Thursday, September 18, 2014

How we use our CSA or Co-op {Community Supported Agriculture, Produce, Use what you have}

I HATE wasting food. I'm frugal and practical, but also justice-minded and do not like seeing things go to waste. When my husband and I started testing the waters in community supported agriculture and Co-ops, I knew that I'd need to get creative to ensure we didn't waste food.
CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and allows individuals to essentially purchase a "share" of produce from local or regional farmers. A food cooperative or  co-op is where members share decision-making responsibilities about food they purchase together. 

Jarrod and I initially joined a local CSA that received the bulk of it's produce from a local farmer. It was wonderful because everything was organic, local, and fresh. We picked up our share once a week on Saturday morning. What wasn't so great was that it was all pretty random stuff. Several weeks in a row we got prickly pear cactus. This isn't a great deal for our family because there's only so much you can make with cactus for a toddler...

About a year ago, we switched to Urban Acres, a local CSA that we LOVE. Every 2 weeks we pick up our share at a local establishment.

Things I LOVE about our CSA:
  • A few days before our pick-up, we receive an e-mail with pictures and links to everything that will be included in our box. This includes recipes, a little bit about the produce, and the best way to store it. 
  • It's all organic and regional. The produce supports local farmers.
  • It's stuff we eat or a good replacement for stuff we eat. We get unusual things or things we've never tried before, but it's always something that can be tossed in a smoothie, added to a stir fry, or chopped into a casserole. None of it is weird, random, or strange. 
I sing the praises of our CSA regularly and usually the first thing people ask me is what is in it and how I use it. I decided to take a fairly normal share (we get the medium share) and tell you how I use it over the course of two weeks.

This particular share included: 
  1. One spaghetti squash
  2. 5 small red potatoes
  3. two bundles of green onions
  4. about 8 figs
  5. A brown paper bag of okra
  6. 3 tomatoes
  7. Oregano
  8. Two LARGE heads of garlic
  9. A bunch of kale
  10. A bag of arugula
This was a decent share - not the best and not the worst. It came on a week where I didn't have much patience for trying new recipes, so my solutions for using these foods were rather boring. But it all got used! Here's what we did...
  • Grilled Veggie Pasta - We chopped the tomatoes, some green onions, oregano, and garlic, sauted it, and served it over pasta. I ate mine over roasted spaghetti squash
  • Hash - Chopped potatoes, some green onions, and oregano in a skillet with sausage. Sometimes we add an egg on top, but this time we left it plain. 
  • Gluten-free fried okra - This was a new one for us and it was INCREDIBLE! We ate the entire batch in one sitting. Wesley ate a ton of it! 
  • Green Smoothies and Healthy Muffins are my life-savers for using all this produce! While I really wanted to try these figs prosciutto or even these no-bake fig balls with the figs, but in the end I just used them as sweetener in smoothies and muffins. I used all of the kale in a few batches of smoothies. 
  • Salad - I force salad down Jarrod's throat a few times a week. This week we used green leaf lettuce and arugula. I'm not the biggest fan of arugula, but adding the green leaf made it palatable. 
Because this was such a simple box, it really wasn't hard to use everything. I think I ended up throwing a little bit of the oregano away, but that was all from the whole box! If I'd been smarter (and perhaps didn't have a newborn and a 2.5 year old...) I would have dried some of the oregano and froze it for later use.

Having a CSA or co-op does take some planning and flexibility. But it's a great way to try new things, get organic produce, and save money! 




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Friday, September 5, 2014

Journey to our little girl - Chapter 7: ADOPTION DAY!

This is the last installment of the Journey to our little girl series. If you missed chapter 1, chapter 2, chapter 3, chapter 4, chapter 5, or chapter 6, I encourage you to read those as well to find out how we ended up here! 

If you follow us on Instagram you got overgrammed on Wednesday, September 3rd. We got up early in the morning, put on clothes that had been picked out and ironed for weeks, and were out of the house by 7:05 AM!


We parked the car at the parking garage (we scouted out the day before!) across the street from the court house. We had plenty of time to capture this selfie.

After walking across the street, we went through security. There were metal detectors but we managed to get through without any trouble. The sheriffs keeping guard were incredibly sweet to my boy who pretended he was shy.

The elevator took us to the 5th floor and we had time to run around. We took more photos, Wesley read a book, diaper change, potty trip, and it was time to meet our attorney! Our attorney took us to a private conference room to go over some paperwork.

Thank goodness she went over everything with us privately. She asked us the questions she'd ask in front of the judge and I got very teary. We practiced promising to love our baby girl forever and be her parents forever. It was emotional and beautiful... While Wesley ate Cheerios and read Go Dog Go in the corner.

After we finished practicing, we walked over to the court room and waited for our attorney to check us in. A few minutes later, we were ready to go! We walked into the court room and were told to go straight to the front! We walked right up to the judge and got things going!

We introduced our family to the precious judge and he swore us in. Our attorney asked us the questions again and we said we would love Sister forever and be her parents forever. We acknowledged that the 6-month waiting period had been waived (praise Jesus!) and we were prepared to take on all the responsibilities of parenting Sister.

And then we took pictures.


She's officially a Johnston!!

We went to court records and received 3 (THREE!) copies of her paperwork. We'll get birth certificate and everything else soon, but for now, 3 copies. And we can't lose all of them. Or it'd be bad. :-) Even with waiting for the documents, we were still out of the courthouse by 8:50am!

We went back to the car and decided to go to Starbucks to kill time before the zoo opened. We changed into our TEAM JOHNSTON t-shirts and got ready for coffee. We attracted a lot of attention getting our coffee and told our story about our precious baby. Not only did the woman behind us in line want to buy our coffee, but the baristas comped our coffee! It was beautiful to share our story and brighten everyone's Wednesday.

Free coffee is good coffee!!

After our quick stop, we went to the zoo! We have a membership and love to spend time there! We were some of the first people in the zoo and decided to take advantage of that to see things we don't normally see. We let Wesley direct our path and he wandered free - there was almost no one there!
We had a fantastic time at the zoo - the weather was perfect and Wesley loved it. But after about 90 minutes, we were all exhausted. It was a very long morning! We decided it was time to head to lunch. We went to one of Jarrod's favorite spots in Fort Worth for meat and meat. I got roasted cauliflower. It was incredible and one of the only non-meat options. :-)
Sister is so excited to be on Team Johnston!

After lunch we all crashed. Wesley took a 3 hour nap while Daddy and Mama got work done. Sister was pretty exhausted too!


And that's how she became a Johnston!
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Friday, August 29, 2014

I rock at being a two-kid mom. {AKA Two kids is hard.}

All of this is said with a TON of sarcasm. I promise that I do not rock, nor have I EVER rocked, at anything in my whole life. I know that moms are not perfect and know we all make mistakes. I share this story for solidarity with the mama-sisters out there that struggle every day to shower, go to the bathroom alone, and not lose their minds. 

Until Sister was 6 weeks old I was rocking the two-kid-mama thing. I wore Sister in a Moby wrap on walks, baked cookies and blueberry muffins, and basically rocked everything in life. I was sleeping at least a full night ever two nights, thanks to swapping duties with the husband, was on a break from work, and my other kid was in school. Seriously, I had things under control.

Then we hit 6 weeks. I don't know what changed, but I suddenly stopped rocking at life. Here's my life two Sundays ago...

I got up with just enough time to eat breakfast with the kids, take them for a quick 2 mile walk around the neighborhood, and get back to shower, get dressed, and get to church. Wesley watches Daniel Tiger to give me time to shower. I leave my hair wet and hope it dries in a cute "style." A friend from church cut it this week and I want it to look good so she looks good. Fail #1. (She did a great job and it looks great now, but that day I was not rocking the messy look.)

It's 15 minutes before go time and I'm in my bathrobe getting Wesley dressed. He doesn't want to wear clothes. We have a conversation about the importance of wearing clothes to church. I bribe him and get him dressed. Sister is a much easier sell on wearing clothes so she gets dressed too - headband, socks, dress, and she's ready to go. 

Their bag is packed with formula, bottles, changes of clothes for both kids, diapers, undies, wipes, books, cars, trains, etc. All the essentials. I decide to put on real clothes (and take my own advice on wearing clothes to church) with about 2 minutes to spare. Wes gets on his new shoes and out the door we go! 

New shoes... Wes trips often and his new shoes cause him to trip even more. He eats the sidewalk the second we exit the house. Seriously? We don't have time for this, kid! Thankfully he's fine with a little love and we're off to church.

We arrive at church at the exact moment we need to be in Sunday school. I unbuckle Wes, get Sister in the wrap, and tell Wesley to walk towards me to get out of the car. I've locked all the doors and am ready to start the trek to church. Wesley decides to climb to the front of the car. Because Sister is strapped to me, I struggle to squeeze in the car to grab him and help him out of the car. I close the door and we walk through the long parking lot into church. We navigate our way to Wesley's classroom and I drop him off before going to my own class. I make it there only 10 minutes late, which I consider a success. #winning

Halfway through class a friend receives a phone call. His dad has found a set of car keys in the parking lot and wants to know where to bring them. I immediately know the keys are mine.

Of course I don't remember leaving my keys on the hood of my car, but I did. I knew I did. This sweet friend was very careful not to accuse me of anything - his father just wanted to know where to bring the keys to get them back to their rightful owner. He described the car and the keys - yeah, those are mine...

I was so embarrassed, but did get my keys back without any trouble. Thankfully I knew the son of the man who found them and they were returned before the entire church knew! Thankfully I got my keys back before I was walking to my car with both kids after church!

I got home with both kids and we had an incredibly challenging 3 hours. Wesley was inconsolable and refused to nap, eat, or calm down. Sister needed to eat (the horror!) and I wanted lunch too. It wasn't fun and I was pretty pissed off that Jarrod was at work all day long. It was one of my lowest points in parenting. After 3 hours Wesley fell asleep (he needed a nap SO BAD!) and Sister and I got to relax. Did I mention we were having 20+ people (including half a dozen toddlers) for dinner that night? Right...

Jarrod got home to a clean house, rested kids, and a relatively sane mama. It took him a few hours, but he eventually told me that I left the car door open in the driveway all afternoon. For 4 hours my car door was (locked) open.

I.am.awesome. 
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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Adoption is bittersweet.

When our baby girl was placed in our arms, she was just a few minutes old. Our adoption plan went exactly as we hoped and was seamless and beautiful. Photos of our family make everything look beautiful and easy.

There is a lot of sweetness in adoption.

But not everything in adoption, even in the best of situations, is sweet.

When we took Sister to her first doctor's appointment she was 36 hours old. I filled out the paperwork, just as I had with Wesley. Except this time I wrote a different last name. Sister is not a Johnston officially. She has always been a Johnston in my heart, but repeatedly I wrote her birth name over and over and over. Thankfully her first and middle names are the same. Many adoptive families do not have that experience. I signed everything as guardian and left a lot of the family history blank. It was heartbreaking because it highlighted the fact that Sister might not be forever mine.

When she was two weeks old we were back at the doctor. We were sent from there to the hospital to have her two week bloodwork done. I can't remember what it's called - where they squeeze blood into little circles on a card and mail it to the state. Whatever. To the hospital we went. I remembered doing this with Wesley and expected it to be fairly painless.

We checked in and I explained (again) that my insurance card would not be helpful to them. She's not covered under my insurance. Yes, I know babies are covered under mama's insurance until they are 30 days old. She's not my baby. She has her own policy and the card is in the mail. We proceed to another check-in station.

I answer about 12,995,234 questions. They have all of Sister's birth mom's information because it is a sister hospital. I have to choose "guardian" on the list of relationships. My heart breaks.

I walk down the hall, fighting back tears. My heart says she's my baby, but she's not REALLY my baby. This experience is a reminder that this is different.

After two registrations and a long walk, Sister and I reach the third waiting room. We check in and an older gentleman asks if her newborn screening was inconclusive. Nope - just here to do the mandatory second one. They don't have her first one because she was born at a different (45 minutes away) hospital. We need to fill our a special form. He comes and sits with me to fill it out.

"Mother's name."

"Mother's birthdate."

"Mother's address."

He's stumped me. I don't have her address with me. We skip this one.

"Mother's social security number."

Again, I have no idea. He's being very kind, but in my mind he's asking, "What kind of mother doesn't know this!?!"

Finally we are taken back to the room where he will draw the blood. Relief is coming soon - we will be able to go home as soon as he's done.

"Who are you to this baby? Are you a friend? Aunt?"

Sigh. "I'm her guardian. I'm hoping to be her adoptive mom, but right now I'm just guardian."

He lights up. His son is adopted. They brought him home from the hospital. He's 32 now. Just met his birth mom. He literally shines talking about his boy. We connect and my heart lightens. He gives me a gift of belonging. He understands.

"Just say 'mom.' Next time, you say 'mom.'"

Tears.

I know he's right. I know I'm her mom.

I'm the one who knows her noises. I know when she's hungry and when she needs to be swaddled. I'm the one who snuggles her at 4:15am while she eats. I'm the one who tells her how loved she is - by God, us, and her first family. She's my girl.

But she's not. Not yet.
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Monday, August 18, 2014

Journey to our little girl - chapter 6: Termination Day.

The time between leaving the hospital and when we felt comfortable making this official to the world was uneventful. It was a lot like giving birth to a newborn. We were figuring things out as a new family of 4. We were up at night, learning the ins and outs of formula feeding, and entertaining our boy. Of course I didn't have to deal with recovery, which made things a little smoother. Instead, the pain of post-birth was replaced with the fear of losing our baby. We still were not the first people in line to claim her. Even after her birthmom terminated her parental rights when she was 5 days old, her birth father still had 26 additional days to use his paternal rights.

I tried hard not to live in constant fear. I'll write more about my feelings during that time in a separate post, but suffice to say, it was a tough time. We knew going into this situation that day 31 was magical. That was the day that paternal rights could be terminated. That fell on a Saturday and our attorneys cautioned us that it could take a few business days before we heard anything.

On Tuesday afternoon around 4pm Wesley was beginning to wake up from his nap. We were at a lake house with some of our dearest friends. Jarrod and I were at the house with sleeping Wesley. Sister was watching us make dinner while the rest of our crew was swimming. My phone rang. "LAWYER" flashed across the screen. I hushed Jarrod and answered the phone as calmly as possible.

"This is Leanne."

"Good afternoon, Leanne. This is ATTORNEY. How are you doing?"

"Great..."

"How's that baby girl?"

"She's great. Do you have good news for me?"

"I do. Paternity registry came back clear. I'll walk the termination papers to the judge tomorrow morning."

This news meant that we could move forward with the adoption uncontested. No one else had rights to our baby girl. This was the news we were waiting for. This was the reason to celebrate and share Sister with the world. We could finally go official!

The attorney made sure that I made an appointment with our social worker to schedule the post-placement study. As glamorous as this moment sounds, I was also watching Jarrod clean up our kid who had wet the bed while learning that our daughter was going to be officially ours soon. It was perfection.

I got off the phone, filled Jarrod in, and cried. We made plans to go to the pool to see our friends, but I first texted them the news. I wanted them to know that I was crying happy tears. At the pool there was also wifi, which we needed to finally share the news with the world. We went "facebook official" that afternoon.

Our dear friends celebrated with us that night. We had a champagne toast and it was beautiful.
The next morning I left the family and went for a walk near the lake. It was beautiful and peaceful. I gave thanks for the incredible blessings of a precious birth family, a healthy baby girl, and a beautiful family. I listened to a podcast and when I got down to the lake, I checked my phone. An e-mail popped up from the attorney.

Our official termination paperwork. Signed by the judge.

I got excited and anxious. I opened the email and waited for the attachment to download. I immediately opened it and began reading. With Sister wrapped up on me, I sat down on some rocks and sobbed.

Termination paperwork is tough, y'all.

The wording is incredibly clear. There's no way to misunderstand what has happened - all parental rights are terminated - FINALLY AND FOREVER.

Of course this is good news for the Johnstons, but it was very sad to read. Obviously I know that this paperwork in no way eliminates her birth family from her life. They very much still have an important role. But it makes things official in a painful, crazy way.
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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Potty Trained Bag - Zipper bag with a handle tutorial {DIY bag}

When Wesley became potty trained I was thrilled that I could ditch our big diaper bag and carry (just) my purse again! However, I wasn't comfortable leaving all of his things at home and didn't want to keep a million sippy cups, snacks, and Thomas the train undies in my purse. The first time I dropped my potty-trained kid off at the nursery at church I left him with a huge diaper bag with 3 things in it. It seemed silly.

A good friend said that she found a few make-up bags and kept them stocked and ready to go for her daughter. BINGO! I didn't have an extra make-up bag big enough for Wesley stuff so I decided to make him his very own bag.

I wanted something big enough for a change of clothes - shorts, shirt, underwear, socks, and sometimes shoes, a snack, and a sippy cup. I wanted a handle so that he could carry it himself. And because I have an embroidery machine, I wanted his name on it.

I found a few tutorials and tweaked them to make them work for me.

Supplies:
12" zipper
13"x17" rectangle for the outside of the bag
2 - 13"x8.5" rectangles for the lining
13"x17" fusible interfacing or fleece
3"x16" strip for handle (optional)
thread and sewing machine

For this project I used fleece to line the bag. I had some extra from another project and it worked great. I lined the fleece to the outside material and embroidered the name. This holds the two pieces together. If you aren't using something fusible, you can pin the two pieces together. If you're using fusible interfacing, iron the two pieces together to secure.

Line the zipper up with the top of the outside material, right sides together. Line one piece of the lining to the zipper. Sew together.

To make sure that the fabric doesn't get stuck in the zipper, flip everything right side out and topstitch.

Repeat with the other piece of lining and the other side of the bag.

Sew down the sides of the lining. If you aren't using a handle, sew down the sides of the main fabric as well.

If you're using a handle you will want to fold your long strip in half and sew shut. Flip right side out and iron flat. Topstitch either side of the handle and fold in half.

Before sewing up the sides of the outside fabric, place the handle inside and line up the end of the handle with the seams. Sew down both sides.


Flip the bag right side out. Before you sew up the bottom, make sure that the zipper is open. Iron in the edges of the bottom and topstitch closed the lining of the bag. Put the lining inside the bag. Now you're good to go!


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Monday, August 11, 2014

Journey to our little girl - chapter 5: Our Hospital Stay.

The last time I wrote about our adoption journey I shared Sister's birth story. We spent about 25 hours in the hospital. It was beautiful and heavy. While we waited for Sister to arrive, we had no idea what to expect. We didn't know if we'd have a room or if we'd camp in the waiting room. We didn't know if we'd share her with her birthmom or if we'd have her most of the time. We didn't know if her birthmom would change her mind and we would leave the hospital without a baby.

Once she was born and placed in our arms, a lot of fears disappeared. We kept our room fairly calm and allowed the birth family the opportunity to visit anytime they wanted. We met lots of family that day and they were absolutely incredible. Everyone was so respectful and it was a beautiful time. I couldn't allow myself to think about the weight of the situation while we were in the hospital because it was too much for me. Someone gave us her baby. A family was losing something so that we could gain. Nothing was permanent and yet she was ours.
Unfortunately, this story was playing at the exact same time. That's right, our daughter was born and both our cars died within about 12 hours of each other. It was crazy! We drove home from the hospital in a rental car. Because everything in the hospital was so smooth, it made the car disasters seem much more manageable.
Our hospital room was peaceful and calm. Visitors came and went and we got to know our baby girl. It was nice to know what to expect - nurses coming in to check on the baby, the pediatrician that didn't want to let us leave at 24 hours, and a hearing test. It was incredible to be able to really experience our baby without the intense post-birth recovery. I cannot say enough about the nurses. They were so respectful of our situation and treated Jarrod and I as parents.

We visited a lot with our birthmom. She stayed in the hospital about 18 hours longer than we did and was on a different floor. She allowed me to be with her as she filled out the birth certificate to ensure that Sister's name was spelled correctly. She checked in with us and made sure everything was going well. She is incredibly strong and stuck to her original plan to hand off baby girl to us immediately.

The entire stay at the hospital was surreal for me. I did my very best to guard my heart through the whole process. I didn't want to get my hopes up. But once Sister was placed in our arms, things really felt right. But in the back of my mind, I was still fearful. Rights wouldn't be terminated for at least 31 days - at that point we'd be able to breathe a little deeper. But until then, even though we were leaving the hospital with a baby, she still isn't ours.
We got home right after dinner on a Thursday night. Jarrod had school in the morning and we only had one working car - a rental. But we were so happy. Wesley was in love with Sister from the moment we brought her home. My mama heart was thrilled. I was ready to let my guard down a little bit and enjoy our new family of 4.
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