Thursday, September 24, 2015

5 Reasons I Love Fall

Yesterday was the first day of fall, but here in Texas, that can mean absolutely nothing sometimes.  I woke up thinking, "Okay, it's fall!  It should be 50 degrees this morning and reach a high somewhere in the low 70s.  It's a crisp cool fall day!" .... Reality set in when I opened the door and remembered I was in Texas.  It was hot!  But hopefully, in the next few days and weeks, we will get to experience cooler weather.

Here are 5 reasons I absolutely love Fall:

1.  Cooler weather is on the way!  It gets hot here in Texas during the summer and honestly, we need a break from it!  The first day of Fall means that the temperature will be dropping soon and we can enjoy being outside without being able to fry an egg on the sidewalk.

2.  Pumpkin Spice!  Need I say more?  This is the time of year when everyone offers a variety of Pumpkin Spice creations.  Coffee, cookies, gum, etc.  I love Pumpkin Spice anything!

3.  Fall Decorations!  I love it when people pull out the hay bales, scarecrows and pumpkins to decorate their homes.   I love making home decorations from fall leaves, (usually silk ones since we usually never see beautiful fall leaves here).  

4.  Football!   Call me crazy, but I love football.  Any kind of football.  Little League football, high school football, professional football.  It's just exciting to watch.  Plus, I know my husband really likes football too, and I like to see him excited and happy when he watches it.

5.  Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner!  Who doesn't love Thanksgiving and Christmas?!  Families get together for fellowship and meals, the smells are amazing, and it's just fun to watch the look of excitement on everyone's face.

Fall is my favorite season of the year.  When we have traveled up to Ohio and Indiana in the fall, we've seen some extremely vibrant fall colors on the trees - colors we'd never seen before here in Texas.  It's just beautiful!  God did a wonderful thing when he created these colors for us to enjoy.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Our Adoption Story

My husband and I met in June of 1993.  Thirteen days later, we were engaged, but we waited about 9 months to get married.  We knew we both wanted children, but not right away.  So about two years after we got married, I stopped taking birth control and we waited.  We waited, and then waited some more.  And nothing ever happened.  Nothing.  No pregnancy, no child, nothing.  At first, I was saddened by my inability to get pregnant.  I was emotional when a friend would announce her pregnancy.  I probably never even told anyone this, but when my brother and his wife announced they were expecting, at a family dinner, I actually went into the bathroom and cried like a baby.  I was happy for them, very happy!  But I knew something in me was defective and I really, really wanted it to be me that was making an announcement.  I guess those are just the emotions that go along with being female and not being able to take part in all the things females are supposed to be able to do.

When my niece, Lauren, was born, it was a very exciting time!  She was so beautiful and I felt a connection with her.  That year on Thanksgiving, during dinner, she started crying and so I offered to hold her.  It was warm in the house, so I carried her outside for a few minutes.  The cool air was just what she needed and she quietly looked up at me.  With tears in my eyes, I said to God, "God, I'll never have this, will I?"  He responded, "You have this."  I really cried, with a happy heart.  That night really changed the way I thought about my situation.  I began to thank God that he had brought certain children into my life for me to love, care for at times, and be around.  I didn't feel any emptiness anymore because I was busy being the best Aunt Sissy I could be!  Me and David lived our lives, he was in Bible College at the time, I was working as a paralegal at a law firm in Dallas, we were happy.  Very happy!

A few years later, in 2003, we started our church and poured ourselves into it.  Everything we had ... financially, physically, emotionally.  2006 and 2007 were a rough couple of years for us.  I developed a chronic illness called Crohn's Disease and almost died in early 2007.  After a complicated surgery, the surgeon told David that if we had waited to come to the hospital, I would have been dead in about 6 weeks.  I recovered and things went back to normal.  In April of 2007, at one of our ladies' meetings at church, we had a guest speaker come in.  Mrs. Tina Pugh and her husband are great friends!  That night, she handed me a card with the name of an adoption agency on it and said that she had a friend she worked with who had adopted through that agency and she thought of us.  I thought at the time, "That's weird!  We have never even told anyone we wanted to adopt."  Because we really didn't think that was possible.  When we had researched adoption years before, we hit a wall at every turn.  At one place, the fee to adopt was about $25,000!  It may as well have been a million, because we didn't have that kind of money.  We looked in to international adoption and that was even more - about $40,000.  A supposed "Christian" adoption agency was literally selling babies.  And they charged more for babies that were a certain color.  It was so disgusting, and we gave up.

I put that card from Mrs. Pugh on my desk at church and forgot about it.  A few months later, I came across that card and remembered the night she handed it to me.  It had a website listed, so I pulled it up on the computer began to read everything on their website.  They had a new information and training class starting that night (it was a 2 week program to get started).  I told David about the card Mrs. Pugh had given me and asked him if he thought we should go.  He said yes, that we should go and if we didn't like it, we didn't have to go back.  That night, we went to the class and met lots of other couples who were interested in fostering and/or adoption.  After it was over, we talked and prayed and we really felt like this was what God wanted us to do.  At the next several training classes, we were told over and over again that if we wanted to do straight adoption, that we would never get a baby.  We would probably get older children.  And that was fine with us.  We didn't care.

Over the next few weeks, we finished our training, CPR, first aid, fingerprinting, FBI background checks, home study, home inspection and other things you have to do in order to adopt.  But in September, I got a call from my previous boss at the law firm.  She asked me to come back to work for at least a month and help out while she found a new employee and then I would train her.  I agreed, because, honestly ... we needed the money.  We were having to make purchases of kids furniture, bedding, clothing, toys, etc.  And then not to mention some things we had to do to our home to get it ready for the fire marshal inspection coming up.  So, the time I was going to be spending getting those things done, was spent working at the law firm.  At first it seemed like an unwanted delay to having what we wanted, but God knew better.  He needed the timing to be just right and our boys weren't ready for us yet.

Once we got all the repairs and updates made to the house, it was the holiday season and everything was delayed again.   We were starting to feel like we would never get everything finished and get licensed to adopt.  But after the beginning of the year in 2008, things started happening pretty quickly.  The fire marshal came, inspected, and we passed.  Our home inspection was a success and all the paperwork was sent in to the state to apply for our license to adopt.  In March, we got word that our license came in.  So we were ready to go!  They immediately put our names in for any children that became available for adoption.  We had decided we wanted a sibling set of 2 or 3, boys or girls, any race, any medical situation.  Our adoption case manager told us to make a scrapbook that they would be able to show the State of Texas in case we were selected to be in the top three families for any set of children.  So I created a scrapbook about where we live, all about me and David and about our parents and aunts and uncles.

I remember the first call I got from our adoption case manager.  I was shopping and she told me about 2 little girls and a little bit about them.  They were 2 and 3 and she asked if we were interested in them.  I said yes, and she put our name in.  We never heard anything back about them.  About a week later, I got another call about a 3 year old boy and his 4 year old sister.  We never heard anything back on them either.  We weren't selected.  I remember wondering if this was normal or if there was something wrong with us.  No, it wasn't that ... God didn't want us to have those children.   The third call I got from her, she told me about 2 little boys, they were 4 and 5 years old.  She told me a little about them, and I said we were interested.  But I didn't get my hopes up this time, because we were disappointed the two previous times.  A few days later, she called again and I expected to be told about another set of children.  She said, "Guess what!?  You and David have been selected as one of about 20 to get these two boys."  I didn't know this before, but apparently every time children become available, there are hundreds of families that get submitted as possible candidates to adopt them.  So a few days later, she called again and said, "Guess what!?  You and David have been selected as one of the top 3 families to get the boys."  A meeting was scheduled with the State of Texas and our case manager, along with the other 2 families' case managers where they would review the families and make a decision about which family would be best for the boys.  The meeting went well, and we were contacted and told that we were selected.  WOW!  We were getting our boys!!!!

This happened in April, and we were told that at the end of May, we would be able to pick them up and take them home, as soon as the oldest finished Kindergarten.  So we frantically, got ready.  Boy bedding, balls, cars, clothes, shoes, everything boy and everything for a 4 and 5 year old!

On May 7th, our case manager called me at home.  It was 10:00 a.m.  She said that there was a problem with the older boys' paper work, and doctor examinations that they needed before they would allow us to have them and it might take more time to get them.  It would probably be the end of June instead of May.  I was a little disappointed by this news and kind of put out that we had to wait even longer.  So when Courteney told me she had some other news to give me, and told me I should sit down to hear it, I was a little frustrated and standing at the kitchen sink and told her to just tell me.  What she said next was news I thought I would NEVER hear!

She said the birth mother for our two boys, was at the hospital and had another baby two days before. She and the baby had tested positive for drugs and so they were not going to allow her to keep him.  She asked if we were interested in fostering the baby, with the hopes that we would eventually be able to adopt him too.  I was in shock and really didn't know what to say.  I said, "So if we say yes, then when we get the boys in June, it would be three instead of two?"  She said, it's three boys, but the baby is being discharged from the hospital TODAY, and they needed us to take him TODAY!   She said I needed to discuss it with David and to let her know our decision within 30 minutes.  So I called David - no answer.  I called again - no answer.  I texted him and asked him to call me back ASAP - Emergency!  He never answered and never called me.   I called my mom and she said, what would he say if he was standing right in front of you?  I knew he'd say yes.  I prayed and asked for wisdom and it was clear, I called Courteney back and told her yes.  She said to be ready and they would bring him home in a couple of hours.  I hopped in my car and drove to where I thought David was.  I was right - he was on a visit with a new family in our church and had left his phone in the car.  I knocked on the door and I was crying.  It was very awkward, but I didn't know what else to do.  We left there and he went home to rearrange the furniture in our room to hold a crib.  I called my brother and had him dig out their old crib from the shed and he brought it over and helped us set it up.  I went to Walmart and picked up things we needed for a baby.  David says I had a baby shower for myself at Walmart and I was very generous.  Haha!  A couple of hours later, we were at home, waiting and getting ready.  I had time to really think about what Courteney had said, we would be fostering this baby in the hopes that we could adopt him.  I prayed over and over, "God, if you allow this baby to come into this home, please don't ever take him away."  I didn't think I could handle getting attached to a baby and then have him taken from us.  Some people can do that, and I'm thankful for those people who can, but I didn't really think I could.

Courteney and another case worker came to the house to get our license switched from adoption only to "foster to adopt", then shortly thereafter, the CPS caseworker drove up and David could not contain himself.  He went out side to help carry the baby in.  He came into the house with tears in his eyes and an infant car seat in his hands.  There he held the thing we had dreamed of for 14 years.  A baby.  A child of our own.  He set the carrier down in front of me and I looked at his tiny little blue gown, brought for him by the CPS worker.  It said "Thank Heaven For Little Boys".  And I did Thank Heaven!  I thanked God for this little miracle.  After the case workers and everyone left, it was about 5:00 on

a Wednesday evening.  I looked at David and said, "We have a baby!  What are we gonna do now?!"  He said, "We better get ready for church!"  So off we went to church with a 2 day old baby in tow.

About six weeks later, the time came for us to meet the older boys.  We went to their foster home one evening and we played a game with them in the living room.  We had to leave them there for one more night.  The next day, we went to the day care they were at and picked them up, and this time we took the baby with us.  We promised ourselves ahead of time that we were never going to lie to the boys about anything.  We put everyone into the car and headed off to go to Chick-fil-a.  They tell you to take them to a neutral place before you take them to their home.  This helps them adjust to you slowly.  On the way there, Nathan asked about Joshua.  He said, "Is this your baby?".  I said, "Yes.  He's your brother."  He said, "Did he grow in your tummy?"  I said, "No, he didn't grow in my tummy."  Nathan got a curious look on his face and asked, "Well who's tummy did he grow in?"  David and I just looked at each other and I said, "He grew in your birth mother's tummy, just like you."  He smiled really big and thought that was the coolest thing.  As we pulled in to the parking lot of the restaurant, I heard someone saying, "Mom.  Mom.  Mom.  Mom. Mom."  I turned around suddenly and said to Noah, "Oh!  You're talking to me!  No one has ever called me that before!"  The caseworkers had explained to us that Noah was diagnosed with RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder), and that he would never really attach to us as his family and would probably never call us "Mom" and "Dad".  I just had to smile!  He had called me "Mom" before we even made it home with him!

The next few months were hard for sure, but they were also very rewarding.  Every day, we would see little changes in the boys.  They were slowly thinking of us as their parents.  I felt so sorry for them in the beginning.  I know it must have been hard and so confusing to them.  One thing they tell you during training, is that when an older child learns that he can really trust you, he will want to experience being a baby with you.  He will crawl up in your lap and act like a baby, maybe suck their thumb, baby talk, etc.  This sounded crazy, but one evening before bed, Noah (who was 4), crawled up into my lap, and curled up as small as he could and started baby talking and sucking his thumb and asking for a pacifier.  He would pretend to whimper and then giggle.  And I played right along with him, remembering what we were told at our training.  David came walking through and said, "Boy, get up from there and stop acting like a baby!"  I must have given him the evil eye because he left the room and after I put them to bed, I reminded him what we were told.  He and I both were shocked that Noah had done that.  It was a real break-through.

Nathan really remembered his birth-mother and he was very attached to her.  At night, he would start to cry, and I would go to him and one night I took him to the living room and held him.  He said something that broke my heart ... for him and for me.  He cried, "I want my Mommy!"  Those four little words broke my heart for me at first.  I was thinking, "Hey!  I'm your Mommy!!!!!"  But then my heart broke for him because of everything he had had to go through in his 5 years.  Nothing that happened with his birth mother was his fault, and yet my boys had had to suffer the consequences of poor decision making by her.  They didn't deserve that.  And so I felt the need to make everything they had gone through really worth it.  I wanted to give them every opportunity, and every advantage, and lots of love and teach them to love the Lord and want to serve Him.

I got to meet their birth mother at a visit for Joshua.  She was allowed weekly visits with him and I took him to a visit once.  She really liked me and I gave her a photo album of us with all the boys and she really appreciated that.  I realized that she was just a normal person whose life was controlled by addiction.  She wasn't a bad person.  She just allowed her need for drugs to ruin her life.  On another visit, David went with me.  She asked to talk to us in the parking lot after the visit.  She told us that she wanted to give up her rights to Joshua and allow us to adopt him too.  It took several more months, but she did eventually sign the papers.  We went to court in November on National Adoption Day to finalize the adoptions of Nathan and Noah.  Then again in April of the next year to finalize the adoption of Joshua.

National Adoption Day 2008

Almost three years passed, and I got a phone call from their birth mother.  She told me that she was pregnant again and was due toward the end of May.  David and I decided that we should go ahead and start the process of renewing our license just in case we were asked to take the baby.  Just a couple of weeks later, she used a chemical substance and it caused her to deliver the baby 5 weeks early.  He was born with that substance in his system along with other substances.  He spent 2 weeks in the NICU.  We were not allowed to visit him in the hospital.  Our adoption caseworker tried to intervene but was unsuccessful.  She did, however, get CPS to place him into one of our agency's foster homes.  After he was taken there, I received a phone call from a very nice lady.  She said, "Is this Angela Grice?"  I said, "Yes, it is."  She replied, "I'm holding your baby in my arms right now."  I instantly knew it was the foster mother who had our Josiah.  She invited us to come to their home that evening to meet Josiah.  We were told that an MRI of Josiah's brain showed lesions and he would develop Cerebral Palsy and may never talk or walk.  So we were surprised to see him looking so good.  We were still working to get our license renewed and so he stayed in that foster home for 3 weeks.  I was able to go visit him once more with my Mother during that time.  When we finally got approved, the foster mother brought him to our home along with a ton of clothes and toys she had bought for him.  She was a real blessing!

Josiah was prescribed physical, occupational, and speech therapy for 1 year.  We worked with him, went to appointment after appointment and he began to develop at a rate that was just shy of normal.  Another MRI was ordered and the lesions were not as pronounced.  Therapy continued and he continued to improve.  His development was almost in the normal range and so the neurologist ordered one more MRI.  This MRI showed nothing!  God had removed the lesions from his brain!  In January of 2012, we went to court one more time and finalized Josiah's adoption.  When Josiah was about to turn 1 year, his physical therapist could see that he was about to walk on his own.  So, she discontinued his therapy saying that he was completely fine.

Josiah on his Adoption Day with his Foster Family

So, that is the story of our family ... so far!  God knew WHEN he wanted us to have children and WHO he wanted us to be parents to.  We just had to be patient and wait on him.  It's not easy to do that, I know, because in our little brains, we think we should know about everything that is going to happen in our lives.  One thing we always think about is, that first week when we started our training and they kept telling us how we would NEVER get a baby ... it was impossible, etc.  If you do the math on the timing, that week is possibly the week that Joshua was conceived.  So people don't know!  God is very capable of doing what people think is impossible, and He sure did with us!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Review of Homemade Coconut Lavender Shampoo

I just want to say that I was very skeptical of this shampoo.  I even told my husband, if my hair turns purple, don't freak out!   I just tried it and I didn't think it would have very much of a lather, based on the consistency of the shampoo.  But, it had a very thick lather - not too sudsy, but fine, thick lather.  I left it in my hair for about 2 minutes, then rinsed it out.  It came out very easy.

When I brushed out my hair, it brushed out like I had conditioned it with conditioner.  I have very thick, long hair and it brushed out very easily.  And it smells amazing!  My hair feels very soft.  So I give it a thumbs up.  

(See previous post for the recipe for this homemade natural shampoo)

Homemade Coconut Lavender Shampoo

I friend recently sent me this recipe for homemade Coconut Lavender Shampoo.  It's supposed to be better for your hair and leave it softer, smoother, shinier, healthier, etc.  I like to try new things and better ways to care for my hair and skin without using all the products with so many chemicals in them.  Financially, it makes more sense to use Herbal Esssences Shampoo that I got for a quarter using coupons, but health-wise, I like to experiment with better ways.  So, I got all the ingredients that I needed, only three things (sounds good so far), and I set out to try this natural shampoo.  

The ingredients you will need are:

3 cups of Liquid Pure-Castile Soap
3 cups of Coconut Milk
80 drops of Lavender Essential Oil

I measured out 3 cups of the Castile soap and poured it into a large mixing bowl.

Next, I measured out 3 cups of Coconut Milk, this turned out to be a little less than 2 cans, so I just poured it all in and added a little more Castile soap.

Then, I put in about 80 drops of Lavender Essential Oil.

Then I used a wisk to mix it all together.

Once it was mixed, I poured the mixture into three different jars.

This recipe ended up making about 50 ounces of shampoo.  In comparison, the Herbal Essences bottle of shampoo is only 10 ounces.

The mixture did not turn out like traditional shampoo at all.  It is very runny, but it smells really good.  It appears to settle in the jars, so a good shake before each use is best.  I will be using a squeeze bottle to dispense it when washing my hair, and just storing the remaining shampoo in the jars.

Cost to make:

Liquid Castile Soap - $12.65
Lavender Oil - $2.65
Coconut Milk - $2.58


That's approximately $3.50 per 10 ounce bottle.  Not too bad.  I'll be trying this shampoo out tonight.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

6 Simple Ingredients - Save Money By Making Your Own Laundry Detergent

The first time I made this recipe, I remember thinking, "This is a LOT of detergent!"  And I was right.  It lasted forever!  It's very easy to make AND it doesn't cost very much at all!  The recipe I make doesn't involve any special equipment - just a large tub and a stir stick or other large stick to stir it all up.  No measuring, no cooking, nothing.  Just stir all the ingredients together and get ready to do some laundry!

Here's my recipe (pretty standard):

1   3 lb  7 oz box of Super Washing Soda. You can get this at Walmart for about $3.97

1   4 lb   12 oz box of Borax.  Walmart also has this for about $3.97.

(Sometimes the stores run out of these items, but you can also buy them online.  I'll post a link for each item below)

1    4 lb box of Baking Soda.  Available at Walmart for $2.24.

1    17.6 oz box of Zote Flakes.  About $3.97 at Walmart.

1   3 lb tub of Oxi-Clean.  $7.56 at Walmart.

1    18 oz container of Purex Crystals - any scent.  About $3.47 at Walmart.  (This ingredient is optional, but it gives a great smell to the detergent).

The best way to make sure everything is mixed together well, is to poor in small amounts of each ingredient and stir as you go.  When all the ingredients have been added, continue to mix and stir until everything looks well mixed.

I have 4 healthy, outdoor-lovin' boys and they get their clothes super dirty!  And this detergent has always worked great for getting their clothes clean.  I use about 1 to 2 Tablespoons in each load and that seems to be plenty.  With this recipe, it makes enough to do about 288 loads (using 2 tablespoons).  The total cost to make this batch is $25.18 - so that's only 9 cents per load.  In comparison, the leading brand of powdered detergent is about 18 cents per load.  So making this detergent can cut your detergent costs in half or even more.

My two oldest boys do their own laundry, with a little assistance, but I found they were using too much of the powder so I got out my silicone mold and some white vinegar and made laundry tabs for them.  They are pre-measured and ready to go, so they don't use too much.  I have a front loading washer and they work great putting the tab directly into the tub, or in the detergent dispenser.

To make the tabs, pour a little vinegar into the silicone molds and then scoop some powdered detergent into the mold, mixing with your fingers and pressing the paste into the mold.  Allow to dry overnight and then pop them out.

Helpful links to supplies:

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

52 Dates

In 2013, my husband's "New Years Resolution" was to take me on 52 dates that year.  It was the 20th Anniversary of the year that we met, and every week, we went on a date.   Sometimes we went someplace fancy, and other times, we grabbed a burger, but we always did something together, just us ... no kids.  He realized we had neglected our alone time since we had adopted our boys, and he recognized the need for us to spend some quality time together.

Once the year ended, we didn't stop "Date Nights".  It continued on and for the last 2 1/2 years or so, we have had Tuesday night "Date Nights".  It's my favorite night of the week.  I get to spend some one on one time with my best friend and we get a quiet evening without the stresses of kids around the dinner table.  Let's be honest ... I love my boys and would gladly do anything for them, but it's stressful at dinner time sometimes.  I love spending time with my kids.  It's one of my favorite things to do, but I also recognize the need to keep my relationship with my husband right and in harmony.

This week, we went on a date and decided to go eat some yummy Mexican Food at one of our favorite places.  Then we took a drive down to Trinity Groves.  This is an area of Dallas that the city has started to revitalize over the past several years.  After building the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge over the Trinity River, the city turned the old bridge into a pedestrian bridge complete with a kids play ground and rock climbing wall.  There are lots of restaurants, and places to shop.  After looking around, we stopped at The Cake Bar and got a piece of cake.  I got Italian Cream Cake and David chose Hummingbird Cake.  Both were really amazing!

After basking in our sugar high for a few more minutes, we headed toward my parents house to pick up the kids.  I'm so thankful that the Lord has allowed us to live close to our family!  My parents always volunteer to watch the kids for us and if they aren't available, my niece does it.  That is a major blessing!

Getting to spend time with the love of my life is so special!  I wouldn't trade our date nights for anything!

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