Saturday, July 14, 2012

Sweet 16

Today my oldest child turns 16. Man! That's hard to believe!! I dont' really feel old enough to have a 16 year old, but I am. I was there...I remember the whole thing. Enough about me, this is about Hannah.

It was a Sunday morning when Hannah Evelyn made her big debut into this world. I was in labor with her for 25 hours (back labor, no less), and that has been the last time I have ever had trouble with her. Seriously.

From the moment she was born she has been so easy. I can only remember being really upset with her once or twice. She doesn't back talk, almost always does what she's told, goes to bed early, babysits her siblings without complaint, and is a very kind and compassionate person.  She was always the little girl who wowed family and friends with ultra smart comments. Like when my uncle said something about her fingers and she informed him that those were her phalanges. She was four at the time. That story still gets told at family gatherings!

Five years ago she decided to become vegetarian. At the time I was also, so it was easy for her. When Joel joined our family I started eating meat again, but Hannah stuck to her guns. That is something I am very proud of her for. Not many teenagers (that I know anyway) have to guts to have convictions like that and stick with them through thick and thin.  And she does get teased about it. We live in a community where hunting is the norm, even at the elementary school age.

She has also decided that a good education and career are better than boys. This is something David and I celebrate. She is torn about what she wants to be though. She goes back and forth between librarian and detective. I wish I had been this focused at her age. I think her plan goes something like this... college, career, move to England, find nice English man (Sherlock Holmes type), and settle down in posh flat with this man. Kids are optional. I'm okay with that.

Miss Hannah is also gaga over anything British. This is something that I inherited from my parents and have proudly passed onto my kids. She only watches shows from the BBC, which is nice. No Jersey Shore for this girl, which is very very nice.

I'm sorry I don't have a dramatic story about Hannah like I did the other two, but Hannah is just my undramatic child. If every child was like her I think the world's population would triple. I am glad she's unique. I feel very very blessed that she is in my life.

Hannah loving some spaghetti. I'm guessing she's about 10 or 11
months old here.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Little Man

My youngest child turns five today. This fact makes me sad...sort of. Time is moving way too fast! But I feel happy as well, and very blessed. Joel didn't come into our family in the traditional way. Two and a half years ago he became a Ward through the miracle of adoption.

Let's start at the beginning, shall we?  In late winter/early spring of 2007 I got the idea into my head that I wanted another child. I started checking out different adoption agencies and countries online. Every time I would go online for this search, I would always end up looking at this one agency's website. And looking at this one particular country...El Salvador. To this day I can't tell you why I was so attracted to that country. I decided to send away for some information.

About a week or two after I got my info, my friend Ashley came into the store where I worked and invited me on a mission trip her mom's brand new ministry was taking in July. "Where are they going?" I asked. Why...they were going to El Salvador! Now, I'm the kind of person who believes in signs. So right away I said, "OK! Sign me up!!"

In July of 2007 I made my first trip to the wonderful country of El Salvador. I fell head over heels in love with the country, the culture, and the people. Did I mention the food? They have this fabulous little dish called a pupusa. It's the only food I have ever dreamed about. A pupusa is a stuff tortilla and is sent from Heaven. You can get them stuffed with just about anything, but I'm a simple gal...I like just beans and cheese. I could write a whole blog about pupusas but this one is about I will now get back on track.

So I went to El Salvador, fell in love, left my heart there, and decided that, yes, this is where I will adopt my third child.  When I got home I made David love ES just as much as me with just my words.  That fall we sent in our application and started to wait. On Thanksgiving eve of 2007 we got a call from our adoption agent telling us that they had found a little boy for us..a baby no less. His name is Diego and he was 2 months old. If you are saying to yourself "Ummm...I thought the kid's name was Joel not Diego.", please be patient, all will be explained. We said "Yes, we'd love to welcome Diego into our family!" and started to gather documents for our dossier.

All that seems pretty simple right? WRONG! It wasn't just a few things we had to gather. It was many, many documents. Doctor's exams, IQ tests, personality tests, psych exams, three different kinds of background checks, financial statements, multiple personal references, fingerprints...just to name a few. And they had to be filled out perfectly! After that all documents had to be notarized, county certified, and state apostilled! Needless to say, gathering all of this took me months!

On Christmas eve 2007, I got an email from the ministry I went to El Salvador with. They had a missionary down there they had sent money to. He used the money to buy lots of orphanages Christmas.  Along with this email were tons of pictures. I was looking through the pics, smiling at all of the familiar faces, when all of the sudden I start to see pics of Diego's orphanage. I perk up...please God let there be pics of him on here!! And there were!! The only problem was, there were pics of two babies the same age. I didn't know which one he was. But it didn't matter I had pics!! So I printed them out and stuck them on the frig.

For the next six months I prayed over those two baby boys. I even prayed God would allow me to adopt them both. The summer of 2008 found me in El Salvador again. This time I would be able to go meet Diego! We drove out to San Martin, ES on a Wednesday morning. I was so nervous!! I walked through the gates and there he was!! There they both were. Those babies I had prayed for, for so long!! They handed me Diego and introduced me to the other baby, Joel. What an emotional day. I was there with Diego well into the afternoon. I was able to call home and let David and the kids talk to him. Life was good!

Diego and I
July 2008

July 2008

Soon it was time to go back to the states. I continued to pray for Diego and was happy to report to the family all I had learned about him and Joel. Since we had prayed for both of them for so long, we all had an interest in "the other baby" but Diego was going to be our son, so our main focus was on him.

A huge part of any adoption is waiting. We became very good at it. Calls from the agency were few and far between. One came on New Year's eve 2008. Have you noticed how all major things for us happened on a holiday eve? This call was devastating. Diego's father had come that fall and taken him out of the orphanage. Adopting Diego was no longer an option. Our lawyer in ES had decided to start adoption paperwork on Joel. She had been with me on one of my visits to see Diego and had seen how much I also loved Joel. That night I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. I felt like I had lost a child. I guess I had. I had my mom on one side and my dad on the other. They held me and just let me cry it out. I don't remember where David maybe.

So, we moved on and changed our focus. That little goofy baby I had met that summer was now OUR goofy little baby. But before we could call me ours officially we had to wait some more. That summer things started Two families we knew, that were also adopting from ES, went and got their kids, and we found out we had been approved as a family and that we had been matched with Joel. Adoptions from ES are notoriously difficult and we were glad to have those things behind us. We just needed our court date. So we waited some more, of course!

Time was dragging now.  We were all starting to get discouraged, but we soldiered on. In early October, David got Joel's room done. About a week later we got the call we had been waiting for. "Your court date is November 12th." YES! YES!! YES!!!  For the next three weeks our house was a whirlwind of activity. Getting all the little odds and ends sorted, buying things we hadn't yet, and packing. Then, all of the sudden, it was time. My mom and brother drove us to Nashville and we were on our way to see our little guy!

On Thursday November 12, 2009, Joel Humberto Rodriguez Alfaro become Joel Humberto Ward. We spent close to a month in the wonderful country of El Salvador. I loved playing tour guide. Showing my family all of the places I enjoyed.  If you are a friend of mine on facebook you can see all of the pics I took while we were there. Warning!! There are a lot of them!

Our First glimpse of Joel
November 9, 2009

David holding Joel for the first time

Mini vacation to the Pacific ocean

A complete family at last...and on our way home!!

On December 2, 2009, after a long plane ride, we touched down in Atlanta and Joel became a US citizen. We breathed a HUGE sigh of relief.  After two long years he was ours.

He doesn't know it, but he's an American now!

I look out the kitchen window and see him swimming with his father and sisters and my heart just swells with love and pride. I can't imagine my life without him. Being the mother of a little boy was not something I was prepared for but it is something I now know I could never live without.

He's FIVE!!!!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Nightmare on Lakeview Drive

There are moments in your life that show you what you are made of.  Evidently I am made of jello.  I am a big bowl of wobbly green jello. I used to think I was pretty brave and well, maybe I still am...I just don't know.

The best place to start a story is at the here goes.

I am sick. I have a massive sinus infection. So about 11pm last night I took a benedryl, which for me is heavily medicated. I normally don't take anything like that if I am home alone with the kids. You just never know what might happen. (Insert ominous foreshadowing music here) I did not listen to my inner voice, however, and I took the pill.

Somewhere between 12:30am and 1am a noise woke me from a deep sleep. I got up, walked around a little bit, everything seemed to be fine. The only thing that was wrong was that one of my dogs had peed on the floor outside my bedroom. Since I was in my drug induced stupor I decided to deal with it in the morning and just go back to sleep.

Deep sleep again...dreaming pleasantly...loud noise followed by loud crash. Then Joel's voice yelling "MOM!! MOM!!!" from the end of my bed. I am on auto pilot...Joel wakes up so much at night that I can deal with him easily without being fully awake. I look at the clock and see it's 1:15, get up and follow Joel towards the living room. As we are walking I am turning on lights and I see what the loud crash was. It was the baby gate keeping the dogs in the back of the house away from the chicks. I start to get onto Joel for opening the gate, the dogs could have hurt the chickens, blah, blah, blah...

My only thought was to get the dogs and Joel rounded back up and into bed. I see Kevin sitting in the doorway to the living room (On point and staring at the door, but I am a typical horror movie heroine and don't notice the warning signs), so I start yelling for Eli. I can't find him but decide to get the gate back up and Kevin and Joel stowed away (I find Eli later in my room sound asleep in his bed on the floor). Before leaving that part of the house I check on the chickens.  They are a little keyed up but otherwise fine. As we are leaving, Joel points to the front door and starts to growl. That's strange I think and keep moving.

I put Joel back in his bed and notice the security light is on. I take a peek outside to see if David is home early, don't see him...must be the cat, then tell Joel goodnight. Joel won't stay in his bed so I tell him to just go get in my bed. He does and I decide to go to the bathroom. That light was still on so I decide to turn it off...after all the window is open.  (This is the part of the movie where the music is starting to get a little higher and faster, but our heroine is still in her own little world.)

I am sitting there doing my thing when I hear the wind chimes on the front door clang. You see, I have wind chimes on all of my doors because I live in a house where the preschool crowd has always loved to escape. Anyway, chimes are a chiming.  Maybe David is home...but he can't be I just looked outside and didn't see his scooter. This is that moment when all of the pieces started to fall into place.Noise earlier, loud noise just now, Joel yelling for me, Kevin on guard, chickens keyed up, Joel pointing at door and growling. OH! F&%K!!! Someone is trying to get into my house!!! My brain starts hyperventilating but I am not breathing.

I dare to take a peek out the window...remember I am still in the bathroom...trying to keep as still as possible.  There is no knock on the door but I definitely hear someone on the front porch. I hear some shuffling and then all of the sudden a man comes into my view. He is right in front of the window I am standing by! He hasn't noticed me yet. He is walking slow enough that I get a good look at him. White male, mid 50s, wearing only dark blue or grey sweat pants, bald head, bandaged left forearm. Then, when he is directly in front of me he turns his head suddenly and is staring at me. Just his head, like something out of a real deal horror movie. Our eyes are locked. He saw absolute fear in mine...I saw blankness in his. Sometimes that is scarier than seeing rage. I am breathing, hard. I have my hand over my mouth trying not to scream, I've stumbled back a few steps. The whole time he is staring blankly at me. I yell at him "You need to leave! You have to go home now!". By yell I mean a squeaky, shaky voice barely above a whisper. I slam the window shut and run for my phone. To call the police? No...didn't cross my mind. I called David.

It is a miracle that he actually picked up, and on the second ring no less. I somehow convey to him what is going on and he wants me to find out if the guy is still in front of our house. I gather my 20 seconds of insane courage and look out Joel window. He is still out there, but now he is trying to break into my car! My bug!!! Oh, heck, no! I bang on the window to no avail. That's when I realize he is trying to open my car door with imaginary keys. So I hang up with David and run back to the bathroom window.  I open it up, all of the sudden feeling much braver, but still wobbly. I yell at him to leave my car alone and that I am calling the police. Within seconds he is there again, in my face. We are inches apart, separated only by a screen.  I again tell him to go home and that I am calling 911. He tells me "But my mom told me the address was 776." This is when it clicks that something is very wrong with this man. Mentally ill, perhaps, or maybe just messed up on drugs. I tell him once more to go home, he has the wrong address. He says "OK...I'll just get in my car" and points to my bug. I tell him again that it is my car and I start to dial 911. He takes off at that. Here's the really freaky part...He looks like he is walking slow, but he was going really fast. It looked supernatural.

Joel and I station ourselves in the bathroom window making sure he doesn't come back or bother our next door neighbor...she's a single mom with three little ones. I was very worried about her. (Insert more foreshadowing music here). The police come a whopping 20 minutes later and of course don't find him. David gets home shortly after that. Alls well that ends well right?

This afternoon, the next door neighbor comes over to tell me about her strange night. About 11:45 her smoke alarm goes off, freaking her out quite a bit.There's nothing worse than something loud waking you up in the middle of the night. She calls her parents and asks them to come down and stay with her. They agree to and will be on their way shortly. She unlocks her side door for them and goes back to bed. We live in a neighborhood where that is (was) possible. About 12:30 something wakes her up. It sounds like someone in her kitchen. She hears foot steps and banging around. She calls out to her answer. She gives him a call on the phone asking if he was in her house and he tells her no, they haven't left their house yet. She is so freaked out that she can't move. Finally the sounds stop and she gets up her 20 seconds of insane courage and goes to investigate. Nothing.

This morning they found broken glass (from a drinking glass) on her front sidewalk and blood everywhere. All over her sidewalk, all over her front window, and on the handle of her side door. I told her to call the police and she did. They came out and took samples and left.

We can speculate about what happened but we will never know. All we do know is that some crazy person was between her house and mine for 45 minutes doing God knows what. I also know that I won't go to sleep until David gets home, which isn't for a couple more hours. And I also know that my poor little sweet son is terrified that the "Man with the bandage on his arm" is coming back. He keeps looking out the windows and crying if the dogs make the smallest noise.

Let's hope tonight is calm.

Sweet Dreams

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Food Revolution Day

I am passionate about food...real food that is. I love eating fresh locally grown fruits and veggies! I was always the kid who ate all her vegetables without being asked (except celery...I just cannot eat it without gaging!). I also indulged in raw milk (which is illegal to buy) and fresh eggs. I am fully aware of the fact that all of this has made me a food snob. While I eat a lot of different foods, I am also very picky! Words like deep fried, batter dipped, processed, and filler make me want to run very fast in the opposite direction.

My children's enthusiasm for whole food is varied.  My eldest is a vegetarian, something I turned her onto. If left to her own devices she would be content to eat cheese, pasta (with no sauce..unless it's cheese), cucumbers,faux buffalo wings, and faux bacon. In the past year, however, she has really opened up to new foods. She actually ate a salad last night that wasn't iceberg lettuce drowned in ranch!!

My middle child is a very good eater. She'll eat all the veggies and fruit you give her, but she also likes fried things like fish sticks and nuggets. I've been tempted to show her a video on how these things are made, but she's still young and I don't want to scar her. My youngest child and only son will eat everything you put in front of him, except corn. He's also not allowed to have any processed sugar. He knows this and doesn't fight me when I tell him no to a soda, chocolate milk, or juice. Knowing that my kids will eat what I give them scares me a little, that's a lot of power. As Peter Parker's uncle Ben said, "With great power comes great responsibility".  That's scary!! It means that I get to choose if they eat fried and processed foods, candy, and chips or salads, apples, and broccoli.  For 16 years it has been up to me what goes in those little mouths and I haven't always made good choices.  This past Saturday we went to eat with our church's confirmation class, and I had a coke. I am still feeling guilty about that! But, man, every sip tasted so good.

My husband has not been much help...until recently that is. At the beginning of the year I waged war on everything unhealty in our lives. David, being the supportive husband that he is, jumped on board. After 20+ years he quit smoking!! The downside is that he is gaining weight. For the first time in his life he has to watch what he eats. Before, if I didn't buy junk food, he never complained, but if I did, he was so happy. Now he is actually encourging me to not buy crap and is finally backing me up when I tell the children "no".

For years I have been a huge Jamie Oliver fan. He's always been about healthy eating without having to have a bunch of crazy ingredients. When he started his show "Food Revolution", I was so excited. If you've never seen it you should check it out. You can see both seasons at The show really sheds light on what we are feeding our kids at school. He also talks about how bad we are eating as a nation. He did the show in England with huge success, but he is having a harder time here in the states.

This year, for the first time, we are celebrating "Food Revolution Day" on May 19th.  This Saturday!! It's not just in America, but all over the world. You can see what all is going on here:

So in honor of Food Revolution Day I am sharing one of my favorite recipes with you.  Not only is it easy to make, but cheap! It's also rich in all kinds of vitamens and protein. Anyone who tells you you can't get the protein you need from a plant based diet doen't know what they are talking about!

Brazilian Black Bean Stew
6 servings
30 minutes or fewer
Here's a quick vegetarian version of the Brazilian national dish known as feijoada. This stew entices the eye with the colorful contrast of black beans and sweet potatoes and pleases the palate with nourishing ingredients.
  • 1 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes (1 to 1 ¼ lbs.), peeled and diced
  • 1 large red bell pepper, diced
  • 14.5-oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1 small hot green chili pepper, or more to taste, minced
  • 2 16-oz. cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 ripe mango, pitted, peeled and diced
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • ¼ tsp. salt
Meal plan:
  1. Steam some Swiss chard while the stew is simmering and serve with warmed flour tortillas.
    In large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook, stirring, until onion is golden, about 3 minutes.
  2. Stir in sweet potatoes, bell pepper, tomatoes (with liquid), chili and 1 1/2 cups water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until potatoes are tender but still firm, 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Stir in beans and simmer gently, uncovered, until heated through, about 5 minutes. Stir in mango and cook until heated through, about 1 minute. Stir in cilantro and salt. Serve hot.

Per Serving:

  • Calories: 326
  • Protein: 16
  • Total Fat: 4
  • Saturated Fat:
  • Carbohydrates: 61
  • Cholesterol:
  • Sodium: 211
  • Fiber: 17
Enjoy!! And Happy Food Revolution Day!!!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Stop to Smell the Honeysuckle

My favorite part of the day has always been right after sunset. A time of day I used to call twilight, but unfortunately I can no longer call it that without thinking of teenage vampires. Regardless, I still love that time of day. I also really love that time in the morning right before the sun peeks up from behind the trees. I guess I love these times because of the magical feel in the air. The lighting is so soft, and I just get this excited feeling like something wonderful is about to happen.

I was blessed to be outside today at both of these times. A rare treat indeed!  This morning I was out getting the chickens water (and then chasing my silly little white dog). This evening I was planting in the big garden. Both times I felt this calm come over me. It was almost as if a voice said "Stop everything you are doing and look around! Look at all the blessings God has bestowed upon you!". 

I haven't written in a while. It's not that I haven't had good ideas. I've had several. It's just that I've been in a little bit of a funk. Funk may not be the right word. Soul searching may be better. I don't know. I've just been thinking deep thoughts.  About six weeks ago one of my daughter's best friends killed herself. A beautiful girl named Ashley. She had just turned 15...a day her parent's did not they never had. She was well loved by many, was not bullied, she loved tattoos, David Bowie, anything French, and she always had a good story to tell.

Not even a month later, a good friend of my niece's committed suicide. He was 16. Same story...well liked, not bullied. I've been thinking a lot about these kids, and others like them who are so desperate to end their pain that they choose a permanent solution to a temporary problem. While I have been terribly sad by all of this, it's really made me cling to life so much more, almost as a tribute to them. In the past couple of weeks I've really made a conscience effort to put myself (my soul that is) first. Sounds pretty selfish, doesn't it? Let me explain my thinking...

There is this story I heard once. On Oprah, I think. It goes like this... When you board an airplane, they tell you all of the safety stuff you need to know. One of the things they tell you is "If the oxygen masks come out, put yours on first. THEN help your child and those around you." At first you think "Help myself before my kids!! Those idiots!!!" But the reason they tell you this is because if you fail to put on your mask you may pass out before you can help anyone. Then where will you be? What will happen to your kids? Apply this metaphor to your life. We are so busy with everything that we forget to stop and take in all that is good.

I don't really know where I am going with all of this, but I do know that God gave me a dose of oxygen this morning and tonight. I feel so blessed that I was able to recognize it for what it was. I had Emma run in and get my camera so I could explore all the blessings my little "farm" has to offer. Hope you enjoy them!!!

Kevin...the Miracle Puppy

Honeysuckle has taken over the far corner of the property
It smelled soooooooo good!


Two of my favorite blessings!! If you are having trouble with faith let me
 tell you about how these little monsters came into the family.
God is good!

Elinor's first trip to the garden!! She was very alert and curious.

Ellie again...I know a mother shouldn't pick favorites, but I can't help it with her!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Real Reason

My sister found out my secret and sent me this pic.  I'm not  raising my own food in an effort to improve my health and that of my family, I actually know a secret.  ZOMBIES ARE COMING!!!!

In our house we have a plan for fires, tornados, earthquakes, AND Zombie apocalypse. No joke. You can ask me about it anytime. 

The Proof is in the Pudding

Well...the proof is in the yolk actually.  In case you are still confused about why you should eat local, fresh, and organic, I snapped a pic last week that I wanted to share with you. 

First a little back story.  Did you know that a well cared for hen can live as long, if not longer, than the family dog or cat? True, but they only lay for about 3 or 4 years, and you usually won't get a whole lot of eggs in the colder months. I have been getting farm fresh eggs from my parents for years, but well, their gals are getting a little on the old side. A couple of months ago they just stopped laying! Much to my dismay, I actually broke down and bought eggs at the store.  Something I hadn't done in a very long time. So I really studied those eggs at Walmart, trying to make the best choice for my family. I finally chose organic, free-range eggs for almost $4 a dozen. 

I should have know something was amiss when I opened the carton and all the eggs were the exact same shade of brown (can we say "spray paint!"). I guess you could say I was turning a blind eye. About 3/4 of the way through my last dozen store bought eggs I get the call I have been waiting for all winter..."The girls are laying again!" YAY!!!  I was so excited when my mom brought me my fresh eggs, but I wanted to make sure the others didn't go to waste. So as we were making dinner (I can't remember what...fried rice maybe?) I cracked open the last old egg and needed one more. So into the bowl went a fresh, local, truly organic egg.

I knew there was a difference, but until I saw them side by side I didn't know how big that difference was.  Keep in mind that on the outside these two eggs were the same size.

The one on the top is the one from my parent's chickens.  After I saw this, I actually said, "Holy S#*t! I have got to take a pic of this! No one will believe me!" My husband was even impressed...not easily done.

Another fun can actually tell what a hen has been fed by the color of the yolk. A hen that has been fed yellow corn and has been allowed to really and truly roam and forage will have a nice, large orange yolked egg.  Chickens LOVE to eat bugs and grass and anything else they can find hidden in the shallow earth. Some sources even say that these eggs contain more nutrients.  I like to think that is true.

On the other hand, hens that are kept "cooped up", not allowed to forage, and are fed a diet of wheat and a little white corn have very pale yolks.  Much smaller one too.

They say you are what you you have to you want to be weak, anemic looking, and tiny on the inside, or do you want to be strong, vibrant, and full of health? Hhmmm....seems like a no brainer to me.