True Love: The feeling when you first look in your child's eyes, the tiny little hand gripping your finger, and you can't imagine your life without him or her.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Wrapping Up 2011 {Sunday Snapshot}

I've been trying to come up with a good way to wrap up our year, in blog-form. After checking other people's blogs, I finally decided to steal combine a few of their ideas. I want to go back through & remember some highlights from each month, seeing as next month marks 1 year since I began blogging. P
***WARNING: This is a LONG post!!***

So, we'll start at the beginning. The beginning of 2011. The beginning of our family blog.

January 2011
January brought more snow for us. We were trying to figure out where all the new Christmas toys would go (& thinking about the chaos that would come next Christmas with double the toys!). I was getting ready to start another semester at school- my last before we would leave for China. I had to keep my grades high (which wasn't easy), as it was fierce competition to get into the major I wanted.

 I'm rarely seen in any pictures, so I really like this one. Yeah- it's a cell phone pic, but oh well. 
(Matt isn't the best at taking pictures, so I don't let him use the camera much)

Xandra & I helped daddy by trying to clear the snow off the driveway & sidewalk. We didn't do a wonderful job, but we had fun!! We were about 14 months into our adoption journey at this point- working on tons of paperwork. 

February 2011
February brought us more snow, of course. And snow days. We celebrated our 1st Chinese New Year with our FCC. I spent most of that evening day-dreaming about what it would be like when we would celebrate with our son. We were approved by the NVC to get Milo's visa, which was the final step before China would send us Travel Approval. And we decided to sponsor a little girl through Love Without Boundaries

March 2011
March brought a major natural disaster- Japan's massive earthquake & subsequent tsunami. It was devastating & truly brought home just how small the world is- that everything has an impact. Back home, we began to see the sun again, and spend a little time outside. I got lasik surgery, so I would be able to see our son during those inevitable middle-of-the-night wake-ups. The biggest news for our family was getting our TA!! We got our immunizations in preparation for our big trip. 

Another cell phone pic- but I really love it. Sun through the blinds. Pretty. :)

April 2011
April brought my first (& probably last) photography "job." I helped our friends capture their wedding day. We purchased our plane tickets, and continued the countdown until we finally met our Milo. I tried to help a fellow-blogging-mama with donations to bring her 2 girls home. We got an incredible gift in an update on Milo & more recent pictures!! Xandra celebrated her birthday (very early) with her first friend party before we left for China. And I finally finished up the winter semester at school! Now I could concentrate only on our trip!

 I was on my way to school when I got these pictures & update. I heard the ding on my phone of a new email & waited until I was at a stop light to check. I opened the email to find those beautiful eyes staring back at me. About that time, the light changed & I had to drive. I nearly drove into the curb - thankfully, I had enough sense to put the phone down at that point so I didn't injure anyone - I was so excited!! As soon as I parked the car, I just sat staring at him (I did somehow remember to forward the email to Matt) & was late to class. ;)

May 2011
Amidst all of our preparations for the BIG trip, I decided to address some of the questions adoptive parents are asked. We have thankfully not dealt with many judgements (at least none to our face), but I wanted to put it out there for people who may be too shy or embarrassed to ask. Of course, May brought our son to us. I had trouble with the internet in China, so not many pictures got posted during our trip. We overcame our less-than-adequate guide in Shanghai, and managed to have a fairly smooth, though a little disappointing trip (we didn't get to see hardly anything in China- no tours, no sight-seeing). 

I was able to play catch-up once we got home, so everyone could see our pictures. We had the normal jet-lag sleeping problems to overcome. We also found out that Milo is very stubborn. Case in point, he held out waited almost 20 days from the day we met him to reveal that he knew how to walk! What a stinker!! And we began enjoying each other as a family. On a side note, I found out in May that I had been accepted into the Sonography program at school!! Yea!! :)
M Pool 5-30-11

MX Pool 5-30-11

June 2011
I'm so happy we were able to bring Milo home when the weather started getting nice. We spent a lot of time outside, burning off energy & exploring new things. We celebrated noted the 4-week-versary of meeting Milo. We celebrated Father's Day. I finished up Milo's Gotcha {Forever Family} video. And we continued to deal with a bit of jet lag.
Oh this boy!! Love him so much!!

Could this outfit be any cuter?? HA!! 

July 2011
We continued to play outside & enjoyed our baby pool & water toys a lot. We found out Milo has pretty much no fear, so I've had to go on blood pressure medication (not really, but it feels like I should sometimes!). We introduced Milo to one of our family's favorite "traditions"- eating a TON of seafood (aka Matt's crab boil)- YUMMM!! We took Milo to his Int'l Adoption Clinic appointment, where he was assessed slightly behind his age group, but overall very healthy & improving daily! And we celebrated Milo's 2nd (but 1st with us) birthday!! 

August 2011
In August, Milo started daycare with Xandra. We thought the transition might be a little smoother if he could see Xandra there. I was saddened to learn one of the little girls my blogger-friend was trying to being home had passed away. Milo made us giggle with his sense of humor. And Xandra started Kindergarten. {sigh} She's getting too big for my tastes.

One of my all-time favorite photos of Xandra. :)

September 2011
I felt adventurous, and decided to set up some finger-painting for the kids. And coloring became a favorite activity. We continued to experience various illnesses. Ugh. I took Lisa's photography class, and began practicing my new skills

Could they be any cuter??
They're finally figuring out how to play together & love each other.

October 2011
We enjoyed the cooler weather of fall, and went outside as much as we could (I've found that 2 kids stuck inside the house all day leads to lots of fighting & yelling- get 'em outside to burn off that energy!!). I had big plans for my fall break from school. And we went to our city's annual Fall Fest. It was an important couple days for Matt, who was in full campaigning mode (running for our city council). We all managed to get sick at the same time, which is never fun. Milo started learning & using words - so exciting!! And of course, we celebrated Milo's 1st Halloween.

November 2011
We are reminded over & over just how determined our Milo is- he just doesn't stop until he's figured things out! We began a bit of a downward spiral when Milo decided that sleep was overrated, and he didn't need any. We also had another bad experience with our social worker, and felt for the first time that we were being judged as "bad" parents. It left a very bad taste in our mouths, so to speak. Milo also (maybe due to lack of sleep) experienced a very bad day (grieving?). We're still learning about each other, so we try to take each day as it comes. And, we got out all the Christmas stuff to start decorating!!

Love, love, love our little big man! There's nothing he can't do!!

December 2011
December continued for a while with our Milo-induced-sleep-deprivation. It lasted about a month, all told. It was a very difficult time, because lack of sleep will do some crazy things to you. There was more fighting, yelling, tantrums, and all-around unhappiness than I would like to admit. And most of it was from the adults. Not a good time. And I had one of those "wish I had never gotten out of bed this morning" kind of days, where everything went wrong. Milo had his first Christmas program with his daycare & we attended our FCC's Christmas party. After the initial November vote, an official count of all of the provisional & absentee ballots, and a recount of all precincts, Matt was finally officially sworn into our city council (with a win by only 3 votes!). I took Milo & Xandra to paint some pottery. We enjoyed some unusually "warm" weather on Christmas Eve. We celebrated Milo's 1st Christmas!! In the midst of all the holiday celebrations, Matt & Xandra decided to come down with the flu. :(

What a year!! Overall, I think we've had an awesome year! It was life-changing. Of course, we've had our ups & downs (who doesn't?). I'm so grateful for all our family is & has been blessed with. I'm also grateful to have this record (both written & through pictures). So, even if I don't have much of an audience after this hugely LONG post, I'll enjoy it!!

Next year's goals:
> Work on & FINISH Milo's life book
> Rework Milo's Forever Family Video (I'm kind of a perfectionist like that)
> Try to calm down... (2 kiddos has shown me just how "high-strung" I can be)
> Along the lines of calming down, I want to work on not raising my voice as much as I have this year (I don't like the guilty feelings I have after I finally calm down... & it's not fair to Matt or the kids to let myself get that worked up)
> Oh yes... & work a little harder on my diet :)


Sunday Snapshot

Friday, December 30, 2011

Not Much {Fav Foto Friday}

We're still taking things easy around here. Though I do believe the 2 sick-ies in the house are finally feeling better! (woo!)

We had a pj day (I love those!). 
I switched my camera over to RAW format. Hmmm... I think I need more practice. All my pics came out blurry. Oh well- they're still cute anyway!

This one was taken before I switched to RAW. So it came out pretty decent. So happy it did! How adorable is this?? They are so cute! (Don't think they're like this all the time! I just got lucky to be able to catch this.)

the long road

Thursday, December 29, 2011

1/2 Sick, Other 1/2 Bored

It's been really low-key around here. The "flu" (or whatever the heck Matt & Xandra have) is still hanging on. The bad stuff is pretty much over- per my online search, the flu symptoms {FACTS}
Fever - both have broken
Aches - still happening
Chills - X still has
Tired - seemingly endless (in the past 2-3 days alone, I think the 2 of them have slept over 2/3 of each day)
Sudden Onset - very sudden, but lingers for-e-ver
LOTS of this going on at our house

Thankfully (knock on wood, throw salt over your shoulder, hold your breath when you go by a cemetery, whatever your superstition of choice may be), Milo & I have so far been spared the illness. {insert BIG sigh of relief!} As much as I would like to believe that it is against the rules for both parents to be sick at the same time, and a cardinal sin to have an entire family sick all at once... I know first-hand it can & does happen. So, I'm very grateful that I've been able to continue "towing the line" while Matt has been "dying" as he tells me every few hours. :)  

If there were such thing as a "good time" to get sick, this was probably the best. Everyone in the family is off school (Matt's on break from his externship). Yea for small miracles!!

Since half the family has been stuck in the house for almost a week now, the tv as well as any & all other electronic devices have become an all-time-awesome time-wasters! (all my pictures on this post were taken with my phone- sorry for the ickiness, but it's what I've had handy)

Milo has discovered a passion for the iPad & daddy's phone. 
Now, if we could just teach him to quit trying to buy in-app purchases.
And quit texting & trying to call people (on daddy's phone) at 6 am. Or ever.

This picture just cracks me up- I really wish I could have caught this with my big camera.
Xandra is on the iPod
Milo is on Daddy's iPhone
Matt is on the iPad
& I took the picture with my iPhone
How about that for a family addicted to Apple products? :)
As a devoted Pinterest addict (what?? not on Pinterest you say? you MUST check it out immediately!! leave me a reply or send me an email & I'll send you an invite!!), I've been trying a lot of new recipes lately. There are so many that are just so awesome.. & easy!! Cause easy is key in my book.
I really don't like being in the kitchen. I love that saying - "I wouldn't have a kitchen, except it came with the house."
But Pinterest just might turn me around.
Here are 2 of our family's favorite discoveries:

Slow Cooker Potato Soup
Not my picture
- 5lbs Russet Potatoes, washed but NOT peeled. Diced into 1/2 inch(ish) cubes
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 10 cloves of garlic (you can use whole, crushed, or minced)
- 8 cups chicken stock
- 16 oz cream cheese (I used 8oz regular and 8oz lowfat)
- 1 TBS seasoned salt or all-purpose seasoning (I use Aunt Cora's Soulful Seasoning)

- Crumbled bacon
- Shredded cheddar cheese
- Green onions

- Add potatoes, onion, garlic, seasoning and chicken stock to slow cooker.
- Cook on high for 6 hours or low for 10 hours.
- Remove and puree the garlic cloves (if you used whole cloves) along with 1/2 to 1/3rd of the soup & the cream cheese. Then reintroduce to the remainder in the crock pot.
- Top with your choice of garnishes & serve!
Yields about 10-12 servings.

I made this tonight & it was very well received!!!
This is Milo on his 2nd bowl of soup
(don't judge me for the pink bib) 
(it was Xandra's) 
(it still works) 
(leave me alone)
Caramel-Stuffed Apple Cider Cookies
Not my picture

1 cup softened butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 box (7.4 oz) Alpine Spiced Apple Cider Instant Original Drink mix -not sugar free- all 10 packets (I found this in my grocery store near the hot chocolate mixes.)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 cups all purpose flour
1 bag Kraft Caramels (14 oz)

  • Preheat oven to 350° F. Line cookie sheets with parchment. (You really need the parchment!)
  • In a small bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon.
  • With your mixer (or an energetic spoon) cream together butter, sugar, salt and all 10 packages of apple cider drink mix powder, until light and fluffy.
  • Beat in eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla and mix well.
  • Gradually add flour mixture to butter/egg mixture. Mix until just combined.
  • Refrigerate for about an hour. (If you're really impatient you don't have to do this, but it makes it so much easier to work with.)
  • When you are ready to bake, unwrap your caramels. 
  • Scoop out cookie dough ball about the size of a walnut. (I used a rounded cookie scoop-full. My scoop holds about a Tablespoon.)
  • Flatten the ball of dough slightly in the palm of your hand. Press the unwrapped caramel into the center of your dough and seal the dough around it, covering it completely. Place on parchment covered cookie sheets 2 inches apart (** very important to use parchment paper on the cookie sheets!).
  • Bake 12-14 minutes, or until very lightly browned around the edges. Please don't over-bake! Once the cookies are done, slide the parchment off of the baking sheet right out onto the counter. Allow cookies to partially cool on the parchment. When cookies are cool enough to be firm but still slightly warm, carefully twist off of parchment and allow to finish cooling upside down (either on the parchment or on a rack.) If you forget about them and they cool too much and stick to your parchment, put them into the freezer for a few minutes and they'll pop right off.
  • Yield: about 4 dozen, depending on how large you make your cookies (or how many caramels have been snitched out of your bag before you begin.) Store in an airtight container.

I have now made these cookies twice. And I feel like I need to tweak the recipe just a tiny bit:  look for the Kraft Caramel Bits (see below- instead of the individually wrapped caramel squares from the candy aisle). Also, just stir the whole bag of caramel bits into the batter, then form the balls. The small bits melted so much easier & nicer - I couldn't find them the 2nd time I made the cookies, so resorted to the larger squares. I ended up with a big square of carmel that fell through almost every cookie when they were cooling. They still tasted heavenly! But I was glad I wasn't giving any of them away, because they were not pretty!!
**If you can't find the bits, maybe try cutting up the larger squares into 3's or 4's.

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