|Look at that enormous Sloat head.|
I’m typing this from the doctor’s office. We’re here for a checkup on Isaac, making sure he’s growing like he should and hoping he won’t be covering his face for the next ultrasound.
I’m about to be brutally honest with you, and I hope you can forgive me for it.
I don’t want four kids.
Up until this morning, I have been dreading Isaac’s arrival, I’ve been worrying about my money, my time, and the fact that I’ve got three adopted children who might grow up holding a grudge against our sole biological child.
Akeeli, Aven, and Drake, if you’re reading this, I need you to know I never loved you any less than Isaac. Not for one second. I know you can’t help feeling like you might feel, but listen: I love you more than you could ever imagine. I love you so much I’d die for you.
On the way to Tulsa this today, I had to drop my truck off in Wagoner to get the oil changed. This is in no way a sponsored post, but the guys at Kevin Grover are seriously the best, and one in particular slapped me in the face with some truth this morning.
He walked over to me, and I spent some time trying to figure out if I was looking at his smile or the sun. That’s Neil being Neil though. I’ve never thought of him as car salesman, he’s a friend who happens to be exceptionally skilled at getting me to spend huge sums of money on things with four wheels.
My son weighs 2.6 pounds today. He’s grown tremendously in the last two weeks.
We’re sitting in the lab now, waiting on blood to be drawn. In fact, I’m almost positive Alicia is actually reading what I type as I type it. She’s talking about how much Isaac has grown over the past couple of weeks, and saying that he better slow down. I think she’s finally realizing that when you have a giant for a husband, his kids might be huge too. I don’t know, maybe just my head is giant.
Back to Neil. He came over and shook my hand.
“Two things to congratulate you for, Travis. One, you look fantastic, and two, your newest little one!”
Everyone always does that. If they’re familiar with our situation at all, they’re so excited for us; for me. I get that, and I’m thankful for the empathy, but up until today, it was a forced smile, forced enthusiasm. So I smiled back at him, and I gave my prototypical response.
“Aww, thanks! Be excited for her though, I don’t want four kids.”
Neil didn’t even blink.
“Oh stop that, Travis. You’ve created an eternal soul.”
I’m alone now, Alicia has gone back to have her blood drawn, and I’m fighting tears as I type this. It’s me and one old lady in the waiting room, and I don’t need her wondering why the behemoth four chairs down is blubbering quietly into his cell phone.
We’ve created an eternal soul.
My son is an eternal soul.
Isaac is an eternal soul.
Somewhere in my brain a switch flipped. I took a couple of confused steps and finally spit out a response.
“Thank you, Neil. I’ve never looked at it like that.”
“I’ll leave you guys alone, I know you’ve got a busy day planned!”
He bounced away, frustratingly happy, unaware of the chaos he’d just wreaked in my brain. Unaware of his creating a tectonic shift in the pangean plate that is my selfishness.
You see, that’s all it is, selfishness. One thing I’ve discovered since having children is that I am, by nature, a selfish person. I didn’t realize that until after we’d adopted the kids, but it’s true. I am a selfish person. I want my time, my money, my stuff, my wife. I, I, I, I.
I’m not saying all that changed instantly. I know somewhere between now and the next eighteen years, I’m going to be selfish. But I was given a new way to look at things today. I have four eternal souls that I am now responsible for. Five and six if you count mine and my wife’s, and that’s a whole lot of souls to be in charge of.
My dad figured it out. I don’t know how, but he figured it out. Reading his writings from when I was a kid, I know he was frustrated, unsure of himself as a father, and selfish. But at some point he cracked the code. He figured it out, and he took responsibility for the eternal souls he’d helped create, and he did a damn fine job of it.
Now I’m back at the doctor’s office, waiting for my beautiful wife and my son to come back from getting a shot, which is apparently what you have to do when your husband’s blood (A+), has a higher GPA than yours (A-). We’ll leave here and go pick up two other sons and a daughter, all of which are mine.
Today is a new day. Today I was verbally slapped by a friend who has obviously figured some of it out.
Here she comes. Gotta go. I’m gonna try figure it out.
“Travis have you talked to your wife?”
“Was she upset?”
“She was, very.”
“Well I’m going to need you to call her back. You’ll never guess what happened.”
This story has been a long time in coming, and after spending a week away from technology and clearing my head, I felt like I was finally ready to tell it.
Then, this morning, as I was walking across the church parking lot, bathed in the voices of worshippers headed to their cars, I heard a voice cut through it all.
There must have been ten kids hollering for their fathers, but I recognized that voice. I turned, and he was smiling at me, head full of curly red hair bouncing as he struggled to get away from mom and run my direction. That cemented the decision to write.
This is a story about 04AN022E-001.
Of course, you might know him as Drake.
Hopefully, if you’re reading this blog, you’re all caught up on our family situation at the Sloat house. If you aren’t, I’ll give you the short version, and then you can click here and see all the stories.
My wife and I have adopted three children. These children all share the same biological mother. We adopted the first two, Aven and Akeeli, earlier, then got a phone call about Drake, the youngest. We finalized on him earlier in the year, and changed his first name to Greyson, although we still call him Drake.
Many of you read the blog I wrote when Drake was born. Of course I didn’t know his name, I just knew that my two children suddenly had a brother, and my wife and I were faced with the decision of “What to tell the kids.” How do you let them know they have a brother they’ll never meet?
We did the best we could. Our children grasp things fairly quickly, possibly as a result of so much change in their lives. They’ve never had the luxury of having many abstract thoughts, reality struck them much too harshly, much too early on. They accepted this brother without much emotional involvement, kind of an “out of sight, out of mind” philosophy. A philosophy that didn’t come easily to Alicia and I.
Then of course we got the call.
Drake had been taken by the state, and he’d be coming to see us. Foster care, possible adoption. I hate the term foster care, but no matter, the kids were finally going to get to see their younger brother.
Then we got the email.
“We’ve found a kinship placement, he won’t be coming to see you.”
There are certain words, when strung together in a certain order, change your life forever. Being notified of the death of a child or loved one, a relationship ending, or sitting in a doctor’s office as he uses the word “terminal.” Certain words in a certain order can proclaim worse fates than death.
So we cried.
A few months later, we got a call.
“The kinship placement didn’t work out. Can you meet us to pick him up?”
So we cried. And we drove.
I will never forget that drive home. I will never forget strapping that curly-headed monster into his car seat, I will never forget Aven and Akeeli calling him “bubba,” and I will never forget when Drake pointed at me as we were driving down the road and said, “Dad!”
And thus our lives were changed.
We got still yet another call.
“Travis, the biological mom won’t terminate her parental rights. We know you have a way with words, can you write her a letter letting her know Drake is in good hands?”
I have written stories about murders, tragedies, and love. I have written a commencement speech. I have written cover letters and resumes, and I have written numerous blogs to convey important points to my readers.
None have ever come close to the importance of the letter I wrote to her.
After reading the letter, she decided to terminate, but was fearful of the biological father’s more stubborn attitude about relinquishing. He is in prison, but had said he would not terminate. She didn’t want Drake to go back to him, and we understood her fear.
And so we waited.
We got still yet another call.
“Alicia, the biological father is refusing to terminate. He has court on this date, and we’re going to try to get the judge to terminate then, but technically he can have some time to try and accomplish the things required to get Drake back. He has said that he will not give up his rights.”
So we cried. And we prayed. And we enjoyed our time with Drake, dancing on the razor’s edge of hope, hanging on to the truth proclaimed in God’s Word that all things work together for the good of those who trust Him, and that if God is for us, no one can be against us.
Finally the court date came.
Alicia and I waited nervously by our phones, and kept refreshing our email inboxes, waiting for the news, dreading the appearance of certain words and the order they might be put in.
Finally the email came. Through tears, Alicia told me that the biological father had refused to terminate, and the judge had not granted the state’s request to terminate. Through tears, I told her that things would be okay, there’s no way any judge in the world would give a child back to a man in prison for the crimes he was in for.
Alicia said she was going to call the social worker for clarification on a few things. Things did not get any better after that call, which prompted me to call the social worker and ask a few questions of my own.
“How can they consider handing him back to that man after what he’s done?”
“Well, it’s a jury trial, and they might convince the jury that he’s a great person except for that one night when he made one bad decision, or they might say that a child this young needs his biological father since the mother gave him up.”
“I just don’t see how anyone would ever see it that way.”
“Stranger things have happened. We’ll see how it goes.”
I hung up, crying, and called Alicia.
I told her everything, told her God was still in control, and I hung up the phone.
About ten seconds later it rang again. It was the social worker.
“Travis have you talked to your wife?”
“Was she upset?”
“She was, very.”
“Well I’m going to need you to call her back. You’ll never guess what happened.”
“He was walking out of the courtroom, stopped, turned around and looked at us and said he was ready to relinquish. Said he wanted one more visit, but he’d sign him over immediately.”
I hung up, crying, and called Alicia.
I would not even begin to guess the amount of phone calls made since the telephone was invented. But I can say with complete authority that none of them has ever made anyone happier than that phone call at that time.
We finalized on March 30. As the social worker was having us sign all the paperwork, I saw a number across the top: 04AN022E-001. Drake’s number.
I snapped a picture. “One day I’ll blog about this.”
Oh and the visit? It never happened. He decided he didn’t want to see him after all.
It’s not all been roses and amazing phone calls since that day. In fact, about an hour ago, I had to spank him for not laying down and taking a nap. Right now, as I’m proofreading this blog, we just discovered he’s had a relapse on his potty training and has pooped his pants. He can be insufferable.
He is hard-headed, has a will of iron, and can be as immovable as only red-headed children can.
He is handsome, has a million-dollar smile that makes you feel like the best dad in the world when he gives it to you, and can turn a simple word like “Daddy!” into something that can take my spirit from the lowest depths to the highest peaks.
He just turned three. He looks so much like me that people constantly tell me, “You can’t deny that one.” I look at Alicia, and we just laugh. He’s officially spent more of his life with us than anywhere else. He’s a holy terror to his older brother, and a real-life baby doll to his older sister. He loves Mickey Mouse, nachos, and milk at bedtime. He has nightmares that are painful to witness at 3 a.m. He drives me crazy because he won’t eat when he’s supposed to, and he doesn’t always like to tell me goodnight, which cuts me deeper than anything, and I just pretend it doesn’t.
He’s my son. He’s a Sloat.
One day, I’ll get to meet Jesus.
I have a lot of questions for Him.
But I think the one I’ll ask first, the one that will be on the tip of my tongue before I even get to the throne, will be what made that man change his mind on the way out of the courtroom that day.
I believe in miracles. I also believe in science. I know there’s a chemical in the brain that made him change his mind, and I know that God is in charge of that chemical and every other aspect of our lives. But I’ve got to know. I’ve got to know how He did it.
In the meantime, I’m satisfied with the fact that God took an impossible situation, named it 04AN022E-001, and entrusted him to our care for the next fifteen years. I’ll do my best, and when things seems impossible again, I’ll remember that God is big, and we are His.
|The boy who lived.|
The rock staircase was steep, but adventure was calling. The Youngest couldn’t resist the siren song of adventure, and his older brother and sister were already halfway down, yelling and having fun.
He decided he’d do it on his own.
“Daddy, let me.”
“Go for it son. Be careful.”
I got the phone call on Wednesday morning. I really want to give you more details than I can right now, but I can’t. I have to be careful how I say and word things, but in a couple of months, hopefully I’ll be writing the blog that reveals all.
The call was from Alicia. She was crying.
“Travis, he picked the hard way. What are we going to do?”
To be honest, I didn’t have any clue. I immediately starting thinking of ways I could fix it, ways I could make it better and create a world where I didn’t have to get phone calls like this.
“Things will work out,” was all I could say.
I hung up, and immediately got another phone call from another side of the state. The side of the state where the problem was.
The person on the other end of the line told me the same thing Alicia did, but also gave me more bad news, news I had to give to my wife.
“Alicia, here are a couple of problems. I know we thought this would be easy, but it turns out it won’t be as easy as we thought.”
Then it was my turn to ask.
“What are we going to do?”
Independence did not suit The Youngest well.
He started struggling on the very next step, then tripped on the next one. He stood there for a moment, examining his options, looking for another way down, fully exercising the extent of his independence.
Finally, he reached a conclusion.
“Daddy, help me.”
And he held out his hand.
I grabbed his hand, and the second I did, his descent down the staircase was transformed. He leaned out, taking the steps as fast as he could—as fast as I could—pursuing the goal with reckless abandon, his thoughts now only on the fun.
He trusted me. And in that trust, he found no fear, only freedom. Freedom to take chances, and freedom from doubt.
I hung up the phone with Alicia and I sat there, wondering.
I didn’t pray, although I’d like to say I did. I was too busy thinking of ways I could fix things. I wanted to do it on my own. I wanted to fully exercise the extent of the independence I have in my Savior.
“Daddy, let me.”
But there was nothing I could do. No way for Travis Sloat to handle it.
“Daddy, help me.”
Then the phone rang.
The call was from the other side of the state. And this time it was incredible news.
“Travis, he picked the easy way. We don’t know why, but he changed his mind. It’s going to be the easy way.”
Making that second phone call to my wife is on the top five list of the best moments in my life. It might even crack the top three.
We both sat there on the phone sobbing like idiots, completely lost in the massive mystery that is God.
I told someone later that it felt like God reached out, gave me a friendly pat on the back, and said, “Hey. Hey Travis. I don’t need your help. I got this.”
When all hope has completely vanished, when the road ahead is dark, scary, and twisted, and when you stop, look around you and wonder how you’re going to go on, all God wants is your trust. All he wants is you to look back, hold out your hand, and say, “Daddy, help me.”
I have no idea what the future holds for my family.
But I know that right now, I’m leaning out, testing the firm grip of the One who knows my future, and I’m pulling Him as fast as He’ll let me go.
God is big. We are His.
And so are you.
Just under two years ago I posted this blog.
I was full of resentment and hurt and all of those things that can make a very bitter person out of you if you hang on to them. You see, I was having trouble walking the walk I talked about so much when it came to other people.
I will assume you’re familiar with the phrase: “Just pray for God’s will.” You may have even spoken those words to someone, hoping they’d give comfort and peace.
I can assure you that living that phrase is harder than saying it. And I’m just about positive that you already know that, because undoubtedly you’ve lost a loved one, a job, or have been in a situation where you desperately wanted your will done and not God’s.
If you aren’t a Christian or don’t believe in God, that’s fine, I have to figure this would be the equivalent of someone telling you “Things will work out, just give it time.”
So fast forward to a few months back. The Missus and I got a phone call. The bouncing baby boy born back in 2012 was needing a new home. You were on the list. Be ready. He’s coming to you.
We might have freaked out just a bit. The Missus did a deep cleaning of the house the likes of which I have never seen in my life. Things were stored, things were bleached, things were thrown away, things were painted. Rooms were changed. My brother came over and threw his back out hanging up a ceiling fan, God love him. We were going to be prepared.
Then came an email.
“We’re going to give him to someone else instead. We’ll keep you posted.”
The pain The Missus felt was extraordinary. I felt empty. I was disappointed. I felt like nothing good would ever happen again. We cried, we yelled, and we questioned the very God whose will we were supposedly praying for all along. We sat down and had a giant pity party. We broke the news to the kids, and then everyone in the family was broken hearted.
I do not claim to know why that happened. I don’t know why we needed to feel that pain, and why we had to explain to our children that the new baby, their brother, was not coming to us after all. But we did. And we moved on.
Then we got another email.
“The someone didn’t work out. He’s coming to you.”
After swearing we would never get our hopes up again, we…well we got our hopes up again. We cleaned. We did background checks and home studies and physicals. We decided not to tell the kids until we were a bit more certain. Then we told the kids.
Then we made the drive. Just under two hours, and we had a Tahoe full of toys and clothes and baby, whose name I cannot give you for a while, for the same reason I couldn’t give you the others’ back in 2010. It’ll take a little bit. We don’t know how long, that’s up to the state and the Lord. This situation isn’t as fluid as the other one. There are a lot of extraneous factors that could result in us not getting to keep him.
However, I serve a God who is in control of this situation. He knows what’s going to happen already, in fact He saw it from the beginning of time. And what’s more important, He knows what I can handle. He knows what my family can handle. And if it’s His will that my family should now number five, then so be it. If not, somehow, with His help, we’ll get through it.
But right now the boy is home. He’s at our house, with his brother and sister, and they love him. We love him. He loves all of us. In fact, on the car ride home, he said something, and I turned and looked at him. He pointed right at me and said “Dad.”
He hates nap time. He hates bed time. He loves bananas. He has the reddest, curliest hair you’ve ever seen and looks exactly like a Sloat. Hates to be told no. Can high five with the best of them. Loves the rabbit, doesn’t really care for Fabulous, but he’s warming up to her. Loves to say “Bye” and act like he’s walking out the door. He cries when I leave for work or school, which breaks my heart. Gives pretty good hugs. Is calling The Missus “Mom,” and his brother and sister “Bubba” and “Sis.”
The addition to our family has also created an imbalance of sorts, as represented by the following pie charts.
|This seems natural and right and in complete harmony and accord with all things.|
|THE PURPLE AREA IS GROWING HELP ME BABY JESUS.|
In the past two weeks I’ve taken hundreds of pictures, the majority of which I can’t put on social media or my blog. I forwarded one picture to about 20 different people before I realized that it had my boob in it, clear as day. Here’s one that makes me proud, but I can’t tell you if it’s him.
|This could be him, this might not be him. I’m not telling you for sure.|
It seems as though he’s had a hundred visitors. Family, friends, and everyone who meets him loves him. They play with him, hold him, talk to him. God has blessed us with people in our lives who genuinely love us and who want good things for our family. It amazes me that He would take so many terrible situations: broken families, infertility, abuse, drugs…and combine them into something so amazing. Something I’m able to call a family.
The other day, the day after we brought him home, he was screaming his lungs out about taking a nap and I was there beside him to make sure he didn’t abscond from the crib. As I watched him tire himself out by crying, something struck me as humorous and I looked down at him and laughed. Then, the comparison hit me, I started crying while I was laughing. So I stood there like an idiot, chuckling silently while giant tears slid down my cheeks.
God throws me a lot of curveballs. And sometimes, when I’m right smack in the middle of something God knows I should be going through, I lay down and I kick my feet and I scream about it. I say “No” a lot and I think God is the worst person in the world for handing me the situation or set of circumstances. It’s so unfair. The world is unfair. It’s the worst.
And then I calm down. I realize that what I’m going through is what’s best for me. I realize all those things I wish I would have realized sooner. I realize that I serve a God who can handle me when I’m having my biggest screaming hissy fit ever, and he’s looking at me saying, “It’s for the best. Trust me. Just trust me.”
So yeah, I’m hoping God works His will in this situation. And even more than that, I actually believe that His will is best for all of us, including the new guy. Do I want things to work out the way I think is best? Absolutely. But what do I know?
I know that God is big.
I know that I am His. I know that my family is His. I know that you are His.
And I know that The Missus and I are officially outnumbered, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
As I’ve mentioned previously, one day our children will find this blog. Someone will tell them about it, they’ll meander their way around the Internet, and voila, they’ll have more information about their dad than they’ll ever want.
Another aspect of that would be the fact that one day our children will have a Facebook account. And when they do, they’ll want to look back at the story of their lives I’ve told with pictures and with status updates. Kids being kids, I’m sure they’ll want to count how many times each have been mentioned or shown, and that’s when our son will realize something…
Akeeli is a Facebook “Like” machine.
I’ve often joked that if I want to improve my Klout score, all I have to do is post something to do with our darling daughter, and the response is overwhelming…not to mention the impact on the above mentioned Klout score.
And so this blog goes out to you, son. One day you’ll see it, and hopefully this will make up for all the Internet attention your sister got.
|This is the adoption finalization. Crying, crying, smiling, and then Aven, the double thumbs up.|
This all started on Saturday.
I’ve been really busy with work and school, and what little time I’ve been able to spend with y’all has not been as precious to me as it should be. You changed that this weekend.
I woke up early and headed out to cover a story for the paper. I didn’t have time for breakfast, and rushed through the interviews and the article because I had an appointment at the Apple store for my computer battery.
I didn’t have time for lunch before we went, so as we walked into the store, I started feeling the first effects of having taken diabetes medication without food. I got a little cranky. You rushed up to me and asked if you could go play on the iPads in the kid’s section. I said okay, and your sister went too.
After a couple of minutes, I noticed a little girl standing beside your sister watching. I asked her to get up and share with you so the kid could have a turn. When she sat down next to you, she immediately started trying to touch the screen of “your” iPad, and you shoved her arm away a little too roughly. I told you that you were done, and you had to come over to the wall and put your nose in a corner.
I know you don’t remember this specific incident, but I’m sure you’ll remember the discipline you’ve gone through growing up, and I’m sure, depending on how old you are, you think it’s so terrible. You want to know a secret? I think it’s terrible too. You and I share many qualities, remarkably so, given your lack of my genes, but the one thing we don’t share is an ornery childhood. I was mostly calm and introverted, and you are the complete opposite. I grew out of my esoteric behavior. I truly hope you never grow out of your outgoing and carefree nature.
We headed to CiCi’s Pizza, and as we were getting out of the car you did something that upset me. Right now, less than 48 hours later, I can’t even recall what it was. This tells me that it wasn’t really “me” that was upset, it was “Hungry Dad,” who is a monster. I’m still learning how to be a dad, son. I don’t know it all, and I’m sorry for that.
So I snapped at you.
You replied with a “Yes sir,” and we started walking to the restaurant.
Without even thinking, you reached up and grabbed my hand. I know you had no idea what that could do to me, and I don’t know that I can explain it.
You weren’t even mad that I had just gotten on to you. You knew that I wasn’t going to let anything happen to you crossing the parking lot, and you just trusted me – and loved me – enough to get you into the restaurant.
We ate, and I felt better. In fact, I felt so much better that I gave you and your sister each a dollar to go play games with. You went straight to a claw machine that promised you could “play till you won.” You played twice, looked up at me, and said, “Dad, can you win me something?”
Then you ran off.
Son it took me 15 more tries to win you that candy. Your mom laughed at me. But I wouldn’t quit.
When we left the restaurant, we had to take your mom to Hobby Lobby. We were walking in, and you did something I thought was hilarious. You parked yourself under a tree that was half as tall as me, and sat there in the “shade.”
|There’s no shade except me.|
As we resumed our trip inside, you looked up at me and said, “Dad, your favorite superhero is Superman, right?”
I said, “Yes.”
You just nodded your head like you knew all along, and then we went on in. While we were in the store, you pointed at something and said, “Dad, it’s your favorite color flower!”
I looked where you were pointing, and I saw a gigantic orange flower on display.
I’ve been saying for a year now that you don’t listen. Apparently I have been terribly, terribly wrong.
I smiled and said, “Yes it is,” and we went out to “cool off the car” while your mom and sister checked out.
Later that evening you wanted to go with me to a basketball game. You have no idea how badly I wanted to take you, but since I was the referee, I couldn’t keep an eye on you…and since you wouldn’t sit still for longer than 30 seconds, that’s kind of important. So, you didn’t get to go.
When I got home later that night, I was standing in the kitchen and you walked in.
“Dad, I got your favorite color juice tonight!” you exclaimed as you held up a bottle that once held an orange sugary beverage that was not at all similar to juice.
You know my favorite superhero is Superman.
You know my favorite color.
You even know my favorite basketball team.
|You made this for me at school.|
I think you like Spiderman a little better than Superman, and I think you’re partial to pink instead of orange.
And let me tell you a little secret.
I LOVED the color pink until about the sixth grade.
God, in His infinite wisdom and screwy sense of humor, put you and I together for a reason. Then, knowing we’d need women in our lives to keep us from killing each other, He went ahead and gave us your mom and sister too.
One day I’m going to figure this “dad” thing out.
I’ve got you eating like me already…
|Your first corn eating contest. I’m absolutely certain you won, but they gave first to some little girl.|
It’s not always sunshine and pleasant thoughts. You are stubborn, prone to violent outbursts towards your schoolmates, a bit of a liar (albeit a terrible one), and did I mention that you’re stubborn?
However, every phone call we get, every bad report from a Sunday School teacher, and every talk from anyone telling us you’re in trouble all ends the same way.
“He has a heart of gold. He is so thoughtful and sweet…when he wants to be.”
We still have work to do. About a year ago, after one of your fits, your mother and I looked at each other and cried, each wondering if we could ever straighten you out. I looked at her and said, “If God didn’t want this to happen, it wouldn’t have happened. It’s going to be okay.”
Guess what. It’s all okay. In fact, after this weekend, it’s better than okay. It’s amazing.
In honor of this post, I changed my Facebook profile picture to the one below. This is one of the happiest moments of our time together for me. We told everyone that you caught this fish. In reality, your mom set the hook and reeled it in while you ran to tell me about the fish you were “catching.”
She gave you all the credit. That’s how your mom is. That’s why we love her.
You were ecstatic. You ran. You yelled. I barely got you to stand still for the picture.
That’s how you are.
That’s why we love you.
|Your biggest fish to date.|
P.S. If you count the “likes” you got for this picture the first time I posted it, AND the “likes” it’s gotten since I made it my profile picture, the total comes in at a whopping 90. That’s not bad…
…but it’s not even half the “likes” your sister got on the picture of me baptizing her.
But don’t worry. It’s not like it’s a contest.
P.P.S. If your sister is still getting “Internet attention” when you read this, let me know. I’ll shut whatever she has down and give you $100. That’s a promise.
I want to preface this entire blog with this: I love our children, I would take a bullet for our children, and I would go to the ends of the earth to bring them happiness if that’s what it took. Thankfully, right now, happiness is only as far away as the nearest item with the highest sugar content, so we’re good.
But I do have a few minor hang-ups. And as odd as it may seem, this entire blog started with towels.
So let’s take it back to the beginning. We all know that I have a problem with bathroom shame. I’ve had it since I was a kid, and I’ve never been able to shake it. I’m simply not comfortable knowing that anyone else in the world goes poop, particularly the ladies. I’ve been married to The Missus for 9 years now, and she’s never once pooped, farted, or talked in any detail about either. She also doesn’t pee. She tinkles.
I probably forced my bathroom shame on her, and that probably happened when, the day before the wedding, I told her, “If you ever poop or fart, I’ll never find you attractive again.”
So we’ve been together all this time, and it’s a great thing we have going on. Then…we were introduced to the children. Being three and five when we got them, we didn’t have the whole “poopy diapers and potty training” experience. We’ve been told countless times, “Dude! You didn’t have to deal with diapers or potty training or anything!”
“You’re so lucky!”
Alright, first, let me address the fact that some of us don’t consider that “lucky.” Some of us, particularly my better half, would kill to hold a baby and have it poop all over her and potty train it and stuff. That’s me being real, so ease up off the “lucky” talk. Second, I don’t know how many of you own a four and a six year old, but they’re gross. Straight up gross. I just walk around my house, looking at them, and thinking about how disgusting the things they do are. The heck of it is, most of the things they are doing, I do too. But somehow, maybe because I’m an adult and I know how to shower properly, it’s more disgusting when they do it.
When I walk into the bathroom in the morning to begin my morning ritual, the first thing I have to do is stare intently at the toilet seat for at least thirty seconds to make sure there aren’t any little pee sprinkles. The boy child lifts the seat most times, but there have been mornings where I’ve been surprised. And not the cool, “OH MY GAWD I JUST WON THE LOTTERY!” surprised, either. If I see any water droplets of any kind, I have to spend another two minutes in an intense cleansing of the toilet seat ritual, even if those water droplets are from The Missus getting out of the shower. I’m not willing to take that chance.
Then, when I am seated upon the throne, my eyes turn downward to the floor, where more than likely, last night’s clothes that were removed before bath time are still there. Before you get all judgmental, let me ask you a question. If I walked in your bathroom right now, would there be clothes on the floor? If you answered no, you a) are a liar, b) might be gay, or c) you had company last night. Don’t get mad at me about the gay thing. If you aren’t any of those things, chances are probably good you have to take a pill to help balance out your moods.
So I’m looking at the floor, and there is –ahem– underwear. There is a possibility that it could belong to any of us, but usually it belongs to the kids. I still have a problem seeing little girl underwear. I have not seen our daughter in any state of undress since we’ve gotten her, and I’m petrified of the day it happens. Doesn’t feel right. I’m also terrified of the day one of them accidentally sees me naked. I seriously feel like I need deadbolts on our doors when I’m changing. But back to the floor and the underwear that lies there. It’s always gross. I think our son has a wiping problem, and sometimes it looks like our daughter might too, and I’m too ashamed to actually sit down and have a wiping discussion with them, so I just yell at them for being nasty a lot like D.L. Hughley. That’s the correct way to raise a child, right?
So while completing my morning ritual, I have to try and keep myself occupied and my eyes off the floor. I play Draw Something, or come up with a witty Facebook/Twitter status, or just pick my nose a lot. When I’m all done, I hop in the shower.
After a very methodical shower, I open the shower curtain and look for my towel. It used to be, in every single house The Missus and I lived in, we had this whole sort of towel routine. I reuse towels, sometimes up to a week. Call me crazy, but I’m clean when I use them, and after drying off, I flip them up over the shower curtain bar and let them dry. Then, when The Missus takes her shower, she takes it off the bar and puts it on the towel bar next to the shower. Then I take it off the towel bar, dry off, and repeat. Like I said, this is how it used to be.
For the last week or so, I’ve noticed a trend. When I get out of the shower, the towel I used the day before is not on the towel bar, but on one of the hooks on the door. Where the children’s towels are hung. Touching the children’s towels. Maybe even used by one of the kids to wipe…well, anything. Maybe it was even used to…dry a kid off after their bath.
*cue me throwing up a little.
So, essentially, I’ve used more towels in the last few days than I have in the last two months combined. I can’t touch a towel after I know it’s been touched by one of our kids. Just the thought of using something on my body that has touched theirs…well, it makes me want to bathe in rubbing alcohol. Not that weak sauce 80% rubbing alcohol either. I’m talking 91%. That’s the only rubbing alcohol that comes in my house.
|This is how it works. See? Gross. Exactly how AIDS started, I’m sure.|
Basically, after all this ranting, I’m wanting to know if this behavior is normal. Seeing as how I’m virtually surrounded by stay at home moms and mommy bloggers, I figured one of you could answer as to whether or not I actually need some sort of extensive therapy, or if this is something that I’ll (God forbid) grow out of. When I addressed the problem with The Missus, she gave me one of those, “I’m late for work and I still can’t believe I let you have sex with me” looks, and walked off saying, “I JUST moved it to the door, Travis. I JUST moved it.”
And in the meantime I’ll be wondering whether or not the conservation of a natural resource that is essential to life is worth me catching the kid cooties from towel transference.
Who can I call to get some of those mood pills?
I’m going to tell you a story today about Jennie.
No, not this Jenny, even though that’s the first thing that always comes to my mind when I hear that name.
I try to be a “credit where credit is due” type of person. If someone does something for me and my family, I want to brag on them a little bit, kind of give their ego a little boost. In my mind, that’s the best form of repayment, when no real price could ever be named. I don’t always succeed, but I like to think I hit more than I miss.
A few months ago, I blogged about our adoption process. In that blog, I mentioned a family that was very interested in adopting Akeeli and Aven before they knew about us. The state, for whatever reason, decided ultimately to give them to us, but it’s not like there was a giant fuss or anything, we just had the training done already, and they really wanted to get the kids placed.
To put it mildly, this family is amazing. I said in the original blog that the kids had winners in every corner, and I hold true to that to this day.
However, there is one particular member of that family that I’m going to brag on today. It’s a young lady, twenty years old, who was still a teenager when Akeeli and Aven came into her life. A young lady who we met on the second visit to see the kids and who we watched dissolve into tears when she met us. When she met the people who were going to be taking them away.
I cried when I read it the first time, and I cried when I read it today. Tomorrow, if I read it, I’ll cry again.
At a time when our children didn’t have anyone to love them, Jennie and her family were there. At a time when they desperately needed stability, Jennie tried her best to give it to them.
And it cost her.
My wife still has nightmares where someone knocks on the door, tells us the children have to go back for some reason, and takes them out of our lives as quickly as they came in.
Jennie lived that.
Not in the way we would, not in the way that she had them day and night and was a parent, but in the sense that these two kids wormed their way into her heart (the way they do everyone) and then she watched them pack up and leave.
The kids talked about her constantly when we brought them home.
“Jennie did this.”
“Jennie took us there one time.”
“We went to church with Jennie.”
It wasn’t about the foster mom, it wasn’t about their birth parents, it was about Jennie.
So it was no surprise when one day, Aven was talking on the phone with her, and just decided he was going to invite her to the zoo trip my wife was planning for them.
Without asking us.
I’ll be the first to admit, that was awkward. You see, all we’d been told about the family was that they wanted the kids as well. To us, at that point, they were competition. I also thought that it was a bad idea simply because I saw her as a spy. Someone who would report anything to DHS to have the kids taken back in the trial period.
We were scared.
The zoo trip came and went. The kids were angels for her. The Missus fell in love with her, and the way the kids responded to her.
From that moment on, Jennie has become part of our extended family.
She is currently going to college, and our children have inspired her to go into Social Work. She has her head on straighter than any twenty year old I know, and I firmly believe that one day she’ll make a difference in the world. She’s already made a difference in ours.
She came down and stayed with us over the weekend. The kids climbed all over her, talked to her, jumped on the trampoline with her, played video games with her, made videos with her on her computer, and in general just ignored us for about twenty four hours.
I got the yard cleaned up and mowed. The Missus got to read.
When we first got the kids, we were told that most adopted children needed a contact back “home.” They needed to maintain a relationship with someone that would help ease their transition into a new life. The Missus and I were hugely skeptical about that. All we could think about was losing the kids because they said something that someone thought sounded funny. Trusting anyone from their lives before us was a huge obstacle.
In hindsight, we were dumb. Of course, it’s easy to label it as “over-protective,” but in reality, it was just being dumb.
You see, Jennie is the young woman that I am praying my daughter grows up to be. Jennie is the young woman that I am praying my son marries.
Not every adoption has a continuous horror story behind it. Sometimes there are tragic circumstances, sometimes there are unwise decisions, and sometimes there are terrifying and painful memories. Our children have harvested a lifetime of those.
But sometimes…after all of the pain…sometimes there’s a Jennie.
|One of the eight thousand pictures of them I’m sure she has on her hard drive. Not in a creepy way though.|
This little blog won’t take much of your Friday. There has just been too much happen today to Tweet or Facebook all of it, and I thought a succinct little update on the ol’ blog would be the way to go.I hope these few things make you laugh as much as they did me.First things first, I was awoken this morning by a Facebook message from my first and second grade crush. She was seriously one of the two girls in elementary school that I swore I would marry when I got older. I’ve actually blogged about her before, in my post about having accidental scary accuracy. She was the little girl I brained with a rock as she was swinging on the playground so I could show her how much I liked her.So…she doesn’t remember that happening.I apologized to her for giving her irreparable brain damage, and we’re working it out.Also this morning, I walked in on my daughter using the bathroom. The Missus looked at me and said, “The door was closed, that was your own fault.”We all know about my crippling sense of bathroom shame. I don’t talk about bathroom stuff, I am dead set against open door bathroom stuff, I don’t want to SEE bathroom stuff, and I for dang sure don’t need to walk in on my beautiful young daughter as SHE’S doing her bathroom stuff. I don’t want to walk in on ANYONE doing that. Bathroom time is private time.I HATE BATHROOM STUFF.So anyway, after she got out of the bathroom, I said, “Come child. It’s time you learned about shame.” And I proceeded to show her that the bathroom door had a lock, and she should utilize that lock to protect her own privacy as well as the sanctity of my precious memories of her. I will teach these children bathroom shame if it’s the last thing I do.Another thing I said this morning, to my son, was “That’s not how you use a basketball goal.” To which my wife replied, “That’s how uncle Josh was playing with it last night.” So…shout out to my baby brother (Happy Birthday also) for being the most nonathletic Sloat boy, and passing that down to my son, who I’ve determined will be recruited by Duke and then go to the NBA as one of three successful white point guards since the seventies.I was also on point on Facebook this morning with the smart-@ss comments, as evidenced in the following picture.Boom. Roasted.Then…there is the piece de resistance.My son was asked to draw a picture for his class yesterday. It was a picture of his family as he saw them. This is what he came up with.The Sloat Family PortraitAs you can see, he plainly traced around a cantaloupe to draw me, then apparently remembered I have trouble supporting my head on my bulbous body. I also have a goiter and a black hole for a face. Maybe I need to work on yelling less.His sister is just a mere 35 pounds away from me, a tad shorter, but at least she was given a facial expression and an “X” on her clothing. I think that may stand for the first person he’s planning to knock off. I am pretty sure I should get him in counseling.Then we move to his self-portrait. I would have to say it’s astonishing to me how accurate it is, minus the pompadour haircut. The torso to legs ratio may be a tad off, but by far it is the most spot-0n drawing in the picture because……my lovely wife has a solid red face, green legs, lacks any arms whatsoever, and loves brown tops with green skirts. Also, SHE HAS SPRINGY SHOES. I think this solidifies how my son feels about his mother, in that she’s launched herself to a favorable position as the head of the family by being the highest in the air.I’m seriously considering having him do artwork for the blog. I could pay him with bags of chips and Capri Sun, and that’s cheaper than most “photographers” out there. “Art by Aven” has a nice ring to it. Here’s to shamelessly selling out my children!That pretty much rounds out my Friday, and I hope I’ve given you something laugh about until the weekend starts. Turns out, kids are GREAT blogging material. Who knew?There are, of course, things that were left out of my novella on Tuesday. This post will serve as sort of a “fill the gaps” measure, just in case someone has come to this page or this blog looking for information about adopting.We actually chose the state adoption process instead of the private adoption process because of several different reasons. The first, quite honestly, was money. For a private adoption, most agencies want to see $30-40,000 in your bank account before they’ll even get started. As I’ve said to many people, if we’d have had that kind of money, we would have spent it trying to get The Missus pregnant. There are also about three thousand kids in Oklahoma without families. Most of those will “age out” of the system, never having a family except their foster family, which may or may not include three or four other foster kids. We felt like we wanted to put a dent (however small) in that number.One of the low points for me personally was going to an “Adoption Party.” I blogged about this previously, so I won’t go into detail, but it was terrible. It was literally the worst point of the whole process for me. I know they throw those parties so that families can interact with kids on sort of a neutral playing ground, but it was completely disheartening for me, and honestly made me want to quit the entire adoption process.There were also two twin boys from Kansas that we looked at. It turns out if you are approved to adopt in Oklahoma, there are other states you can look at. We didn’t think Oklahoma was moving fast enough for us at one point, so we started looking in Kansas and found these two boys. We sent in an application, and got word back that the application was one day too late. That was a crushing blow that made The Missus want to quit. We simply couldn’t handle the rejection, and we thought there would be many more circumstances like that.The whole process, training to finalization, lasted a little over one year. I know of families who have waited several years without getting a child and are continuously being rejected. Some of that is the fact that most families want babies. The Missus and I prayed about that, and both realized that a baby could come later, and decided to go with older children. The decision to go with siblings was also mutual, we both sort of figured if we were getting one we might as well get two, what’s the difference? Neither of us have regretted that for a second.The Home Interviews were tough. We had a lady who constantly canceled on us, and always wanted to reschedule. She was very unprofessional, and really didn’t want to do any work at all during the month of December. I heard it said the other day that December is like the Friday of the months, and I couldn’t agree more. When we were calling the lawyer’s office to get the finalization taken care of, the first answer we got was, “Well, December is a pretty busy month…” Trying to get work done in December is almost impossible.For those that just won’t be satisfied until I say something about it…yes, there are monetary benefits for adopting from the state. Both of our children will have free insurance until they are eighteen, unless we elect to have them covered by our personal insurance. Daycare is free until they are seven, and each of them receive a stipend every month that grows progressively until they turn eighteen. To give you somewhat of an idea, if we start saving that money for them when they turn ten, (which is the plan) then they each will have about $30,000 to put towards college educations and the like. That is of course with accrued interest.One of the high points for both of us was going to see Akeeli’s dance recital. We got to pick them both up, take them to the recital, and then spent the afternoon with them eating at Pizza Hut and playing in a park. For me, that was the day when I truly got emotionally attached. I remember pulling out of the foster mom’s driveway and back on to the highway heading for home, and my heart ached at the thought of leaving them both in hands other than ours. And as an aside, I will say this about foster parents: for the most part, they are better people than me. I couldn’t do what they do. I understand not all of them are good people, but this one was.Then of course, driving to pick them up, borrowing my brother’s huge diesel truck to pack all their stuff in, and praying it wouldn’t rain on us on the way back. I convinced them both on the way home that there was little man inside of the PikePass that wore blue pants and red shirt, and he waved at the tollbooth operators and they let us through because he was so nice. I fed this little guy peanuts and ice water, and he was very happy.Seeing The Missus adapt to motherhood the way a duck adapts to water and knowing that when I had a choice to make a few years back I made the right one. I’ve always said she needed more people to love than just me, and I stick by that today.Hearing Akeeli say “I love you” for the first time. Lord have mercy, that one broke me. Aven said it quickly, almost a conditioned response to us saying, as if it was expected. Keeli was different though. It took a while. But when she said it…wow.Keeli also says the sweetest things without even knowing she says them. I posted something on Facebook a while back about how when she was faced with the choice of getting a necklace with “A” for Akeeli or “S” for Sloat, she picked the “S.” When she told that to me, I held it together long enough to get back to our bedroom, and I lost it. I thanked God for the blessings he gave us.If you’re still reading this and you are wondering how we managed to get through this whole ordeal, I can tell you. Obviously, we are a Christian family who believes God has had this planned for a while now, and who believes that he truly wants the best for us. We are very fortunate to be surrounded by a group of friends and family who believe the same.Our Sunday School Class – I can’t even begin to thank these people enough. When we started this process, they were there to surround us in prayer and encouragement. When things got tough, they just loved us. They didn’t offer false comforts, and they didn’t try to understand what was going on. They just loved us. That group of human beings is probably the most awesome to come together since Matchbox 20.Family – Our families have been nothing but supportive. We were concerned that an adopted child wouldn’t really be seen as part of the family. Nothing has been proven more wrong. Both of our families have adapted splendidly, and love our children just as much as we do.Personal Friends – There is a quote from Elbert Hubbard that says, “A friend is one who knows you and loves you just the same.” The Missus and I are very fortunate to have several of these people in our lives. Just being able to call someone and gripe about the stupid state, or the stupid DHS, or the stupid People, Inc. has had a huge impact on us keeping our sanity through this whole ordeal. Again, all of these are people who just shut up and loved us, and we can’t express our appreciation enough.Blog Friends – Believe it or not, there have been several blog buddies that have soldiered through this with us. I have made friends for life in this giant online world where so often maintaining a reputation precedes maintaining relationships. Lauren, Ed, and Jeff are some special ones that I’ll never forget. Along with those, I want to make a special mention. When we moved the children in, I was contacted by someone named Kristin. Kristin runs the blogOnly Parent Chronicles. Kristin and I have been blog buddies for a while now, and I can say this; I knew she was a genuinely nice person who has been though hell and back in just about all aspects of her life. When Kristin got in touch with me, she asked me a few questions and then a few days later a “care package” showed up for the kids. This blew my mind. It reminded me of why I ever picked up blogging to begin with. People make fun of me for having “Internet friends,” but I can assure you, these are all real friends, and I thank them.That’s all for now, I’m absolutely certain I left someone out, and if I did, remind me and you’ll probably wind up getting your own post.