Saturday, December 31, 2011

A look back at 2011

As we are down to less than 24 hours left in 2011, I felt it was the right time to look back at what this year has brought.

The biggest life event that happened in 2011 is our starting our adoption process and getting to the point where we are really just waiting for the phone call. The multiple documents, homestudy, applications, etc. all were started just this year. In some ways it is crazy to think that we started all this just a year ago, yet in other ways it is crazy that we have been in the process for so long and yet are still probably another 9 months to a year getting a child home.

Another main thing of this year was our trip to Ireland. I flew to another country and walked around there by myself while Blake worked! Probably so small of an achievement for many others, but I generally don't like being alone, so it was huge for me, and continues to encourage me as I try other new things on my own. March was when I first heard about the possibility of this trip. April was full of changing plans as we expected to go, then it was postponed, and then we eventually went in May.

This June we painted our house a whole new color and we also celebrated 5 years of marriage together. On the point of marriage, 2011 was the first full year that we didn't try top get pregnant at all. We started trying in 2009, and still tried through half of 2010. But 2011 was completely adoption focused and it felt great! All that stress is gone, and I feel like Blake and I really connected over this year, and lately I have been enjoying the time with him so much that I am truly fine with the waiting for a phone call, knowing that I will miss this precious close time.

The next significant post of 2011 was that in September I started running, and I am really happy with how that is going. I feel better, I think I look better, and it was so fun a few days ago when I was able to keep up with Blake a lot more on the bike ride. I am proud that I have kept it up this long, and look forward to achieving my goals in this area.

The other significant thing that happened in 2011 but has been purposely withheld from my blog up till now is that my brother got married this year. In January, so it has actually been almost a year now. The main reason that I have kept it off the blog is that there are a lot of issues that have come with this marriage for my family. If you think of it, pray for harmony for my family. I didn't want the year to end without mentioning it once, because I want to look back on this blog someday and remember 2011, and my brother's marriage and the results of it was a big part of the year.

Another less than positive key portion of 2011 was that Blake had a number of health issues this year. Fortunately the majority of them are either gone or under control, but for a number of months, he was pretty miserable, and the doctor didn't know how to help. We even had a trip to the emergency room for him this year. Hopefully we remember to stay thankful that none of his issues turned out to be something chronic and unfixable.

Over the course of the year, I also read 63 books! Even some of those show where my interest was this year, as a large portion were on Ireland, Ghana or adoption.

I also wrote 59 (including this one) blog posts this year. I am especially excited with this number considering that I wasn't focused on my CSA box and stopped posting pictures of the boxes after we had been getting it for a year. I felt like these posts were fairly well spaced out too, so that I could look back today and get a good picture of the majority of the things happening this year.

Before I finished this post, I decided to look back at my 2010 post. Here is a few things of note:

- In February I had written-
"I didn't write anything this month... and honestly don't remember much of it either... lol guess that goes with my 2011 goal of being better at blogging/status updates online." and I know I did better at that. No month had no posts, and the least in a month was 2. My facebook year in status also shows I did well in this area:

- Vacations were another thing of note. This year, besides our trip to Ireland, we didn't have a vacation at all (and arguably Ireland was not a vacation since Blake had to work the whole time). In 2010 we had gone with Blake's family to Morro Bay and my family to Colorado. Also, I traveled to visit my friend in Oregon too. I think my brother's marriage was probably a big factor in this difference. But it's okay anyways since Blake needed to save his vacation time for our possible Ghana trip. The fact that it is now falling in 2012+ means that he has more paid days off for it... yay!

- Green eating really started for us in 2010 with both the CSA box and bison... two things that we are continuing with still today, to the point that they are just accepted as part of our choices of food.

My main thought as I look back is that 2011 was a good year, and it really passed quickly. I look forward to seeing what 2012 brings!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Scarves and other teacher gifts

I have acquired quite the scarf collection over the years, and I have to say that I am really happy about it. Starting whenever California realizes that it is fall, through when it starts to warm up again (I know, I non-Californians, I never experience any cold weather and it is always warm here... but there are degrees of our warmth as well, and when it is less warm than normal I will call it cold for the sake of comparison) I like to wear a scarf to keep me warm.

The other awesome thing about my scarf collection is that I think I only bought one or two at most. Receiving an additional three scarves this year as gifts, I felt like it was appropriate to write a blog dedicated mainly to my scarves and their stories.


Starting from the left:

This pink one was a gift from a student this year, and came with a matching set of gloves. I have already worn it several times because it is extremely warm and thick.

The next one also came from a student this year, and in some ways is more special than the first, because she actually made it for me. (Made in that she cut the fabric into the shape of the scarf). I love the pattern on this one, and I like how neutral the colors are, especially compared to many of my other scarves, so I can wear it at times I can't wear the others.

The beautiful blue and white scarf was knitted for me by a good friend from high school. I love the colors, and I love how it has a tendency to twist around a bit and show the pattern more.

The next four scarves were all crocheted for me by my mom. My favorite color-wise is the one with the brown, white and pink, though it is a tad bit long. I use the red one frequently as my "Christmas" scarf, since I honestly don't own a lot of red. The teal one is a beautiful color, and is an interesting design, since it actually has a hole purposely put into it to pull the other side through. This is a good scarf for short jackets where the other scarves might stick out of. The white one I would wear more frequently, except that it was one of (maybe the first) scarf that she made for me, and it is a bit short, especially the way that I like to wear all these scarves:

(super old picture... this was from our engagement photo shoot, and it was actually the photographer that taught me to wear my scarf this way, because it makes your neck look better than the only way I knew how to wear scarves before. Note how different Blake looks now!)

The next scarf is probably my most frequently worn (though it might be challenged by the pink one now) because it is wool, and the warmest of my scarves. This is the one that I pull out when it is less a fashion statement that will also keep my neck warm (though I use this one for that too) and more of a brrrr I want my neck to be warm time. This scarf is also special because it was bought for me by my mother in law in Ireland (and they know about cold weather, and how to make warm scarves).

The blue scarf is the same one that you see in the picture above, and to my memory was actually bought for that photo shoot because I wanted to match Blake's eyes and also because it was one of my wedding colors. It still comes out often because I love the bright blue, but I try to be conscious of what I wear with it... because it is a very bright color and the rest of the outfit needs to work with it.

The last two I have had for a very long time, and I am positive that my mother in law got me the lighter blue one... but I honestly don't remember the story of the last one. These are probably my least worn scarves. The far right one not only doesn't have a great story, it is a bit short and unflexible to do my normal style of wearing scarves, and so I don't grab it often. I think that the light blue one is beautiful and so I wear it on occasion for that reason, but it is very thin, and honestly can only be worn on days that I don't really need a scarf at all... and if it is warm enough for that, I wonder what people will think of me walking around in a scarf.

p.s. I know that both my mom and my mother in law read this blog, and I want to disclaim that I mean no offense by any statements made about my scarves. Please note that I do love all my scarves and they all have their place, and that is why I keep each and every one of them. Thank you for your contributions to my collection! :-D

In addition to this scarf tribute, I wanted to touch on a subject that I consider writing on every year, and yet never seem to do (I even checked back, because I feel like I have written on this before.. but it doesn't appear to be the case, and if I have, forgive me).

I was reading one of the blogs I follow today, who linked to another blog, where the person casually commented "you could do some of the same kinds of things you would do for teacher presents: some sort of candy, a cute mug, bath stuff, candles, cute little notebooks/notepads...". This list I do think is the common expectation of what teacher gifts should be... and looking over the list, I did get every single one of those things for Christmas this year. The problem is that I also got all those things for my birthday... and end of the year... and other Christmases. We will eat the candy, but even that tends to get stored, and we nibble away at it, and eventually have to toss it. I have drawers full of notepads and stationary that I never seem to make progress through. We have a section in our closet for the multitudes of bath stuff and lotions that I get (and if it isn't a body wash, they sometimes have to get re-gifted, since I generally don't take baths). I don't know who could possibly use all of the candles that I get, and they are spread out throughout the house as decorations, and some are put in various holiday boxes just so they have a time to come out without being out all of the time.

Mugs I have decided to embrace since I got so many (and still do), and I now unofficially collect mugs. Please don't take this to mean that I need any mugs as a gift to add to my collection, I get plenty as it is. My one contribution to my growing assortment of mugs is that now we buy a mug every trip we go on, so that it is more of a collection than just I have tons of mugs. And since many of them are Christmas gifts, I have 10 or so (and more every year) that I store with our Christmas decorations and swap out when I decorate the house, and then put them back in storage the rest of the year.

Adding to my list of frequent Christmas gifts is Christmas decorations. These are the least bothersome of my most often received teacher gifts, since they get stored every year, and I can usually find a spot for the ones I get, but it still isn't my favorite gift to receive.

To be clear, I don't expect any gifts, and I fully acknowledge the generosity and sweetness of every parent that decides to give their child's teacher a present. I just felt that if someone is out there perpetuating the stereotypical great teacher gifts that someone should also be out there representing the teachers (myself and those who I work with) and let others know what we would appreciate most. I figure that if a parent is generous enough to want to give a gift, they might want to know what we really want.

The best website that I have found explaining our side is

If you don't feel inclined to read it, let me paraphrase: The typical "teacher gifts" are all ones that we all receive often, and while we appreciate the gesture, we frequently can't use or don't need more of these items.

In another spot of the website the author lists what gifts are preferred

Confirming that it isn't just me, she did the research and polled many teachers as to their preferred gifts. Number 1 choice for both me and most teachers is gift cards. I love the way that she put it so much I am actually going to quote her directly:
I know they get a bad rap, but this was the #1 requested item from all of the teachers we spoke with. A Gift Card is never unwelcome, doesn’t take up any space, and can be used to get something the teacher actually needs. If you prefer to make it more personal, my suggestion would be to make a handmade thank you card with your child. Include a sincere note of appreciation and a pouch where you can slip in the gift card. Believe me, this gift will be a hit!

As sad as it is... when I unwrap yet another candle, there is a part of me that thinks about how I would probably be happier with them spending half of the money they spent on that candle on a starbucks card. Honestly, I go to starbucks once a week, and if I don't have a gift card, I will spend my money on my weekly treat, but I NEVER buy candles. If all of the money already spent on that well meaning gift was spent on gift cards, I would benefit so much more. Also, her point about the note of appreciation is spot on. I save cards with personal notes of appreciation, and I treasure them, and I even pull them out and read them on a bad day. Much more appreciated than yet another lotion.

Her next suggestion is not one that I would normally say, but is probably true- school supplies. My school actually supplies most of the things I need, so this isn't a big concern for me in general. However, my mom can attest that at times I have asked her for glue sticks and scissors, and at the moment I am considering buying sets of number 2 pencils in different colors to keep the class teams accountable for their pencils. So yes, if you ask first, these would probably be appreciated as well.

I wholeheartedly agree with her suggestion of consumable items. I occasionally get coffee as a gift and I love it! The best thing with items that I can eat, especially those I can store and eat over time (like those make your own cookie, soup etc. jars) is that it doesn't matter how many I get, I can go through them eventually. She lists a few suggestions that include spa/lotion sets... but my problem (and many other teachers problem) is that I get so many every year, and go through them so slowly, that even though it is technically a consumable... I can never get through all that I have. (not to mention that personally, we receive this stuff from Blake's work too... so we REALLY never need it).

She did list personalized items too... but at least for me, it needs to be a practical personalized item. One of my favorite gifts of all time is a teacher bag that says Miss Lisa on the side. I got it my first year teaching, and I still use it every year, every day to keep my teaching stuff organized.

Her last category was inspirational teacher books and movies, and reading through her list, I probably would appreciate these as long as I didn't already have them.

Thinking back over the years, I have to say that my favorite gifts are those that really show that they thought about me, as a person, not as a teacher. Isn't that what we should all strive for in our gifts to others?

A few years back, I had a parent give me a healthy cookbook, not as a hint, but because she had heard from her son how much I liked cooking and how I strove to keep the classroom as healthy as I could. I loved it! So thoughtful!

Last year, I had a child write me a card that said that since she knew I liked reading she wanted me to pick out a book I wanted. It came with a Barnes and Noble gift card and a bookmark that I regularly use with the books I read. It may have been a gift card, but it was a gift card that really showed that the student thought about what I would want.

Not recommended for everyone, but I really appreciated a mom two years ago that worked for a clothing company and gave me shirts for both Christmas and the end of the year that really suited my style and fit me well. Talking with another teacher about this, we decided that this is a risky gift... make sure that you know the size and also the teacher's particular style, but if you get something good, it will be appreciated!

I could continue, but the point of this part of my post is that our main request as teachers is that you consider us as individuals when deciding to buy for us, and think about what gifts we frequently get before you purchase us something that we may already have one... or ten... of already.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Next? and Christmas fun

So, as periodically happens, we got an update from our adoption agency giving a few updates on the current status of the program, how many families are where in the process etc.

I read that there were 9 families in our stage, and thought about where we might be in that "line" ... and kept reading. Further in the e-mail our coordinator said "our longest waiting family has been waiting since late May 2011" and I stopped, and read it again. I thought to myself... hrm... isn't that when we started waiting? Then I checked this blog... that top little part that I kept updating back when anything interesting was happening, and confirmed that yes... we started waiting late May 2011. So, while there is a possibility that another family started waiting for the call at the same time as us, there is also a very distinct possibility that our turn for the call could be coming very soon.

I know they aren't common anymore... but you know those take a number things? You don't really have any idea how long the wait will be, but you have a number, and you can see the number on the wall getting closer to your number? The last few updates were my knowing my number was approaching. Now, I feel like we are number 57 and I see them with number 56. Who knows how long person 56 will take with their question or package... but I know that however long it takes... we're next. Of course, I could still have to wait through some more people who are open to older children or more special needs getting children first, but I don't think (as long as it isn't the two families waiting for the same thing situation) I will see anyone accept a referral for our age child until we get a call. Wow. Crazy. On the other hand... I think I rested easier knowing that there were people ahead of us... now it is getting scary close. Now I will be even more conscious of my phone messages than normal.

This wasn't my intended blog topic. I really wanted to talk about Christmas activities, but that was before I got that very interesting update e-mail.

December 3rd I had my good friend Erin and her kids over and we made gingerbread houses from scratch. Well... houses was the plan anyways. :-D Blake and I had made just sheets of gingerbread before they arrived, and my thought was that we would work in teams with the little ones to make different houses and the kids could decorate them. Her husband opted not to come, so Blake worked with Erin's 4 year old girl, and Erin worked with her 2 year old son, and I got to work on my own house.

After Erin heard my (admittedly ambitious) plan, she decided to go with a 2D train for Jeremiah. She really did great, but I didn't remember to take a picture of it, so unless she puts it on facebook at some point, I don't have documentation of the awesome train.

Blake and I were still gung ho for 3D, and Blake received a special challenge from his teammate... she wanted a princess castle. Not one to back down from a challenge, especially in the building area, he successfully created a castle for her, and they decorated it together.
(The red thing from the tower was at one point a bow)

I had a mental image of making a farm, complete with lots of animals, a fence, etc. but after getting the house itself built and the fence built, the kids had already expended their short attention span, and I would have been the only one still working on my masterpiece. Even after they left, I only had the basic house and the fence, but before going to bed for the day I decided that my farm needed at least one animal, and a little aesthetic appeal. That is when I added my pig, and the trees and the food trough for the pig.

All in all, that was a fun day, though I think the gingerbread from scratch building would/will work better with older kids with longer attention spans.

Then, more recently, I had a great weekend up in Big Bear with my in-laws. Lori had a great plan to have us bake a whole bunch of cookies and decorate them, and then package them up as gifts for people. We did attempt some fortune cookies, but something between the altitude and the recipe we were unable to find the right consistency that they were soft enough to mold when they came out of the oven, but hard enough to solidify after the molding together.

Besides the failed fortune cookies, and the sugar cookies we made three other batches of cookies

The sugar cookies were lots of fun, and really unlocked our creative sides. My father and brother in law were the least productive:
Graeme's cookies

Kris' cookies - design inspired by Nightmare before Christmas, and the amazing black color created by Blake and his determination to make a great black from just the primary colors for his dad. Also shown in this picture are the fortune cookies that we made... and obviously not looking like much.

Blake's cookies- Complete with a Mario star, a snowman after a dog passes by, a beautiful angel, and a couple of zombies (commissioned by his dad). Truthfully though, Blake found the most enjoyment out of custom making the colors for use in his designs.

Jami's cookies- I loved her use of pink, and her subtle use of the green highlights on the Christmas tree in the lower center. Also note her Carl's jr. star.

I was the most prolific decorator, having lots of fun doing this even as more and more people finished what they wanted to decorate. I think my two favorites were Roxie in the bottom right, and my boat at the bottom center. My star towards the top with the white frosting on the brown I think looks cool, and I also like my girl in the top left. Honestly though... eventually even I stopped trying and just finished frosting the rest of the cookies simply with my only remaining intent being to have frosting on them for eating purposes.

I had so much fun with the variety of baking different types of cookies, that I decided that I want to spend some of my free time next week while I am off baking some more cookies for other people that didn't get to benefit from our weekend fun.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


I've decided a whole bunch of things today... and I am kinda wondering if I am crazy to do so, but I honestly believe very strongly in goals, and I think that these goals are set far enough apart to make them real and attainable.

Goal 1- March- Run the 10k in Irvine
The beginnings of the trainings for this are not that far from what I am doing now, and this is only twice the distance of what I am regularly doing on Fridays. Biggest fear is doing this as a race, with other people.

Goal 2- September- Run the half marathon at Disneyland.
As I made the choice to do the 10k, I thought about how going from 6 miles to 13 miles is not that big of a jump. Sure, it is a bit over half, but if by March I am able to run 6, by September I should be able to do 13, right? Biggest fear is the sheer scale of this run, thousands of people participate each year, you have to get up super early, you are set up in corrals, and I am sure I will feel extremely lost in the crowd. However, many people say that the joy of a marathon partially comes from how many other people are doing it with you. Also a fear is how our adoption will be affecting the chance of this happening, but then the other part of me thinks that if I set up these huge ambitious goals now, before I have kids, it might be the thing that keeps me sane, focused and still finding time for myself to exercise when I do have a child and life gets crazy. Especially since all of the training programs for big distances have you do shorter distances during the week with a big run on a weekend day, so in theory, I should be able to get a baby sitter (Blake, or my parents, etc.) during my long runs working up to my goals.

Goal 3- Full Marathon- May 2013- Orange County Marathon
Twice the distance of the half... 26 miles... daunting doesn't even begin to describe it. Even the training for this terrifies me. Finding time on the weekends to run the 7, 10, 17, 23, 26 miles to be prepared for the actual run... this will be a sacrifice of 4+ hours of my Saturday. This not just a 30 minute chunk of time before my day begins... it is a lot of time. Adding to this is that I would be surprised if I don't have a child by then, because on average, adoption is an up to 2 year process, and we would have hit that mark in December 2012. I have a feeling that I won't want to sacrifice that time with my child, and this is even before I have one.

And yet... running a marathon is something I want to achieve in my life. It has been on my "someday" list for quite some time now. Even before starting to run. I watch the Biggest Loser people do it, and I feel like I want to say that I have done that too.

Every May there is the Orange County Marathon (and I know I don't want to travel for one). May 2012 is approaching too fast, and I am too far from the miles needed to even start a marathon training program to be ready in time. But May 2013? I will have already done two races, and have been working on gradually increasing trainings for the year. Even if we have a child, he or she will be too young to be doing sports and tons of activities on the weekends, and I don't anticipate that to be the case in 2014, 2015 etc. when they are old enough and interested enough to be doing a sport, or dance or who knows what on their Saturdays. By 2014 we could very likely be in the process or almost done with a second adoption... life gets so much more uncertain the farther out I go. After this marathon, I might have a hard time staying active and in shape, but until then... with this goal... maybe I can.

I typed this... I read it... and reread it... and yet I hesitate to post it, to make it public, to make it that much harder to take back. However, that is the exact reason that I wrote it, I want it to be public... to stake my reputation on following through with my goals.

(Deep breath) I will be running a 10k, a half marathon and a marathon by the end of 2013!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

New Personal Record and other running tidbits

On Monday, my morning that I focus on improving my speed, I set out to try a very ambitious goal of a 8 minute mile. Almost unbelievably... I did it! I ran my first mile of the morning with a time of 7:59.

However... that exhausted me so much that I had to walk for a bit... and then when I ran the rest of the way home it wasn't even another mile, and the .85 of a mile that I did run I ran it slow... taking about 9 minutes to do so.

So not quite a crowning victory, since as Blake so kindly pointed out, my average was actually slower than previous weeks when you include my second very slow mile.

I am thankful for this weekend's clock change and getting to run in light and dawn again, but there is a negative that came with this... it is very chilly in the mornings these days. We are talking 50 or below. Even with running, I am too cold in my normal workout gear and have been running with a sweatshirt on... and still being a little cold.

I am finding that I have been preferring my phone over my ipod lately because of Pandora. With running three days a week, I am somewhat tired of everything on my running mix, and I like the variety that comes from Pandora. There is a downside though that since Pandora needs internet, if I run through a section that there is no signal, the song cuts out and then takes a while to load again. The upside of my phone is that I can set my running app to tell me every time I hit a mile, or how far and how fast I have run every two minutes (or one minute, etc.).

On Friday, I made another personal record with running 3 miles in 27 minutes and 30 seconds. To my memory, my fastest time when I was running cross country was 25 minutes (maybe 24), and running three miles at just over 9 minutes is a good step in the right direction.

I'm considering signing up and running a 10k in March... but I am nervous. In some ways, I think that it is only a little over 6 miles, but then I look at the training schedules for those, and all of them have me regularly running 4 or 5 miles to get ready for the 6. Right now, my three mile Fridays are a push for me, and I am ready to be done way before the three miles. On the other hand, when I had decided to run in the first place, everything said that it was really important to set goals and milestones for yourself to keep you running and motivated. Running a race would do that, and it totally makes sense that the runs during the week have to be longer for that to work too.

Also causing me to hesitate is the uncertainty about our adoption. What if we are in Ghana in March, what if our child comes home in March... on the other hand, we could not even have a call yet, and is it right to wait or hold back on goals just because of a huge gaping unknown?

I want to stay healthy, and I want to stay in shape, and I really want to keep running. More than any gym regimen that I have ever done, I want to keep getting better and continuing to run. To do this, I think I need more distinct training goals than just "get faster."

I need encouragement... I need a push, a shove, a resounding chorus that says that says that I have all of December, January and February to get ready for the run in March. I need to believe that I can do this. And maybe, just maybe with enough encouragement, I will actually click the button to sign up for that race...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Thoughts and Ramblings

As I looked back on my calendar today, I noticed that when I run this Friday, it will mark 9 weeks of running three days a week (though that does include two days off when I was sick)! I don't think I have been that consistent at exercising three days a week for a long time. I never thought I would be one of "those" people who wakes up early to go running in the morning. Actually, I have scoffed at those people before. But I do love the feeling that I get throughout the day remembering that I have already exercised today, and that I can enjoy my evenings without having to feel guilty that I am not dragging myself to the gym (which I never liked anyways).

I more or less have a pattern down that Monday I work on speed, Wednesday I run the 2-2.5 miles at whatever pace I feel comfortable at, and Friday I am working on distance. I did manage to run an eight and a half minute mile this Monday, and then my second mile was eight minutes and forty five seconds. The problem is that I did indulge in a short walk break between the two, so I can't say that I ran two miles in 17 minutes and fifteen seconds, but instead that I ran the two miles at the above speeds. My goal for next Monday is to keep the same times, but not walk in between.

The downsides of Mondays is that my current way of telling my speed, and thus working to improve it too, is my phone. I have a program that tracks my speed, how far I am running, and my current time. But it does mean I have to carry my phone while I run, which I don't like. If I stay consistent with running, I would love to get something like: Photobucket

This way, I don't have to carry my phone, and I can still know my distance and time. I especially like that there is a feature where it records your previous runs, and you can race a digital character that is running based on your previous time. What a great way to find out if I am going faster or slower than my last time!

Another random thought about my runs is that more than I can ever remember before... I am so looking forward to daylight savings! When I started running in September, I was running in the early morning light, and watching the dawn as I ran. Lately... I could just as easily be running at night! Its safe, there are plenty of lights around Irvine's trails, but still, it is weird running in the dark. I look forward to having a time that it is somewhat light again when I run.

On a totally different topic (that really should be in another post... but isn't going to be) I think I have found that I am 4/5ths good with our route to children. The 1/5th is reserved for things like "My Belly Book." I bought this journal to chronicle my pregnancy back when we were first starting to try because I wanted to write in it as soon as the first week after I found out, and I didn't want to have to wait to go get it if we were successful the first month (sigh, the foolish optimism of those first months). Currently, we are over a year past trying, over a year past deciding to adopt, and 9 months into the adoption process...and I can't let go of this journal! I don't keep it anywhere near me, I have it tucked away by Blake, but I can't seem to let myself decide to give it to good will or give it to someone else. I keep hoping that maybe when I find out the next person I know is pregnant, I will give it to them... but since deciding that there has been a teacher at my school get pregnant, give birth, and you know... I still have this journal! Similarly... during my super optimism time, I made a variety of baby clothes. I have been to multiple baby showers since then, and since our decision to adopt an older child... and I can't seem to even allow the thought of giving them away, or passing them on or anything.

Why? Why do I have this portion of me that literally cannot let go of the possibility? As much as it irritates me when people say "that it will happen now that you aren't trying" ... I think it partially bothers me because it puts that thought in my mind too... and I think it is healthier for my mental state to embrace the adoption without a part of me holding back with the ever lingering hope of pregnancy.

This same fifth of me is the same part that gets jealous when I read things like I did today on our adoption board. Two different people on the board already had kids, adopted more kids from Ghana, and are now pregnant again. I don't know why... but I feel extra jealous of them because not only do they have the blessing of having biological children easily, they have also already jumped through all of these hoops and have their adopted kids already too! It's just... sigh.

I can't explain it. Extra frustrating is that the other 4/5ths of me is bothered by the very presence of the 1/5 that can't seem to let go completely. Some days it is enough that I wish that I had had something so catastrophically wrong with that portion of my anatomy that I knew it was impossible for me to get pregnant. Maybe then I could have closure.

Since I hate to leave this on a bad note, I will throw into this super random post that my weekends lately have been extra nice. This school year is stressful for me, and so I extra need the weekends to unwind and relax. Blake and I have been riding our bikes to a lunch location, and just generally spending time together and it has really been great. We even spent a day going down to San Diego and seeing Sea World and the San Diego Zoo in one day, and it was just a great bonding day. Also hard to explain, but in a good way, I feel like we are connecting more than ever on these great weekends together. It is the silver lining to my cloud of the previous paragraphs that though we don't have kids yet... we have a blessing of more precious wonderful weekends with just the two of us.

Monday, October 10, 2011

9 minute mile!

I am so excited, I wanted to share my making a milestone this morning. I have a variety of goals that I hope to achieve with my running, such as endurance, stamina, and slight weight loss. Less important, but an additional goal, has been to improve my speed on my 2 mile run in the mornings (that will eventually become 3 miles).

The last couple weeks, I was averaging around a 10 minute mile, so my first goal was to get that down to 9 (for reference sake, in my cross country days my first mile was 7 minutes). Well, today I ran two miles in 17 minutes and 50 seconds! Yay!

8 minutes here I come!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Today we received an update from our coordinator for our Ghana program, and I do love getting the updates, because even if they don't exactly tell us where we are in the program, it helps.

Currently there are eleven other families in the program at the same place we are. I have no idea (nor way of knowing, nor would I ask) where we fall in the order of these other families. I do know that the family that has been waiting the longest has been waiting 9 months, so that isn't us. I am thankful that the number isn't bigger, and that the longest waiting isn't over a year. I can handle the thought of 9 months, and even the thought that if we are the least waiting, there are only 10 families ahead of us. I think the best thing about this number is that it is something to hold on to. I know that the number of people ahead of us is limited. It reassures me that there will be an end eventually. It's good to have any kind of defined end in this crazy process that is different for everyone.

I also take comfort in the fact that there are 15 families that in the two stages closer to child coming home. So many families are being made! It just makes me happy! It also gives me more peace that our turn will indeed come. 15 families have made it past our step at this point, those families are heading towards the finish line. It is possible!

Anyways, I wanted to pass along these little updates so that they can also give anyone who reads this and is curious where our adoption stands a little more information about where we stand.

Also, I wanted to let you guys know that there is a fundraiser going on right now to get Christmas presents for the orphans that are a part of our agency. It is a silent auction where you post a comment on the item you want with your bid and if you win, you are notified. Read more about it at

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Let them eat cake!

As hard as it is to believe, I have been jogging three times a week for 5 weeks now! Last Friday, the 23, I ran for 20 minutes straight! I was tired, to be sure, but I did successfully go that whole time without stopping.

Throughout the last couple of weeks I have considered posting an update on how it is going, and on things that I changed and tweaked through the time, but life always got busy, and then I decided I was so close to 5 weeks, I would post about all of it when I hit this mark.

First off, I learned some valuable things about running music. I found that it was not enough to choose songs that have a good beat, and fit the length that I need, but they also need to not be repetitive. One song that I tried, I really felt like I was having to run for longer because the song happened to be one that repeats the same lyrics over and over again. Songs with different verses work much better, because I don't notice the time passing as much. I did also learn how to set up a song on itunes to start or stop at a different time than the song's length and this became extremely valuable since there were only so many songs of the exact length I needed.

The first time I ran, I ran with nothing but my ipod. Blake was not pleased... and he had a good point (and I know my parents probably aren't happy to hear this either :-D), since if something did happen on that run, I would have had no way to contact him. Also, I was stressing the whole time about him deciding to leave early, and locking me out, and how could I get back in the house, etc. However, I hate having anything in my hands when I run (or walk... or basically ever... I really like my hands free). But while I researched and looked for a solution to this, I did my next couple of runs with my phone in my hand, and explicit instructions to Blake to not lock me out.

I ended up buying this:

It is called a shadow pack, and is made for runners, and had really good reviews. Honestly, I barely feel it when I run, and I can fit my cell phone and my keys in it. I now use an app on my cell phone called my tracks that says how far I have run, and records my average speed and my elevation. I really enjoy looking at it and seeing my progress.

I might have mentioned earlier that I also decided that I should buy new shoes since my old shoes had holes in both of the toes. This was a huge decision for me because I wanted to choose good shoes that would last. So I dived into the world of running shoes. As I searched, I learned more about barefoot/minimalist running. Basically, the philosophy is that our legs were designed for running in a way that is superior to all of the advances in shoe technology, but we have to train ourselves to run this way. Without knowing tons about it, the main difference is that we tend to run in a way that our heel strikes first when we wear typical running shoes, and the shoes are designed to cushion that impact and even draw our heel down. But when they study people who run barefooted, the mid-foot hits first. This makes the calves and ankles work harder to absorb the impact, but they do so very well, acting as a spring.

There are, of course, people who actually run barefooted, but I knew I would feel way too weird to do that. There are also shoes that have toe spots that are as close to running barefoot while wearing shoes to protect you:

However good reviews these received... they were also way too weird for me. I instead went for minimalist shoes. They are designed to make your feet/legs work the same way that they would if you were barefooted, but with slight padding, and no seperate toes. These are the shoes that I picked:

As promised, the first couple times that I wore these my calves were killing me for the next few days! They were not used to having to work so hard. But, I did feel much better running in these shoes. Actually it was interesting because the first time I ran in them, I liked them so much I ran faster and harder, and wore myself out thoroughly before I finished my run (I was running very slowly by the end). But I am happy to say that my feet have adjusted, and now my calves aren't especially more sore than other parts.

I have found a route that I love, and I find that my morning run is really nice for a variety of reasons. One is that the way that the timing is currently working, I leave the house while it is still dark and watch the sky gradually lighten during the 20-30 minutes I am gone. I see rabbits and birds in the morning and very few people. I feel much more awake the days that I run, and the mornings go smoother because of our almost military level operations the night before (lunches ready, clothes picked out, car loaded etc.). It is getting to the point that I miss having everything ready on my non-running mornings, and it might become a regular routine to do that every night.

A nice side effect of running too is that I have so much more endurance during tennis too. We haven't tried a bike ride since, but I have a feeling that I will do better during the ride because of my increased stamina as well.

I haven't really noticed a difference in my weight yet... but that was never my goal to begin with anyways, I just wanted to be able to run without feeling exhausted, and even though I am only 5 weeks through the program, I feel that that portion is successful.

The program trains to running a 5k, but for our timing in the morning, my goal will be to do a half mile walk and then a two mile run, and try to gradually decrease my time during that run. Maybe if my time gets good enough, it will be increased to three miles in the morning, but not for now.

Knowing that goals are important to keep something up, even as we make my cake tonight, my next reward after another 5 weeks of three days a week running will be a pound of See's candy.

p.s. lol...I guess the shoe pictures turned out really big... but I don't feel like fixing them... sorry!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

New school year and new fitness plan

Two weeks ago I started a couch to 5k fitness plan. Each week, it outlines the breakdown of a 25 minute run. At the beginning the runs are shorter and the walks are longer, and gradually it is more and more running until it just starts with a 5 minute warmup, and then a 20 minute run straight.

If I can make it through 5 weeks of running three times a week, Blake and I will celebrate with a cake. If I can make it another 5 after that, we will get a pound of see's candy. I know, it seems totally counter productive to an exercise goal that the rewards are desserts. However, we both have a sweet tooth, and it isn't unheard of for us to just buy ourselves these kind of treats without any special occasion or incentive at all. This way, we don't get these treats until I make these fitness goals. A dessert week every 5 weeks isn't too bad. (If you are wondering why our desserts is all on me, it is because Blake already works out 5 days a week).

My reasoning for choosing this particular work out is because of my chosen sport in high school- cross country. I ran for two years, and though I was never the best at my school, I am proud of the fact that I ran 3 miles in the races and frequently ran 5-6 in the practices. Recently on walks, Blake and I would jog a little on the walk... and I would be beat! Out of breath, totally exhausted. This is a far stretch from my high school cross country days. So, of my own volition, I decided that it was time to get myself back to at least being able to run for 20 minutes. Also, it has been fun for me to design my running mixes on my ipod, setting up musical cues with faster songs for my running intervals and slower songs for my walking intervals so I don't have to deal with a timer.

Part of my goal of typing this and putting the ticker on my blog is to keep me going, and keep me accountable to more people. I figure the more public I make this commitment, the more likely I am to make it a habit even as the school year begins, and it gets harder to get up in the morning. Fingers crossed I stick with it.

Next week will be the start of my 6th year teaching. I do get to stay with my fourth grade level another year, however I will have 6 more students than I did last year. That doesn't sound like much, but when I consider that that is 6 more of every report, paper, and test that will need to be graded, I get a bit nervous. My room is almost all set up, and I think by tomorrow, it will be all ready.

I am really excited about my theme for the class this year. In the past, I generally avoided classroom themes, but I thought it would be fun to unite my classroom with some consistent color choices and thematic decorations this year. So, I went with music. Most of my decorations, borders, and desk plates are black and white, and then I have added different musical notes to them. My class verse for the year is focusing on living in harmony with each other, and I will be reinforcing this theme with teaching the kids that the point of harmony is not to sing the same note (all be the same) but to sing different notes that work well together (emphasizing their need to be able to work together).

As an extra touch, I plan on showing this video as a demonstration of what harmony (in music) is:

I am hopeful for both my new fitness plan and my new school year!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The power of one

I will start by admitting that I am not good at keeping up with the news. I enjoy reading novels, magazines and various things online (blogs, articles, facebook posts etc.) but I don't like to watch or read news stories.

The biggest reason for this is that I don't like sad stories, and generally... the news includes sad stories of people who got killed, or injured, people who died in war, or other various bad things that happen fairly often in this sinful world we live in.

This is not to say that I never know what is going on in the world. Blake reads news fairly often, and lets me know some of the headlines of the day (even when they are sad... even though I ask him not to :-P). Also, you would be surprised how much news you can learn just from facebook and blogs. If it is big enough, everyone is talking about it... so I hear about it too!

However, there is a category of news that I really enjoy reading and am happy when I stumble upon it: hero stories. The stories where someone steps out and does something great and changes another person's life in the process.

Today I ran across two hero stories (links at the bottom to learn about them from the news) and I felt they were worth sharing, they were that good.

Apparently there is something about huge cliffs that appeal to people as their preferred way to end their life. In Australia, there is a guy who lives really close to one of these cliffs, and using binoculars can actually see people on the cliff who are contemplating this end. If he sees this, he actually goes to the cliff and talks to them and invites the sorrowful stranger back to his house for tea. He admits that not everyone is open to this, and he has seen people reject his help and his offer... but many more are thankful to have someone who cares. With his quiet presence and willingness to be there for them, people walk away realizing that life is worth living.

There is a similar story of a guy in Japan who walks to a popular cliff twice a day in hopes of deterring people there from committing suicide.

Each of them has stopped over 100 suicides, and the Japanese guy goes a step farther and actually keeps in contact with each person he has rescued, still checking on them and showing them that someone cares.

What an amazing calling! I love that there are people out there who literally devote their life to helping strangers. I actually think that in some ways, knowing that it is a random stranger who wants to do this makes more of an impact than the organizations set up to do the same thing. If I knew that the person helping me was doing it because it was their job, I might not believe that they truly cared about me. A random person stopping to talk to me about how I am feeling is very different.

It also reminds me of my most haunting psychology class that I had in college- basically the class showed numerous examples of how we, as people, tend to think that someone else will take care of it (whatever it is), and sometimes that means that nobody does.

There is something called the bystander effect. Basically, if there are a couple of people who are witnesses or experiencing the same thing, we wait until someone else acts before we act. But since we are all waiting for someone else to react... nobody does. If, on the other hand, someone takes responsibility, and starts asking those around to help, everyone mobilizes and sees how they can help.

A tame example of this was done as an experiment: the people who were going to participate in this experiment thought they were waiting for it to begin (it actually took place during the "waiting" time.) Smoke started coming out from under the door of another room into the waiting room. If the participant was alone, they always alerted the scientists. If the participant was waiting with other people (people planted by the scientists to not do anything), then many times they did nothing.

The less tame examples included people getting seriously hurt or killed while others stood around doing nothing.

Ever since that class I have hoped that if a situation like that came up, I wouldn't be the one to do nothing. I will no longer assume that someone else will take care of it. I want to be like these guys who stop suicides all the time (not exactly like them, but just taking the power of one). We can't help everyone... but we can all help someone. Many people who attempt suicide have said that if someone even smiled at them, they might not have done it. So... smile! Reach out to people in need! (I am saying this to myself too). I think the world would be a better place if everyone took this attitude of looking out for people to help.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Great Big Bear weekend

Big Bear
Blake and I spent last weekend up in Big Bear, where his parents have a cabin. It was such a nice weekend!

Honestly, there was very little that we did there that we couldn't have done at home, but I think weekends at home too often turn into errand running busy weekends, where being away from all the housework and responsibilities allows for more relaxation.

We both (yes, Blake too!) spent a good amount of time just sitting outside reading. Reading outside surrounded by trees and forest is definitely superior to just reading at home.
Big Bear

Big Bear

Other "could do at home but better here" activities included some wii games and a board game, as well as our fantastic meals. The meals were especially good because unlike home, where we generally try our best to eat healthy... for Big Bear we planned to eat more fun meals. We got there late Friday night so our first meal there was breakfast the next day. We had peanut butter banana pancakes (had never made these particular kind of pancakes before, but they were great), bacon and eggs. For lunch we had seven layer dip and chips (yep... as our meal!). For dinner we set up the coals (not without a few tries) and grilled bison steaks, potato, corn and artichoke. It was all delicious treats. Okay, I know for a splurging weekend, nothing sounds all that bad... but the meals were planned in a brainstorming what would be best for _____. The above meals is what we came up with. (This might be partially due to the fact that we generally like how we eat at home, so don't need to do anything that different).

Big Bear

Big Bear

Now, there were some things that we did that we couldn't do at home (at least not with what we own). We did play horseshoes... but that was somewhat sad... I won! I got two points, compared to Blake's one, and this is after a long time of playing. So we decided it was time to quit this game and try something else. (Also, Blake said it was no fun playing with me... I admit that I am not that great... but he wasn't playing that well either... since I won! Maybe he was trying to not make me look bad... or maybe playing with his brother and dad makes him try more because he doesn't want to look bad to them? Not sure... but I do know that playing horseshoes for 30-40 minutes with your high score being a 2... isn't the most exciting game).

We also played badminton. This was a game that we enjoyed! We actually were fairly closely matched. Overall, Blake won more games, but I got one or two in there as well. After 4 or 5 games (guessing here), I said we should just rally. My logic was mostly that in a game, your goal is for the other person not to hit it, but I wanted to practice actually keeping it going. We were doing so well that I decided first to count how many times we could hit it before it dropped. Then (because I am a goal setting kind of person) I said that I thought we should keep rallying until we hit it 50 times without it hitting the ground.

For the first bit of this, it seemed I had set too high of a goal, but then we made it to 33. Somehow this sparked a determination in both of us that we WERE going to make this badminton goal if it took us all weekend! We kept playing, and got many more around 29 to 31... but always seemed to lose it. At one point we had a great rally, and I asked Blake how high we had gotten (after the first couple times, he took over counting) and he said 42. So close... and made us so much more determined! With a few breaks in between to get dinner ready, we kept trying... and we made it! On the last hit Blake hit the birdie to the ground and said 51! At this point, triumphant after 3 or 4 hours of playing, we were done with badminton for the weekend.

Our furry friend Roxie also enjoyed the weekend. I spent sometime training her to catch a Frisbee midair, and she was actually getting pretty good at it, as long as I threw it near enough to her. She enjoyed running around and chewing on sticks, but she actually gave us the most entertainment when Blake was watering the trees on their property.

Big Bear

Big Bear

Big Bear

Roxie was running around, having a good time, chasing the frisbee etc. Then I guess she got hot... because she decided to get wet... and muddy. I was cracking up and grabbed the camera. Eventually we made her get out, and we put the wood chips back (don't worry Lori, it looks fine, we cleaned up after her), and then laughed some more at the muddy mess she made of herself.

Big Bear

Big Bear

Big Bear

Big Bear

Big Bear

There was only one thing I would have wished was different... the moon. Strange, I know, but there is logic to this. You see, we like seeing meteor showers, and trying for that elusive chance to see a shooting star. But here, in Orange County, star visibility is low. VERY low. So we had talked before that someday we should plan to be in Big Bear for a meteor shower, so we can really enjoy it. When I asked my mother in law about the cabin's availability, last weekend was the last spot open for the summer, so we took it. Only later did Blake find out that luck was on our side and there was actually a meteor shower taking place Friday and Saturday! Except... it was also a full moon. We are talking spotlight bright moon. Honestly, visibility was about as good as we have here normally, that bad.

We still wanted to try (figuring that we can sometimes see them at home) so we brought out a sheet from home, put our air mattress on it, and stared at the night sky. Friday night we saw 3... and Saturday night we saw none (maybe one out the corner of our eyes... but not really). This was the results of one of the better meteor showers of the year... sigh. Though, we are planning on asking about next year getting a group together at Big Bear to watch this shower together, when the moon is predicted to be a lot less bright.

Overall, still a great relaxing weekend.

p.s. To my mother in law, who reads this blog, thank you for letting us enjoy your wonderful cabin for the weekend. Even if many of our activities could be done at home, they were so much better away from home. We truly appreciate it!

Repost of Anita's post

A little less than a month ago our coordinator made a post that I was really thankful for, explaining why it takes so long to get a referral for a child to adopt when there are millions of orphans in the country.

I know that I have been asked many times why the referral is expected to take so long, and I try to explain it as best as I can, but as an adoption coordinator and an adoptive mom herself, who can explain it better than her?

After reading this post, part of me was thankful for how long it takes, because it could mean that some of those children that might have been referred are instead getting to stay with family, and that is a good thing. Anyways, I hope you enjoy learning a little more about the process in country before it even starts to involve us in the United States.

Copied from

"One of my awesome families mentioned today that her family had a hard time understanding why it would take so long to adopt two orphaned boys. How hard could it be to find 2 orphaned boys in a country where there are estimated to be a million orphans? As I wrote out just how hard that can be, I thought maybe others might like to know what goes into it. I think it's common for folks new to international adoption to naively assume it should be an easy thing.

Here's the deal....

1. We don't try to "find" orphans. There is a huge amount of "luck" (fate, destiny, whatever you want to call it) involved simply for orphaned children to ever be known outside of their village.

2. There is NO centralized system in Ghana to track the orphans in the country. No list of kids in orphanages--not even a complete list of orphanages themselves.

3. If two orphaned boys are identified, the first thing we're going to do is try to see if they can remain with their family (immediate or distant)! Second, we're going to see if the boys could possibly be adopted within Ghana, domestically.

4. If the boys can't be adopted domestically and can't stay with biological family, the known biological family has to be counseled about what adoption is (and what it is not). There are LOTS of reasons why a family--even if they can't care for their children--does not want the child to be adopted.

5. If the family wants the boys to be adopted, they also have to know and accept that they will profit NOTHING from giving the boys for adoption. No gifts. No sponsorship. No ongoing support from the adoptive family after the children are in America. Nothing.

6. Even if the immediate family understands all of this and still wants the boys to go for adoption, the head of the family and oftentimes even the village chief must also agree. [Not a legal requirement, but a cultural one, to be sure.]

7. If all of that falls into place (and that is a lot) we have to hope that the boys are in a region that allows adoption (some do not) and that if the region allows adoption, the officials there are not corrupt (some are).

8. If ALL of that happens, THEN these boys could be recommended for adoption by Social Welfare--being made free for adoption."

I am going to add a postscript here as well- after step 8, people are contacted mainly in order of how long they have been waiting, also keeping in mind the perimeters that they specified on healthiness, age, sex of the child etc. So even if a child makes it through all the hoops to be able to be adopted, they might not come to our family because other people have been waiting longer or they might be too old for what we are looking for.

It could be a long wait. The silver lining is that most families don't wait over a year for referral. I know, small silver lining, but I hold on to that as a reasonable timeline, and some kind of direction for my life, and if it is shorter, yay! If we happen to be one of the over the year ones (sigh) then I trust it is for a reason, and God wants Blake and I to enjoy more non-kid time together and for me to spend more time with the students I encounter.

As of May 12th, Anita had shared this:
"Do you know how long our longest waiting family has been waiting? Less
than 5 months! At the beginning of the year we had a family who had
waited 22 months for referral. Even last week we had a few families who
had been waiting over a year. But now we're making referrals to
families who have only been waiting 5 months! Several families this
year have received referrals almost immediately because they were open
to children over six; and all of our "long-waiting" families have now
been matched."

Definitely a positive! And that information also gives me hope. You can see from the ticker that we are obviously not the longest waiting family at the moment (especially since as of May 12th I don't think we were even on the list!) But people are getting matched, children are getting referred, and our time will come. :-D

Friday, August 12, 2011

Free Money

So this post is kind of an infomercial... but I want to preface it by saying that I waited quite a while before posting on this topic to make sure that it was legit, and not just from other people's statements, but my own.

A little over a month ago, I heard about this site called swagbucks. Bottom line, is that when you use swagbucks as your search engine, you can earn swagbucks that can in turn be redeemed for prizes and giftcards.

Knowing that I really had nothing to lose in this experiment, I set up an account (which was really easy to do) and started searching via swagbucks. My searches, for the record, include stuff that I could just go to a bookmarked page or just type in the url, but I figure one more search can't hurt, so I will "search" for gmail, etc.

Anyways, in this month, I have earned and redeemed 50 dollars at and 5 dollars at amazon.

Every 400 I can get the certificate. Disclaimer on these is that they won't pay for the whole meal (someone has to get something out of it, after all). But last night we had dinner (very tasty) at Wolfgang Puck Bistro. It was a 50 dollar meal, but we only paid 25 because of our certificate. Each of their certificates comes with certain limitations, for example, ours was we had to spend 35 dollars to use the 25 certificate. But still... half off a nice meal isn't bad by me!

For amazon, it is every 425 (I think) for a 5 dollar giftcard. But there is no limitations or you have to spend x amount, I just get 5 more dollars toward my kindle books, just from using this search engine!

This is not to say there are downsides- I will be honest and upfront: you have to screen your searches more closely. It is second nature to me now, but sprinkled throughout the searches that you actually want are sponsored searches- they say they are sponsored if you are looking for it, and you can avoid them easily, but you can see why this search engine can give you money... because many people probably click on the ads, and those sponsors are happy.

I also want to say that all of my earnings have not just been from searches. I earn 3 additional swagbucks daily by 1- using their toolbar, which I don't mind doing because it makes it easier to use this search engine to search, 2- doing the daily poll earns one, 3- clicking on the surveys page. I have done a few surveys, but I usually don't qualify, but just clicking on the page to do them earns a buck.

In addition I have watched swagtv- which earns you a couple dollars for every 10 or so clips you watch. I have done their no obligation special offers, where I click no for all of them and are rewarded for my time with 1 or 2 swagbucks.

If I was so inclined, I could use their coupons, and earn some for every coupon I redeem. I also could do trial offers, or daily deals and get more, but I haven't done any of these yet. I haven't done the coupons because they aren't things that we could get from Sprouts, and the trial offers and daily deals haven't been worth it to me yet, but I wouldn't be opposed to them.

At this point, I have decided to rotate doing the and the amazon cards, but consider that in about a month, I have gotten 50 dollars off of meals that Blake and I will eat at, and 5 dollars at Amazon. This is legitimate and a fun way to stretch our dollar.

Here is a news report talking about swagbucks:

If this made you interested in signing up... you can click HERE or on my link on the right underneath my books.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Squirrels, preparing for the winter- part 2

Bit of background:

Last summer, we had loads of tomatoes,and we were giving them away like crazy. I even brought a bag to a doctor's appointment last summer in the pure effort to give them away. Even so, there were tomatoes that went bad in our cupboard because we didn't get to them. We only preserved 3 jars of pasta sauce, but didn't think much about it.

Last winter, when our Red Octobers were done, and our tomatoes were all gone, we were sad that we had to start using cans of tomatoes and spaghetti sauce from the store, when we had everything we needed to can and preserve our own when we had a lot of them. (I use tomatoes in dishes all year long, particularly in soups during the cold months.) So when we planned our garden, the question of surplus tomatoes came up. We hated the waste when we had too many, but the thought of having our tomatoes in soups and dishes in the winter was a tempting prospect.

This spring, we planted a lot of tomato plants knowing ahead of time that we couldn't use them all, but intentionally planning on canning and preserving them for the winter months.

In previous posts, I showed the quantity of pasta sauce that we made. So when we picked on Saturday and got another large batch of tomatoes...



... we knew that we needed to preserve them again. However, this time, we decided to just do diced tomatoes for soups. (I also got a few more from my parents too).

Phew was it a lot of work!

First, we had to peel all of them (this bowl of the skins should give you some perspective on just how many we had to skin):

The small ones we kept whole, the larger ones we quartered. Here is what the pot looked like, just filled with tomatoes!

After we brought it to boiling, it was ready to be put into jars and then a hot water bath. Here is the results of our efforts:

Now we have 9 jars of tomatoes for winter soups, and if our plants keep producing, we will likely do another batch this way.

I am fairly sure that the commercial cans of tomatoes don't have seeds or as much liquid. Our jars have chunks still, but honestly are mostly the liquid, but my logic is even a jar of tomato liquid with a few chunks will add that good flavor to the soup.

In other cooking news, we have tried two more Ghanaian recipes... but we didn't love these either...

We made pancakes, but the recipe called for nutmeg, and although we learned from the meat pies and significantly reduced the nutmeg from what the recipe called for, it was still enough that we didn't love them. Edible... but only okay.

Yesterday, we tried a recipe for oven baked fish. It is topped with a mixture of spices, garlic, onion and pepper. Blake enjoyed it, but it really was too strong for me. Blake says he would eat it again, but knowing that it was too much for me, it is less likely that we would make it again.

I am happy that we keep trying their foods, but I am really finding that they like strong flavors. At least, stronger flavors than I like.

Though, I do want to point out in the above picture that my own recipe really turned out good with the green beans. I combined them with leeks, soy sauce, ginger and orange, and I really liked how that turned out.

Last thing of note is that we reorganized our grain/bean section of the cupboard. I like it so much I wanted to post it as well!

This is a significant upgrade from having all those grains in bags. Easier to find, and thus easier to use.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Few random thoughts from scanning photos

I have been working for my mom a bit this summer just to make a little extra cash, and one of the things that I have been doing is scanning pictures.

These pictures are interesting to see, and I think most of them were ones I hadn't seen before. After spending about 4 hours straight doing this today, I had a few thoughts that came up that I felt like sharing.

One thing I noticed is how amazing it is that there is always some essence of our face that stays the same. I scanned pictures of my grandmother that ranged through her whole life time- baby to current, and although I might not have been able to identify her as the baby without a label... I can see the resemblance when it is pointed out. I did this for my mom, aunt, uncles and cousins, and I came to the same general conclusion that I did with my grandma that we (with the exceptions of major accidents and plastic surgery I suppose) look like us our whole lives. It isn't even just one characteristic, like the eyes, its a combination of everything.

The reason I am scanning them really made me think too. My mom had mentioned that she wanted a digital copy of them so that she wouldn't have to keep the hard copy. On the one hand, the sentimental side of me, thinks that it would be so bad to throw away these pictures that survived so many years. Some of these pictures are of my great-great grandparents! And yet... why should we keep them. We have them saved, preserved on a disk. In theory, now we could save them forever (or as long as computers can keep storing and re-saving the pictures in the new formats of the future). As more generations pass, what would be the point of having old pictures in boxes? I like photobooks, and will probably continue to do them (and making my own calendar too) but you know I can't honestly think of many reasons to print just pictures out these days?

I have a free print from one of the online photo sites. But I can't think of what I would want with it. I suppose a few in frames around the house, or give to friends... but many times my digital pictures stay digital. I want them, I like the memories they preserve, but unless it is a photobook or a calendar, most of them just stay there. (I also had many moments of giving thanks for digital camera making it so future generations don't have to scan my pictures). With awesome technology like digital frames, even printing pictures for frames is becoming obsolete. Why have just one picture of your husband on your desk when you can have a frame changing the picture all the time? (That is on my list of things I would like to have someday :-D).

For some reason, it also made me think about art- namely, children's art. As a teacher, I have lost count of how many drawing kids have given me. Originally, I wanted to keep all of it... but it didn't take long for practicality to win out. I asked a fellow teacher at the time what she did, and her wisdom hasn't steered me wrong yet. She has a spot where she keeps some of it, but she goes through it every so often and only the things that still have meaning to her stay. Makes sense, so I do the same, keeping cards and drawings that have meaning for me, while "sending to the big refrigerator in the sky" the ones that don't. (It sounds mean... but some of these are literally just coloring pages, sometimes with a to: and from:).

It made me think about my future child's art. What do you keep? How? If it is just in a box, it will never be looked at, and what's the point of that? But ditching all of it is just as clearly not the thing to do. One of my student's parent last year scanned all of her daughter's work from the year (actually came in handy for me preparing for next year :p) and I like the digital idea, but even these files... will her daughter really want to look at a report she did about California's flag when she is 30? On the other extreme, I don't think my mom kept much of my art or reports as a kid (and maybe she will reply to this blog and say she does have it somewhere that I am not aware of) so I can't look back on it. We got a box of Blake's stuff in this area- art and reports as a kid, and he probably wouldn't have kept most of it... it was me that saved it!

I know this is very rambling, but this is my current stream of consciousness, and I don't have a great solution. I think it would be good to save some... but then again, what will my great grandchild do with all my old stuff?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

If you feel led.... two great causes

>>>>>>>>>>EDIT- Already a praise report! The mom I mention below received enough donations for rent! If you had read this post and was part of that, thank you! If you wanted to help... you can still help the vehicle situation I describe below. :-D I am so happy for her!<<<<<<<<<<<<<

If you are a regular reader of this blog, it should be very obvious to you that Ghana is on my heart on a very frequent basis as we wait to hear about the child that we will have the ability to raise and call our own.

I also have mentioned to you that a very large reason that I chose Ghana is because of what I read from our coordinator's blog long before she became our coordinator, and I really liked what I saw of her heart for others and for God.

In the last week, she has posted two requests for financial help, which is unusual for her, and thus should be obvious it is a big deal.

I was going to just repost her two, but instead I will link them at the end and provide a really simple recap here using my own words.

The first is for a mom in Ghana who is honestly doing everything she can to be a great mom for her kids, keep them together, and not have the family living on the street. Her husband left her with six kids to raise. With our adoption organization's help, her kids are able to go to school now, and she is successfully running a yam selling business and doing well at it. The only problem is that in Ghana you can't pay rent month to month, you have to pay 2 years in advance, and it is close to due. This mom is doing everything she can to get back on her feet, and she could probably afford rent on her own if so much of it wasn't due in advance. All Anita is asking for is for enough people to provide just one month rent (35 dollars) so that this woman can have the next two years paid for, use her small income to save and then be able to be on her own the next time rent becomes due.

The second story is also one about what we take for granted. Part of the adoption work is done in Ghana (as it has to) but right now it is taking a lot longer than it used to because they don't have the transportation that they need to. One of the workers has to go everywhere in a taxi, which means it takes longer, is more expensive and she has to do a lot of walking, all because she doesn't have her own transportation. Cars are very expensive there, and even more expensive to ship there. What the adoption partners in Ghana need is two vehicles to get the job done as it needs to be.

I know everyone's money is their own to do what they feel led to do, and most people already have the charities that they want to give to, but if you can give some towards these two causes, it would be a great help. If you can't, I would appreciate it if you would at least do me the honor of passing it on, and letting others know about them, and possibly someone else might want to give.

I don't think either of these causes is going to be met by just one person doing giving a lot, it is about many people giving just a little that will really make reality so much better for these people in Ghana.

I appreciate anything you do to help, whether it is donating or just passing on the information.

Here is the information for the mom who needs rent from Anita:
(See edit above)

and here is the information for the car situation:
"TRF is not asking all of us rich Americans to give the money they need. They are just asking us to help. J and M are saving their own money to add to the pot--thousands of cedis. It just isn't enough. They need at least $15,000-$20,000 to purchase a reliable car and SUV in Ghana. Ugh. I feel deflated even writing that number. It seems so huge--too huge. However, if enough people spread the word--get the info OUTSIDE of the small Ghana adoption community--I trust that there are folks out there who can give. In the mean time, I'll be giving the small amount I can, trusting that eventually it will all add up. If you will join with me just CLICK HERE (and designate "Ghana Vehicle Campaign"). And please, consider spreading the word of this need as far and as wide as you can."

Anita's posts on this topic are here:

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Last one for the day... quick revisit

I mentioned in an earlier post about us preserving, and I just wanted to follow up with a picture of just how much sauce were were able to make because of our tomatoes with my parents tomatoes:


Did I mention that even with all those tomatoes going into that sauce... I still had enough for salads and salsa during the week as well? :-) I love summer!

Gonna cook Ghana food!

One of my students, paying attention to my not so subtly mentioning repeatedly throughout the year that I love to read got me a gift card for a bookstore as my end of the year present. What she probably didn't realize is that I very reluctantly buy novels and "fun books." My rationale is simple. A fun novel, I will enjoy reading, but may only read once, or if I really liked it revisit it again in a number of years. These are much better suited for the library where I can check out the book, read it, give it back, and read it again any time I get the urge without spending any money. When I am given book money, I tend to get books that I feel will be good books to have at the house and refer to frequently. For example, last time I got a little travel book on Ghana and an international adoption guide book, as well as a parenting an adopted child book (which I loved and KNOW I will be referring to again).

This time my gift card was spent on a Ghanian cookbook, among other things.

My desire to cook this kind of food actually has a few reasons behind it. One is that I would rather have my first time trying the food be in the safety of my own home, when I know all of the ingredients of it already instead of in Africa when a strange this is offered to me. It also feels like a way to bond with the child that I have never even met, by sharing similar food to what they are eating, right now! The third reason for this cookbook is that since we are adopting an older child, they will likely know and remember the food from their home country, especially when they first arrive, and many books recommend trying to serve them similar food, since they are already having to deal with so much change. Last, but not least, is that even if they don't remember, we do want them to know their culture and where they came from, and keep Ghanian foods somewhat frequent in our home so that they are familiar with these dishes that would have been common to them if they were raised in Ghana.

So, without the strictness of the presidential cookbook goal, I simply hope to continue to try a Ghanaian dish each week (within reason, and ability to get ingredients etc.)

At this point, I am just choosing the ones with all easy to get ingredients, though I know eventually I will have to order some of the ingredients online.

Of the two recipes we have made from this book, I have one I didn't care for, and one I loved, and look forward to eating more.


The first one we tried was Meat Pie. The inside mix was good, but the dough was not. It could have been that we messed up on it somehow, but it couldn't really be formed, and practically fell apart when you tried to eat it too. It also might be because the recipe called for a lot of nutmeg in this dough, which was really strong. Blake couldn't even finish one, and I ate more than he did, and then gave up and just ate the insides of the remaining pies (which was a bison/onion mixture, recipe said beef... but we have a lot of bison still... ). Pretty disappointing for our first try from this cookbook (not first Ghanaian recipe, that was back in March)

Our second attempt was today, with much better results.
Today we made two recipes from here- one was groundnut soup, and the other was rice balls. The groundnut soup had a lot of interesting ingredients: tomatoes, peanut butter, water, chicken, ginger and a habenero. The rice balls were basically just overcooked rice that was shaped into balls. But together it was delicious, I kept going back for more and I look forward to our leftover lunches with this good treat!

I made both of them together because that is pretty standard in their cooking to have a stew or a soup served with a starch. Also, the recipe book cross referenced the other recipe, so I knew I should make them at the same time (the notes for the soup said to have it with rice balls or a few other starches, and the rice ball also said to serve with a soup like the groundnut soup).

This recipe gives me hope for our upcoming adventures in Ghanaian cuisine!

Presidential cookies makes a comeback!

Last summer, I started with a goal of cooking through the presidential cookie book... and then lost steam after a few weeks when it became a burden instead of a joy and a challenge. But this fourth of July, I decided that the goal was too good of one to abandon forever. Now, nothing as ambitious as twice a week or anything crazy like that, but instead a slower, gradual goal when I feel like making a dessert for an occasion or just for fun. More importantly, when I do decide to make one from this book, I will try to include it for people to read about, and still educate myself about those presidents.

So I made Vienna Chocolate bars, which were listed as one of Ronald Reagan's favorite desserts.


They were really tasty. They have a cookie crust on the bottom that was baked first, and then it is topped with a layer of raspberry jam, chocolate chips and then meringue. Then it is baked again. I especially liked it with ice cream.

Ronald Reagan

The biggest thing I think about Reagan (which I know is somewhat sad) is that I know he was an actor when he was younger. Beyond that... I couldn't say I knew much. Oh... I also could probably tell you that he was president in the 80's, but both of those facts are mostly from Back to the Future.

After doing some research, I found that I really liked what I read about Reagan.

I was surprised to learn that he actually started as a Democrat, and only switched to being Republican afterwards. I also found that he had a real power with words.

The article that I read talked about how he first gained popularity in a speech he had made for another candidate, and how even though he lost the Republican primary to Ford, it was his speech that was remembered.

I thought it was impressive also that the hostages were released within an hour of him taking office and that he made economic moves that managed to help taxpayers and boost the national economy at the same time. The article stated that, "Though Reagan cut taxes, the resulting economic growth resulted in federal government revenues increasing by 96% during the Gipper's 8 years in office." A president that can do both sounds great to me.

The other interesting thing, though I don't think that I have any clear memories of the time, was that Reagan was president when I was born and for my first 5 years of life. Do kids five or younger really notice who is president? Not really. I feel like the presidents that I remember being in office are Bush (both of them), Clinton and now Obama.

A quick wikipedia search found that it is really not that uncommon to have an actor become a politician, and I am sure that there are more who hope to as well:

Alan Autry (Republican) (Mayor of Fresno, California)
Raj Bhakta (Republican) (unsuccessful candidate for U.S. House of Representatives, Pennsylvania)
Sonny Bono (Republican) (U.S. Representative, 44th District of California)
Shirley Temple Black (Republican) (U.S. diplomat; Ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia, Chief of Protocol of the United States)
Clint Eastwood (Republican, but describes himself as Libertarian) (Mayor of Carmel, California)
Al Franken (Democrat) (U.S. Senator, Minnesota)
Helen Gahagan (Democrat) (U.S. Representative, 14th District of California)
John Gavin (Republican) (U.S. diplomat; Ambassador to Mexico)
Fred Grandy (Republican) (U.S. Representative, Iowa)
Ben Jones (Democrat) (U.S. Congressman, 4th District of Georgia)
Jack Kelly, mayor of Huntington Beach, Calif.
Sheila Kuehl (Democrat) (California State Senator)
Nancy Kulp (Democrat) (unsuccessful nominee for U.S. House of Representatives, Pennsylvania)
Robert Montgomery (Republican)
George Murphy (Republican) (U.S. Senator, California)
Stephen Peace (Democrat) (California State Senator)
Ronald Reagan (Republican) (Governor of California, President of the United States)
Arnold Schwarzenegger (Republican) (Governor of California)
Jerry Springer (Democrat) (Mayor of Cincinnati, Ohio)
Fred Thompson (Republican) (U.S. Senator, Tennessee and unsuccessful presidential nominee))
Jesse Ventura (formerly Reform; currently Independence Party of Minnesota) (Governor of Minnesota)
Ralph Waite (Democrat) (unsuccessful nominee for U.S. House of Representatives)
Frank Britton Wenzel (Mayor of Malverne, New York)
John Davis Lodge (Republican) (Governor of Connecticut)

But, this makes sense to me, and I think that the little I read about Reagan is a perfect example of it. The whole reason that actors are successful is that they have trained and practiced (or were just naturally good at) showing and conveying emotions. In this time where TV is a huge part of any campaign (annoyingly so) any candidate that hopes to succeed needs to come across well in commercials and debates.

On the one hand, you could say that it eliminates some prospective candidates that might have been good except for their camera skills, but realistically, a good leader needs to be someone that people believe as a leader, and want to follow. They need to be able to convince people just through the strength of their words and their sound arguments. Actors and actresses are in the perfect position to do this, or else they wouldn't make it as an actor.

In any case, it sounds like Reagan was well liked by both sides, and his decisions and actions had our country enjoying a time of prosperity.

Some quotes I liked:

How can a president not be an actor?

Ronald Reagan <<<--- I liked this one especially because it goes with what I was saying above

If we ever forget that we are One Nation Under God, then we will be a nation gone under.
Ronald Reagan

Information is the oxygen of the modern age. It seeps through the walls topped by barbed wire, it wafts across the electrified borders.
Ronald Reagan <<<--- My thought on this one, besides agreeing with it, is that he said it before the internet really came around, but it is more true now than ever.

Life is one grand, sweet song, so start the music.
Ronald Reagan

Peace is not absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.
Ronald Reagan <<<--- LOVE THIS!

There are no constraints on the human mind, no walls around the human spirit, no barriers to our progress except those we ourselves erect.
Ronald Reagan

There are no easy answers' but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right.
Ronald Reagan

We can't help everyone, but everyone can help someone.
Ronald Reagan <<<--- I liked these last two quotes so much I am considering making them into posters for my classroom. They are super important truths that I think the kids should see them every day!

Within the covers of the Bible are the answers for all the problems men face.
Ronald Reagan

*Of note, but not included because they aren't the kind of quotes I was looking for, was that he frequently made fun of government, government officials and the like. I got the impression as I read through the pages of quotes that he kind of looked at government as something he was forced to work with to do what he wanted to do.

As strange as it sounds, I am so glad I baked these cookies besides the tasty treat they brought. After all I know, and have read now, I think Reagan might be my favorite president. Before the cookies and this blog, I knew so little, and not even the good stuff, but I am so glad to know more, and to really feel like I understand this president so much more. If you made it this far, I hope that you enjoyed your mini Reagan lesson as well!