1/31/2015

A Photographer With a Heart for Adoption

In 12-hours, we were chosen to be a sweet baby girl's parents.

In 12-hours, we went from a family of three to a family of FOUR with two babes under the age of two.

I've shared how this whirlwind adoption changed our lives, and how the generosity of others has been overwhelming.
When a local newborn photographer offered to take Kendra's pictures for FREE, my heart about exploded.
You see, the adoption process is expensive. It's costly. So for families like ours, it can be hard to spend hundreds of dollars on photos.

Two sisters own Sweet {little} You Photography, and both of 'em have a heart for adoption.
When Amy told me they volunteer their talents behind-the-camera for adoptive families like ours, I was overwhelmed with gratitude.
And to see images like this one of a beautiful little girl who I get to call "my daughter" -- I'm speechless.

To find a photographer who offers special services for adoptive families near you, check out Red Thread Sessions.

1/27/2015

Reminders When We Need 'Em

I am so head-over-heels in love with this girl.

I mean, look at her.

She's beautiful, isn't she?

Sometimes I catch myself just staring at her. 

Is this real? 
Do we seriously have two girls in this house?
How did this happen so fast?

But I have to be honest...

[Because that's what I am in this lil' corner of the world wide web.]

I'm still trying to land on my feet from this amazing whirlwind that changed our family so quickly.

I'm stressed.

I'm stressed with the financial decisions we're forced to make because adoption is expensive. Because childcare is expensive. Because our jobs in the nonprofit and social work sectors don't earn us six-figures. Because the adoption process is full of complexities that involve paperwork, organization and attention-to-detail -- all things we're lacking right now.

I'm exhausted.

I'm exhausted because I'm awake when it feels like the rest of the world is sleeping. Because I can't get caught up on laundry or dishes or voice mails or emails. I feel like I'm juggling so much so fast, and I'm losing sight of where I actually need to be. 

I'm sad.

I'm sad because I feel like I shouldn't feel this way. Because I so badly want to be happy without a worry in the world. I'm sad because part of me is scared when there are so many unknowns and curve balls in the adoption process. I'm sad because I know there are other moms and dads who would happily take on this exhaustion and stress in a heartbeat, and they'd balance it flawlessly.

I'm spread thin.

With balancing work, freelance gigs and trying to finish our [expired] home study while adjusting to this whole mom-of-two thing, I feel like I'm spread thin.

But you guys...

Just when I'm about ready to throw my hands up in the air, punch a pillow or sit in the fetal position and cry, I'm reminded He has this all under control.
In the past two weeks, you wouldn't believe how God has worked through so many of our friends and family members to remind us of this very sentiment.

I get tears in my eyes just thinking about it all.

I'm overwhelmed.

I'm humbled and feel completely unworthy of the kindness and generosity shared our way.

Dear friends of ours stuffed our car full of baby clothes, fuel cards and well-wishes when we hit the road to meet our daughter.

They've come to our house and made dinner, brought champagne, diapers, clothes...even washed our dishes.

A fellow momma had two cribs and changing tables that her girls had outgrown. She DONATED a set to us. For free you guys. For FREE. [And she personally delivered an emergency stash of Ruffles chips and AE French Onion dip for this exhausted momma!]

My colleagues 'rounded up diapers and wipes and clothes and blankets to welcome Kendra home.

Chris' co-workers threw a beautiful baby shower with thoughtful gifts for both Kendra and Olivia. They even included a gift card for Chris and I to go out for dinner. On a DATE! [What's that?!]

Our friends organized a meal train. Between family, neighbors and friends, we've had delicious dinners dropped off every. single. day. since we've been back. Seriously. I can't tell you how amazing it has been to not have to cook.

A newborn photographer who has a heart for adoption offered to take Kendra's photos for FREE [more on that, soon...].

Far away friends have mailed vouchers for meals out, Casey's breakfast pizza, donuts, baby gifts and gift cards for Amazon.com...

The sincere kindness shown to our family in this season is beyond words.

Thanks for being part of our village.

For reminding us that while a lot of things are out of our control, He's got this in His hands.

And suddenly I have a feeling it's all gonna be okay.

1/24/2015

Five Things to Consider Before Starting the Adoption Process

Each child's adoption is unique in its own way.

The adoption process has a roller coaster of challenges whether it's financial hurdles to overcome, learning how to cope with a long wait or navigating mounds of paperwork.

Click here for five things to consider before starting the adoption process.



1/20/2015

Parenthood: The Best Advice

On my Facebook page, I asked you:

"What's the best piece of advice someone gave you regarding parenthood [aside from, 'Don't listen to anyone's advice.']?"

Your responses restored my faith in humanity.

Here's what Randi M. wrote:
"After we adopted Maiya, she was maybe...3 weeks old. My mother-in-law and sister-in-law took me to Panchero's just to get out of the house.  
She fussed a bunch during the meal, and I probably screamed 'New Mom' with my overstuffed diaper bag, and I'm sure even louder than that was my super exhausted, massively emotional self projecting the 'I'm scared shitless that I'm doing this wrong' vibe. 
After we were done eating, a lady -- probably in her 50s -- came over to me and asked how old she was and said the normal, 'Your baby is cute' stuff.
But then -- and I will never forget this -- she put her hand on my arm, and she said, "I just want you to know that you are doing a wonderful job. And whenever you think you're not, close your eyes and remember that no one is perfect, and you do the best you can do. You were chosen to be this baby's mother, so the best is absolutely already you.'
This was two-fold for me because of all my emotions about adoption, but it left me in grateful, happy tears for her kind words." 
-Randi M.
Have you had an ah-ha moment in your life? A profound moment you'll never forget? 

I'd love to hear about it!

Contact me and share your story.

1/19/2015

Be The Change

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
-MLK
Who would've thought Martin Luther King's words would be as relevant today as they were decades ago?

I know race isn't an easy thing to talk about.

I know it's uncomfortable.

And conversations about it can sometimes get downright ugly.

But I'm asking you, friends.

If you love my family -- if you love our daughters -- please try to understand.

We have a long way to go, or as Martin Luther King said himself, "We've got some difficult days ahead..." but planting seeds of hope can change the world.

Be the change, friends.

Open your hearts and be willing to understand.

Start today.

1/16/2015

An Open Letter To the White Momma of a Black Child

As mothers, we are tasked with the great responsibility to teach our children how to navigate this world, yet we'll never really know what it's like to weave through it in the skin our children live in.
Click below to read my letter to white moms raising black children:
Disclaimer: While coming to grips with the racial divide in this country is a heavy load for me to carry, I fully acknowledge this weight is nothing compared to those who live and experience it every day.

Be Still My Heart...

Kendra gets her first kiss from big sister, Olivia.
And my heart feels like it'll physically explode out of my chest with happiness.
I love these two.
 
So much.

And I can't wait for them to grow up together.

1/15/2015

Dear Kendra...

Dear Kendra,

Wow, baby girl.

God must realllllly like seeing your daddy and me scramble...

What a [welcomed] surprise you are to our family! 

How lucky we are to have friends and parents who act quickly. They literally threw stuff in the back of our car -- clothes, food, fuel cards, notes of encouragement...even "It's a Girl" decorations!
And then we hit the road.
We were exhausted and running off of excitement and cheeseburgers from a Culver's drive-thru. 

When we finally got to the hospital, it was late.

And the elevator wasn't working to get to the third floor.

We felt like we had to run through a maze to find you. 

Our hearts were racing. 

We were so anxious!

The nurses on the third floor were expecting us.

We could tell because they smiled at us the moment we turned the corner.

They ushered us quietly into Room 303.

We took off our coats.

And then it happened.

My heart literally almost stopped beating when they wheeled you in.

You, my dear, took my breath away.
With awe, I looked down at you sleeping peacefully in your plastic bassinet.

How could I be deserving to be chosen as the mother of such a beautiful, perfect miracle?
Oh, Kendra...
I could hardly wait to swoop you up into my arms.
And as amazing as it was to hold you and snuggle you, it was even more special when I watched your daddy.

He held you close.

He leaned his head close to yours and whispered, "Hi Kendra, this is your daddy," and my heart melted.
You, sweet girl, are such a blessing.
You are loved beyond measure.

You are wanted. Wished for. Prayed for.

Chosen.

We are so grateful your brave, beautiful birth momma chose life -- and our family -- for you.

While the road ahead isn't crystal clear, we are choosing to trust in His plan and love you as our daughter without reservation.

Love you always, baby girl.

-Momma

READ MORE:
PART I: Stephanie, the Messenger
PART II: A 12-Hour Whirlwind
PART III: Dear Kendra

Related Content:
A 12-Hour Whirlwind
One Whole Year
Why We Don't Celebrate 'Gotcha Day'
Our Daughter's Adoption Finalization [in Photos]

1/14/2015

A 12-Hour Whirlwind

I called the attorney as promised and left a voicemail:

told me about a little girl 
born today who needs a family. 
I'm calling to see 
if I could pass along 
your information to our former adoption consultant. 
Give me a call back when you can."

The attorney called back less than 15-minutes later.

She told me about a little girl.

Kendra was her name.

And she was gorgeous.

She asked me about our former adoption consultant, and the adoption of our daughter.

She asked me about Olivia, our relationship with her birth mom, and our experiences as a transracial family.

My heart started racing.

Why is she asking me questions about our family?

If that wasn't a God nudge...

My head was spinning.
We don't have a crib. We don't have a high chair. We don't have an infant car seat anymore. We just packed away the bottles and burp cloths and few newborn clothes we still had. I don't have time off work. What would we do about daycare? How would we afford another private adoption? All of our adoption paperwork expired six months ago...
I told the attorney my reservations excuses but assured her I'd help find that baby girl a family.

I hung up my phone and set it on our kitchen counter.

I couldn't stop thinking about her.

When Chris got home from work, I told him about Kendra.

"Let's do it!" he said.

"Whatever is meant to be... is meant to be," he said. "We can work out the details."

[Sheesh. My husband. His faith.]

We called the attorney back late that night, and we told her we would love for Kendra's birth momma to consider our family.

Then we had our parents and a small handful of dear friends pray about it.

Our former adoption consultant and social worker volunteered their help in the wee hours of the night. 

And 12 nerve-wrecking, stomach-churning hours later, I got THE phone call at work:

"She chose you. How soon did you guys want to get here?"
In a series of fast events, we left work [thank goodness for colleagues with strong family values], our family picked up Olivia and Maggie, and some of our dear friends filled up our car with tons of baby clothes, diapers, wipes, fuel cards...even "It's a Girl!" decorations.

We grabbed inhaled some cheeseburgers from a Culver's drive-thru, then bought a new car seat in a record amount of time.

[Seriously. Who goes to Wal Mart and buys a car seat in under 3-minutes? Yeh. We do.]

Before we knew it, we were on the road to meet Kendra, a beautiful, perfect little girl who had already made her way deep into our hearts.

READ MORE:
PART I: Stephanie, the Messenger
PART II: A 12-Hour Whirlwind
PART III: Dear Kendra

Related Content:
Our Daughter's Adoption Finalization [in Photos]
One Whole Year

1/13/2015

Stephanie, the Messenger

When I was in TV and blogging about the adoption process of our daughter, I connected with a woman named Stephanie.
Stephanie is married and the [Super] Mom of five children.

Four of her children are biological, and a beautiful daughter completed her family through adoption just a few months before we brought our daughter home.

Stephanie initially reached out to me over Facebook because of our shared experience as adoptive mommas in a transracial family.

Sometimes, it was difficult for me to tell who was genuine because I was a local TV personality.

But I knew Stephanie was real.

We had a legit connection right away.

Often times, trans-racial families share an unspoken bond with other families that look like theirs.

And that was certainly the case for us.

Stephanie has been a constant support for me as I've navigated a few bumps in the road with being a white momma to a beautiful black baby girl.

We just "get" each other.

What I didn't know, though, was that God had something more than a friendship in store for us.

About a year after connecting with each other, Stephanie would prove to be a messenger and deliver an important memo -- one that would stir my heart and change our family in an instant.
After calling Stephanie and getting the details of a healthy baby girl, I promised her I'd call the attorney.

"We're in no position to adopt again right now -- all of our paperwork is expired -- but I'll get details and see if I can pass them along to our adoption consultant. I bet she knows someone," I said.

"I was really hoping it was you," Stephanie insisted. "I just feel like it's supposed to be you and Chris, Shelley..."

I laughed.

Stephanie didn't.

"Girl, this was not on our radar AT ALL! I'll call the attorney and get details to pass along, though. We'll definitely find a family for this baby," I said.

What I didn't know, however, was that the family would be mine.

READ MORE:
PART I: Stephanie, the Messenger
PART II: A 12-Hour Whirlwind
PART III: Dear Kendra

Related Content:
Our Daughter's Adoption Finalization [in Photos]
One Whole Year

1/10/2015

What You're Really Doing...

I cringe every time I see photos that compare parents’ appearances to those of their children.

Is it cute to see how you looked when you were just a few years old?

Sure.

Especially those glasses.

Oh my gawd. 

The glasses.

Did your mom actually allow you to wear those in first grade?! ;)

Is it cute to show off pictures of your own child?

Ummm…absolutely!

I do it on my Facebook page all the time.

But what I don’t like is stuff like this:

My inner Momma Bear comes out when people [like TODAY.com yesterday] encourage others to compare and share photos IF their child looks just like them.

I responded to TODAY.com with my two cents, and it was published!

























The truth is, I get a lil' uneasy when a mom shares plasters a picture of her [young] self and compares it to her young daughter and says, “Like mother like daughter!”

Or when a dad’s photo is compared to his son’s photo with a caption that reads, “Good looks must run in the fam!”

Since when did family become defined by physical characteristics?
  
My daughter looks nothing like me.

I am her mother, but she will never look anything like me. 

Our skin colors are different. 

Our hair colors and hair textures will likely never be similar. 

And that’s OK!

But what’s not OK is for people to keep feeding into this notion that “families look alike..." -- that moms and dads [at some point in time] look like their children.

Because sometimes they don't.

And what you’re really doing when you compare and share your own childhood photos with photos of your children is actually “othering” my child -- as well as all the other precious children who don’t share their parents’ genetics.

Compare ‘em if you must... 

Share ‘em amongst yourselves. 

But I’m asking you – please, for the life of me -- consider the implications of sharing those side-by-side comparisons with the world.

Young minds are listening.

They are watching and learning.

Don’t teach them that moms and dads always look like their children.

Instead, teach 'em this:

Love makes a family.

1/07/2015

The Beauty of an Open Adoption

We had finished packing up the fourth suitcase when I peeked inside the diaper bag.

Pretty sure I can take credit for preventing a whole ‘lotta nastiness in the airport after I realized we almost forgot DIAPERS.

Yeah.

Diapers.

Just give me the Mom of the Year award early…

We planned our flight to correlate with Olivia’s nap time.

“This will be perfect. She can just nap on the flight there."

God must’ve been rolling in laughter at our plans.

Because only He would know our direct flight to Texas would be delayed not once, twice…but THREE times.

And then it’d get cancelled.

And then we’d get a call from the hotel that it overbooked.

Seriously.

I can’t make this stuff up.

Fortunately, we were able to catch a flight in the evening.
The Beauty of an Open Adoption
Also fortunately, there’s a bar at the Des Moines International Airport. Just kidding…kinda.

Our plane landed in Texas late in the evening. This was the state where our lives changed forever after a brave woman chose us to be the family for her perfect baby girl [see photos of us meeting her for the first time here.].

Fast-forward 1.5 years later, and I thought my heart was going to physically explode out of my chest with pure happiness as I watched these two together on our visit.

The LOVE between them is something I could never capture in a photo.
The Beauty of an Open Adoption
This is the beauty of an open adoption, and I'm so grateful we were chosen to be a part of it.

Read more about our trip to Texas here.

Related content:
Love At First Sight: Powerful Photos of us Meeting Our Daughter
How Pregnancy Changed My View of Birth Moms
Dear Kendra

1/06/2015

Recipe for [Dangerous] Bagel Dip

Bagel Dip Recipe
I tasted this bagel dip a few years ago when my sister made it.

And lemme tell ya, it's so addicting it's dangerous!

Bagel Dip

6 oz. sour cream
15 oz. Mayonnaise (small jar)
1 Tablespoon Accent
1/2 teaspoon dill weed
1 Tablespoon garlic powder
3/4 Tablespoon ground onion
2 packages of dried beef (2 oz. each), chopped into pieces
1 package bagels (or bagel chips)

Combine all ingredients in mixing bowl except bagels. Chop bagels into bite-sized pieces. Serve chilled on serving platter and ENJOY!

Related content:
Recipes
5 Tips for Freezer Meal Cooking

1/05/2015

Top 5: Why I'm Grateful to be out of the TV Biz [Today]

Here's a picture of me last winter with one of my favorite photographers, Tanner.

We took this before a 6:00 live shot after more than a week of covering snow-related stories.

Today, I feel it's appropriate to leave you with the top five reasons I'm grateful to be out of the TV biz:
1- Snot doesn't have to freeze running down my nose.


2- I don't have to wear 239084 layers to work.



3- I don't have to stay overnight in a hotel downtown to cover night shifts AND morning shifts with no sleep.



4- I don't have to be ON the road and tell people NOT to be on the road.



5- I don't have to worry about calling street workers, plow drivers, police, emergency personnel and tow truck drivers and try to convince them for an interview while they're swamped.

While I miss the urgency of TV news and appreciate good journalists and meteorologists [which so often goes unnoticed, by the way...], I'm grateful I get to stay home tonight and snuggle up next to the fireplace with the people I love.

Be safe, friends.

From your former "Snow Reporter."

1/02/2015

Why We Care Less

I grabbed my coffee and lunch, then kissed my babes goodbye as I ran out the door for work.

"Bye, See ya!" yelled Olivia as she waved goodbye.

I threw my stuff in the car, turned on the ignition and backed out.

CRUNCH.
$%#@
CLANK.
$%#@

Whoops.

Chunks of the side mirror fell to the concrete as I backed out of the garage.

I was in such a hurry and assumed I had plenty of room to reverse without sideswiping.

My bad.

During my 30-minute commute to work, I kept glancing over at the mirror. 

Part of me was mad.

Yet, part of me didn't really even care.

Because it's a vehicle.

A nice, expensive, new-ish vehicle, but a vehicle nonetheless.

Between car seat swaps, shoving Pack 'n Plays into tight spaces, and trying to break down a stroller with a diaper bag, 1-year old and groceries in tow, our car and SUV have taken some hits.

We used to care about this stuff more.

But since we brought our daughter home, we've learned to live with the mess and accept the chaos of being parents.

Being parents has ruined our desire to have a picture-perfect life.

Most of the time, our living room is filled with toys and books.
And a smiley little girl behind it all...

Our sink has piles of day-old dirty dishes.

And our dryer never fails to have a load of clean laundry waiting to be folded and put away.

But you know what?

All the mess, the chaos...even the broken side mirrors are okay.

We've got more important things going on in this house.

We're busy making memories.