Wednesday, May 28, 2008

We're Home

We're home! It's been a busy couple days but we're home!

We flew all day Saturday and met some friends for supper Saturday night. We had the worst hotel experience that night, trying to sleep between inconsiderate neighbors. After asking them several times to quiet down and asking security to ask them to quiet down, we finally asked for a new room at 2:00am. They moved us upstairs, to a room with the biggest bathtub I've ever seen! DH and I could practically BOTH go swimming in it. The room was much quieter and the big tub certainly helped us relax over the next couple days (when you're 6'2 and 6'4, a tub long enough for you to relax without folding yourself in half is a treat!)

The wedding was Sunday. It was on the St. Clair River shore under the most beautiful blue sky and against the most perfect teal waters. We found that in the hustle and bustle of moving rooms in the middle of the night, my camera battery was separated from the camera and so I had no camera at the wedding. DH was sweet and took me to between the ceremony and reception to get another one.

The reception was on a yacht and we sailed up to the Canadian border and back. It was one of the swankier things DH and I have ever done--it was very fun!

Here we are against the Detroit Skyline

And the Windsor, Canada border:

Monday morning we received a call early. When I saw who the call was coming from and what time zone it was for the caller, I knew it was big news. Our BFFs had their son (our godson!) late Sunday night. He decided to come a week and a half early. I'm really disappointed we weren't here to be at the hospital when he was born but as soon as our plane landed later that day in Phoenix, we headed straight to the hospital. He's perfect. 10 little toes and 10 little fingers. He's got the coloring of his daddy and some of the bone structure of his mommy. He's very quiet and he slept peacefully in my arms for a very long time and then slept some more in DH's arms. His mommy's labor went quickly and both mommy and baby are well. They all went home yesterday. I'm anxious for it to grow a little later in the day so I can call and see how the first night at home went.

After we got home from the hospital, SIL and her kids arrived to stay the night with us. SIL got violently ill--we suspect food poisoning and exhaustion because all the rest of us are fine, including her kids. So yesterday I got be cool Auntie Jen. We took the dogs for a walk, went to the park with the water feature, played in the back yard, swung in the hammock, worked on alphabet letters, made pizza and played Wii (on my nephew's top 10 list, I think). They're off to a week with grandpa and grandma now. SIL has spent much of the last couple days resting and I hope she can get a few more in. We feel so bad--starting vacation off sick is a major bummer! But hopefully without the kids here she can just rest all she needs.

We had our second to last class last night and we're off to our second to last homestudy visit here in a little while. Only 15 days til the visit here at the house! Whoa!

Gotta run. Want to attend to SIL a bit and then I have to hop in the shower and get on the road. TTFN!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Book Review: Adoption as a Ministry, Adoption as a Blessing

My reading interest has shifted slightly, from infertility readings to adoption-related readings (though I still have a few IF books on my list). Adoption As A Ministry, Adoption As A Blessing, by Michelle Gardener, is the first adoption title I finished.

I was intrigued by the title of this book. For so long I’ve campaigned that adoption be viewed and treated as more than just a solution to infertility, but as a rightful ministry, to be considered by Christians of varying degrees of biological cooperation. When I saw her title, I thought “can it be that someone else thinks that way too?” and I eagerly scooped it up.

I was not disappointed! Ms. Gardener presents a thoughtful, complex, honest picture of adoption, including her family’s story of their three children who were adopted. Infertility is never even mentioned. The Gardeners chose to adopt as an outpouring of the love and resources they had—perfect for a child with neither. Through that passion, they chose to adopt 3 older, special needs children from 3 different countries. Children who were, by the world’s standards, hopeless, unlovable and thoroughly unadoptable. As of the book’s writing, they were also pursuing foster care licensing.

I was so encouraged by Ms. Gardener’s bold convictions and proclamations. I was blessed and inspired by her courage and touched by her honesty as they shared very real questions they asked as they considered expanding their already established family of 5.

The book makes a solid case for adoption, both biblically and practically. At the same time, it withholds judgment on those who do not consider or choose it, and makes no value distinctions on domestic or international, infant or older child, “healthy” or special needs adoptions. The author is (rightly) convinced that all are equally good and that we are all equipped and called differently. To people who do not feel called to adoption, she exhorts shorter term or more indirect support, such as foster care, child sponsorship, financial support of adoption programs and families, and the gift of tangible assistance to families who do take children in to their home. She maintains that is the church’s biblical responsibility to care for orphans in need, and we can all help in some way.

She also offers practical advice for the church in meeting the needs of adoptive families in their churches. The advice is not extensive, but it is sound.

My one critique of the book is that it is mainly “Adoption as a Ministry,” with less focus on “Adoption as a Blessing.” Recently, we were counseled by friends who adopted 4 children many years ago, to resist the thinking that adopting is a social campaign. While I differ somewhat—my opinion is that your heart can be equally full for growing your own family and for ministering to a chlld in need—his basic premise was to make sure the child is always treated as a loved son or daughter, and not as a solution to a problem (ours or or the world’s). I appreciated the input and so I try to be mindful of that when thinking, talking and praying about adoption. I would have wished that the author had taken a little more time to focus on the beauty of their children in their own right, and how much their lives were enriched and hearts expanded by their addition to their family, for the reason of communicating that these are children loved as their own, and not just part of a crusade. Don't get me wrong, I don't for a second doubt her authentic love for her kids, I just would have liked to read more about it.

However, each of the children (biological and adopted) writes a brief passage about their thoughts (past and present) and none seem to convey that they feel like anything less than beloved children on their parents. So while the author may not have focused on her love as a parent as strongly as I would have perhaps appreciated, the writings from her kids solidify its undeniable existence- it’s just that it's not the subject of this book.

I would love to read an updated postscript with current info on the kids. (The existing passage is 5 years old).

Overall, I would encourage this book for a wide audience. Adoptive and prospective adoptive parents will find themselves encouraged, and perhaps have their own passions about this process expanded. Prospective parents will find useful, practical information about the adoption process. Curious readers may find their own hearts soon challenged with the question of how to help the world’s needy. Family and friends of adoptive families will get a special glimpse in to the hearts of an adoptive family, from the infancy of their considerations of it. Church leaders and members will receive insight in to how they can better minister to adoptive families, and better expand their own ministry to God’s littlest children.


When Michiganders come to Phoenix in the winter time to avoid the cold in their home state, they’re called “Snowbirds.” I think we’ve been to Michigan enough times in the last year to be considered Sunbirds! I admit the cool weather of Michigan is welcoming. This time we’re not leaving temperatures that are terribly hot this time but a few weeks ago we left 100 degree weather for temperatures about half that high. We’re currently on the plane for our last trip in the foreseeable future, where we’ll celebrate with one of my oldest friends as he gets married.

Some updates…

I had a pretty frank conversation with both our caseworker and last week’s adoption education class teacher about some of my frustrations with the process. Though I didn’t perceive the teacher as being particularly receptive, we both felt that we learned more in this class than we had in previous classes. During this session, they brought in a birth mom and adoptive parents to talk about their arrangement, their entire process, etc. Last night we had dinner with friends of DH from high school who adopted their little girl a couple of years ago. Their situation is almost exactly opposite of the arrangement between the family we met in class. I find that I am continuing to appreciate hearing the varying perspectives, though our situation is more than a little different than a traditional adoption.

We had a great visit with a couple other parents in the class. It was nice to just share our fears, our hopes, our specifics about our journeys, etc. We did chat through some frustrations with the class and I think we discovered some common denominators and frustrations, as well as the source of some of those frustrations. (One huge one is that all the teachers use the term “open adoption” but they all mean very different things by it). I did come out of the meeting with a greater appreciation for an open adoption with contact. K (another adoptive dad who has a lot of my same fears) had similar broadenings of understanding. We looked at each other and wondered if they’d put something in the water.

One thing we appreciated learning was the perspective of the adoptive parents with regard to the birth mom. They see ministering to her as a lifelong commitment. Most women place their children for adoption because of some loss or painful circumstance. While our situation will be different, insofar as these children aren’t born out of unplanned pregnancies or in to dangerous situations and the genetic parents will not have carried and birthed these children, it did give us new compassion for birth parents in traditional adoptions in general. I think our hearts were enriched that night, even if the specifics with regard to situations are different.

Our third (of four) homestudy visit is this week. We’ll see how it goes.

One update on the potential embryo match. Our meeting with the genetic parents was canceled. Illness prevented them from traveling to Arizona (they were going to be here for vacation-they don’t live here). They are hoping to reschedule (their vacation), at which point hopefully we’ll still get to meet them. If they don’t come out and we don’t meet them, I don’t know what happens next. I don’t know if they’ve decided yet.

Waiting is hard, to be sure, especially now that the timeline is indefinite. I was so looking forward to our meeting. I don’t like ambiguity. I like deadlines and structure. Ah well, parenting is about flexibility, right? I was reading an adoption book and they pointed out that adoption waiting is particularly hard because unlike pregnancy, there is no Estimated Due Date and no maximum time allowed. I thought that was a good comparison. Considering we’ve only been at this a few months, I can’t complain about waiting, but it definitely did remind me to steel my heart for the months (years?) ahead. I’ll update when/if I have news.

On our end we’ll still submit everything to Nightlight when we’re done (soon, hopefully!) because we’d use them regardless of if we match with this family. I think that will be a nice mental hurdle. In the mean time, I’m starting to think about our profile letter, which will eventually be given to prospective genetic families and ultimately kept by the one(s) we match with. So that’s exciting, but a little stressful. How do you describe all the important details of your life in a few paragraphs? How do you “market” yourself as a potential parent? I’ve seen car brochures longer than the recommended profile length!

So that’s it for us. When we return from Michigan, my SIL, her kiddos and her pup will be waiting for us. We’ll enjoy a visit with them for a few days and then we’ll be working on the final preparations at home for the home visit.


Friday, May 16, 2008

TGI Friday

This is such a busy month for us! I find myself with a few free hours today and wanting to do nothing but rest!

C's son's wedding rehearsal was last night. I "ran" much of the rehearsal dinner for C which was a blast but between all of the errands and relocating 3 times due to weather, I'm plum exhausted. The wedding is tonight and I am setting up the centerpieces but am hoping that I can pass off cleaning them up to the woman who wants to reuse them tomorrow because I'm so tired-I don't know that I can make it to the end of the reception!

A very close friend from college was in town this week and we had dessert with him. He's another one in my "good for soul" category. We'll see him again next month and the only thing that would make it better was if his wife could fit in his suitcase and come along too--sadly, I don't think his employer would appreciate that. (Priorities, people!)

I'm a little run down. We got back from Jon's wedding and I immediately jumped in to Cs son's rehearsal details. That's all done as of tonight. We have a week to work on the house (still not done with all our homestudy goals) and then next Saturday we leave for another wedding in Michigan. Then we get back and SIL will be here before we are and we get to spend the week with her, which we're very excited about. In that time we also have another homestudy meeting, and an important meeting (more on that in a minute) and then the visit to the house here. So it's a busy time and I'm pooped! We'll have a short visit with my friend H from Sweden. Sometime this summer, we want to take a trip to Hawaii with our free airline tickets. We're sort of waiting for our HS to be done and then we'll go "celebrate" but we'll see. Since the tickets are free, we're at their mercy as to when there are two free seats available and it's not like anyone else on the planet likes to vacation in the summer time ;)

On the Embryo Adoption front...I think I can share a little news that I hinted at earlier in the month. I asked for prayers for wisdom regarding a decision that we have to make. At the end of April, we were approached by a couple we've interacted with in my Christian IF community, who asked us to pray about adopting their embryos. Over the last several weeks, we've done a lot of praying and sought out a lot of counsel from people who have adopted under various circumstances (domestic, international, closed, open, traditional, embryo, etc), as well as a lot of soul searching (having to put our desires for a match down on paper for the first time was a bit overwhelming!--to our happy surprise, they didn't run screaming!) and we've done a lot of talking with them. None of us have made any decisions yet, other than that after many emails, we're still interested in each other and would like to continue to learn more. It looks like we're going to meet up with them in a couple of weeks and I think after that, we'll both have a better idea of how/if we want to proceed. We do know that if we do proceed, we will still go through Nightlight. We would just enter in with them "prematched" instead of their workers doing the initial match.

So, we'll see. It's big news, to be sure, and I don't at all mean to sound underexcited. We're just trying to proceed cautiously and guard our hearts. I know my heart and I know if I commit to these children now, before it's prudent to do so, I'll be done, hook, line and sinker and retreating at that point would be devastating. We all 4 obviously want what's best for these children so I think all 4 of us are being pretty level headed about proceeding with both appropriate enthusiasm and caution. None of us wants to jump in carelessly, but we don't want to let the fear of the unknown dictate us, either. So we're all 4 proceeding as prayerfully and responsibly as we can, knowing that God has the perfect match out there for both our families and just waiting for Him to reveal to us whether its each other or not.

One thing I really have appreciated though, even if our conversations ended today, has been the opportunity to get to know the hearts of some genetic parents and really try to understand what's going on in their heats and minds. I have so much respect for this couple--they are working painstakingly hard to do what is best and right for these children. One thing is for sure-these kiddos are going to end up with amazing parents because so much care is being taken in selecting them.

I also appreciate the learning process it's been for us. We've had to think about what our non-negotiables are, what things we can really give up, and what things we hadn't even thought about before. The process has solidified our thinking in some areas, relaxed it in others, and still in others, expanded it. We've learned so much in talking to them, to other adoptive families and to our amazing caseworker at Nightlight Christian Adoption Agency.

I don't feel terribly comfortable sharing specifics about the family or the embryos, because they're not our children (even if they will be, they're not yet), so by answering, we'd be sharing someone else's family privacy. I'll share more if and when it becomes appropriate to do so but please forgive me for not taking those kind of questions at this time. If you have questions about us, fire away! :)

On the homestudy and adoption education front, things are ok. We're halfway through, which was a nice milestone. We're on the downward portion of the hill. The entire process has been sort of a let down. I feel like we paid the agency quite a bit of money and have learned remarkably little. We were told by someone (I can't remember who and in the agency's defense, it may not have even been them) that the home study is 70% education, 30% interrogation. We've found that nothing could be farther from the truth. We spend the HS visits talking about things we already know about ourselves, and the classes do little more than push the agency's agenda for one very specific kind of relationship with the biological parents. I understand it's necessary for them to interrogate us because they have to be wise and responsible when they write their report about us, but I guess I expected us to get something out of it too, and I don't really feel like we are. The classes are taught by a different person every week, which makes having a fluid dynamic hard. This last class was a huge repeat of stuff another teacher had already covered. We are enjoying getting to know the other couples but in a few cases, the teacher has put a quash on any social interactions with the other parents, even in non-instructional time. And no matter how many different ways they try to push this specific openness scenario on us, at the end of the day we are responsible for and accountable to God and our kids for the decisions about that dynamic and I really would like to be well-informed from an objective stand point. Questions are worded "What are the benefits of this kind of relationship?" rather than, "Are there benefits to this kind of relationship? What are they? What are some of the disadvantages?" "Studies" and "experts" are referenced, with little specifics given as to who or what those sources actually are.

I guess I always resist "one size fits all" approaches in any non-doctrinal area of Christendom--worship, evangelism, church style, leadership, marriage, parenting, discipline, etc. We may ultimately end up at the same place the agency advocates (though I doubt it) but I want it to be because we've prayerfully considered and logically researched all angles--not just the singular view they present.

Maybe my expectations of the process were wrong. I'd be interested to hear from other adoptive parents about what their HS process involved/involves. I was really wanting to learn constructive, concrete things, like age appropriate language for adoption, ways to introduce it, how to celebrate while not communicating that the child is "different" or an outsider, how to educate family and friends. So far we've received a lot of lecture on why open adoption with direct relationship between kids and biological parents is the only way to do things 100% of the time. At the end of the day, I just don't think it's the Agency's place to make that decision for us.

Fortunately, Nightlight (seriously, I love them!) has been much more "neutral" and has helped balance the equation for us, as have other adoptive families. Don't get me wrong, we absolutely believe in full disclosure about adoption and about the special way in which the child will have come to join our family, and we want enough of an open relationship to know who the genetic parents are, what their cultural and medical history is, and how to put the child in contact with them at age 18 if the child so chooses, but beyond that I think there is a lot of gray area that's going to vary from family to family, based on family dynamics, child(ren)'s temperament and mental capacity, and other family factors that just aren't universal.

So anyway, didn't mean to get off on a tangent! I'd love to hear what the HS and adoption education process has been like for other families. Maybe I just came in expecting the wrong thing and that's ok. In the mean time, we're supplementing with readings and counsel from other sources to fill in some of the gaps. We're confident that God will lead us to the right decision for our family and certainly the HS and Adoption education have given us some things to consider and factor in, and I'm confident that they're sincere in their efforts to do what they think is right and honoring to God and the children involved, but I guess I just feel less equipped than I expected to be at this stage in the game. Maybe that's my fearful nature kicking in too, who knows.

Gotta run. I've been operating in slow motion all day (still feel like a truck ran over me last night!) but I've got to get to doing something! Hope you all are well. I'll try to make blog rounds this weekend!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Checking In

Hi Everyone,

I hope your days yesterday went as well as possible and that God's strength was celebrated and displayed in our weakness. I pray that you all had "God sightings" yesterday.

As expected, I didn't do so well in church. I didn't even make it in to the sanctuary before the tears started coming. The greeters were happily greeting everyone with "Happy Mother's Day" and then suddenly they'd get to me and say "Uh, well, hello." They weren't unfriendly and I appreciate that they didn't say "Happy Mother's Day" so I don't fault just started the day off in exactly the mood I was expecting. It didn't help that I was alone--DH was picking my brother up at the airport.

The service began with a recitation of portions of Proverbs of 31 specifically dealing with motherhood and the tears kept coming. I sat through the worship songs because I couldn't sing through my tears.

Then they read the scripture passage--it was the passage about Moses being placed in the basket. The pastor got a few words in and I decided that I wasn't going to be able to remain quietly composed so I excused myself. I'm really disappointed I missed the message because the one piece of the story of Moses, his mother and Pharaoh's daughter is adoption. But I just didn't trust myself to not sob loudly. I'm really hoping that the mp3 goes up in the next couple of days so that I can listen to it now with full privacy to fall apart if I need to.

My mentor followed me out and we just sat and talked--time with her is always precious, however I can get it. After the service ended, our dear sweet Pastor came directly to me and hugged me and encouraged me, followed by a few other ladies who know our story. A good friend gave me a card to encourage me. So that time was really precious but I couldn't help feeling foolish at being the center of attention on a day designed for an honor I don't even qualify for. Busy-ness for C's son's wedding this week took the rest of the time and was a nice distraction.

As I was trying to explain things to the people who asked, the strongest emotion I was feeling was the emotion of missing our children. I wasn't really prepared for that. Though I've never met them, it feels unnatural to be separated from them. I did have some feelings of grief and loss over the biological loss and the concept of "never," but the fact that this was the first Mother's Day with any real kind of hope, made it almost harder. In previous Mother's Days, our children were always just a concept--something obscured, far on the horizon. So there was no urgency and Mother's Day was really no different than any other day. Now they've taken on an identity in my heart.

The Proverb says "Hope deferred makes the heart sick." That's how yesterday felt. I was truly heart-sick. Never before have our children been "so close, and yet so far" as the song says. The inability to reach out and touch them, hold them, see them, was drowning. I think I was just unprepared for that. I was unprepared for DH being upset, too.

And at the end of the day, I'm not sure I would have had things differently. Yes, I would like to have heard PJ's message and maybe not been such a blubbering mess, but my love for our children, wherever they are, grows every day so I would not have liked to not miss them, if that makes any sense.

We spent the rest of the afternoon having a nice lunch with MIL and then we were off to small group.

We gave this necklace to both of our moms, and I have one too:

It serves as our Ebenezer. I love that word. Not only does it come from one of my top 5 favorite songs (when they don't change the words), but the word is rich in theology and significance.

Samuel took a large stone and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Jeshanah. He named it Ebenezer—"the stone of help"—for he said, "Up to this point the Lord has helped us!" —1 Samuel 7:12, NLT

Gary Parrett writes in a Christianity Today article that I frequently think about,

This single word ushers the worshiper into both the biblical episode and the greater narrative of God's redemptive dealings with his people. It points us, also, to Robinson's dramatic conversion three years before he penned the hymn, inviting us to reflect upon our own stories and to remember God's faithful dealings with us. By removing the word from the hymn, we likely remove it from believers' vocabularies and from our treasury of spiritual resources.

(Robinson is the writer of the hymn, "Come Thou Fount.")

Our Snowflake necklace reminds me of God's faithfulness and protection in giving these children genetic parents who are choosing life for them, of His faithfulness in making His will for us in this regard clearly marked and well-protected, for His generosity of provision of people and resources to support and equip us, for His restoration of our hearts that were not so distantly overwhelmingly broken and darkened with grief, and for His renewal of hope as we dream of the family He has for us!

Today is a new day and hope, though still deferred, is renewed with the dawn. I'm still weary from yesterday, but just knowing it's behind us does wonders.

Our next homestudy visit is tomorrow. As of tomorrow night, we're also half-way done with our classes. The check list is whittling down!

Thursday, May 8, 2008


When I met DH, I inherited an amazing set of grandparents who have treated me as family from the moment I met them.

I just went out to get the mail. There in the box was an envelope in my favorite color, addressed to me in Grandma's familiar handwriting. I saw it and my heart caught in my chest. I was almost afraid to open it.

As I opened the envelope, my heart swelled. Grandma had sent me a card titled "For the Mother-to-Be." I don't even have any words right now except to say that this card will forever live amongst my most precious cars and letters, tucked safely in to baby's hope chest, once I can bear to put it away.

Thank you, Grandma and Grandpa. I love you.

Mother's Day

I've been refusing to think about the looming holiday all week.

We attend a very small church. I am the only adult woman (that I know of--there used to be another but I haven't seen her in a long time) who is not a mom or with child. Every year, they ask all the moms to stand up and be recognized. It's so humiliating to be the only one over the age of 25 still sitting, especially because I want so desperately to be standing. I feel conspicuous and ashamed. We were in California last year so I didn't have to go but this year we are home. Also without fail they do a hymn-sing where the congregation requests hymns to sing. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love hymns. I worship through them in a way that I just don't in contemporary music. The kicker? They do this hymn-sing only twice a year. On Mother's Day and on Father's Day. And only parents are invited to participate in requests on their respective days. Ouch. I just wish churches would don't things like that. I understand the point to honor mothers but I don't think that requires a big spectacle.

So I'm sort of dreading it. But I think I'll dread sitting home even more.

See I'm in sort of a quandry. This is the first year that there is any sort of real hope that maybe in the next year or so I'll join the standing crowd. On the other hand, it's also the first year we've ever had the solid "never" with regards to biological childbearing and I admit I still do mourn that loss sometimes. I struggle also with the fact that because there is such real hope, our children are so close, and we're still not with them yet. Yet I also feel a little sad that I'm mourning our infertility when I know they ARE out there so I have cause for rejoicing and hope. So it's a big mixed bag of conflicting emotions. I'm trying to not decide today how I'm going to feel then so that I don't get hung up on forcing myself to feel that if I don't. If I do ok, I do ok. If I don't, I don't.

It's also hard because both DH and I have wonderful mothers. We don't at all want to take away from honoring them so I feel almost ashamed of my heartache. Then we'll repeat the whole song and dance all over again with Father's Day. What a great dad my sweet DH will be.

So anyway, friends, we're praying for you and know you're praying for us. I imagine many of my readers out there are experiencing similar struggles. This isn't going to be an easy weekend for any of us, but we take comfort in knowing we are not far from the heart of God. I hope that comforts you! I know I'm clinging on to it for dear life!

If you are not in our boat, please take the time to remember your friends who have suffered from infertility, miscarriage, still birth, child death or failed adoptions and know that they are needing extra measures of God's tender mercies this day.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Totally Off Topic: Homemaking Tip!

Oh! I forgot to share this tip that I've recently discovered.

A few years ago, our hand-me-down washing machine finally died and we purchased a new one. It worked fine for a while but then in the last couple of years we started getting what looked like oil stains on our clothes. We tried stain removers and various detergents to no avail. DH works on cars so we thought that maybe stuff was washing out of his clothes and redepositing on to other clothes. I started washing his work clothes in their own loads. That didn't fix the problem so we thought maybe residuals were getting stuck in nooks and crannies in the machine itself and coming out later. In the last several months, we've been getting both the oil spots and now, brown spots on our clothes. I'm pretty vigilant about cleaning out the washer and running loads of just vinegar but nothing seemed to be helping. We were close to thinking our washing machine had turned out to be a dud and were bumming out about having to consider purchasing yet another one.

I couldn't bring myself to part with all the otherwise excellent condition ruined clothes so I just put them in a pile in a hope that I could save them somehow if we ever had extra money to haul it all to the dry cleaners or if we found some miracle stain remover. Some of them were very nice and/or our favorite items so we were very disappointed to lose them, some after just one or two wears.

I did some googling to find out the possible causes and remedies to the problem. Much to my surprise, the "oil" spots are a frequent complaint about Downey Fabric Softener. In all our experimenting, we never changed fabric softeners because there are so very few scents that DH can tolerate so we found one that didn't bother him and we stuck with it. We didn't even choose it for the brand as we did the fragrance. So as we tried various detergents and stain removers, the one constant thing turned out to be the trouble maker all along.

I pulled out our fabric softener cup to wash it and get all residual softener out. Suddenly, the entire column of that cup came out (it had never come out before, though we'd tried) and we were grossed out to find that under the cup in the agitator, was a 1 or 2" thick build up old, caked up fabric softener that had turned--guess what? the same nasty shade of brown that had recently begun ruining our clothes!

We scraped and scraped and scrubbed and ran several loads of vinegar and eventually got it all out!

Further googling suggested that I use "Dawn" dish soap on the stains because it contains a powerful degreaser. So I found the least colored bottle I could (in this case a pale yellow one from their "Simple Pleasures" line) and rubbed it directly on the stains and let them set just a couple minutes. ALL of the stains came out in one or two loads (repeating adding the Dawn to the stain before the second load). In one particular case, the stain was 3 years old. It had happened on a blouse I really like after I got to wear it just 1 time. I had held on to it all this time, so disappointed that I just got to wear it once. I had tried many times to get it out so that stain was well set. 2 washes later, the stain is completely gone! So we now have a new wardrobe all over again with many many recovered items of clothing! Plus the Dawn did not discolor the clothes or leave spots lighter than the rest of the garments in place of the stains at all.

Now that I had my freshly saved clothes, I had to find a replacement for Downey. More googling brought back consistent results of the suggestion to use a 1/4 cup of vinegar in the wash, placing it in the fabric softener cup. I've always used vinegar to clean my washing machine, dishwasher and microwave but never thought about using it for my clothes. I've now tried it 10 or 12 times and have been so pleased. Vinegar gets the detergent out of clothes so much more effectively, they come out soft and refreshed and it's much less expensive (a gallon of vinegar is about $2) and better for the environment (no chemicals!). Plus, since I only use 1/4 cup, the clothes don't smell like vinegar. A couple times I've had the clothes come out a little static-y but I think that is fixed by dryer sheets.

I've switched for life! Our clothes, our budget and the environment are much happier! Thought I'd pass along the tip!

Gotta get back to work. A load of laundry is running, I've started the accounting and unpacking and shortly here I'll need to go do the grocery shopping as we ate down everything in the fridge before we left. Tomorrow I'm officially back open for business too so I have a long couple days of catch-up in front of me!

If you're just checking in, the post below this explains my absence! :)

Phew! Where to begin?

Wow, I have so much to write about! Not even sure where to start.

I guess the thing that happened first since my last post is that we attended our second adoption class. We're excited with how they are going. The group is larger than usual, but is very dynamic and we have a lot of fun while learning a lot. I actually look forward to class.

We had our first homestudy visit. In it we scheduled all our remaining visits. If all goes as planned, the caseworker's visit to the house will be June 12th and that is the last visit. Assuming we have all our meetings and none are canceled or postponed, she expects to send in her report by the end of June. The sometime in July or August, we should be certified and then we can begin waiting for a match! That's so soon!

I'm starting to work on our family profile for the match book--scary but fun and exciting, too!

Last week was a whirlwind. We came home from adoption class Tuesday night and left very early Wednesday morning for Michigan to attend the Med school graduation and wedding of DH's best friend from high school (who was also our best man 5 years ago). It was a wonderful trip, which included a reunion with a friend who is a missionary in Germany, but every ounce of every day was full, between the bachelor party, the graduation, graduation party, wedding rehearsal, wedding, reception and as many extra moments of free time we could spend with the happy couple.

The wedding was Friday night. I've seriously never seen my husband cut a rug the way he did that night. I think I'm a combination of astonished, amused, tickled pink and frightened. He was the talk of the party that night and he continued to party throughout the next day.

On Saturday we were able to take a day trip (the couple was "busy" --gee, wonder why ;) ). I emailed our friends and gave them a list of cities I had heard were fun and to my surprise (and delight) they picked Holland, which is where DH and I vacationed last year. It was so nice to be there again. We went back to Windmill Island and froze our patoots off. It was too cold to wait in the line for the windmill tour, which I think they would have enjoyed, but the Island itself was fun and we had Dutch food for lunch. We stopped by the local Wa.lmart for some warmer clothes (we were FROZEN!) and much to our chagrin, Michiganders apparently think 40 degrees with high winds off the water and rain is summer weather because all we found were tank tops, bathing suits, capris and sun dresses. We did find a little cart with clearance hats, a few pair of mittens and some umbrellas. I found ONE long sleeved shirt on the clearance rack for me, and ONE for DH. I don't know how people live out there without becoming Eskimos. Seriously, Sara, clue me in!!!

Anyway, we went to the Veldeer Tulip Gardens again, which is quite possibly one of my top 5 favorite places to go. 6 million tulips are all planted in a dazzling display of God's beautiful handiwork in color, variety and texture. Plus inside they have a Delftware factory and make wooden shoes, which is fun too. We had a TON of fun! The boys were bored to tears with the flowers and suddenly relapsed in to their dancing ways of the night before and treated onlookers in the garden to a spontaneous comedy routine, leaving us all in stitches. The rain and cold kept us away from some of the other places we wanted to share with them but I definitely think we got to see the two best attractions there. We saw a movie that night ( of Ho.nor--not recommended!) and hit the jacuzzi before collapsing in to bed.

We snuck in one more breakfast and lunch with the bride and groom today (they don't leave on their honeymoon for 2 more weeks-don't worry!) and then it was off to the airport.

In an amusing set of events, the Governor of Arizona, Janet Napolitano (not-so-affectionately known as J-No, so dubbed for her extensive abuse of gubernatorial veto power) got on our plane in Chicago and flew home. Much as I was tempted to "accidentally" spill something on her, sit behind her and "accidentally" kick her chair 50 times, or sit next to her and hold her attention captive while I told her what a crummy job I think she does as Governor, I resisted (much to my friends' relief). She did get like half a brownie point for flying instead of some swanky airline in first class, but that was quickly lost as I wondered what she might be doing in Illinois, considering she's the governor of Arizona. Given that she was surrounded by staffers (though not body guards/security detail), I doubt it was a personal trip, and given my knowledge of how enthusiastically she supports a certain Presidential Candidate whose home state happens to be Illinois, I can wager a pretty good guess about what she was doing there, which annoys me but (my tax dollars are not paying her to spend her time gallivanting around the country campaigning for someone else's job!!) but like I said, I WAS mildly impressed that she flew cattle car airlines like all the rest of us "little people."

We're home now, and exhausted from the combination of activity and the confusion of jet lag and multiple time zones. But it was a wonderful trip! I'll sign off with some pictures, all from Holland.