Thursday, March 28, 2013

Room Research and Inspiration!

The boys are getting split up.  The Prince HATES sharing with his 2 younger brothers (one snores and one has night terrors so I can't really blame him).  This requires some ingenuity and creativity from us.  See, the 3 boys are/were sharing the master bedroom as it is the biggest in the house.  That meant they also have their own bathroom and that "boy bathroom smell" (eeeew!) was contained to their "wing" of the house.  The King and I share the smallest bedroom (we don't really need more space than that anyway) and our Princess is across the hall from us.  So where to put the Prince in his own room.

I had a brainstorm and it is going to work out just great.  We moved the Prince into a corner of the living room.  We are going to be building a "wall" that will be about 8 foot tall but won't go to the ceiling to give him some air flow in there.  It will be a small (aka tiny) room but he is thrilled.  For now he is just sleeping in the living room.  Hopefully, we'll get his walls built soon.

But all this moving rooms means I am going to work on some decorating.  So I've been perusing Pinterest (duh!) for ideas.  The 2 little boys want a Superhero Room and I am totally on board with that.  The Prince wants his room to be like a hunting cabin and that is great too (we'll even use old barn siding on the wall we are building).  It really shows each of their personalities well.  

I've found some excellent blogs and ideas and I've enjoyed checking them all out....but I struggle with something....let me show you some of my FAVORITE pictures.  

Check out this totally awesome skyline and toy shelf!  I've already used those boxes as inspiration and made my boys some.  But why aren't hers overfilled and spilling over? And the top of the low shelf is empty... I just don't understand.
(photo from here)
And check out this kick butt bedroom!  I love the wall art (which is painted on a hollow core door-COOL!) and the bed is great for little guys. Oh and on her blog you can see the pillows on the bed which I am totally going to make.
 It is just SO CLEAN!   There aren't even any dirty underwear on the floor!   HOW? HOW do you do that?
(photo from here)
How does one have a play room that looks like this?  I love the colors, the  white (WHITE!) poof and the birdcages.
But where are the toys, the legos to impale my feet on, and the stains on the carpet?
(photo from here)
So how do I bring these ideas into fruition in my home?  I mean there are 6 of us.  Four of us are under 10 years old.  One of those 4 is a toddler and the other three are ALL boy!  We live, play, and homeschool here.  I will never, ever, ever, (seriously, EVER!) say that I am the world's greatest housekeeper.  But these bee-you-ti-ful rooms are a little too perfect for me.  I am not stupid and know they were cleaned up and "posed" for photos....but lets be real.  No child's room looks like this if that child is actually living there.  

So I'm going to take the ideas I like (cause there are a few that are just too cool to pass up) and brush off the nagging little voice that tells me I need to clean my house more often so it looks like a magazine (or blog) because just like I will never look like a photoshopped model neither will my home look like a "posed" home in a magazine or blog.

However, I guess it is time to stop writing and go pick up some toys!  Or maybe the Princess and I will read some books or color?  :)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Some Healthy Recipes we've recently tried and LOVED!

I've commited to one month of no junk food with my sister again.  We did 21 days at the beginning of the year and I felt great.  Basically, we are avoiding candy, sweets, chips, soda, fast food, and things like that.  Honestly, I think it looks a little different for each of us....but we are avoiding the same kinds of foods and holding each other accountable.  The biggest problem for me...I LOVE (I mean L.O.V.E.) chocolate and my afternoon snack.  Apart from those 2 things I just have to be aware of what I'm putting in my mouth and not eat mindlessly (or let my dear friend bring me sweet tea when we meet for a play date with the kids-you know who you are and don't tempt me with the offer).

So we tried some new recipes here in my house today.  Both I found via pinterest (hello?  is anyone really surprised?) And both were successes. 

We skipped the choc chips on top with no ill effects.
photo is from the blog Chocolate Covered Katie.  
Oatmeal is a staple in our home.  We eat it virtually every morning in one form or another.  I have not always been a lover of oatmeal.  Actually for the longest time I hated it.  But since my kids eat it almost every day (by request) I have found myself eating it more often....and with the right additions I am finding that I like it.  And I like staying full all morning.  Of course, an oatmeal recipe found at a blog called Chocolate Covered Katie has to be good.  And it was...very good and very filling!  We tried the 5 minute Chocolate Oatmeal.  It is sweetened with a banana (no joke!).  Since I had to multiply the recipe by 5, I didn't have quite enough bananas so I had to add a little sugar but it was most definitely a winner!  There is also a banana free version for you crazies who don't like them!  :)

Side note:  this is perfect with those bananas that are getting too ripe...when you get a bunch of bananas that are past their prime, peel them and throw them in a freezer bag in the them for chocolate oatmeal or other baking recipes or smoothies.  If you don't peel them before freezing the peel will turn black...the banana is still fine and you can get the peel off with a paring knife.  Of course, I have to buy extra bananas and hope they last long enough to do this with them. 

Anyway, with recipes like Cinnamon Roll Baked Oatmeal, Sugar Cookie Oatmeal, Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Baked Oatmeal, Blueberry Muffin in a Bowl, Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal, and Chocolate Mudslide Oatmeal (be still my heart that sounds good!)....I'll be back to visit her blog.  And I'll be able to get a chocolate fix without eating a candy bar (or a handful of chocolate chips from the bag-whatever!)  Cause who says oatmeal is only for breakfast anyway?

picture and recipe from the website Win, Lose, or Blog.  linked below
For our afternoon snack, I wanted to try something else new.  I found this recipe for microwaved apple slices that we tried.  There is no added sugar....just sprinkle on some cinnamon after its done.  We subbed a LITTLE nutmeg today because I ran out of cinnamon and won't have any till Friday and it was a hit.  The apples are tender and juicy (and HOT!).  The blog where I found it says it is like the inside of apple pie.  I would not go that far but it is really good and is a nice change up from a plain sliced apple or a apple dipped in peanut butter.  Two other staples in this house. (I think this would also be good with a nice juicy pear.)This recipe is another winner!  

So I'm feeling like no junk food isn't going to be so hard after all.  Both of these are healthy and yummy and satisfied the craving or the munchies just fine.  Both are mom and kid tested AND approved!  I'll be back with more recipes as I try them!  :)

Monday, March 18, 2013


This time of year is always hard for us.  Winter is essentially isn't cold but it isn't really warm either.  We all have incredibly strong cabin fever(and yet are so busy I feel like our heads are spinning.)  But it is wet and muddy and too cold to go out and make mud pies.  And no matter how much I want to get my garden going it is not even close to time.  Plus we're coming to the last quarter of the school year and are suffering burn out in a BIG way.  Everyone is "edgy"....ready for a fight, on edge, and it happens all too often.  And yet we have to continue on with school and with everything else in some way.

Burnout is especially bad this year.  I am WORN OUT and tired of fighting the good fight. Yet we must continue.  And we are but it is not how I envisioned homeschooling to be....even once I realized (very quickly) it wasn't a walk through the daisies.  I have hopes and dreams of helping my kids learn to love learning and I feel like a failure.  But I know that public school is not the answer for my children (not that some don't succeed in public school - I did).  So on we go.  Through the rough patches.  Through the days of sunshine and roses (however few and far between).  Through the intense attitude problems.  And through the moments of glorious success.  Because although I (we) are weary now, spring is just around the corner and there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  We will make it.

So often, I read homeschool blogs and they are all roses.  Some days I hate those blogs.  This picture of a homeschool family all sitting happily around the table with the older kids lovingly helping the younger and everyone playing a musical instrument and mom smiling serenely while the kids do as they are told the first time is a farce.  The craft projects, and science experiments, and all that make me wanna cry.  I mean maybe it exists somewhere other than the imagination of so many homeschool moms (like me).  But here is the truth of my household...  I am SOOOO thankful to be home with my children.  I love them all for every part of them (even the infuriating parts).  And yet...there are days that I just don't know what to do with or for them.

Today, as I write this,  I am sitting here available to help with their school work.  They each have subjects that they do primarily on their own and I stay at the table to help when I'm needed.  And here I sit all alone and they are off being disobedient.  So I write this article to spread my frustration.  Knowing they will have homework tonight.  And they will do it all lickety split, not even understanding the stress and frustration it causes me when they don't do it during school time.  I am very thankful during homework time that I have a husband who a)gets to be home every night and b) who is more than willing to do homework with them while I, well, just don't.

Then I look at the calendar and realize, only 17 days till the homeschool convention.  17 days till I get to leave the state with a friend for a few days and see other people who get frustrated, who have disobedient kids, and who still fight the fight every. single. day.  17 days till I find curriculum for next year (although I've done some online shopping) that I hope will be successful.  17 days till I get to go to some workshops/seminars on schooling or discipline or dealing with attitude problems (I've already looked at the schedule and I am drawn to those this year).  18 days till the Tim Hawkins concert and laughing till my sides ache at nonsense geared toward me.  17 days till I am only responsible for myself.  I can make it.  Even if we have battles every. single. day.  And homework every. single. night.

I guess I'd better go round them up again and try again to get them on task.  sigh.  17 days.....

Monday, March 4, 2013

How We got Our Princess! or Our Adoption Story (in short)

I’ve sat down at a keyboard more times than I can count to write this story….the story of how we made our family complete.  And yet, how do I put into words this exhilarating, exasperating, and sometimes exhausting adventure (which, incidentally, is excellent "practice" for motherhood)?  Still I keep trying, knowing that it is a story that needs to be told for our daughter, our sons, and future generations of our family. 

Unlike so many families who adopt, we have 3 biological sons and did not have any fertility issues.  We chose permanent birth control after our 3rd son was born and before I gave in to my intense desire for a daughter.  Now, my husband was slower to jump on the “I think we should adopt a daughter” bandwagon.  But over the course of a couple years (yes, years), we would occasionally talk about it.  Finally, in December of 2010, we decided it was time to either take the plunge or forget it altogether.  Our sons were, at that time, three, five and seven. 

We told family at Christmas and, honestly, reactions were mixed.  They were concerned and uneducated and didn’t understand.  After all, we already had a family.  Looking back I understand their worry.  At that time we couldn’t explain things to them….we didn’t know anything ourselves yet.  And yet it changed nothing for us.

So the research began…..

At first, we were really drawn to international adoption but as we researched into different countries and their requirements, we quickly became discouraged.  The King was nervous about international adoption and the travel involved while leaving 3 young boys behind and we kept hitting roadblocks.  I was stubborn though and continued checking internationally.  I was nervous about domestic adoption because I was afraid we would never be chosen because we already had 3 children.  But after a time it was clear that God wanted us to stay in America.  By the middle of January 2011, that decision was settled and we found American Adoptions.  I was impressed by their website and then discovered that a family at our church also adopted through them.  After speaking with that family and chatting with Justin at American Adoptions, we had a lightbulb moment.  They couldn’t do our homestudy in IL so we also found our homestudy agency.  Another friend had worked with Illini Christian Ministries.  I spoke to Maria on the phone and had another lightbulb moment.  We’d found our agencies. 

I was intensely nervous about the homestudy and application processes.  But I got over it quickly.  The King was more relaxed about all of it from the very beginning.  After the first visit with Maria, before which I spent a week cleaning and scrubbing the house from top to bottom, I was able to relax.  She was wonderful and friendly and put me totally at ease.  It was clear she was working on “our side.”  Getting our homestudy ready was no longer as stressful….but it was nearly a full time job.  It was still by far one of the easier parts of the process (and I can’t believe I am saying that).

While we were completing our homestudy, we were also completing the application and paperwork and profile information for American Adoptions.  The hardest part about all of that was writing the essays.  I enjoy writing but I have never, ever, in my entire life said anything in less than 250 words (as you can tell from this story).  And yet with lots of editing and help from friends we got them completed at nearly the same time as we finished the homestudy. 

Oh the happy dance we did when we turned it all in and went active on July 26, 2011.  At that point we knew it could be any day.  Either agency could call with a match at any time.  We have been very open about the process since nearly the beginning (once our kids knew there was no need to try to keep a secret.)  After all, how can people become educated about something if those who experience it don’t share?  People asked questions and we answered them.  The only thing we knew for sure was that we would be getting a baby girl and she would be from somewhere in the USA.  If I could have gotten a shirt that said that or recorded it to play back, I would have saved so much time.  That was my primary answer to all the questions.  After all, we didn’t really have a lot of other information either.

In August, I was on a hike at a nearby State Park when my cell phone (which I NEVER put down) rang.  It was the American Adoptions number.  Could it seriously have happened so quickly?  Thankfully, I was not alone with the kids because I went into a happy panic almost instantly.  I had to sit down right there on the trail to take the call.  It, unfortunately, was not “the” call but someone suggesting we do a video profile.  We decided to go for it.  It certainly couldn’t hurt anything.

Since so many friends knew of our adventure, the baby gear started coming in.  One friend gave us (GAVE!) 3 garbage bags of the cutest newborn-12 month size baby girl clothes.  Another gave us a crib mattress.  We got a swing, bouncy seat, bottles.  The only thing we didn’t have was a crib and a car seat which for safety reasons we wanted new anyway.  Then my sister bought us a brand new beautiful crib and a close friend who I trust lent us her infant seat.  God was sending His “ravens of supply” before there was a demand.  It was overwhelming and encouraging during those difficult days of waiting.  I spent some time decorating a nursery with all the wonderful gifts that we had received.  And still the wait went on.

As 2011 turned into 2012, I got more discouraged.  Again, the King’s faith was much stronger and he took the passing of each month and the new year much more easily.  But we had now started this process a year ago and were looking at updating our homestudy.  During this time, my best friend delivered a healthy daughter and my sister got married and delivered a healthy daughter.  Soon after the new year my best friend found out she was expecting a surprise baby again.  As we approached the one year anniversary of activation, we did some updates on our profile as well.  During the long wait, I emailed Angie monthly to find out how many birthmoms had seen our profile.  After a time this was not encouraging and Angie kindly suggested I not ask for a while.  But I couldn’t help myself.  For one, I was curious but I also wanted to feel like I was doing something.  Illini had contacted us a few times about situations but only once did we ask to be shown to the birthmom.  She selected another family and the feeling of rejection was intense.

And still we waited.   We discussed at what point, we would “give up.”  After all our boys were now five, seven, and nine and we didn’t want too much space between our new daughter and our youngest son.  But we couldn’t fathom giving up.  And then we waited some more.  Until October 19, 2012, when the phone finally rang and it was the call we had been waiting for 20 months to get.  And that Friday evening at about 5:00 pm, we learned in a very personal way that God has a fabulous sense of humor.  After we did a happy dance and absorbed the information we got, I called my mom to tell her the fabulous news and get her set up for babysitting the boys while we traveled.  She was in shock that a) it was finally happening and b) how God worked it all out.

You see, our daughter was not a newborn.  She was 20 months old.  Math was not one of my strongest subjects in school, but even I can see quickly see that this means that our daughter was born about the time we decided to adopt domestically and started our adoption process; which means that if her mother had chosen adoption at that time, we would not have been available.  It also meant that the spacing between children was all worked out (funny how God solves those little “problems).  Another little tidbit we discovered was that our daughter was born in the month that the King was born and on the date I was born.   After learning more about our birthmom, it felt like she was a long lost sister.  Just little things felt familiar.  For examples, her mom loves to sing and perform.  We had chosen a name for our daughter but then we learned her given name.  Very quickly, we knew that we would not change it. 

After telling my mom all of this she decided that we had to clean the whole house (she was not wrong.)  After all, we were expecting a newborn and thought we’d have time to baby proof.  We’d run out of time to do that.  Plus we had to clean all the newborn stuff out of the nursery.  We wouldn’t be leaving until Sunday evening so we spent Saturday cleaning cleaning cleaning and were so tired that we actually slept Saturday night despite our excitement.

After a long drive to Kansas, during which we were able to talk to the foster mom who had the care of our Princess since Friday and get some pictures of her, we met her on Monday October 22.  She came to me immediately although she warmed up to the King more slowly.  (This slow warm up to daddy has been something we have continually worked on and she is SO much better.  I am still her first choice but he is a much closer second than he was 5 months ago.)  We also learned that birthmom wanted to meet us.

I was really unsure about this.  After all, the Princess would know her and would feel the separation all over again.  She had already been through so much in the last week.  But since she wanted to meet, we settled on a time at a nearby park.  We got there early to play with the Princess and we saw her birthmom and Ashley walking from the parking lot.  As her birthmom walked up she was smiling and she said “Hey baby!  Are you having fun with your new momma and daddy?”  The Prinsess ran to her and they shared a big hug before she gave the King and me a hug.  We visited for about a half hour and it was wonderful.  Meeting her was the best thing we could have done.  Before she left, she gave our daughter a hug and said “You are such a lucky girl.  You have a momma and a daddy.  We don’t know anyone who has a momma and daddy.  I love you, baby.”  As she walked away strong and dry eyed, I realized that she will be forever the person I think of when I hear of a woman’s strength.  There are all kinds of love and it takes the totally selfless love of a mother to say goodbye to her young child to give her a life different from what that mother can provide.

We have now been home 5 months and it feels like the Princess has always been here.  She has fit into our family seamlessly.  We’ve celebrated her homecoming, Christmas, and her birthday!  We have good days and bad days, she is 2 after all.  It would be untruthful to say it has all been roses.  But the joy outweighs the sorrow and the love of family and friends outweighs the ignorance of strangers.  As I come to the end of the story of our adoption adventure, I want to keep writing because, in truth, it is only the first chapter of many.  I can’t wait to see how the pages of the rest of our family’s story are filled.  But in all of them, we will not forget the lesson that God’s plan and timing is perfect and that great things come to those who wait.  

Saturday, March 2, 2013

It has happened!

We were warned.  We'd had some warning and practice runs.  But today it happened and I was totally "got."  I had no answer.  I stumbled and tripped over words.  I was disgusted not only with the other person but also with myself.  Here is the story that I will never tell again....because next time I will be ready.  And no one will ever insult my daughter, my sons, or my family in such a way again.

A man was at our house today trying to sell us a vacuum (that will NEVER ever happen again although our living room carpet does look really good!).  We were chatting and trying to be personable and he was selling selling selling.  I really didn't care for him at all.  When we told him that we weren't willing to spend that kind of money on a vacuum despite how much it sucked (wink, wink), he looked at me (while I was braiding the princess' hair) and said "How much did she cost?"  What do I wish I said?  Something like "More than one of your vacuums and worth infinitely more even without a lifetime warranty.  Not to mention she is American made as well.  Now pack up your vacuum and get out of my house."  But I stumbled and sputtered and looked at Shane (who didn't make eye contact) and then I muttered "thousands."

What is wrong with people?  If someone I know and care about were considering adoption and asked for education sake I am totally fine with sharing.  When a total stranger asks for pure nosiness or (as in this case) to compare MY DAUGHTER to the purchase of a vacuum, it pisses me off!

So world, you have been warned!  This mama is ready.  Well, almost.  Friends, strangers, or whoever else may read this post, share in the comments how you would respond.  Specific examples with quotation marks (or they should be there if I were an English teacher).  You can respond in kind, be snarky, I don't care.  Just no foul language please!  I need some help brainstorming so in the future my daughter can hear me tell people that she is worth 10 times her "price tag" because there are some things that money truly can't buy!!!!