Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sometimes You Just Need A Fork

I had a doctor's appointment this morning at 10am and in typical Brea fashion, I was running late. I won't mention that the three older kids were at school and M.E. spent the night at Gram's last night. Yes, I was still running late. As I was getting ready to leave, I realized I was hungry so I grabbed some yogurt, a banana and a Sprite. I also reached into the cabinet and grabbed a plastic spoon for my yogurt.

I got in the car and started heading towards the doctor's office. I opened the yogurt and grabbed my spoon, uh fork. Crap, I had grabbed a fork. How am I supposed to eat yogurt with a fork? My mouth was ready for yogurt, so I ripped off the lid and started slopping the yogurt in with a fork. It was not pretty. Man, I needed a spoon.

It made me think about the last few days. I never expected in a million years that all of the things that have happened would happen all at once. Who else could sell a house, sell a car, and adopt a baby in a week's time. I had a plan. In my plan, we would sell the house, the air conditioning wouldn't have gone out in the van, and we would get THE call a few months after we moved. My plan would have been perfect right? Nope, God knew I needed a fork. I needed to be a bit uncomfortable so I would fully rely on him. He wants to stretch us so we will grow and be closer to him. He wants me (and others) to see that HIS way may not seem to fit our plans, but HIS way is perfect and should not be questioned. I'm excited about the next few weeks!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Holy Moly, What A Day!

Just when I didn't think things could get ANY better, we found out that the owners of the house we love accepted our offer this morning! PRAISE JESUS! It's a cool cat ranch house one street behind us. It has a full finished basement with 5, yes, 5 bedrooms. The best part, we can pay it off in 5 years!!! Debt free before I am sweet it is!!!!

I again can't put into words the love and prayers we have felt from our family, friends, and strangers in the last 24 hours. The e-mom was supposed to go to the doctor this morning but it got postponed to Thursday so we are just waiting. We are trying to make tentative plans for the kids, but it's kind of hard since we don't know when we are going, etc. We have had some wonderful friends in Houston offer their homes to us so we don't have the expense of a hotel while we are there. Right now, our "tentative" game plan is that I will get on a plane the minute we get the call she is in labor as she does want me there for delivery! Then, Jonathan will drive down so that we have a car while we are there. We will probably be in Houston for about 7 days.

I actually bought a few boy things today. I didn't go crazy, just a few outfits and two blankets. I don't have much boy stuff so this is going to be fun! People keep asking what we need: prayers. We feel them, we need them, and that is the most important thing right now. The rest will fall into place. Oh, and because I'm cheap, if you know anyone that has frequent flyer miles that I could buy cheaper than a last minute ticket, shoot me an email. I HATE to pay full price for anything, but because it will be so last minute, my little trip down is going to cost a pretty penny. Every dime counts at this point.

So, that's the update for the day. Again, thank you doesn't seem like enough, but it's all I've got. GOD IS IN CONTROL!

The Veranda Restaurant - Hendersonville, TN

I have to take a few minutes to tell you about one of my favorite places to eat. I've mentioned it here on the blog before, but when I was there last week, we got this pic and I thought that I would do a whole post. This pic below is the amazing owner, Terry, and her daughter, Lacey.

The Veranda is located at 149 Bonita Parkway in Hendersonville, TN. For you locals reading this, it's in the back of Patricia Jane, the cute little shop that is located right in front of the old Walmart in Hendersonville. They are open for lunch Tuesday-Saturday from 11ish-2ish I believe.

Why I love them? They are both the sweetest people and Mrs. Terry can COOK! The fruit tea is TO DIE FOR, the grilled pimento cheese is the best thing on the menu, and the daily specials are amazing. Last week, I had a cheesy artichoke soup that was probably the best soup I have ever eaten. On Saturdays, they have quiche. YUM!

A few other things you might not know: Mrs. Terry will open for you if you want to do a Sunday School luncheon, etc. and need a space. She makes casseroles/quiches/etc. for you to carryout if you need something for a baby shower, etc. They have a great outdoor play area for the kids including a tree swing my kids LOVE! Since they are locals, I just wanted to give them a shout out and hopefully increase their business....they are WONDERFUL ladies and deserve to be packed day in and day out (but save a table for me!)

Now, the best part! Leave a comment on this post and on Saturday, May 9 at 10pm I will draw out a name and that person gets a $10 gift certificate to The Veranda. Go eat at the Veranda, you'll be glad you did!

UPDATE: Veranda has gone out of business since this post :(

Monday, April 27, 2009

Houston, We're Having A Baby

We were picked by an expectant mom in Houston, TX this afternoon. She is due with a little boy TODAY and goes to the doctor tomorrow. I'll keep you posted. Please say a prayer for us...we never dreamed all of this would happen at once. GOD IS IN CONTROL!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

God Is In Control

I knew last night as I closed my eyes, that I had to wake up this morning and type this post. It might be a long one, but hang out with me for a while and let me tell you a little bit about our day yesterday.

Friday was Jonathan's 37th birthday, so when we woke up yesterday morning, we decided to have a nice family day just celebrating daddy. There were also two showings scheduled on our house (one at 11am and one at 6pm) so we picked up, then headed out to do some junking. We hit a few yard sales and then decided to head to the Nashville flea market for the afternoon. After leaving the flea market, we headed home to rest before our planned dinner with my family at Anchor High Marina at 5:30pm. We had already called Cam (Isaac and Luke's best friend) to see if he wanted to come so we made plans to pick him up at 5ish.

I need to stop right here and let you know that around 2ish, our realtor, Ray Carman, called to tell us we had gotten a contract on our house. He emailed it to us and we knew we would counter back. I also should stop and tell you that the air conditioning went out on Leoma, our Honda Odyssey, last week. Instead of putting money into her, you know us...we thought "let's put it on craigslist and get daddy something else" I should also stop and tell you that our grass hadn't been mowed in 9 days so I facebooked our friends on facebook who have a side business and he literally showed up within an hour and did an amazing job. I tell you all this because our quiet afternoon turned into craziness. Doug was here mowing (THANK YOU AGAIN DOUG!), Ray shows up with an offer and the phone is ringing off the hook about Leoma that I put on craigslist on a whim.

We fill out the paperwork to counter, for Ray to tell us "Oh by the way, they've already accepted!" YES, WE SOLD OUR HOUSE!!! We have to be out by May 29th and have nowhere to go. But I'm not worried, God is in control.

I also find a Suburban on craigslist from the original owner in HENDERSONVILLE that he posted yesterday morning, so J goes and looks at that. It's actually cheaper than what we are selling Leoma for. Haven't bought it yet, but we might. God is in control.

Then, we head to pick up Cam for dinner and he decides he doesn't want to go. He is disappointed, but it's no biggie. 7 year olds do that sometimes and he wanted to stay home and hang with his dad. So we head to Anchor High Marina for dinner. God is in control, keep reading.

Now, if you haven't seen my immediate family lately....well, we can take up some room at the dinner table. 11 of us at dinner. Service was HORRIBLE. Bless her heart, it was her second week, but I'm not sure she's got a bright future in waitressing. Our appetizer came WITH dinner, we would have to remind her multiple times we needed drink refills, she lost my mom's order so her food came out late. Not good.

As we were eating dinner, Maggie, my niece, got really hot. We were sitting on the outdoor patio and it was warm, to say the least. She was a little fussy, but honestly, we thought it was because she was burning up. Mom took her and thought she was acting a little funny, almost like she had a mini seizure. Maggie seemed ok though. Not great, but ok. Ali (Maggie's mom) then took her and was holding her a few minutes later when she did it again. Again, to me, it didn't look like what you think of when you think of a seizure. She just kind of jerked a bit, almost like you do when you think you are falling in your sleep in bed. We were done and of course, everyone was a little freaked, so we headed out of the restaurant. Ali and Josh immediately decided they were taking her to the hospital and mom and I encouraged her to call an ambulance.

We dialed 911 and gave our location and what was going on. I took the phone from mom and that's when Maggie started having a full blown seizure. Stopped breathing, turned purple, eyes rolling back in her head, scared the crap out of everyone but especially Ali who was up ahead of us holding her. As the local dispatch came on the phone, I'm not sure I can adequately type the emotions that went through me. You see, I stay pretty calm in crazy situations. He gives me peace. But as local dispatch came on the phone, I had a feeling I have never felt before. You see, the man that came on, Brandon, was the same man that answered the 911 call I made almost two years ago with Josh's heart stopped 5 days after Maggie was born. You can read about that HERE. I went over the situation with Maggie with tears in my eyes, she stopped seizing and actually seemed better than I expected post-seizure. As we waited for the ambulance, I asked the man his name. When he said, "Brandon" I explained to him who I was and how we were so thankful for him the night that Josh was so sick. The whole time I talked, I swear to you I felt God wrapping me in his arms saying "I knew this was going to happen, I'm taking care of you"

The ambulance arrived (by this time we had walked to the front of the LONG parking lot) and loaded Maggie in. Ali and Josh got in the ambulance as they checked out Mags to make sure she was ok. The firetruck arrived and let me just say, a big THANK YOU to the Hendersonville fire, EMT crew. You guys never cease to amaze me.

Jonathan brought the kids and I home, and I immediately jumped in Lady to head to the hospital. Mom and Dad were there when I arrived. The short of it is that Maggie definitely has some type of infection she is fighting off topped off by the fact that she got overheated. When she arrived at the hospital, her temp was 104.2 and that was after riding in an air conditioned ambulance the whole way there. I think it was very emotional for everyone simply because you can't help but wonder why Ali and Josh are going through so much. Maggie was sent home about 10pm with plenty of meds.

But GOD IS IN CONTROL! If you can't read about my day above and stop and say, "I don't know how they make it through all that craziness?" Well, let me tell you, it's by HIS grace, HIS love, HIS peace, HIS patience, and HIS understanding that he is constantly teaching us. We were created in HIS image; therefore, he WANTS us to be like him.

My offer stands anytime. If you don't know Jesus as your personal savior....if you want to know what a relationship with Christ is like....please email me. I would love to take you for coffee or any type of food really, I like to eat. I am not a saint, I make a million mistakes, but I love my heavenly father and I know he loves me. I love my relationship with HIM. One that is constantly growing and maturing. One that stretches me. One that teaches me.

One that molds me and makes me who I am.

THANKS for hanging on during this long read. I know I've been long winded lately, but can I get an AMEN to the fact that Maggie is going to be ok, that we sold our house, we sold our van (I think I left that part out), and GOD IS IN CONTROL!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Holiday World or Bust

So, I am thinking of putting a little trip together for the "Adventures of Breagirl" followers. I'm thinking Holiday World. Many of you will remember our first trip there last year (you can find the post HERE)

I'm hoping Paula will see this and want to help us get there (wink, wink Paula!)

My goal is to get 50 people to go on our first official Breagirl vacay!! If you and your family are interested in an overnight trip to Holiday World, leave a comment or email me (go to my profile and you will find the link). I'm thinking Mayish which will give us plenty of time to get our tattoos done and gain a few pounds. Who's with me?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Totally Random

This post is going to be so freaking random, but I think my life is kind of that way so it suits me.

First, don't forget to go to my sister's blog HERE and register to win a keychain. I just have to say, I LOVE MINE! It makes finding my keys super easy.

Second, in case you have missed me saying this before...migraines suck! I have had a horrible migraine daily for 13 days. Yes, 13 days. I don't know how people do this. As I type, my head is KILLING me, but I can't just stop living you know? I have so many things to catch up on once this yucky thing goes away...laundry, lunch with friends, stuff to mail, get my scrapbook table organized. Aah, the list goes on and on.

Third, if you get a Clipper magazine in the Sumner County area today in your mailbox...check out the ad for the Kids Clothes Basket towards the back. My sweet little Mary Elizabeth is their model this month and if I do say so myself, she is just precious. THANKS to all of you who have emailed, facebooked me to tell me...I had honestly forgotten all about it. I think she is going to be in their ad for Nashville Parent as well. I'll see if I can't get Grandmother to scan it in for me as I don't have a scanner and it's not available online. It's really cute!

P.S. The Kids Clothes Basket is having a closeout sale on some cool stuff. Rosie Posie outfits for $30 and under, all her smocked is 70% off and all her consignment is 50% off. She has some AWESOME stuff on her consignment rack!

Fourth, I have a lot to talk about adoption wise, but honestly, I'm pooped and I have a migraine and they are showing our house at 6pm tonight so I am going to sign off for now, but I'll update soon! Trust me, no big news, just more things I am learning in this process!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Saturday Yard Sale Finds

My wonderful mother in law, Barbara, and I went to a neighborhood yard sale this morning. She has never been with me and I think I broke her in well. We'll see if she comments on this.

We headed to Mansker Farms neighborhood sale at 6am. I had an empty Suburban, cash and a sweet tea from McDonalds. FIRST HOUSE: found a Longaberger medium gathering basket for $3. OH YEAH! I also bought some books. Barbara found some scrapbooking supplies.

We then headed down to two houses on the same street that had sales side by side. Barbara got the boys an AWESOME power wheels four wheeler. Next door, which happened to be a sweet consignor, I bought a beautiful set of silk curtains which I have no idea where I will hang, but I will build windows if I have to. I also bought some alphabet stamp sets for my friend Laura, who had randomly mentioned she wished she had more a few weeks ago. Barbara got a toy stroller for M.E., more scrapbook supplies, and some dishes for church.

From there, we kept on going. I had $100 to spend and I had $10 left when the day was done. I bought some textbooks to resell on Amazon, some AMAZING baby clothes for the new one (I found both boy and girl and didn't pay more than $1 each for them..including some NWT Gymboree! WOO HOO), books for the kids, a skateboard for Luke (it was on his list), and an awesome tricycle for M.E. that has the handle on the back so I can push her while she is little. I also found her a whole accessory set for her Bitty Baby doll that I will put up until Christmas as she isn't old enough yet to appreciate it. I got 3 Nintendo DS games for the boys, a Leappad writing system to donate to the kindergarten classes at Beech, and the most awesome coat for M.E. for next winter.

We bought so much stuff that Jonathan had to come swap cars with me so we could keep going...we seriously filled the Suburban up. We had a great time and it was sweet, sweet time with Barbara. If I haven't told you before, this woman rocks! She is funny, so loving and let me tell you...she is also a dealseeker!

Already looking forward to Mansker Farms next year!

P.S. I had to come home and clean as they showed our house TWICE today AND they are showing it again tomorrow. We might just sell this sucker!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

To the person who looked at our house today

I'm really sorry, I am.

You see, when they called at 11:40am to tell me you wanted to come at 12:30pm, I really wasn't thinking straight when I said "sure" I wasn't thinking straight because we were driving to the surgery center so my husband could have his fourth knee surgery (he's fine by the way, just drugged out of his mind). So I wasn't thinking about exactly what my house looked like when I left it at 11am.

When I returned home, however, I quickly realized why I should have said no. You see, I pride myself on keeping a clean house. Cluttered....yes, we have four children, but my clutter is clean. I guess I lost control yesterday when I decided to purge my youngest daughter's room. Her room today was perfect, however the rest of the house appeared to have had a clothing bomb go off in it.

All the jewelry on the dining room table? Yes, that is for my friend's jewelry party on Monday night. I'm sure you thought I was trying to decide what to hock to pay our mortgage since it appeared by the size of the lawn out front that surely we are headed into foreclosure. I promise, our loan is current and we aren't selling the house for those reasons, but you would never know that. The grass is tall enough to loose a small child, but you probably didn't realize that our wonderful yard guy hasn't been able to come with all the rain. I promise we do mow our yard, matter of fact, he came this afternoon after you had left.

I'm sorry my boys dirty underwear was on their bedroom floor. I usually go behind them picking up dirty clothes when they forget to do it, but I guess I couldn't fit another piece into the laundry room that was overflowing with dirty clothes.

Oh the pantry? Yes, my pantry is normally quite lovely. But not today. I didn't realize my lovely children had decided to put the crackers back in there upside down with the box open leaving about 40 crackers throughout the shelves. I promise we don't normally let them do that, nor do we have bugs.

The bins in random places throughout the house including the dining room, master bedroom and living room? You see, I run a children's consignment sale and I was trying to get all my fall/winter clothing in bins so that I could be ahead of the game. I wouldn't have done that had I known you were coming today.

So, please, feel free to come back any other day, but don't hold today against me. The house was really BAD. If you recognized our picture anywhere in the house, please don't tell anyone what a bad housekeeper I am. It's not normally like this and I promise it will look better when/if you decide to come back. I know if I were in your shoes, I would have run from here screaming.

UPDATE: Saturday at 2:35pm. Evidently it wasn't THAT bad...they are coming back to look again tonight at 5pm :)

UPDATE: Saturday, 4/25 at 4ish: Evidently it really wasn't bad all...we just got an offer from them. We'll see :)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Adoption Update on Tax Day

I am sitting here watching the late news and thanking GOD that we got our taxes done months ago. They had someone live at the post office in Nashville that is open til midnight and the lines were LONG. So glad I am not stressed about that tonight.

Honestly, I'm not stressed about anything tonight. Call it purging, nesting, whatever you will...but I got a ton done today. M.E.'s room is done and all of her fall/winter clothing is on hangers and ready to be tagged for the next consignment sale. I think it's a record peeps...I'm already starting and it's mid-April.

Several of you have emailed asking how the adoption is going. It's funny because you always start out by saying "I hate to ask, but how are things going?" PLEASE, we are so THANKFUL you ask and remember us! THANK YOU! The adoption process has definitely slowed down since we asked Valley of Hope to stop sending us stuff. Our profile was shown on Monday, but we haven't heard anything yet and I'm really in no hurry. I want the e-mom to take all the time she needs to make a decision.

Our next step: well, we will finally send in our registration to Catholic Charities and then just sit back and relax. I have found a new site that I am in love with...not only because of their mission, but also it gives me a face and a name to pray for. These children need homes just like all the others so I pray that they find their forever homes very soon.

I am also putting my creative energy into some planning for my friend Laura's gold party on Monday night. If you haven't heard of a gold party, well, let me tell you. It's all the rage right now. Basically, these "gold people" come set up and buy your gold! Yep, all those nasty old boyfriend rings, charms, broken chains, even dental gold (EEWWW!) The best part: they pay you cash on the spot and Laura gets a percentage for their adoption fund. How cool is that? 'Bout time you go to a home party and get paid for coming huh? What I decided to do to help out was to put another twist on it. While you are cleaning out your gold, clean out all that other jewelry you just don't wear anymore and donate it to Laura. We will have a table with all the "costume" jewelry on it and it will all be $3 each. ALL THE MONEY from this goes to their adoption fund. So, you need to bring your gold, your costume jewelry, and some money. Laura's going to be feeding everyone so feel free to stop by. It doesn't matter that you may not know her, just email her and she'll give you directions. They are bringing home their little man from Ethiopia SOON and need this party to be a huge success so that they can bring him home debt free! See you there!

Spring Cleaning

Oh, how I love to spring clean. I just lied. I don't actually enjoy the cleaning aspect of it, but I love to purge and I love going in a room and knowing it is DONE!

I have been dealing with migraines a lot this week, so today has been the first day I have really been doing some productive work. I decided after lunch to tackle M.E.'s room. I had already cleaned out Anna's room, so it was time to do the next girl. As I type, I have a HUGE mound of clothing in the middle of her floor, but the closet is P-E-R-F-E-C-T. All the spring/summer clothes are grouped together, fall/winter clothes for next year are in the back and the few baby things I have went ahead and bought are at the very front. I am currently hanging outfits for Saint Vickie to tag for the next consignment sale.

Because I swear I have ODD (a combination of OCD and ADD), I have also started two other projects (that's what I do...start a million projects and expect them all to be perfect). I am working in the living room on a bin from the garage. In it I have found loads of books my kids are done with that will also be going to Saint Vickie, a trash bag full of random stuff for my friend Tracy who is having a yard sale this weekend to raise money for her adoption, and another bag of stuff for my friend Amber who is having a yard sale in May for her adoption.

I have also been actively listing things of significant value I have found on ebay and I am proud to announce I have sold over $250 worth of CRAP so far in two weeks. I had a large lot of Longaberger liners, etc. that I had bought at a yard sale for $60 that I turned around and sold for $150. Then, I sold a Leapster I had found at a yard sale for $8 in which I turned around and sold for $42. Last but not least, a pair of pants I had bought at Matilda Jane that didn't fit...and I actually sold them for more than I paid! All this money is going towards my new crib I bought this weekend (no, I didn't pay that for know me better than that). We actually moved M.E. into the new crib and are going to put new baby into M.E's old crib. Did I mention that once I move the large pile out of the middle of the floor, her room will be perfect?

So, that's what's new for us. How's your Spring cleaning going?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Who doesn't love FREE!?!?!

My uber talented sister, Ali, is having an awesome give away on her blog right now. You must check it out. Want to know what she is giving away?

She actually just gave me one last weekend and I LOVE it. It makes finding my keys so much easier and she told me that they are even monogrammable so you can take it to the Kids Clothes Basket and have an initial put on it.

Leave her a comment and let her know I sent you! GOOD LUCK!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Spring Break : M'Boro Tornado

As we returned home from Chattanooga, we immediately began making plans for the rest of our week. The boys wanted to spend the day with Grandmother and Papa Sam on Thursday, so we made plans to go to Murfreesboro with all the kids on Friday to visit the Discovery Center. Alison B. had suggested this to me a while back and I just knew the kids would love it. We set out Friday morning just like any normal day, running late and low on patience!

We got to Alison's and then followed her to M'Boro to the Discovery Center. If you haven't been, you need to go. It's REALLY cool and in my opinion, even more interactive than the Adventure Science Center in Nashville. The price is super reasonable too...$5 for adults and children over 2. Under 2 is free. The kids loved it. They had lots of different activities including a life size fire truck where the kids could dress up like firemen, a vegetable stand, slide from the second floor to the first floor, train room, wooden block area, coal station complete with mining helmets and shovels, water play area and a great area for toddlers.

After playing for a while, we were getting hungry and decided to head to Toot's. We don't have these north of Nashville and I LOVE that kids get a hotdog meal for FREE so you didn't have to twist my arm. As we headed out from the Discovery Center, I noticed that it looked like a storm was coming. I think it was at this point that Alison got a call telling her about the tornado warning. We also thought we heard tornado sirens, but we weren't sure. We got the kids loaded as the first raindrops hit our windshields.

When we got to Toot's (which was packed), Alison noticed that the tv's inside which usually show sporting events were showing the bad weather heading our way. We got several cell phone calls warning us that tornados had been spotted and to be careful, but honestly we were so caught up in wrangling our 6 children that we didn't worry too much.

That's when we noticed this guy that ran in and threw his still lit cigarette onto the ground. What was this freak doing? Didn't he realize he was inside the building with a cigarette. I got up to put out the cig and thought "hmmm...maybe I should look outside" That's when I saw this:

All I could think was "get the children to the bathroom." I looked at Alison, told her it was a tornado, and we pushed the kids through the crowd and into the bathroom. We got into tornado drill position like you do at school and silently prayed. It sounds nuts, but I really wasn't freaking out. At this moment, J called my cell phone and all I said to him was "there's a tornado, we're in the bathroom" and hung up. We heard them come over the speaker system and tell people to get away from the windows so we honestly had no idea what was happening outside our four walls. After a few minutes, someone went out and came back to tell us it was gone.

We stayed to eat lunch simply because it was now POURING outside and we weren't going to be out driving in this mess. Little did we know that by the time we finished lunch, it would take me 3 hours to get home. Thankfully, Mary Elizabeth fell asleep followed by the other three on our way home.

The devastation we saw on the way home was awful. It's so weird how a tornado is so picky. One house is destroyed while the home across the street is just fine. The whole way home, the kids and I prayed that we could get home. So many roads were closed.

We also prayed for my friend Melissa and her children as we kept hearing of the damage in her area. Cell phones would work one minute and then not work for the next twenty. We all thanked God when I finally got her on the phone three hours later!

It was definitely an interesting ending to our Spring Break. The boys have remained a little freaked out at bedtime and constantly ask us as they are going to sleep if any tornados will be coming tonight. As Alison said, I guess it wouldn't be spring in Tennessee without some crazy weather!

Chattanooga - Rock City / Lookout Mountain

After the incline railway, we drove up the mountain to Rock City. It's quite a lovely drive and we enjoyed seeing all the adorable cottages on our way up. We arrived at Rock City, snapped some pics and headed in.

I should stop and let you know that my children that we took are 10 and 7 year old twins. They were starting to get a little testy at this point simply because we had already done Ruby Falls and the Incline Railway earlier in the day (you can tell this by the look on my daughter's face in the pic above). IF we had been staying in Chattanooga one more day, it would have been a good idea to do Rock City a different day. If my children had been younger and still requiring naps, I DEFINITELY would recommend busting all this up into two days.

We had bought the combo tickets for Ruby Falls, Incline Railway and Rock City. We were able to walk right in. You go through a gift shop to start this self guided tour, but no need to exit through it as well! Again, they snap your picture hoping you will BUY it when you leave although at Rock City, I never even saw where the pics were available. Oh, the devastation.

Rock City is really beautiful and I didn't realize that it was a privately owned garden. What a lucky woman to have such a wonderful husband to create such a magical place for her! The kids enjoyed all the sights, but were constantly wanting to hurry up and get to the next "thing" as they were bored. I would have enjoyed going at a slower pace as they have every type of plant labeled, etc. but the kids were antsy. They did enjoy the swinging bridge.

When we got to the lookout point, they definitely chilled out and really enjoyed spending some down time here. You were able to see seven different states, although I think the kids really thought you would see lines showing you exactly where the states were. You will need some quarters for the large magnifiers which they really enjoyed. This was also where I ran into a fellow blogging adoptive mom! Small world huh?

Behind the lookout point, they had a beautiful flower garden where I snapped this pic of my beautiful girl.

From there, we went into yet another gift shop where I bought J a shirt and a nice, cold lemonade. Then, it was time to head to the "fat man's squeeze" The kids thought it was funny that it was called this because they had no problem at all getting through there. Can't wait to go back with them when they are adults and remind them of this.

From there, we headed into fairyland or something like that. It is basically a manmade cave that features lots of Mother Goose fairy tales and gnomes. They LOVED this and really enjoyed counting all the gnomes they could spot.

We were definitely all tired by the time we left as there are lots of steps and lots of walking. We checked out the gift shop and left with three crying children because they were exhausted and wanted to buy something, anything, just to say we bought something. I don't think so. They literally fell asleep after being in the car 10 minutes so I know they were pooped.

We hopped onto interstate 24 and headed home. Overall, it was a WONDERFUL trip with very few things I would have done differently. I will warn you though...our two day jaunt to Chattanooga from Nashville literally cost over $1000 for the 6 of us and we didn't splurge on anything major. We joked on the way home that we could have gone to Disney!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Chattanooga - Incline Railway

After Ruby Falls, we ate lunch and then headed back up to the Incline Railway. This was one of the things I had actually never done in Chattanooga, so I was pretty excited.

We had bought the combination tickets at Ruby Falls, so we honestly expected this to be pretty easy. Get in line, get on the train. Yeah, that didn't happen.

We got in line only to find out that the ticket we had bought at Ruby Falls actually needed to be inserted into a machine so we could get a different ticket. That sounds fine, except we had been standing in line for a while. So, I got out of line, went around the track to the machine that had about 15 people waiting to use it and waited. And waited. Yes, the machine wasn't working. Fabulous. I finally got up to the machine that was working and inserted our six tickets. It only printed FIVE tickets out. I had to get the guy working on the other machine to open this machine and get out my last ticket and then run back over to the line to make the train.

It was worth the drama though. Basically this little train takes you straight up the side of lockout mountain and the views are amazing. Honestly, it's a little scary, but definitely worth the money for the tickets.

When you get off the train at the top, there is a gift shop, Dippin Dots stand and a park. We opted to get back on the train and ride it down because we still had a trip to Rock City ahead.

Chattanooga - Ruby Falls

When we woke up Wednesday morning, we were all really excited for our day ahead which started at Ruby Falls. We got there about 9:30am Chattanooga time and got a great parking spot. We were a bit unsure about what the temperature would be like in the cave so we all either had on long sleeve shirts or light weight jackets. We took a few pics outside and then it was time to head in to buy our tickets.

We opted to go with the bundle tickets which included tickets for Ruby Falls, Incline Railway, and Rock City (where Lookout Mountain is located). We used the potty as there are no restrooms during the tour and got in line for the elevator. Down we went where we met our tour guide, Martin, who was great. They put you in tour groups and we had about 30-40 people in our group. Martin lead us to an area where they show a short video about how Ruby Falls was discovered. We then started into the cave where Martin showed us several neat formations including the cactus and the candle, the elephant foot, etc. We finally got to the falls which are really just beautiful. You actually get to walk under the falls which is really neat and you have a few minutes to take pictures, wander around, etc.

We came back out the way we came in and of course, as we exited through the elevator, you go out through a gift shop. We did opt to buy the pictures simply because they were really good and you got quite a few pictures for the price. They also have a large play area for kids and a grill, but I'll warn you the food prices are INSANE! $8.50 for a burger. We opted to head back down the mountain and eat at Wendy's.

A couple of points of interest for anyone planning a trip:
*the cave is actually very comfortable temp wise, so definitely don't dress like you are going to Alaska, otherwise I think you will be miserable.
*the gift shop where you buy tickets is MUCH better than the gift shop where you exit. You have to go back through the first gift shop when you leave so I would definitely plan to shop there.
*you will find a coupon for $2 off on the back of your aquarium tickets, but this discount is NOT available on the combo tickets like we bought. We decided it was not worth standing in line each time and to just go ahead with the combo tickets.
*definitely call ahead and make sure the cave is open. During rainy periods they noted that sometimes they have to shut the cave down because of flooding so I would hate for anyone to get there and it be closed.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Chattanooga Choo Choo - The Hotel

After our FULL day at the aquarium, we were very ready to head to our hotel. We had looked at about a million options online before going and really thought the kids would get a kick out of the Chattanooga Choo Choo (AKA The Holiday Inn).

We got to the hotel, checked in and drove around back to find our rooms. I should take a few minutes to explain that there are several different parts to this hotel. You have the main area where you check in complete with restaurants, gift shops, and the train museum. Behind this, you have the train cars that you can sleep in (but they book up kind of far in advance). Behind the train cars, you have buildings one, two and three. Building one has rooms and it also houses the indoor, heated pool. The smell of chlorine also knocks you out the minute you walk into building one. Buildings two and three are just more rooms, but each of these buildings are either connected by a covered walkway or nothing at all. Not cool if it's 30 degrees outside and you are trying to get from building 2 to 1 to go swimming.

Now, I know sometimes I can seem like a negative ninny on this blog and this will be another one of those times. Our hotel room in building two cost $151.01 after taxes and whatever junk they tap onto the original price of $129. When we walked into the room, I immediately realized I had just paid $151.01 for a room that would have been $49.99 had it not had the words CHOO CHOO on top of the hotel. I would call the room "vintage." Not that my kids noticed. All they wanted was a vending machine and an indoor pool and they thought we were staying at the four seasons.

After dinner, the kids were DYING to go swimming so it was time to head to the indoor "heated" pool in building one. Did I mention that the only shoes I had brought were Ugg boots? So, here we go..the darlings go to the indoor pool. The kids all cute in swim attire, swim shoes, etc. and mom in her swimsuit covered by jeans, a tshirt and Ugg boots. We walk outside in the 30 degree weather to get to building one and open the door to get smacked in the face with the smell of chlorine. I literally thanked God in that moment that our ROOM wasn't in building one as I would have had a migraine in two hours flat if I had to breathe that all night.

When we got to the pool, we picked up our complimentary towels that were the size of postage stamps and got in the pool. Because they are children and don't notice these things, my children didn't bother to notice that the "heated" water was FREEZING. The only hot water in the whole pool was being pumped into the pool through a white PVC pipe, which I figured out after about 3 seconds in the pool. Mama hung out by the pipe while my kids jumped off the sides, splashed around and had a blast. There were about 40 other precious little tykes in the pool so I was ready to get out after about 4 minutes, but it would have devastated the kids so I stuck it out. After about 30 minutes and being blind from all the chlorine that had been splashed in my eyes by the precious little tykes, I drug my kids out of the pool and dried off with the hand towels. I was uber happy by this point, especially when I had to put my freezing, WET feet into my Ugg boots. Good times.

We trudged back to our room and I called dibs on the shower. I just wanted to wash off the chlorine and get warm, but I never expected to meet my friend, Nasty Hair, in the shower. After the shower, the kids begged for money for the vending machines so I obliged. "No sugar," I called out, which they obviously didn't hear when Luke proudly walked back in a few minutes later with a Dr. Pepper. Not worth the fight. We watched a little TV and settled in for bed, or so I thought. We had two full size beds and I had obviously forgotten that my children turn into crazed ninjas during bed time. Between getting kicked all night, the lovely children who ran up and down the halls and knocked on the doors, and Isaac and Luke constantly asking if they could go to the bathroom (don't ask, I don't know why they asked), I literally slept about 12 minutes Tuesday night.

When JuJu woke us up Wednesday morning, all three kids were laying on the floor (again, I don't know) and I felt like I had been run over by a truck.

So, here's my advice on the Choo Choo. If you REALLY want to stay there, get a train car. They are only $40 more per night and look pretty cool. If you just want to throw money out the window, grab a room in buildings two or three. You would have to pay me to stay in building one. I think you could probably get the "experience" by just dropping by for a few minutes and taking some pics with the trains. It's honestly not that great.

If you're going to Chattanooga, take the $150 and stay somewhere else downtown. Like a Marriott or the Hyatt. Maybe you'll get some sleep there and won't meet my friend, Nasty Hair.

Sorry that there are no pics on this post, I was too tired to take any!

Chattanooga- The Aquarium

We arrived at the Aquarium around 10:30am CST (11:30am at the Aquarium). In case you missed the last post, we went during Spring Break. You would assume that the powers that be at the Aquarium would have scheduled workers appropriately being that it was indeed Spring Break, but alas, they did not. We quickly realized as we stood OUTSIDE in the SNOW (in APRIL) that we should have bought tickets online. We seriously waited at least 30 minutes in line because they had TW0 people selling tickets. We bought the combo tickets for the Aquarium and the Imax movie "Under the Sea". You will also need to remember that you have to pay for parking at the aquarium.

The Chattanooga Aquarium consists of two buildings. The first, original building features animals from the river. The second, newer building features animals from the ocean. We hit the ocean building first. We were so excited to get in out of the cold! You immediately take an escalator to the top of the building where you have a stunning view of the Tennessee River. You go into a humid room that starts off featuring stingrays and then the Macaws. From there, we saw a HUGE area where you could pet the stingrays and the sharks. The kids (and adults) LOVED this. We spent a good thirty minutes here feeling the animals. In my opinion, the stingrays felt like pickled okra. Luke thought the sharks felt like hot dogs. It was also at this point that we ran into my old boss and his family. After spending a few minutes with them, it was back to chasing down the stingrays. I was so worried about touching one that I forgot to pull up my sleeve. Yes, so I spent the next few hours walking around with a sweater wet up to elbow. Lovely.

Our next stop was the Butterfly Room which is really cool. The kids ran around like crazy checking out the butterflies. Papa Eddie discovered the hatchery that showed the butterflies at various stages of them hatching.

The rest of the building featured awesome displays of penquins (those suckers can dive!), sharks, and one of the coolest tanks I have ever seen.

We were getting hungry for lunch so we headed across the street to Genghis Grill. If you plan to spend the day at the Aquarium, you should note that although there is on site food, it is pricey and there are plenty of restaurants within walking distance including TGI Fridays, Cheeseburger Cheeseburger, and Genghis Grill. We had a yummy lunch and then it was time to tour the second building.

In this building, you start in the basement and then go up to the top and work your way back down. This is also the building where they take your picture when you walk in that you are able to buy at the end for the bargain price of $21.95 (I'm being sarcastic) Everyone loved the exhibits on turtles, seahorses, blue catfish, etc. Yes, this green thing is a fish:
After being in this building for an hour, it was time to leave to catch our Imax movie. The theatre is up a block from the aquarium so you can definitely walk.

The theatre is very clean and has a neat little gift shop. I got some Dippin Dots and Anna got a slush puppy complete with souvenir cup. They offer popcorn, fountain drinks, etc but since we had literally just eaten an hour before, no one else wanted anything.

The movie is 3D so the kids loved the glasses. We got there about 30 minutes before the show so we were one of the first to enter the theatre. We were able to get seats right smack in the middle about halfway up. The theatre got pretty full so you will definitely want to get there early if you are with a larger group and want to try to sit together. The movie was great, but I could see it being very scary for a child younger than 5. At several points in the movie, a fish will eat it's prey which is sort of gross and definitely loud and frightening for the younger crowd. I think the movie lasted about 40 minutes. Of course, as you exit you have to go through the gift shop so if you get there late, no fear, you will have plenty of time to browse after the movie.

We headed back to the river building and finished our self guided tour. Everyone had a great time and as you can tell, we captured some great pictures. I love my kids facial expressions, especially later in the day once they were truly sick of taking pics.

I bet you can guess that you exit this building by going through the gift shop huh? We got souvenirs for Anna and Isaac here, but Luke kept talking about a red wolf (yes, a red wolf) he had seen at the Imax gift shop. We headed back over there where we found the red wolf and a book for Mary Elizabeth. I'm pretty sure we're the only family who goes to an aquarium and buys a stuffed animal of a red wolf. (side note: the red wolf has not left his side in 48 hours)

Our day at the aquarium was officially over and it was time to head to the hotel. We ended up eating at a yummy restaurant 3 blocks from the Aquarium that night. It was called Sticky Fingers and definitely a great place to eat in downtown Chattanooga if you like ribs!

Off to the next post about our hotel...

Spring Break - Off to Chattanooga

We were supposed to go to the Wilderness in the Smokies water park this week, but the couple we were going with ended up having to go to CA. With all the craziness with the adoption, we hated to plan another trip where we could potentially loose deposits on hotel rooms, etc. We had thrown around the idea of Chattanooga, but finally decided Sunday night/Monday morning we were going to do it.

J is having knee surgery next Thursday so he was unable to ask off from work. It appeared it was going to be me and the three older kids, but then JuJu and Papa Eddie decided to go. Monday night we took M.E. to Grandmothers and the kids were bouncing off the walls as we packed for our two day excursion. You would have thought we were going for a month the way the kids were packing. For those of you that don't have children old enough to pack themselves, trust me when I say it's a real treat to reach your destination and find some of the things your kids pack. For instance, upon opening the toiletry bag at the hotel, I found two complete boxes of superhero bandaids. I guess they thought they were staying with Edward Scissorhands.

We woke up Tuesday morning and got ready. JuJu and Papa Eddie came to the house and we set off on our Chattanooga adventure. I did mention it was Spring Break right? Yeah, well it was 30 degrees outside and spitting snow when we left.

I have decided I am going to break up the posts by where we went in Chattanooga so that others traveling down the line can hopefully benefit from some of the awesome things we did and some of the not so great things we did. Hope you enjoy!

Valley of Hope Adoption Agency

*I must start out the post warning any readers that it will be long. This is also OUR personal experience and we realize that others will have positive experiences. We felt it was important to share OUR story for others who are considering using Valley of Hope in GA*

Our journey with Valley of Hope started long before I ever made the first phone call. We are in the process of our second adoption and decided this time to go the "do it yourself" route versus signing up with one agency. My husband and I are very open on our "checklist" so we felt like by networking on our own, we could possibly save some money and feel very confident that we were working with ethical agencies/case workers.

At the time, Valley of Hope would not only post available situations on their website, but they were also very active in posting harder to place situations on message boards that are made available to adoption professionals to post these types of situations (they no longer post situations on their website) I tried very hard to do as much homework as I could on all the agencies we were considering sending our profile to. In the case of VOH, I couldn't find much information. I found one feedback on one site that seemed very positive and then I had a member of some adoption message boards I frequent send me a private message to let me know that she had used VOH and successfully adopted her second child through them. She was also very pleased. I found no negative feedback anywhere online and I searched multiple sites.

Prior to being completely homestudy updated for this second adoption, I noticed that VOH had posted a situation where they were needing an adoptive family for a 2 year old little boy. There was a lot of chatter about this on the adoption forums, so I sent VOH an email requesting more information. Erin, the director, called me that night which was very impressive to me. Our experience up to that point is that it is hard to find ANYONE in the adoption industry that returns a phone call/email within a reasonable amount of time. I chatted with Erin and we quickly figured out that it probably wouldn't work for us because we weren't completely homestudy updated and they were looking to place this little guy ASAP.

The second time we worked with Valley of Hope was actually the first situation we inquired about after D from CC had come to get all the info on our homestudy update. D had told us that she would be writing it all up and if something came up during that time, it wouldn't be a problem for her to get it finished up quickly so we felt confident inquiring about online situations. This time, they were looking for a family for a 4 year old little boy. Again, we contacted Erin and quickly threw together a profile to send to her so that we could be shown. This was on Wednesday, Feb. 18. We didn't hear anything on Thursday and honestly just assumed they had picked another family. Again, this situation was one where they were trying to do placement ASAP. Friday, we found out we were actually one of two couples that they were considering. We again were working with Erin, the agency director. At this point, she had us sign the VOH agreement and then proceeded to put us in direct contact with the agency that had the situation (SIDE NOTE: VOH works as a referral service for other agencies as well as having situations from their own agency in GA). We found out on Saturday that we were not picked for this little boy.

We did not hear from Erin for a while after this, but on March 10 she sent me an email wanting to know if we might be interested in having our profile shown on March 17 to a birthmother having a boy. While emailing, she told us she was on the way to the hospital to present profiles to a birthmother who had delivered twins earlier that day. We decided we wanted to be shown to the mom of twins, and again we weren't picked. We did decide though to go ahead and have our profile shown to the lady on March 17.

I will stop and say that up until this point, although we felt that sometimes we had to email and ask to get an answer instead of them just calling/emailing to give an update, we felt like communication was decent. Erin is very pleasant to talk to on the phone and honestly, seems like someone I would be friends with if we lived in the same city, etc. She seemed to have a heart for these birthmothers and really seemed to be on the up and up. It was also at this point that Gloria, a caseworker with VOH, called me to introduce herself, ask some questions about us, etc. I had honestly wondered up until that point how Erin did everything, so I wasn't surprised that she would pass us on to one of her caseworkers and I enjoyed talking to Gloria very much. She reminds me of my mother in law, very sweet and caring.

After the 17th, communication grew sketchy. I was asking what this lady thought of our profile and was told she had taken it home to view with the birthfather and grandmother. They were supposed to get together for lunch on the 19th and Erin hoped she would have a decision. The 19th comes and goes and we don't hear anything, so I email to ask. Birthmother had canceled. The 20th comes and goes and again, I had to email. Still no word from birthmother. Honestly, I was frustrated. Not because the birthmother appeared to be MIA, but mostly because I felt like it didn't take much to send a simple email saying "we still don't know anything" versus me feeling like I am worrying the snot out of them. I guess I just wanted them to take some initiative to email me. On the 21st, after an eventful day here at our house, we returned home that night to have a message from Gloria on the home phone asking us to call her ASAP. That the birthmom in GA had decided she wanted a family that lived closer to her (she was wanting an open adoption), but they had a situation in TX that reminded her so much of our story with Mary Elizabeth and seemed a good fit for us. I was frantic. I just KNEW this was our baby and even though it was 8:30pm our time, I tried to call Gloria on both her cell and at home. No answer. I sent an email. I was so anxious because Gloria had made it sound like they needed to act quickly (baby was already born) so I emailed Erin (director). She emailed me back with the information and I was shocked to see the fees were $31K. Honestly, I was devastated. For the first time in this second adoption, I had THE feeling and I just couldn't believe that this wasn't going to work (we can't pay $31K) Also, I was a bit peeved that Gloria would even call when they know our budget is $20K max. I didn't say anything though because I felt like the budget aspect maybe just didn't get relayed to Gloria or they got excited because of the circumstances and thought it might work for us.

I should also stop to tell you that we were also busy contacting and working with other agencies during this process. While doing this, we were told by two different agencies that we needed to be careful with Valley of Hope. Neither would give us any specifics and because of this, we took this info like a grain of salt. So far, our experience, although a tad bit frustrating with communication, had been quite pleasant. We had never seen anything we felt would be considered unethical when it came to VOH's practices with birthmothers. We were very convicted that we should only send our profile to one situation at a time, so it was a lot on our plate to juggle all the info we were receiving from different agencies. This is what we had signed up for though!

Fast forward another week and we are being shown through a different agency in FL. On Thursday night, Gloria calls because they have a situation that she thought might be of interest to us. An expecting mom in GA that is having a baby girl and due any day. We can't move forward because our profile is in FL. On Friday morning, we find out birthmom in FL has decided to parent so I call Gloria to let her know we would like for our profile to be shown. We are told and J and I both understand that this expecting mom is not firm in her decision to place, and honestly, we are completely fine with that because we want any birthmother to parent if they can! No fees are due at match because of her not being firm in her plan to place; therefore, all fees will be paid at placement. Sounds great to us. I leave to go out of town and get a call from Gloria on Saturday. Great news! Erin has shown the e-mom our profile and she likes it. She never said the words "you are matched" but she did say that the only thing that the e-mom wanted to know is if we are open to visits two times a year. Absolutely. Gloria is excited, I'm excited, everything looks great. I call J. I call our immediate family and friends. Trying not to get too excited and yet, we are now just waiting for her to go into labor. Over the next few days, we think of a few questions and would email Gloria, who was usually great about getting the answers for us. When is mom due? March 30. Mid-week we got an email that sounded a bit off and I began questioning if we were truly matched with this e-mom. J calls Gloria to make sure I didn't misunderstand the conversation on Saturday. Yes, she tells him, we are the ONLY family that is open to this situation and we are matched with her if she indeed decides to place. We wait and wait and are told that Erin is taking her to the doctor on Friday. Surely they'll induce right? She's four days overdue! Friday night we find out that they can't get in touch with birthmom. They've tried to call Thursday and Friday with no answer. Why didn't Erin take her to the doctor? Well, that was only going to happen if it rained and it didn't rain. J and I are freaking out. Did she go MIA? Is she at the hospital alone? Has she changed her mind?

Saturday morning, April 4, Gloria calls while I am out with my mom. She has an update. Sure enough, e-mom did go to doctor on Friday. He moved her due date back to April 10. Everything looks great and Erin is actually taking her to dinner that night and then to go apartment shopping. Are we available to do a conference call with the e-mom and Erin that night? YES! We are so nervous all day...what do we say to the e-mom? We've never done this before and honestly, we are probably more nervous than the e-mom. Saturday night, we jump every time the phone rings and by 8pm (9pm GA time), we realize that this conference call is probably not going to happen. As time ticks by, we get more and more upset. Why wouldn't they call or email us to let us know that e-mom didn't want to do it? Erin has a blackberry...a simply "she was scared" email would have been fine. Seriously. We knew that this was the first time she was going to be seeing a printed copy of our profile so of course, your mind goes to all of "those" places. What if she decided she didn't like us? I send an email to Gloria and Erin...can we please get an update?!?!

Sunday we went to visit with our dear friends as they joined their church. Afterwards, we went to lunch and J and I at this point are such a nervous wreck we can't even focus on lunch. I'm realizing as I type this that I have forgotten to tell you that we haven't told our kids. I beg J to go out and try to call Gloria for an update. What happened last night? Is everything ok? He goes and makes the call, getting Gloria's machine. I should also take this moment to tell you that I hate bothering people on a Sunday. It's a day of rest. We shouldn't be doing this junk on a Sunday, but I am quite certain that we are going to have ulcers if we have to wait until Monday to find out what in the world happened Saturday night. Gloria calls and bless her heart, she feels horrible because Erin did call her to let her know the conference call isn't going to happen, but she thought Erin had contacted us as well. She had no idea that we didn't know anything about the visit. Everything had went fine, but she was just still uncomfortable with actually talking to us. Yes, she saw our printed profile and still liked us. Now we just sit back and wait for labor.

Honestly, I wish I didn't even have to type this next part, but I do.

We spent Sunday afternoon chilling out, taking naps and spending time with the kids. It's Spring Break this week and we don't know if we should take that trip to Chattanooga or not. What if she goes into labor? J heads out to run a few errands and I open up my laptop to check email. There's an email from Erin. Either Gloria didn't tell her she had talked to us already or she decided to go ahead and send us an overview of how the visit went on Saturday night anyway. At any rate, as I read the email, I was shocked at what I was reading. Things like:
"I am trying to balance gentle, fact based persuasion with being an objective friend for her. I have found that if you become more like a friend to them, they are more honest about their intentions to place."
"I also told her again that any financial assistance will be provided to her after she places and the revocation period is over. She made comments like “I have to do the plan”, meaning the adoption plan, and then later said “I really don’t want to give up my baby”.
"She has not asked to see any other profiles, but still has not stood firm with a commitment to place. We all think she really doesn’t have a choice and with me staying in touch with her and being a friend to her that the time comes, we hope that she will place with you."
"She is very sweet, but it is very hard to figure her out. I think I will just keep plugging away and being her friend and hopefully she will get closer to confirming her plans to place and stay consistent with this plan."

Now, some of you reading this may think, "what's the big deal?" The big deal is that what you just read are DIRECT QUOTES from the email that Erin, the director of Valley of Hope, sent to me. These are HUGE red flags that, in my opinion, showed Erin trying to coerce the e-mom into placing her baby for adoption. Now, I understand that each situation is different, but there was never a point in the email where Erin said, "I've offered to help this mom get the resources she needs to parent" I honestly still scratch my head at why Erin sent me that email. I guess she wanted to reassure me that all was well, but I was blown away. I spent the next few hours literally sobbing for this poor e-mom. Was she not being given any other options? This SCREAMED unethical counseling practices and I was so MAD at MYSELF for not doing more thorough checks on Valley of Hope and Erin.

The email also went on to say that the e-mom had actually gone on Friday to the ER and been told that she wasn't due until early MAY!

J and I prayed Sunday night as we were just stunned at this turn of events. Don't get me wrong, we KNEW that the birthmother was not committed to placing her child for adoption, but we didn't realize it was because she wanted so badly to parent. We knew we had to back out of this match.

We called Gloria, our caseworker, on Monday morning and get her machine. Two hours later with no response, J called the agency number and asked for Erin. She was out of the office, but they would let her know J had called. Then he emailed Erin. By lunch, J was livid that no one had returned a call. I was just numb and mad. Finally, Gloria called Jonathan back and he told her our response to the email (she had already seen the email, Erin had sent it to both me and Gloria). J basically told me that Gloria just didn't seem to get it...what we were upset about. I wasn't on the phone call, so I can't tell you what was said, but I do know he let Gloria know that we were not comfortable with the situation and no longer wished to pursue it.

Again, we thought this was the end of the story. It was not.

J got home from work and I had a killer migraine. I took the meds that knock me out and woke up a while later with J standing at the foot of the bed looking shocked. I sat up, thinking something horrible was wrong, and he mouthed to me that it was Erin on the phone. At that moment, I realized he had a cell phone to his ear! I could hear her talking about how she would never push a mom into placing, that they always offer support to birthmoms who wish to parent, etc. I honestly figured she had called because Gloria had called to tell her that we had backed out. When J hung up, he told me that he didn't think Erin had even talked with Gloria. She was calling him back from the earlier message at the office. Erin was very kind and seemed very sorry for the lapses in communication. She also let us know that this situation was very unusual in how everything had occurred. It was at that point, that she told Jonathan that was why she had not matched this e-mom yet. What?!?! Yes, she was matched, she was matched with us. Gloria had told us this twice., Erin assured us that although the e-mom had seen our profile and liked us, she had never picked us. We were shocked. Wasn't this the whole reason J had called Gloria a few days earlier and she had assured us that yes, she had picked us. Now we are finding out from Erin, the director, that Gloria, the caseworker, had been incorrect. How's that for communication? Again, J told Erin we were not comfortable with the email and that we did not wish to continue with the match, or whatever this was. The last thing I heard Erin say was "I'm sorry you weren't happy with how things were handled" In my opinion, that's not an apology.

So, we will no longer be working with Valley of Hope. Although my gut tells me that these women mean well, it's obvious that to me that they are forming opinions for what they think these birthmoms should do and then counseling in that direction. EVERY WOMAN REGARDLESS OF CIRCUMSTANCE should not only be given the option of parenting when it comes to adoption counsel, they should also be supported in exploring those options at any time in her pregnancy or after giving birth. J and I do not wish to adopt a child where the mother desperately wants to keep the baby and just doesn't know of the options that are out there.

Was it hard to walk away from this? Yes and no. No, because we know ethically, how Erin counseled this birthmom was not right. Yes, because we worried that they would just turn around and find another family for this baby without the adoptive parents ever knowing what had just happened.

I am happy to report that I did receive an email today from Gloria letting us know the e-mom has decided to parent. I'm not sure what happened after we backed out, but I do know we prayed for this woman and her unborn child every day from the minute we heard about her and I will continue to do so.

I never thought I would be typing this about Valley of Hope, but I have realized that unless I tell our story, someone else might get involved with this agency without knowing the whole story. My prayer is that Erin realizes that most importantly EVERY woman that they represent DOES have a choice and that adoption is not always the BEST option. My prayer is that Erin and Gloria both know that we aren't trying to be mean spirited in posting this, but that what happened to us did happen and it should have been handled much differently. They should have never been looking for families to present if the e-mom was saying the things she was saying. They should have gotten all the information about the e-mom and her situation prior to asking us to present, as we found out lots of information after we were "matched" that was very disturbing. Many of these things we found out only because we asked, not because they were offered to us.

I hope that this is the only post you will find that is negative about Valley of Hope. I hope that their practices will change so that no one else goes through the same thing we did.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Adoption Update - Monday

This could quite possibly be one of the hardest blog posts I have ever written. I've thought about what to say, how to say it, and that God would use my words constantly over the last 15 hours.

We were actually told on Saturday, March 28 that the expectant mom in Georgia had picked us. I didn't want to post it here on the blog simply because if it fell through, I didn't want a constant reminder of the pain every time we were asked. We told very close friends and family and just spent the next week praying for this mother and her child.

Yesterday, our worst fears came to reality. You see, Jonathan and I's number one priority in this second adoption was to follow God's will AND to make sure that this adoption was as ethical as possible. We found out last night that the agency was basically pushing this mother to place her baby for adoption. They ARE NOT giving her adequate counseling and are basically only giving her the options available to her IF SHE PLACES, not if she decides to parent. Knowing how unethical this is, we can't possible move forward with this expectant mother OR with this agency.

We are very sad. We are sad that this poor woman may not know all of her options by the time she gives birth. We are sad that we are basically back at the beginning again. We are sad that we got sucked in, but also realize that this could happen very easily anywhere.

That is why we asked for prayers last night. We truly never thought we would be here, typing this message. I figured the woman would decide to parent, not that we would be pushing the agency to give her ethical counseling.

I honestly don't have any more words. I have cried what I feel like is my last tear. I have gone from being mad, to proud of us for doing the right thing, to mad, to being worried about this mom, to mad, to feeling the biggest sense of peace I have ever felt. I know HE is in control and for now, that is enough.

P.S. I wanted to add that I will be doing a blog post about the agency simply because I think people in the adoption world need to know what type of agency that are working with if they choose to go with this agency. I am going to take a few days to process what all has happened and spend some time in prayer about how to best word the post so that I don't sound like a bitter adoptive parent, but an objective person that just wants to warn people what this agency is all about.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Need Some Prayer

I can't go into much detail yet, but will you please say a prayer for us tonight. We've had a very hard, emotional day and we are making some tough decisions tonight and trusting in HIM! I'll update as soon as I can!

Saturday, April 4, 2009


Sometimes it is so easy for me to get frustrated. I can be in a perfectly good mood and see something I have told the kids to pick up four times already and it just ticks me off.

Right now, I am frustrated with the adoption process. All I ask is that I have somewhat of a clue as to what is going on. Just when I am so frustrated I can scream, we get an update but then it's like we start all over and then hear nothing for a while and I get frustrated all over again. I hate that I feel this way.

I think most people would assume that I am frustrated because we are desperate for another child. Honestly, that's not the case. We TRULY believe that God is in control of this adoption (are you tired of me saying that yet?) so we know that his will is perfect and whatever is supposed to happen will happen. I am frustrated because in the adoption "industry" I have discovered that many people just don't keep you in the loop. I suspect it's because they are honestly just busy, but sometimes you just want to say "don't forget the adoptive parents!"

I remember when we were in the waiting process pre-Mary Elizabeth, we would be called to tell we were being shown and DAYS would go by before we heard anything, even a small update. When you call to question, you would get the standard "try to stay busy, we know it's hard, but God is in control!" Well, DUH...I know God is in control, but I also know that there's a little thing called "planning" I would like to do and a simple phone call even saying "we don't know anything yet" would be really nice. Especially when I feel like I am bugging you every time I call you.

So, the adoption update is this: expecting mom in GA has had her due date pushed back a bit. We don't have any other information on her, but continue praying for her. We have been asked by several different agencies this week to show our profile, which we have turned down. We still feel confident that our profile is in the right place...with this woman in Georgia.

I'm trying not to get frustrated and just realize this is part of the process. It happened last time, it's going to happen this time. Please continue to pray for us. The kids are on Spring Break next week so we are planning some fun activities including Rock City, going to the houseboat, and visiting grandparents and friends.

I'll keep you posted!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Children's Clothing Deals

I wanted to do a quick post to let my faithful readers know about some awesome deals to be had on boutique children's clothing Saturday, April 4. One of my favorite stores and the place I buy most of my kids boutique clothing, The Kids Clothes Basket, is having an AWESOME sale tomorrow morning starting at 10am. All of their merchandise in the back of the store, which includes LOADS of boutique goodies, is buy one get one for $1. Yes, $1. She has a great stock of girls and boys clothing size 0 and up and all of my favorite brands: Kissy Kissy, Baby Lulu, Danica and Dylan, Gymboree, and so much more! She also told me she just got some spring smocked dresses and outfits in at $44 each and they will be part of the sale....imagine getting two smocked dresses for $45! WHAT A DEAL!

Also, the Oak Hill school in Nashville (off Franklin Road at the Harding Road exit) is having their half off sale at their consignment sale. It's not a huge sale, but the quality is really good and they have a nice selection of great brands: Lilly Pulitzer, Oilily, Janie and Jack, etc. Sale starts at 8am so you have plenty of time to shop this sale and then head to Hendersonville to hit the Kids Clothes Basket sale.

Happy Shopping!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Time to toot some horns

Well, with all the madness of the last few weeks, I had compiled a little list of people I wanted to give some shout outs to. Yes, this post will be a little random, but if I don't do it now, I probably won't do it.

First, to Uncle Josh. Dude, your work is blowing me away (he's a photographer) His latest work of my precious niece, Maggie, and the last pic of my amazing sister, Ali, is unbelievable. The Lord has given him an AMAZING talent. And he's cheap...that's always good. Email him ASAP and book a spring portrait'll be happy you did.

Second, to A Bundle of Joy referral service. This is a company based out of NC. They are basically a go between, connecting agencies that have hard to place adoption situations with couples looking to adopt. We were contacted by them about the baby in FL last week and I have to tell you, they knocked our socks off! Martine and Kenya are the owners and they should each get a gold star for their compassion and customer service. They were constantly giving us updates, returned phone calls at the speed of light, and they get it when it comes to adoption. They promise to help their clients achieve an ethical adoption as fast as possible and they aren't afraid to stop working with an agency if they see that they are using unethical practices. Did I mention they are CHEAP! $100 to sign up with them and the match fee is around $1200 (I think) In the referral world, that is super cheap and I was super impressed with their ethics. You ladies rock! I SO WISH all agencies, referral services, etc. were like you! Check them out if you are looking to adopt and be sure to email them because many situations come and go so quickly that they don't have a chance to post them on their blog.

Have you checked out the new Shoe Carnival at Glenbrook in Hendersonville? They have got it GOING ON! It is super clean, the staff is super nice and they had an awesome basketball set-up that kept my kids busy while trying to wrestle them into trying on shoes. Plus, they are offering buy one get one half price. The best part? I got up front to pay and because I was buying four pairs, she let me spin the wheel giving me another $3 off. GOOD JOB Shoe Carnival...we will definitely be back.

Last, but certainly not least, you have got to go check out one of my favorite restaurants in Hendersonville: THE VERANDA. They don't have a website, but if you are in Hendersonville, TN on a Tuesday-Saturday, you need to check out this restaurant. Located in the back of Patricia Jane, a quaint little store that sells Vera Bradley, this awesome mother daughter team makes the best grilled Pimento Cheese sandwich EVER! Their fruit tea is to die for and their daily specials are awesome. They have indoor and outdoor seating and even have an area for you to have your daughter's tea party for her next birthday. I just love them to death...tell them I said hello when you stop in to eat!

That's it...that's all the horns I have to toot!

Two Years Ago Today

I realized a few days ago that today was a VERY significant day to us. You see, two years ago today we just gotten back from a wonderful trip to Disney with Kim and Chris. Adoption was so heavy on our hearts and we wondered should we start now? What agency should we use? How will the kids react? We came home, spent time with the kids and then after they went to bed, I began researching agencies. I found Bethany Christian Services online and realized they had a Nashville office. I found a form that was an initial application so I filled it out and submitted it online. I never realized where we would be two years later.

Today, I look at our almost 20 month old in awe. God KNEW she was to be our child and he KNEW we were going to be obedient to his calling. He blessed us with an amazing child, Mary Elizabeth. Her brothers and sister adore her. I couldn't love her more if I had birthed her myself. She has her daddy wrapped around her little finger.

Today, I am waiting for the phone to ring to see if this baby girl in Georgia is going to be our next blessing. Knowing her mom is 2 days overdue and probably miserable. God KNOWS what will happen and he KNOWS we are being obedient to his calling. HE has given me a HEART for these birthmothers. HE has given me a HEART to teach others about ethical adoptions.

Today, I am so thankful to be in this position even though it is really hard emotionally to be waiting...even though it is really hard to not really know what is going to happen next...even though we know that we might not adopt another baby (if God doesn't want us too). Today, I am just resting in HIS will, not my own.

It's been an AMAZING two years. I wouldn't trade them for anything and I look forward to seeing what the next 2 days, 2 months and 2 years bring!