Steps Six and Seven – Officially in Adoption Program

If you aren’t caught up, here is where we are at on our adoption process:

We have finished steps 1 through 7 so far.

  1. Attend Information Meeting
  2. Discern about children with special needs and your skills/abilities to meet their needs.
  3. Mail Permanency Resource Family Survey to State Program Office
  4. State Staff – Initially screens for compatibility with Program.
  5. Initial Screen In – Noticed by letter and assigned for In-Person Screening Visit
  6. In-Person Screening Visit with Public Adoptions Staff
  7. Public Adoptions Staff consults with supervisor about visit.
  8. Adoption packet is mailed out.  We complete and return materials.  Can enroll in Public Adoptions education classes with returned application.
  9. Application is assigned to an adoption home study worker.
  10. Adoption worker schedules visit to begin home study.
  11. Licensing Timeline – Varies depending on schedules, visits completed, meeting education requirements, all materials completed and returned to home study worker

Step One – Adoption Information Meeting

Steps Two and Three – Adoption Survey Application

Steps Four and Five – Can’t Believe This is Finally Happening

Right now we are on Step 8.  Last week Tuesday, November 26th, we received a phone call from the lady that did our In-Person Screening Visit, and she told us that her supervisor approved us!  We are officially in the Adoption Program and have been assigned a caseworker (same lady that did our In-Person Screening)!  We just received our Adoption packet and will begin to fill this out and will also receive another visit from our Caseworker to explain how to fill out the second half of the paperwork.  She mentioned that classes will begin in January.  We will have to attend two Public Adoptions education classes (8hrs each).

What have we been doing these days?  Well, I’ve been sick with bronchitis and an ear infection.  The bronchitis has been almost never-ending.  I had it bad for just over 2 weeks and received some meds from the doctor, which definitely helped.  But now I have this lingering cough/phlegm/nasal drainage.  Besides being sick, we’ve been working on decluttering the house still.  Going through and organizing has been a never-ending task.  We are hoping to sell our home and purchase a new (bigger) home within the year, so having everything decluttered and organized will definitely help.

Jason had a dartball tournament this past weekend and his team did very well.  While he was playing darts, I was at home catching up on housework and laundry.  Not a fair, right?! haha

That’s about it, for now.  Until next time!

 

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Holiday Folk Fair International

Jason and I had the opportunity to attend The Holiday Folk Fair International this past weekend.  I haven’t been to the Holiday Folk Fair since I was on a school field trip in the fourth grade , and that was back in 1994.  This type of fair isn’t exactly Jason’s cup of tea, but he agreed to go with me anyway.

The Holiday Folk Fair is “America’s premiere multicultural festival” and “celebrates the cultural heritage of the people living in southeastern Wisconsin”.  You get to experience different cultures by walking around and listening to music, watching dance performances, trying many different ethnic foods/drinks, and shopping.

This year at the fair we had the opportunity to learn more about these different ethnicities:

  • Arab
  • Bavarian
  • Chinese
  • Czech
  • Egyptian
  • Filipino
  • French
  • German
  • Greek
  • Indian
  • Irish
  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • Mexican
  • Native American
  • Nepali
  • Senegalese
  • Serbian
  • Slovak
  • Thai
  • Ugandan
  • Vietnamese

Each food booth had menus available and some even had wrapped samples so you could see the foods that are available for purchase (very helpful).  A few of the booths had the volunteers dressed in costume according to their culture, which was very neat to see and helped set the mood.

We arrived later in the day, but still had the opportunity to watch a few different groups of dancers perform.  With my being half Greek, I really wanted to see the Greeks perform and luckily we arrived just in time.  We watched a handful of performances and then strolled on over to the different food booths.

I like to try new things, especially when it comes to food.  Jason…not so much. haha  The first booth we came to was the Serbian booth.  They had an assortment of filled puff pastries (among other things) and I snatched up a chocolate filled Phylo pastry.  It was delicious!  I tried egg rolls from almost every Asian booth just to see if there was a difference at all.  I think my favorite ended up being the chicken egg roll from the Filipino booth, but they were all scrumptious.  We tried out a rigatoni pasta with meatballs and bread stick dish from the Italian booth.  Jason had a brat from the Bavarian booth, and we both had Avgolemeno (Lemon Rice Soup) with Greek bread at the Greek booth.  We did purchase other random treats from other booths, I just can’t remember everything. haha  We sampled food from several other booths and bought food to take home since we were getting full.

All in all, it’s about what I remembered the fair to be.  If we were to go back again, I would like to spend more time watching the different performances.  I was disappointed because I missed out on seeing the African-American and American Indian performances.  I enjoy listening to that type of music so I am sure I would have loved the performances, too.  Another thing we would do is bring more cash.  We didn’t realize that the majority of the different shops and food booths were cash only so I had to run to the ATM to take more cash out.  Overall, I had a good time and definitely worth the experience.

Here are a few pictures that we took at the fair.  I did take a few videos of the performances but am unable to share at this time due to the file sizes.

3 Years Ago

Three years ago today was a day we will never forget.  When Jason and I talk about this day, we both tear up as we share our thoughts.  After the tears, we end our conversation with a smile and a hug while remembering Jason’s words, “I kicked cancers @$$”.  Yes you did, Jason.  Yes you did, and I couldn’t be anymore proud of you.

Before I go forward, let me start from the beginning.  June 10, 2013 will forever remain in my memory.  It is the day where our world came crumbling down.  Now, we’ve had our fair share of rotten news.  The loss of Jason’s dad to pancreatic cancer.  Our infertility.  The loss of our twins to miscarriage.  The loss of other loved ones.  The loss of pets.  Severe car accident.  Medical injuries and illnesses.  The list goes on and on, but that day, June 10, 2013 will forever be in my memory as one of the worst days ever.  On that day, Jason had received a phone call from the doctor confirming that he had cancer.  Cancer… not a word that anyone wants to hear.  All the questions pop into our heads. But how?  What kind of cancer is it? Am I going to die? Am I going to lose him?  What’s the next step?  I can’t even begin to explain all my thoughts during that moment when Jason told me the news in the car after work.  I cried hard as Jason cried alongside me.  We drove home crying.  We walked into the house and gave each other a huge hug and I fell to my knees clinging to Jason’s legs, sobbing.  My heart was shattered into a million pieces.  I hurt in such a way I can’t even describe.  I felt like it was a horrible nightmare I just needed to wake up from.  I had JUST re-learned how to walk again after 8 months of using a walker due to my vestibular disorder.  We can’t be going through another huge struggle.  Not so soon.  Not cancer.  I remember making phone calls that night to our parents, siblings, and other relatives to share this horrible news. I remember crying so hard I could barely get the words out.  I remember calling Jason’s mom and responding to her “hello”, with crying.  I could hear the pain in her tears as we all cried together over the phone.  Not sure I even wanted to say the words, “Jason has cancer”.  Saying the words would confirm it and make it more real.  I remember saying to Jason, “Why would God do this to us?  We’ve already been through so much.  Why this?”  Even with this awful news, Jason turned to me and sternly said, “Don’t blame God”.  Mind you again, I just went through a horrific ordeal of the miscarriage our twins after many years of trying.  I just went through great depression over losing our babies and losing my ability to hear, to hold my head up, to walk, to function in general.  I was definitely in a love hate relationship with God at the time, and adding the news of cancer just wasn’t going to help.

June 11, 2013…we spent the whole day laying in bed together crying and laughing.  Laughing you ask?  Jason and I love Whose Line is it Anyway and own a few DVD’s of their different skits.  We decided to pop in a couple DVD’s to lighten the mood.  I remember awaking during the night and watching Jason sleep.  Listening to the air exhaling and inhaling from his mouth and watching his chest rise.  Gently touching his hair and his face.  Yes, I know this sounds kind of creepy, but when you’re so deeply in love with someone and have been with them for just over 10 years, it’s okay with being creepy.

Soon after this day, we had our first appointment with the oncologist.  Yes, I am using the word “we”, because we are a team.  We both are on this journey together and are very much affected by this cancer.  Back to the story, the oncologist shared a bunch of information with us, and we set up appointments for Jason to have his first bone marrow biopsy and CT scan to check the cancer and to find a starting point so we all had a better idea of where to go from there.  Long story short, Jason was confirmed to have cancer and was diagnosed with a form of leukemia called, chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). His cancer wasn’t very active at the time; in fact he barely had any symptoms besides swollen lymph nodes throughout his body. We played the waiting game for about a year before Jason officially had a port surgically inserted into his chest for the start of his 6 month-long chemo treatment.

I remember the very first day of chemo (June 30, 2014).  We were both terrified, which is to be expected.  We didn’t know how Jason’s body would react to treatment.  He was scared of side effects, where I was scared to see my husband go through all of this.  There is no way to prepare for such a moment.  You learn to just go with the flow and trust that the nurses and oncologist know what is best and that Jason is in good hands.  Jason did react to the chemo the first day.  His blood pressure was through the roof one moment and then down too low.  He was in sweat a lot and very uncomfortable.  We borrowed a fan from a nurse who was going through life changes (haha thank you again nurse).  Since he was reacting to the chemo, they had to slow down the IV’s, which made the day even longer.  We were at the hospital for over 12 hours that day.  There even was a horrible storm that came through and wiped out the power.

Jason continued with treatment for the next 6 months.  He went to the hospital for 3 days at a time, every 4 weeks.  The first of the three days was always the long days where he received the largest batch of chemo.  We would pack up lunches, movies, and games and hangout all day together.  The second and third days were the shorter days, so Jason would often times go to those alone, or I would go with if I was able to.  The few days after treatment days, we would usually take it easy to allow Jason’s body to rest and heal.  He had gotten sick a few times during those days, especially after the first few treatments, as his body was re-adjusting.  We received meals through a few people from our church and my parents prepared dinners for us.  All of which was very much appreciated.

Those 6 months dragged on and felt like eternity, but the big day finally arrived…November 21, 2014,  Jason’s last day of chemo.  I whipped up 2 signs for him to hold when his treatment was done.  I ordered cupcakes for the nurse staff, along with a basket full of goodies (hand sanitizer, lotion, chocolates, etc) for the nurses to share.  The nurses all came in randomly to thank us for the gifts and congratulate Jason on his final chemo treatment.  Jason received a certificate signed by a few of the nurse staff and we got a group picture of Jason with the nurses that have been there for the past 6 months.  I ran to the gift shop and bought Jason a stuffed teddy and congratulation balloons to surprise him and show how proud I was (and still am) of him.

Then the moment came; the nurse came into our room and unhooked the IV from Jason’s port.  We walked out of the office and had many congrats said to Jason and people wishing us a happy thanksgiving.  We walked down the long underground tunnel from the hospital to the parking garage.  We made it to our SUV and buckled up.  Then, Jason shouted, “I KICKED CANCERS @$$!!”, which then followed with many tears from the both of us.  We sat in the SUV for several minutes, hugging and crying and praising God for giving us both the strength to get through the past 6 months.

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What Jason didn’t know was, that I had a surprise for him at home.  I had it planned with my mom to set up my surprise at home while we were at the hospital for the last treatment and have it ready for Jason for when he walked through the front door.  Seeing Jason’s reaction to the surprise was priceless and I am so happy I was able to take a picture to capture the moment.  If you’ve been following our blog, you are fully aware of Jason’s addiction and passion for LEGOs.  His surprise was a LEGO set that he really wanted, but I kept telling him no because it was too expensive.  Again, his reaction to seeing this surprise at home was priceless.

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During those 6 months of treatment, we grew relationships with the nurse staff.  They were all so wonderfully supportive and kind.  They encouraged you during the hard days and helped loosen up the mood.  We shared many good laughs with a few of the nurses that we saw regularly. These nurses helped make this whole chemo experience more bearable.  They even surprised Jason with a birthday cupcake and a card!  We don’t have enough thank you’s to say to this awesome staff.

I would never wish cancer upon anyone.  It’s not only hard for the patient, but for the spouse.  You, as a spouse, have to be strong enough to hold yourself together AND take care of your spouse.  You go through the fears and worries.  You wonder if you’re going to lose your spouse.  You wonder what life will be like if you do lose your spouse.  Will I be able to afford the house and cover my bills if something happens to him?  Will you be able to go on with life without them?  Are you strong enough to take care of both of you?  You know you have to keep it together; your spouse is counting on you.  A lot of your thoughts can’t even be voiced out loud because you don’t want to hurt your spouse or worry them or make them think they will not make it, but at the same time the questions run through your mind.  You strive not to be a Debbie Downer and put on your brave face and speak words of encouragement.  Your spouse already received the worst news and there is nothing to take the news away.  You remind yourself that it’s not about you and it’s about your loved one and what they are going through.  You get angry at the family and friends that don’t show support to your loved one.  You get very defensive and protective of your spouse so no one is able to hurt them.  Your spouse is going through a scary battle and needs all the love and support that they can get and when you see they aren’t receiving this support, it’s hard.  You wonder…  Where are the phone calls from people checking in on him to see how he is doing? Where are the visits?  Where are the people who offered to help us out?  It’s a huge responsibility to take care of someone going through chemotherapy.  Everything falls on you.  You can’t expect much out of someone who is fighting for their life.  I have so many thoughts and I can’t even express them all.  It’s hard to put everything into words.  I just pray that someday you don’t receive the news that you or your spouse/loved one has cancer.  Hearing Jason say the words “I have cancer” will never leave me.

Flash forward 3 years.  Jason had his cancer check-up appointment this past Friday (November 17th).  He received the news that he remains in remission!!  His blood work is exactly where it should be, and he has to go back in 6 months for another check-up.

Jason is many things.  He is the strongest man I know.  Jason is filled with so much loving kindness.  He is a big teddy bear.  He’s a friendly giant.  He’s incredible with kids.  He’s playful.  He’s an amazing provider.  He’s a wonderful caregiver.  He’s handsome, supportive, irreplaceable, loyal, caring, smart, faithful, courageous, determined, a protector, dedicated, thoughtful, respectful, etc.  I thank God every single day for blessing me by bring Jason into my life.  I couldn’t have asked for a better husband.  I am madly, deeply, and passionately in love with my husband.  He’s my lobster.   He is a warrior.  He is my hero. JASON IS MY SURVIVOR!

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What I have learned from all of this.  Life is short and life can be ended in a heartbeat.  Don’t take your loved ones for granted.  Don’t end a conversation with hateful words or in anger.  You may never have the opportunity to apologize or to say I love you.  We are beyond blessed that Jason remains in remission and has the opportunity to live a long life (Lord willing).  Many who are diagnosed with cancer, do not have this opportunity and are taken from us too quickly.  We lost Jason’s dad way too soon (about 8 months after his pancreatic cancer diagnosis).  There are things we will never be able to say to him.  Jason will never be able to hug his dad and say I love you, or to ask for advice. There are so many memories his dad has missed out on here on earth.  We will forever miss and love him.

Thanksgiving is in two days, here in the U.S.  What I am most thankful for is our Lord and Savior.  Without him, I would be nothing.  Second, I am beyond thankful for Jason and the many years we have already shared together and the many more years we hope to have together.  I’m thankful for family and friends that have become family.  I’m thankful for our jobs, having a roof over our heads and food on the table.  I’m thankful for the freedom to love and serve our Lord.  I am thankful for way too many things to even list.

I hope you all have a wonderful and safe thanksgiving!  God Bless!

Trainfest – America’s Largest Operating Model Railroad Show 2017

This is the third year we have attended Trainfest, and I think each year it gets better and better.  Trainfest is held at the Wisconsin Expo Center at State Fair Park in West Allis, Wisconsin.  The first year Jason and I attended this event there weren’t as many activities for kids to get involved.  Since our first time, they have added a kids area where they can press buttons to light up lights or make things move.  They have a few ride-on mini electric trains for parents and kids to ride on.  Our favorite is the display table that has LEGO sets and LEGO trains.  This year they actually had two large displays.  Jason and I joke, but are partially serious, about wanting to set up a train table in our basement and display his LEGO buildings and have train tracks set up and operating around the buildings.  It would be awesome!  Back to our experience at Trainfest… haha  We checked out a few stands that had train sets available for purchase.  A few that we liked were a bit outside our price range, though. This year (and they may have had it in previous years but we never noticed), they had a sheet of paper for kids to fill out as they go around to see all the exhibits.  Kids were able to operate some of the train displays among other things.  Basically everything you can imagine that has to do with trains, is available to be seen or purchased at Trainfest.  They even had an Usborne Books & More stand set up.  I like Usborne Books.  If you haven’t heard of Usborne books, you really should check them out; they have books and other items for kids of all ages. Since we were there with our close friends and their son (our Godson), I decided to purchase a couple of books for him to play with that had to do with trains.

Overall, I like that the planners for this event have found more ways to get kids involved and help them learn more about trains.  I remember telling Jason during the event that in today’s world, with all the electronic gadgets around, I wish more kids would be hands on and creative with their play time.  Kids should build LEGO sets, play with blocks, assemble train tracks or race car tracks in different variations, etc.  We, personally, own a bunch of these type of toys for when our nieces and nephews come over to our house and for our future kiddos.  Jason and I enjoy working with our hands whether it’s us building model car kits, putting LEGO sets together, playing with train sets or race car tracks, putting puzzles together, etc. Hopefully our kiddos will enjoy these things, too.  We hope to pass along our interest in these activities to our kids.

We give this event two thumbs up and we definitely look forwarded to attending again in future years to see what else they add.

Here are a few pictures from our experience.

China Lights Milwaukee

Last year there was an event not too far from our area called the China Lights which was held at the Boerner Botanical Gardens, but we never made it out there to check out the lights.  This year we were very determined to go since there were many great reviews last year and this year.  The event lasts about a month, give or take, and every week it is usually extremely busy. We attempted to check out the lights on our anniversary but was turned away since we didn’t have tickets and they already sold too many tickets online.  We were told they would have more tickets for sale that coming Monday so I went online and snatched up 4 tickets; 2 for us and 2 for our close friends.

Well, finally were able to check out the China Lights this past weekend and I am so glad we did.  We had a great time with our close friends and their son (our Godson).  Surprisingly it wasn’t as busy as I was expecting it to be. We had good parking and there was a shuttle that took us to our destination.  There was a little confusion when we arrived because we didn’t know where exactly the start of the event was.  We aimlessly walked around and seemed to have found the correct route to take.  The lights were extremely cool.  It was fun seeing the different lit up animals, especially my elephants.  The best part was hearing the commentary out of our 3-1/2 yr old Godson.  He is such a hoot.  One of the displays was a “tunnel” archway of the Chinese Zodiac.  We had a fun time finding our Zodiac animals and seeing if the description matched our personalities.  I am the Ox and Jason is the Rooster and I would say most of the description does not match us. You can check out the pictures below.  Towards the end of the event we saw a few food stands so I bought some egg rolls just to try them out.  They tasted pretty good, just wish I had some soy sauce! haha  We had just missed one of the shows that was scheduled; an egg roll eating contest.  It may have been fun to watch, but at the same time not really (if it didn’t end well…if you know what I mean). haha

Overall review from us… We thought it was a fun experience but a little overpriced.  But then again, they probably charge what they do to help cover the cost of all the electricity being used.  Would we go back again?  Probably not, unless they added more or changed up the displays (if you’ve seen it once, you’ve seen everything).  All in all, we did create some memories there, and it was an experience we won’t forget.

Here are a few pictures from our experience.