Spring and the Infectious Diseases Ward

We’ve been sick a lot this winter thanks to a combination of preschool germs, four kids who still put things in their mouths, lots of indoor time due to nasty weather, and finally coming out of our preemie-with-immature-lungs cocoon and spending time in public places now that Jenny is over two. Among multiple other illnesses the entire family caught RSV (Josie developed croup to boot). We’ve had three rounds of the stomach flu in the last month. The poor Man, bless his heart, had to spend the night on call in the ICU in a nauseous haze. Just as half the family got over the stomach flu we traded with the other half and caught a nasty cold that involves four days of high fevers and general misery before mellowing out to a week of hacking, runny noses, and sneezing. The baby cried for a good four hours today, and the kids spent half of yesterday slumped on the couch watching Daniel Tiger as their brains leaked out their ears. Basically, you would not want us as party guests right now. In fact, you don’t want us out on your driveway, and it’s probably best if we don’t even glance your direction while passing by.

Outside, though, things are looking up. There’s a new spring “first” every way we turn:

That first short-lived crocus was quickly followed by six more. Two days ago I spotted the first daffodil blooming up on the wooded ridge between our house and the neighbors. That afternoon, driving Lucy home from an appointment, I glanced at the prairie to my right; overnight every scrub bush had produced a delicate haze of newborn green leaves. Just before dinner yesterday we loaded our sick kids in the car for a drive and passed new rain-dotted snowdrops. The yards around us are starting to green up. On a damp drizzly walk this afternoon we heard the first woodpecker of the year drumming away in the woods, and the first frogs calling in the marsh as deer ran away from us through the chest-high grass.


(I turned around after photographing flowers and spotted an audience)

Two days ago we enjoyed a random temperature spike into the 70s. Nobody felt great but the twins joined me for a bit as we cleared out dead leaves and old tomato vines from the kitchen garden. Eventually they ran off to climb their favorite backyard tree and told me they were Winnie the Pooh trying to reach some honey. In the afternoon I loaded sick babies in the stroller and we headed off on a gloriously sunny walk.

It’s not all grim inside. The twins are pulling out of their colds, Jenny is close behind, and hopefully Josie will follow soon. I found this set of magnetic wooden people for $2 at a consignment sale and it’s bought us some sick days breathing room. I was excited that it’s a racially diverse set. Annie loves them and keeps begging to play with “the Maggot People.” 

Hair day needs to happen, sick or well.. My skills need work but I liked this part line pattern.

Jenny has joined Josie in her ditch-the-pants obsession. We turned around from folding laundry this afternoon to proud little girl giggles and this sight:

Hikes and Hair

 This is the view from the playground by our house. We love standing on the hill and looking out over the rolling prairie and farms. It’s like a picture book scene: a little town in the distance, trains chugging by in the valley, livestock dotting the distant grass by miniature barns and houses. The ridge always catches a breeze, and hiking trails lead off through the long grass and wildflowers. We stop by as often as we can to savor the changing seasons. Last week I took the big three while The Man stayed with the napping baby. After playground time and a short hike we switched off duties so The Man could take Jack to the barber.


Though we have much to learn yet adoption has already forced us to grow, change, and challenge our own assumptions. For example, before adopting African American kids we had no idea how important hair is in black culture. Hair must always be moisturized and well-groomed. Girls typically wear their hair in protective styles like cornrows or twists. Putting girls’ hair down in a twist out or an Afro is for special occasions only. Many white adoptive families (us included before we learned better!) keep their black daughters’ hair loose and dry. However, that choice leaves kids outsiders in the black community; unkempt hair outside the home is on par with wearing filthy clothes, not brushing your teeth, or never bathing. Likewise, many white families  just buzz their black sons’ hair at home – after all it’s cheaper and easier than heading out. However, black barbershops are a community cornerstone for black men and boys. Many black males get their hair lined up by their barber every week. Black barbershops are a place to socialize, develop inter-generational ties, share news, and learn skills for thriving as a minority in our society. Many adult transracial adoptees regret a childhood of standing out everywhere as the only representative of their race in white communities. They remember being the token black student in their grade, the only non-white kid at the park, and so on. Later, as independent adults who’ve lost the visible connection to their parents and token “white card” black adoptees often find themselves on the fringe of the white community, but unfamiliar with and uncomfortable in the black community as well. As adoptive parents, we believe adult adoptees are one of the best resources for learning pitfalls and plusses in adoptive parenting.


Although we have several African-American neighbors, on average our new town is much less racially diverse than our old town. Since moving we’ve been hunting for church, school, commercial, and social opportunities with positive racial mirrors for our kids. Thanks to a recommendation from friends we finally found a great black barbershop. I grew up oblivious to racial issues and assuming that racism was rare or non-existent in our Midwestern town. Most neighbors would have said they didn’t see or care about color. But there, as anywhere, overt and systemic racism was all around us. My kindergarten teacher sent the only black students to the principle constantly because she didn’t want them in her class. Police stopped black boys just for waiting in their cars in predominantly white areas. A large group of young black men would have been viewed with suspicion by people in the community. What a healthy adjustment now, after lots of hunting, to find a barbershop full to bursting with black teenage boys sent by their parents for fresh cuts before church on Sunday, dads with young sons, businessmen, seniors out to socialize on a weekend morning. Where, for a change, our son blends in with the majority and my husband is the sole white guy in the room. Jack came back bursting with pride in his sharp looking bald fade (and delighted with the three lollipops he scored for a haircut). We’re happy to have another great resource for our son as he matures. That’s not to say he’s so mature right now. This is what happens when I ask him to smile for a photo with his sister:

Barbershop Quartet

We’ve always cut Jack’s hair at home. However, this morning I took him out for his first barbershop haircut. The Aquaphor incident left Jack’s hair looking patchy, gummed, and motheaten despite our best attempts with scissors and scrubbing. Our clippers pieces are broken and distributed among three cabinets, and it was $6.95 cut day at Great Clips.

I settled into a styling chair with Jack on my lap. We were the first customers of the day so all four stylists gathered around to chat and watch his 1.5 on the top/1 on the sides materialize as they waited for business.

“Awww. Look how good he’s being!” “Is he talking yet?” “How old is he?”

“Two and a half.”

The clippers continued buzzing round Jack’s head while he sat silent and wide-eyed (a rare state for him).

“He’s so cute! How many kids do you have?”

“Three, with number four on the way.”

“Oh, so he must be the youngest then.”

“Uh, well, no…he’s the eldest.”

*clippers freeze in midair* *blank wide-eyed stares from four pairs of eyes*

What can I say. We’ve yet to mail Christmas thank you notes and last summer’s vegetable garden still needs to be cleared, but we’ve been extremely efficient about accumulating children these last two years.

Satin Crib Sheets for Hair Protection


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(Pretty quilt by Lauren)

Many African Americans with longer hair wear satin or silk sleep caps at night to protect their hair from breakage and preserve complicated styles. Ideally, they also use a satin or silk pillowcase for a double layer of protection. With proper maintenance a hairstyle can last for weeks at a time. At 21 months our daughter is not very interested in “proper maintenance”. About 90% of the time we find her sleep cap on the floor in the morning. Her styles only last a few days at best thanks to rubbing on her cotton sheets, and her hair easily dries out and breaks. Like many toddlers, Annie wiggles laps around her crib at night, so there’s little likelihood she’ll keep her head on a pillowcase either. Satin sheets seemed like the next best option. No local stores carried them and online options ran around $30-$40. For a toddler? No, thank you.

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I grabbed a few yards of navy satin from the JoAnn’s (on sale for $2.99/yd, not including the two additional coupons I used) along with a pack of quarter inch elastic. Two crib sheets came together quickly following this tutorial. The measurements are perfect. Many fitted sheets only have elastic at the four corners. I like that this pattern calls for one piece of elastic all the way around the hem. It holds the sheets snugly against the forces of thrashing toddlers. Next up, a pack n’ play sheet and some pillowcases. I’m also stitching up a few Christmas gift bags while the machine is out.

Lest you think the kids’ room always looks that pristine, let me show you what happens when I think “Oh, they’ve been doing so well playing alone in their room lately. I’ll give them an extra ten minutes.” This:

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Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real – Independence Day

For more {Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real} entries click over to Like Mother, Like Daughter.

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(Just the art is pretty. I’m not making any claims about the top of the fridge, which is where all things the toddlers aren’t allowed to touch go to live.)

I am terrible about hanging pictures. After four years in this home, many are still leaning against walls or stacked in closets. Photos are equally bad. It’s not that I don’t like art, I just suffer from crippling indecision when trying to pick what to hang where. It feels so permanent! Enter a length of twine, a $2 pack of mini clothespins, and ten minutes during yesterday’s naptime. We now have an inexpensive and changeable art gallery. We love that we can fill it up or thin it down to a few different pieces, rotate through our large stacks of unframed prints, switch it all out for photos, or take it down for a break if we feel like it. I might move it up another four inches or so, but other than that we’re both loving it.

IMG_4861 Right now it holds:

  • A postcard print of the opening of the Gospel of John from the Tyndale New Testament
  • A watercolor painting of hawks by Lydia (her lovely and affordable bird paintings are available here on Etsy)
  • A print of the bush in Victoria from the Man’s stepmother
  • A handpainted picture of a family I picked up in Kenya years ago

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  • A botanical print
  • A print of Eugene Delacroix’s portrait of the Sultan of Morocco (unearthed years ago from a mound of discarded art prints surrounded by mounds of discarded asbestos tiles in a dingy furnace room at my Alma Mater, the University of Chicago)
  • A map of Byzantium from my Mom. She bought it from the map prints collection at the Newberry Library in Chicago where I did much of my B.A. paper research

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  • Another watercolor by Lydia (this one of owls)
  • Prints of the Swedish Army given to me years ago
  • A postcard of a painting the Man and I loved at the Mint Museum of Art in Charlotte, NC.

It will change again soon as we cycle through our stacks of prints and cards. For now, it makes the large blank wall in the kitchen much prettier, and makes me happy while I cook.

Happy

We had the nicest Independence Day weekend. The Man got off work early on Thursday and we all walked to the grocery store.

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We treated ourselves to Buffalo Wings from a new takeout place for dinner. After packing the toddlers off to bed the grown ups settled in for a couple episodes of Elementary while a batch of our favorite Blueberry Lemon Streusel Muffins baked in the oven.

On Independence Day we packed up early for a day trip to swim at our favorite lake. The beach we usually use was closed off, but the ranger directed us to another. It ended up being a lovely surprise – a strip of sandy beach carved out of the edge of the woods, surrounded by rocky shore and facing forests and wooded hills across the way. The kids moved from tentative about swimming to drenching everybody in a five foot radius with their enthusiastic splashing in about 10 minutes. By the time we needed to pack up and leave our formerly timid son was dragging me back into the water with heartbroken sobs. Afterwards we stopped to visit lovely Lauren and her two youngest kids at their new home – such a treat to see them again! – then headed home for a good 4th of July dinner of steak, corn on the cob, and tomatoes, followed by baths for sandy babies and early bedtimes for all. We didn’t go anywhere to view fireworks this year, but thanks to the neighbors we were still serenaded by them until 11:00 at night. The wonderful thing about raising toddlers in an artillery town is that they sleep right through it all.

On Saturday we mowed the lawn, basked in family time, baked and ate Strawberry Rhubarb Pie, played games, let the toddlers get thoroughly dirty, trimmed the front bushes and generally relaxed.

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(one has a hair bow and the other has socks – that totally counts as being dressed)

 

We go to the early service, so after church on Sunday we swung by home for a change of clothes, picked up barbeque and hushpuppies, and headed to the closest State Park for a picnic lunch, relaxation in the sun, and a toddler-length hike along the river. On the way home I handed our son a leftover hushpuppy to keep him awake. It didn’t work. He’s the first human I’ve ever observed who’s capable of eating in his sleep: taking delicate bites of hushpuppy, chewing, swallowing all while fast asleep with a beatific smile on his chubby face. We spent a quiet and restful afternoon at home reading, playing more games, and going for a family walk before wrapping up the weekend. It’s very rare for us to have such a stretch together at home (the Man often works weekends and holidays). It felt like a vacation and we headed into the week refreshed from the family time, change of pace, and break from cooking.

Funny

If you’re Facebook friends with me you may already have seen this. Jack loves trying on shoes and hats, in this case Daddy’scombat boots and his sister’s pink sleep cap. A stylish combination.

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Annie fell in love with an old pillowcase while I was doing laundry. I clipped it on her as a cape. It made Superbaby’s day – she ran around admiring her fluttering cape for a good hour.

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REAL

It takes a lot of clips to section hair for styling. Also, a lot of cheerios.

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Mohawk Boy

People often ask us how we style Jack’s hair. The answer is we don’t. He’s just naturally cool:

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If British Punk Rockers wore spaceship sleepers our Mohawk Baby would fit right in. Not as big an “if” as one might think – I bet they’d wear them, then declare it an ironic commentary on age-ist social norms.

His hair wasn’t always like this. When we brought him home at two months his receding hairline made him look like a miniaturized old man:

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As new hair replaced his fine infant hair it grew all in one place, in one little tuft centered over his forehead:

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For months, we kept expecting him to get more hair, and he did…it just all kept growing into that same little curly tuft  over his forehead. Around six months he finally started getting more hair: tightly curled low-lying fuzz spread slowly back in a straight line from his forehead until he had a perfect mohawk.

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(Look at the girth of that boy!)

Eventually it started growing in on the sides. Well…make that one side. At this point, our son sports the oddest 2/3 head of hair I’ve ever seen. His two-inch tuft of curls still stands straight up from his forehead. He has a thick low-lying Mohawk, a four-inch horizontal bald spot just behind the crown of his head, reasonably growths of hair on the left and back sides of his head, and near baldness on the right side of his head. I don’t know what’s next, but it’s quite a show. In the meantime we might be having more fun with it than we should. He’s getting a buzz cut when he turns one, so it’s now or never:

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“What do you mean ‘Did I lose a teething ring.’ And why are you smirking like that, Mom?”

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“I mean it. Cut it out with the smirking and the references to soft-serve ice cream cones.”

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“…still not funny, Dad. Just what exactly are you implying?”

If any punk rock bands are looking for members, Froggy Pajama Boy is here to help. His talents include loud drumming and heavy metal-style screaming. He’s also good at playing with the fringe on carpets.

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Day 3 of the “7 Posts in 7 Days” challenge hosted by Jen at Conversion Diary.