Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Our Adoption Journey: 2nd Update, Talking About One of Our Propellers!

Here we are, finally able to sit down to give you a second update regarding our adoption process. Here it is a link to the first one for those new to our journey. The last few days have been quite busy in our quarters trying to get our Handmade Soap Adoption fundraiser going.  From learning the trade to getting the word out, this has been a fun but time-consuming adventure! We are so grateful for all those of you that are shown your support by trying our soap! If you haven’t heard about it, you can check the post created on the subject by our family Soap-making master, AKA my Honey. I promise you’ll get a chuckle or two! =)

Wait for more updates on our Hand made soap adoption fundraiser! =)

Ok, The last time we left you with the anticipation of letting you know about our approach to the first fork on the adoption road: International vs Domestic. After much prayer, conversation and heart searching we have come to the conclusion to pursue an international adoption. We want to share with you about how we personally wrestled with such sensitive question. And we want to make it as informative as possible for those of you that would like to look into this option in the future as well. We are so blessed by those that are praying for us and have graciously shown an interest in our journey through your questions, prayers and support! Actually the two most common questions we have gotten so far are first related to international vs domestic adoption, and second to why adoption is so darn expensive. We will be addressing these and more of your questions in our future posts soon! So keep the questions coming and stay tuned!

A brother or a sister? From where? Yuppiee!! =)

This time we think it's good to pause for a moment, and maybe drastically change the tone of our conversation to share our thoughts regarding one of the several reasons behind our desire to adopt.  We will be sharing more of the “Why’s” of the adoption for our family in future posts as well, but this time we want to share our motif  in view of what’s going on with the Kermit Gosnell’s trial case. We are grateful for all the fellow bloggers and Facebook friends that have boldly brought the horrific reality of late term abortions to the public attention when most of the main stream media want to hide it. We applause all of them, as these killed babies need an increasing advocacy as do all the misinformed mothers that shy away from a pro-life choice due to fears and lack of education, and then fall prey in the hands of unscrupulous abortionists.

So mommy is my brother there even thought I don't see him yet? 

As many of you know, since the pass of the Roe vs Wade law in the 1970’s, millions of babies have been murdered on a daily basis in the United States. That is without counting the many, many millions more that suffer the same fate worldwide. We don't have much room in this post to go too deep into the scoop of the matter. There is enough out there for you to read an inform yourselves and even to get your head spinning! If you are ones of those who wonder where to start, checking out the National Right to Life website can be a good place.  There you can find easy to read fact-sheets that quickly give you a high level view on the matter and they also provide you with tons of helpful links to go deeper into your search. Just to give you an idea to spark your concern, let me tell you that there have been more than 50 million aborted babies in the U.S only since 1973 and Planned Parenthood the biggest provider of abortions in the States is a billion dollar a year corporation that reported $1.048 billion in revenues in the fiscal year ending 6/30/10.


So, the continue incidence and acceptance of abortions thanks to governmental patronizing laws and the increment of abortion providers swarming out of a decaying moral culture that idolizes money and power should create a practical response on our side. And that is what we want to talk about: Our.  Practical.   Response

We believe that getting informed on the subject is a great start, but the situation calls for a much greater response than that. If we say that we care for these babies and mothers, we should take action and make decisions that go along the path of counter attacking this social ill. Otherwise, we are not better than the bystander that just shows interest on the matter out of morbid curiosity or desire to be perceived as an intellectual in conversations. We believe that especially in the Christian circles, the subject of abortion instead of leading us to depressing, dead ending conversations should propels us to respond with a very personal and specific level of involvement.  In the case of our family, our personal response has been to embrace adoption. To give a mother the chance to save her child's life through this live giving alternative.We know that we can’t save every baby that has been and will be murdered, but we can at least save one.  And that, dear friends help us feel as if we are sharing in with the wounded in this fierce battlefield.  I know that different families may want to become forever families for many different reasons. But this is one of the main reasons we want to become one.

"Mommy, did I look this precious when I was in your tummy?"..more darling, more precious!

Now, we understand that this is not the only response that everybody should take. Maybe you or your families don’t feel the calling to adopt.  However, there are many other ways that you can become an active participant according to the way God leads you. But please be one, do not just change the subject, turn off the T.V, your Smartphone and move on with your life.  God’s will is for you to be a channel of his compassion and mercy. To care for the voiceless, to be a shining light in this world full of darkness.

I think some of the ways this fellow blogger posted are very practical and doable. You can click here to read the full article. But let me summarize some of them:

1.      Talk about it: with your friends, Facebook, in your blog
2.       Give to your local pregnancy resource center: Time, money, resources
3.      Encourage, support and unwed mommy
4.      Love on a woman who has had an abortion
5.      Adopt (Or help others do so)
6.      Teach your children that these things are NOT OK. NO one else in the world will teach them these.

I would also encourage you to get involved with the Youth ministry at your church or community, become a mentor to an orphan, engage on prayer against this scourge.  And above else, share Christ with others.  He is the only hope for this fallen world and the only who has the power to change people from the inside out. And rest and be comforted in Him, knowing that God is the ultimate one that will bring full redemption to this world, and will not only wipe every tear but also will judge with unparalleled equity.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Soap Making (AKA Dave's entry into the Blogosphere)

OK Paola has asked me to do a post on Soap Making.  You will definitely notice the difference in writing style between her posts and mine!  So here goes:

Why Soap Making?  

Well, for several reasons.  First, that is just the kind of people we are.  We like DIY stuff and learning new things.  Paola does a great job with this in the kitchen, and it is a rare project that will find me hiring a professional.  I really enjoy researching a particular problem and solving it myself.  I guess I get "high" on the "DIY Rush"!  I also enjoy things that involve a good bit of science and believe it or not, there is a good bit of chemistry involved in Soap Making.  Further, we are trying little by little to move toward healthier, natural living, and any opportunity we can get to cut out chemicals & preservatives, is a welcome opportunity.  Lastly, since we are starting on our adoption journey, we saw some potential here to do some fund raising.  Certainly not looking for a career change, but if we can make a buck or two towards our adoption fund, and make people happy at the same time, why not explore it.

How does one make soap?

Well, there are plenty of sites out there that discuss the process in detail, so I'll try to just give the high level details.  Soap is made by combining most any fat or oil with a very basic (high pH) solution.  When the two get together, the solution is said to saponify or turn to soap.  You can add colors, exfoliants, and scents along the way.  To make the basic solution involves mixing Lye (Sodium Hydroxide) with water.  This part of the operation is somewhat hazardous as the Lye is very caustic, but be smart about it and no problems.  Usually you combine various oils & fats to change the nature of the soap.  More/less cleansing, more/less lather, harder or softer, etc.  Like most anything in life, different soaps meet different needs. You can also add various essential and fragrance oils.  Many have aroma therapy value (not that I am big into aroma therapy, but for those of you who are), and some have other medicinal values (Tea Tree Oil is a good antibacterial).  Finally, there is an artsy side to soapmaking, different colors, swirlies, etc. that make a very attractive product.  Being the practical kind of guy that I am, I'm not sure I'll ever get to that point, but I mention it for those of you who can see themselves enjoying this aspect.  If anybody wants more detail, feel free to contact me, but a quick Google search will get you started.

My first experience

Well, I was home alone with the kids for the weekend (Paola was off to a conference in Orlando) and I had just put the kids down for a nap.  That is what is known as "Me Time" in parenting lingo!  I had already purchased the necessary ingredients and made a soap mold out of scrap wood in the garage (remember DIY!).  So I figured the time was as good as any, and I can surprise my Honey when she gets back.

Nap Time!  (aka ME Time!)

Home made soap mold.
Step 1.  Throw all the oils in the crock-pot in exacting quantities.  everything has to be weighed since the ratio of Lye to oils is critical.  To little oil and your soap has un-dissolved Lye (really bad), or too much oil and your soap is soft and soggy (bad).  I purchased an Ozeri Kitchen Scale for the measuring.  It is small and easy to clean up.  Really happy with it.  For this recipe, I used Coconut OilPalm Oil, & Olive Oil (don't tell Paola I stole this from the pantry).  Oh, and I got a dedicated crock-pot since I didn't want to mix the nice food one with the soap one ($5.99 at Goodwill).

Put all the oils in the crockpot on low till they melt.
The recipe I used - Yes, there is an app for that!

Step 2.  Mix the Lye with the water. This is the dangerous part, so wear your gloves and eye protection.  Measure out the exact amount of Lye and slowly add it to the water.  Keep stirring, it will get really hot.  Once  you are done, you have your Lye water and are ready to mix it into the oils.

Wear your PPE!
Measuring the Lye

Lye water ready to mix with oils

Step 3. Before mixing, I let the Lye water cool a bit and lined my mold with wax paper.  To avoid folded corners, I cut squares out of the wax paper and then taped the edges to the mold to keep it in place.  I was worried about soap getting behind the paper, but it all worked amazingly well.

Cut out corners so paper would fold nicely into mold
Gratuitous picture of our second son who woke up
by now.  He was nowhere near the mixing!
Note the paper taped to the mold.

Step 4. Mix the ingredients till you get to "trace" (thickens till you can see trace marks on the surface).  For this you use a cheap hand blender.  With the hand blender this takes about 5-10 minutes.  Keep going till the ripples on the surface no longer fade away quickly.

Mix to "trace" with hand blender
Step 5.  Now you simply let the chemistry work.  The heat of the crock pot accelerates the process.  The alternative is to pour it into a mold now and let the soap neutralize with time (4-6 weeks).  Not being the patient type, I splurged $6 on the crock pot.  So anyway, the mixture will begin to bubble and puff up.  This is where you don't want to have your crock pot filled to the top, otherwise, you could have a caustic mess on your counter.  Anyway, keep stirring and the mix goes through a few phases.  It ends up the consistency of mash potatoes.
Here it is bubbling up.
Step 6. Test to see if the pH is right, you can use Litmus paper, your tongue, or phenolphthalein.  They call the tongue test the "zap" test because you are supposed to get a zap like a 9v battery from any remaining Lye if it is not done yet.  I didn't have any of the other two alternatives, so I stuck my tongue on it.  No zap, didn't taste very good, but no zap, so I called it done.  Next time I am moving up to pheonlpthalein.  I can't pronounce it, but it has to be better than involving my tongue.

Step 7.  Pour it into the mold and let it harden over night.

Step 8.  Take it out of the mold and cut it up.

Soap Loaf

Cut into bars


I was really impressed how well my first attempt turned out.  It has both Tea Tree & Lemongrass Oils that make it antiseptic and it smells great.  Also, it lathers up nicely and seems to moisturize my skin a little.  Not that I am a great judge of that being a guy and never really having cared.  If anybody is interested, we still have a few bars left at $4 each (which is a bargain for home made soap, I just saw $8 for a bar today), and remember, it is for a good cause (our adoption fund)!

I'm thinking of making an Oatmeal, milk, & Shea butter based soap next time.  The oatmeal is supposed to be a good mild exfoliant and the Shea Butter is supposed to be a great moisturizer and general skin care agent.  Also, I'm looking to make a mild soap for babies.  So many friends have kids that I figure it might be a good seller!

Anyway, that is it for my first batch of soap and my first blog post.  Hope you enjoyed and let me know if you have questions.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

David Elliot's Birth Story

I can’t believe it’s been almost 5 months since that happy morning. My heart still tingles with warm feelings at the thought of holding baby David Elliot for first time.  However the little details of the experience have started to slip from my memory. So, to honor my son and to crystallize the beauty of his birth in our family memory book, I have decided to put the whole experience in writing. It will be awesome to come back to this account some years from now and know that even though time has galloped in front of our eyes, the imprint of the beginning remains here and we can still enjoy it and celebrate it. I hope this is also a blessing for other pregnant women. I know it sounds like a cliche,  but giving birth truly is an empowering and life-changing experience!

The face of happiness at 5 months..

So, without any further ado, here it is how it all happened:
David Elliot was born a Thursday morning in the Cape Canaveral Hospital in Cocoa Beach, Florida. The same place our first son was born 2 years ago. We loved this hospital. I think it’s probably its smallness which gives it a familiar feeling as opposed to the “sterile” feeling of other medical facilities. Plus we love their “baby friendly” policies, where rooming-in with your baby is encouraged and they give you all the support you need to have a natural birth, and to get a head start on your breastfeeding journey. All the staff that helped us this time around was very helpful and professional, so much that I really felt like being pampered during my short stay. It was so nice to have so many people tending to us so that we could just freely focus on giving our baby the best start possible with nursing! We had considered having a home birth but our insurance made it almost impossible! But now that I think back, not having to deal with cleaning, laundry and cooking for a few days is a big deal with a new born! I have to say that there a couple of cons, like they don't have a NICU, but since we didn't have a "high risk" pregnancy, that wasn't a factor for us. Also, they are yet to get more comfortable beds for the Hubs who has to work hand on hand through the night with you. But we were able to get away with bringing our inflatable mattress. So we made it work! ;)

See what I'm talking about..
Ok, but as good as the hospital stay was, we knew better this second time around to labor for as long as we could at home! What a wise decision! My labor started 2 weeks prior to estimated due date. I still chuckle at the thought of my husband, as techie and nerdy as he is; excitingly jumping to get the contraction-tracker app he had exclusively gotten to fulfill his job duty. He went and got it out at the first and very doubtful mention of an almost imperceptible change of my contractions. Honestly I just thought it was another of my Braxton Hicks which usually tend to happen more often toward the end of the third trimester. I don’t know if in fact your second birth, as most mothers say, is easier, but if it weren’t for that tracker app and my husband insisting on a recurrent pattern, I wouldn’t had realized I was in labor! Or maybe I was hypnotized by my husband to give birth early? Ha!

"See, I told you!"..=)

I’m so grateful for my husband's wisdom that earlier on that day, had encouraged me to get a cleaning lady to complete all the nesting for baby that I hadn't been able to get to. Up to that point I was still in denial, thinking that I still had weeks to prepare. I remember the cleaning lady agreeing with hubby saying that the baby would be born the next morning. I don’t remember exactly how far apart my contractions were at the moment he started timing them, but I do remember that night we met our doula for last time to review our birth plan. We were planning to have 2 more weeks to plan everything. So little did we know that we would be calling her a few hours later to announce that our labor had in effect started!

The Bush team!

So even as the contractions had a sort of pattern at the beginning, they were not painful at all, so we were able to go to sleep as our doula had recommended. Rest as your body prepares for your birthing marathon is gold! I need to highlight hubby’s diligence and love to not only leave everything ready in the car in case of a sudden emergency, but also to take the time to decorate our room and bathroom with candles to create a calming environment for a laboring mommy. He also gets a lot of credit for coping with my “anal” tendencies when it comes to readiness, I think entering labor a bit earlier than expected set off a never ending stream of last minute tasks that I asked him to get ready before leaving. To which he lovingly responded: “it’s been taking care of honey”. Awesome.

Wait a minute..THIS is the complete team! =)

Anyway, getting back to the story, I woke up around 3a with a little more discomfort. It wasn't really pain, but the contractions were growing closer together, so I decided to wake hubby up and ask him to prepare the bath tub to help relax the muscles and my back. As he speedily prepared the tub, my contractions got more intense, I would say the pain level jumped from 3 to 5, we both decided that it was time to call Staci, our doula. She arrived timely about an hour later, and found me soaking in the tub, praying and praising God through every contraction. I know it sounds unusual, but that is exactly what I was doing, and it was working to keep me calmed! I am so grateful for the role that God gave her during David Elliot’s birth. You see, labor and delivery is an experience where emotions are very tender, the true colors of your personality and vulnerabilities come to the surface and I just felt that she had the ability to click with me and adjust perfectly to the idiosyncrasies of our family while guiding us and helping us walk through our birthing journey with a perfect combination of professionalism and compassion. I will never forget how she gently guided hubby on some great ways to effectively provide support and be an active participant of the whole process. I’m glad that we decided to have Staci with us, I think the whole labor and delivery run much more smoother not only by the fact of having another woman that could relate with me at a “female” level, but also by all the support she provided in taking turns with hubby when it came to holding me up while finding positions to relieve discomfort thru contractions, massaging, etc, Most importantly, she found her way to become an active part of praying our baby into this world. I think this last thing was completely instrumental in making our experience as peaceful, pain and stress-free and memorable as it was.

And even if it would've hurt more..this little one was so worthy!

I need to share that as I was preparing myself emotionally and mentally for delivery, I felt the need to ask a few close friends to join me in prayer during delivery. I am so grateful to those that decided to lift us up. The Lord listened and responded so faithfully! I also found some resources online that helped me focus on God’s promises of strength and the beauty of giving birth instead of focusing on fears and negativity. I found a lot of encouragement and information from this lady regarding how to invite God’s presence into our childbirth experience. What a difference did that make! After all He is the designer of life, pregnancy, delivery and the author of our very stories. I can testify that listening, meditating on scripture, praying and calling out to the name of the Lord as I walked thru the stages of my childbirth was completely awesome and empowering! If you are pregnant and are reading this, I encourage you to select some passages from the scripture that you think may inspire you and give you strength during the process. Lindsay from Passionate Homemaking has very good selections here if you can’t think of specific ones. I really enjoyed reading her articles. She also recommends reading the book “Redeeming Childbirth”, which I didn't get to because baby’s early arrival! =) I personally used a list of verses I was given on a retreat that meant a lot to me. I had both Hubby and Staci read them to me both during contractions and while I waited, and let me tell you, personally there wasn't any other more powerful pain-medication that I could have used! Really.

I actually remained on level 5 pain for a while. However as we continue timing the contractions they were getting closer and closer together, which was a sign of entering active labor. So we decided to start getting ready to go take off to the hospital. We got out of the tub and use the birthing ball for more relaxation. At that point my contractions were getting more intense, longer and within a range of 3 to 6 minutes apart. The pain labor had probably jumped up by a point, so It was nice to be able to move freely and found the most comfortable position to handle the discomfort. In my case, I found that seating on a reclining-forward position on the ball, while both Staci and Dave held me up strongly by my hands while praying and rubbing my back was best. That’s when we decided it was time to go to the hospital.

We arrived at the hospital around 8:30a. When they checked me out, I was 6cm dilated and completely effaced. We reviewed my birth plan with the nurse on duty, and they were very respectful of my choices. I guess they saw I was calmed and working through the contractions with so much confidence that they didn't bother to offer any medication nor saw the need to alter my experience. So they pretty much stay out of the room until I requested them. I was just letting my body guide me through the journey. Whether standing, kneeling or seating on the ball, I moved with the rhythm my body and baby were singing.

Yes Mommy, what a wonderful "Duet" we made! =)

My doctor arrived shortly after to confirm that the bun was about to get out of the oven! We were really in the very last stretch of the road. I remember that I got to the point were the most comfortable position was to lay on my side while hubby held my hand as that allowed me to rest my back and legs. And as I laid in that position, I remember starting to feel the urge to push. I called for the doctor and apparently they were all standing by the door, because in less than minute the medical staff got in, and I was given complete green light to push. I remember pushing two times and feeling a significant increase of pain, however, it wasn't until the third contraction that I really felt pain. I was probably half of a second into feeling this surreal pain, and I thought for myself. Well, "I think this is the stage of the process where I had to completely depend on God"..and I was getting ready to experience a lot more pain. But before the same second was over, baby David Elliot was born. My fears and resolve to keep on going where quieted by his beautiful face, and skin, and smell. 

Praise God for His workmanship! 

He was born at 11:30 that morning.  He was completely adorable, healthy and wanted to nurse immediately!  What a joy it was to hold him on my chest at that moment. I remember that I was so lost into enjoying him, that I was completely oblivious to delivering the placenta and a few stitches from a very minor tear. And whatever else it may have transpired around me. But it was ok, It was over and it was time to start all over again. I was holding my new beginning close to my heart, and that was all it mattered at that moment!