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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Black Friday

Oh Black Friday, how I love you.

I can't believe I spent so many years NOT shopping on Black Friday.  Mom, you taught me so many awesome things about finding a bargain - how did you miss this oh-so-important step?

Anyway, I don't know what I love more - the amazing deals, the fact that my husband actually ENJOYS shopping on this day, or all the fun quality time and silly inside jokes that come as a result of it.

Last year, we learned the hard way that when you do the midnight shopping thing, you should really get a baby sitter for overnight and the next day.  Otherwise, just as you get home from shopping at 8 am, your three month old baby will be waking iup and you will not sleep.  So, this year, my dad watched Levi overnight, and my mom took the daytime duty.  It was perfection.  Josh and Jocelyn had her parents watch Joelle for the same period, which left all four of us FREE!

We were pretty excited at 3 am, sitting at Jennie's Diner, when we realized it was the first time the four of us were together without kids in a year.  It was so.much.fun.  Not to mention I drank three of the world's best cups of coffee.

And score, we got the much-desired corner booth at Jennie's.

{Picture source here}

Oh right, the deals.  Well, first of all, I should say I didn't need to many things.  But, again, I have other reasons for enjoying Black Friday, anyway!  So here's the run-down...


My bargain equation is this:

store sale + early morning bonus sale + store coupon + shop on the clearance racks = 
really cheap stuff



Top left:  Carter's 2 piece outfit, originally $32.99, scored for $7
Top middle: Gymboree dress shirt, orinally $18, scored for $5
Top right: Gymboree long sleeve t-shirt, originally $15, scored for $2
Bottom left: Kohl's children's apron, originally $20, scored for $8.10
Bottom middle: Joann Fabrics 6x8 floating frame, originally $7, scored for $2 (bought 3)
Bottom right: Bon-Ton china dish, originally $30, scored for $0.15 (yeah, that says 15 cents)

Grand total spent on black Friday: $28.25

Unfortunately, only the apron and frames are gifts.  The middle shirt is for Levi's Christmas outfit, and the rest is just stuff I wanted.  

Monday, November 28, 2011

Levi Learns to Play

For the first time, yesterday Levi played with another kid.  I don't just mean played beside another kid, but rather, legit chasing-each-other-around-interacting-screaming-together kind of playing.

Maybe it was coincidence, or maybe it was just the perfect age difference, but I'm going with it was just the perfect someone.

Who was it?

It was Vana, Levi's big sister.


Last night, Jen, Savannah (Vana), and Candy came over for dinner.  My son, who tends to normally be a shoulder hugger around people who aren't named "mom" or "dad," got really hyper as soon as this trio walked in the door.  Levi and Vana ran from the kitchen to the living room, climbed up the steps, shared toys, had races in the hallway, crawled all over Herb, and I'm pretty convinced she taught him how to open a door knob.

I love that my precious little 15 month old senses that there is something incredibly special about this little girl, that they share a bond that runs deep.  I love that open adoption gives him the opportunity to know her and play with her.  I love that she brought out the "play" in him!  Seriously, you should have seen them together!!


When Jen saw this picture she said, "Well, that pretty much sums up our {extended} family!"

Birthday Party Centerpieces: Under $5.15

There was a period of my life where I was going to tons of bridal showers and weddings.  Now it's baby showers, and more recently, 30th birthday parties.  Just like how we were one of the first of our friends to get married, Herb was  one of the first to turn 30.

As more and more friends got married, I got ideas of things I wish I would have done at our wedding.  This weekend we went to a 30th birthday party for our friend Ricky, and it was just like the wedding conundrum.  If I had gone to his birthday party before I threw one for Herb 10 months ago, I would have done things so differently! Let's just say my buddy, Sammy, knows how to throw a party!  She rented a room at the Works, which  is an all ages arcade attached to a restaurant.  Beer + burgers + skee ball = awesomeness.

Sam didn't have any centerpieces planned, so I grabbed the bull by the horns and whipped these up last week.  She came over to help me using the decoy, "Michelle and Herb have a meeting at church so I need to go babysit Levi."

Materials needed:
8 plastic (hard) straws - $1 @ Dollar Tree
4 rectangular floral foam cubes - $1/each @ Dollar Tree
Pictures
Black vinyl 
Wrapping paper 
Card stock
Pennies
Tape runner
Hot glue
Ribbon

1.  Cover the straws in black vinyl.  If you don't have black vinyl, use spray paint or wrap in yarn.


2.  Cut foam cubes in half, wrap in wrapping paper.


3.  Poke holes in foam with pencil, put hot glue in the hole, insert black straws.


4.  Mount pictures on colored and black card stock using tape runner.

5.  Mount card stock backed pictures on back straws using hot glue.

6.  Add ribbon for decoration.  Pose for a cute picture.


7.  Add four pennies to the bottom of each cube using foam cubes using hot glue for stability and weight.


8.  Admire the fact that you just made eight centerpieces for the price of a fancy coffee drink.



Ricky was definitely surprised by the party and we all had a lot of fun!  Sammy hit this one out of the ballpark!!

 


Friday, November 18, 2011

Identity

Subtitle: God doesn't do open adoptions.

Leave it to the Holy Spirit to use a piece of mail as a teachable moment.

But in all fairness, it wasn't just any piece of mail...It was Levi's birth certificate.

Levi's official birth certificate arrived this week.   My first thoughts ranged from thinking about how neat our names all looked together on an official document to being so relieved that the entire process is really really over [as if this day wasn't enough].

My second thought went to Levi's first family.  I was kind of sad when I realized that as far as the government is concerned, there is no record of Levi ever not being Levi.  There is no official document stating that one woman cared for him for 9 months and safely brought him into this world and into my arms.  I almost wish there was some reminder or amendment that noted that the first 7 weeks of his life did indeed happen, and that at one point in his life he had a different name.

Honestly, as weird as it sounds, Levi's birth certificate made me a little sad.  It felt sort of fake.  There in block text is my name, Herb's name, Levi's name and birth date, the location...but I know I wasn't there.

As I shared these feelings with my pal across the ocean, an analogy dawned on me so fast that I interuppted my own story.

"Wait, I guess that's kind of like how it is with us and God," I spoke with excitement.

[I'm pretty sure Lauren had to intentionally keep herself from saying, "Duh."]

When I decided to follow Jesus, I became a new creation - the old is gone [2 Corinthians 5:17].  My old name, my old life, my old past.  Poof. They are separated from me like the east is separated from the west.  I am God's adopted daughter; it's as if my life before Him never happened.

As far as Levi's first family goes - I'm so grateful that even though God doesn't do open adoptions with us and our past lives, we can have such an arrangement with Levi's birth family.  Even if they're not listed on his birth certificate, we can have a wonderfully open relationship and he will know them and love them for the rest of his life.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Bring Hope Home (Interview Project)


To celebrate National Adoption Month, Heather from Production, Not Reproduction is hosting an interview project.  Adoption bloggers, like myself, signed up, and then Heather matched us up (randomly) with interview partners.

Meet Mattie!  She writes about international adoption (among other things) over at Bring Hope Home.

Besides adoption, Mattie and I share a love for Pinterest, crafting, and Jesus. Mattie has had some great joys and tragic losses in the last few years.  Currently, she and her husband are in the process of adopting from Korea.  You can read her story {here}.  

My questions for Mattie are in gray, her answers are in purple.  You can read the other half of this interview on Mattie's blog, here.

What led you to blogging?


In 2009, shortly after the stillbirth of our daughter, Shyla Joy, I was desperate to connect to others who have been in my shoes.  I found a wonderfully supportive group of ladies through blogging and jumped in October 2009.  It has been extremely therapeutic in my grieving process, and then as we started the adoption journey I see it as a way to chronicle this journey.  

Do you ever struggle with what is too personal to share on your blog?


I do struggle with how much to share, but in the end, I usually share what I feel like I need to get off my chest or anything I think may help others who are going through the same struggles I am.

How did you and your husband come to the decision of adoption internationally, and even more specifically, Korea?

When we first discussed adoption, we looked at pros and cons for several different kinds of adoption.  One of the books we read on domestic infant adoption said that for every one child born in the US whose parents choose an adoption plan, there are 4 families pursuing domestic infant adoption.  We were feeling pulled toward international adoption and that kind of comforted us.  We know that babies whose birth parents choose adoption in the US will find families...that isn't true for many other nations.  [Mattie wrote a post called "Why Korea?"]

When Herb and I decided to adopt, the cost of international adoption pretty much scared us away.  I think a lot of people are concerned about the cost associated with international adoption.  Any thoughts on this?
 
The cost was daunting at first.  But we also looked at both the federal and state tax credits and coming back after the adoption is finalized would be about half the cost.  And for us (with my medical issues) any way we add to our family will, frankly, cost a lot.  In the end, we know it will all be worth it.  We hate debt and try to stay debt free, but in the beginning, we agreed that IF we had to go into debt for anything, adoption would be the thing we are ok with as a family.  [Check out Mattie's Adoption Fundraisers.]

Do you have any "adoption saving" strategies?
The lengthy time lines give lots of time for fundraising, picking up a few extra projects (my husband mows for lots of people in the summer and does "handy man" type projects as well as officiates high school soccer and basketball games).  I also can't emphasis enough that we also trust that God has called us to this journey and he will help us along the way!

Sometimes families and friends of adopters can say some hurtful or strange things out of ignorance.  Have you been able to educate those near and dear to you about the adoption process and correct terminology?

As far as hurtful things, we have (so far) not been exposed to too much of it.  When my husband and I talk about adoption, we use the correct terminology and hope that it rubs off. We also choose to see comments that are made out of just ignorance not as hurtful, but as a chance to educate others about how amazing adoption can be!

I can't imagine the grief and loss you have suffered over the still births of Shyla and Jakin.  How did you know when the time was right to begin the adoption process?

Before my husband and I ever started trying to conceive on our own, we talked about adoption as a possibility.  Having a degree in social work and being the child of a social service worker, I was very aware of the need of foster/adoptive families and hoped someday that would be something we felt led to do.  

We had our first child in 2007 and it was an easy and complication free pregnancy.  I loved every minute of it.  God blessed us with our daughter in 2009 for just a short while.  When Shyla Joy was stillborn at 28 weeks, I didn't know if I would ever consider having another biological child.  The adoption conversation began again with my husband and I researched a few agencies and learned more about the process.  

Our doctors encouraged us to that if we were ever going to try to have another biological child, we needed to do it soon (clotting factors increase with age) so we prayed a lot and felt like we should try again.  After Jakin passed away due to a non-related heart condition November 24th of 2010, we started talking about adoption again by Christmas.  

We were still grieving, but being aware of how long of a process adoption could be, we wanted to get the ball rolling (and I am SO glad we did).  My husband bought three adoption books for me for Christmas last year and let me know he was ready and by mid-January we had met with our home study agency and started the process.  

We are just a week away from Jakin's first birthday in Heaven and our file hasn't left the country yet.  We are probably at least another year away from actually traveling to meet our child.

When we were adopting Levi, we had a disruption which made us believe that it was a failed placement for about two months.  By the time Levi came home to us, I was overwhelmed with the feeling of never wanting to have another child because I didn't want to go through all the heartache again.  A year later, I still struggle with those feelings.  Do you have any advice?

While our situations are different,  I kind of understand what you are saying.  After we lost Shyla [in 2009], I said for several months that I would "never again" be pregnant.  That I would NEVER open myself up to be so heartbroken again.  I thought that if I was never pregnant again, I would never have to endure the heartbreak of burying my child.  People kept telling me that "time would heal me" and other platitudes like that.  But I think that is just not true.  I believe that God is the only one who can heal those wounds.  

And sure enough, the longing for another child did eventually (although not completely unguardedly) enter my mind.  

We know that there are no guarantees in life.  I'm not trying to be a pessimist, I just know that we live in a broken world and until we are at home in Heaven, no person or situation is completely perfect.  Bad things are going to happen, but with God, we can not only endure these bad things, but we can use them to reach out to the others in this broken world and be a light to them.  We can show them that just because this life hurts, it doesn't mean you are alone.  

I have to give all the credit to God for bringing us through the things we have walked through and through the wait time we are walking through now.  It's not all butterflies and rainbows though.  I still have days when I question and when I doubt, but I know that in the end of all this, we will have a beautiful ending and that God has never and will never leave our sides.  How ever we add to our family, it will be a little dramatic...and a miracle in my eyes...so I have to come to terms with it being in God's hands and trusting not only his will but his timing.

To check out the other interviews, visit Production, Not Reproduction.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Levi's Room

Welcome to the five cent tour of Levi's bedroom.  

I kept the red-black-white thing going on (a.k.a. free), and added his beloved birthday pennant banner.



I would love to pick up some Ikea Spice racks and add them to the wall behind the rocking chair for book storage {as seen here}.


The big craft to-do project is to hang something behind Levi's crib.  I didn't want to do the same vinyl wall quote {as seen here in our last house}, and I don't really want to hang his name above his bed, either.  I have a large bulletin board which I am thinking of painting or covering with fabric or writing a verse on.... so many ideas.

I did, however, create one piece of art for Levi's room.  I painted the edges of a scrap piece of wood, affixed a 5x7 picture of Levi and Herb, and put a coat of modge podge on the top.  I stapled some ribbon to it and called it a day.  The quote says, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with just a single step."



Thursday, November 10, 2011

Day 50

Today is the 50th day that we have lived in our new house.  That being said, I celebrated by dusting for the first time!  Of course, I'm also insinuating that until today, the house was not unpacked enough to make dusting worth my while.

Would you like to see the mess turned progress?  Join me on a hoarder's journey.  From a five bedroom, 1800 square foot town home, to a two bedroom, under 1000 square foot apartment...

First, the entry way.  This is the view from the front door.  Try not to have a panic attack when you see the mess we were living in.


And this is the foyer from the other direction.


Next on the tour is our kitchen.  Please notice the major fire hazard - yes, I know that a stove is not a good storage area!!  (But seriously, where did I stash all that crap?)


Here's another shot of the kitchen.



And finally, the living room.



Over the next few days I'll show you some more pictures of our new pad, but I wanted to start with the spastic before pictures next to the so-much-tidier after pictures.  It makes me feel better about myself.

I have to give some major credit to my sister, Wendi.  She has a bum knee and is on the injured list from her tour as "Jenny the Music Teacher," with Sesame Street Live.  Instead of moping around and recovering, she spent the last two days playing with my kid and cleaning my house.  She is amazing and I was so blessed to have her here!!  She's having surgery next week, and though I'm bummed that she can't work right now, I am so grateful to get to spend extra time with her, especially around the holidays!

We also had a good laugh over this interview- you should know that despite what the reporter recorded, we did, in fact, watch a TON of TV as kids.  Also, we're not sure what Wendi said to make the reporter interpret it as "It's a Steve Jobs in the making..."

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Christmas Cards

Every year since Herb and I have been married, I've been on the fence about sending Christmas cards; the expense of the card, the cost of postage, the hassle of deciding who to send them to...  But last year, with the addition of one really cute kid, and one really awesome story, I knew I had to make The Christmas Card a new family tradition.

It was a great photo taken by my brother, edited using Picnik, and printed for $0.15/each as a 4x6 photo.


This year, I decided to get a little more fancy. When I heard that Tiny Prints was offering 50 free cards to anyone who blogged about it, you better believe I jumped on that!  And with 50 free cards, the hassle of deciding who to send them to isn't a big deal either - it's enough for everybody!

{If you're a blogger, too, there is still time to cash in on this deal.  Click here to fill out the form.}

I won't reveal which card we're going with, but here are some of my favorites...




If you want to check out the Tiny Prints Christmas Line, click here.  What are you doing for your Christmas cards this year?

**Tiny Prints will be giving me 50 holiday cards for writing this post, but the writing and opinions are all mine.

Star of the Blog

Did anyone else grab up this little gem of a bib a few months ago at Tar-jay?  

I can't believe I haven't blogged about it already.


And side note, yes, I fed my kid frozen yogurt for dinner tonight.

The Find of the Month: October

 I am going to try something new and have a featured find of the month.  At the end of a month, I will look back on all my amazing deals and thrifting treasures and share the best one.

I'd love to do a link up party or something like that, but for now, let's just share in the comments section, mmmkay?

For the month of October, I have three words for you: drum, crystals, pendant.  Any guesses?

It's a drum shade pendant light with hanging crystals!  And we are in love.

I snatched it up from Salvation Army for a mere $8.  I actually thought it was just a drum shade, which I would have happily paid $8 for, but when I got closer and realized it was the whole package, I actually squealed.


Please don't mind the still-disheveled-because-we-just-moved-living room pictures.


Isn't she fabulous with her soft blue fabric?  And girlie crystals?


Anyone else think I should make a coordinating cord cover?


I am really struggling with how/where to hang it.  If I bring it too far away from the wall, or hang it too high, you are blinded by the bulb when you sit on the couch.  If I hang it too low, it will interfere with Herb's music room corner. Any thoughts?


Okay, your turn.  Tell me about your "find of the month" for October.  It doesn't have to have come from a second hand store, but it must be awesome and you must love it.  Go!

If We Were Average Baby Makers

My brother, sister, and I are each two years apart.  As a person who enjoys numbers and patterns, I always appreciated that our grade levels in school went 1, 3, 5, or 4, 6, 8, etc.  I'm going to venture out and say it seems like the average baby makers try to space their kids about two years apart.  It's just nice.

If we were your average baby makers, and we wanted to have the normal two year gap between kids, I would need to be getting pregnant, um, now.

I am so.not.there.

It's not like there is anything average about our family building, but trying to have another kid at this time was a pretty hilarious thought to me.  Especially when we saw our social worker, Amy, last week at the fundraiser breakfast, and she asked if we were ready "to work with her again."

I'm pretty sure I laughed in her face.  "No, we're not ready, yet, but thanks for asking."

Is it weird that usually a husband and wife have to just talk about having another baby, but we need to visit a third party?


Anyway, what makes me really happy about this whole topic is the word contentment.  After wanting a baby for so badly for so long, it is absolutely refreshing to not have such a deep longing for something that seems so unattainable.  I do want more kids, eventually, but I LOVE our little family of three, and for this phase of life, it is just perfect.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Levi Zuko

Just like my friend, Jess, I've been a really bad blogger lately. Jess says she's been busy living...me too!  Well, and I can also mention that after about a year, Netflix and Hulu have helped me catch up completely with Grey's Anatomy.  It's the important things here, people.


But really, almost two weeks without blogging.  Seriously?! So, in effort to at least write SOMETHING, I will show you his royal cuteness in his trick or treating attire.


I should mention that Herb and I went back and forth about how, as parents, to handle Halloween, specifically the not-so-adorable aspects of the holiday.  Ultimately, we decided the Americanized cuteness of costumes and toddling up to a door for some candy is okay for our family.  


At the last minute, I decided last week that Levi needed a costume, and so I ordered one online (MISTAKE).  Of course, it didn't arrive until today (Nov 2).  In the meantime, on Monday, at 4 pm, we decided to trick or treat anyway, therefore leaving me with 45 minutes to think of, and throw together, a costume for Levi.


May I present you with Danny Zuko!  Inspired by his leather jacket and love for the Cozy Coupe Greased Lightning.



Go Greased Lightning!!
 


We went out for about an hour with the Blank Family (Goalie, Monkey, and Dino), who graciously loaned me a junk load of gel for Levi's hair.





As for the candy, we saved three lollipops for Levi, shared a few fruit snacks with him, and then devoured the other 10 fun size pieces of chocolate on the car ride home.



Anyone else make a last minute costume?!