11.09.2014

November is Adoption Awareness Month

It's national adoption month. 

I love adoption. I realize adoption is not the only option or even the best option in some cases...There are great ways to serve children by supporting ministries that are involved in orphan prevention. Some children don't have those options, for different circumstances, and will be raised in orphanages unless adopted. I'm not saying adoption is the worst and final straw...but I'm also not over romanticizing it.

International adoption is long, costly and some have a critical view of it. Some are concerned, especially if your child is of a different race, that they could grow up with confused identity. They could be made fun of. They might not fit in with either race. Yes, adoptees are faced with added complexities and questions non adopted children don't have to face...that is real and shouldn't be minimized. Here is the thing, and I'm being so genuinely serious here...we believe LOVE is bigger. You may role your eyes and think we are naive, but we believe it with all of our hearts. We do not believe love pretends those hard things won't happen but we believe we can pull through. We understand questions, sadness, confusion could come at different stages...we don't dismiss those things but believe love can bear them. We believe that families with adopted children can be whole. Even bearing the complexities, families built with adoption are worthy to be had. They can be loving, joyful, comforting, real families.

I'm not a brave person, I don't have thick skin, but when it comes to this topic I'm willing to fight for the idea that, by the grace of God, love can win. 


- from one adoptive mom, Kristin Rogers

11.06.2014

{Thankful Thursday} Intentional Thanks

November is the month of intentional thanks. Every year I keep saying we are going to make a thankful tree to catalog our thanksgiving, but every year it slips past me on my to-do list. I just love the idea of having the family recite out loud, write down and display what they are grateful for a few times a week.

This year I had the idea to make a thankful tree out of construction paper so I went and bought all of the supplies. Today while the kids were napping I rolled out some brown craft paper and began drawing our tree. Then I remembered that I have zero artistic ability. Literally. I can't even draw a tree trunk. It went straight in the trash. 

I was feeling a bit discouraged until I remembered that we have a plethora of sticks in our yard. I'm sure you've got them too. So stick collecting I went. I'm rather good at that. I'm also rather good at shoving sticks in jars and vases. 


I added some labels strung on thread (I already had them from Walmart) and a couple pencils to a basket for our gratitude writings and called it a day. 


Being grateful for what we have in this very moment is a sure way to turn our hearts toward joy. Rather it's with a thankful tree made from paper, or a few sticks in a vase, try sitting down with your family this month for some intentional time spent reflecting on all that you have to be thankful for. 

As the holiday season arrives I am declaring less hurry. Less stuff. More quiet moments with those under my roof. More truth tucked into our hearts. I am anticipating all it will do for our little tribe. 

10.31.2014

Teaching Young Children to Stay in Their Beds

My room is pitch black, and I'm warm and cozy under my blankets. I peacefully wake to a quiet house and oh so slowly make my way to the coffee pot. I pour a warm cup and sit down with my devotional to which I read to my heart's content. After the Holy Spirit gently beckons my heart, I tiptoe to the shower and indulge in a hot fifteen minute soak before I start my day. 

Oh, wait. Who's life is that? In reality I have been waking to stomping feet chasing each other around the house. Two seconds later there is a hand patting me on my arm and a voice telling me how hungry they are. I must jump up right away to cater to their every need! I pry open my eyes and look at my phone. It's 5:45am. 

Rinse and repeat. This was our story every morning. No matter if the kids went to bed at 7:00pm or 9:00pm the night before, this was our story. 

And I, for the life of me, cannot get up at 4:30am every morning to get some time to start my day. That is just not me. I made myself miserable trying. So instead I had been letting my kids wake me up at 5:45. Which was also making me miserable. 

But what's a mom to do??

One morning I met another mom at a playground so our boys could play, and we started talking about different schooling options for our children. She is involved in a home-school co-op in our town, and I confided in her that one thing that intimidates me about home educating is the lack of time I would have to myself. No time to catch my breath if you will. Of course she mentioned that getting up before her kids in the morning has made a huge difference in her days and her attitude. BLAH BLAH BLAH! I have been told that a million times, but not one family in the history of ever has kids that get up as early as mine. 

Or maybe they do, but they manage them better?

Then she said the sentences that changed my life forever.

"We put clocks in both of our boy's rooms. They know they cannot get out of their beds until their clocks say 7:30."

Boom. The next day I had Steven in Walmart buying alarm clocks. I didn't know if it would work but I was clinging on to hope! You guys. That was two weeks ago and neither Kinley nor Harper have been downstairs acting a fool before the sun comes up since then. They know they can get up to potty but besides that they must stay in their beds until their clocks say 7:30.




Sometimes we hear them giggling and playing a little in their rooms, but I don't even care. As long as they are way upstairs in their little corners until my morning routine is done and breakfast is on the table, we are golden.
 
My genius friend uses analog clocks for her boys to help teach them to tell time, but in my world, ain't nobody got time for that. We were in an emergency situation, okay? Match your clock to your index card and call it a day. 

If you are in desperate need of your own time in the morning I highly recommend you try this out. I love it, and the kids do to. I feel like it gives them a sense of security in the routine and a sense of responsibility.

Plus on those really long days when you just have to put your littles to bed at 7:30pm, you get an entire twelve hours of uninterrupted glory. You're welcome.

And for the mama's of babies, hold on to the hope that these days will come for you too. Baby sleep prison does not last forever.

10.23.2014

Month Five

Although we have been discussing adopting in some form for the past three years, and started actively pursuing it five months ago, it has just now started to feel like a tangible real thing to me. Sort of like when you find out you're pregnant. If you are like me you took six pregnancy tests and got it confirmed by your doctor, but you still didn't grasp that there was, indeed, a baby growing in your womb until you felt it flutter for the first time or noticed your belly starting to poke out. 

Adopting has been a slow going process, but we continually have something to be working on, whether it be paperwork, gathering documents or training. We recently had our first home-study interview which was a breeze. When you find yourself facing your first home-study interview, do not freak out. It will be painless. It will make everything feel tangible. You will feel supported. I was nervous about it just like most people are when they are doing something new and out of their comfort zone, but it was a binding experience. It solidified our journey. It was our marital interview so we were asked questions like:

What first attracted you to your spouse?

How long did you date before you were married?

How long were you engaged?

What is your spouses best quality?

What is one thing you would change about your spouse?

Do you feel like one person wants to adopt more than the other?

Is Steven going to take a leave of absence from work when our child comes home?

There were more, but I remember those. See? Painless and there might have actually been a few giggles. From me of course.

In the next three weeks we have two more interviews. The last of which will have our case worker at our house inspecting it for safety. After that our home-study process will be complete and if we are approved we move on to the dossier process. Apparently the dossier is 50+ pages of detailed instructions on how to get passports, visas and several other forms, I know nothing about yet, completed and turned in to the proper countries expecting them. 

In the mean time we are working on reading articles and watching DVDs from our training manual. We have to complete and pass several online tests before we can pass the training part. The training includes information on forming attachments with your child and how to handle your child's grieving process among a ton of other information. Even though it is time consuming, I'm grateful for this information and eager to learn about it.  And is the little girl on the cover of the DVD not totally presh? I want to kiss and squeeze her cheeks.


We are also working on getting originals of every one's birth certificates, social security cards, our marriage license, physicals for everyone, fingerprints and passports for the kids. These are all part of the dossier process, but our case worker told us to go ahead and get started. 

I know some of you are curious about the financial side as well so I thought I'd do an update on where we are with that. Just a side note though. All of those little things we are working on like originals of documents and passports were included in our total of fees. Even though they aren't large lump sum payments they still add up quickly! As of today we have payed $3,648.00 towards bringing our child home from Haiti. Some of those are lump sum fees and some are little fees. From fundraising and donations we have funded $3,008.00 of that amount! Praise God for generous people willing to support us in this! $640.00 has come from us personally. We are just focusing on one payment at a time instead of getting overwhelmed by how far we have to go.

You know, all of this is a lot of work, and we realize we have a lot to go, but I asked Steven what we would be willing to do if Kinley or Harper were in an orphanage (or creche, in Creole) in Haiti. Would any amount of paperwork or money keep us from getting them home? Absolutely not. We would work tirelessly until we had them in our arms. This shouldn't be any different. Those sweet babies in Haiti need and deserve hugs, kisses, safety, education, nutrition, spiritual guidance and everything else Kinley and Harper need and have. When we look at it that way, we aren't sacrificing anything. We are just doing what is needed of us. 
There are few things on earth that really show us what God has done for us in Christ other than fostering and adopting. To give freely out of your abundance to someone who doesn't have much of a chance outside of your intervention is one of the most beautiful pictures of God's saving grace that we have this side of Heaven. - Matt Chandler

10.20.2014

Harper Turns Three



Harper turned three almost exactly a month ago. Looks like I'm fashionably late with his birthday post, but that's okay.

Harper you are exceptionally laid back. It really blows my mind. When Kinley is in school, you and I go every where together and it is a breeze. At the grocery store, you are completely content for two hours. When you tag along with me to the chiropractor, you sit in a chair with little roaming and wait for me to be done. Your teachers at church on Sundays always tell us how great your manners are. This morning at our adoption home study interview you played quietly in the corner of the office for over an hour. Even our case worker commented on how well behaved you were. I love this about you, of course. My prayer for you though, is that you don't get caught up in just doing right. Sweet boy, doing right is an amazing and freeing thing, but only if it comes from a heart of love instead of just the desire to follow rules and please people.

You have an innately sweet nature. You get that from your daddy. You are the one that always gives hugs and kisses and snuggles freely. Sometimes you give daddy and I so many kisses we just have to look at each other and laugh. Your love language has to be physical touch.

You love building towers, farms and castles with your wooden blocks. Dressing up as super hero's is one of your favorite things, as well as dancing in your sister's princess dresses. For some reason it seems you love to do the latter most often when we are hosting our small group. It gives everyone a good laugh and sanctifies me a little more in the ways of letting things go. On the days when Kinley is at school and we don't have anything to check off our to-do list I can almost guarantee that if I ask you what you want to do you will say you want to go home and watch a movie with me. It's one of my favorite things too. Cuddling on the couch at 8am and eating a good snack. You love music and when one of your favorite songs comes on the radio you'll say, "That's my jam!" Some of your favorite songs are Come as You Are by David Crowder, Multiply by Need to Breath and Waterfall by Chris Tomlin. You sing along making up words when you don't know them. Love it.

At Age 3:

What is your favorite color? blue

What is your favorite food? Waffles and Strawberries

Favorite movie? Monster's Inc and Monster's University

Favorite Book? Peter Pan (We often find him looking at this book in his closet when he is supposed to be in bed.)


Favorite song? Bless the Lord oh my Soul (meaning 10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman)

Favorite game? Candyland and Puzzles

Favorite toy? My Buzz Lightyear

Favorite dessert? ice cream

Favorite Animal? Lions and Tigers

Why do you love Jesus? Because I have Heaven in my heart.


We love you Harper and are beyond grateful to live this life with you.

8.30.2014

Love Without Limits

Since I last made an adoption update not too much has happened. We switched agencies, solidified our path to adopting from Haiti, payed some payments and are now knee deep in paperwork. Shown here are five pretty thick stacks (poorly photographed) that need to be completed. From physical exams to fingerprinting to references to questionnaires about our marriage, history and coping with adversity skills.


At least I'm getting to enjoy our new office! That's another post for another day when I feel like taking better pictures. :)


What I really want to tell you guys is that we have decided on our fundraising T-shirts! They will be grey with black lettering, crew neck and SOFT ( 50% polyester, 50% cotton). Like thrift store soft. My favorite! Sizes available are kids, youth and adult extra small through extra large. XXL is $1.50 extra and XXXL is $2.00 extra. They are on sale for $18.00 each plus $2.00 per shirt if you need them shipped to you. We were given some advice to take pre-orders before we ordered any shirts. That way we know exactly how many to order and you guys will be able to pick any sizes - not just the ones we decide to order. To order you can comment on Facebook, on the blog, email me at egandy8@gmail.com or call or text! Make sure you let us know how many you want to order and what sizes. Once we place our order and receive the shirts we will contact you for payment. You will have the option to pay with cash, check or PayPal. 

Here is the final product. We are so in love with the design and cannot wait to be wearing it! Thank you  to everyone who shared your opinion with with us on the design. We changed it up a bit to make it more "ours" and added Haiti to the "O" in love. Big thanks to Brian Smith for creating something we love!

We hope this T-shirt ends up being your comfiest, most favorite T-shirt in your closet!


Anyone who sets himself up as “religious” by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.       James 1:27, The Message translation 

8.03.2014

Secret Hiding Place Room Turned Reading Room

The thing about really really old houses is this. They tend to have odd nooks and crannies. We always looked at this as a plus. With a little TLC any odd nook can come alive. Take for instance our Secret Hiding Place Room. It's small with a short hallway, has no ventilation and has a slopping ceiling. We always joke with people that are new to the house that this room is where we stick the kids when they act up. 

The previous owners had painted it to look like a playroom of some sort, but we just didn't know what to do with it. Our temporary solution (if a year is temporary), was to slap a string of Christmas lights up and tell the kids it was a secret room. Take a look. It's pretty pitiful. 



















I attempted to paint over the once pink side walls with some left over white paint (because I'm determined to make it a non girly room for Harper's sake), but I lost my gusto and knew the white wasn't gonna cut it. Fast forward a few weeks later, and I finally convince my wonderful, painting hater husband to jump on the project bandwagon with me! I love when that happens! I had been envisioning a reading room for the kids, and we finally made it happen. One of my biggest goals for the Littles is to instill in them a love for reading! Besides missing a few wall decorations and some bean bags I'm pretty satisfied with how it turned out. 




















We painted the walls, ceiling, trim and floor and made the bookshelves from vinyl guttering. It ended up being a super easy Pinterest project turned reality. I would recommend it for sure! We snagged the nightstand at a flea market, the rug and fish pillow from Walmart and the rest are things gathered from other parts of the house. 

I'm relishing in these pictures because I'm about 85% positive that once Kinley and Harper see it tomorrow it will never resemble a Reading Room again. But! I have hope. They are getting older and are enjoying reading more and more. I don't think a relaxing room for them to grow their inner book worms is far from reach.

7.30.2014

Easy Homemade Baguettes



It has been a minute since I've posted on the eats here in the Gandy house so I thought I'd share a recipe that I'm loving at the moment. Although we try to do a mostly gluten free diet sometimes a girl just has to have some bread. A friend of mine shared this recipe with me a couple months ago, and I've made it three times since then which is proof enough that is quick, easy and delicious. Not to mention kid friendly. Winning! 

So here it is:


Quick & Crusty French Baguettes
  • 2 cups very warm water
  • 1 packet yeast
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3-4 cups flour ( I use half white and half wheat)
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  In a large bowl, whisk together the warm water, yeast, and sugar.  Set the bowl on top of your preheating oven for ten minutes.  Stir in the salt and add the flour a half-cup at a time, until the dough becomes soft but not sticky.  Knead the dough until elastic.
Cut the dough into four even pieces.  Roll each of them into four long, thin ropes.  Twist together two of the ropes to form one loaf.  Twist the other two ropes together to form a second loaf.  Transfer both onto a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. (Last time I made them I just made four long ropes and popped them in the oven without twisting. It made enough that I could freeze two of the loaves.)
You can now bake the loaf right away (if you’re in a hurry) or allow it to rise for an additional 15-30 minutes on top of your warm oven.
Now for the SECRET: Fill a large bowl with 3-4 cups of ice.  Open your hot oven and place the baking sheet with the baguettes inside, then toss the ice cubes on the bottom of the oven and quickly shut the door.  Do NOT open your oven for 15 minutes.  Bake until golden brown, about 15-18 minutes.
Serve fresh and hot with your favorite olive oil for dipping.

** If you choose to freeze some for later use, let the loaves cool, wrap them in a towel and put them in a Ziploc bag. When ready to eat let them thaw, slice into pieces, add butter and seasoning and warm in oven. They freeze great!

Enjoy!




Taken from Babble.

7.28.2014

The Curvy Road


A people - pleaser by nature, I write this post with a bit of trepidation.  Adoption is a beautiful thing, but it also has many discussion points and sensitivities. Until now I haven't really gotten into the details surrounding why we are adopting or our view points regarding adoption in general. In this post I'd like to touch on the 'whys' and also on some of the adoption discussion points Steven and I have been talking through together. If anything else just to have them here, to allow an organized place for our thoughts and maybe start a dialogue with others about some of these things.

When we began this process we decided and shared that we would be working on a domestic infant adoption. However, since the beginning and through the last couple of months we have been struggling with this decision. We understand that people adopt for various reasons, all depending on their situations, beliefs and feelings regarding the topic. Of course, we want to grow our family more or we would not be doing this, but this is not the main reason adoption is on our hearts. We have two beautiful biological children, and although we tried to conceive for a year without any results, our urge to adopt comes more from the perspective that we want to offer a child a safe, loving family to be nurtured in and to also come to know the Gospel, where in their circumstances, they might not have that otherwise. So this is where our struggles come in. 

Again, I want to stress that we believe all forms of adoption are good and necessary. From domestic infant adoption to international adoption to foster care. What we are having a tough time rationalizing are the feelings we have about the needs of fatherless children in the world. Especially parts of the world plagued with a poverty we really can't imagine or hardly even understand. Are children placed in domestic infant adoptions in need of families? Absolutely. But the reality is there are so many families willing and waiting to adopt babies in America so we have been struggling with where we fit into that category. As I've mentioned before, we don't feel compelled to enter into the foster care world at this time for our own reasons, and because we don't feel that is where God is putting our hearts. Here is a great blog post discussing 5 myths about foster care if you are interested. But what we have felt, is this little nudge pushing us towards the fatherless children in other parts of the world. Children who don't have a whole lot of people petitioning for their future. We are praying through these things right now. Now that it is time to solidify our adoption process monetarily we absolutely have to feel peace about the direction we want it to go. 

One thing we want to be sure of is that if we do choose to adopt internationally the agencies we work with go above and beyond what is expected to assure that children placed in the specific orphanages they work with are only there after everything has been done to promote family preservation within the child's birth family. Sadly, there are many corrupt institutions that prey on vulnerable women and coerce them to give up their children all for the sake of money. Family preservation is the main goal. Unfortunately, there are tons of cases where that is just not an option due to a multitude of reasons. 

We also want to be weary of the false bravado that we are swooping in and rescuing someone. That sense of pride can only last so long, and when our child is home and realities set in, it won't be there to cling to. We would never want our child to feel like he or she was or is a victim to be rescued. We would never what them to feel like their home country was a bad place they needed to be saved from, but yet a beautiful part of their identity and story. The day a child leaves all they have ever known and gets on an airplane with people they have only met once or twice is not the best day of their lives (at least not in that moment). It is a terrifying day that will have very hard days following it. Of course the degree of the intensity of these situations will vary greatly depending on the age, personality and past of each individual child. It is a good place to start to think through these things, but fear sets in when the thought of actually intentionally implementing these things come to mind. Thankfully, we live in the land of plenty in regards to education and training!

Other very real things to think through are growing a trans-racial family while preserving the child's culture, realizing that adoption isn't a one time thing, but a lifetime thing and understanding that adopting only because Jesus tells us to care for the orphans is not enough to make it work. He will provide redemption and His grace will be there for sure, however. 

Although this is just a natural by product of adoption, the reality of how Kinley and Harper's future will be impacted by this is something I find so beautiful. I cried (no surprise) just talking about this with Steven. My prayer is that not only Kinley and Harper, but our entire future family, will understand the Gospel better in the end. I pray a humbleness is formed in all of us when we are faced with certain challenges unique to adoptive families. I pray a new form of gentleness and awareness is formed. Towards others in our society and towards hurting parts of the world that are far away from ours. Since my main goal as a mother is for my children to deeply love Jesus, I have to believe that living out the Gospel is greater than talking about the Gospel. 

For right now, Steven and I are researching an agency that works with orphanages in Haiti and are wrestling with the things I have just shared. We are feeling pretty confident that unless something drastically changes, we will be moving on in this new direction and will begin working on the paper work and home study.

We have been relentlessly talking and praying about this new curvy road that is lined with unfamiliar landscape. Applications, dossiers, referrals, home studies. There are nagging thoughts - we aren't smart enough to do this, what will people think, we don't have enough patience, we don't have enough trust in the One Who Ordains All Things. At the end of the day, the nagging thoughts come down to one thing. Fear. And one thing I do know is that fear will not make our choices for us. 

The other night in our hotel room, the kids in one bed and us in another, Steven looked at me with a smile and said, "What are we going to do when there is a little Haitian kid over there in the bed?" To which I replied, "Yell over to them to close their eyes and go to sleep just like we are doing now!"

Isn't it an amazing thought that people can be so different from one another yet so much alike at the core? 

Anyways, I feel better getting all that out, and I applaud you if you are still reading. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Also, praising God that we have surpassed our first financial goal! It has been such a sweet thing watching people put their arms around our family in support of bringing a fatherless child into a family that has so much love to give. While we still plan on doing some fundraising, God has really shown His provision by giving Steven a substantial pay increase with his current promotion at work which will allow us to save money of our own even quicker than we had anticipated. Amazing how things work out if you just take the leap. Praying through all of this that God gets all the glory in our story!

If you are interested in making a flat donation to our adoption fund you can do so by clicking our PayPal link in the top right column of this blog. 

7.20.2014

Tell Us What You Think!

July has been a busy and productive month for us. Three days before we left for Texas, Steven got word that he was promoted to District Operations Manager for Home Depot in our region. With little notice they asked him to do a week's worth of training in Dallas, turning our one week planned time away into two weeks. It was great getting to spend time with friends and family, but man we were glad to get home! 



While we were away, we had time to talk with many of you about our adoption process, the personal struggles we are having with it, and our plans for the future. We received layer upon layer of encouragement and support. I thought I would give an update on where we are at this point. 

We announced our plan to adopt on May 21, just a short two months ago, and in that time YOU GUYS have been amazing. Our goal is to reach $1750.00 so we can move on to get our home study done and begin applying for adoption grants. I'm so excited to say that we only need another $251.00 to reach this goal! Through general donations and birthday blessings YOU GUYS, friends, family, friends of friends, family of friends, have donated $1,110.00 to our cause! Through the Apparent Project jewelry fundraiser YOU GUYS bought $778.00 worth of jewelry! Half of that amount goes to our cause and the other half goes straight to the men and women working with the Apparent Project in Haiti. 

In two months you guys. Steven and I are so thankful to have the support we do, and are planning ahead to other fundraising options. Which brings me to my next topic. We are currently working on getting a T-shirt fundraiser going. We all love a good T-shirt, right? So we need your help. We have found two shirts that we really like. We thought about coming up with our own design, but came across two on Pinterest that we fell in love with. We would like your opinions on the shirts. Leave a comment and vote on your favorite and whichever one gets the most votes wins! Keep in mind we are just looking for opinions on the design, and not the style/color/fabric. So here are the two choices:






The gray one is specific to domestic adoption, which is why the United States is featured. The saying on the blue shirt is one that Steven and I and our besties back in Texas used to always say to each other in regards to helping each other raise our children so it has a special place in my heart. Although Steven doesn't care for the font or size of the design on the blue shirt we love the saying and would probably just change it up a bit. Let us know what you think!

Tomorrow starts a new week, and I'm anxious to get settled into a new normal with the kids and with Steven's new schedule at work after so many days of vacation. Routine is my homey. Make Monday beautiful friends. :)