Monday, December 31, 2012

5 Months!

Little EGB is 5 months old. Every month I say, "I love this age!" and this month is no exception.  Here are a few highlights:

  • Emily is sitting up with help! It's so cute to see her propped up and trying to play with her toys. One of her favorites is a Christmas present that lights up and sing songs about different animals.
  • She has found her feet and has also managed to pull her socks off a few times.
  • She tried (and liked!) applesauce for the first time. Still not a fan of rice cereal but glad she is starting to eat solid foods.
  • Unfortunately, she did have her first ear infection. But after some antibiotics and extra cuddles, she was better in no time.
  • The smiles and giggles are non-stop and it's so awesome. She smiles every time she wakes up and it melts my heart to see that first thing in the morning.
  • She's started laughing in her sleep which is hysterical!
  • She's noticing the dogs more and is getting lots of extra sniffs and licks from them.
  • She watches us as we move around the room and fusses when we leave.
  • She talks constantly. She's also growls, which is very amusing.
  • She is still trying to sit up. She can hold her head off the ground for a long time when she's on her back. She grunts and squirms, trying so hard to pull herself up!
  • She is putting everything in her mouth and is definitely starting to teethe. I can feel a few bumps on her upper gums. She chews on things constantly and is quite a drooling machine.
Aside from being all around awesome, Emily has had lots of fun experiences recently. With the holidays, I was able to take almost a week and a half off work which has been wonderful. We've seen both sides of the family and Emily got lots of great Christmas presents. She really enjoyed trying to open them and was fascinated by the wrapping paper. Her big brothers spent some time with us Christmas morning and she is just smitten with them (as are they with her).

We also spent sometime in Wilmington with my family. On Emily's inaugural trip she enjoyed a horse drawn carriage ride downtown, seeing lots of new animals at the aquarium, and a ferry ride! I had the best time taking her around. I even bought her a cute handmade dress in Southport that I can't wait for her to wear this summer.  I'm looking forward to bringing her back in the coming months and sharing more adventures.


*M

Friday, December 21, 2012

Merry Christmas!

I can feel it in the air. People are winding down at work and looking forward to upcoming days off. The shopping list is getting shorter and shorter. Gifts are wrapped and under the tree. Travel to see family is underway. The hustle and bustle of our every day lives is becoming less and less. The closer we get to Christmas, the more we begin to feel the magic of the season.

I love this time of year for everything it is. Time to remember the gift of Jesus. Time to be thankful and spend quality time with family. Time to love and show love to others.

We have so much to be thankful for and so much love to give this holiday season. We wish you and yours a very merry Christmas and a wonderful start to the new year!

 


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

In Control

This is the content of my brain over the last few days: new job, sick baby, almost 5 month old baby (!), no more daycare, looking for new daycare, Christmas almost here, shopping, present wrapping, check engine light on, errands, planning time with family, dry cleaning, a week off next week, Newtown, more families hurting, laundry, money, cleaning, need a glass of wine...or a nap...or both.

So much has happened in the last week and a half, it's hard to know where to begin. Lots of changes...some good, some bad. I've come to realize that it's just a matter of accepting where we are right now in this moment in time. Some things are not going to change, despite how much we wish they would. Try as we might, there is no such thing as time travel or a crystal ball.

Driving home last night, I was struck by just how overwhelmed and helpless I felt. Not just for my current circumstances but for those of others in the news and those I know personally that are struggling with illness, loss and other incredibly difficult life circumstances. In the moments, moments that seem so deep and dark, I'm always amazed at what God uses to remind me that NONE of this is in my control and that He is. There was a time not that long ago, that I found that scenario so frustrating. But as these challenges and struggles play out in life,  I find it to be more and more of a comfort knowing that God's got this. So now when God speaks to me in these moments, I know to listen. When suddenly "testing of your faith produces endurance" pops into my mind in the car on the way home, I know to turn to the Bible and dig deeper.

So yesterday evening, I did just that. The words of James 1 jumped off the page at me. The more I read, the more all of those worries and scenarios that were running around in my mind quieted down.

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, 8 being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.....

Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone....

This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God....

But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves....

 Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

That one chapter brought it full circle. When my brain is full of worry and doubt, bogged down with an array of emotions, I know it's all going to be ok in the end. And if it's not ok, then it's not the end.

*M

Saturday, December 8, 2012

No One Right Answer

A friend recently told me about the episode of Private Practice that highlighted the subject of adoption. Watching it, I had flashbacks of our adoption and my heart broke as both the adoptive mom and birth mom struggled with their relationship and setting boundaries. It was heartbreaking to watch and at times is even more heartbreaking to live through it. I bonded with Emily's birth mother immediately. The first time I spoke with her was over the phone on our way to Ohio. Emily had just been born and she wanted to learn more about our family. We chatted and laughed like we'd known each other forever. The last time I saw her was the day we left the hospital. We hugged and promised to stay in touch. I cried. It was harder than I expected to leave her. I think about her often although I have not heard from her since. I've sent pictures but no response. Part of me didn't expect her to write back but part of me worries and wonders how she is doing. I think another tiny part of me wonders if we will ever hear from her. And after all that time of not talking, what will our relationship be like? Will we pick up where we left off? Will she still think she make the right decision? Will she be proud of Emily and happy about the life she's living with us? Until the day comes when we have those answers, I will continue to send pictures and write in the baby book she asked me to put together for her.

Earlier this week, I saw on the Today Show a story about two friends who met and found out they are actually brothers! Through a series of events, the two had been living with different families and connected at camp. In the story, one of the boys (12) did not know he wad adopted and when he asked his adopted mom, both broke down in tears. The adoptive mom shared she knew she had to tell him but didn't know when or how. When I first heard this story, I was so touched and so happy for both these boys! How cool to find out you have a brother and he's your best friend. My second thought was one of puzzlement. I wondered why the adoptive mom had not told her son the truth about his life. And to be honest, it was upsetting to me for him to find out this way. Even before we adopted Emily, I knew I wanted my child to know from the start that they were adopted. After meeting Emily's birth family, I wanted that even more. I want her to know about them and not live with unanswered questions or incorrect assumptions about them. I want her to be proud to be adopted because it's something that makes her special! We read adoption books to her now and when the time comes, we will talk about the family that brought her into the world, the family that she's a part of now and how extremely important are.

These two scenarios are not uncommon in the world of adoption. It's so easy to pick sides and decide who's right and who's wrong. But no one is right or wrong. How could you blame a woman who wants to be in the life of the child she gave birth to? And how could you fault the adoptive mom who's fearful of how that relationship will impact the one she has with her child?  Who's to say when or how parents should talk to their child about their adoption? There is no right or easy answer. We can't be so quick to judge when we hear these stories on tv or in real life. And for those of us living in these scenarios, we must go easy on ourselves. As long as we are doing what's in the best interest of our little one, we're doing just fine and we are going to be ok.

*M

Monday, December 3, 2012

Weekend of Firsts

We had quite a weekend with many firsts for the Branhams.
  • I ran my first 5k this year . I know, I know, The year is almost over!) Considering I have not been running regularly, I was proud that I ran most of the way and finished in under 38 minutes!
  • Emily saw her first parade after the 5k. She was mezmorized when the police cars came by with their sirens on.

 
  • My sister-in-law and niece came to town and we visited the Junior League Holiday Market. I had always wanted to go but had never been until now. There were a lot of vendors with a lot of cute stuff but it was WAY too crowded. I think if I go back next year it will be earlier in the day.
  • My brother-in-law and his wife also came to town and saw Emily for the first time. She loves being around people and they had a great time visiting with her.
  • Now that Emily is sitting up with help, we put together her excerise spin and bouncy seat. When we first put her in it, her feet didn't touch the bottom! But then she got the hang of it and started moving around to make the animals light up and make sounds.  
  • Emily tried rice cereal for the first time! She ate a few bites but couldn't quite get the hang of the spoon. She was getting hungry and fussy so we switched back to formula in a bottle for the evening. But it was a good first try!
  • Emily had been sick all last week and on Saturday was finally starting to look better. Her congestion and tummy troubles had eased up quite a bit. In talking to my sis-in-law, we now think she might be teething! So more firsts to come when those little teeth start showing up.
  •  
While quite at a busy (and at times tiring) weekend, we really enjoyed ourselves. It felt so good to be back to running (and not as bad at it as I thought I would be) and I'm such a proud mama seeing my baby get bigger and try new things. Can't wait to other firsts are in store for us next!
 
*M

Friday, November 30, 2012

30 Days of Thanks

Many of my friends have been posting on Facebook things they are thankful for daily during the month of November. I love the idea but I keep forgetting to post something every day so I decided to post them all at once on here!

I'm thankful for:

1) God. With Him all things are possible and to Him belong all the praise and glory.
2) Family! We are so blessed with such a wonderful family especially the newest member, Emily Grace. :)
3) Randy. Three great years of marriage to a man who balances me and makes me laugh (two very important things).
4) Work. Even on days when it's tough, I'm thankful for a job and one that allows me to help others.
5) Friends. New and old, near and far...they all mean so much to me and I'm glad they are in my life.
6) Blue skies and changing leaves. I LOVE this time of year and the beautiful weather it brings.
7) A nice home. It's a bit small and cluttered at times, but it's ours and it's full of love.
8) The pups! They are so silly and have always brought me such joy.
9) Good health. It's not a guarantee and something I'm oh-so thankful for.
10) Yummy coffee.
11)  Time spent vegging out in front of the tv, wearing pjs, and holding a sleeping Emily.
12) Date night with Randy. From time spent at a nice restaurant to a haunted house, we always have a great time.
13) Vacation time. From the beach to the mountains, I love time away having fun and making memories.
14) The sound of Emily's laughter.
15) Good food, especially when I don't have to cook it.
16) The ability to help and serve others. God has blessed us with so much, I love being able to share it with others.
17) An amazing and supportive church family.
18) Music. There's always the perfect song for any moment.
19) Living in America. I know there's a lot of negativity around the election, economy, foreign affairs, etc. but I really do feel thankful to live in a land with so many freedoms.
20) Quotes and words of encouragement that get me through tough days.
21) Fun little family day trips around town.
22) Lazy Saturdays.
23) Running. I've missed it so and ready to get back to training!
24) Rainy days and scented candles.
25) When someone else cooks and does the dishes (love my mom and mother-in-law!)
26) New opportunities that lead me down roads I never thought I'd travel.
27) A smile from a friend or stranger when I'm feeling low.
28) Moments that make me laugh until I cry.
29) Time off work for the holidays!
30) The fact that Christmas is almost here!

What are you most thankful for?

*M

Friday, November 23, 2012

Run-tervention

This look says: "I thought about going for a run but decided to get comfy on the couch and catch up on episodes of Up All Night instead."

I need help. I want to get back to running. I NEED to get back to running. But I'm in a rut. I need a run-tervention.

Randy and I started running almost 2 years ago. We did a half marathon in January and had plans to do another one in September. Then we got sweet Emily and life pre-baby was a distant memory. Don't get me wrong, I love our life now! But I need to figure out how to squeeze in some time for me. I feel like a do a rock star, Wonder Woman job of managing the house, daycare drop off and work. And Randy and I are getting better about going out for date nights-woohoo! But I am struggling in the workout area.

Here are my thoughts on the subject:

First of all: when? It's dark by the time I get home from work and I want to see Em and R and need to cook dinner and clean and all that jazz. Forget the morning time. It's a miracle if I can get out of the house and to work on time with Emily and we are both fully dressed and fed.

Second of all: where? The neighborhood is fine, if it's light out. I don't like the idea of the gym because that means I have to leave Emily in the gym daycare and nothing against the people that work there, but I don't know you! For a millisecond I thought about just buying a treadmill, but where in the heck am I going to put that in our house?!

Third of all (and if I'm honest with myself, this real reason): I'm scared. Scared I'll get injured again, stupid hip flexor strain and physical therapy. Scared I will suck at it. Scared I'll never be trained and ready to go when the next half marathon rolls around in March. 

I'm a grown woman and I realize I have no reason to be scared of running. (As I'm typing this, I realize how much I sound like a wimp!) But I am. And I don't know how to get past this mental block. I was so fearless before! I just went out there and RAN! I didn't know what the heck I was doing I just did it (hey, there's something to that Nike slogan...).  I want to get back to that place.

Someone help! Anyone????

*M

(I wrote this post several days ago. Since then, I came across the Jingle All The Way 5k next Saturday, so I signed up! Fingers cross this will help jump start me back to running!)

The Story of Emily Grace Branham

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I'm posting a story I wrote Emily about how she came to be ours. I'm ever so thankful for the wonderful blessing that is our daughter. :)


There were once two people who loved each other very much. Their names were Randy and Megan. One day they decided to get married. Not long after, they decided to add to their family by adopting a baby girl.

They read adoption books, met with a social worker, talked to a nice lawyer and signed lots of papers. Then they waited. Megan-the Mommy-started putting together a nursery and buying baby clothes.
One day in July, Randy-the Daddy-got a call that there was a baby who had just been born in Ohio and the lawyer wanted to know if they wanted to adopt her.  That day Mommy was in Florida for work and Daddy was at home in South Carolina. They had to make a decision fast. They talked and prayed and said-YES!
Mommy tried to fly to Ohio but bad weather canceled her flight. Daddy picked her up and they drove 9 hours through the night to get to you. They had nothing ready for a baby so they stopped at Wal-Mart at 5:30 in the morning and bought diapers, wipes, formula and a few tiny clothes.
They were so tired but finally made it to the  hospital. The doctor and nurse told them how healthy you were. They were so excited when they finally met you and held you in their arms.  You were very small, only 5 pounds and 17 inches long.
You were so tiny that you stayed in the hospital for 3 days. Your Mommy and Daddy spent every moment they could with you feeding and holding you. They talked to you and told you how much they loved you. When it was almost time to go home, the nurses had to make sure you were big enough to ride in a car seat. You got a little stressed and the nurses had to put you on a monitor to watch your heart and breathing. It was a scary time for your Mommy and Daddy, but like the strong baby you were, you were feeling better in a few short hours.

On the day you left the hospital, your Mommy and Daddy gave you a bath and put your new clothes on. They hugged all the wonderful nurses and doctors and said goodbye. They hugged your birth mom and birth dad and tried not to cry. Your birth parents loved you so much they picked your Mommy and Daddy to take care of you because they knew you would have an amazing life. Your Mommy and Daddy will always be grateful to them for giving them the best gift they could ever have.
You spent the next 10 days in 3 different hotels with your Mommy and Daddy while everything was being worked out to bring you home.  Everyone you met was so nice and offered to help this new family. Things weren't always easy during that time, but God took care your Daddy, your Mommy and you.
When the day finally came to travel home to South Carolina, everyone was so excited! Your Mommy and Daddy drove all day through 3 states until they finally made it home! When they got there, your brothers and Grandmother and Papa were waiting for you.

In the days that followed, you met so many new people!  Friends and family were so excited to see you. They had prayed for you for a long time. You had lots of baby showers and were given many wonderful gifts. You were spoiled from the start!

On October 29, 2012, your Mommy and Daddy went to family court. You were with them while they talked to a judge and answered lots of questions. On that special day, you officially became Emily Grace Branham. You were loved from the moment your Mommy and Daddy saw you and will forever be their little girl.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Weirdly Thankful

I woke up this morning in a weird, bad mood. It wasn't like anything had caused me to be a bad mood (hello-I have 3 days off work!) I was just in a funk. The day progressed along well enough (saw a few friends, had lunch with R, cuddled with Emily) but still just in a blah mood. Ever just have one of those days when things just don't seem right? Like everything is ok, just not going exactly the way you planned?

I kept telling myself to be thankful. I have time off work, time to spend with Em and R, it's beautiful out...blah blah blah..nothing was working. I started to tackle the mountain of dishes that is my kitchen and as I was loading the dishwasher, an odd thought popped into my head. "I am really thankful for not having the life I thought I would have." Say, whaaaat? "Yes", I thought again, "I am thankful for not having the life I thought I would have."

Let me back up.

A few days ago, I was thinking about my birthday. I'm not one of those people that does the birthday countdown or celebrates the whole month long. Nothing against that, it just ain't my style, people! In a few months, I will be celebrating my 30th birthday. And again, unlike other people, I'm not freaking out about it. I'm looking forward to it! I think 30 is a great number and it signifies 30 years of a great life with lots of accomplishments and tons of things to celebrate.

The idea of turning 30 popped up again in my head today as I was loading endless dishes into the dishwasher. There was a time, not too long ago, when I thought I knew what my life would hold at 30. A husband, several kids, a big house at the beach, and me at home enjoying it all. The problem is, looking back on it now, I realize how miserable I'd be. At the time I was dreaming all of this up, I was dating my college boyfriend. I mean he was an ok guy and all, but marrying him would have meant that I never would have met Randy. Having 3+ kids meant I'd have the big family I always wanted. But now I have Emily, my 1 and only baby. She's my whole world and I would not have it any other way. And yes, a big house at the beach would be nice. But the beach would mean I'd be further away from dear friends and a bigger house would mean more to clean. Which lead me to my last thought-which may be a bit controversial depending on the audience, BUT it is my blog :)-me as a stay at home mom/wife. There was a time when I could not imagine anything better. And really, that time wasn't all that long ago. But as I was doing one of my most dreaded chores, I was suddenly thankful that my day didn't consist of a revolving door of cleaning, cooking and tending to the house and/or baby. Knowing that I had the freedom to leave, go to work, dress nicely, have conversations with wonderful colleagues, do something good in the world, AND get paid for doing it was suddenly such a blessing. And although all of those chores still await me after 5pm Monday-Friday and weekends, I'm thankful that I'm able to do something else with my time. And it makes the time I do have at home more precious and special.

So yes, here I am almost 30, the week of Thanksgiving and extremely thankful for what my life is not. Instead, I can look around and see all the people and things that I never imagined I would have, and be truly thankful for them.

Who knew housework could be so enlightening.

*M

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

4 Months!

Emily Grace turned 4 months old today! And what makes it even more special, is that it's on her big brother Zachary's 21st birthday. We have a lot to celebrate at our house!

A few of my favorite moments over the last month:

  • We finalized her adoption! She is officially "ours"...hooray!
  • We had our first family picture session on the same day we finalized. She was so good for the entire hour long session.
  • Emily also had her first "school pictures" at daycare.  Randy found the sweetest outfit and she is smiling in all her pictures. The cuteness is just too much.
  • She is sleeping in her crib AND through the night! So proud of my big girl.
  • She is talking non-stop! Some mornings  I wake up and hear her chatting away. It really is the best way to start my morning.
  • She's holding her head up on her belly and trying very hard to roll over and/or crawl. I can tell she gets frustrated because her body is just not cooperating with what she wants it to do! She ALMOST made it last night so I know it will happen anytime now. :)
  • She is figuring out how to prop herself up and is attempting to sit up. She's managed to hold that pose for a few seconds while my mom was holding her.
  • While she was "sitting up" on my lap last weekend,  she discovered her feet! She just looked at them and rubbed them for the longest time.
  • She LOVES to watch tv (which I'm not crazy about). Anytime we are feeding or holding her and the tv is on, she immediately turns her head to see it. The other morning she didn't want to eat because her bottle was blocking her view of the Today Show. Oh, the drama!  And Randy has had to cut down on his "Walking Dead" watching when she's around. :) We have found that she loves the show "Disney's House of Mouse" but it's only on You Tube. It's such a lifesaver when we are in the car and she's fussy.
  • She really enjoys our reading time and has started turning the pages. Not always the most coordinated effort but amazing to watch.
  • She sucks her thumb and forefinger on her right hand. It's so funny and looks like she is trying to whistle.
  • She's also figured out how to take her pacifier out of her mouth. She will grab it with her right hand, pull it out of her mouth, look at it for few seconds, and pop it back in!
  • She is responding to her name. She will turn her head and look at us when we say "Emily". :)

We have her 4 month check up the week after Thanksgiving. I can't wait to see how much she's grown. I'm also excited about the upcoming holidays and celebrating them with our baby girl. Randy and I have already begun Christmas shopping and we MAY have gone a bit overboard this year. But I think you're allowed to for their first Christmas. It's like a requirement or something for new parents. I'm pretty sure I read that in the baby handbook. :)

*M

Saturday, November 17, 2012

National Adoption Day

"Hey, I just met you and this is crazy but I'm your mommy and you're my baby."
 
 
Today is National Adoption Day! Currently there are 100,000 children in the US foster care system waiting for a forever family.  I recently heard that there are about 14,000 domestic adoptions in the US each year. 
 
I will never forget the moment I saw Emily. The picture above was taken just hours after we met her. She was so tiny and it was all so surreal. Fast forward almost 4 months later, and I can hardly remember life before her. She is center of our world.
 
I often think about the children out there waiting to be adopted. The children floating between foster care families. The children oversees in overcrowded orphanage. I think about the people that care for them, caseworkers, foster care parents, social workers.  I wonder what goes through their minds as they care for these children day in and day out.  I think about the birth parents. I think about the birth moms (and dads) out there without their sons and daughters. I wonder if they think of them often or if they are a distant memory. I think about adoptive parents and how they adjust after this major life event. I wonder how they answer the many (and often noisy and prying) questions about adoption.  Whoever they are and where ever they are, all of us are bound together by this one common experience.   People often say that kids who are adopted are lucky. But as their parents, we truly are the lucky ones.
 
National Adoption Day is a time to celebrate but not forget. It truly is a time to celebrate all the families that have been made through adoption. But it is also a time to remember that there are children still waiting for placement with a loving family. Not everyone is called to adopt.  But you can give your money or time to organizations and resources that help children in the foster care system. A mentoring program is a wonderful way to show a child that they are loved and cared about.  Visit http://www.nationaladoptionday.org/ and http://www.davethomasfoundation.org/ to learn more and find out how you can make a difference in the life of a child.
 
 
*M


Monday, November 12, 2012

Happy Adoption Day!

Things have been so busy lately that I haven't had the chance to post about our adoption day!

We got up Sunday morning and drove to Lake Lure, NC. I love the area and it's just so beautiful this time of year. After lunch at one of our favorite places, we took Emily to the Lake Lure Inn (where we got married). The temperature started dropping so we only had time for a few quick pictures before we bundled up and drove to an apple orchard. On the way there, it started raining and Emily fell asleep. We grabbed some warm apple cider and a bushel of apples and continued on our way. Randy and I really enjoyed driving through the mountains looking at the leaves changing and reflecting on good memories. We've taken countless trips together to the mountains (it's one of our favorite places to go) and it was nice to be able to take Emily along and create new memories.


We drove from Lake Lure back in to South Carolina to Greenville. We checked into our hotel and settled in for the evening. Being at the hotel brought back so many memories of our first weeks with Emily in Ohio. It was nice to know that this time we only had to stay for one night! After changing into our pjs, Emily and Randy settled in to watch a little "Tangled". For some reason, Disney movies and music always calm her down when she is fussy. She is her daddy's girl, after all. :)
 
We woke up early the next morning to get ready for family court. I told Randy I was more nervous than I was the first time we went to the hospital to meet Emily. I think because we had known about the court date for  weeks instead of it being a quick, surprise trip to Ohio! We checked out of the hotel and made it to court with time to spare. I tried to feed Emily in the car in the parking lot in hopes of her lasting through the hearing without getting fussy. But she was tired and only took a little of her bottle before passing out. After walking through metal detectors we finally made it in the court house lobby and met the guardian ad litum. She was so nice and has adopted children of her own. She told us the story of her (at the time) young son who was confused by a discussion at school where babies come from. He wad adamant that babies come straight to your house because their daughter was brought to them by their lawyer and DSS case worker. :)  Our lawyer was out of town but we met his partner who was wonderful. They each had a turn holding Emily and agreed out of all the cases they've done over the years, that God just doesn't make ugly adopted babies.
 
Our time came to enter the courtroom so we made our way towards the doors. We were about to go in when the bailiff asked us to wait outside while the judge finished up from the case just prior to ours. The attorney was holding Emily while we waited and we were soon ushered back into the courtroom. Our lawyer walked right in holding a fast asleep Emily and walked right up to talk to the judge. Randy got such a kick out of the fact that Emily was "already approaching the bench."
 
 
The hearing got underway and we each took turns on the stand answering questions about our marriage and Emily. The questions were a bid odd (like "yes, we do understand that adoption is permanent." Are there parents that don't?!?!) but there were only a few and the hearing was over in a matter of minutes. We snapped a quick picture with the judge and we were done! We got congratulations all around and the lawyer gave us info about getting Emily's birth certificate and final paper work. That part was all a blur and I'm glad we have pictures to remember it by!
 
After a quick outfit change for all (in the car in the parking lot, no less!) we made our way to a local park. We had an appointment with the woman who photographed our wedding (and adopted mom to four!) to do do our first family photo shoot! The weather was beautiful, although chilly, and we got some great shots. I would show you, but I want to keep them a surprise because they are going to be our Christmas cards! But I will show you Emily after the photo session. It's such tough work being so cute.
 
The whole weekend was such a memorable one. Every day I am reminded how blessed I am when I see her smiling face. I knew I would love being a mom but I never in a million years knew how much joy she would bring us. And it's great that she is finally "ours" and offically a Branham!
 
 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Sunday Fun Day

This time of year is just amazing! October is one of my favorite months: cool mornings, warm afternoons and clear blue skies in between.

We got a late start to the morning and made it to church for the second service. We usually go first service so it was nice to see all the friends we usually miss. We had a great time catching up and visiting. I love the moms I've come to know at our church. They are great friends and always there for support and a good laugh. Emily got to see one of her best buds at church who was born just a few weeks before her. I can just see them growing up and hanging out in children's church together.

After church, we had a quick lunch break and then headed to the zoo. Since the state fair is in town, the zoo wasn't nearly as crowded as it usually is on the weekends. Emily was snoozing when we first got there but woke up soon after. I can really tell she is noticing more and more the things around her. We saw a brown bear, kangaroos, a koala, monkeys, penguins and a few sleepy lions. We had a great time and I can't wait to take her again when she's old enough to walk around!

As we were leaving she got a little fussy, but calmed down in the car ride back to our house. Randy and I decided to take a detour and get frozen yogurt. Emily kept napping while we enjoyed our yummy treat.

Now we are back home. Emily is still asleep, Randy is watching tv and I'm sitting outside with the dogs blogging away. In a little more than 12 hours, the craziness of the work week will begin. But for now, all is as it should be. We're together and stress free. Days like today remind me of how thankful I am for the life I have.

*M

3 Months

Wow. Here we are with a 3 month old baby girl! I know all parents say it, but SERIOUSLY: where has the time gone?! Didn't we just meet our tiny baby girl? Wasn't she just in newborn clothing?

Highlights for month three:

  • Baby girl is 11 lbs 10 oz and mama has officially thrown out her back lifting her up. I'm walking around like a 29 year old grandma. Not cute or fun. :(
  • She's gotten her first cold, thanks daycare! I knew this would happen eventually and not stressing about it. We've had a few scary moments where she's started coughing, then choking. I don't think I've ever gotten out of bed so fast but of course she was fine 3 seconds later. And, I can officially suction her nose like a pro. Yay, me!
  • She is still one chatty and smiley baby. I love that she will coo and then when I start talking, she stops like she's listening to what I'm saying.  When she first wakes up and when she goes to bed are her two favorite times to talk to us.
  • She's started doing this hilarious thing where she has this throaty chuckle when you take her clothes off to change in to her pjs. She only does it one time after you take her arm out of her sleeve. I've tried to get it on video but she clams up when she sees my phone!
  • She is starting to grab her blanket and toys and pull them up to her mouth. She has a small stuffed elephant that I usually leave in her car seat. the other day, I handed him to her and she grabbed him by the ear and started rubbing his head. The best part was the serious look she had on her face, like: "what in the world is this thing and how are my hands moving like that?"
  • She has also become pretty squirmy. Now that she can move her arms and hands more, she likes to "hold" her bottle. Which is all kinds of cute but since her coordination still isn't great, makes feeding time a challenge. In trying to grab the bottle, she usually ends up knocking it out of her mouth then starts kicking her legs and squirming because she's mad she's not eating. It's quite a vicious cycle.
  • We've had 1, count 'em ONE, night that she slept from 9pm to 6am! Praying more nights like that are in the near future.
3 months old also means we are so very close to finalizing the adoption. Our court date is set for the 29th and we're ready! Hoping to take some family pictures that weekend because we don't have any pictures of the 3 of us.  So slack, I know. But I'm working on it! Which now means I need to work on my roots before the big photo shoot. One more thing on the mommy's to-do list!
*M

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

My Top 10 Baby Gifts

Beautiful shower cake for EGB!

Emily Grace has been BEYOND blessed with many wonderful gifts.  I feel very fortunate to have so many great friends and family that have given us things we need and use on a regular basis. Before I became a mom, I always struggled with what to get new moms as gifts. Not having a baby makes it kind of difficult to know what to get a baby! Walk into any Target or Babies R Us and the choices are overwhelming. In hopes of helping other gift givers, I've compiled a top 10 list of the things that I most appreciated getting:

1) Diapers! It's so practical, I know, but so great to have stacks of diapers in her nursery ready to go.  Also, it really helps to have various sizes, so go ahead and buy the next size up.

2) Formula! Yes, again oh-so practical but needed because baby's gotta eat. Also, if you collect formula coupons, new moms appreciate those too!

3) Wipes! The last of the practical gifts. :)

4) Hand/foot impression kit. We received a kit that was surprisingly easy to do! We now  have her 4 week old picture and 6 week old hand print proudly displayed on our mantle.

5)  Bibs and burp clothes. Feeding time can be a messy time! Having a bunch of these on hand help to keep clothes nice and clean and with so many cute designs, they make awesome little fashion statements. :)

6) Big ticket items. If you can go in with a few people and purchase the "big ticket" items-do it! Our car seat/jogger and bouncy seat were two of the more expensive items but are ones we use every day.

7) Books. I love books and we started reading to Emily when she was just a few weeks old. The classics are great (Dr. Seuss anything, Pat the Bunny, Good Night Moon) and we also love different, unique ones (like Happy Adoption Day).

8) Something personal. We have received several homemade, personal items and I just love them because you can't find them in any store. Whether it's a monogrammed bag, print for the nursery, or hand sewn outfit and blanket, I cherish them all. I love seeing the creativity and the special time and attention put into making them.

9) Picture frames. I have taken so many pictures of Emily but have no where to put them! We have received a few picture frames and photo albums and I've really enjoyed starting to fill them up. I especially love a picture frame with Emily's picture in it that I got around the time I returned to work. It's sitting in my office and helped ease the transition from stay at home mom to working mom.

10)  Something for mom and dad! Ok, it's not technically for the baby but a gift card to a restaurant or movie tickets may just be the thing needed to get mom and dad out of the house for a much needed date night.


You may notice clothing did not make my top 10. Not that we didn't getting new clothes (because we did and my goodness, is there anything cuter that baby clothing?!?!) but a lot of what we received were hand-me downs. I have to say some of my favorite outfits had been worn and were so soft and broken in. Plus they were all in great condition because many of them were only worn once. If you are like me and cannot resist buying one cute little outfit, maybe go up a few sizes and find something that has multiple pieces (onesie, pants, top) that can be layered or mixed and matched.

Moms: what made your top ten list?  Friend and family shopping for baby: what's your one go-to gift item? Please share your comments below.

Happy shopping!
*M

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sleep Deprived


At least someone at our house is sleeping well!

I was prepared for a lot of things as a new mom: not showering every day, unofficial yoga pants dress code (score!), dirty diapers galore, spit up on everything I own, lots of visitors and endless bottles to prepare and clean. But I can honestly say, I was not prepared for the lack of sleep that comes with having a baby. I mean, I KNEW I wasn't going to be sleeping much but I didn't know how little I would be sleeping or how it would affect every aspect of my life.  10 weeks of sleeping only 3-4 hours at a time has definitely taken its toll on me.

Now, I could manage a little bit when I was home because I could catnap during the day. But being back at work has put a stop to that (although, it is tempting to just lay in the floor of my office around 3pm). Emily is ALMOST sleeping through the night and has started waking up at 4/4:30am. Which is 1) awesome that she is sleeping 6-8 hours at a time 2) crappy because a 4 am feeding doesn't leave much time to get back to bed before we have to get up and get ready for daycare and work. Plus she is still sleeping in her bouncy seat beside our bed (she will only sleep in her crib for 2 hours-MAX). I'm such a light sleeper that I always end up getting up with her because I hear her first (There is a very strong possibility that Randy is tricking me and making me think he is still asleep by being so quiet and still. And if so, I hope you enjoyed that extra snooze time because there will be a price to pay!).

So, alas, here we are stuck in a sleep derived state. Which is not at all fun, but there have been some funny moments (I can laugh about it now), like the time I....

  • Woke up from a dead sleep and yanked the small pillow Randy sleeps with out of his arms (thinking it was the baby?!?!). He was less than pleased to wake up that way.
  • Put a dirty spoon in the oven (thinking it was the dishwasher).
  • Got dressed for work....sans underwear.
  • Made it to work (on time!) to realize I had a baby sock stuck the the bottom of my high heel.
  • Made several typos in work e-mails (whoops!):  "as far as reporting toes" instead of "as far as reporting goes" and....the worst of all..."pubic" instead of "public".
  • Picked up Emily's bottle to drink it, think it was my bottled water. I realized what I did BEFORE I actually put it in my mouth, thank goodness. Yuck!
  • Changed Emily's diaper (forgetting to fasten one of the tabs) only to have my lap, couch, and floor covered in pee minutes later.
  • Rubbed nail polish remover instead of astringent all over my face (Hello! They are the same color liquid!).
As awful (or awfully hilarious) as these moments are, I consider each of them badges of honor that I wear proudly as a reminder of what I've survived as a new parent. And although I don't look forward to many more sleepless nights, I do look forward to more great stories as Emily gets older. :)

*M

Friday, October 5, 2012

Meatloaf Recipe

I love this time of year. The weather is finally starting to cool down. Crisp, cool days always inspires me to cook and bake and I'm constantly looking for the best version of a particular recipe. I recently dusted off some of my cookbooks and tried two new recipes (the other to be highlighted in a later post). Both are super easy, yummy and filling...perfect for a chilly fall dinner.

Meatloaf

My husband is a meat and potatoes (and nothing else) all the way kind of a guy. I've made meatloaf before with (what I thought were yummy things) chunks of onions and green peppers and horseradish sauce. Randy was not so much a fan. So this time, I opted for a very paired down version.

What you need:
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup crush Ritz crackers
1 3/4 lbs ground beef
1/4 cup finely chopped onion (I use dried)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 tbl A1

How to prepare:
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Combine eggs and milk
  • Stir in all ingredients, ground beef last
  • Mix well (I always used my hands)
  • Put in loaf pan and bake for about 1 hr 20 mins.
  • When it looks nice and brown, drain off liquid and let meatloaf cool in pan for 5 mins.
  • Use a knife or spatula to make sure edges and bottom are free from pan. Flip upside down onto platter then use another plate to flip it right side up.
  • Cut and enjoy!
Note-you can use the liquid you drained off for gravy. But I’m not a huge fan of brown gravy, so I didn’t. Next time I think I will mix up some ketchup and little bit of A1 and use as sauce on top.   

Goes great with mashed potatoes and green beans. Enjoy!

*M

Monday, October 1, 2012

Protecting Our Children

I've got to get something off my chest. It's been bothering me for a while. And the recent "child shaming" story was the last straw.

To parents that degrade, harshly berate, shame and speak awful of their children: what is wrong with you?! You make me sick and you should be ashamed of your behavior. They are CHILDREN. YOU are the adult. What example are you setting?  That it's ok to say hurtful and hateful things as long as it's "anonymous" or in jest? It's NOT ok. Children deserve our love, not to be the butt of some joke.

It makes me cringe to hear parents put down their children. I've read mommy blogs (one in particular) that allows parents to anonymously confess whatever is on their mind. On any given day, there are a handful of moms complaining and saying truly hurtful things about their kids And for what gain? So they can receive affirmation or approval from other parents? And by receiving so many "likes" that they are justified in saying whatever they want?

Look, I realize that adults aren't perfect and will make mistakes. They are most likely going to say something awful in the heat of the moment and will probably regret it before the last word leaves their lips. But whether spoken or written, it can never be taken back.

I also realize that I'm no parent expert 10 weeks into this whole "being a mommy thing." But I have spent almost two decades as a babysitter, camp counselor, church nursery attendant working with kids from a few weeks old to pre-teens. Please believe me, I KNOW kids are not well-behaved 100% of the time. And yes, it can be frustrating when they won't stop screaming in the grocery store isle, roll their eyes and talk back, or prefer to running through the house screaming to sleeping at 11pm. But can any parent say they never did those things? We ALL did. It's a part of being a kid. Hopefully (if we had good parents or guardians), we had someone to put a stop to our behavior by setting boundaries, reasonable punishment, appropriate rewards and good role modeling.

I know my life experience have shaped my opinion on this heated topic.  I'm so happy to finally be a mom after going through one of the most stressful but exciting times in my life: adoption. We worked hard and waited for what seems like a lifetime before holding Emily in our arms. Knowing what it took for us to finally be a family, I cannot imagine mistreating my daughter with my words or actions.

It's been 2 years since our niece, Lauren, passed away after an awful battle with leukemia. What I wouldn't give for her to still be with us. I wonder if parents that say these things about their children would still do it if they knew their child would be gone tomorrow?

So many children in our country already suffer abuse and neglect at the hands of those that are supposed to love and protect them.  Do they really need more?  To parents everywhere: PLEASE, before you take a degrading picture or post a curse filled rant about your children, ask yourself: how am I a better parent for doing this and if my child were to see it, would they feel loved?

*M

Friday, September 28, 2012

Melanie's Story: A Must Read For All Moms

Yesterday at work, I helped to host an annual event honoring individuals who have contributed to reducing the rate of infant mortality in our state.  The theme of this year's event was how postpartum depression, child abuse and domestic violence impact infant mortality. These issues are related and our goal was to bring awareness to them through this event.  We had several great speakers but one in particular stood out: Carol Blocker.

Carol is from Chicago, a retired teacher, a mother and grandmother. At first glance, Carol might seem like just anyone you would meet in passing on the street or in the grocery store. But she is so much more. Carol is an advocate. She is a fighter. She is determined, passionate and relentless to get her daughter's story out.

Carol's daughter is Melanie Blocker-Stokes. Melanie, too, was just like any other woman you might know. Successful in her career, married to a doctor, and a new mom. But something was different with Melanie. Immediately following the birth of her first child (a child she had longed for and eagerly awaited), Melanie changed. She stopped eating and drinking. She became paranoid that her neighbors where saying bad things about her as a new mom. She believed her new daughter hated her and that she was a bad mother. Carol knew something was wrong. But despite repeated attempts to receive help from doctors and mental health professionals, Carol's concerns went unheard.  Melanie took her own life, jumping out of a hotel room 12 floors above a busy Chicago street.

There wasn't a dry eye in the room when Carol finished her speech and took her seat. Melanie's story is beyond heartbreaking. I cannot get it out of my mind and woke up last night thinking about her. I'm deeply saddened that Melanie felt she had no other choice to but to end her life (ultimately to save her baby's life) and leave behind her husband, daughter, mother and countless friends.

Over the last decade, Carol has told everyone who would listen that Melanie's death could have been prevented. The events that transpired in the last months of Melanie's life, were nothing Melanie had control over. She was suffering form postpartum psychosis. A rare (1-2 of every 1,000 deliveries), yet very real, perinatal mood disorder.   Postpartum depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder make up the continuum of mood disorders that affect more than 30% of new moms.  Warning signs range from frequent crying, trouble sleeping or sleeping too much, lost interest in fun things, fear of harming or being left alone with baby, and thoughts of self-harm.

Hearing Carol and Melanie's story, I knew I had a responsibility to share. I know that being a new mom can be overwhelming.  But these debilitating mood disorders should not take away from what is supposed to be one of the happiest times in life. Sadly, Melanie didn't get the help she needed more than ten years ago. But things have changed, thanks to amazing women like Carol. Help and treatment are available. There are great resources including Postpartum Support International  and Postpartum Education for Parents 1-800-311-2229.

If you know a new mom that needs help, get her help. If you are new mom that needs help, ask for it.

Will you take a moment today to help me in honoring Melanie's life by sharing her story? You never know who's life you might save.

*M

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

To Work or Not to Work?

We've been looking at day cares for little EG and think we finally have a winner! It's been a tough search-mostly because all the day cares we like are booked through next year. Long waiting lists are ok when you are expecting...not when you have 4 weeks of leave and an almost 6 week old!

I have really enjoyed my time at home with Emily. It's been awesome to see her get bigger and change day to day. I've loved our outings and all the visitors we've had. But I've missed work! I know lots of moms feel torn about life at home with the wee one and life outside in the "real world". I've officially become one of those moms. My job is tough and challenging, but it's also rewarding. I've put a lot of time and energy getting my career where it is today. And I love it. I love that my ideas are valued and that I am a part of something bigger. I feel a sense of satisfaction when I see my hard work finally pay off.  And above all that, I feel like God has given me these talents for this very purpose and it's part of His plan to do what I'm doing.

But I also love my new baby girl (and she was a part of His plan too!). The thought of leaving her at a daycare to go to work every day is not an easy one.  Pre-baby I'd work long hours and check e-mails all hours of  the day (and on my days off). A bit of a work-a-holic. Now I know that won't change overnight, but I'm getting a bit more balance to my life these days.

Luckily, I have great friends that are moms and also manage to have careers. And they've given some great advise. One friend shared that she reminds herself on a daily basis why she goes to work. On those days that it's tough to leave Emily behind, I remind myself and tell her why I do it. For instance, if she wants to do ballet, play soccer, take piano lessons, attend art camp or anything of the like...I want to have money saved up to nourish her budding hobbies and interests. If we want to take a family vacation to Disney World, I want to be able to make those memories with her without worrying (too much) about a price tag. And in 17 or so years, when it's time for her to choose a college, I want her to be able to attend her first pick without student loans hanging over her head.

More than doing things together or the "stuff" extra money in my pocket provides, I want Emily to understand that life is about balance and sacrifice when it comes to providing for your family.  I want her one day to look back and see that it is not always easy at times but it can be done. And that even though I worked, I was a better mommy for it. It made those precious hours and days at home with her that much more important. Even though I spent  8+ hours a day at my office, I crammed as much snuggle, fun, and awesome time in the 5+ hours at night at home with her.

This is where God has called me to be at this time, and I'm ok with it. I'm going to make the most of every day. There's balance to be found and a lesson to be learned. I'm going to soak up as much time as I can with my daughter and role with it in the working world.  Who knows what's in store for the next chapter of our lives. I may be writing a new post a few years from now as a stay-at-home mom. And I just might be ok with it. :)

*M

Friday, September 21, 2012

2 months

 
 
 
Emily Grace was two months old yesterday and had her two month check up today! She is getting bigger-21.5 inches long and 10.7lbs! She's on right on track with the growth charts and is definitely my little "chunkamonk" in the 40th percentile for weight! :)
 
The last month has been busy with lots of changes. Both Randy and I went back to work full time. We've been so fortunate to have both his mom, my mom and my sister stay home with Emily! It's been wonderful to have them keep her and has helped with the "back to the grind" adjustment. We did find a daycare-yay!-and she will start there October 1st. We had our last home study visit with our wonderful social worker and the adoption will be finalized October 29th! We've been incredibly blessed with many gifts for Emily from friends and co-workers. I'm so amazed every day by just how much love surrounds us.
 
A few more Emily highlights:
  •  She's officially out of newborn clothing and in to all her cute 0-3 month clothes!
  • She is starting to sleep longer during the night! Woohoo! She will sleep at 5-6 hour stretch now!
  • When she wakes up she is all smiles and is so chatty. She loves to lay in her crib and laugh and talk with her wind-up stuffed giraffe.
  • She's moving her legs and arms more. When she's on her stomach, she can hold up her head for several minutes.
  • She loves to look around and is noticing us and her stuffed animals. You can see her really studying them! She also loves to be outside looking at the trees and listening to the birds.
  • She finally has eyelashes! For the longest time she didn't have any and they are finally coming in nice and long.
But I think my favorite highlight happened today. While having lunch with a friend at Villa Tronco (very nice Italian restaurant), Emily decided it was time for a stinky diaper. With the car parked blocks away and no changing area in the bathroom, we turned their hideaway booth into a diaper changing station (the staff were great about the whole situation). Emily Grace, only 2 months old and already keeping it so classy! Can't wait to see what's in store for month 3. :)

*M

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

1 Month



Emily Grace turned one month old on Monday! So much has happened in such a short amount of time.
Here are a few of the highlights:
  • At her check up last week she weighed 7.8lbs. She's gained 3 lbs since her first week check up!
  • She eats like a champ! As soon as she wakes up from a nap, she is ready for a bottle.
  • She loves her bouncy seat and sleeps in it most nights (it helps tremendously with her reflux).
  • She is staying awake more during the day and slept almost 4 hours hours last night.
  • She's starting to notice things around her and loves looking at us and her toys.
  • She's squirmy and does a lot of stretching. Which is so cute, until you try to burp her!
  • She can hold her head up for several seconds when on her belly. Last night, she lifted her head up and was turning it side to side.
  • She's finding her voice. She cries rarely (usually when she's is hungry) and is staring to "talk" to us. She makes noises that we think sound like a little goat, a monkey or a kitten.
  • She loves to cuddle by laying on our chests. She will fall asleep within minutes. But the second we lay her down in her crib, those little eyes pop open. So spoiled already. :)
On Sunday, she had her first photo shoot. She was so laid back and only peed through two blankets! :) I cannot wait to see the pictures. (Many people have asked us about pictures! We are waiting to post until the adoption is finalized. We will go to court the end of October/first of November to take care of all the legal stuff. Once all the right paperwork is signed, she will officially be a Branham and we will be posting endless pictures here and on Facebook.)

I know some day soon we will look back and marvel at how little she was. For now, we are enjoying every moment with our daughter.

*M

Friday, August 17, 2012

Baby girl Branham

I recently found this letter I wrote on December 27, 2011. 7 months and 1 week later, we met our baby girl for the first time. Some day very soon I will write about the crazy and amazing journey that led us to her.  God is so very good. :)

Hi sweet baby girl,
I think about you all the time. I wonder when you will be a part of this family. I wonder what you will look like. We've been busy getting your nursery ready. It looks so cute! I cannot wait to bring you home and put you in your new crib. Your daddy fusses at me for buying so many baby things already. He says "wait until we get her." But I keep finding such cute things, I just can't help myself. And they are always on sale, so he can't be too upset.
2011 is almost over. I just know 2012 is going to be the year that we get to meet you.  We started this process a long time ago. We started talking about adopting before we even got married. We both wanted a baby and felt that adoption was for us. It was just in our hearts.
In October, we met with a lawyer to talk about adoption. I liked him immediately. We signed the paper work and officially started in November. This is just the beginning. I know this a long road full of unexpected twists and turns. But God has a plan for us and it's a perfect one! We will keep praying and trusting in Him. He has picked you to be our baby and us to be your mommy and daddy.

We love you with all our hearts,
Your Mommy

Friday, July 13, 2012

Think globally, act locally

Like many of my maternal and child health colleagues, I’m really enjoying the increase in movement and activity in this field.  Not a week goes by that I don’t hear about the importance of improving the health of women before pregnancy.  Just recently, I attended a webinar on the first ever Global Report Card on Prematurity. The March of Dimes, in partnership with organizations across the world, collaborated to issue a comprehensive  report on the epidemic of preterm birth: how it impacts infant mortality and what we can do about it. Having spent the last four years of my professional career with the March of Dimes, I know that tackling the issue of prematurity within our state or the United States is not an easy one.  Once we start thinking about it as a global issue, it almost seems a bit overwhelming.  If we can’t prevent 500,000 preterm births in the US, what makes us think we can eliminate 15 million across the world?

However, this way of thinking will not save lives. Preterm birth is a huge problem for babies everywhere.  A huge problem means that this is not an uncommon issue. Common and shared problems can ultimately lead to shared solutions. A pregnant mom in Kentucky, Egypt or Vietnam is still a pregnant mom. And before she became a pregnant mom she was, and still is, a woman. A woman who most likely has friends and family who love and support her, women who she turns to for help and guidance.
Take a second and think about who those women are in your life. Do you talk with them about the importance of consistent contraceptive use, folic acid, consumption, breastfeeding or safe sleeping? I would bet many of us don’t. If your days are anything like mine, we spend them immersed in educating the masses on a variety of maternal and child health issues. We coordinate and evaluate our programs designed to improve the birth outcomes for women we’ve never met. For many of us, it’s our life’s work. But at 5pm (or some nights it’s much later) that life ends and we go home to our other lives.  Lives filled with women that we do know and women who are pregnant or one day hope to become pregnant.
Do we practice what we preach? Yes, we know women of child bearing age need to be consuming folic acid to prevent birth defects.  But do we? Do we encourage our girlfriends to pop a multivitamin every morning? Yes, we know safe sleep practices can prevent infant mortality. But are we urging our new mommy friends to swaddle and remove bumper pad in the crib? Yes, we know the benefits of breastfeeding but are we supporting new moms in their quest to do so?
While we are off trying to save the world every day, have we neglected ourselves and the women we know and love? Perhaps it’s time to take a look around and see how we can advocate, educate and encourage in our own little worlds.  There’s no doubt: the maternal and child health future is bright. And yes, we need to think globally. But let’s not forget healthy babies start with acting locally.

Monday, July 9, 2012

What's Love Got to Do with a Gallbladder?


Last week was such a blur. A midweek holiday really threw me for a loop. But I really enjoyed the time off and spent it sleeping in, lounging by the pool and capped it off with a Columbia Blowfish baseball game and fireworks! Despite the oppressive heat (100+ degrees) we really enjoyed ourselves.

What I did not enjoy was getting up the following morning at 4:30am for Randy's gallbladder surgery. He's been have on and off again pain for the last several months. After a few trips to the doctor, it was decided that it was time to take it out. With his surgeon out of town this week, the outpatient surgery was set for Thursday morning at 5:30am. All in all, everything went extremely well and we were amazingly back home at 11:30am.

His recovery has been good with general and expected pain and discomfort. Lots of time spent on the couch and eating homemade chicken and dumplings (the dumplings were of the frozen prepared variety but I think that still counts as homemade).

Over the last few days, his surgery and recovery has got me thinking about love.  Despite what we'd like to think about relationships (I'm looking at you 50 Shades of Grey and Magic Mike), they are not always fun, exciting and happy. Marriage isn't easy. It’s not a fantasy, its real life. And real life is COMPLICATED, people. I think we all know that but I think it’s easy to forget when we look at other people’s lives or movies and it all seems so perfect and put together. (By the way-I’m not done on the subject of recent popular movies and books as mentioned above. But that is for another post.)

Randy and I, like any other couple that has ever existed, have and will continue to have ups and downs. His surgery last week has a way of smashing up all the good and bad into an array of emotions: anxious, worried, sad, annoyed, relieved, glad, exhausted. Seeing him in the recovery room, still somewhat sedated, I felt such love for him. Perhaps even more than the day I walked down the isle towards him. It made me realize in this crazy, fast-paced life we are living that we need to take more time to stop, appreciate and take care of each other. Sometimes we need “wake-up” calls to jolt us and shake the tunnel vision we have. We need to look around at the people closest to us and LOVE them. Let them know we love them by showing them (if that means fetching ginger ale and pain meds, so be it). Yeah, we aren't always going to do this 100% right. But that doesn't mean we need to stop trying.  So take a moment today to send an e-mail, make a call, or give a hug to someone you love. There is no better time than now!

*M


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Summer Grill'n Time

Although it's been insanely hot recently, I really do enjoy summer. Beach days, time spent by the pool, baseball, drive-in movies, and grilling are just a few of my favorite ways to spend the long days of June, July and August.

Over the weekend, I got the urge to try a recipe we haven’t had in a while. It takes a little bit of prep work, but it's super simple and so yummy. It's great as a meal (with corn on the cob or grilled veggies) or as an appetizer.

Bacon Wrapped Shrimp

What you will need:
1lb large, deveined shrimp (I suggest going fresh, not frozen)
1lb of bacon
teriyaki sauce (I prefer Kikkoman brand teriyaki marinade and sauce)
soy sauce (I prefer Kikkoman brand)
skewers (I like the metal instead of wooden because you can reuse. If you do wooden-don't forget to soak in water before using!)

1. Peel the shrimp and set aside.

2. Cut the bacon in half. One piece of bacon is WAY too much to wrap a tiny shrimp in!

3. Place bacon slices on a plate, cover with a paper towel and microwave for about 45 seconds-1 minute. (This just helps the bacon and shrimp cook at the same speed when you put it on the grill).

4. Wrap one piece of bacon around one piece of shrimp and skewer.

5. Repeat until you have about 5-6 pieces of shrimp on one skewer.

6. Place skewers in shallow baking pan (this helps to keep them from rolling off and also keeps the sauces from spilling out. Trust me on this one, I learned the hard way!)

7. Splash teriyaki sauce on each piece of shrimp. Repeat with soy sauce. I did this two times with each piece of shrimp. Just enough until shrimp and bacon have a slight brown tint.

8. Cover and place in fridge for a few hours. I would also recommend turning once or twice during this time. This allows the shrimp to absorb sauce that's at the bottom of the pan.

9. When you are ready for dinner-fire up the grill, spray it down and set the skewers on it. It takes about 10 minutes for the shrimp to cook and the bacon to get brown and crispy. Keep an eye on it and turn periodically or else the bacon will burn!

This is the final product:



If you have company over for dinner, you can easily double or triple this recipe. For every pound of shrimp, you will need about a pound of bacon.

Happy eating!

*M

Friday, June 29, 2012

Getting Crafty

Overall, I don't think I'm that much of a creative person. However, I do have fleeting moments of creativity. And when they strike, I make the most of them!

I've been wanting to recover our dining room chairs for some time. After almost three years, I think we finally have gotten rid of extra furniture and only have what we want to keep (for now). Our dining room set was a given to us by my sister-in-law in exchange for our couch and coffee tables. A pretty sweet trade if you ask me.

The seat covers were a bit worn and in need of a makeover:




Plus, we just painted our living room a soft green and the red and green didn't jive. :)

I have an awesomely creative friend (who also painted a beautiful mural in our nursery) who I recruited to help me. We found a great fabric place and bought the fabric I had in mind...and on sale!

30 bucks + staple gun + 1-2 hours of work =

Ta-da!


I'm so pleased with the way they turned out and it was way easier than I thought it would be. Now, if only painting the dining room was this simple. But that's for another day when my next creative moment strikes.


*M

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Furry Birthday Girl

After Chloe died in September, I was devestated. The hole in my heart so big and I was convinced no dog would ever fill it with as much love as I had for her.

 My furbaby, Chloe

So we became a one-dog household with Princess.
 Sweet Princess

And that was fine....for a while. Our house just seemed, lonely. Like something was missing, even off balance. But I couldn't bear the thought of getting another dog. Five months went by and one Sunday morning I got a text from a friend. Her boss had adopted a dog and was not able to keep her. He was going to have to take her back to the shelter. My friend asked if we were interested. The dogs name was Luna and she was a Husky/German Shepherd mix. She texted me a picture of Luna and what followed was a blur of events.  I went from sitting on my couch in my pjs to arranging to meet my friend's boss and Luna at a local park within the hour.

Driving there, my husband and I talked about it. "Was I crazy? Were we ready for this? What were we going to say when we met him? What were we going to do?" We decided to just wait and answer these and a million other questions when we get there.

I can count on one hand the number of moments in my life that were truly "love at first sight". This was one of them:

Luna and Randy-my two loves

We talked with Luna's owner, we walked her, he asked what we wanted to do. I remeber saying "I kind of want to take her home today." He agreed, so we did. And just like that, she was ours.

First car ride home

On June 24th, Luna celebrated her first birthday. And thanks to Groupon, I got an awesome cake from Pupcakes!

For me? What is it??

 Mmmmm, cake.

Sweetly sharing...

 But not for long! It's all mine!

I love that crazy, fence jumping (that's a story for another post) funny, smart little dog. She made my sad heart smile again. Happy birthday, Luna, and here's to many more!

*M

Monday, June 25, 2012

Head Full of Doubt & Road Full of Promises


I love the line in the Avett Brothers song "Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promises" that says "decide what to be and go be it" because that’s exactly how I became a runner.
A little over a year ago, I told my husband: "I'd like to start running." I have no idea where it came from. I never thought of myself as a runner. "But I'm not built like a runner" I told myself. “My body was not meant to wear those short shorts” and “my allergies and asthma will make me miserable” were among my long list of reasons for doubting my abilities. I've always enjoyed being active but years at the same gym doing the same activities was becoming cumbersome, annoying, and frankly, just boring.

Desperately seeking something else fun to do to keep me in shape, I signed up for my first 5k. I can't tell you my finishing time but I remember the feeling: "Wow-this is hard but this is SO cool!" People of all shapes and sizes running side by side, cheering for each other, most of us competing with our own goals (and not each other) to finish. Total strangers from the sidelines were cheering us on! Nearing the finish line, a woman who'd been running near me the whole course said: "Come on, let's finish this together!" We crossed the finish smiling ear to ear with such a sense of achievement, never to see each other again.

The satisfaction, the exhilaration, the camaraderie…I was hooked. Before I knew it, I'd signed up for another 5k, then a 10-K, then a trail run, and then a half marathon. Long gone were those doubts, I was constantly seeking the next big challenge and thrill. There were times during those 8 months from my first 5k to the time I completed my first half that I had serious doubts. Not "does my butt look ok in these shorts?" kind of doubts that I had in the beginning but "is my body going to physically let me keep doing this?" kind of doubts. To ease those doubts, I started reading Runner’s World and began educating myself on running. Most of it is just getting out there and doing it, but I also learned there was a finesse and  tricks of the trade that could make it better, easier, and more enjoyable. Along the way I’ve learned the importance of good shoes, the right clothes and found a new love for Bio-Freeze and BodyGlide.

Currently training for my second half marathon in the fall, I’ve come a long way in 13 months. Running is emotional, it’s empowering, and I love it because it unites people in a world where few things do.  I’ve found what works for me, I’ve hit my stride and now I run on a road full of promises with a head free of doubts.



Help me run to end pediatric cancer by supporting the Rally Foundation. I've paid for all my travel and expenses for the Disneyland half in September. Your donation goes straight to supporting the mission of the Rally Foundation.

*M