Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Into the Sunset

Road trips are the new "hardest thing," I think.

The weekend before Garrett passed away, we went to Florida for a beach trip. We rode down with Mike's family, in a full car, joking about how we were going to cram everyone in next time with two car seats and a whole lot of adults.

But when Next Time rolled around, we were still the same group in September as we were in May. And the whole way I could feel that space where Garrett should have been.

I think that...feeling...the one where I can sense his car seat next to Autumn's fades a little with every road trip. But because we don't do it often compared to, say, how many days I have woken up to only one little one instead of two it goes more slowly.

once upon a time. toes in the sand. a heart filled with hope.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Elyse's Chicken Wraps

Ok, I'm not a food blogger and have no intention of becoming one but I was thinking while making dinner tonight that I should totally share this recipe. Besides, it works with the theme because I like to cook and cooking is one of the first things I worked my way back to doing as soon as I could stand up long enough!

Our amazing friends and family brought us meals for weeks after I got out of the hospital and everything was so good. I hear horror stories about casseroles and terrible food but, I am pleased to say, we didn't get anything inedible. Not that I'd mention it if we did but I CAN ASSURE YOU we ate everything, haha. We call one of the meals that has become part of our regular dinner rotation Elyse's Chicken Wraps because, well, our community group member Elyse brought them. I love this recipe. It's really good as is. And it is also forgiving with substitutions and frozen ingredients.

You can use whatever cooked chicken you make or have leftover but I like to get a big family pack of bone-in chicken breasts (I have tried to like thighs in the name of economy but I just can't) and put them into the crock pot with a low sodium chicken broth and cook it on low for 7 or 8 hours. I strain and save the broth for other recipes and then shred and freeze the chicken for the wraps and things like Chicken Enchilada Dip and Tortilla Soup. I also chop up and freeze my parsley, green onions, and cilantro whenever I have to buy a bunch because I usually don't need much at one time. So, you really can make this meal from frozen stuff in the freezer--which is what I did tonight. Anyway, on to the recipe!

Elyse's Chicken Wraps
adapted from parents.com
makes 8 wraps

1 cup light mayonnaise
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
8 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
1/4 cup light sour cream or plain yogurt
16 oz. grilled chicken strips or other chicken
8 8-inch tortillas, wheat or white
8 slices provolone or cheddar
2 tablespoons olive oil

1. In a large bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, cilantro, scallions, and sour cream. Cut the chicken into 1/2-inch pieces (or shred) and stir into mayonnaise mixture.

2. Lay one slice cheese on tortilla or, if using shredded cheese, sprinkle slightly off-center. Spread heaping 1/2 cup chicken mixture over cheese; roll up tightly.

3. Heat a olive oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Place 4 wraps in skillet, seam side down; cook for 2 minutes or until crisp. Turn over; cook another 2 minutes. Repeat with remaining wraps.

Again, this recipe is super forgiving. Elyse suggested eyeballing the mayo and other ingredients to get the level of creaminess for your amount of chicken that you prefer. If you try it out, let me know how it goes!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Adoption Journey Begins

Well, this has been a strange day. Over the weekend we got the call that Garrett's marker had arrived and was installed. Today, Mike went to see it during lunch and I stopped by after teaching. It's just what we hoped the marker would be: simple and sweet.

The interesting thing is that today we mailed in our preliminary adoption application to Bethany Christian Services. Talk about circles, right?

We wanted to adopt even before Garrett was born, partly because we wanted to have more than one or two children but pregnancy was so hard for me. I had envisioned a life with two biological children and one or two adopted children but, obviously, that wasn't what God had planned for us.

Although some of you have probably had conversations about adoption with us over the last month or so, I haven't written much about adopting at all. Mainly I wasn't particularly ready to talk about not being able to have another biological child; but also, we decided while we were still in the hospital that all major decisions would wait at least 6 months.

In December, we started the research process. We looked into international adoption, and we are still interested, but the process is a long one. After discussion and prayer, we decided that our first adoption would be domestic and, most likely, local. With the help of friends who have adopted or worked in the industry (special thanks to Dede who has been wonderful), we contacted several agencies and settled on Bethany.

So, that brings us to today. I hadn't planned on writing about our desire to adopt quite yet but we decided to go ahead and put this out there and ask everyone to pray for and with us as we wait on the next step, the full application. Of course, I'll keep everyone up to date with where we are in the process but I do have two prayer requests to start:

1. Please pray for us as we prepare ourselves, Autumn, and our families for this journey. We want our homes and hearts to be in the right place. We also want to be wise with the financial portion of adoption.

2. Please pray for the birth parents and for the baby we will all love. It's an interesting balance to be eagerly anticipating our future son or daughter but also knowing that lives will be irrevocably changed, just as ours has been.

It sounds like 2012 will be some kind of year! We look forward to this new leg of our journey.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Fitness Update!

Sound the horns! I am so excited, everyone. Although this isn't the end of my journey back to health by any stretch, I did hit a pretty great landmark this week: my last regular session with Jonna. I definitely still want to meet with her in the future for maintenance but when this series of meetings ended, it just felt like this was the right time for me to transition to working out on my own. I am so incredibly grateful to her for her patience, wisdom about what would strengthen me without injuring me, and her ability to teach rather than simply train. I know more about how to work out to achieve my goals than I ever did before.

And I have proof that she and I have been working hard! Let's see my before and after photos! On this first one, I ended up using the photo from October instead of the one from September. It was just a better photo. I don't know what I was thinking when I took that first one. It was awful, all blurry and crooked.

Before: 121 pounds
After: 108 pounds
Difference: 13 pounds

Smallest part of the waist
Before: 29.25"
After: 28.5"
Difference: .75"

Waist at the navel
Before: 32"
After: 31"
Difference: 1"

Before: 37"
After: 35.5"
Difference: 1.5"

Before: 21"
After: 20.5"
Difference: .5"

Before: 11.5"
After: 10.25"
Difference: 1.25"

Ok, the one that shocked me? The bicep. I had no idea I lost so much arm girth. The hip and waist measurements surprised me a little bit, mainly because I am now wearing pants I couldn't even get past my knees before but maybe an inch here and there is more than I give it credit for? Oh well! As long as I can wear a good chunk of my old wardrobe! The second I could wear more than one pair of jeans, I got rid of everything that was too big or even reminded me of being pregnant or sick. So cathartic.

The biggest difference I see here is in my posture. I didn't have enough core strength to hold my back correctly in the before picture which is, by the way, the one from September. One other thing I ought to mention...I am really, really cold. I have been wearing a hat and two layers all day. I didn't even want to take the hat off for this photos, ha.

This picture from the fourth of July is one of the first clear photos I have of myself post hospital. I was still creeping around and having to lay down a lot. Being able to fit in clothes is great, but I think that Mike and I are happiest about how much healthier I look now. No more sick/transfusion/blood pressure/medication/bed rest bloat. No more terrible skin and greasy hair. I'm me again when I look in the mirror.

Number of chins: 1. Sweet! I'm not necessarily trying to lose more weight from this point on, although there is a pair of pants and a dress I'd like to fit into again. Mainly I'm trying to increase my strength and stamina so I can get back on the path to black belt. I felt pretty rickety today doing ukemi (falling) but throwing people seemed to feel fairly solid.

That being said...I am so thankful to everyone who has supported me and encouraged me through what I suspect was the hardest part of my physical recovery. Seven months, friends, and I can see the light at the end of my health tunnel.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

What Not to Say to a Grieving Parent, Part 5

Oh, you'll have more children...

I couldn't heal until I had another baby...

I suspected this was the case the day they told me that Garrett had died: barring a major medical breakthrough, Autumn will be our only biological child. I'll do another post later with all the details, but that's what it boils down to.

Oh, you'll have more children...
What bothers me about this first What Not to Say is the dismissive nature of the person who shrugs and casually tells us we'll have more kids. First, they make the assumption that we can have more children and that isn't always the case for a variety of reasons. And second, even if we had 20 more children, none of those children would be Garrett. I would imagine women who have had miscarriages at different stages face this...but the reality is that whether the loss is at 10 weeks, 25 weeks, 34 weeks, or any time after birth, that baby is that baby. There's no replacing a life. Ever!

I couldn't heal until I had another baby...
I've had more than one mother who lost a baby say this one to me. I sort of get it, don't get me wrong. But I wish, wish, wish that people would think before they say such a thing. After the first time I heard this one, I went home and told Mike it was ridiculously depressing because it felt like being smacked, that no matter what I do, I'll never really recover because I can't give birth to another baby. I know this isn't true but those are the irrational thoughts that flow through my head sometimes. And the look of pity on the person's face when I hesitate and say that we can't have anymore children...that's even worse. Because even if I know I'm going to survive, it feels like that person is condemning me to a life of misery and regret.

I've come to terms with our medically imposed infertility but those first few weeks of dreading the above statements or "when are you going to start trying again?" or "are you pregnant yet?" were a whole lot of not fun. Really, all of these What Not to Say posts can be boiled down to one thing: think before we speak. It's a lesson I am teaching myself as well because heaven knows I put my foot in my mouth all the time. Both of the comments regarding children could have been avoided if the speakers had considered that there might be a reason I can't just go out and get pregnant again or, heck, that I might be too darn scared! Again, for the most part, I don't think people (most people, at least) say any of these things to be malicious. And you'd be surprised the things a person says by mistake that are softened by an obvious heart of love and concern. Actually, I generally choose not to be angry because I know that people are only looking out for the best.

Coming soon! The winding down of What Not to Say to a Grieving Parent and What's Next for the Colleys?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Things I Learned in 2011

I'm going to warn you: this post is going to be woefully inadequate. But, I'm going to try. And I might add to it for my own use and remembrance.

1. I believe what I always said I believed about God. And perhaps a little more I wasn't so sure I honestly believed--like how He's always Good. That's my Big Spiritual Takeaway.

2. My list of blessings is no longer simply things and events I perceive as good, although I still have those kinds of blessings: we had enough money for the air conditioner that had to be replaced; our 11 year old Saturn is still running on duct tape and prayers; I got a job teaching aikido on sheer serendipity. The "other" blessings: the hope of seeing Garrett whole and healthy someday; incredible friends who supported us when we couldn't stand; the strength to move through the worst; the knowledge that, yes, I am healthy today because God is Good but that even if I weren't healthy, He is still good.

3. Ok, so I already know this but 2011 reinforced it: Mike is pretty awesome. One of my friends chalked it up to luck that Mike and I got together with minimal drama at 22 and 25 (or, as minimally dramatic as meeting and getting married can get. If you ask Mike, it was full of drama and hijinks. He has no idea, lol). I don't think that's entirely true because we were darn methodical with how we dated and got to know each other but even if it was luck--it's been nearly 10 years and he's still my favorite person. We've certainly been through the ringer this past year. And you know what? I like him even more than I did before. We're slowly getting back to normal(ish) life and it's been kind of neat to watch his happiness levels increase alongside my health levels. Have I mentioned I'm ridiculously blessed?

4. I also already knew this: Autumn is pretty awesome. She's been a trooper. This little girl has been such a blessing to everyone from us to Penny to Lainey and P'd during this time of loss. Before she was born I prayed she'd be a child of love and joy and smiles and holy cow is she that. She misses "her baby Garrett" and tries her best to understand everything. I love her funny questions, partly because I get to talk to her about Garrett and they make me smile although it's sad that she has to think about these things--the latest involved whether or not baby Garrett lived in the manger with the animals like baby Jesus when he was born.

5. The human body is amazing although I probably have to give a shout out to sheer strength of will. I've been told by many people that me walking about like I have been is nothing short of miraculous. I left the hospital 6 months ago grateful to be alive and just hoping to be able to walk well again. It's a strange thing to be carrying boxes down from the attic and suddenly be overwhelmed with thankfulness that I can do such a mundane task.

6. Deliberately cultivating strong relationships is among the best things Mike and I have ever done and we need to keep it up/improve our efforts. Our community group, our families, our friends are all part of the reason we are as emotionally healthy as we have been. This time has been a remarkable time of discovering who it is we value and who values us.

I could probably do a post on each one of those items and I am sure there are things I will think of later but I think I'll leave it there for now. Maybe I'll do another post if I think of too many more things. Thank you for riding along this road with me. Writing here and hearing your encouraging words in person, in comments, and by email are also a big part of why I have progressed so far in the healing process. Thank you.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Fun First Post of the Year!

Woohoo! First post of 2012. I really ought to do the retrospective of 2011 I planned. Or tell you guys what some of our plans for this year are...but you know what? I am going to do a fun post instead! :D Can I show off some of our Christmas house decor? It's kind of sad taking it down so I want to relive it one last time!

Oh, but first, here are my curtains! I might have been a little ambitious with these because with the home dec fabric, blackout fabric, and just yardage involved, these were ridiculously hard to feed through my machine. Especially since I'm sewing on a folding table that shakes like mad when I'm sewing at any speed other than "turtle." But, it's better than having to do it on the kitchen table and putting the machine away at every mealtime so I'm not complaining! This is kind of a before and after...we had blackout shades on the windows from when we moved in until mid-December.

I like having curtains so much that I want to do them for all the windows that have the blackouts on them! And Mike's office which faces the street and has nothing up!

And to get an idea of the color, here is Autumn with her cousin who looks oddly like her in this photo. I also made some pillow covers to brighten up the sofa and pull the colors around more. I don't have a good photo of that so when I do (and when I finish the other two pillow covers), I'll post that and a better picture of the playroom.

I did another project to make the blue less random in the room. The idea came from a blog post on Real Simple. I started with this mirror I got for 99 cents at a Salvation Army store in Bartlett. I painted the frame blue and used chalkboard paint on the mirror part. I've been wanting to do a chalkboard for our living room for some time so it was kind of good to have a trial run on something a little less "nice" than that one will need to be.

I got some other frames for $1-$2 each at the same store and painted them, too. We, of course, had to have a photo session with some of Autumn's toys. The idea is to put the binder clips on a nail inside the empty frames so that I can display Autumn's artwork before it either gets thrown out or put in her preschool art file. I love the idea of being able to easily switch her art in and out.

Costco does great poster prints so I took a couple photos from our last session with Elizabeth Wiggs, blew them up and popped them into these frames I already had.
And, voila!

The only other thing I really did in the playroom to get ready for Christmas was this:

Autumn actually got a good photo with Santa! Woohoo! And we had a great time decorating our first gingerbread house together. Next year we'll do better since we know what to do! The rest of the house I can't take much credit for. I did that project for Cheri before Christmas so she came out and put up my decorations for me. And I TOTALLY just realized I didn't take a picture of the tree. I will do that before it gets taken apart. Anyway, living room!

How awesome is that?? Keep in mind, this is what it looked like summer 2010:

No ceiling. No walls. Then it got those.

We did get it painted and decorated but we had no furniture except for a table. And then Mike's brother brad came to the rescue! He was doing some cleaning out and told us we could have his furniture. So, for half the price of a U-Haul, we have a sofa, love seat, and ottoman! Seriously, the only thing that had been in there were the built in bookcases and this table, which currently houses the nativity.

Oh! And he even brought curtains. :D

I mean, the fireplace and the stockings looked pretty before Brad brought his stuff but, man, does it look fantastic all together! Cheri's so good at what she does...can you believe she made that wreath out of an old, raggedy wreath I had, some floral mesh, and a box of $1.99 ornaments from walmart?? Craziness. Anyway, moving on...I like how she did the dining room. It's very elegant. And, again, mostly out of random stuff I just had around.

We had our New Year's Day brunch and here it is with all the food. Well, most of it. And a coloring book. The party is why all the dining room chairs and folding chairs are in the living room in the photos above.

At the last minute, I made a menu. I'll probably do the same next year but fix it up a little more. And print it at work where I have a color printer. I also made instructions for the k-cup coffee maker Penny gave me. She got a new one for Christmas which was pretty cool considering I had just asked her if I could borrow hers for the party. It made it soooo much easier to have coffee and tea that way than having to deal with pots and hot water and all that.

The ever-present chocolate fountain. Mike's mom and dad got one for Mike as a joke several years ago. He saw it at Costco and ranted a while on how silly it is to have one so of course they had to go out and get it for him. And here we are now...if we don't have it at a party, we hear about it!!

The breakfast room table is another place I need to take a good photo before I take it apart. :D I hope Liz doesn't mind me using her picture...you can see the ornaments on the chandelier, I thought that was pretty fun.

The china cabinet cracks me up. Everyone who walks in kind of blinks and goes, "that's very...festive." Haha! I love it, though. I'd never think of using giant candy canes but it's so perfect! And, I have been driving Lainey crazy. For the last 10 years, since the Christmas Mike and I got engaged, she has wanted to get me Christmas china. But I never could find any I really liked! But then she came across this set from Pier 1 and I loved it. :) You can guess what I got for Christmas this year...I think she feels better now.

And that's it! My Christmas decor retrospective. And, of course, I thought of yet another thing I didn't get a photo of! The outside of the house. Next year I plan on doing a much better job. This year all the wreaths were crazy because I can't hang things worth anything. But P'd told me the trick he learned so I'm going to do that. I think we're also going to be brave and do something more than just the lighted garland on the balcony. We'll see!!

ps: P'd needs special mention! He hung up the curtain rods in the playroom and the living room, shelves in the playroom closet, my wall display, Autumn's bathroom mirror AND the towel rod in our bathroom as part of our big get ready for Christmas rush! It's crazy--he doesn't even use a level!