Monday, July 28, 2014

A Much Needed Update (And Camping Pictures)

It's been several months since I blogged or even logged into my blog.  But it's time to update our adoption status!  Our homestudy was in our hands in record time, paperwork was sent in to USCIS (immigration) to approve us, a (literal) pink slip was sent back from USCIS requesting that we have three sentences changed in our homestudy, our homestudy agency had an addendum out the door the same day I requested it, and we had USCIS approval on June 3.

We quickly sent all our remaining documents to the Secretary of the Commonwealth for apostille, and had them mailed to our caseworker, who then sent them to Bulgaria.  I first received an message that our dossier was being submitted, then another message that we had verbal referral.  It's been a quiet two weeks, so I'm praying that the message I receive this week is that we have written referral!  We should be traveling to Bulgaria very soon to meet our daughter!

In other fun adventures, our family spent the weekend camping with around 20 other families from our church, and I wish we were doing it every weekend!  If you asked me one thing I loved more than anything else from my childhood, it would be camping.  I love everything from seeing kids running around with friends, the smell of a campfire, even cleaning up and drying the tent for packing, remembering that being my chore as a child.

We more than survived the weekend, we came home filled up with love for our church family, a greater understanding of community, and worn out kids who didn't complain about bedtime!  Even our dog is happily exhausted.  My kids spent so much time running, it was hard to take pictures of everything they did.  Here are a few:

Denny was thrilled to play in the dirt each day, and I was thrilled we had showers!

Viktorya loved swinging her baby in the hammock.

Sadie helped me dog-sit several dogs from the campsites while lots of bigs went swimming.

Viktorya was trying to reach another little dog we were dog-sitting.

Swinging in hammocks...


Finding friends to play baseball with...


And sparklers at night!

Happy Monday everyone!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Mama's a Busy Bee!

Life has been a whirlwind recently and, were it not for my love of lists, I'd forget everything!  First, I finished the kitchen backsplash project I'd been s l o w l y working on for the past couple of months...

Secondly, I've made quite a bit of progress on our adoption paperwork!  Our homestudy was finished on the 11th, and in my hands on the 14th.  On the 15th, I mailed our FBI clearances to be authenticated, our I-800A paperwork to USCIS, 6 documents to be apostilled at the Secretary of the Commonwealth, and a copy of our homestudy to our stateside caseworker.

At this point, we've only got one more document to complete before we've done all we can do, and it's our agency approval letter.  I have an agency approval certificate, but the specific wording in the letter we need for our dossier includes our home study agency's commitment to performing the post-placement reports, and we need to pay for those visits prior to them filling out the paperwork.  (We're about $600 from having all we need for that.)

I'm also still working on our dossier photos, and that's the hardest thing for me.  One of my friends was joking with me that I can tackle a big stack of legal documents and get them typed up, signed, notarized, and apostilled with no issue, but I can't put 10 pictures on a page and call it done.  I tried, and I've decided it's just going to be easier to use Shutterfly to make a photo collage, where I can easily play with the pictures and layouts.

My goal is to finish these last two pieces by the end of the month, so I can get everything to our caseworker for translation.  Things are moving so quickly right now, and I keep praying this pace keeps up!  The faster we get back to Bulgaria, the better!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Project Mode

I won't say that the paperwork for a subsequent adoption is easier, but it's definitely more efficient, knowing which pieces take longer to come back, and therefore, which items to work on first.

One of the first things we mailed off was our FBI checks, because those take 8-12 weeks to come back.  By the time we have our I-800a packet mailed off, after finishing our home study, we should receive the FBI clearances, and that will be the last piece of our dossier, next to the I-800a approval letter.

Speaking of home studies, we're waiting for one last piece, and it will be finished!  We're done (for now, at least) with trips to the doctor, bloodwork, autobiographies, and -thisclose- to being done with our education (for our placing agency requirements, not for our home study).

When I'm not working on adoption paperwork and I have some time to myself, I'm in DIY mode.  I've just painted our new-to-us headboard in CeCe Caldwell's "Seattle Mist" chalk paint, which I love against the curtains I made for our bedroom last year.

I started working on our kitchen backsplash last month, and now half of the tile is up, I have lots more pieces of tile to cut, and plenty of grouting to do.  It certainly would've been faster to pay Lowe's to install, but there's something so rewarding in looking at a finished project, knowing you did it all by yourself.

Plenty to keep me busy and to keep my mind off of waiting on paperwork.  Thankfully I have all the supplies for my projects on hand, because my "fun money" is now all earmarked for the adoption!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Back to Blogging... And EXCITING News!

Prior to life with five kids, I had a little more time for blogging, but it has fallen by the wayside, obviously.

I know I had friends who followed our journey, so it's my intention to carve out a little time for blogging each week.

The past year has been full of adjustments for everyone, with normal ups and downs, and our life has settled down quite a bit.  Our kids have gotten to know each other, grown to love each other, and life is good.

For my first post of the year, I have WONDERFUL news to share!  We're going back!!!  We're thrilled to announce that we're bringing Stephie into our family!

Our process is moving quickly right now and we hope, especially because of her age, that each step will continue to go at such a fast pace.  We should have our home study in our hands within the next few weeks!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Biscuit Cake! (Recipe)

I was talking to my grandmother and sister, working out the Christmas menu, and my sister said "I don't care what else you make, but I want biscuit cake." I've had several other people ask for the recipe, and I'm happy to oblige!  

The original recipe can be found here.  While this biscuit cake was still not exactly what we had on our trip to Bulgaria last October, it was the closest I could find, and adding Nutella to a recipe is never a bad thing, right?  I also modified the recipe to exclude the alcoholic Bailey's Irish Cream because, well, I was serving it to my kids and it's a no-bake recipe.  I also doubled the recipe to fill the trifle bowl. 

Trifle bowl
2 packages of biscuits (I used a specialty brand I found at Kroger, on the cookie aisle)
2 packages mascarpone cheese (with the specialty cheese)
8 oz. heavy whipping cream8 oz. milk4 oz. Bailey's Irish Cream-flavored coffee creamer1 3/4 c. confectioner's sugar1 tsp. pure vanilla extract1 jar NutellaChocolate (grated for garnish)
Chocolate roses (optional, added for Viktorya's birthday to represent Bulgaria)

1. Whip the heavy cream in a large bowl.  Add mascarpone cheese, vanilla extract, and 1 c. of confectioner's sugar.  Mix well.

2. In another bowl, mix together the milk, Irish Creme-flavored creamer, and 3/4 c. sugar.  Dip cookies in the milk mixture, for 10-20 seconds, depending on the thickness of the cookies.  You don't want them to fall apart, but you do want them a little soft.

3. Place one layer of biscuits in the trifle bowl. Spread a layer of Nutella over them, followed by a layer of the mascarpone and cream mixture.

4. Repeat the steps until the biscuits and cream mixture are used up.  I had probably 4-5 layers. 

5. Garnish with shredded chocolate.

6. Place in the fridge for a couple of hours or overnight.  Serve cool.

7. Enjoy!

Ayden's BIG Surprise!!!

It's no secret that Ayden has been incredibly selfless and helpful since our two newest kids came home.  She has really stepped up with what she does around the house, has taken some initiative with school work, chores, and anything else I might need done.

She's turning 10 next week, just a few days before Christmas, which can be difficult for planning purposes, since most of her friends' families are traveling to spend time with their families.  You only turn 10 once, so I wanted to make it a big celebration!

Her favorite animator is Hayao Miyazaki, who made some wonderful movies, like My Neighbor Totoro, Howl's Moving Castle, Spirited Away, Kiki's Delivery Service... the list goes on, and we own all but a couple of his films.

I began brainstorming on Pinterest months ago, and kept everything very hush-hush, and more than once had to quickly close an internet tab so she wouldn't see.  Here's a glimpse at the party, which was so much fun to plan and even more fun to see Ayden and her friends enjoy!

The cake was inspired by "My Neighbor Totoro"

In "Howl's Moving Castle" Sophie finds a scarecrow with his head stuck in the ground. He's nicknamed "Turnip Head."

Cotton candy "Clouds of Lapuda" from the movie "Castle in the Sky"

Oversized flowers, as well as plates that look like buttons, inspired by "The Secret World of Arietty"

The whole tablescape, with string lights to represent "Spirited Away" and glass tiles to represent the symbolism of water in every movie.

"Sushi" made from rice krispy treats, Swedish fish, and Fruit by the Foot.

I ordered konpeito, a Japanese candy similar to rock candy, and shown in "Spirited Away"

Goldfish to represent Ponyo and all her sisters.

Cake pops made to look like soot sprites, from "Spirited Away" and "My Neighbor Totoro"

The birthday girl loved her cake!

I thought I had pictures of all the food, but I missed the "Ohm Eyes," which were cordial cherry M&Ms, to represent "Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind" and "Calcifers," which were the meatballs in the crock pot to represent "Howl's Moving Castle."

It was a great party, we played some fun games, like "Pop the Soot Sprites."  Ayden was genuinely surprised, and I'd consider it a huge success!  Happy (almost) 10th Birthday, Ayden!!!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Denny's New Chair

Denny has finally grown enough that he's exceeded the weight limit on his high chair.  I was checking out the new online pictures at my favorite local secondhand shop.  I saw a 50's chair/step stool that needed a little love, called the shop to put it on hold, and picked it up as soon as I could get kids loaded in the van.

That's a red crackled vinyl cover on the seat and back, with a nice tear on the top, accented by burnt orange steps.  I don't dislike the orange, but it doesn't go with my dining room, and anyone who knows me knows that just won't work.

I was taking the kids to play at a friend's house, and I was supposed to bring Christmas stocking fabric to work on while I was there.  I left the fabric sitting on the kitchen counter, so I carried the new chair inside instead.  Tonya is my "finisher."  If there's a project I need to work on, she's my girl.  If I've been putting off doing something, I tell her to hold me accountable, and she'll usually show up in her painting clothes to help me finish (because my projects almost always involve paint and she loves me that much).

Anyway, when she saw the chair and I told her what I wanted to do, she got out some fabrics, found a leather remnant, and we started taking the chair apart.  Within a couple of hours, we had all the old red covering off, the leather on, and I was on my way to the store for paint.

I took each painted metal piece off the chair, cleaned it, and spray painted it.  Spray painting is supposed to happen at or above 60*, but it's cold outside and I'm not patient enough to wait for spring.  Each piece went outside in a box, got a coat of paint, and came inside to dry in my living room.  After drying for a whole how-many-hours-did-the-can-say-? day, I put the chair back together.  Did I mention I'm not patient?

And here it is!  Denny's new step chair, which can also double as a step stool for reaching those hard-to-reach top shelves in my upper kitchen cabinets!