We slowly walked out of the room as I took one more glance at our son. I felt paralyzed as they led us to the director’s office. We spent 15 minutes in there as they spoke with us, I don't remember a single word. They were trying to make us feel better, but nothing in that moment was going to take away my pain or make me feel better.
In less than an hour after arriving at the agency, we were back in our vehicle empty handed, broken hearted, and with an empty infant carrier in the back. Danny and I didn't say much to each other, we just cried. We returned our rental vehicle and got a ride to the airport. I had to face the reality that we had to walk back into the airport with an empty carseat. I know this may not seem like much to anyone else, but to me it was CRUSHING. I was so scared that someone was going to ask "Where is your baby?" "Why do you have an empty carseat?" or make some comment they didn’t realize would send me into full on tears. I didn't want to make eye contact with anyone.
Thankfully, Danny was my rock once again and he carried the carseat as we walked into the airport to check in. In that moment, God showed up in a big way. He knew just what we needed and it was a kindhearted check-in clerk that seemed to "know" what to say and what to do. She asked if we wanted to check the carseat, no questions asked. This was something that was not asked to us flying out to NC so I was not expecting that option, but was SO glad we didn't have to carry it.
After checking in we went up to our gate to wait for our flight home. I will never forget sitting down in the cafe forcing myself to eat. The restaurant worker was also Jesus to me in that moment, she spoke to me with love, kindness, and compassion. She obviously could tell something was wrong and for some odd reason I felt peace while we sat there. She talked to me, brought me a drink, and just cared.
Then it was time to fly home and leave NC. As much as I wanted to fly home as fast as I could, there was also a part of me that didn't ever want to leave NC. That would make this all so much more real and I still did not want to face that.
After conquering Christmas gifts for the entire family, I move on to stocking stuffers. You would think this would be easy, but sometimes I find it hard to find small items that fit in a stocking and do not cost and arm and a leg. I'm also not one to buy trinkets and would prefer to buy items that my kids need, will learn from, or at least an item that will last for longer than a day.
Sometimes we do the normal necessities: socks, deodorant, cologne/perfume, tooth brushes, gift cards, underwear, chapstick, candy, magazine subscription, date night cards, etc. But sometimes I decide to make it a little bit more fun and get them small gifts!
Here's one suggestion: When buying for more than one child, look for value packs or sets that you can divide out. This will save you money!
These are just a few of my favorites that I've stuffed our stockings with over the years:
Babies & Toddlers:
Leather Bow Headbands: http://amzn.to/2k6sGLF
Wind up Bath Toy: http://amzn.to/2k59L3H
Crayola Color Bath Dropz:http://amzn.to/2k4UTSZ
Toddler Toothbrush: http://amzn.to/2k8YDmd
Sassy Wonder Wheel Suction Toy:http://amzn.to/2AfUJi4
Write & Re-use Labels: http://amzn.to/2hY7Nhn
Tommee Tippee Bibs: http://amzn.to/2zurcxo
Robeez Boots & Shoes (all kinds):http://amzn.to/2Aa5d1Q
Bandana Bibs: http://amzn.to/2k7PkDa
Boys & Girls:
Jump Rope with counter: http://amzn.to/2jt6oj9
Melissa & Doug Scratch Art:http://amzn.to/2hWZPoH
Wikki Stix: http://amzn.to/2BuBBdJ
Mad Libs: http://amzn.to/2AcfRG1
Drum Sticks: http://amzn.to/2Bv7umL
Word Search: http://amzn.to/2k7Sff8
Head Massager: http://amzn.to/2hWGAvn
Silly Puddy: http://amzn.to/2BqD2df
Honey Sticks: http://amzn.to/2idmZLc
Jokes for Kids: http://amzn.to/2BuG6oP
Shampoo Brush: http://amzn.to/2k7MNc8
Holiday BeanBoozled Jelly Beans:http://amzn.to/2AeMSRK
Tattoo Pen Set: http://amzn.to/2Aiy2aH
War Game: http://amzn.to/2k90fN7
Sports Watch: http://amzn.to/2jsktxn
Kwik Stix: http://amzn.to/2BpXJ9n
Crayola Washable Window Markers:http://amzn.to/2iYbPHj
Crayola Bathtub Crayons: http://amzn.to/2Bt6m31
Crayola Scented Crayons:http://amzn.to/2Bs9eNo
Solar System Night Light: http://amzn.to/2k5Tnjt
Spot it: http://amzn.to/2AckKPn
Luggage Tags: http://amzn.to/2idLqbd
Kid's Apron: http://amzn.to/2AgsFuu
Pony Beads: http://amzn.to/2Addh1T
Boutique Hair Clips: http://amzn.to/2BqCjZz
Burt's Bees Lip Balm: http://amzn.to/2k59nlL
Princess Watch: http://amzn.to/2k6M2QJ
Bath Bomb: http://amzn.to/2hYdgER
Spy Glasses: http://amzn.to/2AeC3Pv
Flying Gliders: http://amzn.to/2idFzD7
Batman Watch: http://amzn.to/2k5neIS
Small Metal Airplanes: ttp://amzn.to/2AcmDee
Flavor God's Seasoning: http://amzn.to/2jycq1R
Money Clip: http://amzn.to/2i48Xb4
Money Clip/Wallet: http://amzn.to/2i2mWOD
Meat Thermometer: http://amzn.to/2ByWvZe
Meat Flavor Injector: http://amzn.to/2BxWdlH
Sonicare Toothbrush: http://amzn.to/2Ag5WyD
Thermal Socks: http://amzn.to/2jwl0OC
Leather Gloves: http://amzn.to/2AqeVxX
Touch Screen Gloves: http://amzn.to/2Aqfec5
Silicone Wedding Ring: http://amzn.to/2i2dr1G
Wool Socks: http://amzn.to/2k8BEYx
CC Hat: http://amzn.to/2i1jWSy
Touch Screen Gloves: http://amzn.to/2Anvubn
Winter Headband: http://amzn.to/2AiffxU
Essie Gel Nail Polish: http://amzn.to/2Ahvagg
Blanket Scarf: http://amzn.to/2BxXbyl
Stainless Steel Water bottle:http://amzn.to/2i4wmcw
Kitchen Timer: http://amzn.to/2i3U74o
Silicone Wedding Ring: http://amzn.to/2jwKxYa
Bath Bombs: http://amzn.to/2i4wMQ8
With Full Hands and a Full Heart- Kansas
We pulled up to the agency & quite honestly, I didn't want to open the car door. I literally remember thinking, can we just run away with him? (My mind was not in the right state and I was DESPERATE and willing to do ANYTHING to keep my son, but I knew that was not an option.) We got out and took Jerik out of this carseat. I knew that I had to leave his carseat in the car, because walking out of the agency with an empty carseat would make it ten times harder. Sobbing, we walked into the agency as they opened the doors for us, not saying a word. They directed us to the conference room where we all sat down around a table. Doris, the director of the adoption agency, began to talk to us. I have NO idea what she said, I didn't care. I just stared at our son asleep in my arms, dreading the minutes that were passing by. After 15 minutes of talking, a foster mom showed up to take Jerik home and my heart felt like it was being ripped out of my chest. It was happening. It was time.
I handed him over to Danny so he could say his goodbyes. We stood there together holding each other while looking down at our son in tears. It was a beautiful moment but the most painful moment we’ve ever experienced. Danny then handed him over to me. He stayed sleeping. I so badly wanted to see his brown eyes one last time looking up at me, but I also wanted him to stay sleeping since I thought this would make things easier.
The last thing I did was silently say a prayer to God asking Him to be in that moment, to help me do this. I walked toward the social worker and whispered in Jerik's ear one last time.
"I'm not giving you back, I'm just giving you over to God."
That's all I could say. That was the ONLY thing getting me through that moment. Knowing that he was FOREVER God's son regardless of where he was. I kissed his precious lips and handed him to her.
Are you looking for an easy and healthy breakfast option for your family? This one is a hit in our household. Ham and veggie egg cups are a low carb grab-and-go breakfast that are perfect for a busy morning. They come together in less than five minutes and are packed with flavor that each family member will love. They are super versatile as you can add any toppings of your choice. My kids love to add their favorite veggies and this makes them even more excited to eat them. It's also easy for those little hands to get involved in laying out the ham, cracking the eggs, and adding the toppings!
You can eat the egg cups immediately or can let them cool and store them in an air-tight container in the fridge (or freezer). Our family likes to make a large batch at the beginning of the week to enjoy all week long! Pop them in the microwave and you are good to go! Enjoy!
As you can tell by my pictures, I had little helpers in the kitchen with me today! You can make these look nice and fancy, or make them like we did! Either way, they will taste AMAZING!
With Full Hands and an Open Heart- Kansas
In the morning we got a call saying Jerik's birth mom wasn't going to change her mind so we had the option of staying with Jerik until Friday when she got back to town, or we could bring him to the agency to stay with a foster family. We were sick, exhausted, & crushed. We prayed all night hoping this wouldn't be our reality, but it was. We didn't understand God's plan but knew we were called to trust. It's easier said than done when in the middle of heartache.
Danny & I took time to talk about what would be best. We knew Jerik was only 2-months-old & wouldn't remember a thing. We knew staying one day longer would only make it harder on us & we had babies back home that needed us. We needed them. We made the HARD decision to meet at the agency a few hours later to say our goodbyes. I honestly didn't know if I could handle another night like the last. As much as I wanted to stay, hoping that MAYBE, just MAYBE, she'd change her mind, I knew the chances were slim. I knew I needed to face reality & be home with family. We called the agency & told them what we decided & they agreed that would be the best for us. They understood & supported our decision.
Within one hour we packed up all our stuff, took this last picture of our son & walked out of the bedroom that held memories filled with both joy & now heartache. As much as I wanted to be home, I didn't want to leave without him. Our host parents were downstairs waiting for us & before we said our goodbyes they held our hands & prayed over us. I'll never erase that moment from my mind. They were the body of Christ surrounding us in prayer. We stood in the kitchen forming a circle around Jerik sleeping in his carseat & once more cried out to God that He'd be glorified in this situation. That He'd give us peace & strength to face the next few hours, days & months to come. We prayed that above all God would protect & hold Jerik in the palm of His hand as he grew up. We didn't know what his life would look like & as his parents, that was the hardest thing. We had NO control over his life, but God did. We needed to entrust him 100% to our faithful God. We then said our hard goodbyes & drove to the agency.
This past month I was able to enjoy a night out with my daughter, Baylic. It's not too often that we get to have one-on-one girl time, so I wanted to surprise her with something fun, but also something she would remember forever.
I'm a sentimental person. (I think it's a mom thing!) If you'd come to my home, you would see that I love to cover every wall of my house in biblical truth or the story of our family. I want people to get an idea of who our family is, before getting to know us. I also want to remind my kids daily of God's faithfulness and how He orchestrated our family.
When I first heard about the new AR Workshop that opened up in town, I could not wait to check it out! The first time I went, was with my girl friends and I fell in love with how each project was customizable. They have so many projects to offer, and there is something for everyone! Even better, I loved how each project was SO simple to make. I'm not an overly crafty person but am a perfectionist, so I've would have never been one to make one of these projects on my own because of the fear of it looking like a child's project. Having someone walk me through each step of the process and my project turning out beautifully, gave me hope!
When I was planning the date night with my daughter, I knew this would be the perfect place to take her because she loves to craft. I didn't want to create one of the standard pieces though, I wanted to create something personal that would be special to the both of us. That's when an idea came to mind and I emailed AR to start designing our secret project.
She was so excited to get started! We each made our own projects, which made her feel really grown up. She was ale to be creative, pick out her colors, and do it all by herself! She caught on really fast and loved every step of the process.
The best part of the AR workshops, are they walk you through every step in the process, offering help along the way, but you are the one that paints, stains, nails, peels, and adds hardware.
When we arrived, Baylic had no idea the project she would be making until we started getting to work. I surprised her with a customized saying that was special for the two of us. Whenever I tell her I love her, our conversation goes like this:
Me: I love you
Baylic: I love you too
Me: I love you more
Baylic: I love you more than never ending
It's become our special phrase and those precious 5-year-old words are ones I want to remember forever. I wanted both of us to have a piece that would remind us of our special relationship. That is why I love AR workshops, you can make special stories and memories come to life and display them in your home.
My favorite part was seeing how proud Baylic was as she picked out the paint that would match her bedroom, added glitter, and peeled back the lettering to revel her final project. She did SO good even at the age of 5! That is why I think the gift of an AR workshop is great for ANY age!
We plan to go back for another girl's day around Mother's day, and hopefully next time take some family members along too! If you are looking for a last minute Christmas, birthday, or Mother's day gift for this coming year, this is your answer! You can get a gift-card online and bless someone with the gift of time and making memories together. In the end you will BOTH go home with something you love!
Make sure to check out some of their standard projects or design you own!
As a daycare, homeschool and mom of 5, I've learned a lot about what toys and crafts are worth buying and which are not. I often get asked which are my favorites, so here are just a few of our daycare and family favorites (including a few of my mom favorites and family devotional ideas!)
I HIGHLY recommend checking these out for both Christmas gifts and stocking stuffers:
Kids Crafting Supplies:
Kwik Stix: These are AMAZING and dry in seconds making "painting easy and fun for all ages! I use these weekly with my daycare kids.
Wikki Stix: Re-usable and great for learning! It allows kids to use their imagination and practice fine motor skills!
Crayola Washable Window Markers: All my kids love these, and the best part, they are WASHABLE!
Crayola Color Bath Dropz: Makes bath time a little more fun! They can mix colors to learn how to make other colors.
Crayola Bathtub Crayons: No worries, they wash off tub walls super easy and make bath time even longer (for all my mama's that need a quiet moment!)
Crayola Scented Crayons: My kids are obsessed with these and would make for a great stocking stuffer!
Top Kids Games:
Guess Who: A classic game that helps with memory and recognition.
The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game: My daycare toddlers love this game!!
Hoot Owl Hoot: All the games by this company are AMAZING!
Sequence for Kids: My younger school age kids love this game!
Race to the Treasure: Great pre-school game!
Feed the Woozle: Perfect for pre-school and kindergarten age kids!
Yeti in my Spaghetti: This has been a favorite this past year and doesn't require much set up!
Ticket to Ride (for kids): Great strategy for elementary age kids.
Catan Junior: Great strategy for elementary age kids and they feel like the grow ups playing Catan!
Electronic Battleship: I love that my older boys can play this on their own!
MORE EDUCATIONAL GAMES ARE BELOW!
Educational & Learning Gifts:
Melissa and Doug Alphabet Puzzles: This has helped my kids with learning their letters and associating them with words.
Melissa and Doug See & Spell wooden spelling boards: This makes learning to spell fun for pre-school and kindergarten age children.
Boogie Board Play & Trace: This has helped my littles learn to write, draw, trace, and work on fine motor skills. They also have stencils that go along with it!
Zingo Sight words: Want to make sight words fun? This is it?
Zingo Time Telling Game: This has helped my sons with learning time on different clocks.
Sequence Letters game: Perfect for learning letters and making it fun!
Sequence States & Capitals: Great for learning states and capitals. Even better for this Classical Conversations Homeschool mom!
Mad Libs: Any and all of these are great! My elementary boys love them and they make for a great stocking stuffer.
Melissa and Doug Play Money: It looks real and comes in a case. It has helped my boys with money skills.
Step 2 Easel with Letters & Numbers: My kids love this for EVERYTHING crafty, so much that I let it stay out in my kitchen!
Wooden Easel: Another great option for an easel. I love that this one has the roll of paper!
Write & Re-use Labels: I use these for baby bottles and water bottles for everyone in my family!
Silicone Placemat/Plate: No more plates of food on the floor, AMAZING!
Robeez Boots & Shoes (all kinds): These shoes and boots actually stay on!
Tommee Tippee Bibs: These bibs stay on and wash off under water!
KicKee Pants Swaddle Blankets: The softest and stretchiest blankets ever!
Ergo Baby Carrier: My favorite carrier of all times!
Boon Frog: Perfect for holding bath toys and allowing them to drain and air out.
For Kids of all Ages:
Mark my Time Bookmark with Light: This has helped my kids want to spend more time reading and makes it fun! A great stocking stuffer idea!
Step 2 Roller Coaster: Toddlers and elementary kids love this! It lasts for YEARS!
Fischer Price Code and Learn Code-a-Pillar: My toddlers and big boys love this and it allows them to learn coding and patterns.
Zoob Builders: My kids spend hours building with these and they are great for little hands. Easy to snap together and take a part.
Magna-Tiles: I don't know anyone that doesn't love these! They provide HOURS of play time and are super educational!
Imaginext Toys (all of them): These are HANDS DOWN my boys' favorite toys for the last 6 years. We have a TON of them! They are durable and last forever.
KNEX: My older boys love building with these! If you have a creative child, these are great!
BeyBlade Battle set: Our boys, ages 8-10, are really into these right now!
Devotionals for the Whole Family:
Long Story Short: For the WHOLE family to read together.
Raising a Young Modern Day Princess
Brave Girls, Beautiful You
Brave Girls Devotionals
Brave Girls Bible Stories
Raising a Modern Day Knight: for Fathers as they raise up sons in the Lord.
Gotta Have God: Fun devotions for boys ages 2-5
Adventure Bible Book
One Year Book of Devotions for Boys
God's Amazing Creatures and Me
One Year Devotions for Active Boys:
Philips Sonicare Toothbrush: They really work better;)
Bath Bombs: Every mom needs time to relax. My daughter loves these too!
Contigo Auto-seal Chill Stainless Steel water bottle: (Keeps water cool all day long!)
Instant Pot: You won't regret it!
Mom's Manager Calendar: How I run my life with 5 kids, seriously!
Inspire Bible: I LOVE LOVE LOVE this bible!!!!
Mother & Son, the Respect Effect Book: For all BOY moms, this will change your life and relationship with your boys!
CC Hat: I wear this ALL the time!
Hunter Boots: These are perfect for living in the midwest and I wear them weekly!
Large Micro-Cooker: I use this all the time to steam veggies.
Norwex Body Pack: I use these to remove my makeup with just water.
I hope this helps! If you have any questions on any of the products, just ask!
I will be honest, it’s still hard for me to write and want to recall this. It STILL breaks my heart and brings me to tears, because it’s real. I don't think it will ever be "easy."
I texted Jerik's birth mom numerous times, just BEGGING her to change her mind and asking if she was sure. I know, that may sound crazy but I was desperate to not lose my son, and as his mom I was willing to try anything. It didn't work. She was currently in FL and on her way back to NC to pick him up. It felt like my heart was ripped out of my chest and I didn't know what to do.
The agency asked that we spend the night with Jerik, as they too tried to talk with his birth mom. The said they would call us in the morning and tell us what we needed to do. NEEDED TO DO?!?! Do we really NEED to do this? There had to be a way we could stop this from happening!
We arrived back at our host home, walked in the door, and I burst into tears as our host mom came towards me. I could barely get out what happened and she held me, just like my mom would. She was my mom in that moment. A mom that would hold me, cry with me, and pray over us. She did just that, as Danny held our son and explained our situation.
Once again, God provided what we needed in that very moment. We spent some time with her before going upstairs to our room to be alone and talk. It was the LONGEST night of our lives. We spent the entire night awake, in prayer, and crying/screaming out to God. I literally was on the floor crying out to God like never before. It's sad, that it took getting to this point to cry out to Him in this way, but He was the only one that could change this situation and knew the desires of my heart. He knew how badly I loved Jerik, so why would this be happening? I would do ANYTHING for our son, but does this mean giving him back? How could He allow this to take place? I was unstable. I knew it. I became closed up, silent, scared, afraid to get even more attached, sick, confused, heartbroken, distraught, and Danny held me together. He was my rock that night and cared for Jerik when I physically could not. I needed God more than anything that night to give me strength.
Danny could tell something was wrong by the way I responded and pulled over into a parking lot. All I remember hearing was her shaky voice saying "Kansas, I'm so sorry to have to be the one to call and tell you this, but she has changed her mind."
TIME STOOD STILL. (She didn't just say that, this wasn't happening, I misunderstood her, this could NOT be real.)
All I remember saying was "No, No, No. I don't want to give him back! Do I have to? How can this happen?" Honestly I don't really recall how many times I told her no, as if I even had a say. But that was my reaction. I was his mom and that was how I felt. I know I didn't say much more than that. I was bawling. Hysterically bawling and could barely get the words out to tell Danny what she just told me. I didn't want to tell him, because then it really would be real. He knew though. He knew without me saying a word. Our phone call didn't last long since Heidi knew I was not in the state of mind to talk. She told me she'd give us time.
We were JUST on our way to celebrate with our son and in a matter of SECONDS, life changed. I remember hanging up the phone and looking at our son asleep in the back seat. I DID NOT WANT TO GIVE HIM BACK. There had to be something we could do or say, right?!?! Danny held me. We could barely talk, nor did we know what we were suppose to do next. Danny took over and called our agency to talk about what just happened. I just sat in the passenger seat while he drove back to our host home, crying out to God to change what just happened. I don't think I had ever literally cried out to God that much in my life. Never did I feel so hopeless, confused, and devastated. I just remember calling my dad, (like a little girl would) crying out to him, asking him to help us. Begging him to pray, begging him to have the whole family pray, begging him to make things right. He couldn't. I knew that. I just so desperately wanted someone to tell me it's going to be okay and I wouldn't have to give my son back.
Then I texted Jerik's birth mom. Not knowing how or even if she would respond, I felt like it was my only hope. Maybe, JUST MAYBE if I talked with her she would change her mind.
On our 6th day together, we scheduled to take our first pictures with Jerik and also his "newborn" pictures (even though he was already 2-months-old.) We found an amazing Christian photographer, Heather Rasmussen, out of Charlotte and were so happy when she agreed to taking our pictures last minute. She was excited for our family and to share in our journey.
We started sending her pictures of Jerik right after we met him. It was so nice to have support from someone that was local, especially being so far away from our friends and family. We had never met before but the fact that she was praying for us and was so excited for our family meant SO much to us!
Heather didn't live too far from our host home so we met at an abandoned property. Jerik slept for some of the pictures and was WIDE awake for others. He did so well and taking pictures without three other little kiddos around was a BREEZE 😉
It was so nice to talk with Heather in person and get to know her on a personal level. She was a Godsend and another beautiful example of how God works through adoption, bringing people into our life at the most perfect time.
We got done with our pictures in an hour and we decided it would be fun to visit a small local town and have a date night to celebrate the adoption of Jerik. We said our goodbyes to Heather and drove about 15 miles to find a place to eat.
As we were pulling into town my phone rang and I saw the name of our social worker. This was not expected since we mainly had been texting since arriving in NC, so instantly I wondered what was up. I quickly answered her call, excited to tell her all about our time in NC with Jerik, and then I heard her voice. It was her tone that made my heart stop and I knew this was not a call I wanted.
Hi, I'm Kansas! I wish we could be doing this face to face over coffee. Maybe someday, till then this will have to do!