Adoption day

Today is our second year anniversary of Hannah’s Adoption Day. The legal side of the adoption process is different than most people think. When you bring your daughter home from the hospital, even if both biological parents have signed the proper paperwork, that baby is not yet legally “yours.” In the state of Texas, you are legally that baby’s legal guardians for the first six months, then after a social worker visit and a court date, you are finally official parents.

In our case (back in 2009), our lawyer was somehow able to speed up the process and got us a court date after three months instead of six! Maybe the judge owed her a favor, I don’t know. To us, it wasn’t a big deal since mentally and emotionally we were already Hannah’s parents, no question. But we were excited to make it official.

We were so blessed that our closest friends were able to come share this important event with us. My sweet friend, Kay (of Kay Harmon Photography), documented the courtroom excitement, and here are a few of her pictures.

First, our lawyer, Denise, presented our case to the judge.

Then the judge said we are a family forever! And everybody clapped.

Then we went outside and took a picture. Most of our friends were from a lifegroup we were in at church several years ago. Of the people who came to our Adoption Day, three are now living in foreign countries and another family moved to Oregon. This is the last time we got to all be together. So special!

As you can see, Hannah has been hanging out with Abby and Lilly from a young age.

We had a party/lunch at our house afterwards. Hannah got to meet some of her third cousins.

It was an amazing day we will remember forever!

Christmas decorating

It’s beginning to look more like Christmas at our house. Home-decorating is not something I spend a lot of time on in general, but it’s fun to get out some special things in December. I try to keep it simple by using handmade and gifted items. Our tree is decorated with the ornaments we’ve grown up with and some inexpensive silver balls. Last year, I cut some scrap fabric into strips and tied them together to create a simple garland.

Next to the tree, I hung some ribbons on the wall with mini clothespins to display the pictures we get. I covered a storage bin with some Christmas fabric I had lying around to make a Hannah-sized table. We put the Christmas cards in a basket and laid out the Christmas books.

For our mantle, I splurged a bit on Hannah’s monogrammed stocking from Pottery Barn Kids. But I figured it’s something special for her to have for a long time. And yes, even though we don’t “do Santa,” we plan to fill the stocking with special snacks for her to open on Christmas morning (and be honest and tell her they’re from us).

The piano displays my Willowtree nativity set – love! There is also a little fake greenery to go behind the candles.

New this year, I was trying to think of a way to display ornaments besides putting them on the tree. I came up with this randomness for under $5, and it can all be reused. It seems to look better in person than in the picture.

Outside we have the deer made by Brett’s dad. We have a string of white lights on the house and a lighted wreath on the front windows. This is Hannah last year with the deer.

On my list for next year, I want to try a simple window decoration of ornaments hanging from ribbon that my sister-in-law did.

And I just realized our pumpkins are still displayed on our porch from October, so I guess our house is caught in holiday schizophrenia.

Dinner tonight: Brussels sprouts hash

It’s finally brussels sprouts season again! I know, “brussels sprouts” looks weird, but that’s the proper spelling. I usually just say it as one word to be correct while also not sounding weird – brusselsprouts. Anyway, we are seriously excited. We just like the way they taste, and they’re a great source of Vitamin C and other good stuff.

We hadn’t seen any at the farmer’s market yet, so I went ahead a picked up a big bag at Costco for a great price. I roasted half and went looking for a new recipe for the other half. The Hashed Brussels Sprouts with Lemon at Simply Recipes gave me an idea. “Hash” seems like a great way to use up all kinds of random things. I happened to have some potatoes and bacon – sounded like a good combo.

So here’s my brussels sprouts, potato and bacon hash. I started by cooking 4 sliced strips of bacon then removed them, leaving the yummy bacon drippings in the pan. Then I shredded 2 small (unpeeled) potatoes and started cooking them in the delicious bacon juice. I finely sliced 1 lb. brussels sprouts and tossed them in with the potatoes. I added a little salt and pepper and just waited for them to all be cooked through. Before serving, I sprinkled in the bacon. We ate the whole pan. No kidding.

If you are convinced you don’t like brussels sprouts, try something new with them. This hash was delicious (of course, cooked in bacon!), but I also highly recommend roasting them. There are lots of recipes online, so do a search, find one you’re comfortable with, and give it a shot! And with the winter crud starting, we could all use a little extra Vitamin C.

Here’s Hannah helping me wash the potatoes.

Christmas links

Bloggers are in the Christmas spirit. Here are a few of my favorite posts lately. I wish I knew how to put pictures to go with the links, so you’ll just have to trust me this is some good stuff:

The Christmas Conundrum – Jen Hatmaker (includes some of the reasons we don’t do Santa as a family)

The 5 best toys of all time – GeekDad (were you lucky enough to have any of these?)

Christmas crafts:

Mason jar snow globes – Glittered Nest

Glittery ornaments – Cutting Back Kitchen

Handmade gift ideas – Keeper of the Home

Yummy food:

Jalapeño bacon stuffed mushrooms – The Pioneer Woman

Pumpkin scones – Raising Homemakers

Easy holiday dishes – Generation Cedar

Cranberry orange muffins – Frontier Kitchen

Chocolate gooey butter cookies – Paula Deen (this isn’t necessarily a Christmas recipe, but I made it for a cookie exchange last week, and YUM!)

A year from scary

One year ago today, Hannah had a febrile seizure. At the time, we didn’t know a lot about it, so I wanted to write a post to share our experience.

Hannah had been acting completely normal all day. She seemed to be teething a bit and was slightly warm, so I gave her a dose of ibuprofen before bed. A couple hours later, we heard her make a strange noise, sort of a groan. Brett went to check on her and immediately called for me. As soon as I saw her, i could tell she was having a seizure. Her body was rigid and shaking, and her eyes were glazed-over.

This was the scariest moment of my entire life.

I had a flashback – when I was a preschool teacher, I had to take CPR classes which included seizure training (more on this later). I put her on the floor while Brett called 911. An ambulance and a firetruck were in front of our house in about four minutes! The seizure had stopped well before then, so in that time I packed the diaper bag with anything I thought we’d possibly need for several hours in the emergency room.

The paramedics came in and put a tiny oxygen mask on her and told us that febrile seizures are caused by a fever spike. There are no lasting effects, and they are unlikely to happen again. But they told us we did the right thing by calling 911 since it was her first seizure and needed to be accurately diagnosed.

Hannah was strapped on the giant stretcher, clutching Bo (her blankie), and we got to go on our first (and hopefully last) ambulance ride.

By the time we got to our room in the Dell Children’s Hospital ER, Hannah was back to her normal self (plus tired and bored). The doctor checked her out and ran some tests in an attempt to identify an infection that may have caused the fever. All the tests came back normal, so we think it must have been caused by the teething.

We got to leave at 12:30, as in midnight, after 2 1/2 hours which I hear is pretty good for the ER. Hannah was exhausted and slept for most of the next 36 hours.

There is a possibility she could have another febrile seizure, but the likelihood decreases as she gets older. We are very careful about her being outside when it’s hot, and we don’t mess around with fevers. If we are going to be away from her for a length of time, we like to be sure that whoever is with her is knowledgeable about seizure response.

So, you never know when someone around you could have a seizure; be informed! Some general guidelines are:

  • turn the person on their side if you are able
  • clear the area of hard items
  • put something soft under the head if you are able
  • do not restrain the person or try to hold them down
  • do not try to put anything in their mouth
  • pay attention to the length of the seizure

So now you know. And knowing is half the battle. (yes, I put that in for you, Brett)

Decorating the tree

With Hannah a year older, Christmas is very different from last year. She’s walking and running and talking and into everything. So we made tree-decorating a family project.

Hannah liked to put all the ornaments in a toddler-level row.

Then she told Brett where to put them up high.

Later, while she was napping, I evened them out a bit.


Dinner tonight: Ropa Vieja Stew

This is not your grandmother’s pot roast. Unless your grandmother was Cuban. “Ropa vieja” basically translates as “old clothes,” implying this is what you could do with some leftovers.

Easy Ropa Vieja Stew

  • 2 lbs. boneless beef chuck roast, cut in half
  • 2 Tbps. olive oil
  • 2 large onions, coarsely chopped
  • 2 large green peppers, coarsely chopped
  • 4 jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced
  • 1 habanero pepper, seeded and minced
  • 3 cans (14.5 oz each) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. minced fresh cilantro
  • 4 tsp. beef bouillon granules
  • 2 tsp. pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup pimiento-stuffed olives, coarsely chopped
  • Hot cooked rice

1. In a large skillet, brown beef in oil on all sides. Transfer meat to a 5-qt slow cooker. Add onions and peppers. Combine tomatoes, water, garlic, cilantro, beef bouillon, pepper, cumin and oregano; pour over vegetables.

2. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or until meat is tender. Remove beef; cool slightly. Skim fat from cooking juices; stir in olives. Shred beef with two forks and return to slow cooker; heat through. Serve with rice if desired.

This recipe is from the Taste of Home magazine. I made a couple changes – first, I didn’t cut the roast in half and brown it in oil, I just put it straight in the slow cooker. I also didn’t use green peppers, and I skipped the habanero in favor of some extra jalapeños. I probably should have done the habanero because it didn’t turn out spicy at all and could have used a little extra heat. I also didn’t use the bouillon because I didn’t have any, and I think it was fine.

Everyone liked it, including Hannah. Instead of serving hers on rice, I put it in a tortilla and told her it was a taco. She’ll pretty much eat anything if you tell her it’s a taco.

Christmas pictures – The reality

I’m just keeping it real. Taking pictures of a 2-year-old is hard. Not just trying-to-clip-the-cat’s-fingernails hard, more like trying-to-get-the-cat-to-lay-an-egg hard. I was beginning to have some low self-esteem about this, then my friend, Kelly, who also has a 2-year-old, posted the real story of their Christmas pictures. So, to affirm my sweet friend, here’s what went down at my house, Kelly. :)

Let’s put on our nice dress and sit in front of the Christmas tree. Maybe we’ll take a book as a distraction.

Hmmm. Maybe holding a Christmas ornament would be better? And how about if you look at the camera, hello!

Nope, turn around. Seriously, sit still for just a minute.

Ah, the blur. A staple element of toddler photography. Let’s hold the book up for her to look at! Oh, turns out she wanted to hold the book. Now she’s pouting and crying pathetically as if she is undergoing some grave trial (that requires two stuffed animals for comfort).

Dry the tears. Give her a new ornament. Hold up the iPad with pictures next to the camera to try to get her to look in a general forward direction … while chewing on the ornament.

And that’s what we got. The really bad ones I deleted straight off the camera, so I can’t even include those.

Merry Christmas to Hayden

For the past several years, we have felt called to help foster children. A great local organization is the Adoption Coalition of Texas which works with foster agencies to find adoptive families and support foster children. They have a backpack drive which we are often involved with, and they do Secret Santa wish lists at Christmas.

This was our third year as a Secret Santa family, and we were matched with an 8-yr-old boy, Hayden. It was a lot of fun shopping for boy toys! One of the items on his wish list was a “Hex Bug.” We had never heard of this, but we found a great Black Friday deal for a big set – regularly $30 down to $12! So we stood in 40 degree weather with hundreds of other people outside of Toys R Us to get one for him.

He also requested “spy gear.” Many of the marketed spy sets are expensive and have weird items, so I decided to put one together myself.

It included two magnifying glasses, a fingerprinting kit, binoculars, a flashlight and a secret notebook. I wish I’d had time to track down some disguise mustaches or something.

We also got Hayden a stomp rocket and some sour gummy worms. I hope he likes everything!

As we were buying the toys, I tried to explain to Hannah “These are presents for a boy Hayden. Hayden’s mommy has some problems, so he doesn’t get to be with her right now.” Hannah asked, “Hayden sad?” I said, “Yes, he misses his mommy but he gets to be in a safe place.” Her eyes filled up with tears and she said, “Hayden hug!” I love her tender heart.

There are many toy donation drives for the holidays, but I enjoy doing this because we are personally shopping for a specific child. Every year, we actually end up spending more for “our” foster child than on gifts for Hannah. But Hannah is blessed to have a loving family and grandmas who really like to shop, so there will be no shortage of gifts under the tree with her name. Hayden is in a safe place this Christmas, but he’s away from his family, playing with toys that aren’t his. And even if his family is full of problems, it still must be a hard time for him.

So Merry Christmas, Hayden! We’re praying for you, and we hope you enjoy the gifts.

Movie recommendations: Christmas

Tis the season to light a fire, make some hot chocolate (preferably with a touch of Bailey’s Irish Creme) and curl up with a festive movie. Here are a few of our favorites, starting with two blatantly Christmasy movies:

White Christmas – Two showbiz pros follow some singing sisters to a run-down inn in Vermont. They find their old army general and come up with a plan to help him. – A classic, of course. Super cheesy and a ridiculous plot line, but it makes you smile and the songs tend to get stuck in your head. “Lord, help the mister who comes between me and my sister. And Lord, help the sister who comes between me and my man.”

Elf – A human is raised as an elf and then goes to find his biological father in New York City as an adult. But his father is on the Naughty List. – I did not want to like this movie. I didn’t want to be associated with those crazy cult followers who watch it every night in December, and we don’t even “do” Santa in our family. But it’s just funny, not to mention highly quotable. “Smiling’s my favorite!”

The rest are not officially Christmas movies, but we found ourselves associating them with the Christmas season:

While You Were Sleeping – A lonely single girl in Chicago saves a man’s life then is confused for his fiancee. While he is in a coma, his family takes her in for the holidays and she finds herself falling for the brother. – I can quote this entire movie. It just doesn’t get old. “These mashed potatoes are so creamy!” (I could put in about 100 quotes here but I will stop with one)

The Holiday – Two women switch houses over the holidays to escape from old relationships, but new relationships have their own complications – This is probably more of a “chick flick,” but it has a few twists that put it beyond the usual formulaic plot lines. Good casting.

You’ve Got Mail – A man and woman meet in a chat room and then in real life, unaware of their identities. – My dad can quote almost every Tom Hanks line in this movie. It’s funny and just makes you feel good. There are several scenes during the holidays including a joyless cashier, an angry turkey carving and some consumption of caviar … garnish or not? “More like 152 insights into my soul.”

Please comment with your favorite Christmas movie or your favorite line from one of these listed.