Monday, December 27, 2010

Adoption Diaries Part 2- Birthmother "The Placement"

Despite the morning sickness (awful nausea) in the first trimester, I had a fairly easy pregnancy. I did swell towards the end of my third trimester thanks to the heat and humidity in late May in NC, but being uncomfortable towards the end was really my only complaint. I think I lived in yoga pants, tank tops, my brother's boxers, and sundresses for the last month! I spent my 18th birthday seven months pregnant with my best friend, Morgan. We went to Greensboro for a Carolina Hurricanes game and I remember being very uncomfortable in the stadium chair. It also felt like everyone was staring at me no matter where I went (they really weren't). I think I was ashamed of my predicament and judging myself based on my upbringing to not have sex until marriage, considering I lost my virginity to the father of my unborn baby boy. I also worked part-time at a local Real Estate Company and attended community college full-time double majoring in Accounting and Business Administration throughout my pregnancy.

As my pregnancy progressed it got harder and harder to keep up in school and go to work as I was so exhausted and uncomfortable. I'm very thankful that I had two very understanding bosses at work. They knew of my intent to place my son with an adoptive family and my parents for the most part were supportive without being overbearing. I was fortunate with school in that my quarter would finish just before my due date and barring an early delivery, I would be able to complete my semester before giving birth and have the summer off to heal and regroup after placement.

My due date came and went with my son. The wait was bittersweet. I looked forward to relief in giving birth, but dreaded that every moment would be my last with my son. My boyfriend at the time, the baby's father, lived in New England and was not around although we did talk on the phone often. We saw each other once during my pregnancy when I was five months along and just starting to get a belly. He flew down to visit with me for a long weekend with what little money he had. The plan for the birth, was for him to drive down when I went into labor and hopefully, he would make it in time. Then, he would spend time with me and our son in the hospital before we would sign the adoption papers and hand our son over to the adoption agency at discharge from the hospital.

Since I was overdue, I had to start going to doctors appointments every other day and get NSTs (non-stress tests) and extra ultrasounds to make sure the baby was still thriving and the fluid levels were okay. At one appointment, my mom was reading in the chair next to me, while I waited out the NST. At that moment, I felt my first contraction. Oh my gosh the pain took my breath away, I held my breath, turned beat red, and I began to worry what labor would be like. It turns out that it was just really early labor and perhaps the start of things to come as I didn't go into actual labor until a few days later. I went to my 41 week appointment and was told by my doctors that I was in early labor, so they sent me over to the Labor & Delivery unit of the hospital for monitoring. The baby looked great on the monitors, but I wasn't making any progress, so they sent me home. In the meantime, I had called my boyfriend to let him know what was happening and he decided to come down to NC. If I didn't go into labor naturally, I would be induced soon anyway.

He drove through the night to get to NC and it's a good thing he listened to his instinct and made the trip. Not two hours after he arrived I went to the bathroom and felt a gush as I stood up. I called my mother and she called my doctor. The gush was only about the amount of a soda can and then nothing more afterwards. I wasn't contracting yet, either, but the doctor wanted me to come in and be checked out since we lived about a half hour from the hospital. When we got there, I was monitored for awhile and come to find out my water sac was still in tact. I had what they called a "pre sac" that had burst instead, but I was far enough along (3cm) that they admitted me. Once I was settled in my room, I was sent to walk the halls of the hospital to try to get things to progress more quickly.

The pre sac broke at home around 10:30am Friday morning and I labored all day Friday. In the afternoon, I was started on Pitocin and I was also offered pain meds. I had hoped to go med free, but I had horrible back labor and needed a break with the long labor I was having. I tried taking the narcotics and they were awful. They did nothing for the pain, but made me nauseous and feel like I was in another world. I hated them so much that I vowed for my next birth it would be med free or epidural, but nothing else which is exactly what I did with Mariela. Finally, I was able to get an epidural and get some rest before I had to push. I slept for a little over an hour when I was woken up by the nurse putting an oxygen mask on my face. After that, there would be no sleep for me for awhile...the epidural was wearing off and I was in intense pain. The back labor was awful and every contraction left me in tears. The doctors tried to adjust the epidural to give me some relief, but I could get none. The baby's father slept through the worst of my pain (go figure!), but my mom was there holding my hand and coaching me through the contractions. She attended my birthing classes with me and was my official birth coach.

Finally, I felt the urge to push and started to push while lying on my side (with help from the nurse to roll from one side to the other since my legs were numb). Yup, I pooped the bed which is one thing nobody warned me about! I should've tried to go to the bathroom BEFORE I had gotten the epidural. I was having horrible back labor because my son was posterior or face-up and pushing on either side helped him to move down. I know I threw up during transition and I believe I pushed for close to two hours, and at 5:32am my son was born. I had a very specific birth plan that I had typed up for my doctor due to the adoption and not knowing how I would feel after giving birth and they were fabulous about following it. They asked if I wanted him placed on my stomach as was customary and I did. I think I cried harder than he did after the birth! I was a bundle of sadness. awe. I never knew I could love that instantly and that deeply.

My son was a big guy at 9 lbs 4 oz and 21 inches long at birth with blonde hair, blue eyes, and a dimple on his chin (from his Dad). He also had a strawberry birthmark on one of his knees (which would fade over time). Due to his size, his blood sugars were tested regularly while we were in the hospital and he tested fine for all of them. While I was moved from the labor room to the post partum ward, my son was sent to the nursery to be bathed and examined while I settled into my room. His father and I had just spent over an hour cuddling and holding him and just staring in shock at what we'd created. A "tiny" miracle. We named him Jacob Michael, which would be his temporary name until he was officially adopted and his new family changed his name.

Another thing that nobody told me while I was pregnant was how hungry and thirsty I would be after giving birth. I ate like I hadn't seen food in a month and drank to my heart's content. Whoever's idea it is to only feed a laboring mother ice chips should've been shot. I was happy to see that this philosophy has changed when I gave birth to Mariela! I was also allowed juice, popsicles, water, and ginger ale while I labored with her. SWEET! Okay, back to my story. While I was in the hospital I had a few visitors. My parents (of course), my closest friends at the time, my brother, and my social worker from the adoption agency. I think my older brother's visit was the hardest (my younger siblings did not visit as they were only toddlers at the time) as he was actually moving to Florida the same day I gave birth. Losing him as my support system was hard for me as we were very close and with the baby's father living in another state, I needed him to vent with at times.

On my final day in the hospital I held my son and stared at him for hours. I took pictures of him and the one thing I completely regret is that I didn't get a single picture of me with him as I was the one behind the camera. I used to cry about it, but alas there is no going back to change it. I did not feed my son, he didn't spend the night in my room, and I did not change his diapers. When we wanted to see him we walked to the nursery or would call the nursery to bring him to our room...they did not ask us to be involved as it was part of my adoptive birth plan. One reason, is that I didn't want to bond anymore than I had carrying him for nine months and also despite the fact I was a certified baby sitter and helped my mom out a ton with my younger siblings, having a newborn as a teen is downright intimidating. I was afraid I would break him! Our social worker arrived and while we reviewed the paperwork, we sent our son to the nursery one last time for his final examination before discharge.

The review of the paper work was a blur...partly due to my tears and partly due to all the thoughts running through my head. In the state of NC we had 20 days to change our minds and go to court to get our son back. During those 20 days, he would be placed in a foster home. He would not be placed in his final adoptive home until after the waiting period to avoid potential emotional turmoil on the adoptive parents in case we were to change our minds. I signed the papers through my tears. I was not sobbing or actively crying. The tears just fell. It was agony. I didn't think that I was strong enough to go through with the adoption. My parents had said their goodbyes to their grandson the night before, so that it was just my boyfriend and I there that morning with our social worker.

After the papers were signed, the nurse brought my son so that we could say goodbye. I kissed him and rocked him as I sat gingerly on the end of the hospital bed. How would I be able to let him go? I have no idea how I did it, but I said goodbye...not forever, but for now...and laid him back in the bassinet. As the nurse rolled him out of my hospital room for the last time I lost it. Literally. I collapsed in sobs on my hospital bed as the social worker held my hand and my boyfriend rubbed my back. My boyfriend was beyond himself...he felt he should be strong for me, but was having a hard time choking back his own tears. He wasn't nearly as vested with our son being that he lived 600 miles away and didn't experience the pregnancy like I did. After a time my boyfriend went to get his car and the social worker stayed with me in the room. I stared out the window weak, sore, and feeling totally deflated. I was physically and emotionally exhausted. In my head I said that I would give it twenty four hours and if I still felt this much pain- an agonizing emotional pain, like my heart had been ripped from my chest- that I would go to the courthouse and file a petition to get him back. That is what my counselor take it one day at a time.

Next installment: "Ever After"

Merry Christmas!

My family on Christmas Day
We had a wonderful 1st Christmas with Mariela and my brother, who flew up from Florida to be with us. On Christmas Eve we drove up to MA to spend the afternoon with my Grandmother. Mariela played at her house for awhile, then we went out to dinner, and then to see the lights at La Salette. It was a great day spent with Mariela's Great Grammie.
At La Salette with A.R. & Mariela
After we drove back, we went to A.R.'s parent's house for their annual Christmas Eve party. We didn't arrive until 9pm and the party was just starting to get kicked off. We left just before 11pm and people were still arriving! On Christmas morning (Saturday), we were able to sleep in an extra hour thanks to Ms. Mariela and then we leisurely got up, made breakfast (pancakes, eggs, bacon, and toast), and then let our baby girl attack her presents.
Mariela had a blast helping rip the wrapping paper off her gifts from Santa and then trying to eat it. She actually got a couple pieces in her mouth and proceeded to throw up all over me, almost in slow motion, as I tried to fish a piece out of her mouth. She loved all of her presents! After her morning nap, we went out to Ruby Tuesday for lunch. Yes! I felt totally guilty for eating out while those poor people had to work on Christmas Day. We gave her a huge tip to try to make up for our guilt!
Christmas night we went over to my in-law's house so all the cousins could open their gifts. We don't exchange gifts among the adults in his family as there are now 6 kids and it can get kind of expensive. Watching the little ones excitement opening their presents is so much more fun, anyway. Three of the boys (ages 5, 3, and 21 months) are now old enough to understand Christmas and had a blast opening gifts. There was wrapping paper from one side of the room to the other. My brother-in-law put all the gifts he bought for each kid together in diaper boxes and then wrapped the box in Christmas paper. When my 5 year old nephew opened his, he was so disappointed he thought he got a box of pull-ups! We had to open the box for him, so he could see the toys inside. :)
It was a wondeful Christmas weekend with family and I have fond memories of Mariela's 1st Christmas.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Cranberry-Orange Oatmeal Cookies

I loved these cookies! I got the idea from my cafeteria at work when they served these one day. I found this recipe on and made them for a cookie swap in November.

Cranberry-Orange Oatmeal Cookies

Sherried Gravy Pork Recipe

I've been experimenting with crock pot recipes and this is one of the latest favorites on our "make again" list. Enjoy!

Sherried Gravy Pork

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Adoption Diaries Part 2- Birthmother "The Decision"

I remember the weekend I got pregnant well. It was the same weekend my Great Grandmother turned 100 and the same weekend Princess Diana died in that horrible car crash. We were stupid and didn't use a condom...stupid. I always wanted to be a mother, but I envisioned that I would be married and have a good career before I took that leap. You always hear of things happening to other people and never think that it could be you in those shoes. I was always a good kid, I did my homework without being asked, cleaned my room, never skipped class, and was horse crazy. I think my parents just assumed I'd be responsible when it came to having sex and I have no idea why I wasn't. I knew better.

It finally sunk in that I was a pregnant teenager the day I had my first OB appointment. I was 17 and had never had a pelvic exam before. Exposing my girl parts like that for the first time while confirming my pregnancy was embarassing. Thankfully, my mother's insurance provided me with a female obstetrician who was wonderful in explaining everything to me. I was due the end of May 2008 two months after my 18th birthday. When I heard the baby's heartbeat for the first time, I cried. I didn't get an ultrasound until I was around 18 weeks along and I decided to find out the baby's sex. My mother came along to my appointment and as soon as the nurse put the wand on my belly we knew it was a boy. He was NOT shy at all at showing off his boy parts! I cried in awe that day. When I told my boyfriend we were having a little boy he was actually disappointed and didn't hide it well. He had been hoping for a girl as I think he thought it would be easier for him to give a daughter up for adoption rather than the first baby boy in his family that could pass on the family name.

I didn't decide on adoption right way. For the first 5 months of my pregnancy I was going to keep my baby. I started researching bassinets so that the baby and I could share my room in my parents' home, I bought a baby book, a few onesies, and started trying to follow a budget. I wasn't your typical 17 year old, though. I had already graduated high school two years early at the age of 16 and was enrolled in a local community college double majoring in Accounting and Business Administration. With a little luck I would only have to take the summer quarter off from school to have my little one and I could return to class back in the fall. I also had a job already working as a cashier at a Hardee's in town. I actually met the baby's father while working there.

With the horrible morning sickness I had (I only threw up once, but the constant nausea was debilitating- I couldn't sit up in bed in the morning unless I nibbled a saltine first until was 13 weeks along), I ended up having to quit my job at Hardee's as I had to fight the nausea and urge to puke throughout every shift. I lucked out finding a job at a small property management company in town. The owner had also been a teen mom, but what got me the job was my love of horses. I had put my job as a working student at a local farm on my resume and it caught my future boss's attention. I didn't tell them that I was pregnant until I was offered the job and that's when the company owner told me the story of her teen pregnancy. It was crazy how I met people like my new boss during times when I really needed their stories to keep going. Hearing stories like hers gave me confidence and a hidden strength that helped me carry my chin up high and not be ashamed of my circumstances.

Being a pregnant teen in the small town that I was living in was rough. Every time I was out in public I found myself hiding my ring hand to avoid the stares and gawking that came along with my large belly. I had no wedding band on my ring finger and you would be amazed at how many people actually check for it! People gossiped about me within ear shot and stories of my pregnancy flew through my old high school. Some days were harder than others, but there was no changing what happened, so the best I could do was take care of myself and my growing baby boy. During my 5th month of pregnancy shortly after my "big" ultrasound, I started to have second thoughts about keeping my son. My parents were living on a really low income and really had no room in their house for another person (I was already sharing a room with my toddler aged sister). My boyfriend lived in another state with his mother and had no savings and I couldn't support myself financially. I was living at home and still working towards my associates degrees. My mother offered to help all that she could, but I knew she wasn't able to do much and I also knew that I didn't want my mother to raise my own child (yes, she offered). There was no way I could provide the kind of life I wanted for my son and still finish school so that I could get a good job and better our situation.

To make sure I explored my options fully, I contacted the adoption agency that my parents used when adopting my younger siblings and began meeting with one of their counselors. The agency provided free counseling no matter what my decision was and I'm so glad that I utilized it. After quite a few sessions with my counselor and speaking with my boyfriend more, I realized that being parents was something that neither of us was ready for financially or emotionally. While we made a mistake that day chosing not to use a condom, our son was not a mistake, and he deserved a better life with two parents that could provide for him and love him as their own. He could be the answer to a couple's prayer for a child to call their own. I began looking at profiles of prospective parents for my son and didn't have much luck at first. None of the couples stood out to me. After awhile I found a couple that I liked, but another one stuck out in particular. The father was in accounting like I was and the couple had given birth to two of their own children, but they had both died from a genetic neurological disorder as toddlers. One of the pictures in their profile made me was a picture of the mother holding her son in the hospital. He had tubes attached to him everywhere and he was just looking up into her eyes with this pleading expression on his tiny face. I couldn't imagine going through that with my own son. I knew then that they would be my child's parents regardless of what my boyfriend thought of their profile once he got to actually see it, himself.

The agency that I used allowed birthmothers and adoptive parents to chose how open of an adoption they were comfortable with and what kind of communication after the placement was acceptible. I chose not to meet my son's potential new parents, but I did want to get the monthly pictures and reports after his birth for the first year which would be delivered through the agency. I'm not sure why I didn't want to meet them, but I think it stems from the fact that I read all I needed to know in their profile and I felt that meeting them really wouldn't change my mind. I also think it would've been harder on me emotionally and not provided me enough separation to heal after the placement took place. There were days even while I was still pregnant that I already grieved for the son I was going to lose and it wasn't easy towards the end of my pregnancy to feel his kicks and wonder if that's the last time I would feel them. I both dreaded and looked forward to labor as I knew it meant my time with him was short and yet I was so uncomfortable and swollen I was ready to have him out of me. I continued with my counseling sessions and held fast with my adoption decision. I knew this was the best decision for him and our situation, as hard as it was on me.

Next installment "The Placement"

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Chicken & Sausage Paella (Crock pot!)

This is one of my new favorite recipes. I can't wait to make it again.

Pomegranate Glazed Turkey

I made this recipe on Thanksgiving and it was delicious. I found the Pomegranate Glaze in my November 2010 Food Network magazine. It's by Cat Cora (love her!). I always cook my turkeys like this as they always come out really juicy and tastey.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Adoption Diaries Part 2- Birthmother "Finding Out"

I've sat down to write this post several times now. A few times I even started to type and then erased what I'd written and walked away. I have so many memories and thoughts in my head that it's hard to organize them in print, so please bear with me. I'm going to break up my story into several installments as I have too much in my head for just one post. I've always said I should write a book about my experiences with adoption both as a sister and a birthmom. Perhaps one day, I still will. Adoption Awareness month has now passed, but I would still like to share my story in the hopes that someday a scared, lonely pregnant girl might come across it and feel a bit of hope whether she chooses adoption or not. Here is how I became a birthmom...

My legs were shaking and I kept glancing at the clock as I sat in my Accounting class that evening. I swear the second hand was moving backwards, but maybe it was my eyes playing tricks on me. My parents wouldn't be home when I got there as it was my mom's birthday and they had gone out to celebrate. My best friend at the time was babysitting my younger brother and sister, so she would be there with me. I had no idea where my older brother was...probably out with his friends. I was so anxious I had butterflies in my stomach and I would glare at anyone who dared ask a question to prolong the class. Finally, after a small eternity our professor dismissed us. I shoved my books in my back pack and dashed to my car and sped all the way home.

When I got home, Morgan had just finished putting my brother and sister to bed and she came down the hall to greet me. She had a thoughtful look on her face. Half sympathy. Half fear. I think we both already knew. I took the small white bag (that I bought in a neighboring town so I wouldn't get recognized) out from its hiding place and walked to the bathroom. I think there was lead in my feet as time seemed to stand still. I fumbled to open the box and read the directions and then for the first time in my life I peed on a stick.

There is something completely unnatural about peeing on something when you are a girl. Guys pee in the woods, on trees, in parking lots, and on bugs, but think nothing of it. Trying to angle a stick in your stream of urine is an artform I'll never do well. After I was done I laid the test down on the kitchen sink, squinted my eyes shut so I wouldn't peek at it while I washed my hands, and bolted out the bathroom. Longest. Three. Minutes. EVER. Morgan said it was time, but I couldn't do it. I couldn't go back in there. She did. She picked the test up from the counter and sat down on the toilet dumbfounded with her hand over her mouth. I begged her to tell me the results praying that it was just a false alarm. I could tell by her look that it wasn't. She just said, "I can't be the one to tell you this. You HAVE to look at it." and shoved the stick in my face. There they were. Two dark pink lines. "Maybe it's wrong." she said, "Do you have another one you can take?" Of course I did, but I didn't have to pee anymore. There was no denying the result of this test, but I would end up peeing on at least a half dozen more sticks before I accepted the result. Positive. I was pregnant and only 17. My boyfriend lived almost 600 miles away. I felt so alone.

I stumbled out of the bathroom that night with the stick in my hand and laid on my brother's bed and just sobbed. Morgan patted my back. She didn't know what to say or do. Thankfully, my parents were running late and wouldn't be home for another few hours so I could compose myself. I hear a gentle whisper, "Heather you need to call him. He needs to know." My fingers shook as I dialed his number. His mom answered the phone. I asked for him and soon I heard his voice say hello. Our conversation went like this:

Me: "I need to tell you something. Are you alone? Can you sit down?"

Him: "Ya, whatever. We've got company, what's going on I need to go."

Me: "Just call me after your company leaves, okay?"

Him: "No, tell me what's wrong."

Me: "I'm pregnant."

Him: Silence. "Are you sure?"

Me: "Yes."

Him: "Can I call you back later?"

Me: "Sure." Click.

I honestly never thought I'd hear from him again. I couldn't hold back the tears and asked Morgan to come get me if he called and went outside to where I felt most at home. My horse, Dan, looked up at me with hay hanging out of the corners of his mouth as I rounded the corner of the barn. He was in his stall for the night eating his evening snack. I opened the door and he turned and looked at me as he chewed away. Dan was great for hugs and tears and he never told my secrets. I hugged his neck and cried into his silky fur as he nuzzled my back pockets looking for carrots. "Not tonight buddy," I said as he proceeded to swish his tail, snort, and go back to his hay. He listened as I talked to him and his huge brown eyes showed concern whenever he looked up to nuzzle me. If he could speak, I'm sure he would've said that I would be okay and everything would work out even if the road along the way was bumpy.

I have no idea how much time had passed, but Morgan came rushing around the corner and breathlessly said, "He called, Heather. He called." "He asked if you were ok and I let him have it. He never should've hung up the phone before. The bastard. I never liked him. " I hugged Dan goodnight and rushed back to the house to speak with him. I sobbed on the phone. He asked again if I was sure and told me he threw up after he hung up the phone with me. I told him I'd do another test in the morning, but I was sure. He told me he'd send the money for an abortion and come down to be with me for the appointment if that is what I wanted. I told him I couldn't do it. There was a life growing inside me and I couldn't be the one to end it. It just wasn't something I was comfortable with emotionally. We talked some more about keeping the baby and adoption and he promised to call again the next day to check on me and asked me when I was going to tell my parents. "Not tonight," I said. "Not on my mother's birthday. I'll wait and tell her this weekend."

My brother came home as I was hanging up with Him and asked Morgan and I what was up. I told him and he gave me the best hug and offered me a beer. No joke. He had some warm ones in his trunk that a friend bought for him. I had never seen this side of my brother and actually took two sips before realizing that I was pregnant. The fear came crashing down on me again and silent tears streamed down my face. I handed him back the can and he said, "Oh ya. I'm sorry Sis." We sat in the carport for awhile and chatted, so we wouldn't wake our younger siblings. He reassured me he'd keep the secret and that everything would work out. I went to bed before my parents got home so they wouldn't see me so upset. I know my mom would realize something was up.

The rest of the week dragged by and I just couldn't wait anymore. One afternoon, I asked my mom to walk to the mailbox with me because I wanted to talk to her. She agreed and off we went. I think we took maybe three steps outside before I just blurted out that I was pregnant and started crying all over again. I started apologizing to her for not being more careful and telling her so close to her birthday. I was so scared of ruining her memory of her birthday that year I forgot to realize that she was my mom and her love was unconditional. My mom teared up and said, "I know. I've suspected for over a week. Remember when you were telling me you were so tired and you didn't know why? It kind of dawned on me then that a pregnancy might be the cause." My own mother knew I was pregnant before I did. She later told me that she and my dad had a few scares before they got married and she was going to talk to me about the pill, but never got her nerve up to actually follow through. We cried together and she hugged me close and tight and told me it would all work out no matter what I decided. We agreed to tell my Dad that Saturday. Together. Thank. God.

I remember that the day we told my father it was gorgeous out for a fall day. We were in jeans and short sleeves and the three of us started talking in the drive way. I told my dad while my mom held my hand, but then instead of yelling or calling me careless he hugged me. Tight. When he let me go there were tears in his eyes and he said that I would be okay and so would the precious baby growing inside me. He assured me that we'd figure it out and if adoption was my choice he would be okay with it since they knew what joy a baby could bring to a family, but he asked me to please not abort and thanked me for telling them before I went that route. I assured him abortion was never an option for me. He hugged me tight and thanked me for choosing life.

Next installment: "The Decision"

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Adoption Diaries Part 1- Big Sister

November is Adoption Awareness month and it is a cause that is very near and dear to my heart. I've decided to share my story to help spread more awareness on adoption and how beautiful it can be. I became a big sister thanks to adoption and I am also a proud birthmother. Here is Part 1 of my story on how I became a big sister through adoption...
It was a crisp February day as we wound our way through the mountains of Asheville. With every mile the car passed, my heart skipped a beat and I could feel the excitement pulsing through my veins. After what seemed an eternity we arrived at our mom, dad, and older brother. The four of us couldn't sit still as we waited in the tidy waiting room for the social worker. Within minutes she came out to greet us and asked that my brother and I go into her office with her. When we got there she asked us if we'd be willing to do something special for our parents and within moments I was looking at a tiny face. My brother and I were in awe of the bundle in the social worker's arms and then that bundle was in my arms.
Rebekah, me, A.R., Pete, and Isaac on our wedding day
I was the first person in our family to hold our newest member- my baby sister, Rebekah. We then walked out to the waiting room and I got to present our mother with her newest baby, a daughter. Rebekah wasn't grown in my mother's womb, but she was grown in her heart. I'll never forget the day I handed my new baby sister to my mother. The smile on her face, the tears of joy, and the pride as I held my little sister. I was 13 the day I met Rebekah and I had always wanted a younger sibling. My parents had always wanted a large family, but my mother got very sick when she was pregnant with my brother and I. She was on bedrest most of her pregnancy with me and was told after giving birth to me that having another child would probably kill her. My parents thought their dreams of having a large family ended there.

My mother was always interested in adoption, but my dad thought that he wouldn't be able to love an adopted child as his own so they never persued it. One day while driving home from work, my dad was listening to the radio and there was an interview about adoption on the air. He was intrigued. After many conversations with my mom and then talking to my older brother and I to see how we felt about things, my parents began to research their options. My dad can't explain his sudden change in heart, but he knew he wanted another child to raise and love and my mother was overjoyed at the chance to grow her family.
On vacation in NC to visit my parents, Bekah, & Isaac
They decided to go with a private christian adoption agency and soon began the long process to apply to be adoptive parents. There was mounds of paperwork and forms to complete including a personal profile of our family for prospective birthmothers to read, counseling with the social workers, home visits, and interviews with both of my parents and my brother and I. Finally, after a long, tiring, and often frustrating process my parents were approved to be put on the waiting list for a new baby. As they began the wait- which we had no idea how long it may be- my parents slowly started preparing to become parents once again. They had chosen to adopt a special needs infant who would come to us at just 1 month of age and could be either a boy or a girl.

I don't remember the day my mother found out she would have a second daughter, but I do remember the day she met her as she took her from my arms and held her for the first time. Rebekah came to us when she was just over a month old after my parents had been waiting 9 months (Coincidence? I think not.). She was born in December, the same month as my older brother. She is considered special needs because her mother drank while she was pregnant, was possibly on drugs, and didn't know who the father was. Also, she is half white and half black (why that makes her special needs, I'll never understand). The scary thing about Rebekah's adoption is that it would not be final for an entire year since her father was unknown or called a John Doe. Without his sign-off, the adoption could not be considered finalized for one year. After this waiting period, the courts would sign off that he was absentee and my parents would recieve full custody of Rebekah and the adoption would be final.

That year was filled with great reward for my parents, my brother, and I as we watched my little sister grow and bonded with her, but it was also hard for my parents as they knew that any day they could get a call from the adoption agency that Rebekah's birthfather had stepped forward and wanted custody of Rebekah. If that were to happen, we could lose her. Thankfully, that call never happened and one year after Rebekah was born, my parents received the final adoption papers and Rebekah was officially theirs. However, several months later my parents would get an unexpected call from the adoption agency. There was a special needs boy that needed a home...he was black and white like Rebekah and his parents were together, but unable to care for their newborn infant due to their own health reasons. They chose adoption and wanted my parents to be their son's adoptive parents.

Isaac came to live with us when he was just over a month old. My parents were overjoyed to have another baby in the house and a second son. Isaac was born in March, the day after my birthday. So my older brother and I were born in December and March 15 months apart, then there was a 13 year age gap and they adopted two more little ones born in December and March and also 15 months apart. Crazy, huh?! With the addition of Isaac to our household, my parents decided that their family was now complete. Our lives are forever changed by the wonderful gift of adoption and both of my younger siblings have brought happiness and joy to our family. My mother has the large family she had always dreamed of and my father learned that he could love an adopted child no different than his biological children.

Right now, my sister is a Junior in highschool and my brother is a Sophomore and they are both doing quite well even with their disabilities. Rebekah is a beautiful young woman who loves dance, horses, boys, and art. Isaac is a very active and athetic young man. He plays football and wrestles and is a member of the JROTC at his high school. They both know their adoption stories and the little information we do have on their birth parents, but they also know that they are our family and are loved very, very much. Adoption gave them a chance at a good life and provided them a home which their birth parents could not. I am proud to call them my younger siblings.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Recipe Nest Blog

I'm going to be a sporadic contributor to this recipe blog some fellow online friends and I started up. Here's my first post on the blog which is just getting started up this week. Bookmark this site for more exciting recipes and events to come!

The Recipe Nest

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Happy Belated Halloween!

Halloween isn't a favorite holiday of mine, but I have to admit this year was fun since I got to dress up M. A.R. and I ended up dressing up, too. He dressed up as a hotdog to play a joke on one of his older brothers after another brother (have I mentioned he is the youngest of 4 boys??) dragged it out of our nephew what his Papa was going to be for Halloween. Turns out my nephew was wrong, but the costumes still worked. He said that his Papa was dressing as a hotdog and all he did was brag about the great costume he had, so A.R. and his brother went to buy the same one. Well, his brother actually dressed as ketchup and his wife was mustard so when A.R. and his other brother showed up as hotdogs they looked cute together! I dressed up as a cow sort of as a joke since I'm the sole milk provider for M still. :) M was the most adorable 50s girl in her poodle skirt.
The same nephew mentioned above was born on Halloween and turned 5 this year. Every year we go to his birthday party and all the cousins that are old enough go trick-or-treating together after eating his birthday cake. This year it was fun that we could actually join in the festivities a bit more having a costume for M. She even got a party goody bag all her own! We didn't take her trick-or-treating because it was too cold out, but next year we will take her around our neighborhood before heading over to my nephew's birthday party.
I think next year we'll also coordinate our costumes as a family...just the three of us. We shall see what we come up with...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Half Way to a Year

This post is rediculously late- ah, the joys of being a working mom- but I wanted to post it now that I have M's pro photos uploaded to our computer AND considering she turns 7 months old tomorrow!
Happy Belated 1/2 birthday to my baby girl! It's hard to believe that 6 months ago you were kicking my bladder from the inside and now you just kick and grab everything. You are such a happy baby and bring joy to everyone who meets you. When we are out in public we get no less than three comments about how happy/beautiful/smiley you are from strangers every. single. time. A few people have even thanked us for letting them interact with you as you brightened their days. One older woman still sticks out to me...we ran into her at Target while I had you in the Baby Bjorn facing outward. She saw you kicking and smiling as we did our shopping and started talking to you, so I stopped to indulge her (if I stop to indulge every person- we'd never get our errands done!). You hammed it up for her and she thanked me for taking the time to let her talk to you. She said she had been having a bad day until she saw your beautiful smile and you cheered her up. I hope you always make people smile and brighten their day.
At six months you can roll both ways, but prefer to be sitting up or on your back, so you can play lying on your side. Right now we have to sit you up as you can't do it yourself and you whine if you don't get your way! You hate to be on your stomach and loathe tummy time. I make you do tummy time anyway, so hopefully someday you'll learn to crawl! When you are reclined or on your back you ALWAYS cross your ankles. So dainty. You've started on solid foods and really love sweet potatoes and pumpkin. When I put you in your highchair and put your bib on you get excited and wave your arms in the air and open your mouth like a little birdy for your food. :)
Your favorite toy is your Sophie the Giraffe. Everytime you see her, you smile. You also like in the tags on every single toy/blanket/bib/doll you own. Sometimes, I think you like the tags more than the toy itself! You'll suck on them and rub them for hours. At night you sleep with a silkie and prefer to have it touching your cheek. Hopefully, someday it will make weaning you from your pacifier easier. At your 6 month appointment you weighed 16 lb 11 oz and were 27 1/4 inches...long and lean like your Papa. Your height is off the charts!
Your Dad and I are completely in love with you and are so thankful to have you in our lives. Not a day goes by that we don't stare at you in awe. We can't imagine our lives without you and look forward to watching you grow, learn, and develop into a young women. Take your time baby girl...the world will be there waiting.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Two Years Into Forever

It's hard to believe that A.R. and I have been married two years now. It's been a month since we celebrated our second wedding anniversary (September 6th) and it always amazes me to look back and see how far we've come since our wedding day. We now live in the house we built together in the middle of wedding planning, grad school, and working full time. I graduated with my MBA and A.R. will finish his MS in Computer Science in 2011 (he's in his last official semester now and then it's thesis time- you rock, Babe!). We found out we were pregnant and welcomed our baby daughter into the world. We lost a pet (RIP Sebastian) and we gained a new fur baby to add to our family (I love you Lily "monster"!). We've both lost family members (RIP to my Grandmother, A.R's Aunt, and his Uncle) and gained two more nephews (Benjamin born in March 2009 and Christian born in September 2010).
On our wedding day :) I think our love has grown stronger and I can see our bond continuing to develop as we adjust to life as husband and wife and now as new parents. I hope we continue to build a strong foundation in our marriage and love one another like we did on the day when we looked into each other's eyes and said, "I do". I know our marriage will have its peaks and valleys, but in the end we should always have each other. Its sad for me to admit that sometimes I take my husband for granted and it took a friend of mine going through a rough patch in her marriage for me to realize that. I should be thankful for him everyday. It isn't good enough to just be thankful, though. He needs to know I need him, love him, and appreciate him. A.R, if you're reading this I promise to be better at telling you how much I care, how much I love you, and how much I love being able to call myself your wife. Motherhood has consumed me, but I would not be a mother if it weren't for you, my husband and my best friend. Our family would not be complete without you. Know that I love you and always will...even with baby cereal in my hair, a half undone ponytail, day #3 of sweats and an old t-shirt, and another sleepless night. I look forward to watching our daughter grow up with you, to Saturday morning family cuddle times, to adding more children to our family, to growing old with you, and to experiencing our lives together as husband and wife. I truly am the luckiest girl alive to have you.
To celebrate our 2nd anniversary, A.R. and I went out on a date for the evening. We had dinner on the Essex Steam Train and then hit up the Clinton Outlets. It was nice to get away as just the two of us and spend time talking, bonding, and catching up. The steam train was a fun experience and the food was delicious! The views along the CT river were quite beautiful, too. I think we'll do it again someday for sure. I think next time we'll do the sight-seeing tour and bring Mariela (and maybe her cousins) along.
The inside of our dining car

My meal was cranberry glazed stuffed chicken- YUMMY!

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Corn & Blueberry Salad

I found this recipe in my June 2010 Better Homes & Gardens magazine and it came at just the perfect time. We had fresh blueberries from a local farm and the corn and cucumbers in our garden had just finished ripening. It's a little late in the season for it now, but bookmark it for next summer and enjoy!

Prep: 25 minutes then chill overnight

6 ears fresh sweet corn, husked
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 small cucumber, sliced
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped (optional)
2 Tbsp. lime juice
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. honey
1/2 Tsp. ground cumin

1. In Dutch oven bring salted water to boiling. Add corn. Cook, covered, 5 minutes, or until tender. When cool enough to handle, cut corn from cobs.

2. In serving bowl combine corn, blueberries, cucumber, red onion, cilantro, and jalapeno. For dressing, in a screw-top jar combine lime juice, oil, honey, cumin, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Cover; shake well to combine. Add to salad; toss.

3. Cover and refrigerate overnight (up to 24 hours).

Makes 6-8 servings

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Once-A-Month Cooking: Round #3

For this round we had gotten a little bored eating the same recipes that I did for rounds 1 and 2, so I opted to try a few new recipes from my book and ventured to the other meal plans to experiment. I even got A.R. to agree to try a fish dish with shrimp in it (he isn't a huge fish fan). I also wanted to try to make the recipes a little bit healthier, so any recipe that called for ground beef I mixed in half ground beef and half ground turkey. I've tried about half of the meals so far that have half ground beef, half ground turkey and they taste just as delicious.

For this round I cooked a total of 21 recipes and did most of them on my day off during the week (Wednesday) and split the rest up on a Tuesday evening with a nursing break in the middle to put M down for the night. It wasn't too bad or nearly as exhausting as doing it when I was 9 months pregnant, but I still think cooking all the recipes in one day would be a bit much for me. I did the shopping on a Sunday afternoon at just my local grocery store when it would be less crowded. I think I have the grocery list making and shopping down to science as I do the list based on where the items are located in the store together. It cuts the shopping time in half.

These are the recipes I made during Round #3 (feel free to comment if you'd like any of them emailed to you):
Beef Recipes-
Green Chili Enchiladas (a favorite from round #1)
Baked Beans & Hamburger
Rosie's Meatloaf (love this meatloaf recipe even with ground turkey)
Marinated Flank Steak
Beef Goulash
Playoff Burgers
Farmer's Casserole
Bacon-Wrapped Meatloaf
Ravioli Soup

Chicken Recipes-
Herbed Chicken
Chicken Packets (Yummy, great for kids, can be served hot or cold, also good for lunches)
Chicken Tetrazzini (a favorite from the 1st round)
Lemon Chicken
Chicken & Rice Pilaf (another favorite from the 1st round- it is a little salty)
Cranberry Chicken
Karen's BBQ Chicken
Chicken Cacciatore

Pork Recipes-
Stuffed Pork Chops (one of our favorites!)
Caraway Pot Roast (Delicious and easy to do in the crock pot)
Slow-Cooker Fall Pork Roast

Fish Recipe-
Fiesta Shrimp (I was not a fan of this recipe, but it was ok)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Worst Blogger Ever

How has it been a full month since I posted a blog post?! I promise to try and be a better blogger moving forward...I may even try to do the 30 Day Blog Diary starting on Friday (Oct. 1st!). Why have I been on a hiatus? Most of it was because I was studying to take the first exam as part of earning my ARe (said: "A", "R", "E") designation for work. It is called an Associate in Reinsurance and is basically a designation that means I get to put the letters behind my name at work and it'll look good on my resume if I remain in the insurance industry. My boss wanted me to go for the designation back in 2008, but I was still in grad school and didn't have the time. Now that I'm done with school, I told her I would pursue it.

I was so nervous to take the first exam as it's been over a year since I did any studying (can you believe it's been that long since I finished grad school?!) and the exam was given at one of those Prometric Testing centers. I have to say that the testing center ended up being more intimidating than the exam itself. I had to empty my pockets in front of the testing staff on my way in and out of the testing room, turn my cell phone off in front of them, keep my purse in a locker, and keep my ID on my desk at all times. I had two hours to take the exam and I used every second of them. Some of the questions had tricky wording, but miraculously I passed! I got my "Pass" grade immediately and then found out a score range two days later via my email from the AICPCU.

I was so relieved I passed that I had to contain myself in the quiet testing room. I did fist bump a teeny bit and got the biggest smile on my face as I left with my scrap paper and wood pencils Prometric provided. I'm sure the security cameras in the testing room got a kick out of that.

Now, I have to pass 3 more exams at the testing center, an ethics course, and take a course that involves reading articles and case studies and responding to questions on-line through the AICPCU website to finish. I hope to take another exam before the end of the year when the next testing window (there are 4 test windows a year that run for 2 months a piece- the next one starts Oct. 15th and ends Dec. 15th) opens up and hopefully take the remaining three parts throughout next year. I definitely want to be done before we decide to expand our family and try for a sibling for M.

Friday, August 27, 2010

5 Months Old (Young)

It's been 5 months since I met my beautiful daughter and my how the time has flown by. I absolutely love being your mother, Mariela. I tear up with pride at each of your new accomplishments (yes dear, your mom is a total sap!) and look forward to watching you absorb the world around you. I fear you're going to grow up too fast, so I am cherishing every moment with you. I've waited so long to be your mom and I know in the blink of an eye you will be a young woman ready to go out into the world and have a family of your own.
You said "Mama" this past Monday for the first time ever and while I know you are just practicing your sounds and don't quite realize that I AM your "Mama", it melted my heart. I still gloat to your Papa that you said my name first. Of course I do say it to you all.the.time, but we won't get into such details. When you wake up in the mornings and whisper "Mamamama" into your video monitor I smile. You are the best alarm clock a gal could hope for.
I'm a little jealous at your suck on your big toes now. Both of them. At the same time. You also fall asleep happy and wake up happy and go with the flow wherever your Dad or I take you. Your smile is infectious and stops random strangers in public. We can't go anywhere without you at least charming one stranger. You have such a bubbly personality.
You laugh. Hard. It's a deep belly laugh with squeals and coos and I tear up every time I hear it (nobody ever told me I'd be so full of pride that I'd still cry so easily 5 months postpartum- it's gotta still be extra hormones, right?!). You laugh the most for your Papa when he plays peek-a-boo with you. You adore him and light up with a smile whenever he walks in the room. You get frustrated now with your toys. You want to learn and explore so much that you feel trapped in your body sometimes and grunt and whine at your displeasure when your toys don't cooperate with what your mind wants. I love to watch you think and figure things out. You've started rolling a little more now, but you prefer just to play on your back or side or have Mama or Papa hold you in a sitting or standing position.

You love your sleep. Thank. God. You go down for the night now between 7 and 8pm and sleep straight through with a brief fussy spot once in the middle of the night to have your paci put back in your mouth (which by the way, you can do yourself now- just a thought). On the weekends after your morning nursing you play in bed with Mom & Dad until you fall back asleep and then we all take a nap. I cherish these moments. We are a family now. Happy 5 months birthday M. You'll always be my baby girl.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I'm going Bananas

I've been on a banana kick lately. I love them for breakfast sliced length wise on my English Muffins with some peanut butter or sliced in circles on some Cheerios. The last bunch of bananas I bought ripened a bit quicker than I could eat them, so I decided to experiment and bake some banana bread. Since I'm addicted to Food Network, I looked up some recipes on their website and chose to try one contributed by Emeril Lagasse back in 2003. It was delish (as Rachel Ray would say!).
Here is the recipe:

Banana Bread (courtesy of Emeril Lagasse, 2003)

10 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon butter
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2 large bananas)
1/2 cup sour cream
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups cake flour (I used whole wheat flour)
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup toasted, chopped walnuts (optional- I didn't add them as I'm not a fan of nuts)

1. Lightly grease a 9 1/4 by 5 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan with 1 teaspoon of the butter. (I used stonewear by Pampered Chef)

2. Puree the bananas, sour cream, eggs, and vanilla in a food processor.

3. Sift the cake flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fixed with a whisk attachment. Add the remaining 10 tablespoons butter and mix on medium-low speed until blended, about 30 seconds. Add the banana mixture in 3 batches, scarping the sides of the bowl and mixing on medium speed between each addition. Fold in the nuts.

4. Pour into the loaf pan. Bake until lightly browned and bread bounces back to the touch, about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes before turning out onto wire rack to cool completely.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Nails in the wall!

Finally, we put some nail holes in our Family Room wall. I think both A.R. and I have been procrastinating in putting the first nail holes in the sheetrock in our Family Room. We weren't quite sure what we wanted to do as far as wall decor (besides the flat panel TV we intend to put above our fireplace) and never really found a print that we had to have. FINALLY, after a year and a half in our new home we bit the bullet and actually put 11 nail holes in our Family Room wall. ::Gasp!:: I had wanted to put a photo collage up one of our stair wells with family photos, but after picturing it in my mind I changed my mind and decided to put the collage in our Family Room instead. The focal point?! Our 1st family photo with Mariela in our arms.
Our photo collage (with 2 pics missing still)
Under the photo collage, I plan on putting a bench with storage that can double as extra seating when we have guests over and storage for baby toys. Something like this or this is what I have in mind. A.R. wants new couches for our Family Room, so I want to wait a bit longer to see what he has in mind before we invest in a bench. The walls in our Family Room will be painted Plateau by Behr Premium Plus Ultra except for the wall with the fireplace which we plan on painting a darker shade of brown as a focal point in Macchiato by Behr Premium Ultra Plus.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Spreading A Little Cheer

Now if this doesn't make you must be having a really, really bad day.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I'm spoiled

Okay, so I have to admit despite my occasional nagging and complaints I really am blessed with an awesome husband. His speciality is cooking desserts and my specialty is eating desserts. A match made in heaven for sure, but not so good for my waistline. A few weeks ago he surprised me on a day when he was playing Mr. Mom and made us a fabulous dinner (grilled chicken, his other specialty) and peach cobbler for dessert with some peaches we bought at Sam's Club. Now, I want a peach tree in our yard.

Here is the recipe he found online all by himself, It is certainly NOT prediabetic friendly, but we've only made it twice and I assure you the picture doesn't do it justice:

Southern Peach Cobbler from By: aeposey

8 fresh peaches (peeled, pitted, & sliced into thin wedges)
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1/4 cup boiling water

Mix together:
3 tablespoons white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon


1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F
2. In a large bowl, combine peaches, 1/4 cup white sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon juice, and cornstarch. Toss to coat evenly, and pour into a 2-quart baking dish. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine flour, 1/4 cup white sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. Blend in butter with your fingertips, or a pastry blender, until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in water until just combined.
4. Remove peaches from oven, and drop spoonfuls of topping over them. Sprinkle entire cobbler with the sugar and cinnamon mixture. Bake until topping is golden, about 30 minutes.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

4 months old

My how the time is flying by! M is now 4 months old and growing like a weed. It's amazing to see how much she's changed when I compare her recent pictures and videos with her newborn photos. I can't believe how teeny tiny she used to be. She no longer has the newborn look. She looks like an honest to God baby now. Really. A.R. and I can't believe how happy she is...there is always a smile on her face even when she's pissed off at us, she'll take a break to crack a smile. :) We feel so blessed to have such a happy, "easy"-going baby. Here's hoping our future children are as laid back. Ha!
M has officially outgrown her bassinet and A.R. took it out of our room last week. ::tear:: She weighed in at her 4 month appointment at 15 lbs 4 oz (85%) and was a whopping 26 1/4 inches long (off the charts!). Her pediatrician said her length now, may or may not have any bearing on her height in the future. I'm only 5'4", but A.R. is just shy of 6' so I'm sure she'll fall somewhere inbetween. She has rolled both ways at least two times, but doesn't do it regularly. She hates to be on her stomach, so you'll see her lie on her side a lot when she plays. M has found her toes and loves to hold her feet and coo when I change her diaper, which makes it interesting. She's started arching her back when you hold her to try to scoot away and she prefers to be held upright or sitting up so she can see the world around her.
After her naps and nighttime sleep she is always so happy and smiles and coos until you come to her crib to get her. We get greeted by a huge gummy smile and a great big stretch. :) M already knows how to whine and is not shy about letting you know when she isn't 100% content. She doesn't like the heat (we've spoiled her with central A/C) and will whine until you stand by a fan at my mother-in-law's house. M takes great delight in watching her cousins (all 4 boys) play at her Abuela's house almost as if she's supervising them. I think she's plotting just how she'll boss them around and make them have tea parties with her when she's older. :) It's debatable who she looks more like: A.R. or me. I really think it changes daily. In my eyes, she is beautiful and 100% perfect.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Operation Garden 2010- Update 3

Our garden is finally in full swing after getting off to a slow start. We are starting to harvest and eat the fruits of our labor and so far it's been well worth it. Tonight for dinner we had fresh corn picked minutes before from our garden, last night we had summer squash, and we've also harvested quite a few cucumbers. I refuse to make pickles this year as I still get nauseated just thinking about them (last year's pickeling was when I was in early pregnancy on the ONE day I felt morning, I can't bring myself to eat them!), so we've been sharing with family and friends. I think we've harvested at least a dozen cucumbers so far with still tons growing on the vines. Still to come from our garden is broccoli, carrots, watermelon, pumpkin, and eggplant. I hope to make baby food out of the carrots, pumpkin, and squash for Mariela. My fingers are crossed that the carrots actually grow well this year!
Our 1st Harvest
I never knew what broccoli looked like before it was harvested and find it pretty cool how it grows. Even seeing the eggplant grow is pretty cool! Oh ya, and we had one ripe raspberry on our new raspberry bush and I ate it. I think some beetles are starting to attack it, so we need to figure out how to get rid of them before they hurt the new raspberries that are growing. I hope to get some more fruit from the bush this year as they are my absolute favorite and I have a raspberry crepe recipe I want to try. :)
1/2 of our garden is pictured here
We have tons of tomatoes on the vines, but none have turned red yet. Here's hoping we get some ripe ones soon, last year we didn't get a single one thanks to the tomato blight in our area.
The 1st squash we steamed with carrots

Thursday, July 15, 2010

One year ago today.,..

This is what A.R. and I were staring at on that Wednesday evening one year ago from today. Giddy with excitement at what was to be, yet terrified of the adventure we were about to embark on. Would we be good parents? Was the baby a boy or a girl? Who would s/he be most like in looks and personality? Would s/he think we were good parents and love us? What would it be like to hold her in our arms?
Parenthood is a gift and one I'll cherish always. It's a lot of work, but a different kind. One that comes with much reward for little expense (well, unless you count the cost of diapers :P). I love being a mom and I still stare at our little girl in awe to think that she was made by the teeny, tinyest cell from me and the teeny, tinyest cell from A.R. What a miracle she is...and oh. so. perfect. In my eyes she'll always be my baby girl even when she's taller than me and running off with boys or finding her way in college. I get it now, Mom. Thank you.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Once-A-Month Cooking: Round #2

This time around I was a little more seasoned and got brave and decided to come up with my own plan using the recipes in my book that we enjoyed from meal plan E and some new ones I found just browsing the other meal plans. I also opted not to cook a full 30 meals since the month of meals lasted us two months and it was absolutely exhausting to do it the first time around. Mariela was still only 8 1/2 weeks old when I cooked round #2 and I was able to breeze through it by cooking while she napped on my last week of maternity leave.

I also got smart and wrote out my own shopping list dividing the ingredients I needed by where they were grouped together in our grocery store (I still bought the meat in bulk at Sam's Club to save some money). By doing the list myself, I saved a TON of time shopping and was able to do it easily with baby in tow. It also wasn't as pricey because I didn't need as many spices as many were leftover from my original Once-A-Month cooking adventure. For cooking day(s), I planned to cook for three afternoons and only for a couple of hours maximum since Mariela's naptimes weren't always consistent at that point. I broke out the recipes once again by meat type (like the book does) and cooked beef recipes one day, pork and vegetarian dishes the next, and chicken on the final day. On the day I cooked the pork and vegetarian dishes, I cooked and diced the chicken for the next day's cooking, so it was already prepped. It worked out nicely and I found I was much more organized in the kitchen the second go round so the cooking portion went quicker as well.

Here are the 17 meals I cooked for round #2, feel free to email or comment if you are interested in any of the recipes:

Beef recipes-
Playoff burgers- YUMMY & perfect for grilling in the summer
French Stew- one of the best stews I've made and great for the crock pot
Green Chili Enchiladas- My favorite dish
Baked Beans & Hamburger- YUMMY, I recommend buying ready to bake rolls to serve with it
Marinated Flank Steak- great for the grill
Shish Kebabs- great for the grill- the pineapple made these scrumptious
Rosie's Meatloaf- our mutual favorite recipe
French Dip- another easy crockpot recipe

Chicken Recipes-
Sweet Soy Marinated Chicken- I loved this recipe, but A.R wasn't a fan
Herbed Chicken- DELISH!
Chicken Packets- very good, great for kids, and light for summer
Chicken Tetrazzini- A.R.'s favorite (we split the recipe and freeze in two portions)
Deborah's Sweet & Sour Chicken
Chicken & Rice Pilaf- delicious, but a little salty

Pork Recipes-
Stuffed Pork Chops- these were DELISH!
Cranberry Pork- a crockpot cook's must have

Other (vegetarian dish)-
Crustless Spinach Quiche- quiche is just as good for dinner as it is for breakfast

Monday, July 05, 2010

Mariela's Baptism

Mariela was baptised on June 27th at 1pm. I was a little nervous about how the day would go, but my worry wasn't needed as it turned out to be a beautiful ceremony and a great celebration with family and close friends. Mariela was (of course) a perfect angel. Her gown and bonnet were the same ones both my little sister and I wore when we were Christened as babies and it was made by my maternal grandmother. I'll be saving it to use with any future kids we have and hope to pass it along to them someday. Mariela slept through the entire ceremony even when the Deacon poured the water over her head. Another little boy was also baptised and he slept through the ceremony, too. The Deacon was impressed at both babies and how smoothly the ceremony went.
Mariela's Godparents are my brother, Pete, and our sister-in-law, Marisol. We are confident they'll make great role models and Christian examples for our daughter as she grows up and becomes a young woman. After the ceremony we had a cookout back at our home to celebrate with family and close friends. Everything turned out great even though we ran out of propane for our grill as soon as A.R. put on the first burgers and hotdogs. As a result we discovered that Cumberland Farm's tank refills are cheaper than Home Depot's, so that was a plus. We got her cake from Modern Pastry, a local Italian bakery our family loves, and it was delicious (and purple, of course!).
I was a little disappointed that our regular priest couldn't do the ceremony. He performed our wedding, my confirmation, my first communion, and my conditional baptism so it would've been kind of cool if he had baptised our first born. It turns out that he was diagnosed with Shingles, so he had to stay away from children not vaccinated for Chicken Pox for awhile. Thankfully, he is now feeling better and resting more comfortably.
God Bless our baby girl and her new Godparents!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

3 months old!

I can't believe my little girl is going to be 3 months old on Friday! If you count the Thursdays since her birth, technically she was 3 months old this past Thursday, but by the calendar she hits that milestone on Friday. We had some 3 month photos done at JC Penny this past weekend since we won't have a chance to do them this Friday or Saturday as we set up for her baptism. This photo shoot was much better than the first and we even caught some smiles.
Right now she coos and smiles like crazy, blows spit bubbles, has started drooling a bit, loves sucking on her fists (loudly!), and is really starting to want to interact with other people more and more. She loves her play mat with the hangy toys over it, bumbo seat, her plush dolly, the seahorse, and her fuzzy purple blanket. At times she'll tolerate her swing, but gets bored easily. Mariela wants to see the world already- she prefers to be held up right on your shoulder or facing outward and fusses if you hold her any other way and she isn't sleepy. We heard her laugh for the first time today and it was the cutest.thing.ever! We were eating dinner at my mother-in-law's and she had been eyeing Alexi while he ate. He kept making faces at her and she just let it out...awesome. He melted into a pile of Daddy mush. :)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A little color goes a long way...

Finally! Room number two is painted in our new home! After painting Mariela's room back in December, we got the urge to start painting the rest of our house. When we built our house, the builder recommended not painting for a year to allow the house to settle some more. After the final walk-through and warranty items were fixed (nail pops, touch-ups, etc.) after our first year in our home we were going to paint, but didn't get around to it (ah-hem, read "lazy") until Ms Mariela was on her way. A.R. painted the nursery by himself behind closed doors...even with the low-VOC paint he insisted I stay I wanted to help paint the next room. Well, let's just say I was once again kicked out of the way and instead of painting, I was supervising with Ms Mariela as my side kick. I do suck at painting and usually end up with more on me than the walls, so it's probably for the best. :)
Our master bedroom is now a beautiful teal and we added a new comforter set from Kohls to complete the look. We sort of have a beach theme going on in our bedroom and will continue it into our master bathroom. Our bed is like a sand island in the middle of clear blue ocean. I've added beach-y decor around the room including sea shell accents, lighthouses, and other trinkets. We used the new Behr Premium Ultra paint with the primer already in it. You really only have to use one coat which is awesome considering how long it took to just paint the first coat in our large bedroom. The formal name of the color we chose is Venus Teal. At first I thought it was a little dark, but now I LOVE it! It's beautiful during the day and relaxing at night.
We still have the painting bug and want to continue adding some color to our boring eggshell walls. I've already chosen a color for our guest bathroom which will be my purple room, our half bath will be a shade of orange, we've narrowed down to two possible shades of red for our formal dining room (plus we want to add in crown and chair molding), a pale yellow for the kitchen, and we've narrowed down several browns for the family room. In the family room we want to do a darker focal wall and then the rest of the walls will be a lighter shade of beige/brown that will carry to the upstairs hallway. It took us 6 months to paint room #2 after painting the nursery, so how much do you want to bet it'll be another 6 months until room #3 gets painted?!