Monday, April 20, 2015

Is it negative or is it real?

The true value of an adoption blog is about being who you are in all the messy glory that entails.  Not every day is sunshine, rainbows, and unicorns. That said, I and others in the adoption blog community have been told our blogs are too negative and should add more fluff to make people happy; to entice expectant mothers to want to read more and possibly pick us to parent her child. I hope the expectant mom who reads this blog and picks us knows shes seeing us not fluff.

I’m all for being real.  I can’t and won’t live with faking myself, my emotions or our lives.  The emotions, all of them, in our journey are very real. The blogs I read are real people with real ups and downs and from all angles of adoption. I read birth mother blogs, hopeful adoptive parent blogs and blogs of those who have adopted domestically, internationally and through foster care.  They all have unique perspectives and I feel the more we read the better informed we are and will be when our time comes. 

I believe that showing yourself in your true light is how to get noticed by the right family. Open adoption is a difficult path for everyone involved and also extremely rewarding when the match is right.  I've watched it unfold for many happy families with our agency.  Is everything always perfect? No, but having the right match with the right expectant mom will be our gift.  I want that expectant mom to know us, the real us, when she chooses us for her adoption plan.  I have a great desire in maintaining that relationship for life because our child is for life.  In that desire I have to know and so does she, that we are right for that lifelong commitment. However that looks for her and us at match, placement, and as life goes on. We need to be flexible but committed with our agreed on plan which is built on trust and if we are true in our blog and other social media then when we talk she'll know it's truly us.

There are so many variables in people and it’s just as varied in adoption.  You never know what an expectant mom will be looking for or where she will see you so that online snap shot of who you are better be the people she meets.  

If our blog seems negative or depressing to you, try looking at it from a different perspective.  What may seem one way to you may be giving others hope or just the knowledge they aren't alone with how they are feeling that day. It’s also about our adoption journey no one else’s.  It’s as unique as everyone’s fingerprints.

Our blog is about processing our emotions whatever they may be. It’s about two people looking to have an open adoption. It’s about showing snippets of our daily lives from food, to pets, to vacations, to remodeling, playing games with friends or spending time with family. It’s about our dreams and holding on to hope, having faith it’ll happen, and writing about it. It’s about documenting everything while waiting to adopt to look back on. It’s about a future we long to have as a family of 3

Monday, April 13, 2015

After vacation adoption goals and our Anniversary

So we've been home a week and life is settling back in.  I know everyone says it but if you’re waiting to adopt, don’t wait to take vacations.  Even taking a break from adoption for a weekend can really help renew yours and your partner’s enthusiasm to become parents through adoption.

I really pushed back on taking a trip to Europe because I was worried about the time, costs, and what if’s on the adoption front.  I can say I’m glad Don just bought the tickets and made the arrangements as a surprise. While on vacation the topic of adoption, infertility and foster care was all discussed briefly with our friend’s then filed away to the back of our minds while we took in all the sites and culture.   I’m back with a new vigor and that’s a good thing.

The day we got home I received the email I hate getting.  “It’s time to renew your FBI clearances”, which also means our home study renewal is also quickly approaching. So I've printed our paperwork out and will start filling it all in to submit to our state social worker before June so she has time to come out and then write up our home study for Independent Adoption Center, our agency in California.  The paperwork itself isn't going to take long to fill out with this being the third home study I think we've gotten used to it and maybe the third time is the charm. What takes the most time is trying to rearrange schedules to get fingerprinted.  Our local office has one hour open in the morning and one hour in the afternoon but it isn't at easy times or days to make.  The other time consuming part of the renewal is the physical from our doctor that takes a minimal amount of time but it always takes her a week or two to write it all up to submit so we have to plan that accordingly. She also has specific days that she’ll do the adoption physicals making it a bit tough.  All of this however will get done in due time as it always does.

Today is our 19 year anniversary though so that paperwork can wait another day. I truly can’t believe we've spent the last 24 years together and have been married for 19. It honestly seems like yesterday we started dating, moved to WA, and got married. I’m lucky to have married my best friend and love him more with each day that passes.  I can’t wait for us to include children and become parents but until then we enjoy each other, our pets, and families. 

Live, Laugh, Love, get dressed up and have a food fight. :) 

I hope everyone has a great week ahead and maybe plans a little get away to take a mental break.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Italy - pt. 3 Rome, Ostia Antica, Nemi and home

Day 1
So we planned on going to Ostia Antica this day which was a short 3 stops on the train from where were staying so thought it was a good day to sleep in.  We get train passes, getting off at the stop for the ruins and it’s closed Monday.  We head back to the train and take the train to Rome and get off at the Colosseum.  Holy cow, it is so much larger than it appears in books, pictures, movies.  I was really impressed by the height of the walls and the labyrinth of the lower maze. 
 As you enter the Colosseum 

The Arch of Constaintine

Really incredible views, we stopped by a sandwich/gelato truck for a snack (yum Pistachio gelato!) and to debate going to Palatine hill or the Forum.  The Forum won out.  Absolutely incredible to see and to think you’re in the same church and walking the same roads as the Romans did over 2,000 years ago. 
 snack truck
 overlooking the forum

After the Forum we walked around Rome and found a group of young adults sitting around a fountain drinking and singing songs.  There was a cafĂ© in the square so we sat down for food and drink and listened to them sing and laugh.

This was an early night for us as we got back to our hotel by 8pm and just relaxed, playing games and watching some TV before bed.

Day 2
The Vatican was our plan for day 2 in Rome.  We walked up and the line was enormous.  The wait was about 3 hours to get entrance tickets. There was a bunch of people trying to sell tours and after some discussion among ourselves it’s exactly what we did.  We ran over to be included in the 11:30 tour which was supposed to be a 2 hour tour but ended at 3 so 3 ½ hours.   We highly recommend doing the tour here rather than self guided or audio.  Our guide was incredibly knowledgeable about the history behind the pieces as well as the Church significance (or sometimes historical leader like Napoleon and Mussolini). I think the best part about our guide was that she took the extra time to show us the picture gallery which isn't usually on the tour.  Such awesome things housed here so if you plan on a tour of the Vatican try to get our guide (pictured below with blonde hair, holding a stick with a scarf tied to it) or ask your guide if they include it.
 Our guide

 The last Supper silk tapestry is HUGE and in the picture gallery
 one of the first stairways
The pine cone garden

 St. Peter's
 prepping for the Pope the following day

The Sistine Chapel was a surprise.  We passed through into the back area with benches on the walls and just sat and looked up and the images appeared 3D. Pictures aren't allowed or I’d have tried to capture the 3D like quality of the figures on the ceiling (the prophets and sibyls).
St. Peter’s Basilica is not to be missed.

After the Vatican we grabbed a sandwich to split and were “given gifts” by a man and woman sitting by the food truck who then asked for money.  We gave them some change and we walked away.  They want you to pull out your wallet so they can see it to pick pocket you later.  Don’t do it, better yet don’t accept the “gifts” say no thank you and walk away. Gypsies and pick pockets are the norm so be aware, don’t fall for the conversation.  PSA over.

From there Don wanted to find a particular store so we walked 2 miles (making it 7 miles for the day so far on top of the 9 miles walked the day before) only to find it had closed. As Americans living in the suburbs that walk an average of 1.5-2 miles a day my feet couldn't take anymore of the cobblestone streets so Don flagged a taxi to drive us to the Pantheon.  

Thank goodness for the taxi because we were a LONG way from the Pantheon which looked like it was built yesterday.  Really was stunning and as I sat in a pew Don went to look for the store in Piazza Navona that sold Chess sets.  
 Pantheon entrance
 directly under the open dome
 dome from the inside

He came back about 10 minutes later to take me down there.  It was beautiful and had cafes and shops.  I sat outside at one of the cafes on the corner ordering us some cheese and wine while he went to get that chess set.  He came back and a guy had settled in across the street to play music.  He started out with the Beatles Let it be and then also played Sting, Cyndi Lauper and many others.  He was really, really good.  We walked around the fountain while reading the history of the location and eventually I bought a Pasta maker to bring home.  It was then time to walk back to the Pantheon to catch a Taxi to a train station in Rome to meet up with everyone for Wendy’s birthday dinner.

my phone did a weird filter thing here
a picture of the Piazza Navona hanging in the restaurant that night for dinner with everyone

The restaurant was in Wendy and Jean’s old neighborhood in Rome.  I wish I remembered the name of the restaurant they had really good food there too.  I say that a lot but so many places cater to tourists so it’s just not good and overpriced. The baby wasn't feeling super celebratory so we all took turns trying to get her to sleep.  She finally fell asleep in my arms and holding onto Don’s finger which was so cute.
Someday it'll be us holding our own baby
Wendy, Emmy, Jean and Harvey
We got onto the last train of the night and went back to Ostia.  Our plan for the next day was once again to go to Ostia Antica.

The city, yes city of ruins was so vast we didn't even scratch the surface.  The place could take a week to see it all even if there tour guide of suggested paths.  The nice thing in these ruins is it’s more like a park.  While there are roads you can follow you can also just go off the paths and explore, unlike most other places which guide you along paths.  We spent a few hours here then went back to the hotel to meet up with everyone to drive to a mountain town called Nemi.

 The amphitheater

So the drive to Nemi was interesting.  It’s just over an hour drive there and since Don couldn't get the town to come up on his phone he plugged in the destination as Lake Nemi.  Unfortunately, that’s exactly where the phone was taking us and by the time anyone spoke up we had long since passed the road up the mountain to the town.  Reroute on the phone took us up a very narrow old Roman back road to the town,  The whole while hoping it actually went through or we’d have to drive down the mountain in reverse because no way could a car turnaround let alone the van we in.  Luckily it did go through and we found parking.
Nemi is known for its wild strawberries which are small, sweet, and unaltered.  They were awesome! We had strawberry tarts with custard and cream and I wished I could eat like 6 of them.  They were so tasty.  They also had strawberry/blackberry granita that Wendy had and that was also good made out of the fresh berries.

 a panoramic view of the town
 Lake Nemi 
 Where we shopped
Jean, Wendy, Max, and Harvey

After eating we went to do some shopping.  It was the last evening we’d be in Rome so we bought some jarred goods and dried mushrooms to bring home.
After going to dinner we said our goodbyes and got back to pack the last few things we’d bought into our luggage.  We had an early start the next day to get the 4 of us back to the airport and return the rental car.
The flights home were 24 hours for us and even worse for Jean and Harvey who ended up staying an extra night in Rome then having to take a plane to Amsterdam where they were for about 18 hours. Sure hope they made the next flight back to Atlanta.

Italy - part 2 - The train, Ostia, Herculaneum

Train to Rome
The train to Rome was nice, had free Wi-Fi, and was quick.  Our friend’s arranged the train tickets and we were lucky to have our own cabin with 4 large, comfy chairs. The train went through some very picturesque places and was a nice change of pace from driving or flying.  Once we reached the Rome station we bought tickets for the airport train so we could go pick up our rental car.  Once at the airport we picked up the van and it was much larger than we expected but it turned out to be a good choice.  We headed out to Ostia to our hotel (we didn't stay in Rome proper but at the beach close to the train station into Rome); then over to our friend’s friends place where they’d be staying. 
Our cabin
 Just across the street, parking lot and street is the beach from our hotel

Our hotel was fairly close to where Jean and Harvey were staying at Wendy’s house and we went up and met Wendy, her husband and daughter.  We then all went to dinner at a place called Pomodori Verdi Fritti (Fried Green Tomatoes).  They had such great food and offer a gluten-free menu (Wendy is gluten-free).  Don ordered a mix of things from a spicy pork crostini to fried Zucchini blossoms (yum!) and other yummy foods.  I had the 6 cheese pizza which was amazing and pretty much the best pizza I ate the whole time we were in Italy.    During dinner we got to know Wendy and Max and they us, as we talked about what we’d be trying to do and see for our time there.  Jean was there for Wendy’s Birthday and to see the baby so we tried to plan accordingly.  We honestly thought we’d spend Saturday at Wendy’s party during the winery tour and then our Sunday trip to Herculaneum and that’d be it but we’d end up eating dinner together most nights.
Pizza box
the liter of beer notice the ingredients listed

Winery tour - Casale Del Giglio
The Winery was about an hour away from Ostia and HUGE compared to the Winery’s we’re used to.  The tour was delayed a bit as we waited for everyone to arrive so we took pictures and mingled.  This tour was for Wendy's birthday party because her actual birthday fell on Tuesday. Once the tour started, our guide asked if someone could translate, thankfully someone did; since so many Italian words don’t really translate into English equivalents she did an amazing job conveying what the guide was saying.
 our guide and Wendy's friend who translated for us
 The group picture was missing about 6 people

He took us around outside and showed us the different grapes vines, explaining the differences in where they plant the red versus white and explaining the history of the land as well.  We then went inside to see where the white was made and then into the cellar with the red wine barrels which are only used three times before being given a new life elsewhere as tables, planters, or mementos for regular clients.

He explained how the winery was 100% self sustained with solar panels and plant energy as well as recycling all water used.  We then headed inside for Birthday toast to Wendy, food (pork, bread, cheese) and wine tasting.  At the end we were given guides and were able to purchase wine to take home, which we did.

not all wines were opened for tasting

We then all drove down to a local restaurant that handles large parties down from the winery.  They served so much great food and then Wendy’s birthday cake and espresso.
Afterwards, everyone wanted to go to the beach and watch the sunset but we went back to Wendy’s so the baby could sleep and we could rest.  We stayed there for a few hours then went back to our hotel for the night to prep for our drive the next morning.

This morning was fun since Rome had day light savings time so we lost yet another hour. We piled into the car, pulled up GPS and headed out to Herculaneum.  Max warned us to stop for gas before a certain place so we stopped one stop ahead of that.  Well, lesson learned here, never pull into the full service lane without knowing exactly how many liters of gas your vehicle will take.  Unlike in the US if you say fill it up and the attendant sees how much money you have he will fill it up to that amount.  So while we got about 20 Euros of gas they bumped the pump up to 50.  They apparently have a button on the pump.  As I said, lesson learned and it wouldn't happen again after that stop. 

Back on the road to Naples, OK we didn't realize that Herculaneum was smack dab in the middle of Naples.  We thought it was just outside the city which we had wanted to avoid.  After some pretty hairy circling with tons of cars and people on the narrow streets trying to figure out exactly where to go and park we finally found it.  

 300 preserved skeletons rest in those buildings and even the walkway is closed off
 the steps up and down are huge steps

So many surviving frescoes and still vibrant although not as many as Pompeii
We had planned on going to Paestum after but didn't realize it was another 90 minute drive and by the time we finished in the ruins it would be too late so we drove up Mt. Vesuvius instead and took some sunset pictures of Naples from the mountain.  I do not recommend that drive for the faint of heart; tons of hairpin turns and fast driving locals, as well as bus tours on basically a one lane road.
 Looking down from Mt. Vesuvius 

We drove back to Ostia, picked up Wendy and the baby and went to dinner.  It was a fish/vegetarian bio restaurant.  Jean and I don’t eat fish so we had eggplant pizza and everyone else enjoyed their fish dishes.