Thursday, February 23, 2017

New Year, New Mexico

Since moving to Colorado we have had several opportunities to travel to the surrounding areas and we find ourselves heading back to one state repeatedly. New Mexico has become our go-to vacation location of choice, and we find ourselves exploring fun, interesting, and historically rich locations every time that we visit.

After nearly a dozen trips down there, I can confidently say that it is very family-friendly place, especially if you are interested in culture, diversity, outdoor recreation, fascinating history, and really great food.

Old Town, Albuquerque
Our most recent trip was one of my favorite so far. We decided to ring in the New Year in Albuquerque with the kiddos. We were only there a couple of days but managed to squeeze a lot of exploration into that short amount of time.

Albuquerque is know for it's hot air balloon festival - which is quite the site to behold.

We managed to witness the last day of the festival last October (pictured above) and decided we absolutely had to check out the Anderson-Abruzzo International Balloon Museum when we had a chance to actually spend some time in Albuquerque. So, the museum was our first stop that weekend.

History of hot air ballooning exhibit
Space Exploration exhibit
Blurry group good as we could get.
Arctic Air Exhibit with Nick's favorite - polar bear!!
The exhibits were both fun and informative and there was a great hands-on section where the kids could learn about designing, building, and flying hot air balloons. The 4D movie was a big hit as well, anything with 3D glasses and airplane acrobatics is a winner with my kids. 

The best part, only $4 per adult and $1 per child (ages 4-12 - kids 3 and under are free!) - so $11 for a fun and educational activity. The kids have already been asking to go back!

We also spend a lot of time walking around Old Town Albuquerque, which is my favorite area in any of the older cities we've visited (Santa Fe, San Diego, and even Colorado Springs). 

Lunch a Church Street favorite!

Clowning around at the Fountain in Old Town

Fun at the Gazebo

Trying to figure out how to work this Civil War reproduction canon...

We ate lunch at one of my favorite restaurant finds, Church Street Cafe. My mom, sister and myself had actually stumbled upon this place when we were in Albuquerque over my birthday weekend and I had to get Nick and the kids there. It's incredibly delicious and the building is amazing. Here are some pics from my first visit there with my mom and Erica...

Gorgeous kiva fireplace with a mosaic.

Loved the light fixtures!

Very festive...
 The Old Town area was pretty decked out for the holidays. I have to say, New Mexico knows how to do Christmas.

Here are some more pictures from around the square.

There is a really neat alley that leads to a couple of shops, galleries, and, most importantly, a coffee shop. Our favorite store in that area was Guerrilla Graphix. We grabbed a couple of bumper stickers, 2 posters (for Deacon and Dylan's room - you can see them in the previous post), and a Santa Fe tote bag. It's a really fun/quirky store and we could spend hours looking at their stuff. Here is some of the art work we discovered just in that alley...

Christmas tree made out of plastic bottles. 
Cute set-up outside of Velvet Coffeehouse.

We got our coffee fix from Velvet Coffeehouse, which was both delicious and necessary.

Pretty chai.
And spent most of the rest of the trip eating and watching movies at our AirBnB because it started raining. The cozy fireplace was a great perk, that's definitely something we miss from our old house. All in all, it was the perfect combination of relaxation and exploration for us. We even managed to get a couple of good pictures Nick and I to send in with our home study.

On our way home, we stopped by our favorite city, Santa Fe, to stretch our legs and squeeze every last bit of New Mexico out of our trip.

The square at Santa Fe.

The kids really love this city...

So glad to be back!

One of my favorite places...

I try to take pictures of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi ever time I visit. It really is a beautiful work of art.  Their decorations were simple but stunning.

And that about wraps it up! Lots of fun, food, and exploration in New Mexico :)

I'll be posting more about some of our trips to Santa Fe, Aztec, Roswell, and some of the towns in between as well as our epic road trip from last October to Joshua Tree. Fun times in some very fun places!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Adoption Details

Well, it's finally happening! After over a decade of discussing our desire to adopt we are finally making that dream come true. The process itself...not so dreamy, but totally worth it.

First, the details we can provide. Since our little guy isn't in our custody yet, we can't provide any identifying information (his Korean name, photos - bummer, I know, or any medical information) so here's what we can say:

1. We are planning on naming him Dylan Neil Jensen (and will include his Korean name in his middle name as well). Yes, he is named after Bob Dylan and his grandpa Neil :)

2. He is currently 24 months old.

3. He loves cars, slides and food.

Usually, the adoption process starts with finding an agency, going through the home study process, and waiting for a referral, but we decided to do things a bit differently. We started researching the adoption process in November 2016 and had NO CLUE what we were going to do. Domestic? Infant? Foster to adopt? International- and if so where? Talk about overwhelming...

After long discussions and lots of reading, research, and questions we decided that we would focus on international adoptions and decided to look for a little boy. We didn't necessarily like the idea of an infant (been there, done that) so an older child was on our radar. Basically, we knew that we didn't want to disrupt the current birth order in our home, so he had to be under 5 years old, and that whatever child we committed to couldn't have medical issues any more severe than our current children's medical needs.

(What's one more?)
If you know our kiddos, you know that they all suffer from pretty severe food allergies and asthma, so we have our hands full with that. And, while we would love to be able to take in a child with more complicated special needs, we know our limits.

We found Dylan's profile on our agency's website and contacted them right away. We weren't looking for a specific child or country, but Dylan's profile pulled on our heart strings and we met the Korean requirements - which are fairly extensive. After we talked to our adoption case manager we decided to go for it and committed to pursuing his adoption. After that, the paperwork started...

(And that's only the beginning...)
So. much. paperwork. And so very many appointments. Korea has some specific requirements, such as a psychological exam, that you won't find with most of the other countries. Honestly, though, our psychologist was amazing and informative, so I'm glad we went through that process (and passed, ha!). 

This process was enhanced by the fact that we have four adults living in this household and everyone had to provide background checks from every state they lived in, child abuse clearances, and fingerprints that would go to both the state bureau of investigation and the FBI. Everyone in the household had to get a medical exam (kids included) that would prove we were able to care for our adopted child and, I suppose, not give him any communicable diseases. 

(On our way to get our fingerprints taken.)

Nick and I also had to provide copies of our passports, which we either didn't have or it was expired (oops). Funny side-note: The employee taking our passport photos teased me pretty hardcore about my previous passport picture. Admittedly, it was truly terrible, but still. When it came time to take our pictures, he told us to "smile modestly" which sounded hilarious and made it very hard for me to actually "smile modestly". Thankfully, that photo still turned out much better than my previous one...

(Ahh...the post office...)
Once we were able to get our mountain of paperwork submitted, the home study could begin. It was another interesting process, and my house has honestly never been cleaner...

At this point, our home study has been approved by the state, we have been accepted to Korea (ATK), and are waiting on US immigration paperwork before we can move on to getting Dylan's exit paperwork started on the Korean side.

Estimates are anywhere from 12 to 18 months before we will bring him home, and, of course, we're hoping it's closer to 12 months. His room (that he will share with Deacon) is already waiting for him...

We went with a desert/New Mexico theme - and I had way more fun putting it all together than I probably should have. 

Anyway, most of the rest of this process is waiting for everyone else to do their portion of the paperwork (US, Korea) so for now...we wait...

Friday, February 17, 2017

Starting Fresh

So many things have changed since I published my first post on this blog six years ago - enough so that I have decided to remove those older posts and start fresh. We moved to the beautiful state of Colorado two years ago and have loved every second of living here. My parents moved in with us in 2015 and have helped us out tremendously with everything from homeschooling and child care to home maintenance  and dog sitting. I'm grateful every day for their help and companionship.

(Hiking Red Rock Canyon Open Space)

In addition to moving to a new state, we had our third child in November of 2011 and added another dog to our family in March of 2015. The current tally of kids and dogs is three and three, but that number will be changing in the coming months as we are in the process of adopting a little boy from South Korea!

Adoption has been something that we have planned on since before we were married and we are beyond excited that we finally have the opportunity to move forward with this dream. Plus, I keep hearing that once you hit four kids it all seems a bit easier...which just has to be correct, right? ;)

(Rest stop at the Quarry)

We're still in the early stages of the process, relatively speaking, and we are by no means adoption experts - especially since every country/situation is different in their rules/requirements/process. But we really look forward to keeping everyone posted on where we're at. As of right now, we're still waiting on some final approvals here in the U.S. and then we will be moving on to the exit process for our little guy on the Korean side.

On another note, I plan to share some information on the adventures that we have embarked on over the past couple of years. We've visited multiple national parks, several new (to us) states, and lots of historical sites and I would love to share as much information about those places and what it's like traveling (inexpensively) with kids as I can.

There are so many places that we would love to visit and I know how much I appreciate hearing from others who have been to those places - so I though I would start a weekly series passing on information regarding mostly Southwestern travel destinations. I'll have lots of photos, activity ideas for the whole family, how we survive long road trips and camping adventures with kiddos, and lots of info about some of the incredible and unique places that we have visited.

(Little girl, Grand Canyon)

(Joshua Tree National Park)

(The magical Cholla Garden at Joshua Tree)

Some places were magical, some overwhelming, and a couple we are totally obsessed with (I'm talking about you, Santa Fe!). So stay tuned, we have a lot of adventures to share!