Sundays are for football

Sundays are for football. Or at least they used to be. Now it’s hard to support an organization after foul up after foul up. Domestic violence, gun crimes, drugs, cheating, DUIs, it’s just all too much. I’m already disgusted the way we pay huge ticket prices, merchandise prices, and taxes to support a for profit organization(s) that are swimming in money. I have no problem with profits, but at what cost?

As much as I’d love to monologue about why the NFL needs to be revamped, instead I’m going to tell you about what I did on Sunday in place of watching football…

We live close to a state park. I live in the suburbs, but this unique piece of land is still in the metro area. Right between a ginormous accounting building for the US government and a branch of our state’s community college, it sits on hilly land adjacent to one of the city’s main waterways (supply, not transport). Once a year, the Indiana DNR holds a two day event called the Hoosier Outdoor Experience. Its major sponsor is Ford, so it’s probably Ford’s Hoosier Outdoor Experience, but you get the point.

They bus people in from the parking lot at the accounting building and bring you into the park which has dozens of activities for all ages and interest levels–as long as your interests involve outdoorsy things. They have the requisite food trucks, though generally they’re local Boy Scout troops as opposed to businesses, plus crafts, demos, animals, etc.

We walked around a bit and first ended up at the play equipment. Of course, that was the most interesting to my toddler. We did get her onto a “shuttle” made of a tractor (this is farm country) pulling trolley type carts and went to a section of the park that was billed as specifically for “families”. Radio Disney was there, and AmoebaJr won a notebook by slingshotting a Perry the platypus through a hula hoop at about 3 meters; with a little help from mommy, daddy, and even a tiny bit of help from the hula hoop holder. Then they made her a (hair) bow out of Duck Tape and she got to take some temporary tattoos.

Then we got to the part she liked the most. Near the Radio Disney setup was roughly half a dozen campers on display. We went into each of them. She played with the appliances and had a great time. In two of them, she got in the bed. One was bunk bed style, so she climbed up the ladder and the other was a soft shell that had screen windows on 3 of the 4 sides. Needless to say, she was sold. And at only $14-22k, they were reasonable. Well, mostly because they let you finance it over 180 months. Yes, you read that correctly, 15 years! My mortgage is 15 years; I’m not paying on a camper for 15 years.

Since we started camping about 8 years ago, I’ve thought having a camper would be awesome. When we saw how nice they were, and reasonably priced, we talked to the owner of the dealership. At this point, Hermione and I are sold too. There’s just the pesky matter of needing 20 grand. We’ll get there. In the meantime, our tent is as close to luxury that you can get without actually being indoors.

We’ve been talking a lot, recently, about what our next house is going to look like. I think it’s fair to say it includes a building to store a camper.

We did a few more activities, including going on a trail setup to teach using your senses in hunting and visiting some dogs that were somehow used in hunting, but the guy was busy for a long time so we never got the story on the dogs; just got to pet them. We saw a pig, a ferret, a parrot, and an owl and then grabbed some ice cream before making our way back out of the park.

There was one thing we didn’t hit, that we wanted to. It was abundantly clear that AmoebaJr needed her nap so we had to skip the fishing area. But it was a great time and I hope to go back next year. I think we need to utilize both days, too. We may have this year, but already had plans to go apple picking on Saturday! That went well too, except where I brought my camera and left the memory card in my computer’s card reader…

What Makes a Man Cry?

I’m not a manly man. Don’t have a beard, don’t drink whiskey (or even beer), don’t fix things. When my oil needs to be changed, I let a professional do it.

Manly Man

I’m not really much of a girly man either. I have no fashion sense, don’t particularly care about The Notebook, and I don’t pick up after myself much more than enough to keep rodents at bay.

Pinky (from Pinky & The Brain) Looks Shocked

But sometimes, I cry.

When my daughter was born, I cried. I was so happy she came out appearing healthy. To say it was a miracle is a bit cliche, but it touched my heart in a way I can’t describe. I was beyond happy.

I don’t really show much; I’m pretty straight-faced. But my daughter makes me cry.

I can’t even figure out what it is. But if I look at pictures of her long enough, particularly any pictures older than a few months where I can see how much she’s changed, I can’t help but cry.

Cover for Nickelback's single Photograph

This makes me cry in a completely different way.

Hermoine likes to watch old videos of AmoebaJr. The other day, I’m sitting at my computer and I see AmoebaJr videos on the next computer over (we have separate computers; is that normal?). Videos of her early days walking. Exploring. Seeing her reflection in the oven window or the storm door. She has always been so cute. And, sure babies cry and have tantrums (and destroy stuff!), but she has always been so happy. She’s a happy kid. Does she know how loved she is? It makes me sad to see other kids when their parents are being mean to them. I don’t want to be mean to AmoebaJr. Of course, she’s not going to like a lot of what I do, but I always want it to be for her. More that I’m a stay at home dad than I think I would otherwise because she spends so much time with me, I want to treat her the best I can. Sure, I should do way more activities that teach her things, but she’s learning at a wonderful pace and it’s not my job to entertain her.

When Hermoine was watching those videos the other day, I made sure she had saved copies. She has videos on her computer and on SkyDrive. She also put them on a portable hard drive so we can have even more redundancy. I have mine on my computer as well as in Dropbox and on my external hard drive. These are windows into the past I do not want to lose. Photos are awesome and I don’t want to lose those, but video captures so much more. If a picture is worth a thousand words and we film at 24 frames per second, then a minute-long video is easily worth over a million words.

As she finished up with the backups, Dance With My Father by Luther Vandross started playing. Even if you don’t know the song, you’ve probably heard it, since it won the Grammy for Song of the Year. It’s basically an autobiographical song about the memories Luther Vandross has of his father, who passed away when Luther was only 7. I can’t help but think of AmoebaJr whenever that song plays. For her to have that kind of love for me and what that would mean for both of us.

Just as looking through those pictures and videos of my daughter makes me cry, so did this writing this post. I never thought I’d love someone so much that I’d cry just from looking at her picture or thinking of her.

Dance With My Father by Luther Vandross on Grooveshark

Writing, or: Laughable Dreams

It’s no secret that I wish I could write more. I have a blog FFS (read that as “for Pete’s sake”)! I’ve always wanted to write. It’s something I was always good at (compared to anything else I did) and even received compliments about.

So then why did I get a degree in biology? Good question. Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple answer to that.

Being able to make a living as a writer was something that I didn’t really have any understanding of or experience with in my life. Also, as stupid as it is, a good part of it was sheer pride. I knew that lots of people started as biology majors and couldn’t handle the academic rigor. They dropped biology and went to something like business or communications. I saw that as fluff. College-aged me knew that the world had a legitimate need for the professions those departments’ graduates went onto. But I felt that was the easy way out.

Adult me sees something in the following quote, which is often misattributed to Einstein:

“If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Most people have a profession which is suited to them. Be it the way they learn, the way they work, their learned skills, whatever. Of course, some people have real, innate skill that is merely honed over their life.

I had moderate success in school, but that success was less and less as years went on. I finished in the top 10% of my class when I graduated from high school, but I went to school with almost a thousand kids in my class. Of those, less 800 graduated. So to say I was top 10% means there was like 70 kids in my high school that did better than I did. I don’t find anything impressive about that number.

In college, I had to retake statistics, organic chemistry, and botany (twice!). I didn’t leave with a 3.0.

My reading comprehension is crap; I took the SAT 3 times and got a 540 on the verbal section all 3 times. My study skills are nonexistent. These two things alone are pretty convincing evidence that I can never be a writer.

That said, I took a poetry course and a short story (fiction, not writing) course in college and got an A in both, as well as in my freshman communications 1 and 2 courses. If you looked at my major requirements’ GPA versus my liberal arts requirements’ GPA, you’d wonder why I got my degree in biology. And like I said, that’s not an easy answer.

So here I am, convinced that I should be able to climb a tree. Most of my friends can climb trees. My father and my wife can climb trees. But just because I like trees and just because I like people who can climb trees doesn’t mean I can climb trees. Whether climbing trees is being a scientist or being a writer, I have to try something else.

I’d like to think I can be a writer. But since I can’t be a scientist and I literally can’t climb trees or even swim all that well, maybe it’s time to try being a writer. For Christmas, my mother in law got me a book on writing. I’m going to start here. Writing Picture Books: A Hands-On Guide from Story Creation to Publication by Ann Whitford Paul was purchased from my Amazon wishlist and I’m excited to read it. I never even put it away because I didn’t want it to get forgotten about. It’s been sitting on my desk for months. Sometimes it laughs at me and tells me I’ll never be a writer. Sometimes it tells me I’ll never know if I don’t try. Usually it tells me that my dreams are empty visions. I really need to just take some time for myself and read the damn thing.

Hey, right now, worst case scenario is I read the book and have to wait until AmoebaJr is in preschool before I can do anything. I’ve never built characters or a story. It’s going to take a lot of work. But AmoebaJr starts preschool next fall, so I’ve got some time between now and then to read Writing Picture Books. Even with poor reading comprehension, 12 months should be enough time, right?

Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul

Through The Lens Thursday: Green

This is a little project from Greta, a blogger I follow, and her friend Alison. You can find Greta’s post for this week over at her blog.

The theme Green is quite fitting since it’s farm season here in the Midwest. Last weekend we went to our friend’s farm. My wife was in charge of the corn, I was I charge of the kid. But we went out to visit. And this is one of the things I saw.




About That Other Post from Last Fall, or: I was Dizzy for 9 Months

Back in October of last year, I was having a rough time. I wrote a post that some people were nice enough to read and support me on. One of the things I mentioned in that post was I started getting dizzy with no warning and for only brief moments at a time. In other words, it hit and was gone in an instant.

By Thanksgiving weekend, it hadn’t improved. Up until then it had been happening while I was standing. On the night before Thanksgiving, I was hit with dizziness three times in under an hour while sitting at the table. I made the decision to call my doctor and the on call doctor said that while my symptoms didn’t warrant a trip to the emergency room, I might not want to wait until Monday to be seen in the office. It was advised that I go to a walk-in clinic.

Being 9pm the night before Thanksgiving, no place nearby was open. I went in the morning and saw a doctor. He didn’t really have an answer but suggested I try motion sickness medicine. I followed up with my doctor at the beginning of the following week and he also performed a small battery of tests on me. He also came up with nothing.

In and out of the doctor’s office a few times through mid-January, the idea seemed to be it was a virus and should clear up on its own in 3-6 months. Gee, great! Well it had already been more than 3 months so I wasn’t overly optimistic. After a particularly cold and harsh winter here in Indianapolis, I went back into my doctor in the Spring. At that point, I was over 6 months in. I was referred to an ENT.

I met the ENT in May and was given a hearing test. I was told my hearing was “normal” and that they wanted further testing. I needed to go to a facility that specialized in balance issues. So in mid-June, I go through two hours of testing. Sit in a chair that spins inside a dark tube and focus my eyes on a laser dot. Fall backwards, from seated, into the technicians hands. And my favorite, sleep for a half hour. The weirdest, though, was they shot warm water into my ear canal and then repeated the test with room temperature water.

I finally got my results back a couple weeks ago. I was told my right ear is weaker than my left and that might be the cause of my balance problems. They wanted an MRI to rule out anything on my brain or auditory nerve, but I canceled it. Turns out, since my balance test 2 months ago, I don’t remember being dizzy at all.

Maybe it was just a virus all along.

For the Longest Time, or: This Crazy Life Since Last November

Yes, Billy Joel should have come to mind when you read the first part of that title. Because I was singing it to myself while I wrote it.

Last Fall when I went on unannounced hiatus, I was pretty depressed. I decided to take some time off and that’s when life started up. We got our foster care license and we had a Wendy’s Wonderful Kid recruiter match us to a teenage girl. For months and months we slowly learned more about her until we finally got to meet her. Last winter’s particularly cold temperatures and large amount of snowfall made us reschedule meeting with her or her team 3 times.

We finally met in March.

She was in a residential treatment facility, so we were given more and more access over a 6 week period that ended when we brought her home in mid-April. To back up, just a little bit, here’s what you should know about her. Let’s call her Hallie.

Hallie was 16 and had been in foster care since she was 8. She was removed for neglect but was also sexually assaulted by a family member on multiple occasions starting at age 3. She bounced around a bit and eventually got to where she would sabotage her placements. When she was roughly 12, Hallie was with a couple she loved very much. But they had an inappropriate relationship with her. Hallie and the mom clashed because Hallie was jealous of the parents’ relationship. Hallie had many inappropriate sexual encounters with much older men and while she and her foster father didn’t have sex, they were too close. She was removed and placed in a group home. In the group home, Hallie was raped regularly. Because of this, she didn’t shower whenever possible. I’m sure that was part trauma and part “If I don’t shower, guys will be less likely to hurt me.” While at the group home, she was part of a group of girls that stole a vehicle. She was sent to juvenile detention and when she was released, sent to the residential treatment facility where we met her.

Alright, back to April when we brought Hallie home. We knew going in about some of her struggles. We also learned some along the way. Hallie was required to wake up at 9 am and treat her chronic medical condition. In under the first month, she started staying in bed all day and we had to take her to the ER for 2 days because she wasn’t managing her condition. She would have RAD outbursts regularly.

(RAD is reactive attachment disorder, which is a disorder people get when they don’t form bonds with loved ones as a baby. Lots of kids in the system have RAD, diagnosed as such or not. The biggest manifestation of RAD is not being able to connect, or properly connect, with people.)

Just a few days shy of her 100th day with us, it all fell apart. My poor wife, Hermoine, was so stressed and defeated. Hallie continued to be defiant (we suspected oppositional defiance disorder as well as bipolar and were working in getting her a full eval) and not take care of herself. They were having a strongly worded conversation when I stepped between them. Hallie was saying, “Hit me!” (which helped get her removed from a previous placement because the lady did) and I pushed Hermoine out of the way while stepping in between the two of them. Somehow, I ended up getting slugged in the chest. After a whole bunch of tears and F bombs, I went to check on Hermoine and AmoebaJr. Hermoine was still shaken up. AmoebaJr was doing much better than when I first heard her crying because I suspect she saw Hallie punch me.

When I came back to check on Hallie, she had self harmed. She didn’t hurt herself badly, but she needed to chill out somewhere and give us a break. So I took her to the ER and spent the night in the psych ward waiting to be seen. Well, she wasn’t admitted, but behind the scenes a temporary place for her was arranged.

For as miserable as she was making us, we didn’t want to give up on her. But the line in the sand was that if she hit us, she was gone. We have AmoebaJr to think about. Add to that the fact that I called the police on her twice for running away and had to take her to the ER three times and she wasn’t taking care of her health condition and she self harmed, we were left with no choice. We couldn’t keep her safe. She had to live somewhere else.

That was about a month ago. For at least a week, we mourned. We accomplished nothing, didn’t cook, and felt like crap. I don’t know how to do this again.

In the newsletter that came just two days after the final incident, we were called out by our agency for being such great foster parents. And yet, even doing everything we could, we couldn’t save Hallie from herself.

New Words

Hey guys! The adoption is still stuck stuck stuck. We are basically 2 months past when we expected to be ready as recently as 3 months ago.

So therefore no news = no posts. But AmoebaJr has been having some life events that I thought I’d share.

AmoebaJr, just within the past week, has been using all kinds of words! Water (wah-er) and bubbles (BUB-el). She’s now saying “mama” and “dada” at everything, usually at pictures of us. She’s saying no as well now. Previously she said “yeah” and then added in “okay”. There are other things where she makes a consistent sound for the item so we understand, but she doesn’t say the word. She’s doing a few others very intermittently, but those are the words we hear regularly.

Also as a bonus, she’s got spots. I’ll have to tell you about that next time.

Books Not Tuberculosis

In celebration of an upcoming literacy day, the local McDonald’s hosted some bloggers from around town at the Ronald McDonald house to promote their program to give one of four books in each kids’ Happy Meal.

I mentioned this the other day and was planning on going. However I have a horrible dry cough that has been sitting in my lungs for like two weeks now. I decided if there’s any place you don’t want to be spread germs it’s in a place where lots of people are meeting each other (handshakes et cetera) and where people with hospitalized children are staying.

So I bowed out and missed the event. I was planning on doing this as a favor to a friend, not because I was going to be compensated. Well, along with attending I was also going to promote the event on social media. During the event I was not spreading my germs at I went to twitter to follow and post to hashtag McIndyMoms. I got a few interactions (retweets and replies) so it wasn’t a bust. I did miss out on missing some local bloggers I’ve wanted to meet for a while though. :-/

But the last thing I need to be putting into Happy Meals is SARS or some unidentified alpaca flu.

Halloween in November

Well Halloween as come and gone. Because of storms through a good portion of our state with tropical storm force winds, Halloween was moved to the following day. Which means Friday (yay!) but November (boo!).

I really enjoy Halloween but it was a bit lackluster this year. In addition to the day getting messed up, costumes didn’t happen. We were trying to do a family muppet theme, but it didn’t work out. AmoebaJr ended up a T-rex and Hermoine was going to do a cave woman. I was going to be an asteroid. I never got with the program and got it taken care of and Hermoine’s cave woman sucked, so it was just AmoebaJr.

I stayed home to pass out the candy instead of leaving it on the porch like last time. And even that was lackluster. We live in a somewhat secluded neighborhood that is on the small side. I probably got a dozen kids total in about 5 groups.

So here we are approaching mid-November and I’m starting to free base Whoopers since we still have so many left. The good news though is that there is lots of good quality candy to slowly eat over the next 12 months.

Happy Meals Just Got Happier

McDonald’s is hosting local bloggers at the Indianapolis Ronald McDonald house this week. Coming this month to McDonald’s locations nationwide, books are now going to be inserted into Happy Meals for the first 2 weeks of November in celebration of National Family Literacy Day.

In addition to 1 of 4 children’s books in each Happy Meal, McDonald’s of Central Indiana starting a “Give a Book, Get a Book” campaign.

• Book donation sites will be set up around the area at the Ronald McDonald House, local libraries and Indy Reads from Nov. 1- 14.
• In exchange for the donation of a new or gently used children’s book, customers will receive a Be Our Guest card for a free Happy Meal.
• In addition, participating libraries will host a “Happy Meal Day” with activities for kids and McDonald’s Happy Meal books.

To participate, drop of books at any of the following locations:

• Hussey-Mayfield Public Library (Zionsville, Ind.)
• Attica Public Library
• Elwood Public Library
• Barton Rees Pogue Memorial Library (Upland, Ind.)
• Brownstown Public Library
• Indy Reads (2450 N. Meridian St.)
• Ronald McDonald House (435 Limestone St.)

Unless I find out otherwise, the only compensation I’m receiving for support the campaign through social media is refreshments at the blogger’s event.

*edit* no compensation, I missed the event.