs and we worked very long hours.  It just didn’t make sense for us to go through all of the trials and tribulations of adoption to then just continue that lifestyle and put Caden in daycare everyday.  It’s going to take some sacrifices but I think we’ll be able to swing it.  After 17 years in the same job, it felt good to part with it.  I’ve already gotten some offers to work part-time and do some teaching so that might work out great.

“So what do you think about going back to work tomorrow,” I asked John last night.  “Oh, I’d rather not!” he replied.  Well, of course not.  “I’d rather stay home with my little buddy,” he said with a certain amount of heartache.  I know.  I promised that we would make plenty of weekday trips to Cisco for a lunchtime visit.  And I printed him a framed picture to put on his desk.

I went to Office Depot today to pick up a couple of things to make Caden’s birth announcements.  He slept in his car seat the whole time.  We were standing in line waiting to check out and the woman behind me says in somewhat broken English, “Dis yur bebee?”  “Yes,” I smiled.  “She then showed a look of concern.  “The het!  It feld down!”  Caden’s seat was facing away from me so I wasn’t exactly sure what she was talking about.  I peeked over and he had slipped a little way down in his seat and his head had flopped over in the head supporter surrounding him.  Obviously this woman thought he might be ruined for life.  I just love when people have to point these things out to you when you’re out in public.  Do they really think he is going to break?  Do they really treat their own children with such overwhelming angst?  My reaction was, of course, a little sarcastic.  I said, “Oh my GOD!  Thank for you telling me!  I wouldn’t want him to bend his neck!”  She smiled like a hero as if she had just plucked away from the front of a speeding automobile.  Then she asked, “How olt da bebee?”  “Eight days,” I answered.  “OH MY GAHT!” she shrieked.  “BABY SO SHMALL!”  Is this happening because I’m a dude?  Would she be yelling at a woman in the same circumstances?  I smiled and chuckled and said “Bye Bye … have a good day now.”  Caden slept through it all, had a couple of well timed gas bubbles and grinned just as we walked past her.

I really do have to watch the sarcastic thing though.  As much as I love to rib people, this kid is going to start to pick it up when he is older and then we, his parents, are going to be the one’s paying the price!  I do want him to have a sense of humor, but an appropriate one.

A lot of people have been asking us where we are registered.  The whole registry thing feels a little weird. You know, to just gratuitously ask for gifts like that.  But that’s what you do I guess.  We registered at Babies R Us and Amazon.Com (they don’t just sell books there anymore).  You can click on the links to get directly to both registries.  We sincerely appreciate people wanting to buy Caden gifts.

Y ¯ [ ÿ

 

Sunday, June 24th
We went to church this morning.  It was a good test of whether we’re going to be those kinds of parents that are chronically late for everything because they have a baby, or whether we’re going to be able to plan ahead and allow sufficient time and arrive places on time.  I hate being late for things.  We did OK, but we’ve got to get our drill down better.  Maybe a checklist.  I always feel like I’m forgetting something. 

We attend a really great church called Christ the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church.  We found it just last summer so we have not been members that long.  I was raised in a Lutheran church and John grew up in a Catholic church.   No offense to the Catholics reading this, but they probably wouldn’t be very supportive of John and me, no less with us showing up with a stroller.  The Lutheran’s can have their hang-ups from time to time too; they are a mainstream religion after all.  But they are progressive thinking and the pastor in our church is wonderful.  Her name is Pastor Bea Chun and when we had an opportunity to have dinner with her and her husband about a year ago, John and I were amazed at how very current and healthy her philosophies are.  They resonate very well with today’s issues.  We don’t know a lot of members in the church yet, but we have become close to several folks.

We got there and loaded up Caden into his stroller.  (It’s a Rock Star Baby stroller; more on that later).  Anyway, we were hardly half way in the door and you would have thought it was the second coming of Jesus Christ.  As soon as people saw us, they were hooting and cheering and hugging us.  We were surrounded.  Not very many people in the church actually knew about it yet because we’ve kept the whole thing a secret up to this point, so there were a lot of people standing around who had no idea what all of the commotion was about.

This gives you a little bit of an idea what our church is like.  You walk into most churches in the morning before service and it’s very quiet and reverent and people just make their way to the sanctuary and sit down.  Not ours.  People are usually chatting and visiting and laughing.  I think sometimes the pastor has a hard time getting everyone to go in and sit down when it’s time to start because everyone is having such a great time visiting in the morning.

We went inside and found a place to sit down in the back, close to an exit door.  I figured this might be our spot for 10 years or more so we’d better pick it wisely.  There are a couple of other families who have already claimed real estate in the back of the church for their kids so I didn’t want to encroach on already claimed territory.

Would this be the day that I’d finally lose it and have all of my emotions flood out?  We’ll see.

The worship service started and just when you would expect Pastor Bea to go walking up the aisle toward the altar, she came running over to greet us instead.  She was beaming with excitement.  She was one person who was in on our adoption from the very beginning.  She has been such a great support for the past year, especially when the last adoption fell through in November.  She started the service and eventually got to the welcome and greeting.  Of course, first thing up was a special welcome of little Caden.  She seemed so excited that she could hardly get it out.  It was very nice.  It was the first time I’ve heard his full name announced in public.  His name is bigger than he is!

Caden didn’t make a peep the whole time we were in church.  He was awake for part of it and asleep for part of it but never made a fuss or a sound.  “Remember this day”, I thought to myself, “because it’ll probably never happen again.”  We do have a cry room at the church that is a sound proof room with a large window that still allows you to watch the service.  I’m sure we will spend our share of Sundays in there.

About half way through the service, one of our friends walked by and whispered in my ear, “You know there are going to be about 30 grandma’s wanting to hold him after this service.”  I laughed.  We were prepared for that.  No touching the baby this early please. 

It came time to go up for communion.  During communion, the pastor also gives blessings to small children who are not old enough to receive the bread and wine.  We got up with Caden and got in line.  I could feel that a lot of eyes were on us.  I felt so happy and proud at that moment.  Pastor Bea gently held her hand on Caden’s head and said a blessing.  He was awake and his eyes were wide open.  I cried.  It felt wonderful.

When the service was over, we made it exactly 4 feet from where we were sitting before we were surrounded again.  Everyone was so nice and sweet.  Most people had no idea that we were trying to adopt so there were a lot of questions about it.  Everyone was just so overjoyed for us.  We made it about another 8 feet and were surrounded again.  We got lots of advice and plenty of offers for help.  People were so nice.

In between the conversations, I stepped back for a moment and had to take a mental snapshot of this picture.  We were standing there talking to a very diverse group of people who ranged in age from 16 to 80 and from all walks of life and from all types of backgrounds and beliefs.  “This is what the world should be like,” I thought to myself.  It didn’t matter that we were two dads and that we just adopted a baby.  What mattered was that we were a loving, stable and happy family.  Hopefully someday all churches can have a scene like this where everyone is welcome and isn’t judged for who they are.  We belong to a very special church indeed.

We had guests coming over in a little while, so we had to leave.  We never made it into the hall for coffee fellowship.  That’s OK.  They weren’t serving Caden’s brand anyway.  Maybe next Sunday.

Caden is one week old today!  We were going to celebrate at 5:08 pm but we were all busy taking a nap.  Oh well.

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Saturday, June 23rd
Can you believe the Sharks traded Vesa Toskala yesterday?  I don’t think that was a very good idea.  The two goalie system was working well and they should keep using it.  Oh, sorry.  This is not a hockey Blog.  We’re huge hockey fans.  We have season tickets to the San Jose Sharks next year and plan to take Caden along to all of the games.  We’ll see if he becomes a hockey fan.  As long as he boos the Anaheim Ducks.

We were itching to get out of the house for a little while yesterday and needed some more long sleeve t-shirts for Caden, so we decided to load him up and head over to the Great Mall.  It’s this huge, weird mall that has mostly outlet stores.  When you first look at things there you get excited and think you’re going to find a lot of bargains, but in reality you almost always walk away buying nothing.  They have a Carter’s store there and a bunch of other baby stores so we wanted to check it out.

We went into a couple of baby stores and found some stuff we really liked.  There is this thing that happens when you are a new parent standing in a baby clothes store.  I don’t know, maybe it happens to everyone.  Everything is do damn cute and only costs like $7.99 or $9.99 that you can’t resist buying it.  Suddenly you’re carrying 29 items that you shouldn’t really be buying.  Finally, John was standing in line ready to pay for several outfits for Caden and we both came to a realization at the same time: we shouldn’t be doing this.  People are going to be buying him things and if we fill up his closet first, he’s going to be overflowing with clothes.  So, for as tempting as it is to buy something you think looks “cute” or “cool”, we decided to hold off for now.  We bought a couple of plain white t-shirts and that was it.

We were starving for food so we decided to try to find a place to eat.  Since we were out of town on the road so much earlier this week, we’ve eaten gobs of fast food (yuck) and I just wanted to sit down and have something that wasn’t served to me in Styrofoam with ketchup packets next to it.  We looked around the mall and tried to figure out where we could take a baby and a stroller for our first “restaurant experience.” 

We settled on Outback Steakhouse.  We figured it was loud enough in there that if Caden had a sudden melt down, we could at least get out the front door before disturbing anyone too much.  We started looking at the menus and I gave Caden a bottle.  Within a few minutes, some of the patrons and wait-staff started to notice him.  “How many weeks old is your baby?” our waiter asked.  I laughed and said, “zero point seven five.”  He couldn’t believe it.  Caden looked older to him.  He had a 6 week old at home so we compared stories.  It was then that I realized that we had better be prepared for the onslaught of questions we might get while out in public.  People can ask and say some crazy stuff.

A couple of minutes later an older woman walked by, practically stopped dead in her tracks and shrieked, “Oh my God, LOOK at the baby!!”  We beamed.  “Is it a boy or a girl?”  I was baffled for a moment.  How stupid could this woman be?  Then I looked down at Caden and realized that we had dressed him in a yellow outfit.  Duh.  When you go out in public you’ve got to remember to put on the blue big boy clothes.  “He’s a boy,” I said proudly.  “And how old is he?” she asked.  “Five days,” I said confidently.  “OH MY GOD!  Only FIVE DAYS OLD!!” she shrieked again with that tone of voice as if to insinuate that she was going to call child protective services as soon as she left the restaurant.  “Yes”, I said calmly.  “And he’s doing great.”  He’s got the hiccups right now and he’s a fantastic baby.”  “Oh, well I guess those hiccups aren’t from breastfeeding,” she said as she looked at John and me.  Very funny, lady.  At least you’ve got an edgy sense of humor which I can respect.  I could have said something about your bad perm but I’ll resist.

A couple of other people smiled or stopped by and everyone was surprised that we were out to dinner with a five day old baby.  This really got me thinking.  Were we being bad parents?  Did we put this little infant in danger?  No, I don’t think so.  On the one hand, I think it is probably a little unusual to be out in public this early because in a normal pregnancy there is a post-partum patient at home recovering and you probably wouldn’t be in much of a mood to go out eating at Outback Steakhouse five days after giving birth.  With adoption, that’s not the case.  On the other hand, I think it is also representative of how John and I plan to live our lives with Caden.  It’s our hope that we all integrate our lives together as opposed to focusing 100% of our energy on baby raising.  This family needs to be a three legged stool, with each of us having balanced lives.  I see so many parents that don’t appear to live balanced lives and seem to allow their babies/kids to take over or dominate the way they exist.  I think those are the parents who you see driving down the road with the back windows of their car all permanently plastered in children’s stickers.

Our aspiration is to live as normal a life as possible and bring Caden along on that life in an appropriate manner.  Of course we will always be safe and we will always keep him warm (said for the Grandma’s reading this) and we will always keep people’s grubby hands off of him.  For example, we might go to church tomorrow.  I would love to go to church tomorrow!  But if we do, no one is going to be allowed to touch him or hold him yet.  We have our rules and will keep him safe and sound in public.  We have read all of the books and done all of the research about what you can and cannot expose your child to at this age.  We aren’t going to do anything that puts him at risk. 

Up to this point, we’ve lived a very outgoing and active life.  We don’t have any intention of sitting inside the house for the next 18 years.  There is no doubt that our lives are going to change dramatically.  But we want Caden to live an outgoing and active life too. 

The next public outing should be interesting and fun.  Gotta remember to dress him in blue.  We’re waiting for the questions like “Where’s the mommy?” or “Which one of you is his daddy?”  It’ll be fun to answer.

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Friday, June 22nd
Caden has slept in his own bed for three nights now.  This kid is doing great so far!  (Please knock on wood for us as you read this).  He is eating really well.  He burps like a champ.  He sleeps with no problem.  About the only time he cries is when he gets his diaper changed, but hey… wouldn’t you?  We are feeling extremely lucky so far and can only hope and pray that this demeanor lasts!

We watched the video “The Happiest Baby on The Block” last night.  It’s a really popular book and DVD about how to soothe and console your baby.  There are all of these steps you are supposed to use such as swaddling, shushing, swinging, etc.  They were interviewing these mothers that made their babies sound like they were possessed!  You have to wonder if it is the baby or the parent that is making the situation go bad.  Anyway, they tried a couple of techniques on these little infants and of course they just quiet right down and go to sleep.  I think sometimes parents get so worked up and intense about everything that they pass it along to their babies and then wonder why no one can calm down.

We checked in with Candice last night.  She sounds like she is doing well.  That is a huge relief.  We have been worried about her since we left Southern California.  We promised to talk, send photos often and update this site often.

Time for a nap.  He's sleeping.  We'd better take the chance while we've got it.

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Thursday, June 21st
We had our first visit to Caden’s pediatrician this morning.  Everything checked out well and, true to form, as soon as Caden’s diaper was off, he tried to nail the doctor with his super soaker.  Geez, this kid can pee to the other side of the room!  He is almost back up to his birth weight again.  No shots today, thank goodness.  See you in a month, Doc!

Grandma and Grandpa Zenker came over for their first visit today.  I was surprised that I didn’t get all emotional when they showed up.  You know, you always kind of lose it around your parents when things are emotional.  Actually, I’m surprised that I haven’t lost it at all yet.  I expected to lose it in the delivery room and I didn’t really cry at all.  I’m usually a cry baby.  Just have me watch something like Extreme Home Makeover on TV and there I am all choked up. 

I know the emotions are there; I can feel them.  They seem to be bottled up right now for some reason.  Maybe it’s just the whole nature of adoption and the fact that it is not final yet.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m gushing with love and affection for Caden, but my own emotions about the situation are still very “in check.”  It makes me wonder when they’re going to suddenly come flooding out.

Anyway, Grandma Colleen and Grandpa LeRoy (Dave’s parents) got to spend most of the afternoon with Caden today.  They were in heaven.  He was such a good boy too.  He wore his “What happens at Grandma’s stays at Grandma’s” shirt in honor of their visit.  They are so wonderful and provide so much love and support for us.  Of course Grandma showed up with two pre-cooked meals and did the dishes while she was here.  She probably would have mopped the floors and done our laundry too if we would have let her.  She called me later and said that she already misses him.

So I know I said that I wasn’t going to post something every time he farts, but this kid can fart!  We’re very proud.  It’s so funny because when he does it, he raises his eyebrows, gets this cute look on his face and makes an “O” with his mouth as if to say “Oh, excuse me”.  He was just cracking us up today with his trumpeting noises and facial expressions.

Lots more visitors on tap for this weekend.  I would normally be running around cleaning the house.  I could care less.  People are going to be looking at my son, not my baseboards.

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Wednesday, June 20th
We hadn’t gotten more than about 20 miles out of town on our way home last night and it was already diaper change time.  I pulled over and figured I could just do it quick in the front seat.  Not two seconds did I have Caden’s diaper off and he started to pee all over me and the front seat.  “Just keeping you on your toes, dad” he was probably thinking.  We got all of that cleaned up and before I could get a second clean diaper under him I look over and he’s decided to make it a complete experience for everyone and poop all over the front seat too.  Ok, so much for a quick diaper change.  At least we know all the plumbing is still working!

The drive home wasn’t too bad.  Caden was great and we made plenty of stops to give everyone enough breathing room and breaks.  We pulled into our driveway around 11:30 pm.  God it felt good to be home.  We fed Caden one more time and got him ready for bed.  First time in his own room tonight.  He was pretty fussy by that point so we were feeling a little worried about just how this first evening at home was going to go.  The nurses at the hospital taught us how to really swaddle, so we tried it.  In two seconds flat, he stopped crying and was silent.  We both burst out laughing and almost fell on the floor.  It was just so funny to see him wrapped up like a little bean.  He looks like a little edamame when we put the green receiving blanket around him. We put him in his crib, which just looked so huge compared to his little cocooned body.  He slept great. 

As I dozed off to sleep, I thought to myself “is this all real”?  My prayers last night were especially focused.  Feeling grateful.  Incredibly grateful. 

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Tuesday, June 19th
I woke up this morning thinking about Candice.  I can’t imagine how she must be feeling today.  After carrying a baby for the last 39 weeks, how do you mentally process the fact that you will be handing over your baby to someone else on this day?  I can’t even relate.  Probably not any more than she can relate with our feelings, fears and trepidations for the past four weeks.  The feelings of vulnerability and loss of control.  Although adoption is a beautiful thing, it is clearly one of the most emotionally charged experiences you can ever have in your life.  The best thing we could do today is show our support and love for Candice and Erin because it’s going to be a rough day.

Caden looked so beautiful this morning when we arrived at the hospital.  The nurses greeted us with their usual “Good morning!” and “don’t forget to wash your hands!” before we were even half way through the door.  They waited for us to arrive before feeding him.  They wanted us to do be able to it.  They’re wonderful. 

The nurses gave us a little orientation on baby care and provided us with lots of information and free stuff.  Caden had a couple more tests done today but our time was mostly spent with Candice and Erin cuddling him.  We finally got the clearance to leave around 2:00 pm, signed all of the final papers and made our way down to the car.  Candice held the baby on the way out until we got curbside.  The next ten minutes were ten of the hardest minutes I think I’ve ever had in my life.  My heart broke to see the sadness and grief in Candice and Erin’s eyes to see Caden go.  I wasn’t sure that I could hold things together.  There are no words you can say that are appropriate at a time like this except to promise that you will use every ounce of your soul to look out for the best interests of this baby.  And, to promise that this is not the end.  The relationship between us will be forever and we will see each other again soon.  After all, that is what open adoption is all about.  But, ultimately, no words could soften the reality of what needed to happen at that moment.  Candice handed Caden to me and we buckled him into his car seat.  Hugs, kisses, and promises to see each other again real soon.  And then we drove away.  I’m not sure I took another breath for two more minutes.

I have the utmost respect for the courage of our birthmother Candice.  The gift she has given us is the most incredible gift that one person can give to another.  She made this decision out of love for Caden.  He is one lucky fellow to have a mom who loves him so much and only wants the very best for him and his future.  She is a hero in my mind and Caden will always know that too.  She told us that she wants to be a mom someday – at a time that is right - and she will no doubt be a fantastic one.

We’re heading home now.  389 miles to Caden’s house.

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Monday, June 18th
We arrived early in the morning at the hospital.  At least six times this morning we have asked each other the ‘can you believe we have a baby?’ question.  Always answered with nervous excitement, because we are really not out of the woods yet.  Something could still happen.  Who knows?  Could Candice still change her mind?  Could the birthfather suddenly show up at the hospital and demand to get involved?  Could someone on the nursing staff interfere with our access to Caden?  Ugh.  Here we are worrying forward again.  We need to take this an hour at a time.  Sometimes a minute at a time.  Faith.  Just gotta have faith.

It was so nice that the nurses in the nursery greeted us with open arms (and their usual “go scrub your hands first!”).  What an incredible staff they have at this hospital.  Arrowhead Regional Medical Center is the county hospital in San Bernardino, but it is not your stereotypical place.  It is bright and new and their programs are clearly on the cutting edge.  I’m not sure what they’re putting in the water here, but the staff is amazing.  Helpful and friendly.  Frankly, I’ve never seen anything quite like it, and I’ve seen lots and lots of hospitals and staff.  We loved this place.  From the nursing staff to the doctors to the cafeteria workers, everyone was so friendly and accommodating.  Even more important was that they treated John and I like we were truly Caden’s parents and it didn’t matter that we were two dads.  We thanked our lucky stars that we were in California and not somewhere in Tennessee where the environment would not have been quite so welcoming.  They also treated Candice with complete respect and total care.

Caden had a big day today.  Lots of tests to be conducted and then, of course, the snip snip.  Yes, today was circumcision day.  Doctor Wong came by to explain the procedure.  What a great doctor with a great bedside manner.  That was refreshing.  Without going into the details, we learned more about circumcision than we ever wanted to know today.  Let’s just say that Caden’s procedure went great and all is well with the wee wee.  Did you know that there are three different ways to do a circ? 

Candice was able to spend a lot of time with Caden and with us today, which was great.  There was no shortage of people to hold Caden today.  Candice’s mom, Erin, was also able to spend a lot of time at the hospital with all of us as well.  There is something about our match and the fact that we have all found each other that is such a blessing.  This is how adoption should be.  One day we were all strangers and the next day a beautiful baby brought us together into one of the closest bonds that people can ever have in the world.  John and I consider Candice and her family to be extended family members – our family members now.  And, we look forward to Caden growing up knowing all of them too.  He will be a healthier and happier kid because of it. 

Doctor Wong came in later and told us that everything looked great and we should be able to go home sometime tomorrow afternoon.  Honestly, it’s a bittersweet thing to hear.  On the one hand we are anxious to get home and get Caden settled into his new room and into his routine.  On the other hand, we have this huge hesitancy about parting with Candice and Erin.  We know how hard this is going to be.  Tomorrow will no doubt be a day full of emotion, grief, happiness and sadness all rolled into one. 

Time to get back to the hotel and get some more sleep.  Wait a minute… this might be the last night we get a full night’s sleep for many years!  And we’re doing it at a Hampton Inn?!

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Sunday, June 17th
The phone rang at 03:59 a.m. on Father’s Day morning.  Despite being in a dead sleep, we both knew exactly who was calling.  John answered.  “Hi Erin!’  It was Candice’s mom calling to tell us that her water had broken about two hours earlier and they were now at the hospital being admitted.  The contractions were still only about 20 minutes apart but the nurses were saying that she definitely wasn’t going back home.  “Ok, we’ll get in the car as quick as we can and head down” John said with excitement.  Since it was the middle of the night, there were no flights to Southern California for quite awhile.  Our hope had always been to drive down anyway if we had the time to do it.  That way we could haul along more junk with us.  Given how far along her labor was, it looked like we might make it in time but we did have a six and a half hour drive ahead.   

From the moment John hung up the phone, it was a mad scramble.  Although we were pretty much ready to go and had all of our lists written up, we hadn’t quite put all the stuff in one organized place yet.  It took us a little longer than we wanted to get everything packed into the car and get ourselves onto the road.  After showering and getting all of the kittens fed, we finally hit the highway by 05:25 a.m.  Would we make it before the baby was born, we thought nervously?  Thank goodness it was an early Sunday morning because traffic was light and we could basically “fly” down Highway 5 to San Bernardino.  I already had my speeding speech rehearsed.  “Yes officer… we’re in labor and need to get to the hospital as soon as possible.”  Yeah right.  We got periodic updates from Erin on Candice’s labor during our drive and it looked more and more promising that we might actually make it in time. 

We rolled into town at 11:00 am and went straight to the hospital.  Candice was at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in San Bernardino.  They deliver an astonishing 350 babies a month!  The last report we had from Erin was that things were close and the baby might be coming at any time, so we scrambled up to labor and delivery with breathless anticipation. 

We walked through the doors of L&D and I just about dropped my teeth.  Walking toward us was someone who looked extremely familiar.  It was a Twilight Zone moment.  “Uh…Sara?!” I said.  She was as shocked as me.  Sara Caan, an incredible paramedic and former quality manager who I worked with at AMR in San Jose was standing there in front of us.  It turns out she’s been attending Physician’s Assistant school at USC and was doing her internship and labor and delivery rotation at Arrowhead.  What a feeling of relief to know that she was going to be involved in the baby’s delivery and care.  Everything suddenly started to feel alright in the world. 

We went into Candice’s room and hugged Erin and met Candice’s best friend Lynzee.  Both of them would be in the delivery room with Candice during the baby’s birth.  Unfortunately, Candice was having a ton of pain despite having already gotten an epidural.  We figured out later that it hadn’t been placed correctly and wasn’t giving Candice any relief.  Once they reinserted it, the epidural finally kicked in and started to help with the pain, albeit much later than it should have.  

“Sorry, only two visitors allowed” they told us, so we were relegated to the waiting room for the rest of the afternoon.  But we expected this; Candice needed her two coaches with her.  But from the first time I saw it about three weeks earlier, I knew we would grow to hate that waiting room.  Uncomfortable chairs and a tiny television.  Ugh.   

Labor seemed to hit its peaks and valleys.  A couple of hours later and Candice’s grandmother, Bobbie, arrived.  What a wonderful and sweet lady.  She was always very supportive of John and I from the first evening we met her.  It was really nice to hang out with her.  After awhile, she was starting to get as impatient as we were, so we lamented the wait together.  We got periodic updates throughout the afternoon and then about 4:00 pm, Sara came out and told us that Candice was fully dilated and would deliver soon.  Now we knew that the wait would become excruciating. 

Erin finally popped into the waiting room, teary eyed, at about 5:15 pm, looked at me and said, “Happy Fathers Day … you have a beautiful son.”  We all just about lost it.  Once we were all joined together in the delivery room, there was so much joy, so many tears and just an incredible amount of calm.  The calmest of all was Caden.  His eyes were wide open the entire time, looking around and gazing at everyone.  These were moments that none of us would ever forget.   

Candice was incredible.  What a woman of courage and strength.  All of the nursing staff was telling us how well she did during the labor and delivery.  She is truly a special person. 

Reports of Caden’s performance were all great too.  His APGAR score at 1 minute and 5 minutes were both 9 out of 10, which is phenomenal.  They say that only pediatrician’s kids get 10’s.  This test measures several things like his pulse rate, breathing, color and grimace.   

We were soon off to the nursery with Caden for his first full physical exam, measurements and bath.  The nurses set us up in a private room where we could spend the rest of the evening holding and bonding with him.  The hospital has a very enthusiastic program that encourages skin-to-skin contact with your baby.  Studies have shown that it makes a huge difference in promoting right brain development in babies, thereby reducing things like the potential for depression and improving things like reasoning and intuition later in life.  So, there we were with our shirts open/off, “getting skin” with our new baby.  It was great.  What wonderful bonding time. 

It was getting late and we knew that if we were going to make it through the next day, we would have to get some sleep.  As weird as it felt to leave him behind, we left the hospital and collapsed at our hotel to get a few hours of sleep. 

What an incredible day.  It all seemed so surreal, amazing, wonderful, breathtaking, and too good to be true all at the same time.  Those who have never gone through an adoption process before have no idea what it’s like.  It is one of the most difficult things we have ever done in our lives.  The 22 months of waiting was a true test of patience and faith.  Having one previous adoption fall through three days before the baby was delivered was more devastating than we ever wanted to admit.  The roller coaster ride is horrendous at times.  The scammers are just plain bizarre.  The risks and uncertainty are sometimes more than you think you can take.  But when your dreams come true like they did for us on this day, it is really not too cliché to say “it was all worth it.”  This child is such an amazing blessing, and for him to be born on Father’s Day is a fantastic bonus.

Time to get some sleep.  Tomorrow will be another big day - for all of us.

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