Saturday, December 31, 2011

Half-hearted, Undefined New Year's Resolutions

As we look forward to the New Year starting tomorrow (gulp), I realize that I have made a lot of undefined, half-hearted resolutions over the past week, but I have yet to figure out how I will fully carry any of them out in the new year.

Half-hearted, undefined resolutions:

1) follow sugar detox plan to cut most sugar out of Husband's and my diet (in reference to what I have read about excessive sugar consumption's connection to polycystic ovary syndrome)

2) start to make most of our food from scratch, buying as little processed food items as possible

3) start charting my cycles using the thermometer method (to see whether my body actually does have cycles, despite what it would lead me to believe)

4) eliminate most, if not all, chemical cleaning and hygiene products from our house and replace with homemade non-toxic cleaners

See? Not very defined. And at this point, whether I (and Husband, since much of this includes him) will be able to act on these resolutions is questionable.

For example, we have a flat-topped stove in our house. I love that stove. It is so easy to clean.

Plus, because it's flat, it doubles as work space for us when we are already using our two other limited counters for cooking. Not really a good idea. When one turns a burner off and takes a pot off of that burner, there is no reminder that a burner is still hot except for one tiny pale red light on the face of the stove above the burners. One of us (I won't say which) doesn't usually have trouble remembering not to set combustible items on hot burners, but one of us has forgotten on several occasions, resulting in charred oven mitts and, most recently, a melted tortilla bag.

The blackened brittle oven mitts were a slight inconvenience but quickly replaced. The melted tortilla bag was more irritating. Most of the plastic pulled easily from the stove, after it had cooled, but it was still obvious, to any eye, that something very red had been on that burner that shouldn't have been.

When I was younger, and silly putty and play-dough were in vogue, I used to like to press newspaper into one or the other, in order to see a perfect imprint of the picture. Colored comic strips from the paper were best for this purpose. What was left on our stove reminded me of that childhood pastime. There was no dimension to the plastic that was left, almost as if it had been painted on the burner, and I thought I could almost read the words from the tortilla bag, painted backwards onto the burner.

We tried to scrape the picture off with a spatula. And then with spoons, but to no avail.

Finally, Husband suggested we get out the Goo Gone to see if that would do the trick.

Husband was hanging a cork board on the wall for me when I got out the Goo Gone to try my luck again on the pasticky stain.

It came off easily under the chemical influence of the Goo Gone.

"Ahh... It worked!" I called to Husband in the other room.

"Good!" I heard. And then, "Do you think there's a non-toxic homemade cleaner that will replace Goo Gone?"


Obviously, whether Husband and I can commit to my resolution fantasies is yet to be seen.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas in a Dirty Shed

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Oh, is it already December 26? 

Husband and I took a few days off of work and have been making merry in Minnesota with first his family and then my family.We're still at my family's house, but things are quiet this morning. My little brother and sister are still asleep (Both of them have the night owl genes that I did not inherit. I was gasping for energy already at 8:45 last night.), my dad is reading a book with some tea at the table, Husband is doing the newspaper crossword puzzle at the table, my mom is reading the rest of the newspaper in a cushy chair in the living room, and I am using my mom's computer to read up on the connection between polycystic ovary syndrome and sugar and contemplate the possibility of starting a sugar detox for Husband and myself.

Husband and I have had a wonderful Christmas with both of our families, but something that we did with his family has firmly anchored itself in my mind and is whispering promises to stay there for a while. 

On Christmas Eve, all of Husband's family was invited to the house of his younger sister, Younger H. She lives and works at a camp right now. When we arrived at her house, apple cider and other goodies in tow, we were greeted at the front door by a sign that read "No Room in the Inn" and Husband's brother-in-law M, who took our dishes and pointed us with a smile toward the little shed to the side of the house. 

Candles flickered around the inside of the shed as Younger H ushered us inside. She invited us to take a blanket if we thought we might be cold and then take a seat in one of the chairs crammed around the focal point: a small square wooden bin resting on a milk crate. Inside the wooden bin was a towel wrapped up into a baby-shaped form. 

I must admit, I was hoping we wouldn't be out in the shed long. It was cold. I thought the bench I was sitting on might be dirty. There were seeds or bird poop on the floor of the shed.

Younger H led us through a reading of the Christmas story via Luke 2, as well as some hymns. When we were done with the reading and singing, Younger H said (and this is not a direct quote),

"I just have a few things I wanted to say... I hope that being in the shed makes you think about how there was no room in the inn for Jesus. I'm so thankful that everyone in our family here has made room in their hearts for Jesus. It's easy to celebrate on Christmas with our family and forget that not everyone has made room in their hearts for Jesus. Take time now to think of someone you know who doesn't have room in his or her heart for Jesus this Christmas."

Younger H was in tears as she said this, and it was her tears as much as her words that convicted me and made the moment stick. It's true: I usually don't spend much time on Christmas contemplating those who don't know Christ and the joy and hope this season does not hold for them because of that. But what is also true is that I do not usually feel the anguish that Younger H obviously feels for those who don't know Christ.

The day of Christmas is past, and we who know Christ have been reminded of the hope that is ours because God deigned to descend to earth as our Savior. 

Encouraged by this reminder, think of someone you know who does not know Christ. Who can you share the Good News with in the coming year?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Malted Hot Chocolate Mix Recipe

Malted Hot Chocolate Mix

25.6 oz. pkg. powdered milk
6 c. mini marshmallows
16 oz pkg. instant chocolate milk mix
13 oz jar malted milk powder
1c. powdered sugar
6 oz. jar powdered non diary creamer
½ t. salt

Pour 1/e c. mix into a mug. Add ¾ c. boiling water and stir to dissolve.

Just to let you know—you need a really big bowl to mix this up. We wanted to double the recipe, but we ended up needing to make it in two batches. Even then, just mixing up one batch we had to use our two biggest bowls. We still ended up with powder on the floor.

Speaking of powder on the floor, do not dust your house before making this mix. Every surface in our kitchen and dining area ended up with a film of chocolaty powder over it by the time we were done mixing and pouring into jars.

One final editorial note: I'm not sure if we used the right malted milk powder. We used an Ovaltine Malted Chocolate Powder. The recipe didn't taste very malt-y, so I might try to find something a little more malt-flavored next time.

This recipe was taken from Gooseberry Patch Christmas 2010 magazine.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Domestic or International?

On Friday I got together with three ladies, two of which attend the same church as Husband and I, to talk adoption. I'll call the three ladies A, S, and H. All three of them have adopted babies within the last year through the same adoption agency. One reason that I was excited to talk adoption with these ladies was that they all adopted domestically. Because my sister-in-law and her husband recently finished an international adoption, I have felt more familiar and comfortable with the international adoption process (though still very uninformed about all things adoption). I wanted to learn more first-hand about the domestic adoption process.

A few things have stuck with me after my conversation with A, S, and H on Friday.

First, domstic adoption can be (though it isn't always) faster. All three of these ladies started their adoption process last December. Two of them have had their babies home for six months already. That means their entire adoption process took about six months. Wow. I must admit, it's a little hard not to let that in and of itself sway me away from international adoption. Especially because all three of these adorable bright-eyed babies were present at our Friday get-together. Sigh. I've recently been reading a variety of adoption blogs that a friend of my sister-in-law put together. (You can find them here.) I've read adoptive parents in the adoption process described as vulnerable, tunnel-visioned, desperate, and psychotic. Husband and I are not even in the adoption process yet, but I already feel that I can identify, to some extent, with those descriptions. My feelings tell me, "Fast adoption is good. The faster, the better. I want a baby now. Nownownownownownow." Obviously, my feelings are not entirely sane and dependable right now. My thoughts tell me, "Keep researching. Keep talking with Husband. Keep praying. You haven't decided anything yet."

Another thing that stuck out to me from our conversation was the topic of open adoption versus closed adoption. All three of these ladies have open adoptions, to some extent. The nice thing, they pointed out, about working with a smaller adoption agency, is that the social workers will work with you and the birth parents to decide how open the adoption should be. They do not apply a cookie-cutter shape to every domestic adoption. The idea of an open adoption had always scared me. I couldn't (and still can't quite) imagine the relationship dynamics that would exist if we adopted a child and his parents were still a part of his life. I am beginning to realize, though that there are definite benefits, for the child, the birth parents and even for the adoptive parents. All three of these ladies said they started out the adoption process feeling uncomfortable with the idea of open adoption but are totally comfortable now with the level of openness in their respective adoptions. However, they are only six months, at most, into these new relationships. I feel more open to thinking about open adoption than I did a week ago, but not entirely sold. More research!

All three of the ladies talked about their feelings leading up to when their babies were born. S and her husband were matched with a baby about three months before the baby was born. A had a similar situation. H was called a few days after her baby was born. In the cases of S and A, the waiting time up until the birth was stressful, to say the least. They had to wait until the babies were born for the birth moms to sign papers relinquishing the babies to their adoptive parents, and then there was a waiting period (I can't remember how long) during which the birth mom could change her mind and take her baby back if she wanted. Then, after that, there was a 30 day period during which the birth father could come forward and claim the child (because in both cases the birth father's location was unknown). H had had an experience, prior to her recent adoption, where she and her husband were called down to Florida for a baby, but the birth mom changed her mind. This was all new to me, as the situation is usually quite different in international adoptions.

I want to want the best for everyone involved throughout our adoption, should we definitely choose to adopt. I want to continue to recognize that the decision birth parents make to give their child up for adoption will have tremendous ramifications for them and for their child, for the rest of their lives. That's not a decision to make lightly or hastily. But I could see, through my meeting on Friday, how easy it would be to cross the line into just wanting the birth mom to sign those papers as quickly as possible after the baby is born, to be able to be sure that the baby is mine. By that point, your feelings, as an adoptive parent, are entirely wrapped up in this new baby, whether or not you've seen her yet. To have the birth parents change their mind will be incredibly painful. And yet, it still may be better for both parents and child if the birth parents decide to parent. Ouch.

So, all things considered, I left the meeting with A, S, and H wanting a baby. That's not new. I was feeling open to considering domestic adoption. That is new. But it doesn't mean anything new: it just means more research.

Thank you all for putting up with my rambling thoughts on adoption. I promise, Husband and I do have other things going on in our lives right now, and I promise that my next post will be about some of those things!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

An Adoption Discussion

I have again fudged my goal to read through our entire home library before buying or borrowing another book.

I bought a book on adoption.

Two, actually.

And now Husband and I are reading the first one together. I feel fairly justified this time in the decision to fudge my reading goals, however. Both Husband and I felt led to learn more about adoption. Reading a few choice books together will help us learn, explore our feelings, and further discern God’s will in regards to our pursuing adoption.

This first adoption book that we’re reading together, quite appropriately, is The Adoption Decision, by Laura Christianson. A couple people have recommended this book to us, and one chapter in, it’s already giving rise to discussion.

Our most interesting discussion came from one of the “Questions and Ideas for Reflection or Discussion” over the first chapter. The question is: “On a scale of 1 to 5, rate your enthusiasm and readiness to adopt. If you’re married, rate your spouse’s enthusiasm. Discuss your ratings together.”

Can you imagine why this might lead to colorful discussion?

At this time, I don’t want to share exactly how Husband and I rated ourselves and each other. Suffice it to say, we both judged the other’s enthusiasm and readiness correctly, but our readiness and enthusiasm are not the same.

Our discussion was good. Thoughts that came up included the idea that—get ready for brilliance—pregnancy and adoption are not the same.

A) When a wife gets pregnant, sometimes it’s a surprise. Adoption is never a surprise.

B) As a couple, you may or may not have done your research before your become pregnant. However, as a couple you must do your research before you adopt.

C) As a couple, you may or may not be in the same place emotionally and mentally when you become pregnant (though it’s better if you are). As a couple, you must be in the same place emotionally and mentally—or at least close to the same place—when you adopt because of the points stated above.

It is this last point that I took with me and have been pondering since our discussion. Husband and I are still considering and praying about the possibility of adoption. We’re still going to read both of the books and continue to read online. But we are also going to make sure that we talk regularly and honestly.

We want to be in the same place emotionally and mentally when we make our decision whether to adopt, not adopt, or wait.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Delightful Visit with Family

We have a small house.

I may or may not have mentioned this before, but that fact has implications for what I want to share now.

Husband’s older brother, J, and his wife, A, came to visit us this weekend. We were looking forward to this visit because: 1) we do not get many family members visiting us here in Iowa, when most of our family is in Minnesota and 2) because we usually spend time with J and A in the company of the whole family (Husband’s parents, other siblings, their spouses, and our one nephew). Couple-to-couple interaction like this doesn’t occur as frequently.

As I mentioned above, we have a small house. We only have one bedroom in our little house, so hosting guests is a little tricky. Usually we put guests on the floor in the living room. This is exactly what we did with J and A when they came, but I was especially impressed with their adventurous spirits because A is pregnant. Sleeping on the floor (even on a nice air mattress like they brought with them) is comfortable about 5% of the time, and I imagine that percentage shrinks dramatically when you’re pregnant.

So, we had a cozy weekend together. The words and phrases below give an accurate summary of what we did while we were together:


Pizza buffet

Gift shops

Wooden shoes



Amish Friendship Bread

I loved having A and J here. They blessed us so much with their company, generosity, and prayers.

Hopefully they enjoyed their time in Iowa as well, and I am especially hoping that they will share with the rest of the family how fun it was visiting us and how little it matters that we don’t have a spare bedroom to put guests in.

Bring on the next round of family!

Monday, December 5, 2011

A few Christmas festivities

Husband and I got our Christmas tree set up earlier this week. I was having a little bit of a hard time getting excited about Christmas because we hadn’t seen a hint of snow yet. (If I ever end up spending a Christmas in a tropical climate, my Christmas spirit is going to be really confused.)

However as you can see from this picture…

…we now have snow! And please note how the snow is clinging to the trees in this picture. In Iowa, snow rarely floats softly to the ground. It drives, whips, and lashes, but rarely does it float. Yesterday, it floated.

The snow had perfect timing too, because Husband and I had set aside last night to work on gifts for friends and coworkers. Watching the snow drift slowly down outside made me relish the twinkling lights on our Christmas tree, warm air gushing from the floor vents, and gift-making.

We decided to make hot chocolate for our friends and coworkers this year, and as you can see from the picture below, we are not above mass producing gifts.

I hope the start of your Christmas season has been joyful (as in, I hope you’re taking time to revel in the mystery of Christ’s birth) and delicious (as in, I hope you’re baking lots of yummy cookies and drinking lots of hot chocolate).

Friday, December 2, 2011

Putting me in the Christmas Mood

This afternoon I was leaving Walmart with [what I hope will be] the last of my Christmas shopping. Being the good environmentally conscious person that I am, I had brought with me a few reusable shopping bags. I only ended up needing one for my purchases, and the other three were left to lay empty on a stack of boxes in my cart.

Our Walmart faces east, which means there is a south-north corridor for cars to drive on in front of the store. Today, it being Iowa after all, there was a stiff wind coming from the south, heading north.

As I stepped through the second set of automatic doors, that stiff wind caught my three empty shopping bags like kites and carried them out of my cart and away from me-- north.

If I had had time to think, my thoughts would have been something like this: "Ahh! Gahh! Do I stay with the cart? Or do I run after my bags? What if a car comes?"

But I didn't have time to think, so this is what I did: I let go of my cart for briefly and lunged at the closest bag. A lady who followed me out of Walmart grabbed the second bag, a little farther away than the first. I thanked her quickly and turned to look for the third bag, an orange one.

It was on a mission, with a motto that said something like, "The Arctic, or bust." I considered the quickly shrinking orange tumbleweed for a moment and decided it was worth the bruising of my pride to go after it. It was my only orange reusable shopping bag, after all.

I twisted my cart to face north and started lumbering as quickly as I could up the asphalt corridor. I noticed almost immediately that someone was running next to me. Glancing to the left, I saw, with bell in hand, the Salvation Army bell ringer, jogging like he was on a mission too. A grin creased well-worn laughter wrinkles on his face, as he turned to glance at me, and he sped up.

"I'm gaining on it!" he shouted to me over his shoulder.

And he was. Before long he caught it. By then I was no longer embarrassed but was laughing. He returned my bag to me victoriously and then headed back to his bell ringing post, ting-a-linging boisterously.

If there was ever something to put me into the Christmas mood, it was seeing that bell ringer laugh as he chased down my shopping bag.