Random

When Words Fail, Music Speaks

I’m a pretty sentimental person, but I’m also someone who doesn’t always like to show that side to everyone.  Last night, at a Darius Rucker concert, the music got me all emotional and I wasn’t prepared.  You see, the last year or so of my life has been difficult arduous just plain exhausting.

About this time last year, we were preparing for an adoption to be finalized.  I’d rather not get into the details here, but unfortunately, there were some…issues…that I couldn’t have predicted.  Teenage boys can be unpredictable, especially one that’s been in and out of the foster care system most of his life.  I so desperately wanted it to work out.  I’d wanted to be a mom for so long.  No, he wasn’t the baby I always dreamed about, that I could carry and name and share an unbreakable bond with… this was a teenage boy who needed parents to love him, shelter him and keep him safe.  We tried so hard to be the parents he needed us to be, but in the end we just weren’t.  As the social worker agreed that it was never going to work, that it wouldn’t be right for any of us, I felt like it wasn’t real – this isn’t happening, this is all a dream…

If I told you the mess I can be when there’s no one to see could you look the other way, could you love me anyway?

But no, it wasn’t a dream.  And just as quickly as parenthood became a part of my life, it was gone.

As difficult as it was, I finally moved past it.  We determined that as much as we wanted to be parents and as much love as we thought we could give to a child in need, it was just too hard emotionally.  Our first experience with fostering & adoption was traumatic and in my heart, I know I’m not strong enough to do it all over again.

I know what I felt, and I know what I said, but don’t think I don’t think about it.

After a few months, we were in a better place.  In the past, our relationship has had its ups and downs.  We’ve surely had our share of issues to deal with (maybe even more than most couples) but I think the experience actually brought us closer together.  Our relationship was stronger because of it.  We learned that God has a plan and if that doesn’t include us having children, well then, we’ll be okay because we have each other.

God certainly has a way of making sure you know that you are not in control.  Once we got to the point where we accepted the fact we may never have kids that’s when I got pregnant.  It was a complete and utter shock because that wasn’t supposed to be possible.  After many years of trying to conceive, I finally agreed to go to a specialist to hear what I think I knew all along – we’re infertile.  Not me, not him, but both of us.  The doctor told us that together we only had about a 15% chance – and that would continue to decrease as I got older.  His exact words were “your only GOOD option is in vitro”.  That’s all fine, I have no problem with fertility treatments if that’s what it takes, but even if we had the money our odds were still only 50%.  So, you can imagine my surprise when at 38 I see those two pink lines!  Of course, there were several more tests to confirm I wasn’t just seeing things.

We were ecstatic!  The general rule is to wait until you’re through the first trimester to tell people because you could have a miscarriage – and the odds were much higher at my age.  The waiting was incredibly difficult, how could we possibly keep it a secret?  I wanted to shout it from the rooftops.  We waited a full 8 weeks before telling our parents and after that my husband was telling random strangers in the grocery store.

When I lay down at night I thank the Lord above for giving me everything I could ever dream of.

The rest of the public and social media were told at about 12-13 weeks on Easter, we just couldn’t hold it in any longer.  Then, the bomb is dropped.  We opted not to do any of the genetic screening because we wanted this baby no matter what.  Well, a simple ultrasound determined that our baby had cystic hygroma.  It’s a genetic disorder and when diagnosed in the womb, it’s very rare for the baby to survive to full-term.  Devastation.  Ok God, is this a test?  Are you testing us to make sure that we really want to be parents, that we can handle it?  I tried so hard to stay positive the next few weeks, hoping & praying for that small percentage where everything turns out okay.  ‘There’s not enough room in my head for worry & hope, so I’m choosing hope’ became my mantra.

We are one heartbeat in the darkness, we are one lasting answered prayer. We are one unbroken promise and we are two true believers.

God’s timing is impeccable.  At my 16 week appointment the doctor can’t find the heartbeat.  I knew something was wrong – my nausea had gone away a few days earlier and I led myself to believe it was because I was further along.  No.  There was no heartbeat because our baby had died.  It was the day after Mother’s Day.

Apparently, I had a few options:  1) Go home and just wait until the miscarriage completes naturally, which could be several days,  2) Undergo a D& C (there was absolutely no way I was going to let that happen) or 3) Go to the hospital and essentially induce labor.  From the time we found out there was no heartbeat, I had remained relatively calm.  We knew this was a possibility.  But as I walked into that hospital room, I lost it.  I had pictured it, but of course it was under very different circumstances.  It wasn’t supposed to be like this.  It was supposed to be a happy time.  I’ve never noticed it before, but when you walk through the maternity ward, take a look at the room doors.  You’ll probably see plenty of pink & blue cards “It’s a Girl” or “It’s a Boy”… and then there may just be one that has a simple picture of a leaf with a raindrop.  Those are for the mothers like me who don’t get to take their baby home.

And it’s crazy to think that one little thing could’ve changed it all.

Emotionally, it was a very difficult night, but medically speaking, it was fairly easy.  The nurse said it could take hours or even days for my body to start labor and I would have pain.  And she scared me by saying the biggest concern was around the placenta and the umbilical cord.  If the cord breaks (because it’s so thin) and the placenta doesn’t come out I’d have to go to surgery.  I was supposed to have the second dose of cytotec at midnight, but it wasn’t necessary.  I didn’t realize what was happening at first… the nurse came in at just the right moment.  It happened so fast.  I think that God blessed me with making it pretty quick and painless – he had to have known I’d been through enough already.  After about 15 minutes, we were looking at our baby.  Too hard to determine gender, about the size of my palm.  We could see facial features had started to form, tiny little hands & feet.  It was so surreal.

This could be one of those memories we wanna hold on to, we wanna cling to, one that we can’t forget.

Our baby was gone.  I’ve caught myself telling people that we lost our baby.  But really, we didn’t lose him/her.  Our baby wasn’t misplaced, like a set of keys or your favorite pen.  Our baby died.  Then again, maybe our baby was misplaced – placed in the wrong womb or at the wrong time…

It’s been tough, some days are definitely better than others.  It’s hard to hear another coworker, friend, neighbor, family member is expecting.  I’m happy for all of them, but sad for myself and sometimes it’s best to just keep my distance.  Sometimes I don’t think about it but then I’ll hear a song, see a belly or pass a baby and it makes me feel a little guilty.  How can I go on living like nothing happened?  I’ve learned that we will never get over it, but with our wonderful family & friends supporting us, we are getting through it.  We prayed for a child, but God gave us an angel instead.

But now I’ve got an angel looking out for me today.

Often it’s hard for me to put into words exactly what I’m feeling, but sometimes music can say what I can’t.  So let the music play…

Random

We’re Almost There…

imagesalmostAnother month has just flown by and I have to say this parenting thing (while not easy in the least) is starting to feel more and more natural.  We’re becoming more familiar with each other, which is great because we’re closer and really forming the family bond.  At the same time, as we get more comfortable we’ve also starting to get on each others nerves a little more.  You have to take the good with the bad… the “Facts of Life” theme song just popped in my head!  I’m not going to lie, we’ve had some rough days – there has been some yelling, some door slamming and some crying.  But, there have also been some really good open communication too.  It’s been a struggle for me because I’m the one that wants to talk things out and my two guys (the teen and the old dude) don’t like talking about how they are feeling they just lash out.  Honestly, most days the only issue we have is that they are too much alike!

indexA few weeks ago we had a birthday (still can’t believe I’ve fast-forwarded to be a mom of a 17 year old!).  We took three teenage boys to the lake for the day.  All day.  Water slides, water trampolines, kayaks and paddle boats… then they wanted to try cable wake boarding.  Now, did they listen to me when I suggested they take the 15 minute class on how to get up on the board first?  No, of course not!  I mean why on earth would they listen to reason?  I was outnumbered and wouldn’t you know they all crashed & burned the first time out… and the second… and the third.  I was proud that my son and my nephew didn’t give up after the first fail they did keep trying for awhile only to finally realize I was right.  By the way, I’m almost always right – except for the one time.  :-)

After the birthday there was a weekend camping trip.  I’m so grateful for my mom and nephew because I didn’t have a clue all what he needed for the trip or how to prepare and neither did he.  This was not your pop up a tent at the KOA campground camping mind you.  I’m talking no running water and dig a hole for a potty kind of camping – primitive camping with boy scouts in the mountains.  imageshjhNeedless to say I wasn’t going!  This was the first time he’d be away for the weekend since moving in and honestly I was a little worried.  Luckily there weren’t any issues (other than it rained and they had a huge trash bag full of wet clothes to deal with when they got back).  They had a great time but my kid, who loves the outdoors, wasn’t quite ready for five mile hikes with all their gear and such.  I think he slept an entire day after he got back!

All in all, it’s been good.  It may sound weird, but I can actually see him growing up since he’s been here.  One of the workers gave us a disc of pictures from the last year and when I compare them to what he looks like now the change is remarkable.  We’ve all had to learn a little patience and understanding; constantly working on the open communication.  So, tomorrow begins the new school year.  This weekend we met his teachers and bought school supplies.  Those of you who know me know that I get all excited about school supplies, teenage boys… not so much.  But, I did find him a pretty cool planner and helped him get it organized, hoping it’ll help keep him on track this year.  Unfortunately, although we’ve finally signed the papers for the adoption petition, it won’t be final for a little while longer.  Luckily, the school was great about going ahead and letting him use his new last name in class from day one.  We’re in the home stretch… hopefully everything will be finalized soon.

images.duckduckgo.com

Random

Nobody Said It’d be Easy

July.  I cannot believe it is July already!  So much has happened in the last few months…

Back in April our family dynamic changed – we now have a 16yr old boy living among us.  I know that sounds odd, but 16yr old boys are odd creatures!  We’ve been thrown into parenthood quite abruptly and we’ve had to kind of learn as we go.

On April 3rd we drove to Charlotte to pick our soon to be adopted son.  It seemed fitting to be Good Friday.  At first there was a lot of walking on eggshells trying to gradually get more familiar with each other but now that’s not the case.  It took some time to learn our rules and get into a routine.  It’s a lot like starting a new job – you’re excited and nervous and really don’t know what you are supposed to be doing yet.  It’s hard to know what to expect, all we knew was that things were changing and quickly.

44One of the first struggles was school.  Most teenagers don’t like school but it’s even more difficult when you’ve been moved around so much.  Trying to get a teenage boy to understand how important school is at 16 is more challenging than I had expected, but luckily we made it through that last semester….barely!

Now, think about all those things you use or consume every single day – cell phone, internet, soda, fast food… Imagine never having those things and then all of a sudden having them right at your finger tips.  Boy, it’s a like a kid in a candy shop.  Actually, candy is another one!  As Americans we enjoy those vices all too often and it’s hard to explain to a 16yr old that’s never had those things that there has to be a limit to it.  We’re slowly but surely getting there.

Don’t take for granted all those basic manners your mom taught you growing up.  You’d assume a teenager would know better than to act a certain way – especially in public.  Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.  Behavior (good or bad) is learned.  This particular teenager with ADHD was never been taught the proper way to act in a restaurant, grocery store, etc.  Or, why it’s not okay to use certain words or say certain things.  Sometimes we have to remind ourselves the behavior comes from what he’s seen and heard and he doesn’t always understand what’s appropriate and what’s not or why.images.duckduckgo.com

Another issue has been money.  Of course we want to give him all the things he’s never had, but at the same time we aren’t rich and we want him to appreciate what he does have.  A dollar will burn a hole in that’s kid’s pocket!  At least now he understands the difference between wanting something and needing it.  No, you want a king-size candy bar, you don’t need it.

There have been some rough patches and every day it seems there is a new challenge, but regardless of what we’re faced with, I’m determined not to give up.  This kid has been pushed aside all his life and I refuse to be another person that throws in the towel.  We don’t always know what we are doing and we will make mistakes but we will continue to support him and love him no matter what.

He is our son and today was a good day.

“The child who knows unconditional love has the greatest give the world can offer.”

Good Eats!

Spicy Shrimp n’ Grits

I don’t really claim to be a ‘southern’ girl – although I was born and raised in North Carolina, I don’t do all the country cooking… I hate collards, butter beans, field peas and the like.  I’ll never forget the first time I heard of this thing called ‘fatback’!  I’m still not exactly sure what “chit-lins” are and don’t really care to find out.  Any who… the one southern food that I absolutely love is grits – and the more cheese the better!  Throwing in the jalapeno gives it a nice kick and of course you can add whatever else you like.

BBBANow, if you want to try the best grits on the planet, you’ll have to go to the Bourbon Barrel Beef & Ale in small town USA, a little town in the NC mountains called Waynesville.  Their Creole Shrimp & Grits (grilled shrimp in bacon creole sauce over creamy smoked gouda grits & melted green onion) were phenomenal!

Ingredients

  • IMG_09132 jalapeno peppers, seeds removed and diced
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 cups chicken broth, low-sodium
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1 1/2 cups white corn grits, quick cooking
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups shredded white cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup green onions, for garnish (optional)

Preparation

In a medium sauce pan, bring the heavy cream, chicken broth, and water to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, slowly whisk in the grits. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 5-7 minutes, or until grits have thickened and absorbed the liquid.

Stir in the jalapenos, salt and 1 1/2 cups of the grated cheese.  Transfer the grits into the cast iron skillet and top with the remaining 1/2 cup of grated cheese. Place skillet under broiler for 3-5 minutes, or until cheese on top has melted and grits are light brown in color. Garnish with green onions (optional).

Adapted from:  Food Fanatic

Good Eats!

Pumpkin Cheesecake & Caramel Pecan Cheesecake

With the help of Facebook, I’ve been able to reconnect with some of my friends from high school.  I’m about an hour away from my high school and several of these chicks are somewhat local as well.  We try to get together for lunch every few months just to catch up – those lunches usually end up lasting about three hours!  The other day, when discussing plans for the upcoming holiday meals, someone mentioned they wanted to try a pecan cheesecake recipe.  I have a fabulous caramel pecan cheesecake that I apparently never posted, so here it is – along with a new pumpkin cheesecake I tried for National Pumpkin Cheesecake day last month for work.  I love, love, love cheesecake and I’m always looking for new toppings and flavors and these are two of my favorites, especially in the fall/winter.  They’ve both been big hits at family dinners and potlucks.  Enjoy!

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Ingredients

Crust:
  • 1 and 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 2 T granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
Cheesecake:
  • 3 (8 ounce) packages of cream cheese, softened
  • 1 and 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
  • 1 and 1/2 cups pumpkin
  • 3 and 1/2 T all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ginger
  • 4 eggs, room temperature

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix the graham cracker crumbs and sugar together. Pour melted butter over the crumbs and stir until moistened. Press the mixture in the bottom of a 9 inch springform pan. Bake for 8-9 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 325 F. In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese and brown sugar until smooth. Stir in the pumpkin, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. Break the eggs into a small bowl and lightly beat with a fork. Add the eggs to the cream cheese mixture and stir just until well combined. Don’t over beat the mixture, or the cheesecake may crack. Pour on top of the graham cracker crust.

Bake at 325 F for 1 hour. At the end of the hr, turn off the oven and leave the oven door shut for another hour and a half before opening the oven door. The long cooling period, will help minimize cracks. Remove the cheesecake from the oven and let cool completely.

Source:  Chocolate with Grace

Caramel Pecan Cheesecake

Crust:

  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 3 Tbsp melted butter

Filling:

  • 20 caramels
  • 3 Tbsp milk
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 16 oz cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs

Crust:
Mix crumbs, sugar & butter; press into the bottom of a springform pan. Bake at 325 for ten minutes.

Filling:
Microwave caramels and milk in a small bowl on high for about two minutes or until smooth. Stir at least every minute. Mix in pecans and pour into crust. Refrigerate for about 10 minutes.

Mix cream cheese, sugar and vanilla with electric mixer on medium until well blended. Add eggs; mix until blended. Pour over caramel mixture.

Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool. Refrigerate three hours or overnight. Garnish with pecan halves and drizzled melted caramels.

Random

What a Whirlwind!

whirlwindUsually this time of year is busy for everyone, but there’s been some extra hustle and bustle for us.  I’ve posted about our first adoption event, but haven’t found the time to put down into words anything that’s happened since then.  The young man we met back in August (we’ll call him “D”) was on our mind and in our hearts that we felt we couldn’t ignore it, we were being led to see where this goes…As with any other child in foster care, we learned that “D” has had some struggles in his short life – but nothing that we didn’t think we could handle.

After lots of consideration we made the decision to move forward.  milesIt seemed to take forever, everything was moving at a painfully slow snail’s pace.  Finally, we get word that his social worker would like to interview with us!  Now, “D” is from the western part of the state, a good 4.5 hours away so the interview was via Skype. Neither of us enjoy getting pictures taken so we certainly don’t like the idea of video chatting but if this is what it takes, that’s what we do. So we ‘skyped’ with his social worker, his recruiter, administrator, supervisors, the whole team. They had several questions for us and we were able to ask questions as well. In fact, our social worker made sure to tell us that nothing was off-limits, she suggested we ask anything we wanted to know – I mean, you need to know what you’d be getting into before making a life-altering decision, right?

We felt like the interview went well but several weeks went by without a word.  There was another family being interviewed as well so we were getting anxious.  The same recruiter anxietythat facilitated the the first event we attended had organized another Thanksgiving event the weekend before the holiday and we were invited to attend – we were told “D” would be there.  My initial thought was ‘will the other family be there as well because that could be awkward’ but of course I never actually asked that question.  We decided we really wanted to see him again so we drove several hours back to Charlotte for the event.

As soon as we got there a cute little boy walked up and introduced himself to us, let’s call him “N”.  He immediately started talking about what he liked to do, liked the eat, he was making a point to sell himself. As I came back from the bathroom a girl (“B”) asked me to come sit and talk with her and well, it’s not like I’m going to say no.  She was quite funny.  Although we were there to see “D” in particular, that doesn’t mean we couldn’t pay attention to any of the other kids and these really are great kids.  The event included a dinner and afterwards some of the kids stood up to speak about how thankful they were to have us there to spend time with, etc.  Oh, to hear these kids talk so eloquently about strangers spending a few hours just talking, playing games and sharing a meal with them… heartMy husband felt the urge to stand up and speak too. He’s not the most articulate guy, but he spoke from the heart and I just broke down into tears, along with a few of the other potential parents.

After these events the kids usually get goodie bags; “N” had made a monkey out of play dough.  He came over to give it to me.  I knew if I took that play dough I would be making a commitment that I couldn’t keep and I didn’t want to break his little heart.  I explained that he was very sweet but I couldn’t take his play dough.  His response, “but I don’t know when I will get to see you again and if you don’t pick me then I may never see you again”.  Oh. my. God.  How on earth do you respond to something like that?  He then came over and gave both of us a hug.  He was breaking my heart!  Then, as we were leaving, “B” said “so, you guys wanna take me home?”.  Seriously, if they’d let me I would’ve taken all three of them right then & there.

good news

Fast forward another week or so…I’m at work and I get a call from our social worker – they’ve made a decision on a family for “D”… and they picked us!  I was so shocked and immediately overwhelmed with emotion that I nearly dropped the phone.  So what now, what happens next?  Well, the adoption committee won’t meet again until January so we have to wait some more.  But… yes, there’s a but… joy“D” requested to spend Christmas with us and would we be okay with that.  YES!! Of course we would!  So we still have to work out the logistics and it’ll only be for a few days, but that’s okay.  We are beyond excited, I have to keep pinching myself because it’s all so surreal.  We’ve known for several days now, but I don’t think it’s truly sunk in yet.  I’ve caught myself driving to work and it hits me – I’m going to be a mom!  And of a teenager!  Oh boy…

Good Eats!

Sweet Potato and Kale Pizza with Balsamic Drizzle

If you are a pizza traditionalist you probably won’t like this – actually you probably wouldn’t try it anyway.  We eat pizza, but we enjoy trying different variations and toppings.  I know, it sounds weird but surprisingly this combo worked really well together.  The mozzarella is great, but I think next time I’ll replace it with goat cheese.   Usually we use naan for our homemade pizzas, but for this one I wanted a thinner crust so I used a gluten-free whole wheat crust.
Ingredients:
  • 1 pizza crust
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped into large chunks
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 3 cups kale, washed, dried and stems removed
  • ½ medium onion, sliced thinly
  • ½ cup mozzarella cheese
  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoon coconut sugar (optional)

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the sweet potato. Allow to boil for 20 minutes or until the sweet potato is fork soft. Remove from heat and mash with almond milk, salt and pepper until spreadable.  Spread onto the pizza and top with the kale, onions and cheese.

Bake pizza for 10 minutes or until kale begins to crisp.  While the pizza is baking, prepare balsamic drizzle. Heat the balsamic vinegar and sugar in a pot over high heat. When it becomes to bubble, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 2 minutes, stirring. The vinegar should get thicker. Remove from heat and watch carefully so it doesn’t get hardened.

Remove pizza from oven and drizzle with balsamic drizzle.

Source:  Jessica in the Kitchen