Friday, December 27, 2013

Post-Move Update

The washing machine is swish-swashing away within earshot of me on this computer.  I think the contents of that washer feel how I feel right now.


Out of sorts.

And soapy.

Well, I guess I don't really feel soapy...

We have been Columbia, SC residents now for almost a month.  We're mostly settled in the house.  All remaining boxes to be unpacked are either in the garage or in the attic.  I feel free to take my time unpacking those things since they are out of sight.

We paused our house-settling process to incorporate a little Christmas into our lives.  This was our first Christmas completely solo.  Scott's parents came down before Christmas.  My parents will be down next week.  But on Christmas morning, Scott and I were the only adults responsible for pulling off Christmas.  That was a truly frightening thought to me!  Thanks to the in-laws and their sleigh car-full of gifts and stocking stuffers, Christmas happened here.

 The weekend before Christmas the weather was in the 70's!
 So we enjoyed a little back porch Christmas.

Anyhoo...  now that the holidays are almost over, January is sprawling out before me and intimidating me a little.

In case I didn't mention it before, I got a new job!  It starts January 27th.  I'll be working two night shifts (12 hours) per week in the NICU.  One of the thousands of emotions I feel right now:  excited.  I am excited to get back to work.  I like earning a pay check.  I like being a nurse.  I'm scared/intrigued/looking forward to the challenge of starting a new job.  But that isn't until the end of January.

This time off of work (last day at my last job was November 23rd) has felt like another maternity leave.  By the time it's over, it will have been about as long as one.  Except there's no newborn to contend with.  So this maternity leave has come with a lot more sleep. Phew!  I like the fact that I don't have to set an alarm to get up in the morning.  Granted I have two kids to take care of that for me, but they are not as early risers as some of ya'lls crazy kids are. We usually get up around 8am.  

I love and loathe the lack of structure in our lives.  Scott has structure.  He goes to work every day.  Me and the kids?  Not so much.  Routine, we have.  Structure, we do not.  Most days we don't leave the house.  We could, yes.  But it seems like so much EFFORT, so I don't take the initiative.

I haven't been very intentional about getting together with people here yet, either.  Mostly because everyone is busy with the holidays.  Maybe in January I'll reach out a little more to the world around me!

I can think of a lot of things that would be fun to do:  join some sort of kids-gym for a month where James and Reese could play.  Go to the zoo.  A lot.  But since I'm currently funemployed (thanks Brooke for the new term!), I need to be super conservative with money.  How come I can only think of fun things to do that require money??  C'est la vie, I guess.

Scott said the other day he's having a hard time reading me these days.  I told him I bet he is.  I feel like the only signals I'm sending are static-y ones!  Jumbled.  Out of sorts.  Trying to get my bearings.  It's not all bad, mind you.  It's just a transition time and that is taking me some time to get used to.  

Sooooo that's where we are.  The kids are doing great.  They love the house and the room to play.  Scott loves his new job.  And me? I'm coming around...slowly but surely...

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Customer Service

As new home owners, we've had a few repair/estimate people come out to the house to fix things.  I much prefer to online-chat with someone to set up the appointments instead of making phone calls to mind-numbing phone trees of customer service.  Here's a snippet of some of the conversations I've had:

I don't think this guy's name is really Charles Robinson.  I also don't think English is his first language...

This one made me laugh because "Karl" apologized multiple times for me having to wait, when his responses were almost instantaneous.  No waiting involved.  

How about you?  Do you call customer service people?  Chat online?  Smoke signal them?  Write them a snail mail letter??

Monday, December 9, 2013

Reese: 13 months

This little person just turned 13 months old yesterday.  At this rate, next week she'll get her driver's license.  Sheesh.

Reese Katherine is so much fun.  And by fun I mean exhausting.  :)  This girl is into everything all the time.  She is a crazy fast crawler, not yet walking.  She pulls up on furniture, legs of adults, or anything else she can grab.  Not a whole lot of cruising going on, but she enjoys hanging out while standing.  She sleeps through the night regularly.  God bless her for that.  She's a one-nap-a-day kinda girl.  She could stand to take two, but she just won't give in to go to sleep twice during the day.  She still takes two bottles a day.  (we stopped nursing at 6 months)  She has at least 8 teeth and is working on her first molars.  I can see a few white points of the molars through her gum line.  I would say eating is her favorite activity.  Well, that and following around her brother.

I can't quite get a non-blurry photo of her.  

1) I'm not a good photographer.  
2) She's in perpetual motion.

She says "I!" instead of "Hi".  No "h" involved in that word for her.    At least she uses her whole face to say it.  She waves hello and bye-bye.  I've heard her say "plap plap" while clapping her hands (or feet).  Also "Yay!"  Not too many other intelligible words yet.  Although she talks a lawt.  Remind you of anyone? *coughcoughMEcoughcough*

We were at my in-laws house for her first birthday in November.

I made her a cake like I made for James' first birthday.  I think she would've enjoyed whatever kind of cake we had, regardless of what it looked like.

While we were in Virginia visiting, she terrorized the dogs.  I don't think they minded too much, actually, since she loved to feed them from her high chair.  

We got to see a fire truck reeeeeeally up close.  That was more of a fitting present for James, though.

Speaking of presents, she got a super fun car for her birthday!  (I told you she'll get her license soon.)  She didn't get much of a chance to ride it thanks to her older brother.

The possessed eyes in this picture seem fitting for James who  immediately repo'ed her car.

We had another celebration with my family a few days later.

Reese did NOT cry when we sang happy birthday to her, unlike James.  We lit a crazy big candle and sang.  She looked questioningly around at everyone like "Are we okay with this?  Everyone good?"  Then her face changed from uncertainty to "THIS IS AWESOME!"  Of course I didn't get a picture of that.

Reese, you are a joy to be around.  I can't wait to continue to get to know you as you grow up!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

That Time When We Moved to Columbia, South Carolina

*notice the U-haul in the upper right!

This apartment complex, The Ashborough, in Raleigh, NC is where Scott and I called home for the first 5.5 years of our marriage.  We lived in three different apartments within this complex.  Both times I got pregnant, we moved into a slightly bigger apartment.  You can see why we had to get outta there.  I might have gotten pregnant AGAIN!

We were happy there, but eager to move into a HOUSE.

Scott got a new job in Columbia, SC.  We'd been saving for a while for a downpayment on a house.  In this case "a while" = 3 years.  We were ready to look into buying a home!  I'll write more about our home search and financing journey in another post.  Fast forward to the week of Thanksgiving.

My mom hosted an incredible Thanksgiving dinner.

Side note:  It stresses me out a little bit to think one day I'll be responsible for creating such holiday feasts on my own.  I'd hate for my kids to grow up telling stories about "Thank goodness McDonald's was open on Thanksgiving Day..."  a la Christmas Story type stuff.  But the gap between what I'm capable of making right now and what my mom or mother-in-law can make is Grand Canyon-esque. <sigh>

Scott made us his very first pumpkin pie (pictured on the right).  It was so.very.good.  Well done, hunnee!

Thursday we feasted, then finished packing.  

Friday, the move began.  Our goals for the day were 1) pack the truck, 2) clean the apartment, 3) drive to Columbia.  We had already moved most of our belongings downstairs into the garage for easier truck-loading.

Please take note:  The vast majority of everything we owned was in this garage when I took this picture.  Not a wall-to-wall-packed garage.  A stuff-loosely-stacked-and-scattered-throughout garage.  I know this will be the last time all of our belongings fit in a 17' U-haul.  That makes me a little bit sad, actually.  I'm the opposite of a hoarder/pack-rat.  I love throwing stuff away and getting rid of stuff.  The idea of accumulating MORE stuff makes me sad!  

Back to the move.  Friday we* loaded the truck and we** cleaned the apartment.  

*Scott, Scott's Dad Bruce, my dad Steve, my brother David.

**My mom Anne and I.

Can I just tell you how much husbands LOVE IT when wives walk around taking pictures of work instead of actually doing work? 

Nestle is soooo helpful.

This picture is to document where Reese slept from about 6 months of age until we moved.  Her pack-n-play fit in there nicely. Hey...some of our grandparents slept in dresser drawers.  My kids slept in a bathroom.  To each his own...

Despite James and Reese's superior moving skills, we opted not to employ their services on moving day.  Gail, my amazing mother-in-law, and my amazing mom were on kid duty at my parents' apartment while the move took place.

About 3 pm on Friday, November 29th, we turned in our keys to our apartment and began our drive southbound to Columbia...Scott, Steve, Bruce and I, all driving separate vehicles (because we LOVE to waste gas!).  Anne and Gail stayed with the kids in Raleigh for one more night.

We arrived around 6:45 or 7pm.  Yay!  Goals met!  We didn't unload much at all that evening.  That's what Saturday was for!  We did take a few minutes to set up our brand new king sized bed.  We love it, by the way.  If you come visit us, there's room for a whole 'nother person in between us!  That's where you can sleep. :) 

Walking into the house from the garage.
The living room.  The walls are "softer tan" from Sherwin Williams, not yellow as they look in this picture.  I'm happy in this house, but not yellow-walls-happy, not THAT happy, sheesh.

Saturday's goals were 1) unload the truck and return it, 2) get the kids' beds set up and functional.  That morning we got the truck unloaded quickly.  It was fairly easy to do since we put most of it in the garage until such time as we figured out where to put it all.  The beds didn't take too long to locate linens for and assemble, so we were all set! Saturday goals met!  Yay!  I seriously should have printed out agendas for us all.  Next time...

The grandma brigade arrived with children in tow in the early afternoon.  James immediately loved the house.  He ran around looking at stuff and pointing at it all and squealing.  He also loved the outside.  The fact that we can go outside now without being in a parking lot is pretty amazing to me too.  Reese seemed less phased by it all, but she's only a year old.  What does she know. :)

Here we are a week later and we are feeling fairly settled.  All the urgent boxes are in from the garage.  There are some we may never bring in from there.  The house to-do list is a mile and a half long, but the initial funds for such are gone.  We'll have to save for stuff and budget accordingly.  You know...the Dave Ramsey way.  It's how we do.

I absolutely love this house.  Just being in a HOUSE is so amazing to me!  
  • No neighbors upstairs to hear morning and night.  
  • No downstairs neighbors to worry about hearing us as my toddler practices Dora-the-explorer marching around the house.  
  • I have a mailbox at the end of my driveway!
  • I have a driveway!
  • I have a great garage for storing all the don't-need-now-things.
  • I have an attic!  I've put a lot of stuff up there just because it's there and that excites me.
  • I met a neighbor and her little boy who is James' age while we were playing outside in the cul-de-sac.  Yay for meeting (nice) neighbors!
  • I have a deep enough sink to wash high chair trays in.  This singular fact makes me blissfully happy.
The list could go on and on, but needless to say, we are happy.  We're getting settled and we're happy.  I'm still in the interview process with a couple of local hospitals, but it looks promising.  I'll get a job soon, at one place or another.  Scott has a long, grueling 10-12 minute commute to work to a job he is loving so far.  Pray for him.  There is a Krispy Kreme donut shop less than 10 minutes from my house.  Pray for me.  And for the nutritional status of my children.

If you need my new address, please email me at baacuff at mac dot com.  How do you know if you need my address?  If you are reading this, you need my address!  You need to send me a Christmas card!  Or just a note to say hello!  My preferred love language is quality time together or receiving snail mail.  Please love me.  Come see me.  Send me mail. Or both!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Moving Is My Favorite

Scott is home.  YAAAAAY!!  Our trial separation* is done.

*What I called the period of time he was already in South Carolina working his new job and I was still in North Carolina working my old job and wrangling kids, with much much help from my parents.

Tomorrow we will eat some turkey and hang out with some family and pack some more boxes.  Friday we will move to Columbia, SC.  Saturday, I guess, we'll begin living happily ever after there.

I'm not sounding all that enthusiastic at the moment, but believe me, it's because enthusiasm requires energy and I ain't got none.  I've been doing a great job of getting things packed up and ready to roll for Friday.  So now, at 8:30pm, I am completely and utterly spent.  It's shocking, I know.  How could I be tired when I have such GREAT, GREAT helpers?!

There's James the box-packer.

And Reese the furniture-mover.

And sometimes they work together to drive cars on top of boxes, which is really helpful, as you might imagine.

We bought our first house on Monday.  That'll be another post for another day, but for now know that we are so excited about it.  I'm excited to have a yard to play in and a garage to park in.  And a new king size bed to sleep in.  Yay!

This season is full of change for our family.  Changing jobs, cities, states.

Change is...





Depending on the time of day determines which of these emotions I'm feeling.  As I mentioned before, 8:30pm = the exhausting part of the day.

More pictures and stories to come as we transition.  Thanks for sticking with me through this!

 To infinity and beyond!  

(yes, we've been watching a lot of Toy Story while momma packs)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

More Levity

The day after putting one's pet to sleep, it is important to look for some humor in the situation.  Here's what I found, upon closer inspection of my experience yesterday.  I've included some random pictures of Otto during the happy years.

1)  While I was trying to make my decision final, Dr. Bailey asked my dad what his two cents on the matter were.  The retired Air Force Colonel eloquently said, "I don't like cats.  I would have shot him five years ago."  I laughed in the moment at this one.  That is so my dad. :)

2)  Just after the actual putting-to-sleep was done, I was petting Otto, as was Dr. Bailey.  Apparently both of our hands put a wee bit too much pressure on his chest, causing what air was left in his lungs to evacuate, making a slight whining/exhaling sound as it did so.  If I had been a cat, I would have jumped simultaneously upwards and backwards about ten feet.  But now, looking back on the experience, it was very Princess Bride-esque.  Maybe Otto was just saying "To blaaaaave", which we all know means to bluff!  (It's important for you to be very familiar with The Princess Bride to understand the humor here...)

3)  Saving the best for last...I stopped by to pick up my mail on the way home from the vet's office yesterday.  In the mail was a shoe box sized package for Reese for her birthday.  When I walked in the house holding that box, my mom eyeballed the box and immediately, gently asked "Is that him?!"  Meaning, is that Otto's poor little deceased body in the box.  I busted out laughing.  She was trying to be so sensitive to the situation, but looked horrified that there might be a dead cat in that box.  I told her "Yep, they just fricasseed him up right there in the office and gave him back.  Like a drive-thru."  And then I put the box on her kitchen counter.

Liam's Caterpillar

I needed a little levity in my life this morning.  I revisited a HILARIOUS video from a friend of mine.  In this video, you'll observe her incredibly awesome improvisation for what happened to a caterpillar that her grandson accidentally squished.  She narrowly avoided a whole conversation about death with a 2 year old.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Ode to a Grecian Urn (Orange Cat)

Ode to a Grecian Urn Orange Cat

Ode *on* an Orange Cat sounded weird.  So I felt the liberty to change the title of John Keats' poem, Ode on a Grecian Urn.

Today sucked.  Today my dear, sweet Ottoes (Otto to the rest of you) was put to sleep.

I came to be Otto's proud momma in July of 1999, the summer before my senior year of college.  I was working at an emergency vet clinic.  Some kind soul brought him to the clinic after finding him under the hood of their car.  In July.  He had a temp of 108.  His poor little kitten brains were cookin.  That should've been my first clue to the life we'd have together...

This photo is just precious to me.  The non-cordless-landline-phone, the bunk beds, the paper planner on the 1999...

Of note:  Otto has had the same sized ears his WHOLE LIFE.  When he was a kitten, they looked like little satellite dishes on his head. 

Otto helped me finish college at NC State.  He (barely) lived through the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship Exec Team meetings at our apartment.  *cough cough MATT and MICHAEL cough cough* He moved with me to Columbia, SC for my first grown-up job.  He survived me getting another cat (Nestle).  

He didn't judge me when I moved home pregnant in 2004. In 2006, we went to nursing school together.  That cat can write a mean care plan.

In 2008 I put our relationship to the biggest test, I got married.  There was not a lot of love lost between Scott and Otto.
He endured two more pregnancies with me.  (actually both Otto AND Scott endured...kudos to both)
He was my buddy for 14.5 years.

Three years ago he was diagnosed with cancer in his rib and chest. I chose to do palliative/comfort care as opposed to aggressive treatment.  He lived THREE YEARS!!  In the last few weeks, he was going downhill.  Today I made the heart-wrenching decision to let him go.  That totally sucked.  I keep sighing.  Pretty sure I don't need the extra oxygen, I just keep remembering that today sucked.  <sigh>

Otto, you were the best orange kidden there ever was.  Rest in peace.  
(kissing his fuzzy head for the last time today)

Monday, November 11, 2013

Open Adoption Bloggers Interview Project 2013

Through this year's Interview Project, I had the pleasure of being paired with Suz of writingmywrongs.

Suz is a mother of three children, the first of whom was surrendered to adoption in 1986.  Her perspective on adoption has opened my eyes to an experience entirely different from my own.  She writes about her position on adoption here.  

I really, really appreciated being paired with Suz for this interview project.  I learned so much from her story and from our interaction.  Thank you, Suz, for writing your story and participating in this interview!

For the sake of our readers' understanding, briefly summarize your adoption story.

Suz: Sure.  I got pregnant the summer between high school graduation and starting college. It was the third time I had sex. First two times were protected, third was not. I come from a very conservative Catholic family and sex outside of marriage – never mind pregnancy – was a mortal sin.  My parents learned of my pregnancy when I was four months along.  I was sent to a maternity home 1000 miles from my home at the suggestion of an adoption agency known as Easter House.  I did not want to put my daughter up for adoption but with nowhere to live, no job, and the threat of lawsuit against my parents and I if I did not, I signed the papers. Oh, this all happened in 1986.

Where does your relationship with your oldest child currently stand?  

Suz: We are not in contact at her request.  I found her when she was 19 although she had actually found me before that herself but did not contact me. We communicated a few times via email. We have never spoken on the phone or met face to face again (not since the third day of her life when I gave her to strangers). There are many reasons for this status (at least from my perspective) but to state why she feels this or that would be inappropriate.  All that matters to me is that she has set a boundary and whether I like it or not I am required to honor it.  I will admit to crossing that boundary twice a year.  I wish her happy birthday on her birthday (via email) I also send her a Merry Christmas during the holidays. I have no idea if she gets these. I could be going to her spam.  She never responds.  I realize that is crossing a boundary by saying Happy Birthday (and adoptees and others have eviscerated me for it). I continue to hope that some day she will feel differently and that by sending her that twice a year message she knows I am open to it. Oh, she is now 27 years old.  So we have been in some sort of a reunion for eight years.

Tell me more about the counseling you do with birthmothers.  Have you had any opportunities to counsel women prior to placement (ie, get a chance to provide them the information you were lacking when you went through this)?  I would imagine it is hard to get connected with women considering adoption before it happens. (how would they find out about you, etc)

Suz: I don’t do “counseling” per se. I am not qualified to do so.  A friend (a real LSW, MSW) once called what I do “providing pastoral care”.  As an anti-theist that statement made me laugh but I got his point. I just listen. I help connect mothers to resources.  I drive them places if they need a ride. I conduct searches.  I run fundraising drives. I sell jewelry and donate all the commissions from sales to various organizations that support single parents.
Yes, I have had the opportunity to interact with expectant mothers considering adoption.  I urge them to look at all their options.  I suggest talking to adoptees (both young and old from both closed and open adoptions). I suggest they talk to mothers (both those who have no grief over their adoption placement and those that are traumatized by it). I urge them to talk to Planned Parenthood, research Title IX, fathers’ rights and more.  The key is to be informed and educated of ALL options. If you are not, there is no such thing as informed consent in my opinion. I caution them to avoid making a permanent decision for a temporary situation. Babies are always expensive, always life changing whether you are single or married, young, old, rich or poor.  Those things can change.  You cannot get your child back once you have signed a termination of parental rights. 

What do you tell a birthmother that has major regrets about her decision?  Whether because she felt pressured to make the decision she did or because the family is not involving her like they said they would or a million other reasons...  What counsel do you give her?

Suz: Ugh.  First I tell her I feel her pain in my own way. If she is with me, we usually end up crying and hugging and talking about it.  What else I share largely depends on her.  Sometimes all people need is for you to listen to them. They don’t want you to fix anything, they need you to validate what they are feeling is very real. If they press for advice or suggestions I will often refer them to other people, maybe some licensed professionals, good books to read.  If it is an online friend, I will offer to talk on the phone, give them my phone number.  Each mother and child is different and unique (contrary to adoption myth that you can swap mommies and babies and no one is the wiser). What I do or say varies.  Mothers like me, us, we are sort of an enigma. Sure the mainstream media loves to push the beauty of adoption.  As such, few people are qualified or willing to talk about the ugliness of it. Mothers in pain have nowhere to turn.  Even when we turn to professionals they often tell us we should be happy or consider ourselves lucky. This happened to me.  Within a few months of surrendering my daughter, I pondered suicide, could not sleep, would always hear a baby crying (and would not go to sleep because of it).  I sought help for myself and a psychiatrist in Chicago told me flat out I “should consider myself lucky that someone took the child born to a girl like me”.  Excuse me? Something is very wrong here.

What was your response to reading my blog and learning about my story?  

Suz: Honestly I found myself feeling sort of conflicted.  I cannot relate to open adoption since my experience was so different.  I also am not a supporter of it.  My position is that adoption should be the last resort.  The fact that open adoption is not enforceable is problematic for me. If it continues, or has to be, I would like to see it as legal co-parenting type of arrangement.  Right now, still, it is a carrot to bait too many mothers.  It is a ruse. I have two friends (online mainly) that are mothers in open adoptions.  Despite how good their situations are, they are still having their own struggles with it.  As I mentioned to you, I am anxious to hear what the generations of open adoption adoptees have to say about it for they are the only experts in it.  Every other person had a choice.  It was done to them. 

What does your husband think about your adoption experience?  

Would you ever consider adopting in the future?  If so, under what terms and conditions?

Suz: Probably not.   For some obvious reasons, I am 46.  I have no need/desire for more children.  That being said, I have considered many times being a foster parent.  I believe in reunification of families for children in foster care. If it can happen it should. I would be open to helping a child in crisis and then helping that family reunite.  I wish we could find a new paradigm for taking legal custody of a child that does require dismantling the first family.  I have an online friend, she goes by Thorn, that is an adoptive mother to children she fostered first.  I also have another friend Michelle, doing same. They are both doing their damnedest to keep their adopted children connected with their first family.  I really admire these women.  If I were to adopt, I would want to be their kind of adoptive mother. More than fostering, I dream of being able to open my home to single mothers, expectant mothers, mothers in need.  Sadly I don’t have the room and I don’t even know what legal issues that would pose but I dream of homes that help mothers versus those that imprison them, shame them and then take their babies away.

Thanks again, Suz, for partnering with me!  Dear readers, please head on over to  to read Suz's interview of me!  Also, lots more interviews to read from other folks at Open Adoption Bloggers, or click here.

Adoption Blogger Interview Project 2013