Thursday, May 31, 2012

Our Anniversary

Nine years ago today, I walked down the aisle on my father's arm.  I didn't see anyone else in the room... just the young man who said he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me.

My husband is my rock; he's quiet, discerning, slow to anger.  He always remembers the things I mention wanting, and does his best to make sure I get them.  He knows that I love flowers, but hate that they wilt, so he buys plants for me instead.

He makes sure I get to carve out girl time with friends, and makes sure the kids remember to make birthday and Mother's Day cards for me.  He's my best friend. 

When we were in college, we worked together.  One evening, this couple came in the store.  The man's hair and beard were a soft white, and he wore a navy blue tuxedo with a cream-colored ruffled tuxedo shirt.  The lady had long white hair, and wore a creamy lace-detailed dress.  I believe they were looking for cufflinks.

We have always remembered that couple, how kind and soft-spoken they were with each other, how proud the wife was of her husband for being awarded at a dinner that evening.  And we decided that we wanted to have what they did.  I think we're well on our way!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Monday Morning Update 5.28.12 (on Wednesday)

Um, I'm blaming the holiday and our homestudy visit on such a late update!  I like weeks when I actually have news to report... I feel like it's been "All Quiet on the Adoption Front" for several weeks.  Here's a recap of last week's happenings!

M:  Cooper was our first boy doll listed, and there were a lot of people really excited about having a boy up for auction!  He was so popular that I wouldn't be surprised if another boy is listed very soon! 

T:  So, I was impatient curious, and I called the FBI to see where things stood with our fingerprints.  They said they *just* completed the letters and we could expect them in the mail by the end of the week!  (This will go in our dossier, the stack of paperwork that goes to our daughter's country.)

I also heard from our social worker, and our last background checks came in, so we scheduled our last visit, and then she'll get the homestudy written!  Yay for progress! 

F:  We had a wall built to close in what used to be our office and is now Sadie's room!  While Sadie getting a room isn't directly adoption-related, this means we we were able to show the social worker that there was ample space in Ayden's bedroom for another sister!

The auction for Cooper ended at $57, and he's the first doll heading out-of-state! 

Sa:  I got a quick visit from another RR family, who will be coming to stay at my home this coming weekend!  I got some Norwex products to try out before the demo she's doing as a fundraiser!

Su:  Sweet Daisy, you were worth staying up into the wee hours of the morning to finish!  Her auction is running until Friday, June 1 @ 8:00 p.m. EDT.

Well, that's last week in a nutshell!  Sorry for it coming in so late!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Cleaning for the Homestudy (And a Review)

I said I wasn't going to clean like a madwoman for the homestudy.  And I really, really wasn't.  I was actually worried to have the house too clean, because I thought she would think we're really filthy slobs and we had to scrub top to bottom for her to believe we aren't.

I keep the house fairly clean, and I used to vacuum and mop every. single. day, but I've gotten lax on that recently.  Something about having a toddler on the move makes you reprioritize!  So, I wanted our social worker to see how the house looks on a typical day.  And I just don't have time to scrub from top to bottom with three kids, homeschooling, doll making, paper chasing, and all the other things that fill up my day.

I wasn't gong to clean until... Erika Rogers (a.k.a. soon-to-be mom to Bernadette -now Jessa- and Mason) asked me to have a home party where she'll demo anti-bacterial cleaning products, and she gave me some things to test before the party. 

I received four items to try out, and I tried each one with an open mind, knowing I'd blog about my actual thoughts while cleaning, and the actual results.  I know too many people struggling with finances to say something works if it doesn't, and have them waste money.  So, here they are, my reviews!

Product 1: Body Cloth
Erika told me how well it worked for her daughter's skin and, since my face is having a high school reunion (ugh), I grabbed it when I got in the shower.  When I scrubbed my face (with no cleanser, just the cloth), it was a soft cloth, so I knew it wasn't going to make my face feel smooth like when I use a face scrub.

Well, I was WRONG!  When I got out of the shower, my face was so smooth and felt very clean.  Still, I didn't notice a big impact on the "guests" in my pores.  When I got up the next morning, my face was still very soft, with a moisturized sort of feel to it, and my chin had cleared up a little bit.  Typically by the afternoon, my face is out of control oily, but even on this 83-degree day, my face is only slightly oily.

Products 2&3: Enviro Cloth and Window Cloth
Oh my goodness, if there was a product I doubted it would be these two.  Especially for cleaning windows.  You see, my mom cleaned houses to make extra money, and she tested every product on the market to find the least streaky option: paper towels vs. newspaper, Windex vs. vinegar, any new product that promised a streak-free finish.  I knew if I was cleaning windows I'd better clean the inside horizontally and the outside vertically so I'd know which side was streaky and needed to be redone.

Erika promised that even my kids couldn't mess this up, and if we used these cloths, I wouldn't have to worry about the kids squirting Windex in their eyes.  So I put it to the test on my filthy sliding glass doors.  Yogurt fingerprints and kisses on the inside, doggy nose prints on the outside.  I got the Enviro Cloth damp (water only) and started with my horizontal on the inside technique.  I felt very "Karate kid" (wax on, wax off) with the pink Enviro Cloth in my right hand and the purple Window Cloth in my left hand.

Hmm, no streaks.  Really?  How about a zig-zag?  Surely I'll get some streaks if I try.  Nope.  Swirls?  Still streak-free.  Wow, I bet the kids really could do this!  Before I knew it, with only a damp Enviro Cloth and dry Window Cloth, I had cleaned my sliding glass doors, the windows in the living room, and our entry door (I even took apart the enclosed blinds and cleaned the inside). 

I moved right on to the bathroom mirror.  It didn't matter what I cleaned, there was no transfer of dirt, and the cloth just kept cleaning.  I'm sold!

Product 4: Ultra Power Plus Laundry Detergent
I have a confession: I have to wash my towels 2-3 times to keep them from stinking.  This makes for a lot of wasted water, electricity, and time.  It's a race against the clock to get the towels out of the wash before they sit for even a minute in the washing machine.  I've tried e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g.  Bleach cycles for the machine, vinegar in the wash, hot water, cold water.  Everything just seems to mask the smell, instead of actually killing it.

The sample package I received says it does 10 loads of laundry, but that's for a standard machine.  HE machines (like mine) take much less detergent, so I'll get 40 loads out of this resealable package the size of a Ziploc snack bag.  The actual product you purchase does 40 regular loads, or 160 HE loads.

First load, the big test.  Towels and washcloths, the two things that make me never want to tackle Mt. Washmore, because it seems pointless when I know I'm going to have to do it over again.  The washer was about 3/4 full, so pretty typical.  I opened my detergent drawer and added 1 tsp. of detergent.  I closed the drawer, then opened it again, tempted to pour the entire bag in to get the smell out of my new towels (yep, they're not even old towels, we've had them just a couple of months).  I closed the drawer again, set the machine to "Normal" soil and "Sanitize" temperature, which is how I run every load of towels. 

1 hour, 21 minutes (or so) later, I was standing by the machine, ready for the beep, which signals "GO, GO, GO... get the towels out NOW!"  It was time for the smell check, so I could separate the towels and washcloths that smelled clean and the ones that needed a second run through.  When I put my nose to the first towel, I didn't smell anything at all.  I almost put it in the pile to wash again, because I'm used to detergent with fragrance, when I realized that it wasn't that the towel was unclean, it was completely without scent.  No fragrance from the detergent, but no mildew-y smell either.

It was so nice to put my nose up to a towel that had only once been through the wash and smell nothing.  Elijah and Sadie have eczema, and Ayden has sensitive skin, so I'm going to do another load of their clothes to see if this detergent is less irritating than what I've been using.

My laundry not having any scent at all is going to take a little getting used to, but not having to deal with stinky towels will be so, so worth it.  Oh, and I tested it with the delayed cycle, and there was still some powder in the drawer when I went to start my next load.  Still, there was no smell, so I can't complain!

I'm on my fifth load of laundry, and you can't tell I've used any of the product.  It really takes a tsp. of detergent, so it will last quite some time. 

Overall Thoughts

The Body Cloth is still making my face feel soft and clean, and I like that I can just dampen the cloth and rub my face, especially since I've had really oily skin recently.  Typical face wipes range from $5-$20 for a pack of 100.  Assuming you use one wipe from a $10 pack every day, over two years, you'll spend around $70 on face wipes.  A set of 3 Body Cloths is $19.99, and they come with a 2-year warranty.

Savings: $50 over 2 years

The Enviro Cloth and Window Cloth have passed the test for me, and I know I'm buying them.  No more paper towels for cleaning the windows, the bathrooms, the kitchen counters.  At about $1 per roll of paper towels, and using half a roll a week, that's $52 over two years.  Using a bottle of Windex and orange cleaner a month (or less), at $4 total, that's $96 over two years.  The Enviro Cloth is $15.99 and the Window Cloth is $17.99, and both have a two-year warranty.

Savings: $114 over 2 years

The Ultra Power Plus Laundry Detergent may not have a scent, but as long as my towels are clean, having a fragrance is not at all important!  My current detergent is supposed to wash 64 loads, but I can't use the smallest amount, and I had to rewash several loads, so I was probably getting 30 loads for $8.  I do a load of laundry per day, typically, so I'm spending about $192 over two years.  The Norwex laundry detergent is $20.99, and will give me about 160 loads per bag (because I have an HE machine).  That puts my cost over two years at about $95.

Savings: $97 over 2 years

My total savings on just these four products over two years is over $250!   I know I'm getting these four listed, and there are a couple others that I'm excited about trying, too, like the mop with different mop pads and the toilet brush system. (I hate toilet brushes... they have to be one of the most disgusting things EVER.)

I'm having a demo in my home THIS FRIDAY!!!  If you're local, I'd love for you to come to my home, and if you're out-of-town, you can order through the party, as well!  Proceeds benefit our adoption!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Under Construction! (Part 1)

No, not my blog... my house!  This is way, way off-topic, but it goes back to what this blog was originally about... my upcycles and home projects!  And it gets my mind off of how sloooow this process feels right now.

Scott's parents are fantastic grandparents (read:  they spoil my kids a LOT), and I begged them not to buy Sadie a ton of toys (we have too many) or clothes (we have a lot passed down to us) for Christmas.  When asked what they should get her, I responded, "How about a wall and a door?"

Huh?  Well, we had two bedrooms and an office upstairs, our bedroom on the main floor, and another bedroom downstairs.  We just didn't feel comfortable letting any of our kids sleep in the bedroom downstairs, because it's so far away from everyone else. So, our solution was to move the office downstairs and turn the office into a bedroom.  Except... we need a wall.  And a door.

So, Miss Sadie received an I.O.U. for a wall and a door for her bedroom and now it's time for construction!  We were originally planning for Scott and his dad to do the work, but we ended up asking two men from my step-dad's crew to do the job (speed and experience, both pluses).  One day, and voila!

That's all for now, because I have a lot of cleaning to do before I can start on the fun stuff!  Scott's off for the holiday weekend, and by Monday evening, he'll be begging to go back to work!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Monday Morning Update 5.21.12

I feel like the weeks are going quickly, even though not much is happening with the adoption right now.  I'll be back to paperchasing soon, but for now, these dolls are keeping me busy!

R:  This was my birthday, and my only wish was to be able to spend our daughter's birthday with her.  We're praying for paperwork to move quickly so that we can be in her country this fall, to celebrate her 10th birthday.

F:  I spoke with our social worker about finishing up our homestudy, and due to some medical information in Cullen's file, she did not feel comfortable approving us to adopt him.  I cried for several hours that night, even though I respect and understand her decision. We're waiting on two pieces of paper (one for each of us from the same place), and we'll be finished with the homestudy!

Sa:  When our family deals with "stuff", we go to the mountains.  There's nothing like zero cell phone signals and hidden waterfalls on a trail to give us a chance to talk without interruption.  Okay, there were still 3 kids, so there were plenty of interruptions, but you get my point.  We're okay.  We're just going to put all our effort into bringing our daughter home, and follow wherever God leads us. 

Su:  I went to Tonya's house to work on Cooper, and I have to say that crafting with friends is SO MUCH FUN!  We were so productive, even though it was late. 

With our adoption going from two children to one (we're not actively looking for a second child now), I recalculated our estimated expenses at just over $28,000, though I'm guessing it could go up a little, since I don't have any apostille fees, medical fees, etc. factored in.  We're thinking $30,000.  We've raised (or contributed ourselves) $15,567.  So, at this point, we have passed the halfway mark, in only four months!  Only through God, not through anything Scott or I have done!

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Sad Night

This afternoon, we had a very difficult step to take.  We are working with a wonderful social worker, with a heart for orphans and a heart for their families.  We had given her some medical information from Cullen's file, and because of that information, she is not going to approve us to adopt him.

Walking away is one of the hardest things I've had to do.  If you have ever miscarried (and I have), it is the same feeling.  You've gotten the positive test, seen the little heartbeat on the ultrasound, fallen in love with this little person you've only ever seen a picture of and, almost as quickly, they're gone. 

We will still have the option to add a second child to the adoption, but right now, we need to grieve over Cullen, and focus on bringing our daughter home. We really don't know if we'll do anything with that approval.

This little boy, he has a piece of my heart, and always will.  I'm praying for a family to find him soon, as he's already spent 11 years without one.  Sweet Cullen, I wish you were mine.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

My Birthday Wish

I don't like getting a lot of attention on my birthday, so it was a tough decision whether or not I should blog about it.  But I want to share my birthday wish.

I can remember my childhood birthdays, making a wish and blowing out the candles on a home-made cake.  I remember wishing for new skates, a kitten, Barbies.  Oh, how my wishes have changed.  Becoming a mom has forever changed my priorities.  It wouldn't matter to me if I had no gifts to open, no cards to read (although I love the handmade cards my kids make every year!). 

In May 2010, during a difficult pregnancy with many complications, I wished for Sadie to be born healthy and strong, to just be okay.  In May 2011, just two days after finding out that Sadie would need heart surgery, I wished that it would be successful, and that Sadie would recovery quickly.

This year, my birthday wish is simple:  to spend our daughter's birthday with her, in her country.  The timing would be really tight, paperwork would need to move quickly, but it's doable.  Would you pray that I get my birthday wish?  My sweet girl is weighing heavy on my heart today.

To everyone who has emailed and sent birthday messages today, thank you!  

Monday, May 14, 2012

Monday Morning Update 5.14.12

I had one of those really-busy-but-feel-like-I-accomplished-nothing sort of weeks last week.  So busy that I realized I haven't blogged AT ALL since my last Monday Morning Update (which -ahem- wasn't posted until Tuesday).  Terrible blogging etiquette, really. Well, here's the update!

M:  Finished the first of several dolls that I'll be auctioning off, and set up a facebook auction to find Miss Abigail a new home.

T:  I made a trip back to Joann's, to get supplies for more dolls!  They can't all be redheads, right?  The doll auction got off to a great start, with several bids coming in very quickly, and more people asking if there would be more dolls to bid on in the future.  Our family grant jumped nearly $300 in one day, putting us at over $1000 in our grant!

R:  Our family's grant took another jump up by $100.  If I knew who all these donors were, I'd hug each one, and I'm not a hugger!  (Donations made to our grant are anonymous.)

F:  The doll auction ended at 8:00 p.m., with a final bid of $100.  Lucky me, Miss Abigail is staying right here in my little city!  Maybe I'll see her from time to time!

Sa:  We temporarily have custody of a beautiful golden retriever, while my dad is fishing at the coast with my grandfather.  Our Tamaskan, Nya, loves having a new friend to play with, but goodness, she won't let poor Timber rest for a minute!

Su:  This Mother's Day was very much about reflection on my three beautiful children here with me, and the two children who still wait for us.  I prayed for their birth mothers, who must be grieving today, thinking about the child they no longer have.  We can judge and have our ideas about what we would do in a similar situation, but I am truly thankful to these women who gave *my* children life.  

My second doll, Bailee, with her hand-stitched blue eyes and blonde hair, is now up on the facebook auction, which will run through Friday, May 18 at 8:00 p.m. EDT.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Monday Morning Update 5.7.12

Well, I'm a day late (oops!), but better late than never, right?  We had another very slow week, at least for the first part of the week. 

R:  We met with our social worker again, for our second visit.  We dug in and talked about general concerns with bringing children home from institutional settings, their typical developmental issues, as well as some specific concerns we have about attachment and grieving over the loss of their caretakers, routines, etc.  We talked about our family plan for the time immediately after bringing the kids home, until we figure out our new normal. 

There are some new VA homestudy requirements we need to take care of, but those are quick and easy, and they should be all done within a week.  Once we have those done, we can have our last homestudy visit, have the homestudy written, and then we'll be ready to submit paperwork to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)!  

Sa:  As part of the new VA requirements, we need to have proof that our animals are up-to-date on their vaccines.  What God timing this was, because our local SPCA was having their vaccine drive!  Our dog is up-to-date, but our kitties were behind.  Now, just $30 later (instead of $200) our kitties have their shots, and we have documentation necessary for our homestudy!

Su:  Ayden and I needed to make a quick trip to Joann's Fabrics for supplies to finish her AWANA Grand Prix car, and while we were there, I spoke with one of the employees about wanting to make a doll.  I left the store an hour later, with everything I needed to make this sweet little girl.

Miss Abigail is now available for adoption, through an auction on facebook.  Bidding will run until 8:00 p.m. EDT on Friday, May 11.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Jessica's Challenge

Jessica is one of my closest friends.  We both lived in Greensboro, NC, just a couple of miles away from each other, went to the same university, and frequented many of the same places.  How many times had we crossed paths, and never met?  Three years ago, her family moved to Martinsville, VA, and we met soon after.  
What I love about Jessica is how ... REAL ... she is.  If she's having a bad day, she doesn't put on a good front to hide it.  If she doesn't agree with something, she doesn't bury her opinion because of what others might think.  And she is very intentional with her kindness.  I mean, who else sees a work crew on the road in front of their home and brings tea home for all of them on a hot day?  
Here's me being real.  I'm human, and this adoption can be draining.  And I was feeling very heavily the weight of it all one night.  At the same time, Jessica was feeling very heavily a burden for our adoption funding.  The next morning, I saw an email from the night before, at the same time I had been crying out for help, for provision from God.  These are Jessica's words, her challenge to the body of Christ.
"The ultimate rich man, Jesus Christ, became poor for you. That means that we ought to be deeply involved in the lives of broken people in this city. And it means not just giving your charity, giving your money, though that's very important. But it means giving your time, giving your relationship ..." 
~Tim Keller

The time is now. Right now God is calling us to be the hands and feet of Jesus.  Right now we push our own passions aside and take on our brother and sisters'.  God has spoken and right now it doesn't matter how we each feel, it matters that we each act.  
When Danny and I moved to Martinsville, God placed on my heart a relentless desire to find and live out community and fellowship the way it was meant to be.  What I have learned so far is that you must awaken to the needs around you.  You must act. Don't wait.  Let's be a part of something bigger than our church, bigger than our town, bigger than ourselves.  
Chandres and Scott are doing something that most of us would never step out and do.  They have been called but being called doesn't mean it's an easy task.   Lets ease their burden.  
Here's my thought.  If 50 people would each find 4 people who would be willing to give $100 each for the Pickett's adoption, then they would have the $20,000 they need.  How easy is that? I am challenging the body of Christ today to do something extraordinary.  Perhaps living out the gospel is simpler than we think.  I'm in, are you?
All the details of Fifty Envelopes are on THIS PAGE, will you answer Jessica's challenge?