Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Snippets of our days (in bullet points)

*The youngest had never had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Almost six years old -- sounds like one for the record books, doesn't it? His conclusion: "I thought it was gonna be nasty 'n stuff, but it was really good!"

*The oldest is excited that we have a dishwasher.

*I'm parenting exactly the same way I was before they came -- I'm quite the rule-enforcer, consistent and strict but with a very calm, neutral attitude when I do have to get on to anyone, I try to always make my expectations clear, and I'm trying to really praise each of them for good choices. So far, it's working well. I've already heard them repeating and reminding each other of the #1 family rule: "the first time we OBEY". And I've gotten several "yes, ma'am"s with no prompting from me. They're also really spurring each other on towards good behavior as they don't want anyone getting in trouble and losing privileges.

*We've also been drilling the idea into all three of their heads about brothers being a team, brothers sticking together, brothers being buddies, brothers being kind to each other, brothers standing up for each other, brothers helping each other, etc, etc. (Of course, so far I can't get the movie "Tommy Boy" outta my head, and I'm constantly wanting to say to them, "Brothers gotta HUG!") I would love nothing else than for them to grow up to be best buddies.

*Someone taught these boys well -- they are polite as can be, they take their dishes to the table after meals (I didn't even ask them to do that), they pick up their toys pretty much the first time I ask, and they are very mindful of not being wasteful. Love.

*The oldest told me that he is so glad that I care about his homework and making sure he gets it done. I've also been reading over it to make sure he is catching his mistakes so he can turn in a job well done the first time. I'm grateful he enjoys school and seems to take pride in learning. He's just never had anyone pay attention to his education.

*I don't know who's more thrilled -- my first son or us -- with the fact that he now has playmates! Love, love, love. It's especially perfect because they seem to love Star Wars and Legos as much as he does. We've barely had any issues between them because they are very quick to resolve arguments amongst themselves, and for the most part they've all been sharing really well.

*Warms my heart that the oldest already has a few of the songs memorized from Sunday night children's choir and has been singing them non-stop around the house.

*They hardly ever had the chance to play outside. You can imagine the delight we've witnessed through nightly walks on the trail to the river and hours spent playing outside with a soccer ball, sidewalk chalk, etc. Not to mention it's great for keeping me in shape, haha.

*We're off to a fantastic start -- two school days down with awesome behavior and attitudes. The teachers are happy. We're more than thrilled. And for those of you that asked, we are keeping the oldest at his school for the remainder of the school year since it is only about two more months. The youngest was in a different school and needed to be moved (for reasons not related to him), so he is now in the same school and same kindergarten class as our first son. We'll probably put them in separate classes in the future, but to make his transition easier, we thought for two months it would be a good idea.

*It's really neat having three kids now and seeing such differences in each of them:

The oldest has a caring heart, taking care to help both of the younger ones. He likes music and drawing, loves reading, enjoys school, and always wants to please and obey the adults. He is also excited to help with soccer this season.

The now-middle-child, our first son, really enjoys playing -- with toys, video games, board games, sports, etc. He loves listening to stories, and he loves people. He's definitely outgoing and always up for a good laugh.

The youngest is very mechanically-minded. He enjoys building new creations with Legos, and he has a great imagination. He is more quiet, and he would play for hours by himself (if we'd let him). He loves doing any art, especially drawing. He has also really taken to the cats especially and is very good at approaching them quietly and gently to win them over.

*For the most part they've really enjoyed the food they've been served. For Sunday lunch I made a roast with potatoes, carrots, and gravy, and you should've seen them scarf it down! When they've been served something they don't like, they've obeyed the rules so far and tried their best to eat it anyways since we don't serve a whole smorgasboard of choices. What Mama cooks is what you get. Usually this has ended up with them liking whatever it is they weren't sure about. And thank goodness they love milk! I told them that worst-case scenario, if they absolutely hate something, take a bite and wash it down with milk really fast. Ha.

*They are both proud as peacocks to have a new family and a new last name. (Even though it won't be finalized for about six months, the state is letting us tack our last name onto theirs already.)

*So far they've been calling us "Mama" and "Papa" about half the time. We made it very clear that they don't have to call us that until they feel comfortable.

*Bedtime is such a sweet time. I usually read a Bible story followed by a kid's book of some kind. It's been neat to see their reactions to the Bible stories since it seems to be the first time they've heard most of them. And so far they've all slept soundly each night.

*And yay for the fact that the state has gotten the ball rolling, and we already had our first monthly home visit with our caseworker. Six of those visits total and we will pretty much be ready for the adoption to be finalized.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Some of the backstory...

Sitting down tonight I realized that many of you don't know me from Adam in the real world, and you're pretty much in the dark regarding how all of this came to pass. I mean, here I was, blogging about my skincare regime one day, and then a few weeks later announcing that we had two boys moving in pronto! So I'm guessing you might appreciate some details?

I'll try and condense this as best I can (but you know me, I'm long-winded):

In case you didn't know, our first son (technically now the middle child) came to us by way of international adoption back in 2006. He was born in Guatemala, and we brought him home at 11 months old. We weren't your typical adoptive parents in the fact that we never really considered having a birth child. Adoption was on our minds for a long time, and we knew if we had a family, that's how we were going to build it.

Fast forward to last year. Through a series of small events, God made it clear to us that we should look into adopting through the state. This was no small feat however -- in the past we had heard horror stories about the state, foster care, state adoptions, you name it. We had always sworn it off for those reasons, but God really started making it clear to us that this was the next step we were to take. My heart was opened to it first, and then, with no prompting from me, my husband approached me one day, out of the blue, that he was now open to the idea as well. You can bet your bottom dollar that I called the state the very next day.

We started our training late last summer -- a combined 54 hours with both of us of sitting through all-day-Saturday classes that, I'm not gonna lie, we really thought were pointless to have to sit through. We're pretty decent parents (if I say so myself), and now the state with it's broken system was expecting us to give up our Saturdays to teach us how to be parents? You've got to be kidding me. And you can imagine that our classes weren't exactly filled with the cream of the crop. Most of the people in there were doing foster or kinship training ("kinship" means the families that are fostering that are either related to the children or have an already established relationship to them), and if I remember right, we were one of the only adoptive couples in there. But at the end of the five or so weeks, we were surprised at how much we learned. It really opened our eyes to many aspects of the system, and it definitely softened our hearts even more to the needs of the kids. Thank goodness God didn't let our stubbornness and pride get in His way!

Our homestudy was completed by Halloween, and then we just waited. Because that's what you do with the state. LOTS of waiting. In fact, we figured we'd be waiting for FOREVER. Because that's pretty typical -- families can be waiting for years even. And our mindset was on the fence -- if it worked out and we eventually got kids, great. If it didn't work out and we were never matched, great. We were perfectly happy with the one awesome kid God had already given us. We did have one thing in our favor though -- we put that we were open to siblings, and we were pretty much expecting anything between ages 3 and 12. Throw in the fact that I am a card-carrying tribal member of a Native American tribe (which means we qualify for ICWA kids as well), and we were pretty marketable in the ol' system, haha. That's right -- we didn't go into this wanting a baby. Pretty much 98% of people want the babies, but nobody wants the older kids. And oh, how my heart is for the older kids. I hope that this process uses our family to open more eyes to the joys of older kid adoptions because there are a lot of amazing and deserving kids out there.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago when we were finally "picked" by a caseworker for a sibling group. We were presented with their paperwork, but after reading through (a phonebook sized stack of paperwork, mind you), we both knew immediately it was not the match for us. You can't even imagine some of the stuff in this paperwork, the horrible things some of the kids had been through. As my husband said it best: "these kids are paying someone else's consequences in life". So true, and so heartbreaking. But this process is all about looking at these matches with a toughened heart -- a heart that knows no matter what or how heartstring-tugging the details are, above all, you have to be wise enough to know what is right for your family, and that includes the heartbreaking decisions of having to say no to some of the matches.

This "match" was also a good reminder of what we had gotten ourselves into. If you're looking for an adoption all wrapped up in a pretty red bow, adopting through the state may not be for you. Most of the kids have been through way too much in their short lives and as you might expect, they come with some "baggage", some more than others. You have to know these things in advance, you have to expect a less-than-perfect picture of the future, and for us, this meant surrendering even more of ourselves over to God and being willing for Him to give us His idea of the "perfect" kids for us rather than our ideas and wishlists for the perfect kids. But oh, when you allow yourself to surrender these things to God, how very much He can sometimes surprise you with the most perfect and amazing and unexpected blessings, as you will find out in future posts when I tell you cool stories about this past week and how amazing these kids of ours have turned out to be...

I digress.

Fast forward to this past Monday. We got another call about being "picked" again. Since it was pending state approval (for us to truly be "matched"), we were given a small amount of info to read about these boys. After reading the info, we thought, yep, this could possibly be a good match. But we knew that it would still be a good 2-3 months at least for them to come stay with us, and that would be best-case scenario IF everything went well. So we just waited, thinking in maybe a week or two we'd get another call if the state approved us or not, and then we'd wait for the next step in a long line of steps.

Two days later, on Wednesday morning, our caseworker called to ask what we thought about the small amount of info we read through. I told her we were definitely interested. She then dropped the bomb: basically they had a rare situation where the boys were needing to move to a new placement (i.e. foster home or worst-case scenario, a local shelter, and no, I am not joking about the shelter part {shudder}) by Friday. If we were truly interested, would we be willing to start the process* immediately with them moving in to our house? She had the full stack of paperwork available for us to read through before making our decision, and that decision needed to be made pretty much immediately.

Say wha??????

Do you understand what this means? Sure, foster families are a little bit used to this scenario. They could get a call to come pick up a baby or a kid with only an hour's notice even. But not adoptive families. EVER. And the other major difference in all of this is that not only would we need to make a decision immediately regarding all of this, but we were pretty much having to decide on these kids just from what we'd read in the paperwork alone, never having met them or seen them, and their placement in our home would be a forever placement. No trying anyone on for size. No face-to-face to know if we thought it might work. These kids would be told that it would be their last move, that this would be starting the adoption process for all of us.

Sounds a bit weighty, huh? But you know what? God made it crystal clear to both of us immediately. I don't know how else to explain it. He just made it clear. THIS. WAS. IT. And we chose to obey.

So we said yes. By 5pm that very same night, we were sitting in our local Chick-Fil-A meeting our boys for the first time. It was surreal. No other way to describe it. And it was clear that it was the right decision. We parted ways after an hour and a half, reassuring the boys and the workers that we'd be ready for them when they arrived with all of their stuff to move in to our house less than 48 hours later.

So that's how my family was born. Not how I would have planned it, but boy am I ever glad that God doesn't always go along with my hare-brained ideas. His plans were SO much better.

And I can't just end it without mentioning something: I realize that adoption is not for everyone. Just two years ago, my husband and I were both completely opposed to this idea of adopting through the state and swore we would NEVER consider it. But God started dropping hints to us here and there. We could've ignored these hints. Thankfully we chose to listen to God and obey. And then, when we first started hinting about or newfound plans, we were met with quite a bit of opposition, quite a few "you're insane" comments, quite a few "why would you put your own child at risk?" questions, etc. Thankfully we chose to listen to God and obey instead of listening to what the world thought of our plans. (And this is not to say that we didn't also receive awesome support from others because we did.) And then we're presented with this INSANE opportunity where we have to make an INSANE decision in an INSANELY short amount of time. We could've said no. I think most people would've understood. But we chose to listen to God and obey.

We're not perfect people. Not anywhere close. Just ask everyone who knows us in the real world, haha. But hopefully this can serve as an example of the wondrous things God can do through your life if you just tune your heart to listen, to watch for His guidance, to choose His best rather than what the world might tell you is best. If you do these things, be prepared to be blessed beyond what you could ever imagine.

*"start the process": now that they have been placed in our house, the process can start to finalize the adoption, which hopefully will happen approximately six months from now, but the kids are technically ours as all parental rights have been terminated

Friday, March 18, 2011

Day One...

We did it.

We became a family.

I'm sitting down in my quiet house, three sweet boys tucked in their beds and hopefully drifting off to dreamland, kitties up and ready to play, rolling a rubber ball across the wood floors, dog snoring on the wood floor -- so I figured I might as well post. Besides, I just don't want to forget any of it.

The boys arrived just after lunch. The caseworker pulled up with a government minivan and her two teenage kids in tow (good sports and helpers to share their mom on what was supposed to be her day off, and I love that when they left the older son told me it was a "privilege" to come and be a part of dropping the boys off to their new family). The two boys piled out of the van with beaming faces, and we all unloaded trashbag after trashbag of their stuff and hauled it up to their new room. They actually had quite a lot of clothes and toys, which was nice. Their caseworker handed me two folders with a few pictures, special artwork, medical and school records, and letters from their foster family inside. After a few more papers and instructions, she looked at me and asked, "So, are you ready for this?". Ha! There are definitely no instructions for this, but I knew I was as ready as I'd ever be. We hugged, she left, and I was instantly a mom of three kids.

As my husband is out of town on a short business trip he absolutely could not miss (great timing, right?), my mom came over to help, and she and I started the business of sorting and putting away all of their stuff. The boys, of course, were thrilled to dig in and just start playing with our son and all of the toys downstairs. Although they did come with a lot of clothes, many of them were hand-me-downs or gently used, and I know my husband is going to be so excited to start buying them a few new things. The sweetest moment was unpacking their two 8x10 frames with photos of each of them with their birthmom. Melt my heart. I could not be more thrilled that they have those on the dresser in their room, so they will always remember her and feel like she is watching over them. (She passed away less than two years ago.) Those pictures are an amazing blessing, as many of these kids in state custody often don't even have ANY photos from their childhood, let alone photos of their birthparents.

Once we got them unpacked, we let them play some more before we left to make a Target run for pajamas for the youngest (he had one pajama top) and socks for both. It was the absolute cutest thing when the oldest looked at me and cried out, "YES!!! Our first trip to Target as a FAMILY!" Seriously, these kids get it. They know how very dear it is to actually be a part of a family. The thing that most of us take for granted, being a part of a family unit, these kids have wished and prayed for for far too long. So you can imagine how my heart swelled every time I looked in my rear-view mirror and saw three smiling faces in the backseat looking back at me.

We came home, my mom left (since my husband successfully made his flights and should be walking in our door late tonight), and I was on my own. Imagine my shock when the house was relatively quiet enough for me to sit down and relax because all three boys were playing quietly with toys. After a bit, I got up and made boxed mac-n-cheese (hey, at least it was Annie's Organic, right?), along with sliced apples and grapes. They were all polite as could be at the dinner table -- we said the blessing, everyone ate all of their food, and they all took their plates to the sink when they were done. These boys have MANNERS. That is such a nice perk!

Thank goodness my sister-in-law called and alerted me to the newest Lego cartoon on TV tonight, so I set the DVR, and after playing a bit more with toys and the Wii, they all three willingly picked up the playroom and put all the toys away before piling into the two armchairs to watch it. Then it was time for a little ice cream (BlueBell, of course, nothing but the best for my guys), before we made our way upstairs to start the bedtime routine. Again, thank goodness that they were already used to routine at their foster home. No issues whatsoever putting on pj's, brushing teeth, rinsing with SpongeBob fluoride rinse, and climbing into their beds. I then read the first story out of my son's childhood adventure Bible (because I honestly don't know if or how many Bible stories they've gotten to hear), followed by a Little Golden Book (of course, since I have over 100, no joke), and then more unbelievable heart-melting moments.

At that point, the boys both wanted to bring their notebooks up and show me all of the stuff inside -- the pictures with their foster family, their artwork they were proud of, etc. That made me feel very trusted by them, and that is a big thing. Even our two kitties -- Harry and Sally -- ventured into their room, and I was so proud as the boys sat there super still and quiet until the kitties were brave enough to jump up on their beds and sniff them, and then they began to pet them oh-so-gently, and they were so excited when the kitties began purring! They've never had cats, but I can tell they are already in love. (What an amazing blessing for my husband and I that they are so gentle and loving with pets because that was one of our greatest fears, believe it or not.) Then I tucked them all in, doing my best to reassure them that if they needed anything at all, got scared, anything, they could come find me at night and I'd be right there. Gosh -- how in the heck do you tuck little ones in that barely know you, in a room they don't recognize, in a whole new life? I mean, I could barely even make it at a couple-days-long summer camp being away from my own parents when I was a kid, and here these boys were so very very brave to be going to sleep in a complete stranger's house! I felt so inadequate, but I just silently prayed that God would bless my first attempts at being a mother to these little ones. And oh, I think you would just melt into a puddle if you knew how many times throughout the day those big, brown eyes looked up at me, asking over and over, "Do we really get to stay here FOREVER?".

So that was our first day. 97% unbelievably great, maybe 2% where we had to learn to be brothers, haha, and 1% surreal moments every hour or so when I had to remind myself that this wasn't babysitting or a playdate, that this was the first day of forever. Pretty darn sweet, if you ask me.

I cannot wait for tomorrow.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Somebody pinch me, I must be dreaming...

...and not because it's St. Patrick's Day.

Whoa. Where do I start?

Looooooong story short, we've got two brothers moving in to our house tomorrow.

I will be a mama to three.
And they have been told this will be their forever home.

And most of this all transpired since Monday. It's been the craziest week, to say the least.

I have so many stories to tell you all about the past 48 or so hours, but I'm tired and overwhelmed (in a very good way) and have a lot I still need to do before these precious little things arrive tomorrow. And let me tell you, friends, God has shown Himself in a BIG way in the tiniest of details. Exciting stuff.

I promise, promise to return quickly with more info for you...

Thursday, March 3, 2011

It's all clear to me now.


Girls, I know I am not alone in this battle.

I've had acne since I was a teen. And I'm not talking a little pimple here, a little pimple there. I'm talking about those nasty huge ones that are below the skin, that hurt like a mother, that last for months only to leave scars that last for years.


Thanks, Mother Nature. Love you, too.

As ya'll know, I am now inching towards the ripe ol' age of 34, and it is only in recent weeks that I have finally gotten my face under control. So under control, in fact, that my face is currently the clear clear clearest that I can honestly remember. This is big stuff, people. Really big stuff.

I cannot promise these products will work for you, but I'm going to tell you what I've been doing lately, just in case you're looking for a new solution to try. I glean a lot of my information from other friends, blogs, articles, etc., so I think it's important that when you find something that works, to share it with others so we can all benefit and help each other out. Keep in mind I have always had moderate to severe acne, my skin is white-as-the-driven-snow, combination oily and normal, I've never been one to really stick with a routine as far as skin-care goes (until now), and yes, I've tried prescriptions, and I've even tried the dreaded ProActiv (which I'm not even going to link to because it was such a horrid experience).

So you can imagine how happy I've been lately with the fact that my skin has cleared up, is super soft and moisturized, and is a smidge away from being able to go out without makeup (foundation) on if I really wanted to. Here's what I've switched to:

In the morning, I wash my face with this:

I love that it is a cream cleanser and doesn't foam or lather up. I don't know where I read it, but I know I've heard that cleansers work better if they don't produce as many bubbles.

Then I use this applicator and dot it on my face where I see any small bumps/redness:

Then I go ahead with my makeup routine (starting with a matte photo-finish primer).

At night, I remove my eye-makeup first, and then I wash again with this:

I dot on the applicator again wherever I see any small bumps/redness:

Then I slather this all over my face and neck. It smells really nice and has a pretty sheen to it:

And I finish off with this on my lips:

When I wake up, all redness is gone, and my porcelain skin (as my grandmother used to call it) is glowing. And let me tell you, it is only in recent years that I have come to appreciate my uber-porcelain skin, and I'm hoping to take better care of it from here on out.

So far, so good, and I'm hoping this trend continues. I've been doing this for about a month, and it has rocked my little world. I'm thinking of buying the radiance day cream next to add in to my morning routine, and maybe an eye cream (for the wrinkles, girls, as they are starting to show up more) to add to my nighttime routine.

Do you have any awesome products to recommend?

***FYI: I bought the radiance night cream and the Carmex at my Walmart Neighborhood Market and the rest of it from my local Ulta beauty store.