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A Few Decisions

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We actually are going to talk directly to a Case Worker about one of the girls!  *happy dance*  I’ve exchanged emails with several and actually am going to miss one that taught me a whole lot on how to do the out-of-state (OOS from here on out) social work on my own, but we gave up on one of the girls that she oversees.  This time, though, we get to talk to one over the phone!  An actual mini-conference call!!  We’re still waiting to hear from the Case Worker on the Kansas girl that our Social Worker keeps trying to get hold of, because we are ready to go with the conference call and move on to the BIS to see if we can get matched with her.  However, we’ve been burned a lot in this process and kept going with the ones OOS.  We actually are seeing some progress.  I really needed to know that someone is actually interested in us.  It’s an amazing boost during a very difficult time.  Anyway, this teen is in MO, which would really help with some of the costs.  To top it off another Case Worker for a tween in OH that I really, really like too is interested.  

 

I finally learned from that amazing Case Worker that taught me so much to actual write follow up emails when we don’t get responses after submitting inquiries on the adoption website.  At first I was so robotic and intimidated, honestly.  It finally clicked that I’m turning in our parenting resume (apparently the system believes we should do away with the accent; sorry!), so now I write inquiry emails that address all of the seldom-mentioned needs and desires we can fulfill that are in the profile, or what things we do that would mesh well with the teen’s personality.  I also attach our Home Study, but if I manage to get their attention with the inquiry email letters, they always want another copy.  I think it’s to keep a paper trail that they requested and it wasn’t a voluntary submission, but I’m just faking this whole social worker stuff, so got me.  *grin*  These follow ups have gotten us attention for a couple of girls, so we may actually have a decent chance of adopting now that I’ve learned so much about this.  So…go me!  *laugh*

 

It’s no secret I’ve been nesting for well over a year now and I really want her room finished, which would mean that I could also get the gym/storage room done finally, too.  (My big wood desk we got when I started my first business will have some surgery and is going from what was my office to her room, and my office will finish the transformation.)  We will have an area for Kiddo to be active and exercise in the evening if she’s still feeling energetic or if she needs to burn off some emotions.  It’ll also be nice to not have Eddie in the living room and when you turn, before memory kicks in, for a scary moment there’s a really buff dude hanging out in the dark by the window.  *laugh*  So he will go into the gym and stop startling people.  Just yesterday we finally figured out how we want to change the desk after I drew up a variety of hastily made blueprints with different options.  So one more decision down.

 

We also both agreed that we still want to do what we always planned on if I’d gotten pregnant – I’m going to home school.  I talked to our Social Worker about it and she provided information later on about the Kansas branch of Connections Academy, which is an online public school that is approved and can work with the mild IEPs our Kiddo may have.  The more I read about the curriculum, watch unsolicited user reviews on YouTube, and the built in socialization they brilliantly worked into the program.  Attending online classes and working on assignments together (deja vu to my Victim’s Advocacy Certification course *grin*), plus parents can look in the private directory and reach out to those nearby to see about doing extra field trips together or respite or just a teen play date (what do you call those even?!).  On top of it, annually they have a set get together for any Academy user families to attend if they’d like, to make connections, assist with more socialization, and even learn from some instructors on ways to handle situations that may arise in schooling (etc.), while the kids and teens get to do some really fun activities led by teachers, like scavenger hunts.  We didn’t think that this would be an option since so much is out of our control, but because we have a built in socialization group in our support system with lots of plans for ways to increase her exposure to kids going to the local schools if she wants to get back into standard public schooling at the start of the next school year, plus the socialization built into this school, we get to actually parent one aspect the way we always dreamed of.  There are so many subject tie in projects, field trips, and shows that I’ve written out, that I’m actually super excited.  *laugh* 

 

Pure nerd, I know.  Plus, I originally was either going to be a journalist or a Creative Writing Teacher originally, before my life veered the other direction, and that part of me is so into the thought of planning things out to make sure that Kiddo is at least caught up to her grade if not beyond them, by the time that school year ends.  *crossing fingers*  Doing this allows me time for extra bonding with Kiddo and to set time aside for us to work through trauma, healthy boundaries, and such, and will help her establish a safe feeling of home and family before facing lots of new people again, which could trigger some of their issues (and I hope that we can decrease that chance at least somewhat).  This program has a great success rate with being prepared for college, the workforce, or a military career, with an impressive amount being approved for college that tried.  Shoot, we can watch an episode of Warehouse 13 and then research the real mythology or past of the “artifact” from the show!  There are SO many learning opportunities and with my mom’s extensive knowledge about St. Joseph, MO’s historical locations, we can even do a history field trip in one day that could bring history alive for Kiddo.  That’s exactly what worked for me, when we visited out here while living in CA still.  Going into the Pony Express Museum and seeing/reading everything about the gunslingers made it all connect that history is full of real people and lives, not just facts.  That light bulb moment.  Whatever subject it is in, and however much time and effort it takes, I don’t care, but I really hope to be the one that is there for that transformation.  I’m smiling like the proud parent of a newborn just thinking about it.  *shaking head at self*  

 

There has been so much pain and waiting that getting back to a point to start making the rest of the decisions is a beautiful thing.  And the fact that we can home school as we always dreamed?  Language is insufficient for the happiness and excitement it brings me.  Although our path wound more than any theme park trail, we get to keep some of the core choices of parenting.  I would be an incredibly happy and blessed mom to be able to adopt any of these three girls that are currently an actual possibility.   We have other inquiries out, but each of these has something special that others don’t, at least for me.  I knew that a person could fall in love with more than one person in their lifetime.  I never knew how much the heart could expand to love so many at least a little bit.  Or that I could fall in love with these young lives just by reading their life and personality story.  Excuse me while I regain my vision after that sudden little rain storm.  It’s also a bit weird to think that I’ll have all ready started to love Kiddo before we know it’s even her.  And that I still hold a special spot in my heart for each girl who has touched our lives just a bit.  I’m really ready to get closer to filling the rest of my heart with Kiddo, though.  

 

And make a few more decisions as soon as possible.  🙂 

Wednesday is Coming Back

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We had a wonderful Fourth of July spent with friends and their kids, between my continued surgery recovery and before L ended up with oral surgery that he healed remarkably fast from (so not fair).  It’s been a lot of Groundhog Day©; same stuff, different day.  Throughout it all has been a lot of work on adopting that is enough to make my head spin yet again.

 

The emotional part is starting to take quite a toll on me at times.  I re-watched Mama Mia© to have it fresh in my mind before my mom and I go see the sequel, and I bawled so hard, for so long, over “Slipping Through My Fingers”©.  Just thinking of the song gets the ole water works going.  The girls that we have inquired and worked toward are all aging while we wait through this system.  We’re losing the precious little time we have with them.  Then I started getting acne and an oily T-zone again.  Seriously.  Hormones from emotions be gone…NOW.

 

With a lot of this I have gotten so worn down mentally and emotionally that I didn’t feel like me anymore.  I’ve always loved and cracked up at the Wednesday Addams© character, and in a lot of ways I relate to her sense of humor and mischievous streak.  I may look innocent, but I like that looking innocent makes people underestimate me.  I really appreciated it when I was able to flip a guy over my shoulder because of it and walk away safe.  And I appreciate that when strangers make me mad, they’re never quite sure where my mind is going or what I may be planning.  It’s the part of my personality that L likes best, I suspect.  *grin*

 

In all reality, I’ve never been a super cheerful, cute decorations, happy unicorns, and as-sweet-as-apple-pie kind of gal.  I’m the one that sits in the corner observing people and interactions, that can only carry on a conversation easily with someone in my “care about” zone, and whose strongest love language is giving gifts, because I care more about making things easier for others or making them smile.  And I’ve always wanted to be as okay with being me as the Wednesday Addams character was, especially when played by Christina Ricci.  Admittedly it’d also be hard to resist playing the game “Is There a God?” with a few people from my past…(Kuddos if you get that movie reference, by the way!!).  Since the movie came out when I was young I tried to learn from her and accept that I’m different, and that it’s not always bad to be different from the mainstream crowd.  It’s hard when people don’t understand me or why things interest me, but I’m still learning that it comes with me being a bit different.

 

The saddest part to me for the past few months is that I lost the pride and strength of associating with that character.  I could only see the crying at Hallmark commercials, not getting to exercise, developing a really bad infection, very sad shadow of me.  I was a name behind hundreds of pages of paperwork, inquiries, and emails. I was the one with my nose stuck in all of the assigned and recommended reading for parenting traumatized children.  I was the one juggling so many thoughts that I stopped watching most of my British shows, reading my cozy mysteries, and nothing could hold my attention.  I was, quite simply, lost.

 

Thankfully I was on SL late one night, talking with a really good friend, and we talked over this, because he’s one of the few that understands how lost I feel.  We had an incredible night of hanging out in his SL pool and just talking for hours.  My eyes are filling now, but he said I’m still a lot more Wednesday than I give myself credit for.  Then he said one of the most awesome statements that is super empowering to me that I’m going to post by my bed about being careful to not “poke” people like me.  In five minutes he did more than anything else has in months.  I felt more like me again and felt… strong (thank you Derek; that’s a gift I will always treasure).  I can be the misunderstood and underestimated me, yet still do all of this.  I can’t let myself get lost in this process, despite how easy it is for all of it to consume every moment and thought.  When I meet our daughter I want them to meet ME, not the shadow that has been lost in the adoption system.  So I’m bringing back the raised eyebrow, the looking over my glasses at someone, and the quirky smile that hints about all of the things in my mind that you really don’t want to know about that amuse me.  For a while it’ll just be a show; until I can work out again (a week left of antibiotic and I think this sinus stuff might finally be over thankfully!), find my confidence, and stop worrying about how the Case Workers are judging me (because honestly, it’s best that they like the real me and not just what’s best on paper!).  They say “fake it until you make it”.  Well, it’ll take a little faking to get the confidence back in place and then hopefully I’ll let the real me show in all it’s impish glory.  *grin*

 

I’m just so thankful to not feel lost in a twirling toilet bowl of emotions, to do lists, and remembering which child to follow up on.   It sounds stupid, but it’s become a bigger part of my life the longer this has taken, and there are a lot of things I have to consider and decide, and I started to believe that this new unknown person was who I needed to become.  I’ll always be thankful that I got pulled back from the edge, because I don’t think that woman is capable of being a good mother.  Just a thankful and tired one.  The real me is capable of smiling with my daughter as we are all homicidal maniacs for Halloween and laughing at the mutters about how weird we are.

 

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Butter Chicken Recipe by Leah

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Butter Chicken (Chicken Makhani) is a really popular dish in Indian Restaurants and with good reason.  It’s a full-flavored dish with a lovely, mildly spiced curry sauce.  Though traditionally made with bone-in chicken I choose the easy route of boneless, skinless chicken thighs every time.  We like to serve it with naan and raita.

 

 

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Butter Chicken

Yield: 6 servings

 

INGREDIENTS

2 Tbsp butter

2 Tbsp vegetable oil

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1 yellow onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp curry powder

1 Tbsp curry paste

1/4 tsp red chili powder

1 tsp dried fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi)

2 tsp tandoori masala

1 tsp garam masala

1 6oz can tomato paste

15 green cardamom pods *

1 14oz can coconut milk

1 cup plain yogurt

salt, to taste

1 bunch cilantro**

basmati rice, prepared

PREPARATION

  1. Melt the butter and vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Stir in the chicken, onion and garlic.  Cook and stir until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about 10 minutes.
  2. Stir in the curry powder, curry paste, chili powder, fenugreek, tandoori masala, garam masala, and tomato paste.  Stir until no lumps remain.
  3. Add the cardamom pods and coconut milk, stir.
  4. Put the yogurt in a medium bowl. Very slowly add about 2 cups of the tomato sauce, stirring continuously.  Then, pour the entire thing back into the skillet.  Season to taste with salt and simmer 15-20 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.
  5. Remove and discard cardamom pods.  Place butter chicken into serving dishes, add a side of basmati rice, and top with cilantro.

*Take a needle and thread, pierce the needle through the top of the cardamom pod.  Continue with all the pods and tie the ends together.  It makes it much easier to remove them when the butter chicken is done.

**Georgia’s Nerdy Note: If you are unable to eat cilantro, you can swap parsley for it.  Some people have the same genes, OR6A2, which cause cilantro to taste like soap due to picking up other scents that those without the gene set detect.  Parsley is an easy swap, so you don’t miss out!

Pressure Cooker Chicken Breasts

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When you’re looking for maximum juiciness in meat you use your Instant Pot or Power Pressure Cooker XL, and though I’ve only had mine about a year, it has gotten a ton of use.  I love to use it to make whole roasted chickens, but sometimes you need sliced or chopped chicken for a recipe.  On those occasions this is the chicken I usually turn to.

 

 

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Pressure Cooker Chicken Breasts

 

Ingredients

2 Tbsp olive oil

4 chicken breasts

1 Tbsp granulated garlic powder

1 Tbsp onion powder

1/2 tsp rosemary

1/2 tsp thyme

1 Tbsp sea salt

1 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper

1 cup chicken stock

Preparation

  1. Combine spices and set aside.
  2. Preheat the saute function on the electric pressure cooker at the highest setting, adding oil to the pot.
  3. Season the chicken and brown in your pressure cooker 2 at a time, about 2-3 minutes per side.
  4. When all the chicken is browned place it in the pot and add the chicken stock.
  5. Lock the lid and cook on high for 3 minutes.
  6. Allow chicken to naturally release for 5 minutes, and then quick release.
  7. Remove the chicken from the pot and allow to rest for about 5 minutes.

Note: These instructions are based on using an electric Power Pressure Cooker XL, so buttons and times may vary slightly when using a different brand.  Do not use an old fashioned pressure cooker for this recipe.

Craisins Salad Recipe by Leah

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I learned how to cook from cookbooks.  My mom was a good cook, but when I was a teen she began to get sick and didn’t have much energy to devote to cooking, so our meals became very simple.  We’d typically have a meat and steamed veggies with an occasional Kraft Macaroni and Cheese™ or Hamburger Helper™ thrown in.  What can I say?  I’m a child of the 80’s.  🙂  Towards the end of high school my mom was really too ill to cook, so the responsibilities came to us, her children.  I would heat up the meat and steam the veggies just as she told me to, and then, in time, my interest began to grow.  I started looking in cookbooks and finding things that looked fun to prepare.  Through natural curiosity I began to introduce new foods and new ways of cooking to the family.  I have to be honest, they weren’t always well received, but learning a new skill can be a bumpy road and sometimes things just didn’t taste that good.

One thing I learned early on is that I LOVE salads.  It took some time but I slowly won my parents and siblings over to my “rabbit food”.  This salad is one from my early days of cookbook learning and it has stood the test of time with the dressing being one of my absolute favorites.

 

 

Craisins Salad

INGREDIENTS

Salad

1 head red leaf lettuce

1 head green leaf lettuce

1 head iceberg lettuce

1 (8 oz) package shredded Mozzarella cheese

1 (8 oz) package shredded Parmesan cheese

1 lb bacon, cooked and crumbled

1 (8 oz) package craisins

1 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Dressing

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

1 cup sugar

1/2 onion, chopped

1 1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp mustard

1 cup canola oil

PREPARATION

Salad

Tear red and green leaf lettuce into pieces.  Shred iceberg lettuce.  Toss together with other ingredients just before serving.  Pass dressing over salad.

Dressing

In a blender mix all ingredients, except oil.  Add oil and blend again.

A Little Historical Inspiration

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Although I posted these to Flickr several days ago, I thought I’d share a couple of my favorite pictures from a photo shoot I worked on for a few days on SL.  My mom has talked about Bonnie & Clyde and that time frame in America throughout my life, and although they were not romanticized thankfully, I’ve been intrigued by that time frame and went with a little Bonnie & Clyde inspiration when I saw that Nantra had come out with a car with some built in poses for the theme.  I just couldn’t resist.  Although they did horrible things and I don’t condone those, I know that they loved one another in their own way, and decided to focus more on that part instead of what they decided to dedicate their lives to.  I went with the idea of them parked in some woods outside of Joplin, towards the end of their lives/spree, and stuck with a Sepia based tone to help with the historical feeling.  Hopefully you’ll enjoy a couple of my favorite shots from this shoot.

 

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The Grey Stuff© Replica Recipe by Leah

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“Try the grey stuff it’s delicious.  Don’t believe us ask the dishes!”©  Everyone knows that song, right?  It’s from Beauty and the Beast©, a favorite movie!  Disneyland®, of course, took that line from the movie and turned it into a delectable treat.  They serve it over a red velvet cupcake and sitting on a lemon cookie.  We eat it straight out of the bowl.  * This is not an official Disney® recipe but rather a very close replication.  Movie and song lyrics copyrighted by and belong to The Walt Disney Company®.

 

 

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The Grey Stuff© Replica

INGREDIENTS

1 (3.4 oz) Instant Vanilla Pudding Mix

1 1/2 cups milk

15 Oreo™ cookies

1 (8 oz) tub Cool Whip™

2 Tbsp Instant Chocolate Pudding Mix

PREPARATION

  1. In a medium bowl, combine pudding mix and milk.  Whisk well and refrigerate for 10 minutes.
  2. Place Oreos™ in a food processor and blend until they become crumbs.
  3. Mix the crushed cookies in with the pudding mixture and mix well.
  4. Fold in Cool Whip™ and chocolate pudding mix until well combined and refrigerate for one hour before serving.
  5. When ready to serve, place “grey stuff”© in a piping bag and add a dollop to the middle of a plate or bowl, and then pipe a spiral around it.

* This is not an official Disney® recipe but rather a very close replication.  Movie and song lyrics copyrighted by and belong to The Walt Disney Company®.