Today we celebrate 16 years of wedded bliss (and 18 years of marriage)

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There are two times in my life I would never want to repeat. The first is junior high. Ugh. There is no reality show prize money large enough to tempt me to go back. The second is the first two years of marriage. Oy ve. An anniversary is a big deal, but especially when you thought you weren’t going to make it past the first two. I’m sure it was ALL his fault. I’m so easy to live with.

On our wedding day staring lovingly into his eyes. As they say, “Love is blind. Marriage is the eye opener.”

I did not marry my best friend. My best friends stood beside me that day. I might have spoken the typical, (insert engaged sweet sappy voice here:) “He’s my best friend…” But truly, he did not know me like my attendants did. He had never seen me without make-up, he had never seen me without my hair being perfect, and he had never known me to look frumpy in worn-out sweats and ratty t-shirts as I cleaned. He did not necessarily know my ugly side, the first thing in the morning face, my aversion to putting the toilet paper on the roll, the hives I develop from  putting my shoes in the closet (so I don’t), or my morning breath side. But he was going to learn. And love me anyway.

To say the first two years were rough would be a HUGE understatement. I was raised you argue until someone gives in (usually him.) He was raised that a married couple never argues. We had a lot to learn, because both sides are wrong. I was the baby and he was the oldest of three boys. Before we got married his idea of conflict resolution was beating up your brother and going on your way. He did at least know that wouldn’t work with his wife. Thankfully, we learned to get along. We learned to work together, control our tempers (most of the time), and pray for each other. Only God can truly change a person.

Each year gets better and better. I remember the night before we brought Lydia home, I told him, “I really like you.” He informed me I was supposed to. I reminded him the Bible says I have to love him, it never says I have to like him. And I really like my husband. We have endured a lot over the years: those rough first years, tough jobs, crazy family members, infertility, loss of family, health issues, and the list goes on. But God has been faithful in every situation and He has drawn us closer to Him which in turn draws us closer to each other.

I can now positively state he is my best friend and he loves me despite my short comings. We have a good time together. We laugh all of the time, we finish each others sentences, we think the same thoughts, and we’re working on him reading my mind. We love to spend time together. It’s much harder now with our three beautiful daughters, but I appreciate those times we do go out all the more. There is not anything he does not know about me. He has seen me at my best and he has tolerated me at my worst.

So to my fabulous husband: Happy Anniversary! I love you more than I could ever express. Thank you for being you and loving me through the crazy times as well as the good. You are the cream in my coffee, the root beer to my float, the cheese to my burger, the peanut butter to my chocolate, and I could never imagine life without you. May the next 18 years be even better than the first.

Ooey Gooey Gotcha Day Breakfast

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My mom was a great cook. I say “was” because she just doesn’t cook much anymore. According to her, by the time you are almost 80, standing in the kitchen loses its appeal.

One of my favorite recipes of my mom’s is her Monkey Bread. Holy cow!! I know this is what manna must have tasted like. It was usually saved for special occasions. We had this on Gotcha Day yesterday, and there’s no better special occasion than that!

Ingredients:

  • 24 frozen dinner rolls (I use Rhodes rolls)
  • 1 c. packed brown sugar
  • 1 box (3 oz) cook and serve butterscotch pudding mix (NOT instant)
  • 1/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • 1/2 c. pecans, chopped (optional)
  • 1/2 c. butter, melted
I use my Pampered Chef stone bundt pan. If you use a regular bundt pan, grease and flour it first.

I use my Pampered Chef stone bundt pan. If you use a regular bundt pan, grease and flour it first.

Place frozen rolls around sides and bottom of the bundt pan. Mix brown sugar and pudding mix together and sprinkle over rolls. Mix granulated sugar with cinnamon and sprinkle over brown sugar mixture. Spread pecans over all this and pour melted butter over all.

First layer: brown sugar and pudding mix

First layer: brown sugar and pudding mix

Second layer: Add sugar and cinnamon mixture

Second layer: Add sugar and cinnamon mixture

Ready to sit overnight.

Final layer: Add pecans, if using, and melted butter. Ready to sit overnight.

Place uncovered on counter top over night. The next morning, preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake 30 minutes. (You will want to put a cookie sheet underneath on a lower rack while the monkey bread cooks. The sugar mixture will sometimes bubble up and leak over the sides.) Let it sit in the pan 10-15 minutes before turning it over onto a large plate.

I really like waking up to this sight. Overflowing rolls smothered in sweet goodness.

I really like waking up to this sight. Overflowing rolls smothered in sweet goodness.

You'll need to find a plate bigger than the bundt pan. Otherwise, all the good stuff falls off the plate.

You’ll need to find a plate bigger than the bundt pan. Otherwise, all the good stuff falls off the plate.

Ready for the big reveal.

Ready for the big reveal.

Here it is. Manna from heaven. It doesn't look like this for long. Maybe I should have added a picture of an empty plate.

Here it is. Manna from heaven. It doesn’t look like this for long. Maybe I should have added a picture of an empty plate.

I love pecans in this, but my husband isn’t nuts over them (Nuts! Get it?!?!) so I leave them out. I’m submissive that way. 🙂 Happy Eating!

Gotcha!!

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Today is a very special day in our family. Today is Gotcha Day. 6 years ago today, Lydia’s adoption was finalized and she became a Schexnayder officially. Her story is nothing short of amazing.

My husband and I had thought of adoption many times over the years. We would start an application and, for different reasons, would stop the process. It wasn’t until 2007 that we moved forward with the idea. We had been told of a foster baby that would be up for adoption so we decided to start the paperwork with DHS here in Oklahoma. That was in March 2007. We went to the first DHS meeting where we were told if we wanted a baby under the age of 2, we should go to a private adoption agency. Adopting a baby under the age of 2, especially white babies, was almost impossible. We decided we would continue with the process and see how God would lead. There is no cost to adopt through the state. The only things we would pay for were our physicals. ($25 each)

We were given a very thick packet of information to read and fill out. It asks all sorts of questions about you, your marriage, your extended family, your finances, your debt. There is also a large section on what type of child you would accept. How old, what ethnicity, how many in a sibling group? “Would you accept a child who wets the bed?” “Would you accept a child who is behind academically?” “Would you accept a child who tortures small animals?” (No, I’m not making these up.) I felt like we were special ordering our child. We finished our packet, turned it in, and set up home visits.

There are two types of home visits/studies. One was with our case worker who would come over, check out our home, make sure it had: the proper railings if there were stairs, outlet covers, fire extinguishers, a land line, etc. The second type of home study was a person who would sit down and probe into your personal life. How do you get along with your parents? How do you get along with your siblings? Do you smoke? Do you drink? Do you have a network of support? They also called all sorts of references. DHS was very thorough.

While this was going on, we had to attend somewhere around 28 hours of foster/adoption training. We drove to Norman from Bethany for a few weeks to learn how to creatively give your child exactly what they wanted. Also, how to correct your child without administering any type of punishment. 🙂  We sat there quietly, smiled and nodded, took notes, and watched the time pass. After our last class at the end of August ’07 we called our case worker, Jorge, and told him we had certificate in hand. We were ready to find our dream child. 🙂 And we wanted him/her by Christmas. Our case worker was amused.

Each month we received a list of adoptable children in the state. On an average it had 90-100 names each month, many of them repeats from month to month. At the end of October/first of November I noticed a little girl, Heaven, who was on the list. She had just turned a year old, parental rights had all been terminated 6 months prior, and she was legally free to be adopted. I remember thinking “Maybe we should call Jorge on this one” then quickly dismissing it, knowing hundreds of people would be calling on that one. The end of November Brian received a phone call from Jorge. He had a prospect, a little girl, for us to look at. Were we interested?

Were we interested? Is the pope Catholic? Is fire hot? Is water wet? We set up a time to go to his office and look at this little girl’s file. That was November 28. Guess what? Her name was Heaven.  🙂

The picture that was attached to her file. Who could resist those blue eyes?

The picture that was attached to her file. Who could resist those blue eyes?

I remember thinking during the whole appointment, “what’s wrong with her?” “why hasn’t she been adopted if the parental rights had been terminated months prior?” We found out that Heaven’s case worker had looked over all the adoptive parent files from the state and picked out 3. If the first couple didn’t want her, it would move to the second couple, and so on. We were the first couple!! As long as we said “Absolutely!” she was ours. We were told she was one of about five foster children and that she cries “all the time.” We figured we could work with that. I have to admit, in my heart, I kept asking “what is wrong with her?”

There is normally a series of meetings an adoptive couple goes through. A one hour visit, an extended visit, an overnight visit, and a weekend visit. They want to give a family plenty of time to decide if this child “fits.” Our first visit was set for Friday, December 7th at a McDonald’s. We walked in and saw this quiet, blue-eyed 14 month old beauty chowing down on fries and nuggets. She didn’t make much noise (see? something is wrong with her!) and she didn’t play much (that’s not normal, right?) but we fell in love with her.

Here we are in the McDonald's playplace at our very first meeting.

Here we are in the McDonald’s playplace at our very first meeting.

At the end of one hour the case worker called the meeting to an end and we started the journey back to Oklahoma City. We called Jorge and told him we were ready to proceed to adopt this little girl. He started to go into all the visits we would need to set up when my husband politely said, “Jorge, we will do whatever meetings we need to do. But we want this child. Do what you need to, but she is only 14 months old. She is not old enough to look at you and say, ‘These people are dorks. PLEASE do not place me with them!’ ” Jorge did ask how soon we could take her; the foster home was full and the foster parents were hoping to have her placed by Christmas. My husband told him if he called us Monday and told us to pick her up, we were on the road.

The next Monday, December 10, there was a huge ice storm that practically shut the city down. We had already begun clearing out the extra bedroom in anticipation of bringing this girlie home soon. In the middle of painting, the power went out. No electricity, no heat. But I was determined to get this room done. We had no idea how many weeks we had before we picked her up for good, and we wanted to be prepared whenever we got the call.

Due to the extreme weather, state offices were closed. That meant our case worker wasn’t able to get into the office and start working on our case. We were a little disappointed, but we were working on that room regardless. Tuesday came and we were still without power. (Have you ever painted in a house that was about 45 degrees? I love to paint, but come on. It was SOOOO cold. But, hey, it was worth it.) DHS offices were still closed, but our case worker was cool and talked to us over the phone anyway. He told us as soon as he could get into the office, he would get the file and get started.

Finally Wednesday came. The ice had started melting and businesses were starting to get back to normal. I went shopping with my mom and Brian went to work. When Jorge got into the office, he called Brian and told him he had the file. He was going to get started on setting up the rest of the visits and wanted to make sure we still wanted to move forward. Again, Brian told him yes, and reiterated that if he called and said go get her, we would hit the road. Brian kept me posted that morning as I was out and about trying to get ready for whenever the big day came. That afternoon Jorge called Brian and asked him if we were available to pick the girl up Friday, December 14. Brian enthusiastically said yes and asked which visit this would be. Extended, overnight, weekend? Jorge told him, “No, pick her up and take her home. She’s yours.” No more visits! Just a week after meeting her, she was ours!

Friday afternoon we headed back to that infamous McDonald’s to bring home OUR little girl. When we got there, the manager saw us. She came over, with tears in her eyes, and hugged us. She told us she knew why we were there and was very excited for us. She even gave “Heaven” a bag of cookies. (When my husband is asked where babies come from, he replies “McDonalds. And they come with a free bag of cookies. Dine in only.”) Even Heaven’s case worker was excited to see that we were getting to bring her home and so quickly. We put her in the car and away we went. We didn’t want to give anyone time to change their mind! Needless to say, with a day and a half notice, we didn’t have everything done. My father-in-law and husband were putting her bed together after we got home.

At Uncle Lantz's jewelry store right after we got into town. (I had to start her out right.)

At Huntington Fine Jewelers, Uncle Lantz and Aunt Lisa’s jewelry store, right after we got into town. (I had to start her out right.)

We still had home visits where Jorge had to come check on the girl and us, but they were a piece of cake. The usual waiting period is six months from placement to finalization, but we were able to finalize her adoption in five months. We were able to legally change her name and in fact, Jorge had us start calling her Lydia from the day we brought her home. She has fit into our family from day one. She even resembles my husband. So much so that most people would never guess she is adopted. And the problem of her crying all the time? Don’t know what that was about. There was also nothing wrong with her. 🙂 She was the perfect addition to our family and the best Christmas present we ever received.

 

So in honor of her court date, we celebrate “Gotcha Day” every May 23rd. She thinks it’s pretty awesome that while most kids get a birthday every year, she technically gets 2. We go do something special as a family. Just us. No friends, no extended family. Just our sweet little family celebrating the miracle that is Lydia!

Our journey on the road of infertility

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I’d like to post Lydia’s adoption story this week, so I thought I’d start with the journey my husband and I have been on for almost 18 years. Wow! Our wedding anniversary is next week. Hard to believe it’s been 16 years of wedded bliss and 18 years of marriage. (If you only knew how hard those first two years were! My husband would testify.)

I’ve never been a real small girl. I was always “healthy.”  Actually most of my jeans in elementary school were labeled as husky. Anyone else remember those wonderful labels? Once, a boy I was dating said, “You’re bigger than most of the girls I date.” Thanks? I should have said, “Yeah? Well you’re no Judd Nelson.” (Since Matthew McConaughey and Doug Savant weren’t on the scene yet) I stayed the same size from high school until college. But after the hubs and I got married, I put on over 30 pounds in just under 3 months. I went from a size 12 to a size 18/20. It was distressing, but I chalked it up to being such a great cook. (Haha! Don’t ask my husband about his very first breakfast.)

I don’t really want to go into a lot of detail (I’m a prude that way.) But after being married for a couple of years we decided to start a family. We had just moved to Florida and I was looking for a Dr. I had been having some minor health issues and we figured we’d get it all checked out. After looking at my chart and asking me a couple of questions my new doctor diagnosed me with PCOS (poly-cystic ovarian syndrome). Back then it was relatively unheard of and it was hard to find information. Believe me, I tried. He said PCOS might be genetic, but that the birth control I had been on was, as he put it, “nasty stuff.” He believes that triggered, so to speak, my PCOS. He asked if we were wanting children and I answered in the affirmative. He told me I would have a very hard time getting pregnant and if I did, it would be even harder to carry a baby full-term.

For those that don’t know, there is no cure for PCOS. It can be controlled and it can be lived with, but doesn’t make you feel bad. In other words, you’re not nauseous, dizzy, muscle pain, etc. Fatigue is a big factor, though I think that has a lot to do with weight. It affects women differently, but the major manifestations of it are hirsutism (abnormal hair growth), weight gain, and infertility. Some women are lucky enough to have all 3. (hint, hint, that’s me) PCOS patients are at a greater risk of diabetes (due to the insulin issues and weight issues), heart disease (especially if you’re heavy), and uterine cancer (for those women whose bodies don’t function properly each month.) It’s not fun. But, if you can lose weight the chances of complications are less.

So we started the “we want a baby” journey. I spent numerous months on Clomid and Glucophage (Metformin). I have been through numerous tests including blood and dye tests. I have been to many doctors. (Dr. Madani, who was unsuccessful,  referred me to a doctor who was unsuccessful who referred me to an endocrinologist who was the best in the southeast.) We spent a lot of time and money on appointments and medications (oh yeah, and pregnancy tests). This was all in under two years.

I’d like to go on record by saying I did not always handle this well. I didn’t like baby showers and I tried to get out of going as much as I could. I have probably heard every question imaginable: “Aren’t you ever going to have kids?” “What’s wrong with you? Don’t you want children?” “You’ve been married long enough. Why don’t you have any kids?” “You’re the career kind, huh?” I also loved the “We’ve been trying for two months so I know how you feel.” Even my father-in-law made the mistake one day of saying, “I don’t see you giving me any grandkids.” to which I responded, “Take it up with God. Your son and I are doing our part.” The conversation quickly ended. 🙂 I didn’t like Mother’s Day. I didn’t begrudge anyone else, but I didn’t like the reminder that I was “less than a woman.” I usually volunteered for nursery that morning. I wanted the mothers to be able to sit in on the service. I was sacrificial that way. (yeah, right.)

I may have put on a good front in public, but my husband knows better.  I was trying to fill a void only God could fill. Once I finally got over that and completely turned it over to God, I had such peace. God was in control. If He wanted me to have children, He’d make it happen. If not, that’s okay. I will say that the years my husband and I had together without kids were amazing. We could go away for a weekend at a moment’s notice. We could change our plans last minute. We only had each other and there are major benefits to not having kids right away. Looking back, I wouldn’t trade those years for anything.

We moved back to Oklahoma and my husband and I decided to take a break from all the hullabaloo. I waited a few years and then started the search for a PCOS doctor. I started with the OU Med Center. When I called and explained my situation, the lady immediately connected me with the “Best Dr. for PCOS patients.” Come to find out, he had trained my endocrinologist in Florida, so he knew her work quite well. He told me if I wasn’t pregnant by the time I was 35, he would no longer treat me. He did not believe it would be safe for me to have a child that late in life. (I was, ummmm, pretty close to that by this point, so time was ticking.)

Three months before I was 35, I called it quits. I had had enough. We had finally decided to go the adoption route. One of the best decisions we ever made. There is more to our story. It gets better and better. But you’ll have to read Lydia’s story and the ones to follow.

I believe God has a reason for everything. Due to my PCOS/infertility journey, I have some of the best friends in the whole world. My friend Pam was the first person I knew that had PCOS. She became my confidante and sounding board soon after my diagnosis. She had already been down that road for a while and offered great insight (and a broad shoulder.) My friend Rachel doesn’t have PCOS, but had trouble having children for a a few years. We had many conversations and cry sessions over the years. My friend Amy started our first conversation, and subsequent friendship, with  “Hi, I’m Amy. Can I ask you a personal question?” She had been told I had PCOS and she had just been diagnosed with it as well, so we shared stories. Unfortunately, I don’t live near these fabulous women. But, though for some we are states apart, I know I can call them any time. My friends are amazing.

My journey has not been easy. But I wouldn’t change it for anything. God has taught me many things through our trials:      1. Only He can fill the void in our lives. We have to find our sufficiency in Him. 2. Our trials are to draw us closer to the Lord. There is no one who can soothe the troubled soul like Him.        3. Our trials can and should be used to be a blessing to others. But we can only be a blessing if we have the right attitude during our trials. No drama, no self-pity, no self-glory, simply giving all the glory to God and God alone.