Sunday, July 25, 2010

Preparing to Move

This is my last night in the old house before our big move across the country. I'll be totally honest, I haven't done diddly squat to get ready for the movers next week. I took Piper for a walk last night around the neighborhood once it started to cool off a little, and it made me a little sad to think that we won't be here very much longer. This move is going to be really good for us. We're moving into a bigger house, James is at a great place in his career progression, I'll be starting nursing school next summer, and hopefully we'll be bringing a baby home soon. We're finally starting to move forward in our lives after having been stuck spinning our wheels for so long. But it's still going to be hard.

Every time I hear Miranda Lambert's new song "The House that Built Me" I practically start bawling my eyes out (which is quite problematic when I'm driving in the car). I don't know why I'm so sentimental for this place all of a sudden. I'm not even gone yet and I'm already sad about leaving my childhood home behind. Growing up, I couldn't wait to move away from this city. When I finally graduated high school and prepared to follow James to college, we joked about how we would NEVER move back. EVER! Four years later, we were moving into our first house... in our old hometown. It was an ironic twist of fate that the military sent us back here, but it worked well because it allowed me to finish school (which is obviously very important).

I wasn't especially excited to be back, although it's very nice to be so close to my parents who live just across town. This city certainly has many flaws, but over the last four years we've managed to build quite a community of friends and family who love and support us. The experience we went through last fall is the best testament to that I will ever have. As hard as it was to go through a disrupted adoption, I have never felt more surrounded by love in my entire life. As empty and devastated as I was feeling, I knew that we had already been blessed beyond measure. We had people we could count on to be there for us when we were in a very dark place. I'm going to miss them very, very much.

There isn't a ton for me to do before the movers arrive on Tuesday to begin packing up our household goods (gotta love the perks of moving for the military). Mostly I just need to separate out the things I'll be moving myself like my wedding dress and wedding mementos, all our photo albums, and some sentimental keepsakes that belonged to James' father and grandfather as well as clothes and toiletries for me to live on for a couple of days. I'll be staying with my parents while the rest of our stuff gets packed up and while I work on cleaning the house and preparing it for our new tenants who arrive on the 5th. As soon as they arrive, I'll be hitting the road for the long, 18-hour drive with Piper to the new house. I can't wait!

And may the peace of the Lord be always with you.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Mary and Martha

The following sermon was written by the Reverend Kate Alexander of Christ Episcopal Church and is published here with her permission.

There is a new book out about how people don’t read books anymore. Author Nicholas Carr has recently published The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. And according to the author, the picture is grim. He argues that the internet is a medium based on interruption, and it’s changing the way people read and process information, even at a cellular level. While once we valued wisdom that comes from concentration, singular focus, and deep reading, there is not much of that to be found online. OK, before I go any further with this, I should confess that I have not read the book, but I did see a headline about it online and clicked on an interview with the author. Case in point.

Carr began research for this book when he noticed a change in his ability to concentrate. This is how he described it. “I’d sit down with a book, or a long article, and after a couple of pages my brain wanted to do what it does when I’m online: check e-mail, click on links, do some Googling, hop from page to page.” And, this kind of multitasking and hopping around lasts long after we shut down our computers. He suggests that in our modern, digital age, we have achieved an almost constant state of distraction.

Well, when I came across Carr’s argument, I felt like he was preaching to me. I fall into that category of the chronically distracted, and I would venture a guess that many of you do, too. I have a smart phone with email, text messages, Facebook and the internet at my fingertips at all times. My news comes not from newspapers but through internet headlines and on the radio in the car. I go online at home and at work. Maybe all of this media consumption is doing something to our brains, though the jury is still out. Whether you agree or not, and whether you’re wrapped up in technology or not, when you take a step back, it’s truly amazing to consider the stream of constant information available to us at any given moment. From images of oil spills to constant interruptions and clicking on links, it can be hard to know how to take it all in.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Overcome Evil with Good

The closer we get to the mid-term elections in November, and certainly as we get closer to the next presidential election in 2012, tension between members of opposing political views is going to grow in intensity. But I sincerely hope and pray that we can see past our differences as Conservatives and Liberals and can unite together with one another as AMERICANS who love our country and all that has made it so wonderful. Divided we can accomplish nothing, and we only make ourselves weaker by quarreling amongst ourselves. If we truly want what is best for our nation, then we will keep personalities, prejudices, and misconceptions out of the discussion and instead focus on hard issues and how best to resolve them peacably.

Romans 12:9-21 (NRSV)

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." No, "if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Our New House!!

After many months of an exhaustive home search and dealing with the stresses and anxieties associated with selling a home, we FINALLY have a resolution to our situation. Earlier this week, we signed a leasing agreement with a couple who's going to rent our old house. At the same time, we also put in an offer to buy a new house that, after some counter-offering, was eventually accepted. We went with our Realtor this morning to the new house for the home inspection (and so that I could measure all the windows to make new curtains). While I was there, I took a bazillion pictures to send my parents back at home.

The house, originally built in 1980, was obtained by the seller in a foreclosure. We saw the pictures from when the house was foreclosed on and it looked TERRIBLE. But the seller completely renovated the home including: new roof, new hot water heater, new heating and AC unit, new siding, new floors (carpet, hardwood, and ceramic tile), new counters, all new fixtures, new kitchen appliances, new master shower, custom master closet, and new back porch. The house is 2,500 square feet and has three bedrooms and two fulls bathrooms. The two car garage has an automatic garage door AND a workshop for all of James' manly man projects. The house sits on 1.25 acres, bordered on two sides by farmland. It's country living, but only five minutes from the rest of town.

The formal living room will become our reading/yoga room and the den will be used as our family room. There's no formal dining room, but since I don't actually have a formal dining table I don't see that as much of a problem. James is going to hang a tire swing from the big tree in the back yard for me and we're going to build a big picnic table to put somewhere in the shade. I want a hammock, but I've yet to figure out where that will go.... or the clothes line, or the vegetable garden, or the fire pit, or any of the other things I want to do with the property. I'm just so excited that I can hardly stand it!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Grilled Chicken and Pasta with Red Peppers and Kalamata Olives

I debated whether or not to even write this post, as the recipe didn't turn out quite like I'd hoped. But if I can learn from my mistakes, then you can learn from my mistakes, too. First lesson, cooking in someone else's kitchen is much hardern than cooking in your own kitchen. We're house and puppy sitting for some friends on vacation. And while I am extremely grateful that they're allowing us to live in their house for free, I'm also quite frustrated that I don't know where anything is. On top of that, I have never cooked on a gas range before. I really like the control I have over the cooking temperature, but it's taking time for me to get used to.

Second lesson, never ever EVER let the pasta get mushy. It's just not good. It doesn't taste any different, but the texture is just... well, mushy. Bleh. So here's what I did, with some notes as to what I did wrong and how I'll do things differently next time.

This recipe is an adaptation of one I found online at this afternoon. I added the grilled chicken and the baby spinach.

Grilled Chicken and Pasta with Red Peppers and Kalamata Olives

Part one: the chicken

Take some chicken breasts, season them on one side while still in the package (I used salt, pepper, basil, and rosemary). Then place them in a hot skillet with the seasoned side down. Season the other side and place a heavy iron press on top. I think theirs is a bacon press. Usually I would do this in the George Foreman grill because it's super fast and easy. I found one in the pantry, but I was too lazy to get it down, so I used a pan on the stove instead and it worked just fine. Turn over after a few minutes and cook until done.

Part two: the pasta

Red bell pepper
Kalamata olives
Baby spinach
Thin spaghetti (I should have used linguine but I didn't have any and the box of spaghetti was open)
Aged parmesan cheese
Balsamic vinegar
Red pepper flakes

Cook the pasta in salted water until done. Dice the pepper. Sautee the bell pepper, olives, and red pepper flakes until tender. Add the spinach and cook until only slightly wilted (I actually did this last, which makes no sense at all. I don't know why I did that. I'm just retarded today). Add the cooked pasta, balsamic vinegar to taste, basil, rosemary, and parmesan, tossing to coat the pasta.

Serve pasta with chicken on top, sprinkling with parmesan to taste.

This didn't turn out especially pretty, but it tasted amazing. I will definitely make it again, but in the proper order next time. James even really liked the spinach. Yay!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Chicken Scaloppine with Garlic Sauteed Spinach and Roasted Red Potatoes

Another cooking adventure without James! This is yet another creation from the depths of my mad mind! Chicken scaloppine, baby spinach sauteed in garlic and olive oil and topped with a little feta cheese, and roasted red potatoes in a chive butter sauce.

Part One: the chicken

boneless chicken breasts
plain bread crumbs
seasoning blend
olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine bread crumbs, seasoning blend, and pepper in a shallow dish. Don't ask me how much because I just guess and smell it until it looks pretty good. Dredge chicken breasts in crumbs, coating both sides well. Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet on medium heat. Get the oil too hot and it'll smoke. My range temperatures are "Lo", "2-8", and "Hi." I set my burner to "5." Cook the chicken for three minutes on each side, then transfer skillet into the oven for 25 minutes. Garnish with a slice of lemon (optional - I actually didn't do this because I didn't remember to get the lemon until I was already in the check-out at Food Lion and I was next in line).

***NOTE*** My pans have metal handles and are made to go into the oven (Calphalon Contemporary Stainless). If yours can't do that, then you will have to transfer the chicken breasts into a shallow baking dish, probably coated in cooking spray.

Part two: the spinach

baby spinach
olive oil
minced garlic
feta cheese

Heat one or two tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat (setting "5" and then down to "Lo" to keep warm). Saute one teaspoon of minced garlic until golden. Add entire bag of baby spinach and saute. Don't worry, it will reduce down. Pepper to taste and garnish with feta cheese (optional).

Part three: the potatoes

Bird's Eye Steamfresh Roasted Red Potatoes with Chive Butter Sauce

Take bag of potatoes out of freezer and microwave for 5-6 minutes. Is it cheating? Yes. Was it delicious anyway? Yes. Will I do it again? YES! (Just don't tell Beth!)

Put it all together and enjoy with a glass of wine. I had a pinot grigio and it was quite good. Bon appetit!

Total time: 35-40 minutes

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Declaration of Independence

In honor of 234 years of glorious independence and in celebration of the birth of the greatest nation on God's green earth....

In Congress, July 4 1776
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united states of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Vacuum Experiment

So anyone who's friends with me on Facebook is probably quite familiar with my vacuum dilemma. The one that we have is great except that it only runs for five to ten minutes at a time before the roller/brushes shut off. Then you have to turn the vacuum off and let it rest for a while before it will start to work again. It's a pain, but it still vacuums really well. The only problem is that now it takes me several hours to vacuum the whole house because I can only work for a few minutes before I have to stop. Buyers don't always give you a lot of lead time before they drop in to see the house. I've had as much as 24 hours to get ready, and as little as two minutes (ie, the Realtor called to request a showing FROM HER CAR PARKED IN MY DRIVEWAY). So it's important that I be able to vacuum the house quickly and at a moment's notice. After all, we do have a dog and two cats.

So after much deliberation, I finally convinced James to let me get a new vacuum cleaner. I really wanted to wait until after the move so we could leave the old one here and pick up a new one after getting into the new house, but things just didn't work out that way (nothing new). I'd seen an infomercial for a Shark Navigator (manufactured by Euro-Pro) and was quite impressed. It boasts a cyclonic-no-loss-of-suction capability that allegedly rivals a Dyson. Now I know that I'm a sucker for a good infomercial (especially the ones I watch early in the morning before the coffee has finished brewing), but I confess that the demonstrations I saw really were remarkable. The best part? The Shark Navigator can be bought at Walmart for $160 while the Dyson will cost you $400-$600. Yikes!

So I bought the Shark Navigator (I already have the cordless stick vac and LOVE it), went home, and decided to do a little experiment to compare the two side-by-side.

First, the incumbent: the Bissell Lift-Off Revolution Pet (purchased circa 2007?)

The Challenger: the Shark Navigator (purchased circa two hours ago)

The first difference I notice about the two is that the Bissell is much bigger and heavier. I'm too lazy to get out the scales and weigh the two for direct comparison, but suffice it to say that it takes two hands and significant effort to lift the Bissell while the Shark can be easily picked up with just one.

The second thing I notice is that the Bissell is much wider than the Shark (14" versus 11"). Obviously the wider the vacuum, the fewer passes it takes to clean a room. But that also makes the Bissell slightly harder to maneuver and limits the number of places it can be stored.

Next I noticed that the Bissell can be leaned back completely flat, making it easier to vacuum under my coffee and end tables. The Shark, however, only goes almost all the way back. I can fit it about halfway underneath my coffee table, so I'd have to vacuum under there from both ends. Not a huge problem, but a small annoyance.

Turning them both on, the Shark is definitely MUCH quieter than the Bissell and has a lower pitched sound. As someone who's hoping very much to bring a baby home soon, that's a pretty big deal.

So now for the fun part, the field test! The last time I vacuumed was two days ago. I selected the large open space in the middle of our living room as my testing area. I vacuumed one half of the area with the Bissell and one half with the Shark. The results are below:



The initial results look pretty similar. If I were working in a lab, I would have carefully weighed the debris from each dust cup. But I'm not, so I'll have to use anecdotal observations. The main difference I noticed was that the Shark picked up a lot more super fine dust than the Bissell did (hello allergens!). My mother-in-law is allergic to our two cats, so this is a big plus. And since no vacuum is perfect, the next thing I did was to let each vacuum check the other's work. So I used the Bissell to go over where the Shark had been and used the Shark to go over where the Bissell had been. Here's where you can really tell a difference in performance (in my opinion).

Bissell checking the Shark

Shark checking the Bissell

Look at the difference! And, again, the Shark picked up a lot more of the super fine dust that's buried deep in the fibers of the carpet. Gross! I'll admit that I'm mildly horrified that this was just two days after I vacuumed last. Ew.. and oops.

So the final conclusion is that, although the Shark is not perfect (ie, narrower rollers and does not fold back flat) it still does a much better job of vacuuming than the Bissell. Keep in mind, though, that my Bissell has been through a lot and has not been especially well cared for. We replaced the filter for the FIRST time just a few short weeks ago (oops). So these results may be more a reflection of age and wear-and-tear than inferior engineering and performance. Plus, I'm a little reluctant to give it up entirely because the new filter we bought for the Bissell is infused with Fabreze scent and makes the whole house smell great by the time I'm finished. That's pretty cool. But the big thing is that the Shark will allow me to clean the whole house all at one time. I need to be able to do that as long as we're showing the house, but I will especially need that once I'm back in school and we've got a little one to take care of. Who the heck can waste eight hours trying to vacuum??! Not me.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Single Woman Food!

Ok, well not really. But there are a lot of recipes and experimental food combinations that I've wanted to try that I KNOW James would never eat. Since he's gone and I'm here by myself, I thought I'd try a few things out. If they're any good, then I'll keep the recipes and try them on James once our move is complete. If they're terrible, then no one ever has to know!

This "recipe" was an inspired concoction from my head. I had leftover green beans (1/2 cup) from a previous meal and one serving of Land O'Frost Applewood Smoked Ham (4 thin slices), which really isn't enough for a decent sandwich. So I cooked some penne pasta (3/4 cup dry), microwaved the beans and the ham, and tossed it all in extra virgin olive oil (1 tbsp) and a sun dried tomato and basil seasoning blend (it's actually an bread dipping blend, but it's good to season food too).

I didn't decide to take pictures of the dish until after I'd assembled it, otherwise I would have made it look MUCH prettier. I'll have to do a better job of that next time. This was actually pretty good. The seasoning blend was a touch on the salty side, but the flavors worked well together. I love smoked ham and green beans. Maybe that's just the Southerner in me showing herself off. The only thing I would do differently might be to top it with Romano or Parmesan cheese.

Calories: 414
Carbohydrates: 48 grams
Protein: 17 grams
Fat: 17.5 grams (use less olive oil to cut back on the fat content)
Fiber: 3 grams
Sodium: 560 mg + whatever was in the seasoning

Applewood Smoked Ham and Green Beans Over Penne

Morning Runs

One of the important things to remember about marathons is that you train like you race. You don't try out a new pair of shoes on race day because they're not broken in and might cause hot spots or worse, blisters. You don't try out a new pair of running shorts or a new technical top on race day because they might ride up, or chafe, or do something else weird that bugs you for the three, four, five, or six hours you're running. And you DEFINITELY don't eat new energy bars or drink new sports drinks before OR during the race. That's a sure way to get all kinds of intestinal discomfort.

Instead we're taught to experiment with these things during our training period so that on race day we know exactly what we're going to wear and exactly what/when/how much we're going to eat or drink. There are so many unpredictable things that can go wrong on race day (ie, bad weather, rough course, etc) that you want to carefully consider and plan out the things you can control. So shouldn't that also apply to what time of day we run?

July Adoption Update

Well here we are in July and there's still no good news for us on the adoption front. It's been eight months and three weeks since our disruption and we're still waiting. In order to keep our home study valid, James and I have decided to split households for as long as we can afford it. Our current home study is valid until September. If we haven't moved by then, I don't know what we're going to do. James left on Monday to report to his new duty station and I'm staying behind at home until we get an acceptable offer on our house. He's going to stay with some friends of ours for the next few days, but he won't be able to do that for very long.We got lucky in that another friend is going to be out of town for several weeks and needs a house-sitter. So James will be staying there for a few weeks. Hopefully we'll have a plan for the house by the time they come home.

I've gotten the second packet from the home study agency. I can't do a whole lot with it until we meet with our social worker after we've gotten into the new house, but I've been working on gathering up all our supporting documents. I've already sent off all the requests for criminal background checks and FBI fingerprints. I need to get new physician's reports for both of us, a copy of our most recent 1040, fill out a form regarding our finances and TriCare's ability to insure the baby, a Statement of Service for James, a letter stating that I'm not working, copies of our driver's licenses, signing a form saying that we do not condone corporal punishment,  a copy of the animals' current vaccines, five letters of reference, a confidential information release form, and the home study agreement. It sounds like a lot, but really it's a lot of sign-here-sign-there. I can get all of this done while we're waiting to move except for the finances sheet. I'll have to wait until we have a new mortgage payment and new monthly utilities before I can fill that out.

I hope our new birthmother, where ever she is, likes me. Going through home studies, waiting for a match, and trying to sell a house at the same time is rough on the self-esteem. It's difficult not to feel like I'm constantly being judged like some prize cow at auction. Am I good enough? Pretty enough? Smart enough? Is my house clean enough? Big enough? Nice enough? Does my dog behave well enough? Do I seem patient and loving? Competent? Am I relatable? Kind? Open? Do I seem trustworthy? It's like elementary school when you're being picked to play a game of kick ball and you're the last kid standing. No one wants you (or you wouldn't be last) but someone has to take you (unless the other kids are REALLY mean). All you can do is stand there and look as athletic, coordinated, and skillful as possible.. silently praying "Pick me... oh please pick me. Oh please oh please."

But then, like now, there's really nothing you can do but be yourself and wait. If you build yourself up to be something that you're not, you'll only disappoint in the end. But if you present yourself for who you are and what you are, then you've given others the opportunity to know the real you and see what you're really made of.

I welcome the scrutiny of a discerning birthmother because I know who I am and I love the person I've become. I love my husband and the marriage we've built together, and I love the life that we (usually) live when things aren't so complicated by moving and the never-ending wait to adopt a child. I have an open heart that's filled to bursting with love to give the right birthmother and baby, and I am anxious to meet them both.