Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas 2009

We had a wonderful Christmas celebration this year to wrap up 2009! The older our kids get, the more fun it becomes. This year we changed things up a bit in order to work in time with all of our family and friends. The Wednesday before Christmas we went to Grammy's for a Christmas ham dinner with all of the fixings. We enjoyed playing The Grinch Bingo Game and watching Eloise at Christmas.

On Christmas Eve, Grammy and Da came over in the afternoon to help Emma and Kate decorate cookies for Santa. We made iced sugar cookies and gingerbread teddy bears. So yummy and cute! That night we went to the Christmas Eve service at our church, and then we went across the street and joined our friends for a Christmas celebration there. Once home, the girls opened their traditional Christmas jammies (matching, of course!), left cookies (and drawings!) out for Santa, and then stayed up way too late watching Santa Claus the movie and giggling in mom and dad's bed. Finally they crashed around midnight, though Kate was scared that Santa would not tip toe and that he would come in to her room!

On Christmas morning, Grammy and Da came over bright and early and the girls were so excited to see that Santa had brought them a Princess Jeep, just like they had asked for! Some other favorite gifts included a make-up kit (for dress-up), lovies from Grammy, a Leapster game system for Emma and a toy vaccuum for Kate (go figure). After opening gifts, we enjoyed a Christmas brunch before getting dressed and heading to Papaw and Grandma's.

At Grandmas, we opened gifts with Boss' side of the family. Both girls were so excited to receive a child's digital camera! We enjoyed visiting and playing with cousin's, before heading to Boss' aunt's home to celebrate with the whole Conaway clan. Have I mentioned that I LOVE big families? So neat when we can all come together. We love the holidays and were so blessed to spend it with so many of our family and friends!






















Saturday, December 26, 2009

Baby Update
















Somewhere in the midst of this busy holiday season I reached 28 weeks of pregnancy, also known as the third trimester! Hooray! Things are still going well. I can still find my ankles (on most days), have gained eight pounds, and am still feeling pretty well each day. No major complaints! My blood pressure has been fluctuating at my appointments, but unless it rises and remains high I will not be put on any restrictions. I am still loving being pregnant and am thankful for the little (getting bigger!) kicks I feel each day.

Along with my growing belly, Jack Ryan's personal belongings are growing as well! Thanks to friends, family, and Christmas giftcards, he now has a crib and dresser, a stroller/car seat combo, bedding, a fancy monogrammed diaper bag, and a growing wardrobe! After the first of the year we will get busy installing a door to separate his side of the room from the girls and painting the walls. Pretty sure baby boy would not like sleeping in a pink striped room!

Sometimes I feel as though this pregnancy has flown by, and other times I wonder how my stomach can stretch much more over the next 12 weeks. Next week I go for my glucose screening and Rhogam  shot, and after that we begin doctors visits every two weeks. Keep growing Baby Jack!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Happy Holidays

Tomorrow my awesome sister-in-law will be sending this years blog to the printer, so tonight I must wrap up our family blog of 2009. Thank you for joining in our journey this year. What a year it has been!


















This past weekend we were able to take the girls on a little Christmas get-a-way, and I couldn't help but marvel at the wonderful blessings in our lives. When I think of all I have to be thankful for, my eyes often well with tears (or maybe that is just the hormones talking). I feel so blessed to lead the life that I do.



















Our family is looking forward to these next several days of holiday fun, and also the blessing of a brand new year. We will be back in January! Happy Holidays from our family to yours!


























Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Christmas Past

It is hard to believe that it is already that time of year again. The time of year where we put out the twinkling little lights, decorate the trees, set out the Santa collection, and begin thinking about holiday shopping. As a child, it seemed that it took forever for December to roll around each year, but as an adult, it seems that another Christmas holiday comes upon us all too quickly. Where does the time go?

As a mama , I always seem to long to have done Christmas better at the end of every holiday season. I long to have made decorating more fun, to have put more thought in to my gift giving, to have watched more Christmas movies with my children, and to have drank more cocoa while snuggling on the couch. I long to have been a little nicer and made more Christmas memories that my children will cherish as they grow.

In thinking on this yesterday, I realized that even at the young age of 27, I cannot remember all that much about my childhood Christmas' growing up. Sadly, I cannot remember Christmas with my dad's side of the family at all. I remember bits and pieces from photographs I have seen, such as what Granny's tree looked like and who was there, but that seems to be about it. Other things I remember about Christmas as a child are two particular Santa gifts (a baby doll wearing pink overalls with teddy bears on the front and a chalk board), going to pick out the family Christmas tree (we always got a live one), decorating the tree while listening to Alabama's Christmas CD, opening our stockings on Christmas morning from youngest to oldest before we ate breakfast, going to my Grandma's and opening gifts one at a time, so we could all see what the other received, instead of flying through it in a mad frenzy, taking family photos by the tree, and eating a Christmas lunch. I remember Aunt Bill's Brown Candy and sausage stuffing. Most Christmas afternoons, we went to see a movie.  I can remember is lying awake one Christmas Eve and being too excited to sleep, because the next day Santa would be bringing me the baby doll that I had desperately wanted for the entire year. As a child, it does not get any better than that! I want that same excitement for my own children as we go through each holiday season, year after year.Those are all of the details that I remember. Good memories, but not nearly enough.

Thinking about Christmas past, makes me want to bottle up all of the joy and magic of each holiday season, so that I can give it to my children when they are grown. I want our family traditions and memories ingrained in their minds, so that all they have to do is close their eyes and it comes back to them. I know it is not that simple, as fighting forgetting is a natural part of aging. I have decided to record here, a few of the traditions we have started since becoming a family, so that when our children are grown, they can look back and have an easier time remembering than I do.

* We put up our outside Christmas lights some time in November, when the weather is still a bit warmer. I LOVE outside lights. Decorating outside was not something my family did growing up, and if we did, it was either me doing it by myself, or me begging my mom to help me reach the high places. I LOVE pulling into a twinkling yard, so this is always something we make a big deal out of for the children (or maybe for me!).

* We always decorate the inside of our home the weekend after Christmas, and I am a huge fan of putting up as many trees as possible. We have one in the family room with family and homemade decorations, a tree decorated with red and gold in the dining room, and the girls have a little pink tree in their bedroom.

* Each year, my mom gives the children a personalized ornament, so that when they are grown and move out, they have a collection of their very own ornaments to take with them. She has also started the tradition of getting them a dancing and singing Christmas collectible, and those are a favorite to play with each year when we get them out.

* Some of our favorite decorations include the nativity scene, my Santa collection (I have one for each year of marriage), and our Christmas village. I also set a basket by the couch to hold our holiday story books, so that they will be fresh and fun to look at each year.

*We started the tradition of The Elf on the Shelf, and the girls LOVE it! The story is precious, and every morning the girls are so excited to see where the elf is hiding that day. We named our elf SAM (Secret Agent Man), because it is his job to tell Santa how the girls behave each day.

* We go see Santa every year, and this year started the tradition of writing him a letter and mailing it to him at Macy's Department store.

* On Christmas Adam, the night before Christmas Eve, we eat a Fettuccine Alfredo dinner, we decorate sugar cookies to leave for Santa, and we read The Night Before Christmas.

* So far, Christmas days always seem to be a bit different! We are in the process of trying to decide how to balance celebrating with each of our families, as well as creating traditions for our own small family of four (soon to be five!).

* If we can, on Christmas night, we go to one of Boss' mom's sisters' house, where his large extended family gathers for a nice meal and a gift exchange. I LOVE big families!!

This year I tried to do more things ahead of time, before December actually arrived. I started shopping a few months ago, I sent out fall holiday cards instead of Christmas ones, and I made lists, lists, lists, instead of just winging it. I adore this time of year. I adore the excitement and magic that live in my children's eyes for the entire 25 days, and I pray that we are creating memories that will last us all for a lifetime.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Holiday Weekend Wrap Up

It is official. Our long, holiday weekend has come to an end. We LOVE having our daddy home from work, sleeping in, and not having a schedule to keep. These past five days were just what our family needed, after the craziness of the last few months. During break we enjoyed yummy Mexican food and lunch at Panera Bread, baking pumpkin bars and turkey shaped sugar cookies, Thanksgiving lunch at Grandma's and playtime with cousins, Christmas shopping, playing games, watching way too many movies (with Elf, Santa Clause, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas being the girls favorites this year), snuggling, and decorating the house for the upcoming Christmas holiday. Such fun now that the girls are old enough to help!

This Thanksgiving, it really struck me that I have much to be thankful for. Really, I feel thankful every year, but this year stood out to me as feeling different. So many around me are struggling. Marriages are ending, children are fighting cancer, friends are facing job loss and financial struggles, infertility, and just this week, friends were burying loved ones. If I think about all of the harshness that this world can offer, it is easy to become overwhelmed. I don't know how people do it without the hope of God and His perfect plan! I am so thankful that this world is not where our stories end, and I am thankful for each day that goes by during this season of peace for my own family.

Without further ado, my list of 2009 thankfuls:

* Forgiveness and grace. I am thankful that each new day is fresh with no mistakes in it.

* For my marriage. I will not lie. It has been a tough year in this category, and we still have much to learn, but I am thankful that when we said I Do, that we both meant it.

* For Emma and Kate. They are a constant source of joy.

* For the son growing inside of me. For two years we have prayed for this baby, and I don't want to take one moment of carrying him for granted.

* For living in the same home for two and a half years. Never thought we would see that happen!

* For loving our jobs. Both bring a satisfaction that cannot be put into words. I remember the not so long ago days, where work schedules and finances were something that we greatly struggled with. We prayed, and God answered.

* For our families. Thankful that we are together. It would be much harder to raise our children without the weekly support that we receive from our parents.

* Girlfriends, both old and new! Something I have prayed for often since becoming a wife and mama. God has provided richly in this category.

I am truly blessed, and every once in a while it is nice to stop and count my blessings. Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Jack Ryan Huston

Baby Boy officially has a name. After much deliberation (and with the girl's help), Boss and I have finally decided that Baby Z Number Three will be Jack. Jack after Boss' mom, Jackie. I LOVE the name Jack. I think it is sweet, yet strong, and it goes nicely with the theme I have going of naming all of our children with four letter names. The only other names we considered were Luke (which Emma said made her tongue want to throw up), and Sam, but in the end, Jack won out because I love naming our children after family.

Baby Jack is growing every day! The girls enjoy watching my tummy move when he kicks, and they love giving brother kisses each night before they go to bed. I cannot wait to see the three of them together.

Thank you God for Emma Leigh, Kate Elisabeth, and Jack Ryan. I could not ask for more!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Two Blessings


















This November, as I think upon my many blessings, I am specifically thankful for my two precious girls. More than once a day, I find myself asking how I got so lucky as to be their mama. Really, they are such awesome kids. Sure, we have our occasional meltdowns and moments of disrespect like any other family, but those are few and far between. More often than not, people compliment the girls on what good listeners they are, and on how well they play together. They are sisters, best friends, and two peas in a pod. I cannot imagine one without the other. They are without a doubt, mine and Boss' greatest blessings in this life!

Some cute things that are worth remembering:

* Kate has recently nicknamed Emma Chuggy. Not sure where that name came from, but it seems to be sticking. Each morning, when Kate sees Emma, she screams Chuggy! at the top of her lungs, and then chases Emma around the table until she can catch her. Once she catches her, she yells splat! and tackles Emma to the ground. Interesting.

* If the girls are wearing dress up clothes, you can only refer to them by their fancy names, Emmaline and Katealine.

* Several times a day, Kate will give a huge sigh and say, It's so hard being three!

* Emma has informed me that according to most humans (yes, she actually used those words), the more you ask them to do something, the less they want to do it. How right you are, sister! Too bad you have thirteen more years of me asking you to do things.

I love these girls, and I am so thankful for my two blessings.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Baby Bump


Half Way There























I have now been pregnant with Baby Boy for twenty wonderful weeks. To date, I have gained three pounds, I still have ankles, my energy abounds, and everything has been great health wise. Baby Boy moves every day, and while I have felt his little kicks for awhile now, you could see them from the outside of my stomach for the first time this week. I had forgotten how awesome that is to witness! We truly are blessed.

Baby Boy's belongings are growing! Boss had chosen a three piece suit with a purple bow tie for the special coming home day, but thankfully, I won, and Baby Boy will come home in a sweet, little blue gown and his Little Sport hat. So precious! We have also decided to purchase one big item a month before Baby Boy's arrival, and this month we bought our stroller and car seat. Man, have those things gone up in price since we had the girls! Crazy! But the one I chose has bright orange trim (I am a fan), so I pretty much think it is awesome.The weather is changing here, getting colder every day, and I am ready to settle in to the long winter months. I foresee many days at home, and much nesting in our future! Children are such an amazing blessing from the Lord!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Second Times a Charm

Well, go ahead and say it. I am spoiled! After Thursday nights gender ultrasound disappointment, I was completely spoiled this morning with another ultrasound. That's right. I did not even have to wait for 48 hours. Spoiled! I woke up early, and started my day by drinking the nectar of the devil (Mountain Dew). Gasp! I know, not so great, but I was determined to get this little one moving. I followed that with a protein bar, and then headed on my merry way to my ultrasound. Boss could not go with me, because someone had to wait at home to get the residents off on their visits, and Emma said she was too tired to go, so I dragged my friend Angie with me. The ultrasound technician was SO nice, and the experience was so fun! Today, our little one actually LOOKED like a baby. I could see the entire spine and all of the ribs, the bones in the legs, little one sucking his or her thumb, and most of the facial features. And then came the fun part. The technician said she thought she knew what baby was, but she wanted me to roll on my side to be completely sure. I could tell the minute that Angie gasped that I was having a BOY, so I whipped around and the technician confirmed that it was true. Of course I responded with many tears. There is one sweet little boy growing inside of me! I can't tell you how excited I am! Boy things have been calling to me from the beginning of this pregnancy and I just had a feeling. The technician gave me several pictures on a disk, so that I could go home and share the pictures with Boss and the girls, who of course are so very happy, as well. I think Boss might be a little nervous about raising a son, but I am so convinced he will be a great dad to our little boy. And hey, as Boss always says, this is one less wedding he will have to pay for! Little baby BOY Zickafoose, we are so in love with you and can't wait for you to be a part of our family. Bugs, balls, dirt, and dinosaurs HERE WE COME!







Friday, October 23, 2009

Stubborn

It turns out that our new little one is stubborn. After counting down the days until our BIG ultrasound, yesterday it finally arrived, and we were so very excited. I did all of the right things. I drank all of my required water for the day, and about an hour before the appointment I had a light snack and a glass of fruit juice to try and wake baby up. But it did not work. Our baby is stubborn. For the majority of the appointment, Baby Z Number Three had his or her little hand covering the important area that we needed to see, and with his or her other hand, little one was literally giving us a thumbs up! It was pretty funny! Except for the fact that it wasn't. The ultrasound technician had me walk around, jump up and down, do jumping jacks, and roll around on the table to try and get baby to move, but nothing worked. We were pretty bummed! For all of you mama's who purposefully keep the gender of your baby a surprise, I do not know how you do it!The good news is that we will get to try again soon, so hopefully baby will be in a more cooperative mood. Until then, I am simply enjoying this sneaky, stubborn little one growing inside of me.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Boy or Girl, That is The Question

Tomorrow afternoon, our family gets to find out whether this little one that I am carrying is another sister or a new little brother. To say we are excited is an understatement! In fact, Emma and I have been counting down the days until this ultrasound appointment for the past two weeks, so we are definitely ready to know who will be joining our family come March. Some of us are hoping for a boy, and others are hoping for a girl, but no matter what, I have no doubt that this baby is already greatly loved.

For some reason, this pregnancy feels different to me. All of my pregnancies have been exciting and most definitely wanted, but this one is different. With Emma, I was a mere 21 years of age when I became her mama. Boss and I were insanely happy and excited to bring a daughter into this world, but looking back, I was very young and naive. A baby having a baby. I remember right after having her, Boss was afraid to hold her for fear of breaking her. I just kept thinking, Are they really going to let me take her home? I can't believe they would trust me with such a little person! Somehow, with much joy and happiness, we survived Emma's first few years of life, and just like clockwork, two years later we had our sweet Kate. I was thrilled that we had sisters, and their relationship has been precious to watch develop over the past three years. Emma and Kate are the best of friends and partners in crime, rarely fighting, and I cannot imagine one without the other. Life was exactly as it was meant to be in our little family.

Many of you know that I experienced health problems after Kate's birth, and it was pretty much decided that we would not have any more biological children. We decided this as much for health reasons, as we did for sanity reasons. What I experienced emotionally after having Kate (much stress and anxiety which persisted for nearly a solid year after her birth), took a tole on our little family. Sometimes the anxiety was so overwhelming that it consumed me, and a lot of the work of caring for the girls was thrown on Boss. It was a very long year. So, while we desperately wanted more children, we had both agreed that adoption would be the path  to growing our family. I have wanted to adopt since I was a little girl, so this seemed as natural to me as having another one of our own. I was truly at peace with the path we were on.

However, it was not long after we started on our adoption journey that I realized how rocky the road was going to be. I knew it was going to be a lengthy process, but I didn't expect it to be so tough. Basically, the major roadblock for our family adopting was our living situation. We are houseparents at a group home for teenage girls with behavior problems. On paper, the girls that we live with sound quite scary, but the truth is that most of them are girls who got handed a rotten deal in life, but who are striving daily to overcome their pasts. They most certainly are not dangerous, or I would not live here with my own daughters in the first place. To date, we have served thirty kids, and there are only three that I can think of who I would not have gladly welcomed in to my own family, and those girls were removed from our program the minute they became a problem. Even though that is what I know to be the truth regarding our living environment, that is not what a caseworker sees when they review our home study. So, even though we passed our background checks, had good references, made enough money, and passed and completed everything in the home study process, we continued to be denied by agency after agency. The paperwork to cover a home study like ours was too intense for a private agency to take on. While I completely understood where they were coming from, it was still a hard pill to swallow since it seemed as though that was where our dreams were. In the end, we were left with three options.

Our first option was for us to quit our ministry here and adopt as a regular family. Definitely not an option for us at this time! I truly love my job and feel like working with these girls is where I am supposed to be at this time, and possibly for many years to come. I could not give up caring for five girls who need a place to call home, to justify filling my own need for one.

Our next option was to adopt a child already in the system, meaning we would go through the county and not through a private agency. Big difference! With a private agency, you are most often the only mama and daddy that the baby ever knows, and there is never a chance for the child to be abused or neglected before it becomes a part of your family. When you adopt through the county, even if you adopt an infant, the majority of times, damage has already been done. Not that I don't think these children deserve to be adopted, and I am so thankful there are families out there who are called to do so. The problem is that I work with the grown up versions of these kids day in and day out. I live with kids who were adopted by wonderful loving families by the age of one, but it was already too late for them. Too much abuse and damage had already been done, and they are not capable of bonding with their adoptive family, hence the reason they are living with us. I get tired of seeing adoptive moms who have tried for so long to reach these kids, and to love these kids, but the kids wants nothing to do with them and they probably never will. I see this over, and over, and over again. It is heartbreaking for both the child and the adoptive family, and I could not see putting my family through that pain. It is too much of a reality in our everyday life.

Our third option became to have another child of our own. After that year of intense anxiety lifted and I talked with a few more doctors, it became clear that there was no medical reason we could not have another child. I only had to feel ready to do so. I won't lie, it was hard to let go of my dream of adopting a little African American baby with the curliest little fro you ever did see, and I am not saying we will never adopt. Who knows what God has in store for our family? And I will not lie and tell you that I was not fearful of getting pregnant again, because I was, and still am, nervous about the pregnancy, but I also have more peace than I have had in a very long time. The baby I am carrying is the baby we have prayed for for two years. It feels like being pregnant for the very first time all over again. Every kick is a miracle, each week of growing a blessing. There is no other way to explain it, other than to say it is differently wonderful. I am a bit older now, and being a mama comes more naturally than it did during those early years. I am so very ready to be a mama of three! My three. The Z three.

So, are we having a little boy or a little girl? Tomorrow we will find out the answer to that question. But whoever this little one is, I have no doubt that they were meant to be a part of our family. We love you Baby Z Number Three, and we can't wait to call you by name!