Like a Phoenix, redux

Well, well. Here I am, again. Once again feeling like I owe someone an apology for being so neglectful of this space. Myself, more than anything. Because this is my space, a space I carved out for me, to come and unload whatever is on my mind - and there has been A LOT on my mind. It would help for me to come here, purge my thoughts...but I just don't make the time for myself to do it. That is a shame, and something I deeply need to rectify. I tend to internalize my feelings way too much...which would come as a surprise to some, since I talk so much. I just tend to not let people peek into the dark and twisty of it all, most of the time. Not that I want to only be dark and twisty here (can you tell I love Grey's Anatomy? I'm so unoriginal!), and not that all my hidden feelings ARE that way. I just have a lot to say, and usually I have deep ongoing conversations with myself in my head...I just wish I could motivate myself to log in and type those thoughts out here. It might be mostly boring, but sometimes it can get pretty interesting in there.

So, at least I can console myself that this time it has not been over a year since my last post. Is that sad or what, to congratulate myself on it only being 8 months?? Or, closer to 9 really but who's counting? But again, as last time, many things have happened over the last year.

First and foremost, our adoption is STILL not yet final. More snags, this time all to do with the state not having filed for my son's SSI back years ago when they should have. He is autistic, and was supposed to already have been approved for SSI, which automatically qualifies him for federal adoption assistance. Unfortunately, that never happened even though it was marked in his file that it did - and if you know anything about the government and disability, you know it takes forever (plus one day for good measure) to get anything approved as far as that is concerned. So we waited...and waited. Fortunately or unfortunately (you can look at it both ways), our 3 youngest have been in the foster system for 5 years as of November 9th, and once kids are in the system for a consecutive 5 year period, they automatically qualify for federal assistance. So on November 9th, we went ahead with the adoption without waiting for the SSI approval. We were worried that our promise of adoption in 2011 would once again prove to be untrue...but alas...with a wonderful caseworker and adoption attorney on our side - everything was pushed through VERY quickly, and we have our adoption hearing on December 9th!! It will be a VERY Merry Christmas this year! FINALLY! Our kids will legally be ours. No more monthly visits, no more different last names causing odd looks...FINALLY! My Facebook friends better watch out on December 9th, because that afternoon 2 years of memories I haven't been able to share with them, oh how they will be shared now (insert scary laugh here)!

Another thing I want to talk about is my dad's cancer. It's been a long road this year for my dad, but finally he is feeling better. Thank God above, he can enjoy -truly enjoy - the holidays this year. He is not feeling sick, in fact is feeling better than he has in a long time. This isn't due to some miracle cure, sadly, but at least a temporary miracle nonetheless. You see, he had a bone marrow transplant this summer. It was a hard process for him - I can't go into details because for one, it was so much a blur of scary but's still hard to think about all he went through. But at any rate, it was done, weeks in the hospital and months afterward of feeling bad...but I am glad to say he is now in remission. We don't know how long, and quite frankly, I don't want to know. I just want to enjoy it. I won't forget about the cancer or the prognosis, it will still be there lurking in the back of my mind...but I think seeing my dad looking healthy and feeling good again - and happy because he's feeling good - will help me to not thing predominantly about the "C" word, and just be able to enjoy the time we spend with him.

Amidst all that was going on with my dad this summer, and actually WHILE he was in the hospital recovering from the bone marrow transplant, we lost a very special part of our family. My husband's grandmother, or Nonnie, as we called her. Words can't express what she meant to me and she deserves more than just a paragraph in this update, so I will save that conversation for later...but losing her has left a strikingly large hole in our lives.

Obviously there has been a lot more go on in the last year than those few things, but those are the "big" things that have weighed on my mind over the last year.

On a happier note, although I don't want to rush what is left of this year since we are now in the midst of my very favorite time of the year, I am looking forward to what I just know will be a FABULOUS year for my family. We already have many things in motion that will happen in 2012, and being that it is the first year we will start out as a full, complete family (legally anyway), I think that sets the tone for a year with good things on the horizon. I don't want to jinx myself, but it does look like (praise God!) financially things are going to be looking way, way up for us next year. There is also a vacation to Hawaii in the works...and I am hoping to be able to get back to discuss that more in depth later. It's something we're so excited about...the trip of a lifetime for us that has been a 'dream in the works' for over 14 years now.

So at that, I would love to say "stay tuned"...but I don't want to leave you hanging on promises that may not come to be. But hopefully, you will see a lot more from me in the coming year.

Love and peace,

Like a Phoenix from the Ashes

You thought I was gone right? Never to return. I'm sure you've seen it many times...a blogger who just can't find the time to write, eventually drifting off into the great unknown, all but forgotten by everyone.

Well, I have returned. I make no grand promises as to this blog of mine...I've made that mistake before. But I am still here. I do still have a lot to say. I just need to learn to take time for myself, so that I can say it.

Life has been crazy. Insane. A brief update...and then hopefully I'll be able to keep up from there. There were 2 major events since the last time I wrote. Not by a long shot all that has happened but the things that have most affected me, for sure.

In December of 2009, I wrote about how we had gone from a family of 3 to a family of 6 and that in the year 2010 our 3 "new" kids would be officially adopted and part of our forever family.

Well, our not-so-"new" kids are doing really well...we are all still adjusting to life with each other. That will be on-going I'm sure. But we are a family now, with all the bumps and bruises and hugs and kisses to prove it. Just not the paperwork. You see, although they were supposed to be adopted in 2010...they weren't. It just didn't happen...the boys (10 & 9) have a lot of issues, one has autism and one with a LOT of emotional problems. However, "for real" this time, they will be adopted in 2011. We are filing the paperwork this month, and although we were told it could take up to 5 months to finalize, they WILL be adopted this year. It will be nice to have things finalized, although to us, at this point it is just a piece of paper which will say what we already know.

The other thing that the hardest thing for me. I have still not dealt with all of my emotions surrounding this, and I think that is in part why I felt the strong urge to come back to my blog. I need to have somewhere to go, somewhere I can say how I truly feel without worrying about how someone else is going to take it. Almost 2 years ago, in April 2009, I wrote about how they had found a tumor in my dad's brain. How it wasn't cancerous. How we were all happy about that and were adjusting to life as it would be - with my dad having radiation treatments and then lifelong monitoring of his brain to be sure the tumor wasn't growing. The tumor shrunk and we all moved on, although it was "a new normal" for us. It made me realize the frailty of life, and the fact that my parents truly weren't going to be around forever.

This year that fact was hit home even harder, with a much more forceful awakening. My dad was diagnosed with Mantle Cell Lymphoma, a rare form of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma which makes up only something like 5% of all cases. The VA has said that it is related to his exposure to Agent Orange in Vietnam. The life expectancy of MCL is only on average about 4 years, but it could be a few more or a few less. Nothing they can do will extend that, barring some new treatment becoming available in the next few years. This has been so hard to come to terms with. It's still hard to even think about, and I don't think the full realization of it has hit me yet. My dad is dying...and I can't even say those words out loud. It's hard enough just to type them without backspacing and erasing them from the page. As though it would erase them from being true...I wish it would. I wish there was a backspace key so I could edit that stupid disease from my dad's body. But for now, until some brilliant scientist comes up with a medical backspace key that will save my dad...I am going to have to learn to enjoy every day I have left with him and make the most of it. I don't necessarily think I've taken my family for granted a lot...but this has shown me that every day with them is precious. You may think you have all the time in the world with someone, but you just don't. You just never know when some tragedy will take away someone - it could be a cancer diagnosis that might give them a few years, or a car wreck that will take them away tomorrow. Hold the people you love tightly, let them know they love you every day. That is the lesson I'm learning, I just wish it wasn't such a tough one.

Until next time...Love,

Mission: Possible? Easter on a Budget...

I have never really budgeted for most holidays before. With one child, I was just able to spend what I could, and stop when I had to. With 4 children, however, holidays definitely present a whole new challenge, with the latest being Easter of course. I can't just pick things up randomly until I feel there's enough anymore...I have to be fair, make sure everyone has the same amount of goodies in their basket. This means deciding on a budget and splitting it accordingly. This is the hard part for me. Because I've never paid attention to how much I've spent before on one basket, I don't know what's a realistic amount to spend on 4. Since we are trying to be much more budgeted and smart with our money this year (with goals of a Disney vacation and paying off some credit cards), I am also trying to limit it and not go overboard as I have tended to do in the past.

The other thing I'm taking into consideration with our budget this month, is that I would really like to purchase a Wii Fit Plus, to help with one of our other goals of getting healthier this year. So, after taking that into account I settled on a budget of $100 - $150 for all 4 baskets. It's all relative and that might seem like a fortune to you, or it might seem like a pittance, but it is what I decided we can comfortably work with. My goal, or mission as you will, is going to be to stick to the lower end at $100. That is $25 for each kids' basket and has to include the basket, grass and all goodies that will be included. I am going to make a game out of it...trying to find the least expensive but most usable items I can. I have vowed to buy none of that crap filler that ends up at the bottom of the toy know what I mean! Yes they make cheap fillers and filling their basket with cheap crap would go a long way towards making my goal, easily. But I do not want any more "junk" in our house that ends up in the garage sale or goodwill pile, never used.

I will also not be wasting my hard-working dollars on Easter-ized items that are more expensive than their "normal" counterparts. A prime example of what I'm talking about are the Bunny-head or Egg shaped sidewalk chalk for $2-3, which is cute and useable, but regular sidewalk chalk (which I plan on including because my kids LOVE it) is only $2 for a much larger variety. Yes the kids might ooh & ahh over the cute shape, but I have a feeling they'd much rather have more chalk, and in more colors in the long run.

So that is my mission...the money is now burning a hole in my wallet so I will start picking things up over the next few days/weekends. I will definitely be posting how I do...good or bad. Stay tuned!



Better Late Than Never...

A little later than I hoped, but here are pics of the Valentine projects my BFF Jessie and I made for our peoples this year! We altered the large size Starbucks Frappuccino bottles into pretty candy jars, and made Cookie Bouquets! It was so much fun! We also made a 'prescription bottle' up for our husbands...used large prescription bottles and made fun labels for their "perscription for love", and filled them with Red Hot Hearts :-) For some reason we didn't get a pic of those...but you get the idea, I'm sure! Jessie and I had a blast putting them together (always lots of fun and giggles!!), and the recipients all loved them, so it was a total success all-around:

Hope you all had a wonderful Valentines with your favorite people! I know I did :)

Altered Frappuccino Spa Gift Set

I made this for a friends' 30th Birthday. Today is her party, and since I needed something for her anyway, I figured why not go ahead and try my hand at making an altered frappuccino gift now? This way I can work out any kinks before I start my Christmas projects. But suprisingly - no real kinks to work out - this was a lot of fun! What do you think?

The picture above shows the contents of the bottles. L-R is Wild Berry Bath Salts, Milk Bath, Wild Berry Sugar Scrub and of course, what is pampering without good Chocolate?

I think it turned out fantastic...better than I'd imagined for my first try :) I really hope she likes it.

Tomorrow more craftiness will be had, as I'm going over to my friend Jessie's house to start some Valentine projects for our kids...and maybe a little something for our hubbys too? ;-) Check Jessie out over at her I Feel Crafty blog. She's amazing...she makes such beautiful things!!

By the way, Jessie...I've been getting ready to come over...

That's not even all of it...are you clearing out room for me?? Haha...oh and are you wondering what that green inferno is looming in the back of the picture? It's your Christmas pressie, of course! I told you I'd get it to you before Valentines... :-)

Until next time - Love!