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Archive for January, 2011

Answers, part IV

Erica asks:

Do you always sleep on the same sides of the bed, or do you change it up once in a while?

Shan says:
When we’re home, we always sleep on the same side of the bed, though every time we move to a new place, those sides might change. When we’re sleeping somewhere else, we mix it up. Not intentionally, like “Hey let’s get crazy and switch sides!” but it’s not like I always have to be on the right side or vice versa. Also, we tend to have “sides” on the couch, too. I usually sit on the right side, Mike on the left. But now and then I plop down on the left for a change of scenery.

Mike says:
I think we’ve actually had the same side of the bed since we moved in together. I’m on the left, and our respective hip-indents support me. ūüôā Also, I like switching couch sides, but not when I have to contend with the slanket. That damn slanket.

Shan says:
I stand corrected. I guess we haven’t switch sides of the bed when we’ve moved. I’m always on the right. Also, while the Slanket is a beast, I love it.

Are you planning to move to a house if/when a child enters the picture, or will you stay put?

Shan says:
Maybe. We definitely want to be settled in a place — be it an apartment, a house, a condo, rented or owned — before we bring a child into the picture. But we haven’t decided what that will be yet. In the meantime, we have 8.5 months on our current lease to deal with.

Mike says:
We would definitely entertain buying a house, but it would have to be a relatively safe bet. I own a tool-belt, but it’s mostly ironic. I do not want to spend my weekends fixing crap.

When are you coming back to California? ūüôā

Shan says:
Someday! Hopefully while you’re still out there. Unfortunately our travel time and money is limited, so we can’t make any promises. Plus, we have friends living in so many cool cities, we’re having trouble prioritizing.

Mike says:
We have to do Northern California next time we’re out west.

Do you have a list of future trips you’d like to take? If so, what are they, and when would you like to check them off your list?

Shan says:
Europe is hopefully in the near future. We’ve got a Europe fund that should be ready for spending this fall! We’re not sure where in Europe yet, but eventually I’d like to visit ALL the European nations! I’d also like to eventually visit all the states. Plus¬†China, Japan, India, Thailand, other¬†Asian nations,¬†several places in Africa, Australia, Mexico, several places in South America, some parts of Canada, more of the tropical islands, on and on and on. So many places I want to go — this could take awhile. In the more immediate future, as mentioned above, I have friends in Boston, DC, Portland and Seattle (and several others)¬†I wish I could visit. Can someone arrange more vacation days for me please?

Mike says:
Traveling has a lot to do with food for me, and since they eat everywhere, I’m good to go. I’ve always wanted to see Hawaii, Alaska, Australia, Japan, Ireland, Italy, The Bahamas. But everywhere sounds good too.

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Answers, part III

Nanette asks:

Before you met, did you two have “types” in regards to the kind of folks you liked to date? If so, do each of you fit the other’s “type”?

Shan says:
As far as physical, my type was tall and skinny with dark hair. Oddly, my boyfriends got progressively taller over the years, ending with Mike at 6’8″. Mike is pretty slender and he’s got brown hair, so he definitely fits the bill! As for non-physical traits, my type was kind of dorky. I never liked the “too cool” type or the “center of attention” guy. Mike is a huge dork and he’s definitely not too cool, so it’s great.

Mike says:
I’m not sure I ever had a physical type. I’ve always liked confident, funny women, and Shan has that big time.

Shelley asks:

Where do you see yourselves in 5 years?

Shan says:
Oh boy. I’m not great at forecasting that far ahead. Five years from now I’ll be 35 and that just seems like¬†so far in the future. But I suppose in five years I hope we’d be settled somewhere with good jobs. I want to be more financially secure, but I’ve been saying that for over a decade.¬†I imagine us with a kid or two by then, though I’m not sure yet how we’ll obtain those kids. Mostly, I hope we’re happy. A lot can happen in five years, but I hope we maintain happiness.

Mike says:
I’ll be an eccentric millionaire lottery winner who travels around the world in a hot-air balloon with a pet penguin. Seriously, who knows? If I’m healthy, happy and safe, that’s fine.

Shan says:
Dude, a pet penguin? What about me? Can’t I be in the hot air balloon with you?

Angie asks:

What are your favorite activities to do together?

Mike says:
We like to watch entire TV series (what the hell is the plural of series?) on DVD. We just started “Six Feet Under.” We also like traveling, when finances are available. We also enjoy randomly driving 45 minutes to babysit for our nieces/nephews. Then there’s complaining about work. That’s always fun.

Shan says:
That pretty much sums it up. We definitely didn’t bond over a love of some exciting hobby (skiing? no. bluegrass music? no.), although we both like reading. Except we have different taste in books, so we don’t often read the same things in order to discuss them. Spending time with our families is one of our favorite things to do — Mike is right, we’ll drop just about anything and drive 45 minutes or more to babysit. Or even just hang out. We also like to try new restaurants together when we can.

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Answers, part II

Robin asks:

#1. What are both of your most embarrassing moments?

Mike says:
I think my most embarrassing moment is still an old middle-school horror. I was the kid that bent over for something under my desk and farted. It was thunderous. Students in desks around me actually scooted away from me. That was a high-point. Oh, and this was approximately 43 seconds into class, so I had a good while to stew in that embarrassment.

Shan says:
I never have a good answer for this question. I sometimes go out of my way to avoid embarrassing things, and other times I just don’t care and don’t get embarrassed. There are several embarrassing stories my family likes to repeat, all involving my siblings or parents. I always want to contribute my own story, and I come up blank. Help me out — anyone remember anything mortifying that has happened to me? There’s gotta be something from high school…

#2. What would you do during retirement if you had tons of money.

Mike says:
If we had tons of money, I’m pretty sure we would take a cruise around the world in retirement. Also, retirement would be this year. We’d also probably volunteer time/money to worthy organizations, reach out to the community, do lots of other traveling, eat at amazing restaurants. I could go on.

Shan says:
Lord I hope we have lots of money in retirement. Not looking good so far. But if we did, we would definitely travel all over the world, donate our time and money as we see fit, and relax in warm places as much as possible. (Bonus: I wrote this without reading Mike’s and we’re totally on the page!)

#3. Does Mike have any freakish birth marks like Shannon?

Mike says:
I do have a freakish birthmark. On my stomach I have several moles. When I was a kid I went to a friend’s house to swim, and was tauntingly called “poopy-belly.” Come to think of it…also a pretty embarrassing moment.

Shan says:
You’re all wondering what my freakish birth mark is aren’t you? It’s a strange patch of freckles on my right arm, affectionately called The Freckle Patch (also the name of my and Mike’s future restaurant).

(This is a strange photo, but you get the idea.)

#4. What are the chances that you two will buy a house in the next 5 years?

Mike says:
Who knows if we’ll buy a house in the next 5 years. We’ve talked about it, but it’s so dependent on job stability. Plus we’d have to find one that was in good shape for the money, because Mr. and Ms. Fix-it we are not. Maybe si, maybe no.

Shan says:
I’ve been anti-house-buying for awhile, but recently I’ve warmed up to the idea. I avoided it before because owning a home felt like an anchor, and I tend to move around. A lot. But we’re leaning heavily towards settling in Grand Rapids, and if we officially decide that, we might consider buying a home. Although Mike’s right, the labor of owning a home is sooo not appealing to either of us, so who knows.

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Answers, part I

Mandy asks:

Does Mike have any brothers/cousins/friends that would also encourage their partner to keep their last name and is psyched about adoption? Oh, and likes to travel?

My younger Brother Brian is pretty open to “non-traditional” marriage/family planning and and drives a half-hour from work to school. I think he would travel more for recreation if he weren’t a poor college student.

Erica asks:

Mike- what do you hit your head on most often? The top of the car when getting in, hanging lamps, doorways, etc.?

Actually, since I’m a veteran tall-giant-freak, I almost never hit my head on anything. I do instinctively hunch over and tilt my head down any time I walk through any doorway or other structure, but I rarely hit my head. I did hit my head on the ceiling fan at Shannon’s Dad’s house the first time I was there.

(Note from Shan: Now everyone cringes anytime he goes anywhere near that ceiling fan.)

Also to Mike- what’s your favorite thing to cook or bake? Do you prefer one over the other? I can bake, but I’m not a great cook…

I prefer cooking to baking. I like cooking roasts, pasta, other hearty meals. I love grilling in the summer (or, recently, during Christmas gatherings). One of my all-time favorites is chili. Mmm…chili.

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Let’s take a small break from the adoption talk. It’s fascinating, I know, but there is a lot more to us than our pursuit of adoption, and we’d be happy to share! Only we don’t know what to share exactly. So we thought we’d open it up for questions. Questions from you!

Now we don’t actually get a lot of comments on here. Despite the readership, you’re not a very participatory group, but we’ll answer anything you ask, so don’t be shy. You can ask a question of both of us, like “What did you do on your first date?” Or a question that we might have separate answers for, like “What is each of your favorite colors?” Or maybe you want to know something about Mike (the more silent partner) and you don’t care about my answer, like “Exactly what size are your giant feet?” Anything is fine, and they’ll all get answered. So ask away, won’t you?

(You can either leave a question in comments or email us at shanmikeblog [at] gmail [dot] com.)

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Last night Mike and I went to yet another adoption meeting. For those of you not interested in the adoption stuff, this is probably getting old. But for those of you who are interested, last night went really well, mostly because we discovered there is a third option. Before I explain what I mean, I should say the meeting was at Great Hopes Family Services, a small agency that I didn’t even know about until recently. I thought we had exhausted our options, but decided to do one last google search and came upon Greater Hopes. I was a little suspicious of an agency so small, but we want to be aware of all the options, so we registered for the meeting.

This meeting was unlike any we have been to yet. There was a lot of the same information, all the stuff child placing agencies are required to share, but the format was different. The presenter was the founder of the organization, and she was incredibly passionate about her work. There was no formal presentation, and I felt more like I was among friends than at any other meeting. Mike says he has mixed feelings about the agency, mostly because it was different than any other and he’s not sure what to make of that. But I think I love it.

I love their philosophy, which is basically to do good and¬†to find good homes for children. I love their stance on religion, which came up for all of three seconds during she explained that they are founded on the most basic tenant of Christianity — to love each other — but that religion is not a requirement nor a barrier. I love their passion. It’s clear they are not in this “business” for any other reason but to support people who can’t parent their children and find those children homes with families who can parent them. There are no shiny bells and whistles, and they keep costs low so that finances are never the reason an adoption can’t happen.

So that’s where the third option comes in: an affordable adoption of an infant or younger child. After several other meetings, we had concluded that we had two options:

1) Spend A LOT of money to adopt an infant.
2) Adopt an older child through the foster care system at essentially no cost.

Option one didn’t make sense because we didn’t want to go broke to have a child when there are pleny of children we could adopt with little expense. Option two sounded better, and it still does, but we still feel somewhat ill-equipped to go from zero children to one or more older children.¬†We discussed it with my family over the holidays, and¬†we realized that we are pulled toward adoption, but with no official parenting experience, taking on one or more children who might even be school-aged, is a huge challenge! Not that we were turning away, we just knew we had to do a lot to get prepared. And that’s where we were at when we walked into Greater Hopes.

Now we discover this third possibility. Maybe we can adopt an infant or toddler at affordable costs. This agency’s fees are HALF of what every other infant-placing agency’s has been. When we questioned that, the director said that they make their fees equal to the amount of the federal adoption tax credit so that for adoptive parents, it’s basically a wash. You pay the agency X amount so they can keep their doors open, and then you recoup X amount through the tax credit. The agency can continue to operate and make matches, and the parents come out financially even. It’s kind of brilliant.

Of course, the lower costs mean that they can’t offer all the services that a place like Bethany does, but what I pointed out is that Bethany’s fees are twice as much because within those fees, you’re paying for a variety of services. With Greater Hopes you pay the agency less, and if you need specific services, you pay someone else. Honestly, I think it’s a better system. For us at least.

As promised, our thoughts and ideas about this are always changing. Now that we know it can be affordable to adopt an infant, and that, according to Greater Hopes, there is a need for adoptive parents of infants, we are considering that as an option. My idea was that we pursue infant adoption through Greater Hopes, get some parenting experience, and when the time is right, look into the adoption of an older child or children. I still feel very drawn to that need, and maybe the right time is now, maybe the right time will be later.

Who knows. We still have a lot of thinking to do before any next steps are made. But it sure was nice to have such a positive experience at an adoption meeting.

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Did we ever tell you that we were rock stars at premarital counseling? We were pretty much star students, the valedictorians of premarital counseling, as Dooce might say. Before our first appointment, we were given an assessment to take separately. It was supposed to tell the counselor what areas we needed to work on, where we were strong already, etc.

At our first meeting with the counselor, she was looking over our results and basically told us we had no weak areas. The whole time, she seemed to be grasping at straws for advice on how we can improve our relationship. Now I don’t know how accurate or effective those assessments are, but even in our conversations with her, she kept stumbling, like she didn’t know where to go next. And she kept repeating, “you’re very strong in that area” or “you don’t seem to need any improvement in this area.” There were a few issues that came out in our discussion, but nothing we weren’t fully aware of already (like the fact that I don’t hold back on my feelings, and Mike sometimes does in order to keep the peace).

At the end of each session, our counselor said she normally assigns some sort of homework to her couples — something to help them work and talk through their problem areas. But she admitted she¬†didn’t really have anything to¬†assign us. And at our fourth and final session, after about 10 minutes, she finally gave up. “We don’t really have anything else to go over. You guys are great, so unless you have any questions, I think we’re done.”

Yep, we pretty much rocked that shit. Too bad she totally screwed up our certificate of completion. When it came in the mail, we discovered it said “Mr. and Mrs. Michael M—–.” Clearly she didn’t understand that I was not only keeping my last name, but my first name wasn’t changing either.

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