12/24/2013

Crying At Christmas: The Best Gift

Our hearts ** o v e r f l o w ** with joy this time of year.

The other night after Olivia was in bed, Chris and I sat on the couch to catch up on our DVR.

I glanced over at our beautiful, small, brightly-lit Christmas tree and tears started welling up in my eyes.

He looked at me like I was crazy.

Crying during an episode of "Modern Family" threw him off a bit.

"What's wrong, babe?" he asked.

"No more waiting," I said.

He knew exactly what I meant.

This year is different than all other Christmases.
We don't have to wait to hang the extra stocking and the "Baby's 1st Christmas" ornament.

We don't have to wait to wrap those small packages with tiny, shiny bows.

We don't have to wait to start traditions of cookie baking, movie-watching and Christmas bedtime
stories with our baby.
She's here.

The best gift of all is here.

And our sweet daughter gives us more joy, happiness than any stocking stuffer or any beautifully
wrapped box under the tree.
Merry Christmas -- from our family to yours!

12/11/2013

What to Expect When You're Expecting [through Adoption]

Perhaps some people have a hard time conceptualizing a baby joining a family without seeing a baby bump.

While I don't know what it's like to be pregnant, I do know what it's like to be an expectant mom through adoption.

And I know enough about my friends' experiences of being pregnant to know that becoming a parent through adoption is different than becoming a parent through pregnancy.

VERY different.

Here's a small list of what I believe adoptive parents can expect when they're expecting:

1.) You'll learn to forgive people who don't know they need to be forgiven.

A lot of times people don't know how hurtful their actions [or lack of actions] can be to an adoptive parent. They don't comprehend how important their words are, and they don't always choose them wisely.

There are people in my life who fell off  the face of the planet when Chris and I announced we were adopting. There were family members and friends who didn't understand why fundraising was such an important part of our adoption journey. There were people we cared about who never asked us how we were feeling throughout our entire adoption process.

Once Olivia's birth mom chose us, a lot of those people reappeared in our lives. They saw her. They loved her. And we love that. But it was hurtful to not have the support from some of those people from the beginning.

Perhaps they didn't know what to say. Perhaps they didn't know what to do.

And so we forgave them.

To keep these relationships, we had to forgive people who didn't even know they needed to be forgiven.

2.) You will automatically feel a connection with other adoptive families.

I have literally lost count of how many new, wonderful friends we have made because we have an unspoken bond. We understand each other without saying a word.

These new friends get it.

They have survived the leap of faith that it takes to adopt.

They have surrendered themselves and allowed God to do His thing.

The new friends you make are SO awesome, you guys.

Embrace them. You will treasure these people as you move forward with adopting that sweet baby.

3.) You will love the people you love...even more.

It is true that adoption can bring out the absolute best in people. The generosity of friends, family members and complete strangers will bring you to your knees.

The support can be overwhelming. Hold onto those moments.

Never forget the people who stand by you. They are absolute gifts; they are investing in the life of a child they haven't met, validating the decision of a birth mother and/or birth father who chooses LIFE, and they will hold you up in those weak moments where it feels like things are falling apart.

4.) You will experience a mix of emotions you've never experienced before.

You will fall in love and plan for a baby you haven't met yet.

You will pray about a birth momma and have no idea who she is, what she does, or where she lives.

You'll walk into your baby-to-be's nursery and wonder when you'll be tucking in your sweet baby.

You'll cry because you'll think the waiting and planning will never end.

You'll cry when you're not chosen by a birth momma and you don't know why; you'll find an odd sense of peace in knowing that when this happens another family is rejoicing because their wait is over.

You will obsess over the anticipation of receiving *THE* phone call that you've been chosen; you'll wonder how that phone call will sound, how you'll react, what you'll do and how much time you'll have.

You'll cry when your waiting ends. Because your adoption journey is PROOF that God answers prayers. He knows what He's doing.

You'll be completely and totally overjoyed when you snuggle that sweet baby that was meant to be yours all along.

5.) It will be worth it.

When we were diagnosed with unexplained infertility, I always asked myself, "WHY ME?"

When the going got tough with the adoption process, I often times asked myself, "WHY ME?"

It's easy to be angry when you wonder WHY the adoption process is so hard. Why it's such a
roller coaster. Why there's so much red tape.

But when you hold that sweet baby in your arms, it will be worth it.

These days I find myself looking in the mirror while holding Olivia [she loves to see herself], and I ask myself the same question: "WHY ME?" except in a completely different context.

Why did God choose me to be Olivia's mom?

Why did her birth momma feel I was deserving to be this precious girl's forever mom?

What did I do to deserve such a perfect, AMAZING gift?

It is such an honor to be an adoptive parent.

There aren't adequate words to describe how awesome it feels to be CHOSEN.

11/18/2013

Confession: I Look At Black People Differently

I have a confession:

I look at black people differently.

Let me preface this post by saying I don't want to sound racist.

Because I'm not.

But I'm more culturally aware.

And I'd be lying if I said I don't look at black people -- especially girls and women -- differently
since Olivia joined our family.

Not better or worse.

Just diff erently.

Like in an, "I wonder if Olivia will have hair like hers?" kinda way.

Let me clarify...

I don't know what it's like to have a biological child.

If I had a daughter with red hair, would kids and women with red hair stand out more when I'm
at the grocery store?

Would I still ask myself, "I wonder if my daughter will have hair like hers?"

Or is this something unique to me because my daughter does not have my genes is quite possibly
the cutest girl on the planet?
Another note...

If I hear someone tell me, "So-and-so adopted a black baby and he's the whitest black kid you'll
ever meet,"
one. more. time ...I'mma whip out my Momma bear claws.

Olivia will know her culture.

She will have black role models.

If that means we have to take her to dance class in a diff erent neighborhood or city, so be it.

If that means we have to be the only white people in a church, we're doin' it.

She will know her heritage.

She will be proud to be African American.

She will NOT be a "white version" of a "black baby."

Comments like these have made me wonder how long this type of prejudice has existed all
around me, and why I haven't paid attention chose to ignore it until our sweet daughter came along.

One more thing...

I never noticed Band-Aids only came in a beige color [or some funky cartoonish design] as if to imply that people with black skin might not want a "flesh-colored" Band-Aid for their skin.

[And before someone says, "They make clear Band-Aids" -- check again. Look at the center of the
strip. That ain't clear.]

A final note...

The point of my post today isn't a rant necessarily.

It's that I'm noticing how things in my life have changed since becoming a Mom -- especically
since becoming a white Mom to a beautiful black baby girl.

And frankly, I'm disappointed in myself.

It's frustrating that at 28-years old [Sighhh. Yes. 28. Y'all know my age now.], I'm just starting
to notice people say things like, "She was black" when that detail adds nothing important to the conversation.

I'm just starting to notice some of the salons and spas that I've frequented my whole life don't
have someone who I could trust with my daughter's hair or skincare because the product lines are designed for white women.

It's frustrating that these things have probably been happening my whole life, and I haven't paid
attention.

Until now.

Perhaps most of all, it's frustrating because I want my daughter to grow up in a world where people are treated equally, but I'm realizing it might not be that easy.

11/11/2013

The Cunchy Crouton Incident

The other day, we were swamped with appointments and meetings.

And more appointments.

And more meetings.

We narrowed down an attorney who will finalize Olivia's adoption [YAY!] and met with his assistant [also an adoptive Momma!] for the first time.

In between our appointments, we grabbed a bite to eat for a late lunch.
Olivia was so alert and happy and smiling.

((sigh))

I love those days...

She's going through this phase of "stancing" where she likes to stand and dance kick her feet.

So picture this:

I've got one arm holding her up on my leg while she's "stancing," and my other is shoveling salad in my mouth.

As I'm crunching on a crouton, I hear this woman from across the restaurant ask YELL,

"DID YOU ADOPT HER?"

I crunched my already crunchy crouton louder.

I looked up at rolled my eyes up from my salad to Chris.

He looked at the woman and nodded his head with a half smile / half what-the-heck-are-you-yelling-for type of look.

"What's her name?" she asked politely yelled.

"Olivia," I said with remnants of that crunchy crouton in my mouth.

"Where's she from?" she asked yelled again.

"Texas," I said, fully anticipating she'd make a comment like, "Oh, I figured she'd be from Africa..."
but thankfully, she didn't.

Some days I just want to stand up and say:

YES, THIS IS MY DAUGHTER.
YES, I KNOW SHE IS BLACK AND WE'RE WHITE.
YES, YOU CAN STOP STARING NOW.


The fact of the matter is this:

If I see a family with kids at a restaurant, I don't ask them how they were born.

I don't ask things like, "Did you give birth naturally? Or with an epidural? Vaginally or a C-Section?"

Those would be an awfully strange questions, don't ya think?

It's similar to people -- strangers -- asking us questions about Olivia, if we adopted her and why we adopted her.

Do those same people ask other moms and dads, "Why did you get pregnant?"

Doubtful.

Please -- swoon over my daughter and love on her all you want, but don't ask yell nosy questions from across the room about how she came to be a part of our family.

I love talking about our sweet lil' gal and the day we laid eyes on her, but next time just come over to our table and talk about how cute she is first ;-)

11/02/2013

Operation: Diaper Wipes

Two ingredients + water + 1 roll of paper towels = diaper wipes, friends!

A few people shared a recipe for homemade diaper wipes, so Chris and I decided to try 'em out.

And because I think they're so fabulous, I wanted to share with you all!

[Because what Momma doesn't want to save money?!]
Cut roll of paper towels in half.

Make sure you use a durable roll of paper towels (we used Bounty).

Cut the roll in half.

Set aside.
In a bowl, mix 1 cup water with 1 tablespoon baby wash and 1 tablespoon baby oil.

Put half of the roll of paper towels in a container and pour the mixture on top.

Let soak for 5-10 minutes.

Pull out the cardboard core and walah!

You've got wipes!

Store in a ziplock bag or container with a lid (we actually used an ice cream bucket).

You're done!

Seriously.

I'm not kidding.

These work EXACTLY the same as store-bought wipes.

And it's SO easy.


----------------------------

Homemade Baby Wipes
1 cup water
1 Tbsp baby wash
1 Tbsp baby oil
1 roll heavy-duty paper towels (cut in half)
Mix liquids in container. Dump over half a roll of paper towels. Let soak for 5-10 minutes. Take
out cardboard core. Store in air-tight container.

----------------------------

10/30/2013

Reassurance

I'm not sure why, but today I started doubting myself...

Questioning why I've been so open about the adoption process.

Wondering why I've been so honest about the good and the bad this adoption road has led us on.

My fear is that one day, Olivia will look me in the eyes and say, "Mom, why'd you share so much about my adoption?" or, "Why'd you share so many pictures of me?"

I was sitting at my desk in between live shots and my mind was racing.

Will she resent me for any of this?
 

Is it worth it?

Then I heard the "beep" of a Facebook message on my computer.

It was as if God knew I needed a bit of reassurance, and in that split second, He provided it.

This is what the message said:

Hi Shelley,
 
I just wanted to write you a note to say not only have I enjoyed the transparency of the journey that adoption is and your family's willingness to be vulnerable about its intricacies, but that your openness has given me the opportunity to see all of the creative ways to make adoption possible for any family who feels called to adopt.
 
I have often heard from people considering adoption, "It's just too expensive (the adoption process, that is)," and now, through your transparency, I am able to reference an awesome family who heard the call to adopt and refused to let any barrier get in the way of trusting God and having the courage to act on the call.
 
Thank you so much! Your family has inspired me in so many ways- not only to listen more to my own instinct that one day I may be called to adopt kids, but you've also shown me that if adoption isn't part of my own personal calling, I can still support the adoption process by supporting other families who are.
 
             God Bless your family now and in the many wonderful years yet to come!

WOW!

THIS was exactly what I needed today.

Now I can breathe a bit easier because when -- or if -- Olivia asks me why I was so open about her
joining our family, I'll be able to tell her that HER story changed lives.
That this little girl inspired people.

And that being public about her adoption wasn't all for nothing.

Another lesson I learned today:

If you've been wanting to off er encouragement to someone else, but haven't made time to do it...do it.

Do it now.

 It might be the reassurance that person's needing.

10/29/2013

The No-Changing-Table Dilemma

Ummmmmmmmm...

Shouldn't it be a requirement to have changing tables in all public restrooms?!
I'm not saying they all need to be nice and plush like the nursery, but SOMETHING off the floor
would be great!

I'm a slight full-blown germaphobe, and I cringe at the thought of changing Olivia's diaper on the floor of a public restroom.

Seriously.

I can't tell you how many times I've had to walk back out to a parking lot [uphill both ways in the snow, mind you...] to change her because I just can't. do. it. on the floor of a public bathroom.

And before some of you start telling me about those convenient, portable changing pads -- stop.
I already know they make these.

And I already have one.

BUT putting it on the FLOOR of a public bathroom [God knows what else has been there] and
then folding it back up and putting it back into the diaper bag with her bibs and bottles and burp rags is a bit much for this germaphobe Momma.

Moms -- I'd love to know:

What have you used to make the no-changing-table dilemma easier?

10/10/2013

I Understand.

I was talking with a friend of mine who wonders if she'll ever become a Mom.

She's discouraged.

She's bitter.

And she assured me she'll go crazy if she sees another pregnancy announcement on Facebook.

This friend has other friends who have multiple kids.

Those friends have kids by "accident."

And kids they couldn't care less about.

This friend has family members who ask her, "When are you going to have a baby?" at every holiday.

Every family get-together.

This friend can't wrap her head around why she can't get pregnant.

And why it seems like everyone else can.

I understand.

I've walked that walk.

And it's not fun.

It's painful.

But it's OK to be angry.

And bitter.

And frustrated.

And sad.

Because it's not fair.

While I don't believe adoption is meant for everyone, I will say that when we first laid eyes on our
baby girl, everything made sense.

Olivia was part of our family's plan all along -- it was clear to us the very moment we met her.

The hardest part for me was the gradual shift of how I pictured our family when we got married
five years ago.

We assumed we would have tall, skinny [probably nerdy] biological children who needed braces at
some point in their lives.

We assumed it would happen when we wanted it to.

We assumed it would be easy.

But, you know what they say about assuming, right?!

Little did we know that there was something bigger and better in the cards for us.
We trusted and prayed and kept the faith, and THIS moment, my friends -- the moment we met
our daughter -- was meant for us all along.

So, if you know someone struggling with this -- please tell them this:

You are not alone.

10 Signs You're a New Mom

You know you're a new Momma when you do one or more of the following at any given time or
place:

1.) Start making up songs about your child -- and singing them to your child -- at 2:00 in the
morning (note: these songs can consist of the words poop, sleep, toot and/or the phrase "stop crying")

2.) You've memorized every song on your child's swing

3.) You can't fall asleep unless you're listening to music from said swing

4.) You've nailed down a method to carrying three bottles and formula dispensers downstairs WITH a baby and burp cloth at the same time (that takes talent, my friends!)

5.) You dance around your child's nursery to try and soothe your baby to sleep

6.) You wake up even if your child hasn't woken up just to make sure your baby's still breathing

7.) You seem to have lost five of the six paci fiers SOMEWHERE

8.) You can swaddle your child snuggly in record time...with your eyes closed

9.) Your conversations with others consist of poop schedules and feeding times and doctor's appointments

10.) You've never been so happy to be so tired in. your. life.

9/29/2013

Taking a Breather

I started this blog in March with pure excitement.

[OK, we were nervous and impatient and worried and optimistic about where our adoption journey
would lead us...but we were also SO excited!]

I LOVE how so many of you have followed our roller coaster ride and immense amount of JOY
our family experienced when we met our sweet daughter last month.

Best. Day. Ever.

I've had a handful of emails and Facebook messages asking me why I haven't posted on this blog
as regularly.

To be honest, the biggest reason is I'm just trying to breathe.

And soak in every moment with my precious little girl.
Going back to work after only a week at home with her was the hardest thing I've ever had to do.

I worry about her spending time with other people more than her own Momma.

Prior to bringing her home, I blogged a lot from home.

Now when I'm home, I simply want to snuggle up this sweet girl as much as I can!

I know you all understand :-)

But another -- perhaps more di fficult "hurdle"-- is a personal one.

While I've LOVED sharing our journey so openly, and I LOVE my job, there are pitfalls about being so forthcoming in the public eye.

I've been battling a few less-than-kind messages from readers who have oh-so-kindly o ffered their
two cents about our family.
One viewer is quite concerned that I'm not healthy enough to be Olivia's mother.

"MG" said basically admitted in one of her handful of emails that she's been comparing stalking
photos I've posted on my blog which led to an accusation of me being "too thin" to be a good mother.

"Shelly,
You are getting too thin.
Olivia needs you to be healthy.
Please also take care of YOU."

REALLY?

Aside from being a bit tired from adjusting to motherhood while working full-time, I AM HEALTHY.

I thanked "MG" for her concern, and said I hoped she took away more from sharing my family's story
than unwarranted concern over my appearance.

And then I just quit responding to her.

Not worth my time.

Another viewer reminded me that my skin color is diff erent than my daughter's [as if I was already unaware of this].

"I am so sorry to say but one day your little girl will come home crying because she has been mistreated because she is Black. It will break your heart just like it does hers and you will want to protect her but the world is very cruel."

I don't look forward to the day when Olivia is asked why her skin color is diff erent than ours.

Or the day she's chosen last for a teammate at school because she might not look like some of her classmates.

As much as I would love for this world to be a place where race doesn't matter, I am well aware it does.

And it angers me.

But frankly, what also angers me, is a complete stranger telling me how I'm destined to feel as her mother when this situation arises.

Unless you are a legit fortune-teller, keep your readings to yourself.

Being Olivia's momma is an honor.

And I'm choosing to think of the twists and turns of being her Momma in a positive way.

The day Olivia comes home and asks why her skin color is diff erent than ours is a day we get to tell her all about her beautiful birth momma.

And how special she is.

And how much she loves her...

It's a day we get to tell her about her birth momma's selfess choice to give her LIFE!

And what a gift she gave us!

I will soak up any opportunity I can share with our sweet daughter about how she joined our family.

What bothers me is when others, who don't know the intricate details of our adoption, seem to think
they know what our future holds.

Instead of sharing in our joy and happiness, they off er "reminders" of the obstacles bound to come.

While some people might choose to think the world is a cruel place, I'm choosing to focus on it being beautiful.

So beautiful that children, regardless of their skin color, grow up in loving families who don't look like their parents.

That doesn't mean I'm ignoring the fact that there will be hard times ahead, it just means we'll address
them as they come.

Worrying about the future isn't worth my [limited amount of] energy.

We'll learn as we go.

And in my opinion, there's nothing wrong with that.

For now, I'm focusing on this perfect little girl, our daughter.

And while what's ahead is unknown, I know we'll tackle the curve balls thrown our way together as a family.

So -- for those wondering if I've fallen o the face of the earth -- I'm still here!
Trying to balance motherhood and deflecting hurtful comments have kept me a bit preoccupied and honestly made me reluctant to post much recently.

BUT, I'm reminded that for every handful of naysayers, there are hundreds of you who have enjoyed following this journey with us, and hundreds of you who have covered our family with your prayers and encouragement.

And for that I'm so grateful.

I LOVE getting to share our family's happiness with you, and I have every intention of continuing to do so!

9/09/2013

The Height of Sleep Deprivation

You know you've arrived at the height of sleep deprivation when you consider using toothpicks to
hold your eyes open
one or more of the following happens to you as a new parent:

-You leave the sprinkler on for more than 12-hours

-You go to bed without shutting the garage door

-You pour a glass of wine without popping the cap o ff

-You go to Wal-Mart to get weed killer, but end up getting groceries instead without said weed
killer

-You forget to eat breakfast and don't realize it until almost lunch

-You forget a load of laundry in the washer

-You forget a load of laundry in the dryer

-You go to an appointment an hour early

-You go to an appointment an hour late

-You wear mismatched shoes to church

-You grind co ffee beans, pour water in coff ee maker, but forget to push "brew"

-You leave your wallet at home

-You remind your spouse of the same appointment at least 239084 times within a 60-minute window

-You leave home without your phone and return home to get said phone, then end up leaving home
again without the phone you forgot in the fi rst place

-You pop in a pan of lasagna, set the timer but forget to actually turn the oven on

Finally, you know you've hit the peak of sleep deprivation when you experience constant eye-burning, nagging headaches and uncontrollable head bobs just about anywhere, including [but not limited to] your desk, car, chair, dental offi ce, dining room table, church and/or while standing up.

But at the end of the day(s), there's one thing you can't forget -- no matter HOW sleep deprived
you are:

She's worth it!

8/30/2013

10 Ways to Support an Adoptive Family

Chris and I have a great support system that includes our family and close circle of friends.

We've had to lean on them a lot over the past 6-months for encouragement, prayers, and even just a pick-me-up after a hard day.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again:

The adoption process is not for the faint of heart.
During our sleepless nights -- especially when we first met our baby girl 3-weeks ago -- we found ourselves reflecting a LOT on how fortunate we are.

This post is for all those who know someone in the adoption process.

Whether it's a family member or friend or co-worker or neighbor, there are SO many ways you can
support an adoptive family.

And they need it!

I've compiled a list of 10 ways to support an adoptive family below.

[Disclaimer: This is not an all-encompassing list, nor are these any sort of commandments thou
shall follow. They are simply ideas and examples of what helped us in our family's journey.]

1.) Pray

Let the adoptive family know you're praying for them.

Let them know more than once.

Send an encouraging email, card, text message, or Facebook message letting them know you're thinking of the adoptive family.

Chocolate is always good, too ;-)

2.) Be Present

When you ask an adoptive family how they're doing, listen to their response.

There might not be anything you can do to physically help their journey go smoother or faster or
easier, but being present is so important.

One of my best friends, Tiffany, was my constant sounding board.

She lives in Omaha, but our hubbies can attest to the fact that we tend to tie up phone lines for a
couple hours :-)

What's great about Tiffany is I could call her day or night, and she would validate my feelings.

She would celebrate accomplishments with me.

And cry with me.

Often times she'd follow up with a text message a day or two later just to let me know she was
thinking of me.

She didn't ask questions.

She just listened.

She was just there.

Sometimes her presence was all I needed to keep trudging through whatever stage we were at in
the process.

My sister was my other go-to gal in the adoption process.

She was the one who kept us busy, kept us focused and moving in a positive direction.

When another family was chosen for a baby in Vegas, she wasted no time and said, "Let's make sure you're ready for the next one!" and off we went to Babies 'R Us to stock up on supplies.

[She must have had a hunch that our phone call would come a week later!]
 3.) Give Financially

Our friends and family were so generous -- not just with their hearts, but their pocket books.

In five months, we were able to raise almost $10,000.

Remember, the average cost of an infant domestic adoption runs upwards of $30,000 - $40,000.

This money is NOT to purchase and raise a baby. It is to ensure the needs of the birth mother
are met during her pregnancy.

Whatever you can give, consider giving to an adoptive family.

No amount is too small.

The financial burden of the adoption process is intimidating and worrisome.

It takes a village -- be part of that village!

By supporting an adoptive family financially, you will have an automatic investment in the life of a child while also validating the health of a birth mother during her pregnancy.
 4.) Offer Fundraising Ideas

Offer creative ideas to help offset the financial burden for an adoptive family.

Do your kids like to have lemonade stands?

Have them host one for a cause.

Do you have items you want to get rid of?

Offer them to an adoptive family for a garage sale.

Better yet -- offer to host a garage sale with proceeds going to the adoptive family!

My sister and her hubby held a Mega Garage Sale for us, and raised more than $1,000 for our
adoption expenses!
5.) Attend Events

Attend an event that benefits an adoptive family.

Whether it's a Pancake Breakfast or Wine Event, attend what you can.

I can't tell you how much it meant to see familiar faces from high school, college, work, church,
etc., at our events.

Sometimes the "being present" factor is more important than the financial factor.

To know there are people standing with an adoptive family is so important.

6.) Celebrate Milestones

This could be my favorite tip.

Celebrating milestones with an adoptive family is so much fun.

Often times, adoptive families miss out on having a fun pregnancy announcement or gender reveal
party or maternity photos.

So offer to help celebrate the unique milestones that come along with the adoption process!

There are so many milestones to celebrate with an adoptive family -- and they are WORTH celebrating.

7.) Treat New Adoptive Parents As You Would Treat Any New Parents

We need support just as ANY new parents need support.

We struggle with sleep just as ANY new parents do.

We are emotional at this significant life change just as ANY new parents are.

When an adoptive family brings their child home, offer to bring meals or mow the lawn or fold the
laundry, etc.

Don't believe us when we say we have it all under control.

[We're lying.]

The bottom line is this:

New adoptive parents are the same as any new parents in that we're trying to balance parenthood with daily life, and it's challenging!

8.) Use Positive Adoption Language

I've written about the importance of word choice since I started this blog back in March.

When talking to an adoptive family, be as considerate as you would with any new family.

Use broad questions and steer clear of asking detailed questions about birth parents or familial histories.

I'm confident that whatever details the new parents feel comfortable sharing, they will offer up on
their own dime.

Please understand there are some details we don't want to share.

And don't be offended if we bypass your question.

Some details about our adoption are better left private.

Perhaps most importantly, please know we don't expect perfection when it comes to talking about our adoption journey.

If you're not sure how to ask something or how to phrase something -- ask us!

We don't expect all of our friends and family members and acquaintances to be politically correct all the time.

9.) Give Time

Adoption is a lengthy, sometimes draining process.

Often times, adoptive parents are in another state -- or even another country -- for WEEKS while
government entities work to approve clearances before they are allowed to go home.

If your employer allows it, offer to donate some of your vacation time to a co-worker who is facing
this challenge.

Adoptive parents are at the whim of the government, and vacation time is quickly exhausted before
they can even begin bonding at home with their child.

10.) Ask Questions, Share and Educate

Adoptive families are part of a unique club.

We have an unspoken bond between us -- one of understanding, empathy, heartache, joy.

When we announced our plans to adopt, we immediately received so much support from friends and family members.

But there is one message I'll never forget, and it was from our friend Shana:

"I am so excited for you guys. 
The adoption process is something I know very little about. 
On either side of the spectrum, so it will be a learning 
experience for me and Jeremy both, I suspect. FUN, FUN, FUN! 
I am just thrilled for you guys..."

In the past five months I've seen Shana and her hubby use our adoption journey as a tool to teach their kids about adoption.

They've used it as an opportunity.

They've walked the walk with us -- they've learned about the adoption process right along with us,
like many others -- and offered so much encouragement along the way.

I don't know any adoptive family who wouldn't want friends like them.

I know this is a long post, but I think it's one worth sharing.

These tips, as I mentioned, are not all-encompassing.

But I hope you find them helpful.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention our parents and how they made this adoption load easier to carry
both financially and emotionally.

Chris and I are truly blessed.

We know this.

I hope other adoptive families experience the kindness, understanding and support of others, just
as we have.

8/13/2013

It's Official: I'm "THAT" Mom

I'm officially THAT Mom who talks about her baby all. the. time.

I had a hair appointment yesterday, and the second I walked in the salon the gals said, "Turn around! Go back and get that baby!"

[Grandpa Russell was watching her!]

While I was getting some much-needed hair TLC, I shared stories about how Olivia joined our family.

And then I did it.

I did what a lot of proud mommas do.

I whipped out my cell phone and showed off some photos.
Because with a sweet baby like this, I just can't help myself.

I want to share her with the world.

Will I always be this way?

8/11/2013

Welcome Home, Olivia Grace!

Welcome Home Baby
Welcome home, Olivia Grace!
Welcome Home Baby
After 2-days of driving, a pit stop in Oklahoma, a diaper fiasco in Kansas, and a pit stop in Des Moines -- we're finally HOME - SWEET - HOME!

We might just be the proudest, most sleep-deprived, exhausted-but-happy parents out there :-)

8/09/2013

Love at First Sight: Powerful Photos Of Meeting Our Daughter

It seems like yesterday...
Adoptive Parents Meet Daughter
We anxiously walked into a hospital nursery hundreds of miles from home with only 1-hour of sleep.
Adoptive Parents Meet Daughter
Our hearts raced as we laid eyes on our 2-day old daughter for the first time.
Adoptive Parents Meet Daughter
She was beautiful and perfect and swaddled tightly inside her bassinet.
Adoptive Parents Meet Daughter
It was 3:00 PM but time stood still when we laid eyes on our beautiful baby girl for the first time.
Adoptive Parents Meet Daughter
We couldn't help but smile when we held her little hands.

It didn't take long for us to fall in love with this sweet baby.
Adoptive Parents Meet Daughter
No words could express what it was like to hold our daughter for the first time.
Adoptive Parents Meet Daughter 
I physically felt God tell me:

"I told you I didn't forget about you...
That I had something much bigger planned for you."

It was clear to us that she was the child we prayed for.
Adoptive Parents Meet Daughter
Olivia Grace was the little girl we waited for.
Adoptive Parents Meet Daughter
She is our treasured daughter we fell in love with at first sight.

Related content:
Dear Daughter
She's Ours
Dear Kendra
An Adoption Finalization [in photos]

Photos: Isadora Photography

8/07/2013

Momma Knows Best!

Already wrapped around Daddy's finger!

Lil' Liv decided to [ finally] fall asleep at 5:30 AM and sleep for 4-hours.

[Side note: HUGE thank you to my co-worker and evening anchor Amanda Goodman for "The
Happiest Baby" CD -- it has been a life saver!]

When we woke up, we had 20-minutes to feed her, change her, and get to breakfast at the hotel
before it closed.

So we frantically got her all ready and we went to breakfast in our pajamas... like walking zombies, of course.

When we arrived at 5-minutes to close, all the wait staff were googling over how pretty and tiny
she was.

Our waiter said, "Let's get you guys woke up!" and gave us an entire POT of coff ee.

He knew it was more than just a "one-coff ee-cup" type of morning.

He said he wished he had something for Olivia to sit in, and I said "I'll just hold her, she'll probably start crying if I set her down anywhere," knowing full well what she's capable of after last night.

You know what he said?

"MOMMA KNOWS BEST!"

First time in public someone recognized me as Olivia's Momma!

And it felt so good :-)

8/04/2013

Our Sweet Daughter: Olivia Grace

Adoptive Parents Meet Daughter
Dear Olivia,

You're only a few days old and already you have quite the life story!

On August 2nd at 10:22 in the morning, a sweet momma gave birth to you.

You were 6 lbs 6 oz. and affectionately called, "Lil' bit" in the nursery because you were so tiny with a lil' bit of sass!

Your beautiful momma wanted to give you more than she knew she was able to provide.

So she made a very hard decision to find a family for you.

We're told your momma knew she wanted you to join our family at 1:30 the next morning after she read you our profile more than five times.

She says she wanted to be sure you liked us so she asked you to take a bottle if you wanted us to come and swoop you up into our family.

And that's when you took your bottle.

She says that was her sign.

The next morning after you were born, I got a SURPRISE phone call just as I was getting ready for work.

Your daddy had already gone to work so it was just me and Maggie [your soon-to-be best friend].

I screamed.

"Are you serious?!"

I cried.

I couldn't even talk.

I paced around the house.

Your momma's counselor cried with me on the phone.

The rest is a whirlwind.

I called our adoption consultant, Susan, right away to help us figure out what we needed to do.
Adoptive Parents Meet Daughter
The first priority was getting all the paperwork in order.
Adoptive Parents Meet Daughter
And let me tell ya, that was tough after we received our first photo of you on our cell phones!

I called your Gramma and Grandpa Russell.

Your Gramma Russell let out the loudest scream I've heard in a LONG time!

She yelled to your grandpa who was mowing the lawn, "Kevin, shut the mower off! We're going to have a granddaughter!!"

I called your Aunt Lindee who yelled, "Shut Up!" at least five times before she started believing you were really our little girl.

I told her I needed her to find us flights and a hotel and [of course] a cute out t to bring you home in. She and Uncle Phil got right to town, making sure we had everything we needed.

Your Uncle Joe was at work and your Aunt Jess answered her phone. They were bursting at the seams with excitement.

And your other Grandma and Grandpa got a message from your Dad before I could call them.

They couldn't believe you were going to be their granddaughter, either!
Adoptive Parents Meet Daughter
Lots of people stepped up to help us in a very short amount of time.

Your daddy's parents drove us all the way to Des Moines so we could work on paperwork during the drive.

When we got to Des Moines, a handful of friends were at your Aunt Lindee and Uncle Phil's house with pink champagne and Scratch cupcakes to celebrate!
Adoptive Parents Meet Daughter
It was less than 18-hours from getting that surprise phone call, and we found ourselves up at 2:30 in the morning to catch a flight to meet you!

Your daddy and I only slept an hour.

Everyone warned us it was a sign of what's to come.
Catching Flight to Meet Daughter
Aunt Lindee and Uncle Phil dropped us o ff at the Des Moines Airport at 3:00 Sunday morning!

By the time we landed, we were exhausted.

Our eyes were red.

Our heads hurt.

But we soon forgot about how little sleep we had because we met your birth momma.

And let me tell you, sweetie.

She is BEAUTIFUL inside and out.

She talked about how much she loved you.

How she wanted you to have the BEST family.

One that would love you unconditionally.

We laughed when she told us how you would do somersaults in her tummy until she ate a Kit Kat bar.

And not just a regular Kit Kat bar.

A king-size Kit Kat bar.

[Thatta girl!]

I reassured her you'll fit right in with your new Momma's sweet tooth ;-)
Adopting Our Daughter
We told her how much we already love you.

And how we always will.

And how she will ALWAYS be a part of our family for she has given us the greatest gift of all:

YOU!

Words could never express how happy we are that your story is part of ours.

We are so blessed.

We love you sweet thing.

*THE* Phone Call!

Adoption Match Phone Call
If you can hear screaming and cheers across the country, it's us!

We got THE phone call!

And we couldn't be more excited!

We've been matched with a BABY!

The past 24-hours have been an absolute whirlwind.

Overwhelming.

Crazy.

Absolute chaos.

Chris and I couldn't be happier!

I'll post more details when I can.

In the meantime, we appreciate prayers for safe travels and a smooth clearance process.

We are so grateful for your support - please check back for an official announcement soon!

7/29/2013

Garage Sale Breakdown: The Good, Bad + Grand Total!

I'm letting my sister, Lindee, take the floor on the blog today since she and her hubby spearheaded our garage sale fundraiser this past weekend.

The garage sale fundraiser was Thursday - Saturday.

Grand total: $1002.84!!

Garage Sale Adoption FundraiseWhat was the best idea implemented at the garage sale?

Reaching out to family and friends to let them know we were doing this as a fundraiser.

Lots of people had items -- some had a lot, some had a few -- that they didn't want or need anymore.

And some people were happy to empty their closets!


What was a waste of time, or something you wouldn't do again?

I can't think of anything that was a waste of time.

Pricing the items took a lot of time - 85 percent of items were less than a few bucks!

TIP: If family members are participating, see if they'll price donated items before dropping them off !
Garage Sale Adoption Fundraise
What was the hardest part about the garage sale fundraiser?

It took a LOT of time to put it all together.

Tagging each item and going through boxes of donated items was the most time-consuming.

And then trying to organize that many items.

We made sure to post signs about the garage sale being an adoption fundraiser.

This triggered a LOT of wonderful conversations and support from complete strangers!
Garage Sale Adoption Fundraise
What's the best piece of advice you received while preparing for fundraiser?

Price items in 25 cent increments.

We had LOTS of things that were 25 cents or 50 cents.

A majority of our items were under a dollar.

All of those little purchases add up.

It is very true that one person's "junk" is another person's treasure.

Don't throw away ANYTHING before trying to sell it.

I was shocked at some of the things that sold!

By the third day, things were pretty picked over, so

EVERYTHING was 50 percent off.

We got rid of a lot of items in the last 30-minutes!
Garage Sale Adoption Fundraise
What are a few tips you would give others considering hosting a similar fundraiser?

-On the last day, offer 50 % off. Items that don't have a price-ask for an offer.

-Sell cold bottled water for a dollar-especially in this heat.

-Have someone bilingual in English & Spanish (it was a huge plus for our sale).

-Advertise online (we used Craigslist and the Des Moines Register).

-We had a canopy tent for the "check-out area." It worked out well, so we could stay in the shade and out of the way.

-Use an old school desk to hold your extras: price tags, bags, tape, markers, brochures, money, etc.

-Post a sign describing the fundraiser. People are less likely to barter prices knowing it goes to a specific cause.

-Waterproof your signs.

-Get TONS of plastic bags. We had hundreds and used every last one of them!

-After a sale, throw in a flyer with a link to your blog/additional ways people can help if they're interested.

I am still amazed at how successful our garage sale adoption fundraiser was this past weekend!
 

To all the family members and friends -- even strangers in Des Moines -- who donated their treasures
for us to sell: THANK YOU! 


And special thanks to my sister, Lindee, and her hubby, Phil, who organized this fundraiser and lived to tell all about it!
 

We're so grateful...

7/24/2013

Hurting Hearts: We Weren't Chosen

Our hearts hurt.

A lot.

Today we found out we weren't chosen.

Again.

This situation was di fferent than the last.

A baby girl was born Monday.

She was healthy.

She was in a hospital with no family of her own.

The birth mother wanted to make an adoption plan.

She needed to choose a family.

And choose a family quickly.

In a matter of hours we talked with work.

We talked with family.

They were cautiously excited.

We made plans.

We wrote a personal letter to the birth mom.

We explained how excited we were to meet her.

We told her how much we would love her daughter.

A small part of us might have already started.

We didn't care that we had no stroller.

No out fit for her to wear out of the hospital.

No diapers.

No bottles.

We were going to figure it out.

We were hopeful.

We were ready to get on the next flight to meet our baby the minute that phone rang.

But the phone never rang.

All day.

It never rang.

Today has been a long day of waiting.

Tonight we finally heard word that the birth mother chose another family.

We weren't chosen.

Again.

And it hurts.

Then our adoption consultant, Susan, reminded us this:

While some of you wait, 
while some of you pray, 
while some of you hope and dream, 
know that those who are celebrating today with little ones 
were in your shoes.
 
The waiting ends.
 
The prayers are answered.
 
The hopes and dreams come true.
 
God is faithful and families are made.

This is what I'm holding onto.

Our time of celebration will come.

Our waiting will end.

For now we're choosing to be grateful this baby girl -- who we never got to meet -- will have a home with a family who loves her.

7/10/2013

The Stroller Fiasco

Who woulda thought it'd be SO gosh dang hard to pick out a stroller?

I mean, seriously!

Can't they make just one universal stroller for every baby?

We did manage to pick one out for our registry that has an infant car seat included thanks to the
helpful folks at Babies R Us.

So the so-called "Stroller Fiasco" was pretty short-lived.

Thank God.

Then we moved onto other important decisions like baby carriers and pack-n-plays and bottles.
Our experience [as adoptive-parents-to-be] at Babies R Us has been so wonderful.

When we walked into the West Des Moines store the other day, and an employee greeted us with a big smile.

"Do you know what you're having?" she asked.

"Not yet, we're adopting," I said.

"Oh my gosh! Congratulations! I love hearing about adoption!"
she said.

The kindness continued throughout our 2340983 circles around the store.

And what I thought was going to be an overwhelming task was actually really fun.

Plus, it was a good excuse to look at cute baby stu ff like this (right, Mom...er, Grams-to-be?!):

7/09/2013

We Weren't Chosen

I can count on one hand three fingers how many people knew that our profile was shown to a birth
mom for the fi rst time last week.

The verdict is in:

We weren't chosen.

Another family was picked.

We're not devastated, but I'd be lying if I said it didn't sting a little.

It does.

We were ready to say, "Yes," if the birth mother chose us.

But she didn't.

That's OK.

Our consultant, Susan, emailed us and told us she was praying for us and our future baby.

She gets it.

And she reminded us what this really means:

This situation -- this baby -- wasn't part of God's plan for us.

I'm just hoping and praying we can continue to be strong, keep our heads up and our hearts protected and open in this process.