March 28, 2012

Why We Want to Adopt - Part 2

 And now, for the rest of the story...

Fast forward several years - Jon and I are married. One of the things I loved about his family from the very beginning is that they accept everyone. And everyone is welcome in their home. At any time. For however long you need. Their door is literally always open. Jon's parents live in a small town, come from larger families, and know pretty much everyone in the area, making a steady stream of company almost inevitable. That included me, as a newcomer to the family, and I felt at home with them from day 1.

My family also had a similar open-door policy, but living way out in the country wasn't quite as conducive to frequent visitors. So after we got married, I really wanted to create a household where people were welcome. It's worked pretty well so far. We've been able to provide a "home away from home" for several college students, and our current resident, Madie. We've also been blessed to have all three of my brothers attend SDSU and have them frequently "pop in" right around meal times. We love it when people stop in for no reason, and I've even been able to 'lighten-up' enough that I don't mind at all when my house is complete disaster.

Although we hadn't officially discussed adoption after we got married, it was definitely in the back of my mind. At that point, Jon had never given it a thought. Eleven months into our first year, we had our first child. And of course, that changes things in a HUGE way. Suddenly the world isn't all about you anymore, or about you at all. A few months later, we were sitting together at church; I was holding our sleeping son. One of our friends had recently returned from a mission trip and gave a brief summary of how they'd served and what they'd learned. She mentioned several service projects that filled up the first several days. But the day before they came home they did something different. The words are almost burned into my memory. She said "we spent the whole day at the orphanage, and all we did was hold and hug the children, because there are so many children and so few staff, that most of them never get touched."

I think my heart broke a little bit that day. Here I was holding my sleeping child, all bundled up in fancy new clothes and blankets hand-made with love by people who cared about my son. And on the other side of the world, there was a baby just like mine, who didn't even have access to one of the most basic needs: human touch. The thought just pierced me.

In my many years as a Christian, there are few occasions when I've heard God speak to me loud and clear. But that day was one. He said, "Someday, I want you to hold one of those children." And I know he was preparing me in advance for that moment, because I felt no hesitation at all and in my mind answered back, "yes Lord, I can do that."

We didn't have much time to think about adoption the next couple years, because our own children came so quickly and unexpectedly that we barely had our time to catch our breath in between. But somewhere in there, we had brief conversations about it and Jon became very open to the idea. After our third child, we became serious about pursuing adoption and began researching. I mentioned (in THIS post) that I'd always felt God leading us toward China. It was often in ways that I couldn't be sure whether it was God or coincidence. But looking back on all the coincidences as a whole, I can see God's hand. Often, when I was aching about how to choose a country, I'd spend a few minutes praying about it, then open up a magazine and see an article about Chinese adoption. Once, immediately after praying about it, I stood up to see a small Asian girl walking by my house and looking at me as I stood by the window. After many, many similar instances, the pattern seemed obvious.

James 1:27 says, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after widows and orphans in their distress and keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

I spent some time studying that verse to see if there was any meaning that I was missing, or more clear description of what it meant to "look after" orphans. But it means exactly as it says...look after them, care for them, reach out to them, love them.

I love the Message version (26-27): Anyone who sets himself up as "religious" by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.

Yes Lord, I can do that.

March 25, 2012

Meet Madie

I was going to introduce Madie after I finished the "Why we want to adopt - part 2" post, because our reasons for adopting and having her here go hand in hand. However, we've been really busy lately and I haven't had time to finish that one yet. But Madie and I had a fun time tonight concocting an interesting thing she discovered on Pinterest, so we decided we should introduce her now.

Madie has been living with us since August (2011). We've enjoyed having graduate student-age kids live with us on several occasions, but Madie is the first high schooler. And while we've discovered that having a high schooler is quite a bit different than a college age-er, we're really enjoying having her here.

Two years ago, Madie was living Roseville, MN and playing hockey there. And she plays REALLY well. Then her family had to move to Iowa, and Iowa isn't *quite* as excited about hockey as Minnesotans are. So through a series of events, she ended up getting connected with the Brookings hockey team and considered moving up here to play for them, hoping to have a better shot at playing in college. But she needed somewhere to live. That's where we came in.

Madie doesn't not share our affinity for Real Food. In fact, just the opposite. She's totally OK with her Lean Pockets and microwavable EasyMac (the sight of which makes me CRINGE). At first I felt a little bad about this, since she didn't eat much at all. But I eventually decided since we warned her about it before she moved in, she knew what she was getting into.

But she found this little recipe on Pinterest, and we decided we just had to try it. I figured the only way I could blog about it was by introducing her first and blaming it on her (you'll take the hit, right Madie?). So this is totally NOT "Outside the store-bought box." But it was kind of fun to make. And it was right up Madie's alley.

What do you get when you mix Oreos and chocolate chip cookie dough?
And form the cookie dough around the Oreo...

And bake...
Yes. It's an Oreo stuffed chocolate chip cookie. It was HUGE. And I had to try one. And then, I felt it's wrath. The Rolaids and I have become reaquainted.

Madie ate two. And I think she loved every minute of it :)

Ni Hao Yall

March 11, 2012

What's In Your Kids School Lunch?

I haven't exactly explained why we choose to pack our children's lunch when they go to school, although by now, I think the reasons are probably fairly obvious. But just in case you need another reason to consider making the switch to home-packed lunches, here you go!

Pink Slime For School Lunch: Government Buying 7 Million Pounds Of Ammonia-Treated Meat For Meals

"Pink slime" is the term used for a mixture of fatty meat scrap and connective tissue (formerly used only for pet food and rendering) that is treated with ammonia hydroxide to remove pathogens like salmonella and E coli. These so-called "Lean Beef Trimmings," are produced by Beef Products, Inc.
Two former government microbiologists claim that, for political reasons, pink slime was approved for human consumption by USDA over serious safety concerns.
Government and industry records obtained by The New York Times in 2009 showed that "in testing for the school lunch program, E. coli and salmonella pathogens have been found dozens of times in Beef Products meat, challenging claims by the company and the USDA about the effectiveness of the treatment. Since 2005, E. coli has been found 3 times and salmonella 48 times, including back-to-back incidents in August in which two 27,000-pound batches were found to be contaminated. The meat was caught before reaching lunch-rooms trays."
Even apart from safety concerns, it is simply wrong to feed our children connective tissues and beef scraps that were, in the past, destined for use in pet food and rendering and were not considered fit for human consumption.
Due to public outcry, fast food giants like McDonald's and Taco Bell have stopped using pink slime in their food.  But the federal government continues to allow its use in school food and has just authorized the purchase of ground beef which collectively contains an additional 7 million pounds of pink slime for consumption by our nation's children.
Seriously, I can't even believe this stuff is real sometimes.

Read the full story HERE.
Sign the petition asking the USDA to keep this stuff out of school lunches HERE.

What are MY kids eating tomorrow for lunch? Definitely not pink slime.

I know every single ingredient in the lunch my kids will eat tomorrow. PB&J with homemade peanut butter on homemade wheat bread, fresh mango chunks and a homemade oatmeal, walnut & cranberry cookie.  (BTW - these little Ziploc divided containers are GREAT for packing lunches). Personally, I think this is infinitely better than pink slime or whatever other chemicals or additives the USDA can dream up.

Sign the petition if you agree.


Why We Want to Adopt - Part 1

We've been asked the question "why?" more times than I can count when it comes to the adoption. And it's a valid question, especially for us. With three wonderful kids already in our family, I'm sure people want to know why we'd take on such massive amounts of paperwork and expense just to add another child.

In some ways, the answer is long, but in the end, it boils down to something extremely simple. To fully understand though, you have to go through the long version to get the simple answer.

Jon and I both grew up in families that were greatly impacted by adoption. My dad was adopted as an infant and grew up with wonderful, loving parents. His birth mother was a teenager and single, and knew she wouldn't be able to provide the life for him that she wanted. Back then, most adoptions were closed, and so my dad knew nothing of her other than a few facts on a sheet of paper; her height, weight, eye color, hobbies, etc.

Forty-seven years later, both my dad's parents had passed away and my mom became interested in trying to locate his birth mother. She added his information to several websites and many months later, my dad received an email that stated, "I think I may be your birth mother." In true Dad fashion, he created and sent her a quiz to determine if she really could be. She passed with flying colors.

Me, Bonnie, Tyler, my dad

We were able to meet Bonnie just a few weeks after I had our first child. Holding our son was, for her, like having a little piece of my dad back. Our family has enjoyed learning about her life and been able to have many questions answered. And for her, when asked about why she wanted to find my dad, she said "I just wanted to know that he was OK." Finding him lifted a life-long weight from her shoulders.

Jon also grew up with an acceptance of adoption, but from a different angle. His mom found herself single and pregnant as a teenager, and like Bonnie, decided that she couldn't give her child the life she wanted for her. Again, since it was a closed adoption, she moved on, married Jon's dad and had three more children. Of course, 'moving on' doesn't mean forgetting, and Jon still remembers the day when he was a teenager and Heather called for the first time and his mom burst into tears of joy.

When she turned 18, Heather decided to contact her birth mother. Ever since that day, Heather has been embraced as a member of the family. Jon and his siblings were thrilled to gain a half-sister, and since she and her husband now have 2 sons, his parents have gained two grandchildren.

We love spending time with Heather and her family and continue to be amazed at the similarities between her and Jon's mom.

Me, Jon, Heather, Maggie (Jon's mom), Julie (Jon's sister), Craig (Heather's husband)

It has been a blessing for both of us to grow up in families where adoption was not just accepted, but experienced. While we've also been able to see some of the struggles, they are far outweighed by the joys. Since we are close to both our families, their full support of our adoption was very important to us. Their experiences have helped them understand why we want to adopt and we're thankful for their love and acceptance of our decision. Being able to see adoption as the "norm" instead of the "exception" instilled a passion for it in both of us, even though it wasn't ignited until many years later.

Part 2, to come :)

March 8, 2012

The Big Green

I'm pretty sure it's safe to say that 'green smoothies' have become somewhat of a trend lately, although I really think labeling a food as "trendy" is kind of an unusual concept. Either way, it's a good thing, since people's fascination with green smoothies often leads them to try one. And for most people, it's something new to them and sort of ends up being an easy and painless way to get some additional nutrients.

We've been making these for quite a while. I've tried lots of different ones, but this one is my absolute favorite.

Here's what you need to make 2 - 1 1/2 C. servings:
1 C. milk (or milk subsitute)
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
2 T. peanut butter (or other nut butter)
2 T. flax, chia or hemp seeds (I was out of ALL these so there's none in the picture)
1/4 - 1/2 cup blueberries
1 large banana
1 T. barley grass powder
3 cups spinach
water (or ice) for desired consistency

Let me just note that ALL these measurements are pretty much approximate. I never measure any of it, except maybe the protein powder just because it comes with the scoop. I usually just throw it all in and it always tastes good.

I'm going guess that not everyone has used or even heard of barley grass powder.

Barley grass a very nutrient dense food made by soaking barley (Hordeum vulgare)  seeds until they sprout and the shoots reach a few inches tall. The blades are then dehydrated and ground into powder. A dose of barley grass powder is one of the most efficient ways to get nutrients because gram for gram, it contains a higher concentration of nutrients than nearly any other food.
Barley grass is an extraordinarily rich source of many vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, although it does not, as sometimes claimed, contain absolutely all the nutrients needed for human health. The dried shoot is approximately 4% glutamic acid (needed for recharging antioxidants), 4% methionine (needed for the production of natural SAM-e), 3% vitamin C, 1% valine, and 1% calcium. A single tablespoon contains a day's supply of beta-carotene, betaine, biotin, boron, copper, iron, lutein, magnesium, niacin, riboflavin, and thiamine. It also contains nutritionally significant amounts of alpha-linoleic acid, oryzanol, potassium, selenium, zinc, and the tocopherols that make up vitamin E. Barley grass doesn't contain every nutrient, but it comes closer than any other food. The medicinal action of the dried shoot is due to its content of hordenine, not to be confused with a plant chemical with a similar name that is implicated in celiac disease. (Source)
Good barley grass will smell very clean and fresh, like, well.....grass. I know people who actually mix it water and drink it straight-up first thing in the morning. I've tried it that way, and let me tell you, it was bad. I almost never gag, but I could barely keep it down. It was more of a texture didn't mix into the water as well as I'd hoped. Needless to say, I put it in my smoothies now, and it works perfectly in there. And it's crazy good for you. Double bonus.

I'm also just going to mention the protein powder...

I've tried a lot of protein powders. There are a LOT out there. And to know what you need, you actually have to put some time into learning about them. They all contain different concentrations of nutrients from different protein sources and then there's all kinds of different additives to watch for and consider.

My all time favorite for taste and protein content was Syntha-6. It was wonderful with just plain water, packed 22 grams of protein per serving and only 2 grams of sugars. But a closer look at the label shows lots of stuff I DON'T like in my protein: corn syrup solids, artificial flavors, artificial colors, sucralose (i.e. Splenda), and it's not non-GMO so chances are very high it contains all sorts of genetically modified junk. It also has 200 calories, which is a bit higher than I'd like.

Finding non-GMO protein without artificial additives is easier said than done. I once walked to into a GNC and asked for it and no one in the store had any clue what I was talking about. So for now I've settled on Spiru-Tein and I'm pretty happy with it. It's a tri-part protein comprised of pea, rice and soy. It tastes good, comes in a bunch of flavors, is non-GMO, and doesn't have all the artificial garbage in it that we don't need. There's 14 grams of protein per serving (not quite as high as I'd like), and it has 8 grams of sugars (higher than I'd like), but at least it's REAL sugar and not a fake substitute. And it also contains spirulina - an algae that is rich is protein, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and carotenoids. It's a great protein for daily use. For heavy workouts, an organic whey protein would probably be better, but I haven't found a reasonably priced one yet.

Back to the smoothie!

Simply combine all ingredients, except the spinach, in the blender.

When that's done, add the spinach.
Heap it up...the more spinach, the better :)

Blend everything together. Add water if needed to thin it out and get the spinach to mix in.

And there you have it! Amazingly delicious and healthy green smoothies.
Best part about these?...

My kids LOVE them (even with all that other stuff in there, they pretty much just taste like peanut butter).

And that is definitely a good thing :)