Friday, December 28, 2007

Keegan's Story (Part II)

[WARNING: I think Part II may be longer, but I broke it up again for you.]

So Jen called Marcia. Marcia gave Jen the contact information for the agency out west. And Jen called that woman. She gave a little more information. It was a baby boy, and both of his birth parents are Hispanic. She had been on the phone on Christmas Day with a couple who considered the boy but ended up saying “no” because he was “full” Hispanic. (Huh?!) She was on the phone with a second couple but she thought they were going to say “no” for the same reason. So Jen and I talked for a little bit. We were comfortable with his Hispanic background. But we didn’t know anything about the birth mother’s medical background. Had she gotten any pre-natal care? Was she an alcoholic? Any drug use? We couldn’t get that information before the agency would want to know if we wanted to be considered. So we moved ahead on faith. That this was who the Lord wanted us to have and everything else would take care of itself. So Jen called the woman back and said we’d like to be considered if the second couple turned him down.

I immediately went online trying to get a flight to that area of Florida so we could be there by 6:00 p.m. No dice. Not many flights available the day after Christmas. I found one seat to a nearby city, so I bought that for Jen. She would have to rent a car and drive over the rest of the way. Then we just had to wait. But if this was going to happen now, we really should have some stuff for a kid. All we had was a bassinette and a swing. That’s not enough. So we went to Target.

At Target, we went to the baby area and looked at car seats. Found one. Then we started looking at bottles and formula. Too many options. So Jen called a couple of friends to get their input. What bottles? Which formula? Then the other line rang. It was the adoption agency. Jen clicked over. The second couple said “no;” he’s yours if you want him. Are you freakin’ kidding me? A rush of excitement, fear and joy overwhelmed me. What the hell was happening?

Thus commenced the Target mad dash. Bottles, formula, t-shirts, onesies, socks, pacifiers, diapers, wipes, lotion, baby powder, butt cream, blankets, towels, and on and on. Nearly $400 worth of stuff all crammed into a red Target buggy.

The agency said they needed a copy of our home study. Ooops. We didn’t have the final report. Jen called the social worker. No answer. Jen left a voice-mail to call her back as soon as she got the message. We went home. The ticket that I bought for Jen wouldn’t get her to Florida by the 6:00 p.m. deadline. Jen called the agency to let them know. The agency made arrangements to let the baby stay in the hospital another night. Jen called the social worker and left another message.

The social worker called Jen back from the airplane she was on traveling back for the holiday. She was going straight to her office to print out the report, but she needed my medical exam. (This is where it does not pay to be a procrastinator.) Who is going to be able to give me a physical on the weekend? Of course, Jen’s OB/GYN. We hoped anyway. He goes to church with us, so we called him. Sure, he says. Meet him at his office. So I go to Jen’s OB to get my medical exam, and Jen has to leave for the airport. We would reconnect in Florida.

At the OB’s office, as you can imagine, I got some weird looks from the nurses. But the doc assured them I was in the right place. He was able to do the complete physical except the TB test. OK, we’ll take care of that tomorrow sometime. So I go back home and pack all of the newly purchased baby stuff from Target into the Explorer, grab some clothes and head to my office. There, I grab some work-related things I needed to take care of that week and sent a mass email to everyone telling them where I was headed. I had let most of them know that we were planning to go through this process, but I didn’t think it would come this quickly. I got back in the car and headed south on I-75.

I have driven into the wee hours of the morning before, but I have never been as wide awake as I was on this trip. I was making calls to people telling them where I was headed, and my Blackberry was buzzing as everyone replied to the email I sent out.

I arrived at the hotel around 4:00 a.m. I slumped into bed and quickly fell asleep. Around 9:00 a.m., I got up, and we went to find a place that could do the TB test. We found a worker’s comp clinic that fit the bill just down the street from the hotel. They ran the test and told me to come back for the results.

We went back to the hotel to wait to hear what was next. Around lunchtime, we received a call from the attorney’s office. They said they’d like us to be at the hospital around 4:30 p.m. She said that the birth mother might want to go to dinner with us to meet us and talk to us. I was not in favor of this. I’d just rather pick up the baby and move on. If she wants to talk at the hospital, I’m fine with that. Jen agreed with me. But as the time crept slowly by until 4:30, we both softened. If she wants to meet us, we could do that. We’d have the rest of our lives to be with this baby. She deserves the chance to meet us.

Eventually, enough time passed that it was nearing 4:30. We went to the hospital and waited in the maternity lobby. The attorney came out to us with the paperwork. The birth mother had signed the paperwork and revoked her parental rights. What about the birth father? Well, he was not available to revoke. He was in Panama. The attorneys would have to go through the process to notice the birth and give him an opportunity to come forward before they could consider his rights revoked. OK. Would’ve preferred a little more closure on that, but we’ll deal with that. We signed all of the paperwork and then the attorney walked us back to the room. She said that the birth mother was feeding him.

When we walked in, she was sitting on a bench seat feeding him a bottle of formula. Jen sat down next to them, and I stood looking at the baby. I’ll admit it; I was looking to see if there were any problems with him. There didn’t appear to be. He was beautiful with his stocking cap on sucking on that bottle. So at peace.

She asked Jen if she wanted to hold him. She did. Then the woman started to tell her story. She is 35 and from Panama. She has 3 kids. A 16-year-old boy, a 15-year-old girl and a 5-year-old girl. Her mother lives with her in Florida, but her father lives in Panama. She visits him periodically. On one trip back to see him, she went out and met a construction worker. They had sex, and she got pregnant. She did not tell the guy because she didn’t know him and his construction work was somewhat nomadic. He went to where the jobs were, and he was not living in her father’s town still. She had not seen or heard from him since that night. (We found out later that the birth mother had returned to Panama a number of times during her pregnancy and received pre-natal care on each of those visits.)

She did not tell anyone about the pregnancy. She was planning to move her family to a new house in a new school district, and another child was going to complicate that. She managed to go through the entire pregnancy without telling (or showing) anyone that she was pregnant. On Christmas Eve, she was at a party and felt her contractions start. She got up and drove herself to the hospital. Had the baby. An hour-and-a-half later, she checked herself out of the hospital. She said they made her sign a release before she could leave and gave her some Tylenol to take with her. She went back to the party so that people would not suspect anything. She had not seen the baby since she left that night.

On Christmas Day, she went on the internet to find an adoption agency. She had done some research during her pregnancy but didn’t get involved with one earlier because she was trying to keep the pregnancy secret from her family and friends. She called an agency in Florida, but it was closed because of the holiday. Several others she tried were closed as well. She managed to locate someone at the agency out west, and that is how they became involved.

We thanked her for making the decision that she made and trusting us with the baby. After sitting with us for about 30 minutes, she said she was happy and felt that she made the right choice. She took one of the stocking caps they had for the baby as well as a card with his footprints on it. We hugged her, and then she left. I can’t imagine how she felt walking away that day. I do hope that she felt a peace about it. When the door shut after she left, Jen was crying – no doubt thinking about the strength it took for this woman to give us this incredible gift.

The nurse gave us a quick lesson in diaper changing and feeding. The attorney gave us a little information on what would happen next in the process and that she’d call us in the next day or two to give us an update. Then they let us leave the hospital with Keegan. They just gave us this kid, and let us walk out the door. Unbelievable.

Here’s a shot of him on that day.

So we went back to the hotel after picking up some dinner to take back with us. We laid him on the bed and just stared at him. Did this just happen? Did they give us this baby to take care of? This kid? The one laying right there on the bed?

We had to stay in Florida until the State of Florida gave its initial approval. Then we had to have Georgia’s approval to bring him across the state line. That could take 7-10 days they told us. I had to go back and get my TB results. They were negative. No TB for me! That was the final part of my medical exam. I faxed that to the social worker. And the home study was complete.

Then we went to Babies R Us, because we had never registered for any baby stuff – despite the encouragement to do so from others. We spent most of that week in the hotel room waiting to hear from the attorney. I did have to go to the bank to arrange for a wiring of money to pay the adoption agency. (They made a lot of money for 3 days of work by the way.)

On Thursday, we heard from the attorney that Florida had given its approval, and the information had been forwarded to Georgia. On Friday around lunchtime, I called the attorney to see if they had heard from Georgia. No, not yet. If they didn’t hear on Friday, we wouldn’t hear until Tuesday because Monday was a holiday. So I prepared myself for another 3 days in the hotel. Around 2:00 p.m., the phone rang. It was the attorney. Georgia gave verbal approval over the phone. We were free to go. I rushed to the front desk to see if they’d let us leave without paying the extra day. Under the circumstances, they were more than willing to do that. We decided not to go the whole way back to Atlanta given the late start, so we went to Gainesville for the night. We met our friends, Greg and Stephanie. Stephanie is at UF med school studying pediatrics, so we made her give Keegan a good once over. Everything checked out. It was good to get another opinion. I mean, he seemed perfect to us, but the second opinion never hurts. On Saturday, we headed home.

When we arrived at home, we were completely blindsided by what had occurred in our absence. Amy Fritchman and Misty Eldridge came in and cleaned the house. They took down our Christmas tree and decorations. They went by Babies R Us and picked up the crib we’d ordered and put it together. They picked up the changing table. They painted K-Man’s room!! And set up everything in there. It was unbelievable. They were all there waiting for us when we got home. It was great to celebrate with them.

Here are some shots of Amy’s and Misty’s handiwork.

On April 27, 2006, we had a telephonic hearing with a Florida State Court judge who finalized the adoption for us. Everything was legal from that point.

So that’s the story. I think I covered it rather completely. Now you know the rest of the beginning of K-Man’s story. Two years later, he remains the blessing that he was on that first day. He’s just much more mobile now and capable of wreaking greater havoc.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Keegan's Story (Part I)

[WARNING: This is a long post. I can’t help that. There’s a lot to tell. I tried to break it up into easy-to-chew paragraphs. If you can’t read the whole post in one sitting, you can come back later to finish.]

This time two years ago, I was speeding down I-75 headed to Florida and Jen was already down there waiting for my arrival. We were only hours away from seeing K-Man for the very first time. But before we get to that part of the story, there’s much prologue to cover.

Sometime in 2000 – it doesn’t matter when at this point – Jen and I decided to start a family. No, that’s not right. We were already a family. We’d been married almost 7 years by that time and been through 2 advanced degree programs for me. We decided to try to have a baby – the traditional way. Well long story short – we were unsuccessful in that department. Not for a lack of trying I can assure you. They say that practice makes perfect. They are lying.

Come 2005 – and way too much unsuccess for anyone’s psyche – we decided to go the adoption route. We decided rather than spend $10,000+ for the privilege of me giving Jen shots all the time and trying in vitro, we would spend that money (and then some) on an adoption. We, of course, looked into the costs for such a thing. They are many. There’s a fee for the adoption itself. There’s a fee for the lawyers involved in making it legal. In some cases there are fees for the birth mother’s medical expenses and living expenses. There’s a fee for the home study – to be evaluated by a social worker to get a report that says you’re fit to be parents. There may be travel expenses depending on where the birth mother is. And there’s a fee if you use an adoption consultant. That's a $%&#-load of fees. It’s a racket really when you look at the grand total and consider what some of the fees are actually for. It’s tragic to let costs be an obstacle when there are so many couples who would love to adopt the hundreds of kids out there waiting to be adopted. (But that’s for another post.)

Now that we’d decided to adopt, we needed to figure out how to do it. My sister had a friend whose aunt (I think) had used an adoption consultant to walk them through the process. So we checked her out. She has two children, and she adopted both of them. After working herself through those processes, she decided that there was a need to help other couples navigate the adoption waters. When we met her, she had been helping couples for about 15 years. We started by visiting an informational meeting. We liked what we heard. She provided example after example of adoptions that only took 3 to 12 months to complete. We know people who waited years from the beginning of the process to when they picked up their babies. We wanted to move as quickly as possible. She was no-nonsense. She was a little animated for me, but I appreciated her passion for helping couples. Now that we knew that we wanted to adopt and we had a consultant to use, we had to figure out how to pay for the adoption.

We bought our house in the summer of 2004. Twelve months later, the prices in our neighborhood had risen about 20%. This allowed us to refinance and use our second mortgage to cover the expenses. I had always doubted that we would be able to pay for an adoption. Thankfully, the Lord had other plans for us. Armed with the means to cover an adoption, we moved forward.

In the second week of November 2005, we had our first meeting with the consultant. She runs her agency out of the basement of her house. Normally, I would be skeptical of such things, but oddly enough, I wasn’t in this case. Before we met with Marcia, she gave us some paperwork to complete. One of the items was a tolerance inventory. This was not a measure of how many adult beverages it took to make us tipsy. The inventory asked us what aspects of the birth parents’ history would we tolerate. Black? White? Hispanic? Asian? Mixed? Heart disease? Drug use? Marijuana? Cocaine? Heroin? Cancer? Smoker? Alcohol use/abuse? Sickle cell trait? HIV+? The inventory went on and on. Tough issues to consider. Makes you think hard about how much you want a child and how bigoted you really are. The kicker is that the more you tolerate, the quicker you’ll get matched with a birth mother. Before we left that first meeting, we scheduled the second meeting with her for the first week of December. Oh yea, and I wrote a check for the first half of her fee.

When we left Marcia after the first meeting, we had a couple of assignments. First, we had to get moving on our home study. Second, we had to get our “profile” done. Marcia gave us the name of a social worker that she had just started working with. Jen called her to get that ball rolling. Next, we called Mike Moon and asked him if he could help us put together our profile. What is a “profile?” I know you’re asking yourself that question. Glad you asked. A profile is really a set of marketing materials about you as a couple. Here’s Bill and Jen. The way Marcia explained it to us, when a birth mother reaches the point of deciding which couple to give the baby to, she uses these profiles to decide which couple(s) to consider. We collected pictures of us and our families to use. We wrote copy for the profile about each of us as individuals and as a couple; about our interests; and about our families and friends. We gave Mike the pictures and copy, and he and Sabrina (his wife) put together the best profile – bar none – that we could ask for.

At the second meeting with Marcia in early December, we showed her our profile and let her know that we were moving forward with our home study. She gave us a binder chock full of information about five or six adoption agencies that she thought would fit us best. One of our goals was to adopt in a state that had a very short revocation period . . . or none at all. Our homework was to choose one or two agencies to apply with. [The idea was that we would select an agency and apply with them. That agency would work with Marcia if they had a birth mother who matched with us and wanted to talk to us. At some point, we might meet with her and a match would be made. We would then wait for her to complete the pregnancy, and we would get a call when the baby was coming. That was the “usual” way this process works. As it turned out, there was nothing “usual” about the process we would follow.]

Over the next couple of weeks that December, we finished our three meetings with the social worker for the home study. We would need that done to move forward with the agency we would decide to work with. On Christmas Day, we spent the bulk of the day at my parents’ house with all of the other relatives. It was a fun day, but it was long. We came home that night and crashed. We slept late on the morning of the 26th with plans for a very lazy day. [Again our plans would be thwarted.]

Some time after lunch on the 26th, Jen decided to check her email. She had received an email from Marcia shortly around 11:00 p.m. or midnight the night before. Marcia was forwarding an email that she had received earlier Christmas Day from an adoption agency out west. The email said that there was a baby in a hospital in Florida who was going to be placed in that state’s version of DFCS if he was not picked up by 6:00 p.m. that night. I was in the living room reading the paper. Jen called me from the study with an understated tone like the tone that Donald Quinelle might use after discovering that he’d brought the wrong bullets to a survivalist exercise. (“Hey Bill, you’re not gonna believe this…"). I read the email and stared back at Jen with a look of disbelief I’m sure. She broke the silence.

“What do you think?”

“Call her and see what she says.”

So Jen called.

Tomorrow, you can read the end of the beginning of Keegan's Story.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Holiday Party Advice

I know that the Christmas Party season is about over, but there's one full weekend left -- and then there's New Year's Eve -- so this is still good advice. And humorous to boot. (There is one adult word in there, so ear muffs may be appropriate given the particular audience around your computer.)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Musical Progeny

Thanks to Kooky for sharing the link to this live concert video. (Aren't all concerts "live?") I tried posting the video itself, but Blogger won't seem to take it. Click the link and guess whose progeny this is?

Fiction Plane

Yet more evidence that I am getting old.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Timmy HE15MAN

The last 48 hours have been fairly busy. We had a progressive holiday party in the neighborhood on Saturday night (where I may or may not have participated in a little Karaoke). And then decorated for Christmas all day yesterday (in the 70-degree weather!!).

We stayed behind at the appetizer house on Saturday night to catch the official announcement of Tim Tebow, Heisman Award Winner! The first sophomore ever to win it! Herschel didn't do it. Bo knows nothing like this. Pat Sullivan? Nope. Barry Sanders? Negatory.

The numbers speak for themselves. In his first year as a starter, Tebow threw for 3132 yards and 29 TDs (with only 6 INTs). He also ran for 838 yards and 22 TDs. For you Athens grads/fans, that's a total of 51 TDs. The first player in D1 to ever run and throw for 20 TDs in a season. I suspect he'll be a 30-20 guy after the bowl game against Michigan. He's thrown at least 1 TD and ran for at least 1 in every game this year. He played the 8th toughest schedule in the country (compared to Hawaii's 117th toughest schedule -- can't wait to see June Jones in Gainesville on August 30th so he can observe Tebow run Meyer's "system" all over his Rainbow Warrior Princesses!). His 22 TDs this season are the most ever by an SEC player. More than Herschel, Bo, Shaun Alexander, Billy Cannon or Lars Tate! More than anyone who's ever toted the rock in the SEC.

But beyond all the stats, Tebow is a great guy. He has a strong relationship with the Lord. He was born in the Philippines when his parents were missionaries. He regularly visits the Philippines in the summer to preach at his father's mission. When his family was planning the trip to NYC for Saturday night, they were not expecting one of his sisters to come. She and her husband are missionaries in Bangladesh. Tebow received a call on Thursday night while he was at another award show (Where he won the Davey O'Brien Award as the nation's top quarterback and the Maxwell Award as the nation's top player. Ho hum.). It was his sister on the line. They were going to be able to fly from Bangladesh for the presentaton. Who cares about some trophy at that point? It would be the first time the whole family would be together since last Christmas. They planned to throw a party to celebrate that -- regardless what happened on the stage that night.

But of course, we all know how things worked out on Saturday night. It is rather amazing that a kid who came in with such hype has actually lived up to it -- if not surpassed it. Freshman year? National title. Sophomore year? Heisman. Junior year? SEC title? Another national title? At this point, can we really doubt that he won't deliver?

So UF now has three Heisman winners. Three QBs. Spurrier, Wuerffel, Tebow. All three have one thing in common. They are all PKs -- Preacher's Kids. But even there Tebow is a little different. He's also an MK -- a Missionary Kid.

Here is a video including all 51 of Tebow's TDs.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007


It's funny because it's true.