Friday, September 24, 2010

Fall Soup

I've been planning to make soup with some squash and other veggies I picked up earlier this week. Yesterday the doctor told me that I need to cut sodium out of my diet for the sake of my blood pressure, so Tom and I decided we should look into low sodium broths at the grocery store on our way home. Interestingly, Campbells, Progresso, and a couple other "main" brands that carry low sodium options still have about 25% of a person's daily intake value in one cup! We found that Safeway's Organics brand has only 6%!


Recipe:

Use any veggies you want, really. Below is what I happened to throw in.
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled & seeded, cut into about 2" chunks
  • 1/2 delicata squash, peeled & seeded, cut into about 2" chunks
  • 2 red potatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 yam, cut into about 2" chunks
  • 1 large onion, sliced like an apple
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled & crushed
  • 3 large carrots, peeled & cut into 3" segments
  • 1/4 adobo pepper from a can - These things are HOT. I tried using a whole one once, but we couldn't eat the soup. Now I open a can, cut a section off for the soup, and a freeze the rest for a later date. For some reason the freezing also makes them hotter.
  • 2 32oz. containers of chicken broth (Veggie would work too!)
After all the peeling, washing, and slicing is done, place everything in a large pot with the chicken broth. You pretty much want it full of veggies, no extra room in the liquid. Boil for about 20 minutes. Use an immersion blender to puree everything. Boil lightly for a while longer to get the consistency you want. The longer you boil, the thicker it will get.


Serving suggestions: add sour cream if it's too spicy for you, add salsa, add pesto if you want a greener flavor, or Tom's favorite: cilantro.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Embryo Adoption Luncheon

This Sunday, the church that supports our adoption agency held a service and luncheon to showcase embryo adoption and provide a chance for people considering, or in, the adoption process to meet and visit.  There were several cool aspects to this event.

In attendance was Dr. Theresa Deisher of AVM Biotech in Seattle.  She is an expert in stem cell therapy and an advocate for ethical stem cell research.  She spoke briefly on the ethics, economics, and issues in her field.  Of particular note was the amount of money and time spent on adult vs. embryonic cells, and the availability of treatment.  Apparently, the US has spent quite a bit of money and time on embryonic cell research, and has very little to show for it.  Conversely, in less time and for less money, other counties have performed clinical human trials with adult stem cells showing marked success.  I will attempt to do more research and write more on this as I learn.

King 5 was also there, and they produced a short news segment.



The part with me talking came out a little out of context.  Stacy and I howled with laughter when we saw it the first time.  We have had great number of ultrasounds, which as been a very cool opportunity to see Halcyone growing up.  At 9 weeks, she was the same size, and looked very similar to a gummy bear (actually, according to Wikipedia, she was pretty much exactly the same size).  We had seen a heartbeat on ultrasound several weeks before, but at the gummy-bear appointment she was waving her tiny arms and legs, hence my amusing 2 seconds of animated camera time...



The most fun part of the afternoon was meeting people in various stages of the adoption process.  A couple that just had a baby flew out from Chicago for the luncheon and to dedicate their son.  Another couple, looking to learn more, drove up from Tacoma on short notice after hearing of the event.  Also at our table were a pair of 6 year-olds that were adopted as embryos, one of whom has still been 'born' for fewer years than he was in a freezer.  Several fast friendships were made and we all exchanged contact info to follow up on how everyone is doing in the future!

Thanks for Cedar Park Church and Pastor Fuiten for hosting and facilitating the speakers, event, and the adoption agency.
Thanks also to Maria Lancaster for putting the event together and running a program that is making an excellent impact in the lives of both parents and children.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Peach Scones

On our anniversary trip back in July, we stayed at a bed and breakfast that served us peach scones for breakfast. Since then, I've been keeping my eye out for a good recipe that would taste similar. After lots of googling and looking through various recipe books, I decided to mix a couple different recipes to get what I wanted. Tom thought a recipe that was based with heavy cream would be good, so that's what I started with.

Recipe:
  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 8 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temp.
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups fresh peeled and chopped peaches
Mix flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt together in a large bowl. Add butter and cut in with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. Prepare peaches and set aside. Mix cream, eggs, and vanilla together, then add to dry mix. Mix lightly until blended, gently add peaches and fold in.



On a floured surface, place 3" to 4" balls of dough. Flatten slightly, then slice into fourths. Place on baking sheet. Brush tops with heavy cream and sprinkle with a cinnamon-sugar mixture.

Bake at 400 for 15-18 minutes. Cool on wire rack. Enjoy! (My batch made about 28 scones.) I served them with whipped cream and lemon curd.


How Our Family Started: New Beginnings

This is part 3 of 3 in a series on How Our Family Started.



On November 9, 2008, Embryo Adoption Services of Cedar Park (EASCP) was founded. On the 14th. they appeared on a local TV station, and on the 20th of the same month were featured in the Seattle Times.
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It's cool how chance (or Divinely ordered process) can totally alter your life: We were filling out paperwork for a local adoption agency and had stalled a few times. A relative saw the TV interview and showed us the newspaper article. After reading it, we were amazed: this seemed perfect! God had already prepared our hearts (and minds) for adoption, the method of doing so was now laid clear.

In considering why to choose this type of adoption over a standard one or IVF, the best analogy I have is the following: Suppose you encountered two shipwreck survivors. One is cold, wet, and in a lifeboat. The other is drowning in the water. Which would you throw a life-ring to? Any orphan or foster child is in a tragic place; They desperately need someone to love them, provide care, and pilot their desolate lifeboat to calmer waters. For an unborn child though, they will surely die without being adopted and cared for, choosing to throw them the life-ring was the obvious choice for us.

The next day after we saw the news article, I talked on the phone for a while with Maria L., the director of EASCP. Shortly after that, Stacy and I were able to teleconference with her to continue to get more information about their program. Praying for confirmation and certainty was almost synonymous with praising God for His grace in providing this opportunity for us.

It seemed as though the months were fllying past. After the holidays, we met in person with Maria to go over the process and complete more paperwork. In April, someone come out to do a home-study. In May, we did even more paperwork, including background check requests, reference letters, and a family profile. June saw the completion of the home-study. In July, we recieved exciting news: We had been matched with a family that had 6 embryos they wanted to donate.

Depending on the families participating in adoption, there is a varying level of contact between those donating and adopting. In our adoption, the donating parents want to remain anonymous to us. We were able to see pictures of the donating family, they also provided some medical information, and we will send a birth announcement to them through EASCP, but that is the extent of our contact.  We will see what the future holds.

In September we completed the next step: signing the adoption contract. Once the contract was complete and notarized, the embryos got packed into a cooler and traveled to SRM's cryo tanks on Lake Union (oddly enough, into the same building as The City, where a number of friends work).

During this time, there was a multi-cause delay. Our Dr. at SRM did an MRI to scope things out before doing the transfer. She suggested based on the MRI that Stacy have minor elective outpatient surgery. This was to correct something that might increase late-term miscarriage. Shortly after the MRI though, the DR went on maternity leave herself!
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November 2009 came. It had been one year since learning about embryo adoption.

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The soonest that Stacy could have her surgery was January. The procedure was uneventful, but required a two month timeframe to allow her to recover. After the two months were up, a significant drug regimen was begun, to prepare Stacy for the transfer. This included hormones administered orally, through patches, via subcutaneous injection, and intramuscular injection. Adjusting to giving these (Eeep!) and getting them (Ouch!), took some time, but was not too bad.

At the beginning of March, the drug cycle had reached 0-hour, and the first two embryos were thawed. Shortly after that, Stacy went in for a blood pregnancy test (POSITIVE!). We had already tried just about every test available from the store, each time just as pleased with the result.

As a side note, I tried geeking out on the hCG test levels each home pregnancy test was capable of registering, corresponding those to the clinic-measured blood hCG levels, and doing a curve fit to monitor progress and try to guess if both embryos had implanted.

An ultrasound soon showed that both of the embryos had indeed implanted. However, several weeks later, it became apparent that one of the twins would not survive. For the first ten weeks after the transfer, the drug regimen continued, and we waited with baited breath to see on ultrsound how the baby was growing at each clinic visit. Blogs of the pregnancy can be found atluceends.

It is now September again, Stacy is in week 31 of a tumultuous, but good pregnancy.  With God's grace, it will continue to go well.
~~~~

In November 2010, our daughter will be born.

Monday, September 13, 2010

How Our Family Started: Questions and Answers

This is part two in a series of three on How Our Family Started.

Normally making babies the standard way is inexpensive, straightforward, and fun. Any deviation from the norm raises a number of convoluted and difficult questions.

Now what?

Perhaps the most obvious question to ask next was: should we no longer plan to have a family? For some people, the answer to this is yes. For us, this was not really an option. We feel called to raise and care for children...

How do we proceed?

Medically, In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) was the only remaining choice. The process is pretty straightforward scientifically, but can be a scary glimpse into human nature. IVF is expensive; depending on your insurance it can be thousands or tens of thousands of dollars. Expenses aside, it is an ethical minefield. Usually, many more eggs are fertilized than a family would ever use. Often the embryos are "discarded" based on arbitrary standards. Finally, parents are encouraged, Gattica style, to screen for "optimal" genetics and/or gender. The only fathomable reason for us to choose IVF over other options was "to carry on the family line," a selfish and prideful proposition.

Adoption was the other possible choice. It too is expensive. Depending on the type it can cost less, or much more, than IVF. The process is long; scary legal issues can crop up. Overall it is a sure ticket for an emotional roller coaster. For these and other reasons we had reservations and concerns, but nevertheless started researching...

What type of adoption?

The three main types of adoption we considered were international, birth parent, and foster-to-adopt. The names are pretty self explanatory. An excellent local organization called Antioch Adoptions facilitates birth-parent and foster adoptions. Because they are local and subsidized we started looking into their program. We attended a class and started compiling and filling out the mountain of paperwork required.

Meanwhile a relative brought to our attention another, new, adoption agency. This one was offering something we had not heard of: Embryo Adoption...
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This will be continued in part 3: New Beginnings