Thursday, June 25

Remembering The Call..two years ago today

*The names of all birthparents have been changed to protect privacy*

Two years ago today we received a call that would change our lives.  The call when a sweet birthmother asked us to be parents.  This day seems to sneak up on me & we were talking about last night at dinner.  We remember I have kept the notes we took and they are tucked safely in Dane's baby book.  I want him to have access to every detail, and be able to ask any questions he may wonder about.

But, let me back up.

It was the Friday before Mother's Day, 2013.  I was teaching full-day kindergarten at the time & we had just had a big event that morning in my classroom for our mommies.  I had literally just sat down at my desk for my prep time when my phone rang.  Kirsh & Kirsh (our adoption attorneys).  Gulp.  What did we forget to turn in?  That was my first thought.  We had just finished our mountain of paperwork and submitted everything the week before in order to be "active" and available to be matched with birthparents.  And by "mountain of paperwork," I mean Everest-sized mountain.  For months we had traded date nights for laptop nights at Starbucks, typing up biographies, filling out different questionnaires & checking our to-do list.  Three sets of fingerprints...Check.  Federal  & State background checks...Check.  Home study with a social worker...Check.  Doctor approval declaring us physically fit to care for a child...check.  Ten page "Dear Birthmother Letter" indicating why we would be good parents & filled with photos...check.  If we apply to be in the Secret Service, I believe they would already have the necessary requirements needed, and then some.  Geesh.

We did not forget anything, however.  Kirsh's assistant (who worked closely with the birthparents and did the matching) simply stated that a birthmother named *Kara was very interested in us and wanted to speak with us tonight.  (Wait, what?!  Tonight?)  We had only been active for a short number of days, and I was in no way prepared for a call like this.  I immediately looked for a paper bag to breathe into.  She went on to say that Kara was a high school senior in the district I taught in.  She was involved in numerous activities and clubs and planned to go to college in the Fall.  Her baby was due in less than a month. (What?!  A month?!  Insert shaking, sweating, etc).  She had been matched with a great couple for the last few months, but they became unexpectedly pregnant (ugh, secretly hated them) & had to back out of the adoption.  She was back at square one, very nervous, and needed to proceed quickly.  Their assistant finished by saying it was very important to Kara that Devin do a lot of the talking on the phone - she had spoken to a few couples already and the adoptive mother had done all the talking, which she didn't like.  Devin, talk?  Well, that one was easy.

I barely made it through the end of the day.  Dismissed my students & drove 45 minutes home in a daze.  I was nervous, but mostly excited.  I really thought this was it.  And what a perfect ending it would be.  I could see the headline now: Couple chosen after 3 days on the active list.  Baby born a month later.  They all lived Happily Ever After.  We sat down at the kitchen table, notepad in hand & made the call.  Kara answered after the first few rings & we put her on speakerphone.  The conversation was to be honest, awkward.  But we were prepared for that.  You are basically selling yourselves to a person who is planning to place her baby for adoption.  Nothing can prepare you for that type of conversation.  In fact, before we called we laughed that never in a million years had we thought we would be doing this back in college when the conversations were based around frat parties & what movie to rent.  #ifourcollegeselvescouldseeusnow

Looking back, I should have seen the red flags, but I didn't.  Kara was nice, but it was more like an interview than a real conversation.  She asked us how we were going to discipline, and if we would be spanking.  She asked us our views on Private Vs. Public Education (public educators here!) & how we would teach this baby not to have sex before marriage.  All good questions, I suppose, but we never really just talked.  She ended the call by saying she was having a baby girl.  My heart all but burst into pink sparkles.  I was ready for a girl!  I could braid!  I liked make-up!  I would help her with cheerleading and dance!  We HAD to be chosen.  We just had to.  Kara thanked us and said she was speaking with another couple as well and would be making her decision most likely after the weekend.  We thanked her as well for even considering us and said goodbye.

We had decided to keep most information about our adoption status private.  Of course our family and friends knew we were in the process of adopting, but no one knew about this call.  Wellllll, except for a small number of my close friends.  I HAD to tell someone.  Who would go with me to shop for girl clothes?  Who would help re-decorate my already finished nursery?  My friends.  They are my people.  I immediately filled them on the call and they were just as excited.  Now we just had to sit back and wait for the good news.  Or so I thought.

The weekend passed & we didn't hear anything.  We weren't surprised because Kara had said she wanted some time to think about it, which we respected.  We had to finish our adoption education classes and had a class scheduled one day early that week.  Towards the end of the class, I noticed three missed calls from Kirsh.  THIS WAS IT.  The good news we had been waiting for.  I couldn't call during the session, so we ran out to our car right after the class & called them back.  I knew as soon as the assistant said my name.  It wasn't the good news I had hoped for.

She went on to say that she was very sorry, but Kara had chosen another couple.  I pretty much blacked out here, because I don't remember the other details.  Another couple.  That was all I heard.  We were devastated.  Of course we had been told that this could happen numerous times, and nothing is set until the adoption papers were signed.  But, we had hope.  We knew we were going to be good parents.  We had been through enough.  We didn't understand.  I cried all the way home.  I went upstairs & cried for the next few hours.  Devin finally coerced me out with a trip to get ice cream.  And we got ice cream...twice that night. (That's when you know it is REALLY bad).  I called the friends that I had told and sobbed to them on the phone.  My friend, Rene, who had adopted twice and totally gets it - just listened.  And then she said, "Abigail.  I know you don't want to hear this, but I will say it anyway.  That baby girl just wasn't your baby."  I cried some more.  I have never been anywhere close to having a miscarriage, but I imagine the pain is similar.  Your heart feels like it is been ripped out, torn into shreds & then scattered every which way.  I wondered if it would ever be put back together.

We made it through the weekend & I decided to at least shower and put the cleanest pair of pajamas on that I had.  I went back to school that next week and finished out the year.  Nothing from Kirsh.  We were officially waiting again.  Summer began & we were busy with friends, going on lots of dates, grilling out & just enjoying that time of year.  Devin's sister was getting married, I had a baby shower coming up planned by family & friends & things were looking happy again.  Even if the nursery was still empty.

June 24th.  My mom's birthday.  I had met a friend for lunch & was leaving when I checked my phone and saw a missed call from Kirsh.  Hmmm.  I called back & their assistant first told me that Kara had gone into labor & decided not to place her baby for adoption at all.  Another sweet couple's hearts had been ripped out as well.  I said I was sorry, but wondering what the call was really about.  She went on to say that another birthmother was interested in us.  Her name was *Lauren and she was due December 17th (she gave more details that I won't share in order to respect privacy)  Lauren wanted to speak with us tonight.  She had narrowed down her choices to us and another couple from Chicago.  Here we go again.  I drove home in another daze.

Devin came home early from football, we sat down with our notes & made a promise that we would not get our hopes up again.  (But who I am kidding, I was ready to finally press "checkout" on my Amazon order full of baby stuff.  Not getting hopes up & Abigail just don't mix).  We called Lauren and she answered on the first ring.  This conversation just flowed from the start.  We all just "talked." We didn't feel like we were being interviewed, yet she did ask plenty of questions.  She knew our ten page Dear Birthmother letter like the back of her hand.  She loved that our families were so close by, that we were involved in our church & that we were teachers who had the summers off to spend with this baby.  My Hopes Meter was raising again.  I didn't want to look at Devin in the eyes.  He knew the promise was broken.  Talking to Lauren was like talking to an old friend.  Nothing awkward or uncomfortable like with Kara.   We spoke with the birthfather, *Matt, as well.  He was quiet, but did ask a few questions.  Lauren shared that when she had made the decision to place her baby, she invited her friends over to go through the Dear Birthmother letters with her.  They highlighted things they liked in each packet.  My heart fluttered.  Her friends.  Her people.  That is exactly what I would have done!  The phone call came to an end and I didn't want it to.  Did we tell her everything?  Did we share that I planned to make all of my own baby food and that Devin would be a hands-on-play on the floor-type of dad?  Did she know how much we would love this baby?!

The conversation ended similar to Kara's.  Lauren needed to time to think and would be letting Kirsh know of her decision very soon.  We thanked her and Matt & said goodbye.

The following morning was June 25th.  Devin was downtown for a training and I was home worrying watching tv.  I wanted to know the outcome SO bad.  But then again, I didn't.  I couldn't handle any more bad news.  A basket case is putting it nicely.  I was literally sitting on the couch staring at the wall when Kirsh called.  No news.  They wanted to see how the conversation with Lauren went and what we thought of her (in order for a match to be set, the adoptive parents have to be comfortable with the birthparents as well).  While we were talking, an email from Lauren came through to Kirsh.  She said she would like to talk to us again tonight and had some additional questions.  Where was my paper bag when I needed it?!  Devin came home from the training, we got out all of our supplies & called.  Lauren answered and we had small talk for a few minutes.  I could tell she was nervous.  Was she going to tell us over the phone that she had picked someone else?  While a polite way to do it, I didn't know how much more I could take.

Then she said quietly, "Do you have plans this weekend?  Because I would really like to meet the parents of my baby." 

Total silence.  I looked at Devin & saw that he was crying.  I felt like I was in The Twilight Zone.  The man doesn't cry.  No one spoke for a solid 10 seconds.  I'm not even sure which one of us said something first, but something came out indicating to Lauren that YES!  We would be this baby's parents!  YES, YES, YES!

That night two years ago will never be forgotten.  And so started a relationship with Dane's birthparents that is very special to us.  We met them the following weekend, were invited to doctor's appointments, & were there for the birth of our precious boy.

I wish I could go back and tell myself two years ago that everything will be ok.  To ditch the paper bag.  Just fall asleep.

That Dane was always meant to be ours.  

Monday, June 22

Summer Book Review

Growing up I always had my nose in a book.  At home, school, in the car, anywhere.  However, babies tend to put a hold on novels & instead I have found myself reading Duck & Goose, Where's Spot? & anything with a turnable flap.  (I would be happy to do a book review of my favorite children's books if any readers would like!)  The last few months I have returned to my love of novels & can't stop!  And the library?  You can actually borrow books & not have to pay $28 at Barnes & Noble for them.  #mindblown

Below is a short list of my favorite books as of late!

Gray Mountain by John Grisham

I haven't read Grisham since A Time To Kill & I missed him!  Great if you are looking for a good suspense to dive into!

For The Right Reasons by Sean Lowe

I have been watching The Bachelor since before this new cast was born.  Ok, maybe not that long - but definitely a long time.  This was a fun little read by my favorite Bachelor & it includes a lot of "behind the scenes" info that I always think is interesting to hear!

The Secret Lives of Midwives by Sally Hepworth

One of my favorites in the past few months.  Checked out at the library...cha-ching!

Beautiful Day
The Matchmaker
The Blue Bistro...all by Elin Hilderbrand

Elin Hilderbrand's novels = summer reads.  I always read several of her books every summer.  They are all set on Nantucket which seems like a magical fairy tale in itself, and they are just fun reads!  Beautiful Day was probably my favorite of the 3.

Carry On, Warrior by Glennon Doyle

Whoa.  This was so, so good.  SO good.  Author of the popular blog, Momastery.  She is a former drug/alcohol addict who battled depression & just about everything else.  She has a way with words & will make you laugh, cry, think & strive to be better.  Two of my favorite quotes, "I still remember the days that I prayed for the things I have now" & "Life is hard not because we're doing it wrong, but just because it is hard."  Amen.

Nobody's Cuter Than You
The Antelope In The Living Room
Sparkly Green Earrings ...all by Melanie Shankle

Hands down my favorite books so far this summer.  All three were very quick reads (like one day each) and sooooo good.  They are all memoirs from this Christian author on friendship, marriage, and motherhood.  I highlighted so many parts of each one.  Nobody's Cuter Than You was my favorite because 1) it was given to me by my bff and 2) I think so many of us young mamas get so caught up in working on ourselves as mothers & wives, that we forget how important our friendships are.  Changes are our friendships were there before wifehood or motherhood even came along in the first place.  I know I need to be better friend & reading this book was a good reminder.

And there you have it!  What books should I add to my list?  

Friday, June 19

Friday Favorites

YAY, Friday!  I'm trying something fun & linking up with one of my new favorite mama bloggers, Erika, for Friday Favorites!  Here are some things I am loving right now...


I have four words.  The park is open.  Two more words.  Chris Pratt.  Get your popcorn, smuggle in your candy & run to the theatre.  


THE BEST chocolate chip cookie.  Google Sally's Baking Addiction "Chewy Chocolate Chunk Cookie" & be prepared.  There are none better.  


I hate drinking water.  Like really hate it.  I could survive on two cups of coffee a day & rarely even drink anything for meals (I know, so bad).  However, a friend gave me the above tumbler & it has helped soothe my water hatred.  Check out Quest Hydration if you are a fellow water hater. 


Erin Condren Life Planner.  My sister-in-law bought my first few & I have been hooked ever since.  My whole life is in this thing.  They are pricey, but SO worth it.  The above picture is the design I ordered (photo from website) but I added a family picture on the cover.  


Skechers GOWalk sandals.  These were a gift & also like walking on clouds.  Perfect for around the house or the pool.  They also come in a variety of colors!  My friend Adrienne has the GoWalk flats that are equally as cloud-comfy & super cute.  

What are your favorite things right now?  Happy weekend!

Wednesday, June 17

What's in my pool bag?

When I was growing up, my brother & I spent every single day at the pool.  My mom was a teacher which meant summers off, & our summer days were like Groundhog's Day.  Wake-up.  Eat breakfast. Watch tv while my mom did chores (I'm sure we helped at some point), pack up and go to the pool.  Stay all day.  Come home when my Dad got off work.  Eat dinner.  Catch lightning bugs.  Go to bed.   Repeat.
Pure bliss.

My mom always had a huge pool bag that was the equivalent to Mary Poppins' magic bag.  Need rings to throw?  Right here.  Want a snack?  Check this pouch.  Cheeks getting burnt?  10 types of sunscreen within arms reach.

Now that Dane is older and our pool days are getting longer, I knew I had to find the perfect pool bag for us.  I sit mine right on our lockers by the garage door & it is always packed & ready to go.  When we come in for the day, I usually clean out any leftover snacks & take out the towels (I don't wash every day, more like every other day) and replace them with new ones right away.  We have more beach towels than I have socks, so our supply is pretty stellar.   The pool bag is then restocked & ready to head out the door!

Below is everything I have in mine:

1) Thirty-One thermal tote.  I purchased this awhile ago and I don't think it is even technically a beach bag, but I use it as one.  It's huge, it zips & it's thermal so it will keep any snacks/drinks you have cold!

2) Land's End towel.  Otherwise known as the best pool towel ever.  I have two - both gifts from my sister's in law.  They are BIG & fluffy and cover a whole chair which is key in laying out (not that I lay out anymore, but still).  Plus the embroidery is a plus!  (All of these items are sitting on Dane's child-size towel which I always have in the bag as well.)

3) Thirty-One zipper pouch.  I bought this when I got tired of my sunscreens being all over the place.  Small zipper pouch that holds a lot!

4) Old Navy child's beach bag.  This was also a gift from a sister-in-law (I seriously am 3/3 on sister-in-law quality) and it fits inside my big bag.  Inside are all of Dane's pool necessities: toys, swim diapers, beach hats, snacks, & a change of clothes.  You never know when a toddler will go rogue on you & you have to bounce fast.  A change of clothes + a regular diaper are key.  I wasn't nearly as prepared this summer for pool toys & one minute in the baby pool with other kids clearly made me make a mandatory trip to Wal-Mart for more toys.  I mean, doesn't every kid need 4 types of water guns?!  Yikes.  Back in my pool days we had these fancy toys called quarters (sometimes pennies too) that my mom would throw in and we would fish out.  Ahhh, the good 'ol days.

5) The product of my Wal-Mart run.  $3 fishing net and plastic fish.  Actually pretty cute and I guess encourages good hand-eye coordination, plus fine motor skills - so I'll approve!

6) Plastic bags.  Probably the most important component of my pool bag.  When were going through the adoption process, I had several baby showers to help prepare.  One of the best pieces of advice I got from a friend was to "keep a lot of Kroger sacks in the house."  I thought it was strange at first, but I use them every day (sorry Earth!)  I keep a stash in my car and in my pool bag too.  They are perfect for wet clothes, dirty diapers, any lunch trash, etc.  Thank you friend for that advice - long live Kroger sacks!

And that is pretty much it.   All of these items surprisingly fit well in my bag, which I love!  I wish there was a 7) that included trashy magazines and/or books, but I have come to terms that those days are over.  And I am ok with that!  

What all do you have in your pool bag that I should add to mine?  Please share!

And, Happy Pool Days.

Monday, June 15

Road Trip Trail Mix

About 6 years ago, I had a sweet kindergartner whose mama gave me this trail mix recipe.  Nothing fancy, which is something I have learned is a prerequisite for a busy mom.  No baking required, and so easy to change up!  I usually make it for any road trips we have coming up, but I find myself buying the ingredients in the summer a lot as well.  Happy snacking!  

Road Trip Trail Mix
* serves a lot!*

3 cups Cinnamon Life (NOT Cinnamon Toast Crunch)
1 bag banana chips (unsweetened, I usually find at Wal-Mart)
4 cups Cheerios
1 bag yogurt raisins
2 cups honey roasted peanuts
2-3 cups pretzel sticks 
Ziploc snack baggies 

Add all ingredients and stir well.  Divide into snack baggies.  These keep well (at least a week) and are great for road trips, pool days or just a healthy snack!  There are a lot of ways to change this up to your liking - add mini chocolate chips or marshmallows, different types of pretzels, chocolate-covered raisins, regular raisins, apple chips...the possibilities are endless!  
Ditch your boring granola bars & make this today!

Tuesday, June 9

Summer Bucket List

Summer is here.  Front porch sitting, watermelon slices, sun tans & flip flops.  Ahhhhh.  
Below are a few things on our Summer Bucket List this year - what is on yours?  

Dear Summer, 
I love you.  

Monday, June 1

Monday edition!

My little pumpkin getting ready to try avocado for the first time! 

Dane loves to eat.  Mom loves to cook.  We were a match from the start.  I knew even before we started thinking about children, that I wanted to make my child's baby food.  It was not because I was over health-conscious, or to save a ton of money...but just because I love to cook & it sounded fun.  I know so many mama friends who don't like to cook and/or don't have the problem! 
 And their kids are just fine.  :)  

We are all doing what works best for our families, and I think that is the most important thing to remember.  

I waited until Dane was 6 months old to start solids.  He didn't start sitting up until a little after turning 6 months anyway, so the timing was perfect.  A friend from church offered to bring her baby food maker & freezing trays & show me the ropes.  It really was unbelievably easy & in just a few hours we made weeks of baby food that could be stored in the freezer and conveniently thawed for meals.  Healthy foods + saving money = more shopping for Abigail more grocery money for the month!  Per our doctor's advice, we started with vegetables (sweet potatoes, squash, avocado, green beans) and later tried fruits (banana, pears, mango, peaches, apples).  Dane is an excellent veggie eater and I am convinced that is because we started with vegetables!  Each food was introduced one at a time to make sure we were clear of allergies, and then new foods were added every few days.  Some vegetables were added later (like carrots, who knew they could be full of nitrates?  Not good for infants.  Berries were added in later as well, common allergen)  My sweet friend Allyson also suggested the book Super Baby Food & I HIGHLY recommend it to anyone thinking about making their own!  It has user-friendly charts for each month recommending foods to try/add, tons of recipes and is just very informative.  I also made Dane's oatmeal and rice cereal to begin with (also super easy!) & recipes for those were found in that book as well.  

Now that Dane is 18 months (I can't believe I just typed that) the baby food days are over, and I am a little sad!  I really loved making new foods & pureeing different things together to see what he liked. We have moved on to real "people food" for him & that can be just as fun!  Dane typically eats what we eat for meals, and does a great job in his high chair.  His favorite meal is probably breakfast...and mine as well!  He loves French toast, pancakes, muffins, fruit, yogurt, eggs...basically anything that goes with coffee.  :)  Lunch is usually some sort of sandwich (pb&j, ham & cheese, grilled cheese, quesadillas, etc), plus fruit and veggies and dinner is whatever we eat as a family.  He has grown accustomed to Mommy's Famous Meatloaf which is great since it is on the Carter dinner rotation quite frequently!  Snack time is another favorite for Dane and is typically offered after waking up from his nap, or before dinner if he is acting hungry.  Sometimes I run out of snack ideas and don't always want to offer a "cracker" type of snack...although he definitely smiles for his beloved Goldfish!  Some other popular snacks for us are: grapes, banana slices, cheddar cheese & baby Triscuits, Puffs, graham crackers, or string cheese.  

Because Dane loves breakfast, I included two of my go-to recipes below.  I love both of these because the recipes make a lot and both freeze well.  We all know that when the Today Show is on, Mama likes to thaw something out quickly for breakfast and not have to worry about being in the kitchen all morning!  I also love both of these recipes because you most likely have all of the ingredients in your pantry right now.  Happy cooking!    

Whole Wheat Pancakes (adapted from the Super Baby Food book)
*makes a lot, depending on size of pancake.  I usually do a silver-dollar size*

2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons oil (coconut, veggie or canola)
1 very large RIPE banana, smashed
1 teaspoon vanilla 
cinnamon to taste 

Mix wet ingredients together.  Add in dry ingredients; do not over mix.  Pour silver-dollar sizes on griddle & cook until golden brown.  Top with pure maple syrup.  Freeze up to 1 month.  *Can sub pumpkin for banana (I loved to do this in the Fall!)  I also have added mini chocolate chips to spice them up as well!*   

Heavenly Banana Oatmeal Muffins (adapted from Skinnytaste Cookbook)
* makes 12 large muffins, or 20 mini muffins*

1.5 cups quick oats
1 1/4 cups unsweetened almond milk
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup ripe banana, smashed (about 2 large bananas)
2 large egg whites
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup flour (I used spelt flour)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350.  Line a 12 muffin tin with cupcake holders & then lightly spray with Pam.  In a large bowl mix oats and milk together and put in fridge for 30 minutes.  After soaking, add in wet ingredients - then dry.  Mix well and pour into muffin tin.  Bake about 20 minutes, or until golden brown.  Dane loves his with butter or even fancier - a little peanut butter on top!  

And there you have it.  Simple. Easy. Yummy.  Three prerequisites in my cookbook.  Now you share! 
What are your favorite or kid-friendly recipes?

"Food tastes better when you eat it with your family." 
~ author unknown