One year ago, I launched my e-cookbook, Around the Catholic Table: 77 Recipes for Easy Hospitality. Our hope was that it would help us raise enough money to adopt a second child debt-free. By God’s grace, it did. And seven months after our fundraiser went live, we adopted a beautiful baby boy: Becket Christopher Martin Chapman.
After Becket’s birth, we spent three weeks with him in a NICU in Dallas. We arrived home, exhausted, but over the moon in love with our little man. We thought that maybe someday we would adopt again, but with a two-year-old and newborn preemie, we also knew that any future adoptions would have to wait. Our hands were full and our bank account was empty.
Not six days later, though, my husband walked into the kitchen with some news. Our first son Toby’s birthparents were expecting again. They could not and would not parent. Would we?
It’s been a long time friends. But, I’ve been busy! There have been books and Endow studies and a whole lot of Instagram posts, which are faster and easier to write than blog posts when you only have one free hand and a ginormous toddler sleeping on you. One day, when I have both hands back, I hope to return to writing more in this little corner of the Internet. But, I’m kind of hoping that will be a while! We’re in the process of trying for a second adoption—hopefully a more peaceful process than last time around, but that’s up to God. I did want to pop on here, though, and let my non-Instagram/Facebook followers know about my newest project, an e-cookbook and essay collection, called Around the Catholic Table: 77 Recipes for Easy Hospitality and Everyday Dinners, which I wrote for a very special cause.
Are you thinking about a kitchen renovation? Do you have visions of subway tile and quartz countertops dancing in your head? Or are you still steeling your nerves at the thought of kitchen upgrades before you try to sell your house? Before you start calling contractors, stop, make yourself some coffee, and ask yourself the following questions.
(Really. Make some coffee. This is going to take a while. I’ve written book chapters shorter than this blog post.)
Okay. Ready? Here we go.
1.) How long will I be in this house?
Why? Because how you answer this question helps you determine three things: Your budget. Your style choices. The quality of materials used.
If you’re only looking at staying in your house for a few more months or few more years, your kitchen renovation is really about re-sale. Which means you can keep your budget small, limiting it to essential visual upgrades. It also means you can paint your cabinets that trendy dark blue or choose that floor tile that’s all over Pinterest; you won’t be around in five years, when all those choices look oh so 2019. They’ll look good now, which is all that matters. You also don’t have to invest in furniture-grade cabinetry…or even mid-grade cabinetry; if doors are falling off their hinges in 10 years and laminate finishes are peeling off, you’re not the one who will have to deal with it.
If, however, you plan to be in your house for another decade (or two or three), you have a vested interest in a renovation that lasts (because, trust me, you don’t want to do this again for a long, long time). You also have a vested interest in a renovation that doesn’t look dated five years down the line (unless, of course, you can afford to shell out big bucks every time backsplash trends change). The longer you’re going to be in your house, the more important it is to invest in quality materials that last and classic design choices that work with the rest of your house. If you can’t afford to do that now (or if a house full of destructive littles makes you leery of having nice things), it’s better to either live with what you have until you can afford it/the time is right OR make a few cheap upgrades now and save the major work for later.
…Is coming up on the blog (and Instagram) this week. I know: It’s not the most Lenten-themed series imaginable. Regardless, I’m talking about kitchens this week because, well, I want to talk about kitchens. I like kitchens. I like spending time in kitchens. I like looking at kitchens. And I like what kitchens make possible: delicious food and happy evenings enjoying that delicious food with people I love.
Also, after creating this kitchen…
…where this duplex dining room…
…and duplex bathroom used to be…
…I have some thoughts to share on the whole topic of kitchen renovations. Fancy that.
Creating our kitchen was a stressful, grueling, dirty, exhausting, expensive, and yet, still, somehow, totally fun experience. I learned so much during the year—yes, year—that we worked on it, and if all I learned through that process can save you some stress when you get around to renovating (or even just reorganizing) your own kitchen, that will make all the headaches it gave me a little more worth it.
Toby will turn six months this Friday. Six months! Doesn’t it feel like just yesterday when I was weeping and fretting and shopping for travel trailers in the Sierra-Nevadas? Seriously. I don’t know how we went from here…
so dang fast. (Let’s all now pause for a moment and contemplate the glory of those legs….)
I posted this on my personal Facebook page this morning, but wanted to post it here as well, for those of you who don’t follow me there.
The Novena to St. Anne starts today and concludes on July 25, which is the day before the Feast of St. Anne and St. Joachim and the day that Toby is scheduled to arrive (via c-section). Chris and I will be praying this novena for his safe and healthy delivery, peace for his parents, and sanity for us (okay, really me, Chris is in no danger of losing his sanity). We would love for as many of our friends as possible to join us in this.
For those of you not familiar with St. Anne and St. Joachim, tradition tells us that these are the names of Mary’s parents (and Jesus’ grandparents). The couple struggled with infertility through the whole of their marriage, until finally, after many years of prayer, God blessed them in their old age with a very special daughter: Mary.
Knowing this, Chris and I have sought St. Anne’s special intercession since the beginning of our marriage. On our honeymoon, we made a pilgrimage to St. Anne’s beautiful shrine in Quebec, to pray for the gift of a child, and we have prayed this Novena together, for the same intention, many times. We also are blessed to have a small third-class relic of St. Anne (sent by a kind reader of the blog) next to our bedside, and a beautiful statue of her and the Blessed Mother in our bedroom. Both devotional items have brought me so much comfort over these past two years, perpetually reminding me that I have a friend in heaven who has walked this same, hard path. I believe St. Anne has been a faithful prayer warrior for us throughout our marriage, and I trust she’s going to keep up those prayers during these final days of waiting.
Thank you for all the prayers offered up on behalf of Toby, his parents, and us. I can’t even imagine where we would be without them.
This past Friday, I spent hours and hours online, reading stories about failed adoptions. I did the same thing Thursday. And I’m fighting the temptation to do the same today.
I know. I have issues.
In my defense though, I am part Irish. It’s in my blood to expect the worst…or, as I call it, to be “extra realistic.” Besides that, this whole adoption process has been so fraught with problems, from first to last, that expecting these remaining days to be anything less than traumatic seems foolish.
Friends and family, trying to be helpful, keep telling me to relax, to put it in God’s hands, and trust that it’s going to be all right. But human hearts don’t trust on command. If they did, I assure you, mine would be trusting right now. I order it to trust God daily, explaining to my heart how loving and merciful He is, and how He is working with the mess we’ve handed Him to bring about the eternal good of everyone involved in this adoption.
But my heart can’t hear those explanations. It’s too busy flipping and flopping about in my stomach—anxious, distracted and overwhelmed—to really listen to what my head is telling it.
The house is quiet today. And peaceful. The windows are open. The curtains are blowing. And some sweet smell from some flowering bush is filling the house. I don’t know my plants well enough to name genus and species. Just sweetness.
The contractors will be back tomorrow to finish up some odds and ends in the bathroom, then back again in June to do a little more to the fireplaces and build a couple of shelves for baby things. There is a bit of painting to do inside. A bit more outside. There are flowers to plant, grass to seed, some deep ruts in the yard, left by large trucks, to fill. And of course, curtains and pictures to hang. But the house is, nevertheless, by and large, done.
And it’s lovely. It’s whole. It’s what it was always supposed to be: a home, filled with life and light and the hope for days to come. Continue reading →
As I mentioned yesterday, the current average cost of private domestic infant adoption is about $40,000. Let that number sink in for a minute. $40,000.
Adopting through foster care is practically free. Adopting children with special needs is likewise considerably less. And around the country, a few small local agencies manage to keep costs low(ish). But, beyond that, adopting most everywhere else, in 2018, costs more than I earned annually for the first 14 years of my adult life.
By November of last year, I was feeling desperate. I so badly wanted to begin the process of adopting a baby, but, A) Neither our house nor our finances were in any way ready, and B) It seemed like every avenue we’d investigated was closed to us. Let’s review:
Local Traditional Agencies: Too old;
International Adoption: Too old, too long a wait, only older children available;
Foster Care: Only older children available, too emotionally draining after 20 months of dealing with infertility, house couldn’t pass a foster care home study in any way, shape, or form.
Fortunately, I have a lot of awesome Facebook friends.