Thursday, December 31, 2009

Goodbye, 2009

Goodbye, 2009, and good riddance. I was ready for you to be over by April.

Spring and summer were overtaken by my dad's sudden and severe health issues. It started out in the winter with just some leg pain and weakness, but within months, it became clear it was not a routine problem. The big worry initially was multiple sclerosis, which was scary enough to think it could take his life in the coming years. Then one night in April, the bomb was dropped that ALS was the greater concern. All of a sudden, we were talking about the time he had left, and it wasn't years... it was months. I sat in utter and complete shock, then totally lost it. Then I hyperventilated and had to put my head below my knees just to be able to calm down enough to catch my breath.

Tests, more tests, doctors, more doctors, waiting, more waiting. No one seemed to be able to figure it out, so we hung in the balance, thinking my dad might well be dying and no one could even tell us from what.

We got to a point of being "okay" for the moment. No imminent fear of a terminal illness, but still a healthy fear of the unknown.

Then came July. We received the shocking and horrific news that my uncle had committed suicide. He'd been separated from his wife for a while, but she and their young daughter had returned home recently. They had a fight one night -- who knows what about -- and he barricaded himself in a closet where he kept his guns. His daughter, not much older than mine, was home at the time. I have no words.

It was the first time, and what I pray will be the last, someone I knew died at their own hands and by their own choosing. I couldn't get over what he could have possibly been thinking, and how any parent could put that on their child, and willingly be absent to watch the rest of their lives. And what is more -- none of us has any reason to believe he ever accepted Christ as his Savior. This was also the first time, and what I also pray will be the last (but know it likely won't be), that someone I knew died and went into an eternal hell, separated from God forever. It's so permanent, and so devastating, that I literally cannot wrap my mind around it.

The summer wasn't over yet. Sassy's mom announced her unexpected pregnancy. And she was due in the same month as Sassy's second birthday. And she was having another girl. And if you think that didn't come with a truckload of mixed emotions for me, you're darn well mistaken.

A dear member of Sassy's biological family broke the news that she and her husband were dealing with infertility. My heart ached for her, because I know so very well what it feels like when everyone around you is carrying a precious baby, and you are not. She cried a lot, but came to a point of acceptance of it, as best as you can. How thrilled I was to receive a surprise phone call from her one Monday out of the blue... she'd had a positive pregnancy test that morning! Completely in shock and over the moon, she wanted to share her wonderful news, and I couldn't have been happier for her or more honored that she'd included us in her "important people to tell right away" list.

A few short emails followed, and the news was not good. Bleeding, trips to the emergency room, and no heartbeat. The baby stopped growing. She waited to lose her precious little one, dying inside her. The miscarriage was only days after that phone call.

Ordinary problems and simple inconveniences seem so small, comparatively speaking. Who can remember that our brake lights decided to stop working in our car, or the subsequent eighty-seven trips to the car dealer to have the problem fixed? Who even cares?

I can't lie; 2009 has been one of the most trying years of my life, and that's including the infertility years. When I felt I couldn't take any more, His arms were holding me. When I had no words to pray, He understood my tears.

Miracles happened this year. My dad, while facing the very real possibility of death at an early age, came under conviction of his years upon years of "pretending" to be a Christian. Through his illness, and by God's amazing grace, he made assurance of his salvation, and now knows that he is a child of God! This is still such a hard concept for me to fully grasp. I still find myself trying to figure it out and make sense of so many things in my childhood and early adulthood. I don't feel like it was based on a lie, but I do have some weird feelings about this realization that he wasn't saved, as we all thought he was. But, he knows for SURE now, and how could I not be thrilled about that?

My husband and I went through a difficult patch in our marriage last year, as we discovered how infertility had affected us more than either of us had understood. Many things, but none more than my dad's illness, brought us closer this year. I'm so thankful for my sweet husband. Sure, we get annoyed with each other from time to time, but I KNOW I can depend on him no matter what the years ahead will bring.

Sassy's has a new baby sister, and while it still does bring up some bittersweet feelings, all babies are miracles. I hope we are able to meet her in 2010.

In November, a miracle happened that I could never have predicted or been prepared for. We met Sassy's biological father for the first time ever. You have to understand that this is a man who had no involvement in the pregnancy (aside from conception), delivery, or adoption. None. His name was not even listed on Sassy's original birth certificate. There's been a lot of "he said, she said," but this much we know: we had no reason to believe BioDad would ever make himself known. Ever. And he willingly came to meet the daughter he'd never known, and to meet us, her parents he had no involvement in choosing. I have no idea where this will go in the future, and to be honest, we still question if it will go anywhere. But, at the VERY least, I have pictures of my daughter with BOTH of her biological parents, together. I have the memory of that day and the experience of having met him, even if it's just once. That's more than I ever thought I'd have for my little girl.

Finally, peace. A little bit of peace as this tumultuous year fades away.

And then... the phone rang at 11:30 last night. My dad was being taken by ambulance to the emergency room in extreme pain, an extension of his year-long difficulties. My mom, husband, and I spent the better portion of the night (well, morning really) in the ER with my dad, while not even morphine could touch the pain he was in to provide any relief. It was a long night. I tried to settle myself down somewhere around 4:30, and my husband didn't fall into bed for another hour beyond that. My dad was nearly admitted, but around 4:00 this morning, they decided that his pain was under control enough that they felt comfortable releasing him. He's slept most of the day, and the pain meds are keeping the intensity down for now. We think the worst is behind us... hopefully. He'll be having spinal cord surgery within a week or two, and I don't even want to think about that yet.

Whatever it's been, 2009 is done. I'm ready to go put on my pajamas, turn on my electric blanket, and snuggle up with my husband to watch the ball drop in a few minutes (and be ever so thankful I'm at home instead of out in the craziness at Times Square).

Where can I go from your Spirit?

Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
Psalm 139:7-10

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Stockings

This week, I ordered this stocking for Sassy. I love it! I've looked at it in years past and always figured I'd order after the season when it was being clearanced out, but always seemed to miss it. I was so excited to see that it's already on sale, so I ordered it. I decided to have it personalized as well, knowing it would not be here in time for Friday morning, but at least I will have it ready to go for Christmas 2010.

In Sassy's stocking (a cheap one we've had since the hospital nurses sent her home in it when she was born... it really was rather cute) this year will be:
  • a straw cup with, I think, Elmo on it (can't remember for sure, but thinking it's one of those Sesame Street characters)
  • a mini Little People set (a fairy looking one with a pet snail... ha!)
  • a board book I picked up at the Scholastic sale this summer... because I haven't gotten around to wrapping it as I'd intended
  • a baby bottle for her dollies
  • raisins (a FAVORITE snack lately)
  • dried fruit (same deal)
  • graham cracker bunnies... how cute is that?
  • an eating utensil set, because we can always use more of those, and.....
  • TRAINING PANTS!!! Woohoo! I'm so interested to see how she reacts to her "big girl panties"... and if we'll continue on this train of really enjoying using the "big potty." Hee hee!
I love stocking stuffers. None of the items were any great, expensive purchase, but they are all things she'll enjoy (I think).

Other ideas I have already for next year include:
  • bubble bath (why didn't I remember this when I was at Walmart for the second time in one day last night?)
  • hair bows and clippies
  • nail polish (I painted my toes red this morning, and she wanted hers done just the same way)
  • play jewelry
Girls are so much fun! I swear I wouldn't know what to do with a boy. :)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas gifts

A 10"x10"x15" box just arrived on our doorstep. Inside are six Christmas gifts from Sassy's first mom and grandma.

At this point in our relationship, I'm never surprised that she receives packages from them at birthday and Christmastime (which happen to be in the same month). Even with a very busy few weeks for FirstMom, I knew she'd remember.

But, my heart is always so full when things like this arrive for my girl from her first family. I have a huge grin, and I just feel warm all over.

It's SO not about the actual gifts. It's about the time, the thought, the energy that went into getting them here, and in plenty of time for Christmas Day. She's remembered and loved always, and she will have these tangible little things throughout the years as a reminder. She's one of them, and she's one of us, too.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Direct TV

We had it installed last night. I'd planned to DVR Sesame Street, Curious George, and some of Sassy's other favorite kids' shows. I probably still will, but the tech introduced us to kids' programming OnDemand.

I am in LOVE with Sprout OnDemand. So many of her favorites, and some neither of us have ever seen (or heard of) before! And they're FREE! I had no idea. I thought "OnDemand" automatically meant paying the premium for the luxury of convenience, but there are so many free programs that are kid-friendly, educational, and fun for Sassy!

I'm seeing more TV in my kid's future... *oops* But hey, it's the holiday season AND it's too cold to go outside... I've got to have a break somewhere!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Two years ago today

Two years ago today, my daughter was three days old. She lay in a hospital nursery, swaddled in pink and blue blankets, completely oblivious as to how her life was changing so drastically on that day.

Her mom, just a few doors down the hallway, signed to terminate her parental rights, allowing her second-born child to go home with a couple she'd only met a handful of times prior. To be loved and snuggled and cared for and protected by them. To be raised in a different home, a different town, and with a different last name.

A few floors below, we sat in the lobby, waiting, torn between the deep desire to be parents to this precious little girl we'd met and the horrific dread of watching a mother and child be separated permanently.

The social worker came downstairs, giving us a thumbs-up sign, which is another post for another day. It was well-intentioned, but felt so very inappropriate in that moment, and I still believe it was, although I do know she didn't mean it the way it came across. I crumpled into my husband and sobbed. They were not tears of joy, and would not be for weeks, or even months maybe.

We listened to all the legal jargon, so void of emotion, but still understandably necessary. We signed where we were told, on papers that said we were now parents. Just like that. Like someone flipped a switch from "off" to "on."

Up an elevator, through locked doors, down a hallway, around a corner, inside a hospital room sat FirstMom. I will never forget the moments that followed. As we walked into her room, she was putting the last of her belongings in her bag. Three family members assisted her. She wore a baggy brown sweater and gray sweatpants over her postpartum stomach. Her hair was pulled up out of her face, and she wore no make-up. We sat together on a little couch in her room and cried together. We hugged, we talked, we tried to laugh, and we prayed. We took a picture together. I said I couldn't leave that day feeling like we might never see her again, and she assured me we would see each other again because we were now family.

A nurse came with a wheelchair, and FirstMom left. I'll never forget watching her leave the room and out of my sight. I sobbed even harder. She was gone, and her baby, who was now my baby, still lay in the nursery, unaware.

We left the hospital that day as a family of three. It took a long time for me to feel that it was okay to be joyful about Sassy being with us. Attachment was not immediate for me, but it did come as the days went on. Sassy, on the other hand, transitioned beautifully. There were only a few occasions that I felt strongly that she might have been confused or upset, and I did everything in my power to comfort her. Even though it took me a while to feel confident in my role as her mom, I always had the instinct to protect and nurture her.

Life went on, as it always does. We've grown and changed. FirstMom has grown and changed. Choices are made. Circumstances follow. Though the loss will always be there, life does become normal again, even if it's a new normal.

On that day, we were placed with our daughter, and FirstMom went home empty-handed. Today, exactly two years later to the day, FirstMom has delivered her third child, her second daughter. Baby Sister was born this morning, and everyone is healthy. She is likely lying in a hospital nursery, swaddled in pink and blue blankets, and awaiting her discharge in a few days to go home with her mommy, the only one she's ever known.

On the exact day of the year that FirstMom lost a daughter, another daughter has been born to her whom she will not lose. Baby Sister is in no way a "replacement" for Sassy. But, I can't help but think how very ironic it is that her birthday would be today.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Open Adoption Roundtable: Birthdays

I've been absent from the "roundtable" discussions as of late, not because of being uninterested in discussing important issues in open adoption, and not because of being unwilling to think through the complexities of such an intricate and unique relationship. It's simply been because of time restraints, and other things being a higher priority than blogging. :)

However, this topic is especially timely for me, as Sassy's second birthday is less than a week away. I really wanted to participate this time, and as life would have it, have been given much more "fuel for the fire" in terms of topics and events to discuss.

In response to two of Thanksgivingmom's questions, most applicable to us:

What do you/your family do to integrate open adoption and birthday celebrations?
We've only been at this thing for two years now, so we really only have one birthday (other than, of course, the day of her birth) under our belt, in the most technical sense. Of course, that will change within the week. Prior to Sassy's first birthday, I emailed FirstMom and asked her if she'd be open to receiving a birthday party invitation (which happened to fall on Sassy's actual birthday that year). She did not respond, and we understood that to mean she just wasn't ready yet. I was disappointed, but accepted that. She sent some very thoughtful gifts in the mail ahead of time so that Sassy could open her presents on her birthday. (She did the same for Christmas a couple weeks later, as a matter of fact.) We also received the most amazing card and handwritten letter in the mail on that exact day. She wrote to Sassy and told her how much she loved and had missed her, but that she was so excited she was turning one. Like any mother, she wrote about all the wonderful things she knew God had in store for her precious girl, and how she is uniquely loved, for always. I cried tears of joy upon reading that letter. It was like finding a brick of gold in my mailbox, and I promptly put it away in Sassy's "special box," where I keep all the little scraps of this or that from her biological family for her to have one day.

What do you wish you would see in future birthday celebrations re: involvement with your child’s adoptive parents/birth parents?
I have always wished for some acknowledgment from FirstMom on Sassy's birthday each and every year. I can't imagine going through that day without any sense of remembrance or recognition. I hope (and at this point, feel relatively secure in that hope) that Sassy will always be remembered by her first family on her birthday each year, whether that comes in the form of a phone call, a birthday card, or a gift sent. It has nothing to do with the amount that is spent on such items, but EVERYTHING to do with the fact that she is loved, and therefore time was invested to shop for, pick out, purchase, wrap, and send something to let her know they are thinking of her and loving her and that they remember it's her special day.

Additionally, if I were to hope for more than what I'd consider the "bare minimum," I would like to be able to celebrate Sassy's birthday with FirstMom, at least one year. I wish that someday she will be able to join us for her party, to sit amongst our closest family and friends as one of us, and to revel in the sheer joy of watching our daughter experiencing the thrill of her big day -- the cake, the presents, all of it. I can't say I've had the same level of confidence in this hopeful participation, but I've dreamt of it since the day she was born.

As I sat addressing FirstMom's invitation to Sassy's birthday party a few weeks ago, I noted to my husband that I was fully prepared to not hear a response again this year, but that at least she would know we remembered her and wanted her to feel included and welcome. Additionally, being aware of some very specific happenings in FirstMom's life right now, we could not have been more surprised to receive an email, just days after mailing the invitation, telling us that FirstMom was planning to make the drive that day and join us for the party! I cried again those same tears of joy, in awe of all that she will be able to experience by being here that day. Not just reading it in an update, or flipping through pictures, or watching a video, but to actually BE here and participate... it's amazing to me, and I feel so grateful for that opportunity! Sure, there are worries about her meeting our family for the first time, visiting our house for the first time, and just the inevitable emotions the day will bring... but I feel confident that it will ALL be worth it in the end, if for no other reason than I will have that one more memory for my daughter. Actions speak louder than words, and the fact that FirstMom is setting aside her current challenges to make the effort to be here for Sassy will ring much more clearly than my reminders someday to Sassy that FirstMom does love and care about her.

It's a wonderful thing, isn't it?

So. That was last week. And now it is this week. And as it turns out, we've gone from preparing our family members for our unexpected visitor, to hanging in the balance to see how the remainder of this week unfolds, and if FirstMom will be able to join us after all. This new branch of our adoption story has been an interesting one, and I've been contemplating when, or even if, I would feel "ready" to discuss it publicly. To be honest, I still don't feel ready. I still feel concerned, nervous, and anxious, but I know that life is about to change in a way I was not prepared for, and there's really nothing we can do about it but hang on for the ride.

Sassy is going to be a big sister. We've known this was coming for several months, but in some ways, it still feels as much of a shock as it did the day we heard the news. FirstMom will be delivering another baby girl as early as this week, though her due date is not until after Christmas. She will be parenting this precious little one, and for that, we are grateful. I cannot fathom FirstMom going through a second relinquishment. However, I would be lying if I said I was not nervous. Not about her mothering -- not in the least. FirstMom does parent in some different ways than we do, but I have no doubt whatsoever in my mind that she loves her children and cares for them in the best ways possible. But, I am worried about the logistics of many things, and the day-to-day changes it will bring for them. While some aspects of this pregnancy are different than her last, we see many similarities. It breaks our hearts. It's not how it's "supposed" to be. Some of it is circumstantial; much of it is choice. It's a rough cycle to try and break when it's just too "easy" to remain at status quo.

We love FirstMom dearly. We want the absolute best for her and her family. She's in a totally different mindset this time around. It's very clear that she IS happy, and we thank God that this family is being spared from the loss of a child a second time in two years.

But... it's still hard. It's still unfair. It's still a punch in the gut to a woman who couldn't conceive if her life depended on it. And, MOST importantly, it's heartbreaking to think of my daughter, my precious baby girl, who will one day ask why her mom placed her, and then parented her sister just two short years later.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Shotgun adoptions

I stumbled across this article tonight while searching for something entirely different. It is eye-opening and startling, and I must warn any readers that it could be highly disturbing and triggering, particularly if you've relinquished a child.

While I must first of all say that I am extremely pro-life and do not apologize for that stance, what I read tonight deeply saddens me. This article provides account after account of women -- mothers -- who were strong-armed into placing their children for adoption. And what is particularly disturbing to me is that this is many times done in the name of Christ! "Christian" adoption agencies are among the largest contributors to this coersion. Why is this? Can someone please explain to me how those who claim to know Jesus personally would so grossly abuse their authority in order to "feed the machine," so to speak?

I do not agree with having a sexual relationship outside of marriage. I believe Scripture is very clear on that issue. However, is it not also clear on lying, cheating, disrespecting authority, and a host of other "permissible" sins? Do we parade those among us (ourselves included) who've committed these "permissible" sins in front of the church and shame them into making restitution -- a restitution that is acceptable to others?

Then why do unwed mothers receive this treatment?

Oh, I know. It all adds up to one thing. Money, and lots of it! But what floors me is the guise of Christian service that this manipulation is performed under. It literally breaks my heart that the women in this article, and so many more, have endured such a loss at the hands of those who declared they were working in the name of God. That is not God's heart at all. No, He certainly doesn't approve of the sin that took place, but He doesn't condone my "little" sins either! How unspeakably sad it is that Jesus' name is being used in such a profane way! It offends me as a Christian, and makes me ache for those who've had this experience.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Two girls

Sassy and I went to Walmart this morning for all our usual necessities. I've gotten out of the pattern of going once a week, and have been going every couple of weeks lately. It makes for an expensive trip, but it does mean I'm going to Walmart less frequently, which is always a good thing.

I picked up some new tupperware to pack lunches in (some of our lids have been cracking, and the tubs are starting to look a little cruddy), shampoo, toothbrushes, garbage bags, and other various household items.

For the first part of the trip, Sassy's usually interested enough in whatever I'm putting in the cart. I pick it up off the shelf, hand it to her, she plays with it for a few minutes, and then either hands it back to me or dumps it in the cart. This works well for a while, but then she wants a snack. Today I had packed a small Take-N-Toss container of Multi-Grain Cheerios. I tell her to hold on to it carefully (as carefully as an almost-two-year-old can), and she does... momentarily.

Somewhere between the oatmeal and the olive oil, a sea of Cheerios spilled to the ground. I sighed in frustration, pushed the cart to the side of the aisle, and bent down to start collecting a million little O's. I heard an elderly couple stifling giggles behind me. I looked up and noted to them that I ought to carry a dustpan with me. They just chuckled and said it wasn't a problem. As they passed, they looked adoringly at my little girl, who sat silently in the cart watching me. She hadn't been "bad;" she was just being a kid, and accidents happen.

Next down the aisle came a young mom and dad with their slightly-younger-than-Sassy son. The other mom's eyes met with mine, and she sympathized. I joked that it's not a full day until I clean up Cheerios off of Walmart's floor. I laughed and said that it was usually animal crackers for them.

We finished our shopping. We came home, put our things away, ate lunch, cleaned up, and went outside for a while. Sassy played with sidewalk chalk and I vacuumed out the car. We watched the mailman deliver our mail, and went to get it out of the mailbox -- a big thrill for a toddler! Inside we came to wipe the chalk off her face and hands, change a diaper, look at books, and down for nap. (Well, one of us, anyway.) We must have had enough outside time for her to be tired out to sleep today, which is becoming less and less common here.

Tonight, we will put the items we purchased at the store today inside a shoebox wrapped with Christmas paper. We will send crayons, coloring books, watercolor paints, toothbrushes, toothpaste, a hair brush, hair bows, Play-Doh, a stuffed animal, candy, and an assortment of other goodies to another little girl somewhere in this world. We will pack this gift for her and drop it off at a nearby drop-off location. It will be processed and flown to another country where another little girl will receive it. It's possible that this will be her only Christmas present this year. She will not just be told about God's love, but she will be shown it as well.

Two little girls... probably similar in many ways, but different in so many others. We are blessed beyond measure, and though Sassy isn't old enough to understand what we're doing, I want her to grow up having ways to serve others and be a blessing to someone else, even to someone we don't know.

Will you pack a shoebox?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

I'm making yogurt in my crock pot!

Woohoo! I'm excited. :)

I'm recently addicted to this blog, written by a mom who took on the challenge of using her Crock Pot every single day for a year. A YEAR! I'd come across it somewhere or another months ago, but with the shift in seasons comes a whole new set of meals I look forward to preparing. There's something wonderful about throwing a mix of ingredients into the stoneware, smelling it come together all day long, and having a slow-cooked, homey, cozy meal at the end of the day with little preparation.

I love using my Crock Pot, but we tire of roast, beef stew, and chicken and noodles pretty quickly. So, when I saw that Stephanie has a cookbook out now, I got very excited! I sat in Barnes and Noble last week for over an hour perusing through her book. (I had nothing else to do while waiting for the faulty brake light switch in my car to be switched out.) So many recipes, and such unique ones at that! Sure, there's definitely things that won't work for our family, but lots of them will... or I'd be willing to try it at least!

I've already made her Pumpkin Spice Lattes (in keeping with the pumpkin theme) and Peppermint Mochas (which is what I'd really order in Starbucks). I made her Brown Sugar Chicken for dinner last night, and was QUITE excited about the leftovers for lunch today... until I found out Jimmy John's had $1 subs today, so we had that instead. I'm looking forward to leftovers for lunch tomorrow though! (And the more I talk about it, the more I want to have a pre-dinner snack right now...) I'm planning to make Cream Cheese Chicken this weekend to have awaiting us when we return from taking Sassy trick-or-treating a little early.

And right now, I am making YOGURT in my Crock Pot! Really! If it turns out as well as the recipe says it should, I will be thrilled! Sassy is going through a stage that she would eat yogurt at every meal, and those little individual YoBaby cups get expensive! There is absolutely nothing expensive that goes into making it, and if I can whip up a big batch in one day that will last us about a week to a week and a half, it will totally be worth it.

I'm looking forward to trying out many more of these recipes. My cookbook has been ordered!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A pumpkin convert

I'll admit -- I don't love the flavor of pumpkin. I love the look of them. I love the smell of them. I love the "seasonal" factor about them. But not so much the taste.

When Sassy was on baby food, I made almost the entirety of what she ate. She very seldom had the store-bought stuff, not because I'm against it, but because I had been hearing for months about how easy it was to make your own babyfood. And it was -- and cheap, too! I figured out that I spent HALF what I would have had I bought the regular stuff on the shelves at Walmart.

Pumpkin was one of the foods I was really excited for Sassy to try, and although she didn't love it at first, it did grow to become a favorite. It's a fairly versatile food, actually, and we tried all different combinations. For a while, pumpkin and blueberry was a hit, though it doesn't sound appetizing to me!

Now that she's almost two, she's significantly more picky with what she will and will not eat. I was really curious to see if she'd groove on pumpkin again this year or not. And since I really cannot STAND the smell of canned pumpkin, and since I remembered the ease of making my own pumpkin puree, I tried it again this week. Seriously, the hardest part is cutting through the pumpkin. Once you accomplish that, you're golden!

If you've never tried it before, all you need to do is cut the pumpkin in order to scrape out the seeds (which I saved for later and roasted, if you like that kind of thing). Put the pumpkin face down (though I've heard face up works just as well) on a lined baking sheet. (The natural sugars caramelize in the oven, so unless you want to be standing at the sink scrubbing pumpkin juice off your baking sheet, break out that aluminum foil!) It's not a terrible idea to prick the skin with a fork or a sharp knife a few times, just to let some of the steam escape if you're roasting skin-side up. Roast at 350 degrees for about an hour, or until you see that the skin is puckered. The "meat" of the pumpkin literally will fall away from the skin when it's done. Throw it in a food processor, add a little water for consistency if needed, and voila! Homemade pumpkin puree that is ready to go into any number of fall recipes!

Coincidentally, I made pumpkin spice muffins with some of my puree.

One pie pumpkin yielded approximately 35 ounces of puree... definitely cheaper than buying it canned!

And as an aside... letting your toddler play with a pumpkin awaiting its roasting fate? Good idea.

Letting your toddler get so attached to said pumpkin that she runs screaming in the other direction when she sees THIS come out of the oven?


Bad idea. Please note this accordingly.


Anyway. Ice cube trays are a great way to store the fallen comrade -- uh, pumpkin puree.


I found these nifty trays last year that came with lids. They're made by Oxo. When your food cubes are frozen, just pop 'em out...


...and store them in a freezer bag.


And here's a helpful hint: it's easier to write a label on the bag before you add the contents. Next time I'll follow my own advice. See? You're smarter already just from reading this blog post. I should write a book.


I pulled out a couple of cubes to defrost in the fridge overnight to add to Sassy's oatmeal for breakfast the next morning.


And the best part about the trays? Dishwasher safe!


I wanted to use some of the fruits of my labor (is it still considered "labor" if it's really no effort at all?) by trying it out in pumpkin spice muffins. Now, I told you -- I'm not big on pumpkin flavor. But stick with me. Oh, and for super easy measuring, each cube is one ounce. I needed a cup of pumpkin puree, so eight cubes went into this cup to defrost in the microwave.


Dry ingredients included flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar (that was kind of an accident), baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.


By that time, the puree was defrosted.


Add the pumpkin, along with some milk.


Two eggs.


I beat them in the measuring cup I used for the pumpkin. Because I'm a fan of not dirtying more dishes than are absolutely necessary.


Crisco and vanilla go in also.


The batter was a little runny...


...so I added a little more brown sugar. It just seemed like the right thing to do. I love experimental baking.


Muffin cups. Because, again, the dirtying dishes thing. This way, all my muffin pan needs is a quick wipe-down. By the way, does anyone else's muffin pan (or baking sheet, or casserole dish) look like this? Oh, for the days when everything was nice and new and perfectly clean. So anyway... fill the muffin cups with the batter.


And then some of the batter goes and does this. So much for the clean pan, right?


It's a really good thing I used those muffin cups so my pan didn't get messy, huh? Sprinkle some cinnamon, sugar, and nutmeg (or whatever combination of seasonal spices you like) on top, and bake at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes.


And they come out beautiful, golden brown, and smelling YUMMY! My oven smelled like a giant Yankee candle.


And then there's this one. How interesting. But he was delicious!


Pumpkin spice muffins... even if you don't love pumpkin flavor, try them out! I've had three.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Pumpkins and pacifiers

Sounds like a "Jon and Kate Plus Eight" episode, doesn't it? Or "Kate Plus Eight." Or "Jon Minus Kate." Or whatever they are today.

We're headed to the pumpkin patch and apple orchard tomorrow. I'm excited! Sassy LOVES pumpkins... I mean, they could almost qualify as a "favorite toy" right now. I can't wait to see her face when she sees a field full of them!

We're going to pick apples. I've never been apple-picking before, but since I have all the canning supplies, I'm going to try making homemade applesauce to can. Sassy could eat applesauce every single day if I let her, so I'm really curious to see how much cheaper it is to make my own. Maybe I'll even try making cinnamon apples for dessert tomorrow night. Yum!

I wanted to make her a cute pumpkin shirt this evening, but just ran out of time. When putting her to bed, she HANDED me her pacifier. That has NEVER happened before! I asked "Do you want Mommy to have your paci?" and she just laid there... so I took it with me, closed the door, and braced myself for the screaming. Which came... and lasted for the better part of an hour. I watched her on the monitor, and every time I debated going in, she would quiet down. Around the 45-minute mark, I went in her room, and all she wanted was to be held. It was so sweet... so precious... and gave me hope for the day when we actually WILL give up the pacifier that she might just be comforted by our presence. Which, by the way, that day is not today. We caved. She went to sleep approximately 1.483 seconds after getting that darn thing in her mouth again. *sigh*

So, since I had no intentions whatsoever to start paci-weaning tonight, and since I decided to get caught up on other things instead, Sassy will be wearing a decidedly non-fallish purple cable-knit sweater with a bow to match. (I had already started cute little korker clips to match the pumpkin shirt I had envisioned.) Oh well! It'll be too cold to go sans a coat anyway.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Fall is here!

What a gorgeous fall day! The windows are open to let the cool early autumn breeze inside my house, I'm planning to make chili mac for dinner tonight, and I'm enjoying an afternoon cup of coffee with a slice of cherry almond bread leftover from my sister's dessert reception this weekend.

I got to dress Sassy in one of her adorable new fall outfits that has been waiting in her closet for months, and she was SO well behaved at the store today! I'm so proud of my little girl. :)

I checked out our library's children's programs for the upcoming month, and there are a few I'm really excited to take her to. I love this stage she's in of REALLY enjoying fun outings and crafts!

I have plans in the coming weeks to do more canning. I've never canned anything before until I tried canning strawberry jam a few weeks ago. It turned out great and was so much fun! Super easy, too... and store-bought can't even compare with the taste of homemade.

I finally have time to slow down a bit and reorganize my house. I feel like the past few weeks of wedding frenzy have resulted in a dumping grounds of sorts around here, and I do NOT like clutter.

I have just enough fun little crafty projects to keep me busy and entertained. It's nice to have a little something fun to work on just because I enjoy it. There may just be a giveaway in the future... keep checking back... just saying. :)

The next few Saturdays will be spent at fall festivals, visiting family, apple picking, pumpkin patch, and family pictures. So excited for everything coming up!

I love fall. :)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Emotional day

Today has been a tough day. I knew to expect certain things, but others were a curve ball that I didn't see coming. I awoke with a headache, which was with me for most of the day. I'm sure the events of the day didn't help.

At church this morning, a visiting ministry team performed a skit in which a husband and wife receive the news that they've had a failed adoption. Dramatic skits are normally a little overdone, but this took the cake. I felt my face get hot and seriously considered finding the nearest exit. Instead, I sat and squirmed in my seat, focusing hard staying calm. It was a little too ridiculous for a short paragraph in one post, but I want to come back to this later. It had to have been in the top five most uncomfortable moments in church I've ever had... including many painful childless Mother's Days.

We rushed home for a quick lunch, and then shortly after, I was off to a bridal shower for my sister. It's an exciting time for her, and I will be ever so delighted when all the wedding festivities are over by this time next week... but the realization is hitting me that she is moving away, and not just for the school year at college. Out of the three girls in our family, I am the only one who is living near our parents. One sister lives almost six hours away, and the other will soon be living almost four hours away. And I am here. Alone. And, as in the case of recent months, the one who is daily confronted with our father's potentially terminal illness. (Though we've gotten more good reports than bad as of late, which we're thankful for.) I know we all love our parents equally, but I feel like the brunt of the responsibility falls on me, not only as the oldest, but also as the only local one. There's also be no more last minute shopping trips, Starbucks visits, or lazy afternoons spent at my house together. It will be different now, and though it's obviously a wonderful time in her life, and I couldn't be happier for her... I feel, well, sad for myself in a way. It's the end of an era in some sense.

I came home from the shower to meet two very nice people who drove over an hour to visit us today... for the purpose of taking our dog home with them. We've had our dog for more than four years. He will be seven years old on Saturday. He was part of our family long before we ever got our infertility diagnosis or had adoption on the radar screen. He was my baby when I had none. And while I still love him, he's had a difficult time adjusting the past (almost) two years to sharing the spotlight with Sassy. He's not good at playing second fiddle, and it's been showing more and more in his behavior. We've talked about this and debated (postponed?) it for months, but as he began to show signs of mildly aggressive behavior toward our daughter, we knew it was the choice that had to be made. We were so fortunate to find family members of our neighbors who were so excited and thrilled to be taking him home with them. He'll have more land to run than he knows what to do with -- more than he's EVER had before in his life -- and plenty of love and all of the attention. Many reasons made this the best decision... but I still cried when he left, and off and on all evening. I know it's the best decision, but it was harder than I expected it to be.

It's been a tough day. I'm so ready to go curl up in bed next to my husband, probably cry a bit more, and have a good night's sleep. It's a busy week ahead, and I need all the energy I can get.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Thank you, Mommy

Sassy has started saying "thank you, Mommy" instead of just "thank you" in the last few weeks. It is adorable and melts my heart every time I hear her sweet little voice say those words. It really is too precious!

Thanking me for anything from a snack of Cheerios, a book to read, a little toy, or even just at a completely random time when I haven't "done" anything in particular for her has become a hobby of sorts for my sweet twenty-one month old. But I know she understands what she is saying, because she will thank other people (grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles) in the same way, and using the appropriate name for the person.

Last week, as I was putting her to bed, I tucked her in and handed her the first comfort item within reach, which happened to be a little pink stuffed bunny that she's had since she was very, very small. It plays a lullaby and has soft fuzzy ears that she always liked to feel. This bunny was a gift from her grandma -- her biological grandma, "Grandma M."

As I handed Sassy the bunny to snuggle with as she drifted off into dreamland, she looked up at me, and with that precious little voice said, "Thank you, Mommy."

I know she was just thanking me because it has become a habit, a ritual in a way. We have always worked with her to say "please" and "thank you" when appropriate, and so far, we've always had a (mostly) polite little girl. She was happy I had handed her the little bunny to cuddle with, and she thanked me. But, I couldn't help but think of how we never would have had that little bunny from her first grandma, had we not allowed our hearts to be opened toward Sassy's biological family.

Open adoption is not the cure-all for the loss and grief that is caused by severing a family through adoption while creating a new one. It's not a quick and easy fix; it's not a Band-Aid. It's not "adoption without tears." There are still tears, and there are still lots of them sometimes.

But, open adoption is worthwhile. There is value in it. It will provide my child with access to her genetic heritage, and what may be more important to her someday, the option of having a relationship with those from whom she came.

It's not always easy. Sometimes, it's challenging. Often times, it's confusing. It can even be downright hard. But, my daughter? She's worth it. She's worth every single ounce of it.

You are so very welcome, sweetheart.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Randomness

It's a rainy Friday afternoon. Sassy is napping, and hopefully the dark sky will encourage a longer sleeping time today.

***

I am addicted to Craigslist. I've bought things through them before, but in the last couple weeks have started selling as well. I have a lady scheduled to come today to pick up more of my clutter and hand me cash for it. Yippie!

***

Sassy has been in rare form today. I wanted to pull my hair out by 10:00 a.m. Why, when given 99 choices of activities, will toddlers always choose the 100th thing that is off-limits?

***

We recently turned our dining room into a playroom. Because we play a whole lot more than we dine around here. I love the change, but now I have to find a new spot for unfinished projects to fall.

***

Have you tried the new dark chocolate Reese's cups? Oh... my... word. You MUST! I've eaten four this week, and I wish I had one right now!

***

On Monday, I get to take Sassy to her pediatrician's office for two vaccines she missed. One was not available due to a shortage when we were in last, and the other the nurse mistakenly did not notice she still needed. I really hate the thought of taking her there for the express purpose of getting shots (HATE it!), but I'm also really glad that I keep track of her medical records at home as well, or we might never have caught that.

***

My sister is getting married in a month. The wedding colors are ivory and gold. Beautiful, yes. But please do tell me where on EARTH I can find gold shoes for a one-year-old. In the summer. No white allowed. I can't even find ivory or cream!

***

Lots and lots going on in my head. Some adoption-related. Maybe portions of it will make it to the blog someday. :)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I need an iced coffee

I don't drink alcohol, but I do drink lots of iced coffees -- for a treat, to relax (ironically), as a dessert, or just because it tastes good.

This crazy year is getting even crazier.

I really need a caramel iced coffee. Like, right now.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Leaving on a jet plane (or trying to)

Today is the day I've been waiting for. I'm taking my twenty-month-old daughter (whom I've decided to call "Sassy" for the time being... because it fits) on her first airplane ride to go visit my best friend for a week. I look forward to these annual trips, because it's the only time all year we can get together. It's not that we do much of anything big or exciting, but just spending the time together, laughing about things, getting pedicures, going out for coffee, staying up late and then sleeping in the next morning, and now, watching our daughters play together all makes for a wonderful week that always goes way too fast.

Our flight was to leave at 11:14 a.m. It was delayed by about twenty minutes when we arrived at the airport this morning, but that was fine because it gave us time to find something to eat. Then, due to inclement weather, it was delayed again... and again... and again. I kept watching the estimated departure time creep further and further away. Eventually it became late enough that we would miss our connecting flight to our destination, and as we were the only two people transferring to that flight, they would not hold the plane. And the next connecting flight wasn't until 9:30 tonight.

So, our choices then became to either fly out later this evening (and catch that 9:30 flight), or try it all over again tomorrow. We opted to go with an evening flight tonight. Our great plan of arriving at our destination before dinnertime now becomes arriving close to 11:00 p.m. With a tired toddler. And a tired mommy. Oh, and the flights are booked fairly solid, so there's pretty much no chance of being the "lucky" one to have an empty seat next to us for Sassy to roam around a bit.

Fortunately, we do at least live within a reasonable distance of the airport, so my mother-in-law came to pick us up. Again, due to weather and some interstates that were shut down, she had to take the extra, extra long way to come get us. We spent a whole lot of hours waiting at the airport this morning for no good reason. I pulled Sassy away from more than one sleeping traveler, businessman's laptop cords, and random pieces of luggage, fed her snacks, soothed her with pacifiers, and made every attempt to distract her with the sights and sounds of an airport terminal with nothing to show for it.

Finally, when I was beginning to feel like Tom Hanks' character in the movie The Terminal, she arrived to drive us home. We kept Sassy awake during the trip so she would nap well in her own bed, instead of cat-nap in the car and not sleep at all at home.

As an aside, the original flight has only just minutes ago left... nearly four hours late. My connecting flight is long gone and will soon be approaching our destination without us.

There are worse things in the world. Much, much worse. My dad flew across the country yesterday to attend his brother's very unexpected funeral today. My heart is very heavy for many reasons in that situation.

My dad has also had some pretty significant health problems for several months, and there have been some VERY scary potential diagnoses. Doctor after doctor, specialist after specialist, test after test, and they still don't know what's wrong with him. It could be a very treatable condition, or it could be... something I'd rather not go into today.

A very sweet friend is watching her uncle as his body starts to shut down. What compares with the pain of losing a loved one?

I just received an email from a dear member of Sassy's biological family. She wants to know if I can talk to her about what it's like to go through infertility, and if I can relate to what she and her husband are starting to experience. It is a completely unique kind of pain, and even this week has crept up in some frustrating and surprising ways for me.

I'm still really frustrated that we are sitting at home now instead of being thirty minutes away from the end of our travels, and I'm really dreading going through the "good-bye" experience with my husband again at the airport in a few hours. I HATE doing that, and I'm not at all excited about crying and sniffling while going through security for the second time today.

But there are much, much worse things. In the grand scheme of life, it's truly no big deal.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Open Adoption Roundtable: One Small Moment

From the roundtable this time: write about a small moment that open adoption made possible.

When I first read this week's discussion topic, I must not have been paying close enough attention. I thought Heather was asking us to write about a small moment that made open adoption possible. My mistake. :)

But I think I'm on the right page now!

In thinking of our particular situation (and maybe others can relate), the entire relationship has been made up of a lot of small moments. In the past almost twenty months, we've had very few earth-shattering moments where our relationship with "A" is concerned.

And though I would still consider our adoption to be an open one, it is often more "semi-open," or even somewhat "closed" in practice. It's not for lack of trying; but, this is how things have more often than not played out.

So, maybe all the more because of that fact, I greatly treasure the one visit we have had since our sassy little girl was born. She was six months old at the time--the perfect age for still being a cuddly baby, and yet having so much awareness of her surroundings, responding to others, and being fully entertained (and entertaining) with smiles and laughter.

We spent the entire day with A, her family, and friends. We visited with those we had not see in six months, and we met others who had known our precious girl before she was born, not yet having had the opportunity to see her in person. She was passed from person to person, family member to friend, grandparent to grandparent, and mother to mother. She did beautifully the whole time, and on that day more than ever, I was SO grateful for her easy-going nature and flexibility in unfamiliar situations.

She was a baby, though, and naptime did come. I had wondered how we would manage to not push her past her limit, while still allowing A to savor every moment with her. I tried not to worry about it too much beforehand, and just decided we would take the day as it came.

It came time for a bottle, and A gladly did the honors. I loved that she got to snuggle her sweet baby as she ate. There's something so precious about feeding a baby--your baby. After mealtime was over, the room started to quiet down as others went into the kitchen to eat or went outside to chat and play games. People stopped coming and going as much, and the room became still for the first time all day. Maybe others sensed the need for a few quiet moments between A and the daughter she'd missed all these months, or maybe everything just fell into place.

She began to rock our sweet baby. She relaxed her arms so she would lay back in them. She cuddled her and stroked her face. She quietly "shhh'ed" her, just like all mothers do with their tired babies. It was the most natural thing in all the world, and in a way, I felt like I was intruding a bit by being present in the room. I quickly took a few pictures of the two, and then left to sit outside with my husband and enjoy the cookout. I told him what a precious thing was going on at that moment, and how I only wished our little girl would stop her attentive nature for just a few moments, so that she wouldn't be raising her head to look at me. We smiled at what a lovely day it really had been.

Days later, as A and I were corresponding via email about the visit we'd had, she noted that, among other things, she loved being able to rock our daughter in her sleepy state, and how it brought her such relief to see her craning her neck to watch Mommy. She commented that, as a "birth mom," she was so happy to see our girl safe and secure. She had been worried that their strong connection as a family, similar physical attributes, and other characteristics would make us feel sad or upset on that day, and how she hoped we understood that our parenthood wasn't being threatened.

I wrote back immediately and told her that, first of all, I had been worried that she had been upset by the neck-craning, and second, having a sense of acceptance and biological heritage for our daughter on that day was the thing I had most been hoping for on our visit. How funny that the things we were each fearing for the other were the very things that meant so much to us.

I will never forget the image of A rocking our baby girl. It was as if they'd never been separated. I'm so thankful to have the pictures from that day, but I'm also so thankful for the quiet moments between a mother and her child.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Warning

Today I decided to clean the top of the fridge. Why? I'm not really sure. No one sees it ever. It's not like someone is going to walk into my house and say "My, what a clean refrigerator top you have there." But it's one of those things that, when the mood strikes you, why not?

I've been trying to use less chemically-based cleaners and more natural, everyday ingredients for household cleaning. But my vinegar and water (the "all purpose" cleaner) wasn't cutting through the grime that somehow lands on refrigerator tops.

I remembered I had bought these some time ago:

I had never tried them on anything, but figured this was the perfect opportunity. And it really turned out to be. Just dampen the scrubby pad, work it around a bit in your hand, and it starts to foam. One side is like a scouring pad and the other is like a cloth. Works great, especially for removing sticky kitchen grime.

But, I noticed this warning on the side, listed after all the usual warnings of not using it on marble or aluminum, and testing it first in a small area:

NOT FOR CLEANING SKIN. DO NOT USE AS A BABY WIPE OR FOR PERSONAL CLEANING.

Was this really a concern? Was there really some person out there who ran out of shower gel and thought this was a good replacement? Are there really parents out there who think "You know what would get this poop of my child's legs (and crib, and bedding, and pajamas...) in the quickest and least painful way? A Soft Scrub Scrubby Pad, of course!"

So... using Scrubby Pads for splattered kitchen grease? Good idea. But, ladies, the next time your special time of the month rolls around, please do refrain from using these to help yourself feel fresh and clean. Just in case the warning was needed.

What other funny warning labels have you seen?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

It was bound to happen

My toddler woke up this morning and, instead of politely requesting "Mommy, please come get me up now," she sat and played. By taking off her diaper. And playing in her poop.

Poop on her pajamas, poop on the crib rails, poop on her bedding, poop on the pacifier... still in her mouth. DISGUSTING!!

It took nearly an hour to bathe her, strip the crib of the bedding (including the bumper), scrub the poop off the crib itself, disinfect everything, wash the bumper, hang it out to dry, and wash the rest of the bedding. Just what I wanted to do this morning.

Now the last load is in the dryer, she is napping in a freshly-cleaned crib, and I just remembered I still need to clean the tub.

I've always heard stories like this and hoped my child would never do that. At least I made it this long!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Open Adoption Roundtable: Wish List

The theme this time is: share your wish list for your open adoption. See the other responses here!

I feel like someone has just given me the permission to dream of my "ideal" situation, all that I hope for our relationship with our daughter's first family to be, and even some of what I fully expect it will not be. I'm continually learning (and re-learning) that this relationship -- not unlike any other -- is a two-way street. I am only in control of my half of the road, but there is a great responsibility in that.

If I could make a wish list in our situation, it would include things such as:
  • More frequent visits
  • Consistent and reciprocal communication
  • Sharing my daughter's birthdays with her first mom in person rather than via letters, cards, packages sent, and late night emails (but, I feel I should note that I AM thankful for those things as well)
  • More honest and open discussion of feelings and emotions -- a throwback to what it once was
  • Clear answers for my daughter about some fuzzy areas of her story
  • Communication from her biological father that comes with a pure intent
  • Medical, social, and family information from the paternal side
  • An open relationship with her biological father's side... someday... maybe...
  • The ability for my child to pick up a phone, write an email, or send a letter to either of her first parents, and the expectation that her communication will not go unanswered
  • A feeling of acceptance and love for her in ANY part of her biological family
My wish list for our open adoption is fairly extensive (I am a particular person, after all!), but my ultimate wish, prayer, and hope can be summarized into one basic thought:

That my daughter will be completely fulfilled, happy, and at peace with her life and its unique circumstances.

That's really all any parent could ask for, isn't it? We all want our kids to be happy, healthy, well-adjusted. We want them to be kind, respectful, honest, and responsible individuals. We do our best to mold them into the people they were born to be, and to be what God created them to be. We never, ever want to see them hurt from something outside of their (and our) control, and that is often times a real and present fear in the adoptive family.

So, even if our adoption never achieves the new heights of openness that I myself would desire, I wouldn't change it, as long as my sweet girl can understand why she was placed, who she was meant to be in life, and how much she is loved by all who are blessed to call her part of their family.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

It's that time of year again

The first of the teacher resource catalogs appeared in my mailbox today. One quick glance at the Carson-Dellosa materials, and I wonder, would it be selfish of me to want to homeschool my daughter so I can maintain my stay-at-home mom status while still teaching?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Making a (non) pillowcase dress

I really hate sewing. I'm definitely no "seamstress." But, I decided to make something else crafty this week (a mei tai!), and while I was at it, I decided to give these cute dresses a try, too.

Have you seen these pillowcase dresses that are in every boutique and Etsy store these days? They are SO cute. I've seen adorable ones with embroidery, monogramming, all kind of cuteness. But gracious, they are EXPENSIVE for being such an "easy" item!

So, for less than $5, I made my own. And if I can do it, ANYBODY can do it!


First, find a cute print that you like. If you are starting with a real pillowcase, your life is that much easier because the sides are already sewn shut and you shouldn't have much trouble lining everything up so it's even. But if you are like me and don't honestly know where they sell pillowcases that are cute enough to be dresses separate from the rest of the bedding set (and for this cheap!), you can just buy a yard or so of fabric (depending on the size of your little one, of course). I bought two squares of pre-cut fabric from Wal-mart that were 18"x21" a piece. I wanted something for my little girl to wear on the Fourth of July in a few days, so I went with a red cotton with white stars.


Isn't it cute?


But... here's what's not so cute. Every anti-seamstress' dread.


The sewing machine! Brings back horrible memories of junior high home economics class, and having to make my own skirt. Which I then had to wear. To school.


I borrowed my mom's sewing machine, since I have misplaced mine (due to never having used it in the six years I've had it). My mom said the reason it's called "brother" is because when you get it out to work on a project, you end up saying "Oh, brother, why am I doing this?!"


Okay, but it's truly not that bad! At least this project isn't. You'll first want to break out the iron (another task which I dread, but it does make life easier on this one occasion) to fold down your hemlines. Then, I hemmed what would become the bottom of each piece.


You'll need to cut off both corners at the top to allow for the armholes. One site I found said to measure 2" along the top and 3" along the side, then cut a straight line across to connect those measurements. Another site said to simply cut out a "J" shape from each corner. I kind of did a mix of those. The measurements the first site gave didn't quite seem big enough, so I fudged them a little with the "J" shape idea. It's fine. We're into individuality.


Fold down the top and allow room for a ribbon to pass through. Hem.


Next, you'll want to lay your two separate pieces together, outsides facing in toward each other. Double check to make sure your tops and bottoms are lined up. You don't want the dress to be three inches longer in the front than in the back.


Stitch both sides together, leaving room at the top to allow for the armholes.


And, I don't know what took me so long to notice this, and maybe there's a totally different use for this feature of the sewing machine, but right about this time (after I'd been using the sewing machine all day) I noticed these nifty little lines parallel to the needle. Could it be this was put in place to help lopsided sewers like me keep their fabric in a straight line while sewing? I felt a little smarter after that.


The last step involving the sewing machine was to hem each of the armholes. You really could do this earlier in the process, but I saved it for last, mostly because I thought it would be the hardest part. I also wasn't sure if I had left enough room for my toddler's skinny little arms to squeeze through. I ended up folding the edges down once more to open it up a smidgen.


Turn the dress right side out.


Both your top and your bottom should be open, so it's more of a "tube" or a "tunnel" at this point, rather than a dress.


You should have two wides hems to allow for two ribbons to run through them.


And what would be cuter for an Independence Day ensemble than navy blue ribbon? I used a grosgrain ribbon that's not quite an inch wide. String a ribbon through each side. Length depends on how long you want the ribbon to hang down upon completion.


Bunch the fabric together a bit to make the top a little more fitted. Tie the ribbon into bows. Or, if you like, double knot and let the ribbons hang flat. That looks cute, too.


And, in one of the newly discovered words from my daughter, ta-da! Finished product. Totally simple, totally cheap, and totally CUTE!

Monday, June 22, 2009

A giveaway

Erin is giving away two copies of Glenn Beck's "Common Sense." Head over there to put your name in the hat!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Lunch

Lunch today went like this:

I feed my daughter chicken noodle soup, green beans, mixed fruit, and milk. I put away groceries while she eats.

By the time that is finished, she is done eating. I clean her up and get her down from the high chair.

She goes off to play, while I mix up some chicken salad for my lunch. She knocks down a tote full of blocks, falls down, and comes running into the kitchen, crying.

I pick her up. She wants a bite of chicken salad. The dog is whining to go outside.

I put her down. She cries. I let the dog go out.

I pick her back up and make my sandwich one-handed. I put a handful of chips on my plate, and she wants one of those, too. I give her a bite of bread instead.

The dog is now barking to come back inside. I put her down so I can let him back in. She cries.

I hold her hand and carry my lunch into the living room. She's distracted for 2.8 seconds with a toy or a commercial with a dog in it or something. Long enough for me to take a bite.

She wants up in my lap. She sits still, but then squirms to try to grab at my plate. I give her another bite of bread, and that satisfies her momentarily.

She wanders off to play with a lamp cord. I get up and pull her away. She wanders back, and I pull her away again, telling her that is a "no touch." She goes back a third time, and this now lands her in time out.

She screams. I sit and attempt to eat a bit more of my lunch. She hits her head against the wall. The dog thinks someone is knocking at the door, so now he's going nuts.

I get up to get her out of time out. I talk to her and tell her that she cannot play with the lamp cord.

I stand up to find that the dog has jumped into my chair and is now eating the rest of my sandwich, dropping bits of chicken on the floor. I yell for him to stop, but it's too late. I send him to his kennel.

I come back to clean up the mess, and my sassy little girl is back at the lamp cord again within thirty seconds.

We repeat time out, but this time it is louder.

Next, it is time for nap, so we go upstairs to read books. She lays down for her nap and goes to sleep.

It may not have been a relaxing lunchtime, but with the child asleep and the dog in his kennel, it's at least shaping up to be a quiet afternoon.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Open Adoption Roundtable: The Beginning of Openness

Heather (on whose blog you can find the list of Open Adoption Bloggers) has organized a great idea to start a discussion on various open adoption-related topics periodically. The first discussion prompt: recall the beginning of your experience with open adoption.

2006 was a difficult year. Having received an infertility diagnosis and trying to come to grips with life not at all turning out the way we "planned" it, we were now additionally trying to muddle through the initial thought process of adoption.

Adoption was honestly never on our radar screen until a fertility doctor suggested it, knowing our severely low chance at conceiving a biological child. At the time, I thought "What? Us? Adopt? That's what people who are rich or famous (or both) do! Not ordinary people like us!" It just seemed so against the grain of everything I'd ever imagined. Would I be able to love a child who wasn't biologically mine? Wasn't adoption horridly expensive? Would we be able to afford it? Would I regret not experiencing pregnancy? Would others view us as less of a family, or our child less valuable in some way? And worst of all -- what if the real parents came back for the child?

It's a tough place to be in, for sure. But within a few weeks, I was throwing myself into researching adoption. I read books, browsed message boards, listened to others' experiences, attended seminars -- anything to just try and gain some knowledge about this topic of which I truly had NO clue or experience!

As I started to gain head knowledge, I came to the realization that I already had "heart knowledge." Years prior to beginning the adoption journey ourselves, I had completely fallen in love with a three-year-old boy in my class at a daycare/preschool where I had been working at the time. He started in my class and brought with him a fair share of baggage. This sweet little hearing-impaired boy had an unstable home situation. He acted out quite a bit, but I began to see that he had no sense of stability or consistency. I loved that little boy with all my heart, and he developed a trust in me. He responded uniquely to me in a way that even co-workers noticed. The end of the day would come, and he'd go home. It broke my heart, and I would literally think in my mind of how I could provide for him, if opportunity arose. I imagined tucking him into the bed in our spare room, watching him sleep and knowing he was safe and sound. I knew I couldn't love him any more if he'd been born to me.

All these years later, I saw how that experience had already shown me that it didn't matter if your children were biologically yours or had no genetic ties to you. What mattered was the love that is unique to a parent and child.

So... I could love a child that wasn't "mine." And it could be 100% natural, in a way that you truly almost "forget" that your child has someone else's nose and funny little quirks.

So, I could adopt, as long as we did so in a closed or semi-open fashion. Because, my 2006 self thought, open adoption means you are co-parenting. And we won't have any of that.

Do you ever look back on things you always said you'd NEVER do, only to realize some time later that not only are you doing them, but that it's also just a normalcy in your life?

More research, more reading, more studying, more exploring... but possibly most importantly, keeping an open mind. I honestly DIDN'T think we'd pursue an open adoption in the beginning days of our adoption experience, but we also didn't shut the door completely. We left ourselves open to how God was leading us, and that is what makes the difference.

I began to listen to stories of women who'd relinquished their child. I listened to adoptive parents who were in open relationships with their child's first parents. I saw how many adoptees truly desired some level of openness, knowledge from their past and heritage.

And I started to realize... it's not about me. It's not about what I want or what I am comfortable with. It's about what is in the best interest for the child, ironically the triad member who has the least say in their being adopted.

So as we started to move out of our comfort zone, we realized that most women who place children are doing so for various reasons, but similarly because in some way, they feel that this is the best choice for their child.

We began to see these parents in a new light. Thinking back to the questions we'd had at the beginning of the process, I could turn around all of those questions to the fears that someone else might be having in a very different situation. "What? Me? Relinquish my child? That's what drug addicts or teenagers (or both) do! Not an ordinary person like me! Could anyone else ever possibly love my child the way I do? Isn't adoption horridly complicated? Will I ever get over losing my child? Would I regret not experience parenthood? Would others view me as less of a woman, or my child less valuable in some way? And worst of all -- what if the real parents shut me out of their lives?

Certainly, it's against the grain of everything anyone's ever imagined.

Eighteen months into this open adoption journey, and I honestly don't know where it will lead. We've had varied levels of contact and openness, at the choosing of our daughter's mother. We have gone through times of daily contact, and we've been through periods of communication drought that can last months at a time. So in that way, I am still learning, still feeling my way through it all.

I assumed when we checked the "open" box on our paperwork that doing so would equal a consistent, ongoing relationship. I had lofty dreams of frequent visits, weekly telephone chats to catch up as we would with a family member, and being guests in each others' homes. I envied adoptive parents who spent holidays with their child's first parents or even went on vacation together. I expected to be braiding each others' hair and having pillow fights by this point (well, maybe not quite that extreme!), but it just isn't like that for us right now.

And that's okay. It's just different from what I imagined. I wish I had known then how I feel now, and know that sometimes relationships can wax and wain, and that it's all a normal part of life.

The one thing I would tell my 2006 self, if I could, would probably be that life DOES become normal again. Life will be good again. You will not forever live in this barren land of childlessness, and although it will be through a manner you'd never expected, it is wholly worthwhile and satisfying. Don't feel as though you have to force your way through the challenges of adoption (of any kind), but take life as it comes. Be on guard that your relationship with your husband and with God doesn't deteriorate, but remember that (as much as you hate to hear this cliche) everything truly does happen for a reason.