Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Past and Present

I wonder if someday I'll stop feeling guilty. Whenever someone I care about has a baby, I am so happy for them. And, at the same time, I am heartbroken for myself. For Mike, who loves babies. And for Autumn, who just doesn't understand...but who does?

Mike's sweet, wonderful sister had a baby today. We're going to visit tonight and it will be a bittersweet time. Lindsay is truly one of the best people in the world. This morning she texted me to ask how I am doing. And last week she told me that if this is ever too hard for me, that she will understand. But, I will plow through because it's Lindsay and I know she's going to be an amazing mom and Kyle is going to be a doting dad.

Nanny called me this morning to tell me she was thinking of me and of Garrett and that she won't forget to take care of us even as she celebrates. As I wonder why life has to be so hard--Grant/Kingston is heavy on my mind--I wonder how I got so lucky to have such a great family.

Autumn is struggling again. She sang, "baby Ellie's coming, baby Ellie's coming!" on the way home from school. On the way to ballet, listening to her Sunday School cd, she suddenly burst out with, "why is baby Garret so far away? I love him and he our baby but we can't take care of him because he's in Heaven." And this morning, after we made plans to visit the hospital when I am done with classes, she asked why my tummy didn't take care of baby Garrett.

It's hard. But I guess it's part of life. Hard questions, no answers. But, still, even as a lot of things crumble in my life right now from that particular path in aikido to our adoption, I guess I'm inherently optimistic. I don't particularly like all these challenges. But, today, at this moment, I feel like it's going to be okay. We've survived much. We will survive more.

Autumn's pages in our profile book, click to see a larger one:



Saturday, February 23, 2013

Bonus Blessings

It's a little awkward to talk finances on the internet but with fundraisers and adoption talk, we all know it's gonna come up, right? Well, we had some pretty amazing news on Thursday. Mike was way chill about telling me but, seriously, this is huge.

Mike's bonus? This year, after taxes and tithe, it is nearly enough to cover almost all of our remaining adoption expenses. I am so proud of Mike. Some of his bonus is calculated on his company's and department's success and part of it is on meeting his own personal goals. He's worked hard this year and I've watched him really grow and mature and come to love his work and it's way cool to experience this evolution.

This is a major blessing not just on the adoption front. We still have to do some saving but, unless we are paired with a birth mom with a lot of pass through expenses, it isn't quite the overwhelming mountain that it was three days ago. That means I can start throwing some money into the car budget soon, haha. Mike's poor car was mine when we got married. Over 10 years ago. It's being held together internally by duct tape. The paint is peeling. It rattles and shakes. But it runs! Thank goodness for Mike's computer skills. He does trade with a really trustworthy auto repair shop and they've been keeping the car alive! It'll be a relief to start putting some money aside for the inevitable.

Hey, by the way, this is completely not something I'm getting paid to say, but if you're in the market for a good budget software, check out ynab. When I took over our finances last year, I wanted something a little more "budget" oriented than Quicken and Mike happened to hear about this around that time. Probably on Lifehacker or something. We have so many things we're saving for (property taxes, insurance, adoption, a car, repairs to the house) that I really didn't want to use just a spreadsheet or open multiple accounts to manage it all. Ynab has been great because I put in the budget categories and values and when I balance the accounts, it takes care of all the calculating for me. I've had to adjust a few things here and there as we've gone along but, man, it's so nice not to have to fiddle with everything.

It's been something else watching God provide. The flip flop fundraiser, friends who have sacrificially given, the sales in my etsy shop, aikido, Mike's job and side jobs...it's all coming together on the financial end. Now, if the baby end of it would cooperate...

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Let it...sleet?

February 2009--I love this so much

I just saw that there's a winter weather advisory and it's sleeting outside. I'm about to detach Autumn from my mom and send her home. She has a long way back to her place and I don't want the streets to get too slick. I'm sure it'll come to nothing but it would be so fabulous if it iced enough for school to be out tomorrow!! I haven't been feeling well today so I'd love to get a break from getting up early tomorrow and, if city schools are out, teaching.

My stomach has been upset most of the day. I'm not sure if it's simply my body reacting to all of the emotions of the last week or so. After all, in addition to Sunday's debacle, it's been just over a week since we found out Grant wasn't going to come home. Of course, it could be a bug. I'm seriously hoping that it isn't something like the mesh around my hernia being messed up. That area has had some stabbing pain but I'm chalking it up to muscle soreness. 

Speaking of Sunday, thank you so much for all of your support, encouragement and advice on my last post. I tend to get most of my comments on facebook when I link the post and that link had over 30 comments on it. I'll write more but I'm waiting both to process and to hear about what is going to happen next.

It's funny. I didn't expect it to happen this way but I was thinking late last week that I need to write more about my martial arts path and the classes I teach. For some reason, I don't talk much about it with people who aren't martial artists. I know some of my friends are interested (Tamara and Penny, for example) but I get concerned that other people are bored or just plain don't care. In a nice way, of course. So, we'll see how it all pans out!


Monday, February 18, 2013

When "Teaching" becomes "Bullying"


The Art of Peace does not rely on weapons or brute force to succeed; instead we put ourselves in tune with the universe, maintain peace in our own realms, nurture life, and prevent death and destruction. The true meaning of the term samurai is one who serves and adheres to the power of love. ~Morihei Ueshiba, O'Sensei

I'm having a bit of a martial arts crisis. It's a strange place to be. I love martial arts. I love aikido. I have no intention of stopping but...I don't know. I think I might be doing something wrong in how I'm going about obtaining my black belt. Stephan and I had a long talk last night and I'm not going to do anything or make any decisions right now but he and I both agree that something has to change.

I have to visit other schools in order to get the level of training I need to prepare for shodan. I'm the highest ranked student in our school. In addition to that, I've been doing a lot of other martial arts over the years so I do other workshops and seminars aside from aikido. The crazy thing is, I go to seminars where we do much more combat oriented training, and I rarely get hurt. But at the last big aikido seminar I attended in Atlanta, I ended up in a wrist brace for months when a guy from Memphis cranked my hand so hard I had ligament damage.

Goofing off with Chuck at a CTC Seminar

Yesterday, Stephan and I went to a class where they ran me through a practice test. I did okay until we got to the part that I'm physically struggling with. My lower abdominals are not very strong. I also have a LOT of scarring. I have a difficult time doing hanmi handachi, or fighting someone standing while I am on my knees. I made it clear I needed to go slow and steady while I rebuild and relearn how to move that way.

Well, there's a guy who's been giving me trouble. Lecturing me on how I'm not working hard enough. Talking me through techniques I not only know, but I teach, when I'm obviously doing fine. Throwing me too hard and far when I tell him I need to take a fall gently. I've tried talking to him and I even spoke to the head of the dojo about him but the only advice was to avoid him and that I'm not the only one who has complained. That works until it's a small class. Which the advanced class is.

This guy was my partner for hanmi handachi. I wasn't amazing but I get a little better every time. And then he kicked me. In the chest. We had never dealt with kicks. I know how to deal with being kicked in other contexts but not on my knees, when I'm already having trouble, and when I am not supposed to get up. I tried to dodge but he landed it. And then he did it again and all I could do, again, was try to move. I got a few good defenses off but at one point, I made a mistake and he very deliberately fell heavily on top of me. I've dropped people on top of myself before. People have dropped me on themselves, too. We usually try to catch ourselves and we laugh but he was grim and did nothing to make sure he didn't smash me.

Randoori at my 1st Kyu test.

The next thing we did was 4 person randoori, or something where I have to dodge and flow around people. This is another place I am rusty because we did this differently from how this school does it. I dodged the first person. And the next was the guy who had been giving me trouble. He bore down on me so I couldn't move him. I tried to move around him since he wasn't going anywhere and then. he. shoved. me.

My hip collapsed and I went flying across the mat. I twisted and landed on my back. I don't know what happened but something snapped. Penny thinks it was an adhesion in one of my scars. I spent the next several minutes curled up in a ball, in tears. Afterward, I had it out with the guy who tossed me like that. He swears that I fell which, if you think about it, doesn't that sound like a typical abuser phrase? Stephan and my friend Matt didn't really see what happened but both agree that I landed at an angle and distance that isn't consistent with a fall. Whatever he believes he did, this guy has been bullying me for months and I am done with it. The teacher in charge was kind. But because the bullying guy is higher ranked, there is literally nothing he can do except talk to the head of the dojo.

Just because it's funny: me and Mike at the gym. Valentine's Day. >.>

I don't know what I'm going to do. I do know I'm not going to be abused. O'Sensei, the founder of aikido, said that to injure an opponent is to injure yourself. To control aggression without inflicting injury is Aikido. I feel like this is what sets aikido apart from other martial arts and why I love it so much. I'm planning to do some thinking and praying and talking to other martial artists I trust. Mike and I will need to talk, too. He isn't happy about yesterday and although he says he trusts me to make the right choice, I know he has never quite gotten over how sick I was. While he never liked me getting hurt before, now it's extra hard on him. He was super quiet last night after I told him about class. Getting my black belt this year isn't worth that.

(edited to add...I just read my old aikido tagged posts and all of this is consistent with everything I've written about my physical journey! It's kind of cool having a written record.)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Crafting with Autumn

Happy Valentine's Day, friends! Mike, Autumn, and I have been doing surprising well these last couple of days. Thank you so much for your support and prayers. I think it's kind of like that time period when we couldn't get the doctor to answer our questions about whether or not we could have any more biological children. Once we had our answer, it was tough and we grieved that loss, but at least we knew. I miss Grant so much. But at least we know. And we don't have to keep hoping and longing and living with our hearts on a string tugged by a not-very-nice-man.

Plus, it's hard to be sad when our Holiday Queen Autumn is so excited about Valentine's Day. Sunday night we worked on her Valentine Mailbox for school. She did pretty much all of it herself.


And you can tell! Haha. She insisted. I wrapped the box and added the paper trim but everything else is all Miss Autumn!


And, of course, all sides and the back had to be decorated, too!


It took us a couple of days, but we also made Valentines. We've done boxed Valentines in the past but Autumn really wanted to make her own. I blame the Pinkalicious Valentine book! I talked her down when she was making some seriously grand plans involving glitter and doilies.


We saw a valentine using pixie sticks that seemed simple and Autumn approved it. I took the paper above and printed hearts on the back and then I cut them apart to make it a little easier on her. She's still working on the cutting motor skill. She actually did a great job getting the hearts cut out! Much better than the stars we made for an advent calendar at Christmas.


Before she could cut out the hearts, Autumn had to set up a "desk." She does that a lot but this time the desk was at the trunk. The box is her printer and I *think* the little air freshener is her lamp. She's prepared for any cutting needs with her THREE pairs of scissors.


I printed out a list of her friends. I use Google Docs to keep an up to date list of the kids and their information! The parents can make changes in real time and I don't have to email it every time there's a mistake found or a transfer in or out. Anyway, Autumn wrote her friends' names on the back.


We couldn't find pixie sticks which was weird. So, we got some heart shaped lollipops and taped back the wrapper. I cut little slices in the hearts with my xacto knife and slipped the lollipop through and then Autumn added the stickers for the other end of the arrow! I love how it tuned out! I will confess, though...I went back and hot glued the stickers to the ends of the sticks. I was really  hoping they'd just stick but no such luck.


Today the school asked all the kindergarteners to dress like a King, Queen, Prince, or Princess for King or Queen of Hearts day! How fun! Here's our Princess of Hearts with her Valentine from me, a Hello Kitty slap bracelet. She's so fun. She played with that thing like crazy while we were getting breakfast together.


I went into the school with her to snap some photos of the kids before they got all rumpled from P.E. Plus, since I have to teach, I can't go to the Valentine's party. :( Lainey to the rescue, though! She's going to help set up in my place and be there with Autumn. Autumn is, of course, thrilled. And, if the kids at kindergarten are any indication, I am going to get a grand total of nothing done with the preschool aikido kids today!! They were sooooo hyper and excited! Autumn only calmed down and got to her early bird work when I reminded her that they can only pass out Valentines if they get everything done!


I should have used the panorama thing on my phone for this, but I loved getting to see all the workthe kids did on their boxes!! How fun is this?


And that's Crafting with Autumn!

Monday, February 11, 2013

And it's over

He told them, "My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me."
Mark 14:34

We spoke with the lawyer today and agreed that going to court to terminate Grant Jaden's birth father's rights would be too risky. There was still hope among all of us--the lawyer, Bethany, Bethany's lawyer, and friends familiar with family law--that J would change his mind or Bethany would be able to terminate his rights without us. But then our social worker got a call from the birth mother counselor who has been in touch with Grant Jaden's aunt. She wants to adopt Grant Jaden rather than give custody to J when he gets out of jail. She has to have a home study but J won't object to her taking Grant Jaden. So, for all intents and purposes, our role in Grant Jaden's life is over. We are heartbroken.

A few people have asked if we would have done anything differently and the answer is no. We're pretty transparent people. We always have been and have become more so since Garrett's death. Grieving publicly has been a ministry to us and to others and so we will grieve this and hope that maybe someone will benefit from our experience. Too, we did the best we could with the knowledge we had. Everyone was so certain this was going to happen that I have some hospital bracelets that belonged to Grant Jaden that I need to take back to Bethany. I might make Mike do that, though.

I do regret that so many are heartbroken with and for us. But at the same time, I'm selfish in that I am so, so glad I had support and encouragement all this time. I don't know how we could have gone through this emotional turmoil without all of you.

I don't really understand. I don't get why we got so close to having Garrett and then he slipped away. I don't know why we got so close to having Grant Jaden only to have him taken, too. Some moments I think that I just want to be happy with what we have and say goodbye to the idea of adoption because my soul can't take it anymore. But we were so certain this was the right thing. And I have to believe there was a reason that, yet again, a baby changed our lives drastically only to leave. I don't know what it is. I've never been the kind of person to make an idol out of children. I see that I'm not in control--learned that with both bad pregnancies. Maybe it's not me who needs to learn something. If it isn't, whoever God's proving a point to, GET WITH THE PROGRAM I NEED A BREAK.

In the meantime, a meme seems appropriate. This one comes to mind:

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

We won't have any adoption news until after we meet with a lawyer sometime this week so let's do something happy and hopefully auspicious. It's the Lunar New Year!
I don't think we did anything last year to officially celebrate Chinese New Year but we usually do. This year we invited Rob and Elyse and their kids to have dinner. I made potstickers and they are soooo good. And not too bad to make from scratch so I thought I'd share the recipe with you. It's at the end. I took a few photos of the process! Here's the filling set up. I looooove that peeler. It's serrated so it will peel everything from ginger to peaches! I also use my santoku knife a lot more than my chef's knife because it has a shorter blade which makes cutting easier for my short self. I always buy too many scallions or green onions and just cut them all up at once and freeze the remainder. I do the same with parsley and cilantro!

This recipe calls for napa cabbage but because we had barbecue earlier in the week, I had pre-shredded cole slaw mix in the fridge already (are Memphians the only ones who have slaw on top of barbecue sandwiches?) so I used that. When I salted the cabbage to remove the water, very little came out. Wasn't a problem. I don't know if it's because of the packaging process or if one kind of cabbage is more watery than another but it was fine. The potstickers weren't noticably different, either.

Mixing everything together is always weird because it's all gooey from the ground pork and the egg whites. I swear, I could be a vegetarian if I thought about meat too long...

This is the same setup I use to make lumpia! I don't usually bother making my own wrappers. In the past, I've just used wonton wrappers for the potstickers but the gyoza wrappers were soooo much easier to use that it might be worth the trip to the Asian market whenever I do it! Anyway, I've got my wrappers, filling, water, and a baking tray with the silpat baking mat. I also watched Monk while I did the filling!

Mike took this photo for me. I have to use gloves to do things that involve water and dampness because if I'm not careful, my skin gets an eczema flareup. And we don't want that. Yech.

In the span of one episode of Monk, voila! Potstickers! I like to make mine early in the day and freeze them before cooking. If I don't make all of them, I take the remaining potstickers once they have frozen flat and put them in a bag or some freezer container. They keep for a while and don't stick together!

Fry first, steam, and then let the bottoms crisp.

Yummmmmmmmyyyyyyyy.

I made coconut rice since it's a special day! I made it just like I normally do in the rice cooker except I added a teaspoon of sugar and substituted a can of coconut milk for part of the water. Mike doesn't like shredded coconut, but if you do, you can add some to the rice while it cooks! I kind of made up the sugar snap pea recipe as I went along. Mike and Autumn both liked it so I'm going to have to tryyyyy to replicate it!

While the grownups finished up our food and had some lucky oranges (and lucky almond cookies!), the kids had a little parade in the living room!

And before they left, Elyse passed out red envelopes with quarters inside! Autumn is so happy. Aunt Lindsay came by to give Autumn some balloons from her work baby shower and Autumn was all, "I have a chinese quarter!" And then I had to explain, hahaha.

A super fun night! And a good break from all the other stuff going on. Okay, 2013, here's your chance to start over!!

Pork and Cabbage Dumpling -- Wor Tip
Makes 24 dumplings, 6 first course servings
From Cook's Illustrated

We prefer to use gyoza wrappers. You can substitute wonton wrappers, but the cooking time in step 4 will be reduced from 10 minutes to 5 or 6 minutes and note that the yield will increase to 40 potstickers (see chart below Step 4 for more information). These dumplings, also known as potstickers, are best served hot from the skillet; we recommend that you serve the first batch immediately, then cook the second batch. To freeze, place filled, uncooked dumplings in the freezer in a single layer on a plate until frozen, then transfer to a storage bag. There's no need to thaw frozen dumplings; just proceed with the recipe.

Ingredients

Filling
3 cups minced napa cabbage leaves (about 1/2 medium head)
3/4 teaspoon table salt
3/4 pound ground pork
4 minced scallions (about 6 tablespoons)
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
4 teaspoons soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons minced or grated fresh ginger
1 medium garlic clove, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 teaspoon)
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
Dumplings
24 round gyoza wrappers (see note)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup water, plus extra for brushing

Instructions

1. For the filling:: Toss cabbage with the salt in colander set over a bowl and let stand until cabbage begins to wilt, about 20 minutes. Press the cabbage gently with rubber spatula to squeeze out any excess moisture, the transfer to a medium bowl. Add the remaining filling ingredients and mix thoroughly to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until mixture is cold, at least 30 minutes or up to 24 hours.

2. For the dumplings: Working with 4 wrappers at a time (keep the remaining wrappers covered with plastic wrap), follow the photos below to fill, seal, and shape the dumplings using a generous 1 teaspoon of the chilled filling per dumpling. Transfer the dumplings to a baking sheet and repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling; you should have about 24 dumplings. (The dumplings can be wrapped tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 1 day, or frozen for up to 1 month. Once frozen, the dumplings can be transferred to a zipper-lock bag to save space in the freezer; do not thaw before cooking.)

3. Line a large plate with a double layer of paper towels; set aside. Brush 1 tablespoon of the oil over the bottom of a 12-inch nonstick skillet and arrange half of the dumplings in the skillet, with a flat side facing down (overlapping just slightly if necessary). Place the skillet over medium-high heat and cook the dumplings, without moving, until golden brown on the bottom, about 5 minutes.

4. Reduce the heat to low, add 1⁄2 cup of the water, and cover immediately. Continue to cook, covered, until most of the water is absorbed and the wrappers are slightly translucent, about 10 minutes. Uncover the skillet, increase the heat to medium-high, and continue to cook, without stirring, until the dumpling bottoms are well browned and crisp, 3 to 4 minutes more. Slide the dumplings onto the paper towel-lined plate, browned side facing down, and let drain briefly. Transfer the dumplings to a serving platter and serve with scallion dipping sauce (see related recipe). Let the skillet cool until just warm, then wipe it clean with a wad of paper towels and repeat step 3 with the remaining dumplings, oil, and water.

Choosing the Right Wrap
Tasters preferred the slightly chewy texture of gyoza-style wrappers to thinner wonton wrappers, but both styles produced terrific potstickers. Although we developed our recipe using round wrappers, square or rectangular wrappers can be used as well. Here's how to adjust filling amount and steaming time. Because the smaller wrappers yield more dumplings, you'll need to cook them in multiple batches. (For wrapping instructions, see instructions below.)

Round gyoza (3 3/4 inches diameter), fill with 1 rounded tablespoon, steam for 10 minutes
Round wonton (3 3/4 inches diameter), fill with 1 rounded tablespoon, steam for 6 minutes
Square wonton (3 3/8 inches square), fill with 2 rounded teaspoons, steam for 6 minutes
Rectangular wonton (3 1/4 inches by 2 3/4 inches), fill with 1 rounded teaspoon, steam for 5 minutes

Wrapping Potstickers

The instructions below are for round wrappers, our preferred shape. If using square wrappers, fold diagonally into a triangle (step 2) and proceed with the recipe. For rectangular wrappers, fold in half lengthwise.

1. FILL: Place rounded tablespoon of filling in center of gyoza wrapper.

2. FOLD: After moistening edge of wrapper, fold it in half to make half-moon shape.

3. PINCH: With forefinger and thumb, pinch dumpling closed, pressing out any air pockets.

4. FLATTEN: Place dumpling on its side and press gently to flatten bottom.

Submitted to Made by you Monday at Skip to My Lou!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

On the Big Decisions to Make

We had our meeting at Bethany last night. I'm not entirely certain how to share this on the blog without giving away information that shouldn't be public yet so I'm just going to edit an email I sent to our family this morning: 

I thought I'd bring you up to speed on what's happening. I know I've kept the blog updated but there are some things I'm not putting online in order to protect Grant Jaden if he does end up coming home with us.

We went to meet with Bethany last night. We found out that unless Grant Jaden's birth father J just has a come to Jesus moment and signs the papers to terminate his parental rights, we're going to have to go to court. Even if his aunt turns out to be an unfit guardian. The big issue here if we choose to go to court will be that Grant Jaden will have to live with us. We wouldn't be the first people to have, basically, a foster child in the home with older children but you know it would be tough if he was taken away after 6 months or a year.

If we choose to go to court, the primary grounds for termination will be wanton disregard for the welfare of a child. There are some other grounds they will add to the case like abandonment and some other harder to prove issues but the wanton disregard is pretty huge. The attorney says he doesn't get grounds that good very often and puts our chances at better than 75%. The staff at Bethany thinks it's even better than that but, of course, all of this is subject to the interpretation of the judge we get. Also, according to a number of professionals and parents who have been through this, many times the fathers either don't file the proper paperwork or don't show up to court.

One concern that has come up a few times is whether or not J would try to hurt us if we succeed in taking Grant Jaden. I asked our friend about that. She said in her years of practice as an adoption attorney, she has never experienced that nor heard of it happening. Of course, we all know anything can happen but she suggests not making this decision based on fear but on what the Spirit leads us to do. She also says that the $15-20k in lawyer fees that Bethany's lawyer gave us as a worst case scenario is extremely rare and only happens in cases like the Anna Mae He case that some of you will remember from a couple of years ago in Bartlett.

We are planning to spend some time in prayer before making any decisions—we have a few days so we'll take advantage of them. We are also going to start researching attorneys to get a neutral opinion. In the meantime, please feel free to ask questions. I'll keep the blog updated with general information and we'll do the same on facebook. Thank you so much for everything these last few weeks!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Day 2 of what feels like the longest week ever...


Since I am at my most creative when I'm down, I am, of course, working on a new project. These yarn things are always so much more time consuming than I anticipate.

Anyway, we heard from Bethany and we are meeting with them at 5pm tomorrow to discuss our options. Also, I believe I have mentioned before that it will be some time before the birth father will be able to care for Grant. If J wants to parent, he has to come up with some kind of parenting plan. He first wanted his mother to care for Grant but she said no. He's now planning to ask his aunt. Bethany is doing discovery on the aunt. If she also refuses or is not fit to parent, then we have a pretty good chance of bringing Grant home. If she is fit to parent, then I don't know. We will very likely let him go to his aunt without a fight unless Bethany has something really game changing to tell us tomorrow. It's heart breaking. :( But, I still pray that J changes his mind or the aunt doesn't work out because I already love Grant and I...it's hard to be fair and chalk up J's poor life choices to just poor life choices. Because almost everyone we've told the circumstances to (we're being deliberately vague to the online world) is appalled that we might not get Grant. But, there you go. The measures put in place to protect good men also protect the bad. It happens sometimes.

Our family could certainly use some good news. Mike's mom called Mike today and was so upset about Grant plus on top of everything else? Lindsay's sweet, adorable cat suddenly died Sunday after Mike's birthday dinner. They didn't tell us until today because they didn't want us getting more bad news. This is wearing on all of us. Lindsay said it well--we could use some joy right now. We told Autumn. She was sad and talking a lot about death and Garrett and MJ, Lainey's cat that died 2 weeks ago. I mean, really, I'm starting to wonder what mummy we accidentally unearthed. Autumn and I read in her Storybook Bible about Heaven and she felt better.

I've been running across scripture that speaks to me the last couple days. I was going to write about the psalm I read this morning but I'll save that. I waiver between hope, hating myself for hoping, wondering how my faith will survive, and wondering how I'd survive without faith. But here's what the first paragraph said in the story about Heaven:

John was one of Jesus' helpers. He was old now and living on an island with might sound nice except it was a prison. (The Leaders put him there to stop him from talking about Jesus, but I'm sure you don't think a little thing like being in a cell, in a prison, on an island, in the middle of an ocean, could stop God's Plan, do you?)

One of the least helpful things people tell us (usually people who don't know us well and usually in a condescending tone of voice because how dare we feel anything but joy at every moment) has to do with "God has a Plan." I mean, duh. If anyone knows that there's a plan, wouldn't you think it'd be me and Mike? I know God has a plan. I know we don't always get it. But I don't have to love going through it. And I don't have to pretend I don't feel despair because I don't get it. I figure God can handle that. But, for some reason, that part about God's Plan there cheered me up a bit.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Next Steps

Well, around 3pm we finally heard from Bethany. The birth father doesn't want to sign a waiver or a surrender. That's the bad news. The good news is that there's still some hope. My friend who is a former adoption lawyer thinks this is typical posturing. Plus some things came out during the interview with J that makes us think we might still be able to have his rights terminated. The staff at Bethany is going to meet together soon with their attorney and then meet with us to discuss our options. A has to prepare for her trip out of the country this week so Grant will likely go to another interim care home.

I won't lie. I'm disappointed. I'm heartsick and tummy sick. I was on the sofa with my electric blanket and the cat for a while again. Please keep praying for us. That our spirits stay up. And for wisdom.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

So tired

I'm so tired. Emotionally, physically, spiritually. I'm so tired that I'm posting this on the sofa,using my phone, with the cat on my lap.

Bethany has made an appointment with the birth father. I found out his name so we'll call him J. It's 9:30 am Monday. I know you're sick of me asking, but please pray. I spoke with our social worker. J wants to parent Grant Jaden. In this case, it means asking his mom to do it because J can't for a variety of reasons.

I told Mike while he was at work. He came home later with a look on his face that I haven't seen on his face since he held Garrett's body. I hoped never to see that look again.

Because of the circumstances and what we know of J's past, we (me, Mike, Bethany, birth mother K), all believe that becoming a Colley is in Grant Jaden's best interest. I may not be entirely rational because I...I can't wrap my brain around the small possibility that I might have to send Grant Jaden to grow up in circumstances not dissimilar to my own awful childhood.

Mike is feeling better today. I asked him to write something for the blog so you might hear from him. And don't worry, my friends, I am not in despair but I am just so very tired. I simply pray that God moves in J's heart today and tomorrow. Supernaturally. Sacrificially. And that's about all I have left.

My mom sent me a nice verse this morning:
Wait on the Lord. Be of courage and He shall strengthen your heart. Wait, I say, on the Lord.Psalm 27:14

And now, it is time to recharge. :) Autumn just replaced Molly on my lap.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Antiqued World Map

No real adoption updates today...all I know right now is that the birth father received the letter of notification and that the agency is trying to connect with him for a meeting. Same prayer requests as before...thank you so much for your support. I've been staying busy. I finished up Mike's Christmas gift yesterday!

I've had this idea that Mike's office should be just a touch steampunk. Granted, this is a long, long term plan because it's going to be some time before we can get things like, you know, chairs for that room. But that's okay! It took me almost 3 years to get the playroom looking close to what I wanted but it was worth the time and effort! When I was looking for office ideas, I saw a Restoration Hardware map art I liked but it was so pricey and a lot bigger than I needed. Looking for a DIY version, I ran across this post on another blog. I didn't do it exactly the same way but mine was just as easy! First, I bought a cheap poster version of the map I wanted from the site Zazzle.

That image has just the map but the one that came in had a white border around the edge so I knew I'd need to do some distressing. After researching, I settled on Distress Ink which I found at Hobby Lobby. I already had some sponge brushes and modge podge.
Not pictured: sand paper and Xacto knife.

I thought about getting mdf or some kind of board to cut to size but Hobby Lobby had a sale on these canvas paint boards. I went ahead and got one. I am not so good at cutting things out with a saw so it was worth it to me. I really liked the canvas board. There is another project I'm thinking about doing for the living room and I am going to watch for these go on sale again for it.

I spread modge podge on the board and the back of the poster to glue them together. After that dried, I used the Xacto knife to trim the edges to fit the board and sanded them a bit. How many coats of modge podge you use to seal the map or whatever you're decoupaging seems to be a preference thing. I can't seem to find any particular agreement. Three didn't seem like enough and I'm too lazy for six. I did five and let each coat dry about 30 minutes to an hour between each coat. I sanded and wiped down the board a bit before applying the Distress Ink. The bottle had a little pad on it for stamping the ink so I spread a line of color on the edge and used a new sponge to dry brush the ink while it was still wet.

The map's color was a little more yellow than I was expecting and the white around the edge a lot brighter. I covered all of the white border with shades of the Distress Ink stain and pulled some of it into the map itself so the brown edges wouldn't be so stark.

Next time, I will paint the sides of the canvas board before starting the decoupage part! After all that work, I realized that the sides were really obviously white! I went ahead and wrapped the map up at this point since it was almost Christmas, figuring I'd finish it after Mike opened it. And so I did. Mike agreed the sides needed to be done. I didn't want to mess with paint at this point so I took more of the Distress Ink and just ran the sponge top along the sides, not doing it terribly carefully. I had a picture hanging kit on hand so once the sides dried, I screwed in the eye hooks and ran a wire across the back. That was easier than I expected it would be.

And that's it! Other than the wait time, this whole project went smoothly and cost quite a bit less than it would have from a store! Now, I just need to decide how to arrange everything on the wall. It's big, empty wall that had a couple framed pictures on it that we've acquired over the years. I started putting everything on the floor to try to find a good configuration. Wish me luck! Once it's done, I'll post a picture.

submitted to Skip to My Lou's Made by You Monday!