Friday, October 11, 2013

Pumpkin Spice Coffee Creamer

I decided to try something new this morning - I made my own flavored coffee creamer! I quit buying flavored coffee creamers a while back because I couldn't stomach all the additives. Even the "all natural" ones have carrageenan in them, something I choose not to consume. Not only does it cause me to gain weight, experts agree that it can be destructive to my health. Anyway, sometimes I get tired of just using the flavored stevia drops, so I decided to try something new!
It isn't what I would call a healthy recipe, but it sure does taste good! And, yes, my coffee mug is almost as tall as a quart size mason jar...

I used the recipe I found here, making only one change. If you want to try it the way I made it, here is the recipe!

  • 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 14 oz. milk
  • 3 Tbsp pumpkin puree (I think it could use a bit more, though)
  • 3 Tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanila
  • 1/2 Tbsp. cinnamon
Put all the ingredients in a large jar and shake, shake, shake, and shake some more! This will keep in the refrigerator for two weeks.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Ear Tubes...

This morning we had our first visit with an ENT.  Children with a cleft palate usually work closely with an ENT until their palate is completely closed and secure because it is impossible to keep fluids out of the ears while there are still holes in the palate, and when this is left untreated, hearing loss occurs.  Hannah received ear tubes at some point in China, but by the time we got home, they were out of the ear drum not doing her a bit of good! So, off to the ENT we go!  He confirmed that the ear tubes she has are worthless and did some testing.  Unfortunately, Hannah already has fluid buildup in her ears again and is having some hearing loss because of the fluid. :(  Usually, the ENT will wait until the child is already under anesthesia for a lip or palate surgery and jump in to do ear tubes at the same time, but Hannah's next lip surgery isn't until January and the doctor does not think it is wise to wait that long.  In order to avoid possible permanent hearing loss, Hannah will have ear tube surgery next Tuesday, August 14.  It should be short and easy, but it is surgery with anesthesia, which is always a bit scary!

The good news is that Hannah did better today with the doctors and did great with the hearing test - even cheering after each part was done!  She didn't cry in  her car seat until we had already been in the car for almost 30 minutes, too - a HUGE improvement!  At the end of our visit, the kids all got helium balloons.  Hannah wasn't so sure what to think of this magical floating balloon at first, but she quickly figured out that pounding on it was great fun! I quickly found out that tying it to her wrist is a big mistake, too... :)  Here's a picture of Hannah on the way home, sound asleep in her car seat, but still holding onto her balloon!

This past weekend, we also got to meet new baby Jack! I was shocked that although both Drew and Hannah get jealous of each other in my lap, neither cared that I was holding a newborn! I think it is funny how they are both blurs in the picture - so true to life! They never slow down!

And, no big surprise here, Hannah loved wearing a necklace to church on Sunday! There is a matching bracelet, but it was too big, so I put it around her ankle.  She LOVED that! She admired her jewelry all day long!  Jerry tried to snap a picture, but the lighting was horrible and we were running late (also no surprise) so it isn't the best - but Hannah is cute anyway!

Thursday, August 2, 2012


I had really planned on posting here more often...but for some reason I forget what it is like adding a new child to the family!  However, as much work as it has been, and as tired as we have been, this has been an amazing first month home with Hannah.  She shows us more and more of her personality all the time and we are constantly amazed at just how perfect she is for our family!  Here are some highlights:

1. Hannah was not sleeping well when we first got home.  Not only was she in a whole new place with new people, new sights, new smells, new language...she had never slept in a room alone before.  We spent many hours in her room at night sitting next to her crib so she could calm down.  Now, we put her down for bed after a night bottle, and she sleeps for 10 hours! She still is a bit frantic when she is up for the morning and doesn't calm down until we come get her, but she is feeling more and more secure!
Her first week home - enjoying all the new toys!

2. Regardless of all we heard about kids who have been in an orphanage, Hannah is the most picky eater! This is actually the area in which we battle most.  She likes all carbs, especially sweets, but will not eat meat or many veggies.  She also was not introduced to many textures, so if it isn't pureed or really soft, she is not a fan. When she came home, she was still on 4 bottles of formula a day! We have her down to 3 and have switched her to whole milk, but I think it is going to take a while to get her off of those completely.
Hannah is also a very messy eater...  After this snack, she fell fast asleep in her chair!

Aaron and Hannah have a special bond.

3. This child is super smart!  Hannah already understands so much English it is scary! We have also been able to teach her to make different, distinguishable sounds for Mama, Aaron, brother, Grandma, and up.  None of it (except for Mama) sounds like you might think because of her cleft, but she is trying like crazy! She also has signs for ceiling fan, please, thank you, more, eat, milk, and all done.
Playing with fridge magnets.
Pointing to the ceiling fan.  Hannah *loves* fans!

4. Hannah has always wanted to be held and carried, but she struggled to be truly affectionate or completely relax in our arms or during a bottle feeding.  This is rapidly changing! She seeks out affection from all of us, gives kisses and hugs, and snuggles like nobody's business! The first time she truly relaxed and let herself fall fully asleep curled up in my arms with her head on my chest was magical.  When she also then trusted me enough to transition to her crib without jerking herself awake with fright was also amazing.

Ethan, making Hannah giggle with tummy rubs!

Watching Dora with Andrew!

5. Hannah *loves* her brothers! Andrew is a great playmate and is always bringing her toys.  Ethan is so goofy with her and always trying to make her laugh or imitate him! Aaron is absolutely wonderful with Hannah.  He comforts her when she is upset, carries her around, wrestles with her, and can make her laugh and laugh!

6.  Hannah is a girly-girl.  She loves dresses, shoes (even has favorites), bows in her hair, and dolls.  Even so, she is a daddy's girl BIG TIME and loves to wrestle, climb, spin, be upside-down and anything else she can convince her daddy to do with her! What a great combo!
Clinging to Daddy!

As you can tell, we are smitten!  As for Hannah's future health-wise, we have taken her to see a doctor in the cleft palate team and although her palate repair was done very well, it didn't close completely (something that is expected with the type she had) and her lip repair was cosmetic only so the muscles in her upper lip are not attached. This causes a lot of problems, especially with speech development since she cannot move her upper lip to make certain noises.  She is scheduled for surgery in January to re-do her lip repair, and then in December of 2013 to finish closing her palate and lengthen part of her nose to give her better ability to breathe.  She also has to have ear tubes replaced this month and we are seeing a pediatric dentist next month to deal with several rotten teeth.  I hate that she has to go through these things, but she handles them all like a trooper!
Family of 6. Love.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Teaching Writing Is Hard

So I'm looking for resources to help with it.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Reflecting With Fondness

I Want to Be a Clone, by Steve Taylor

I'd gone through so much other stuff
That walking down the aisle was tough
But now I know it's not enough
I want to be a clone

I asked the Lord into my heart
They said that was the way to start
But now you've got to play the part
I want to be a clone

Be a clone and kiss conviction goodnight
Cloneliness is next to Godliness, right?
I'm grateful that they show the way
'Cause I could never know the way
To serve him on my own
I want to be a clone

They told me that I'd fall away
Unless I followed what they say
Who needs the Bible anyway?
I want to be a clone

Their language it was new to me
But Christianese got through to me
Now I can speak it fluently
I want to be a clone

Be a clone and kiss conviction goodnight
Cloneliness is next to Godliness, right?
I'm grateful that they show the way
'Cause I could never know the way
To serve him on my own
I want to be a clone

Send in the clones
Ah, I kind of wanted to tell my friends and people about it, you know?
You're still a babe
You have to grow
Give it twenty years or so
'Cause if you want to be one of his
Got to act like one of us

Be a clone and kiss conviction goodnight
Cloneliness is next to Godliness, right?
I'm grateful that they show the way
'Cause I could never know the way
To serve him on my own
I want to be a clone

So now I see the whole design
My church is an assembly line
The parts are there, I'm feeling fine
I want to be a clone

I've learned enough to stay afloat
But not so much I rock the boat
I'm glad they shoved it down my throat
I want to be a clone

Everybody must get cloned

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


What a wild ride these past three weeks have been!  I feel like we have been going non-stop and all the days really run together.  There is one very good thing about that, though - it really feels like Hannah has been part of this family for a very long time!
At the airport - ready to go!

One of Jerry's friends gave us an envelope with a verse for each day, starting with the day we left.  It was a great encouragement!

Our trip to China went very well.  My plans to post here were thwarted by many factors - it is harder to get around China's firewall than I thought (my VPN wasn't the best one, but it was the only one that would work with my tablet's OS), we were so busy we fell into bed exhausted at the end of each day with no energy for long posts or e-mails, and we got quite sick (I was lucky enough to get sick twice!).  However, even with the sickness, I would say that we could have asked for a better trip.  We did not experience any jet lag on our way due to the fact that we flew over business class (yea for AA miles to upgrade our tickets!) and could lay down and sleep.  We were also part of the most amazing travel group!  I can honestly say that I really liked the 7 other families we were with.  We all seemed to get along well, value similar things, and have lots in common! It was fun to be able to watch other kids going through the same process as Hannah, as well.  We also had good guides with us. CCAI, our adoption agency, has a great staff in China! They knew exactly what they were doing, were super helpful, and were fun to get to know.
Check out all the leg room for international business class!!

Our flight path - close to the North Pole!

Our travel group touring Beijing.

We stood out even more thanks to this flag our guide held everywhere we went! But it was good to not lose the group.

It has been awesome getting to know Hannah.  The first two days we had her, she was all charm and smiles - I think she was trying to "win our affections." Little did she know, she had done that long before we even met her. She oozes personality! She is loud, funny, goofy, smiley, stubborn, picky, ticklish, cuddly, and so darn stinkin' cute it is almost too much!  She can throw a tantrum with the best of them, but she can also be as sweet as honey, smothering you with kisses.  The funny thing is that she goes from one to the other at the drop of a hat!  She definitely has not been told "no" very often in her life - and she does *not* like when we tell her "no."  That was one of the things about China that I noticed consistently - when a child is not happy, everyone, even perfect strangers, try giving the child this or that to make them happy again!  We will have some training to do with Hannah! :)
A silkworm cocoon - touring the silk factory.

We had a great laugh when we found silk GB boxers there!

Group meal at a local restaurant.

Tiananmen Square

At the Forbidden City - the dragon head symbolizes the emperor and the turtle stands for long life, so this statue means, "Long live the emperor!"

Another meal where you don't know what you're eating until it actually comes.

Some food we declined eating...

Climbing the Great Wall

Jerry in front of the Bird's Nest.

Once we were done with our two days of touring in Beijing, we went to  Zhengzhou, the capital of Hannah's province, and got Hannah the next morning.  The day after that, we signed the papers that made Hannah's adoption official! It was decidedly unceremonious, which was a bit disappointing, but like all things Chinese- it was efficient.  We had an opportunity to go to Hannah's orphanage, but we decided not to for a couple of reasons, but mostly because by that time, Hannah had started grieving and looking around at all the women we saw doing some "mommy shopping." We didn't want her to think we were taking her back, and we also didn't want her to want to go back!  We did hire a tour guide to take us around her home city though, which was nice.  We were able to get pictures for her of where she was from, although she was abandoned about an hour's drive outside the city in a very remote location, so we didn't see the exact spot.  We have had so many  miracles throughout this entire adoption process, but this added another one.  Hannah was left in this very remote area where few people would pass by, at one day old.  She probably hadn't eaten anything because her cleft was so severe it is doubtful her mom was able to nurse her at all.  For all practical purposes, she should have died, but God has plans for this little girl!  He had what would be equivalent to a "state trooper" drive by and actually spot her, care enough to stop and get her and take her right to a place where she could be cared for.  She has not only survived, but this girl has thrived! Praise God! Also while in Zhengzhou, we had to have many papers notarized, we received Hannah's Chinese passport, and we received the paperwork we needed to get her US visa.
Right after getting Hannah - she's still not too sure...

Our first smiles!

McD's never tasted so good!

Next we flew to Guangzhou, the city all US adoptions go through.  We didn't really have too much official to do there - we were primarily waiting for appointments and paperwork - so we went back to being tourists.  Only now, our group was much larger and noisier with 8 new baby/toddler additions!  We went to the zoo, out to eat as a group, on a river cruise to see the city at night, shopping, and more.  We ordered Papa Johns pizza and ate at McDonald's - which was the only "cheap" fast option for food within walking distance of our hotel.  This week culminated with our US Consulate appointment (also very unceremonious) and receiving Hannah's visa and our paperwork packet for her to enter the US.
In Kaifeng City - where Hannah is from.

Kaifeng City

The Iron Pagoda - 1000 years old - the most famous landmark in Kaifeng City.

Surprisingly, leaving China was a little bit sad. Although we missed home and our children, we had grown comfortable with China.  We found we actually enjoyed the food, and had adjusted to the culture.  We had learned to be assertive and to cross very crowded streets with hundreds of other people on foot, bicycle, and motor scooter.  The reality of knowing we were leaving Hannah's birth country and headed back to a family that would never be what it was before was a big reality, too.  Having Hannah means that a part of our hearts will always be tied to China because it was there that we received our fourth amazing blessing! I don't fully understand why it was God's plan for us to grow our family out of a painful situation for Hannah and her birth parents, but I love the way that no matter what it looks like from an earthly perspective, God orchestrated her birth and adoption from before the beginning of time, and that is downright amazing.  She was meant to be our daughter, and it is obvious!
The 2nd tallest building in the world!

On the river cruise in Guangzhou

The flight home was long and frustrating.  We flew like normal people (in coach) and had a bulkhead row, which was great for legroom, but horrible because the arm rests didn't lift so we couldn't lay Hannah flat to sleep across us as we had planned.  We ran into delays on each of our flights (we flew GZ to Tokyo to DFW), and even were diverted to OK City for an hour due to weather! In all, it took 27 hours to get home. Once we landed we began the maze of customs, baggage claim, and immigration.  Our immigration officer was very rude and told us that Hannah was not being admitted as a citizen as we had been told, and we are still straightening all of that out.  We were so tired, so this was even more upsetting, and I was in tears by the time we were heading out to greet our family.  Then when I saw my boys, the tears really overflowed! I hadn't realized just how much I missed them until I saw them!  Hannah took all of this in stride and did amazingly well through it all.  She observed her brothers and her grandparents closely while Jerry told her in Mandarin and English who they all were.  As we suspected, she HATED her car seat! They don't use them in China, and she has never been restricted while travelling!
Celebrating the US on July 4!

Our first flight home was in "economy plus" - really nice! Too bad the long one wasn't...

Discovering American food - green peas are a hit!

These first two days have gone well.  She loves her brothers, and they are delighted with her and discovering her "tricks"! They are constantly trying to get her to hug them or make her laugh.  Not to say it has all been a bed of roses.  The transition home has been hard.  Hannah is jet lagged, and grieving, too. This comes out less during the day (she will get sad suddenly and want to snuggle), but really comes out at night.  She really does not want to be left alone to sleep at night and is fighting sleep altogether! She has been up half the night or more each night, and we are exhausted.  I have read many books on toddler adoption and the transition, and this is so normal, but the longer it goes on the harder it is to cope with it well due to lack of sleep! Please pray that Hannah will feel secure enough in our family and in her room to sleep at night! We all need it.

Andrew and Hannah have been great playmates!  Drew is loving having someone more his size to play with.

I have been overwhelmed with how many people have given us encouragement and support through this whole process.  It has been an amazing journey, and one I highly recommend!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Getting Hannah

I have lots to post about our first days in China, before getting Hannah, but I know that if I post about those first there will be an outcry for more pictures of Hannah... so I will post about out Gotcha Day first, then backtrack to our time in Beijing after that.

We flew to the capital city of Hannah's province with four other families adopting from other orphanages in this same province on Sunday. It was a 1 1/2 hour flight, but because it was raining, we sat on the runway for over an hour before taking off.  After getting here we took a bus to our hotel and went to get a noodle dish at a local noodle bar. We also went to the bank to change money - yes, on Sunday! The process was quite different from what we are used to. You have to produce your passport or official government ID and take a number before sitting in a waiting area. When our number was called, we could go to a window with a teller in a cubicle behind glass to do our business. This was not a fast process either!

After we finished at the bank, we walked to the local Wal-Mart to buy diapers, formula, and the food items the orphanages had told us our babies were used to. The Wal-Mart was quite different, too! I will try to get more pictures of it later this week.  All of this took us nearly all day, so we stopped at a Pizza Hut that was right next door to order pizza and basically collapsed into bed exhausted as soon as we finished eating!

The next morning, our group went by bus to the local security office to a large room where we waited for our babies to come. Each orphanage drives the babies to this central location . In addition to our five families, there were 3 other families waiting for their children, too. When we got there, one of our families' babies was already there! It is amazing how quickly we have formed tight bonds with the other families in our group, so it was emotional for everyone.

Hannah was next to arrive! I saw her with her nanny walking up to the building, so I waited for her at the door. She had slept on the way there and was still quite out of it! I said hello in Chinese while her nanny was still holding her, then the nanny set her down and we crouched down to talk to her and tell her we were her mama and daddy.

She kept a fairly neutral look, but was studying us quite carefully. She let me touch her arm and then grabbed my finger while we got to know each other.

After just a few minutes she sat on my lap and we looked at the book I had sent her. She actually recognized that we were the people in that book!

Sometime during all of this her nanny gave us a small photo album of her life, a bag of formula, and some antibiotic that she was on for an ear infection. Very quickly she opened up to us and took some snacks from our hands and some water from a bottle we brought. She also really liked playing with the toy phone we brought! (It was actually the exact same one we had sent her on a care package in February.) After about 20 minutes she was giving us some tentative smiles and letting us kiss her - she loves to have her neck kissed and just giggles and giggles! She was happy with us and comfortable right from the beginning, which has to be an answer to prayer.  We had to sign guardianship papers to be able to take Hannah home for the night while we were there.

All told, we were there for about 2 hours. On the way back to the hotel, we discovered that Hannah had been taught her name and loved pointing at each of us when we say mama or daddy and at herself when we say Hannah. We also got to hear her amazing giggle for the first time on the bus when I discovered that she is quite ticklish! We took a video of it, which I have been unable to upload it due to a lack of bandwidth, but I'll put it up when we get home.

Once back at the hotel, we played with Hannah and discovered that she is assertive, very happy, loves to imitate and be imitated, and would rather play than nap!

The day could not have gone any better, really. We filled the official adoption papers, and when Hannah's nanny had to come by our hotel to pick up the passport fee she forgot to get from us earlier, Hannah already wouldn't go to her and clung to me instead. Sigh...I think I'm in love. :-)