Friday, November 29, 2013

Giveaway Winner!

Thank you to everyone who participated in our first giveaway!  I wanted to let you all know that Kristen from Adoption Love is our lucky winner!!

Don't forget you can still get 10% off at the r house couture Etsy shop by using the promo code "SIMPLICITY" at checkout.  This offer is valid until December 13th.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Meet Vanessa - Adoption Blogger Interview Project 2013

Adoption Blogger Interview Project 2013

To wrap up National Adoption Month, I'm participating in the 2013 adoption blogger interview project from Open Adoption Bloggers!  I learned about OAB last year, right after the interview project had taken place.  I'm so excited to participate this year!

I was paired with Vanessa, a beautiful adoptive mama who blogs at Unexpected Dreams.  She is committed to writing about whatever is happening in her life, moment to moment.  I enjoyed getting to know Vanessa through this project, and look forward to keeping in touch with her now that the project is wrapping up.  Make sure to visit Vanessa's blog to show her some love, and to check out her interview with me!

Please check out the other interviews in our group, as well as the first and second interview groups for this year's project.

And now for my interview with Vanessa:

You talk about seasons in your life a lot.  Can you tell us about the season you're in now?

I do talk about seasons a lot. I find that it is easier to describe what may be going on in my life at the time. I would describe this season as a season of waiting and a season of in between. We are waiting to hopefully welcome a new little one into our home through adoption. We are waiting to see how our family will grow. With that I feel like we are in between of being a family that is complete. There is so much that is happening in this season of life. I am not good at waiting or being in a place that is not quite defined. It has been hard and drives me insane many days but is also been a time of growth as a family too. And I wouldn’t change that for anything.

How did your year of contentment go for 2013? 

Contentment has been something that I have thought so much about over the last year. It was something that I felt that we needed to focus on this year and it is a word that continues to breathe life into our family regularly.

What I have found is that contentment is going to be an on-going theme in our home. We live in a world that really does not promote contentment well. We are told to strive for bigger, better, and more. We are told that we can have it all and we should work hard to achieve it all. And while I do agree with some of those things, I would also argue that living in the present and seeing what it is that you do have, is equally important. I do work hard, my husband works hard but yet we are finding that the stuff is not what we want. We want more time with each other creating memories for our family.

I have learned that more is not better; it is not always what we need or what we even really want. I have tried spending more time focusing on relationships instead of stuff. Investing more in my marriage, in my family, with friendships etc. I have started to look beyond the stuff and look into what was important to me. It continues to be a work in progress!

What are you most looking forward to in 2014?

I am looking forward to growing our family in 2014. At least, I am hopeful that we are going to grow our family in 2014. I am trying hard to not put a time frame on this adoption. You never know what will happen!

I am also looking forward to seeing Little Miss continue to grow and develop. She is in a very fun and challenging age and we are enjoying her so much! I love doing life with her and the hubby!

Can you share Little Miss' adoption story, for those of us who are new to your blog?

I don’t share a ton of details about Little Miss’s adoption because it is not all my story to share with the public. It is her story and I feel that my responsibility is to protect that for her for as long as I can. However, I can give you a snapshot of what we happened during that time.

In a nutshell, we started the adoption process again in 2010 after our first adoption did not finalize in 2007. We were in the beginning stages of researching agencies and saving money when we found out that Little Miss’s birth mom was expecting. We were officially waiting adoptive parents soon after meeting her and Little Miss’s biological father.

We spent the next several months preparing for a baby and going through the emotions that adoption brings. We were able to attend doctors appointment with our birth mom which was amazing gift for us. Our relationship with her birth parents started to grow during these appointments, which was amazing!

Little Miss made her entrance into the world 7 weeks early! Yep…she decided that she was coming early and did not really wait for any of us to be ready for this. We spent a week in the NICU and the rest of her story is a whirlwind.

We finalized our adoption when Little Miss was 5 month old, on my father’s birthday which is only fitting because she was born on my grandfather’s (his fathers) birthday.

We continue to have an open relationship with her birth parents. It is a different relationship than I had hoped for but it is growing and for that I am thankful.

I’m sorry that you experienced such loss before the joy of Little Miss, but I think you would agree that God had a plan the whole time, and has a plan for all of us. What advice would you give to others going through infertility and/or a failed adoption match?

This is a hard question for me to answer because I think that we all deal with grief in loss in different ways. I can tell you that for me, I was angry for a while. Not at the fact that a mother decided to parent her child, but at the fact that my heart still ached to be a mother and my infertility was preventing that. At least that is how I thought about it at the time.

I would say that if you believe in God then know that He is bigger than this and that He will see you through it even if you are not sure how. I knew that there had to be a reason for the pain that we were going through and believed that this was just a piece of our story as a family. I held on to the fact that the God I believe in is a God of love and redemption and restoration. He is a God that has a plan for us and it doesn’t always line up the way we want or hope for but He has a plan.

Please hear me when I say that this doesn’t mean that you don’t hurt or struggle with what is going on, because you may and should if that is where you are. There were many days I struggled to be thankful for what I had and where I was and I lived in anger and heart break. I have often said that infertility sucks! And it does, but you will also hear me say that without that pain and grief, I would have the most beautiful, sweet, smart and healthy little girl.

Even though the pain maybe really fresh and raw right now, know that it will change and be different at some point. It wont stay raw forever. Know that it is ok to be angry about it, to hate it and to be angry with God. It is ok to grieve the loss that you face with infertility and with a failed adoption.

I don’t know how much this will help. I just know what helped me at the time. Looking back I wish I didn’t feel so much shame about our situation but I did. It was through all that pain and loss that I ended up learning the most about myself…so be open to what God may be doing in the midst of being in the valley.

What advice would you give to first time parents to be?

First time parents will get lots and lots of advice. I don’t really want to add to the “you should do this and that” list. But what I will say is, enjoy it! Parenting is hard, and tiring and heart breaking and you will often feel like you are losing you mind, but it is also fun and amazing and a gift so delight in all of it!!

And keep your marriage healthy if you are married and parenting children. I am convinced parenting is one of the major reasons why people divorce. It brings out so much in you and your spouse that it can be hard. So nurture your relationship for the sake of your family!

Is there anything else you would like your readers to know?

I am sure there is more to share but for everyone’s reading eyes I will stop here. Thank you for allowing me to share a bit about our story! And thank you for asking some really great questions!

A big thank you to Vanessa for sharing her story!  And thanks to Heather at Open Adoption Bloggers for organizing the interview project year after year.  I can't wait to participate again next year!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

First Award!

Until Forever... has been nominated for it's first blog award!  I'm so grateful for my fellow bloggers who nominated us for the Sunshine Award.  Amazingly, we were nominated by three wonderful women and I've been trying to decide how to respond to multiple nominations!

What I've decided is that I will answer the interview questions from the first person who nominated us - that would be Kristen at Adoption Love.  Thanks so much, Kristen!

I've also decided that since most of the lovely ladies I want to nominate have already received awards, I'm not going to post questions for them to answer.  I will, however list all of my favorite sunshiny blogs!  All of these ladies deserve to be recognized, and to know how much I enjoy keeping up with their stories.

The (official) rules for the sunshine award (which I am breaking):
-proudly post your new award
-answer the 11 questions from the blogger who nominated you
-nominate 11 wonderful bloggers
-write 11 questions for them to answer
-let your nominees know that you have nominated them

Kristen's questions for us:

1. What is the best advice you've ever gotten?
We have gotten so much advice lately.  It's not surprising, considering we are about to become first time parents through our first adoption.  I welcome all advice, but sometimes it can be overwhelming!  Don't deny it, if you've been in our shoes you know what I'm talking about.  I would say that the best advice I've received is to just enjoy becoming a parent.
2. What is your first childhood memory?
When I was 2 years old my family moved from our first to our second home.  I remember being really upset in the car because I forgot my toy helicopter in the sand box.  My parents couldn't imagine how I would remember that I left it behind, but the turned the car around due to my hysterics.  Turns out, I was right - the toy was right where I said it would be!

3. If you could choose another time in history to live, when would it be?
This one's a draw for me!  For some reason I can picture myself as a 1960's housewife, although I don't have any of the qualities those ladies seemed come by naturally!  I also think I would have loved living in Elizabethan England.  I love any and all literature centered around that time period.

4. What's the latest book you read and what was it about?
I'm currently reading the last book, Allegiant in the Divergent series.  It's a series of three young-adult dystopian/science fiction books by Veronica Roth.  It takes place in dystopian Chicago in a society made up of five factions.  Members of each faction dedicate themselves to the cultivation of a particular virtue.

5. How did you meet your significant other?
Nate and I met online on some free dating website.  We started chatting on AOL instant messenger (which cracks me up) for a few months and then decided to start talking on the phone.  When we decided to meet in person, he and a few of his friends met with me and some of my friends at our apartment.  We hit it off right away, and the rest is history... since I can't come up with something more creative to end this story. 

6. What's the best way to get on your good side?
Nominate our blog for an award!... just kidding.  I would say just be nice and genuine.  I don't connect well with people who are judgmental, insincere or dishonest.

7. What's your favorite thing to do on a Saturday morning?
Go out for breakfast!  I love having breakfast at restaurants.

8. If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?
Hmm... this is a tough one for me.  I haven't really traveled much in my life.  I've been to London, England and I've also been to Cancun, Mexico.  I loved them both and hope to be able to return to each eventually.  Nate and I usually make an annual trip to Hocking Hills, and I'm never ready to come home from that peaceful place.  For some reason though, I've always thought that I would love to live in Tennessee.  I've never actually been there, but I think the weather would be perfect!  It seems like you'd still get variations in the seasons, but probably not as much snow as we get in Ohio (and definitely not as much as I grew up with in Michigan).

9. What has been your favorite "adoption moment" so far?
This one is tough, too!  I have honestly enjoyed the adoption process overall, and I'm hesitant to name a favorite moment when we have so many more exciting moments still to come.  If I had to chose one moment above all others, I guess I would say this - after The Call and The (much anticipated) Meeting we received a call from the birth mother counselor we are now working with.  She was calling to tell us that we were officially matched!  While that call definitely tops my list of favorite moments, the text message I received from J afterward is probably number one...  It contained a photo of her most recent ultrasound (she was bummed that she forgot to bring it with her to the meeting) and the words "I know I've chosen the right parents for this baby.  I'm so excited!"  Her message gave me goosebumps and brought tears to my eyes.

10. What would your family pet say to you if they could talk?
We have two cats, Ari and Ozzie, and they are pretty talkative (they meow at us a lot, I mean) and energetic.  If they could talk, they would probably say things like "c'mon, downstairs, it's breakfast time!," and "can opener?  tuna!," or "bathroom time!" since we absolutely can't be in the bathroom without one of them in there with us.  I don't get it.

11. What is the airspeed velocity of a laden swallow?
African or European? 

Thanks again, Kristen!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Five on Friday Link-up!

I'm linking up with Darci over at the Good Life Blog for another Five on Friday!

1) We had our first of three baby showers a week ago today.  It's totally surreal that this is happening, and I can't get my head around the fact that it's real!  While I feel like we have a great and growing relationship with J, it's hard to imagine that we are preparing our hearts and home for a baby.  I don't have any photos of the shower to post (they are on my sister's phone), but I think I'll do one big baby shower post after we have the one with my co-workers and the one with my family in Michigan.  I do have a photo of our house the next day, while we started putting items together...

2) I ordered and received our Christmas cards for this year!  For the past two years I've ordered from Simply to Impress, and I've actually been really impressed (pun noted).  This year they sent me an offer of 10 free cards as a thank you for my loyalty.  On top of that I was able to take advantage of their site-wide 20% discount.  I ended up saving $35.00 on our cards!  Plus, you can't help but love this adorable packaging:

3) I discovered Burlington this week!  I've checked out their site in the past and have seen their commercials, but I've never really found anything that sparked my interest.  Earlier this week though, Nate found the car seat we were registered for, on Burlington's website and it was significantly discounted!  We were able to save $130 by settling for a different (but totally acceptable) color.  Deal!  I ran up to the store on my lunch break, and I was pleasantly surprised.  I wish I would have had more time to browse and compare prices on some other items I've been wanting to get.  An adventure for another day!

4) I also discovered Good Greens bars this week!  I am sold!  I have this thing with textures affecting my like or dislike of certain foods.  Unfortunately, most fruits and vegetables have textures I can't get past.  My go-tos are apples and raw carrots - sweet and crunchy.  Sometimes I can handle bananas.  I've been trying to force myself to try more things lately, and I'm happy to say that I've been able to add broccoli, brussel sprouts, spinach and cooked carrots to my OK with list.  However, I still don't eat as many fruits and vegetables as I should.  When I saw the words "100% of your daily fruits and vegetables" on the Good Greens bars package, I was instantly interested.  I tried pumpkin spice, chocolate peanut butter and chocolate chunk this week, and I was really impressed.  I definitely recommend giving these a try!

5) We have had a couple of extra special birthdays lately.  Our oldest niece turned 4 on Halloween (ok, I'm a little late with this one) and our youngest niece turns 1 on the 27th.  I was able to make some special shirts for the girls to wear on their big days.  I'm really happy with how they turned out:

BONUS - Don't forget about our first-ever giveaway!  Drawing will be on 11/29.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

the r house couture giveaway!!

Alright, everybody! I’ve got some praise to give.

Back in June I made an Etsy purchase from the r house couture shop. This was when Nate and I were at a tough spot (one of many) in our adoption process. All of our paperwork and interviews were done, and we knew that our profile book had been presented to several expectant mothers who had chosen other adoptive families. We were thinking about networking with another agency, but didn’t know how that would affect the progress we had made with our first agency. We had no idea how much longer we would be waiting or how many more times our profile would be presented. I was starting to feel defeated. I needed some little reminder to just hang on.  Enter my new favorite piece of jewelry:

Sometimes I hesitate to order jewelry online, mainly because it’s difficult to judge the size and quality of a piece without actually being able to touch it. However, I don’t regret placing this order for one second! I’ve worn my necklace almost every day since it arrived, and I have never received so many compliments on any other piece of jewelry. It’s durable but elegant, handmade and high quality, and I think it’s obvious that the piece holds special meaning to me. Perfect!

Let me give you some background.

When Nate and I started our adoption journey I was desperate to connect with others who were on the same path as us. I read countless blogs from beginning to end, and the authors’ first hand views are what helped me to understand the adoption community and process. Somewhere along the line I discovered the R house blog. Forgive me, I don’t remember exactly how I “met” this blog but I fell in love pretty quickly! Imagine my delight when I discovered that the author had an Etsy shop! I logged on and started “favoriting” items right away.

I also learned that the r house couture is a hand-stamped sterling silver jewelry company that was formed by three amazing women who were brought together because of their involvement in the adoption community, where they remain very active. They specialize in making gifts for situations where it is hard to find the right words. They also have a clothing line AND an all-natural soap and body products line called Spotted Owl Soaps. They’re unstoppable!

Because I’m a big believer in giving praise when it’s due, I’ve decided to do my first giveaway!

To be entered for a chance to win this gorgeous piece (above) from the r house couture, simply comment on this post and/or the post on our new Facebook page. One comment per person on each page will be entered in the drawing. Winner will be randomly selected on Friday, 11/29 – hello Black Friday!

On top of this awesome giveaway, the r house has graciously offered 10% off any item from their shop to Until Forever… readers between now and December 13th (the last day their shop is open for the year – get ‘em while they’re hot!). All you need to do is click the “apply shop coupon code” link at the top right of the checkout screen and enter the code “SIMPLICITY” before submitting your order.

I’m not looking to gain “followers” or “likes” as a result of this post, and I’m not receiving any type of “kickback” on purchases made – I just want to showcase a product that I have been extremely pleased with and the hard work that went into it. Perhaps this piece will bring the same joy to the winner that I’ve had from wearing my necklace.

Comment away and good luck!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Five for Friday

Happy November, everyone! Here are my High Five for Friday:

1)      It’s November, which means its National Adoption Month! I have a few blog posts and Facebook status updates planned for the next few weeks in an effort to do my part to raise awareness about adoption. I’ve been looking forward to this for quite some time now!

2)      It has been an adoption and new baby filled week for us! I learned a few weeks ago that a co-worker of mine and his wife are also pursuing adoption. They have been on the foster-to-adopt path, and are considering moving to straight adoption instead. They wanted to meet to share our experiences, and hear any advice we had to offer. I never hesitate to accept an invitation like this!

3)      Friends of ours just brought their twins home from the hospital, and we were able to go over and meet them this week! Their boys are so adorable, and it was so sweet being able to cuddle them a little.

4)      Yesterday we made another trip down to see J! It was just a routine checkup, but as I’ve mentioned before we love having the opportunity to see her whenever we can. We ended up going to Applebee’s for dinner afterward, and she was able to have her favorite dessert – a blondie, which looked really delicious! The doctor had no concerns yesterday, and we’ll get to go back down in another three weeks.

5)      Our oldest niece turned 4 yesterday. I can’t believe it! Hopefully tonight I’ll be able to come up with a birthday shirt for her, using my embroidery machine. I can’t wait to celebrate with her on Sunday!

Happy Friday, everyone! Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!