Friday, June 24, 2011

Back on the Bus

"Oh good. It's nice to see that Bret & Erin are putting things back together and moving on."

Nope. That's not it. I'm literally getting back on the bus.

Ever since we moved into our new house, I've had what feels like a ridiculous commute to my job downtown. In the end, it takes around 50 minutes door to door each way. This includes a long spell of bumper to bumper driving and a walk of several blocks from a parking garage to our office. The stress of the driving coupled with the inadvertent exercise has gotten me thinking about whether there was some way to use Indy's limited public transportation to make my life easier.

After doing a little research, I discovered that a city bus gets to within about 15 minutes of our new house. At this point, the schedule claims that it's about 45 more minutes to my office. This puts me right around the hour mark. Maybe a few minutes longer each way. But there are some key differences that make the extra 30 minutes per day worthwhile.

First, I don't have to drive NEARLY as much. While this might be a deterrent to many, it's a good thing to me. I'm tired of driving. I'm tired of skidding around on ice and snow all winter. I'm tired of filling my tank multiple times each week. If I'm not driving, I can be checking my email, listening to the new Decemberists album in headphones, or sleeping.

Second, the bus drops me right at the door to my office. No more hike up the street in 10 inches of snow. While this isn't a big deal in June, it'll be a big deal in January.

So for the past few days, I've dumped my car at the 15 minute mark and taken the bus. Now I know some of you are thinking, "But aren't there guys with needles literally hanging from their arms on the bus?" or "Isn't the bus just, well, nasty? I'm pretty sure someone urinates on the floor first thing every morning."

The simple answer is "No." I've been surprisingly impressed this week with the ease and cleanliness with which IndyGo seems to operate. While not everyone on the bus looks like me, it's also safe to say that I would have no problems bringing my kids along with me on our bus system.

As a life long Hoosier, the use of public transportation has almost always been a non-issue. It's just not something that many people in Indy have ever grabbed onto -- especially those living in the 'burbs. But my travels in China made me aware of just how great a good public transportation system could be. My ability to cross all over both mainland China and Hong Kong with such ease made me a big fan of the concept. So while the offering here in Indy is pretty limited, it would certainly grow with greater use. The bus I take home at 5pm is only about 1/3 full each day, which is a shame really.

Erin has been teasing me about the fact that I fall asleep on the bus (which resulted in me narrowly making my destination yesterday). On top of the snoring and drooling, I ripped the crotch of my jeans out at work yesterday, so here I was on my way home, on the bus, hole in my crotch, asleep, snoring, with earphones on. I'm pretty confident that I was the dude being avoided on that particular route.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Happy Birthday, Grace MinWei

Our little girl turns three today, and she is just as sweet and funny and spicy as the day we met her (almost two years now... how can it be?).

She is still very particular about stuff, from the direction and corner she'll hold of her favorite blanket to what bowl or plate she'd like to use. She still a little surgeon, fascinated by cutting things open and taking them apart (just to put them back together again), and if you are hurt, watch out: the bandaid patrol is on the move.

She loves to sing and to read. She will sing to herself for hours a day, and I catch her often reading herself books. The other day I told Grace and Grant that they could have a toy in bed for about 10 minutes before "lights out," and Grace only wanted books. She loves to play PBS kids and Starfall (her real favorite), and it looks like she might join the ranks of her brother as a lefty.

She prays the longest, most elaborate prayers, and she has a quirky sense of humor that--at the very least--keeps her entertained. She is a pistol when it comes to obedience, as consequences carry little weight, but she tries (for the most part).

She is a tad more shy than her brother (who isn't?), but she is super confident, and now talks to strangers all the time. She's a little fish in the water, but she isn't the most coordianted on ground, but she's a tough cookie when it comes to pain (which comes in handy).

She is never moody, never sour; rather, she is very even tempered, very steady (a little unlike her brother, for those who know Grant).

But, more than anything, she is our sweet little girl who we love with all of our hearts!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Making Sense of Tragedy

Yesterday, was the worst day of my life. It wasn't "almost the worst day" or "one of the worst days." It was the worst.

Most adoptions don't carry the risk that our adoption did. Most adoptions are open and shut before leaving the hospital. And while our adoption carried more risk, nothing could prepare us for handing over our baby.

The pain and the exhaustion and the sickness came in waves today. Memories of yesterday haunted us, and missing Nadia is almost more than we can bear. But, in all of this--yes, even this--we rejoice.

Sitting in church this morning, I was spent. I knew I needed to be at church and even--in some small way--wanted to be there, but there was a whole other part of me that wanted to curl up into bed and to spend the day alone. But, our obedience this morning was met with great reward.

This little gem from the book of Philippians: "Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted..."

A lot of time is spent in the new testament talking about "rejoicing" amidst trouble or heartache or persecution. And, to be honest, it hasn't always made sense to me. I could reserve it for the spiritually elite, the Paul the Apostles of the world. And there was part of me that didn't understand because I didn't feel like I had truly suffered. And, in light of many in the world, I still haven't, but I get this little excerpt from Philippians in a whole new way.

You see, there is plenty of space in the Bible that talks about how suffering produces Christ-like character. And there are plenty of places in society that laud suffering for a similar result: the classic "what doesn't kill you will make you stronger" argument. But, I am here to say that those reasons aren't enough for me in light of yesterday. I'm not saying that they aren't great by-products to suffering for me, but they weren't the sole purpose in yesterday.

Yesterday, was about the fact that God--in His amazing compassion--met us in the most dire of circumstances. It was about how God knows all about what giving up a child feels like. And that truth alone helps my suffering rise out of the ashes and gives it purpose.

Because if that verse in Philippians ended with the part about my deliverance, I still would have gathered solace. But, thankfully it doesn't end there. It goes on to tell me that with courage and boldness, Christ can be exalted, lifted high, and made known. And that helps me--even with the sadness--see my suffering as suffering with purpose.

Today, as tired as I am, I am thankful that we have a God who is not distant; instead, we have a God who draws near. I am thankful for a husband who has been a rock of strength and faith to me, a great dad to his kids. And, I'm thankful that my suffering isn't just about character building because I don't think I'd ever find enough strength or faith to rejoice in that.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

It Just Wasn't the Plan

Adoption is a heart wrenching experience, no matter the outcome. In the best cases, you love a child who isn't biologically your own in the exact same way that you'd love a biological child. In the worst cases, things don't turn out as planned, and you run the risk of getting your heart broken in the end.

Today was the day when all of Nadia's paperwork was to be signed, finalizing our adoption of this beautiful little girl. But it just wasn't in God's plan for our family.

We've had a rough couple of days. There have been questions about whether the paperwork was going to get signed, and just about the time we thought we had gotten through all of the hurdles, doubt was again introduced. At the end of the day, our birth mom changed her mind, and Nadia went home with her.

We knew going into this adoption that like most, there were risks. The risks in this case were somewhat higher, but Erin and I made the decisions the best way we knew how with the knowledge that we possessed. We prayed about things. We talked with Grant and Grace about the potential outcomes the best way we knew how. We wouldn't do anything differently.

In the end, we know that God has a plan for our family, and that eventually we'll have the baby that He wants us to have. But right now, it's hard. Really, really hard. Erin and I are numb. You never expect things to go this way. But even in the few hours since we felt like our worlds fell apart right in front of us, we've reaffirmed that we both believe in God, we both believe in each other, and we will get through this.

It does make for a rough Father's Day though. I'm sure this miserable day will eventually be a hazy, still a little teary, memory. But for now, we'd simply appreciate it if you'd pray for us and our kids. Thanks, and we love you guys...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Covington & Opelika

While my beautiful wife gets no sleep and raises our three hoodlums singlehandedly, I am off to the deep south this week doing training sessions in Covington, Georgia and Opelika, Alabama. (I'm sure my family in Birmingham felt my presence as I entered the state this afternoon. I bring my own gravity.)

I flew into Atlanta late Monday night, and it was a typical trip into ATL. We arrived 20 minutes early, only to find a broken plane stuck in our gate. Thus we waited 40 minutes on the tarmac in the sizzling Georgia sun with little air on the plane. Delightful. You really only get the full flavor of sweat when stuck inside an airplane.

My trip to Covington was successful, but uneventful. I did learn that the show The Vampire Diaries films in Covington on their lovely town square. I figure this means that Covington is a destination for my sister, as she's addicted to all things vampires. I deflated the enthusiasm of the individual who passed along this information by asking, "Is that something from the TV?"

After work, I drove from Covington down to Opelika, AL. Along the way, I got news from Erin that a) plumbers did a bunch of work on The Compound today, b) septic cleaners finished fixing our septic tank, c) a) and b) left big bills to pay and d) our adoption finalization is going to take longer than planned.

Obviously d) is the most troublesome item in this list. It's very difficult living with our current uncertainty, so please say a little prayer for our family. We have a lot going on, and Erin especially could use some support right now. I'm of little use when I'm home, but when I'm traveling, I'm even more useless to her.

So in an effort to relax tonight and let my head clear, I set off for the Cock of the Walk restaurant. This great little southern cooking restaurant is situated on a pond in what I'm sure was once a secluded corner of Lee County. Now it's about two blocks from "Tiger Town" -- a ginormous shopping complex decked out in full Auburn tiger gear.

As I sat and sipped my tea and stuffed my face with corn bread, fried catfish, and surprisingly delightful pickled onions, I watched as tables full of people went out to throw leftover cornbread into the pond. It appeared that I was missing some kind of ritual (and let's be honest, I'll be danged if fish are gettin' me cornbread), so on my way out the door, I stopped to look over into the pond, only to discover hundreds of turtles clamoring for the corn bread. Off to the side were several beautiful ducks, slowly choking to death on several pounds of corn bread. I strongly suspect that you could walk across the pond on the shells of choked turtles, but I didn't test this theory.

Tomorrow I do another training session, and then it's back to the Chateau du Leaks to be with my family and get through the tough times at home.

To make matters only slightly worse, tomorrow is our anniversary (the date inscribed on the inside of my wedding ring sears a little bit on the date, just to remind me.) So happy anniversary, honey. I wish I were home with you, and I hope you get a little bit of sleep tonight. G'night...

Monday, June 13, 2011


Some recent pics...

Nadia with her cousin Natalie, who is two weeks older but over two pounds smaller!
Grant and Grace hanging out at the Children's Museum! There was a new Dora and Diego exhibit. Grace--a huge Dora fan--was in heaven!

Hanging out at the splash park in Avon! Thankful to have a new hangout on a hot day.

Little Nadia sleeps... just not quite when I want her to do so.

Grant and Grace LOVE Nadia. Grant has a special place in his heart for her, and I often catch him just sitting with her. As he says, she often gives him the "love eyes."

This Friday is the big day when we will find out if we are one step closer to making Nadia Marie part of our forever family!

Thursday, June 09, 2011


One of the joys of owning a home built 45 years ago is discovering all of the quirks and intricacies of the house. Or in other words, figuring out where it leaks.

Interestingly, this is also true of a new baby. (Although in Nadia's case, it's not so much the "where" as it is "when" and "on whom.")

Last night, Erin began giving the kids a bath in our upstairs bathroom. While she went about her business of filling the tub and stripping down the tots, I was directly below her in the utility room doing laundry. As she began running the water in the tub, I began to get wet.

I looked above me to see a steady stream of water coming through the ceiling. Nicht gut.

As it turns out, the valve that is supposed to divert water from the tub up to the shower head has instead decided to take a different path in life. If you don't divert the water to the shower, it dumps half of the water into the tub and the other half on the guy doing laundry. It's a laugh a minute.

So I have a call in to a plumber this morning to tackle the handful of minor plumbing projects that need to be done on the house. I'll feel better once we get the plumbing work finished. I'm fine to tear things up, but when it comes to plumbing, it seems like if you jack it up, it will turn on you and slowly destroy you and all of your stuff.

Now that I said it like that, it seems like there are some more parallels between plumbing and children than I originally thought.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011


for the second time...
Nadia Marie (birthmom's middle name)

Monday, June 06, 2011

The Name Game

Yesterday was tough stuff. But, it ended well, and I think that's a good thing. Our birthmom is young (16) and shy, and it's been hard to kind of crack her shell, but I think I was able to do it last night as we sat around in her room watching TV and laughing. We talked about everything: from what I love about Bret (a long list) to foods I don't like (a short list).

And, then, she said it: Can we talk about the name thing? We had yet to name the baby as there has been some resistance. She admitted that she hated the name Naomi. And she said that while she thought it was special to have her first name as the baby's middle name, she didn't like that either.

Now, right now, that baby is her baby. She could name it the craziest of names because it is her choice. And, it's our prerogative to change it later at finalization if we want. But, here's the tricky part: we'd rather not have to change the name. Because, at the end of the day, our relationship with our birthmom is super important to us. And that's the beauty of domestic adoptions.

With Grant's adoption, his birthmom was a little older, a little less concerned about the name, a little more aware of the "end game," so to speak. But our birthmom REALLY cares about the name. It has been her biggest issue all along, and for months we have been dancing around the fact that she didn't like our selection.

And, to be honest, I was having some reservations about it myself. I LOVE the name Naomi. LOVE IT. But, every time I looked at that sweet baby, I'd think, "Is that right?" And, I never had those questions with Grant and Grace.

So, here it is the day we get discharged, and it will be--by all accounts--a hard day. It will be one of the most emotional days of our lives and for our birthmom as well. And, while we still don't have a name, we are getting really close. And, the birthmom is trying so hard to find one that works for all of us, as opposed to some of the more "unique" ones she had decided on long ago.

And, at the end of the day, what does it really matter? We're getting the greatest of gifts from this young girl, a girl we have come to love.

I'm so grateful for all my kids birth parents and foster parents. I'm thankful that they braved the hard road of pregnancy, filled with uncertainty. I'm thankful beyond measure that I get awesome responsibility and privilege to raise their children. These kids are twiced-loved, and their birth parents are heroic to me.

So, avid fan base (I know there is a least a grandparent or two out there), we'll let you know the whole new name soon...

Sunday, June 05, 2011

The Hard Part

These few days are the hardest part of domestic adoption for Bret and for me. We sit in the hospital, often without a baby to hold, feeling isolated and alone. Don't get me wrong, it's a short wait for a great gain, but there is no denying that these days are hard. They are filled with anxiety and stress as we try to manage our relationship to our new love and the birthmom, who is often a pile of hormones and emotions as she gets ready for the hardest decision of her life. We don't doubt that her time is harder, but there is also no denying that these days here are tough stuff for us.

Add to the fact that Grant is coming unglued at the hinges at home, sobbing as he talks to me. I just want to be home with all my babies in one place.

We still expect that this adoption will work, but we have about a two week period while at home to wait...

But, while we wait, we hold on to the fact that our God is the giver of good gifts and has a plan for us that is perfect. We try--often on a moment by moment basis--to choose faith over fear.

And, we marvel at the amazing bundle of goodness we do get to love...

Saturday, June 04, 2011


We are simply over the moon to announce the arrival of our daughter...

Naomi Sierra
born: 7:17pm, 6-4-2011
8lbs, 4oz and 21" long

Isn't she just beautiful??

The Waiting Game

Thursday afternoon, Erin and I dropped the kids off with the grandparents and boarded a last minute flight to Providence, RI. The baby is scheduled to come, one way or another, this morning (Saturday), so we wanted to be sure to be here for the big event.

We arrived late Thursday night and stayed at a hotel adjacent to the airport. We've never been in Providence, so we decided that on Friday, we would get in touch with our birth mom, and then perhaps spend a little time sightseeing.

Friday morning we got up and had breakfast at the Sunrise Cafe in Warwick. It was my kind of place. Low key. They managed to incorporate pizza ingredients and every pepper imaginable into various omelets. It was excellent.

After breakfast, we made our way up to the campus of Brown University and wandered around. Our birth mom called Erin around 11am to let us know that she was up and wanted to meetup (for the 1st time) for lunch. Erin and the birth mom have communicated primarily through texting, so an exchange to say "I'm up," "let's meet," and "see you in 30" took Erin approximately 3000 button presses and over an hour. The students we passed while walking around Brown were no doubt impressed that my wife had used her obvious technical talents to keep such an antiquated cell phone in working order.

We picked up birth mom and headed for lunch at Micheletti's in Seekonk, MA. As we approached the door to this quaint little diner, we encountered a sign announcing that the restaurant was cash only. This appears to be a growing trend in the northeast, as we've encountered it multiple times on this trip. I left the ladies and headed out in search of an ATM.

I walked across the street to a gas station and asked the attendant if they had an ATM. "Sure do. It's over there." I walked over to an ATM with a dark screen. I pushed buttons, swiped cards, but nothing. I walked back to the counter. "If the screen is dark, does that mean the ATM doesn't work?" The lady acted like my question was a crazy one and said -- "Yep, the ATM don't work." Generally there is an implication when a customer asks if you have an ATM that the ATM be functional. Gas station customers aren't usually looking for ATM parts or operating an ATM salvage company.

I ended up driving to another grocery store AND a pharmacy before I found a functional ATM. Apparently "Seekonk" is an ancient Indian word for "busted ATM." After loading up some cash, I headed back to Micheletti's for lunch. We had a very nice conversation with our birth mom, and Erin and I both felt like the relationship was going very well. I have found in these situations that my best approach is to say as little as possible, without seeming weird. The chances of something offensive escaping the corners of my mouth is simply too high in such a risk laden situation.

After lunch, we dropped birth mom off at her house, and Erin and I went out in search of a hotel. We landed nearby at a Holiday Inn Express.

Last night, desperately in need of some relaxation, Erin and I went first went for Japanese food at Tenchi Sushi. We both had great food, and it was nice to just sit and reflect on everything without having to keep Grant and Grace (who we dearly miss) from killing each other.

After dinner we saw "Bridesmaids." I think Kristen Wiig is generally pretty funny, and this movie was no exception. The theater was packed, and we actually missed a lot of the dialog because of prolonged laughter. It was just what we needed. One scene had Erin laughing so hard that she couldn't breathe. It's rare for something other than me to create a scenario where Erin can't breathe, for whatever reason, so it was nice to see her relax a little bit.

So this morning we're just sitting in the waiting room, waiting for the action to start. Our birth mom is doing just fine, and everyone is just waiting for the main event. I can't really imagine what she's going through, as these two people she just met face to face for the first time yesterday, stand anxiously at the foot of her bed with catcher's masks on. I plan to simply go where I'm told for the rest of the morning. I suspect I will act as the food runner for the rest of the day, and that's fine with me.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Leaving on a jet plane

...taking off for Providence tonight. Baby comes on Saturday or before.