Saturday, February 28, 2009

For All You Coffee-Lovers Out There...

So originally I was just going to put in a plug for a friend's coffee roasting business, Kerusso Coffee; the dad's a local pastor, and I've taught 3 of their children at DSCS. But now I found out that our school is doing a fund-raiser through their business, so it's a double-win-win! My school's summer mission trip every year is to one particular orphanage in the Dominican Republic-- maybe one year I'll get to go with them, lol. As far as the coffee goes, I've gotten to enjoy it, and well, ...I enjoyed it! :) Here's some info on their family-run company's vision:

"Coffee Connections Roasting Company wants to roast and drink coffee to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31)! We believe that from the picking of the bean to the sipping of the cup, we can glorify God. We support poor coffee farmers in persecuted countries by purchasing their beans. We work to raise awareness among our customers concerning the great poverty many coffee farmers experience. We also use our proceeds to support missions.

We will roast your coffee to order so that it's not sitting on a shelf before you get it. We roast in micro roast amounts, and we create the best tasting blends through meticulous testing. We enjoy testing very much! We quickly bag your coffee in airtight packages. Roasted coffee begins to lose its freshness almost immediately. For this reason many people have never tasted truly fesh coffee, but you can! Be sure to order the amount you will drink in about 4 weeks, and don't grind it until you are ready to use it."

Check 'em out online, and if you're interested in ordering any, you can contact them directly and let them know you'd like to buy as part of the Dorothy Sayers Mission Trip Fundraiser.

Rejected SuperBowl Ad

Short, thought-provoking, and very controversial. Despite that, it is beautiful.

Thank you, Jacqui, for giving me the heads-up about this!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

One more shout-out

goes to my good ol' buddy Fernando Ortega.  I remember when some of my older friends were into him back when I was in high school... Sarah Ladner (then Dykstra), Rachel Selph (Donell), even Amy Molina (Donell), who was always being influenced by those older sibs.  I liked some of his stuff but wasn't really too exposed to him because I didn't have his CDs.  Then in Argentina Amy & I discovered the wonders of Kazaa-- yes, questionable legality, I know now, but we didn't know it then-- and I remember downloading "Come, Ye Sinners" as arranged by him & performed with Amy Grant (she did nothing to enhance the duet, in my opinion).  Then he started performing in Spanish  and Mom & I bought each other that album for Christmas (unintentionally).  I slowly acquired a few more of his CDs, and gave some more to my mom, and realized that I liked this guy, at the time especially his hymn arrangements (like "All Creatures of Our God & King" and "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence").  There was this one odd song, "This Time Next Year" that I found incredibly hopeful and peaceful, and fell asleep to every night for 2 years or so.  ("Turn up the light so we can see/ that redhead grandson on your knee/ You'd better hold him while you can; he'll be walking soon/ [...] This time next year/ there'll be stories to tell/ and he will listen to you, quiet in your arms./ And there'll be songs to sing him/ while he goes to sleep/ when we gather in your home/ This time, next year.//")

But he sings a TON of ballads, too... traveler songs, family songs, snapshot story songs.  I remember seeing some of his lyrics posted on some friends' xangas back when those were the blog of choice.  It wasn't until I took his music with me on an iPod shuffle to Italy 2 years ago, and listened to them on a bus in pouring rain that I was struck by the beauty of his non-hymns.  I love his love-songs ("She's my rose/my Virginia, she's a rose"), his descriptions of the elderly ("She will turn your pity down/Turn away and frown/ Old girl/ She may have a prayer for you/ She can read you, too/ Old Girl."), his depictions of life as a traveling musician (in my heart I'm always a bard ;D), and most of all how he snaps a shot of someone's life, and draws you in to figure the story out for yourself.  He does this hauntingly well in "City of Sorrows," singing as one of the exiled Israelites looking over their shoulders at ruined Jerusalem and weeping aloud.  Not quite a ballad, but close.  He sings worshipful hymns and songs from the heart to God... all with that guttural "h" that belies his Hispanic origins. :)  Check him out!  I'm going to play his album "Storm" all over again. 

PS- those of you who came to my wedding might remember Fernando Ortega's name, as our processional was his version of "All Creatures."  To this day, it sounds incomplete to me without snare drums, and uillian pipes... :)  Some day I'll figure out how to post a link so those of you who didn't get to come can hear the song.  Our musicians blessed us SO MUCH!!!

Yummy, Yummy, YUMMY!!

I'm enjoying Day 2 of my Winter Break, mainly by just being home. :) I try to do random bits of housework when I need to stand up and stretch from sitting grading endless stacks of homework. The best part is the food, though. It astounds me how quickly I get hungry after eating until full these days. (No, I am not sure there's only one baby in there, lol.) But it's so nice to be able to be baking all day, to allow for snacking all day. :) It's fun to have my kitchen smell nice again (for once the smells don't drive me into the fetal position concentrating on NOT vomiting.)-- beans on the stove, bread in the breadmaker, yummies in & out of the oven, and muffins soon to be mixed. I'm trying to stay ahead of the hunger, as it just feels much nicer all around, and hopefully keeps little Szrama growing properly. I just pulled something out of the oven so yummy & simple that I thought I'd better post it online so anyone else could try it!

My friend Natasha first made this for us, and we loved 'em so much that I got the cookbook. Well, not JUST for that reason, but... ;)

Sweet Potato Dollars
(based on recipe in Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon)
Serves 4
-- 3-4 sweet potatoes
-- 3 T melted butter (just stick it in the oven while you're preheating it, and while you're dealing w/ the potatoes)
-- 3 T extra-virgin olive oil
-- sea salt

Preheat oven to 350.
Peel the potatoes & slice crosswise into 1/4" wide "dollars." You may need to cut the middle piece the other way-- shape doesn't matter so much as thickness. Brush 2 cookie sheets with mixture of olive oil & butter. Arrange the dollars in a single layer and brush with remaining butter & oil. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Bake @ 350 for about 45 min. (Watch for burning on the thinnest pieces.)

Enjoy!!! The combination of salty & sweet is always a favorite for me! Now I just need to learn to make BBQ chips at home...

Tip: if you want to make a small trial run batch, just use 1 potato and 1 T each of butter & oil. It should fit nicely on 1 cookie sheet.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Currently reading...

- The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick (interesting for sure-- our book club selection; I'll be sure to keep you posted on this one. Basically it assumes that the Nazis & Japanese won WW2, and goes from there.)
- The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth, Henci Goer (very helpful & HIGHLY reccomended for all you moms, grandmoms, or moms-to-be!)
- Spiritual Midwifery, Ina May Gaskin (a little "out there" mystically-- obviously influenced by Zen Bhuddism-- but not to the point of discrediting the medical aspects, and the overwhelming evidence in her favor that her methods work: over the past 30 years she's delivered 2,028 babies at home, with a total of 8 infant mortalities including fatal anomalies (no maternal deaths), with only 5% of the births needing any transport to a hospital, and only 1.95% needing any intervention, i.e. Cesarean, forceps or vacuum extraction. Oh, and NO pain meds needed, not even in the breeches or big babies she delivered...obviously for the Cesarean they had to.)
- What to Expect When You're Expecting, Arlene Eisenburg, Heidi E. Murkoff, and Sandee E. Hathaway & its accompanying Eating Well When You're Expecting, Heidi Murkoff --this I just refer to occasionally, because it is rather TMI and I'm not a worry-er anyway.
- Because He Loves Me, Elyse Fitzpatrick ...AMAZING. I think I could give it to EVERYONE I know!!!
Just finished: The Maker's Diet, Dr. Jordan Rubin --very helpful. I couldn't stick to the diet for too long pregnant, though, because of how incredibly hungry I am-- we just can't afford for me to always fill up on proteins and fruit, especially with my dietary restrictions, and food aversions these days. But it was great while it lasted, and highly recommended to everyone! (even skeptics feel they should give Rubin's work some credit)
The Tale of Despereaux, Kate DiCamillo
Crispin: the Cross of Lead, Avi (yes, those last two are children's books-- Newberry Award Winners, to be precise)
On request at the library: Baby Bargains

Saturday, February 21, 2009


My quote of the day (to Bethany Moore during Amanda's baby shower): "I am so thankful for that liver.  I'd kiss the cow who gave it to me... if it wasn't already dead."

I got some strange looks, and then laughter.  "What do you say to that?"  Bethany asked me.

That's just what came out!  The liver in question is raw organic liver from some generous bovine.  Christy Fullerton, one of our pastors' wives, has long touted it as a help or cure for pregnancy-nausea.  She had several chunks in her freezer, and very generously agreed to give me some until I didn't need it anymore.  I've felt so yucky and tired in the evenings --teaching takes all the energy I have, then trying to make/eat dinner takes all the good feelings away-- that I hadn't made it over to her house (which is all of 2 blocks away) until yesterday afternoon.  "Cut off 6 pinky-nail size chunks and swallow with OJ at night just before bed, and first thing upon waking in the morning."  My friend Jenny added "lie down after eating it, to make sure it doesn't "come back up."  "

Unsure of my ability to stomach hacking off bits of raw liver, I asked my husband to do the job.  It turned out to be very easy, and I can totally handle it now.  Six chunks last night... and I slept all night without waking up from a sore tummy once!  Then at my usual bathroom-visit around 4 am (they aren't kidding about the extra fluid affecting your bladder needs), I swallowed 6 more chunks, and spent my first normal-feeling morning since week 7 of pregnancy!  I am SOLD!!! 

  Why it works for some women:  apparently the liver has iron and other vitamins (ex. Vit A) that your body craves during pregnancy, the lack of which contributes in some ways to nausea.  It also somehow helps your own liver detox, and an overburdened liver is another cause of nausea (poor little liver's having to filter extra blood and waste all of a sudden!).  Of course it's got to be organic liver since the liver is the filter of an animal's blood.  And then it's best to freeze it for 14 days to kill any parasites.  But after that, it's a super-food! So that is why I'm thankful and grateful and even willing to kiss a cow to prove it.  Mostly, I'm thankful to God for friends who know these tricks and are willing to give me a clean liver, pre-frozen and ready to ...swallow!  And all you pregnant suffering moms out there, try it!!  It works!!!  (you really do need to swallow it with juice, and lay down afterwards though.  Apparently it tastes pretty rotten going down, and much much worse coming up!)

PS- I have also been taking fish oils by capsule (3600 mg a day), and they've totally helped my fatigue level.  Except on the days when I felt too nauseated to swallow them... or threw them up.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Happy Birthday, Ryan

So in all the baby-hype of this Valentine's Day, the Szrama event always occuring after Valentine's sort of got missed by the greater public. Ryan turned 26! We celebrated in our children's Sunday School class and then together at home on Sunday (Feb 15th is his actual b-day). Then we had our yearly dinner at Texas Roadhouse followed by DDR & cake & ice-cream at our place. The Taylors (Tony & Angie, Marcus and Jason), the Miesses (Samuel, Natasha & unborn jr.) & Lyle joined us for the steak part, and the Brainards (Ben, Amanda & In-utero baby girl) came over for the sweets part. We had a wonderful time, as pictures will attest.

My very un-shy husband getting the birthday yee-haw at TX Roadhouse.

Enjoy the video, too!

--the Szramas

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

As a "birthmom"...

...since becoming pregnant with my first baby, I appreciate mothers even more. Especially amazing to me is the love and sacrifice of birthmothers who carry a child for 9 months, and then willingly place that child they have carried into another woman's arms. There is no way you could ever label that "giving away your baby." There is no way that any woman could carry a child for 9 months, give birth, and not do all of it out of love. Wow. Talk about self-sacrificial love. This song makes me cry every time, because it is so beautiful.

The singer & songwriter is Mark Schultz, and he is singing his own story. Just as we often have very little idea of the sacrifice birthmothers make in adoption, so many birthmothers have no idea how amazing a chance they are giving their child. Who knows what each adopted child will become? Only the One who knit them together in their birthmothers' wombs, and selected the places and times they would grow up and live.

That song is my great-grandmother, who did an amazingly brave thing years ago, and gave life to my grandfather, and through him, to my father and his siblings, and to me, my sisters, and all my cousins, and even now her gift of life is ongoing as a new life grows in me. She missed her baby boy for 50 years, and when he found her again and we all got to know her, I think everyone was amazed-- truly our God brings beauty from ashes. And what a sweet, godly woman she was. I'll never forget the kindness complete strangers showed to my sisters and I when they found out whose "grandbabies" we were. Alzheimers took her from us years before she died, and now Heaven has even more of an appeal to me. I can't wait to hug her and thank her and rejoice together at the feet of the One who saved us both. Amen!

To all mothers, be they natural, birth, or adoptive, may you receive the thanks and honor due you for bringing us life and love... for sacrificing so much for us. May the Word to you be "well done, My good & faithful servant. Come and share your Master's happiness."

Monday, February 16, 2009

Not Bad for a Grandpa!

My father ran his first marathon on Saturday (Valentine's Day) down in Myrtle Beach, SC. He did it not JUST because he loves running, but as a fund raiser to benefit Bethany Christian Services, a Christian crisis-pregnancy center, foster-care & adoption agency (both domestic and foreign, as well as embryo adoptions), international orphan care agency, and infertility, and family support ministry. It is totally gospel-centered, and just wonderful. He & my mom have been really involved with this organization for as long as I can remember, from call-forwarding weekend counselors to local board members to advocates to ...runners!

Here's my dad hangin' in there at 3 hours... Mom says by this point he had "jello legs." He finished right at 3 hours & 15 minutes. So see-- brains CAN meet with brawn!!
And here he is with his teammate, Oni. Between them they raised $3000! If you donated, THANK YOU! And Dad, WAY TO GO!!! Your grandchild is very proud, and looking forward to you getting lots of exersise chasing him or her. :)

Confessions... Announcement?

Let me just confess these things:

- I haven't been blogging or online much lately because looking at electronic things aggravates my near-constant nausea...

- When I'm not nauseated, I'm ravenous. Often I can't tell the difference (yuck, I know). I out-eat Ryan hands down, especially when it comes to meat.

- For Valentine's Day Dinner, I had two homemade cheeseburgers, with homemade guacamole, tomatoes, mustard, and ketchup... along with about half a dozen pickles... and I was still hungry an hour later. By the way, that meal is about all that sounds good most days. I think my mom craved california (aka w/ guacamole) veggie burgers while pregnant with me... did something rub off?

- Ryan & my mom gave me baby toys as part of their Valentine gifts to me.

- My body contradicts itself: despite the fact that I've been forced by intense hunger to nearly double my caloric intake, my weight is spiraling down (I'm not throwing up, either). Despite that, several skirts and pants don't fit, and my tummy is definitely pooching OUT.

- My dad got the following text message from two seperate friends after completing his first marathon on Saturday: "3 hrs 15 minutes...not bad FOR A GRANDPA!"

- Fruits have all-new meanings for me...

And then if you are still wondering, here's the announcement!!!

Yes, I am pregnant! There's been 9 weeks of baby-knitting (as Psalm 139 would say) going on somehow within me. It's pretty amazing. I am in awe of how these cells know how to take off and build a human out of two gametes!!! The Lord's handiwork is so clearly seen-- my four-year-olds just learned the verse "You knit me together in my mother's womb; I will praise You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made!" (Ps. 139) WOW!! It's quite astounding to have some other force take over your body-- from INSIDE YOUR OWN SKIN. All of a sudden my whole body is morphing, my senses are exploding, my appetite is foreign, ravenous, and confusing, and ...I still look exactly the same to most people! Amazing that something so small could put off enough hormones to totally control my body. Or, as I think of myself in jest, the Mother Ship. :)

Seriously, Ryan and I could not be happier. We told our family and far-away close friends on Valentine's Day, by sending them Valentines from us + baby. I told my classes at school, and we broke it to our Sunday School class yesterday. Since now everyone can know, Ryan was indiscriminately announcing it every time I turned around at church last night, lol. Praise the Lord! We joke about hoping it's twins-- of course we know that it already is or isn't twins, but we'd really really really like children, and figure why not!? Hehe we'll be thrilled and overwhelmed with just ONE, we know.

Please pray for our baby's continued safety, as well as my stamina and sanctification. It's so easy to fall prey to sins like snapping, being emotionally volatile, or complaining right now! Please pray that I will receive and ask for extra grace to be kind and generous, with my students, friends, and especially with my husband. He's been such a trooper --the dishes are particularly repugnant to me most nights, and so he washes them cheerfully... among other things. Pray for him, too! And most of all, please rejoice with us! Even if something were to go terribly wrong, we still have loved being "invisible parents" for the past two months, and there still is a mini-Szrama alive (and kicking now!), made in the image of God (and I hope his Daddy =D), with a soul that will never die. That is always, already something to rejoice in!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Not Just Single-Awareness-Day

I've never really sympathized with those who choose to view Valentine's Day negatively, using it to mope around and mourn their single-ness... Valentine's Day is so much more than that! I'll get into the story behind the day itself later, but even if you just take it as "a day of love," there is no limit to all the ways you can show and celebrate love! As a child, my mom instilled this in us as we made Valentines for our grandparents, cousins, aunts, neighbors, and pastors. We tried (I still do) to point everyone to God's amazing love towards us, in daily providence, and especially in His sending of Jesus to live & die for His bride... talk about Love! Everyone is-- especially believers-- greatly loved. You can all celebrate that! And there are dozens of people around you whom you can love, some who are probably aching for love.

As for the original Valentine, that is a wonderful story of faith. There are several accounts (some say up to 3 different Valentines-- each a martyr-- but no one can tell which of the first 2 Valentines did what), but the gist seems to be: during the oppressive reign of Emperor Claudius, edicts were made not only forbidding marriages among soldiers, but also forbidding blasphemy against the Roman panoply of gods, including the Emperor himself. Valentine was a priest, who was willing to live according to God's Word despite its opposition to both human laws. He gladly performed secret marriages for soldiers, upholding the sanctity and goodness of marriage (this was before celibacy was touted as better than marriage). And he continued to preach Christ Crucified as the One True God. Both got him jailed. Even in jail, he continued to minister, praying for the healing of his jailer's blind daughter. God heard his prayers, and the girl was healed. Following this miracle, as well as Valentine's continued preaching, the jailer, his family, and 46 others all came to Christ and were baptized-- what a picture that must have been! A baptism in a jail cell!! When Valentine stood trial before Claudius, he honestly & boldly proclaimed the Love of the True God, surprising the emperor favorably. Eventually, he had Valentine beaten, stoned, and decapitated anyway. One of the last letters he wrote was to his jailer's daughter, which he signed, "Your Valentine."

I told this story to my preschoolers, to try and help them appreciate what Valentine's Day is all about-- proclaiming the Love of Christ in the Gospel, and showing generous, fearless love to our neighbors. They don't really get the whole sanctity of marriage thing yet. :) What I also tried to impress on them was that Valentine's death was not the unhappy end to a brave story. "Do you think Valentine was sad to die?" They nod their heads. "Well, he was probably sad to leave his friends, but he was very happy to be with Jesus! He probably said, "Yes! Now I can be with the One Who Loves me!!!"

Read this or this for more if you'd like. I really enjoyed this book, which a mom read in our class last year. It's published by Voice of the Martyrs.

Off to watch (maybe) Stardust with my Valentine. :) It was a gift he got on his treasure hunt.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Faith Speaking

“The man who has faith is the man who is no longer looking at himself, and no longer looking to himself. He no longer looks at anything he once was. He does not look at what he is now. He does not [even] look at what he hopes to be as the result of his own efforts. He looks entirely to the Lord Jesus Christ and His finished work, and he rests on that alone. He has ceased to say, ‘Ah yes, I have committed terrible sins but I have done this and that…’ He stops saying that. If he goes on saying that, he has not got faith… Faith speaks in an entirely different manner and makes a man say, ‘Yes, I have sinned grievously, I have lived a life of sin… yet I know that I am a child of God because I am not resting on any righteousness of my own; my righteousness is in Jesus Christ, and God has put that to my account.’”
- D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, as quoted by Tim Keller

I LOVE this man's's why I joke about naming one of my future children Martyn, or even something Lloyd.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


If someone spent 1 million dollars EVERY DAY since Christ was born in 1 A.D. they would not have spent the amount of money being proposed in the “spending plan.”

1 million dollars a day since 1 A.D. = $733,285,000, 000.

That's staggering! Of course, it's not "real" money anymore...everything is fiat these days, but I don't know if that makes the whole package more or less... staggering. We're dealing with huge amounts of essentially fake money... is that crazier, or better, because it's not actually physically "real?"

Some things to think about...

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Read the Ingredients!

Found this interesting: The 20 Worst Non-Healthy "Health" Foods.

Buyers, beware!

While I'm not so worried about the saturated fat content (fat is good for you!), the sugar, massive calories, fake fat (trans fat) and excessive unsaturated fat should make us all recoil in horror-- unless, you're knowingly indulging for an ultra-rare treat. :) Which are always nice. (there's a reason weddings lasted 7 days in Biblical times. There are times when we're supposed to be eating (and drinking) lots and enjoying it! Thanking GOD for it!)

** For those confused about why I mention saturated fat as not inherently evil, read here, here, or here.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Back to Your Regularly Scheduled Program

well, we just packed up our sleepover gear (including our futon mattress and two quilts) into Roxy, and came home. The ice and snow is melting everywhere, though all the icicles are gone so it's not so loud. Yesterday it sounded like glass was constantly shattering! Anyway, we're back in our quiet re-warmed Top Porch. It's nice to be home, nice to throw clothes into the wash, nice to unpack and re-organize...

But there's no cute sweet toddler shouting "Cat!," trying his hand (mouth?) at beat-boxing, or leaning over very far to kiss you...then falling all the way over... or my favorite, the apple-cheek-splitting grin accompanied by outstretched stubby arms, asking to be picked up for the sheer pleasure of being near you. There's no jostling the kitchen to get food out or into the fridge, no constant washing of dishes, no Bethany to ask a random question, no Glen to laugh heartily at the drop of a hat. There's no host of friends randomly coming & going, no re-arranging of furniture to accomodate them all, and no communally cooked yummies. Basically, we miss the Moores. :)

As we left, Glen told us "be warm and well-fed!" We laughed and said he was allowed to say that, because thanks to him, we were. In the book of James, God rebukes church members who were saying that "sympathetically" to poorer brothers in Christ, and sending them right back out into the cold without any effort to help them. We saw the total OPPOSITE of that for the past 4 days, and it really is faith-strengthening. What would make people inconvenience themselves so willingly, except for a true, soul-level transformation of desires and beliefs!? The Gospel really is the "power of God," and one way I know it is that I stayed warm and well-fed amidst a power outage and bitter cold. Amen!

All right, I've been looking forward to this old tradition for a while now: Valentine-making time!!! My Mom always made such a big, fun deal about this holiday that I can't help it. :) We made valentines for everyone, and they were creative and unique every year. She did a big treasure-hunt for us, too, and we'd get to run around the house finding clues and little treats with a baby-sitter while she & my dad had their romantic Valentine Date. We really thought they were getting the short end of the stick. She kept this up faithfully every single year until I went to college, and even then I drove back a few years when I could, just to be a part of it!! :) I miss all that so much that I make up for it by putting together little care packages for all my siblings, some cousins, and various friends. And at LEAST making Valentines. :) So...I'm off! That was one activity I couldn't really do with a toddler running around; I tend to spread out all over the floor. :)