Friday, April 30, 2010

My mission today

This is a first, y'all. I'm blogging before I'm usually awake. This must be special!

 I'm only gonna take a minute here, so please forgive the hurried nature.

Today, I'm meeting with Baby Z's parents again. After our last meeting, my social worker said she almost cried at the way I was treated. I've been praying for them all week and I'm determined that even if it goes poorly again, I will respond in love.

This is my mission today. To be poured out and broken for this family. To show them God's love like they've never seen.  I believe God placed this baby with us so we could be a part of restoring this family to Him.

I've been in some pretty heated "discussions" with people I'm blood-related to, and I still love them and would do anything for them. So that's how I'm going to treat this young mom and dad. (Not get in an argument with them, of course, but show them the "in-spite-of" love.)

I know I'm writing this like it's going to be easy, but I'm writing it precisely because it's not going to be easy. This is the type of situation that would normally make me want to retreat behind a shield and try to get my heart as far away from as possible. But I believe that God made my heart so sensitive because there's something special He wants to do with it.

So I have to believe that as I surrender my heart to Him, He will protect me. I pray that this family sees the goodness of God and is willing to let Him take their hurt and pride in exchange for His peace and love. Will you pray that with me, too?

This is my mission today. What's yours?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

10-Sentence Tuesday

Blogging is becoming like scrapbooking to me. Well, I don't actually scrapbook, but I have always meant to. So I keep all these scraps of memorabilia to put in a scrapbook someday, but I have so much to catch up on, I just keep putting it off and keep collecting things.

I feel like these past few days I've just been collecting scraps of things I need to blog about but I haven't had made the time, so I'm gonna experiment with something I'll call 10-Sentence Tuesday.

In no particular order:

1) Baby Z is doing well, although he has some thrush in his mouth and a fungal infection around his "diaper area."

2) This, and other factors made yesterday (Monday) a rough go with his birth parents during both a "Bridging the Gap" meeting and a doctor's appointment.

3) We were able to find some common ground with our tattoos and Native-American backgrounds, but they are still very defensive, confused and broken people.

4) I didn't get into the PhD program I applied for at the University of Maryland, and since I'm not that surprised, I'm still processing why God had me go through the process.

5) With the PhD door closed (for now), I am praying about what my next steps should be for both the immediate and long-term future.

6) It looks like I will spend most of the next 4 months working in a Reserve capacity in the local area.

7) I will be doing two weeks starting next Tuesday at Andrews AFB to help with the annual Joint Service Open House.

8) Baby Z will go into respite for those two weeks, then probably come back to us; if I continue working, he will go into daycare.

9) It also looks like I will take cooking classes at L’Academie de Cuisine in nearby Gaithersburg, MD.

10) John and I are trying to figure out what to do for our 5th anniversary (in August), so suggestions are appreciated.

Well, there you have it. What's going on in your world?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Some movement at last

On Baby Z's first full day with us, he didn't go, um, number two at all. I was a little worried, though I knew some babies don't go all the time, Baby F did every diaper, so that's all I had to go on.

So, I turned to my child-raising village and posted this on Facebook:
Looking for suggestions for non-pooping formula-fed baby. He's always hungry and not acting uncomfortable.


And boy did I get suggestions! Friends said: change the formula, add dark karo syrup to the formula, give him water, give him prune juice, massage his feet with olive oil, stick a thermometer with Vaseline up his you-know-what, don't add dark karo syrup to the formula, put a latex glove filled with warm water on his belly, and don't worry, my baby only poops once a week.

I think somehow this boy knows about my Facebook page, because just when I was about to try some of these methods, he went. And kept going. Now, he's very, very regular, thank you very much. And very gassy. The stink to amount of poop ratio is unreal. Ok, enough poop talk.

I did change his formula yesterday from Simulac to Good Start and he seems to really like it (thanks for the tip, Mombrose!). I also bought some Dr. Brown bottles and a Tommee Tippee bottle, which are high-end brands designed to reduce colic, but I can't tell a huge difference when he drinks from those. He's quite a gulper and the brand that slows him down the best is the Breastflow. I'm learning every day the best techniques for burping and giving him time to digest. And seeing as how he changes from day to day, I have alot to learn! 

After five days, just as I was ready to surrender my schedule for him (3 hours: wake, feed, play, sleep), which worked beautifully with F, and be more sensitive to his natural rhythm, he complied. Just when I was about to go buy him a swing because the vibrating bouncy chair that worked wonders with F wasn't cutting it, he cozied to it. Keeping me on my toes, this one.

In other news, I finally heard from his social worker today and have a slightly clearer picture on his story and immediate future. I have to be really sensitive to what I say here, because this case is going to be very different from our first one. With Baby F, we met her mom, E, right away and started building that relationship. E was also very cooperative and willing to do everything the county asked her. I'm so happy with our friendship. She called me today just to see how Z was doing and we swapped formula/poop/sleep stories. She's doing really well, so keep up your prayers!

One of the only commonalities is that both moms have the same name, so Z's mom will be called E2 here. She is still a teenager and her first baby is a year old. That baby is in her grandma's custody and I was told that's where they are looking to place Z, too. Z's social worker also worked with his half-sister, so she is very familiar with this family. She told me a little of what is going on, but we are meeting in the morning to go over the rest.

When a child is placed in state custody here, they have what is called a 5-day hearing. (Social workers reading this, please correct me if I get this wrong) At that hearing, the child has a lawyer called a guardian ad litem (GAL), and the family has a lawyer. Along with the social workers and CPS workers, they meet with a judge to decide if the child will stay in state custody or return to the family. If they stay, they are officially entered in foster care. 

Z's GAL came on Tuesday to meet him. If he were an older child, the lawyer would interview him, but with Z, he just asked me some questions about his sleeping and eating habits. He was also on Z's older sister's case, and though he didn't say it directly, I gathered this was going to be very "interesting."

Z's 5-day was yesterday, but apparently something was amiss with the family's lawyer, so they are extending the hearing to 30 days. Which means he'll be with us at least that long. Which also means he will probably go into respite for the two weeks I'm doing my Reserve tour. Since we don't know what the outcome of that hearing will be, we don't know how long he'll be with us after that. So, lots of unknowns, but a few more knowns with more to come.

Even with all the drama brewing, the little man and I are having a great time. He is so intense, which translates to louder, more urgent "communication" when he needs something, but also many glorious smiles and his strong little hands always seeking to grab mine. We're soaking up every bit of it!

(Speaking of soaking up, I switched his diaper brand, too. I had been using Pampers, but now they have this new Dry Max, which was causing little bumps and redness on his skin. I read online that this was happening alot, so I knew it wasn't just us. I'm trying Target brand right now, but am open to suggestions.)

Finally, here's the little cutie wearing a little Earth Day green.


Ain't he worth saving the earth for?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Bundle of Blue

With Plumb's "Blink" playing softly in the background and my husband, my dog and the new addition napping on this chilly afternoon, I have a few minutes to write about said new addition.

Two-week old Baby Z came on Friday to stay for a while. I don't know much of his story. The social workers who dropped him off didn't know either, since his actual social worker was in court with a different case and couldn't make it. I'm hoping to find out more from her on Monday. Part of the "fun" of foster care is the ever-unpeeling onion of information about the cases. I'm cautious to even share what I know because it's so spotty and pieced together from different sources, so I don't know what's accurate. Here is what I think is ok to tell you.

He is in foster care, as opposed to the non-custodial respite status of Baby F. That means he is in state custody and is covered by Medicare (or Medicaid, I can't remember which) and we can apply for WIC to buy his formula.

We don't know how long we'll have him, but if he's still with us May 4, he will go into respite with another family since I have to go do two weeks of Reserve time. Remember, babies under six weeks have to stay at home. After that two weeks, if he's still not home with his family, he'll come back to us.

Though I don't know much about his first two weeks of life, here's what I know about him. He is FEISTY! It'll be interesting to see if he's this way naturally or as a survival mechanism, and if he changes the more stable he becomes. He's little; I don't know his birth stats, but they said he was early. He's a busy little guy. Even when he's sleeping, he's twitching and squeaking. He has the best little pouty lip that usually comes out right after a gassy smile. He's scrawny, but strong and very alert to what's going on.

And he's stinking adorable!


Since he's a little darker than we are, I think we'll get a different response in public than we did with Baby F. I've already seen questions in people's eyes, but so far everyone just says he's really cute. I  can only say "Thank you," though I'm thinking, "but I obviously had nothing to do with that!"

I've been experiencing a mix of confidence in my baby skills, thanks to Baby F, 9 nie-neps and years of babysitting, and some minor almost freak-outs, thanks to him being different from all those babies. I have a great community- a village, if you will- of advice-givers to keep me from fully freaking out, so I'm thankful for them. It's fun to post a question on Facebook and see all the various responses I get. It  shows me that there's no one perfect way and no major way I'm gonna mess him up.

In Baby F news, I watched her for the last half of the week as her mom was in a class. It was fun having her here. She's smiling alot and sleeping so much better, a real joy that little one. She had just gone down for a nap when Z came, but her mom came to get her early so we took a picture of them together. She's happy she isn't the smallest one around anymore!


So, what have you been up to this weekend?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Are you watching?

This past weekend I got to spend with my Oklahoma family. Though these visits include my mom and step-dad, both brothers and their spouses and my sister and hers, it is mostly always about my niece and nephews (or as my s-i-l suggested "nie-neps.")

(Do you know how hard it is to get 8 kids looking in the same direction at the same time?)

Five of these are my sister's and three of them are my brother's. But they are ALL mine! I love being an aunt, and I must be really good at it because God gave my siblings lots of kids!

Tonight, quickly, before my brain crashes into sleep and deep thoughts are erased, I'll make an observation that any of you who are around kids for any time at all have probably made.

My nie-neps are all at ages where they want to show off  be seen. Even the youngest, at 22 months, make sure they have my attention before throwing a ball or hitting something (each other even) with a stick. The older boys want to show off their jiu jitsu moves, and their little sister wants to show off her "jitsu" and "robot dance." Another of them loves to show off how agile he is in climbing and flipping, while his older brother is more than happy to share of his knowledge of bats and airplanes. And I just love that my super-special nephew who has Down Syndrome makes sure I watch and acknowledge when he picks the right shape on my iPhone app and cheerfully claps at his own achievements. 

I remember being like this. Sortof.

Showing off my "Resurrection Sunday" dress to anyone who would watch me twirl. Freely giving out pictures I colored or bravely singing songs I wrote. Even a Field Day participation ribbon was proudly displayed.

Do you remember those days?

I wonder what happens to us. I wonder if that's something we're supposed to grow out of. Because I kindof secretly hope my nie-neps never do. I want them always to be seen, valued, enjoyed, cherished. I never want them to get insecure and worried about what others will think. I want them always to pursue their interests with passion and to share that with others. I don't want them to only share what they think is perfect or just right about themselves, because I think it's all precious.

(And I think I feel my Abba tapping me on the shoulder telling me that's how He feels about me.)

What about you? Do you know anyone who, as an adult, appropriately expresses this aspect of childlikeness? Care to share?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

That's what she said.

No really. That's what the winner of my 100th Blog Extravaganza said in her winning e-mail's subject line.

It took her all of 20 minutes to find all the clues and answer all the questions. And that doesn't surprise me at all, because everything "Mombrose" does is pretty amazing. I met her a few months into grad school and we quickly realized that not only were we the same major, but we had also both graduated high school at 16 and gone to Christian undergrads and wanted to be rock stars when we grew up.

She introduced me to cute socks, TaeBo, Dawson's Creek and The Real World. (Glad our friendship lasted past those!) I didn't really like coffee until she made it "decoffinated" for me. Her family hosted a bunch of us for the Y2K New Years and if your friend's parents could be another type of "in-law" (maybe an "in-friend" such as my "mother-in-friend"?) that's what I'd call them.

We've enjoyed a friendship through the last 12 years that has grown and changed as we have. We've walked (and ran) through life together as grad students, then poor graduates trying to chase our dreams and now as wives and fellow bloggers.

The last time I saw her was in 2007 (WAY too long ago!) when John and I were in San Diego on our cross-country Harley trip.
(Her 3rd beauty was just starting to bake in this pic!)

She is a great writer and photographer, and if you can stand looking at beautiful pictures of beautiful children, you should check out her blog http://ambrosegirls.blogspot.com/. She has a heart after God it shows in everything she does.

So, I'm proud to give her a $100 gift card to spend on www.tisbest.org.



I love you HJ!!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

100th Blog Extravaganza!


I bet when you woke up this morning, you never expected this very Tuesday would be so exciting. Maybe you were excited about something, but I bet it wasn’t this. Why would you be? You're probably still simmering down from all the Easter candy excitement.

But here it is.

My 100th blog!



There’s nothing at all exciting about having written 100 blogs, especially not spread out over more than 3 years. If I were a consistent person, I’d have reached this mark after the first few months.

What’s exciting is that you get a chance to win $100 to give to the charity of your choice.



Here’s how it’s going down. I’ve picked my Top 5 blogs and created a scavenger hunt through the comments on them. If you read my blog on Facebook, in a reader or in an email, you’ll have to click over to the actual blog to participate, because the clues are in the comments there. I’ll start you with one clue about the subject of the blog where I’ve left the next clue. There will be five questions to answer along the way. Each question is about me and it’s information that I’ve shared in my blogs  (not the same ones as the clues are in).

When you get to the end of the scavenger hunt, send me an email with your answers to the questions (if you can’t find/don’t know the answers, just guess) and I’ll give the prize to the first person who gets the most right. I’ll put my email address in the last clue. I’ll keep the contest open until midnight Saturday. The winner will get a $100 gift certificate to spend on https://tisbest.org/.

Another exciting bonus is that my blog will probably get its 3000th hit during the contest, so if that’s you, take a screen shot or picture and let me know! I have a special prize for you, too!

Ready? Set. Go!

First Clue: The Care Bears would know.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Celebrating Us

First, some disclaimers.

1) If you don't want to read a long, detailed account of a married couple's romantic weekend getaway, stop reading now.
2) If you will be negatively affected by reading about us spending alot of money NOT on a social cause or you, stop reading now.
3) If you just want to find out about my 100th blog contest, tune in next time!


I'll set this up for you. This year has been awesome, but busy and emotionally weighty for John and I so far. We got a dog. We had a newborn with us for a month, then as that was coming to an end, John had his Reserve annual tour for two weeks in Germany, then the day he came home, his cousins' family came and stayed a week. These were all great things, but our quality time alone together was minimal.

There have also been some prayers answered, some things going back to our childhood, that have come to pass in the last few weeks.

We were due for some celebration and reconnecting time!

We had this restaurant picked out as a place we would go when these certain things happened. The Inn at Little Washington  was opened in 1978 by Chef Patrick O'Connell, a self-trained cook. He started then with $9 burgers and today it is the only establishment with both a 5-star and 5-diamond rating (for hotel and restaurant).

So, when our calendar cleared, we made a reservation for dinner and then I took it on to plan the rest of the weekend as a surprise for him. Let it be known that I am not a good surprise girl. I am not good at giving or receiving surprises. My husband has surprised me exactly 3 times and my reaction hasn't been worth the effort, so other than gifts, he knows better than to try. And my hyper-communicative self is surprise-keeping averse, though I can do it if I really try. John loves surprises, though, so I did my best.

Friday afternoon started with a scenic drive through some of Virginia's most beautiful countryside. Rolling hills, green pastures, white fences, spacious mansions had the Blue Ridge mountains as a backdrop. This wasn't really part of my plan, just the route we had to take to get to the B&B where we stayed.

We're driving past all these horse pastures and John says, "Sure are alot of horses out here." Me, "Yep, alot of cows too." (trying not to giggle. I'm really bad at this.) John, "I can't remember the last time I rode a horse, sure has been a while." Me, "Hmmm, interesting. We'll have to go sometime." (I know I'm busted.)

So I might have told him to bring his cowboy boots and jeans. But there are alot of things you can do in that attire!

Then we pull up to the Marriott Ranch, which I thought was just a property owned by Marriott. Turns out it was the actual Marriott's ranch. Like the one they bought way back when and lived on and raised horses on. And it's got this long Virginia history before the Marriotts owned it. Now it's the only B&B Marriott operates. It's beautiful!


(top photo mine, bottom photo courtesy of Marriott.com)

We were greeted with a cheese and wine plate.


Our room was blue and huge!


I know you're eager to hear about dinner and what else we did, and I'm just as eager to tell you, but I have to tell you some funny stuff first. It'll be worth it once we get there.

So, for this special occasion, I had decided to get my hair cut. Nothing radical, it was just frumpy and in between a short cut and whatever I'm gonna do next, so it was time. My hairdresser, Fahima, who is normally fabulous, must have been in a hurry because when I was straightening it on Friday night, I noticed it was really uneven. Lopsided in the back and noticeably different lengths of layering on each side. Curly hair is pretty forgiving, straight hair- not so much.

John tried to assure me that the other patrons of The Inn wouldn't even notice, but I knew they would. Thankfully by switching my part and with massive amounts of hairspray, I was able to make it look presentable.

Then I put on the new blouse I bought for this date and notice that in combination with the skirt I brought, I look like a fancy French maid. Well, whatever. Nothing I could do about it.


As John ushers me out the door so we won't be late, I decide to put my earrings and lipstick on in the car. Which is all well and good until I realize that one of my earrings is missing a back and my lipstick is in my purse, which is in the room. And from a recent purse purging, I also know that I have an extra earring back in the aforementioned abandoned purse. Useless!

We finally get to the famous restaurant and the valet asks us our name, then ushers us into the lobby and introduces us. We have a tiny wait, so I ask the hostess if she has a pencil I could have the eraser from to use for an earring back. She did and gave it to me with no hesitation or condemnation. I knew I would love this place!

Just as I'm fastening it on, we are shown our table. I'll fast forward through dinner, because my food critic vocabulary is limited. Here are the highlights:
-Served by no fewer than 10 people, all who know our names. Many of them have worked here for more than 5 years and still love it.
-Personalized menus (that we got to keep of course)
-They have a wine team. Not just a sommelier, a whole team. The "team leader" helped us pair wine to each course. It was so freeing to just say "yes" to everything he recommended.
-After the first bite of the first course, we both decided we never needed to eat again. It was that good. Good just doesn't cover it, but neither does amazing, awesome, spectacular, outstanding, delicious. Our server came to check on us and I asked her to give us a moment because we needed to cry.
-Each plate was perfectly portioned, so we could eat everything on it and still have room for the next one. And the next one. And then desert!

John followed the advice of a coworker and requested a tour of the kitchen. Now, we could've eaten in the kitchen if we wanted to pay an extra $250 just for the table, but we settled for a free tour. After our dinner, a gentleman came to take us on our tour and gave us a little history of the place as well. I was just as excited to be in that kitchen as a kid at Disney World (or Disneyland for you west coasters). It was beautiful and gleaming, and busy but so efficient. Much of the hardware (ovens and such) was designed and created by the chef, so it really is a one-of-a-kind kitchen.


Then. Oh, and then.

The chef, Patrick O'Connell himself, came over to meet us.

Now, if you've been reading this blog for about a month, you know how I get around celebrities. This does not bode well, because by now after the world's best meal and wine, and reading all the articles on the wall on the way to the bathroom, I am totally star struck.

Chef O'Connell was chosen to cook for Queen Elizabeth when she came to America a few years ago. She was only going to be at the event for 15 minutes, so he had to create a whole meal that could be consumed and appreciated in that much time. Apparently he did it, because Laura Bush asked for a doggy bag to take home to W.

Surprising even myself, I keep my comments to "Wow, it was amazing, thank you so much!" He chatted with us, asked us questions, said he was so glad we could come and then said he would love to see us back there any time. I mean, I know he is supposed to say that stuff, but this guy cooked for the queen!! I'm sure compliments from a lopsided hair-doed fancy maid with an eraser earring back couldn't mean too much after that, but I did what I could!

But wait. I couldn't get out of there without saying at least one un-cool thing. I asked our guide, Pierre, I think, if Chef O'Connell had ever been on the Food Network, like Iron Chef or anything. He gave me a look and I got my answer. I answered myself saying that something like that was way below someone of Chef O'Connell's status, and he gave me a more approving look. I am so glad I didn't ask the Chef that!!

The next morning, the Marriott Ranch fed us a three-course breakfast before we started the rest of the "surprise."

I had signed up for a package called "Chaps and Chardonnay," which said it was a 90-minute horseback ride and a visit to three wineries. I pictured us riding the horses up to the wineries, doing wine tastings and then riding on to the next one. Nope. First one, then the other. Okay, that does make more sense.

Even though it was a trail ride, where we had to stay in single file with our group and just walk the horses, it was still cool. I got a horse named Harley! John's horse, Gus, apparently was a picky guy and had to be at the back, so we got a chance to talk to one of the wranglers who is also a social worker looking for a job.

(trying to take a picture one-handed)


After the ride, we went back to the ranch for a gourmet picnic lunch. We even got to keep the picnic basket!

The next part of the package was wine-tasting at three local vineyards. Virginia wine has been around since Thomas Jefferson, but in the last 20 years, it is really taking off and winning some major awards. We even have our own grape, the Norton. I love doing wine-tastings as I always learn a little bit and feel more confident in ordering wine at restaurants that don't have wine teams.

After just one we were ready to call it a day and headed slowly back to our real lives. I love Virginia. That I can go from the most powerful city in the world full of marble and tension and drive 90 minutes into a peaceful retreat of vintage countryside. Just knowing it's out there helps us relax when traffic jams and busy schedules get us tightly wound.

(photo courtesy of ranhar2)

Thanks for letting me share our weekend with you. How do you like to relax? What was the best mini-vacation you have ever taken?
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