The End of Journey. The Start of Something New.

Sometimes the greatest miracle in your life... takes time. -- Todd Mullins.

I've been having posts pop up in my Facebook timeline from last year. Posts about seeing our trial getting moved the third or fourth time (I lost count). I referenced it to Baymax chasing the soccer ball or Charlie Brown & Lucy with the football.

Right now, our church has been going through a series on miracles: seeing God move in our lives and accomplish great things. As part of my weekly schedule, I volunteer each week pulling out quotes to make graphics for our church's social media. Last Sunday, the quote above came out of our pastor's mouth and I almost began to cry.

See, in September 2014, we were told the boys were coming back into care and would be placed into our home for the third time. We were also told that this would be an "Expedited TPR" -- which made it sound like this would be quick, considering permanency is supposed to happen within a year when a case isn't "expedited."

Well, whatever my expectations... they were wrong. VERY wrong.

For those who know us well, for those who have heard us rant and vent... you know this path has not been easy. Our journey has been incredibly rough. Some who have heard the stories asked "why? or "are you sure you want to do this?" I can't blame them. They've seen us cry. They've seen me shove my face while stress eating. They've watched us beg and plead for help when no one believed just how bad some of it was. But these are our boys. These are our sons. They have been since the first time they were placed in our home. Recently, Elisabeth and I stood back and simply watched the boys. A smile crossed our faces as we said to each other "they've come so far." You see, these boys are our miracles.

1050 days. That's how long it took. This does not even include the back and forth that happened with them coming and going in and out of our home. Like I stated earlier, it felt like us that it took forever. Court dates set. Court dates cancelled. Court dates set. Court dates delayed. Then, FINALLY, a trial... and an appeal. Ambiguity as to when we'd ever ever hear the words: "You can adopt them." So often it felt like we were living in a state of limbo. Would this ever happen? When the boys came to us they were 2. Now they're 6. 4 years. 1050 days in our home. 3 or 4 trial delays. An appeal process. Lots... and lots... of time.

So here we stand today. 5.15.17. Proud to finally announce Jacob & Anthony Neumann. Four years ago, as we took the Orientation, I never imagined we'd be here today. But, as Pastor Todd said: Sometimes the greatest miracles in your live... take time.

Mini Star Wars Notebook

SUBJECTS:

Supplies needed to make Mini Star Wars Notebooks:

Directions:

  1. Measure the size of the Star Wars Trading Cards.
  2. Cut a strip of ribbon the length of the Trading Cards
  3. Use the ruler to draw rectangles (the same dimensions as the Trading Cards) on paper.
  4. *I have typically used 20-30 rectangles, but you may try more or less, depending on how thick you want your mini notebook to be.
    **You can also just trace along the outside of the trading cards to make the rectangles if you are short on time, but this will cause the paper to be slightly larger than the trading cards.
  5. Cut out rectangles, then (using the binder clip) clip together the rectangles between two Star Wars Trading Cards.
  6. Generously apply glue to the top long edge of the paper/cards.
  7. Wait until the glue dries, then apply a second (wait to dry) and third coat of glue.
  8. After the third coat of glue dries, apply a final [lighter] coat of glue, and stick on your piece of ribbon to provide a "binding" for the notebook.

Why We’re Going to Disney “AGAIN” for Our Fifth Anniversary

SUBJECTS:

Those of you who know us personally are probably literally –facepalming– yourselves right now, which is exactly why I decided to write this post. Every year since our honeymoon, Disney has been involved in – if not been the sole destination of – our anniversary. Outside of our anniversaries, thanks to the court date(s) we’d have to go through to get a travel order if we wanted to leave Florida with the kiddos, our vacations pretty much consist of: Disney. For years now, we’ve been at the point where we say we’re taking a vacation and our friends, family, and/or coworkers roll their eyes and say (sometimes snarkily – if that’s a thing – sometimes just observantly) “Disney again”. I think it’s partly because of the sort of judgment we’ve gotten from the beginning about our love for Disney that I was determined to do something special for our fifth anniversary. New York was on the radar, Vegas was out there too, but then time just trickled by, as it always does, and our fifth is nearly upon us! After the whole near-death experience on my last airplane ride, I decided places that required such a long drive (e.g. New York & Vegas) would require longer vacations to cover, which we just can’t afford right now. (Hopefully it’ll make for an amazing road trip some day!) So, after coming to terms that we’d be stuck traveling somewhere in Florida again for our anniversary, I started exploring our options.

My first choice was the Keys, as I remember going there with my family, and Konrad has never been; however, after discovering that a nice place would still cost hundreds of dollars a night, and knowing that I wanted a weeklong vacation if possible, the Keys were quickly ruled out. So, we turned to our timeshare sampler with Diamond Resorts International. They have a program we can take advantage of that would allow us to buy their other customers’ weeklong timeshares. Unfortunately, the only places that were available during the time we were looking to travel were Orlando and St. Augustine. St. Augustine sounded promising; I had only been there once before and for only part of the day. Despite my mom making me question what we could possibly do in St. Augustine for 7 nights, after a lot of research, we decided there would definitely be enough for us to do. Neither Konrad or I were sure what we wanted to do, it felt like we were choosing between a new adventure or something old, but reliable. This morning, though, it was almost like I had an epiphany that led me to my decision. Deep down inside, I actually want to go to Disney again. Here are my reasons why, in reverse order of importance:

Shipt!

Okay, so this one is really silly, but the Orlando area has Shipt service and St. Augustine doesn’t. Because our place to stay in Orlando has a full kitchen, it’s not uncommon for us to bring or buy groceries while we’re there. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve gone to the store only to return and be like oh crap, we forgot –insert item(s) here-! If I’m going to pay $7 for a baby jar of mayonnaise (totally did that in one of our resort gift shops once), I want it delivered to my door, dangit! (Okay, so Shipt isn’t that expensive, but the gift shop sure was!) Not to mention, if I get frustrated with Konrad, I can just go shop for someone and make us some extra spending money for the rest of our vacation!

EPCOT’s Food & Wine Festival (aka nostalgia)

We have nothing but happy memories from any time Konrad and I have been at Food & Wine by ourselves. The food is (almost) always good, and I love that we always make ourselves try new things, if new things are on the menu. Sometimes we find that those things are so good that we wind up going back for more the next year (like Konrad and escargot!). Not to mention at the low costs per single serving appetizer portion, it makes it feel like something is actually affordable at Disney! We love to walk around to the different countries, try something, and get our passports stamped – maybe this year we’ll finally fill the whole thing again! (I think we got it filled for stopping at each country on our honeymoon, but never since then.)

There is still new stuff for us to do

This is what gets most people when we say that we’re going to Orlando again. They always think haven’t you guys already done everything there is to do? The short answer? No. Even without consulting the internet for new ideas, I can tell you enough things we haven’t gotten to try yet that could take up nearly the whole week!

  • Meeting the new Star Wars characters at Hollywood Studios – Sure we’ve done Star Wars Breakfast, but since they’ve gotten rid of Star Wars Weekends/released The Force Awakens, there are plenty of new photo-ops for us here!
  • Trying restaurants on property we haven’t eaten at yet (our goal is to try them all!)
  • Tours – We’ve only ever done the Keys to the Kingdom tour, and we LOVED that one!
  • Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party
  • Frozen Ever After

Not to mention things in Orlando that aren’t Disney!

  • Diagon Alley
  • Cloak & Blaster – We wanted to visit this board game café when we were up in Orlando for the ALA conference, but it turns out the only day we tried to go (Monday), they’re closed!
  • Um, hello, the new Orlando Cat Café?!
  • Cool Stuff Inc AND Four Rivers (two of our Orlando favorites!) opened new locations that are only a 15 minute drive from our resort – we’ll get there in less than half the time it took us to get to the other locations!
  • Ripleys Believe it or Not – As hokey as it sounds, that was one of the things on the to-do list for St. Augustine, so why not try the location in Orlando?
  • Laser Tag – For one of our previous trips, I had looked into Hard Knocks
  • Escape Rooms – So I don’t know of any particular escape rooms in Orlando, but I’m sure they’re there! And I’m sure Groupon will have deals on them!

Can you imagine what else we’d discover if we did things like consult the great Google? Or ask locals?

We won’t have any kids

This was really what tipped the scales for me. Throughout our fostering experience, we have been big on including the kids in family plans as if they were really part of our family. In my opinion, though, even if we had biological kids, it’s okay (probably good, even) to leave them behind to have some special moments with your spouse. For me, this means Valentine’s Day and our anniversary. Somehow, until this morning, I didn’t realize (or remember) what “no kids” would mean for us. As huge Disney fans, we (and others) always thought of how magical it would be to get to take kids and watch them experience Disney, too. Don’t get me wrong, some magical memories have been made with the kids (all of them, really), but with our boys’ behavioral issues, sometimes it feels like a majority of the time is more borderline-tears I JUST WANT TO GO HOME than magic. Without the kids, we can be selfish without being selfish. We can stay out late and not worry about it causing grumpy or overly tired kids, we can ride rides together rather than worrying about height restrictions, we can spend all day at the game store without worrying about the kids being bored out of their minds if their tablets die…

Thanks to the experiences my parents gave me (Key West, Washington D.C., and weeks spent in Arizona stick out most in my mind here), I enjoy historical sites and places! I would like to go to St. Augustine some day for an extended amount of time (as in, not just the afternoon). But I would also not at all mind waiting a couple of years to go with the kids and give them that kind of experience, too! Not to mention, I can’t imagine St. Augustine is as miserably crowded as Disney is during the summer! In the meantime, I choose Disney.