Saturday, December 31, 2011

Two Thousand Twelve

"Every end is a new beginning." ~ Proverb
I've gotta be honest.
New Years Eve is not my favorite holiday.
It actually stresses me out a little bit with it's need to be epic and memorable and a little bit crazy in ways that don't quite fit us.

So, for the past several years we've simply opted for quiet nights in, steak and shrimp dinner (home cooked), and movies or video games over wild nights on the town.  This year was no different and while I do feel like we maybe missed out on some great stories, it was safe and quiet and cozy at home and I guess there are far worse ways to welcome a brand new year.

It's not difficult to figure out the hopes we have for 2012.  We're excited for the adventures and possibilities that this year holds in store for us.   We're hopeful and optimistic.  It's a blank slate right now, and we aim to fill it with as many happy memories as we can. 

We wish this for all of you as well, happy memories, exciting adventures and the happiest of new years!

Okay, 2012, let's do this...

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Year Four

Four years ago, today, I married my best friend.

At this time, four years ago, we were freshly married and probably tooling around town taking pictures, having drinks, and making our way towards the reception.  It was the best day.  The happiest day.  One I would do over and over and over again in a heartbeat. 

There's no way I could have known what marriage would bring us.  How comfortably it would fit us.  How perfectly suited we are for each other.  We share an inappropriate sense of humor - the other day I asked Todd if he could imagine himself married to anyone else in the world.  He said he could not.  We cannot imagine that anyone would "get" us the way we "get" each other.  I have always said that the way I knew I could marry Todd is because I am more myself with him than I am with anyone else on this planet.  He makes me more me - and this is the first relationship I've ever had like that. 

It's not all sunshine, lollipops and roses and some days we grate on each others nerves or let each other down or get annoyed with each other for breathing each others air. We're only human. But even these everyday annoyances feel natural and safe. This marriage is our home. There is nowhere we belong more than here.

I think that we both thought we'd have kids by now. We certainly thought we'd both be employed by now. Sometimes life doesn't work out the way we plan. We're a team, though, so we muck through all these unexpected little life glitches together. We find a way to make them work. We find alternative solutions and carve out new life paths for ourselves. It's not always easy, but it's definitely easier when you have a teammate rooting you on, backing you up, pushing you through when things get too tough or too scary.

We're both ready to make this family of two a family of three (or four, or heck...five?  We'll see.) but we're also thoroughly enjoying this time together.  We're on this incredible journey and we're trying not to miss anything. 

I'm so thankful for my best friend and this life we've made together.  It's been a fast, wonderful four years and we look forward to many more ahead!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Dear Future Baby...

Dear Future Baby of Ours,

I wanted to take a moment to let you know how excited I am to have you in our lives.  I mean, duh, right?  We have a whole blog devoted to our excitement for you.  A website, a facebook page, a craigslist ad, a big sticker on the back of our car, and business cards scattered in bathrooms, hotel rooms, and restaurants all across the country.  I'm excited. You probably know that by now.

What you might not know is that I'm not the only one excited to meet you.  I've written several times about how much we look forward to sharing our traditions with you.  You know by now that I can't wait to see your eyes light up and hear your giggles and squeals of delight as you discover Santa and presents and Christmas lights.  I'm not the only one and if there's ever been any doubt on that matter, let me share some excerpts of this Christmas with you.

First of all, your Auntie Sara has been one of the most supportive, excited cheerleaders for us throughout this whole process.  Aunt Sara took all our "publicity" photos and created our profile pages (for when we go into "the book" - which will hopefully be someday soon!).  Aunt Sara has helped us with our outreach and remained a constant source of optimism, energy, and strength for me as we process the emotional ups and downs of this whole thing.  This Christmas, your Aunt Sara made me cryyyyyyy and cry with her gift.  Check it out:

Yeah, that's pretty cool, right?  That alone probably would have gotten me all choked up (if I'm being honest, getting me all choked up is not exactly a challenge, these days) but she took it one step further.  There was also a letter.  That's right.  Words.  By now, you probably know how deeply meaningful and wonderful I find words.  Here's some of that:

"I cannot wait for you to experience the joy of hanving a child, and I want you to always remember that it will happen eventually.  You will see your child amidst the heaps of wrapping torn apart, going crazy over whatever toy has captured their attention that particular year eventually.  You will eventually create new traditions, and share all our old ones with your child.  These blessings will find you eventually, and I want this to be a constant reminder while you wait for that time to come."

Your Aunt Sara is waiting too, excited to meet you and spoil you and share all these moments with us.  You're gonna love your Aunt Sara so much!

Your Aunt Mary is also so excited to meet you!  Aunt Mary has already been hard at work helping me plan the nursery.  I don't have the fruits of Mary's labor yet, but imagine something like this:

Not actual quilt.  Just a bright, colorful example of what actual quilt will look like!
I don't remember what the exact pattern is, and maybe your Aunt Mary will correct me, but it will be bright and colorful and full of all fun Seuss characters.  Your Aunt Mary is helping us get ready for you! 

Who else is excited to meet you?

Your daddy.

Your daddy got me all kinds of books to read to you when you get here.  Mostly they are my favorites from childhood, but it's a clear sign that he's just chomping at the bit to share these childhood favorites with you.

He also got a few toys of his own (Star Wars, of course) that he's excited to share with you.  You know, someday.  When he learns how to share.

These are just a few examples.  Of course there are tons of other people excited to meet you - your grandmas, your grandpas, and all your other Aunts and Uncles (and great aunts, and uncles, etc.).  You wouldn't believe how excited everyone is, and how supportive they've been of this whole process.  We all know that it's not the same as having a baby where we only have to wait 9 months.  We might have to wait a lot longer, but that hasn't dulled the excitement at all.  We know you'll get here when God means for you to get here.  Just know that whenever that happens, we're going to be so ready, and so so thrilled! 

Love Always,

Your Mommy

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Spirit

Todd and I went on a date last night.  We've been talking for weeks about how we want to drive around and look at other people's Christmas lights.  Todd has been sort of...competitive (?) about it this year insisting that our lights are the best lights on the whole street.  When I point out other lights on our street that look very nice, he comes up with all kinds of reasons why ours are better.  So - we decided we wanted to drive around and take in the festivity around us.  We figured that if that didn't put us in the Christmas spirit, nothing would.  We were not disappointed.

I come from what, for the sake of this post, we will call "Christmas Lights Royalty."  My mom is the Queen of Christmas lights.  Every year her yard is decked out with tons of lights and lit up Christmas figurines.  Her love of lights has been passed down to me, and while we've dialed back our own lights in the last couple of years (the first year we were here we did the trees in the front yard - a task that had me standing in the middle of the street for the better part of a half hour, and then saw half the lights burn out before Christmas) I'm constantly finding new ways to light up and make our house cheery and festive.

What we saw last night puts our own efforts to shame.  It was spectacular.  On a tip from Todd's brother we headed to a nearby small town.  Most people have seen the videos of the house lights set to music, right?

The first stop we went to were kind of like that.  Set to music, the lights were choreographed and it was just so fun and festive and somehow, completely tastefully done.  Out in the middle of nowhere, it was a drive-thru experience with no admission but for the optional donation to the local ambulance crew.  As Todd said "If this display of festivity and generosity doesn't make you feel the Christmas spirit, nothing will."

Unfortunately, I was unprepared for all this, so I only had the camera from my phone handy.  The pictures don't even come close to doing it justice. 

In any case, we made two more stops after that, another one  - all lit up with a small section of choreographed dancing Santa lights...

and then, my favorite -- a lit up Nativity set on a barn.  Again, these pictures don't do it justice.  It was so tastefully done, so beautiful in all white lights.  It included the wise men, camels, sheep, and of course Mary, Joseph, and Jesus.  The main house was also all lit up.  It was spectacular and breathtaking and we went away feeling completely touched by it.

In all, it was the perfect way to spend Christmas Eve, Eve. 

Tonight we will gather with my family for church and - one of my favorite traditions - the Christmas Eve chili.  Santa will come, we'll open presents and spend one of my favorite nights of the whole year doing one of my favorite things - laughing and celebrating with family.

We're still hoping for an adoption Christmas miracle, but we know that's coming in its own time.  Perhaps next year it will be our child whose eyes light up at the lights and presents and music.  Perhaps Christmas morning will be our family of three, instead of our family of two opening stockings and exchanging gifts with each other.  Perhaps next year we'll be able to introduce our child to the joy and complete chaos that the holidays mean for us, the two things that make us love them so much.  We're storing up traditions and activities that we want to share...when this baby comes, he or she is in for a wild, wonderful ride!

Merry Christmas, everyone!  God Bless!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas has Launched

Last weekend we kicked off Christmas-palooza.  We had two celebrations for Todd's side and one celebration for my side and now we have three more celebrations to go.  What a crazy time of year!  We love the laughter and warmth of these family gatherings.  In the last couple of years we've noticed how the joy of giving gifts has started to supercede the joy of receiving gifts.  We love the way people's faces light up, the excitement and joy of an unexpected treasure. 

The time not spent celebrating with family has been spent scrambling around getting ready to spend time with family.  Shopping and baking and basically running around like crazy trying to stay organized.  This insanity we temper with Christmas carols and Christmas lights.  We did a brief tour around our neighborhood last Saturday night.  Todd has declared our house the most festive house on our street, but a couple streets over I think they have us beat.  No contest. 

This time is fleeting.  It's the happiest, and hardest,  time of the whole year.  We hope that next year the holidays will be filled with the wide eyed glee and laughter of our child as we introduce him or her to the wonder of this time of year. 

We received an email the other day from our good friend Allen, and I think it perfectly captures our feelings and sentiments on this time of year.  I got permission to use it as a "guest blog" post - taking some weight off my shoulders for this one (I think it's Todd's turn to take the next one!).  Hopefully it inspires some memories and happy sentiments in you too...

Christmas Time!

An unexpected memory this year… while I was setting up Christmas lights this year for some reason I remembered the old Bubbling Lites.  You know those Christmas lights that get hot enough to seemingly boil whatever colored liquid that is in these capsules.  It was like looking at a campfire…  no matter what I did, I couldn’t stop staring at them. 

 Well for anyone who knows me this will come as no surprise; I secretly kept my eyes open for these lights just in case you could still find them.  Well…  I found them!  They were everything I remembered.  Unexpectedly these lights triggered a series of memories that I haven't thought about in years at my Grandparent's house.  Whether I am thinking about the way the plates looked at Christmas Dinner or the horrible green recliner that sat in the front room I got to thinking about the Happy Faces, Laughing Voices, and Sweet smells of Christmas.

  Christmas in America, much like everything else, seems to be getting clouded with political correctness and the depressing message of a perceived perversion of a Christian Holiday.  But I would like to humbly implore all of us to look at the Happiness and Joy of the Holiday Season.  It is truly a great place where people from all walks of life can bring together traditions of so many cultures and like with so many other holidays create a distinctly American version of this holiday called Christmas.

Let's share our favorite cookies that mom used to bake.  Let's laugh about the outrageous lengths parents would go to fill our children with the Magic of Santa Claus.  Let's sit together on a couch with our coziest blanket and watch the stop motion disaster that we have all come to adore.

 How 'bout this… did you place baby Jesus in the nativity scene right away or waited until Christmas Day?  Were you the only one in Sunday School who didn't know what Frankincense and Myrrh were?
What are your favorite Christmas ornaments?  Is it Turkey, Ham or Both?  Does anyone actually know someone who carves the turkey on the dinner table while everyone watches… me neither.  Let's sing our favorite Christmas song.  Let's go to the mall on December 23rd, just for fun.  Let's talk about the time you hoped and hoped that Santa would bring you either Castle Greyskull or Snake Mountain and ended up with both.  When was the first time you got to go shop for someone else's gift?  Then see their face light up when it was just what they wanted. 

 Let's RESTORE this beautiful time of year with stories, laughing, and love.  Let's confidently look at each other and say Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  Doing so will ultimately fill our hearts with hope, peace, joy, and will inherently remind us of God's promise! 

 Immanuel…  God with Us.   

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Favorites

Christmas season is in full swing now.  We actually had a small Christmas celebration with my dad's side of the family yesterday.  This Friday we'll move full steam ahead with celebrations that begin Friday and don't end til Sunday afternoon.  Since we're in the spirit of the season now - we thought we'd share some of our favorites with you.

Favorite Christmas Song - Todd:
That’s a tough one because I like so many but the ones I do like are the older style ones from like the 40’s and 50’s and all of the Burl Ives songs he does.

Shelly's note:  Yeh.  That's what he SAYS.  However, he posted on Facebook today that THIS is his new favorite Christmas song.  Of course...:

Favorite Christmas Song - Shelly:
I just adore the whole Andy Williams Christmas album, I think it's my favorite album of all time  I remember dancing around with my mom and my sister while getting ready for Christmas Eve mass.  It's a classic and it's one of the truest signs of Christmas for me. 

In recent years I have also completely fallen crazy in love with this song:

When Sarah McLachlan hits those "hallelujah's" - well, let's just say I've been known to get all choked up (much to Todd's alarm).  LOVE.

Favorite Christmas Movie - Todd:
A Christmas Story, National Lampoons Christmas Vacation, Rudolph, Frosty, Kris Kringle ( Claymation)

Todd can watch this movie over and over again.
One of his favorite parts of Christmas is the
A Christmas Story marathon on TV.

Favorite Christmas Movie - Shelly:
I have a lifelong love of Dr. Seuss, so I'm going to go with "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (the original, cartoon version) on this.  Other favorites include:  National Lampoons Christmas Vacation, Rudolph, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and Elf

Favorite Christmas Memory - Todd:
Visiting santa, Egg bake in the morning, sledding and Christmas Day at my Grandma's followed by making and eating home made ice cream

Favorite Christmas Memory - Shelly:
That breathless, nervous /anxious energy I had as a kid while we waited for Santa to show up to deliver presents.  Family in every room, the loud dull roar of conversation and laughter and then that moment when the doorbell rang and you just knew who was going to be on the other side of that door. 

Favorite Christmas Tradition - Todd:
having the tree decorated shortly after thanksgiving, being able to go to all our families celebrations, looking forward to making and creating more

Favorite Christmas Tradition - Shelly:
Chili with my family on Christmas eve followed by gifts from Santa then gifts from family.  The small traditions that Todd and I have started for our own little family - putting up and decorating the tree, our little gift exchange on Christmas morning.  Like Todd said - we can't wait to start so many more traditions with our own kids. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I feel like I've been a little slow to catch the Christmas spirit this year.
I mean, sure, the house was all decorated before Thanksgiving, and I had uploaded 152 Christmas songs to my iPod for the trip, but I still felt a little disconnected from the holiday.

Then we had one of our good friends come over on Sunday to paint a Christmas scene on our front window.  I missed the point at first, we had the football game on and weren't really focusing.  Eventually we put an iPod in set to Christmas songs and we started talking about Christmas traditions and - there it was!  The first inkling of Christmas spirit! 

How much is that doggy in the window?

So now it's upon us.  Today is St. Nick's day, actually.  My family tradition was to put boots outside the front door on St. Nick's eve, and then wake up to treat filled boots on the morning of the 6th.  This is a tradition that I don't think is common (I actually had to look it up today to make sure it wasn't just something my family made up) and I cannot wait to share it with our children!


The presents are wrapped under the tree.  Our shopping is almost completely done.  There may be Christmas cookie baking this weekend, and next weekend it all opens up and the celebrations begin in earnest.

So, for now we're trying to take advantage of this "calm before the storm."  There's nothing I love more than curling up with a good book in a Christmas tree lit room, or arriving home from work to find the whole house lit up.

I love the house all decorated.  I love everything about Christmas, really - even the snow that I haven't stopped complaining about in 3 straight days.

And my most favorite decoration in the entire house?

This ornament that Todd made when he was a kid.  I can't tell you how much I love this ornament.  It gets the best spot on the entire tree because I love it so much.  It's so cute, and sweet.  We can't wait to surround it, someday, with the homemade ornaments made by our children.  

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Holiday Road

It's been quiet around here lately.  I had entertained ideas of blogging from the road, but as you can see, that did not happen.  We have triumphantly returned from our journey to California and Las Vegas.  It was a wonderful trip with temps in the 70s and 80s.  We actually got back Wednesday evening and so were greeted Thursday morning by our first real dusting of snow.  And then, of course, it dumped on us tonight.  It would be more satisfying if this white junk had made it's inaugural appearance while we were running around the desert in shorts and t-shirts, but I guess we still get to brag about running around in shorts and t-shirts a mere 3 days ago.

We flew into Las Vegas on Thanksgiving day.  We traveled with my mom, stepdad, and grandma and lucked into a mini van for a rental car.  A couple of years ago we made this same trip and got a much smaller car.  We were pretty cozy that year.  The mini van afforded us the luxury of spreading out and relaxing during the drive to California.  We drove through the desert and saw Joshua Tree and other desert treasures.  This is a part of the country I'd never seen before, so it was interesting and beautiful in that unique way that the desert does beauty.

We stayed with family in California.  I'd never been to visit them before so it was nice to get a chance to see where they live and explore their part of the country.  Our hosts included two african boerboels (and yes, I had to look up the spelling on that) that are the biggest dogs I've ever seen and move in that slinky, feline way that lions move.  They're huge teddy bears though, and they took the edge off of missing our own little zoo while we were gone.

Because we arrived on Thanksgiving day, we were welcomed with a fantastic Thanksgiving meal.  We joked about how we'd come a long way for our turkey this year - but it was worth it!  We were happy to be able to celebrate the holiday with our family, even though we were miles from home.  And of course we were thankful for the warm reception and wonderful food that awaited us there!

A friend of mine had tipped me off that there are occasionally seals and sea lions at La Jolla beach in southern California, so we set out in search of the seals.  Unfortunately, no seals were to be found - but it was still a gorgeous drive and an amazing beach.  I'm so glad I got to see it.  I had never been to the Pacific ocean and it's striking in contrast to the Atlantic.  And COLD!  We wandered down the little cliffside and peered into the tide pools to see all the little bits of wildlife the tide left behind.  I was going to step off into the actual ocean, but it looked questionably deeper than it appeared from land.  I had visions of myself stepping in and sinking up to my waist -- and I wasn't prepared for swimming, especially not after a wave curled up over the edge of the beach and I felt just exactly how cold that swim would be.  Once the wave crashed over my foot I exclaimed "OK!  I've been in the pacific ocean!"  That was enough!

We drove up the coast from La Jolla, through Del Mar and Oceanside.  We stopped for Mexican at a rinky dink little place on the roadside and then began our trip back through the desert.  Coming back through the mountains in the dark was a whole new adventure, but seeing the lights of the town where we stayed from the mountainside was pretty spectacular.

We spent our second day in California visiting a street fair.  It was a gorgeous day and we enjoyed the sun and wandering through all the vendors.  After that, we set out in search of San Diego Chargers stuff.  As a Chargers fan (for better or for worse) we thought that this would be a good opportunity to find stuff that we can't usually find at home.  This was actually much harder to accomplish than one would think.  Apparently there are a lot of Steelers fans in California.  And, in one store at least, a lot of Iowa fans.  Madness!  We did finally find some things -- at Target, of all places (Oh, Target, I love you in all states!) and then settled in for a final evening with good food, good drinks, good conversation, and a beautiful evening by the outdoor fire.  Todd said that this was one of his favorite vacations that we've taken - I think it's because our host and hostess thoroughly spoiled us!

From California we headed back to Las Vegas.  We've been to Las Vegas 3 times in the last 3 years.  We're becoming pros -- and it's starting to feel like a second home to us.  We love the bright lights and constant activity.  The first night in Vegas we stayed on Fremont Street - which was a first for us.  We loved it!  We love the feel of downtown Vegas.  It feels cozier and more accessible and/or friendly than the strip.  I told Todd that the next time we go to Vegas, I would like to stay the whole time downtown.  That was, of course, before we got to our hotel on the strip.

Because this was the third time we'd been there, we had some comps that got us two free nights at THEhotel at Mandalay Bay.  We'd seen the hotel rooms before, but we'd forgotten just how awesome they were.  And, of course, they're even more awesome when you're the one staying in them.  We had two bathrooms, a living room, a ginormous bedroom, and a bath the size of a small pool.  We were on the 32nd floor overlooking the strip, so our views were amazing.  I kept saying that I'd be completely ready to go home if the hotel room we had wasn't so amazing.  We had really good service there too - probably the best we've had anywhere in Vegas.  Everyone was so nice and friendly.  We had to store our luggage because we got there too early for check-in, so when the bellhop brought our luggage up we found out he was originally from Minnesota as well and we had about a 15 minute conversation about the Vikings.  Football is the universal language of traveling in the U.S., it seems.

To summarize - we had a blast!  It went so fast and we came home thoroughly exhausted.  It's good to be home.  We missed our animals and now the holiday season is starting to pick up speed so it's going to be a crazy month.  These distractions are good while we wait for our lives to change, so the busy December will be a welcome one.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


My family celebrated Thanksgiving today.

I didn't do a head count but the rumor was that there were 22 people there - aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, nephews, nieces, parents, grandparents, spouses.  It was loud and chaotic.  We commented at one point on how, when that many people are celebrating together, the only acceptable form of communication is yelling.  It's the only way to be heard.  Especially since approximately half of us are apparently deaf.

And, Lord, I am just so thankful for all that yelling.  All that chaos.  All that laughter.  All that love.

I'm a little ahead of myself this year.  Actual Thanksgiving is still four days away, but I'm going to be spending actual Thanksgiving on a plane, and in a car - traveling halfway across the country to cross another thing off my bucket list.  So, I'm taking the opportunity tonight, with a full belly and ringing ears, to take stock of all the things I am thankful for.

Here's the short list:

I'm thankful, of course, for Todd.  I'm thankful for this relationship we have in which we function as a team.  We respect each other, we take care of each other, and - at least most of the time - we bring out the very best in each other.  It's easy to take a relationship like this for granted.  We'll have been married 4 years in December, so by now our interactions are effortless.  Todd is home to me.  When I'm away from him for too long, I start to feel like something is missing, like I'm just "off."  He balances me, he holds me up, and he takes unbelievably good care of me.  Also?  He's going to be the most amazing dad in the world.  If you've never had the opportunity to see Todd interact with kids of just about any age, you're really missing out.  He's magical.  Kids light up when they see him.  I've said it before, but it bears repeating, I just can't wait to see him light up our own children someday!

I'm thankful for our big, crazy, boisterous families.  I cannot imagine what life would be like with less enthusiastic, supportive families.  Our families take care of us, they soothe us, they hold us up.  They are our best friends and our most trusted confidants.  I cannot imagine a different life, a quieter, less crazy (and sometimes inappropriate) family.  They say you can't pick your relatives, but there's no question that if we could - these are the exact ones we would pick.  These are the families we were always supposed to have and we are so proud of them, we love them so much, and we could not consider ourselves luckier to have them. 

I'm thankful for these big goofy slobbery dogs.  My crotchety old man and the goobery adolescent curled up into a tiny ball beside me.  I'm thankful for the entertainment and joy they bring to our lives every day.  I can't remember life before I had a waggily tail greeting me at the door every day. 

Alright, okay, I'm thankful for the cats too.  Sometimes they curl up in my lap and keep me warm and are kind of cute. 

 I'm thankful for our friends - who, in so many ways, are like family to us.  I'm thankful we have these people with whom we can be ourselves.  That we have these people in our lives with whom we can disagree, but with whom we are always honest and respectful.  I'm so thankful for the comfort and support our friends provide us - and for how loved and special they make us feel. 

I'm thankful for my job.  Sometimes it drives me crazy.  Sometimes it stresses me out.  Sometimes it's the last place in the world I want to be.  But I work with awesome people, I have developed some pretty wonderful friendships there and, in the whole grand scheme of things - it's a good job.

I'm thankful for this house.  I'm thankful in a literal way - as in, that we have a roof over our heads.  I'm also thankful in a more broad way in that - this house is so awesome.  We are so lucky to have it.  We are just as thrilled with it now (2 years later) as we were the day we found it.  Sitting here tonight with the Christmas lights on and the animals snoozing all around us, the house never felt so cozy and perfect for us.  Even better, there's plenty of room to grown. Someday this floor will be filled with baby toys (on top of dog toys) and all that noise and chaos we experience when our families get together will trickle over into our own home.  This house was made for that too.  We can't wait to fill it. 

I'm thankful for vacation -- which could not be coming at a better time for both of us.  I've never been to California.  I've never seen the Pacific ocean.  I'm thankful for this opportunity to see and explore this country, spend more time with my family, and take some time to just catch our breath and relax for a bit.

I'm thankful for adoption - for this experience, for this opportunity to learn, and grow, and deepen our faith.   I'm thankful for what this journey represents to us, and for what lies at the end of the journey.  I'm thankful that adoption exists as an option, and for the relationships we will one day build because of it. 

Finally, I'm thankful for this time -- when it's just Todd and I and the animals. It can be frustrating and incredibly easy to forget that this time is a gift when we're so ready and motivated to grow our family. But it is a gift, and I'm glad that we have it. We're trying to make the most of it.

Happy Thanksgiving all!