Friday, February 28, 2014

Sifting Through Life: Our Birth Mother




On Tuesday,  February 25th, I shared a small glimpse into our experience and decision to adopt 19 years ago.  It was 19 years ago today that we walked into an office and said yes, we would take her home.

Tuesday I cried a lot.

I wasn't crying for me but for Her.

This was the first time that I woke up on Rye's birthday and felt so overwhelmed with emotion thinking about the young woman that made a decision that would change our lives forever, and her life too.

Rye is 19 and so was our birth Mother.  I see Rye as a grown woman, an adult.  A capable young woman that we would help if she found herself in the same situation.  We would make it work, we would help where we could.

I thought of my own experiences of giving birth, most recently, a few months ago.  How is it possible to turn over a baby to a stranger?  What must she have been going through that would enable her to be so selfless that she would place her child in the arms of another family?  Did she have a choice?

Questions, so many questions!!!!

We opted for a closed adoption.  It was one of the last closed adoptions that this agency performed.  Did we make the right decision?  I don't know.  Her only request was that we send pictures for one year and our only request was that, in the event of a health scare or crisis, we could reach out to the agency and locate her if we needed information.

I never talked to her.  I never saw her.  I wouldn't know her on the street.

Yet, I love her unconditionally.   I don't judge her.  I won't allow others to do so either.

On numerous occasions, when we attended church, I would sit in small classrooms surrounded by women.  Teen pregnancy was often looked down upon.  Discussed in negative tones.  These young women were dismissed as uneducated, dreamless and naive.   Their lives were done.

Opening my mouth to speak up in defense only brought out  dirty looks,  gasp of fear and misunderstanding. I felt like there was not any mercy or charity offered to these young women. Just judgement and this made me sad.

Oh, how easy it would be if all of our "dirty laundry" or "bad choices" were aired so openly as that of a teen pregnancy.  Open for people to judge and ridicule.  To cast their eyes downward in the presence of someone who had made a mistake, or even worse, been forced into a situation that caused a pregnancy.  Some were even afraid to interact with them, and when doing so,  with the appearance of a long imaginary stick, always at arms length.

I often found myself alone in my thoughts about birth mothers, especially Rye's birth mother who I have thought of often.  Where is she now?  What is she doing?  Did she have more kids?

Yes, she made a mistake or maybe she didn't.  Who hasn't?

Yes, she changed the course of her life.  Isn't that what happens anyways?

Yes, she made a choice to give her baby up.  Could I do the same?

This is how I see it.  This is how I feel.  I know some people won't agree, but boy the flip side of thinking the worst is hard, uncharitable and annoyingly disrespectful to that person.

We are all given challenges when we come to this earth.  Some face those challenges right in the first few hours of their first breadth, others as teenagers, then as adults.  Health issues plague those in their elderly years.

We are not immune to hardship, loss, change or a "game changer" in the course of our lives.  Often times we don't get to choose our trial.  Many don't even get to live through the trial.

For me, I see any trial as a chance to grow, to learn and to gain understanding.  I value the chance to dig deeper within myself to over come a twist in the road.

Why would we judge anyone's opportunity to have these experiences?  How can we know that this situation may not be the catalyst for change, for great things to come.  A chance to grow.

The efforts of a group of women who felt compelled to tell me that a teenage birth mother was a sin against God.  I could not believe it.  EVER.

How could something so beautiful, something that brought my family so much joy, that lifted us up to a higher degree of joy-- be bad, a sin, a piranha in a sea of righteousness?

I don't believe that is how it works.  I can't accept that in order to bless another family that a God would destroy another person's hopes and dreams.

This birth mother, my birth mother of our daughter,  had an event in her life.  One hiccup.  A trial of such magnitude that everyone around her could physically see her mistake.

My wish is that she was wrapped in love through this process.  That she had a support system that allowed her to feel love and acceptance.  I hope that when the decision came for her to give up our baby--that we shared through paperwork-- for adoption,  that it was her choice alone.

Fear kept me from thinking about Her too often in the early days. Until the adoption was final I wanted to flee.  RUN.  LEAVE THE STATE.

I was so used to disappointment I just knew that something would take my sweet angel away from me.

As time went on and I felt the love that Rye had for us I  knew that there would always be room in our lives for one more person, her birth mother--our birth mother.

We talk about her.  We hope to find her someday.  It is Rye's decision, not mine.  There is a lot to think about.  A lot to consider.



I want to say thank you.

I want to hug Her.

I can't imagine what she's going through each year around this time.

I am crying tears of joy but is she crying tears of sadness, loneliness....heart break?

Or..possibly she also has tears of joy for giving life to a special little girl that would go on to bless the lives of a family that she hand selected. US.

So many questions.

Maybe someday we will get the answers.




Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Our Adoption Story




19 years ago a very special little baby girl was born.

It would be a whole two days later that we would even know that she existed or had the opportunity to hold her in our arms on the third day.

On February 1, 1995 we received a call that there was a birth mother who had chosen our file to be the parents to her baby.

We were told that the due date was Feb. 15th (ish) and to plan on having a new baby. That was all of the information we were given--an estimated due date, no sex of the baby and no guarantee.

To say we were very excited and jumping for joy--is an under statement.  We had tried for 7 years to have a baby only to have several miscarriages, lots of doctor bills and some failed attempts at fertility treatments.

The previous year passed before my eyes.

I was spent.  Exhausted. Tired of being poked and prodded.  DONE.

We were living in Texas right before the adoption process started and on a whim we decided to move back to Oregon.  We missed family and wanted to be around people that would make us smile and forget some of the pain and hardship the previous two years had offered the two of us.

A fresh start.


As we settled into our new apartment, found jobs, started school and returned to a normal lifestyle I had an impression.  A strong voice telling me that we should adopt.

Adopt?  This was definitely an option, possibly our last one, but we wanted some time.

This was our last option to have a family and we were both excited about the prospect of becoming parents-someday.  We needed time to recover and accept the doctors diagnosis.  Cory and I needed to be a couple with spontaneity again--not a young couple on a scheduled sex life, taking fertility drugs, taking blood samples and test--oh my heck--the test never ended.

Back to normal was on our agenda for the next year or two.

The voice never wavered though.  The time was here and we needed to act upon it. NOW

On November 4th we submitted our paper work, had our home visits scheduled and started planning for our baby that would be with us in 2-3 years.


Ah, 2-3 years was perfect.  We could buy a house, finish school and plan for the future.  We could budget out the expenses and slowly buy the items necessary for a baby.

I worked for my uncle and he knew that when I got "the call" that I would be quitting my job and being a stay at home Mom.  He counted on me for another couple of years.

4 months later I received that first phone call on February first.  Four short months and we had a birth mother.  Someone picked us.

We were told that she could change her mind at anytime and that this was not unusual for birth mothers to do this.  We were advised that we should not get too excited. They said to just wait for the due date and their phone call.

I had so many thoughts going through my mind.  I was happy, sad, anxious, happy, nervous, joyful and most of all--scared.

I was used to disappointment.  Failed pregnancies.  Failed fertility attempts.  Why would this be any different with our first try at adoption?

We patiently waited and her due date passed.

Not a....single.....phone.....call.

Nothing.

We were not given any information.  So we went about our business and kept working, kept planning and kept busy.

Then on February 27th, I received a call from our adoption lawyer around 5 pm.

She had been born!!!  She was late----she?  What?  SHE!!!!!

"Can you come to our office at 9am tomorrow morning to decide if you want her or not?", said our attorney.

HOLY CRAP and then the tears started to flow.

SO. MANY. TEARS.

I was home alone because Cory was at work.  Due to the security with his office I tried to call him for 3 hours to tell him that we had a baby!

For 3 hours I kept dialing and pacing trying to reach my best friend to tell him that we would be a Mommy and Daddy the next morning.

I called and quit work that day.  When Cory got home, we rushed to the only store open at 11pm at night--K Mart.

We had no idea what to buy.  We ended up with diapers, bottles, formula, wipes and a few outfits.

Oh, and a car seat.

We called family and brought as many people to the office that we could gather.  We wanted our new baby girl to be surrounded by love and family.

We nervously packed the car and headed to the office.  When we arrived, Rye was in a room-dressed in pink--bundled in a blanket--nestled in a small cradle.

The cradle was the only thing in the room.  Nothing on the walls, no chairs to sit.  Just a small baby in a small cradle looking up at two people she would call Mom and Dad in just a few years.

We were once again reminded that they needed a yes or no answer.  They gave us 15 minutes.

YES!!!!!  YES!!!!!!  YES!!!!!!

I think at this point more tears were shed, lots of hugs were given and we timidly changed her into our Kmart  Special baby outfit.  I still have that outfit too.

We introduced her to the many aunts and cousins that had come with us to the office.  We cried some more.

The time came for us to leave--just Cory, Rye and myself.  Our first outing as a family.

We fumbled with the car seat, managed to figure out the buckles and stepped out onto the sidewalk where the sun was shining and the air was fresh.

Was this a dream?  Would it end?  Should I pinch myself---do I want to wake up if it is a dream?

As the car pulled away from the office and our little baby, dressed in pink and who was fast asleep, so unaware of what had just happened.  So trusting.

Our lives changed forever.

Rye made me a Mommy for the first time.  She fulfilled a life long dream.  She did for me what I was unable to do for myself.  She completed me.

19 years old.

It goes by so fast.   I love her with all my heart.  She is so talented, beautiful and my best friend.  She knows me at my worst and my best.  She loves me anyway.

Happy Birthday Ryekins!







Gluten Free Apple Sauce Cake


1 cup fine white rice flour
1/2 cup tapioca starch
1/2 almond meal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground all spice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1/2 white sugar (see note below)
1/2 cup light brown sugar (see note below)
1 3/4 cups applesauce (homemade version, see link)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon vanilla

NOTE:  A few thoughts about sugar used in this recipe.  I have made this recipe with great success by omitting the white sugar completely and substituting Coconut Palm sugar for the 1/2 cup of brown sugar.  The cake is not as sweet but the caramel topping makes up for that.

Caramel Glaze

4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup brown sugar  (I have also replaced this sugar with the coconut palm sugar)
1/2 cup of heavy cream
a pinch of salt
3/4 cups of sifted confectioners sugar

1.  Preheat oven to 350.  Line your baking dish with parchment paper.  This allows you to pull the cake out of the pan and drizzle the caramel topping over the top before you serve it.  OR, you can butter your pan and add the glaze to the cake.

2.  In a medium bowl, combine dry ingredients and mix to combine.

3.  Beat the eggs using a mixer; add the sugar and beat until smooth.

4.  Add oil, applesauce and vanilla.  Mix until blended.

5.  Add wet and dry ingredients together and with a spatula combine, do not over mix.

6.  Pour into prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes.  The cake is better if you do not over bake it.

7.  While cake is baking, prepare the glaze.

8.  You have two options:  pour glaze immediately over the cake or let cake cool then add cooled glaze.

If you add the glaze while everything is still hot, the glaze soaks into the cake--really good!  The other way gives you more glaze to swish your fork in.  The pictures above are of the cake with the glaze poured on right out of the oven.

Written by Sherron Watson

Friday, February 21, 2014

Sifting Through Life: Time and the Number Four


Seriously?  It's Friday already!

Where does the time go?  Why does it fly by faster than a speeding bullet?

I have missed two weeks of writing this segment on the blog.  Well, there goes one New Years resolution down the drain.   Said with a deep sigh.

Four.

I have reflected a lot on this number over the past few weeks.

WHY?

Four kids is a lot to juggle.  Four of anything is hard to juggle and kids are just so dang heavy.  I can barely lift them off the ground to get them high enough before I have to catch the next one.

(insert smiley face)

Before you start thinking -- well you had them --let me just say I would not trade them for anything in this world.  I would also, for the record, have four more if my mind and body could handle it.

Like any new Mom I am having to adjust my schedule and my life. I am trying to whittle out time for each kiddo, a husband and-- heaven help me--a bit of time for myself.

I live in a world were I flip flop ages all day long. My brain hurts by the end of the day.  Below is an example of a four minute span of conversation at my house.

Baby:  Goo Goo Ga Ga

Isabella:  Mommy will get the Triops there food in a minute.

Baby:  Who is the cutest baby (said in the gooiest and sweetest voice)?

Rye:  Yes, I can drive you to college, give me 5 minutes to brush my hair and find the keys.

Isabella:  Don't cut your Barbie's hair.

Baby:  trilling my tongue to make her smile

Cory:  Is lunch ready?

Drake:  I need a ride to work.

Baby:  Change me!  Change me!  wa-wa-wa-wa

Me:  I need coffee! I need Calgon to take me away for 20 minutes.

..and this goes on all day long.  My time is spent teaching, driving, cooking and cleaning.

How do I make time for myself when the needs of my family are my first priority?

It is true that I struggle to balance it all.  I do realize though, that if I am not making time for myself then I am not at my best for the family that I have chosen to have.

In the past, I would come down really hard on myself for doing simple things to make me happy.  I felt as though I was being selfish with my time.  If I worked on a quilt instead of doing the dishes then it would not sit well with me the next day.

Those days are long gone. THANK GOODNESS

From life experience and with a bit of maturity I know several things:  those dishes will get done, if I deviate from Mommy duties for a few minutes, my family will survive and it's okay for me to stop and refocus for a time.

The things which I do, that allow me to feel as though I do get a bit of time for myself, are not glamorous or large in nature.  This is not me.  I am a simple girl with simple desires.

I take baths.  This is my time.  I can relax, read and play a game on my phone.  Oh, my husband hates that last part!  Water and phones don't mix-- but hey, why do we pay for insurance if we don't use it?

Right?  Okay, you're probably right. It is a bad idea but it makes me happy to crush Candy.

I love to write in my journal.  I love to document each day the events that my family are doing.  I am fearful that I will forget the tiniest moments from my life.  I want to remember what my kids are doing and have done.  So much so, that I am driven to write them down.

I blog.  I find so much comfort in the kitchen, learning new skills, reading cookbooks and feeding my family.  It is a hobby that benefits me and my families tummies.

I thrift store shop.  I grew up buying my clothes, shoes and accessories in Oregon at some of the best consignment stores.  Going into a shop and searching out something that I want or need is exciting in my mind.  The hunt is very rewarding.

The gym.

This is the hardest, of which,  I hate to love.  I will be honest.  I don't like to exercise (<--that word is the most annoying word to write.  I NEVER spell it correctly the first time).  

The gym--stay focused Sherron, you're drifting again.

Every time Cory and I go to the gym the guy leaves there walking on cloud nine.  He has had the best time sweating, running and working his muscles.  It annoys me to no end--lol.

I really wanted to find his attitude for my gym time but I struggled.  I feel compelled to do these things because I want to stay healthy, stay in my weight range and--the most important reason-- it is a way that the two of us get a little bit of time together each day.

My attitude is slowly leaning towards Cory's enthusiasm with the discovery of the rowing machine and yoga.  I was so focused on running and failing miserable at it.  This was souring my attitude toward the gym.

I needed a change and set my heart on the rowing machine and have not looked back.  It is very addicting and I find myself yearning to go to the gym now.   I can't wait to strap my shoes in, set the dial, insert my ear plugs and grab the handle.

slide-pull-slide-pull--the best 45 minutes workout EVER!

Back and forth.  The steady rhythm of the machine puts me into a trance like state.  I close my eyes and feel my muscles working and burning.

breathing in--breathing out--repeat

When I return home and the Littles (Isabella and Finnley) are placed in my arms with hugs and love, my heart is so full.  When Rye and Drake need me--I feel useful.

My day is complete.

Four.

Yes, it is a lot.  I do struggle with the juggle of time.

But...

...it will all be gone before I know it and I will be wishing and wanting my home to be filled with FOUR again.

Written by Sherron Watson















Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Tortilla Casserole


Snow, sleet and rain.

Three things we have had in abundance in Maryland over the last month.

I hate to complain about the cold weather but boy it sure gets to you after a while. It starts affecting your life which in turns messes with your mind.

Isabella told me that she has "cabbage fever". I laughed so hard when she said this. I didn't have the heart to correct her because it was so cute and memorable. She will figure it out and until then I smile each time she mentions "cabbage fever".

I can relate though, I am starting to feel a bit of it myself.


Cooking in the kitchen always helps me to clear my mind.

I needed something cheesy and warm. I decided to make this tortilla casserole and I am glad that I did.

I think we found a new family favorite for the winter months. It helped that I made the tortillas from scratch. I followed the directions on the back of the masa harina package (see comments below).

My wish is that everyone has stayed warm this cold cold winter.  

We are wishing for Spring almost daily.  I guess without the wintery blues we would not be able to fully appreciate the warm sunshine when it finally arrives for Spring.  I love the changing seasons.  This is one of the reasons that Maryland is so beloved by my family.  

We. Can. Not. Wait. For. Spring!

Enjoy



Tortilla Casserole
12 corn tortillas, (homemade are amazing)
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cup salsa
1 teaspoon salt
8 oz cream cheese, soft
1.5 pounds ground beef, cooked
2 green onions, diced with green and white parts
4 cups of shredded cheese. You can use jack or cheddar or a combination of both.

To make the tortilla's from scratch I used Bob's Red Mill Masa Harina and followed the directions on the bag for one batch. This made 12 tortillas. You do have to let the dough rest for one hour and then the making and baking of the tortilla's takes about 30 minutes. It is a few extra steps but the freshness of the tortillas really shines in this recipe.

1.  Preheat oven to 350.  Spray a 7X11 baking dish (or close to this size) with cooking spray.

2.  In a medium bowl, combine eggs, milk, sour cream, salsa , salt and cream cheese.

3.  Layer the casserole in this order:  cooked ground meat, cream cheese sauce, cheese and then tortillas.  Repeat one more time.  You should have enough tortillas for two layers and everything else you will have enough for 3 layers.  You want to end with the cheese on top.

4.  Bake for 30 minutes.

5.   Serve immediately with sour cream, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes and/or jalapenos.

Written by Sherron Watson

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Homemade Marshmallow Fluff and Fruit Dip


Here you have two recipes.  It is your lucky day!

My sister-n-law made this fruit dip for us when we visited them last.  I positively could not get enough of it.  I felt so guilty every time I scooped my strawberry or pineapple piece into the luscious dip.

I must have looked like a little piggy and quite honestly, I did not care.  

OOPS, did I say that out loud.

I am not going to lie, there is no way to make this healthy.  I tried to make a batch using rice syrup instead of the corn syrup and that was a total fail. 

I had to reconcile the fact that it is a treat and no matter how hard I tried it was not going to be any other way than sweet, sweet and super good.

Once I allowed myself to enjoy this dessert to its fullest without feeling guilty, I feel it began to taste even sweeter.  LOL

If you are a reader of my blog then you know that I try my best to make most things from scratch.  To buy the jar of premade marshmallow was something I just did not want to do so I decided to try my hand at making this version.

I found the original version from one of my favorite blogs, A Farm Girl Dabbles.  I love her blog because she also likes to cook from scratch and use whole ingredients.  I found the homemade version tasted cleaner.  I didn't  have a strange after taste like I did with the jar version.  

We are a few months out from having fresh strawberries in our local farmers markets but with Valentine's right around the corner I thought a few of you may want to make this dip for school parties, work events or a little something special for your sweetie pie.  

ENJOY!



Fruit Dip

1 8oz package of cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cup of homemade marshmallow cream (recipe below) 
                 or 1 7oz jar of premade marshmallow cream
1 Tablespoon of cherry juice, for color
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1.  In a medium bowl, whip cream cheese until fluffy,

2.  Fold in marshmallow cream, juice and nutmeg.

3.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

4.  Serve with your favorite sliced and prepared fruits.


Homemade Marshmallow Cream

1/3 cup water
3/4 cup light corn syrup
2/3 cup plus 2 T. sugar, divided
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1.  In a small saucepan with heat set to medium high, add water, corn syrup and the 2/3 cup of sugar.   Cook until boiling.   Continue cooking and stirring (see note below) until mixture reaches 240 degrees on a candy thermometer.  Remove from heat.

You do not need to stir the whole time.  Just once in a while to keep the bottom from scorching.

2.  While step number one is cooking and reaching the desired temperature, you can beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar.  The whites should be light and frothy right before you add the 2 tablespoons of sugar.  Continue beating until soft peaks form.  Set aside until syrup from step one is ready.

The easiest way to do this step is using a table top mixer.  I used my kitchenaid. 

3.  Grab the bowl with the egg whites, set your mixer, with the whisk attachment, to low and s.l.o.w.l.y  start pouring the hot syrup into the egg whites.  As egg whites start to stiffen,  increase the speed to high.  Beat on high for 7-9 minutes until the mixture is stiff and glossy.  

4.  Add vanilla and beat until combined, maybe one more minute.

5.  Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

I used mine to make brown butter rice crispy treats.  ENJOY




Written by Sherron Watson


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Tuna Orzo Salad


This salad reminds me of summer.

It is a beautiful collection of colors and flavors.

I guess with the bitter winter weather we have been having I was looking for something bright and refreshing.  We have enjoyed our share of soups but a warm salad is nice too.

This was my first time using fresh tuna.  In the past I have used a good quality canned tuna with success too but the fresh tuna, I felt, out shined the canned tuna--hands down.

I mention both varieties because I know that fresh tuna can be expensive and it adds a few more steps to the dish because you have to bake it separately.   I just wanted those that have a limited amount of time, resources and funds available to them, this can still be made using different options with delicious results.  In fact, you could easily switch out the tuna for a different kind of fish.

I hope were ever you live that you were able to fair well with the cold temperatures in your neck of the woods.

ENJOY!

Tuna Lemon Orzo Salad

Prep time: 30 minutes
Serves: 6

1 lb. fresh Tuna, baked and pulled into pieces
3 cups of prepared lemon orzo or plain orzo (Gluten free option: you can use gluten free orzo)
1 1/2 cups asparagus, 1 inch pieces
1 (14 oz) can plain artichoke hearts, drained
1 cup of cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped loosely
2 tablespoons chives, chopped
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1/4 cup light extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste

*Lemon orzo pictured.
*Salad taste great with other varieties of fish. This is a great way to use your leftovers.

Bring 2 inches of water to a boil in a medium sized pot. Trim ends of asparagus off and cut the rest of the stem into pieces.  Cook for 5-7 minutes, do not over cook. 

In a large bowl combine remaining ingredients.

Taste to season based on personal preference.  Add more lemon juice, dill or salt as needed. 

Salad may be served warm of cold.

Cover and store in refrigerator for up to 5 days.


To bake my fresh tuna, I simply applied some olive oil, sliced lemon, dill sprigs, salt and pepper.  I baked the fish at 350 for 15 minutes or until desired doneness is reached.  I let it cool slightly.  Using two forks I gently pulled the tuna into bite size pieces for the salad.


Sifting Through Life: I Got Naked with Strangers at Breitenbush Hot Springs

NOTE:  There are not any naked pictures in this post. This is a family friendly site. Just in case you were wondering....LOL It h...