Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Stages of Waiting...

I found this article on an online adoption magazine and could not agree more with this woman. I have to say I have experienced every single of these emotions on our adoption journey so far.  She adopted from Ethiopia, but I substitute the word "Russia" in my mind...and it pretty much sums up how I've been feeling. Jay particularly laughed out loud about the sane husband comment...  I have to say it's kind of reassuring to know I'm not the only person who's ever felt this way.

Needless to say, we're still waiting people, paperwork, blah blah blah.  Nothing more to say except I can't wait for Stage 18 (see the highlighted at the verrry end.) 

The Stages of Waiting

Are all the bewildering ups and downs I've experienced during our wait typical of the international adoption process? by Julie Corby

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Fifteen months ago my husband and I filled out an application to adopt siblings from Ethiopia. Are you familiar with the Elisabeth Kübler-Ross model for the stages of grief? It consists of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I feel like the waiting process during our adoption has taken me through similar distinct stages. While it may be true that the only thing that Dr. Kübler-Ross and I have in common is that she was a psychiatrist and I need a psychiatrist, I believe that these "Stages of Waiting" do, in fact, exist.

Stage 1 Relief. My husband and I have finally landed on the same page regarding our family building. We agree on the country. We agree on the agency. We agree to the expense.

Stage 2 Joy. There is a light at the end of a long, nine-year tunnel. I've become a member of a club that has, up until now, excluded me.  I have a spring in my step. I can walk by a playground without weeping. I can talk about preschool. I'm childproof. I tell everyone I know about our plans.

Stage 3 The win/win-naiveté-Melissa Fay Greene Stage. I read There Is No Me Without You. I think, not only am I helping myself, I am helping Africa. We want kids, and millions of orphans need families. It is a win/win situation.

Stage 4 Ethical questioning. Many Ethiopian children placed for adoption are not actually orphans. In fact, a lot of them have parents, as well as siblings. They are relinquished because their family cannot afford to feed them. This is when I start wrestling a lot: "If I really cared about Ethiopia, I would take these thousands of dollars we're paying in adoption fees and donate them to an organization that would do everything it could to preserve this family."

Stage 5 I am a selfish jerk.  My white, privileged need to have a family is much stronger than my need to help Ethiopia. My mothering hormones are not going to be dissipated by my concern for struggling Africans. I am a jerk.

Stage 6 Bargaining. I am a selfish jerk, but I agree to change my need. This is when I announce to my husband one morning, "I think that we should adopt a 12-year-old from Ethiopia, instead. We will make sure that she is a true orphan, an only child, and HIV-positive. We have good health insurance." (At this point I think my husband, who likes more than anything to make a decision and stick with it, is starting to wonder why he ever married me in the first place.)

Stage 7 Outrage. Why doesn't everyone know how bad things are around the world? Why aren't people doing more? Unfortunately, this outrage turns into self-righteousness and a judgmental attitude, which send me spiraling back to...

Stage 8 Guilt. I feel guilty for judging, guilty for adopting, guilty for eating. You name it, I feel guilty.

Stage 9 Resolve. I will do something. I will raise awareness. I will start a project that will help. I will make a difference.

Stage 10 Renewed optimism. It's OK. We will move forward. I'll call our agency and write the check for the third payment they requested. I will continue to read about parenting. I will do my best to be a mother to these two children.

Stage 11 Doubt in the adoption. Are we doing the right thing? Our agency has worked in Ethiopia for a long time, and I am fairly confident that they operate in an ethical manner. But really, how would I know? I do know that the program has changed dramatically in the past year, because so many more people are choosing Ethiopia.

Stage 12 Doubt in myself. Am I too (insert any of these adjectives here: old, dejected, cynical, impatient, selfish) to adopt?

Stage 13 Doubt that it will ever happen. We know several couples who applied after we did who have already received their referrals, have traveled, and are now happily ensconced with their new families. Is this just one more thing that works out for everyone except us? I have days when I believe that we will never get to adopt. This feels precarious, and reminds me of a feeling I've had before. Our four pregnancies didn't work out, so why did I think this would? (This stage also involves envy, but envy is so yucky, let's not give it its own stage.)

Stage 14  Disillusionment. This is when all of your warm and fuzzy feelings about adoption don't feel warm and fuzzy anymore. They feel messy and worrisome.

Stage 15 Exhilaration. A couple of weeks ago, I was at home with my husband and our dogs. All of the sudden, I thought, "This is going to happen! We are going to be parents! There will be children here, in our house, SOON!" I grinned like an idiot. This stage lasted exactly 90 minutes.

Stage 16 Unexpected, renewed faith in humanity. Where have you people been all my life? There is something special about the adoption community. It takes someone with a big heart, I think, and at least some sense of adventure, to adopt. I am so grateful to have met so many incredible people on this journey. I mean it.

Stage 17 Joyful, Uneasy anticipation. The uneasiness may disappear when we get our referral, but maybe it is important to always feel uneasy. Being a prospective adoptive parent is complicated. Obviously, the people who are really going through something are the birth families and the children. Their losses are much more difficult and devastating. If I am lucky enough to become a parent, I must continue to question. I will do my best to remain observant, to monitor agencies' activities and message boards, to help those who come after me, and to help those who are left behind.
The feelings of joy and anticipation are substantially less complicated. In January 2008, our social worker let us know we were Waiting Family #103. Today, we are Waiting Family #3. We want this more than anything. I can't wait to see my husband be a father. I can't wait for my parents to meet their grandchildren. I can't wait to sing someone to sleep, to make someone laugh, and to bandage a skinned knee. We are ready for our joyful, uneasy, happy ending.
Julie Corby is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles. She and her husband will leave this month to adopt their children in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (Yep, Stage 18. Euphoria! The phone rings, and everything changes.) Follow Julie's story at
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Sunday, November 6, 2011

Orphan Sunday

"If you're clinging too tightly to your things, to your plans, to your comfort and convenience, to your idea of what your family should look like -- God cannot move in your life." I shared a few months ago one family's journey to their children through adoption. (Also known as the video that made us all cry)

Today is Orphan Sunday. People all over the world are raising awareness for orphan care, foster care, and adoption.

I'm kind of bummed out that I'm just now learning that Orphan Sunday is a thing. I feel like we should have done more.  I feel like next year that will have to change. 

The Eastern European version of the Orphan Sunday website posted this video.  You don't need to understand Russian to get it's message.

All I know is, halfway across the world in an orphanage, two little people have already drastically changed the way we view our things, our plans, our comforts and conveniences, and our ideas of what our family should like. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

True Happenings of a Third Grade Teacher

True Happenings of a Third Grade Teacher: 

"Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cotton-Tail, who were good little bunnies, went down the lane to gather blackberries"
"Mrs. Schmitz? Why would bunnies need so many cell phones?"

(Mrs. Schmitz slaps hand to forehead...)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Learning a little

There has been a lot going on around here.  We finished our end of the homestudy! Woot woot! We've completed some online training.  Yeahhh! And we're doing more paperwork! Hooray!

We're also trying to learn a little bit of Russian. This week we are working on 3 basic phrases:

Yes - sounds like "dah"
No - sounds like "nyit"

Hi - sounds like "priviet"
Bye - sounds like "paka" or "paka paka" (my favorite)

Please/You're Welcome - sounds like "pah-zhal-sta"
Thank You - sounds like "spa-see-bah"

Then I found this Youtube video of the Russian (cryllic) alphabet song and about laughed until I cried.

Sing along, everyone!   Does that make anyone else's head want to explode?

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Mysterouis Egg

I love my job. Like "have to drag myself out of bed every morning still because I hate waking up... but once I'm there can't wipe the smile off my face" - love my job.  Kids are so much more creative than adults, and I love that I get to see into their worlds every day.  Sounds hokey, but they inspire me. Okay, that sounded just as hokey on computer screen as it did in my head. 

Here is a piece of writing by one of my third graders. He approached me today with this piece of paper cut in an oval shape and said,
"Hey Mrs. S. I just cut this out, now what should I do with it?"

Seeing as he was supposed to be writing, not cutting his writer's notebook into random shapes I said, 
"How about you write about a mysterious egg found by scientists, and that's the egg they found." How's that for a consequence? Way to go, teach. : )

Well, this is the product. I think it speaks for itself. I present to you....The Mysterouis Egg.  (Oh come on, he had the right letters just in the wrong odre.  You know what he means!) (Did you catch my joke?) (Is a joke really good if you have to point it out?) (Do I overuse parenthesis?)

Nobody knows. : )

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Progress, Progress, Progress!

It seems like we've been checking a lot of things off our to-do list lately and it.feels.great.  I know I'm not the only one who is feeling this way when Jay sends me emails with exclamation marks in them!  Gosh it feels good to be making progress!

So what's new? Here's a quick photo-phone-dump to give you an idea.

These two mugs have had to go get our fingerprints done, send in some immigration forms, and get our background checks started. All things to get the ball rolling, rolling, rolling. 

Our kitchen table has officially turned into paper-chase central. It looks like this at all times, and we just eat in the opposite corner of the paperwork.  See the salt and pepper, they prove my point.  If our dinner has any spilling potential, Jay makes us eat at the table in the basement.  We spent a lot of time on these documents, and would hate to mess one up with a pizza sauce splatter! 

This week marked the start of Cyclone football! We get really geeked out to be back in the town of our alma mater, and although the Clones aren't the best team ever, it's a nice excuse to tailgate and get that "college" feeling again! 

We took a detour on our way to Ames and bought a crib.  Yikes!  Our homestudy has started and we were told we need to begin getting our house "kid ready". Well, kids need a place to sleep, and I had a coupon.  So...check! Another thing off the list.  

I couldn't resist having a crib in a box in my house.  That is too much for this girl to handle! So we spent all day Sunday taking EVERYTHING out of the two upstairs bedrooms we currently use as a guest room and as an office and repurposing the spaces. We now have a kids room (Holy cow I have a kids room at my house!!!) and a guest room that also works as an office space.
Here is the kid's room with the crib up and the day bed in it. It is not decorated and you can bet big money the wall color will change - but it makes me feel like we've made a lot more room for the little ones in our life.  The closet is empty and ready to be kidafied.  My newest itch I need to scratch is decorating. Ohhhh how I love decorating!  I know these things are not important, but they are fun, and I'm enjoying it right now! 

I realize this room could sit kidless for over a year easy, and I'm okay with that, this is part of the process for me. It helps me to slowly picture these little people that are going to enter our lives.

This week felt like bigtime progress and left a big ole smile on my face.  This is the first week we've really felt like we made substantial movement, as most weeks are full of waiting on something or another. In the meantime, Jay and I are enjoying every moment of being DINKS (double income no kids), but also excitedly preparing for our kids.  Next week: home visit!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Top 10 Questions We've Been Asked So Far...

Since announcing to our friends and family that we've decided to adopt, we've definitely been bombarded with a bunch of questions.  Which is totally normal.  Most people haven't been close to someone who has adopted internationally, so they have little to no experience on the subject.  They have many of the same questions I had when I began researching adoption. But many apologies have been exchanged from worried friends who think that they are "asking too many questions."  No worries, I really don't mind answering them! 

I thought it'd be fun to compile the top 10 questions we've been asked so far about our decision.

Q: How did you choose your country?
A: This is probably the hardest answer to condense in a short conversation.  It's hard to explain that after a year of researching countries, agencies, and programs - this is just the one that "felt right."  There were a lot of factors that weighed into our decision; age of children, speed of process, travel requirements.  But in the end, it was something Jay and I looked at each other and said "this is it."

Q. Do you know the kids yet? When will you know them?
A: Unfortunately, no we don't know them yet. It's kind of like we just found out we're pregnant, and we've yet to have an ultrasound.  We already love them, but we can only imagine who they are and how they'll change us. Many people choose to share their news of adoption once they've received a referral (meaning, when they know their child) but we kinda wear things on our sleeve, and we're going to need a heap-load of prayers. 

Q: When do you bring them home?
A: We don't know. International adoption is very unpredictable.  Our agency has told us right now that things are "typically" taking around a year. But when you're dealing with another country, things can change drastically on the turn of a dime.  It's out of our hands, so we're going to keep up with what we need to do on our end, and give up the need to be in control.

Q:  Will you have to travel?
A: Yes.  Our first trip will be after we verbally accept our referral.  The trip will last about a week, and we'll spend the majority of our time meeting and bonding with our kids.  Then I'm certain my heart will be ripped from my body when we return to the states without them and wait to be assigned a court date. Our second trip will include a court date, and then they are legally ours.  We then wait for visas to be processed.  We're hoping to stay in Russia for the duration of the wait, but we'll have to see.

Q:  What about their names?
A: They will have Russian names given to them by their birth mother.   We haven't quite decided how we're going to handle this yet.  They might keep their Russian names and we give them American middle names, we might give them American first names and keep their given names as middle names.  There are a lot of American equivalents to their Russian names - and we might just do that.  This is another thing that falls into the 'we're going to have to wait and see' category. There is a LOT in this category. Ha!

Q: Why two?
A: This was another gut feeling Jay and I instantly agreed on.  Siblings often have a harder time getting adopted because bringing two children into a home at once is a lot to handle.  We know it's going to have its ups and downs, but giving these kids the opportunity to have a loving home and stay with their sibling is something we want to do. They have lost everything, but they still have each other.  We have such a wonderful support system surrounding us that we know we're not in this alone. 

Q: No seriously, two? Are you crazy?
A: Yes. : ) But we're ready for our lives to be completely turned upside down for these kids. 

Q: So...what's happening right now? Any news to report? 
A: We're beginning our homestudy, and a LOT of paperwork.  We probably won't have much excitement to report for quite some time, other than "we finished this mound of paperwork - woo hoo!" Although this will probably THRILL us, you will more than likely not find it newsworthy. We know you're excited, but you're going to get the answer of "paperwork" for the next many months.

Q: Oh hey, I know so-and-so who adopted from such-and-such - do you want me to give your their contact info?
A: Yes! Every situation is different, but I still somehow manage to take some nugget of valuable information from every person I speak to.  We're all about educating ourselves as much as we can.  Sometimes the best experts aren't the ones who write the books - but the ones who've just lived it. 

Q: You know you're going to get pregnant now that you've decided to adopt, right?
A: Oh goodness, am I not showing? The glow about me didn't already give it away? Thank you for your kind thoughts, but I AM pregnant.  With two babies from Russia. : )
That is one special pee stick. : )

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Big News наша семья растет!

We've been noticeably absent from the blogosphere lately, but that doesn't mean that nothing noteworthy has been happening.  We visited a zoo, we bought a chair, oh yeah, and...

WE'RE ADOPTING!!! (and we couldn't be more excited)

Yep, we're adopting.  Not one, but two babies.  Read that sentence again.  The number two is not a typo. 

Yep, we're adopting two babies.  

From Russia.  


P.S. Lots more details to come!  We know this adoption stuff is new for most of you, too. : )

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Cleaning out the CRV

The hubbins and I are hitting the road tomorrow for some quality time and a little vay-cay-shun.  Oh, how I love vacations!

I've heard you're not supposed to tell people on the interweb when you'll be leaving your house, you know, for fear of robbers.  But our neighbor and his dog will be watching over the abode while we're gone, so I'm not too concerned.

That's a real dog, I'm not kidding. 
As I was cleaning out Zippy the CRV today in preparation for our journey, I came across a bag in the trunk I had taken with me to a meeting towards the end of the school year.  And lo and behold, what did I spy with my little eye?  My breakfast! That I never ate. 
That's a real banana, I'm not kidding.
Turns out, bananas don't make much of a smell when they rot.  Sidenote, good thing I redid my nails today.  They looked atrocious. 

Well, I think that's about enough food deliciousness that one person can take in a day.  But seriously, someone is watching our house while we're gone, and they are a bada**, and they own a gun, so watch yo'self.

Rocky Mountains, here we come!!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Summer Projects

Author's Note:
I know we've been absent from the blogosphere for a while now, and I don't really apologize for that.  When we aren't blogging for extended periods of time, it usually means 1 of 3 things:

1) We're busy. Something time consuming is going on or our days are filled with nothing blogworthy.
2) We're sick of writing blogs.
3) A combination of the two.

This absence has been brought to you by door #3!

I (Kelsey) just finished a class where I was required to write for 3 hours every other day.  Sure, I could have filled those hours writing blog upon blog, but I decided to push myself in another direction.  I didn't really feel like blogging once my "sacred writing time" was up.

Now that class is over, and I've had a week of watching nothing but Bravo!, I'm getting the itch to take on some summer projects.

I got this cute print at Sturgis Falls a few weeks ago, and it needed a place in my kitchen.  Really the only place it could go is above our table where I already had this served-its-purpose-but-doesn't-do-a-whole-lot-for-me piece of art that I snagged at TJ Max.

It's the picture in the background - it's the only one I had of it. I forgot the "before" shot to this project.
So in true Kelsey thinking, I thought to myself,  "I can totally reuse that frame, and mat my new print myself.  Can't be that hard."

Good thinking, genius. After a quick trip to Hobby Lobby to discover my piece of matting board would only be $4 due to a half price sale, I had to give it a go.  I started with these tools.

And I flipped over the existing frame to see what I had to work with.

I used my scissors and the screwdriver to pop out the cardboard backing, and I used that to trace a stencil of the size I'd need to cut my matting.

Then I cut, very accurately as you can see, my matting with a razor blade. I had to do this in the basement because of the ungodly heat outside and to not ruin our carpet, and it was really hard to see.  There, that's my excuse.

Next, I measured the print to be centered on the board, and attached with scotch tape.  (I wonder how long until it falls?) Flipped it over into the frame, and secured.

I pried these little doo-hickeys to hold it all in place.  The scissors were very useful for this.

Then I discovered little bits of cardboard and tape inside the frame, tried to take a picture of it, left the flash on, and just got my own reflection. (Ashley Schrage shakes her head) Then my camera died, so you guys still get to see this picture. Hee hee.

After removing the cardboard and the tape, I redid the doo-hickeys and turn it over and -voila! Crooked art work!  (Bangs head against ottoman.)

After several attempts of little crummy crap removal, a little to the left and a little to the right, and realizing the mounts for the frame were on the side not on the top, I finally got it right!

You can officially cross off "custom framer" from the list of potential jobs I would take if I was no longer a teacher.  I was super crummy at this project, and it was not very enjoyable. I like the end result, it's a little more personal than the other print, and the total cost of the project was 14 smackers.

$10 print + $4 matting board + $0 for framed art we already had = new art on a budget

Thursday, July 7, 2011

You are Beautiful

Today I'm lovin' things that make me giggle.  And this? This makes me giggle. : )
Happy Thursday, ya'll! 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Fruitful Friday?

Does a strawberry smoothie at Sturgis Falls count as a "Fruitful Friday?" Because Jay and I had 3 of them today.  Just sayin'....  We're out and about enjoying the most beautiful summer day we've had this year.  But I'm trying hard after several scoldings to get back on this bloggin' train - so see you Monday? 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Things I Love: My Dad

I realized today that I didn’t get my dad a Father’s Day gift.  It’s 3 days past Father’s Day, and it just now hit me. I didn’t even remember a card – that’s really unlike me.  I’m usually the one on the ball with gift-giving for holidays and special occasions. My brother’s the one who shows up with a gift wrapped in the Walmart sack he just purchased it from.  Not me.

I spent Father’s Day with my dad at the site of my parent’s weekend cabin being built.  Although it’s only currently a big hole in the ground, it’s a place I see spending many future days.  I can’t wait for weekends watching my dad be a Grandpa and teach my kids to fish, swim, and hike through the woods.  The cabin can’t help but become a place full of memories.   

Of all the dads out there, I think mine’s pretty great (I think my mom is too, for the record, but it’s not Mother’s Day, now…is it?).  My dad is the kind of guy most people meet and instantly admire.  He’s genuine, hardworking, and has a heart for helping people. 
- - -
Every year on my birthday, my Grandma likes to call me early in the morning and tell me about the day I was born. Her favorite part of the story makes her cry, but the story’s not complete without telling it.

“And then your dad brought you out, all bundled up, and he leaned over and kissed your forehead and said ‘I’m always going to take care of you little girl, I’ll always love and protect you’ And he sure has, Kelsey, he sure has.”

It’s true, he has. 

Dad, you are a great many things to me.
(In no particular order)

Although stomping inside and pouting after you made me run after each ball I flung over your head might not seem like the best way to show my appreciation.  I did. I appreciated every game of catch, every softball practice, and every event you were present for on the sidelines. 

Financial Guru
You taught me from a young age that debt is a four-letter word in our household.  You stressed the importance of saving and opportunity cost (though you didn’t call it that at the time). But when it came time to enter the “real world” you gradually released my training wheels and let me ride – I’m not sure if I’d have stayed on two wheels if you’d had flung me out on my own without guidance.

The Voice of Reason
You’ve seen me run the gamut of emotions when it comes to making a decision or handling a situation.  In my most distressed and confused moments, I can call you and you know just the right thing to say.  You have a gentle way of presenting all sides of the story, and I always feel better after talking to you. 

A Handy Man
I hope by the time I’m old like you, (ha!) I know how to do a fraction of what you can. You’ve shown me that a little elbow grease goes a long way, and that I’m smart enough to figure out just about anything myself.  From our first project of transforming an old kitchen table to my little cottage that was a diamond in the rough – I learn so much working by your side.

Mr. Right-About-Everything
You are obnoxiously right about any topic we debate.  Do deer shed their antlers once a year?  That’s ridiculous.  But apparently true.  From trivial topics to serious stuff – your answer is always right.  And it annoys me!

A Giver
Although you’ve never gone right out and said it, you’ve made me believe my talents are a gift from God.  Your example has taught me to use my gifts to help others – in big ways and small. 

A Protector
Since I was a little girl, you’ve let me know I’m loved and watched over. I’ve always known I have two special angels in heaven taking extra care in what I do.  I know from time to time, you’ve called on them for reinforcements, and those beautiful angels have wrapped their wings around me.

A Father
As I’ve grown up, I can’t remember an important moment that you haven’t been a part of.  You’ll always be the reader of bedtime stories, and the one who taught me to ride a bike.  You’ll always be the one who had confidence in me, even when I couldn’t find it in myself. And you’ll always be the dad who calmed my nerves with a game of catch and father-daughter dance practice the night before my wedding day. 

Thank you Dad, for keeping your promise to your little girl. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

I Like to Read

I'm currently reading two books on my Kindle. One of them is by acclaimed author Cormac McCarthy callled Blood Meridian. The other is by Lemony Snicket and is part of the fictional author's A Series of Unfortunate Events series. Blood Meridian is considered by some to be one of the best American novels ever written. Lemony Snicket is technically a series written for children and young teenagers. Blood Meridian is, thus far (like all of the Cormac McCarthy books I've read) AWFUL. Lemony Snicket's books are AWESOME (I've read them once before).
Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events" in all its glory.
So what makes a good book? Some people will tell you it's the writing. Yeah, I suppose writing matters. If I spent my entire walk through your book tripping over commas and bumping my head on typos, it will distract from my enjoyment. I get that. That said, I just finished a great book called One Day by David Nicholls. There were an alarming amount of typos, but I cared so much about the two central characters of the book, I couldn't leave their world even when the book wasn't in my hands.

"If you're going to read only one book about grocery carts, make sure it's The Road." --Oprah
Other people will tell you it's the idea. Another one of Cormac McCarthy's overrated books is called The Road. It won a lot of awards. Oprah liked it. It's about the end of the world. It also sucks. I love post-apocalyptic stories as much as anyone, but this one is about a man and his boy walking through a dead world with a shopping cart. Every now and then they have a tense moment. Yippee. Sometimes when I walk through Hy-Vee with my shopping cart I bump into someone I don't know but who knows me, and it's tense for a bit until I remember who they are. That doesn't mean that I should spread that story out over 250 pages.

The situational plot doesn't really matter. Whatever neat concept the book is going for doesn't matter. A plot can involve dinosaurs, furniture, or British people, but the only way a book will be good is if it features characters I like. That's the problem with Cormac's books. No one is likable. They all kill each other. Also, he doesn't use quotation marks. I don't know why he doesn't do that. Being a literary author, I'm sure he has an overly pretentious reason. I probably wouldn't understand his overly pretentious reason because he probably stated said reason with too many big words.
This book is violent, sexist, racist, and filled with a bunch of drunks, but somehow it still manages to be boring.

On a happier note, do you know what has a compelling story? Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. If you would have told me a rather dark story about an evil Count Olaf making the lives of three orphans miserable could be funny, sweet, and meaningful, I would have said, "Olaf is a good name for a Count." Then I would have taken your suggestion and read the first book. Then I would have enjoyed the first book and read the next twelve of them. The three orphans laugh together and support each other at every turn. The books make me literally angry at the naive, stupid adult characters in the book not named Olaf. The author also has some of the best random asides of any author ever. For instance, he started chapter three in the fifth book of the series "The Austere Academy" with the following:

"The expression “Making a mountain out of a molehill” simply means making a big deal out of something that is actually a small deal, and it is easy to see how this expression came about. Molehills are simply mounds of earth serving as condominiums for moles, and they have never caused anyone any harm except for maybe a stubbed toe if you were walking through the wilderness without any shoes on. Mountains, however, are very large mounds of earth and are constantly causing problems. They are very tall, and when people try to climb them they often fall off, or get lost and die of starvation. Sometimes two countries fight over who really owns a mountain, and thousands of people have to go to war and come home grumpy or wounded. And, of course, mountains serve as homes to mountain goats and mountain lions, who enjoy attacking helpless picnickers and eating sandwiches or children. So when someone is making a mountain out of a molehill, they are pretending that something is as horrible as a war or a ruined picnic when it is really only as horrible as a stubbed toe."

Source: Snicket, Lemony (2009). A Series of Unfortunate Events #5: The Austere Academy (pp. 31-32). HarperCollins e-books. Kindle Edition.

Compare that to Cormac McCarthy, who would write something like this:

I am a character. I don't have a name. The book will keep calling me the Kid or the Man or something. I'm talking right now but you don't know I'm talking because there are no quotation marks. This will get very annoying as time goes on because I'm not doing this for any reason. I'm so sad.

Source: McCarthy, Cormac (2013). Cormac's Next Crappy Book (pp. all of them). HarperCollins e-books. Kindle Edition.
A good book for you to read this summer.
I will leave you all with this: summer is coming. You need to find something to read. Cougar Town won't be on TV until the fall, so you need to keep your brain occupied. You can only handle so much exercise before your heart explodes so start reading. I'd suggest you read Lemony Snicket because it's great. I'd also suggest Harry Potter. Or, if you're an adult that refuses to acknowledge most of the best stories are kids stories, read The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon or Catch 22 by Joseph Heller or, better yet, anything the great Kurt Vonnegut ever produced. You can even read Cormac McCarthy. I know a lot of people like him. Either way, just read. It's good for you.
The master: Read Breakfast of Champions or Slaughterhouse-Five.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Iowa Girl Eats

Hey all you blog lovin' peeps!  I found a new foodie blog that I'm enjoying these days.  We tried two recipes off the blog this week, and both were delish. 

The blog is called Iowa Girl Eats and you should definitely check it out.   What I especially like about the site is that each step of the recipe includes a picture, which helps us recipe reading impaired cooks. 

Recipe #1 was Mozarella Stuffed Bruschetta Turkey Burgers. 

Speaking of recipe reading impaired, I totally botched these the first attempt when I didn't quite read the recipe fully, but after a quick trip to Fareway, round 2 was a success.  The burgers turned out great and it was a nice escape from the traditional tasting burger. 
An image from Iowa Girl's site, but ours turned out looking this good.  Hard to believe. 
Our only modifications were that we skipped the balsamic vinegar glaze, the bruschetta was plenty flavorful on our own.  We also learned that these burgers are not such great 'leftover' food, so next time we'll make only enough for that night.

Recipe #2 Cheesy Chicken and Brocoli Casserole

Ever since we've got gluten free (yes, we're still at it) casserole dishes have been sort of non-existent.  Most casseroles call for "cream of ___" soup, and most of those soups contain gluten. Darn.  There ARE some gf "cream of" soups, but my experience with them and baking is that they are, for lack of a better term, nasty.  So needless to say I was pumped to find Iowa Girl's casserole didn't need any of those things. 
 Okay, that's not the finished product, that's just the chicken. But Jay and I agreed that this seasoned chicken would make a yummy main dish for a meal on it's own.  Breadless nuggets? Barbeque sauce? Skewers?

Our meal was major yummo.  We substituted the flour with cornstarch and used a gf chicken broth from Trader Joes.  Jay especially loved this recipe, and I think it will be on the "you should make that again, Kels" list. 

Thanks again to Iowa Girl Eats for all of your delicious recipes, we'll definitely be trying some more! 

Friday, May 20, 2011


I love quotes! :)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Things I Learn About Grilling

Two weeks ago, Kelsey blogged about how every spring we have the same "initial" grilling experience. We always get ourselves amped up for some freshly grilled burgers only to learn the gas seeped out of the propane tank (SAFETY!) over the ridiculous winter we choose to live through in Iowa.

Usually the new tank of propane solves the problem. It sort of did this year, at least at first. We grilled the first burgers without a problem. The second burgers worked all right too, though they grilled a whole lot slower. We tried brats next and...nothing. The grill seemed sort of hot, but it wouldn't light. This got me worried. But to understand my worry, we must cue some mystical flashback music and journey back in time.

BACK IN TIME: Last fall, when the winds started to pick up (just kidding the winds in Cedar Falls are always picked up, always), my grill made the executive decision to move away from my half-deck and position itself on the edge of the patio. This always happened while I was at work, but here's how I think the scene played out:

The Grill: "Life is so hard. I just...I just...I just want to jump off this stupid patio and end it all."

The Drain Spout: "Um. Please don't. You'll land on me. You'll crush me real good. Also, I don't think you tipping over will do anything but get you dirty and annoy Jay."

The Grill: "Jay? You think I care about what Jay thinks?"

The Drain Spout: "I don't think you think anything. You're a grill. I just don't want to be crushed. For if I am crushed, I may never spout rain again."

The Grill, ignoring the Drain Spout, tips over, off of the patio, and crushes the Drain Spout forever (for I refuse to replace it).

This scene (or something similar) happened three times last fall. I'd arrive home from work, expecting to find my belongings in perfect working order, only to find the grill tipped over in the backyard on top of the drain sprout. I'll spare you the gory details, but in case you've never had a grill tip over, the insides of the grill: the grates, the grease deflectors, the old, crusty pieces of cheese that never seem to melt away, go everywhere. Also, grills are heavy, and they really aren't very fun to pick up and put back into position.

How did I fix this problem? I tried various bungee ropes. Those didn't work because I don't know how to use bungee ropes. Then it occurred to me: the grill has wheels. Wheels that lock! If I locked the wheels the wind would stop coercing my grill into suicide. Problem solved!

BACK TO THE ALMOST PRESENT: It nagged at me all winter, but I thought for sure the grill would be broken. I've seen better items break after three hard falls (RIP N64 Controller... I really hate the Rainbow Course in Mario Kart 64). I wasn't surprised when the brats would not cook. Being the technical wizard I am, I started to investigate.

It appeared that the spark that is supposed to ignite the gas wasn't sparking, so I bought a new igniter at the hardware store. When I opened the igniter (which I wasn't at all excited about paying for or replacing), I noticed it came with a battery. Interesting. I didn't recall my igniter having a battery when I initially assembled the grill. Of course the day I initially assembled the grill has many dark spots in my memory because of how the engineers thought everyone who would assemble this grill had eighteen joints in their arms, no bones, and x-ray vision.

So this past Saturday, I thought to myself, "Before swapping out this here part, I should just check to see if this Double A battery just needs replaced." Problem solved!

Here are three valuable lessons you should learn about propane grills:

1) They need propane in the propane tank in order to light.

2) The wheels lock. If the wheels are locked the wind won't continue to blow the grill onto the ground, and you will have fully functional drain spouts in your backyard.

3) Electric igniters have batteries. I don't know how often you need to change the battery, but I'd recommend whenever your igniter appears to not be igniting.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Secret Shame

Spring cleaning fever has hit our house, and we had to come face to face with a big project that has been looming on our horizon for quite some time now.  We've tried to avoid it, but it was sort of a circus full of elephants in the room and it had gotten way beyond awkward.  Guests would come to our house and ask,

"What's behind that door?"  Nervous glances exchanged. 

"Door? What door? Oh, there's nothing back there." 

Nothing but the secret shame. Here she is in all her glory. 
Not much exercise happening on that treadmill. 
See that freezer in the background? With a tv in front of it? And a rug on top of it? We used that a lot, too.
Shoes were stored on that shelf, and then it broke. And then it stayed that way. 
At this point, you get the idea.  We kept it secret for a reason.  After 9 hours of a tag-team, kick-ass pattern of sort, purge, organize, restock....we ended with this.  Sanity restored.  Hallelujah.

That's right, the shoes are not only organized, they're categorized. 
All of my bins still awaits labeling (I'm trying to convince my man friend that I've earned a labelmaker), but I now have a bin for each  and every thing possible.  There is one for each season/holiday, one with purses, one with bags, one with hats/mittens/scarves, nostalgia bins, camping bins, etc.  We cleared out plenty of room to exercise, and a special stool to watch someone workout.  Haha, just kidding. 
Wait, there's a FLOOR in this room? 
We can now use the freezer without a scarecrow, a boob tube, and a down comforter getting in the way.  What a weird sentence that was. 
That's my small pile to go to school. 
Shockingly enough, the find of the day was NOT the floor.  See those big gray tubs in the background of the picture above? We found a Christmas tree in one of them.  A Christmas tree. A full-sized put-it- together-piece-by-piece Christmas tree.  Umm, it doesn't belong to us.  And we don't know where it came from. And we don't know what to do with it.

On that note, if you are missing your tree, or you'd like to take a seemingly nice one off of our hands next winter, please let us know.  We'd be happy to oblige. 

Happy spring cleaning! 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Grocery Getter

Jay has been elected the Official Temporary Team Schmeebs Grocery Getter.  Hoooray!!  He was knighted into his position this afternoon.
I hate going to the grocery store, he doesn't mind it, so the chore defaults to him.  Even though this is a temporary position, because I'll take back over the duty when summer begins, it seems to be a good solution for now.  Grocery shopping is not so bad when you can go during the day, but there is nothing worse than going to the grocery store after a day of work. Okay, so there is plenty worse, but I just don't like it.  Geesh.
I am Jay. King of Groceries.
He was pumped that the 90 degree weather allowed him to ride his bike instead of taking the car.  Gas is just too darn expensive these days.  The Fareway employees were less than thrilled, however, when he showed up and was drenched in sweat. 

Jealous much?
The added bonus of this incredibly green (yet shockingly red) bike is that transforms into the cart once you get to the store.  Who doesn't love transformers? And, no bags necessary folks.  The clerk just scanned the items and placed them back into the tub when he was finished checking out.  Cha-ching!
Say "cheese!"
Sadly, Jay's bike of awesomeness is not our first attempt at being a little greener and having some fun with getting groceries. 
 Okay guys, that was just a joke. You obviously know that's not us, because we'd be driving a John Deere tractor!