Monday, April 30, 2012

I harvested my first cucumbers this morning! Yes, at 7:30 in the morning we sliced one up and devoured it. Even Pepper--who thinks the best way to serve a cucumber is to take it straight to the trash--enjoyed it! Both kids have a little container of sliced, lightly salted cucumber in their lunches. I am so excited! I think we'll be able to have homegrown salad tonight for dinner! The lettuce and scallions are ready today, too! This is FUN!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Thinking of Summer

I took Snapper out on a date a few evenings ago. We took a piece of paper and a pen and made a list of things to do this summer. After all, the last day of school is only a month away! This afternoon Pepper and I sat down and and talked about his hopes for summer. Matt and I added a few things, too. Here's our family list of things to do this summer.

  • Read lots of books! Harry Potter series for Snapper. Magic Treehouse series for Pepper. I am looking for recommendations for good reads. I have spent the last year absorbed in adoption, foster care, and mental health books. I need some good fiction reading!
  • Continue our evening family read-alouds. We're currently reading Redwall, by Brian Jacques. The kids are completely enthralled!
  • Spend lots of time at the pool. Snapper will continue swim team throughout the summer. Pepper starts Level 2 swim lessons on Tuesday. His swim goal for the summer is to work his way through the lesson levels so he can start swim team in the fall. We also are getting a summer pool membership so we can enjoy lots of play time at the water park pool at our neighborhood aquatic facility.
  • Have play dates with friends. This includes family play dates with families we love. Because I know you'll be reading this blog, Kathy, Pepper specifically wants to spend some time with Keller. =)
  • Play our new piano! A fellow Cru staff family was giving away their old piano, so we picked it up! It is a small Stroud upright that needs tuning. We are thrilled to have a piano again! I am looking forward to brushing up on my musical skills, and Matt and I are going to give both kids lessons. They plan to do a lot of practicing.
  • Play games! We have a whole shelf in our hall closet that is full of games. Pepper is old enough to enjoy board games now. I anticipate many sessions of Sequence, Life, Battleship, etc.
  • Do art projects. This will include painting, drawing, building with clay, working with decoupage, and making collages. I also just bought a huge tub of new sidewalk chalk. We have an awesome driveway, so I expect to see lots of chalk masterpieces this summer.
  • Cook together. We have a beautiful garden that will keep our veggie drawer well stocked this summer. Both kids want to cook with me. We'll also be trying our hand at canning and pickling.
  • Craft. Snapper wants to make a quilt for her baby cousin Leah. Pepper wants to learn how to make good paper airplanes and do origami. I need to finish the quilt I've been making for Snapper. I also need to get our scrapbooks updated before we bring home new family members. Fortunately, I'm only a year behind in the family album, 18 months behind in Snapper's album, and a year behind in Pepper's album. I'm sure there will be lots of other fun craft projects this summer, courtesy of Pinterest.
  • Correspond with cousins. Both kids plan to write letters and draw pictures to mail to their cousins in Washington.
  • Play at home. Snapper and Pepper love each other and play really well together. They are already planning the games of dress-up, building with legos, making forts, and having sleepovers in each other's bedrooms.
  • Ride bikes. Pepper has set the goal of learning to ride a 2-wheeler before his birthday in July.
  • Go on fun outings. Our list of places to visit includes: SeaWorld (hooray for our season passes!), the beach (lots of evening cookouts in store for us!), fishing in the ocean and the many lakes in our area, the park, and roller skating.
Matt and I also plan to get the house ready for additional family members. This means rearranging bedrooms, painting two bedrooms, stripping wallpaper and painting the bathroom, buying and building two new bunk beds, and shopping garage sales to find a couple of dressers and two more chairs for our kitchen table.

We also are hoping to make a couple of trips up to Little Rock. It is looking more like we'll be selected as the adoptive family for the three little girls we've been pursuing for the last month. We are hoping to get the final decision this week. Then we can move forward with our preparations. We're not sure yet if we'll have to make an initial visit trip to see the girls, and then another trip to bring them home, or if they'll have us just come once. We'll have to wait and see.

It is shaping up to be a great summer! I'm really happy that we don't have any big trips planned. We had hoped to get out to Spokane this summer to visit Matt's family, but that isn't going to happen. This will be the first summer in 7 years that we haven't had to make a major trip. It will be good just to be home.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Primping...A Follow-Up

Let me just outline a few events for you.

  • Monday. I catch Snapper hard at work with brush and sparkly lip gloss in front of the mirror in the morning before school. Primping.
  • Tuesday. Melt-downs over the "pressure" of finishing homework. I must add that she had one math page, one easy Social Studies worksheet, and a 3-page section of her Social Studies book to review for the test. Still, it was a mountain in her mind and it took her 30 minutes to pull herself together enough to even begin her homework...which could have been finished in the 30 minutes she spent fussing about it.
  • Wednesday. She picked a super cute outfit for school--skinny jeans, a cute tank top, and a coordinating shrug. She asked me to braid her hair in pigtails. She wore earrings to school. On Wednesday night, she rubber banded her Awana shirt in the back because it is so long that when she wears shorts with it, it looks like she is only wearing a shirt. The way she tied the shirt back was very cute...and way more appropriate than leaving it hanging.
  • Thursday. When she came home from school, she shlumped into the house and sat in the patio with her back to me, shooting signals with her entire being that she needed me to get off the phone and talk to her. She didn't speak, grabbed me by the hand, and dragged me into my room and closed the door. Commence the sobs and wails. Everything went wrong today! I was itchy all day. Mrs. N took away our commenting privileges on Edmodo.* And I just know that something has gone wrong with the shipping of my new glasses. The box is lost or it got crushed or something and they're going to have to start all over and make me some new glasses. I can't handle the pressure! And now I have a pile of homework and then I have to go to swim team and then I have to go to bed. I quickly realized she couldn't be reasoned with, so I just hugged her and offered to help her with her homework. While she was getting her books together, I explained why the 4th grade lost a day of commenting on Edmodo. They need a class meeting to discuss more specific guidelines on Edmodo before comments will open again. I pulled up the tracking number on Snapper's glasses and found that they are due to arrive on Monday. We finished homework in 20 minutes. When I dropped Snapper off at swim team, I encouraged her to put some of her emotions in the pool and swim it off. When I picked her up, she was energized and refreshed, and felt a lot better, just as I knew she would. Then I took her out for sushi, just the two of us, and we talked some more about growing up.
  • Friday. I just got home from previewing the video Snapper's class is going to watch in science on Monday. It is a video about puberty. The girls will watch one video in the library and the boys will watch another video in the school theater. It talks about the amazing changes a girl's body is about to go through. It also discusses hormones and how they affect the brain and the emotions.The video said that girls begin to experience the first wash of hormones between ages 8 and 10, with the emotions starting to swing around 9 1/2. They tend to cry easily and get overwhelmed by small things. It also said that girls will begin to really notice their appearance around that time, and looking good becomes more important. Hmm... Happily for me, the video stresses the importance of having good communication with mom during these years, eating healthful food, exercising, getting enough sleep, and good hygiene. I was reluctant to let Snapper watch the video, but after screening it, I feel it will serve as reinforcement for what we've already been discussing.
Is my little girl really growing up? Oh my goodness, how the time flies by!

P.S. There's no special boy right now. The newness and cuteness of the boys in her class wore off around Christmas time. Now they're just boys, and Snapper is pretty consumed with the girls in her world. Her two best friends happen to be boys, but there's no special interest on either side...they just think on the same wonky wavelength and love to hang out.

*Edmodo is the online classroom Snapper's class is using. It's pretty cool, actually. Mrs. N. poses challenge math problems, asks brain teaser science questions, and posts videos for the kids to watch at home. The kids log in as part of their homework, post replies to the questions, and engage in online discussions about the brain teasers. They absolutely love it.

Thursday, April 26, 2012


I am so excited!!!

I just booked plane tickets!!!

But they aren't for me. I booked tickets for my birthmom, Sherry, to come spend 2 weeks with us in September! Since my mom passed away, Sherry has been another mom to me. While she will never replace my mom, I am so grateful for the wonderful relationship we have, and that I have a second mom. I can talk to her about anything, and I know she loves me unconditionally, just like my mom did. How blessed am I! She is also a proud, doting Nana to my kids. Her life revolves around Snapper and Pepper, and my baby niece, Leah.  She saves up all her extra money so she can have the fun of spending it on the kids. Her refrigerator is plastered with their artwork and school papers that I send to her. She has her "shrine," as she calls it, of their photos on her desk at work. She is beyond excited to come, and we can't wait to see her! Because she lives in Arizona, the last time the kids saw her was when she visited us in Little Rock almost 3 years ago. It is going to be so much fun!

She'll be here for both my birthday and Snapper's birthday. I'm sensing a day at SeaWorld, a day at the beach, maybe some kayaking at our favorite state park, and a lot of time looking at photo albums. Snapper will have a swim meet while she's here, too, which was really important to Nana. Nana was a swimmer from age 7 until she graduated high school. She is dying to see Snapper swim at a meet. She will get her wish!

We're hoping our new kids will be home by then, too, so they can have some bonding time with Nana. I hope that them getting to see the relationship I have with her will give them some hope. I really hope that someday they'll be able to have some sort of relationship with their birth family, too. No, we don't have the final word yet on the three girls. But I am praying they are ours.

Anyhoo, Nana is coming in September and I can hardly wait!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Today I went out to spray to beautious garden for bugs. Before you judge me for not going organic here, remember that I live in Central Florida, the bug capital of the United States. I would like to eat some watermelon this summer, which will not happen if bugs continue to eat the watermelon plants! Anyhoo, while I was spraying, I looked under the umbrella leaves of my squash plants and there are TONS of little, yellow squashies growing! I checked the zucchini and there are a few. I checked the cucumbers, and HOLY COW...there are probably 100 baby pickle cukes there! Guess what I am going to be doing next week? Yup, I am going to teach myself how to make pickles! It looks like there's going to be a bumper crop of honeydew melons. The vines have left the garden plot and are snaking across the lawn. The beans and peas popped out of the ground overnight. The tomato plants are almost up to my hip now. The corn has tassels peeking out the top. The lettuce and collards will be ready to eat in just a few days! I started another round of lettuce in seed trays on Friday, as well as a fresh round of spinach to replace the plants the cat dug up. I am just so thrilled with my garden! I have never had success keeping any sort of plants alive, but this garden is just thriving. The kids go out and exclaim over it every day. We can't wait to enjoy the fruits of our labor!

Here's a photo of the garden taken on April 10th.

Here's a photo of the garden taken April 21st (taken with my phone)...just 11 days later. WOW!

Monday, April 23, 2012

And so it begins...
I walked into my 9 1/2-year-old daughter's room this morning to put the hurry on her. It was 15 minutes until time to leave for school and her breakfast had been waiting on the table for 10 minutes. There she was, looking all cute in a fancy(er) shirt and her new shorts, standing in front of the mirror in her room. She was primping. Gasp!!! This little girl has never cared about how she looks, other than on special occasions when a fancy dress was required. Up until very recently, pink plaid shorts "go perfectly" with a red and orange flowered shirt, and the color of socks was completely irrelevant. I don't know what changed, but this morning she took great pains with her hair, is wearing a necklace and earrings, and sparkly lip gloss! Matt went in to check on her 5 minutes after I did, and she was still in front of the mirror.
Where the heck did this come from?

Snapper Swims Long Course

My little daughter is such a stud! I've just gotta say it. She and I went out of town for a swim meet this weekend, just the two of us. Only a few kids from her level got to go, so it was a much smaller group that we were with. I am so proud of her! In the summer, most meets are long course, which means the kids swim their events in an Olympic size pool. 50 meters per lap is a long way for a petite, 9-year-old kid! From August-April they swim short course meets, which means the length of one lap is 25 yards. While a short course 50 is almost the same distance as a long course 50, a short course 50 is broken up by a turn. When the kids turn, they get to coast in a streamline position for a few seconds. While it may not seem that significant, it really is. The distance doesn't seem as long, they get some power help from the wall, and they get a few resting seconds in the middle of the event.

This weekend's meet was the first long course meet of the season. Our home pool hasn't switched the lanes to long course yet, so the last time Snapper even practiced a long course 50 was in...mid August? I am so proud of that girl! She swam 7 events and the breaststroke leg of the medley relay. She set personal best times in 6 of her 7 individual swims, and completely smoked her leg of the relay! Snapper's biggest accomplishment today was dropping almost 6 seconds from her previous best 100 backstroke time, even though that previous best was set just 4 weeks ago! Her relay team beat their old time by 20 seconds, and pulled of a 3rd place finish, even though they came in as the lowest seeded team!

There were a few other highlights to our weekend, too. At the beginning of each day's competition, the team let the kids carefully take American flags into the pool, where they slowly swam across the pool holding the flags in the air while the national anthem was performed. It was an awesome sight to see 100 kids swimming with their flags lifted high! The other highlight was that the kids got plenty of time just to relax and play together. What a great weekend!

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Body Remembers

*Warning: raw emotion to follow. Read at your own discretion.

As we've been preparing to adopt children from foster care, I have read a lot of books. A lot. I have read all 40+ books that our county library has on the topics of foster care and adoption. I have also read books on adjustment disorders, grief, loss, and other similar topics. I have learned a ton. One of the interesting things I have learned is that the body remembers grief and trauma. Even if you don't have memories of the event, data is stored and your body can remember it. Holidays, seasons, and other seemingly harmless events can be big triggers for kids who have experienced trauma. When I first read this, I didn't really get it. It made sense, but I couldn't connect to it personally. I accepted it because it has proven to be true for thousands and thousands of people, but I just couldn't wrap my head around it. Until last night.

Yesterday was April 19th. As I got into bed last night, a wave of anxiety and physical pain washed over me. I snuggled up to my pillow, fighting back tears. And I couldn't for the life of me figure out why! I had a wonderful day yesterday. I got a lot of work accomplished. I completed another section of the online New Testament Survey course I'm taking. I spent a lovely chunk of time studying my Bible. I also spent time in prayer. I made a yummy lunch for Matt and me. I weeded and fertilized my beautiful garden. I spent quality time with both my kids. I heard rave reviews from Snapper's swim coach about how her breaststroke is coming along. I listened with delight as Pepper read a whole Curious George book by himself! We ate a delicious dinner. I had cuddle time with Matt. I even got to eat Peanut M&M's for dessert. It was a great day, and I had no reason to fall apart in the evening. I fell asleep on a tear-wet pillow, still wondering why.

This morning I couldn't open my eyes. All I wanted to do was stay asleep all day. It reminded me a lot of the years in Little Rock when I dealt with seasonal affective disorder. But I had reasons there! It is warm and bright here, almost always sunny. And then it hit me. In the middle of April nine years ago, we brought in hospice to start caring for my mom in the last days of her battle with ovarian cancer. Mid-April thru mid-May of 2003 were the most horrible weeks of my life. My mom required round-the-clock care as her body deteriorated. My dad, my aunt, and I rotated with the assistance of hospice. There were midnight crises when the phone would ring and I would bolt out of bed, fearing the worst. There were medical crises that left my mom in a great deal of pain, with no immediate solution. Not much in life is more horrible than being helpless to relieve the suffering of one you love deeply. There was also the agony of watching her ability to communicate fade away. She couldn't find words for what she wanted to say. She could hardly hold her baby granddaughter because of the pain in her abdomen and weakness in her hands. I watched my mom age 40 years in a month, and slowly slip away from us. She was 53 years old when she passed away, nine years ago on May 16th. 

I know my mom is healthy and perfect now, and loving life with her Savior. I would not wish her back. But I miss her every single day. If only there were a phone to Heaven...

My body remembers mid-April thru mid-May. The waves of emotion, the surges of pain, the flood of unexplained tears, the fluttering feeling of panic in my chest, the desire to stay in bed--stored grief and physical manifestations of emotional trauma. The body remembers.
I get it now. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Gluten Free Strawberry Pie

Last week I went to the local berry farm and picked approximately 20 pounds of strawberries. Most of them were promptly turned into the most delicious jam. Another basket wound up as an after school snack for the kids. And then there was pie. I'm having great success with gluten free baking! I tackled cutout sugar cookies last week and you never would have known they were gluten free. I decided to be brave and make a strawberry pie. There is nothing like a strawberry pie that is made from berries that were picked only a couple of hours prior. This pie was fabulous! I forgot to take a photo until I had already started eating the last piece, so the end crust here is MIA...on its way into my tummy. Oh, was it good!

Gluten Free Strawberry Pie
(I modified the recipe because I didn't have all the ingredients or a food processor. This recipe is the way I made it, and it was quite excellent).

Preheat the oven to 375.

In my Kitchen Aid, I combined:
2/3 cup white rice flour
1/3 cup brown rice flour
1/3 cup millet flour
1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
1 Tbsp. powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
Mix on low to combine.

Using the wire whip on the Kitchen Aid, I turned it on to a 3 while I added 1 stick of butter, cut into thin slices. Mix until it resembles coarse meal.

Add one egg and mix until completely combined. It should be a sticky dough.

Lightly flour a piece of waxed paper and your ball of dough. Gently work the dusting of flour into the dough with your fingers until the dough holds together and is no longer sticky. Place the ball of dough on the floured waxed paper. Using your fingertips, press the dough into a 10-inch circle. Use the rolling pin to finish off the circle. Turn your 9-inch pie pan upside-down onto the dough. I had my husband help me hold the waxed paper tight and we flipped the dough and pan over together. Press the pie crust down into the pan with the wax paper still on. Gently remove the wax paper. Crimp or cut the edges. Prick the bottom and sides of the crust with a fork. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until the crust is firm and lightly browned.

While the pie is baking, make your pie filling.

Crush enough strawberries to make 2 cups of strawberry puree.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, mix:
2 cups strawberry puree
3/4 cup sugar

In a small bowl, dissolve 1 Tbsp. cornstarch in 1 cup of water. Add to strawberry mixture and cook until slightly thickened, about 1 minutes.

Wash and stem enough strawberries to fill the bottom of the pie crust. Pour the strawberry filling over the strawberries in the pie crust. Chill until set, about 2 hours. 


Friday, April 13, 2012

One Month of Garden

One month ago I started everything from seed and it took off! About a week later I transplanted most of it into the garden. Today, one month later, here is my garden!

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Easter Post

Another Easter is in the memory books, and it was a good one. I must start by saying how thankful I am that Jesus died for me, because I'd sure be a hot mess without Him in my life. Every day I'm thankful, and I love the special day devoted to celebrating that He is risen!

We started out bright and early with breakfast and Easter baskets. Matt made an imitation of Tropical Smoothie's Chocolate Elvis smoothie for breakfast. It is a divine mix of plain yogurt, banana, peanut butter, cocoa powder, and ice. YUM! We also had bacon, scrambled eggs, fresh strawberries, and gluten-free sugar cookies. We pretty much rushed through breakfast because Matt and I we in charge of kids church for the second and third services at our church. I managed to snap some cute photos of Snapper and Pepper in our back yard before we left for church. Thanks, Nana, for the cute Easter clothes! Kids church is always fun, but it is extra fun on Easter because the energy in the room is double what it normally is. We had a total of 120 kindergarten-5th graders, and they were awesome!

After church we went to my bestie's house (Curt & Tracie) for the rest of the day. We had invited another family (Chris & Tara) and a single girl (Sara) from our life group to join us for dinner and an egg hunt. We potlucked it, and the food was so wonderful. The kids shoveled down their food and went out to play, but the adults lingered at the table, savoring seconds and even thirds on the food to go with our good conversation. We hid at least 200 eggs for the kids out in the yard, including two golden eggs. The kids were so cute on the egg hunt. Snapper and Pepper have eagle eyes; each of them found a golden egg! Sweet Snapper gave her golden egg to Tara's 5-year-old daughter who was so desperate for a golden egg that she melted down when she didn't find one.  After the hunt the kids all lined up on the brick wall in front of Tracie's house to examine their Easter candy. They unintentionally lined up tallest to smallest, which made for a very cute photo. The highlight of the day for me was watching Tracie's 4-year-old daughter, {A}, unwrap all her candy for Tracie's 2-year-old son, {I}, so {I} could shovel it into his mouth.

We came home around 6:30, and the kids dressed up in their cowboy costumes and sat in the patio playing Battleship for 2 hours. Matt and I relaxed on the couch with a bowl of popcorn and watched 6 episodes of our new favorite show, Auction Hunters. It was a truly wonderful day.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Humor in Our House

Today turned out to be a day full of laughter. That was really good for me. Things have been a little...intense...around here lately.

This morning I took Snapper to the eye doctor. Her eyes have been bothering her recently. She sees spots and patterns anytime there's a significant change in light exposure. It is the worse when she swims at night and looks up toward the stadium lights, and when she goes outside for recess or P.E. She has also been squinting a lot, and complaining that her glasses aren't working right. I laughed throughout her whole eye appointment. She was curious and funny, and got the biggest kick out of having her eyes dilated. She hammed it up, entertaining everyone in the waiting room. Her diagnosis: Terrible vision. But we already knew that. She has an astigmatism, pretty severe in her right eye and significant in her left eye. While normal, healthy vision is 20/20, Snapper's is 20/1250 in her right eye, and 20/1200 in her left eye, without glasses. Yup. Poor kid wasn't kidding when she said her glasses didn't work. She had a retinal scan, which came back normal. The spots and patterns are ocular migraines caused by sensitivity to light. They are not painful migraines, which is good. We are getting her transitions lenses, and she needs to wear a visor or hat outside.

After I picked up the kids from school, we got some new shoes for Snapper and then headed home. About halfway through homework, I cracked. I just fell apart. I work so hard to teach my kids good manners and respect for others. Today I threw manners to the wind and challenged the kids to a burping contest. *GASP* Yes folks, there was a rude fest in my living room today. For 30 minutes we gulped air and ripped some pretty impressive belches. I laughed until I had tears rolling down my cheeks. Snapper laughed until her sides hurt. Pepper laughed until he was screaming, and then he laughed so hard that no sound came out at all. We laughed more in 30 minutes than we have laughed in the last month combined! Was it terribly inappropriate? Yes! Did we need the outlet for all the nervous tension? Most definitely!

Tonight was crazy hair night at Awana. Snapper won 1st prize for the best hair! I am too tired to upload a photo now. I'll just say that it made me--and a lot of other people--laugh a lot, too.

On the way home from Awana, Matt started belching. We had another rude fest, this time with Daddy bellowing his man burps along with us. More hysterical laughter. So much better than the exhausted whining I usually am subjected to on the way home from Awana. After we were all belched out, Pepper, being in a slap-happy, silly mood, entertained us with his 5-year-old humor. Here are the jokes I remember. Oh, and picture this boy, wiggling with delight in the back seat, cracking himself up after every joke. And then imagine the laughter getting a little louder and more riotous with each new joke. We laughed not at the jokes, but at his reaction to his own "jokes."

Q: What do you call a wheel without a tire?  A: Gray polka dots!

Q: Why did the chicken run away from the Indians? A: Because there was a fox with the Indians and the fox wanted to eat the chicken!

Q: Why did the house jump over the pool? A: Because it wanted to sit on the grass.

Q: What is a wire without "electicerty?" (Yes, I meant to spell it like that, because that's how he says it!) A: A string!

Q: Why did the lake jump up and down? (Me: "I didn't know lakes could jump!" Pepper: "Silly mom, it's just a joke!")  A: Because it wanted to grow legs. (Me, whispered to Matt: "If only I'd know jumping up and down would make me grow legs! I could have had 5 legs by now!)

Q: Why did the bear?  A: Underwear!

Thanks, God, for an awesome, hilarity-packed day. We really, really needed that.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

One Step Closer

I got a call from the girls' case manager today.
Several home studies were submitted for the girls.
Ours is one of two that survived for the final round.
We should know within the next week if our family was chosen to adopt these precious little girls.
Please pray for my poor heart.
And my poor nerves.
And my poor guts.
Even though I know the Lord has this situation in the palm of His hand, the waiting is HARD!
And I have never wanted anything so badly.