10/28/2014

Hundreds of Strangers [But Not Really]

There is something to be said when hundreds of people are standing under the same bright blue sky for the exact same reason:

To promote adoption as a positive option in Iowa.
I was honored to start off the the statewide Gingerbread Run for Adoption for the second year in a row.
The 5k raises money to promote adoption in Iowa.
My entire family joined us.
Some of our dear friends (and adoptive-parents-to-be) made it, too.

And you know what the coolest part was?

Nah.

It wasn't the prizes or medals or post-race Panera bagels.

It was this:
We looped around a beautiful lake on a gorgeous fall day in the company of hundreds of strangers [but not really].
You see, even though we didn't know the people around us, we knew enough to know they were special.

We knew enough to know that we all share a piece of the same heart -- a heart for adoption.

And that's pretty powerful, friends.

That's pretty powerful.

10/21/2014

The Comforts of Home With Our International Student

It's been an entire month since I closed a chapter in my life and started a new one.

Just as I was saying Goodbye to my TV career, there was a young man thousands of miles away packing up to move across the world and follow his dream of studying in America.

He was embarking on a new chapter, too. And apparently, our paths were meant to cross.

Meet Kazeem.
The Comforts of Home With Our International Student
Kazeem is from Nigeria.

His family still lives there. But technically, he's a big part of our family, too.
The Comforts of Home With Our International Student
We met him shortly after he moved to the U.S. when we signed up to be a host family at the local college.

Kazeem is a pre-med student, and we're confident he'll make a great cardiologist someday. Not only is he smart, he is humble. He is kind. And he is so appreciative.

For the past few months, we've welcomed Kazeem into our home.
The Comforts of Home With Our International Student
We wanted to surprise him with a taste of home, so Chris, Olivia and I road-tripped to an African grocery store about two hours away and picked up some of this:
The Comforts of Home With Our International Student
And this:
The Comforts of Home With Our International Student
Plus a few other ingredients...
The Comforts of Home With Our International Student
When we brought him to our house and he saw these familiar touches from his home in Africa, I don't think his smile left his face.

"Home is calling!" he said. And then he got to cooking.
The Comforts of Home With Our International Student
Kazeem spent almost two hours in our kitchen preparing Obe ila okro and FuFu. 
The Comforts of Home With Our International Student
It's a red pepper soup with okra and beef. 

You dip the FuFu (similar to instant mashed potatoes) in the soup to eat it. No silverware. Just your hands.

Kazeem told us stories about his grandmother teaching him how to cook, and how proud his mom would be of the meal he made.

"I am satisfied!" he said with a big smile on his face. We were, too.

It was meal that brought our family together. But more importantly, it was a familiar taste of home for him. And I've realized that while we are different -- while our families and traditions and meals are unique -- we're also so alike in that we all crave and need the comforts from home.

Related content:

10/13/2014

Living Free at Work + Home

It's Tuesday night.

Nine o'clock-ish to be exact.

I walk in the door, throw my keys on the table and race upstairs to kiss Olivia goodnight.

Chris was just putting her down for bed.

"Love you, baby girl," I whisper as I watch her heavy eyes close, then half open, and close again slowly.

---

We shut her bedroom door and attempt to tiptoe into the dark hallway.

Damn you, hardwood floors, for being so loud...

Like usual, Chris and I go our separate ways.

He heads back downstairs to the kitchen.

[Gotta warm up dinner...]

I grab my PJs, head to the bathroom to start scrubbing off the mounds of HD makeup that have been caked on my face for 12-hours.

---

This was our routine.

Pretty glamorous, right?

From the outside looking in, we had it all.

Minus a few struggles hellish years with infertility, a lot of people may assume we had the picture perfect life.

The TV reporter and police-officer-turned-social-worker had a beautiful family.

They had careers they loved.

Their bank accounts weren't overflowing with dollar bills, but they were financially secure, already planning for retirement [hey, we can dream, right...], and they had careers they threw themselves into...

We never saw each other.

But we had careers we found fulfilling.

---

The microwave beeped.

My leftover pizza was warm.

Bare-faced in my comfy PJs with my hair pulled back, I attempted to tiptoe down the hardwood stairs without waking Olivia.

Damn you, AGAIN, hardwood floors, for being so loud...

I considered it a small victory when I managed to get to the dining room without stubbing my toe on the toys scattered everywhere.

Chris and I sat down at the table.

"What do you want to drink?" he asked.

I looked down at my soggy piece of pizza and tears started welling up in my eyes.

"I can't keep doing this," I said, staring at my plate.

By the time I mustered out those words, I was full-out blubbering mess.

"I never thought I'd walk away from this. I love this job," I said.

How could I feel so fulfilled in my career yet feel so empty at the same time?

It was in that moment -- while staring at that nuked piece of pepperoni pizza -- I decided to leave my career.

But more than that, I decided to trust God - and I mean completely trust Him -- to show me where to go.

I trusted Him to break me free from the chains that restrained me from being the mother and wife I so desperately wanted to be...
Becoming a mom changed me.

I didn't want to be known as the "TV news gal" anymore.

Because the best, most honorable role I have in this world is "Olivia's Mom."

Are the sweatpants and mild make-up with hair all a'mess as glamorous as taking home that Emmy award from a broadcast news banquet?

Ehhh...

I guess it depends on who you ask.

For me, being a mom is what God called me to do.

And it was trusting Him that allowed me to do it freely.

This blog post is continued...

Click here to read more at Many Sparrows

My gal pal Kayla is spending the month talking about what it means for women to live freely in their hearts, at work, church and at home.

Click below to read more:

10/09/2014

Why I Dislike Halloween

Oh, Halloween. 

How I don't like thee.

Call me a party pooper. 
Call me lame. 
Call me whatcha wanna call me.

I've never really had the Halloween spirit.

[I blame it on a stupid experience when I was younger.
I was dressed up as a dice.
Yes, a dice.
{You can quit laughing now...}
And someone hollered down the street, 
"Hey, look at that lady bug!"
Apparently my box-wearing dice costume
was confused with a little polka dot pest.
It diminished my enthusiasm for dressing up.
And let's be honest, I'd rather just eat the sweets.]

But seriously.

For Olivia's sake, I'm trying to get in the Halloween spirit.

I want her to enjoy dressing up and trick-or-treating and getting her cheeks pinched for being so dang cute.

But now this Momma Bear's claws are out because shopping for a costume has proven to be a nightmare.

Not because of the scary costumes.

But because of this:
What's wrong with this screen shot of SpiritHalloween.com, you ask?

Oh, nothing.

Except for the fact that EVERY CHILD on here appears to be white.

There is no one in the entire section of baby/toddler costumes that even remotely resembles my daughter.

So, I removed the "Supergirl" costume from my shopping cart that would be super adorable on Olivia because frankly, I don't wanna do business with a place that isn't inclusive with its advertising.

Off to PartyCity.com, I go.

Oh, but wait.

Lookie what we have here:
What about the Halloween Express infant section, you ask?

Take. A. Wild. Guess.

Or just see for yourself:
Wanna take a gander at OrientalTrading.com?

Go ahead:
Store.

After store.

After store.

All white kids.

What's the big deal, you ask?

Oh, nothing...

I just have even more reasons to dislike Halloween.

Is it so hard to expect stores to incorporate more than just white people in their advertising and marketing?

I mean, seriously.

[By the way, I've reached out to these websites about their lack of diversity in advertising. I'll let you know if I hear back. In the meantime, I'd love some simple, HOMEMADE costume ideas...]

10/06/2014

You're Invited: The Statewide 5k for Adoption

I'm thrilled to announce the National Center for Adoption -- an organization I've become involved with over the past few years -- is hosting the 2nd Annual Gingerbread Run for Adoption in just a few weeks!

The statewide 5k will be held in Ames on Sunday, October 26th at the beautiful Ada Hayden Park.

Together, we'll celebrate adoptive families, birth families, adoptees and children who are waiting to be adopted.
Last year, we were honored to be the featured family and kick off the inaugural 5k that raises money to promote adoption as a positive option for families in Iowa.

And this year, we've been asked to start the race again!

What an honor.

But you guys...

You wanna know the coolest part?

It's amazing to see hundreds of beautiful families with a heart for adoption.

I mean, look at this:
Many of us were strangers, but we became friends because we're weaved together with this unique experience and love for adoption.

If you have a heart for adoption, we'd love for you to join us at the 2nd Annual Gingerbread Run for Adoption as we kick off November -- National Adoption Month.

Early registration ends this Thursday, October 9th.

More information on the 5k -- and how you can help -- can be found here.

10/05/2014

Baked Oatmeal

This is the most delicious, unhealthy version of oatmeal you'll ever eat.

Not only can you make it the night before and refrigerate it, the leftovers are yummy, too!

And it's oh. so. easy.

1 1/3 cup oil
3 eggs
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 1/4 c. milk
1 1/2 c. sugar
6 c. oatmeal
1 tsp. salt

Mix together all ingredients.
Bake in 9 x 13 pan at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes.

Serve with whipped cream and your favorite berries.

Enjoy!