10/29/2015

Trick-Or-Treat: A Halloween Costume Reveal

Remember when I wrote about why I disliked Halloween?

Well, I kinda changed my mind...
Homemade Sesame Street Halloween Costumes
Only because--after the encouragement of a friend--we decided to MAKE costumes this year...and the girls love 'em!
Homemade Halloween Costume
Olivia helped make the cookies for her sister's "Cookie Muffin" costume, and she was so excited to dress up like Elmo (he's her fave).
Homemade Halloween Costume
And in case you're wondering, she'd like cheeseburgers and pepperoni pizza for Halloween this year -- that'll fit in her trick-or-treat basket, right? ;)
Homemade Sesame Street Costumes
Happy Halloween to you and your family!

10/28/2015

Announcing Our Pregnancy

Last month at our daughter's adoption finalization celebration, we had the opportunity to tell many of our family and dear friends about our pregnancy.

After the court hearing, we stood outside for a group photo.

And with the help of our favorite photographer [Tess Irene Photography], we caught their reaction on camera.

Tess started by asking everyone to say, "It's Official!"
Surprise Pregnancy Announcement
(Great pic, huh?! Our hearts were racing...)

Then she said, "Everyone say, 'Kendra and Olivia are going to be big sisters!'"
Surprise Pregnancy Announcement
(Cue the confusion...although Angela on the right seems to have caught on quickly!)

Finally, Chris and I yelled, "We're pregnant!"
Surprise Pregnancy Announcement
And that's when the screams and tears and hugs out of pure disbelief started.
Pregnant After Infertility

Pregnant After Infertility
It was great -- and to be honest, it was also somewhat surreal -- to be able to share our news with so many people we love and care about.
Pregnant After Infertility
And when I look at my two daughters, my heart sometimes feels like it could burst just imagining them with another little brother or sister to love.
Adoption Finalization
We are so blessed.
 
Related links:
The Truth About Getting Pregnant After Infertility and Adoption
The Beauty of an Open Adoption During Pregnancy
|Pregnancy| Is This Really Happening?
At the Doctor's Office
Our Journey to Addison

10/27/2015

Stop Choosing Silence

I am heartbroken.

Infuriated.

And speechless.
Columbia South Carolina Police Brutality
Screenshot: MSNBC.com
When I turned on the TV this morning, cell phone video from Columbia, South Carolina’s Spring Valley High School made me forget about the coffee I had just brewed.

My jaw hit the floor.

I cannot stomach nor can I erase the images in this video of a CHILD being dragged and manhandled by a power-tripping deputy assigned as a school resource officer.

I cannot wrap my head around people who turn their cheek and attempt to justify his behavior.

"The girl wasn't listening..."

"He was just doing his job..."

Unless there was a dire threat, there is no need for a child to be slammed on the ground in such a manner.

These are our children. OUR CHILDREN.

Even if the student wasn't listening to her teacher's requests, an administrator's request, or the deputy's request, this type of defiance does not justify a man's decision to physically assault her.

Newsflash: Teenagers have a right [albeit frustrating] to be insubordinate without a risk of being assaulted.

As the wife of a man who has spent much of his professional career in law enforcement, as the friend and family member of multiple law enforcement officers who do a good job, and as the MOTHER to children who could very well find themselves in this type of situation because of their skin color, I AM OUTRAGED.

We all should be.

And while I feel my blood curdling every time this video is looped on a TV screen or shared on social media, I recognize my level of outrage and heartbreak are merely a fraction of what people of color experience every single day.

"Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly..."
-Martin Luther King, Jr.

Parents, please teach your children to record these interactions on whatever device they have available. I find relief in knowing at least three students were taught to record these types of interactions on cell phone video. (See student Tony Robinson Jr.'s account here).

And if you're having trouble understanding how people of color are mistreated by police, look at the stories of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, and ask yourself whether you'd be okay with the situation if it was YOUR CHILD.

It's time to stop choosing silence and start demanding justice.

Related content:
Goodbye, Home
These Are Our Children
To The White Momma Of A Black Child

10/26/2015

Our Daughter's Adoption Finalization [in Pictures]

Forever Family Adoption Photography
A few weeks ago, we finalized our youngest daughter's adoption in our hometown.
Forever Family Adoption Photography
We were eager and ready for the court to deem what we'd already felt for nine months: we are her family.
Forever Family Adoption Photography
So on a Friday afternoon, we filled the courtroom with people near and dear to us to witness the judge deeming us worthy as her parents.Forever Family Adoption Photography
There would be no more attorney visits, social worker visits, fingerprints, medical records...
Forever Family Adoption Photography
No more "checking in" from the powers-that-be...
Forever Family Adoption Photography
On September 11, 2015, we were officially and permanently chosen as Kendra's forever family.
Adoption Photography
And nothing made me happier that day than knowing we have the privilege of raising this sweet, happy girl as our daughter.
Adoption Photography
After the short finalization hearing, my parents treated everyone to dinner at our favorite restaurant back home, The East Bremer Diner.
Adoption Finalization Party
And of course it wouldn't be a celebration in our family without cake!
Adoption Photography
Thank you for celebrating with us from near and far, and for welcoming this lil' gal into your lives and prayers.
Adoption Photography
It is such an honor to be chosen as her momma.

Related content:
Announcing Our Pregnancy
She's Ours
We have a |Court| Date
Dear Kendra
Our Sweet Daughter

10/19/2015

The Beauty of Open Adoption During Pregnancy

It's no secret we love our daughters and their birth families tremendously.

We talk with them fairly regularly, and some of my favorite moments are sending photos of the girls that are bound to make them as proud as we are.

A couple of months ago, we talked with Kendra's birth mom over video chat for the first time since she joined our family.

She was one of the first people we told about our pregnancy.

And I'll NEVER forget her reaction -- absolutely priceless.

I'm surprised the speaker didn't blow out of my phone from her shrieking with sheer happiness.

"Kendra's gonna be a big sister! You're gonna have THREE!" she said.

We told Olivia's birth mom the same night who was just as shocked as we were when we found out we were pregnant.

"I'm so glad y'all get to experience what we got to experience. I pray for y'all all the time, and I'm just so happy for you!"  she said.

Their genuine happiness and unwavering support for our growing family means the world to us.

I can't tell you how many times they've checked in -- not only to ask how the girls are doing -- but to find out how I'm feeling.

And as I look back on our adoption journeys to Olivia and Kendra, I'm amazed at the beauty that open adoption has brought to our family.

A couple once brokenhearted with infertility now bound together with more love from more people than we ever knew existed.

I think what we've learned along the way is that open adoption doesn't stop with the placement of a child; it doesn't end with predetermined updates and holiday cards and photos from a child...

You see, the children we share offer a connector -- a link for our families who were once strangers -- to always love and support and care for one another forever.

And you know what?

That's a pretty cool bonus in this whole adoption thing.

10/12/2015

Hello, Fall!

We've officially welcomed in Fall 'round here!
Our lil' fam spent the unseasonable warm weekend at the beautiful Center Grove Orchard in the tiny town of Cambridge, Iowa.
This place was heaven on earth for our little gals!
Between the delicious homemade apple cider donuts...
And the fun hayrides across the rolling hills of this central Iowa farm...
Our family had a blast welcoming one of our favorite seasons!
Happy Fall, friends!

10/11/2015

10 [Unofficial] Tips for a Fun Mom's Getaway

Disclosure: I received promotional consideration as part of the Holiday Inn Brand Influencer Program. All opinions expressed are solely my own.

One week ago today, three lovely adoptive mommas and I bid farewell to an incredible Mom's Getaway in the Windy City.
Holiday Inn Hotel Chicago
We've only been home a week, and we're already talking about doing it again next year!

I know there are some of you are reading and thinking to yourself -- I've gotta do this. I've gotta grab my closest gal pals and get outta town.

I think you should. And I think you should do it right.

So I've done a little self-reflecting and present to you the following ((drum roll, please))...

10 [Unofficial] Tips for a Fun Mom's Getaway:

Breakfast buffet at Holiday Inn Hotel

1. Make sure there's breakfast at your hotel

Seriously. What's a better way to start your day than with a breakfast buffet?

Not only will you be amazed at how much food you can eat when you're not tending to your kiddos, it won't be cold by the time you eat it!

French toast with no syrup in your hair? EXTRA BONUS. Fresh fruit, an endless supply of hot coffee, rolls, pancakes, oatmeal, muffins...you name it -- it's waiting for you at the Holiday Inn hotel.

Eat up and enjoy, mommas!
View from Holiday Inn Hotel Chicago
2. Pick a great location

This stunning view was literally steps outside our hotel.

We were within walking distance to the train, tons of restaurants and a fun comedy bar.

It was convenient for us to get literally everywhere.
Tips for a Fun Mom's Getaway Holiday Inn Chicago
3. Have fun!

Forget about the rules you enforce at home.

Put on your PJs early and eat some cheese and caramel Garrett Popcorn mix in bed!

Stay up late talking and laughing and crying, and remember what it's like to have uninterrupted fun with your gals.

Pampering Holiday Inn
4. Make time for pampering

Let's face it. As moms we can easily justify not spending money on ourselves.

But if there's anything I learned after a one-hour massage at a local spa, it's that we have to prioritize taking care of us...and when we do that, we may even be better moms!

[I know I'm a better mom person without that knot cranked in my neck.]

Lou Malnati's Pizzeria Chicago
5. Don't count calories

Okay, lemme be honest. I don't count calories ever, but if YOU do, it's not allowed on a Mom's Getaway.

Who wants to count calories when your Facebook friends throw out dozens of suggestions for pizza places? Not me!

By the way: Lou Malnati's Pizzeria is legit -- a homemade buttery crust with sheets of cheese -- YES. SHEETS OF CHEESE -- topped with hand-squeezed fresh tomatoes.

My mouth is watering just thinking about it....
Mom's Getaway Chicago
6. Dessert is a requirement

Order dessert!

Take advantage of the time you don't have to SHARE your plate or get it clobbered with little hands. ;)

[See Tip #5 above for additional reasoning.]
Mom's Getaway Chicago Bean
7. Invest in a selfie stick

Why?

Mom's Getaway Chicago Bean

So you can snap group photos without your clunky camera in the reflection.

And because seriously, you look awesome when you're taking a group pic with a selfie-stick ;)

Mom's Getaway weekend at Holiday Inn Chicago
8. Allow yourself to be treated like a VIP

When we got back from a fun Saturday night downtown, a woman at the front desk said, "Welcome back, ladies!" 

It was refreshing to be recognized as ladies and not frazzled moms trying to keep everything together ;)

So whether it's hopping in a limousine to get you to your pampering appointments, or ordering an extra glass of wine after dinner, allow yourself to be treated like the VIP momma that you are!
Holiday Inn Chicago Cityscape Bar

9. Check out the hotel's amenities

Check out this phenomenal floor-to-ceiling view of the Windy Cindy we had at dinner one night.

The best part: We didn't have to leave the Holiday Inn hotel [talk about convenient]!

Between an on-site restaurant, fitness area, swimming pool and our favorite Cityscape Bar, we honestly wouldn't have had to leave the hotel at all.

Before you book a place for your mom's getaway, check out the amenities.

Make sure there's Wifi so you can stay connected with your family back home.

Comfy pillows and gorgeous views are a bonus!
Mom's Getaway at Holiday Inn Chicago
10. Relax

Stay up late.

Sleep in late.

Don't set an alarm [unless it's one to remind you that you've got a massage at 10 a.m.], and savor in the gorgeous views from your hotel room.

Have you been on a getaway with friends? Where'd you go? Where do you WANT to go? Join the conversation in the comments below! 

10/05/2015

Top 3 Reasons All Moms Need a Getaway

Disclosure: I received promotional consideration as part of the Holiday Inn Brand Influencer Program. All opinions expressed are solely my own.

It was 9:45 a.m.

I had already spilled my coffee, and I was running late [as usual] except this time I was a blubbering mess because I was leaving for three days, and saying goodbye to my family was hard.

Once I plugged in my GPS and hit the road, though, my initial feelings of guilt and worry subsided.

No diaper bags in tow. No bottles to make. No strollers to lug around. No crackers being thrown across the minivan. No crying in the car seats...

It was just me and the interstate. And my half-spilled coffee.

Then it happened.

Six hours, a few pit stops and one traffic jam later, three of my closest girlfriends and I found ourselves holding the key to an entire weekend of relaxation and fun at the Holiday Inn hotel in the Windy City.
Holiday Inn Hotel Relax Getaway
HELLO, FREEDOM!

Amanda, Miki, Amy and I don't see each other often. Distance and the chaos of everyday life easily get in the way.
Chicago Holiday Inn Hotel
Ready for a day of pampering and sightseeing
after a full [uninterrupted] night's sleep at the 
Holiday Inn hotel's Chicago Mart Plaza - River North.
That's why I was excited to spend the weekend with them.

Plus, we have a lot in common.

A lot.

We've survived heartache in the trenches of infertility, and all of our families have been blessed immensely through adoption.

As adoptive moms with similar hearts, we get each other. There's an unspoken bond that links us together.

These are my people.
Holiday Inn Hotel Chicago
Over the weekend, we laughed. We cried a little. We ate delicious food. Snacked in bed. Stayed up too late. Slept in. Had breakfast made for us. And we laughed some more.

But most of all, we remembered that while motherhood is a welcomed title we proudly hold -- and one that didn't come easily for any of us -- we are more than moms. 

We are women and wives and friends who love our families and also recognize it's okay to take a break. To step away and rejuvenate without the pitter-pattering of adorable little feet following our own footsteps.

Our fun weekend away was exactly what we needed. And you know what? I kinda think ALL moms do.

Here's why:
Why All Moms Need a Getaway
1. All moms need a break.

Yes. All moms need -- and deserve -- a break! Step away from your role as chef and nap warden, and let someone else do the cooking, bed-making and coffee-pouring! Take time to relax, eat hot meals, go to the bathroom by yourself and ((gasp)) sleep soundly through the night with no interruptions.

2. Allow your kids to spend time with others.

No doubt about it, your role as a momma is important and YOU are irreplaceable. But your kids can survive without you...and they may even have fun! That doesn't mean they won't miss you or you won't miss them, but don't worry about it. If you stay at a place like our home away from home, the free in-room WiFi ensures endless opportunities to check in on your loved ones via video chat!

3. You'll be a better mom.

When you make time to relax and have fun with people who are in a similar season in life, you'll realize you're not swimming in the sea of motherhood alone. Whether it's adoption, infertility, mothering multiples or parenting children with special needs...find your village. Whatever the niche, find your people. Prioritize nurturing relationships with those on a similar journey. Connecting with others who understand your life experiences -- your joys and challenges, your worries and celebrations -- will reassure you that you're doing a great job.