05 December 2014

Gingerbread Cookies

Y'all, I know what you're thinking: just another cookie recipe. But these are the BEST gingerbread cookies evvvaaaaah. I would eat them for dinner if I didn't have a child to feed and a husband who wouldn't really appreciate eating cookies as a meal. #ughgrownups

They are perfect for decorating because they are not very sweet themselves, so you won't feel sick from sugar overload. But I also like them without decoration, because they can stand on their own little delicious feet. Until I eat those feet off.

I'm your worst nightmare, Gingy.


3 1/2 C flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

9 Tablespoons melted butter (that's 1 stick and 1 T)
2/3 C brown sugar
3/4 C molasses
1 egg

Mix all those dry ingredients together in a bowl (not your big bowl, some other random bowl). Enjoy the smell of Christmas and set aside.

Melt the butter (just do it ok), add it to your big bowl, then add brown sugar and molasses. Beat those together, then add your egg. Make sure they are thoroughly creamed together.

Add your dry ingredients in 2 parts; mix until combined (but no more than that; you don't want to overbeat your dough). Divide into two parts, pinch off a bite to eat, then wrap each part in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (preferably all day or overnight).

After that you can shape your dough in whatever way you'd like. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 for 6-8 minutes.

"Tico" Tacos

We eat the heck out of some tacos in this family. Mostly bc Ezra will actually eat them, usually without even complaining that he "doesn't like this dinner." They also make a pound of ground beef stretch over at least one round of leftovers.

A word of caution on crunchy taco shells: some of them are GROSS. And pretty much all of them are gross if you don't recrisp them in the oven before eating. We have a toaster oven that we love at least as much as a pet (sorry, Django) and use all the time every day. What I'm saying is, the next toaster that gives out on you, buy a toaster oven. It's what you need if you live where it's miserably hot for half the year. Ours is even mounted under the cabinet, so the countertop is free for storing Stephen's many coffee things  being covered in sugar, coffee grounds and toast crumbs  more food prep.

Not my best friend, but close.
1/2 - 1 tablespoon oil
1 lb ground beef
1 baking potato
1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 an onion
1 lime
1 can of unsalted black beans
taco shells (get Taco Bell brand shells if they sell them at your grocery store. They are the legit best.)
shredded cheddar or monterrey jack

I love this dinner because all the prep work I have to do is making sure the beef is at least mostly thawed, chopping a bit of onion, and small-dicing a potato. So I do it during Ezra's nap. If you want to use fresh garlic, mince however much you'd like. I suggest 2 cloves.

About an hour before you eat, heat your oil on at least medium heat and add potatoes. Don't stir them too often, every 5 minutes max. Let them cook until they are almost done (which will take a while, 20-30 mins). Transfer to your toaster oven and bake them at 350 until I say so.

Now you'll brown your beef. Put it in that same pan you had the potatoes in, get it browning, and add the onion & your spices. Some of you may be used to "eyeballing it" on the spices when you season ground beef, and your eyes may bug out when you use this much spice. But if you eyeball it based on what you'd usually use for just a pound of ground beef, your tacos will be super bland, bc you're sticking a whole can of black beans and a whole potato in it. Be brave! Be bold! Push past the fear of over-seasoning!

Use the time the meat takes to open and drain those beans, and rinsing some cilantro. You can either pick off the leaves & just add them for garnish, or you can chop the leaves and stems and add them to your meat riiiight before serving.

Once the meat is cooked, drain the grease if you need to, then add the beans and turn the heat to low. Get those heated and juice your lime over those beautiful taco guts you're making.

Take the potatoes out and start toasting your taco shells. A WORD OF CAUTION: in a toaster oven, taco shells go from this:

to this:

in about 10 actual seconds. So KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR SHELLS. Also maybe buy extras if you have kids because they are so good at being crazy right when you should be trying not to burn your taco shells. #stopthrowingthings

Add the potatoes to your meat & fill up those beautiful, not-burned shells, and sprinkle some cheese on top. You could also add lettuce, tomato, and sour cream, but I think those are for people who don't care enough about meat.

02 December 2014

Baked Potato Soup

I love when it gets cold enough for me to make this. I also love that it makes a ton of soup; I make it on our last day off before the week, and we eat on it for a few days. There is naaaathing healthy about it, but it's delicious and it's not like I'm making it every other week oh except I definitely just did.

Be still my heart.
Listen, you can make this with another kind of potato, but you shouldn't make it with anything other than Yukon golds. It's just a fact, and I'm the one with the recipe. They're not expensive.

a whole bag of Yukon gold potatoes (5#)
~48 oz reduced sodium chicken broth (a little more also works well)
a package of bacon (I prefer center cut -- less fat)
3 cloves garlic
1/2 an onion
1/4-1/2 t black pepper
1/4-1/2 t red pepper/cayenne pepper
1-2 C frozen corn
2 C heavy cream
shredded cheddar (for garnish)

Get out your big pot and pour the chicken broth in it. Start the heat on medium. If you like skin on your potatoes, congratulations, you're a grown up! If you're like me, peel the potatoes and cut them into what-will-be large bites. Dump them in the broth.

Mince the garlic and small dice the onion and add them to the broth. Also add the black pepper and the red pepper. Be adventurous! We use the half teaspoon of both and it's not too hot for me. Stephen adds more black pepper to his bc his love affair with black pepper predates our relationship.

As that's heating up, start cooking your bacon. I like my bacon very well done, but it's going in the pot, so you don't need to be too picky.

Once the broth starts to boil, turn the heat down to where it simmers, and keep it covered. When your bacon's done, crumble it and throw it in the pot.

Hey, beautiful.

When you're about 15 minutes away from when you want to eat, turn the heat up just a bit and add the corn. Let the soup come back up to a boil, then add the cream. Let the soup heat up again, then you're ready to go. Garnish with cheddar. You can also garnish this with extra green onions you may have in your fridge that will totally wilt soon if you don't use them.

You could also get sassy with some sour cream, but we're more traditional than that.

01 December 2014

Beef & Snap Pea Stir Fry

Significantly adapted from this recipe.

I made this last week, and it was so yummy, I really wanted to eat it again. Right away. I was so sad there wasn't more, but I was glad bc there wasn't room in my tummy for more, but I probably would have tried anyway.

I have 3 different stir fry recipes I go to often. This one is super perfect for when your grocery store has a good sale on steak. I used NY strip for this last one, and it was incredible. HEB has a great deal on strips every so often, and I always stock up. bc I love steak like so much.

Marry me. Except not on a wooden cutting board ew.

1 nice-sized steak, sliced thin
~1 lb of sugar snap peas (they're the puffy kind; the flat ones are snow peas)
1 Tablespoon oil of your choosing (but sesame is de bessst)
a thumb of fresh ginger
2 large or 3 small cloves of garlic
a few scallions/chives/green onions
1 C beef broth
1/2 C soy sauce
1-2 Tablespoon cornstarch
red pepper flakes to taste (start with 1/4 teaspoon)
rice (or ramen noodles)
wonton strips

The great thing about this recipe is it stretches one good-sized steak into enough for our family (Ezra is required to eat 3 pieces of meat, so if your kids actually eat meat, you may want to go for two steaks). When I get home from with my like 8 or 9 steaks, I set aside one or two, slice them really thin, and stick them in their own little baggies. You can also freeze the sugar snap peas, but they keep for a while in the fridge too (I've often made them go a week or longer. It probably makes them a little sad, but I'm not a kind mistress to my food).

First thing to do is prep your ginger and garlic. Fresh ginger is not always necessary, but it is here. And it's cheap; don't be scared of it! Try to get some that's young-looking - the skin will look kind of translucent. Much easier to cut. Mince those together and smell. Yum.

Now you should start your rice, or make your ramen. If you're using ramen, don't use the flavor packets, but you could cook it in some extra beef broth. Now is also the time to blanch your snap peas. Heat up plenty of water in a pot; while that's going, get another bowl of nice cold water (the idea behind the cold water is to stop the cooking process quickly so the peas don't overcook). Once the water is boiling, toss the snappies in there and let em boil for two minutes, then drain them and plunk em in the cold water. You can leave them there for now.

Start heating your oil on maybe medium? Medium-high? We have demon burners, so mine's at like a 4, but it's hot enough to make the garlic and ginger sizzle and get fragrant in 20 or 30 seconds. Once it's smelling so yummy, give it a stir and add the beef. The beef should start cooking quickly, so stir it when it starts browning.

While that's cooking, whisk together broth, soy sauce, and cornstarch. Once the steak is just cooked, add the red pepper flakes, then the snap peas, then the broth concoction. Give it a good stir. Once the broth starts to boil, turn off the heat and add the scallions. You're done!

Yay so yummy! I serve it on a bed of rice with wonton strips on top. You can find these at HEB on the salad aisle by the croutons. They are stoooooopid yummy. srsly. I use them to bribe my kid to eat his meat.

Marry me also. #bigamist
Okay that's all.

30 November 2014

Recipe Week!

I have been so dang serious all the time on this blog for a lot of months ugh. In Real Life, I'm not a super serious person (in fact, a considerable percentage of my speech is made of cartoon references, which was also true before I had kids).

So, I decided to do a week of my favorite recipes! I won't take pictures because (as I've said earlier) I just don't take pictures of my food. In my opinion, making food look really yummy on camera is a gift not many people have, and I don't want to add to the internet's many, many kind-of-sickening pictures of food that is probably not sickening at all. Maybe I'll add stock photos of things, like sugar snap peas!

Thanks, Google!

If you want to try out some new recipes, follow along! Some will be quick, some will be simple, and some will not even have cumin! You should still try the cuminless ones, even though cumin is what makes the sun shine warm on your face and arms in the summer, the bright green leaves clapping in the wind... sorry, I was transported by my love. of cumin.

Stay tuned!

11 November 2014

Big Adoption Update (part 3)

So, what's the next step in our adoption? I don't know. I feel fairly clearly that we are supposed to wait and not pursue adopting for a time. I have no idea how long that time will be - could be a month, could be five years.

Truth be told, we have spent over $13,000 so far. A chunk of that went to Helene's adoption agency, a chunk went to the government for documents, and a chunk went to Sweet P's agency. The agency fees are standard for where we were in the process. We may be able to adopt with Sweet P's agency, but we may not be able to; they have encouraged their waiting families to seek adoptions elsewhere. A majority of that $13,000 would not help us bring home a child now; we'd need to raise at least $20,000 to adopt internationally at this point. Probably more like $25,000. God can make money flow to his purposes, but that's a lot of money.

We are going to a DFPS info meeting on fostering-to-adopt at the beginning of December, and maybe that will provide some clear direction, but honestly, I'm pretty heartsore right now. I'm not likely to jump at the chance of starting another adoption process very soon, even just for my emotional well-being.

What I really want to do is put the money we've made from garage sales and bake sales and our personal fundraising and make it into a kind of grant for the family who chooses to adopt Sweet P. To be frank, without God moving on a family's heart, she is unlikely to be adopted, since she's 8 or 9 years old and has a serious medical special need. But Stephen and I are still trying to weigh what would be responsible to those who have worked hard to help us adopt and our desires for Sweet P to come home to her family.

Would you consider praying that Sweet P's parents would find her quickly? Her orphanage is excellent, but children deserve good schooling and adequate care and parents.

Also, please don't think we've given up on adopting. I will never give up. God has absolutely called us to adopt. And I don't think we heard wrong when we started the process 3 years ago; I just don't have all the spiritual facts right now. I'm not closing down our Lifesong account because I'm certain we'll use the money that's in there when we adopt. But I love Sweet P, and I want her to feel the love of a mother and a father. She's 9 years old, and she hasn't.

10 November 2014

Big Adoption Update (part 2)

I've listened to (and sung, sobbing) this song a LOT in the past year. I never thought, three years ago, that our adoption road would be like this, and it has shaken me to the core several times. I have never wrestled with God's goodness so deeply as I have in the past two years, and particularly in the past year. 

Sometimes God is good to other people through you, and you suffer for it. It sounds dramatic, but loving the orphan is painful. Orphans are near to God's heart, and I think are a particularly tender spot for him (judging my his words). But I digress. I want to speak of God's faithfulness to me.

I sang that song up there out of a desire to be satisfied in God - to make myself satisfied. When we found out we were pregnant with Judah, I did NOT understand why God would allow make us become pregnant when we were still adopting. We also found out while I was still actively grieving the DRC shutting down. Just a couple weeks after we found out, I got the news that the agency we were using to adopt Helene was pulling out of the DRC completely, and that we would have no way to adopt her, donate to her orphanage, or even check up on her welfare. Which was devastating.

I was at war within myself, because I knew this little person was wonderful and precious and I did NOT want to lose him, but it felt like he was sabotaging our adoption, like he was forcing us to choose one child (him) over another (baby A). So I was resentful and ashamed at my resentment. And just really perplexed at how this could be God's good plan for our lives.

That brings us all the way until we got Sweet P's referral. When I felt the Spirit's whispers turn into solid confirmation that we shouldn't adopt her (regardless of our own feelings), I started to hold Judah and cuddle him as I cried out my grief. [Don't mistake me, he's been held and cuddled plenty before that. He's a little sweetie.]

In one of those rare, rare quiet times where both kids are asleep (and not sleeping on me) on Saturday night, I was delving into the whole "oil running down Aaron's beard" business of Psalm 133 (bc what), which led me to Psalm 23 as the most familiar place to me in the Bible that also talks about anointing with oil (bc again, what).

Y'all Psalm 23 is like Lucy's cordial (you heard me, Narnians); it refreshes perfectly. Really, every part had a blessing in it, but what I'm specifically referring to at present is this:

You prepare a feast for me
in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
My cup overflows with blessings.

Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the LORD

And it washed over me: God gave Judah to me because he loves me and he knew I would be miserable without Judah and without Sweet P. I'm sure the world needed Judah to be born and all, but the timing was just for me. Ezra can be remarkably kind, and he is loving, but he almost never lets me cuddle him or hold him at all. God knew I needed Judah. His goodness and unfailing love pursued the me of right now when he made my ovaries be crazy in November 2013.  I didn't need to will myself to be satisfied with God. His love isn't feeble or inert; he knows what salve my  heart needs, and he orchestrates life to provide it.

Again I say, surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life. 

Stay tuned tomorrow for what the future holds. I suspect something with part 3 in the title.

09 November 2014


If you follow my blog (you must be a curious sort of person, first off), you might remember this post and this post about a little girl we were waiting to get the referral of. [I do not have the energy to fix that preposition. If you're offended, stew in it, not my problem.]

Just a few days after my hopeless post (it was Friday October 14th), we got her referral: several documents with info on her history, medical information, some personality traits, and two photos. I decided to call her Sweet P, because she is clearly sweet and precious. Stephen and I were unable to talk about it much because he was teaching that Sunday and was very busy preparing.

I spent the whole weekend and the first few days of the next week pretty sure we were going to adopt her. I wasn't elated like a lot of people talk about being when they get "the call," mostly because the decision to parent a person is a really big responsibility, and my legs always feel a little shaky under the weight of being someone's mom. But I was... glowy about it. I suppose I fell in love? I learned to want to know her and to have her smile at me. To cuddle her and be silly. To feed her and pray over her at night. I thought about how on earth we would handle doing the school thing for the first time, and how she would handle the boys, and how srsly how would Ezra handle her (smothering her with attention was my bet).

But as the week went on, as I thought about all of these things, I became more and more uneasy about her life with us. If God sets the lonely in families, would bringing her into our family change that? She has friends where she is, and caregivers to whom she's attached. A family is more than that, better, but not just any family.

Her file said she's shy and doesn't make friends easily. We don't have kids her age; our church doesn't have girls her age either. So school (and sports; she likes soccer) would be her only hope of making friends. But we're leaving for San Antonio in just a couple of years; she would have to start all over, and in MIDDLE SCHOOL.

No one deserves that.

So I cried. A lot. Because it's hard to acknowledge that a child you love is better off with other parents. And my selfish heart wants to claim her and keep her. But God gives us the Spirit so we can be moved to treat others with the unselfish love he has for us.

So I emailed our agency worker (because I couldn't bring myself to call her and sob to someone who hardly knows me) and told her we were choosing not to adopt her.

And I grieved.

[. . .to be continued tomorrow.]

28 October 2014

Bob Dylan's 49th Beard

Ever want to break up with yourself? With your "lot in life"? With how emo you are? GET IT TOGETHER, MICHELLE, says the mean me on my shoulder. Above is the title of the best breakup song probably ever. I wish I could grow a beard, bc things are weird between me & myself right now.

Tbh, I could really use some prayer for a faith so real it can keep me functioning when I just want to lay on the floor all day. I'll update you on some big events that have recently transpired when I'm able to think about it without crying, bc srsly so sad over here right now.

07 October 2014


Do you remember a time when you couldn't pinpoint a feeling you were having until someone else named it? As a mom, I can assure you it happened a lot, at least when you were young (teaching Ezra feeling words is quite the challenge, as everything comes out angry, and we have to dig to find the real feelings).

I couldn't name how I was feeling about our adoption until I saw the word on a friend's blog, totally unrelated to my situation, but so poignant: despair. I don't want to talk about, even think about our adoption, because I am despairing of it ever actually happening.

I have lost hope.

Whew, that is a bitter sentence to speak, and the tears I cry just reading it are bitter. But even that is better than no tears, for me at least. My heart is so sick within me that I haven't been able to cry the tears that would flow from a tender place.

In an honest moment like this one, I can admit I don't believe we will adopt. It feels impossible. It would take too many good things happening in an area of my life where I have experienced nothing but disappointment and loss. Courts have become hostile, referrals have ceased, and we lost the opportunity to adopt a precious little girl because of her government, after we'd already begun to try and bring her home. We were told we'd receive a referral of an orphan (waiting for her family) in July that has still not been received. It has been three years since we decided to adopt.

The only hope I have is in the Lord, and he's been so quiet, so quiet, for so long in this area. Still, he has not said to stop, and I know he'd have enough mercy on us to tell me when to actually give up. Sometimes I guess you have to trust that he is who he says he is, even when he's not overtly showing you. I do believe (a tiny bit) that I will see his goodness in this plan someday. I just don't know how.

18 September 2014

In the thick of it

It was a sobering thought I thought last night, but a true one:

If parenting was a marriage, I would be divorced already.

Not because I don't love my kids, but because it is so hard. And if I could get out of it somehow (without anyone getting hurt, you know), I totally would. Right now, as Ezra adjusts to a new normal (that is also constantly changing, since infants never stay the same for long), and Judah adjusts to life on the outside, I am trying to remember how to be underwater and not drown.

I lost myself for a while with Ezra. I don't think it was a hormonal depression; I think it was the new levels of grace required to be a mom. I am fine with accepting grace and mercy for the things I do to me, because it's my life my sin screws up. Even when I sin against my friends and family, they're adults; they can take it to me and/or the Lord. I may reopen old wounds, but it's unlikely I can hurt a grown up in a way they've never been hurt before.

With my kids, it's so different. I make wounds where there was wholeness. And, while I know there is so much mercy and grace available to me as a mother to my boys, I don't want to take it because I deserve to be miserable for hurting them. So self-condemnation is my food, and despair clothes my days, because how can I undo what I have done?

This root goes so deep into my life that I don't think it will come up with one firm tug. But I don't want dreading every tomorrow to be what I look back and remember from this season. Instead, I'm trying to memorize Psalm 134:

Praise the Lord, all you servants of the Lord who minister by night in the house of the Lord.
Lift your hands in the sanctuary and praise the Lord.
May the Lord bless you from Zion, he who is the Maker of heaven and earth.

God (and every mom of a newborn) knows I am ministering by night, and our house may not be a temple, but it is a house of the Lord. I need to remind myself that I am:
(1) a servant of the Lord, and not of my children. God is my master, and I look to him for direction and affirmation.
(2) ministering to the Lord. It is hard, so hard for me to remember that it matters to God that I make Judah's wipe solution or help Ezra put his underwear back on. It ministers to his heart when I do the thousand mundane tasks that make up my whole life right now. I need to remind myself to wear my invisible ephod (and tassels!), because these hands that wipe bottoms all day are holy.

04 September 2014

New Mom, Not-New Mom

Ezra is three and a half now; it feels like a long time since I was the mom of a newborn. So it's been fun to step back and think of ways in which is feels like old hat and ways in which it feels totally new.

Old hat: I never forgot nursing all the time and it taking forever
As if it had never happened to me before: the pain of beginning to breastfeed again. I didn't forget, but I DID NOT REMEMBER. Probably bc the horrors didn't even last a week.

Old hat: not leaving the house for days. Days. And having to find new times to do normal life things, like shower and put on deodorant.
Completely new: putting my newborn on a pillow in the bathroom because I can't trust my preschooler to not hug him to actual death.

Old hat: newborns are so tiny, but still pretty sturdy.
Never before would I have said Ezra was big, but over the course of a weekend (the one after which Judah was born), he must have grown a foot and like 20 pounds, because he is enormous now. He's still in the 20th percentile for 3 year olds, but apparently 3 year olds are huge.

Old hat: no schedule, no routine, just the whims of an infant.
Bewilderingly new: why are you crying? Stop crying, please. Just fart or burp or poop and feel better. Or are you actually hungry? You don't even know, do you?

Old hat: new parent doting. [srsly tho, my baby's beautiful.]
All new: being super in love with Judah and still really focused on our adoption. Like, now that we can do something, let's get this thing done.

Part of that new parent Crazy is trying to make me feel guilty, like "why isn't Judah enough to focus on? He's going to be hurt forever because you weren't satisfied with him right now." No, Crazy, we're not playing these games this time. You can just shut up.

26 August 2014


I laughed as Judah was born; I didn't remember until my midwife's apprentice reminded us. That is NOT to say my labor was peaceful or joyful or even positive. It was intense to the point of overwhelming for several hours (for those who understand these things, I went from being 3 cm dilated to Judah being born in just over 4 hours). I told Stephen during my labor (I believe shortly after vomiting) that if we were ever to get pregnant again, we're going to the hospital and they're stabbing a needle in my back (I've since begun to reconsider, but I make no promises either way).

 Judah was born "en caul": with the amniotic sac ("bag of waters") unbroken. That wasn't because we made a decision not to break my water; there just wasn't time - the contraction I had just after my midwife checked my dilation was the same contraction during which his head was born. Luckily, I was able to wait for another contraction for the rest of him to be born.

And that's why I laughed - the joy of a thing completed, particularly something inconvenient (he was born at 3:41am in the worst time of year for people who minister to college students), painful, and long-awaited.

It's weird to have a new baby again, when we've been so long expecting our next child to be adopted as a... not-baby (could be toddler or older, but not a baby). It's also a strange feeling to be elated that he's here, and yet still feel the lack of our little A. Judah has two older siblings, but one is missing from all the photos. It's hard to wrap my heart around sometimes.

Still, it's a comfort, really; it reminds me in my heart that God hasn't closed the door to adoption for us. We don't know if we'll have more biological children, but our family is certainly not complete. As we adjust to being a family of four (as in, wait, when do I take a shower now?), I confess I already think of us as a family of five - and expectant family, still. We are still in gestation, and there is no estimated due date yet. As one wait is over, my earnest hope is that I'll continue to wait well on this much longer-deferred hope: to cast my cares at God's feet; to be thankful for His many ways of protecting, loving, and caring for us; and to receive God's peace (instead of being petulant. Yes, petulant).
Judah Titus; 8/15/14; 7lbs, 14oz; 20.5"; ours.

16 July 2014

Umm, oops. . .

Sorry for the radio silence. In the past two months, I've decided to make a career change, started and finished a college class, gone to Colorado with my parents and Ezra, gone to Crystal Beach with Stephen's family, and organized (and prodded and kept Ezra out of the way) the addition of a dishwasher into our home (which didn't have a dishwasher before, making it quite the job). All of this while Stephen has gone out of town to raise support at least ten times.

I have also been CRAZY nesting. Pushing my body to its limit moving stuff and cleaning and organizing and finally having an epiphany about it. I am trying to make myself feel ready to have a newborn and a rambunctious three-and-a-half-year-old at the same time. The transition to motherhood was very difficult, and only in the past nine months have I really been working through the issues that surfaced after E was born. They generally revolve around me feeling wholly incompetent to parent, so having another kiddo is. . . scary. We'll leave it at that.

On top of that, we should receive the referral of a child we are considering adopting any day now (though it's been "any day" for a week and a half already). So much change and upheaval and uncertainty; no wonder I'm trying to control the one place that I can.

That being said, I'm off to the baby room, to throw more things away and make more space (for a person who won't measure two feet long. Hormones are crazy pills).

29 April 2014

Parenting Insight.

I got it this morning: why staying at home is really hard for me, especially right now. You see, of the five love languages (words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch & closeness, acts of service, and gifts), acts of service is the one I speak least. Like I do not speak it at all. [so if you do something to serve me but don't cue me in that you're doing it out of love, I'll probably thank you but won't feel loved by it.]

But acts of service is all I do for this kid, you know? And man, it's awesome when he says thank you, but it is horrible when he can't even be happy about it. Not just not acknowledge it, but seems to look for something to be unhappy about it. YOU SUCK ALL MY ENERGY, CHILD. Not just because you're rambunctious (I pretty much like that, except when you hurt me), but because you require me to constantly go against my personality with almost nothing in return.

To top that off, gifts is my #1 (luckily I speak other ones, or my marriage would be a shambles; Stephen is not a natural-born-gift-giver). And a 3-year-old is not really capable of thinking of something I like and then giving it to me.

And on top of all that, I'm very fun-oriented. I'm not a particularly driven person, not a high achiever (it seems exhausting, honestly). And it seems like this 3-year-old is intent on finding ways to not have fun. He asks me to stop the water in his bath, and when I do, he falls apart that I stopped the water. What am I supposed to do with that? YOU LOVE BATH TIME. HAVE A GOOD TIME. WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH YOU. You need to stop spitting/screaming or you'll have to get out of the bath.

So whew this stage is particularly hard. I am glad I had that insight this morning; it doesn't change my situation, but still, more awareness can help me manage my own behavior when my son clearly is having trouble managing his.

23 April 2014

We went to Collegiate's annual staff conference last week, and it's a time I love because there are women there who have been working in college ministry (or participating as their husbands work, or both) for a long time. They've raised children within our church network, but the kids aren't with them (and E wasn't with me), so we can really sit and talk.

Something that was said has been going around and around in my head:

You don't have to be mentally healthy to glorify God.

And those are words that nourish my heart. My body chemistry right now is really messing with the way I normally function. I'm very hope-driven and fun-oriented. Those things can take a hit with more-than-full-time parenting and pregnancy without adding medicine that further reduces my capacity for hope and for fun. I don't feel like me.

But I don't have to be healthy to glorify God. I don't have to be stable or strong or not cry about nothing.

It's given me a way to reroute this experience through a different lens from my norm. It helps me remember that I don't have to participate in these feelings. I can experience them, but I can do it with the recognition that my body chemistry is influencing how I perceive my life.

It's helped me remember that, for emotional people, we can sometimes only see life through our emotional experience, and that's not healthy. It's not good to ignore or suppress them, but they shouldn't be our guide. We need to take captive our emotions and bring them to Jesus, just as we are our thoughts.

So yeah, everything feels bad and I'm having a hard time enjoying life, but that doesn't mean I can't experience this season in a way that gladdens the heart of the One who made me (and this placenta that is TOTALLY FALLING DOWN ON THE JOB). And He knows why this is happening and when it will stop and just how it feels. And I am comforted.

01 April 2014

Adoption Update

Well, it's April. It seems the decision about this little person has been made for us by the fact that the orphanage still haven't made the referral, added to the fact that the courts have been making the court dates farther out (sometimes over 2 months from receiving our dossier). Combine both of those with my (albeit slight) pregnancy complication, and it means we would be utterly unreasonable to continue to consider accepting the referral once it (finally) comes. Stephen would probably have to stay in Uganda while I had baby Q (no, his name won't start with Q. Q is short for "Quoi?!?"]

Am I sad? Yes. Poor Stephen found me crying in the shower about it yesterday. [I wish I could give him warning about when I'm going to cry. I think it would help him to feel less alarmed.] This adoption has been so hard for a long time. But I do feel the peace of knowing that I will look back and know that God's hand was on us in this time, by not even giving us the opportunity to have to make a decision about the referral. To have the option and still have to say "no" would have been much harder.

If you would take a moment and pray for this child, that God would swiftly lead Generations to his/her adoptive parents, I'd be grateful.

29 March 2014

The Downs of Pregnancy (Meds)

[TL:DR at bottom.] I didn't share this publicly before, but a few weeks after we found out we were pregnant, I had to go to the doctor because of spotting and cramping. It turned out my progesterone was low - probably because I ovulated so early, my doc surmised.

The typical schedule is to take them for the first trimester, then wean your body off them gradually around 16 weeks. I noticed, about that time, some strange symptoms not normal to me for pregnancy: I lost my hunger cues (I could go for 6 or more hours without eating, feeling hungry, getting nauseated, or any of my normal cues), and I started wanting to cry about nothing. Now, I'm an easy crier, but I always cry for a reason (good or bad). It's not normal for me to feel like I'm about to cry all day for no reason.

After doing some research, it turns out excess progesterone can do that - if our bodies make too much, they can break it down and turn it into other hormones, but our bodies can't do it with synthetic. Realizing that was actually happy for me, since it meant (so I thought) that my body had started making enough, and the meds were putting me over the top.

Early this week, I started having a TON of Braxton-Hicks (BH) contractions. I knew they weren't labor contractions, but going from having one every so often (like when I go from standing to squatting), to every few minutes no matter how much I drank or slept, in the matter of two days, was a little concerning. Or could have been, I don't know. That's what doctors are for, amiright?

So I had an appointment that confirmed, no, the contractions aren't premature labor, but that my progesterone was low again. She prescribed half the previous dose and to come in again in 4 weeks to check my levels.

This all sounds pretty mundane and not worth writing about, but I'm really sad. Being chemically depressed is the opposite of my personality (which probably just means I enjoy being a little volatile), and I don't want to experience it more. And I certainly don't want to for the next few months, since I doubt this placenta is going to get the memo now if it hasn't already (that's an emotional guess, not based in any facts). I don't want to not enjoy things and forget to take care of myself. And I don't want my chemicals being messed up because it affects this little guy too; too-low progesterone and it can trigger labor, and the changes in hormones involved with depression during pregnancy also have proven effects on babies.

We'll see how the next few weeks go. The TL:DR is I'm not both sad and whiny.

06 March 2014

BIG Not-Yet-News

I'm not sure how to write this because I don't really know what to write. We received a call on Friday that may prove very significant to our family. Let me go back to November. Scroll to the end if you want the TL:DR version.

You may remember we started out on the wait list with Generations (Uganda) at number 18 in October 2012. By the end of that December, we were down to #13. The spring of 2013 was very difficult, and we ended the semester at #12. Since we didn't decide to adopt so we could sit for months - or years - on a waiting list, we started pursuing other options.

When we got pregnant in November, we told both agencies we were working with (Uganda and the DRC). It changed nothing about the DRC, since there's no progress in adoptions from there right now anyway. With Uganda, we were told that we'd be put on hold on the list until our new little boy is 6 months old. We wouldn't lose our spot, but we can't accept a referral.

In the meantime, Generations started partnering with an orphanage who cares specifically for children with a medical special need. This special need often carries a stigma beyond its severity. Many adoptive parents-to-be aren't willing to consider adopting children with it, but we are.

So we got a call on Friday from our Uganda program director asking if we'd consider accepting a referral before this little one is born. In fact, we could receive a referral in the next week or two and travel before this kiddo is born!

Naturally, there are a LOT of things to consider and weigh about this decision:

* Family: What is best for our kids (including our to-be-adopted kid)? Will it be more stressful on our family to add a child to our family, and have a baby a month later; or to have a baby and a preschooler and then bring home an adopted child? Where and when will we need (and be able to receive) more help?

* Finances: We still need $6,000-$7,000 more to complete our adoption (including travel and finalization back here in the States). I still have 2 more grants I can apply for, but we haven't received a single grant so far, so I have no confidence that we won't have to scrounge/raise the entire sum. Stephen needs time to raise at least $700 in monthly recurring support, or we may not get full paychecks in the fall, which is a big deal to a family of 5 with a new baby and a child with medical needs.

*** Calling: This one gets three stars because it's the most important. Is God calling us to adopt the child that will be referred to us? We don't know yet. I have absolute confidence that God will enable us to adopt him/her if that is his will. Neither of us has received clarity either way, so we would really appreciate your prayers at this time.

TL:DR Version: we could be accepting the referral of a child in the next week or two and traveling to Uganda this summer (yes, with me weeks away from giving birth). Please pray for us to know God's will.

03 March 2014

Adoption Update

Many (most, probably!) of you were at our Fellowship Church Women's Retreat last month, and heard me talk about our adoption. Some of you have said you would pray for little H, and for that I am profoundly grateful.

I've received word from the agency we received H's referral from, and they are no longer working in the DRC. They have not officially closed the program, but they no longer employ anyone in the country and are actively recruiting those who have accepted Congolese referrals to programs in other countries.

The TL:DR is outlook is not good. As in it would take miracle upon miracle upon miracle for us to be able to adopt H. And I just don't think that is going to happen.

For those of you who aren't well-versed in how international adoption works, there is no way we can adopt H without this agency's help (unless somehow another agency were to partner with her orphanage, and we happened to find out without anyone telling us, because how would a separate agency know we had been trying to adopt her? Our names are nowhere in the DRC). If the DRC still allowed independent adoptions (so lawyer-based, not agency-based), we probably could. But they do not.

Truth is, the Lord has been preparing my heart for this for a long time. I am not okay with this situation AT ALL, but I have peace that comes from knowing that God loves H immensely and is capable of caring for her when I cannot.

Only time will tell what God has planned for our adoption, but I still have hope. It has been refined nearly to extinguishing, but the Lord is gentle, and it is on the mend.

If you think about it, pray for H. She needs prayer support. I hope to one day meet her face-to-face and hear the fruit of our prayers. Let that day come, Father. Amen.

In related news, we filed our I-600A extension and request for another fingerprinting appointment. Fingerprints expire every 15 months? HOW does that make sense? The 16-weeks-gestated baby in my womb has fingerprints! DUMB. Dumb.

20 February 2014

Sorry Sorry

Sorry I've been M.I.A. here. I've been a little MIA everywhere. It has been a busy Winter (I first called it Spring but it's still February, and I need to be fair to the seasons).

I have no adoption news, and probably won't have anything good on that front for some time. Our resolve has not lessened in any way; we just don't have any "moves" to make. So we wait, and God works on me while we do.

I'm 15 weeks along now. This pregnancy has been weird. I think it's been the least bothersome first trimester (I didn't actually throw up even once!), and of course, it's been hard to not be scared I'm not pregnant anymore because I haven't been feeling too terrible. I think there are things with our adoption that have been adding to my fear of losing this kiddo.

Ezra's language abilities have bloomed like... quickly and riotously blooming things? Sunflowers? I dunno. Whatever, huge jump in language has corresponded with huge behavioral changes that are eating my lunch have been difficult to adjust to.

He's never before had a real tantrum, like with the screaming and the hitting. Until 2 months ago when he started talking so much. But now he does and WOW he is strong and loud. But he wants to play with me more and he's more affectionate (when he's in a good mood). Very Jekyll & Hyde. He's as cute as ever when he's sleeping though (too bad it's been an hour and a half since we put him to bed and he's in his room talking to himself, lol).

Spring Break is our big date in the Spring semesters (in the Fall it's SCW, our student retreat). Coming up! So, so happy to have a week break. Also, Stephen's going to enter full-time support-raising after that, so I'm really excited for him to not have so many ministry responsibilities. I love our jobs except when it's been like it has the last month, when we haven't both had two full days off work per week in weeks. It was just bad timing, where I was preparing for a main-session teaching for our Women's Retreat, and then Stephen taught the Sunday morning after we got back, and he's doing a main-session teaching at the Men's Retreat next weekend.

I'm glad I got the chance to speak like that, but I don't think I need to do it again. Sadly, Stephen felt the same way after his first teaching, but he doesn't have the luxury of refusal. :)

We'll find out the sex of the baby in April, which will be exciting! I think it's a boy. Getting it on the record now!

10 January 2014

Adoption Update

Not many things make me furious. I mean, it's easy to get me a little riled, but seeing-red-furious is reserved for a few things very close to my heart. 

Sometimes our adoption makes me steaming, foaming, seething, furious.

When organizations like UNICEF and the blasted UN essentially admit that they're anti-international adoption. I get furious. When groups in Africa have the gall to state that orphans are better off languishing in horribly underfunded orphanages instead of losing their nation's culture, my claws come out. You don't have to read too many posts about the majority of children in an orphanage dying from dysentery (which is much, much too common in the DRC and is caused by unclean water), before you can't help but be furious.

Who cares about these children? Is it only God? Is God the only one? Does any lawmaker or political person care about the welfare of these children, or if they even live to be an adult? Or reach the age of 5!

I believe wholeheartedly in seeking ethical means to adopt, but there are other ways to make your system more ethical than shutting down all international adoptions for longer than a year while you frustrate every claim of people who even meet your cutoff time. Especially when you have NO system to care for these children who will not be adopted while the suspension is in place.

We have no choice but to continue in the hope that the Congo will open up instead of shut completely down. These children have been abandoned by their government at every turn; these recent actions are no different. If we do not care for them, who will?

Right now I'm persevering without the light of hope in my heart. I spent a few days trying to figure out why our adoption is so draining, even though nothing is happening. It feels like waiting for a miscarriage I have good reason to think will certainly come but hasn't yet. Would you pray that God would place in me His heart of love? Love always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. I need more, I need it.

06 January 2014

Family Update

WELL, SURPRISE! We're pregnant. No, this bundle of joy was not premeditated and, while it was no "immaculate conception," I believe God's hand was quite at work in making it come about. I went to the doctor before Christmas and saw little baby's heartbeat at 6 weeks 1 day! Babies (and women) are amazing.

We were hoping to have more concrete news about our adoption to share before we made the news public, but I shared with the whole world that I was expecting Ezra about an hour after I found out, and I didn't want anyone to think we were ashamed of this child. How could we be? What a blessing.

That being said, I sure hope we are twice blessed this year, but we have not yet received clear direction on whether to wait on the Congo and hope we can adopt H, or to search out a waiting child we can adopt this year. Before we received our last update, we were thinking we would be able to travel and bring home H in November, with a little baby in tow - not ideal, but you do what you have to for your kids. With the likely extenuation of the suspension, that no longer seems likely, and the future of Congolese adoptions for quite some time is in question. Trust me, we are not making this decision lightly, as H is very important to us, but we were never guaranteed by God that she was meant to be our daughter, and I have been guilty of putting my hopes in her instead of in the Lord, a lesson He has been teaching me with a firm but merciful hand.

All that being said, our next bio child and our next adopted child are two different children. Thus pregnancy does not annul or diminish our desire, nor possibly even delay our adoption. We wait on the Lord for His guidance and would appreciate your prayers. In the meantime, I start my prenatal appointments with our midwife next week and am happy to have a new life to look forward to!

P.S. You know your adoption "journey" has been crazy when you sigh with relief at the stability of pregnancy! A due date is a beautiful thing.

04 January 2014

Adoption Update-ish

I won't write anything morose on here, though those feelings do come and go right now.  But I did want to update for two reasons:

1) Our city approval came for our Trot for a Tot 5k - if you know a runner, a group of runners, a member of a fraternity or sorority, a member of a FLO, or any other member of a group of people with whom announcements are made in College Station, I'd love to make the connection to spread the word about our run. Also, if you know any business that would like to advertise or to donate in a tax-deductible way, there are plenty of opportunities to do so!

2) Please be in prayer as we consider what God would want for our family with regards to our adoption. There are so many things always happening (especially at the beginning of the semester and at the beginning stages of planning a church plant); it can be easy to push to the back things that aren't in front of our faces and clamoring for attention. We don't want to miss God's whisper to change direction, nor to remain steadfast.

2013 was not my favorite year of my life, but I know it was a year that produced much fruit in my life, and much of that has to do with the difficulties of our adoption. Two months ago, I was certain 2014 would be the year we brought home our child, but now I cannot be. What I am certain of, however, is God's ability to use our circumstances to make me more like Jesus, and in that hope I can trust and be secure.