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Monday, March 10, 2014

You've got mail...

Something quite miraculous happened today.  I walked outside to get the mail, and I didn't have to tell the kids where I was going or when I would be back.  They could care less what I was doing.  They were just BEING kids at home.

For most of you, this seems quite mundane.  Unimportant.  A simple, unremarkable event that happens daily at your house.  For us, though, NOTHING is that simple.

A year ago this January we took three blonde kids into our home.  We were newlyweds, pregnant with a baby, and completely and utterly ignorant of the reality of what we'd just done. 

In short, the last year has been the hardest, most refining and trying year of our life.  Some days it seemed like we would drown under the weight of it all.  We failed.  A lot.  We had a few victories, and then we failed again.  And again.  Oh, and again. 

As we lived with the kids, however, we had to start to unpack their emotional and behavioral baggage (and quite a bit of our own).  It felt weird to be "mom and dad" to these little strangers.  We had to learn about them, and they us. 

But, today, reminded me of how far we have come. 

About a year ago, Jacob was out in the garage putting something in the van.  I went outside to tell him something.  All of a sudden, we had three kids in the doorway--all bawling.  It happened so fast, I was confused as to what was going on. 

Was someone hurt?  Nope.  We just both walked outside without telling them why.  They thought we were leaving without them.

Since that day, Jacob and I got in the habit of announcing everything we did. 
"I'm going out in the garage to get something out of the freezer." 
Or, "I'm going to go heat the car up because it's cold outside.  We aren't leaving without you." 
And, "I'm getting the mail.  I'll be right back."  

Lately, though, we haven't had to do that.  A couple of Saturdays ago, we told the kids to get their shoes and coats on and load up in the van.  We were at our destination before we realized not one of them asked where we were going.  No barrage of questions--and no guesses of our destination.  They just went with us.  

That's the funny thing about trust.  It has to be saved up, one day at a time.  Small, daily, consistent deposits have to be made.  Then, before you realize it, you have a nice little nest egg saved.

We still have a long way to go, don't get me wrong.  There are still "bags" to be unpacked, behavior to understand and correct, and more trust to be built.  It is nice, however, to get a glimpse of what life is becoming when you're not looking. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Pumpkin Crunch

A couple of weekends ago, our family made the trip down south to visit my mom for the weekend.  She served us the most amazing pumpkin dessert I have ever tasted.  I like pumpkin, but this dessert took pumpkin into a whole new realm of deliciousness!  It was so good, I wanted it for breakfast....and I am NOT a dessert person! 

So here is the recipe.  Make it.  Become obsessed with it.  Wow your Bible study group, be the hit of the next social event, impress the in-laws, or woo that single guy you've had your eye on.  

Or not.

Make it on a crazy day--and then hide yourself in a closet and eat until the pumpkiny sugar rush has drown out the sounds of kids fighting, dishes needing to be done, laundry to fold, and bathrooms to clean.

Yes, it is that good.
Pumpkin Crunch

1 tspn Cinnamon
1/2 tspn Salt
1 cup Butter (2 sticks)
1 package (box) Yellow Cake Mix
1 can (15 oz) Solid Pack Pumpkin
1 can (12 oz) Evaporated Milk
3 Eggs
1 1/2 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Pecans (halves)
Whipped Topping
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease bottom of a 9x13 inch pan. Combine pumpkin evaporated milk, eggs, sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. Pour into a 9x13 inch pan. Sprinkle dry cake mix evenly over pumpkin mixture. Top with pecans. Drizzle melted butter over pecans. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45-55 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool...serve chilled. Top with whipped topping when served.
Let me know if you make it and like it!!


Monday, July 1, 2013

6 Months In: Valleys Fill First

Today an old Caedon's Call song comes to mind...."down in the valley, dying of thirst/down in the valley, it seems that I'm at my worst/My consolation is that when You baptize this earth/When I am down in the valley, valleys fill first."

Not so long ago, I was on the mountaintop.  We just found out we were getting the kids; there was an out flowing of support from friends and family, and the waiting was over.  Victory.

I want to tell you that since then I've been basking in the light at the top of our mountain.  That since the kids got in our home, I have had idealistic days full of giggles and hugs--that I got my "parenthood" card in the mail, and started getting gold stars on it each and every day.

Yes.  I really wish I could tell you that.

But I would be lying.

The last couple months have been filled with many, many, many rough days.  Really rough.  Our home has, on most days, felt more like a trama unit more than a home.  I have cried a LOT.  And some would even say I've SOBBED a lot.  I've been irritated and frustrated and down right unpleasant to be around.  I have been stressed out.  Overwhelmed.  All I want to do is sleep or be alone.  I feel guilty for feeling this way, losing my patience, or just not having the joy I thought I would have  That's the ugly, naked truth.  

For over a year and a half, parenthood, and the desire to have kids has loomed over me like an almost unattainable goal.  Then we started the adoption process and it has been full of emotional ups and downs, stress, patience, prayers, money, etc.  During those months of waiting, I could really relate to the Jewish nation, wondering around in the wilderness for 40 years....waiting for the promised land.

Then it happened.  We got the kids January 5, 2013.  They were ours, and they were in our home.  EVERYONE was thrilled, and supportive, and in tears at all the amazing things that have happened to us.  (And we had some amazing God-sized, WOW, moments.)  Yet, over these past few months, I couldn't understand why I wasn't still so elated and excited.  Why wasn't I thrilled that my dreams had come to fruition?

I was afraid to admit this to anyone too.  I mean, we just got three beautiful kids....God answered our prayers and met our needs.  We've even had people say to us, "You got what you wanted.  You're life must be perfect and complete now."  I have been wracked with guilt to have anything less than ecstatic feelings of joy at the presence of three little blondies. 

I have since come to realize that feelings of doubt, despair, and being overwhelm do not mean that I regret the adoption or think it was a wrong decision.  It doesn't mean I don't love the kids and am thankful for all the support we've gotten.  I do love that we have them.  I am thankful.

Recently our pastor spoke to the Mother's group I attend on Wednesday mornings.  He said something that was so utterly simple, yet profoundly healing to me.  In talking about Jesus' mother, Mary, he said that she had to learn how to be a good loser.

The very first thing she was asked to lose was her expectation of "how it was suppose to be."  She was engaged, probably excited for her upcoming wedding to Joseph and the prospect to built a life together and make a family.  Then God throws her a MAJOR curve ball.  You're a virgin--you've done it right--yet you're pregnant.  And this might have caused Mary to lose everything, and by submitting to God's plan, it cost her the dream of "how it was suppose to be."

How we've come to be parents is not "how it was suppose to be."  Adoption, by its very nature, is a broken road.  Someone else had to lose for us to gain.  In our case, the kids have come from hard places with special needs and traumas.....that is not how it was suppose to be for them either.  How I am feeling or learning how to be a mom also "isn't how it is suppose to be."  It is taking me a while to learn how to lose these dreams and expectations.  I am nowhere close to learning this lesson, but I can at least recognize the road.  And that's down in a valley right now.

Yes, we are ONLY 6 months into this journey.  We have a long road ahead.  Any day now, we will be thrown a curve in that road--our baby girl will be born.  We are excited and nervous to see how her life will impact our journey.  How we will come together as a family even more.  I'm expectant to see how more time in our home will help heal the broken places in the kids' hearts.  I can't wait to see how we will grow and mature as parents.  SO many turns in the road ahead.

God has used one other song to encourage me to face these next twists and turns.  Matt Redman's song, Never Once, has been a life line for me.  I am sure for the days ahead, it will continue to be a song in my heart to get me through those really rough days.

Standing on this mountaintop
Looking just how far we've come
Knowing that for every step
You were with us

Kneeling on this battle ground
Seeing just how much You've done
Knowing every victory
Is Your power in us

Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Yes, our hearts can say

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Never once did we ever walk alone
Carried by Your constant grace
Held within Your perfect peace
Never once, no, we never walk alone

Every step we are breathing in Your grace
Evermore we'll be breathing out Your praise
You are faithful, God, You are faithful
You are faithful, God, You are faithful 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Expecting the Unexpected

Psalm 13:12 says, "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life."  For many, many years I only lived in the first part of that verse.  My story was hope deferred.

I was 35 years old when I walked down the isle and married the love of my life.  At that moment I truly lived the whole verse of Psalm 13:12.  I had the tree of life.  I am reminded daily that God not only fulfilled His promise by giving me Jacob to share my life, but He went FAR ABOVE anything I asked or imagined.  Jacob is my one true love, my soul mate, and my best friend.  We were so thankful that God brought us together.

Over the past year and a half, I have realized that my story was never just "hope deferred" but it was a story of redemption.  All those years of waiting were redeemed when I married Jacob.  And now, I can see how God is continuing that story of redemption. 

If your heart is like mine, it is forever seeking more.  We had each other, but we wanted more--we wanted children. Last December, we found out that longing was fulfilled.  We were pregnant!  Then a few days before Christmas, I was in the ER and losing the baby.  My heart was truly sick, and I was angry with God.  I struggled to understand why God would give and take away so quickly.  I struggled to understand why this was a part of my story.

Fast forward through about 6 months of deferred hope.  Earlier this summer, I got another positive test.  We had barely got the good news that it happened again.....this time we knew not to go to the ER.  There was nothing that could be done.  The doctors all said it was normal....that my chances of still having a baby in the future were good.  We prayed for understanding and for healing for our hearts. 

During this time, God began to work in our hearts on the issue of adoption.  He specifically used a Sunday message where 3 couples from our church shared about adoption.  After the second miscarriage, we truly began pursuing this together in our conversations.

It just so happened that a few weeks after our second miscarriage, Jacob and I heard about a sibling set of 3 that were up for adoption from the foster care system.  Their story immediately tugged at both of our hearts, and without a doubt God prompted us to pursue them.  And that's what we have been doing for the past 7 months.   We've been in a long, hard, and complicated process of getting these kids.

Well, today we officially can say, we are going to be parents.  Within the next week, Ethan,  who is a blonde-haired, blue-eyed 4-year-old boy and his 3-year-old identical twin sisters, Gracie and Hayley (also of the blonde-haired and blue-eyed variety) will be in our home and care.   

The kids on their first day of preschool.  
God has been doing some crazy, amazing things that we just have to share.  First, God connected me to a group of women that are all adoptive moms.  Each week, I have been going to Bible study with them and they have loved on us and walked us through this difficult process.  They've been absolutely invaluable to our journey.  They, along with a few close friends, have been praying for us through this process.  

Our prayer team especially held the ropes for us in November.  November was a hard month.  The month started on a very surprising note.  On November 8th, we found out I was pregnant.  This should be great news, but we were a little freaked out because six days later Jacob's employer, Hostess, closed it's doors and laid off about 18,000 employees.  God graciously allowed Jacob to keep his job as part of the wind-down team, although at the time we didn't know how long he had.  This happen days before the staffing to determine the kid's placement, and having a job is pretty important to the agency! 

As we entered December, Jacob and I really felt attacked on several levels.  It's not exactly a "sane" idea to adopt 3 toddlers, while pregnant, and be unemployed and uninsured.  There was a lot of pressure on us, and a lot of that pressure was financial.  So, we of little faith, set about making a plan of how WE were going juggle all of this.  You see, we'd forgotten God didn't need us to help.

In the last week, HE has proved that to us.  First, Jacob started getting some interviews after no activity for months of trying.  He had two interviews last week, which was encouraging to us.  The next day, we found out "inadvertently" that we were chosen to be the kids parents.  This news had to be kept quiet as the last few pieces of paperwork were done.  Knowing was such a relief though (and a reality check).  Later that night, we were invited over to dinner at the home of the leader of my adoptive mother's group.

When we got there, she said that the reason she invited us over was to find out our needs.  She said that although not everyone is called to adopt, we all have a responsibility to orphans and need to participate in the ministry of adoption.  She said it was our turn to receive some help from those around us.  We gave her a list of our needs--everything from a minivan to sippy cups.  After a minute she told us, "We've already had one donation that I'd like to show you."

We followed her through her laundry room and she opened her garage door and there was a minivan.  What?  Jacob and I were in shock.  A couple in our church were going to sell this minivan, and Amy told them our story.  She thought we might be interested in buying it.  They prayed about it and felt God was leading them to give it to us instead.  Um, wow!!!!  THEY DON'T EVEN KNOW US!

Jacob and I cannot even tell you how this one act totally lifted pressure off our shoulders.  This was such a huge need and expense that we now didn't have to worry about.  What an amazing God we serve!  This tangible need was met by our God through the faithfulness of His followers.  (A very cool side note to this--Amy and her husband were one of the three couples that shared about adoption almost a year to the day before that got us praying about adoption.  We didn't connect those dots until that night!)

So in the course of one week, Jacob had some good job leads, we found out the kids were coming our way, and we were given a minivan.  Wow.  We were overwhelmed by His provisions. 

This week has been more of the same.  On Monday Jacob got a job offer!  Not only does it pay better, we will also have an uninterrupted salary and uninterrupted health insurance.  Two more HUGE burdens were lifted off our shoulders.  The next day, we had our second ultrasound.  We got to see the heartbeat and hear that our miscarriage chances have dropped to 5%.  We are continuing to trust God to protect this baby.  I am currently 10 weeks along and due on the twins' birthday in July!

Then today we got the official news the kids are ours.  We started letting our prayer circle know the news.  A few minutes later, Amy texted us and asked if we could meet her at Old Navy.  We were out shopping for the kids, so we said sure.  She surprised us again with the Church's generosity.  Another church in our community contacted her to see if there were any needs for adoptive and foster families in our church.  They had a huge drive and had extra gift cards to share.

Again, we were overwhelmed.  With the gift cards from this other church, we were able to go shopping and get the girls (who want to dress alike) a whole new wardrobe.  Then Amy asked if we wanted to go to Target.  Again, through gift cards from the Church, we were able to get some much needed things for the kids--towels, sippy cups, mattress pad covers, pajamas, and hangers.  In addition we have had many people give us gifts for the kids, give us some gently used toys, and some clothes as well.

God has poured out His blessings on us through our church, friends, and prayers of His people.  And the thing is, it's not about us.  It's about HIS glory.  He has known all along that He wanted Jacob and I to live a better story.  Although I will always grieve the miscarriages, I see now how God used them to bring about a bigger story of redemption.  He has redeemed our losses, and we pray that we will be able to help Ethan, Hayley, and Gracie to begin living their story of redemption as well.

Whether you have known about this for a while or you just made it through this post, thank you for your support.  We have been sooooo blessed by the love and support of our friends.  Thank you to everyone who has given us things and helped us meet the tangible needs of the kids.  We have had so much to buy we were overwhelmed with it all.  We really don't know how we could have gotten this far without your help either!!!   

We hope our story has encouraged you.  If you're in a "hope deferred" valley or a "longing fulfilled" mountain top right now, please remember that God is there with you.  He does have a plan and it is good.  One of my favorite quotes says it this way:

I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year
'Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.'
And he replied, 'Go into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way!'

Walk with God in faith.  Trust Him.  He has an amazing redemption story for your life. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Cloud Atlas: Review and "Cheat Sheet" for First Time Movie Goers

Thursday night is date night at our house, and we always try to catch the newest movie.  Last night we choose the almost 3-hour epic film, Cloud Atlas, that features an ensemble cast of big names, including Tom Hanks and Halle Berry.

We went into the film knowing nothing other than it had something to do with reincarnation.  The film was beautiful to watch, confusing, and had a "where's Waldo" element as you figured out which Hollywood star was under all the cosmetic and prosthesis makeup.  (This was fun but also confusing, too, as we weren't sure if the actors were suppose to be reincarnated versions of themselves or not.  More on this later.) 

Although we spent a lot of movie confused, we had a good discussion of the film over dinner later that night.  We decided we did like the movie.  There are a few cautions, however, I'd like to add before anyone goes to see it on this recommendation.  (We don't recommend that it's for everyone!) 

First, there is a good reason for the "R" rating.  (We didn't realize it was "R" when we went.)  There is brief nudity (female front, male back) and two or three sexual situations.  These were not long but graphic enough to make you want to look away.  There is also quite a bit of graphic and bloody violence.  That was what I found the most disturbing.  I do not remember language being a huge issue.    

The movie does contain the overarching theme of reincarnation.  However, the "reincarnation" plot line didn't seem to be done from a religious point of view.  Rather, we thought the reincarnation element was making a statement about humanity--how we repeat the same story throughout history.  In each of the story lines there was a struggler seeking freedom from oppression, a villain, and a savior (someone that helped the struggler attain freedom). 

I do like movies that make you think.  However, I don't like when you have to watch a movie several times to "get it."  This is one of those movies.  (Even at matinĂ©e prices, re-watching can get expensive.)  So, if you want to see Cloud Atlas, I would strongly suggest knowing a few key things before watching the film.  I feel this will cut down on distractions and help make the whole movie more enjoyable--the FIRST time.   

Below I have a Cheat Sheet to the movie for those of you that still want to see it.  I have done my best not to spoil anything.  If you want a purist view of the movie, stop reading now!
  • The movie focuses on six main story lines interwoven throughout the three hours.
  • These plot lines are centered around six characters or "the struggler" that have a shooting-star or comet-like birthmark.  
  • This birthmark seems to indicated that he/she is the same "soul" reincarnated throughout time.  In each lifetime, the "soul" has a unique struggle against oppression--sometimes causing big ripples of change and other more insignificant ripples. 
  • In each of the six plot lines, the birth-marked person has a tangible connection to their former life in some way.  (Explained below)
  • Chronological order of the plot lines:
    • The first storyline is in the early 1800's and it follows a lawyer involved in slave trade named Adam Ewing.  Ewing (played by Jim Sturgess) has the birthmark.  He writes a journal of his voyage that is later published into a book called The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing.
    • The second story is about a 1930's musician named Robert Frobisher (Ben Whishaw).  He writes a series of letters to his lover, Rufus Sixmith (James D'Arcy), as he works on composing the Cloud Atlas sextet, and piece of music that is later recorded.  Frobisher's character has the birthmark and is shown reading Ewing's book mentioned above.  
    • The third plot surrounds a 1970's journalist named Luisa Rey (Halle Berry).  Rey has the birthmark, which is seen by Frobisher's old lover, Sixsmith.  This discovery leads him to entrust in her a story.  She agrees to meet Sixsmith, but finds him dead atop of love letters from Frobisher.  His murder leads her to investigate corruption connected to the local nuclear power plant.  She also reads the letters written by Frobisher and seeks out the recording of the Cloud Atlas sextet.  She ends up writing a mystery book called Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery.
    • The fourth story, set in modern-day England, focuses on the aging and unhappy, Timothy Cavendish (Jim Broadbent), who is a owner of a small publishing company.  He has the same birthmark.  We see him reading the Half-Lives manuscript written by Rey (above) on a train ride to hotel where he is hiding out from creditors and mob-like crooks.  He finds out he is tricked by his brother and the "hotel" is actually a nursing home, where he is held against his will.  He, along with three other residents, plot and escape from the home.  He later writes a best-selling novel about his escape that is later made into a bio-pic movie.
    • The fifth story is centered on the birth-marked, Sonmi-451 (Donna Bae), who is a Fabricant--a genetically-engineered clone, who was bred to work in a fast-food restaurant in a capitalist, totalitarian Korea (now called Neo Seoul) in the far future.  When she is inadvertently awaken by another clone, she is shown a clip of Cavendish's biopic.  This movie sparks in her friend a revolt against her "owners" and leads to her death.  Sonmi is left behind, and through the help of rebel commander, she escapes her enslavement.  While on the run, she is lead to question her existence and the treatment of her kind.  She then goes on to lead a revolution. 
    • The final plot line takes place about 100 years after the fall of Neo Seoul.  It follows one tribe that lives in a low-tech Hawaii and is focused around Zachary (Tom Hanks) who lives a cursed life because of earlier cowardliness in life.  The people in Zachery's tribe revere Sonmi, and believe her to be holy.  Occasionally, the tribe is visited and studied by a technologically sophisticated people known as the Prescients.  One of these women, named Meronym (Halle Berry), comes to live with the tribe in hopes of finding a guide to city steeped in local folk-lore.  Meronym is looking for the old city to send a message to another colony in a far-off plant. 
Since the same actors appear as different characters in each of the six plots, it can get distracting.  I found myself trying to link each of Tom Hank's characters, for example, together through reincarnation.  This was the wrong tactic and confused me.  Rather, viewers should focus on the ONE soul with the birthmark as the same soul, although played by different actors of different ages, races, and genders.   

If you can remember that the slave-trading lawyer Ewing, the composer Frobisher, the journalist Rey, the publisher Cavendish, the clone Sonmi-451, and post-apocalyptic Zachary are all the same person, you should understand the movie a lot easier than I did the first time.  You can also see the growth of that soul better, as well as the universal plight to overcome oppression or control.

If you see the movie, let me know if these plot elements helped!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Book Review of "The Casual Vacancy" by JK Rowling

I am a Harry Potter nerd to my deepest core.  The series, which I have read probably 20 times, is comfortably seated on the throne as my all-time favorite fiction book(s). 

Naturally, I was very excited to learn that JK Rowling was penning another book--and adult novel called The Casual Vacancy.

A couple of weekends ago, my husband surprised me with a copy of the book.  I was very excited by his thoughtfulness, and immediately jumped into the novel.  

My first impression--literally of the cover--was disappointing  The bright red and yellow colors and the cheap graphic was off-putting.  If JK had not been an award-winning writer, I'd never picked up this book on it's own merit.

This should have been my first clue.

[Disclaimer: If you don't want to know anything about the book and read it unbiased, you might want to stop reading at this point.  The following is my take on the book.]

After diving into the book, my husband asked me if I liked it.  "Um....I'm not sure yet.  It's still too early to tell.  Not much has happened yet."

Then the next day he asked me again.  "So, are you liking the book better now?"

"Um....well....not really.  There are a lot of characters that I am trying to keep straight.  Nothing's really happening yet.  She is still introducing characters."

Then the next day, "So?  Any better?"

"Well, there is a lot of bad language in here.  It seems unnecessary.  The character's names are confusing and she has nicknames for half of them too.  SO I re-reading the same parts several times to figure out which character it's talking about.  And I am still not sure what it's about so far."

This type of dialogue continued for days.  Each time my husband would inquire about the book, I would find myself giving JK Rowling the benefit of the doubt.  "Well, I am going to finish it before I make a judgement."

I really wanted to like it. 

I just finished the book, and I can confidently say that if it has been any other author, I would have thrown the book away by now.  It really was that bad.

Here are a few of the reasons that I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone to read: 
  • Unnecessary Vulgarity:  The language was really bad.  Really, really, really bad.  The adults and the teenaged characters, alike, had mouths on them that would make a sailor blush.  There were teenagers calling their parents all sorts of vulgar names that I won't even allude to here.  The parents not only beat their children, there was ample amounts of cursing too--and some to children were as young as 3 1/2.  It was too much for me.  Some might argue that I live a sheltered existence and this "gritty" language was necessary for "realism."  Well, that isn't "real" in my world, and I don't think it added anything to the story. 
  • Sexual Situations:  Thankfully, she wasn't graphic in her descriptions (watching cable TV might be worse than what was described in the book), but so many of the things were unnecessary.  It seemed to be added just to be added.  Most of the comments or situations didn't add anything to the storyline.
  • Hideous Characters:  This is a big complaint, for me.  I know JK can write amazing characters with depth, humor, and uniqueness.  I can only hope she purposefully wrote these characters as flat and one dimensional.  Seriously, there is not ONE likeable character in the book.  Each character was so horrible that, by the end of the novel, I could care less what happened to any of them.  My hope is that they were written that way on purpose.  [Note to any potential authors out there--it's hard to keep a reader reading if they hate everyone in the book.  We need someone to care about, cheer for, or at least tolerate.]
  • A Weak (at best) Plotline:  This, too, was the major disappointment.  The whole time, I expected her to bring forth some profound or amazing story or in some way redeem at least one of the the smutty, fowl-mouthed, and unlikeable characters.  Sadly, 503 pages later, I am just as confused as to the point of the book as I was when I first started it.  
In summary, I am grossily disappointed in the book.  I am a fiction-reader.  I can excuse language and even some sexual situations when there is a strong story and redeeming characters.  Or if those things added to the plot in an important way.  There were neither in this book.  Her over-use of fowl language seemed to be used "because she could" or to mark a strong distinction between this book and Harry Potter.  It cheapened her writing, in my opinion.  The plot-line, if you can call it one, was so weak that I would have never finished the book if it had not been JK Rowling writing it.

The only thing I could take away from this book is that maybe she was trying to turn a light on the real life struggles of children that live in poverty and the cycle that is created as a result.  She may have been trying to get "polite" society to realize that their private lives are not that much different than those that live in the "projects" of our towns.  That the public "sins" of the poor are just as bad, if not worse, than the private "sins" of the privileged. 

However, I am really stretching to find any good in the book.  Honestly, the best thing in the book is my Jimmy John's receipt I was using as a bookmark. 

If you still want to read this book, I would beg of you to at least check it out of the library and don't waste your money.  Or I have a copy I'd sell you.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Carb Free Tacos

It's taken me about 35 years to admit something: Carbs are not my friend.

Don't get me wrong, I love them dearly.  My, oh my, how they also LOVE me.  So much so, they NEVER leave my side!  Or my butt.  Or thighs.  

So I have been looking for ways to eat less carbs and less (or no) processed food.  After about two days of carb withdraw, the subsequent foggy-head feeling has passed.  I actually feel really good.

Tonight I made one of Jacob's favorite meals--tacos.  This time I went the no-carb route, and I wanted to share the "recipe" with you.  (Okay, so I use the term "recipe" loosely.  I don't really measure out my ingredients but let my pallet do the talking.  I'll give you my guidelines, how is that?)

My husband LOVED them and said it was one of his favorite meals I've cooked!  The crisp lettuce really did make us forget about the carb-heavy shells or tortillas!  Here is a picture of one of his tacos:

You'll need:
1 lb. hamburger meat (or ground turkey)
2 hearts of romaine
1 ripe large avocado (or 2 small ones)
1-2 onions
Limes (or lime juice)
1 large tomato

To make the Salsa:
  • Dice up one large tomato   
  • Finely dice 1/4 to 1/2 of an onion (more or less to your taste)
  • Add 1 tablespoon garlic (more or less to your taste)
  • Add 1-2 sprigs of roughly chopped cilantro
  • Juice of one lime 
  • Salt and pepper
  • If you want a spicy salsa add freshly chopped jalapeno 
  • Stir and then refrigerate until meal time.  The longer the better it will taste!
To make the Guacamole:
  • Place the "meat" of your avocado in a bowl. (Set the core aside for later.)  Mash the avocado with a fork until most of the large chunks are mashed well.  
  • Using a cheese grater, grate about 1/4 of an onion into the mashed avocado.  (Trust me on this.  It adds flavor throughout this way.)  Stir in well.
  • Add about 1 tablespoon of lime juice.  Add a little salt.  Mix well.  
  • Add about 1/3 cup of freshly diced tomato and mix.
  • Place the avocado seed in the middle of the guacamole and cover with a lid.  Do not eat the core, but it will help your guacamole from turning brown from the exposure to air!  
  • Refrigerate until mealtime.  The longer the better it will taste!
Clean the Hearts of Romaine:
  • Just pull off the leafs of a heart of romaine.  
  • Wash and dry each leaf well.  
  • I selected the best leafs for my "taco shells." Those were the ones the most "boat-like" and had no tears in the leafs.  
  • Keep them refrigerated so they crisp up until time to serve the meal. 
Brown your meat:
  1. Finely chop about 1/2 an onion--more or less to your liking.
  2. Begin sauteing the onion in about 1 tablespoon of butter or olive oil.  I used butter.  (It added some richness to the meat, I believe.)
  3. Add the raw hamburger meat to the onion to brown.  
  4. Add salt and pepper to the meat mixture.  If you want more of a "taco seasoning" flavor you can add additional spices.  (Because the prepackaged seasonings have carbs and unknown additives, we like our meat seasoned only with salt and pepper.)
  5. Drain excess fat and serve.  
There they are!  It really is very easy!  Of course you can add cheese, sour cream, beans and other things to your meal, but we found the fresh guac and salsa complimented the delicious hamburger meat perfectly!

Hope you enjoy!