Sunday, November 27, 2011

we are family...

THIS is the beauty of open adoption.

Almost four years ago, we gained a beautiful baby girl thanks to our birthmommy Megan, who was forced to make the toughest, most sacrificial decision of her life.

But the story didn't end there!

It continues on. Year after year.

Through open adoption, Caroline has another extended family that loves her and and cares for her. She gets more grandparents! And they don't have to wonder how she's doing, and Caroline will never have to wonder about them! No secrets. No hiding. No wondering.

We are family.

And today we enjoyed a wonderful visit with them!

This was our get-together last year, and I love how each year it's just like picking up right where you left off.

This year Brayden (Caroline's full sibling who is 5) and Caroline were high energy playing together! Whether it was shining flashlights in the dark...

or drawing together...

or pretending to be "bad guys" together, :) you couldn't separate them.

Caroline was sooo excited to see birthmommy Megan.

...and I think Megan was pretty excited to hold both her babies again!


Bet you can't see any brother/sister resemblance here, huh?!

All that fun was too much for one day. :)

We are so thankful we get to see you guys and we praise God for how He brought us into each others' lives. To think, we'd never have met otherwise!

And now we're family.
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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

potential future career paths #17...

Now that I'm approaching 4, don't you think it's time I begin sorting through my career choices? ;-)

Maybe for this post, I'll consider acting in my future (because I'm quite the drama queen??).... I'm certainly the star of my own show, :) so let's brainstorm some starring roles for me together, shall we?...

I'm sure there's some Disney princess movie out there just waiting for me.

Or perhaps I'm better suited for a documentary centered around the first Thanksgiving.

How about the Wicked Witch in the next remake of the Wizard of Oz?

The way I'm able to multi-task, I could always play the silly stay-at-home mom on a sitcom. (though it looks like my baby is currently suffocating, so that's not looking so promising either...)

Maybe something like HGTV is where it's at for my acting career.

...or maybe I'm destined to do appliance demonstrations...

... or mattress commercials...

Hmmmm. Oh, wait! Nope, I've got it! I KNOW where acting can take me!

You tell US!

(let's hear some ideas on this picture & we'll pick a winner!)
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Sunday, November 20, 2011

scenes of november...

We love living in Virginia, where we're surrounded by so much beauty. Seeing the vast array of fall colors in the Blue Ridge mountains nearby (and even in our own backyard!) is stunning! Each year I continue to be amazed at where I live. Growing up in Texas where you had two leaf colors-- green, then brown--- I don't think I'll ever take it for granted!

But as we Virginians enjoy the most beautiful time of the year, we know what lies just over the horizon...

LEAVES!! And lots of 'em.

What's a November around here without raking and blowing leaves?! I guess it's the price you pay for all this beauty.

Thankfully this year we have an EXCELLENT helper. (who was VERY excited to receive a kid-sized rake of her own and actually pulls her own weight around here!)

But it can't be ALL work, you know...

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

my nanny & papa... me quite a bit, can't ya tell?

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Monday, November 14, 2011

when all is silent...

Announce to the world we're looking to adopt again: check. (yay! that was exciting! Thank you for helping us get the word out!)

Complete adoption application: check. (got that part finished! yay!)

Now....what to do next?

Homestudy paperwork and interviews should start up soon. But mostly? I'm
called to WAIT.

And be still.

And wait some more, hoping and praying that something is happening behind the scenes.

This is not easy for a "doer" like me. I can't stand the waiting without doing, so I naturally find myself glued to the laptop researching baby names online into the night just to give me the false sense that I'm "doing" something.

Suddenly I'm remembering this emotional rollercoaster called Adoption. But unlike the
rollercoaster of Infertility, the ride of Adoption is way more exciting (to us, at least) once it gets going.

So we've strapped on our seat belts and we're ready to go! Let's go!

But things are quiet.

And unsure. And the ride hasn't begun.

Um, hello? Is anybody working this thing? We're ready! When is this thing gonna start?

But all is quiet, and continues to be this way. And when there is nothing pressing for me to do, I am tempted to think nothing is happening. That maybe there will be no ride afterall. That maybe we'll never welcome another into our family. That maybe God is not at work.

Stop despairing, my heart!

For I know He is ALWAYS at work, even when all is silent. And so I'll continue to walk by faith and not by sight...

Friday, November 11, 2011

hands of love #22...

Don't know why, but these "hands of love" have been uninspired lately! Everybody goes through cooking ruts, though, right? There's no doubt I am in one now.

But life still rolls along and you gotta eat! And in our case, that means eating gluten free. (thankfully Marc is back on dairy, though he limits it by drinking coconut or almond milk with his cereal in the mornings)

Some people have asked us recently about starting a gluten free diet, or how to cook for a friend that's gluten free & coming over, so I thought I'd share a few pointers. Hopefully some of these "Hands of Loves" blog entries have given you ideas along the way, and hopefully it has shown that it's not as crazy of a diet as everyone seems to think initially. (like I did!!)

BUT! If you are attempting a gluten free diet (or thinking about it for various health ailments-- it's amazing how many of our family members have been greatly helped and will never go back!), there's a few SUPER important things worth mentioning.

1. The main thing is that there can be NO (absolutely NO) cheating. It's not a diet like that. If you cheat even once, it negates any improvements you might have had in your gut, even if you don't feel it right away. Some people say they are helped by limiting gluten & not eliminating it altogether, but if your body has any sensitivity to it/intolerance, with continual digestion of gluten, you are potentially looking at major health issues in the future. (gluten intolerance is currently being linked to all types of major diseases---not just celiac-- and doctors are finally starting to screen for it more often-- most of the time it goes undiagnosed as IBS or it's already surfaced as asthma or migraines or other chronic conditions...)

I say-- if you're thinking about trying GF-- why not try it for 2 weeks and see if any of your symptoms are improved? For Marc, I remember he actually felt WORSE the first 2 days, but by day 3 it began an amazing improvement in his energy, gastro stuff, attentiveness, and mood. Of course, he's dropped over 40 pounds, too, but that was never our intentions in doing this diet-- just a nice side-effect!)

2. The second most important thing! To truly get the benefit of a gluten free diet to see if it works for you, you MUST avoid any possibility of cross contamination. This is a biggie that often gets overlooked because it seems extreme at first, but if you are sensitive to gluten, it only takes a TRACE of the darn thing to get in & wreak havoc on your system.

If you're cooking gluten free in your kitchen, some of the things you HAVE to do:
  • NEVER put gluten free bread in your toaster. Think about it- there are TONS of crumbs in there. Gluten free means it's never TOUCHED anything with gluten. We have 2 toasters. We bought a cheapie and labelled it GF for Marc's bread.
  • Use a new stick of butter when you're cooking for your gluten free buddies. Your old stick of butter (and the plate that it rests on) has likely been in contact with bread or crumbs.
  • Get new condiments-- especially peanut butter or jelly that you have spread onto bread and then put it back into the jar. Ketchup, mustard, etc. also apply.
  • Make sure your pots and pans are washed WELL to avoid any cross contamination possibilities.
  • Check all your medications, your spices, every last food or sauce in your cabinets to ensure there is no gluten in them. Learn which brands of soy sauce, for example, don't have gluten in them.
  • Cross contamination is HIGHLY likely in any restaurant, but probably less likely in those with a specific gluten free menu. (Outback Steakhouse is extremely accommodating and they have a gluten free dessert that is to die for!! You can also eat GF on-the-go at Chick Fil A & Wendy's if you know what to get.)
Crazy, huh? It sounds like keeping a kosher kitchen! (in a way, it is!) Those are just a few things off the top of my head-- the learning curve is steep, but once you KNOW what you can eat, it's very do-able. And delicious, too! Just not super convenient.

Sorry for that rabbit trail! Don't know if that stuff is helpful or not.

Now to the food. With the cold weather upon us, we've been craving more of the warm, comfort foods...

Shrimp and grits with broccoli. YUMMMMMM...

Gluten free macaroni. (this recipe is from Jerry Seinfeld's wife's cookbook called "Deceptively Delicious" because there's also pureed butternut squash in here, too! You'd never you're adding a veggie in there!)

Pasta with sausage.

Chicken quesadillas with more butternut squash snuck in! (also from "Deceptively Delicious")

Creamy potato soup.

Sweet and sour drumsticks.

APPLE PIE!!! This was my biggest gluten free accomplishment yet, folks! I need to try a different crust recipe next time b/c this one wasn't THE one, but when I find it, I'll be sure to share with you. The filling was DELISH! My gluten free hubby, who NEVER gets to eat pie anymore, (b/c I don't bake!!) was in heaven anyways. :)

I'm also convinced that to go gluten free, it's a team effort. It takes a support system for someone to do it, especially if you're not the one who usually cooks in your family. It's a commitment from me (who is NOT gluten free) to help my loved one that must be.

I originally took on the gluten-free challenge to see if it helped the health of my daughter, but the Lord was really preparing me to help my sweet husband. That blows my mind.

These hands, though they're uninspired, have still got lots of love. :)
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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

the best things in life are free...

To combine my loooooove of singing with my loooove of reading, Mommy had an unusual stroke of brilliance one day when she decided to make a binder of songs for me!

And now... you guessed it- it's my favorite "toy."

I get out my notebook, sing the words, and then flip the page to the next one...

It's got all my favorites in here, and we keep adding more songs as Mommy teaches them to me. Today we added some new Christmas songs for me to start singing! ("Go Tell it On The Mountain" is my current fav.) I love watching Mommy write out the words and then I get to punch the holes in the paper and put it in the binder- so exciting to me!

My binder also has the rhymes we're doing in our library class.

While Mommy is doing her hair & makeup, I'm almost always curled up here in her lap with my notebook singing up a storm with her.

Need we say more?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

1,000 posts, 10,000 joys...

Cue the confetti! Drop the balloons! Crank up the party music-- it's our Crazy for Caroline 1,000th blog post!! woohoo!!

And as you can see from the results of our fun, little poll on the side of the screen, we had a tie between giving you guys a top 10 post and a heart-felt reflection. Sooooo.... we are going to take a stroll back through memory lane.... in a very heart-felt way, of course. :)

When I (Amy) began Crazy for Caroline the week or two after Caroline was born, it was originally a place where birthmommy Megan & our family could visit to see pictures of this sweet little baby that had been placed in our arms. I had no idea that it would gain followers-- people that don't even know us--- or that one day I'd be writing about subjects like gluten-free or alopecia!

What I really didn't realize was what an enjoyable outlet of creativity and expression it would be for me personally. You know, watching and documenting all the little things in my child's life-- from the momentous first steps and the sweet, open-mouth baby kisses to the amazing process of learnng language-- this journey has been beyond unbelievable to me. It's been the best years of my life and the worst years of my life, and I never want to forget a thing!

I've always been a journaler, too. You can be sure there are always thoughts, emotions, & ideas rummaging around in my heart and the only way they'll come out clearly is if I can write them out. Thank you all so much for being so encouraging to me as I've decided to take some of my journaling here to a public forum.

So for our Top 10, I thought, why not see which posts got the most responses/reactions from YOU guys?! We always appreciate y'all's comments and encouragements... and as I looked back to the posts on which posts YOU all respond to the most, it was evident that you guys are pretty stinkin' awesome. Here's what I mean:

10) So, it's probably no suprise that several of our Future Potential Career Path's received quite the responses from y'all. You guys are guaranteed to crack us up with your guesses each time! And for whatever reason, a few of them stood out to you as the most popular: This one, and this one, and the Christmas edition, and this one, and this one, this one, this one (take 2), or the ORIGINAL 1st ever Potential Career Paths. You guys obviously have an amazing, creative sense of humor. We love it. :)

9) Another post where you guys ralleyed behind us early on was in "Adoption Awkwardness," where I had an interesting run-in with a worker at Wendy's about open adoption & my Mama Bear claws came out. :)

8) When I had an idea of publishing the children's book we made for Caroline about her adoption, you guys were right there for us offering help and encouragement!

And then hairloss hit us.

7) In this post, "Where I Put My Trust," we didn't know exactly why Caroline's hair was falling out. I asked for prayer from you guys, and this post holds some of my initial responses to what was quickly unfolding before us. I couldn't help but cry as I re-read this post. I was comitting to live by faith and not by sight, trusting in the Lord's plan for us, knowing that even the numbers of our hair are numbered. (Luke 12.7)

6) Then, shortly after Caroline's hair began falling out, I was hit with a major spell of vertigo attacks so severe that I was unable to travel to Texas for Christmas. (when it rains, it pours!) As I shared my disappointment in this post, you guys were ever so consoling to us. Thank you.

5) Remember this video with the fastest rendition of The Lord's Prayer you've ever heard?? ha! With the last few hairs remaining upon her head, hearing my daughter sing these songs about Jesus to ME was so therapeutic. This video of Caroline singing "Come Thou Fount" also received numerous comments! It's so funny to look back and see the same expressions and the same, eh hem, bossy nature in her. :)

4) At many points during Caroline's months of hairloss, I became hurt and frustrated by people's reactions to us. In this post, "People Say the Funniest Things," I placed people's usual reactions to suffering into 7 categories and offered a Christian response at the end-- it seemed to resonate with many of you, and I appreciated your ever-supportive words.

And THEN, the real fun began...

3) As we continued trying to figure out what was happening to our daughter, the Lord brought us down another unexpected path. Following some bloodwork, our gastroenterologist gave us the option of trying a gluten free diet with Caroline. In this post, we enjoyed a Last Supper of pizza together before going gluten free the next morning. I can't begin to tell you how FRAZZLED and anxious I was at the prospect of beginning this diet!-- though I think this post I made on gluten-free, day 1 gives you the idea... (and to think, the Lord had us embark on this originally for Caroline, but it turned out it was actually MARC that needed the gluten free diet more than any of us! Praise be to God for how He sovereignly ordains even the details, and now cooking gluten free is second nature to me now!)

...and what was amazing to me was how you guys were cheering us on the whole way!, both on this blog and through email, phone calls, cards, etc.-- sending us recipes, money, bringing gifts and meals to our house, sitting with me & listening to me cry, and offering up a whole lot of prayer for us. In such a scary time, we felt so much support from the body of believers across the country. God's grace to us felt so tangible and near through the hands of His people. Thank you, thank you.

2) This post, "Accepting Alopecia," didn't receive lots of comments on the blog, but it seemed like after I posted it, everyone in my life was talking about the girls with alopecia in these 2 videos! The people in these videos, though I've never met them!, were both HIGHLY instrumental to beginning the acceptance process for me and helping me decide how to best handle this condition as Caroline's mom. I am still convinced that it is most important for Caroline to know deeply that there is NO SHAME and NO need to cover up to be accepted and deeply loved. (don't we all need to know that?)

1) The last post also makes me cry as I look over it again. Wow. It was the final ending to months and months of searching for a clear diagnosis. An end to months of crazy diets and nutritional therapy and doing everything imaginable that we could for our daughter to be healthy again. It was the moment when we got to STOP and just grieve. It was the moment when we were told that this is, indeed, alopecia totalis and we are probably looking at "A Life Without Hair."

It's crazy to look back at all the changes within 1,000 posts! Physical changes, different hairstyles, and a daughter who has changed so much in 3 1/2 years! It's also crazy to see how the Lord has changed us on the inside as well. We are certainly not the same people we were. Who knew this would be our story?! Makes me wonder what the next 1,000 posts will hold...

But with all the changes, some things remain constant through the entire story:

1) God is good.
2) He never promises us a life without suffering, but He promises to be with us through it. (Is 43)
3) I love my little family, as silly & dysfunctional as we are! :) And we are praying that our story will soon include the adoption of another baby to love oh-so-fiercely.

So here's to 1,000 posts!!

1,000 posts, but 10,000(+) joys...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Tricker treats...

Hey guys, there's this new kind of candy out there that you all HAVE to try! Apparently it's made by this company called Tricker and it's oh-so-good.

AND apparently it's only available on Halloween night.

But guess what?? (ooh, this is the best part!!)

All of your neighbors have them!!!!

And they'll GIVE you Tricker treats at every house!! Oh, what fun!!

Yes, Tricker treats do taste good, but it sure is tiring work to get them.

p.s. the next post will be our 1,000th post! Help us know how we should celebrate this milestone by voting in our poll on the top right! (your votes are anonymous) :)
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