Why I Will Never Be Your BFF…

I have spent many guilt filled days berating myself because I’m not a very good friend to you. A better person would have made more play dates, met you for lunch, come to your kid’s birthday party, responded to your texts quicker – or at all.

But I haven’t.Best_Friends__by_hutt_boy_24_7

In a perfect world you and I would probably be Sex and the City best friends, but six years ago I made a decision that just doesn’t leave much room that.

Don’t let my facebook feed fool you, what I do on a daily basis would make most people run away in horror.

I am parenting a broken, abandoned child. The after effects of her first three years still reverberate through this family in waves that frequently leave me struggling to breathe.

Years ago, I was a server at Red Lobster. One of the industry terms often used was “in the weeds.” It meant that you were overwhelmed with your customers and were constantly unable to catch up with your basic needs.

The beauty of the job was I could yell, “I’m in the weeds!!!” and two or three other servers would jump in and help me out. We were all doing the same job, and at a quick glance they could assess my situation and know what they could do to get me back on track.

I wish parenting adopted children was like that.

But it’s not.

These days I exist in the weeds. And I am often emotionally empty. There just isn’t room for us to be best friends because my entire life is invested in parenting a child that is broken.

And it’s really hard work.

I’m not asking for your sympathy because despite the difficult work I have chosen I am raising a phenomenal child full of life, love and imagination. I just want you to understand that it’s not personal. Through it all I believe deeply in a God of redemption, a God grace, and a God love. I believe that my daughter was built in His image and every morning I choose to walk in faithfulness and love this little girl God gave me.

But, yeah, it’s hard.

For all of you mommies like me, who are overwhelmed, struggling to breathe, parenting children that often take you way beyond your ability to cope… I suggest we all take a collective breath, find a momentary happy place, and shake off the guilt of not being a good enough friend.

Capturing Lacy

The First Day 4.20.07   I first approached my husband about adopting not long after we were first together. I asked him if he’d ever want to adopt a child and in true easy-going Randy style he said, “yeah, sure.” I remember dreaming of adopting a child when I was younger, it was one of those things I am certain that I was called to do.

Hubbalicious and I met when we were both 21 years old. We were working together at Red Lobster and began hanging out socially. We started dating two years later in 2000 and were married in 2002. That same year we were married we had our first pregnancy which ended in mis-carriage. Five years later we still had not managed a second pregnancy but we were both finally college graduates and beginning our careers as respiratory therapists.

It was in my last semester of school that I was assigned my clinical rotations at a children’s sub acute hospital. At the time, the facility held just over 50 kids, all ventilator dependent. Nearly all of the children there were not alert, a few had nearly drowned, others had neurological damage requiring constant care that many families simply could not provide at home.

To say I was resistant to do my “time” at this hospital was an understatement. I threw a fit, I demanded to be returned to the initial hospital I’d been assigned to. The clinical adviser refused. With all other options denied, I showed up to this facility at 6am on a Tuesday morning in February 2007 with a bad attitude. I didn’t want to work around a bunch brain-dead kids on ventilators.

What I found at this hospital was life changing. Two kids in particular – a little boy named Joseph and a little girl named Lacy- were both alert, alive, and seemingly had no business in this facility. Joseph had a family that arrived daily to love him and play with him. As it turns out, they were working fastidiously, learning how to care for him at home. The second child, Lacy, was not so lucky. Her biological mother had a very clear drug problem and could only manage to visit Lacy a few times a year. Lacy spent holidays alone, birthdays alone, and nights alone.Lacyfilepic

My first interaction with Lacy was in the hallway in her facility. This little girl, clothed in mis-matched, ill-fitting, second-hand clothing provided out of the kindness of the nurses that worked with her, walked past me. I turned to my instructor and hissed, “what is SHE doing in a place like THIS?” I was informed that her mother was unable and unwilling to care for her properly, and the county was beginning to look for a more permanent place to home Lacy. I was also told that Lacy most likely had an airway problem, and once it was repaired she’d be perfectly normal. I rushed home that afternoon and asked my husband what he thought about adopting a little girl who needed a home… and he agreed.visits

I quickly found my way into the good graces of her social worker, and we were given written permission from the county children’s services to spend time with Lacy. The letter clearly stipulated that we were not allowed to intrude on any time Lacy spent with her biological mother. As it turns out, in the six months we spent making daily visits to Lacy, her mother only arrived once and stuck around just under 15 minutes. I was working full time as a respiratory therapist as the same time finishing my degree as an advanced respiratory care practitioner. Most days were spent in class from 8am – 3pm, working from 6pm – 6am, and Randy and I brought Lacy dinner and played with her every day from 4pm-6pm. Looking back, I have no idea how I managed this schedule for so long.

After six months of visiting Lacy, we were finally allowed to begin the process of taking Lacy home. Lacy was to be discharged from the sub-acute hospital to Loma Linda Children’s Hospital and from there she would be discharged home to us. We were given very little information, we just showed up and took it from moment to moment.

We spent our first 10 days sitting in a hospital room waiting for the discharge papers and the home ventilator equipment to be delivered. In addition, a sample of her blood was sent to Rush University to test for a disease called Congenital Central Hypoventialtion Syndrome.

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Two weeks after arriving home we received confirmation of her genetic test for CCHS. Lacy did indeed have CCHS. Having spent a some time in the internet I had a loose idea of what we were dealing with. I knew that these kids had a fantastic life expectancy, many eventually had the tracheostomy reversed, but they needed to be on life support for the rest of their lives. Lacy was not going to outgrow CCHS.

I remember the moment I realized what we were officially dealing with. I remember standing in our kitchen, tears rolling down my cheeks, blubbering to my husband about how we’d never be able to take her to Vegas on her 21st birthday because CCHS kids can’t drink! It’s makes me chuckle now how pathetic that was, even more I remember my husband’s response, “Babe, shes TWO YEARS OLD… I don’t think we need to worry about that just yet. I’m pretty sure they won’t be serving vodka shooters to her in preschool!”

According to the county children’s services, we were considered “non-relative-family-members” because of all of the time we’d spent with her at the facility. Her biological mother still had legal rights to Lacy, but we were her primary caretakers. Over the next few months we’d endure multiple trail dates as the county began to remove rights from her mom.

There is a definite brotherhood among fellow adoptive parents, they understand the tremendous fear associated with these court dates, they understand the ugly underbelly of adoption. Among this group I discovered that I didn’t have to give them all of the dirty details, because they just understood. They had been there too. It’s a theme I’d find repeated over and over again through my adoption experience. I can do my best to explain all of the emotions, fears, frustration of adoption to my “traditional” friends, but nothing will ever compare to the knowing nod of understanding given by those in the trenches alongside me. For those friends, I will be eternally thankful.

Once Lacy arrived home, our family of three never looked back. Hubbs and I were both working -scheduling ourselves on the nights the other person was off, and Lacy was enjoying the spoils of two well-employed parents. We spent many days at Disneyland, weekends at Coronado Island, and piles of cash giving our sweet Lacy anything she wanted. Ironically, it was Lacy who gave us everything.

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In the years prior to Lacy’s arrival my family had slowly become disjointed. My brother lived on the east coast, my sister was pursuing a doctoral degree in the mid-west, and my parents were quietly living a life without any kids at home or grand-kids to enjoy. At the same time, Randy’s father was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

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Lacy’s arrival was probably the biggest catalyst among the dynamics of our family. She brought my parents back to life. She brought evident joy back into their lives. Lacy gave my mother-in-law somebody to love and care for after a long fight with cancer and the eventual passing of my father-in-law. Lacy gave my husband a purpose, and he stepped up to became the most amazing father any child could have. For me, Lacy made me a mom. She’s taught me how to be selfless, how to think outside of the box, and most importantly she’s changed me for the better.

adoption day 2009

   adoption day 2009

adoption day 2010

adoption day 2010

adoption day 2011

adoption day 2011

adoption day 2012

adoption day 2013

Pizza Panini

I found a fantastic idea for lunch today when I was checking out Life as a Lofthouse for any new exciting meal ideas. (She never fails to impress, trust me!) It is SUCH a simple recipe and I even had all of the ingredients on hand! SCORE! My 2 year old LOVED it!

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Pizza Panini

  • Texas Toast
  • Mozzarella Cheese
  • Pepperoni
  • Spaghetti Sauce (I make mine from “scratch”, so I didn’t have a jar to use in the pic)

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I tossed the frozen toast in my toaster oven for a minute to soften them up a bit then I piled the cheese and pepperoni on top, closed it shut, and stuck in in my panini press. Don’t have a panini press? No worries!!! You can cook them just like you would a grilled cheese sandwich. 20130117_141639_0 (1)

I put our favorite “homemade” red sauce on the plate and chowed down! My husband loved them as did my kids! It was a total home run!

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Coconut Curry Chickpeas over Rice

 

Recently my husband and I watched a documentary called Forks Over Knives that talked about improving ones diet through whole-food, plant-based food consumption. It was incredibly interesting and I highly recommend you watch it (especially if you have Netflix on demand)! After a discussion about trying to eat less meat, I took a recipe I really enjoy and made it totally plant-based and it was DELICIOUS!

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Coconut Curry Chickpeas over Brown Rice:

  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • two onions, chopped
  • three cloves garlic, diced
  • 2 cans grabanzo beans (or chickpeas)
  • 2 cans coconut milk
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • red pepper flakes
  • cliantro, chopped
  • salt and pepper

Directions:

place oil, chopped onions and garlic in large frying pan over medium heat and saute till onions are transparent. Add chickpeas and stir in curry powder, saute for 2 minutes. Pour in two cans of coconut milk and stir, salt and pepper to taste. Serve over brown rice topped with red pepper flakes and cilantro. Enjoy!

FYI: I have tried many different brands of coconut milk, and this is by far the best! 20130113_180019 (1)

 

DIY Laundry Detergent

I was inspired by a dear friend who recommended this blog post and suggested I attempt to make my own laundry detergent. I have to admit, I was super nervous at first. Primarily because I had recently purchased an HE washing machine and was told it was IMPERATIVE that I only buy the expensive HE detergent.

After a little research, I discovered that this DIY detergent was perfectly fine for an HE washer!

Just in case, I ran it by Hubbalicious. As always, a little CYA is in order before a potentially destructive DIY attempt. If this experiment happens to go horribly wrong, he will be the one working overtime to pay for another washing machine, so I need to make sure he was okay with it.  He gave me the thumbs up!

Okay, “thumbs up” wasn’t EXACTLY what he said. I sort of mentioned it while he was playing Modern Warfare and his response was “mmmmmyeahsurebaby”. I figure that was good enough to hold up in court, right?

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So I ran to WallyWolrd to gather my supplies! (You can find an exact listing here) With excitement in my heart I skipped into the store ready to try my new experimental detergent. My excitement was short lived when I soon discovered that locating all of these items was like and easter egg hunt from hell! I couldn’t find half of what I wanted, and despite an attempt at getting a WallyWorld employee to help me (bahahahahaha!) I came up short. After 45 minutes of searching, I finally gave up, purchased the items I could find and drove to the grocery store hoping to find the rest. Lo and behold I found the final items! Score!

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The directions stated that I could either use a food processor or grate the soap by hand… ummmm,  I am sure we can all guess which direction I went with that one!

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I loaded my soap and turned on the food processor. What I had failed to do was properly notify my autistic daughter that I would be using the food processor! Whoops! My head quickly snapped around to find her spinning and jumping and screaming to the noise. Yeah, poor calculation on my part, right? I brought her back down to earth, explained what I was going to do, then started again. This time to much less drama and hysterics than the first time.

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What I also forgot to do was put the little blocker in the processor, so after cleaning up my big mess, I found the part I needed and continued on my merry way to DIY detergent!

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I layered and stirred all of the ingredients into my giant tub, then filled one of the containers with just enough to keep within reach! Brilliant!

My first load is currently underway and I am excited to see the results. If by any chance it all goes terribly wrong, I will let you all know – right after I tell my husband… while he is playing his XBOX! ha!

***Follow up*** So far it cleans really well and I don’t see any residue in the washer! Only using 2 TBSP of soap per load is pretty darn awesome! I washed five loads today *ahem, don’t judge* and they are all soft, fluffy, but most of all CLEAN! Score one for my team!

Shopping on a Budget

It doesn’t matter if you have more money than you know what to do with or if you have to make every single penny count, it just makes good sense to budget your money. So every payday I take my food budget out in cash and when it’s gone, it’s gone. Having cold hard cash in your hand really makes you think twice about tossing any extra purchases in your basket, and it especially makes you think twice about calling for take-out!

Once I have my food money, I take my menu plan and make my shopping list and head to the store. In my case I tend to shop at three major stores: Costco for bread, dairy, diapers, WinCo for most pantry items and a few dairy items, and WalMart for toiletries, frozen food, and produce. I don’t live in an area that has a multitude of grocery stores to choose from therefore I drive a bit to get to Costco and WinCo. Fortunately I only do my shopping once every two weeks, so I don’t kill myself in gas costs!

What is important is that you do what works for YOU. That begins with understanding a few things:

 1. What food does your family consume the most of? In my family, my kids eat a ton of crackers, fruit, peanut butter and cheese.

2. What is the ROCK BOTTOM price for these foods? My kids love Cheese-its and Wheat Thins, and I refuse to pay any more than $1.75 per box. That means I need to be aware when they go on sale and have a bit of extra money in my pocket to buy enough to get me to the next sale.

3. Keep track of your rock bottom price. I have read blogs about keeping a folder for the lowest price you can find food so that you can reference it as you shop. That just doesn’t work for me! I can barely remember to get pants on before I head out the door most days. There is NO WAY I am organized to keep a book of grocery prices. Fortunately after a few shopping trips I started to recongize the lowest prices on my most often purchased foods.

What has saved me the most money is learning to purchase food ONLY when it’s on sale. We use a ton of cheese in our home and we LOVE those packets of grated cheese, but at most stores they cost between $3 and $4. Not at WinCo! I pay on average $1.79 per pack of cheese! Doing much of my shopping at WinCo has allowed me to knock 30% to 40% off my average shopping bill! So the 20 minute trip twice a month is totally worth it to me!

If you are lucky enough to have a membership to Costco, I have found that bread is tremendously affordable, as well as milk and some veggies!

For everything else, I head to WalMart.

I will be the first to admit, life is so much more convenient when I can just run to the local grocery store for my items, but it’s also awfully expensive. Unfortunately as a single income family, we can’t afford that luxury these days.

What is your secret trick for saving money on food? Leave me a comment and let me know!!!

Your First Menu Plan

Welcome back to Meal Planning 101! By now you should have your list of dinners (that will soon begin to grow). You are now ready to take the first step and make your weekly plan. Here is a link to what my weekly menu printable. Now print it up and let’s get started!

menu plan

In addition to your meal list and your menu printable you will also need your calendar. Every two weeks I sit down with all three and make my master plan. In our family, my husband leaves the house at 5pm and doesn’t get home till 7am, so on the nights he is working I need to have food that I can pack up and send out the door earlier than the nights he is home. I also try to wait for nights he is home to use the BBQ (it’s just easier to have two adults when I have small kids and a hot BBQ).

Mark off any days on your menu that you know you won’t be home for dinner or days that you will need to have crock-pot meal cooking to feed the family and then begin to fill in the dinners. Don’t worry about breakfast or lunches at this point, it’s just too much to take on at one time.

Make sure you only pick FIVE meals, and leave two open for fast food, dining out, or left-overs. Giving yourself room to fall off the wagon is the best part of this plan. Trust me on this, it is REALLY hard to go from no plan to a very strict plan. Baby steps are always best!

Congrats! You have your meal plan! Tomorrow I cover how I shop to spend the least and still feed my family with healthy food! See you then!