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Aren’t adoptions supposed to be happy?

13 Aug

I recently ended a 7-year journey as an adoption social worker in the child welfare field.  I was involved in almost 200 adoptions, and I was ecstatic for every single one.  So, when it came time to adopt my 2 stepdaughters, I was dumbfounded as to why I didn’t feel that same excitement and joy.  Some may even pass judgment on me for it.  These feelings even upset me until I figured them out.

In a child welfare adoption, that day in front of the judge has been highly anticipated by many of the parties involved for many months or years.  A child who’s spent years in the system being repeatedly abandoned and rejected, a couple who experienced infertility now has children who call them Mom and Dad, a relative caregiver or foster parent who cared for a child throughout an unpredictable and slowly-progressing dependency case.  All of these scenarios involved uncertainty, and most of them involved a conclusion that had been hoped for.

A stepparent adoption doesn’t necessarily work that way.  I will only comment on my own experience which may or may not be typical.  When I met these girls almost 3 years ago, I never envisioned becoming their mother.  In fact, I only had one birth child because that’s all I wanted and thought I could handle.  I did not mind being a stepmother (crazy behaviors aside), and I encouraged the girls’ relationship with their birth mother.  I even tried to help her, but her lifestyle choices were not compatible with parenting. (I am not sharing the details here in the event that the girls someday find this blog; I don’t want them to learn about the circumstances this way.)  About 2 1/2 years into my relationship with my now-husband, she decided to surrender her parental rights with the knowledge that I would adopt them.

Telling 2 young girls (ages 6 and 8) that they may never see their birth mother again, even with a therapist present, is about as horrible as you may have guessed it is.  I did not expect the blow to be softened by the news that I would adopt them, and I doubt it was.  

About 5 months later, we were all in a courtroom finalizing the adoption.  Like the weeks leading up to the occasion, I did not have any of the feelings I did at the adoptions I’d been a party to professionally.  In fact, everyone was quite blase about it.  Nothing felt different.  The younger girl had been calling me “Mommy” since I’d broken the news to her (I told them they could call me whatever they felt comfortable with, and they could change their mind anytime).  The excitement surfaced when we pulled up to Yogurt Mountain for a post-adoption treat.

So, why the lack of excitement?  I couldn’t muster up any excitement for what I feel is a monumental loss for them.  The only reason we were in that courtroom is because of their birth mother’s inability to care for them.  How could I feel joyful about that?  Of course, adoption means a lifelong commitment, but I’d already made that commitment when I married their father.  So, they didn’t gain anything; rather, they lost a parent.  The adoption made it official.

I suspect that I will see future adoptions I attend a little differently now.  It reminded me of the time my supervisor told me, “adoption is sad.”  I had no idea what she was talking about.  I understood that an adoption was preceded by a loss, but I never believed that the loss could overshadow the joy of adoption.  Now I understand.


How I Got My Dream Wedding Dress for $220

7 Aug

On my last post, I talked about all the ways my husband and I saved money on our wedding. I promised more details in future posts, and though life has been unsurprisingly busy since then, I want to keep my word and share!

For most brides, picking out a dress is a very big deal and involves trying on dozens of dresses, lots of opinions from family or friends, and budget-busting misery.  There is just something, well, wrong with spending 3 or 4 figures on a dress that will be worn once when many of those same brides don’t even break the hundred-dollar mark on garments they wear all the time.  

As the sole wage earner in my family until my husband finishes college, buying an expensive wedding dress was not an option.   However, buying a sundress off the rack would’ve been disappointing to me.  After all, it was my WEDDING, after all!  I ended up with a dress I love so much I would’ve chosen it no matter how big my budget was.

The first thing I did was think about what was and was not important to me.  I have always loved ball gown style dresses, so that went on the list. I also wanted a white gown.  It did not matter to me if the dress was brand new or not.  I didn’t find many local options for pre-owned dresses, so I looked online.  

The site I ended up buying from was  It’s a site similar to eBay in that individual sellers post and sell their dresses and accessories.   Since I was buying online and therefore couldn’t try it on, I looked for a strapless style with lacing in the back.  This eliminated having to worry about it not fitting in the arm and shoulder area, which is where I have the most problems.  The corset-style lacing allows the dress to fit a range of sizes.  The ball gown skirt is also very full and loose fitting and therefore easy to fit as well.  The dress I bought was a sample from a bridal shop.  It’s a beautiful Maggie Sotero with a beaded bodice and pick-up skirt.  I paid $220 shipped!  The only way one could tell it wasn’t brand new was if they looked on the inside.  Since bridal shops don’t want you ordering direct from a manufacturer or shopping around, they remove labels from the dress and instead write a number inside the bodice for identification.  The ribbon hangers were also cut out.  No big deal.  When my dress arrived, all I had to do was hem it with some Steam-a-Seam and I was ready for my wedding!

I felt so beautiful in that dress, and no one could believe I only paid $220 for it!  I always thought I’d be one to give away or sell my wedding dress, but it’s so beautiful that it’s still hanging in my closet almost 4 months later!  I see it every morning when I get dressed, and it still makes me smile.

Some other ideas for finding affordable wedding dresses:

  • Thrift or consignment stores
  • Craigslist
  • Borrow from a friend or relative
  • Buy a white prom gown
  • Ask bridal shops about floor samples
  • Buy a white cocktail or sundress from a department store
  • Make your own
  • Buy a handmade or vintage dress on Etsy
  • Buy retail and then resell it right after the wedding to recoup some of the cost

Happy Adoption Month!!

3 Nov

Happy Adoption Month!!

I’ve taken the plunge into Etsy land!

23 Aug

I’ve taken the plunge into Etsy land! Check out my shop!


1 May

Hello everyone! One of my favorite hobbies is sewing. I love being able to create any garment I want at a price I can afford. Sure, you can buy cheap, poor quality clothes from discount stores, but my handmade clothes are of much better quality. As an added bonus, making your own clothes means you are not supporting companies that use sweatshop labor. Sure, they’re giving people jobs, but they could choose to provide them better pay and working conditions.

Many in the sewing community participate in Me-Made-May, when participants wear only handmade clothes.  Since I do have some ready to wear (RTW) clothes in my closet (and my attempts at making underwear have been unsuccessful), I’m going to be participating in the “Lite” version of Me-Made-May. This means I will be wearing at least one me-made garment per day instead of the whole outfit. I will try to post some of my favorite outfits throughout the month.

I hope this encourages some of you to give sewing a try! To that end, I have started a Facebook group, Sewing Help for Beginners, and a Twitter feed, @sewinghelp

C.S.I: Sewing

C.S.I: Sewing (Photo credit: ♪Misato)

. My favorite online sewing forum is Stitcher’s Guild– do check it out! Sewers are the nicest people!

Homemade chocolate syrup, much healthier and easy to make!

30 Dec

If you’re like me, you grew up drinking chocolate milk made with Hershey’s Syrup.  Maybe you drizzled it onto ice cream if your

Hershey's Syrup, circa 1950s

Image via Wikipedia

parents allowed it.  That dark brown plastic bottle (or tin can if you’re really old school) was and still is ubiquitous in American households.  Sure, it’s not a health food by anyone’s definition, but it wasn’t until this year that my recently health-conscious mother looked at the ingredients and was disgusted.  The main ingredient: high fructose corn syrup.

A simple Google search will yield many articles about the effects of corn syrup along with some commercial sites with a vested interest in leading you to believe that since it’s made from corn, then it must be good for you.  I tend to put more trust in sources that are not selling me a product, such as academic sites or those run by major hospitals or clinics.  Here is an article from Princeton University that discusses how high fructose corn syrup leads to weight gain (especially in the abdomen) and a rise in tricyclerides, blood fats that, when in excess, can lead to heart attacks.  Don’t believe it?  Think about how many products you’ve seen with HFCS in them in recent years, and how many more obese people you’ve seen during that time frame.  Coincidence?

Suddenly, that bottle of Hershey’s syrup doesn’t look so delicious anymore, does it?  Luckily, I have a recipe for you.  My mother got it from a coworker, so I am unsure of its origin.  If I do find out, I will update this post to give that person credit.  This recipe is so simple to make and even more tasty than Hershey’s syrup, and best of all, you know what’s in it!  (Namely, no HFCS!)


2/3 cup water

1/2 cup Hershey’s baking Cocoa

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla (added later!)


Pour the first 3 ingredients into a small pot. Stir over medium heat until consistency is that of syrup (1-2 minutes). Remove from heat; let cool for 2-5 minutes. Add vanilla and stir. Pour into bottle and store in the fridge.

Doesn't it look delicious?

We put ours in a glass bottle meant for olive oil.  We are looking for something larger to better suit our household of chocoholics.

Tip Junkie handmade projects



What you can do: don’t buy products tested on animals

29 Dec

Many of us have heard about cosmetics being tested on animals; some of the methods used are pretty horrifying. While some practices have been banned, animal testing is alive and well. Animal testing certainly isn’t necessary; many companies don’t use the practice.

Animal rights organization PETA doesn’t have the best reputation (they’re a little combative for my taste), but they do publish some handy lists of companies that do and do not test on animals.  Here is the link where you can search for cruelty-free companies.  I was quite surprised to see the extensive list of companies to DO test on animals.  I have several of these products in my house!  I plan to download the PDF lists onto my smartphone so I have it available to me when I go shopping.

For more information on animal testing, check out this article from PETA.

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