The joys of adoptive parenting – stool sample edition

There is a surprise in our refrigerator.  We had to warn Jordan to not look in the cute little bag on the bottom shelf.  It’s Jacob’s stool sample.  (Jordan gave a funny look and then confessed that he ate some fudge from a plastic bag recently.)


The story of getting here is pretty funny.  In fact, this is going to be one of my top five bathroom experiences with Jacob.  The story goes quite a way back — to when we were in Seattle over the summer.  We took Jacob to an adoptive medicine specialist and one of the many things she suggested was taking stool samples every other day for a week and then having them checked for parasites and bacteria.

That would have worked if we were home, but we were moving from place to place and collecting a sample wouldn’t be easy.  Jacob clearly thought we were crazy when we told him that we wanted to collect some of his poop.  The inconvenience and cost were major factors in deciding to put it off until we were in India.

For a few days we have had the sample collecting jar kicking around.  Yesterday Jacob came into the bathroom while I was shaving and lifted the seat and sat on the toilet rim (that’s another story).  I exclaimed “You’re going to poop?  Wait!”  And I dashed downstairs to get the jar and a plastic bag.  Moments later I am holding the open plastic bag to his bare bum as he cutely asks “Pa, whaddya doin’?” And the only reply that I know he’ll understand is “I need didi’s poop”  (Didi means “little brother” in Mandarin.)  He replies “You crazy.”

I used a plastic spoon to get some in the sample jar and then took the poop bag and dirty spoon to our garbage can outside.  I wish that I had Tamil biohazard bags — but I figure the guy that does our garbage sorting has dealt with cat litter bags from our place.  I should have put some cat litter in that bag.   It’s just a grocery bag with poo and a spoon.

When we visited with a family that adopted a girl from Jacob’s orphanage, they said that her test for parasites had come back indicating that she was pretty loaded.  Since Jacob hasn’t gained any weight in 5 months (still just over 21 kg – or 46 pounds) putting him in the bottom 5th percentile, we suspect he’s eating for a few thousand.

Wine vending machine in China

Wine vending machine

While we were taking care of an appointment for our adoption medical check in Guangzhou, China, we saw this wine vending machine in the lobby.  Pepper had no luck with her card, but our guide slipped in with some cash to save the day.  Wine vending machine!

Father’s Day project 2014

For Father’s Day I made a bench out of the headboard and foot-board of a twin bed.  I salvaged them from the burn pile at the dump in Petersburg.  DSC_1306

First, I had to do a number of measurements to figure out how to cut the foot-board.  I determined that I would cut out about an 8 inch section of the center of the foot-board and have to shorten the legs so that the bench side rails were low.



Above you can see that I didn’t just cut off the leg.  I cut out a section of the middle and saved the lower part to reconnect using a peg and wood glue.

I used pegs and glue to attach the former foot-board and new side to the headboard/back of the bench.


Clamp for a while!

DSC_1313Though I didn’t document the next steps, they are pretty easy.  I cut a few pieces of wood to make supports for the bench seat from some red cedar 2x2s and a piece of oak from an old dresser.  I used the top of the same oak dresser for the seat of the bench.

Bench from headboard and foot board.A perfect spot to sit and put your boots on, kick them off, or take a nap if you’re a tiny kid!

I turned 40

Time flies.  Not just the time since I was younger and now became 40, but also the time since I turned 40.  Though the old memory is getting pretty foggy, I thought I would try and recount some of the happenings from that time well over six months ago.

It was a Thursday.  I was coaching the middle school boys volleyball team in the mornings so I had to be up early.  The alarm starts off at 4:50 AM.  When I got to the office, there were a few notes on my white board over my desk.  My teaching partner, Holly is really a great person and was sure to leave me notes.  When volleyball practice started at 6:30, I gave the boys the entire practice to play volleyball.  Coach Suresh and I were able to play as well.  It was my gift to them on behalf of my birthday and I got to play some volleyball for an hour and a half.


I only had one class to teach that day.  We played some American Football in a lead-up to the Superbowl.  After class, I changed from my athletic wear to the matching pants and vest that Mike and I had custom tailored last winter.  I pulled the outfit together with a bow tie and a flat cap.  People that saw me asked about the occasion and I asked how they could tell… did I look older?

In the cafeteria during lunch, Holly came in with a tray of goodies configured in a “40” and even managed to find a candle.  She also arranged to have some of the students sing happy birthday to me.  It was the table of “cool kids” and toward the end of the song, much of the cafeteria chimed in.  Certainly a huge change from the kind of birthday celebration that I would have had during my own years in high school.

After lunch I decided to go all-in.  Pretty early in the morning I had packed for the day having assembled my “old person” outfit.  But I also packed my hair clippers.  Through much of the day I entertained the idea of shaving my hair into a male pattern baldness in the ultimate bow to getting older.

40 years oldAfter school there was a staff meeting for the entire high school.  Birthdays were announced and of course, I couldn’t help but tip my hat.  With my glasses pushed up on my nose and lifted off my ears I figure I must have looked older.

It wasn’t intended to be a stab at those that are more bald than I naturally am, just a fun way to embrace getting older.  I figured it would be better going into my 40s with a sense of humor than being a morose Eeyore.

I had a wonderful evening home with my family too.  Though, Pepper and Jordan were shocked and really wanted my new haircut gone.  So i buzzed it down to the skin on the rest of my head and started working on eliminating my hairline tan-line the next day.

Sanjay Patel’s Hindu God artwork

Sanjay Patel Hindu dietiesLast year, after our shipment arrived with our household goods, furniture, and artwork, we found that our bedroom wall just didn’t work with any of the pieces we had brought.  Some of the work we brought here and had framed, and while at the shop we saw a few of Sanjay Patel’s Hindu God posters.  We placed an order for 10 of our favorites and two weeks later we were figuring out where to drill holes into our concrete walls again.

Patel’s artwork is beautiful.  It is bright and bold with a cartoon-approach, though the depictions are not all the same.  Pepper loves the work so much that I bought her his book Divine Loophole.

Since hanging those last fall, we also have hung a number of the prints up at our friend’s place here and the high school library now has a set hanging on the walls.

Jacob attends his first birthday party

Over the summer, Jacob had a birthday party of sorts.  But today he went to his first birthday party for one of his peers.  He ended up being the only boy invited so he was surrounded by 8 girls from second grade.

They started off by making their own pizzas, including rolling the dough out.  Then they all helped out with making cupcakes.  Jordan and his best friend Emma then played some badminton outside before everyone went swimming in the pool.

People are good

The day we left Petersburg we went to the airport to check in at the tiny terminal.  (Things work out that you can actually run home for an hour after checking in for your flight!)  While we were there there were just a few people around other than the employees.  One was a black guy with his arm in a sling.  The immediate assumption I had was that he was a cannery worker headed home after an injury that took him out of work.  We had Jacob with us and were doing our usual back and forth in mixed English and Mandarin.  It isn’t hard to tell when you look at us that he’s not our biological child.  I was running out to the car to grab Jacob’s Alaska Airlines frequent flier registration card and the guy sitting there asked his name.  While I was out grabbing the card, he called Jacob over and gave him a crisp 100 dollar bill.  Pepper stammered when she saw how much it was and reminded Jacob to thank him.  She asked him why he gave the money to Jacob and he just replied “I’m a nice person.”

We can’t lie, the adoption has been financially draining and a random $100 is great to have.  We just spent it on Jacob’s first tech gadget.  He now has a kid-specific Android tablet.  When we picked it out we picked him up and asked if he was happy and Jacob was clearly near tears with his joy.  It will be loaded with educational and fun games for him, allow him top take photos (which he really has enjoyed doing) and give one more bit of peace to the ample travel that we have to do.

Thank you to the generosity of a complete stranger, we felt the joy of love and life.  We’ll be passing it on.


Yes, Seth, you’re next.

Next in my series about brothas of anotha motha.  And by that I mean the friends that have been there through thick and thin – no, Seth, I’m not calling you fat.

The first time Seth and I spoke was at Kito’s Kave.  I don’t remember exactly what he said to me but he thought I was Devren (Devren, your post will come).  I remember the first time he invited me to do something socially too.  That was a big deal, having spent the first six months in Petersburg and my only socialization was with employees and board members.  Eventually what happens is the non-locals start looking out for each other.  They become the ambassadors of Petersburg.  The kind of people that I connect people with when they visit Petersburg (yes, Orin, your post will come soon too.)  Seth was one of those guys – he collected the people that were new to town and made them feel welcome.

You're stepping on my willy!
You’re stepping on my willy!

He originated the idea of Finger Food Fridays when he had themed gatherings like Crazy Hat Day or the time that he had purchased a bunch of ceramic dolls and every guest had to decorate them.  Some were decorated on the barbecue.  Others with sharpies or hand tools.  One time Levy hid someone’s shoe in his freezer.  I remember another girl telling her friend that he wasn’t gay after she had sat on his lap.  Aside from all the fun times…

You said fun hat party. We came for the fun hats.

Seth taught me a lot about hard work too.  Though he taught me about seasonal hard work.  He’d work 12-14 hours a day when it was busy but then find the time to travel much of the rest of the year.  He turned the fisherman lifestyle into reality for me.  Travel in the off season – that sounded pretty good to me.  And he also broke the image of a white guy married to an Asian woman.  He actually met his fantastic wife and didn’t pay a website to meet her (unlike me and my wife…)

Cambodia 151

Vietnam 241

In 2007 Seth taught me a lot.  I went to Cambodia and Vietnam with him and some of the things he said still are part of my foundation.  “If you see something and like it, buy it.” was one of the more powerful ones.  “Ask your friends if their sisters are hot” was another one, but Tozzo (yeah, your post will come along too!) was all over that!

Cambodia 037
He was like Lara Croft – Tomb Raider. Pre-sex change, bypass surgery, and enhancement surgery.
Cambodia 186
Seth prefers his stair machines be at least 1000 years old.


Cambodia 049
This was before you had to have a detachable lens to be cool as a traveler.


Seth was the guy that hosted my bachelor party 2.0.  My first bachelor party was my brother, Mike (your post is coming too!) and I going for a walk in a stream bed near the wedding site.  The second bachelor party was setting off fireworks at Seth’s place.  It was the perfect storm.  Alcohol, fireworks, no zoning, my dad being there, my soon to be son there… How about I try to blow stuff up?

Seth likes his humor like he likes his wine.  Dry, acidic, with a hint of complexity.  Like this blog post.

I hope I get to spend some time with him this summer!

Photos of Jacob

Here are some pictures of Jacob.  Ignore his state of undress in some.  He usually wears clothes, but the tablet is the only camera usually available at night.  He loves to be helpful – cleaning the toilet was especially exciting.  We are pretty sure that his first experiences with a western toilet happened a month and a half ago!







Ryan McFarland's travel, thoughts, projects and more.