8/31/2015

We Have a |Court| Date!

Woohoo!
Celebrating Our Daughter
If y'all can hear screams from us from wherever you are, it's because we have a court date for this gal's adoption finalization!

No doubt about it, Kendra has felt a part of our family since day one.

But in a few short weeks, she'll officially share our last name.
Adoption
We can't wait to celebrate this beautiful little gal!

More to come in a few weeks! 

8/26/2015

Corn + Bacon Casserole

Many of you know I'm no stranger to Pinterest.

Okay.

Serious question:

What the hell did moms do to stay awake during midnight feedings before Pinterest?

Someone enlighten me, please...

During one of my bottle-making, diaper-changing sessions in the wee hours of the early morning, I stumbled upon this recipe for Corn and Bacon Casserole.

Then I got to thinking about all the bags of frozen, shucked sweetcorn I had in the deep freezer and how I really needed to use it up. And then I got sidetracked with thinking about everything else we had in the freezer...but that's completely normal thoughts for an exhausted momma in the early morning, right? ;)
Recipe
Corn + Bacon Casserole
Bacon (cooked and crumbled)
½ cup Onion (diced)
2 Tbsp Flour
2 tsp Minced Garlic
½ tsp Salt
½ tsp Black Pepper
1 cup Sour Cream
4 cups Corn
1 tsp Basil
1 tsp Parsley

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Cook bacon, set aside and cool, then crumble.
Saute onion in same skillet.
When tender, stir in flour, minced garlic, salt and pepper. Cook for 1-2 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in sour cream, corn, parsley and basil as well as half of the crumbled bacon.
Mix well and pour into a 1-quart baking dish.
Top with remaining crumbled bacon.
Bake uncovered for 20-minutes.

8/16/2015

The New Momma Blues

Editor's note: This is a guest post written by the glowing momma of my sweet niece. My sister graciously offered to share her experience in hopes others may find hope and healing in their own journey to motherhood. 

Postpartum Depression and Motherhood
Photo: Aly Carroll Photography




























I have been anxious or worried for no good reason"

Yes, very often.  Check.

"I have been crying, felt sad, and had difficulty sleeping"

Yes, most of the time.  Check.

There I was.

Sitting at my OB's office filling out the postpartum screening test for Postpartum Depression.

"You scored fairly high," my OB told me.

I was given options of counseling and medication as I sat in the room crying with my newborn daughter.

Backtrack 4-weeks; my husband and I welcomed our beautiful baby girl.  I was healthy.  She was healthy--and perfect in our eyes.

What more could we ask for?

We came home, and our baby girl wouldn't eat (I was breastfeeding).

She also wouldn't sleep.

In lieu of sleeping, she was crying.

My entire body was sore from labor and delivery.

My husband's brother died from SIDS; I was constantly checking to see if our baby was breathing [so much for sleeping when the baby sleeps].

My hormones were across the board, and my anxiety was sky-high.

I cried randomly, and then I felt guilty for crying.

I was expecting to experience the "baby blues," and I made excuses in my head that it was the sleep deprivation that was catching up with me.

Three weeks passed, and I had a complete breakdown.

I told my husband that I didn't think I was cut out for this job of mommyhood.

I called my sister, and I cried to her and my mom on the phone.

They all encouraged me to call my doctor, and I was given an appointment that afternoon.

I never thought I would be diagnosed with Postpartum Depression and Anxiety-PPD/PPA.

In opening up to my doctor and many mommy friends, this is SO common.
Postpartum Depression and Motherhood
Photo: Aly Carroll Photography
No matter the route of how you bring a baby into your life, a newborn flips your world upside-down--in a GREAT way.

But, it is OK not to enjoy every second.

It is OK to not feel that instant connection with your baby right way (you know, the one everyone tells you that you will have if you've carried this child).

My husband and I recently spoke to a postpartum class at the hospital where we delivered our baby girl.

I explained my experience with new parents-to-be.

My husband encouraged partners to look for the warning signs of baby blues versus something more serious.

We also advised them to go on a walk, get some sun, and take some time for yourself.

There is no shame in this diagnosis--it can affect anyone.  

Don't be afraid to seek help if you feel you may need it.

We all want to be the best mom we can be, and I knew I needed to do it for our little girl.
Postpartum Depression and Motherhood
I can now say that I enjoy our baby girl SO much, and I'm grateful.

I know there is someone reading that is going through this who needs this message:

It WILL get better, and it will be MORE than OK.     

If you have a story about infertility, adoption or parenthood, please consider sharing it via This Family's Journey. Contact me to submit your story.

8/12/2015

3-Ingredient Baked Ravioli

With two young babes plus my stint as a part-time single mom, I'm always on the hunt for EASY, tasty recipes.

Well, friends.

This is one of 'em. 

And bonus: It's toddler-approved :)
Easy Recipe for Baked Ravioli
1 Bag Frozen Ravioli
1 Jar Marinara Sauce
2 Cups Shredded Mozzarella Cheese

Heat oven to 400°.

Grease a 9×13 pan, and spread 3/4 cup of the pasta sauce in bottom of pan.

Arrange half of the frozen ravioli in single layer over sauce; top with half of the remaining pasta sauce and 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese.

Repeat layers once, starting with ravioli, topping with mozzarella cheese.

Bake for 30-minutes or until hot in center.

Recipe adapted from: RecipeKnead.com

Related content:
Slow Cooker Applesauce
Top Freezer Meal Recipes

8/09/2015

Goodbye.

Goodbye Home
Most of the walls are empty now.
Goodbye Home
Photos and frames are bubble-wrapped and stored gently into FRAGILE-marked boxes.

And it's starting to sink in that we're leaving the place we built our family in.

It's a place that, for us, has symbolized so much hope.

You see, God blessed us not only with this beautiful home, but His plans for our family inside.

After years of heartache with infertility, this house offered us a fresh start.

Chris got back into the social work field, and I kept chasing stories for TV.

Most importantly, though, our dream of a family came true here.
Home Living Room
It was in this living room where we sat on the couch and decided, “Let’s do this. Let’s grow our family through adoption."
Home Staircase
Six months later, it was this staircase that I ran nearly fell down one August morning after we received a phone call that we had been chosen as parents for a beautiful baby girl.

This house was the place where friends and family welcomed Olivia home.
Home Kitchen
And 18-months later, it was in this kitchen that we learned about Kendra from family friends.

We brought our babies home here.

We cried when Olivia met her sister for the first time snuggled tightly in a bassinet in our living room.
House Dining Room
We watched them try their first foods in our dining room. They both hated green beans or "mean greens" as Olivia calls them.

We watched our girls learn to crawl in this house, cheered as Olivia took her first steps and cried when she started running.
Home Living Room
We smiled every Thursday morning when Olivia excitedly ran to peek out the front window and catch a glimpse of the "trash tractor."
Home
As a family, we've grown; we've changed in this house.

We've prayed together, we've laughed, we've argued and forgiven, we've cried…but most of all we've loved BIG inside this house.

Tonight I'm praying that as we say goodbye to this place, He provides for us yet again with finding new owners who love this home as much as we have.

I’m praying for this move to be a blessing for our family.

For us to meet new friends, find a new home to plant roots in and keep watching our story unfold.

Goodbye, home.

Related content:
Surprise At The Supermarket
Goodbye, Home
Why I'm Walking Away From TV

8/08/2015

7 Truths About 7 Years of Marriage

Anniversary Wisdom
1. There is no "honeymoon stage."

The first year of marriage sucks.

Okay, maybe that's a strong word....But it's tough, you guys.

At least it was for us.

We didn't live together before we were married. We didn't share a bank account or loads of laundry or yard work duties.

There was no "honeymoon stage..." unless by "honeymoon stage," people actually meant the "I-really-married-this person?" stage (only kidding, kind of...)
Anniversary Lessons
Circa 2004 when I met this cute pizza delivery driver during my part-time job at the pizza joint. Our first date? You guessed it: Pizza. (We were cool like that...)
2. Marriage is a roller coaster.

Marriage is full of ups and downs. Some seasons are smooth sailing, others are in a pit of fire.

Infertility was tough on us. We shared tears, got angry and asked a lot of hard questions. But we held hands as we walked through the lowest of lows together.

Adopting Olivia and then adopting Kendra 18-months later have been some of the greatest joys we've experienced...

The trials and tribulations we've survived have not only made us stronger, but they've made the happy moments even more meaningful.

Marriage is a roller coaster, and we've learned that if we can't always enjoy the ride itself, we should at least appreciate who we're sitting next to.

3. It's not about YOU.

Marriage isn't about you -- it's about the person you LOVE.

Being married is about loving your spouse just as they are.

Yes, that means I love my husband even when he doesn't do things my way.

Sure, he may fold the towels differently than I do or be more meticulous about yard work than I am...but I love him.

And I think when we love people as they are, we receive even more love and respect in return.
Wedding Photo
4. You'll forget what life was like before you got married.

Those Happy Hours with girlfriends and tee-times after work with the gang have been replaced with home improvement projects and vacation-planning with your spouse.

Sure, you'll still have a chance to meet up with your friends (and it's healthy to maintain those relationships, too!)...but after you get married, you start to forget what life was like before having your best friend by your side all the time.

Truth be told: I wouldn't have it any other way!

5. Never underestimate the importance of showing up.

Particularly when I was in TV and Chris was a police officer, we had a hard time making our marriage a priority.

Because our jobs and work schedules were so demanding, we learned early on -- we need to be present with one another.

We implemented a house rule: Shut off your phone at dinner.

Make eye contact and talk.

Show up for your spouse not only by being physically present, but emotionally present as well.

6. Remember to go on dates.

With two kiddos in tow, we have a lot of excuses to not go out on dates: Tracking down a babysitter, money, lack of sleep...you name it.

But read this: It is so important to date your spouse.

If you're not able to head downtown for dinner or a movie, pick up a bottle of wine, bouquet of flowers, 6-pack of whatever floats your spouse's fancy and SURPRISE YOUR LOVE.

Grab a movie from Redbox and share a bowl of buttery popcorn on the couch after the kids go to bed.

We've learned it's important to enjoy each other's company...our dates may just look a lil' different (i.e. sweat pants!) than they did 10 years ago.

7. Lean on each other.

Be your spouse's advocate, supporter and cheerleader.

And when the valleys are low, be honest with one another. Lean on each other for encouragement and don't give up.
To my husband on our 7th wedding anniversary,
How lucky I am to call you mine!
Thank you for loving me in big ways, even when it's not easy. 
Cheers to many years ahead -- may we continue to find joy in this journey together...
XO

Related content:
What Love Looks Like With 2 Kids and 1 On The Way
30 Lessons in 30 Years

8/05/2015

[The BEST] Slow-Cooker Mashed Potatoes

We just made THE BEST mashed potatoes on the face of the planet.

The best part: They’re SO easy!
Slow-Cooker Recipe for Mashed Potatoes

3 lbs red potatoes, washed and chopped into 2-inch pieces (you don't need to peel them)
6 Tbsp butter
8 oz sour cream
1.5 Tbsp minced garlic
2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
¼ cup milk

Grease slow cooker.

Add chopped potatoes and cook on high for 2-3 hours or low for 5-6 hours.

When potatoes are cooked and tender with a fork, add all remaining ingredients.

Use  hand mixer to mash potatoes.
Slow-Cooker Recipe for Mashed Potatoes
ENJOY and savor the fact that these are SO EASY and SO YUMMY!

Recipe adapted from Creme de la Crumb

Related content:
Freezer-Friendly Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins
Baked Oatmeal

8/03/2015

To Single Parents Everywhere

Hey.

You. 

Single Parent.

Mom or Dad -- whoever you are -- You're a f%$#*@^ rock star.

I don't know how you do it.

Seriously.
SAHM 2 Under 2
Since April, I've been at home with these little gals solo.

Our house hasn't sold, but my hubby's job transfer couldn't wait.

So he's reluctantly but gratefully been spare-bedroom-hopping with family and friends while we wait and pray for our house to sell so we can find a new home in a city 2.5 hours away.

Meanwhile, I'm holding down the fort in our cute, cozy little brick house 24/7 trying to remember to b-r-e-a-t-h-e and refrain from pulling my [gray] hair out.

As a "single mom" five days a week, lemme just say this:

I now understand how it's possible to fall asleep sitting up in a chair.

And what it's like to put coffee beans in the fridge instead of the coffee maker...or put orange juice in a cereal bowl instead of milk...and to legitimately contemplate putting toothpicks in your eyelids to hold them open after a long night of no sleep.

I now understand what it's like to have no shame in going to the grocery store with oatmeal stuck in your hair, spit-up running down your shoulder and Elmo stickers plastered on your butt next to the crumbs of Cheerios you crushed when you sat in your dirty car.

And my apologies to our neighbors for the mornings I'm out wheeling our overflowing trash can and recycling bins to the curb in my pajamas with my hair that looks like Mufasa from the Lion King.

I don't know how you full-time single parents do this every. single. day.

I now understand a fraction of what it's like to have the weight of the world on your shoulders.
Chatting with Daddy on iPhone
But I feel lucky that my husband (aka Chief Encourager) comes home on weekends, and during the week he's available via Skype to play "Peek-A-Boo" or sing Barney songs with our girls or read them bedtime stories over the phone while I do their hair.

These past few weeks have been challenging.

We've had our good moments, and our struggles, and our flat out "I'm 'bout to go cray-cray up in here" moments where the girls' bedtime can't come soon enough so I can suck down every last drop of the final bottle of Blue Moon shoved in the back of the refrigerator.

But seriously, to do this parenting thing by yourself all the time? 

I admire you.

I'd make you some fancy award incorporating chocolate and wine and all the encouragement in the world...but I've got the 238947th diaper change with my name on it before the dryer beeps and the two-day old dishes piled in the sink start smelling.

So instead, I'm raising my half cup of cold coffee still sitting on the kitchen counter from this morning...just for you.

((Cheers.))

Single Parents: You rock.

8/02/2015

Happy "Too Much," Baby Girl

Toddler Birthday
It seems like yesterday, this sweet girl was born.

But it was actually two years ago!
Toddler Turns 2
My world -- THE WORLD -- hasn't been the same since she was born.
Toddler Turns 2
Happy birthday to the girl who answers the question, "How old are you going to be?" by saying,"Too much."

Happy birthday to the girl who radiates joy, compassion and giggles like crazy before bedtime in hopes she can stay up late...

To the chatterbox who loves pizza and chocolate and "egg-oke" (yogurt) and giving kisses to her lil' sis.
Happy Birthday
Who loves balancing Legos on her dog, Maggie's, head...who tiptoes down the sidewalk when she's barefoot...who loves the pool and bath time and singing at the top of her lungs at the dinner table and through the aisles of the grocery store. 

Happy birthday to the girl who made me a momma two years ago...who loves life and continues to remind me to do the same.

I'm so glad your birth momma chose LIFE for you, and chose me to be your Mommy.