Pumpkin Season Is Upon Us!

Fall is my favorite season. I am definitely one of those girls for sure. I do try my hardest not to decorate until at least mid-September though. And once it’s time, I am ready for all of it! I want pumpkins and cornstalks on my porch. And of course, lots and lots of mums. I want to wear cozy scarves, drink apple cider, cuddle by a bonfire, and bake apple crisps. I want to attend hayrides, travel through cornmazes, pick apples, and of course, picking out our pumpkins!

This year we happened to stumble upon the sweetest little market on our way home from my niece’s wedding. The sign by the side of the road read “Pumpkins, $2” – and that was something we couldn’t believe! No pumpkin I’ve seen costs less than five dollars. My husband, ever the thrifty one, immediately pulled in. He expected teeny pumpkins for two dollars, but what we received instead was a fun little stop, fresh produce, HUGE pumpkins that were – indeed – only two dollars apiece, and the nicest people you can imagine.

The place is called Kiels, in Swanton, Ohio, and if you’re in the area, it’s absolutely worth a visit. I’ll link the website for you here! https://www.keilsgreenhouse.com/

My children had a blast running around and looking at all of the pumpkins. I’m not exaggerating when I say that they had more pumpkins, and a larger variety, than I have ever seen. Here’s a peek.

My kids really enjoyed choosing their pumpkins, and seeing all of the different sizes, shapes, colors and varieties of gourds. They also loved seeing all of the fresh produce there. Kiels not only had the pumpkins and produce, but huge, beautiful mums. It made me wish I hadn’t already purchased and planted mine! They had cornstalks as well. I would have bought some of those too, but our van was already filled with us, our luggage, and was soon to be overflowing with pumpkins as well!

The produce was wonderful. We ended up purchasing some apples as well as some corn on the cob and some zucchini. We will be having the corn on the cob today with dinner, and I’m planning on making zucchini bread this afternoon! Here’s a look at their produce.

They even had the cutest little setup where you could take photos! Of course I had to have all of my kids pose. They loved it. Well, except for my oldest who was on the phone, but hey, I’ll take what I can get. He smiled, so I’m happy!

We honestly spent quite a bit of time there because we were having so much fun. I loved seeing the beautiful displays they had set up. They were obviously so talented at creating them. And the quality of the pumpkins and produce was impeccable. I was impressed. But the real treat was the price. We got 12 ears of corn, 5 zucchini, 6 HUGE pumpkins, 3 apples and 5 little pumpkins for $23. Honestly, how is that even possible? We couldn’t believe it! And the women there were so fun and sweet. They even threw in this free spider decoration for the kids to use when Halloween decorating arrives! In all, it was a beautiful afternoon and the perfect start to my favorite season!

Advertisements

The Grove Collaborative

For years now I’ve seen these brands on store shelves and didn’t get why someone would pay for cleaning supplies what they were marked. I was using my usual cleaning supplies. The stuff I’d just always used, either because it was what I had become accustomed to, or because it was the most affordable at the time.

Then I saw an article on The Grove Collaborative and, wanting to know more, I checked out the website. I was honestly moved. Their dedication to the environment is something that inspired me. And the prices on their site were far cheaper than what I was seeing in the store. I had an offer for a free set of supplies, so I decided to give it a try and placed my first order. (If you want to see it before reading the rest of this, here is my referral link. If you use it you will get the 5 free items that I also received when I placed my first order, and I will receive a discount. Please note, however, that all opinions are my own, and I have paid for all of the items I have ordered from them at full price, with no sponsorship from TGC. This review, like all of my reviews, is 100% my honest opinion.)

Get your 5-piece set for FREE here:

https://www.grove.co/referrer/31644675/

Some of these items have become my new ride-or-dies, and some of them I will pass on. I’ll tell you why below. But to start, here is a picture of my first order, including the items I received for free:

gc2

Whomever had packaged my order hand-wrote a little message on the order slip inside the box. It said, “Megan, you’re beautiful. Never let anyone tell you differently.” I was surprised that they were allowed to do things like that. It was lovely. Not all of my shipments have contained a little note like that. My last one did, it said, “Thank You” – you can see it in my video at the end of this blog.

Anyway, I went on to try the items and, as I stated, love some, didn’t love others. Before I break it down, let me explain TGC to you. They are a company very focused on lowering their carbon footprint, and helping us to lower ours as well. Here’s the exact wording on their website:

“Doing no harm

As a Certified B Corporation, we are recognized as a business doing good for people, animals, communities, and the planet.

Treating the planet with care

We offer products that are gentler on the earth, prioritize post-consumer materials for packaging, and carbon offset every shipment that goes out our door.

Planting tomorrow’s forest

A portion of every Grove shipment goes to the Arbor Day Foundation to plant trees across the United States. We’re aiming to plant one million new trees over the next three years.” – The Grove Collaborative Website

So how does it work? Technically, you become a member of TGC. That worried me at first, but it’s actually really flexible. To be a VIP it costs $20 per year. That’s it. You can order what you want, when you want. Right now I have mine set up to send me things every 2 months. They put suggestions in my cart and I just go in and take out what I don’t want and add in what I do. You get free shipping on your orders with your membership as well. They also send you free stuff with your orders. In my last order they sent me a full-sized GC hand lotion. In the one before that, they sent me a great lip balm. In addition, if you order a certain amount in your order, they will send a free gift (which you can opt out of if you don’t want it – but why? IT’S FREE! LOL)

All of that is fun and great but it’s not why I switched. Ultimately, I switched because I have 3 children aged 5, 3 and 1 – and I am scared to have toxic, caustic chemicals in the house. I like this site because they make these healthier products more affordable, and I don’t have to be scared if my kids grab the window cleaner when I turn around to answer the phone. It’s plant-based and non-toxic – and a relief. Obviously you don’t want to spray it in your eyes or drink it, but it is so much safer than the stuff I’ve been using up until now. So here’s a breakdown of my first order and what I thought of each product. You can also watch my video at the end to see the order I received the other day. And again, if you want to try it and get the 5-piece set for free, here’s my referral link:

https://www.grove.co/referrer/31644675/

20181016_161634

The GC Cleaning Caddy. This came free and it’s adorable. It’s metal and can be used to store and/or carry your cleaning supplies. But it can also be used as a decoration. Which is probably what I’ll end up doing with it because it’s freaking adorable.

The first item here is the Meyer’s multi-surface cleaner. It comes in a ridiculous number of scents. It’s literally like 10 or more. So far I’ve purchased the Pumpkin (smells more like those candles that are supposed to smell like baking sweets – not bad, but not my jam), Basil (my favorite so far) and Iowa Pine, which I just got and haven’t smelled yet. I love this for spraying and wiping down my counters, kitchen table and chairs. I’m obsessed.

TGC Floursack Towels – These are awesome. Watch my video to see the size.

Method Glass and Surface – I have only used on glass. I bought the Mint scent and OMG I LOVE IT. It literally leaves ZERO streaks. Until now I used Windex and it was decent but I often still had some streaking or foggy areas. The Method leaves my glass so clear and is my new go-to!

Meyer’s Dish Soap – This one I won’t be reordering. I like it well enough, but it’s more expensive than Dawn, which is my old go-to, and it uses essential oils for scent. That’s nice if you like the smell, but I don’t. So this one’s a pass for me.

Method Daily Shower Spray – LOVE this. I have the Eucalyptus Mint scent but it smells like pine to me. Which I love, so that’s the scent I keep ordering lol Just a quick spray down. It says no need to rinse, but I give my shower a quick rinse anyway.

16 oz. Spray Bottle – it’s glass and it’s pretty. I haven’t actually used it yet.

Cleaning Gloves – I love these so much I’ve ordered a second pair. They are perfect for doing dishes. They are soft on the inside and don’t leave my hands smelling bad after I use them.

Meyer’s Hand Soap – (Not Shown) I don’t love this soap. It’s OK, but if I’m going to pay that much for hand soap, I’m going to TJ Maxx and getting some Pecksniff’s hand soap (my fave!)

Walnut Scrubber Sponges (set of 2) – These are good sponges, they do the job and the best part about them is they are pretty, so I don’t mind leaving them out. However, the price is just too high for me. I’ll stick with my Scotch Brites for now.

GC Hand Sanitizer Spray – LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this!! I have it in the Blood Orange, which is one of my favorite flavors, as well as smells. I’ve reordered this little guy as well.

GC Towels – Okay. These are basically my favorite thing in the kitchen. I literally have 5 of them and just put 3 more in my cart today. They are the BEST freaking towels. They are thick and absorbent and I am going to replace all of my kitchen towels with them eventually. Seriously.

Method Squirt and Mop Hard Floor Cleaner – I’ve used this on our hardwood laminate flooring with great success (ours is Pergo Outlast +) without issue. It smells amazing – I have it in the Lemon Ginger (there are 2 other scents) and I also have the Wood Floor cleaner in Almond. Not sure what the difference is between the two. Both smell good. These are the perfect little thing if you want to spot mop. However, if I’m getting down and scrubbing all of my floors (uh, not that I do that often) I wouldn’t use this. I’d dilute something else in a bucket of water. But for a small room like a bathroom or spot mopping, this is perfect.

The Grove Collaborative gives you a free trial VIP membership and they were super clear about it ending for me. I decided to re-up and pay the $20 because I did end up liking it so much. Along with cleaning supplies, they have allllll sorts of other things for pets, home, babies, personal care, etc. So feel free to check it out and, should you decide to order, use this link and get a present for yourself – and for me!

https://www.grove.co/referrer/31644675/

 

The Gifts We Give

The holiday season is a time that brings more emotion to the surface than any other time of year. Sometimes we are reminded of those we have lost. That loss weighs more heavily on us when the holidays are approaching. But it also helps us to be thankful and grateful for what we still have. And while those painful feelings might be magnified during this time of year, it’s important to remember that we have the capability to affect change, and to allow our pain and loss to shape a more promising future for others.

Years ago, when I was pregnant with Max, I worked in an office and I had decorated my desk and office for Christmas and was listening to Christmas music while I worked. A coworker, an older gentleman, stopped in and asked my why I loved Christmas so much. He wondered if it was because I like getting presents. I laughed. Of course, who doesn’t love getting presents?! But actually, no. I do love giving presents. I love the look on peoples’ faces when you give them something they love. I love the lights at Christmas, and the decorations. I love the sentiment of Christmas’ past and I love the music. I love that we gather with the people we love.

But the thing I love about Christmas is actually even more than that. The holidays are a time for reflection, and I truly believe that a miracle happens. This beautiful, incredible thing happens. We open ourselves up to possibility, and to hope, and to generosity. We become the thing that we really want to see in the world. We are more generous, we are more thoughtful, and we are giving of ourselves to others. Even people who aren’t Christians and aren’t celebrating the birth of Christ, participate in that miracle.

Helping others gives us a feeling that is hard to describe. It’s a feeling that I would say is the closest we feel to being a part of something bigger, and better than the things we know. It’s a universal connection, and when we open ourselves up in that way, when we sacrifice or help or heal, we become a part of that connection. And we feel it.

I recently read a great article online about something I could do at my children’s birthday parties. I always tell people that gifts aren’t necessary, but everyone still brings one. Our home is full of toys. And so, I took the idea from this article and applied it to my son’s birthday party and decided that this is what we would do from now on.

Guests were welcome to bring a gift if they wanted to, but they could choose the alternative of bringing money in an amount that was divisible by 3. Then we took the money and divided it among 3 jars. The first went into my son’s piggy bank, which teaches him to save money. The second jar was money he could have and use to buy whatever he wanted to. The third jar would go to charity.

We chose the Humane Society as our charity because the children are so young, we wanted them to physically participate in the act of giving. I think that if the act is more palpable, they will understand a bit better about what it is that we are doing. And as they grow up, this will become a practice in their lives. We called the Humane Society and asked what they needed, and then we went to the store. At this time, we are also participating in a Pay-It-Forward at church. So we took the money from our church, matched it, and then added Bennett’s charity jar money. We purchased the items and went to deliver them and visited the dogs and cats!

It was an incredible day, and while my children might not yet understand it, in time I know they will. And the gift of teaching them to save money and to act charitably is a greater gift than any toy they would have received. As they get older, we will introduce them to other charities and they will be able to decide where that money goes all by themselves. And in this way, we can continue to make the world a better place even more than we have been in the past.

Here’s a video of our experience! Thanks for reading, and Happy Holidays my friends!

It’s Time To Slow Down

In 2006 my husband (who was then my boyfriend) got the opportunity to travel to Switzerland for work and he asked me to go with him. It was my first trip to Europe. After we arrived, we took a little nap and woke up around 7 or 8 pm. I was hungry and searched for a vending machine. I found nothing and then went to the front desk. The concierge laughed when I asked about the vending machines. “You Americans.” He said. “We don’t have machines with old food in them.” I asked if there was a convenience store nearby and he laughed again. “No. We aren’t like you. We don’t have everything 24/7. We end our day at 5 o’clock. We do not go, go, go all of the time. What is it you were looking to find in a vending machine?” I told him I was hoping to find some chocolate, and he said, “Well, you are in Switzerland.” And with a smile produced two handfuls of chocolates for me from under the desk. His tone wasn’t one of condensation, but one almost of pity. And now I understand why.

The ten days I spent in Switzerland are still some of the best days of my life. He wasn’t kidding. Everything closed at 5. With the exception of some bars and a few restaurants, the city essentially shut down. And the people stayed home and relaxed with their families. Or they took to the streets. I remember one wonderful evening where we sat on the steps of a museum with many other people who had brought picnics, or were just talking or playing games. It was so relaxing and fun.

One night we found a little restaurant with only about 8 tables. We were expected to dine with the other people there. We were the highlight of their evening. No one spoke English, only German, and so the woman sitting at our table did charades to help us understand what was on the menu. That meal lasted 5 hours. We simply sat and relaxed and ate. The restaurant was in the downstairs of the owner’s home. We were served course after course while we smoked cigarettes and sipped wine and found ways to communicate with the other patrons.

Another thing I noticed is that they took their dogs everywhere. If they owned a shop, the dog was there all day. Dogs were in stores, on public transport and in bars, relaxing under the tables. And the news was so different there as well. While we were there, a man here in the U.S. went into an Amish schoolhouse and shot 8 girls, killing 5, and then shot himself. It was briefly on the news there, and then they were on to reporting other things. I kid you not, the big stories on their news channel were a debate about which is better, black tea or green tea, and a great story on composting, where they interviewed a family about how they compost. I’m serious.

Imagine living in a place like that. Where the news is informative and helpful, and not focused 24/7 on scaring the ever-loving shit out of you. We get moment-to-moment updates on every horror don’t we? Even when the news stations are only speculating or reporting what they think is going on, only to change the story later once they have actual information. They want to be first, and they don’t care if they are right.

We have a failing mental health system. A society in which we are led to believe that we are broken if we aren’t perfect. We live in constant competition. Feeling the need to be as beautiful, as intelligent, as successful as everyone else. We’re in a constant race. And we’re never winning because there’s always more to obtain. We work long hours. We work different shifts. Our children are bringing home tons of homework. They are in several extra-curricular activities at one time. Each day is a struggle to get through. The stress, the pressure, the frustration…never stops. There’s never a break.

I haven’t been shy about sharing the fact that I am on an anti-anxiety medication. What might shock you is to know that I have 6 best friends and 4 of them also take anti-anxiety medication. And a 5th is asking her doctor about getting on something. We have so much stress we don’t know how to manage it, and even if we did, we don’t have time to.

Society needs to change. The acts of horror being committed, the number of suicides, the divorce statistics, the number of children in foster care, the mentally ill without access to help…it’s all a syndrome of a society that has lost some core values: self care, relaxation, enjoyment. The list can go on.

So what do we do? Well, it’s hard to control the outside world. So all we can do is try to control our own.  The first thing I do is set limits. My anxiety recently spiraled out of control and my doctor made me realize that I never take a break from my kids, or for myself. So now, once the kids are in bed, I do whatever I want to. I used to clean, but now I watch TV, do my nails, read, or take a bubble bath. I practice self care. I also ensure that my husband and I go out at least twice a month without our children. That time is just for us to relax and enjoy one another. I also limit my kids’ extra curricular activities. They are allowed only one thing at a time. And if they overlap, it’s a no. I have family members who never attend family functions because their kids have games/practices/recitals all the time. They are so entrenched in that world that they don’t even make exception for family events. To me, that is an issue because it’s another example of moving us away from our roots, our core.

Don’t misunderstand, I see the value in extra curricular activities.  The life lessons our children learn are invaluable. But I believe that those lessons can be learned without being in 6 things at a time. It’s important for our children to have down time as well, and not only on breaks. They are developing and need time to be creative without structure. To be with friends. To relax and figure out what they like and who they are.

The last, and perhaps most important thing that I do, is turn off the news. It’s not helpful. It’s a horror show filled with scare tactics and misinformation. That doesn’t mean I don’t know what’s going on or keep up on current events, but I find ways to keep up that don’t involve mass hysteria. And I think it’s important that we continue to stress these ideals. To slow down and not contribute to the mess. To show that we want a new way, a different world to raise our children in, where we aren’t terrified to let them walk outside and where we aren’t pulled in so many directions that we lose focus on what is truly important: being happy, enjoying life, and making the world a better place for all of us.

swiss
The people of the city on the museum stairs.

swiss1
Exploring!

swiss2
The owner of that little restaurant.

swiss3
The beauty of Basel

swiss4
Le Rhine et moi

 

Let’s Decorate For Halloween!

Yay October! My favorite month of the year is finally here! I LOVE October because it’s officially fall! And it’s also the month of Halloween, which we decorate for immediately. We decorate inside and out. Click the video below to spend some time with us, and look through the pictures to see the finished product!

 

 

 

Loose Leaf Tea!

t3

This blog is in no way sponsored. This is my first visit to the shop and I paid full price for all the items I purchased and wasn’t given anything by them.

We visited the Ohio Tea Company last week and learned so much about tea. There are more kinds of tea than I ever could have imagined! The people who own the company are so incredibly sweet. They allowed my to film inside for my blog and they couldn’t have been more helpful!

The video below will show you inside the shop, as well as Max and me trying different types of tea. I purchased several different flavors while there, and they were all delicious. I had no idea that different types of teas should be brewed at different temperatures and for different periods of time! That was another interesting thing I learned while there! And the cool thing about their packaging is that it tells you right on the front of the tea the ideal time, temperature and measurement for your tea!

While I was there I bought this adorable tea timer!

The prices are great as well. Beginning at 4 oz. you get a 20% discount, so I purchased 4 oz. of several flavors to save money. If you want to try their teas, you can order from the website. If you order only tea (no accouterments) then shipping is free! You can order here: https://www.ohioteaco.com

Ordering through them will support a small, local business, and some genuine, kind and wonderful people!

Here are my tea choices for my first visit, and I love them all!

And here is my vlog of my visit! Again, if you’d like to order, just go to https://www.ohioteaco.com

 

Being A Mom is Hard

I had my oldest child when I was 22. I always thought I’d have 6 kids. Three girls and three boys. Growing up, that was my perfect family. Then, after giving birth the first time, I changed it to 4 kids. I didn’t want to do that six times.

My first marriage wasn’t good. I didn’t want to have any more children during that time. Then, after my divorce, I met my husband. We did want to have kids, and by the time we decided to, we were in our early thirties. We tried for several years before getting help from a reproductive specialist. Our babies didn’t come easy. We had to do all sorts of things and spend a lot of money. But that’s a story for another day. After they were born, my body couldn’t handle another pregnancy, so we adopted our daughter.

I feel that we are at the perfect number of kids. My oldest is 19 right now, and the others are 4, 2 and 1. They are the little lights of my life and I love each of them more than anything. More than you think is possible. Sometimes it feels like I might explode because my love for them is so intense.

But that doesn’t mean that being their mother is easy. And it doesn’t mean that our life is one of fluff, rainbows and sunshine all of the time. I finally have everything I wanted, but it’s not exactly how I pictured it to be. And that’s OK. I think it’s time that we talk about how hard it is sometimes being a mom. Especially in today’s world, where we see the Instagram and Facebook photos and posts and see everyone else looking picture perfect.

Being a mom is hard. There are days that I have only had 4 hours of sleep, and that time was not all at once. Having 3 kids under 5, with the older two being boys, means that my house is generally a disaster. It’s three against one, so as I am cleaning up one mess they’ve made, they are making THREE MORE. It’s literally impossible to keep up with. The rooms we spend time in average a 12-hour clean time. Meaning that once I finally do get them clean, it will be 12 hours before they are trashed again. And it’s ridiculous stuff too. Not just toys and clothes. But marker on the wall. Juice all over the floor, the carpet, the baby, the pets. My 2-year-old son Bennett is in the throes of his terrible twos, and he ROCKS at it. He’s a little tornado of possibility and improbability. He figured out how to push the nipple of his sister’s bottle in, so that the milk sprays 2 feet out. He sprays EVERYTHING. It’s an unbelievable mess. And it’s EVERYWHERE. Yesterday he got the sugar bowl down and dumped sugar all over my kitchen. He ruins makeup, spills EVERYTHING he gets his hands on, and he is lightening fast. They all are. My friend stayed here to watch them for me for a couple of hours so I could go to a doctor appointment and when I came back she said, “How do you do this? They are so fast. I’m so sorry but they (fill in all the messes they made) and I swear they did it in two minutes.” Yep. Story of my life.

This is, of course, on top of the usual stuff like laundry, dishes, cooking, scrubbing, sweeping and dusting. The dusting doesn’t happen too often, not gonna lie. And it’s usually while I’m doing something like the laundry that they get into everything and make the super huge messes. I’m going to be completely honest here. Some days I feel like I’m drowning.

But then I remind myself that this is only temporary. I’m not a superhero with superhuman powers. I can only do so much. The most important things are that my children are happy and healthy and loved. And they are all of these things. They are vibrant, curious, intelligent little beings. They are exploring and learning and playing. And while I don’t often like the result of that, I understand that it’s necessary for their development. And that’s OK.

Because all too soon, I know that these days will be over. They will go to school. They will go to college. They will leave me. Right now their little worlds revolve around me. They want to show me everything. They want my approval and my attention. They want me to join in their fun. And all too soon, they won’t. That’s the benefit of having done this before. I learned the lesson before it was too late. By having my kids so far apart, I know the course of action they will take. I know that while the days are long, the years will fly by. I know what them at 19 looks like. I know my days are numbered.

So keep all of that in mind when you are having a drowning day. These things are easy to say but hard to live. It’s normal to feel like you aren’t doing a good job when you live in a mess. But you ARE doing a good job. Children are made to explore. To make messes. To play and live and jump. And spill. And break things. And draw. On everything.

Know that these days are numbered and time is short. Too soon, we will look back at this time, looking through pictures and wispy memories. We will say things like, “You used to love….  That was your favorite…. You always…..” And they won’t remember most of it. They will be all grown up and focused on becoming the incredible people we are raising them to be. And in those moments, we will long for these days.

scientists
My little scientists.

 

Can It Please Be Fall Already?

I know, I know. Some of you love summer. You have your bikini body on point. Your toes are polished a juicy hot pink. Your tan is on fleek (are we still saying on fleek?). You want your toes in the water and your ass in the sand. You love the ocean. You love the sun. You love laying out. You love driving with the music up and the windows down. I get it. You’re a summer girl. Or boy. I don’t know the basic rules for seasons when it comes to the fellas, so hopefully you can relate to what I have already listed here. But you see, here’s the thing. I don’t love summer. I actually hate it. And here’s why.

Summer brings about one thing that I like. Longer sunlight times. I’m totally down for that. Otherwise? I can’t stand it. I hate the heat. high temps just aren’t my happy place. I get sweaty, and bitchy, and tired. Here in Ohio we have humidity. So when it’s 90 and humid, I can barely breathe and I feel like I’m going to pass out at any moment. I’m uncomfortable – and I detest being hot. The second reason? Mosquitoes. Oh my God, the mosquitoes. They are relentless! So my options are to either be eaten alive (by the way, I’m allergic to their saliva, so when they bit me I get huge, itchy, almost painful welts), or coat myself in disgusting, smelly, oily repellents. No thank you. In addition, all of the other bugs are also out and about. And in my house. And on me. And flying in my face.

So yes. I’m ready for fall. Now, I do have all of my basic bitch reasons for loving fall. The sweater weather. Needing a light blanket when I’m reading. Hot drinks like cocoa, apple cider and chai. I love pumpkins and carving them. I love the changing leaves. I love the crisp smell in the air. Also, the plummeting of temperatures, the lack of humidity, the lack of mosquitoes and all other flying insects. I love the cool breezes and the need to wear one of my cozy scarfs, wraps or ponchos. I love my fall decor. Glass pumpkins, wreaths, dead stalks of corn (why do we like that so much?). I love the apple picking, the pumpkin picking, the pumpkin spice everything. And most of all…I love that Halloween is just around the corner.

For me, Halloween is a month-long affair. I almost love it as much as I love Christmas. Almost. Once October hits, our decorations go up. It’s horror, horror everywhere. I make my kids watch Halloween movies incessantly. I watch horror movies incessantly. We get our costumes and go trick or treating. We do Boo at the Zoo. We go to the pumpkin farm. We go to fall festivals. It is my happy time.

So enjoy these next few weeks of summer, darlings. I understand your love for it. It’s just not my thing. I’ll just be sitting in my air conditioning, awaiting the coming of the next season. And you better believe that come September 1st, I’ll be busting out my fall decor. Hey man, if June 1st is the start of your summer, then September 1st can be the start of my fall. I’ll see you back here for a rundown of our fall adventures!

Our First Gotcha Day Anniversary: A Look Back At Our Adoption Story

Adoption is an incredible experience. When we found out we couldn’t have any more children, we turned to adoption to complete our family. I never could have imagined the ride we were about to embark on.

Newborn domestic adoption is a very lengthy, expensive, and emotional journey. Luckily, adopting a baby here in the United States can be compensated in tax refunds by the government (federally everywhere, and statewide if you stick to your state). So if you fear that you cannot afford it, look into your options. Grants and loans exist. And while carrying the loan payment is hard, it’s totally, of course, worth it.

As for the rest of it, I’ll share our story with you now. We first spoke to our agency in February of 2017. By July we had completed all of the paperwork, home studies, inspections, and classes that were required and were ready to go! We went live (were posted on the agency’s website) and then……..we waited.

I can’t explain that wait to you. I think it’s something you really and truly have to go through to understand. Other couples were chosen, why not us? Was our biography bad? Were our pictures bad? What did they have that we didn’t? What if we never get chosen? What if we get chosen tomorrow? What will our baby look like? We tried to prepare. What if our daughter was born addicted? How would we handle that? What if she was a different race? How could we be sure that she would be able to embrace and experience her own culture in this area and with a white family? I spent hours. Days. Weeks. Months. Pondering every scenario my mind could possibly conceive. I researched, and researched and researched. I tortured myself with questions. It was hard. It was really, really hard.

The social workers at our agency told us not to prepare. Not to buy her clothes or toys. Not to prepare a room for her. Because it would be all the more devastating if we never brought her home. For the most part, I obeyed this command. I did allow myself a few little cheats, however. For one, we already had the boys. That meant that we had a lot of the big stuff like a bassinet, play yard, highchair, etc. And I distinctly remember buying her a dress once when I was out shopping. It was so adorable that I just couldn’t help myself. I confessed to my husband who was, as always, so supportive. He said it was good to have the dress. It represented hope and possibility of what could be. And we bought clothes. I am a very Type A, control-freak personality. Not knowing if or when we would get a baby was torture for me. I had to, in some way, prepare. So we went to garage sales and got some baby girl clothes. I filled a couple of totes, and then I put them in storage. I figured, that way, if it happened fast, we wouldn’t be bringing her home with nothing. And if it didn’t, we could just donate them and not be out a ton of money. The other thing we did was create a registry. I had spent hours researching baby formula (I nursed my boys so I was new to the scene) and finally chose one. So we registered for it, and other things like diapers, wipes and pacifiers. That way, again, if it happened fast, we could run there and not even have to think. It was already all planned out. I also, of course, added some adorable girly stuff to the registry as well. I mean, come on, I’m only human.

Months went by. We were presented with several opportunities to try for a baby, but none of them seemed like the perfect fit for us. The holidays came and went and still, no baby. I thought a lot during those moments of childless couples in the world. How much more difficult was this wait for them? I had my children to distract me. I already had little hands to hold and faces to kiss. How much more trying would this time have been if I was wondering if I’d ever be a mother at all? And I though about all of the birthparents who were choosing adoption. How difficult was this for them? How hard would it be to choose adoption for your baby? Thoughts constantly ran through my head if I didn’t keep myself extremely busy and preoccupied.

And then came Spring. We were presented with a couple of opportunities that seemed like they could be a good fit, and both times the birthparents chose other couples. Not us. And even though the agency prepared us for this rejection, explained that it wasn’t us that was an issue, that the families chosen were just a better fit, I couldn’t help but wonder if we had done something wrong. Maybe we didn’t seem friendly enough in our letter to them? Maybe our pictures weren’t good. All of the old worries flooded back each time. Thank God for my husband. He’s so laid back and relaxed – and everything that is the opposite of me that I needed so badly throughout this entire process. He kept me from freaking out and being overly anxious. I kept telling myself to be patient (NOT my strong suit).

As we rounded the end of July, we reflected on the fact that it was exactly a year since we had completed everything and gone “on the market” so to speak. We had one more year left, and then our homestudy would expire, and we’d have to decide whether or not we wanted to pay to reinstate it, or let our dream go. Every July, on the last Sunday of the month, we have a family reunion on my mother’s side. It’s a wonderful day, and I can remember last year, sitting at a table with my cousins and Aunts, and talking. I told them about our adoption journey and how we were doing so far. I remember thinking about it on the way home, wondering where we’d be the following year. Wondering if the waiting ever got easier. And then, when we got home, we got an email.

A healthy, beautiful baby girl had been born that morning. Her birthparents contacted the agency and let them know that they were interested in creating an adoption plan for her. Now, this email went out to probably 40 families. Just like all those which came before it. I was excited, but tried not to get my hopes up. We wrote our letter to them and submitted it, and then…we waited.

It typically took a week to hear in an email that a different family had been chosen. Those emails were hard to take. That rejection, while in no way personal, feels like a dagger through the heart. It’s hard to take. So this time, I was prepared for it. I didn’t expect to be chosen. As a matter of fact, I was pretty sure we wouldn’t be. I had it in my head that they wouldn’t want us. It’s like breaking up with someone before they can break up with you. It’s stupid and unhealthy, but it’s self preservation.

Sunday night I sent our letter. By Wednesday I hadn’t heard anything, and knew she wasn’t ours. I prepared for the email that I knew was coming. Instead, on Wednesday evening, I received a phone call from the agency. The birthparents had chosen us. They chose us. Out of all of the people who wanted that baby more than anything in the world, they picked us. I started sobbing. I remember vaguely having a conversation with her, but I can’t really remember what we said. I just remember crying and pacing while I talked to her. At the end of the conversation my best friend walked into the room. As soon as I hung up the phone she asked, “Did you get a baby?” I nodded, still crying, and she ran to me. We hugged, jumping up and down, and cry-laughing like children. I then showed her the text I got from the social worker, a picture of our daughter.

I immediately called my husband, took a screen shot of my text with the social worker, and sent him the picture of our baby. I was shaking. I remember that. And then, instead of being excited, I got really scared. What if they changed their minds?

The social worker had explained that they were going to wait until the following Monday to sign the paperwork. Which meant that they had until Monday to change their minds. It was Wednesday. And let me tell you, those were the longest, most emotionally exhausting 5 days of my life. We also had explicit instructions from the social worker. Buy newborn diapers, an outfit to bring her home in, formula, a few bottles, and nothing else. These were the bare necessities, and nothing was certain yet. We did as we were told. But come on. We also bought a few of the things on our registry. By then some of them were on clearance and I was afraid they’d be gone. So with the assurance that we could return them if we didn’t get our baby, I filled that cart up and we carted it all home. I left it in bags and put it in storage. And then we just….waited.

Monday finally came and the time that we were to go to the agency arrived. My husband and I packed up the diaper bag and made the (almost) hour drive to the agency. I wasn’t sure what to expect. We were told to be there at 1:00, even though the birthparents wouldn’t be there to sign until later that evening. When we arrived, she was there. Her foster mother had brought her to the agency so that we could meet her. We spent the next several hours holding her, feeding her, and talking to her. We were in love. And so, of course, the monster in my brain was stomping around, scaring me. Wondering what would happen if her birthparents didn’t show up. Or what if they did, but they changed their minds at the last minute. What if they wanted to meet us? What could I possibly say to them to thank them for choosing us? How can you ever find words for something like that?

The time finally came. The social worker said that they had arrived, and she and the attorney were going down the hall to meet them. I gave her something we had picked up for them. A card, thanking them, and 2 small tokens. The first was a ruby necklace for her (our daughter’s birthstone), and for him, a silver picture frame and a giftcard to shutterfly, so they could print out pictures of the baby if they wanted to. Let me tell you, in those moments, I could feel my heart beating all throughout my body. I went from elation to panic to nauseous about a thousand different times. Then I noticed that my husband was acting very out of character. He was cleaning the room. Lifting up cushions, checking under them to see if we’d dropped anything, packing the bag, throwing away trash, etc. It was the absolute first time in our 12 years together I’d actually seen him nervous.

Finally, finally, the social worker returned. The papers were signed. It was done. Once we signed, we would be taking her home. They didn’t want to meet us. They couldn’t see her. It was just all too hard for them. A little piece of my heart broke for them right then, and I don’t think it will ever be the same. I think about them every day, and especially today. I had wanted so badly to meet them. To thank them. To reassure them that they could always see her if they ever wanted to. To promise that we would always be there if they wanted us in their lives. But that moment wasn’t to be. And that’s OK. I did need to mourn a bit, in all honesty. It’s difficult to explain, but I really had wanted to know them, and for them to know us. But I understood, and I empathized, and I still had hope that, maybe someday, we would meet. So we signed the papers, and then, we brought our daughter home.

So it’s been a year to the day since we got her. We didn’t technically adopt her until March of this year, but this is the anniversary of the day that she became ours. A day I will never, ever forget. Her birthmother and I text from time to time. She’ll check in every once in awhile and see how things are going. It’s always nice to hear from her. We still have yet to meet. My hope is that we will, someday. That our daughter will grow up knowing her birthparents. That she’ll never question their love for her, or the sacrifice they made for her in choosing adoption. But even if they never want to meet us, I’ll still tell her the story of how she came to be ours. Of how God’s plan miraculously came to be, and of just how lucky she is to have two sets of parents who love her more than anything else in this world.

bb1
Our daughter, wearing that dress I bought when she was still just a dream for us.

 

This Kind World

I’ve been thinking lately about the state of the world. I stopped watching the news years ago because it made me upset, depressed and afraid. I took a journalism class in college, and we did in fact learn that one of the first rules of journalism is this: “If it bleeds, it leads.” News channels, and now the internet, is full of scare tactics. Click bait. They need you to click, to watch, to read. They need the ratings. But the truth is, the world is an incredible place, full of incredible people.

If you look for it, you can find many websites dedicated to good news stories. Stories of heroism, love, strength, and good deeds. You can also read the statistics. While it may seem as though our world is getting worse over time, it’s actually just the opposite. We hear more about awful people doing horrible things – not because it’s happening more often, but because technology has given us the ability to know about everything that happens everywhere.

In fact, mankind has actually improved over time. Studies have shown that empathy in people has actually increased over time, not lessened. And the incidences of people rising up to help others is prominent. I did a quick bit of research to give you some examples. When you look at my state, Ohio, for example, you can see that in the late 90’s to early 2000’s, there seemed to be an increase or constant of rape, violent crime, robbery and manslaughter. But then the numbers stop increasing, begin decreasing, and continue to lower over time. This is even despite the fact that the population continues to grow. Now, these numbers aren’t as low as they were in the 1960’s, when the earliest data is available – however, they are declining over time (the report is able to go only to 2014, so more recent data is unavailable.) If you want to see how things have changed in your area, the website is https://www.ucrdatatool.gov.

Regardless of all of this, though, I urge you to put it to the test, as I do every day. Leave your house. And see how people act on average. Do they wave you on first when you’ve both stopped at stop signs at the same time? Do they let you over in traffic? Do they hold the door for you? Do they smile at you? Do they offer to help when they see a need?

The other day I decided to venture out – alone – with all 3 of my youngest children. Something I’d never done before. My husband and my oldest son had gone to do some father-son adventuring. My kids are 4, 2 and 7 months. The older 2 are boys in the throes of the terrible 2’s and the curious 4’s, so I was on high alert. The first store we went into has carts that have cars in the front for kids to ride in. My hope was that if I put the boys in it they’d be content long enough for me to grab what we needed and get out. But they were out of the carts. As I realized this after we walked in, I said to the kids, “Oh, it looks like they don’t have any car carts today, guys.” An employee overheard me and said, “You want a car cart? I’ll get you one!” and ran out to the parking lot and brought us one. Later, towards the end of our visit, the kids were starting to come unglued, they were climbing in and out of the cart, and I was probably obviously struggling. A woman saw me and said, “Don’t worry, we’ve all been there! Someday they will be big and you’ll miss these moments when they were little. Even the ones that make you crazy. You’re doing a good job.” A complete stranger. She stopped and said that to me, just to help. Later, as I was loading everything into the car, she was exiting the store and walked past me, headed to her car. She said, “Hey! See? You did it! I’m proud of you!” And even though I didn’t know her at all, it completely made my day and reinforced my belief in myself and my ability to get through that shopping trip. That day, as we went to other stores, people stopped to tell me how beautiful my children were. They held doors for us. They picked things up when we dropped them. They smiled knowingly when my children acted up. Once Bennett escaped and ran from me, and a gentleman caught him and steered him back in my direction.

This is the world I choose to see. This is the world I want my kids to grow up in. This is the world I will foster and grow by holding doors for strangers. By complimenting them. By allowing them to go ahead of me in line. By practicing politeness and kindness and community. It truly takes a village to raise our children. And while this doesn’t mean that there aren’t bad people, or good people who do bad things, it does mean that we shouldn’t focus on it. There is exponentially more good in the world than there is bad. And I truly believe that if that is where our focus lies, we can continue to steer things in that direction. Less fighting, more understanding. Less hate, more love. Less weakness, more strength. And when you see someone struggling – do something.

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi