Monday, January 31, 2011

Modified Crockpot Cream of Asparagus Soup

So, I (kind of) made Crock Pot Cream of Asparagus Soup. Except, I am on a diet. I wanted something kind of creamy, but much lighter than can be obtained by any recipe that uses heavy cream. So, thinking light and using what was in my (poorly stocked) kitchen, I came up with the following ingredients:

  • 1 pound fresh asparagus (after taking off the woody ends, it came out to about 11-12 oz.)
  • 14 oz. frozen shredded zucchini
  • 4 C. water
  • 4 chicken bullion cubes
  • 1/2 t. black pepper
  • 1/2 t. seasoned salt
I cooked this in a 4qt. crock on high for about 4 hours, then added 2/3 C. nonfat powdered milk and blended well with my immersion blender. (I might try using evaporated milk when I make this again- I think that would up the creaminess. Or possibly add some potato flakes.)

I liked this (maybe too much pepper, but still good). John and Abigail thought it needed salt, but otherwise had no complaints. Anna wouldn't touch it. It wasn't totally creamy and satisfying, but it was good... I would make it again, but will probably end up eating the left overs myself.

Yield: 6 servings
Approximately 60 calories/serving

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Birth Story- Part 2

Birth Story- Part 1

Once the serious contractions started and I laid down, time kind of lost meaning. I made it a point not to watch the clock and not to time the contractions. I kept drinking my PowerAde and getting up to use the washroom (thankfully, I stopped gushing amniotic fluid about this time- in retrospect, this probably meant the head was fully engaged.) Other than that, I rested.

The Bradley Method of natural childbirth focuses on relaxing through contractions rather than fighting them... I like to think of it as embracing what your body is designed to do rather than fighting it. By staying relaxed and rested, your energy can be focused on the muscles working the way they need to in order to push the baby out.

Staying relaxed is easier said than done. With Abigail, I took the official classes and felt very prepared. This time, John and I contacted several instructors and could not manage to schedule classes that worked with our crazy schedules (both of us working 2 jobs, the kids activities, etc.) So I wasn't as prepared. But I still think I did a good job. For me, there was a lot of focus on just keeping my breathing calm and even (that panting stuff is just plain silly in my opinion.) I focused on filling my lungs with air, thinking of the oxygen that was passing through my blood and to the baby. This was calming for me. I also envisioned my uterus as a muscle, and thought about the hard work that muscle was doing, focusing on giving all my oxygen and energy to that muscle. I had relaxing music playing, and I actually kicked John out of the room (his breathing was too loud and fast- it was distracting me.)

Bradley Method also focuses on certain positions that are supposed to help you fully relax. I think that is well and good, but when you have baseline back pain and whatnot, you have to adjust, which is what I did. I used a variety of positions. However, I eventually got to the point where nothing felt comfortable- even when I wasn't having a contraction. In retrospect, I was probably having some serious back labor, although I didn't realize it as such at the time. I ended up sitting backwards in a chair and having John rub my back and apply pressure during contractions.

A few times, John asked me if I was ready to go to the hospital. We agreed that there was no reason to rush to the hospital until I was nearing the end of the active phase of labor... the less time I spent in the hospital, the better, in my opinion. While I was uncomfortable, I didn't feel like things were that "intense" yet, so I kept saying no to his suggestion. I knew that as soon as I went into the hospital, there would be a lot more expectations on me, and a lot more people who would be distracting me from the job I was doing. There would also be a lot more commotion. And no access to food or drinks.

Around 2:30, John asked again if I was ready to go to the hospital. Apparently, the contractions were about 4 minutes apart, although I don't think any of them were "regular" the way they were when I was in labor with Abigail. I initially said no, and then he pointed out that the contractions were only going to get more intense, and I would have to deal with them while sitting in the car.

Well, that brought me back to reality. While I felt fine dealing with my contractions while I had the ability to move and adjust to my own comfort, the idea of having these contractions while buckled in the front seat of my car was horrid to me! I agreed to go to the hospital.

We called our doula, Heather, to let her know we were on the way, and she said she was already outside the entrance of the hospital, just waiting for us! After our previous update around 1pm (which included some talk of how I wasn't ready to go to the hospital and wanted to stay home and we had no plans of going any time soon...) she decided that I was probably farther along than I thought I was. So she decided to get her family settled and head to the hospital once she made all of her arrangements. I was very happy that she was already there, although I was definitely thinking to myself "I can't believe she thinks I am that far along in the process. I don't feel like I should even be going to the hospital yet!"

John got everything ready, Abigail and Elaine got into the car, and I finally went out to the car, after saying goodbye to Steve and Anna. The car ride was the worst part of my labor up until that point, because my back pain was pretty bad, and I couldn't get comfortable in the seat. John said that even when we were in the car, I was debating on if we needed to go to the hospital (my contractions must have slowed. I only had 2 contraction during the 10 minute car ride.)

When we arrived at the hospital, Heather was waiting for me. John went to park the car, and Heather, Elaine, Abigail and I made our way into the hospital. I was walking slowly, which I didn't realize until a bunch of people passed us in the hall. At one point, we had to walk through a hall that was narrowed due to construction. The people behind us must have been muttering about how slow we were going, because I know Elaine turned around and told them to shut up- we were going slow because I was in labor! It was a pretty long walk, and I had a few contractions during that time, but we eventually made it.

They were expecting me in Labor and Delivery and took me to an open room. I got changed and settled into the bed so that they could do their initial monitoring and cervical check. I have to admit... I was not looking forward to the actual "check", but I was anxious to see how far dilated I was. John joined us, and I got hooked up to the fetal monitor. About 3:30, the doctor came in to do the initial check.

My birth plan specified that I did not want to know what my cervix was doing in terms of dilating and effacing (other than the initial check) because I believe that listening to your body and gauging your labor on the signs your body is giving you is more important than a single number. I knew that when I was in labor with Abigail, I went from 5cm dilated to having a baby in less than an hour. The numbers were relatively meaningless then, and probably didn't mean anything during this process. Still, I was completely unprepared for what I was about to hear.

"You're about half a centimeter dilated and 100% effaced."

Monday, January 24, 2011

Mom to Mom: Tips (Because I am not cool enough to write a whole post like I intended.)

So, Missy is having a Mom-to-Mom. I was going to do a whole post about my month-long crockpot meal plan and coordinating month-long grocery list. But I am just not that together. Plus, the baby has had a particularly rough afternoon, and between needing to hold him and comfort him a lot today, I really wanted to spend his happy times enjoying him. He really does have the cutest toothless drooly smile!

Anyway, here are some things that work in our family. And one day, I will present my awesome month long meal plan/grocery list. But not when my baby needs me. (Because pretty soon, he's going to think he doesn't need me. Sigh.)

  • We are blessed to have a large chest freezer in the basement. I keep an inventory of what is in the freezer next to my grocery list on the fridge. This does 3 things: first, makes it easy to know what is down there and whether I can send Abigail to grab something I need/want from the freezer; secondly, it makes it easy to remember to add items to the grocery list when I know I am using the last or next-to-last of any item; third, helps the kids get ideas of what to make for dinner when I ask them what they want- I keep several frozen "easy dinners" that can just be dumped into the crock (maybe add an ingredient or 2) and cooked, straight from the freezer.
  • Also on my fridge is a list of easy "go-to" meals for those days when I am totally unmotivated to make dinner. Some are crockpot recipes that I almost always have the ingredients on hand. Others are easy/quick things I can whip up when the day has gone awry and I can't think straight enough to come up with a plan for dinner. We have avoided take out/frozen pizzas many nights because of this list. Again, the kids can reference this when I ask them what they want for dinner.
  • I've always limited my kids' access to TV, but now they basically don't watch any TV because we can stream Netflix through the Wii. This not only allows us to watch TV on our schedule and watch only shows that I think are appropriate, but it also eliminates commercials. Convenient, sure. But more importantly, my kids are not bombarded with messages about sugary cereals or cheap plastic toys that they "have to have." My kids seriously hardly ever get the "gimmes," and the things they do ask for are generally things that they have played with or eaten at a friend's house, so I know they really do like it, and aren't just asking for it because of some marketing ploy.
  • When Abigail sorts the folded laundry, she puts away socks, underwear, and PJ's. Then she sorts her clothes into "outfits" and leaves a pile of Anna's clothes. I sort Anna's clothes into outfits and put them away into piles of play or dress clothes. I do the same with Abigail's (although, mostly I just make sure her "outfits" are okay.) That way, all I have to do on days we are running late is pull out the top "outfit" and the girls can get dressed. None of that "Anna wants to wear this shirt but I can't find a pair of pants that match!" business for me.
  • Abigail has to take a pill every day. I would totally forget this most of the time, because this is just the way I am. (Maybe I should add it to her chore chart?) Anyway, if your child is on antibiotics or something and needs to take a medicine daily but perhaps not long-term enough to add to daily chore list, try keeping it in the fridge. I look in the fridge several times each day, and am much more likely to remember it because I will see it when cooking or cleaning up from dinner or whatever.
Alright, that's all I've got. But you can be sure the next time I do one of these, there will be some sort of spreadsheet involved. (And this is where my husband, upon reading this post, will turn to me and ask "Is that a threat or a promise?")


I read this post the other day (I had stopped reading blogs in general after we got married, and therefore missed this post until now.) I especially loved reading the comments.

You know we have 3 cats… one was mine before we got married, adopted through PAWS when it was just Abigail and I in our apartment. Lily was a great addition to our little family, and adopting her filled some childhood desire for a pet (we never had pets when I was a kid.) John also had a cat when we got married; Aslan kind of showed up in his life one day and has been here ever since. And then there’s Seven. She joined our family one day when my big heart couldn’t leave that tiny kitten out in the snow on a cold January night. I tried to locate her family to no avail (methinks, or at least guesses, that she had been around people before we found her because she was very familiar with people.) I contacted our local shelter to take her, and they wouldn’t let me bring her in. I even tried calling the police, but they had nothing to offer me in terms of finding her owners or a new home. My attempts to re-home her (craigslist, facebook, co-workers) were unsuccessful, so she kind of became part of the family by default… we couldn’t get rid of her, so she stayed. It was a little more complicated than that, because I did feel a big sense of responsibility for her once we found her- responsibility that I didn’t want and couldn’t explain, but was there nonetheless. So, we are a family with 3 cats. And 3 kids.

And it turns out, I am not a 3 cat person. My little Lily was okay… she is pretty personable, but also understands my need for space, so we were able to strike a good balance between cuddling and having time to ourselves. But with 3 (especially Aslan, who has the personality of a dog), I feel overwhelmed with pets. And the hair! Everywhere! If we go more than a few days without vacuuming, we get hair balls the size of rabbits drifting out from under the couch (which is why I am so excited about my Roomba:)!)

But more than that, like Brianna, I have a really hard time justifying the money being poured into pets when there are starving, dying children in this world. Pets have their place, and I will admit that we have spent money on our pets (we take the responsibility of a pet seriously and get them their shots each year, and have spayed/neutered out cats, and take them to the vet when they seem sick. But like Brianna, I admit that sometimes, the expense of this basic pet care sickens me.) But the more I see the suffering of innocent children, the more I struggle with spending our limited funds on pets, when it could be spent on people.

At the same time, I did kind of tell the kids that if we move, they might get a dog. I do think the responsibility of pets is a good thing for children to learn, and both girls participate in the care of our cats (food, water, and litter box duty), and would participate in the care of our dog, if we get one. They would have to understand these responsibilities (including pooper scooper detail) before we could get them a dog. I also would be more likely to get a dog if we could adopt a dog (rather than buy a puppy) or re-home a retired dog into our family. So, I am still not 100% convinced of anything, one way or the other. I really do think that pets have a place in families, especially when they serve a purpose (such as a mouser cat or a kind of “therapy dog.”) I just struggle with pets being given the same level of importance (and often times more importance) as humans.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

No, we don't.

Overheard this morning while Abigail and Anna were unloading the dishwasher:

Abigail: Okay, Anna. Can you start putting away the silverware?
Anna: Yes, man! (Yes ma'am in Anna-speak.)
Abigail: Remember, do you touch sharp knives?
Anna: Yes, man!
Abigail: No, we don't touch sharp knives. They can hurt us! We leave those for Momma.
Anna: Yes, man!
Abigail: And do you smoke cigarettes?
Anna: Yes, man!
Abigail: No, we don't smoke cigarettes! They can kill you!

This proves that chores really are important life lessons:)

(Note: Both my girls know not to touch knives or smoke cigarettes. Anna was just being a goofball. And the "yes man" thing was just her being silly, too. She was also "saluting." She was in a strange mood this morning.)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Birth Story- Part 1

I have wanted to share John Andrew's birth story for a while, but I kind of felt that I needed the distance- the perspective- of time to do so. The flip side to that is that now some of the memories are fading (3 months with very little sleep will do that to ya!) But here goes. (Warning: I am giving you all the details. All the graphic, bloody details of this birth. Don't say I didn't warn you!)

I woke up about 7am on Sunday, October 17. John had worked overnight, and his shift was due to end at 7:30. The girls weren't being loud, so I figured they were still asleep, or playing quietly. Nice. Maybe I could go to the bathroom and get another half hour until I needed to get up and make breakfast. I stretched, slowly easing into consciousness.

That's strange. Something felt... wet. Like I had gotten my period. Or wet the bed. Or something. For a moment, I was horrified that my lady parts had gotten so messed up from being hugely pregnant that I had wet the bed. But it wasn't that wet. Just a little. And I was 38 weeks and 1 day pregnant. So...

I rolled over, heaving my big belly, and stood up. A bit of fluid trickled between my legs. Not a lot- not enough to get onto the floor. Just enough to get my PJ bottoms wet. I checked the sheets where I had been sleeping: no blood, and only a few small quarter-size wet spots. Whew. So was I peeing? I had to pee so bad that it felt like it could have been pee... I took a step towards the door. A tiny bit more fluid seeped between my legs. Oh man.

I made it to the bathroom and peed. I stood up and a bit more fluid trickled out, this time running down my bare leg. Still no blood- the fluid was nice and clear. The nurse in me was reassured; no meconium in my amniotic fluid! And that's when it hit me. My water had broken. Ready or not, I would be having a baby soon!

I stood in the bathroom for a minute, waiting for the contractions. They didn't come. Hmm. My only other experience with giving birth involved having my labor induced with drugs and my water artificially broken to get things going (and let me assure you, once they did that, things DID get going!) So this was different... amniotic fluid, and no contractions? Well, okay.

I grabbed a menstrual pad and a few clean towels and headed back to bed. Clean underwear with a pad in them, and a few towels thrown onto the sheets, and back to bed I went. My cell phone was on my nightstand from having texted John goodnight before bed, so I reached over and tried calling him. As expected, he didn't pick up. I wanted him to be the first to know, so I held off on calling anyone else. But I did send him a text to call me right away. I laid down and waited for the contractions, thankful that it was a Sunday and my in-laws would be able to head down as soon as I let them know we would need them. I had been so worried that I would go into labor while everyone was busy at work! Then I thought about what would need to happen before I could have the baby; switch over the FBI duties, write the note to Abigail's school, feed the kids breakfast.

Eventually, John called from the car. I asked him if he would like to have a baby today (in retrospect, I probably should have made him pull over before saying that.) The excitement made his voice go up an octave. "Are you serious?" he asked. I assured him that broken water meant my body was serious, whether or not I was:) I told him to hurry home, feeling just a slight contraction. It was no rush- it wasn't like the baby was coming now- but I wanted him with me. I hung up with him, knowing it would be 45 minutes or so until he got home. I called our parents and told them the news, reassuring John's folks, Steve and Elaine, that they had some time before we would need them (the plan was that Anna would stay with Steve and Abigail and Elaine would be with me at the hospital.) I tried calling my sister, and when I couldn't get ahold of her, put my mom on the case of tracking down a friend (or her roommate) to wake her up and tell her what was going on... I knew there was a possibility that she could hop on a plane and be here before or soon after the baby was born. I called our Doula, Heather. I called the hospital to give them a heads up (they told me I should come in right away since my water had broken. Yeah, right. And no thank you! I would have preferred to not have to go into the hospital at all to have my baby, but given the risk for complications, John felt compelled to have a safety net around. That said, we both agreed that there was no reason I couldn't spend most of my labor at home.) My phone was very warm by the time I put it down again.

I heard the kids stirring, so I got up and made them some breakfast (if that is what microwaving some oatmeal is called.) I made myself eat some oatmeal, knowing I would need energy, but also knowing that oatmeal is not that bad if you end up vomiting (as I did in labor with Abigail.) I didn't have much of an appetite, so when I was done, I rinsed our dishes and put them in the dishwasher.I cleaned up the kitchen a bit. Every move brought a little gush of fluid, and I soaked through my super-absorbent pad pretty quickly. I turned on a movie for the kids and finished straightening up the house a bit, soaking through a second pad in the process. I grabbed some PowerAde (bought specifically for this purpose) and went to change my wet pants again.

By now, the Abigail had figured out something was up, and asked me about it. I told her that the baby would be coming today. She was excited. Anna was excited that Mimi and Grandpa were going to come to our house:) Abigail told me that she would take great care of me and do anything I needed. There wasn't much to do, so she said she would help take care of Anna for me. They got dressed and ready for the day. John came home. I soaked another pad, and noticed that the contractions were slightly stronger. I put a movie on for the kids and told them that Daddy and I were going to rest- he because he had been up all night, working, and I because I expected to be up all night, working.

I went to lay down. John was already snoring, but woke up a bit when I climbed into bed. I told him I planned to rest. He though it was a great idea and was snoring again in no time... until my sister (finally) called.  The morning was filled with hurried phone calls and text messages as we tried to make all the arrangements. Neither of us rested much. And every time I had to get up and pee, I gushed more amniotic fluid. Eventually I got tired of the soaked pads and wet pants and put a big bath towel between my legs whenever I got up.

At about 11 I was walking back from the bathroom and had the kind of contraction that made me pause for a second. Well, that was a real contraction. Finally. I told John and decided to get serious about resting. I knew this labor was only going to get harder... it was on.


Missy wrote this really great post about how "crazy" she is. Or, at least, about how crazy some people think she is. Mostly because she has 4 kids and is adopting another from Ethiopia. But also because when you find your passion, your response to the Lord's call might just seem crazy!

But it seems to me that crazy is really a subjective term. I think it's more a matter of perspective.

Before I adopted a child, the families that adopted sibling groups, older children, children with special needs, HIV+ kids, etc seemed, well, a little crazy to me. Passionate, compassionate, inspiring... yes. But also just a little crazy. I couldn't understand it... and to be honest, the idea of doing what they were doing was not only crazy... but a little frightening, too. "There's no way I could ever do that. None. I am not cut out for that at all."

And then I went. And I saw. And my heart broke.

And I think my heart lined up more with God's heart. And suddenly, those choices that seemed so crazy only a few months before now seemed reasonable... attainable, even. I was considering those same things. Was I called to adopt an older child? And HIV+ child? More than one child at a time?

So I am sitting here, reflecting on how "crazy" people might think I am, with my beautiful Ethiopian daughter smack dab between my white bio kids. And how normal I seem (to me, at least!) And what it is that God is calling me to do. And if that might just seem a bit "crazy." And how I am okay with that.

But I am also thinking that we need to create a culture where "crazy" becomes the norm. Where we don't think it's odd to adopt a child with special needs. Where we don't raise our eyebrows when someone says "oh, we are adopting a sibling group of 4" to join their 5 already at home. Where we don't inwardly say "oh, really?" when we meet a young lady who "gave up her real life" and moved to Africa to love orphans. This is the gospel in action. This is what love does. This is how we should live. It should be crazy.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Change?

I first started this blog, way back in 2007, I realized that I wanted a separate place to keep my adoption "stuff" than on my "regular" blog. Not because adoption was such a separate part of my life... exactly the opposite: because it was quickly becoming my whole life. I wanted to be able to remind myself that I was still me, still a momma to Abigail, still a nurse... still me, through this whole process. I also wanted the adoption process info to be easily accessible to other adoptive parents who stopped by the blog.

It made sense at the time. I think it was the right thing at the time. It even made sense as this changed into a pregnancy blog to continue to keep it separate from my "regular" blog (although, by that point, I was rarely posting anything besides pregnancy stuff.)

But now, as I've come to realize that this blog is changing again (notice the different description I put up at the header?) and in light of the fact that I feel like God is drawing me to live more radically, I am really torn about keeping this blog separate from my daily life blog. Not that it's some big, radical thing to condense the two blogs, because it's not (although, it kind of feels like it is.) It's more about the idea that this call to orphan care is not just a "part" of me, separate from who I "really" am... this call to orphan care is as central to my identity as being a mom, or a wife, or a nurse, or any of those things that define me.

So I am really thinking about it. Condensing my two blogs. Moving this one over to my other one. Because adoption, birth, orphan care... I mean, more than anything else, they really do define me- they define the future me.

What if I was radical?

I was thinking in the shower (which is a great place to think!) today about this article over at World Magazine. The author basically says that if more pastors and church leaders would adopt, it would create more of a culture of adoption in the church. He writes "Pastors tend to preach and teach about their interests and practices. And American Christians tend to apply the Bible to real life issues after a pastor or recognized leader stirs up interest. So if church leaders would cast a practice-driven vision for orphan care, churchgoers likely would be challenged to participate in one of the most ancient practices of God’s covenant people (Exodus 22; Deuteronomy 14, 16, 24)." More specifically, I was thinking about the comments that followed that article, and the exchange over here.

People get tied up in the comments over what constitutes an "orphan" and if we are called to care for only orphans (no parents) or foster children as well... and the ways in which this is to be done (adoption through the state, private adoption, foster care, etc.) There was a lot of criticism of the foster/adopt system in the US (yes, it's broken) as well as several people who basically said "adoption and/or foster care is not my calling."

Now, to some degree, I agree with all of this. But it also sort of seems like an excuse. I don't have everything sorted out in my head yet, but here are some of my thoughts:

As a Christ-follower, we are all called to care for orphans (the fatherless, or, as I think of them- those who don't have families, which would include both "true orphans" and foster children) and widows. It's our job to figure out the exact nature of our call. For some, it is adoption and/or foster care. For others, it may be financially supporting another family's adoption. Maybe it's providing respite care, providing meals for adoptive/foster parents, or caring for the kids while mom and dad go on a date. Maybe it's providing care, love, and support to birth mothers as they make an adoption plan and after they go through the painful process of placing a child for adoption. Maybe it's coming along side a family in distress so that the children remain in that family in a safe and loving way. Maybe it's entering into a mentoring relationship with a child who is aging out of foster care to support and guide them as they enter the world of adulthood. Not all of us are called to adopt, but we are all called. And if we can't identify a way in which we are responding to the call, saying "we aren't called to foster/adopt" is just an excuse. You are called- find your way to fulfill that call.

It's hard for me to believe, however, that there are not enough Christians in this country to adopt the 115,000 children who are available for adoption right now. I think there is some truth in the idea that Bradley presents; our pastors and church leaders should be making orphan and widow care just as much of a priority as other kinds of giving (tithing, missions, etc.) The church should have a culture of orphan (adoption/foster) and widow care as the norm. Although there are several that are doing this already, I don't think this is the true culture of most churches. And our pastors/leaders are the ones in a position to change that. Now, I don't believe that all pastors should adopt/foster, but I think they do have a responsibility to see how they are leading their congregation in this area. In addition to the ways mentioned above, pastors are in a unique position to council couples (in premarital classes and through other ministries aimed at couples) that adoption is part of God's plan, and may be part of God's specific plan for them. More often than not, it's not God saying "yes" to our desire to adopt--- it's us saying "yes" to God's plan for us to adopt! If we are constantly seeking God's plan and have our minds and hearts open to this, maybe we will hear more "YES!" from God  in this area!

The problem, though, is not that Christians aren't adopting or fostering. Sadly, it's a much bigger problem. It's not the global orphan crisis of 147 million orphans. It's not the AIDS crisis, or the natural disasters or the unethical government practices that is our problem. It's our hearts. Because adopting a child with severe RAD is a pretty radical thing to do. Fostering a child with severe medical needs is a pretty radical thing to do. Bringing an underweight, sickly, HIV+, African child into your affluent white home and then loving them as the beloved child of God that they are is a radical thing to do. We are called to live radically- to do the very things that make unbelievers anxious. We are called to live without fear, to live with faith that God's plan is the right plan, and He will equip us to carry out His work in this earth. But how many of us are actually living this way? That is our problem.

I wrote before about trying to figure out what my role is in orphan care. And as I was in the shower, I feel like God was telling me that the reason this is so confusing... the reason I don't know what it is that I am supposed to be doing... is because I haven't opened myself up to living radically. I'll be honest, when I've thought about my role in orphan care, what I really meant was which organization I should give my time and money to, or if there was a way that my training as a RN could be beneficial to orphans. But the needs are so great. What if God wants to call me to foster... to foster kids with medical needs... that would be pretty radical. What if God wants to call me to go and mentor young women who will soon be aging out of the system- for me, that would be pretty radical. What if God wants to call me to do something downright crazy and adopt a sibling group of teens from the waiting children domestically or internationally? That would be completely radical! Am I ready to say "yes" to what God is ready to call me to do? Am I ready to live radically?

I'll be honest: I'm not. And neither is John. Yet. But let's just pretend for a minute that we were part of a Body that had adoption/foster care as part of the culture. A church where those who were called to do something radical were supported and cared for financially, emotionally, physically, and spiritually? Where there was a group you could turn to and say "This is so hard! I can't do it!" and they would turn around and not only tell you that you can do all things through Christ, but come over and bring you dinner and clean your house and give you some respite? What if that culture of caring for orphans and widows was so "normal" that the announcement of planning to adopt or foster didn't bring 546 questions about the process, but instead triggered a caring response from the Body to love and support you through each step of the process, offering encouragement when times were hard, finances when it was expensive, helping hands when you were stretched too thin, knowledge and expertise when you were dealing with situations beyond your experience, love when you felt like you had given all you had... what if?

What if we did instead of said?

What if we, as the Body, lived radically?

What if I was radical?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Crockpot Puffy Pizza Review

So, I made Crockpot Puffy Pizza. Kinda. I know it wasn't on my meal plan until Friday, but we switched the Farm Show trip to Friday, so I made it today. Sorta. Here's what I did:

Grace's Crockpot Pizza Casserole
  • 1lb. Italian sausage, crumbled, browned, drained
  • 15 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 2 T Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 t garlic powder
  • 1 T cornstarch
  • 1 box Jiffy pizza crust mix
  • 1/2 C. hot water
  • 1 C Italian cheese blend
  • 1 C mozzarella cheese
Combine first 6 ingredients in saucepan and heat until bubbly and thickened; pour into 4qt crockpot (I used non-stick spray inside mine first, and it did help with the clean up.) Separately, combine crust mix and hot water; allow to stand for 5-10 minutes in a warm place (per box instructions.) Mix Italian cheese into crust mixture and spread on top of sauce. Top with mozzarella cheese.

My casserole was done after 2 hours on high (my crockpot cooks hot- next time I will cook on low and see if I can stretch it to 4 hours. I ended up taking the lid off and leaving it on "warm" until we were ready to eat since it cooked so quickly this time.)

I would make this again; the kids ate it, and John and I both had seconds. I think this would work with a variety of combinations- the ground beef like the original recipe calls for, or other pizza toppings (ham, bacon, and pineapple, anyone?) in place of the Italian sausage. (The original recipe suggests adding your toppings on top of the crust/cheese, but I think I would put them down in the bottom with the sauce, unless you like your pepperoni or whatever to be on the crispy side.)

However, I would not call this "pizza." In fact, I was careful to call it a "casserole" to my kids, knowing that if I got their hopes up for "pizza," they would be disappointed and not eat it. This is definitely more of a casserole, anyway, so just be prepared. That said, using the crust mix, I did not end up with anything that was "quiche" consistency, like some of the commenters did.

Overall, I would make it again, but it's not going to be a weekly or even monthly recipe for us. Unless the kids really start requesting it tomorrow.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Many Things I Am Not

A lot of my teen years all of my early-mid 20s were spent figuring out who I am and what I am really all about. I am a Christ-follower. I am a biological and adoptive mother. I am a nurse, although most of the time I am not sure I want to be. I am a wife. I am an introvert. I am a daughter, a sister, and a friend. I am a learner, a reader, a writer. I am a bit of a bleeding heart and I believe all people deserve love. I am still trying to figure out my role in caring for widows and orphans.

But lately, I have been thinking a lot about the things I am not.

I am not some great thinker or philosopher.

I am not artistic, and my ability to create anything that even I appreciate (let alone that others appreciate) is pretty limited.

I am not a great writer, much as I wish I was.

I am not crafty. At all.

I am not stylish or trendy, and I have no idea how to put an outfit or a room “together.”

I am not the kind of person who looks at the world with a unique lens and finds wonder, mystery and significance in the simple moments that make up my day.

I am not that great of a mother; I find my own selfishness often driving me to a short temper and putting my needs ahead of my children.

I am not that great of a wife, although my husband is gracious enough to deny this.

I am not as kind or patient or generous as I want to be.

I am not a great conversationalist; in fact, I can be very difficult to talk to if we aren’t already friends.

I am not savvy or worldly or well-traveled.

But then…

I am not too caught up in my own life to be heartbroken for the trials of others.

I am not sure what I want to be when I grow up, and that makes me feel like I can still be whatever God calls me to be.

I am not a fighter, but I’m not afraid to step up when something is important.

I am not too concerned with my own well-being to give when I feel like I have nothing left.

I am not more interested in what people say about me than in doing what is right.

I am not afraid of a challenge… only of not doing my best.

I am not on this earth to impress people.

There are many things I am not. And I like it that way.

What's For Dinner? 1/10/11 to 1/16/11

We are going out of town next week*, so I am trying to use up whatever is in the fridge before we go, thus this week's dinners will be very fruit and veggie oriented. I am also trying to not create too much leftovers, and plan to eat whatever leftovers there are for lunch this week and over the weekend.

Monday: Crockpot Pasta Fagioli Soup (half will be frozen before adding pasta), steamed veggies, cheesy garlic toast
Tuesday: Fundraiser Dinner at Fuddruckers (any locals who want to support Nye, let me know and I will get you a fundraiser coupon/voucher thing!)
Wednesday: Farm Show!!!! (Can you say "Fried Cheese"?)
Thursday: Crockpot Parmesean Talapia, Creamy Crockpot Risotto, steamed veggies
Friday: Crockpot Puffy Pizza, veggies with dip, fresh fruit slices
Saturday: Crokpot Gumbo, brown rice, whatever veggies are left in the fridge
Sunday: Leftovers, Crockpot Potatoes Au Gratin (any leftovers will be breakfast with some turkey bacon), anything fresh that needs to be eaten

I may also make and freeze a batch of Crockpot French Onion Soup to use up my onions, We'll see.

*Note to any would-be house robbers: not only do we have a guard cat who can disable you and make you beg for mercy, we also will have a house sitter here, so don't try to take our super-cool Roomba. Feel free to take the crazy cat (Seven), our dust bunnies, and my husband's ugly orange chair in the basement.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Slimming down in 2011

I had another blog in which I published some helpful hints and tips for planning your Ethiopia trip, notes on things to do and places to stay in-country, and other useful information. I decided to consolidate that blog into this one, and that content is now here in this blog. You can find that information by using the links on the right; all the posts have been labeled "been there done that." Also, if you have any info that would be helpful to include (say, a post you wrote about your travel agency or a hint you would like included), just comment here or email me at yellow_grace AT yahoo DOT com.


Photo Source

I am seriously jonesin' for this tote, mug, car decal, and t-shirt (over at the Minus 1 Project). Seriously, one of the best adoption t-shirts I have seen.

Photo Source

My girls got these t-shirt for Christmas from my sister, courtesy of Calling Orphans Home. Seriously cute. I wouldn't mind one of those either:)

What are your favorite adoption/orphan care fundraiser products?

Goat + Robot

Photo Source

What do these two images have to do with each other? They were my 2 favorite Christmas gifts! My in-laws donated a goat through Heifer International and got me a Roomba iRobot vacuum! Thanks Steve and Elaine! 

I am trying to get my Roomba set up today... but it has a 16 hour initial charge to complete, so I won't be able to clean with it until tomorrow:( Looking forward to that, though!

(In all fairness, we did not exchange gifts on my side of the family:)

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Just a little update...

How in the world will I tote my baby around for another 6-9 months until he learns to walk? He will be way too heavy! He is already pretty heavy:)

We were all sick over the holidays, but seem to be on the mend now. Hope we are completely well and back into the swing of things before we head to Jackson, MS in 2 weeks.

Do you remember when I wrote about the nursing cover giveaway from MBSprout? I've really enjoyed using it... in fact, when John Andrew was only 3 days old and we had to go to his doctor's appointment, his pediatrician complimented it! That was just the first of many compliments I have received. If you or someone you know is pregnant or recently had a baby, I definitely recommend one of these.

Have you ever cooked with bulgur wheat? I haven't. I'm sure I've eaten it, but I've never cooked with it. But, I found some recently in the bulk section of our grocery, and since we have been enjoying a variety of whole grains as hot cereals compliments of the crock pot or rice cooker, I am going to try this!. Supposedly, it doesn't need to cook long, so I should be able to do it in the rice cooker (ratio of 1:2 for grain:water). BUT I also read that you could do it overnight in the crock pot... mixing it with other grains such as barley, oats, etc. The ratio then is 1:3. I might try this, too, as I still haven't totally sold the girls on barley for breakfast. I also think this recipe looks interesting. And bulgur apparently makes a much more nutritious substitute for couscous and rice as a side dish.

Also, sometimes I write about things other than food and my kids. Just not today.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Post-Adoption Guilt

Wow. This is another post that I am cautious in writing, because it is possibly going to ruffle some feathers. As always, I am writing with a spirit of honesty about my own struggles, not judging others.

Have any of you ever experienced guilt after giving birth to a child after completing an adoption? I don't know if I am explaining it right... Basically, I sometimes feel guilty for giving birth to another child, when I know there are so many children in the world (Ethiopia) that need families and who I would be more than willing to adopt. Don't misunderstand me; I know that John Andrew is the right child for our family right now, and moreover, I feel incredibly blessed to have been able to have a healthy and safe pregnancy and to have shared this experience with John and the girls. I love him immensely, and I cannot imagine a better baby.

But it doesn't take away from the feeling that we could have... or should have... adopted. (Although, since we just had our first wedding anniversary on the 26th of December, we actually couldn't have adopted since we didn't meet the 2 year marriage criteria, but I digress...)

I know that partially, these feelings stem from wanting to adopt again. I am not saying we are going to adopt again, but I would love to adopt again. It just may not be the right thing for our family. In that setting, still having a heart for orphans- especially those who are unadoptable- I am still trying to figure out my role in orphan care. As my husband's cousin said at our Christmas gathering... we are all called to care for orphans, so it's not a matter of if we are going to care for them, but rather how we are going to care for them. Adoption is a small piece of the how. But true orphan care is so much bigger than adoption. And I'm just not sure how I fit into that bigger picture of orphan care. I know my work with orphans isn't completed; adoption was not the end point for me- it was the beginning of a passionate love affair, to be honest.

I think part of the guilt is also related to the incredible expense of my pregnancy and birth, especially because of the complications/risks. That money (which, thankfully, was paid by insurance) would have been more than enough to complete an adoption (or 2- maybe 3.)

Another part may be that, truth be told, I didn't and still don't love the process of adoption... the paper chasing, the waiting, the uncertainty, the fears, the unknowns, the unpredictable nature of international adoption. In contrast, I loved being pregnant (except the heartburn.) I guess maybe I feel like knowing and expressing my joy in the pregnancy process somehow makes the adoption process seem less... fulfilling? or desirable? Which is silly, because while I am not sure I would want to be pregnant again, I would more than love to adopt again! I know this about myself- and I know that I don't view either adoption or pregnancy as "better" than the other, but I think the preference within myself leads to part of the guilt.

What do you think? Have you experienced this? Am I just crazy and hormonal?

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Rice Cooker Red Beans and Rice Recipe

So, I love red beans and rice, but I've only ever made it from a box mix. Not only is that probably not the healthiest option, it is also expensive enough that I only make it on occasion. I figured it couldn't be that difficult to make from scratch, but I needed to make it in the rice cooker because I don't have the time to watch the rice cook and make sure it's removed from cooking when it's the right consistency.

I checked a few recipes I found online, but didn't find a rice cooker recipe that seemed to reflect the way I like my red beans and rice. I looked at a few stove top recipes and decided it couldn't be too much different. Based on the recipes I found and the ingredients I had on hand, here is what I did (verdict following.)

Rice Cooker Red Beans and Rice
  • 1 C. brown rice, rinsed
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 T. cumin
  • 2 T. onion flakes
  • 2 t. garlic powder
  • 1/2 t. oregano
  • 1 (15.5 oz) can diced tomatoes, drained and juice reserved
  • 1 (15.5 oz) can chili beans, drained and rinsed
  • water
  • chicken bullion
Add olive oil to skillet and heat. Add rice and spices and brown. Dump into rice cooker. Add drained tomatoes and rinsed beans. Add enough water to the reserved tomato juice to make 2 cups and add to rice cooker. Add enough bullion for 2 cups of broth. Cook.

This had a great flavor without being too spicy for the kids, but the rice was a bit on the "crunchy" side. I think this was because I browned it before I cooked it, but it might also be because I needed more fluids- not sure on this, but next time I make it, I will try not browning the rice on the stove top first, just putting the rice, spices, and oil into the rice cooker. The oregano can be omitted. I used chili beans because that is what I had around, but regular kidney beans would work just fine. If using unflavored kidney beans, I would add some chili powder to the spices (maybe 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon?) to give it that smokey, slightly spicy taste. If you use water instead of broth, I would add some salt (maybe 1/2 teaspoon).

This is super easy to make, very inexpensive, uses ingredients that I always have on hand, very low fat, and represents a complete protein. I anticipate making this often in the future- as a side dish, as burrito filling, or as a main dish (topped with sour cream, cheese, salsa... or my favorite- guacamole!) Both girls liked it, I loved it, and John thought it was good- except for the crunchiness. Will be making this again!
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