And in return, love, and pestilence.

In trying to think back on everything that has happened this past year, things tend to get a bit foggy… although that could well be the effects of the most recent, lingering head/chest cold. This time last year we were bleary and wide eyed new parents hoping for the best for our barely 6 week old son. It is hard to believe a whole year has passed

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Since then, so much has happened, particularly with his development, but also with ours. It is remarkable to me to see the little Boy that he has become, walking and jabbering his way through the days. This time last year we were encouraging him to roll over consistently.

He has teeth now. He is fully developing a sense of humor and clearly has command of his own language (which we are concurrently working to understand and help shape into the one we understand). He is agile, if still clumsy, and clever at working through problems and obstacles. He loves the outdoors. He enjoys music and dances at will. He likes books. He has retained his appreciation for contrast and light playing with shadow.

We have taken him on crazy, cross country road trips. He has been to four national parks and through numerous national forests. We have gone snowshoeing and camping and hiking. I took him on many runs in his stroller while training for a half marathon. He has been swimming; in pools and hot springs and creeks.

We have also learned that he seems somewhat prone to ear infections. Although, he is generally pretty healthy. We, as parents, have not fared quite as well with the illness part. I cannot recall having quite so many colds in past years. But I guess that is all part of the game.

We are excited for what this New Year will bring, even as we contemplate starting the process of another adoption. One thing we as a couple, and now as a family, seem particularly good at, is change.

So, here is to new adventures. New opportunities for learning and loving and growing… and of course new illness, may it at least, be swift in passing.

 

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Saturday morning

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No son, you cannot play in the dogs’ water.

*blood curdling wail. Tears*

Yes, I know I am a moron for forgetting to pick it up before letting you play… again… for the ten thousandth time, thus necessitating that I commit the unforgivable treachery of taking it away from you.

No son, please don’t pick at the packing tape that I had to put over the outlet covers because for some damn reason they are too cheap to actually work.

*blood curdling wail. Tears*

Sorry but it is dangerous. Here come help me in the kitchen.

*garbled vocalization*

 

Yes son, you can climb in the Tupperware lid drawer and chuck them at will all over the kitchen.

*smiles. Laughter*

Yes son, you can rifle through the pots and pans and bang the lids on the floor.

*glee. Ringing din*

*blood curdling wail. Tears*

Well, son, I am sorry that the cupboard door will not open all the way while the Tupperware lid drawer is also open all the way.

Here, have some milk.

*tosses sippy cup on floor*

Water?

*same*

OK, well, I have to get something from over here, I will be right back.

*flap, flap, flap*

Dammit (muttered under breath)

No son, you cannot follow the dogs out the dog door.

*blood curdling wail. Tears*

Yes, I know I am a moron for forgetting to put the cover on before letting you play… again… for the ten thousandth time, thus necessitating that I commit the unforgivable treachery now.

Here, let’s play with your toys.

*glee. Both crawling on floor*

*scratch, scratch*

OK dogs, hold on, I have to let you in because the dog door is covered.

*blood curdling wail. Tears*

Sorry son. Yes, I will pick you up.

*laughs, squirms, pokes at face*

Here want some milk?

*throws sippy cup on floor*

OK, well, let’s sit down for a minute then.

*squirms, tries to climb over chair and security gate to get at woodstove*

No, son, that is dangerous.

*squirms, yells*

OK, maybe we will go for a walk.

*dogs go nucking futs*

No, sorry dogs, you will have to wait.

Here son, let me put your shoes on.

*kicks and screams and tries to pull off socks*

*dogs running in circles around the house, panting, whining.

Sigh. OK, I guess we can load everyone up and go for a walk somewhere together.

**spends next 15 minutes walking in circles around dogs, Boy, Tupperware lids, pots, pans, sippy cups, etc. trying to organize enough to get everyone going in the same direction while preventing anyone from getting hurt.**

OK, let me start the truck so it can warm up some.

No, you stay here for a minute dogs.

**carrying Boy, starts truck then goes to garage to get stroller**

**trying to collapse stroller to load into truck while holding squirming child. Dogs scratching at door thinking they are getting left behind again**

**can’t lift stroller one handed, leaves it and goes back to house to continue getting ready**

OK son, it is still cold out so let’s put your jacket on.

Now your hat…

*yells in frustration. Takes hat off*

OK, well time to load everyone up…

*screams, goes stiff as a board and arches back to confound being put in car seat*

Here, have your sippy cup.

*distracted long enough to get put in car seat*

OK, now I have to get the dogs.

**nearly trips over stroller that never got into the back of the truck on its own**

**loads up stroller. Nearly gets bowled over by dogs upon opening door**

Load up dogs. Let’s go.

*dogs jump into bed of truck nearly crashing into stroller*

**closes truck to keep dogs in. closes still open garage door**

**goes back to house to get jacket, water bottle, diaper bag, etc.**

*door is locked*

Dammit (muttered under breath)

**goes back to truck to get house keys**

Hang in there buddy, we will go in a sec.

*chucks sippy cup*

“Uh Oh”

Yeah, it is not an “uh oh” when you throw it buddy.

*yells in frustration*

OK, well I will be right back.

*blood curdling wail. Tears*

Sigh

**retrieves necessary supplies from house. Returns to truck**

OK, let’s go.

**pulls out of driveway, not completely certain the best place to go**

*yawns…*

Oh man, don’t go to sleep now…

 

On Uncertainty, and a Year of Wonder

wagonThe Boy fusses haltingly in his room, struggling against taking a nap. We just got back from a short wagon ride around the neighborhood in his shiny new Radio Flyer. While I could check the video monitor to see what he is up to, I prefer to think that he is voicing his frustration to his new friend, Superhero Will of the Wonder Crew.

You see, today is his first birthday. A good day to ponder the past and hope for his future.

A year ago this morning we had arrived at the hospital and were situated in a room, nervously fidgeting, uncertain what would happen next. We had gotten “the call” early that morning, and, following a scurry of preparing, embarked on the four hour drive from our home. It is tricky at best to describe our mental states, sitting in that room. But then, about an hour later a nurse came in followed by two people pushing a hospital bassinet.

They looked tired and a bit disheveled and carried an unknown host of emotions with them. Beyond that, it is all kind of a blur. We all exchanged some sort of greeting and they introduced us to our son. Following some additional nervous awkwardness they and the nurse left us alone with the Boy; the Boy that was now just hours old and was to become the focus of our lives for the foreseeable future.

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Like most others, our decision to enter parenthood through adoption followed years of trying to become parents the more traditional way.  While we had discussed the idea of adoption as a possibility, the actual decision came to us somewhat abruptly. We had recently uprooted our lives and moved to a new place and a new life. Somehow this helped us decide it was time and once we embraced the idea, the Boy came into our lives about 8, astonishingly short, months later. We realize that our journey was not necessarily a typical one, and we feel very blessed to have experienced a mostly uncomplicated, successful adoption.

Now, a year into this new life (plus a couple of weeks since I started writing this…), we cannot imagine living any other way. Other than some of the obvious differences, we expect that our situation is no different than any other bleary and wide eyed new family. How the Boy entered our lives seems almost immaterial and mostly has no influence our daily routine. We are often asked how having a child has changed our lives. In truth, not that much, in the sense that we still do the things we like to do, mostly, they are just different now and we get the wonderful opportunity to share those joys with our son.

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His extended family loves him to pieces, as does basically everyone that meets him. And yet, we know that to be where we are, not only are we incredibly blessed, but that there are other people out there that share a very different reality.

We think about the birth parents often and frequently share photos of the Boy with them. Communication otherwise is sparse however and largely superficial. But, perhaps, even this is somewhat “normal.” The Boy will always know he is adopted and who his birthparents are. Our hope is that this bit of his history will serve to enrich, not hinder him in life.

We are already contemplating if we are ready to start another adoption journey. I don’t think we are quite there, yet, but we want the Boy to have at least one sibling. Having gone through the sometimes complex, frustrating, and emotional whirlwind of adoption once, we feel more prepared to try again… eventually.

For now though, we are thankful as we marvel daily at the once seeming impossible reality of this new life. If nothing else, this is enough.

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No Duke of York.

Part 1. When you’re up, you’re up.

Full disclosure; I have no real idea what I am doing. The Boy is very nearly 11 months old and every day I marvel, still, that he is with us. 11 months is, of course, very nearly a year, and yet so many days it feels like yesterday that I was first looking into his hours old eyes.

Of course there is the feeding and dressing and bathing and feeding and the persistent changing of diapers. Once he started crawling there was/is the chasing about the house discovering all of the things that were not “child proof.” There is the bleary eyed stumbling about at various hours of night, which we keep trying to “wean off of”.

There is also silliness and the giggling and the surprise and glee when he figures out a new thing… whatever that new thing might be. There is the moments when he spontaneously notices a change in the music and starts dancing… such as it is at this point (to Alabama Shakes this evening! My Boy!), or those brief, tender moments when he gently pats one of the dogs and they don’t flee for fear of being inadvertently mauled.

He likes to clap, and as noted dance at times. He is learning to wave, but generally likes waving his arms about. He likes the ceiling fan, though less so now than a few months ago. He likes contrast and bright colors. He likes to watch things spin, but always want to stop them. He notices things that are out of place and has a penchant to dislodge them. He likes texture, though not always in his food.

He has changed so much of my life that I feel so often that I am indeed living a different life than I have ever known.

Part 2. When you’re down, you’re down.

Repeated disclosure; I have no real idea what I am doing.

This world seems to be steeped in madness. I can rarely listen to the news, not because I want to be ignorant (any more than I already am), but more that I simply do not know what to do. I do not feel that I can be a positive change in the world when so much is so insane.

And then I look at the Boy.

A wise man I know from another life has been known to say that “children just want to know that they are safe and that they are loved.” I try every day to make sure the Boy knows those things.

But then I look out at the world and wonder… well, so many things. I do not want to shield him from what the world is, I guess I do not really want to protect him from it either. I guess I feel that would be an injustice. Of course, being barely a year, this is not so much an issue just yet.

But I do want to make sure that he knows that he is safe and that he is loved.

And then it is 4 in the morning and he is awake and I do not want to be, nor does the Wife (or the dogs for that matter), and he is crying, and I lay there awake hoping he will go back to sleep, but hating to hear him cry, but not wanting to enable any particular behaviors in that we are try to “wean” him into sleeping through the night remember?

How long do you let him cry? How much is too much? When is it “really crying”? When do you cave and give him more formula (remember, he is adopted…)?

And then he is in this “phase” it would seem where he “cries” when one thing or another is not quite right…

Part 3. …neither up nor down.

Before I started writing this I briefly researched that song. Consensus is, like most old nursery rhymes, no one really knows what the deuce it is about.

Either way, it fits.

The Boy is more mobile of late, and the past few days he has been exhibiting this somewhat maddening behavior of not wanting to be neither up nor down. Somehow I do not think that this is uncommon.

It can however, be a bit exhausting.

So you hold him and then you don’t and then you do, wondering all along about the details of the concept of one “being spoiled.” All the while your arm gets increasingly more tired and your shoulder more slobber soaked.

And then at some point, he meets your eyes and stares for a moment and then smiles and maybe squeals a bit or claps his hands, and you think that maybe, just maybe you are doing something right.

But then you think about all of those sayings that tell you to be the person your child needs you to be, or to be those qualities you want to instill in your child, and you think about the madness of the world and your own madness and the stress and struggle of the whole “work/life balance” and how some days you want to scream or cry or hide, or at the very least just go back to bed.

For my part, the best I think I can do sometimes is to remember the words of that wise man. Hold the Boy, play with the Boy, cry with the Boy, dance with the Boy, laugh with the Boy. Make sure, that at the very least, he knows that he is safe and that he is loved.

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… and then there were three… er, five.

Just after 6 on a Sunday night, the Boy squawks his half-hearted disagreement at having been put to bed. For just shy of four months now we have been living with and learning, moment to moment about him. Sometimes it seems he exhibits a new behavior daily.

In the past month we have all – more or less – settled into a routine. Alas, we are both back to work, me (Christopher) with a brand new job; so, he is off to day care each day. This, admittedly, gives me certain anxiety. Not just that we are entrusting the well-being of our son (by the way, the fact that I can say “our son” still fills me with wonder…), but also that most days I really would prefer to hang out with him. Such it is I guess, living the American Dream.

It is a marvel, as I had sincerely hoped, to watch him grow and explore the world around him. Case in point, he recently gained a certain awareness/appreciation for the fact that he has hands. Mostly, he just balls them into fists and tries to stuff them in their entirety in his mouth, all the while making slobbery, suck/smacking noises, which threatens to drive his mamma a bit crazy. In the past few days, though, I have been watching him explore his ability to interact with other things. Rather than the previous wild flailing about, which would cause random reactions with the various toys within striking distance, he now has started to intentionally reach out and touch things.

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He has also started smiling and laughing a whole lot more, which, you know, is just the greatest. While he is not wholly convinced, he is learning to enjoy the jumper chair thing that we have been loaned (among an amazing assortment of other things) from our wonderful new friends here that have a 1 year old daughter.

His neck is also getting much, much stronger, which allows for a whole new range of activities. A few weeks ago we took him on his first snowshoe outings in a pack style carrier that his birth parents gifted us. It worked well, but is also a bit awkward to manage. It is generally fine once he is in it and it is on, but the mounting and dismounting, as it were, is a bit awkward.

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However, early on in the purchasing/gift receiving frenzy of his “younger” days we acquired a more elaborate carrier, but we felt we needed to wait until he was a bit stronger to use it. Last weekend we took him on a ~3 mile hike in Petrified Forest NP, one of our favorite nearby places. The day was grand for sure!

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Soon, he will be big enough to ride, without his carseat, in the fancy jogging stroller his grandparents got me… I mean us.

But, to dial the clock back a bit to where we left off here last time…

Figuring out the sleeping/feeding/existing schedule took some time. Point of fact, we are still working on the “schedule” though it is getting better. At first we operated in shifts. Since I can, more or less, get to sleep soon after becoming prone, the Wife took the first shift of getting up with him as needed. At some point midway through the night morning, she would then wake and hand the reins, as it were, over to me and I would carry on the rest of the night morning. I have become even more familiar with “four in the morning” than I already had been. The “shift work”routine occurred before we had to go back to our office jobs. At some point we switched to each taking a full night and alternating nights. I am not sure that we always get more sleep with this option than with the other, but on the positive side, he is waking up less frequently than before, so that is something.

Then there is the stuff. The bottles. The clothes. The diapers. The five different new “furniture” items where the Boy can sleep that we now have to navigate, in our ever shrinking domicile. The diapers. The bottles. Granted, we are both, more or less, “systems” type of people, which helps our ability to create routines… but still.

I wouldn’t exchange our new life for any other.

The above description of our new life is likely somewhat similar to the lives of other new parents. Because we initially started this blog to discuss our adoption journey, we wanted to close the loop on the legal quirk of how we officially became new parents. Once we completed all of the initial paperwork…and received results of the paternity/DNA test (I could go on for a long time about the incompetence of the company we selected, but I’ll refrain), we took the next step: making our family official by going to court.

So, after making arrangements and filling out yet more paperwork and scheduling a hearing, we dressed him in an appropriately themed, black and white striped jumper and hat (his jailbird outfit), drove on up to the county seat, found the courthouse, and had, what turned out to be, a rather pleasant experience of making us all official — mostly official.

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Once that was accomplished and we had that paperwork in hand, we could then (after waiting an appropriate amount of time for final processing) apply for a new birth certificate. Once that was in hand, which really made everything seem fully official… it had long been very real…we drove to yet a different town to get his Social Security card, the final bit of paperwork in this long and labyrinthine process.

(As a side note — this is the Wife speaking, we discovered several other people at the Social Security office had their own adoption journeys. In fact, one lady was a birthmom – she placed a child with another family 20 years ago.  The more we share our story, the more others share theirs with us.)

Whew.

So here we are, living life as a new family. Wondering all the while at the mystery of it all… and more in love than I ever thought we could be; the Wife, the Boy, the dogs, and me.

Huzzah.

11/12: A new beginning.

Truth be told, we’ve been tired and slacking on maintaining this blog, but for joyous reasons. For our friends reading this, this is likely old news and perhaps they are tiring of baby pics flooding their Facebook feeds. For those that may not know…we are parents! We made our way through the adoption process and are proud, sleep-deprived parents of a beautiful boy. We wanted to continue to share the adoption journey with those wanting to read it.

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The Arrival:

On a Wednesday about nine weeks ago, we got a text from our birthmom letting us know she had been to her weekly OB appointment and the doc didn’t think she would go into labor for another week. Thus, she was scheduled for another appointment the following Tuesday. Christopher and I had been on pins and needles, jumping every time our phones made a noise. So, we took this as a small reprieve and decided to go out Friday night. We drove to a town about an hour away, had a nice meal, and saw the movie Arrival. As good movie goers, we silenced our phones. We drove home after our lovely evening and went to bed.

I wake up to my phone vibrating at 5 am. BABY!!! The birthfather was on the phone. A baby boy had come at 3:33 am, and the birth parents had been trying to get in touch with us since about 1:30 am. Truth be told, Baby was a four hour drive away through an elk-infested, mountainous landscape, and leaving in the middle of the night would not have been advisable. Now awake, we were on the road by 7 am, much to the bewilderment and dread of our two dogs (who had pre-arranged sitters and would be just fine).

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The Drive:

Driving for four hours to see a baby that is not legally yours takes faith. We were excited, and I am glad Christopher was doing the driving because I was definitely on edge. Four hours is a long time when there’s a baby and a lot of unknowns waiting on the other end. What this drive did give us was time to truly think about, and discuss, a number of things, including a name. Our baby did not end up with one from our lists but rather, one that we discussed on our drive down.

The birthparents:

Where to start here. We had precious little time, and even less opportunity to get to know the people that had chosen to present their precious child to us. We had a single conference call, shortly after we were chosen by them and had accepted. It was essentially a way for the four of us, moderated by our adoption counselor, to have a brief introduction. It went very well and I think we all came away from it hopeful. In the coming days, we would communicate sporadically by text, but really would not actually meet them until they rolled that tiny baby into the hospital room we were anxiously waiting in. Over the next couple of days, they would stop in to visit, her more so than him, and we got to know them a fair bit better. They are good people and this was clearly a very difficult decision for them. They chose us with intent and viewed us as a blessing. They told us on more than one occasion that they saw in us a chance for their child to have a good life. We hope that they realize the blessing they are to us and think about them daily and maintain communication with them.

The Hospital:

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Navigating the hospital with the birthparents is likely the most emotional part of the adoption process for adoptive parents – and is likely equally emotional for the birth parents.  Most of the other steps up until this point are more like “to do” checklist items and feel like homework. The hospital is the place where the parents, both the birthparents and the adoptive, interact with one another in person very likely for the first time, and the uncertainty of what to expect and how to act can be stressful to say the least.

 

 

Our hospital experience was mostly good. The thing most adoptive parents worry about is a birthmother changing her mind. We never really feared this. What ended up being the most difficult thing to navigate was the inexperience of some of the staff regarding adoption. First, because of confusion among the nursing staff, the birth mother didn’t fill out the initial birth certificate prior to her being discharged. Luckily, she came back to visit the next two days so she did it then. Second, two crucial staff members, the birth certificate recorder and the hospital social worker, didn’t work on the weekends; so, some things had to wait until Monday. I don’t want to post personal details about the birthparents, so I won’t describe the situations that created the most stress. I will say that the birth recorder who eventually came to help complete the birth certificate paperwork could have had more compassion for the birthmother (and possibly chatted with us first so she knew the emotional part of the situation).

However, the most difficult and unfortunate situation involved social services, both the hospital social worker and state caseworkers that were called in for reasons that we do not need to go into here. Once again, there was insufficient compassion and understanding from the “professionals,” which was particularly surprising and upsetting in this case as these were supposed to people versed in such matters. In the end everything worked out, though not without some distress, and we were discharged from the hospital.

 

The boy, Sir Winston the Strong of Ironwood:

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Weighing in at just under 6lbs, the wee lad was just outside of what the hospital would have classified as “preemie”. As it was, they wanted to keep him around for a couple of days to assess him and his development before letting us spirit him away. Not surprisingly, everyone that saw him commented on his size. What was a bit surprising, to everyone involved I think, was how strong he was from the get go. This is a trend that has continued… but more on that later.

 

 

As noted above, we had discussed names during the drive down and what we settled on was Winston Paull. Incidentally, Paull is a family name as Shannon’s father is number 6 of that name in his line. It seemed a good fit. Going with the theme, people often commented on how it was a fitting name; a good strong name for a good strong boy. He passed all of his tests and assessments with aplomb, and after the two days, we were discharged with papers in hand giving us legal guardianship. We checked in to a local hotel rather than attempt the long drive home. Our first night genuinely feeling like full-fledged, wide, bleary eyed, new parents.

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The Drive, pt. 2:

So then, once all was in order and we had recovered in a neutral space (hotel room) for an evening, we embarked on the long return journey home… with a baby! We were not all that unsettled during the drive itself, other than perhaps having a heightened sense of awareness and concern regarding what everyone else on the road was doing. The one thing we did have some concern about, and were counseled to attend to at first opportunity, was the possible effect that the significant altitude change might have on the wee lad. The greater Phoenix area is roughly 1000 ft. above sea level, whereas home is around 7000 ft., a significant change for anyone really, never mind a three day old. Otherwise, the drive was uneventful, though beautiful as always, and he weathered it like a champ. We checked in with the clinic when we arrived and they verified that he was all good and on home we went…to our confused, awaiting dogs. They had no idea what was coming…

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Next up: Adjustments, settling in, and becoming official…

Babies R us?

20161024_194430Well, baby, singular is more likely. And well, it is not final yet… in fact, said baby has yet to be born even. Then there is the undeniable reality that it might not work out.

But, we are hopeful. And excited. And nervous. And anxious. And curious.

Just over a week ago we were informed that we have been selected by a birthmother and father to have the honor of assuming parenting rights for their yet to be born child. The whole business still blows my mind in very many ways.

And then, about an hour and a half after that call, we got another call telling us that the birthmother thinks she is having contractions…

We knew that she was due relatively soon. We also knew that she had given birth to other children and that they had all been early. The adoption agent advised us to stay close to a phone.

So, with deer in the headlights eyes, we went home and packed bags. I frantically tried to finish up the new floor in the baby’s room. Well, the floor was done, but the trim was proving difficult. Stress got the better of me briefly.

Anyway, false alarm, though we are still on relatively high alert. Bags packed, house/dog sitters arranged, prepared to jump and run at any moment.

It is proving somewhat exhausting. But we are excited to be sure.

We have been listing out, starring, crossing off, and generally pondering names. Acquiring used baby furniture. Some wonderful new friends loaned us a lot of things to get us started. We have been researching formulas and diapers and car seats. And we are excited.

But also nervous.

And anxious.

It could happen any day… or not at all. And no, I am not trying to be pessimistic. Just realistic… and a bit guarded. This business is a rather emotional trial.

But then I think of the birthmother and father. I think of what they must be going through. Choosing not to know the gender of the as yet unborn child in an effort to remain emotionally detached. How is that even possible? I am simply dumbfounded by the entire prospect. I think about them and openly acknowledge that I have no idea what they might be going through.

And I am humbled.

And so we are hopeful. But also nervous.

And anxious.

And filled with awe and wonder.

And so we wait.