Sunday, October 26, 2014

Adoption Celebration & Circus Party!

What a weekend it has been! On Friday we had our adoption finalization hearing. What a fun day! We celebrated with family and had cupcakes and apple cider and took a ton of pictures. We took a wonderful family photo with the judge. 

I have spent the last four and half years going in that court room and spent most of those years imagining our adoption ceremony in there. But when I walked in and set up with the kids in the front, sitting at the table, all I could think about was the fact that their birth parents sat in those very same chairs years ago when I sat in the back. I recounted a handful of hard court hearings and all of the waiting and ups and downs in the case. At times, I doubted we would ever get to this day. 

It worked out that my husband was off that day, as were the kids. So we woke up and everyone crawled into our bed and we took our time starting the day. We sang "Happy Adoption Day to you!"

As we made our way downstairs I began picking outfits to wear and getting everything together. 

Along with the pictures and cupcakes to celebrate I brought to the court house, two books. One for each child being adopted. We did this with my other son a few years ago at his adoption. We bought children's books on adoption and asked everyone to sign the inside cover and blank pages. It was such a treat to have the judge and counsel and everyone who had spent the last few years working with these kids, sign their books. :) We brought them to the party the next day and put them on our welcome table for everyone to sign as well. 

This is the book we bought for our son. 

This is the book we bought for our daughter. 

And just to share, this is the book we bought for our son at his adoption two years ago. 

Yesterday, the day after the hearing we had our big circus party to celebrate with everyone! 

Here are some of the fun pictures! I really had a great time putting it all together. :) I joke that it was a self-serve circus because I wanted everyone to have fun and play without having a ton of people work at the party. All of the food was ready without any continue prep needed during the party. 

Originally I was going to use circus peanuts but I had a hard time finding them. However, I was super excited to use swedish fish and make my It's O-FISH-AL sign! In celebration of our adoption finally being official. :)

This was so sweet. We had several people mark a special verse to share with our kids. I loved reading through this after I got home. What a treasure. 

Grab a nose and clown around! These were so fun! I got them at Oriental Trading Company. 

I had two buckets of mini circus animal bean bags, also from Oriental Trading Company. They were a fun party favor for the kids to adopt and take home.

This was pretty simple to make! I was given a box from a dishwasher and I cut the holes and put baskets inside from the Dollar Tree. I hot glued them in place so they kept an angle that allowed the balls to stay inside. Having the paper on the floor with feet to mark the start of the line really helped let everyone know where to stand. Again, going with the service of self serve, kids, and adults, could play this game all on their own. 

Ping Pong Toss. I had another box, also similar to the one above and I cut one whole side off and painted three colors on top. After it dried I hot glued plastic cups on top and that was it! Super easy and quick. 

We had a coloring station with free circus pages that I found online. 

This was a lot of fun. We had a photo booth and a lot of props to go with it. I got some pretty awesome pictures! With halloween just around the corner it was a perfect time to get a great selection. Plus, my kids dress up so much at home that adding to our collection was another bonus. 

These were pretty easy to make, I found cut outs to print and I hot glued them to thin dowels. 
Have I mentioned I love my hot glue gun? 
So many projects, so little time. 

Thankfully between my mother-in-law and I we have these awesome pieces for serving drinks. We did lemonade and water, again keeping it simple for refills. 

This was my favorite part to put together. The popcorn bar!  

These bags were super fun to make. I got them at my local Cash and Carry and cut them down to size with a fun pair of scissors I have. I found these two stamps in my Close To My Heart collection and put them together. "Yummy in my tummy" was perfect! I decided to do these instead of the typical red and white striped bags because they don't stand up on their own and with so many kids there would have been a lot more spillage. :)

Regular and Chicago style popcorn...both from Costco, in big bags, ready to serve. 

And then there were LOTS of candy treats to mix in. 

We were given wonderful balloons from the caseworker, attorney, and our certifier. So sweet! 

We were able to rent an amazing space. here is a picture of all of the tables while we set up. 

I didn't get a great photo of our center pieces but we did big mason jars full of peanuts and loosely wrapped tickets around them on the table. 

We had a big photo display on the wall with over 200 photos of the kids. They really are our happily ever after. 

"Hugs and Kisses from our kids."
More party favors! I found hershey's kisses and chocolate hugs to put in these little snack size zip lock bags. 

I have been so touched by the love and support we have received, not only this weekend but for the last several years. It has been a long road and one that has brought me closer to God. 

I love all five of my children so much and I feel so lucky to be their mom. I get a front row seat to watching them grow up and discover God's will for their lives. :)

Monday, October 13, 2014

What a difference a year makes!

After church yesterday, we went to the pumpkin patch with the kids. We had perfect weather. The fresh air felt so good, a little crisp, but not too cold. 

I was looking forward to this day for a while now but inside I was a little anxious about how it would go. Last year we had such a short and hard visit to this same place. Our youngest little guy was right in the thick of pushing me away and social outings were especially hard for him. 

What a difference a year can make. Last year at this time I was scared, exhausted, and I spent a lot of time trying to predict the future. I worried about every parenting decision I made, for fear that I was only adding to the problem and not fixing it. Attachment, or lack of it, had creeped into my home when I was unaware and unprepared. 

But on this day, we took our time visiting the "farm" and saw the chickens and horses and ponds covered in lily pads.  We were not rushed. We had no agenda. Robert would run up the hill and reach for my hand. The kids climbed on bales of hay, and I even found them laying down, relaxing, on the green grass.

Our family has been talking about living on a farm for quite a while now, and walking around this beautiful place only made us want it more. :) 


 I was so incredibly thankful to see my handsome boy explore the grounds and ask to hold my hand and be at such peace. What a difference a year makes. A year of therapy, bonding, hard work, consistency, grace, and prayer, all of which have brought my son and I to this day. 

These boys are the light of my life. I am so blessed to have two incredible, handsome, guys. Who love each other so much.

 Katie, smelling the flowers (and maybe picking one or two).

I can't wait to finalize our adoption for these two amazing kids, in just a few weeks!

Mia, was near tears a few times, she wants to live on a farm so bad. She talks about training horses and getting up early to get chicken eggs in the morning.  I think she would live outside if I let her. :)

 Here she is on our tractor ride. Wishing we had fields of corn. :)

We of course had to stop and enjoy some carmel apples and this year we tried an apple cider slushy!

I think the kids loved feeding the horses the most.

These were the best horses. One of them even rubbed his nose on my cheek. The kids didn't want to leave this part of the farm.

Katie picked up some hay that had fallen on the ground and cautiously fed one of the horses. 

Mia's words, "This is amazing! I have never fed a horse before!"

After seeing the animals, we made our way to the hay maze, tunnel slides and bouncy house. Before we left we picked out our pumpkins to take home. I had the most amazing day with my kids. No meltdowns, no raging fits, no rushing. 

Maybe last year it wasn't just Robert that was having a hard time, maybe my heart was just in turmoil, just as much. I know that I lived on edge, I worried, tried to predict, prevent and prepare. I didn't know how to parent a child that pushed me away. It wasn't until I let go and just parented in the moment that I calmed down. I let go of the fears that consumed my thoughts. I remembered that I just needed to love Robert as God loves me. You can read more about our journey to attachment HERE

Today wasn't about the kids having perfect behavior. Overstimulating days can cause tears no matter what age we are. But what I loved about this day was that I felt such joy knowing that we had come so far as a family. We had conquered some of those obstacles and as we get ready to go to that court house in a few weeks to celebrate our family, we will hold our heads high and hearts full, thanking God for His blessings. 

Here is one more picture to brighten your day. I know it made me smile! As we were leaving church earlier in the day, I saw Katie and Robert holding hands as we walked to our car. 

It completely melted my heart. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Exciting Adoption News!

We FINALLY have a date set for next month to finalize our adoption for Katie and Robert!!! 

What?! I is crazy exciting. 

I can't wait to make it official and have a big party to celebrate this long, brought-me-to-my-knees,  wonderful journey. They have been my kids for so long but to have it be finalized is such a wonderful thing to jump up and down about! 

As a gift to myself, or from my husband, how ever you want to see it :), I ordered this set as part of our celebration. I LOVE Willow Tree. My mother-in-law started buying me Willow Tree Christmas ornaments every year when I first got married. It has been a fun traditional gift that I just love! 

I have been waiting, (and asking) that they create figurines with darker skin and darker hair to help represent adoption. Well they finally came out with some! So now I can have my whole family represented. (I was willing to paint over the little boy figurine if needed.) I do have to add that I think they could be quite a bit darker...there isn't a ton of difference from the other figurines. :(

I have been busy planning the most amazing fun circus themed party to celebrate! Including: clown noses, face painting, bean bag toss games, animal balloons and cotton candy! 

And on a more touching note...I have already purchased children books about adoption for Robert and Katie. We did this with our adoption for Jabar and I had everyone (judge, attorneys, caseworkers, therapists, family, friends) sign the inside page with a little note. I love being able to look back at all of the people that helped support our family. 

So...stay tuned because at the end of next month we will have fun pictures to share!

For now,  I will be enjoying my new decor above the fireplace.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Catering for a Labor Day Campout

Earlier this year I was asked to cook for a campout at the church I grew up in. My parents still attend and this year they were organizing the annual church campout. 

It was an out reach to the community and while it rained most of the weekend, we had a wonderful time. 

Here are some pictures of my food adventures!

I put together these buckets to help people know where to line up for food. I made signs to change out for every meal. The signs had scripture, quotes, thoughts, all about prayer. Unfortunately, it rained after the first breakfast and well, I didn't laminate my signs. :) I was able to use them though for the last meal after church on Sunday, once the sun shined through. :)

These five gallon buckets were easy to put together. Thankfully my dad provided the buckets and filled them with dirt he had on at his house. I got fabric and tied it around them. The signs were stapled into the sticks. The ground was too hard to put the signs into anyway and we were able to move the buckets around as we needed. :)

Ultimately, if the lines were long, I wanted to provide something for them to read and ponder while they waited. 

These were fun centerpieces to put together. I already had the jars, thanks to my mother-in-law.
The burlap and red gingham fabric were easy enough to wrap around and while I thought I was going to get white carnations at the store I was happy to see they had red! I did have red gingham napkins unfolded into a large square under the vase but with the moisture from the rain, they didn't last past the first day. :) 

 Our first breakfast included, scrambled eggs with diced ham and shredded cheese (tillamook cheese, at my dad's request), roasted potatoes and yogurt cups with berries on top and granola on the side.

After the first meal and the pouring down rain, we moved our food table under the big dining tent to let people be fully covered from the rain. We had black carts we could use to bring the chafing dishes out to the tent, from the kitchen.

Here are some pictures of our fruit cups...I layered them with pineapple (the most juicy on the bottom), strawberries, green grapes and blueberries on top. These large trays fit perfectly in the fridge and were really helpful for storing our dished up food. :) 

For the second breakfast we had miniature quiches, sausage links, a fresh fruit cup, and assorted costco muffins. 

Cutting them in half allowed for people to take different flavors...always hard to choose! 

"Rise and Shine happy campers!" Breakfast is ready to eat! 

Our first lunch of the weekend: 
Who doesn't love to pick out their own bag of chips!?

A different view for how we arranged the line and from the kitchen to the big dining tent. This was on the last day, when it was nice and sunny. :)

Build your own deli sandwich. Having servers was a big part on why this lunch was successful. We bought black aprons for them to wear, to look unified, we had gloves for serving and with their help the line moved right along. 

We had three different types of meat: roast beef, turkey breast, and smoked ham.
We pre-portioned them and folded them up to make it ready to put on the sandwich. 

I bought pre-sliced cheese but we layered them so they were quick to grab two slices to put on the sandwich. I separated each layer of cheese with plastic wrap so they wouldn't all stick together. I was able to prepare these after breakfast and have them in the fridge, ready to serve. 

I first intended to group these items together, tomato and pickles laying on top of the lettuce. But because the group wasn't so large we could have more time getting though the line. I also provided squirt bottles for mayo, ketchup and mustard. No messy knives in mayo jars etc...  

Pasta salad! The day before I cooked the pasta in batches, not too well done so they held their shape, I put them in an ice bath, covered in a little bit of oil so they didn't stick and put them in zip lock bags. We chopped up cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and carrots and mixed them all together in a big bowl with italian dressing and a bit of italian seasoning. After dishing them up in a cup we put a little fresh parsley on top for looks. :) 

Having them dished up already was great. The dressing didn't get all over the plate.

Having some of the food already dished up into cups allowed people to just grab some and go. It was a constant theme for many of our meals. It allowed me to know how many portions I had and kept the line moving at a fast pace. Plus, it made the food look pretty! :)

Dinner Time:
With the rainy weather this meal was a big hit! Hot chili and hot dog bar. :) 

We did have to grill these before service with an umbrella over the outside grill. :) It was pouring rain at dinner time. In fact at one point we had to wait until it slowed down before we brought more food out. I was happy to be working in the kitchen all day! :)

Fixin's!  We had a smaller pot of chili for our gluten-free guests. 

Cheese, onions, saurkraut, banana wax peppers, and jalapeƱos. What else could you want for your hot dog? :) 

Watermelon was a perfect side to this meal! 

After church lunch! We had the most guests on this meal and the sun was finally shining!

Our menu: BBQ pulled pork sandwiches (I didn't get a picture), corn on the cob, watermelon, and chips and chocolate pudding dessert!

We had a great group, about 200 people for the last meal. The sun was out and it was a great way to end the weekend. :)  Plus, packing up with sun rather than rain was nice. :)
Pulled pork sandwiches. I bought pulled pork at costco, kirkland brand which is also gluten free. At home, before the weekend, I cooked it on the stove in batches, 28 batches to be exact. :) and mixed it with sweet baby rays BBQ sauce (Also GF) and put it a ziplock bag, flat, and into my freezer it went. :) Then we could reheat it before service and bring it up to temp, add more sauce if needed but it wasn't necessary, and it was ready to serve. Having pulled it apart before hand and pre-mixed it with sauce was a huge benefit and time saver. 

Corn on the cob was fun to cook. We actually did mini portions and cut the cobs in half.  We boiled them on the stove and kept them piping hot in these large crockpots. 

Isn't this just the cutest! I love these little dishes I found that perfectly fit my little cobb-ets! It let us brush butter on top and keep the drippings from getting all over the plate.  

Having melted butter in a crock pot was perfect for one of our servers to brush on the top of the corn. 

Another way we used the cups. These were great to put together. I mixed large bags of pudding mix, with gallons of milk and used a ladle to pour into these cups before they firmed up. Before service I added cool whip and used a chilled chocolate bar and an apple peeler to put curled chocolate shavings on top!

Looking back on it, after the rather filling meal, these cups didn't need to be as full to the top. :) It was a good portion of pudding. :) 

These trays cleared fast! We had cookies and fresh fruit as well.
This camp out was a ton of work, and long hours on my feet but I had the most amazing helpers in the kitchen. There were no emergencies, or kitchen disasters or last minute stresses. Everything came out hot and on time and ready to go. Our only issue was having a ton of food left over. But God used that food to provide for a local sandwich ministry that this church supported. The men were leaving for a camping trip the next weekend and used the rest of the left overs. :) What wasn't opened or still frozen was able to go back into the church for future events. 

Note to self: Do not wear new running shoes when you are going to be on your feet all weekend. After my 14-hour day on Saturday, I had quite battle-wound. :( A two-inch bruise on the bottom of my left foot. :(  

Thankfully my husband had a clean house for me when I got home and I could put my feet up before the school year started a few days later. :)

There were lots of fun events for the kids, pony rides, a giant bouncy house and this rock wall. My dad even climbed up to the top. Here are some of our girls climbing this rock wall. 

Overall, this was super fun and gave me a little outlet for catering. My husband and I used to work as professional cooks and have catered weddings for friends in the past. I love to host a party and see things come together for the big day!