It’s still 90 freaking degrees out, but that won’t stop this pumpkin party! It’s September, and for me, that’s go time! I don’t go crazy overboard with my decorations, but I do get excited and I do put them out as soon as September begins. When I originally fell in love with our home, one of the things I wanted was this big front porch. I could envision decorating it each season and spending time on it, talking and laughing with those I love. It’s truly a joy for me!
Some of the things that are in the pictures that I didn’t talk about in the video are the mums you see in the picture – they are fake. I LOVE mums, but for the life of me I cannot remember to water flowers. So I bought fake ones. It works out though, because then I can keep them completely out of the sun and they don’t care! If you want to make a similar project, get a flower pot and then go to the craft store. Buy styrofoam that will fit your pot and insert it (it’s best if it’s a few inches thick – too thin and it won’t be as sturdy). Then choose your flowers and push them into the styrofoam! The only thing I’ve purchased recently is the “Gather” pillow on the rocking chair (rocking chair from Cracker Barrel). I bought that pillow a couple of days ago at JoAnn Fabrics, Etc.
Here’s my video where I discuss my decorations, and below that you will find my pictures! Click on them to enlarge. Happy Fall!!!
I’ve always loved reading. I’m not sure why, though they do say that children who are read to have a great chance of becoming avid readers. I don’t remember much about my early childhood. My mother died when I was 5, and they say that tragedy can sometimes block memories. Perhaps that’s why I only have a few memories from that time. I do, however, remember being read to. I also come from a long line of readers. My dad and his mother, my grandma (when she was still alive) are adamant readers. I don’t know if my mom read, but my stepmom is an adamant reader as well.
I remember a dear family friend of ours, her name is Amy Carr, reading Bible stories to me. I remember her helping me try to understand my mother’s death. Helping me to be optimistic that she wasn’t truly gone forever. I remember someone, not sure who, reading the book Are You My Mother?, by P.D. Eastman, to me. And I remember being read several Golden Books and Sesame Street books. And my favorite Golden Book, Where Did The Baby Go? by Colleen T. Hayes.My favorites are still here, in my children’s library.
But most of all, I remember being read to by my cousins, Gretchen and Elizabeth. They would read me my favorite books, Haunted House by Jan Pienkowski and Where The Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. These books were later purchased by me, to read to my children. Once my oldest could read, he read Shel Silverstein books until the pages literally fell out and I had to replace them.
As a young girl I still loved to read. My Aunt Toni would send me care packages, and with them, more books. Some of my favorite books came from her. Behind The Attic Wall by Sylvia Cassidy is probably my favorite book of all time, and it’s one that she sent to me. During that time, I also loved the Sweet Valley Twins book series. I can remember my parents taking me to the bookstore (I know I said my mother died, so not to confuse you, my dad did remarry when I was 10 lol) and letting me choose a book to buy. Sometimes we went to used bookstores, and sometimes we went to new ones. When we went to new ones I could get the next Sweet Valley Twins book. I can remember how excited I was. I’d go home and read the book in one sitting! I can remember my dad telling me to pick a longer book because I’d read them so quickly.
As a teenager, I kept reading. I moved on to teen books. I moved from the Sweet Valley Twins to the Sweet Valley High book series. I also read every book by Christopher Pike that I could get my hands on. And once I was old enough, my stepmom let me start reading her books. My favorites were by V.C. Andrews.
As an adult, I just kept reading. My library continued to grow. I read a lot of Stephen King. I love mystery and horror. I love Toni Morrison. I love Charles Dickens. I love reading. In general.
But over the years, as I focused on my career and then building my family, I stopped reading somewhere along the way. I just stopped having time. I would still occasionally buy a book, thinking I’d get to it eventually. But for years, I never did. Until recently.
My daughter’s first birthday party arrived, and all of our loved ones were there. Including several of my friends whom I don’t see regularly. We were talking and one of us said something about starting a book club, and the others remembered the book club we had started many, many years ago. I don’t think it lasted too long, maybe a few months. But it was a great idea. A book club. A reason to get together with my very best friends once a month. A reason to read again.
I wasn’t sure I’d have the time, but I committed – because I wanted to have the time. I get lost in books. It’s like a vacation for me. I love everything about reading. I really do. And it’s not just the stories that I love, it’s the books. I have zero interest in a Kindle. I want to feel the weight of the book. I want to smell the fresh paper. I want to view the cover of it every time I pick it up.
And so, the first month of our bookclub began, and I read that book in record time. I started making time for myself. Time to read. Time that, I may have used to clean out a closet, I instead sat down and read. Instead of rushing through a shower, I took a bath and spent 15 minutes reading. I started giving my kids playtime in their room for half an hour when the baby goes down for a nap. I sit right outside their room, and I read while they play.
I read the book so quickly that I felt like something was missing. So I got another book. And that’s the one I’m reading now. It’s a paperback, and when I opened it, it was like I’d stepped back in time. The smell of the book took me back to when I was 9 years old, coming home from the bookstore with a new book my parents had bought for me. Sitting down in my room, excited to read the story. The smell was the same. They don’t all smell the same, but this particular one smelled just like that.
And so, I read. I will continue to make this time for myself and to relax and to do something I love. I will continue to make reading a priority. Sometimes we let life get in the way. It’s not that we aren’t choosing ourselves, but we allow the importance of other things – our jobs, our spouses, our children, our duties and obligations – to take extreme precedence over ourselves. To make some time for yourself is not a bad thing. I am still struggling with that. Even now, as a grown woman who can make her own decisions, I feel guilty. Guilty reading when I could be cleaning. Doing laundry. Planning meals. But at the end of the day, I know that not making time for ourselves, not allowing ourselves to relax and enjoy something, is incredibly unhealthy.
So find something that you love to do. And then do it. And don’t feel guilty about it. Don’t feel like choosing yourself occasionally is a bad thing. Making time for yourself is actually the best thing you can do for yourself, the people you love, and the world. Because someone who never does that isn’t healthy. And is too stressed. And can become short-tempered, have difficulty sleeping, and are unhappy. And if we do only get this one life, I think we should make it a good one.
My library, and some of my favorite collections.
The library. Built-ins coming soon!!
Aaaand, more books!
My favorite collection. From the 1800.s
The classics, I got them at a library sale.
Reader’s Digest Books. My brother brings me these when he travels because he knows I collect them.
The classics. I picked them up on clearance at a book store years ago.
My father has always given me the best advice. I remember once, when I was in high school, and I had begun a relationship with my first boyfriend. I was on the phone with one of my friends and I was breaking plans with her so that I could be with my boyfriend. My dad overheard my conversation and when I hung up, he said something to me that I’ll never forget. He said, “Don’t ever put your boyfriend before your friends. They’ve been your friends for a long time and they’ll always be there. If you keep blowing them off you’ll ruin your friendships. Then you two will break up, and you’ll be alone. You’ll have no one. Your boyfriends will come and go. Your friends are forever.” He was basically the first Chicks Before Dicks mantra. You’re welcome, world. But seriously, that struck me. And I realized that he was right. And over the years, as my relationships, my first marriage, my jobs, my illnesses, have crumbled, come, and eventually gone, the people still standing there, holding me up, are my friends.
I’ve been lucky. I’ve been blessed with several incredible women who have been by my side for most of my life. My friendships with them have lasted 10, 20, 30 years. Some of these friendships ebb and flow like the tide. They come in and out of my life depending on circumstances. Where we live. What’s happening in our lives. Sometimes we go awhile without seeing one another or talking. We are kept abreast, of course, through Facebook. But even before Facebook, (yes, I am of the age where I existed before the internet), we had an unbreakable bond.
It doesn’t seem to matter how long it’s been since we’ve seen each other. When we are together, it’s as if no time has passed. Our bonds are so strong that it’s more akin to family than friendship. We can read one another’s expression, voice, body language. We say the same things at the same time. I even once had a friend go on a type of birth control that stopped her periods. It also stopped MY period. I was miserable, so she went off of that version for me.
These are the people I know I can call – anytime, any hour, and they will be there. It won’t matter how long it’s been, or what they are doing. They will drop it and be there for me. Just as I will drop everything and be there for them. These friendships are gifts. They are miracles. Finding people who love you, who will put up with you, who will forgive you, who won’t judge you – it’s an incredible thing. And the fact that I’ve found so many women like that? It really does make me feel like I have been given a most precious gift.
These are the type of friendships that even outlast my dad’s advice. Because we know that a new relationship can be all consuming. And we allow one another that time. We know that children are all-consuming, and we allow one another that time. Even my friends who have chosen not to have children are still welcoming of mine and call themselves Auntie and love them as their own. They know I can’t go anywhere or do anything right now, and so, they come to me.
This isn’t to say that your partner or spouse isn’t important or isn’t all of these things as well. They are. Or, at least, they should be. It just means that you can have more than one person to count on.
Recognize when these people enter your life. You will know. You will meet them and somehow just “click.” You will feel as though you’ve always known them. You may feel as though you’ve met them before. And your bond might be instant. It might come in time. But when it happens, acknowledge it. Then grab onto it and nurture it and cherish it. Because those are your people. They are the loves of your life. They will be there to laugh and celebrate with you, to pick you up when you fall, to forgive your mistakes, and to hold your hand when you’re afraid. They will be one of the most incredible gifts of your life.
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.
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!
I will continue to return to this blog to update every time I receive a new box!
FabFitFun is a quarterly subscription box service. They deliver a box to your home once every 3 months, for Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer. The also have Editor Boxes. Those boxes are available if you join in between the seasonal boxes. The are comprised of the favorite items of, you guessed it, the Editors. Members are able to purchase these boxes in addition to the seasonal boxes if they wish. However, you aren’t required to.
Fabfitfun has a wide range of items in their boxes. You can get jewelry, wraps, scarves, socks, makeup, haircare, skincare, tech items, fitness items, and so much more. Every box I’ve received has been worth over $300. (Each box costs $49). Some of the items are a surprise, but some you are able to choose. If you are a select annual member (meaning you pay for the year upfront) you will get to choose more of what is in your box. You also get priority shipping. Contrary to what people think, this is NOT more expensive than paying quarterly. As a matter of fact, it’s a little cheaper as when my bill comes it’s $180, which means that each of my boxes are $45.
FabFitFun also has an Add-On sale at the beginning of each season, where they offer products at up to 70% off of their retail value. They also have Edit Sales that do the same thing. Again, you aren’t required to purchase anything at the sales, they are just available to you if you want to shop them.
I love FabFitFun’s boxes, of course, and I’ve found so many of my new favorite products this way. However, there’s a lot more to it than just the boxes. FFF has a community page on their website where members can go to talk. They talk about FFF, of course, but they also use the community to find support, talk about problems, trade items, and make friends. The discussions are so wonderful, and it makes me so happy to see strangers coming together the way they do in the community. There’s even a group who does a Christmas in July gift exchange. There’s so much to be found there, and it’s completely free when you join FabFitFun.
In addition, FabFitFun has a TON of workout videos available to its members, again, completely free with your membership. They also send out newsletters with helpful tips, healthy recipes, and fun information.
I actually love FabFitFun so much that I became an affiliate. We say #fabfitfunpartner. Which just means that I have a link to use to sign up (and I do earn a small commission on sales). I’ll post it below if you are interested in joining. I’ve taken several pictures of the actual boxes I’ve received as well, so I’ll post those here too. If you have any questions, feel free to ask, as I’m happy to help!
FabFitFun is more than a subscription box service to me. It’s inspired me to live a more happy and healthy life. It’s motivated me to connect with people all over, and it’s helped me find some incredible products that I’d probably never found otherwise.
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.
If you’ve watched Laguna Beach or The Hills, you undoubtedly know who Kristin Cavallari is. If you haven’t, but you like football, you may know her as former NFL quarterback Jay Cutler’s wife. She recently re-upped her reality game in her new show, Very Cavallari, which chronicles her life now as a wife, mother, and entrepreneur as she opens her first store for her lifestyle and jewelry brand, Uncommon James. And somewhere in the midst of all of this, she wrote a cookbook.
To be completely honest, I never liked her. I thought she was kind of a bitch on her reality shows. Later we all learned that those shows were actually scripted, and she was playing a character, edited to seem even worse than she was. None of this has any bearing on why I bought this book though.
I was perusing for a cookbook that could get me eating more cleanly and more healthy. I wanted good, tasty, healthy food for my family. But I’m not a chef, and I’m just learning to cook. So I wanted something uncomplicated, easy to follow, and healthy. I stumbled upon this book (on Amazon) and it seemed like just the thing I was looking for. In the preview pages, Kristin listed the items she uses in the recipes and keeps in her pantry, refrigerator, etc. – which made it seem really streamlined and simple. So I ordered it, and here’s how I’m doing.
So far I’ve made several of the dishes and drinks in the book. I did have to do a little searching for some of the ingredients. I live in a very small town, and our little grocery store simply doesn’t carry things like oat flour and aloe juice. After some store hopping and a couple of Amazon pantry orders, I was ready to go. I started off with some recipes that seemed the easiest and went from there. I’d say I’ve made over 1/4 of the recipes so far (there are around 100 in the book). While I’m not a vegetarian, I do try to limit eating meat, and I have a rule. If I’ve never eaten it, I’m not going to start now. This only applies to animals. So several of the recipes for things like duck, veal and lamb, I will never make. Though someday I may decide to try the recipes on different meats.
In addition, there are several things in the book that I have substituted in lieu of creating my own for time and money purposes. For example, she has you creating Almond and Cashew milks from actual almonds and cashews. I cheated and bought the milks pre-made at the store. In addition, I bought minced garlic instead of mincing my own.
Of the recipes I’ve tried, my favorite is the Baked Oatmeal with Warm Berry Sauce. The sauce is incredible and can be used on anything you’d want a sweet berry sauce on, including ice cream, pancakes, spongecake, etc. Another favorite of mine is the Creamy Cinnamon Smoothie. She almost didn’t include it in the book, and I’m so very glad she did. My least favorite are the Chia Parfaits. The taste isn’t bad, but I just can’t get into the consistency. I’m a huge consistency person, and this is not something that works for me.
I read a few reviews on Amazon prior to purchasing, and one person stated that there are a lot of pictures of Kristen in this book. They would have preferred more pictures of the dishes being prepared. I agree that there are a lot of pictures of her. But to me, I would assume that the people inclined to buy the cookbook would be fans of hers, who would enjoy seeing pictures of her. I could take them or leave them personally, but they in no way bother me or ruin the cookbook. The book itself is pretty and nice to look at. It’s designed well and has a very french-country feel. Very farm-to-table, which I personally enjoy. In all, I’d give it a 10/10. The recipes are uncomplicated, delicious, and healthy. Kristen sprinkles cute little personal statements and pictures throughout the book, which makes it fun to read. I look forward to making more of the recipes from it, and have already found some favorites that I’ll use forever. Below I’ll share my favorites so far, and pictures I took of my creations!
Over the years we evolve and change. Customs fall by the wayside and new ones emerge. However, etiquette and manners is the backbone of a polite and happy society. Here’s a guide on how to be on your best behavior in the modern age.
Nothing is more irritating than trying to have a conversation with someone who is on their phone. Whether you are texting or reading email, it’s just rude. Keep your phone out of sight when you are with someone. If you must check it, say, “Please excuse me, I need to see if I’ve received an important message.” Once you’ve checked it, put it away.
It used to be that a shower was held for the first child in a family only. This is one tradition that has evolved. “Sprinkles” have arisen. While you might think that this is in bad taste, it’s actually not – if it’s done correctly. For starters, Sprinkle invitations should never contain a gift registry. You should actually not expect a gift at all if this is not your first baby shower. It’s not the responsibility of everyone you know to purchase all of the things your children need. This includes the cute little poems that try to get people to bring a book or a package of diapers. If you’ve already had a baby shower and received gifts, you’re done. Any shower or sprinkle after the fact may be thrown simply in celebration of the baby to come. That said, it’s actually alright to register for gifts. Tell the people who are in charge of your RSVP’s where you are registered, and if anyone asks when they RSVP, the women in charge can let them know. Also give these women an idea of what you need beforehand if you aren’t registering, so that if anyone asks what they can bring, they can get an idea. It’s alright to receive gifts at a sprinkle and many people will bring one. But it’s just in bad taste to expect it or to ask for it.
There’s an exception to this rule as well. If it’s been a long time since you’ve had your first child or if the new baby is from a new relationship, that changes things a bit. It’s more acceptable if there is a large age gap (as you will most likely have gotten rid of your baby items over the years). It’s also more acceptable if you are in a different relationship – your spouse/partner will have friends and family who will want to celebrate the baby with you as well.
The bottom line is this. All babies are a blessing, and it’s perfectly acceptable to want to celebrate each one of them with a party. But it’s in extremely bad taste to expect or request gifts every time. As stated, be prepared for those who want to get something for you, but don’t force that on anyone.
Thank you notes are still very much in style. If you have received a gift for a shower, wedding, anniversary, birthday, engagement, etc. then you should absolutely send a thank you note. Hand-written and sincere is best.
Bridal showers are the perfect occasion to celebrate the start of a new life. It’s perfectly acceptable to register for gifts and to include that registry information in the invitation. People know that bridal showers will include gift-giving and are happy to celebrate with you! However, your registry information is not to be included in your wedding invitation. Again, asking for a gift at your wedding is tacky. Leave the registries standing throughout the time frame of your wedding (anyone invited to your shower will know they are there). If you have a wedding website (I highly recommend this, it helps cut the clutter of your invitation and can include directions, dress code, etc.) the website should be referenced in your invitation. It is perfectly fine to list your registries on the website as well. You want the information to be available to your guests should they wish to purchase a gift, but including it in the invitation is wrong.
Walk out into the world and you will see that most people still have common courtesy. They will hold the door for you. They will let you out in traffic. They will pick something up for you if you drop it. Pay attention and don’t take any of this for granted. If someone does something to help you, say “Thank you!” If they let you into their lane our out into traffic, smile and wave. If you don’t have the courtesy to do that, in case no one else has the heart to tell you, you’re an asshole.
That said, don’t be afraid to help someone else and be the one to let them out into traffic. Hold the door for them. Offer to assist someone in need. That’s a world we all want to live in.
Respecting Culture in Gift Giving and Celebration
In the modern world when the internet – and all of the world’s knowledge – is literally at our fingertips, there is no reason to be ignorant when it comes to culture. If you are invited to a party for someone who is of a different culture from yours, it is acceptable to follow American tradition – but it’s also good to look into their culture. For example, I was invited, years ago, to the baby shower of a Chinese couple. The Chinese hold baby celebrations after the baby has been born. I wanted our gift to be meaningful, so I took the time to research their culture and incorporate that with our gift. This adds a special touch and shows that you truly care.
It would appear that the practice of ending a telephone call without saying “goodbye” has become a practice. This is rude and unacceptable. A conversation hasn’t ended until both people have said, “bye” – to hang up prior to this is thoughtless and is certainly bad manners.
When entering someone’s home, you should ask if your shoes should be removed. The bacteria and filth present on shoes is disgusting. It’s not only a health hazard for babies and small children who spend their time on the floor, it is also damaging to carpets and rugs. When visiting a home, be prepared to remove your shoes. If you don’t want to be barefoot, it’s acceptable to bring a pair of socks or slippers to wear.
When you have been invited to a party, it is nice to bring a gift. If the party is for a child’s birthday, a gift should be purchased unless the parents have specifically stated that there should be no gifts. It is acceptable to bring a gift to an engagement party, a birthday party, an anniversary party, a housewarming party, and to dinner parties. There is a plethora of information out there on gift ideas for these occasions. But you should never be forced or required to bring a gift to any celebration. A celebration is just that – a gathering to celebrate something. The gift is truly the presence of the people there. Not the presents that they bring.
The bottom line of etiquette and manners is much like the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Be respectful. Give the people you are with your full attention. Don’t expect exorbitant or excessive gifts from people. Be kind and courteous. Our actions affect the people around us everywhere, every day. Make them good, kind, thoughtful actions – and that sentiment and will spread.
Years ago I awoke one morning to find tiny, clear, itchy blisters on a few of my fingers. Thinking it was poison ivy, I scratched them open, poured rubbing alcohol on it, and moved on with my life. (I was in my 20’s, what can I say?) Time went on and it happened again. This time I was pretty sure I hadn’t been in the woods or anywhere poison ivy would be, but I handled it the same way. The third time, it was in the dead of winter. I knew for a fact it couldn’t be poison ivy. And when I thought about it, I have never had poison ivy in my entire life.
Years went by and I would occasionally have these little outbreaks of the blisters on my fingers. They were typically in-between my fingers. I searched online for an answer but found nothing. Eventually, I discovered an article on Dishidrotic Eczema. And I finally knew what was wrong with me. Here are signs of it, as listed on the website of the National Eczema Association:
Symptoms of dyshidrotic eczema include:
Deep-set blisters on the edges of the fingers, toes, palms and soles of the feet
Scaly, cracked skin
This particular form of eczema appears a tiny blisters which are extremely itchy. If you scratch them to relieve the itch, however, they not only get even itchier, but they spread. Super awesome, right? The skin can also thicken over time from all of the irritation, which – you guessed it – just makes the problem worse.
I eventually went to my doctor and he confirmed that it was, indeed, Dishidrotic Eczema. And so, finally having named the beast, I worked to find an answer. It has no cure, and it’s also not contagious, so don’t worry about spreading it to others. But since there is no cure, that means you have to just work to maintain it and keep it at bay. Several things can cause an outbreak. For me, stress is the biggest cause. Another is heat. The third biggest cause for me is water. A lot of handwashing will cause an outbreak. Just another hilarious joke on me from the universe since I also have OCD and – yes, you guessed it, wash my hands a lot. Let me list some things that can cause outbreaks for you here, which I also snagged from the website of the National Eczema Association. You can read more on there website here: https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/types-of-eczema/dyshidrotic-eczema/
Common triggers for dyshidrotic eczema:
Moist hands and feet from excessive sweating or prolonged contact with water
Nickel in everyday objects such as jewelry, keys, cell phones, eyeglass frames, stainless steel items, and metal buttons, snaps and zippers
Nickel in foods such as cocoa, chocolate, soy beans, oatmeal, nuts, almonds, fresh and dried legumes, and canned foods
Cobalt in everyday objects such as cobalt-blue colored dishware, paints and varnishes; certain medical equipment; jewelry; and in metal snaps, buttons and zippers
Cobalt in foods such as clams, fish, leafy green vegetables, liver, milk, nuts, oysters, and red meat
Chromium salts used in the manufacturing of cement, mortar, leather, paints and anticorrosives
So how do I live with it every day? Some days it’s just not there. These are days when my outbreak triggers are at bay. When they aren’t? Things can get bad really quickly for me, especially in times of high stress. I’ve had a couple of outbreaks that spread all over my hands and up my arms, almost to my elbows. The upside? If I’m not managing my stressors, my eczema lets me know it immediately. So I’m just taking that as a signal my body is sending me to get things back on track.
The best way to manage it is to avoid your triggers once you know what they are. But we don’t live in a perfect world, so outbreaks will happen. Here are the products I use to deal with it. (All of the links below contain my Amazon affiliate link).
Green Goo is a salve that I use for anything from mosquito bites (I’m allergic, so when they bite me I get these massive, itchy welts on my skin), to sunburn. It also helps with my eczema. When I feel itchy between my fingers and I know something is starting to flare up, I grab this and put it on the area to stop the itching.
Another hilarious aspect to this whole thing is that they recommend using creams and lotion to keep this eczema at bay. But for me, most creams and lotions actually aggravate the condition. This is the one cream I’ve found that doesn’t. I actually used it for awhile before reading it and seeing that it states right on it that it helps with eczema.
CLOBETASOL PROPIONATE CREAM
This cream is prescription strength and it’s a corticosteroid. Mine is prescribed by my doctor. I save this for the times when an outbreak is simply out of my control. It handles it quickly and gets things back in check. I use it very sparingly, as a little bit goes a long way. But I try to avoid using it a lot and use the first three things I listed more often.
Hopefully this has helped you. I wish I’d stumbled upon a blog like this years ago when I was wondering what in the hell was wrong with me. Have you found other ways of dealing with your dishidrotic eczema? If so, comment below!