Friday, June 27, 2008

Adoption Crusade

As Justin and I have thoughtfully and prayerfully contemplated the matter, we are going to pursue adoption as well as my Lupron fertility treatments. This is the last straw for us as far as fertility treatments go, so we wanted to be proactive with adoption since it can take so long.

We have been learning about the process and researching numerous agencies, talking to people who have gone through the process, and doing a lot of pondering. One of the biggest hurdles is the costs of adoption. We are expecting to spend around $15,000 in this process. It is a huge amount of money for us to come up with basically overnight, but I know that we will find a way to make this happen. The scary thing is that after spending all the money, the adoption is not guaranteed because the birth mother can still change her mind at any point until the papers are signed no sooner than 48 hours after the baby is born.

As I have been researching funding options, I have discovered that nearly 50% of companies in America offer adoption benefits as part of their standard employee benefits package. These benefits will usually cover certain fees--such as agency and lawyer fees--or a set amount of money regardless of the costs. It is not legally mandated, but many companies believe that adoptive parents deserve comparable financial benefits as biological parents.

So my crusade is this...to forge a proposal and lobby my company to begin offering these benefits. I have a supervisor who is enthusiastic and very supportive of this project and is helping expand it by involving more and more people. The more voices that can be heard, the better. I am excited and hopeful about this proposal. Our CEO has strong company values and believes in doing things because "it is the right thing to do."

I am trying to get as many voices involved as possible. If you work at my company and feel this is a cause you can get behind and voice your opinion about, I would greatly appreciate your involvement in this effort.

Again, 50% of companies in America offer these benefits. Mine doesn't. On average, less than 1% of employees use this benefit, so it is a very cost effective way for a company to be more family-friendly and competitive in the marketplace. I've researched local hospitals and ob-gyns. My company (a self-insured company) pays about $9,000 on each healthy birth of an insured employee. I feel that it is fair to ask for the same amount in adoption benefits. Even if my crusade results in less money than that, any amount will help. Most adoptive parents are a lot like me--they have spent a lot of out-of-pocket money on fertility treatments and procedures before turning to adoption.

I am excited with the support I have received so far and I will keep you posted on how my mission goes!

(By the way, if anyone else reading this blog would like to contribute to the Zierke Adoption Fund, I would greatly appreciate it. Any amount will help.)

An Old Fashioned Wife Right Here!

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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Tag

20 years ago...
June 1988 I was six. I had just finished kindergarten with my teacher Mrs. Black. It's possible our family was planning a fun camping trip. I loved to play pretend, play Barbies, and play with my best friend Faye.

10 years ago...
June 1998 I had just finished my fabulous sophmore year in high school. I was dating and driving. I was close to a couple of senior guys and it was difficult to see them graduate knowing our lives were forever separating. There were missionary farewells and fun summer parties. Little did I know that in August my wild days of teenage abandon would be tempered by my first job. And after working there for three years, I still love Arby's!

5 years ago...
In 2003, Justin and I were living in Moscow, Idaho, and had just celebrated our second anniversary. And we thought that was such a milestone! We had just moved into our apartment on Baker Street--a place and time we remember with much fondness. It was a golden year in our lives. I had just dropped out of college and Justin had just decided on psychology as his major. It was the first time we seriously tried getting pregnant.

3 years ago...
In June of 2005, Justin and I were living in a lovely apartment in Ammon. We were both only a couple months into new jobs--jobs we still work at. Justin at Mental Wellness Center and me at Melaleuca. I started on the phones and it was in June that I got a very unexpected promotion and became the web content manager for Melaleuca.com. Happy time!

1 year ago...
Last June was also an exciting time. I had been promoted to a creative writer in Marketing, a position I had had my eye on for years. I had finally found a home at Melaleuca--a position where I really loved what I was doing and excelled at it. We had been in our house for a year and were very seriously trying to start a family. I had six months of school left and Justin had a year left of his graduate program (or so we thought at the time). We were busy with house stuff, school stuff, and work stuff.

So far this year...
I have graduated with my bachelor's degree (in Dec. '07). I have undergone numerous fertility treatments in an attempt to start a family and shed many tears over that heartache. I got a new calling at church as a Sunday School teacher. I have become the owner of my childhood camper. I have planted a garden for the first time. I have written my first novel.

Yesterday I...
Had a hard time staying at work until 5:30 on such a gloriously beautiful day, but I did! Justin and I met up with my brother Jordan and we did a geocache that took us to Keefer's island in the middle of the Snake River. That was awesome! I actually walked around in that rickety old cabin. We found the geocache quite quickly and wanted something else to do in the nice weather, so we all went to the Sandpiper where we enjoyed excellent food on the patio overlooking the river.

Today I...
Have been practically worthless. Slept until 10:30. Read some blogs until about 2:00. Ate a sandwich. Mowed the back lawn. Prepared my Sunday School lesson for tomorrow and blogged some more. I am still in my pj's and the only things I have eaten have been a peanut butter sandwich, a can of Dr. Pepper, and a handfull of chips and it is now 6:00 p.m. I am still in my pajamas. And while I have been so lazy all day, my dear husband has worked for three hours at his office, then worked at home all afternoon sawing and gluing and installing our wainscoting into our downstairs bathroom. I don't blame him if he resents me...

Later tonight...
I hope to shower and eat something and do something nice for my husband who has been working so hard.

Tomorrow...
Is the Sabbath and we will attend church and have a quiet day at home watering the lawn.

This year I hope to....
Find an agent to represent my novel. Become a little more mature and consistent with house chores and homemaking (I often live like a college student--bad food, messy habits, and a lot of irresponsibility).

I tag....
Julie, Stephanie, Maria, and my Mom.
Now this means you have copy in this "tag" and put your own answers in.

Zoo Day

Last weekend Jordan, Cindy, Afton, Justin, and I went to the zoo. It was Melaleuca Zoo Day--free tickets for employees and families. It was fun to go with Afton. She seemed to have a good time, but was somewhat startled by the small monkeys that darted around and surprised her.


I have a picture of myself when I was little just like this. The best drinking fountain at the zoo.

Afton, Cindy, and Jordan on a play tiger. Afton liked these tigers better than the real ones.


Petting the donkey.


The otters. They were very playful that day, diving and swimming around.


videoAfton feeding a donkey in the petting zoo.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Jonathon and Jennifer's Wedding

On Wednesday, July 18, we drove to Cody, Wyoming, for Justin's brother Jonathon's wedding. Jonathon didn't know we were coming, so it was a surprise when they walked into the courthouse and saw Justin and I sitting there. It was a very small wedding at the courthouse--Justin's parents, his grandmother, the bride, groom, their son, and us.

After the ceremony, we went to a nice chop house for a delicious dinner. Back at home we took some pictures and ate some ice cream cake. Baby Haiden made a big entrance dressed as Superman. That was a touch just for Justin who is a huge Superman fan. We played Playstation Rock Band and just had a blast.

It was a quick, one night trip. We took off the next day to come home. We go through Yellowstone National Park to get to and from Cody. We saw some wildlife--lots of bison (including cute babies), a deer, big horn sheep, coyotes, and bald eagles (two adults and a couple babies in a nest). We stopped in West Yellowstone, Montana, for my favorite ice cream at Mooseberry's, a.k.a. The Arrowleaf.

It was a fun trip and we are looking forward to spending more time with Jon, Jennifer, and Haiden when they move down to Pocatello!



We had a hard time getting 10 month old Haiden to smile for the camera.



Haiden as Superman.






The wedding rings.




The cake. Yummy.



Riding four-wheelers in Cody.





Justin and Haiden, Jerry, Jon, Jennifer, Grandma Johnson, Lara, and Connie.




Jennifer and Jon feeding each other their wedding ice cream cake.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Jalapeno Popper Spread

I discovered this amazing dip. It tastes similar to jalapeno poppers, so if you like those, you’ll love this dip. I made it at home and Justin devoured it. I made for a Relief Society pot-luck and got rave reviews.

*****************************
Jalapeno Popper Spread

1 c. mayonnaise
2 8 oz. packages of cream cheese
2 oz. diced jalapenos (fresh or canned. If canned, drain)
4 oz. diced green chilies, drained
1 c. parmesan cheese

Blend mayonnaise and cream cheese together until smooth. Stir in jalapenos and chilies. Pour into a microwave safe dish. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Microwave on high until hot, about 3 minutes.
OR
Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes for golden, crusty cheese.

Serve with crackers, tortilla chips, or French bread.

*****************************************
This is what I have discovered about this recipe. Baking is best—that golden crust is delicious and really attractive. It gives it that jalapeno popper feel for sure. To get a better “crust” sprinkle breadcrumbs on top of the spread along with the cheese. If you do not have time to bake the spread, but would like the crust, make the recipe as stated, microwave for three minutes, then broil on a medium rack for a few minutes. Be very watchful as it takes a few minutes to brown, then only a few seconds to burn.

I made it once with fresh jalapenos and once with canned. The fresh jalapenos were actually milder and they added a bit of a crunch that I liked. Just be careful and wear rubber gloves when you cut them and don’t touch any uncovered part of your body.

Also, I definitely preferred it served with French bread. It was way good! I can’t do a lot of hot things, but I was ok with this (I can only do mild salsa). There was definitely a little heat, but the cream cheese and mayo mix tempered it. So, I would say most people could generally handle this. It’s way yummy. Give it a try!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Our Seventh Anniversary

Justin and I celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary on June 8. Neither of us can believe it has been that long! We've definitely matured and our "relationship rhythm" has solidified. We hardly have to "try" at marriage anymore and things are better than they have ever ever ever been. It's miraculous, really. I honestly feel so sad for people whose marriages are a burden instead of the heart of their lives. Not saying our marriage is perfect and no longer takes work, but things are definitely grooving along and we are much better communicators and friends.


Anyway, we decided to spend a little money and get some nice gifts this year. We haven't done gifts since our second anniversary. We went to Jaker's for dinner on Friday night where Justin gave me a gorgeous sapphire pendant. He researched traditional seventh anniversary gifts and the stones for that year are onyx and yellow sapphire. He didn't like onyx and couldn't find yellow sapphires (he could've ordered one but they would've been late for our day), so he picked out a blue sapphire. I think it's perfect though, because Justin is crazy about blue sapphires (he has them in his wedding ring) and so they remind me of him. My gift was less romantic, but as equally well-received. I gave Justin a miter saw. He'll have fun playing with it and I'll reap the benefits of all the home repairs! Sunday was our actual anniversary and we grilled New York steaks, Justin made his famous shrimp scampi, and I made my popular garlic mashed potatoes. We had a lovely meal, then watched romantic comedy movies all day in our P.J.s It was a perfect celebration!


My new pendant.



Close-up.


Here are some pictures from our wedding, seven years ago.



Lupron Treatments

It seems like I catch up on all my blogging at once. Better that than never, I guess. My last IUI did not work and I can feel my endometriosis coming back, so Justin and I decided to proceed with the doctor's recommendation of a six month hormone therapy regimen. I had my first Lupron shot yesterday. My arm is still sore. I am not really looking forward to all the side effects of menopause. Justin is particularly worried about bone loss because I am not a milk drinker, but I make sure to take my supplements and I'll drink his chocolate milk whenever he makes it (he makes the best and it's the only milk I ever drink).

I am always worried about the balance of nature and medicine. I believe that modern medicine and medical advances are here for us to use and that God wants us to use them for optimal health and happiness. But somewhere (I don't know where...maybe cloning) there is a line where people start "playing god" and doing things that aren't meant for us. Are extreme fertility treatments part of that? It's an answer that everyone needs to figure out for themselves. I have a lot of unanswered ethical questions regarding in-vitro fertilization. I hope that I won't ever need to truly grapple with them. I hope that I can have a family without going to that extreme. I hope this Lupron therapy will work.

I am also concerned about whether the measures I've already taken are too much. We discovered my endometriosis last fall. I had a few bothersome side effects, but in general, I was spared the immense pain that often accompanies that disease. I had surgery last November to clean out the endometriosis. I can feel it growing back now. And it is back with a vengeance! I am now experiencing more regular pain than ever before. It's getting progressively worse. So it just makes me wonder if I'm making things worse for my body. It's hard to know.

Justin and I have always been really open to adoption. Even before we struggled with fertility, we always wanted to adopt. We wanted a mixed family of biological and adopted children (and this was before Angie and Brad!) so we are ready to start pursuing that dream. It is not a concession at all to us, and we will continue to try to have children naturally as well. Some people I've talked to seem to think that adoption is a last resort, that bearing biological children is an obvious preference. I don't feel that way at all and that thought kind of offends me, especially if/when we do end up adopting. I would never want my child to feel that way or have anyone put those ideas in his or her mind.

Anyway, that's the latest update on that. I am dreading the menopause hot-flashes in the middle of summer. Yikes!

Diaper Cake

I just found out about these adorable "diaper cakes" that are all the craze at baby showers. I am organizing an office shower for my friend Jamie at work and I decided to try my hand and make one of these cakes. There are places online that do some really neat themed ones, but they charge well over $100 so I thought I'd research them and make one on my own. You can get pretty elaborate or stay simple. I tried to go somewhere in the middle. The "cake" tiers are made up of rolled diapers, then stacked together on a dowel rod. Then each tier is decorated with ribbons (or you could wrap each tier with receiving blankets or get however fancy), then little presents are placed on and in the "cake". Jamie's nursery is chocolate and blue, so I used those colors for decoration. I thought it turned out pretty cute!

I hadn't heard of them until yesterday (and that's when I made mine), then I went to another office shower today and there was a diaper cake there too! You can also make them with toilet paper or kitchen towels or what-not for house-warming gifts or bridal showers.



I'm a Disney Princess

You Are Esmerelda!
Image hosted by Photobucket.com

Mysterious and passionate. You are a survivor. Even though life has swung you some difficult situations you have a strong intuition that gets you through. Also, you have the capacity to sympathize and relate to a variety of different people.


Which Disney Princess Are You?

So, I actually had a four-way tie for this princess quiz. I was equal parts Snow White, Aurora, Pocahontas, and Esmerelda.

Justin's Birthday and Memorial Day

Justin happened to be out of town on business over his birthday and we ended up celebrating all Memorial weekend long. I think his favorite present is his mp3 player. He listens to it more than he listens to me. :) I'm glad he likes it.


He wanted a "wedding cake" for his birthday--white cake with raspberry filling. I made it for him and tried to frost it pretty, it turned out ok. I should've got a picture without the candles burning. I guess it tasted ok. I don't really care for white cake at all, so I knew I wouldn't like it no matter what. But it's Justin's once chance to get me to make a white cake, so he practically ate the whole thing by himself.

video
I was filming Justin blowing out his candles, but he thought I was taking a picture, so he kept dragging it out, so he didn't get all the candles out. No wish this year! Wow, I just watched this and, man, we sound bad singing. It's obvious that Justin is the musical one and we really suffer when he's not leading us.




MEMORIAL DAY
For Memorial Day, Jordan, Cindy, and Afton took us boating on Gem Lake. We were on the water for maybe 45 minutes. The weather was cold and it started to rain, so it was a short adventure, but fun. We saw lots of birds including pelicans and osprey. We then went back to my house and grilled burgers in our garage. It was fun.


In the following video Afton is doing some kind of song thing. I think it came from Dora the Explorer, but I'm not sure. (A friend saw this and informed me it's from Baby Einstein. Thanks, Kat!)

video


Cindy, Afton, and Jordan.


Pelicans at Gem Lake.

Lara and Justin boating at Gem Lake.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Our Vegetable Garden

Our summer projects are on a role. We have the garage taken care of and this last weekend we created a vegetable garden. We picked a plot, removed the sod, tilled the ground, added topsoil, edged with stone, and planted red corn and carrots. I'll go to the store today to get some more seeds. Our plot is fairly small (10' x 6') but seems just right for our lack of experience. We are nixing tomatoes since they can be testy. But we had a hard weekend of work but we are very proud of our little garden. I hope it grows!

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