Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

We had the chance to go to Louisiana this year for Thanksgiving. Most of James' family lives in northern Louisiana. My parents, who live in Arkansas, were also able to join us for a few days. We stayed for about 4 days, and we had a good visit. The car ride was not so good. It is a long trip, and I certainly understand that riding in the car all day is no fun for a baby. Our next road trip is coming up soon, and I am already praying for Samuel to have a fun time in the car. 

 No Black Friday shopping for us. I can't deal with the crowds and insanity, but good for those you who can take advantage of the deals. We spent Black Friday taking family photos.  Here are some of the funny out-takes.  
 Not quite sure what my husband is doing on the tree there.

 I was trying to get some photos of Samuel and his cousin. This was my first attempt at taking photos of two babes at once, and it was hard. 

James and I spent the Saturday after Thanksgiving with his grandmother. We took her to see the new Lincoln movie, and she took us to dinner.  We all really enjoyed the movie. It was the first time James and I had been to see a movie since we brought Samuel home.

Sunday, we tried to keep Samuel in the church service with us, but he got mad when I wouldn't let him crawl around on the floor and go trucking along from pew to pew. I took him to the nursery and played with him in there. We'd made plans to meet James' cousin Stephen and his wife Elizabeth for lunch.  We also ran into one of his other cousins at the same restaurant, and we all ate together.  We had a really fun lunch outside on the patio - especially after one of the kids grabbed some berries from a shrub and stuffed them down James' pants!  James was wearing pants that were way too loose, and all of a sudden he started doing an odd dance. We asked him what he was doing, and he said he had berries in his pants. We all (James included) got a good laugh over that.

 Sunday night we had the chance to catch up with these fine folks:
My sister-in-law is holding Samuel, and next to her is her twin sister and her family. We met for dinner at Johnny's Pizza. It was so good to get the chance to catch up!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Halloween 2012

Halloween is a big event on our street. Most of the neighbors decorate their houses, and some of the adults dress up. Someone grills hot dogs for the kids, and we give those out for free. James' brother and his wife came to visit this year for Halloween, and it was great having them here. We had fun. The weekend before Halloween, I made up 300 little baggies with candy inside. Last year, we just left the candy loose in a bowl, and we had trouble with kids taking two fistfuls of candy.  The baggies prevented that, but we still ran out. We had over three hundred trick-or-treaters. We started giving out punch last year, and we did it again this year. We gave out about 4 gallons last year, so that is what I prepared for this year, thinking we might not have as many trick-or-treaters since Halloween was on a Wednesday.  I was wrong. We ran out. The last batch was lemonade, because that is all we had left in the house to mix up.  We gave out 6 and 1/2 gallons of punch, and had none left. I think we had more trick-or-treaters than we've had before. We had to turn a few kids away.

We stuck with our Alice in Wonderland theme from last Halloween, and we added The White Rabbit to the mix:

 Alice, the King of Hearts, the Mad Hatter, the White Rabbit, and the Queen of Hearts.

 Our next door neighbor usually dresses up as Frankenstein, and but he was called out of town for work. I had a number of kids ask where he was. I even had one kid mournfully tell he that he was so sad that Frankenstein was not home. 
 Here's a pic from last year:
 We played Tim Burton's adaptation of Alice in Wonderland on our outdoor screen.

 Our front porch:

A couple of pics from the neighbors' yards:

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Summer Recap

Here's our summer in a nutshell:

In June, we celebrated our 11th anniversary and James' first Father's Day.  

We got to meet Matt Holliday at a charity event.

In July, we went to Arkansas to celebrate my mom's birthday. 

Samuel went swimming for the first time while we were there. He enjoyed himself, but he only wanted to stay in the water for about 15 minutes. He's been swimming twice since then, and he's staying in the water longer now. He just started a little swim class at our YMCA that will meet once a week for a month and a half.

James' parents came to visit for a few days. While they were here, James and I went out for dinner and a show at The Muny. We saw the musical "Dreamgirls."  James, his dad, and I went to two Cardinal's games - and it was hot! I left my seat towards the end of the second game and watched the rest of it on the TV in the air conditioned game shop.  The temperature stayed in the 90's for the duration of both games. About a week shy of turning six months old, Samuel started eating solid foods. He is doing great with them. I've been making some of his food, but I have used some store bought baby food - particularly for things like pears and apples that are more time consuming to prepare yourself.  I've prepared yellow squash, zucchini, bananas, avocado, sweet potatoes, peaches and carrots for him.

In August, we took Samuel to play at our local park for the first time. He is sitting up well enough now to use the little swings. He fell asleep swinging.

My parents come to visit, and we took Samuel to the St. Louis Zoo. Samuel slept for a while at the zoo. 

We had a fabulous lunch that day at Pappy's. One of the waitresses gave Samuel the little blue T-shirt that James is holding in the photo. It says "Who's your Pappy?"  While my parents were here, we also went to Skyview Drive-In just across the river in Illinois. We saw the new Borne film.

It was a fun summer, and we are thankful for the time we had with our families!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Legally our Son!

Today was a day that we had waited a long time for. We began looking into adoption in January 2009.  We had no idea back then that it would be three and a half years before we finally legally became parents.What a ride. Today we went to family court for Samuel's finalization hearing.  James testified first, answering questions like "What date were you married?", "When is Samuel's birthdate?" and "What date was Samuel initially transferred to your custody?" I just had to say that I heard his testimony and agreed with it. He got all the dates right. We swore before the judge that we'd care for, provide for and educate Samuel just as if he were our flesh and blood.

The person holding Samuel is the judge. She is part of a large family - most of her siblings were adopted.

Us with the attorney above and in the picture below is our social worker, Kelly.
James and I had the day off, and our parents are coming to celebrate with us this weekend.  We had a great day. We drove out to Montelle Winery in Augusta, MO. They have a cafe that serves lunch, and the food is delicious. The scenery is beautiful, too. We love this place, but we rarely go because it is packed on the weekends.  I'm glad James was able to get off work today so we could do when it was not so crowded.  We had a free wine tasting before we ordered lunch.

 On our way home, we dropped by our financial adviser's office to see this lady.  Gaye is a sweet Christian woman and she has prayed for us for a long time. She kept up with all the disappointments and heartbreak that we faced trying to adopt from Ethiopia. One day in March, James had something that he needed to take to her office, so he took Samuel with him. Gaye was shocked and delighted to see him coming in with an infant carrier! She thought she'd been praying for a brown skinned little girl, but God had other plans. She always loves getting to see Samuel.

 Thank you to all of you who have prayed for us the past three years. There are so many of you who shared our pain and prayed for us faithfully. It is time to rejoice now!

You turned my wailing into dancing;
    you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent.
    Lord my God, I will praise you forever. Ps. 30:11-12

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Ten Years with Our Daisy

On August 18, 2002 we brought our first dog home.  She was about a year old at the time. She came to us from a humane society, and she's proof that you can get a beautiful, well tempered dog from the shelters. Daisy is 11 years old now, and she still chases the younger dog around the house.  We celebrate her addition to the family every year on August 18th. 

I took both of the dogs to Three Dog Bakery, where the clerk was nice enough to let them taste some some treat before we bought them. They also both got a free "pupcake" - a cupcake for doggies and a little present.

What's in the bag?

Doggie Cardinal's jerseys.  The clerk let me try these on the dogs before I bought them. Which was great, because I would have bought the wrong size for Lily if I'd had to guess on the size. 
Daisy has always been a fun dog. She's given us a few scares - seizures and mysterious blood work. Last year we had diagnostic test after test done on her. Early this year, her vet called late one night with lab results following yet another test. Much was the same - liver enzymes still high, except for one thing. Newly found anemia. My first thought was cancer, particularly something like leukemia that originates in the bone marrow. I asked the vet if there was any chance that it was a solid tumor that could be surgically removed. She said it was unlikely. At that point, we decided that we were not going to put her thru anymore tests. We aren't going to give her chemo. Chemotherapy is rough on your body - killing healthy cells along with unhealthy cells. She doesn't act sick. She acts like an 11 year old dog with arthritis. She can still keep up with me and Lily for a 2 mile walk when it's not too hot.

She's adjusted well to having Samuel around. In fact, she's adjusted to him better that she adjusted to Lily when we first brought her home. I was sitting in the floor playing with Samuel a few days ago, and she was interested in what we were doing. I called her over and laid her down in between me and Samuel and she let him pet her belly. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

What we learned about Swaddling

Samuel has always enjoyed being swaddled, but neither of us knew anything about swaddling or the different types of swaddling blankets that are available. While he was in the hospital, the nurses taught us how to swaddle him with a blanket. When we first brought him home, he would cry if he was not swaddled at times. However, it only took him a week or two before he was able to bust his arms loose from the swaddling blanket.  James had read about Miracle Blankets, and I went shopping looking for them one day. The store was out.  When I got home, there was a package on our doorstep from a friend. Inside were two different kinds of swaddling blankets! The first kind we tried were Summer SwaddleMe blankets.
I really liked the weight of these, but Samuel could get his hands free if we were not careful to get it wrapped tightly.

James' parents gave us a couple of these Garanimal's fleece swaddling blankets. My mother-in-law found them at Wal-Mart and they were a nice weight for the colder days that we had in the late winter/early spring.  These had a fabric strap that wrapped around his arms and waist. It kept his arms down at his sides.  He was able to break free from this type as well.
When Samuel outgrew those swaddlers, we moved up to this:
It is called a Woombie. It zipped all the way from the baby's feet to his neck, and there was no strap or flap to wrap around him. This one gave him the freedom to move his arms around, but still kept them close to his body. I really liked these, but we had to stop using them when he began to roll over onto his tummy at night.  He needed to have his hands free so he could roll back over, if he wanted/needed to. They do make a convertible style of these that has arm holes that can be napped shut or left open, and wish that I had bought those instead because we would have gotten more use out of them.

Next, we started using HALO SleepSacks. These can be put on the baby where their arms are free, or they can be wrapped up in the swaddling flap. These have a fabric flap that covers up the zipper on the inside, so it doesn't irritate the baby's skin.  It has been so hot here, that even with the AC running, it still gets a little warm in the house when the sun comes up.  Samuel can sleep in this with just a diaper, if need be.
He has actually outgrown the one in the photo. He is using a larger HALO SleepSack that does not have the swaddling flaps.  You can see the flaps wrapped around his midsection in the photo.

James took off work in March, and stayed home with Samuel and he broke him from being swaddled during naptime early on.  I'm glad he was home to do it, because I had a tough time getting the little man to nap without swaddling him.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Father's Day 2012

Six months ago, I had begun to wonder if James and I would ever be able to celebrate Father's Day. We'd had such an awful time trying to adopt, and we didn't know if we'd ever become parents. We are so thankful that we were able to celebrate James' first Father's Day this year.
I had unique Father's Day cards made at Shutterfly for James, our dads, and James' grandfather. All four cards were different, and they had photos of the recipient with Samuel. I love the way the turned out! I wish I had gotten a photo of all four cards, but we were in a hurry to get the other cards in the mail after we finally got them on Wednesday last week. I waited a week and half for these to come in, and I will not be using Shutterfly for these kind of cards again. CVS stores will make these, and I will use them next time. These cards don't cost any more than what you'd spend on them at Hallmark, and I like them so much better.

My parents wanted to give us something this year for our first Mother's and Father's Days. They gave me a pink hydrangea and they gave James two books - James Dobson's Bringing up Boys and Bedtime Blessings by John Trent. Thanks, Mom and Dad!
 James is definately the better cook between the two of us, and it was time he had his own apron.  I local store called Instant Imprints did the embroidery, and I am pleased with the way it turned out.
 I also got him tickets to the Cardinal's game yesterday. The game was fun, but our seats were in the sun. We got up after the 5th inning and stood in the shade in the "standing room only section." Samuel made it through the first nine innings, and we went home and watched the rest of the game in the air conditioning.  The Cards lost in the 14th inning.
I wanted to give James something that had Samuel's name engraved on it, but he never wear jewelry other his wedding ring. I found an Etsy shop where you can get personalized sterling silver guitar picks.  Check it out: Tomi's Treasures. James has a guitar that he plays from time to time. He said this was his biggest surprise. He took it to work today to show everyone.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Welcome Home Solomon!

Last night, we had the joy of greeting our friends, Jack & Dana and their newly adopted Ethiopian son at the airport.

Back in January, Dana and I made plans to meet for lunch. I had some things that we had purchased in Ethipioa & I wanted to give to her. She already had one Ethipian son and they were in the process to adopt again. I figured her kids would probably appreciate the items from their country of birth. We talked about some of the trials James and I had faced and what it had been like switching to our agency's domestic adoption program. Then she told me she had some news. . .and pulled out some photos of a boy that they had accepted a referral for. I recognized him from the waiting child list.  I had prayed for the kids on that list, and I know God heard. I teared up, so thankful that this child would soon be coming to his new home. That was on January 28th, little did I know that in one week I would be holding my own son in my arms.  Dana was the first person I called after we found out that we had been chosen to be Samuel's parents.

 Finally home, after months of waiting and a very long trip!

New brothers!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Traveling with Samuel

We've taken two road trips with Samuel so far. His first road trip was to Louisiana to meet our family there.  He was only three weeks old, and yes we were a little crazy to take him on a 9+ hour road trip. The only reason we went when we did was I had signed up for a photography class. The photographer who shot our wedding began offering classes a few years ago, and I have been wanting to go to one of them. I had paid the deposit for the class long before we knew about Samuel, and I wanted to make it to the class. We left on a Friday after I worked half a day. Our dogs usually travel with us, but we decided that it would be best if they stayed at home this time. One of us sat in the back seat with Samuel so we could keep him happy. We had to stop twice and feed him, so it took us a little over 10 hours to get there.

He got to meet a lot of people who had been praying for him for a long time. My parents do not live in Louisiana, but the live closer to James' parents than to us. So, they drove down from Arkansas and spent the day with us. My mom's mom fell and broke he hip the day we brought Samuel home from the hospital, so they had been terribly busy taking care of her. This was their first time to meet there new grandson.

With his aunt and uncle

 Meeting his great-grandparents
James' parents hosted a "Sip-and-See" at their house on Sunday afternoon so people could stop by and meet little Samuel. It was so good to see everyone. We had to go back home a day earlier than we wanted because we needed to meet with our attorney.  The little man diffused a speeding ticket on our way back home. I was driving, and we had just gotten back into the St. Louis metro area. I have driven thru that area dozens and dozens of times, and I never realized that the speed limited dropped in that area from 70 to 65 mph. The officer asked for my license, registration, and proof of insurance and then he started talking about the baby. He let us go without a ticket.

At the end of March, we took Samuel to Arkansas for the first time. We bought a luggage carrier for our SUV. so we could take our dogs with us this time. They rode in the cargo space. My grandmother finally got to meet him. Samuel is her third great-grandson.

 I got to catch-up with my aunts and cousins at Samuel's baby shower.

A few things that make traveling with Samuel simpler:
Using On-the-Go packets of formula
Pack only enough diapers and wipes to cover what you will need on the road. Buy a small pack of diapers once you get to your destination.
Pack his stuff in his own suitcase. On our first trip, his things got packed with mine - which made it hard to find stuff.