The Journey to Forever

For as long as I can remember, fostering and fostering to adopt has been on my heart. It’s been something as clear to me as breathing. Showing love to precious children who otherwise might not be shown love. Giving them a chance to blossom into the best version of themselves. Supporting and hugging them when they otherwise might not have the chance to feel what it means to be encouraged.

My husband, Adam, and I discussed my desire for fostering to adopt early in our dating years and he felt the same way I did. We knew eventually this would be how we chose to grow our family.

A little over two years ago, we began the journey having no idea how it would pan out or how long it might take, but we had faith that everything would happen when the time was right.

We submitted for different broadcasts, sent to us from our agency, which we felt we could take on, and waited. Then waited some more. Then everything started happening pretty quickly. We were picked as one of the final three families for 2 sisters.

2 sisters whose pictures I fell in love with the first time I saw them because they reminded me so much of my sister and me as kids.

They looked like us. It was uncanny.

Adam and I prayed, wished, hoped, and dreamed as we waited to hear the final decision. We dreamed of the life we could have with these girls in our home. The places we would take them, the music we would introduce them to, the activities we thought they’d enjoy.

Then we got the call.

We were picked!

We were overwhelmed with happiness, but also fully aware that we still had hurdles to jump as the journey was only beginning. We got to meet the girls at a McDonald’s playground for a few hours to introduce ourselves and get comfortable with one another. I’m not going to lie, this was forced and awkward. It’s an indescribably foreign (and supervised) situation that you’re never prepared for. We took little goodie bags for the girls with some coloring books and activities we thought they’d enjoy and, slowly but surely, they began to open up to us. By the end of the meeting, they were singing “Hello” by Adele to us and calling Adam goofy. Our hearts were invested. These were going to be our daughters.

A court date came and went and we got to have a few private weekend visits with them. We booked hotel suites and got to have time with them to play, laugh, sleep, and learn more about each other. We quickly learned that laughing was one of their favorite things and that they had a fiercely protective love for each other. They fell asleep cuddled up and hugging on the pull out sofa.

They told us they loved us.

Our hearts melted.

We couldn’t wait for them to be with us.

Weeks passed at a snail’s pace and eventually, we were given a placement date where they would get to move into our house. We visited the elementary school administrators where we’d enroll the oldest and got the youngest enrolled in a preschool.

We got their room ready.

And their closet.

Then our doorbell rang and they were here.

Cautious.

Scared.

Confused.

We gave them hugs. We showed them their room. We introduced them to our dog. They began to warm up.

The next 7 months have passed in a blur. Some days we wonder what we’ve gotten ourselves into, but those are few and far between. Mostly, we just laugh, love and watch in awe at how resilient these girls are.

We cannot fathom what their life was like up until this point, but we try every day to meet them where they are and show them that they are safe, loved, wanted, and cherished in our home. By us. By our families. By our friends.

They’ve flourished since arriving in our home and just in the past few weeks (roughly 8 months post placement) we’ve had pinch me moments and met milestones with them we weren’t sure would ever come.

We’ve seen them dress our dog, Senna, up as a princess. We’ve taught them to ride bikes. We’ve watched them learn to swim. We’ve watched their complete and total excitement to see the ocean for the first time and learn to jump waves. We’ve heard them tell secrets to our parents. We’ve built hundreds of Lego projects and put together countless puzzles. We’ve taught them to jump into a pile of leaves without a care in the world and pushed them thousands of times in swings.

Crayons have taken over our coffee table and toys have taken over our house. Their beds are covered in a mix of my old stuffed animals and their new ones. Front rolls and cartwheels are daily occurrences. Pony rides, picking strawberries, calling the Hogs, and singing karaoke have all happened with glee.

Is the hardest part behind us? Who knows. Nothing in life is ever promised, but we’re so incredibly lucky that we were picked for these girls and are happy that forever has finally come for them.

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Music Monday – Spring

It’s spring and nothing puts me in a better mood than driving with an open sunroof listening to good music. I’ve put together a playlist for just this activity and wanted to share it with you. It’s about a random as you’d expect given my love for almost any music with a good beat. Some new, some old – Enjoy!

Back in the Kitchen

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a recipe or, if I’m being really honest, cooked a full meal from scratch in our kitchen. Since one of our goals for 2014 is to cook more and eat out less perhaps it’s time to revive the ol’ blog with recipes and stories from our kitchen. Here goes nothing…

First, it helps to have a great playlist for motivation and impromptu dance breaks with a spoon as a mic. Oh wait. I’m the only one that does this? Forget I said anything.

But, if you do need a playlist, I found a great one. Unfortunately, I can only take credit for finding it, not for putting it together.

It will become my soundtrack for all cooking going forward, so if you’re coming over for dinner be prepared for music blaring from our front room so I can hear it in the kitchen.

My husband spent many of his formative years in a commercial kitchen and, since I apparently suck at getting all the dishes ready to serve at the same time, he is in charge of timing the dishes. He always succeeds in this area. Thankfully.

This week, we chose to cook grilled chicken with a basil-lemon drizzle and garlic rosemary roasted fingerling potatoes. We also had a side salad using a premade organic Italian salad mix and Newman’s Own Italian Dressing (because I was too lazy to whip up my easy scratch vinaigrette).

I started on the fingerling potatoes first and used this recipe from Designlovefest. These were the best roasted potatoes I’ve ever eaten and I definitely added it to our binder of go-tos for future reference. Adam kept saying how amazing they tasted and how perfectly cooked they were. #winning

While the potatoes were roasting away in the oven, I got started on the drizzle for the chicken and told Adam, ” Go forth and grill chicken”.

For the chicken, he seasoned boneless skinless chicken breasts with black pepper (he LOVES black pepper) and some chili powder, before grilling them to perfection.

For the drizzle I followed a recipe from Skinny Italian by (don’t judge) Real Housewife Teresa Giudice. This isn’t the first recipe I’ve made from her cookbook and it won’t be the last. This had a wonderful flavor that we both loved and it was quick to put together!

Basil Lemon Drizzle
from Skinny Italian

 Ingredients
  • 1/2 garlic clove
  • 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper (We added a bit more. Did I mention the hubs loves pepper?)

Directions

  1. In a food processor (we only have a mini-prep and it did the job), drop in garlic to mince.
  2. Add basil and pulse a few times to chop it.
  3. Add in the lemon juice, oil, and 2 tablespoons water and process until it becomes a thin sauce.
  4. Season with salt and pepper and pulse once more.
  5. Let stand at room temperature until ready to serve, no longer than one hour.

Yield: 6 tablespoons, about 4 servings

Once the chicken was grilled and the potatoes roasted, we plated our meals and ate up. Everything was delicious and we were quite happy to have leftovers, which we’re planning to finish off tonight 🙂

Music Monday – Haim

For the last month, when I wasn’t listening to Christmas music, I’ve been obsessive listening to the sister trio Haim. I love their unique style of music and can’t get enough of their voices. Enjoy!

Honey and I – Haim

En route to Dublin, Ireland

Our last day of adventure in the Irish countryside finally caught up with us. Much too soon for my liking, but after a quick chat with our B&B host that went something like this:

Him: Where in the US are you from?

Me: Texas. Austin actually.

Him: Oh, like JR Ewing?

Me: Close, he was from Dallas.

we left in high spirits despite the cold, rainy weather that awaited us outside.

DSC00812Because this was a driving day, the rainy weather didn’t bother us much and since we didn’t really have any sights planned to stop at we focused on making good time.

Then, about halfway to Dublin, we hit a break in the rain and took a detour to Birr Castle.

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Birr Castle is home to the 7th Earl of Rosse so we weren’t able to go inside; however, the grounds were open to the public and we took the opportunity to explore them, despite sporadic rain showers and wind.

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Once we had enough of the cold wind and rain we made the final leg of our drive to our hotel in Dublin and what would our last drive in Ireland be without a rainbow?

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After dropping our bags at the hotel and taking our car back to the airport we headed into Dublin for our first night in the city.

It was FREEZING, super windy, and rainy so we didn’t veer very far from the Temple Bar area, but we did manage to peek in and catch a glimpse of Trinity College at night, which was gorgeous.

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DSC00878By this point I was getting cranky, because I was cold and hungry and wet so we ducked in the nearest tourist trap we could find – Hard Rock Cafe – where they sat me, uh I mean us, in the Sting booth.

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If you know me, you know how big of a moment this was for me. After our very American dinner, we headed back to the hotel to chill, the next day we had to hit the ground running as it was Adam’s last day of sightseeing before the business end of this trip began.

Cliffs of Moher & Galway, Ireland

Leaving Dingle was hard.

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I mean, who would want to leave when this is the sunrise view from the front porch of your bed & breakfast?

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But, more of Ireland was just waiting to be explored, and we had to get an early start.

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One perk of the morning was that we got to drive Conor Pass one last time.

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Let’s be honest, there was no “we” in driving – Adam was the sole driver and I just played naviga-ooh look pretty views, pull over.

Our route today was pretty straight-forward, primarily driving north, along the coast, and taking a ferry across the River Shannon.

Our first stop this day was the Blennerville Windmill which was built in 1800 an recently restored after years of neglect.

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Then we took the ferry across the River Shannon and ate lunch in Kilrush.

While eating the most amazing baked potato of my life (topped with mozzarella and bacon!) a kind older couple chatted with us and insisted we drive out to Loop Head. It was a slight detour on our route but they promised cliff views that rivaled the Cliffs of Moher.

THEY WEREN’T KIDDING.

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We absolutely lucked out on this recommendation not only were the cliffs FREE (Cliffs of Moher charged 6 euro per adult) there were no other tourists there and they remained virtually untouched. The only signs of visitors were worn trails in pastures along the cliff line.

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We walked along the cliffs for close to an hour and could have stayed longer, but knew we still had to book it to make it to the more famous cliffs before sunset.

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And then we pulled into the parking lot at the Cliffs of Moher right at the start of the “golden hour”, which led to spectacular lighting for pictures (Adam’s are amazing).

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We spent another hour or so walking along the edges and taking pictures before it got so dark that we needed to head back to the car and finish up our journey to Galway.

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While we enjoyed the Cliffs – the views from and stature of them were quite impressive, it was the first time on our trip that we were crowded by other tourists and realized just how spoiled we had been up until this point.

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Galway. Oh, Galway. The first time on our trip where our GPS led us astray, not once, but 3 times. But finally, after an hour driving around the city, we found our bed & breakfast – Marless House. Once we parked the car and took our bags to our room, we asked the host for directions to food and pubs – the most important parts of any Irish evening.

We strolled to Salthill about a half mile from the B&B and found ourselves eating in a very popular (and delicious) pizzeria, Da Roberta. After dinner, we walked a couple of doors down to O’Connor’s Pub for a drink.

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This pub was very eclectic and quite busy.

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I loved that we sat on an old church pew and our “table” was an old Singer sewing machine table.

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 After 2 drinks each, we called it a night and headed to bed, for tomorrow we were off to Dublin!

Christmas Playlist

By popular demand, and just in time for some winter weather, I bring you my ginormous Christmas playlist. Full of new favorites like “Twinkle” by J.D. McPherson and “A Christmas Song” by Shawn Phillips and old standbys like Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, Elvis, Harry Connick, Jr., Natalie Cole, Rosemary Clooney, and Andy Williams. It also features some of my guilty pleasure holiday pop songs by Hanson (don’t judge), Mariah Carey, Wham!, and The Waitresses.

Oh! And “Dominick the Donkey” and “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” 🙂

It’s sure to please everyone. From me to you, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

Music Monday – Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is Thursday.

It’s an oft over-looked holiday from the music perspective and what’s a holiday gathering without music?

Don’t you worry, I’ve curated the ultimate Thanksgiving playlist, sure to please everyone who’s helping you in the kitchen or eating at your table. It’s full of songs from The Beach Boys, Bing Crosby, Joni Mitchell, Old Crow Medicine Show, Norah Jones, Johnny Cash, Louis Armstrong, and more.

Enjoy and take some time to reflect on all that you are thankful for this year. I promise, blessings abound.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Dingle, County Kerry, Ireland (Part II)

Annnnd I’m back with Part II of our day in and around Dingle…

After a late and tasty lunch in Dingle, we set our sights on driving Conor Pass. Conor Pass is Ireland’s highest mountain pass and, as we soon found out, quite curvy and narrow. So our full attention was on not wrecking our rental car, but, the views we got while driving it were incredible.

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We also decided to video the road as we drove it so that we could show off this awesome road to family and friends.

After driving the Pass, we went back to our B&B to rest for a bit before hitting the pubs of Dingle.

We talked with our host about pubs she recommended we visit and went in search of those in addition to stopping in at others that struck our fancy as we walked through the higgledy-piggledy streets. I LOVED Dingle and the more we explored and the more people we met the love just got stronger. It’s an adorable little town full of character and friendly people who enjoy nothing more than chatting about their life with you.

Our first stop of the night was Dick Mack’s Pub.

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It opened in 1899 and is still in operation 2 generations later. It’s full of reminders of the past, from tools and nails and tea and sugar bins stamped with the family crest and motto, “As you like it,” which fill the shelves surrounding the bar.

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Of course, I had to continue my whiskey drinking ways…

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…while Adam had himself a pint.

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We had lots of fun talking to the locals who were bellied up to the bar swapping jokes (What’s the difference between a house and a home? A home is where old people go. What’s the difference between an outlaw and an in-law? Outlaws are wanted.) and stories about their day/week/life. It was so laid back and easy we could have stayed there for hours (which if we ever come back to Dingle, I plan to do).

One of the charms of Dick Mack’s were the stars placed on the sidewalk in front of the pub. The stars represent celebrities that have visited the pub. Which means that DOLLY freaking PARTON has been there, and given the limited number of seats in the pub the chances that my bottom sat where her bottom sat are quite high.

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Speaking of Dolly, Ireland is obsessed with her. She’s having a concert there next summer, but it didn’t stop the radio station from advertising it almost once each hour. In addition, just this morning as we were headed to drive the peninsula, they had a live radio interview with her. Of course I made Adam listen to it with me – Dolly’s my hero.

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After leaving Dick Mack’s, we walked down to the pier to have dinner before heading to our final pub of the night. We had planned to stop in at least 3 pubs, but time and sleepiness got the best of us.

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O’Sullivan’s Courthouse Pub was highly recommended to us by our B&B host because of its great live music. And boy did it not disappoint. Notice that I am in fact taller than the entrance to the pub. And that height difference? Also stayed in place around the bar, which did result in Adam ramming his head into the ceiling once when he got up to get more drinks. The locals then told us it happens all the time, while I was busy laughing. I’m so thoughtful.

We had about 45 minutes to burn before the music began and spent it talking with the locals who had already packed themselves in around the bar. More drinks for us!DSC00635

Around 8:45, kids in costume showed up to trick or treat in the pub. You guys! Did you read that? Parents take their kids trick or treating in the pubs!!! Can we get this started in the US please?

And by trick or treating, I mean singing and dancing in traditional Irish fashion for their candy. These kids were adorable.

Then the live music started and the artists, Caroline Keane and Matt Griffin, were exceptional. Now I want to learn how to play the concertina.

We had so much fun during our night out on the town in Dingle!