Jen’s Chewy Graham Cookies

I need to make a disclaimer…this post has been influenced by chardonnay and stress.

I had a meltdown this afternoon.  Walking through the produce aisle the reality of the last few months came crashing down on me like a wall of bricks.  I don’t mean the reality of trying to understand life after my parents’ death.  I mean the reality of diving head long into the adoption process.

For months The Mistah and I have been quietly filling out forms, scheduling inspections, and writing checks, all in the hopes of adopting a child.  Now that we are a single form away from being able to submit our application, and a check that equals our monthly mortgage payment, to our adoption agency,  the stress of what lays before us is starting to sink in.

In case you’ve never met me in real life, by my own admission I am a worrier.  And  a planner.  And an obsesser.  Which means that I tend to get fixated not on the big picture but on the smaller pieces that make up the big picture.  This is one reason why The Mistah and I work so well together…he looks at things with a macro perspective while I look at all the little details.  Between the two of us, there is balance.  But left to my own devices, I’m a hot freaking mess of worry.  Which gets me back to the produce aisle.

I was looking for garlic and apples and lemons, but all I could see was dollar signs.  And please forgive me for sounding dramatic, but until you’ve been in this place, you may never understand it.  Adoption does not come cheap.  There are fees.  And expenses.  And fees on the expenses.  It’s not like buying a car. You can’t get a cheaper interest rate from your credit union and they’re aren’t any 0% interest offers.  Not only do you pay, but you pay a premium for not being able to do what a majority of the rest of the population takes for granted…having a child.

There are grant programs but they require you to be affiliated with an organized religion and/or to demonstrate financial need.  I haven’t gone to church since I was 12…and the last time I checked The Universe was not a recognized congregation.  And through hard work, and the help of The Mistah, we have paid off all of our debt with the exception of our mortgage.  So on paper, we are not financially needy.  But if you look closer, what we have in savings just about equals what an adoption would cost.  So if we were to empty our savings account in the name of adoption, it would leave us one paycheck away from financial peril.  And for once, I am not speaking grandiosely.  Adoption costs would leave us with no savings.  No safety net.  Nothing to fall back on in the event of a job loss in an uncertain economy.  Mortgage refinancing isn’t an option since we owe more on paper than our house is worth.  So because we do our best to act responsibly and not carry consumer debt, but don’t have an excess of liquid assets available, we don’t qualify for grants to offset adoption expenses.  How the hell does that make sense?

Is it really better to spend every penny we have to adopt a child and then be left without any resources to weather a job loss or an unexpected major expense?  Is that the responsible choice?

So there’s the cost.  But the adoption process also requires you to open yourself up to the scrutiny of others.  References, tax returns, autobiographies.  It’s not for the self conscious.  Because let me tell you, no freaking stone goes unturned in this process.  In the simplest of terms, the application process is where someone else says whether or not you are a good candidate to be a parent.

Excuse me?  If third party approval were a requirement for being able to give birth, the world would not be in the middle of a population boom.  Forget about the fact that a third party has to give you approval in order to move ahead in the process.  The standard of care that a potential adoptive parent has to meet is ridiculous.  For instance, we failed our health department inspection.  No because our house was unsanitary but because we didn’t have thermometers in our refrigerator and because our hot water heater was set too high.  We also failed our fire department inspection.  Not because our house is a death trap but because we didn’t have enough clearance around our gas meter, the lock on our 3o year old storm door was not up to current code, and because the fire extinguishers in our house weren’t the right ones.  Who the hell comes to a pregnant couple’s home and looks at these things?  If I were to give birth to a child, nobody would scrutinize our home or our ability parent.  They would simply send me home with an infant, without regard to the conditions that child was being subjected to.

At this moment, I don’t doubt our ability to successfully raise a child.  I have always known that The Mistah would make a fantastic parent.  And with the death of both of my parents, oddly enough, I have somehow been freed from the assumptions that I had always made about my ability to unconditionally love a child.  And yet, there are so many obstacles in our way.

No amount of bake sales or etsy shops can bridge the financial gap that we face.  And selling off the few liquid assets that we have won’t make me stop worrying about our financial ability to meet this challenge.  So what’s left?  Other than petitioning to The Universe, I don’t know.

So I will say it here to The Universe, as I say it in my heart…we would give a child love and stability.  We may not be perfect parents but we would actively parent our child and do our best to see that our child has a loving heart, a strong sense of self, compassion for others, and a joyful and generous spirit.

Does the thought of bringing a child into our world scare the bejeesus out of me?  Hell yes.  But shouldn’t it? This. Is. Freaking. Huge.

Ok, so now that I’ve had this meltdown, I need some comforting.  And Jen’s Chewy Graham Cookies are just the thing to make to think about warm, chewy happiness instead of our second date with the Fire Inspector next week.  Tell me, which would you rather focus on…buttery, spicy cookies or Baltimore City Fire Code?

Chewy Graham Cookies

Adapted from My Kitchen Addiction

  • 1 1/2 sticks softened butter
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup cardamom sugar

Heat the oven to 375 degrees and line two sheet pans with parchment paper.

In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, honey, baking powder, baking soda, salt, vanilla, and cinnamon.  Add the egg and beat until incorporated into the creamed mixture.

In a second bowl, whisk together the flours.  Add the flour to the creamed mixture on low speed and mix until just combined.

Place the cardamom sugar into a small bowl.  Use a small ice cream scoop to portion out the dough in 1 tablespoon servings.  Roll the dough into a ball, roll in the cardamom sugar, and place on the prepared sheet pans.

Bake for 9 to 10 minutes until the cookies are lightly browned and just set.  Cool in the pan for 5 minutes before transferring the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

37 thoughts on “Jen’s Chewy Graham Cookies

  1. Just wanted to say that your disclaimer is awesome, and the fact that you have provided the recipe to those delicious-looking graham cookies is perfect for my weekend!

  2. The adoption process sounds absolutely horrendous. I understand them wanting to make sure you’re qualified to be parents, but the financial burden and inspection criteria is criminal in my opinion. Don’t they WANT these children to find good homes? It boggles my mind. And when we decide to start a family we’re also considering adoption, so I might be in your shoes eventually.

    Good luck with everything, really. I would be freaking out as well (though I’ll be the first to admit it doesn’t take much to freak me out these days. I’m a big ball of emotions.) Hang in there.

    1. In a way, the big ball of emotions has served me well during this process. It has made me look at my motivation to go down this path. It certainly hasn’t made it easier but it’s made me more aware of the choice we are making.

      I have always had the philosophy that if parenthood is the path I am meant to take in life then it will happen. But going through this process makes it a bit challenging to hold on to that belief.


  3. Oh, Wendi. My heart hurts for you right now. I am so sorry you are going through this. If I could give you a baby right now I would. I have no doubt that you would make a wonderful mother. It’s terrible what it takes to be able to adopt. There are so many children without homes, it simply should not be so difficult to take one of them and make a family. Stick with it, you’re almost there. You’ll get your little family going, and then you can tell the Fire Inspector to shove it.

    1. Jacki, reading through others’ experiences with pregnancy, this is just a slightly more complicated path to the same end. Is it excruciating in the minutia of what is scrutinized? Absolutely. But hopefully in the end, the result is the same. I would love nothing more than to bring a wee baby with me to Big Summer Potluck this year. But ironically, if it hadn’t been for the fire inspection, we would have never fixed the lock on our storm door.


    1. I think perhaps some Universailist Unitarian congregations would sign off on that but the rest….I donknow.


    1. Guy, believe me I was damning the fire inspector after he left. I know that he was just doing his job…but it’s still so frustrating.


  4. I am confident that you and The Mistah would be closer to “perfect parents” than many people I know. Hang in there, and know that you have a virtual army of supporters eager to hear good news.

    1. Ann, thanks for your vote of confidence. It took me a very long time to get to the place where I could even consider this might be the right choice for me. But life changes and hopefully we change along with it.

  5. Wow! That sounds so intense. You just amaze me all the time with your strength and resilience, even through the occasional freak out and meltdowns. I hope the Universe sees fit to make this happen.

  6. Glad my cookies could provide a bit of a diversion for you from the whole process… Hope that helped in some small way. We have friends who have been involved in the whole adoption process here, and I know how stressful and nerve wracking it was for them… And, I’m sorry you are dealing with those same stresses. I truly believe that things will work out for you, but as a fellow worrier, I definitely know how you feel. Sending a giant 8 second hug your way!

    1. Jen, your cookies are a perfect diversion for whatever ails you. Nerve wracking is exactly what this process has been. And if I continue to comfort myself with these, I may be as big as a house before the process is over.

      I try to stay zen and optimistic but sometime the worrier in me just freaks the hell out.


  7. This is happening for you, I’ve ruled on this matter. I am so sure of that I am going to give you two of my three pieces of advice for new parents.

    Coach t-ball
    Buy a band instrument
    I’ll tell you the third when “the deciders” realized I’m right.

    1. Oma, does this mean that we get to skip tomorrow’s appointment with the fire inspector and the remaining home visits? Because that would certainly make this process way easier.


  8. these cookies appear to be the best way to cope with what you’re going thru! i can’t pretend to know what you’re going thru but just remember that it will all be worth it! your loving home will be the most perfect place for the bundle of joy sure to come your way.

    1. These cookies and chardonnay were my answer. Not necessarily in that order though. Maybe I need to revise my coping mechanism in light of Saturday’s ginormous headache.


  9. Oh Wendi, I wish this wasn’t such a hard process. The inspection stuff just seems ridiculous, like these agencies are putting up barriers when they should be FACILITATING the process for children to make their way into loving homes like yours.
    And . . . can we donate to your cause? =)

    1. I do intellectually realize that the process is long as a way of allowing potential adoptive parents to self select themselves out. But good lord, some of these barriers are just so absurd. And Jenna, these are the nuggets of truth that you don’t read about in the books.

      The Mistah and I are sitting down to look at what assets we can liquidate to avoid completely depleting our savings. But if I do open an Etsy shop, I will be sure to let you know.


  10. Wendi, I had no idea that adoptions were so expensive. My aunt adopted four children, one from the U.S. and three from Korea. I remember my Mom saying that adopting in the U.S. took a few years, but she never mentioned the cost or how much scrutiny a couple had to go through in the process. (Of course, this was 30-plus years ago, so perhaps things have gotten worse.) I hope everything works out for you and The Mistah soon. I’m sure you both would be wonderful parents.

    1. Jennifer, until we started down this path we had no idea how much adoption cost either. It’s been an eye opening education.


      1. It’s so sad that it seems authorities would rather children be in foster homes. Especially older children. And international adoption costs more than mid sized homes in most of the country.

        1. I know that the process tries to ensure that children are placed in safe environments. It’s just that the minutia of it all can border on the absurd.

          Sent from my iPad

  11. Wendi,
    If you need any letters to the agency/Congress/the President about how awesome you are and what amazing hugs you give, I will send one every day until you get that babe. Until then, thank heaven for cookies and booze 😉

    1. Sunny, this made me smile. Thank you for that. Hopefully The Universe is listening and will be a little kinder with the rest of the process.

    1. Thanks Elizabeth. I can tell you that brave is absolutely that last thing that I feel right now. But I appreciate the encouragement.


  12. This makes my heart hurt. I’m hoping you guys make it through and find that perfect child to increase your family. It is mind boggling to me seeing the hoops one must jump through to adopt. My daughter is in the same situation and she can hardly stand to see what qualifies as parents in the OB wards now days. And that doesn’t even begin to state what you have so well. Thanks for sharing your story.

    1. I keep saying that if this is meant to be our path then the pieces will come together in their own time. But it truly is an emotionally challenging process and all the reading and research in the world can’t really prepare you for that. Hopefully some other person will find these words when they need some comfort and calm from all the forms, interviews, and anxiety.


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