Saturday, July 26, 2014

Goodbye & Hello

Change is definitely in the air around here. 

We've been saying goodbye to some things and hello to others.

One of the biggest changes has been moving Noah from his crib in the nursery to a twin "big boy" bed in my former office. 

It took Noah a week or more to get used to sleeping in his new bed and new room. During that time, he repeatedly asked to sleep in his crib for naps (and occasionally at night), and we allowed it, wanting him to make the transition at his own pace. (Luckily, we had that luxury since there wasn't a baby needing the crib.) Now, a month later, the twin bed, outfitted in a construction-themed sheet set and comforter, is where he lays his head each afternoon and each night.

Noah's room is still a work-in-progress, but I plan to share photos of it once I'm finished decorating it.  
As I alluded to earlier, my office/craft room is no longer in our third bedroom upstairs. It's now downstairs in the fourth bedroom. (A big thanks to my hubby for setting up my new office!) We were able to reuse the tables and drawers from my original office; they are just configured differently. (I'll post a picture of my new set up soon.) 

Because I don't have as much space as I did before (I was totally spoiled for four years with a huge bedroom!), I took a good look at what I was using and what I was no longer using. I also reflected on where my creative interests lie right now, and what I want to focus on more in the near future.

I then sorted through my scrapbooking paper and rubber stamps and other supplies and sold or donated quite a bit.

Purging always feels so good; it's cathartic for me.

Being in a new space is also exciting. I've enjoyed thinking about how to organize my materials and supplies, so that I can easily access them.  I've scoured Pinterest for ideas. I've also reflected on what worked in my old office and what I want to do differently in my new office. 

I still have some work to do, mainly decorating the walls and emptying a few more small boxes, but I'm really pleased with my new space. Perhaps, my favorite feature is that I have a desk with drawers where I can store (ie. hide) Post-it notes, paper clips, my stapler, scissors, etc. I love having these items within arm's reach, but tucked away and out of sight.

I've learned over the years that the cleaner I can keep my desk (and office), the more I tend to get done.

And not only do I have a new office, but I also have a new camera!

After shooting with Nikon cameras and lenses for five years, I said goodbye to Nikon and hello to Canon.

I'm now the proud owner of a Canon 5D Mark III. Yeah, baby! 

I'm slowly learning my way around the 5D with the help of the owner's manual and the Adorama Learning Center.

And when I start to feel overwhelmed or frustrated, I'm gently reminding myself that there is a learning curve anytime I move to a new camera--but even more so this time because I've changed brands.

Tomorrow, my family and I are heading to Oregon to spend time with Brian's family. We'll be leaving Noah's big boy bed and my office behind, but you can bet, my camera will be with me.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Adoption Pass Along Cards

For the past month or so, I've been really focused on getting the word out that Brian and I are hoping to adopt again.

I've written three posts here on my blog. If you missed them, click HERE, HERE and HERE.

I've also shared our adoption dreams on Facebook, Instagram, and via Twitter.

Another way we are hoping to spread the word is by sharing these pass along cards.

The size of a business card, these pass along cards can be handed out to family or friends or anyone you might hear talking about making an adoption plan. (You can see the pass along cards I created for our first adoption HERE.)

They can also be tacked up on any community bulletin boards. (I've seen bulletin boards at Starbucks, libraries, grocery stores, churches, post offices, and on college campuses.)

Right now, I'm carrying five of our pass along cards in my purse, just in case I run into someone who knows an expectant mother who is interested in adoption or I see a community bulletin board while I'm out and about.   

We'd love your help in passing these cards along to others! If you're interested in receiving a few cards, please send an email to with your mailing address and the number of cards you'd like.

Thank you, in advance, for your support! We really appreciate it!

All photos by Mindy Newton of Mindy Newton Photography.

P.S. For those of you who might be curious as to how we created our pass along cards this time, here's the scoop. First, I ordered a photography business card template for $8.00 from this Etsy shop. 
I changed the colors and text on both sides, saved the front and back as jpeg files, and uploaded them to I ordered a set of 100 cards for $22.00, plus shipping. It was pricier than ordering through say, VistaPrint, but the print quality is excellent and the cards arrived in just a few days.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Oh Happy Day Postcard Poster

My mom celebrated a BIG birthday in May!

Leading up to her special day, I wanted to shower her with "snail mail" love from family and friends, so I coordinated a postcard project. (I first learned about this idea here.)

For this project, I contacted 25 of our family members and my mom's friends (Facebook was awesome for that!), and asked them if they'd be willing to print one postcard, write a special message to my mom and mail it to her prior to her birthday.

I was particularly excited to coordinate this postcard project for my mom because she LOVES puzzles.

Each postcard has a unique design on the back. When all the postcards are placed in the appropriate spots, they form a birthday poster that says, "I'm so glad you were born."

Most people wrote a few sentences on the back of their postcard, addressed it, and mailed it off.  

A few friends included a picture with their postcard (great idea!). 

Some people printed out their postcard, wrote a special message, and enclosed it in a birthday card for my mom. (No extra postage needed!)

I love that my mom received so much mail in the 10-day period leading up to her birthday.

Who doesn't love getting good old-fashioned mail?!

In case you're interested, here's a little bit more about my process for this project.

1 | About a month before my mom's birthday, I wrote out a list of 30 people I thought would be willing to help out. (It's always good to jot down a few extra people in case someone can't participate.)

2 | Of those 30 people, I selected 25 friends and family members.  I gathered some of the addresses in Outlook, and emailed my mom's friends on Facebook for their contact information.

3 | Next, I sent out an email to each person with a specific attachment.  (Yes, that's 25 emails in total!) Person #1 on my list received Postcard Attachment #1, Person #2 received Postcard Attachment #2 and so on.  

4 | If a person replied saying they couldn't participate (one person didn't have access to a printer), then I just pulled a name off the "extras" list and sent out an email with the correct postcard number.

5 | I also sent out an email to all participants about a week before my mom's birthday, reminding them to mail their postcards if they hadn't already done so.   

This is the second time I've done this project. When my aunt Susie turned 50, I completed my first postcard project. My aunt was surprised, elated, and appreciative.

I had so much fun doing it then that I knew I'd want to do it again in the future for someone near and dear to my heart.

Each time, I coordinate this project, I learn something new. I also think about how I might do things differently next time. 

Thoughts for Next Time

1 | Mention to participants that if card stock is an issue (I always have some on hand for scrapbooking, but many people do not), just print the postcard on copy paper and back it with construction paper or place it in an envelope and mail it. 

2 | Share how large the postcard should be when printed. (For instance, in this case the cards should have been 4x6, but some were smaller or larger than that.)

3 | If I want the cards to look uniform (all the same color with the writing on the blank side), consider printing them myself and then mailing one to each person.  I could also add postage, so that all the recipient would have to do is write a message and place the postcard in a mailbox.  

4 | Take a picture of a sample postcard--printed, cut out, written on and stamped. Shoot photos of both the front and the back. Make sure to point out that the side with the design should NOT be written on; it's part of the completed puzzle. 

5 | Tell participants that if their card is blank (all of the corners of the puzzle are blank), they can write on either side.

6 | Although I love this birthday postcard poster, I also love the idea of taking a childhood photo of the birthday person to Kinko's, Staples or Costco and having the photo blown up. Then, you could cut the photo up into 4x6 postcards, stamp them, and mail them out to family and friends in envelopes. (The number of people involved would depend upon the size of the poster. The bigger, the better, I say!)

This is one of those projects that puts a HUGE grin on my face.  It's such a joy helping to make people feel loved and appreciated on their special day! I think I enjoy it *almost* as much as the person receiving the postcards.

It's a team effort, though. I couldn't have done it without the help of our family and my mom's friends.

A BIG THANKS to all of you (you know who you are) for printing, writing, and mailing postcards to my mom! (She LOVED reading all of your sweet messages!)

I know you'll agree with me when I say that I'm so glad she was born!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Our Adoption Book

Photo by Mindy Newton Photography
Prior to designing our adoption website, I created our adoption profile book.

All adoptive families who are hoping to adopt a baby here in the United States create some type of profile book.

As you'll see, for all intents and purposes, it's a brag book. (And if you know me well, you know I don't like to brag.)

However, in order for a birth mother or birth parents to feel comfortable choosing us to raise their child, they have to be able to imagine their child growing up in our family.

To help facilitate that, we have to share about ourselves. Share who we are.  Share where we live.  Share what our son is like.  Share about the contact we have with Noah's birth mother.  Share about our future hopes and dreams for our children and our family. 

The profile book often serves as a birth parents' first impression of an adoptive family.

For that reason, I spent A LOT of time writing the text (and rewriting the text) and choosing the 50+ photos from the thousands of pictures on my computer. 

Top right photo by Mindy Newton | All others taken by me
Just as with our first adoption, we created our profile book using Mixbook.

Once I had my photos selected and the text written, all I had to do was choose a Mixbook theme (or template). Luckily, Mixbook offers over 100 great themes! I was drawn to this one because of its simple design and bright colors.

Because it was originally a recipe book, I had to delete some elements, modify others, and add text boxes and photos. But it was super easy because Mixbook's editor is a dream to use! Seriously, it's awesome! I've created photo books on other websites (namely Shutterfly) and using Mixbook was much easier and much faster.  

Plus, Mixbook gave us a volume discount.

All I had to do was email the volume sales department. (If you'll be ordering 10 or more photo books, you can request a discount by going to the Mixbook home page. Scroll down to the very bottom and under Programs, click "Volumes Discounts." Enter in your information and a Mixbook representative will get back to you in 1-2 days.)

In total, we ordered 17 books; 15 copies for our attorney (who will share them with birth parents) and two copies for us. (I plan to put one copy in our daughter's baby book, so she can look through it when she's older. I did the same thing for Noah, too.)

With the volume discount, we paid just $10.49 per book. Sweet!

Mixbook also supplied us with a free PDF file of our profile book. We forwarded the PDF file to our attorney. In some adoption situations, time is of the essence and it is much faster for birth parents to view the PDF file than to request a copy of your profile and wait for it to arrive in the mail.

All photos taken by Brian & edited by me

I know quite a few of my blog posts lately have been about adoption.  Thank you, readers, for allowing me to share about our adoption journey.

It's definitely a goal of mine to share more about the process this time than I did with our first adoption.  Not only for me, but also for our family and friends and for any prospective adoptive parents who are interested in learning more about domestic adoption.

With that in mind, next week, I'll be describing one more way we're getting the word out about our desire to adopt.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Noah @ 2.5

I'm so thankful for this little boy.

Who really isn't so little anymore. 

Today, Noah is officially 2 1/2 years old. Or thirty months! (I stopped counting months when Noah turned two, but it's fun to think about HOW LONG he's been a part of our lives and our family.)

As I watched Noah walking down the driveway earlier this week, it hit me, Wow, he's really not a baby anymore. He's definitely a toddler now with a leaner body, long legs, and lots of curly hair.

Here are some recent photos of Noah taken with my iPhone. (If you follow me on Instagram @jharless, you've probably seen quite a few of these already.)

Reading a library book on our bed.

Visiting Daddy at work. Last week, a woman in the grocery store said to Noah, "You look just like your daddy." I smiled, thinking again how God works in mysterious and wonderful ways.

Playing at Funfinity.
Snapping photos like Mommy. Noah holds it up to his eye and says "Smile!" (This camera actually belongs to Brian and it doesn't take real pictures. It squirts water instead!)

Playing at the park.

Pouring water in his water table.

Trying on a mustache.

Putting together puzzles.

 Pretending to be a bear at the zoo. (I loved how he put his head AND arms through the hole!)

 Getting muddy in the creek.

 Swimming with his neighbor friend.

 Eating his first Push Up. Yum!

 Watching an "escabator" at work.

 Helping daddy dig a hole for a baby tree.

 Sporting new shades.

Jumping in the pool!

We're so grateful to Noah's birth mother for blessing us with Noah. He is the light of our lives!

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