our biggest news of the year...

We are expecting our third child!

In twelve to eighteen months Chad and I will travel to Ethiopia to adopt a baby boy. When I tell people the news, tears stream down my cheeks. It's embarrassing, but I cannot help it. They are happy, giddy, joyful, bursting, fill-your-heart-with-pounding-love kind of tears.

For a long time (perhaps our whole marriage) international adoption has been on the back burner of our future. We don't know why, but it's always made sense to us. Melody and Leah came unexpectedly and this decision has come about similarly. Despite the constant pace of life, adoption has been knocking on the door of my heart nonstop for the past year. It was almost a nusaince. We both thought we'd adopt later, but the call was strong in me now. I tried to push it away, feeling trapped by its intensity. It would not go away.

One Friday evening in early October Chad and I were sitting outside. The evening was dark. We sat in the orange light of a small bonfire. It was the first time all week we had quality time alone. Suddenly the adoption pang washed over me again. I silently sighed, frustrated and confused. My thought was, "God, why am I so drawn to this if Chad isn't there yet?"

An instant later I said, "What do you think of adoption?" I just threw it out there, not expecting anything really.

He calmly replies, "Actually I've been thinking about adoption all day today and yesterday. Maybe it's time for us to do this."

My eyes widened and I started smiling, a little bit at first and then hugely. (The smile hasn't stopped since.) It was the exact same feeling as seeing the two lines on a positive pregnancy test.

All I could say was, "REALLY!?"

And just like that, we were expecting our third child! For three weeks I researched different agencies. We narrowed it down to Holt, CHSFS, and Gladney. Our final choice was Gladney. I sent in our first paperwork on November 5th.

In the midst of everything with the adoption, we've celebrated birthdays for Leah, Chad and Melody. We also did Thanksgiving and our 8th Anniversary. And next week is Christmas!!!! To say I have been burning the candle at both ends is an understatement. Another factor -- I cannot sleep at night. My mind starts thinking about Africa, then Ethiopia, then the baby. Then I switch gears to where we are in the paperwork process. Then my freelance design deadlines. Then the house, which has fallen into crazy disarray because of everything else. Then I think about Ethiopia and the baby again. The circle is maddening. In all of this, Chad is next to me as still as a boulder, in the deepest stages of sleep.

Now you all know why I haven't had any time for blogging!


melody's birthday party

We celebrated Melody's birthday early this year. Her birthday is December 22; we had her party a couple of weekends early so that more people could attend. It was the first big birthday party we've had. It was a lot of work and a lot of fun! Above is a picture of Melody that I frantically snapped seconds before guests started to arrive.

I made the cake four layers because Melody is four years old! The cake had a total of 10 cups of sugar and an entire container of cocoa. We pretty much ate the whole thing at the party.

Here is my brother, aka Uncle Christopher. He is a wonderful uncle and a great gift giver. He gave Melody a pink flashlight; she was thrilled. She has wanted her own flash light for a long time.


leah's birthday party

Every Friday we do playgroup. There are eight moms and 19 kids. We trade houses, passing the crazy task of hosting around and around. Today everyone came to my house and we celebrated Leah's birthday. Playgroup Birthday Parties are great. There are no gifts required. (Leah did receive one gift and a few drawings this morning.) We have cupcakes or cakes -- sometime healthy versions, other times not. Today was not. I made chocolate cupcakes from the recipe on the Hershey Cocoa can. I discovered this recipe a couple of years ago and haven't stopped ranting/raving about it since. I opted to use heavy whipping cream instead of sugary frosting for the tops. I had whipping cream that needed to be used and I figured the kids would be fine with less sugar instead of more. I simply added one tablespoon of sugar and one teaspoon of vanilla extract to a couple cups of heavy cream. Mmmmmmmm. (For those who don't already know... heavy whipping cream is my new best friend.)

Even though my girls are almost two and four, this is the first time I've decorated for a birthday party for one of them. Last year I had grand plans, but they were falsely exposed to chicken pox, so we had a 21 days of no playgroups and no birthday parties. (It turned out our little friend had been allergic to laundry detergent. Not the chicken pox at all.) All of that to say, I started making some decorations last year. A few days ago I pulled them out and completed the task. Melody and I entered the a different world of scissors, double stick tape, paper tools and scrapbook paper. The floors were covered in tiny remnants of our crafting. (I don't waste much.) She repeated over and over again from the other side of the table, "Mommy this is so much fun." Music to my ears. Leah alternated between coloring and watching DVDs.

It was really fun for me to do this party. I will reuse all of the decorations for Melody's party in a few weeks. (For six weeks I will have a two year old and a three year old.) I daydream of making decorations for an Esty Shop someday.....


leah update

Leah will turn two next week. (!) I cannot believe my baby is going to be two years old. Everyone always say, It goes by so fast.... Now I can say the same thing. Leah is so much fun. She is sensitive, feisty, silly and loud. I took these photos about a month ago in the front yard.


stress & sadness

Yesterday someone asked, "Are you still running crazy?" They were referring to my latest post from three weeks ago. No, I'm not running crazy anymore. At least not like I was. The freelance project was one of the hardest things I've ever done. There are many challenging things about being a stay at home mom of little ones, but these do not compare with the stress of trying to design 14 high profile greeting cards in 8 days after not designing cards for three years. I was beside myself.

Chad's mom and sisters were able to help by taking the girls in Illinois for a week! With the house empty and quiet I felt like I could solve all of the world's problems. It was a stark contrast to the normal pace of our home. Too bad we weren't able to clean it up because it would have stayed that way for 6 days!

I worked at my computer for 18 hours a day, only getting up to eat, pee, and sleep. It was insane. The week of running crazy made me appreciate my life so much. I am grateful that my life is not super stressful all of the time. I thought of people like heart surgeons and world leaders and wondered how they do it day after day. I am thankful for the tasks of loading the dishwasher, changing the laundry, walking the quarter of a mile to the mailbox. Above all else I appreciate the luxury of staying home with my girls everyday.

All of that to say, being a stay at home mom is hard!!! Hahaha. I know, I know... I just went on and on about how awesome it is. But the truth is, I struggle with this role too. I strive for more structure, for a routine. I want to be one of those people who keeps the house clean by working on it little by little, everyday. I try to figure out why I'm not this way. Is it because of the way I was raised? (My mom, grandma, and great grandma all had/have unstructured, unorganized, uncleaned houses.) Is it due to my personality? Is it a spiritual stronghold of laziness?

Another struggle is sadness. During my freelance project I didn't have time to be depressed, but as soon as it was over and regular life returned, I was down and out again. On the worst days I end up eating Big Macs, twizzlers, cokes, etc when I'm not hungry. I eat something and the sugar or caffeine fuels me long enough to sorta function for 45 more minutes. Then I wander back to the kitchen or back to a drive thru for more fuel. By the time 6pm rolls around I'm frantic for Chad to relieve me of my day. He arrives and I barely survive until the girls are in bed.

I usually don't have two days like that in a row. I have fun times with Melody and Leah, but the bad days are too frequent. I'm seriously considering trying Wellbutrin again. It worked well the year before my pregnancy with Leah when I had postpartum depression. Before I make the final decision about the antidepressant I'm going to see a Christian counselor. I guess I just want to talk things out with a professional. It's been 5 years since I did any therapy. I've heard that age 35 is typically a good time for adults to hash out their childhood and family stuff in therapy. Maybe people are finally ready to see reality and get healthy at age 35. I'm 32, so perhaps that's starting for me.


running crazy

Several years ago Chad had a coworker named Andres, from El Salvador. His English was decent but he often used funny expressions. One of the comical things he said was, "I'm running crazy!" instead of "I'm really busy." For the past few years Chad and I have continued using this expression. When we are super stressed Andres' expression seems to express our feelings more accurately than saying the normal, "I'm really busy...."

All that to say, I AM RUNNING CRAZY!

Yesterday I accepted a freelance job that is insanely ambitious. I've never done this much work in such a short amount of time. I was having a relaxing and peaceful day. The girls were occupying themselves and I was painting some artwork at the kitchen table. Third Day's Blessed Assurance was on the radio. (Another favorite of mine.) The day was easy, peaceful, lovely. Then I checked my email, read the freelance opportunity, and accepted it.

In an instant my happy day was demolished. Anxiety oozed from every pore. I snapped the radio off, mid hymn. I paced the house with my thoughts darting off the walls and floor like a pin ball. The rest of the day was a internal battle for calm. I decided to have a fun day with the girls since I'll be working nonstop for the next eight days. We put on our swimsuits and got in the blistering hot car to go to the pool. As we backed out of the driveway I suggested we pray for a good outing together. Melody said she would pray.... it went something like this, "Lord help us have a good time today. Help me obey Mommy and cooperate. Please don't let anything horrible happen."

Forty-five minutes later we arrived at the Aquatic Center to discover a vacant parking lot and an empty pool. I eyed the girls cautiously as I told them the pool was closed. They both handled it beautifully, and I immediately realized Melody's prayer was answered. We ended up doing some shopping and I bought Melody her first Princess Collection item. (Three pack of glittery lip gloss.) I've been holding off on Princess items because I don't care for paying three times as much for a ball because it has an ugly Cinderella sticker on it. I usually control the situation by presenting her with two options... "Do you want this Eric Carle book or this polka dot ball?" Yesterday she decided that SHE would pick out a toy by herself. She found the lip gloss and freaked out saying, THIS IS SO COOL. THIS IS WHAT I WANT. I sighed and said okay. Then I spied a Hello Kitty lip gloss set. I have always had a soft place in my heart for Hello Kitty, so I showed it to her to see if she'd rather have that one. "The Princess Collection is better." she said.

We ended up having a fun outing. Her prayer was answered. Now I will ask Melody to pray for me as I start the freelance project.


my birthday

Yesterday was my birthday. As a (new) 32 year old, I don't expect my birthdays to be stellar. Yesterday blew my expectations out of the water.

The day began with Melody singing me Happy Birthday To You at the breakfast table. Her voice is so soft and sweet. At 10:00am we headed to town. (I hate it that I use that expression all the time. "Girls are you ready to go to town?" Ick.) Anyway, we drove to Renae's house for bible study time with Renae and Lauren, which is actually just talk time lately. We haven't been doing an actual bible study in long time. We mainly talk about our marriages, our emotional state, and we pray together.

Renae and Lauren remembered it was my birthday and had a decadent chocolate cake ready and waiting on the kitchen counter, complete with Reeses candies on top. We promptly ate three large pieces at the dining room table while the kids played in the out of sight playroom. A couple of hours later we headed to Cafe on Broadway, Siloam's finally successful small town lunch destination. Sweet amazing Harmony (the master mind of the restaurant) brought us two desserts on the house. This time Melody and Leah helped partake of the sugar. Leah ate cookie quickly, trying to keep up with Melody.

We got home just in time to crash into our beds for a nap. I slept hard for 35 minutes and then slipped out of the bed (Melody was next to me). I started some laundry and then doodled around the house until Beck arrived. She surprised me with a large coke from Sonic! More sugar! We sat under the twin ceiling fans on the back porch and caught up. We then spent 15 minutes decided which restaurant to celebrate our birthdays at. Her birthday is 3 days after mine and we always go out together to celebrate. So picture this: we're sipping cokes, talking about where to eat, and then she says, "Have you lost weight?" We instantly burst out laughing at the irony. I replied, "Not today!"

Fast forward three hours. Chad arrived home with orange gerber daisies, a card, and Milano cookies. Does anyone see a trend here? Basically, my birthday was one sugar wave after another. I was happy all day because there was never an opportunity for me to come down off the sugar high.

It was a terrific day. I felt very loved and peaceful. One treat came toward the end of the day. Leah was drinking a smoothie and Melody was in the tub. Thus, it was a quiet moment. The kitchen radio was on and my two favorite songs were played, one right after the other. The first was Blessed Be Your Name and the second was the hymn Come Thou Fount. I sang along and felt deep joy in those six minutes. It was like a birthday present from KLRC.


late night craziness

A few nights ago Chad was working late. Leah went to bed at regular time, but Melody stayed up to wait for him. We had a fun girl time. I put her hair into a multitude of pony tails and then grabbed the camera....


poop drama

For two days Melody was afraid to poop. She would sit on the toilet and say things like,

The poop is going to hurt me.
I very want to wait.
I will go later.
I will go when I am four.

Poor girl! We trying everything... singing, laughing, stories. She even said, "Mommy will you pray that my poop won't hurt?" The next day the girls were in the tub. Melody jumped up. I HAVE TO POOP! She held on tight to the toilet so her slippery body wouldn't fall in. I rubbed her legs and said, "Try to relax sweetie. You can do it. It will be over soon. I know how you feel." It was like having a baby.

Soon she was finished. The offending object was indeed massive. Poor little girl. (She was proud of it though.) Then she said excitedly. IT DIDN'T EVEN HURT! GOD ANSWERED OUR PRAYER. This has been happening a lot lately in her life. We pray about bandaids coming off without pain, bug bites to shop itching, and the like. It's fun to see her realize that Jesus cares about the details of her life.

About 90 seconds after Melody hopped back into the tub, Leah squatted down and pooped into the bath water. I guess she didn't want to be left out of the poop drama.


index card art

Melody and I recently put together a package to send to our far away, very missed friends. The project began at Walmart. It was July 1st. I was pushing the monster blue double toddler cart around the acre store and found a back-to-school art supply sale. It was amazing.

Elmers glue: 20¢
24 pack crayons: 22¢
two glue sticks: 30¢
colored pencils: 60¢
pencil sharpener: 20¢

I stood and stared, trying to figure out if the stuff was a good deal or not. When I decided it was a good deal I began tossing stuff into the cart. Melody got excited.


After we got home I decided to put together a little package for our friends. We pulled out our new stuff and got to work. I found a package of white index cards and began doodling with a black Sharpie. My idea was to make coloring book type drawings on each card. I wanted them to be bold, simple, and fun to color in. Melody worked at the table with me, coloring with her new pencils and sharpening them between each job. As we worked she told me what to draw. Her strangest request was, "a tank top with a heart on it." (You can see it at the top.) We mailed these cards with a pack of new Crayons. It was great fun to doodle on index cards. It reminded me of Thumbnail exercises in college.

(For those of you not in the art world, we call little brainstorming drawings Thumbnails. In college I was required to do a certain number of thumbnails at the beginning of each project. It was a brainstorming activity that everyone hated, but grew to appreciate. It works! The key is to not invest in one idea for too long, thus allowing one's brain to continually come up with fresh ideas as you draw them. It worked beautifully for the index cards because I was just trying to do coloring book artwork.)

Here is some of our work...

Melody colored this one in all by herself. She was in another world as she worked on it. She said things like,

"Hmmm, I wonder what color I should use next?"
"Mommy, don't look. It's not finished yet."

Hearing her say these things was cool because I remember having the same thoughts and feelings about artwork as a child. I know exactly what she was feeling and thinking and I love it when that happens.


melody & leah's room

One morning last week I started the day feeling lost. I had planned on staying at home that day. I felt a pull to escape responsibility, escape the house, escape saving gas money. I paced and fought the pull. I called my friend Hannah, hoping for some relief. She has three little girls. We share the folly of escaping our homes, of chasing fast food cravings, of ordering onion rings and french fries at the same time, of drinking too much coke, of letting the laundry pile up, of listening to sad music when we are sad. To my delight Hannah answered the phone and chatted with me for a good thirty minutes. We dealt with our kids between sentences and I drank coffee as we talked. The good conversation (coupled with caffeine) was just what I needed to proceed with my day at home.

I decided to work on the girls' bedroom. A few months ago I rearranged their furniture. I failed to complete the job and never rearranged the wall hangings. I tackled the project with the ceiling fan on high and U2 in the portable CD player. Here are some pictures of the results...

These cuties are from Anthropologie clearance and a garage sale. Total: $14.50.

The wall hangings are all from Anthropologie also. I found a couple of them on ebay and a couple on clearance at the store. The pink metal square is from a going-out-of-business sale at a local furniture store. I love the border details and the light pink color. On it are paper letters spelling Melody's name. I cut them out of scrapbooking paper.

I found this twin headboard at a garage sale for $12. I didn't do anything to it. The brown blanket is from Walmart, on clearance for $5. The reverse side is light pink. I like the circle quilting. The pillow in the foreground is from IKEA. It's a splurge of the room at $20. I fell in love with it instantly. It's one of the items that pulls the whole room together.

This is a curtain made from vintage handkerchiefs. My mother-in-law helped me tackle the project a couple of years ago. I had had the handkerchiefs for a few years before that! She did all the sewing since I'm not very confident in my sewing skills. I was afraid to mess them up. Fear is the main reason so much of my projects go undone.

More handkerchief detail.

This curtain is made from a table cloth. I bought it at a garage sale about a year ago and just put it up last week. I love the blue and white of it.

I used little back hoop clips to fasten it to the curtain rod.

The light shines through beautifully in the late afternoon.

Lastly, is the elephant. Chad hates this item, but I love it. We usually do not disagree so strongly. I found this at Peir 1 (one of my favorite stores) after Christmas a few years ago. It was marked 75% off and I paid about $7 for it. It is another piece that holds the room together.

Some of you may be wondering how I got my work accomplished while taking care of Melody and Leah at the same time...


...and crackers! They had a great time.



Finally! Some pictures of my new hair. I got it cut about two weeks ago. I love the change. I tend to wait a long long long time between style changes. This haircut was long overdue. I mentioned to Chad that I might get it cut and when he speedily responded favorably I realized I had waited too long. (He doesn't tend to respond speedily to anything unless it's a comment about how low our electricity bill is this month.)

My friend Stephanie highlighted it for me last night. I went to her house with $6 highlighting product, a 4-pack of mini merlots, and my two girls. We ate cheese, crackers and salted tomatoes for supper and the kids watched The Jungle Book while she did my hair. It was great to hang out and give the girls a chance to play with her daughter Claire. (We missed you Ellen!)

And here is my attempt to show the back. This shot took about 20 attempts and now I have a neck ache.

our 4th of july

We went to Granbury, Texas for the 4th of July this year. My grandma Kotter is turning 90 this summer, so we made the holiday into a family reunion. My brother and I made the 7 hour trip together in his non-airconditioned car. I didn't mind because it was my first time in three years to go on a road trip without kids. I enjoyed every minute of the hot day. I didn't turn around to face the back seat one time. I ordered my own blizzard with the candy of my choice, Snickers. Christopher and I talked a lot and goofed off with the camera, taking a photo each hour. You can sorta see my new short hair peeking out from my hat.

This is our Grandma Evelyn Kotter. She is my dad's mom. She was excited about the family get together for months beforehand. You can see her excitement in this photo.

Lead had a great time in the water. The triple digit heat made the pool water feel great. See she did great. She was very at ease with Chad and by the end of the day she was riding on his back like a pro.

I love this photo. I love it when Leah makes this face with her lips. It looks like her Aunt Holly to me.

At one point, we all tried on these silly glasses. Enjoy...


homemade laundry detergent

After hearing about this recipe from Anna, Laurel, and Thalia, I decided to give it a go. I mulled the idea around for a few weeks, unsure if I wanted to commit to another project. Then I found a cool jar at Peir 1 (on clearance). I love the look of recycled glass.

The recipe is simple, with just four ingredients. It can be found at this website.

Grating the soap was the most time consuming part. I bought an extra fine grater for the job. I love the smell of the Fels Naptha soap. It has citrus aroma. Grating it this fine insures it will dissolve well in the washing machine water.

My bowl wasn't quite big enough; I ended up making two batches.

One of the cool things about this detergent is that it only takes one tablespoon per load. (Two for extra dirty clothes.) I still use spray Oxyclean on the girls' clothes before washing. I've been using this detergent for about a month, and our clothes and linens seem to be just as clean. It costs a fraction of the price of store bought detergent, and now I have this cool jar of soap in my laundry room instead of a plastic container of brand name stuff. Aesthetic perks keep me going. If I'm going to do 15 loads of laundry a week, I might as well have a cool jar to enjoy in the process. I feel the same way about kitchen extras. My favorite kitchen thing is a whisk from Antropologie that has a porcelain handle. Other kitchen treasures are pot holders made by my great grandma. Perhaps I'll post some photos of my favorite around-the-house items soon. Right now, it's time to do some more laundry!


the latest

So, I wrote a post about depression and then fell off the face of the earth. The Laura picture was a big realization. I am depressed a lot of the time. After that post I spiraled down for a few days. The house fell apart. I was socially blank. I coexisted with the girls. A new cycle came and things brightened up. I slowly pulled things around me back to order. These slumps leave me exhausted. It's more of a mental exhaustion than anything else. My thoughts swirl:

"You're too hard on yourself."
"You're too easy on yourself."
"Don't think about it."
"Get a drug already."
"Exercise, exercise, exercise."

Here is what you've missed in the past couple of weeks:

• A short haircut for me. (Photo later.) I love it. Now I want to get some chunky blonde highlights.

• Melody is coloring like crazy. One Saturday she colored at the table for FOUR HOURS. We had had a crazy Friday the day before. I think she was decompressing. After the four hours of coloring, the slept for three hours. Why can't she do that on a weekday?!

• Leah eats more than I do every single day. She also sleeps through the night now. It feels so great to not be tired all the time. I get up with Chad in the mornings for breakfast again.

• I thought I might be pregnant last month. I made a vow to myself that if I wasn't I'd learn how to chart. We want more kids, but not now. I'm not pregnant. (I was 98% relieved and 2% sad.) I borrowed Taking Charge of Your Fertility and am reading it.

• Church has been awesome. When I'm sad, I feel so much closer to God. I guess this is because I need Him and I'm desperate for Him. It's good to want God and to experience Him as a comforter.

• Melody did swim lessons last week. She can now dog paddle! Seeing her paddle across the pool unassisted was a surprising thrill. It felt similar to the joy of seeing her walk for the first time.

That's all for now. I'll do a photo post soon, I promise.


hard questions

Laura sent this photo to me yesterday. It was taken the day after we graduated from JBU in May of 1999. Seeing this photo brought back interesting feelings for me. First I felt warmth because of the friendship portrayed. Our relaxed body language and easy smiles say a lot about us. Next, I recalled how bad I felt that day. I was struggling with being sad, mean and angry. I had PMS that day. I tried to be happy, but it was a huge battle.

Often when I look at photos, I think, "Ugh, I remember that day. I had PMS and I felt horrible (emotionally)." Which led to more thoughts... Am I depressed too much of the time? What is normal for a woman? Do I just tell myself I'm happy? Does it count, if 9 years later I look at a photo and remember the angst that I felt? All these questions lead to the big one that pops into my head every few weeks. Should I be on an antidepressant? I took an AD for one year, after Melody was born. The postpartum depression I experienced after Melody's birth was deeper than the PMS mood swings. I took Wellbutrin and it worked really well. I stopped taking when I got pregnant with Leah.

I doubt I'll take an AD unless things get worse. I tend to error on the side of no action when it comes medication. But yesterday, seeing that photo made me second guess myself. About 1/3 of my photos carry memories of feeling bad on the inside like that day.


fathers day

Father's Day this year was low key and fun. We started the day by skipping church. This might become a Mother's Day/Father's Day tradition for our family. (We did the same thing on Mothers Day.) We started the day early, with Leah waking up at 6:15. I brought her back to our bed and she nestled under the covers with us until 7:00, dozing and waking repeatedly.

For breakfast I made a blueberry coffee cake. The recipe came from Krsitin, who always wows me with her kitchen skills. (She was a food science major!) Chad likes sweet things for breakfast, and we're getting tired of canned jumbo cinnamon rolls (after 5 years). The coffee cake hit the spot. It has lots of brown sugar and butter in it.

For a gift, I wrapped a glass hummingbird feeder with Melody's artwork. I do this often. Sometimes I wrap packages that are to be mailed to friends. I think it would be fun to receive a bright, juvenile, wacky package like one of these. Who knew easel paper could be so much fun.

The rest of the day has been delightfully slow and relaxed. Happy Father's Day, Chad! You are wonderful.