Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Healthy Nut Muffins (dairy free)

Sometimes you come across a recipe that is so good that you feel almost guilty for not sharing your keeping a secret that could change somebody's life. Well, that is the case with these muffins. My family loves them so I thought I'd share!

Healthy Nut Muffins
Adapted from this recipe on

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup oat bran
1/4 cup cooking oats
1/4 cup wheat germ
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 banana mashed
1/2 cup honey
1 cup milk (we use almond milk)
1 egg
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup blueberries (or dark chocolate chips!)
1/2 cup chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans)

1- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare muffin tins (12-14 muffins).
2- In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients (flour, oat bran, oats, wheat germ, baking powder, baking soda, salt).
3- In a separate bowl, mix the wet ingredients (banana, honey, milk, egg, oil, vanilla).
4- Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Stir together. Fold in blueberries (or chocolate chips) and nuts. Spoon into muffin cups.
5- Bake at 350 for 15-18 minutes, or until the tops spring back when touched.

Monday, September 9, 2013

3 Things I Wish I Would Have Known 3 Years Ago- Part 3

Since recently celebrating Sammy's 3rd "Gotcha Day", I've been doing some reflection on just how far God has brought us over the past 3 years. Last week I shared with you two lessons I wish I had learned a little earlier in the process:

The final thing I wanted to share is:

  • Love grows. 
Above all else, this was the issue that haunted me. More traumatizing than the sleep issues, more discouraging than the inconsolable tantrums... the thing that wrecked me the most was what was going on in my own heart.

From the moment I found out I was pregnant with Caedmon, I was in love. That love grew deeper and stronger with every movement I felt inside my growing belly and it about knocked me over like a tidal wave when I finally held him in my arms. The love of a mother...there is nothing like it.

Throughout our adoption process, I had been having a very parallel experience in my growing love toward Sammy. When we started our paperwork (conception), I could not have been more thrilled. Excitement and happiness pulsed through my veins. When we received his first picture (ultrasound), we showed it to every one of our friends and immediately put it in a frame over our TV. The day we finally met him was one of the happiest days of my life (birth). I could not stop staring at him and trying to memorize his every expression. He was my dream come true, my answer to prayer. I was head over heels in love.

But then we got home.

And suddenly I felt like I was taking care of a neighbor's kid who I hardly knew and he was ruining my life. He cried all day. He stayed up all night. My older son was falling to pieces. And everything about my calm and orderly life just got flipped upside down.

I cried because I was so miserable with him. And then I cried because I felt bad that I was so miserable. Where was my motherly-love? What kind of horrible person was I that I didn't feel compassion and tenderness for this wounded, grieving child? Would I ever love this child the way he deserved to be loved? As my own son?

The guilt that I felt was unbearable. I was pretty confident that I was ruining Sammy's life every single day, at increasing measures. I was blindsided by the lack of attachment I felt toward him. I knew it may take time for him to attach to us, but I was sure that my attachment would be immediate, fierce, and without any gaps.

I was wrong.

That love took time to grow. It took picnics to the playground and dance parties in our living room. It took hanging pictures of our family of four on the wall. It took learning that his favorite food is tomatoes and that he can't stand a grilled cheese sandwich. It took seeing him get embarrassed in front of his friends and realizing that my heart ached to protect him from that pain. It took time, memories, and shared experiences.

I remember crying on his 1 year "Gotcha Day" as I confessed to Andy, "I thought we'd be further than this." I thought, for sure, everything would feel normal and natural by the one year mark. To be sure, we had made a world of progress. But we still had progress to be made.

It is a layer by layer process. Some days you feel like you're getting no where, but then you look back over the past six months and realize that God continues to do a miraculous healing in all of your hearts. The old is gone, and the new has come. He is making ALL THINGS beautiful in His time.

At one of my lowest moments in the midst of my self-hatred and depression feeling like the worst mom in the world, God gave a verse. A life-line really. A promise to cling to that I could LOVE this precious little boy the way that he deserved to be loved regardless of what my feelings told me. My feelings would catch up later, but I knew what I could choose to do in that moment:
Dear children, let us love not with words or speech but with ACTIONS and in truth. This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in His presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and He knows everything.           1 John 3:18-20
I desperately needed my heart to be set at rest. I was filled to the brim with condemnation and guilt over my lack of emotional attachment to Sammy. And Jesus said to me, "I already know about it. I'm bigger than that. You can love him with your actions and I'll take care of your heart."

So today, if you are a parent and for whatever reason you're having a hard time feeling love toward your child, be encouraged that you can faithfully love him with your actions and God will transform your heart.

Give it time, because LOVE GROWS.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

3 Things I Wish I Would Have Known 3 Years Ago- Part 2

Yesterday, in reflecting on our adoption experience, I shared with you how I wish I had erred more on the side of grace. I wish that I would have known that I could have indulged negative behavior patterns for a season without having to put up with them for a lifetime. Grace for Sammy. Grace for me. It would have made the journey more pleasant.

Another thing I wish I would have known is:

2- You should never judge how your adoption is going within the first 6 months of having your kids home. 

The first 6 months (at least for us) were pure survival mode. Hand to the plow, head to the ground, get-it-done-mode.

Most adoptive kids come home with some sort of medical issues (even just minor things) that need to be sorted through. This requires extra rounds of doctor appointments, blood work, stool samples, therapy appointments, and administering appropriate medication. Sammy was very healthy overall, but he came home with some type of fungus on his scalp, giardia in his intestines, and what I refer to as "the orphanage cough" that every child there seemed to have complete with runny nose, drippy eyes, and deep congestion. It took us about 4 months to get him healthy and off medication.

In addition to these physical symptoms, many children come home with major food issues. Refusing to eat, gorging themselves, hoarding food, stealing food, hiding food in their bedroom, hating all the new food and missing all the food they're familiar with. I was under the impression that young children always stop eating when they are an automatic cut-off valve. But when Sammy got home he packed on pounds like a linebacker that first month because I just kept feeding him! Every time he saw food, he wanted to eat it and reached for it with pure desperation in his eyes. His pediatrician said, "Yeah, I think you're gonna have to start regulating his portion size for him."

Sleep issues, which I shared about yesterday, were the thing that about sank our ship. It is amazing how sleep deprivation affects every single area of your life. I was an emotional basket case and did not have the physical energy to cope with all the struggles we were facing. I walked around in a fog with a half-functioning brain. I was grumpy (read "angry"), resentful, and trying my best just to keep my head above water. It's hard to be tender and loving with a child in the daytime that has kept you awake all night (and you know will keep you awake all night again tonight).

Behavior problems and emotional outbursts are at their peak during these first 6 months. If there was ever a moment I wasn't able to hold Sammy,  he would follow me around crying (screaming) with his arms in the air. Finding a time to shower was tricky. If I left him in the same room with Caedmon, Sammy would throw things (with amazing accuracy, I might add) at Caedmon's head. If I brought him in my room for pack-n-play time while I showered (with the door open so I could talk to him), he inevitably needed a new diaper, change of clothes, and a complete wipe down because of all the tears, mucous, and other bodily fluids released in the 8 minutes that I disappeared.

He wanted to be held but he'd fight to get out of my arms. He refused help with anything but needed help with everything. He was utterly exhausted but would resist sleep with every ounce of strength he could find.

We understood logically what was happening. Sammy was grieving the loss of everything familiar in his life. New family, new home, new language, new mode of transportation, new food, new smells, and on and on... For him, it was like a horrible movie when you wake up in someone else's body living someone else's life. He had no way of knowing that we would never leave him, that he was safe, and that we would love him forever.

Understanding all of that logically helps keep things in perspective, but regardless, the season is incredibly hard. I cried myself to sleep more nights than I'd like to remember. I questioned our decision and wondered if life would ever feel normal again.

But, as I read recently, these 6 months are not the time for Feelings. You can think about your Feelings later, once they've regained a little composure. For now, you do the work. You love with your actions, not your Feelings. You feed, bathe, hold, soothe, and clothe because you are his parent whether you Feel like it or not.

You will get through those treacherous 6 months. It may take longer or you may breeze through it. But a day will come that you'll realize, "I felt like a normal human for 3 hours straight," and you will know you're making progress.

Check back tomorrow for the 3rd thing I wish I would have known...

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

3 Things I Wish I Would Have Known 3 Years Ago

We recently celebrated Sammy's 3rd Gotcha Day. 3 amazing years of Sammy. The growth we've seen, in our own lives as well as in him, is a beautiful, beautiful picture of God's mercy and grace.

The Santos family (in the midst of an adoption from Brazil) joined us for some Ethiopian food and frozen yogurt as we celebrated the gift of Sammy.

Silly Sammy showing off his gifts from Ethiopia. 

At least one child was blurry in every picture from the yogurt shop. 
Guess the sugar-high was kicking in!

This time of year always causes me to get reflective on our adoption process, so I thought this week I'd share three things I wish I had known 3 years ago. Today I'll share #1.

1- Whenever in doubt, error on the side of grace.

Up unto the point Sammy joined our family, our only parenting experience had been with Caedmon who has been with us since he was born. Andy & I had taken a more structured approach to raising Caedmon when it came to sleep patterns, schedule, etc. We let Caedmon "cry-it-out" at night and he was sleeping like a champ in his own room by the time he was 3 months old. Although I had to arm-wrestle him more than once regarding nap time, Caedmon took a long afternoon nap every day until he was nearly 5 years old.

Then enters Sammy. Sammy's sleep issues hit us like an 18-wheeler. He did not sleep through the night for the first year and a half after we got him home...often up 3-4 times per night. At first he would wake up with night terrors, shaking & screaming. Those passed fairly quickly but then he just became a party animal, wanting to hang out and chat at 2 AM. We had no idea what to do and were getting mixed advice from people. Some said to let him sleep in bed with us, some said to keep him in the same room but in his own bed, and others encouraged us to move him to Caedmon's room. 

Andy & I were pretty committed to not letting Sammy sleep in bed with us because 1) Andy & I couldn't sleep if Sammy got in our bed, and 2) we feel that's an unhealthy pattern long term and did not want to start a habit we'd have to break. We let Sammy sleep in a pack-n-play in our room, which we felt like was a compromise. But one of us inevitably spent half the night in a rocking chair holding him or with our body hanging over the side of the pack-n-play rubbing his back.

Looking back, however, Andy & I both feel like it would have been helpful and beneficial to have allowed Sammy to sleep with us for a time. Our presence soothed him and he needed the reassurance that we were always near.

I think, regardless of whether or not we had let him sleep in our bed, we were going to have to deal with some major sleep issues with Sammy. BUT, what I wish I would have known (and been okay with) is that it wasn't going to ruin Sammy, and might actually help him a lot, to error on the side of grace. The structure and order that I craved would eventually come in time. But it may take a lot MORE time than what I wanted.

When we brought Sammy home, I expected some sleepless nights. But, I just assumed that by the 3 month mark this 2 year old would be "sleeping like a champ in his own room" just like Caedmon had. I had stored up grace for the first 3 months, but the well seemed to run dry long before the need was quenched. 

I'm happy to say that Sammy has great sleep patterns now. He stays in his bed all night and gives me much less of a fit about nap time than Caedmon ever did. We made it through that rough, sleepless season. But the journey may have been more pleasant if we had given more grace along the way.

Whatever struggle you're facing right now, adoption-related or not, give it time and give it grace. It WILL pass and you will have a lot fewer regrets if you get your own tank of grace filled up from the Giver and then splash it all over those around you!

Come back tomorrow for #2.