Wednesday, December 30, 2009

"Ni Hao!"

We are slowly but surely putting life back together around here post-Christmas. Suitcases have been unloaded. Laundry is done. The grand playroom purge is finished - old toys out in the garage to be rotated back in later this year, new toys happily situated in their new home. I'm still working on processing a lot of the thoughts that I have been having lately related to my Christmas experience this year. I've been doing a lot of reading too - all Africa-related (not a huge surprise) which also has me doing a lot of thinking about the state of the world - again. The last time I did a lot of "thinking" about global issues we somehow ended up with two toddlers. Thinking is dangerous, especially if you are praying too.

I hope to share more on this later. For now, here are some pictures I am loving right now. Big Bear got a gorgeous turquoise Chinese dress from a cousin who lives in Asia. It looked stunning on her against her dark skin. She kept running around the kitchen laughing and trying to run right up to the camera lens. We also taught her to bow and say "Ni Hao" which caused her to laugh even more. Talk about cross-cultural. An Ethiopian child, now living in America as a legal resident (soon to be citizen!) wearing a Chinese dress saying "Ni Hao". That's globalization for you.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Ridiculously Cute.

Our sweet friend Raya, a professional photographer who also happens to be in our home group, took these amazing family pictures for us. I know I am partial but the girls look ridiculously cute in these pictures. I feel like I should send these to Gladney for promotional purposes! How could you not make room in your heart for precious children like these?

I included a few fun shots she took of us too. We make no claims to be "ridiculously cute". For better viewing of the slideshow, make sure to click on an image so you can enlarge the view!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas to All!

Just one year ago today, we celebrated a bit of a mournful Christmas having just found out that we did not pass court and would have to wait several more months to have our case heard again in Ethiopian court. Today, we celebrated our first Christmas as a "forever family" - finally complete (at least for now...) with our two precious daughters. Oh come let us adore Him who is faithful to complete the good works He begins.

There is much to be say by way of reflection on our first Christmas season together. That will have to wait for another post after we have slept off today's festivities. We have all been living in Boogerland (sick again thanks to preschool germs!) and are headed off to bed pronto. However, I can't close the day without sharing the one gift that brought tears to my eyes. My parents gave us this early this morning as a family gift. I had no idea what was going to be in the box and just started crying when I pulled this out (and that type of a response is unusual for me). I had been so hoping to find something like this but didn't have any luck locally and didn't have the time in the midst of everything else that was going on this year to scour the Internet before Christmas. It was touching to see a Mary who looks like my little girls and a version of the Christmas story that embraces my children. Thanks, Mom and Dad. We will cherish this always as a reminder of the first Christmas we celebrated Jesus' birth together with the children He birthed for us in our hearts. Merry Christmas to all of you who have shared in our story of God's faithfulness! Your love and support have meant so much to us over this last monumental year in our lives. Thank you for being a part of journey to family.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


This week, we celebrate a few more "firsts". We had the fun of watching Junia "perform" in her first preschool Christmas show. Sitting there staring at my child through a camera lens with my husband in a parallel position next to me armed with a video camera (and Eden on his lap) while Junia waved during the song and yelled "Hi, Mommy! Hi, Daddy! Where's Eden?" felt very "parental" to say the least.

We also made Christmas cookies for the first time. It was a stretch for Type A Mommy (see previous post about this problem!) to just let the cookies look like kids made them, but I am proud to say that I kept myself from redoing them before we put them in the oven. We also got our first professional family pictures taken by a sweet friend of ours. The girls look beyond gorgeous - as usual. It must be my great genes! I can't wait to post these in a few days.

Another first was discovering, after Junia's first dentist appointment this week, that she will need to have a baby root canal (!) because of how worn and decayed the enamel is on one of her back teeth. Apparently, weakening of the enamel is a fairly common problem in kids that have been malnourished. This was something that I never even thought about - particularly because the girls are both doing so well physically now that they are home. It made me really sad to think about how many other children in Africa (and across the globe) have teeth that are literally rotting away because of lack of proper nutrition and dental care. For what we spent at Toys-R-Us this Christmas (thank God for good dental insurance), we will get her tooth fixed. But she is just one of so many - so many who need a Mommy and a Daddy to make sure they have warm coats and clean teeth and maybe even a tricycle. As always, I come back to the troubling question "But what about those who remain?" After having seen what we did in Africa, it is still so hard sometimes to just walk through the mall with cheezy Christmas muzak blasting in the background as I try to battle the crowds with my arms "burdened" with a few packages, toddler on one hip and green tea from Starbucks in my hand. It's hard not to feel shamed by the extravagence of what is my "normal" life here in the United States. As I think about Junia's tooth decay, in some ways it reminds me that our girls will always carry some "scars" from their past, some we see now and others we don't but may see later. It's hard as a parent to accept scars in your children's lives because they are physical evidence of hardships and adversity they may have faced. And yet, as one author pointed out, scars are reminders that you are one of the ones who of the survivors. Scars only form on bodies that are alive. And so, even a decaying tooth, is a reminder to me that my daughters are some of the brave children who have survived orphanhood and who march forward boldly (very boldly most days!) into each new day. And for that, I have great respect for my courageous little ladies and much gratitude to the God and selfless family who entrusted them to me.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Thankful Thoughts, Lots of Poop and An Award

Thinking back on our recent Thanksgiving weekend, it's hard not to pause and reflect on the ways that our little family has changed in just 9 months. It's crazy to think the girls have been home that long. In some ways, it feels like yesterday that we were in the midst of praying (again!) to pass court, and in some ways it seems like my little sidekicks have just always been there in the back seat singing "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands" over and over again in the effort to make sure their entire social circle gets included in the song. In some ways, my responsibility-free life feels like it just vanished in a blink (I find myself looking for it sometimes...when I feel that way, I just pop in Twilight for the umpteenth time and escape to the banal diaper-free zone of high school vampires). In other ways, I've just kicked into Mom-mode and somehow manage to get by one day at a time even if I often feel a bit out of place in Mom World. Somedays the daily chaos makes me feel like I may spontaneously combust at any moment and other days things seem to hum along just fine. Such is life as a mom, I guess. I am certainly still a "Mom In Training" but day by day I learn more about how precious it is to have someone in your life who calls you "Mama" (in my case - two little someones!) even when "Mama" comes with a whole lot of new responsibility and a lot less sleep. Here are some pictures from our first Thanksgiving together as a forever family. We have much for which to be thankful.

Eden was lucky enough to share her birthday month with her much-beloved Poppa. Over Thanksgiving weekend, they got to share a birthday cake made for them with love by Junia and Gammy. We also started a family tradition back at home this year of letting Junia make Eden's birthday cake (she was adamant that she wanted her present to Eden to be a cake). I'm not sure if there are any sprinkles left in our house now.

As our gift to Eden to celebrate #2, we took the family to Disneyland. Let me tell you - that was an adventure. We hadn't been in over a decade and it's not our go-to place for a "happiest place on earth" experience. We of the hippie persuasion would far rather find ourselves on a quiet hiking trail than trapped in the consumer-infused madness that is all things Disney. That being said, it just seemed like something you need to do with your kids. Because we are nerds and I have what will probably become a very-annoying-to-the-girls academic background in media studies, our girls haven't had much Disney in their media diet. Hence, they didn't have a lot of context to bring to their Disney adventure. However, Junia learned very quickly who Mickey Mouse was and waved at him screaming "Hi, Mickey!" during the Christmas parade. She and Eden also loved seeing snow fall on Main Street when they lit up the castle with twinkling blue lights before the parade. We both agreed that the bulk of the day was kind of like being trapped in hyper-stimulating video game but that the entire day was worth watching our wide-eyed girls during the Christmas parade, bundled up in peacoats and scarves, as they waved at all the people going by. That was the iconic "Disney magical moment".

We aren't sure if we have it in us to do Disneyland again anytime soon. Let's just say after a Disney day with two toddlers in tow, we didn't buy a season pass. We were also led to wonder, given the sounds of children all around us all the time in various stages of meltdown, if "happiest place on earth" is perhaps a misnomer. Another sweet part of our Disney weekend was seeing the girls in MY dresses from my first visit to Disneyland. My mom had been saving them for years (we won't talk about how many years!) and amazingly they are in pristine condition. The girls looked beyond adorable in them.

Speaking of gifts, Eden also had a special gift for Mommy on the day of her actual 2nd birthday. We were having a pretty good day and I really hoped that we would go the whole day with no time outs (etc.) as that would have been nice for her birthday. I put her down for her nap, which was greeted by much crying and fussing, as naptime was apparently not on her birthday agenda. Eventually, she stopped screaming and things got quite for awhile. It was shortly thereafter that I heard her calling for me. I went into her room only to see two huge mushy turds that had been thrown onto the white furry floor rug by a ticked off Eden who had opted to take her birthday revenge on Mommy by removing her diaper and throwing the contents of her diaper on the floor. There was poop everywhere - on her hands, her shirt, the bedding! It was seriously the grossest thing ever. I guess she was giving me some #2 on for her big #2 birthday. Very fitting. In retrospect (now that my blood pressure is somewhere back in this stratosphere), it makes me glad that I had a dog to break me in before I had kids. Our last dog licked himself and ate poop and barf on occasion - you know, all the usual dog stuff - and then used that same tongue to lick my face. In that regard, dogs and kids have quite a bit in common.

On another note, I have mentioned hair on my blog before. A friend sent me this link about Chris Rock's new documentary called Good Hair. While my girls seem to already be blessed with what some would term "good hair", I look forward to seeing this film as it looks like it will address the significance of hair, particularly for women, in the black community. This topic is one that as a mother of two African-American daughters I know I will have to continue to keep up on, especially as they get older as appearance becomes even more important.

Finally, thanks to Zoe at Chasing Saints who was kind enough to give me another blog award. I don't really keep up with this kind of stuff (or things like Farmville or Mafia Wars on Facebook!) but I certainly do appreciate her kind acknowledgment and am going to attempt to participate. I
am supposed to tell you 7 random things about me and then highlight 7 other blogs I like. Here goes:

1. I grew up in Hawaii as a minority for most of my life in school. I found myself in a bit of withdrawl in high school when I moved back to the mainland. I was shocked to see so many white people. Perhaps that's what my girls feel like now!

2. My first job out of college was on the corporate side of things for Girl Scouts. No, I didn't sell cookies but I did have to wear a uniform sometimes. Totally embarrassing. Why I took this job still remains a bit of mystery to me.

3. I have a serious issue with what Davis calls a "farm fantasy". Maybe I've just heard one too many country songs but I dream of living on a big ranch with a farmhouse that has a wrap around porch with a rocker on it where I will sit after I get done riding my green John Deere around the farm in white dress and cowboy boots. I won't actually do any work on the farm, mind you. I'll have workers for that. I'm just going to drive my tracker around. Also, no animals will be harmed on my farm. Maybe it will be an animal refuge farm and I'll raise corn - or my farmhands will.

4. I've realized I am addicted to the ellipsis and use it far too often in my writing. I prefer to end emails that way as I feel like it bounces the ball back to the other person and implies that the conversation is still in process. I use them way to often...

5. I really love almond butter. There is a place near us where you can grind your own fresh almond butter. That stuff rocks. I also really love boots. They are my favorite footwear and I have way too many pairs of them. I recently added a dusty rose colored pair to my collection thanks to Gammy and Poppa's generosity. Like almond butter, sweet boots rock.

6. I am the ultimate Type A poster child. It's so bad that I often annoy myself. Case in point: I was totally stressed out because several neighbors got their Christmas lights up a week before we did. I felt like a total slacker and was freaking out. It made me feel better that Junia was also troubled by why our lights weren't up yet and chose to also bug her Daddy about this until they got put up. Thanks, Big Bear!

7. I love travel more than just about anything and have been blessed to see a fair bit of the world with my handsome husband by my side. One of our craziest travel adventures involved getting thrown overboard when our speedboat hit a log and flipped over on the Amazon River deep in the Brazilian jungle. We would have lost everything - including our passports - if some kind locals in dugout canoes hadn't come along to rescue us. There were bloody dead fish in the bottom of their canoes and they spoke no English. It was a very hairy experience, to say the least, especially given that the river is known to have both snakes and piranhas in the water.

Random enough for you? So now I guess I need to tell you about some other blogs that I like to read. There are so many great ones out there that it's hard to create a short list. One of my #1 favorites is actually Zoe's blog Chasing Saints but I guess I can't give the award back to her. I also love Coffee Mom's blog but she too already got this award. So, here are some more great blogs I enjoy that are worthy of the Kreativ Blog Award.

Baby Dorr - This couple is very artsy and is bringing home a sweet boy from Ethiopia soon.
Meet the Lambos - Meggan is also working to help find sponsors for kids in Swaziland as a HopeChest advocate like me. Her adorable son Biruk is welcome to marry either of my girls!
Living Freely - Brandi is an amazing "warrior girl" and has a son from Liberia named Davis. Now, that is cool. She also works for HopeChest.
Ethiopia - Here We Come - Rebecca has some great candid posts and pics about life with her son Eli. She was also kind enough to take care packages from us to our girls in Ethiopia before we brought them home.
Finding Rest - I went to college with the savvy girl who writes this blog. She is a great writer and mom who brought home her son from Ethiopia just a few months before we brought our girls home.
Our Walk By Faith - Farm Boy and Buttercup offer very funny insights on their blog. Their newest addition was one of Junia's best buddies in the Gladney Care Center in Ethiopia.
PJ's Are Clothes - I just discovered this blog through Brandi and I love Jude's candor. Check out her recent post about overcrappage and Christmas. Love it!

So, there it is. The long post I have been trying to get finished forever. Here's a final picture to round out this ridiculously long treatise.

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Photo Snack

If I were wearing a name tag right now, it would say "Hello, my name is Buried In Work". Given that, I probably won't hit my Thanksgiving retrospective blog post tonight either. So, here is one more to tide you over- another photo snack until the real post actually materializes - someday.

Little Bear watching her first Christmas parade - at Disneyland!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

More to Come Soon...

So I obviously still haven't found the time to finish my latest post about Thanksgiving. Here's part of the reason why...

More to come soon, I promise!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Happy Birthday, Little Bear!

We are coming off a long holiday weekend with much for which to be thankful. We are still digging ourselves out of suitcases to be put away, dirty laundry to be washed, an empty fridge to be filled, and stuff for work that has to get done (tonight!), but we couldn't let today pass without taking a blog moment to celebrate our little girl who is growing up so fast.

Happy Birthday, Eden! We are blessed to have you as our precious daugther and love you more than you will ever know. You are the child of our hearts.

More to come (hopefully tomorrow) on the Little Bear's special day and the Little Ladies' first Thanksgiving...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Lately, we have been inhabiting our favorite space called Camp Chaos. We seem to park it here a lot these days. When we are in perpetual fast forward because life is just that crazy, my blogging life disappears. We had all of the build up to Orphan Sunday, followed by a huge event at our home with 14 screaming kiddos climbing trees and having access to red paint (I'll let you envision that for yourself), and now we are moving into holiday mode. Add to that the fact that this is THE busiest time of the year for me at work and we have all been sick. However, in spite of all that is swirling about me, I could not resist sharing this latest Big Bear moment.

Last weekend, we were in the midst of getting ready for the big party at our house and Junia was being really fussy and would not finish her breakfast. She is in full-blown testing mode right now and often uses time (her ability to control when she will do something) as a vehicle to assert herself in our little power wars. Because she chose not to finish her breakfast, I picked up her plate and took it to the sink - to which my three year old daughter responded, "Hey! Me still eating that, girlfriend!" I should have put on my parent cap at that point and had a teaching moment about why we don't call Mommy "Girlfriend" but I couldn't stop laughing long enough to say much at all. It reminds me of the time that I, as a middle schooler in the Bart-Simpson-infused '80's, thought it would be a good idea to call my dad "Dude". I vividly remember him saying to me "I am your father. You will not address me as dude." I guess what goes around comes around, girlfriend.

Can you imagine what we are in for when Big Bear is in middle school? Look out...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Will You Help One of These Precious Kids?

The country of Swaziland has the highest rate of HIV/AIDS in the world. A child that lives to the age of 15 in Swaziland has a 1 in 10 chance of living to age 35. A statistic like that is nothing short of obscene. As you can probably imagine, thousands of Swazi children have been orphaned because of this disease. The pictures you see above depict just a handful of the many Swazi children who so desperately need our help.

Maybe you have a heart for orphans, but don’t feel called to adopt. Not everyone is called or equipped to do that. The great thing about sponsorship is that it allows anyone to get involved with supporting children in need. Children's HopeChest is an amazing organization that is currently working in Swaziland by using a sponsorship program to reach these incredibly vulnerable children with a message of hope.

Children’s HopeChest believes that every orphan has the right to know God, experience the blessing of family, and have the opportunity to develop independent living skills. Each of their programs attempts to restore wholeness to the brokenness that is orphanhood. They believe orphans have the greatest chances for success when they are surrounded by loving role models who remind them of their great worth and value in the eyes of God.

Through Children’s HopeChest, you have the opportunity to not only sponsor a child but also to develop a relationship with that child through letter writing. I now have profiles of 25 children (out of 150 that have recently been added the program) who are all in need of sponsors in Swaziland. The area where the children come from that I am trying to find sponsors for is so poor that children and adults spend much of their time in the garbage dump trying to find food. Many of the young children have also been sexually abused or have become sexually active in order to feed their families. This is particularly true of young girls.

For $34 a month (the cost of a couple of Frappucinos a week!), Children’s HopeChest is able to meet the basic needs of these children by creating a safe place where they can learn about God’s love through what is called a Carepoint. The Carepoint runs a preschool, as well as neighborhood school which helps to keep older kids off the streets. After school, anywhere from 180-250 children daily come to the Carepoint for Bible Club and a meal.

HopeChest is just one of many great organizations that are seeking to address the orphan crisis through the vehicle of sponsorship. It is an organization that I really believe in and that's why, in addition to sponsoring our child, Tanele, through HopeChest, I have decided to volunteer with them as an advocate. If you read this blog and are feeling God calling you to give of what you have to stand in the gap for orphans, sponsorship is a great way to do that. Please contact me via my email here on the blog and I would love to set you up as a sponsor for one of the precious children you see here in this post. They need you more than you will ever know.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Orphan Sunday - WOW!!!

Yesterday's Orphan Sunday event was nothing short of amazing. We were hopeful that maybe a handful of families (we would have been really excited about 2 or 3!) would come to learn more about adoption. We ended up having to put out extra chairs because we filled the entire room. We had over 80 people show up!!! And so my "Oh you of little faith" saga continues. I had a peace in my heart that we needed to do this thing and that God was going to bring exactly who He wanted to be there to the event. That is exactly what happened and, as usual, my expectations were exceeded beyond what I imagined. I talked to so many individuals and families who were excited about everything from going to Africa to do medical missions with orphaned children, to sponsoring kids in need, to opening their homes and their hearts to a child through adoption. I am thrilled about the group that came together on Sunday and our potential to harnass the resources and energy of passionate Christians throughout our region who care about the cause of the orphan. A friend of ours remarked, "You know, there really isn't one church in our area that owns this issue." I think that's as it should be. The problem is so big that this has to be group effort by believers across congregations making noise at their local churches so that God's people can take action to do something about this now.

It was a truly great day. We now pray about what our next step is in our community and in our family.

God is faithful. As always.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Happy Halloween and Still Cranking...

I am still working like mad to get everything in order for Orphan Sunday this Sunday. I get more excited every day as I hear of more people that are coming because they care about orphans. I even got a call from a woman who saw one of the posters I put in Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf! Here are just some of the materials I have ordered that arrived today. I've got boxes and boxes of packets from adoption agencies and tons of great general adoption information that I ordered from The Dave Thomas Foundation (all of which was shipped to me for free!). As bleary-eyed as I am right now, I had to find five minutes to share the Halloween pics of my little Ethiopian butterflies. The Little Ladies loved wearing their wings and caught on VERY quickly to the whole "knock on the door and get free candy" thing. Unfortunately, Eden was in a pretty awful mood most of the day so we didn't get even one smiling picture of her. When we asked her to smile, she would just give us an emphatic "NO!" (Can you guess who is going to turn two in a few weeks?!)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Orphan Sunday is Coming!

Once again, I have found myself on a brief blogging hiatus because my life is just that crazy. I have been cranking on our local Orphan Sunday event and that has been eating up any and all of my spare time. We are excited about being able to plug into the live national Orphan Sunday event as a part of what we are doing locally. We are also looking forward to being able to share our own adoption story with other prospective adoptive families. What I have realized is that to make things like this happen you really have to go through people you know that have the same heart you do. Thanks to some friends at other local churches we have managed to get the word out in our community and we are looking forward to what God is going to do on November 8th. (I'm hoping my posters in every Starbucks and Coffee Bean in town will help too!) I don't know who God is going to bring but it all it takes is one family for a child to find a home forever. At the information seminar we went to way back when, there were only two families in attendance (including us) and now we have two adopted kids! God works in amazing ways. This experience has also reminded me the importance of prayer AND action. If we have faith, our faith will be seen in how much we pray. Similarly, if we have faith, we will take action in response to that faith. So, right now, I'm praying and I'm acting (acting tends to be what I do best - it's my default). I'm praying for God to bring exactly who He wants there to hear the message of God's love for orphans.

More fall fun at a Fall Harvest Festival at a local farm!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Do Something About the Hot Mess

I am almost finished with Half the Sky. (I guess when I really want to read something, I somehow find the time to squeeze a few pages in each day). It is a powerful and engaging book that left me in tears as I read just some of the stories of the many ways the world's poorest women are oppressed and victimized. I have been marking numerous tidbits that I want to share here on the blog at some point. The book also offers many solutions for ways that all of us can serve as channels for hope and redemption for these women who so desperately need us. One of the main ideas promoted in the book is microfinance which involves providing small loans to women in order to help them start and grow small businesses in poverty-stricken regions of the world. Studies are showing that by giving a woman even just a small loan of $65, she is able to use her creativity and initiative to build a business that allows her to feed her family and educate her children. This has particular impact on girls who are often excluded from an education when finances are limited. That same woman can also then gain greater respect in her family as she becomes a contributor of income to the family (this can keep her from being beaten by her husband as might normally be the case). In my reading tonight, I learned of the coolest website for an organization called Kiva. This organization allows you to partner directly with individuals in poor countries who are seeking small loans. You can give a loan of $25 and your money is pooled with other small lenders to create the total amount a person is hoping to borrow (sometimes just a few hundred dollars). I love this! I love the concept and I love how it harnesses the power of the Internet to bring people together. Another new group that does something similar is HopeMongers. They are connected with Children's Hopechest and several other great organizations. There seem to be some problems with their website right now (it just went live recently) but here's an article about how this group plans to make Christ's love a physical reality. I'm looking forward to learning about and getting more involved with supporting microfinance. What a great way to make God's love tangible for the price of pedicure.

Speaking of HopeChest, we also just got the profile for the child we will be sponsoring. She is 10 years old and lives in Swaziland. Swaziland is a small country almost completely contained within the country of South Africa. It has a population of 1.2 million people. According to Children's Hopechest, Swaziland has the distinction of being the country with the highest rate of HIV/AIDS infection on the planet. 46% of the Swaziland population is infected with the virus. By age 3, kids born with HIV die. The infection rate in children ages 15 – 23 is 57%. Only 6% of 15 years olds will survive to age 30. Those statistics are startling and troubling to say the least. Isn't it great to know that for just $34 a month, we can help do our part to keep Little Miss T from becoming one of those statistics. She is the latest child to take a place in our hearts.

Finally, I have to say a quick word about a recent post from
at Chasing Saints. Evidently, there are quite a few folks are in a stir about Angelina Jolie's Ethiopian daughter Zahara. And what issue could be so important as to even garner attention from Newsweek? That's right - her hair. It appears that some members of the African- American community do not think Angelina is properly maintaining her daughter's hair. One writer went so far as to say Zahara's hair was a "hot mess" that she would be embarrassed by when she looked at pictures later in life. My thoughts on this are many. First, it makes me feel like I'm not crazy for sensing the need to make sure the my daughters meet appropriate standards for being "well kept" African-American children, particularly because I, as their mother, am not black. (You can read my ramblings on this issue here if you missed that post.) Second, I find the whole thing pretty ridiculous. What is worse? For a child to be loved and adored by a family who provides for her but may not happen to do that child's hair in a way a stranger finds acceptable or to be left motherless and fatherless as an AIDS orphan with no hope of a better future? Let's get real here, people. It's time to focus on what matters. I am all about being sensitive to the the ethnic and cultural differences that are now an inevitable part of my life in a transracial family (I have spent a bundle researching and trying all kinds of hair products...Redken does wonders). However, if you have enough time on your hands to write about someone else's kid's hair, you should book a ticket to Ethiopia...or Uganda...or Rwanda...or Burundi...or Swaziland...and get to work changing lives. There is a lot to be done because it's a hot mess in much of the world today. Enough said. I'm off to pick out my girls' hair.

A recent shot from a "hot mess" morning....

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Happy Fall!

Fall is finally here (at least fall as we Californians understand it). It's my favorite season for so many reasons. I love the crispness in the air. I love making soup (and eating it!). I love being able to finally pull out my sweaters and tights and boots. And now I can do that for all the girls in our house! It's really quite fun. Today we made a family visit to the local pumpkin patch. While there were not many times in my pre-kid days that made me wish I had kids with me, heading to the pumpkin patch with all of our friends and their kids year after year did make me wish at least for an hour or so that I had a kid in tow. Given that history, it was fun to go there this year - with my own kids. Later that day, I took Junia with me on a shopping trip (Eden was still asleep recovering from a friend's birthday party at Chucky Cheese - that place scares me). Junia is obsessed with matching right now and always wants to match Eden. We managed to find some sweet matching red rainboots for both of them at Nordstrom Rack on our little adventure. Junia is very astute about noticing things that match - especially colors. When we got home tonight, I took off my boots and Junia exclaimed, "Mommy! Mommy match Junia! Mommy brown like me!" I looked down and she pointed to her leg and mine. I looked down and realized that I had on brown tights and when I put my leg next to hers, it did indeed appear that we matched. I then took off my tights and asked her what color I was and she told me "Pink!". It made me want to wear my brown tights more often! At least we know that fashion dicates that pink and brown are always a great combination. They always match.

Speaking of adorable things that match, check out these dolls the girls received as a gift from a co-worker of mine.

These were made in Haiti and you can find other simlar products on a great website called The Hunger Site. When you go to the site, you can simply click to help donate free food to the hungry around the world at no charge to you. There is also a link to help orphans that is worth checking out. What a fun place to do some Christmas shopping!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Why You Should Vaccinate Your Kids (aka Something Truly Gross)

I have been on the fence about certain issues relevant to the whole "vaccine thing". I'd like to say I am educated enough on the issue to write an entire post about this but alas that kind of knowledge eludes me at present. Here is what I do know: Today I was given reason enough to vaccinate my children. Our girls absolutely LOVE frozen yogurt. Anytime. Anywhere. It is their absolute favorite. This afternoon they were rewarded with a special trip for some fro-yo. They were absolute angels sitting politely as they noshed on strawberry frozen yogurt without getting a drop on their bib-less fronts (Lazy Mommy left bibs in the car because they were trapped behind the behemoth stroller that takes up my entire trunk). We ended our visit with a quick trip to the bathroom to wash up. As I was holding Junia up to the sink so that she could wash her hands, I happened to look down (as the Big Bear was arm deep and mid-soap) in time to see my youngest daughter laying face down on the floor LICKING THE RESTROOM FLOOR con gusto. Apparently she had managed to smuggle the one gummy bear I allowed her on the top of her fro-yo out of the cup and into the bathroom to be savored later. She must have dropped it and just assumed that licking it up off the floor would be the best choice for reclamation. I dropped Big Bear in horror - suds and all - to intercept what was happening floorside. Sadly, I fear I was a lick or two too late. So this, my friends, is why I will vaccinate my children. Truly truly gross.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Just Bear-ly Getting By...

Sometimes you have days as a parent where you feel like you are just barely getting by, as if one more unexpected "you've got to be kidding me moment" will push you over the edge into an abyss of utter chaos. One of those moments for me happened today when Junia came to me holding a very smelly poopy diaper proudly in her outstretched hand. "Here, Mommy!" she beamed. I put the eyeballs back in my sockets and went hunting for her sister. Eden was laying bare-bottomed in the hallway covered in poo. I launched into a treatise on why changing Eden's diaper is "ONLY MOMMY'S JOB" only to have Junia look at me very matter-of-factly and say "Junia try to help Mommy." After I managed to diaper the Little Bear and wipe the poop of the baseboard (seriously...this is the first time in my life I have ever had "mess" on my moulding), I thought how cool it was that Junia wanted to help me. She sees me as her friend and wanted to help me because she cares. That is a special gift. It's special that we are friends. The other side of chaos-infused moments are days like today when you smile and think "Wow, I can't believe these are really my kids." It's funny because I think in some ways I still find it surprising that they are always going to be here. They kind of just appeared in my house one day (after a LONG plane flight home) and now they are my daughters. It's a bit surreal. I think about them as teenagers ALL the time because I really worry that they are going to hate us someday - for the obvious "My Parents Are SOOOO Lame" reasons and the other obvious one in our family - we are white and they are not and our choice to adopt them transracially may have made their lives a bit more challenging than the average teenager. What I realized today as I was blowing on Junia's toes to dry the touch-up I had done on her nail polish (she thought this was VERY VERY funny and laughed hysterically as I puffed away) is that this really is my daughter and she is here to stay. It's not that I didn't know that but I thought today about her being in her 20's and me being in my 50's and us being friends. That was a weird thought to me. I thought about how cool and fun she is and how I would enjoy hanging out with her someday. I hope someday she'll feel the same. I'd like us to be friends forever.

(And no, this is not her Halloween costume. You'll have to wait for the debut of that project later this month!)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Ranting, Reading, Rocking Out

This week I've been working on trying to get some local churches - including our own - on board for Orphan Sunday on November 8th. My initial overtures were not embraced with the enthusiasm for which I had hoped. I was basically told "That's nice but we have lots of other things going on right now and we don't have room in our schedules to include this too even though this is a good cause." I wrote a scathing post earlier in the week that I thankfully didn't publish. (To be fair, the Children's Director at our church did get involved later to try and push the issue forward). Here is some of the tamer content from the post I didn't publish:

I'm not even sure how to process this but I feel pretty crushed and defeated by what has happened thus far. There are a few other leads I can pursue but I am questioning right now if I even want to do that. I recognize that God needs people with all kinds of passions and gifts in the church in order to do the work that is close to His heart. It's challenging - and frustrating - to realize that not everyone shares the passion you live and breathe for. My passion is not solving the problem of homelessness. I think it's an important issue that needs to be addressed, but it's not my passion. It's hard to recognize that many feel that way about orphans. They see them as just another agenda item. In my mind, I have a hard time - particularly having seen how desperate the situation is in Africa - seeing how some of the "other things" going on in churches today are as important as addressing the global orphan crisis. I realize that there are many things that God holds dear and I am not going to presume to speak for God with regard to His hierarchy of importance on issues. However, part of me just wants to scream "This is THE issue of our day and we must not stand silent!" Our church has a deacon in charge of flowers on the altar. Somehow, I just don't see rescuing children as being on par with floral ministry. I don't want to seem arrogant or insensitive so I should probably self-censor a bit more here. I just can't help it. I am fired up! I came away from my interactions today sobered by the reminder of the reality that a lot of people really don't care that much about this issue. They watch CNN and hear about famine and poverty and say "Gee, that's a bummer" and then go about their other Christian business. And children go without families and even die in some parts of the world because we - both the churched and the unchurched - just couldn't be bothered. That's a tough pill to swallow. One thing that this has made me realize is that it may be imperative that we who do feel bothered by this issue do as much as we can because most people aren't doing much at all. I don't say that to be self-righteous (if you read this blog, you know I'm not handing out any parenting awards to myself) but I do say it as a sobering statement on the nature of things. If we who have had our hearts taken captive by this issue don't do something to help these kids, no one else is going to. That's the plain and simple truth. I told Davis tonight we may have to adopt a few more kids simply because we care and not everyone does. This makes our actions all the more necessary and brings a sense of urgency to the decisions I have been contemplating in my own head. Can I urge you that if you find yourself drawn to this issue of orphan relief to pray about doing ALL you can to help these children? For some that means bringing children into their homes as their own. If you don't have children yet, would you pray about beginning your family as we have done through adoption or about integrating adoption into your larger family plan? If you already have children and are possibly considering another child, would you prayerfully consider allowing an adopted child to bless your family rather than having another biological child? If you don't feel called to adopt personally, would you do all you can to help spread the word about these precious children and perhaps even consider supporting an orphan through a group like Children’s HopeChest?

One thing that has become abundantly clear to me throughout our entire adoption experience is that adoption is not the answer to saving kids' lives. Yes, you read that correctly. It is and it isn't. Adoption is a bandaid for much larger, incredibly complex global issues that are only beginning to now be addressed. In an ideal world, the adoptive mother like myself is not needed. I don't say that to be cruel but ideally a child's birthmother will want to and have the ability to raise that child. Unfortunately. in much of the world today this is not the case, often for socioeconomic reasons. As I try to better understand some of the many variables that have compounded to bring about so many orphaned children, I found a few things this week to be instructive. First, NPR (I loooove NPR) ran a story this week about the current state of the AIDS epidemic. There is both good and bad news here. The good news is that there have been strides made in reducing the spread of the disease. The bad news is that in a slumping global economy, impoverished populations in the Third World who often depend of First World generosity may find reduced access to the drugs needed to combat HIV. This is sobering when you consider how many children in sub-Saharan Africa, just like my own, have become orphans because of poverty and disease. Second, today I ordered a book that has been getting a lot of buzz lately called Half the Sky (my beloved NPR talked about this too!). Oprah actually has some great related content about this on her website right now (thanks to the friend who sent this along knowing I don't follow Oprah!). The author of the book suggests that by providing small loans ("microfinance") to women in impoverished countries, you have the potential to greatly impact entire communities for the better. I'm really excited about learning more about this. If I could partner with another woman by lending something as small as $60 and help her to build a business that will allow her to support her family and keep her kids, then I'm all for it. That might mean one less orphan that needs a family. I'll keep you posted on the book. I am showing that I am bit of dreamer by the openly admitting that I am going to attempt to finish a book. That prospect is almost comical right now but I am going to try.

Here are some fun Photo Friday pics. No, we don't just do laundry all the time (actually we do do laundry all the time these days!) but today the empty laundry baskets provided a great deal of amusement to two little girls who pushed them all around the house while rocking out to the Jackson 5 as Mommy tried to get caught up on some work.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Favorite Picture Ever

I somehow managed to snap this amazing candid picture today of our pretty ballerinas. This is my current "favorite picture ever".

Thursday, September 24, 2009

What I'm Excited About Now

Big Bear has now discovered that she can actually still get out of her bed after she has been put to bed for the night. Tonight, after I put her to bed I heard the door to her room eek out its telltale creaking sound. I went down the hall and found her standing there in the dark looking up at me with a half-startled sheepish grin on her face. We discussed how there would be unpleasant consequences if she got out of bed again (note: this is not the first time she has exercised this new-found freedom). I put her back in bed and headed off to take a shower only to hear the now infamous creak a second time. After doling out the promised "unpleasant consequences", I sat her on my lap and asked her why she was getting out of bed. She said she was "looking for Mommy." It occurred to me at that moment that all she wanted to do was be with me. I didn't get to spend as much time with her as I usually do because of various things that went on today and it appears she must have missed me. This should have been obvious but it took me pausing long enough to realize that she wasn't necessarily trying to defy me. She just wanted time. I still find it a bit incredulous that this little girl really has accepted me as her mom and loves me and wants to be with me. That's a pretty neat miracle. After I showered, we sat together on the floor of my bathroom and painted her toenails for the first time. It was an absolutely precious Mom moment (one that made me glad I didn't hold out any longer for the non-toxic nail polish I read about but can't seem to find...I'm sure she'll live). It made me appreciate how valuable one-on-one experiences are with children. Junia was ECSTATIC about her new nails. When we finished, she looked at me with the widest eyes and said "Show Daddy!"

Junia is just one of the many precious children out there who needed nothing more than a home and a family to love her. That's why I am so excited about Orphan Sunday. This annual national (and now international) event seeks to raise awareness about the orphan crisis. I have been praying about how I can do more to be involved with the Bigger Picture as it relates to orphan relief. I decided to write a short email to my pastor encouraging him to consider highlighting Orphan Sunday on November 8th. Here is what I said:

Dear Pastor Mark,
We wanted to let you know about Orphan Sunday which is coming up on November 8th. This is a major annual event organized and endorsed by a variety of national Christian ministries. We are wondering if you might consider highlighting Orphan Sunday at CPC. The Orphan Sunday website offers a variety of suggestions for how churches can get involved (see links below to general website and also to link for church involvement). We would be open to helping organize anything you deemed appropriate that might help to raise awareness at CPC on November 8th regarding God's heart for orphan ministry. This also seems like a natural fit at CPC given that there are lots of adoptive families at CPC.

Feel free to contact me and we can discuss this if you feel it might be appropriate for CPC. (We really do promise to do all the work so as not to add anything extra to your already full plates!). Thanks for considering this!

Sarah and Davis (aka Junia and Eden's Mommy and Daddy)

If you attend a local church and care about the plight of orphans, consider asking the leaders of your congregation to join the chorus on November 8th as we stand together for the orphan. Feel free to use my email as a template! This is something easy that you can do to make a difference in the lives of orphans. It begins with raising awareness. Once people know how great the need is that exists today, they are often moved to respond and that is how children find forever families.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Big Things and Little Things

In the effort to reclaim some of my very limited free time here in Mamaland, I finally took the plunge and went over to the Dark Side. This was a huge change but now I will have more time and more money on my hands. At this point, it's the time I covet the most. Give me a few hours and the last thing I want to do is sit under a dryer at the salon. So, bye bye Blondie. A peripheral benefit is that now perhaps people will think the girls and I look more alike!

In addition to big things for me, we've been keeping up on the little things here on the home front. When we are home, we keep busy doing the laundry...

...eating yogurt....

...and occasionally resting in our hammock. Life is better with a little more Brown.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Just for Fun - Chocolate Cherry Cake!

The Little Ladies LOVE to cook. Here are some fun "Photo Friday" pics from their latest culinary adventure - chocolate cherry cake. Yum. Yum.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Rest in Peace, Dear Friend

Sunday morning we got a phone call telling us that a dear friend had passed away. She was only 31 but had struggled with numerous complications from diabetes her entire life. She left behind a five year old daughter. We grieve with and for her family. In doing so, I have been reflecting again about my own daughters and the circumstances that brought them to adoption. Adoption is necessarily a bittersweet reality. It is the joyful creation of a family but it is joy that is often birthed in sorrow as a mother must make the choice to give up her child. No child should have to grow up without a mother. And yet, my dear friend is gone and her little girl is now motherless. She is not alone. At least she has an adoring father and grandparents and friends and an entire support structure to make sure that she will have what she needs to navigate a life filled only with the fragrance of her mother's memory. In that regard, in a seemingly tragic situation, she is blessed.

In Africa, millions of children are motherless and have none of the benefits that my friend's little girl has. They are dependent on the kindness, the compassion, and the engagement of total strangers who are often on the other side of the world. They are looking for those who will embrace them and stand in the gap for the mothers who will not get the chance to raise them. Who will raise these children if we don't? So, as I now think about how I can do my part to stand in my friend's place and honor her memory by mothering her precious child as the need presents itself, I am reminded that I am doing that every day with the two little girls who share my life and whose birth mothers looked to strangers like me to do what they would never be able to do.

Rest in peace, sweet friend.

Do Something Now from Children's HopeChest on Vimeo.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Baby Mine

This is going to be a quick potluck post. A bit disjointed but still tasty I hope. Thanks to Zoe for giving me my first blogging award. I can't say I'm entirely sure what the award is about but I appreciate the vote of confidence! Zoe recently posted some interesting stuff about transracial families. It's worth a read. Check her out! Also, I continue to appreciate how CoffeeMom is sharing her struggles with adapting to the adoption of an older child (something we are seriously considering). It's nice to know we are not the only ones who have had some dark days when we find parenting very challenging!

Thankfully though, most days are pretty great. CoffeeMom talks about making a point to "mark the good". She reminds us that we need to make a point to record those precious moments we share together in our families. Tonight, we were able to mark the good after a long day for all of us. Davis and I came back from a much-needed date night of non-toddler-punctuated adult conversation and picked up the Little Ladies from our neighbor's house (Sidebar: If you aren't in a babysitting co-op, they rock!!!). We got them ready for bed and I did what I do every night. I sang them "The Baby Song". The Baby Song is actually the song that Dumbo's mom sings to him in the movie ("Baby mine, don't you cry. Rest your head close to my heart, never to part, baby of mine"). The girls LOVE this song. They even sing it to their dolls now and to each other - what of it they have picked up and can say. Tonight, I was sitting on the edge of Junia's bed wedged in the little space that was left near her pillow where the bedrail doesn't cover. As I was singing to her in the dark room, she sat up so she could get closer to me. First, it was her head on my lap. Then it was her arms around me and her head up on my shoulder. She kept moving around because she had to have been uncomfortable in so many strange positions as she tried to negotiate around the bedrail. It was almost as if she couldn't get close enough to me. As I sang into the darkness and listened to the girls breathe, I thought to myself, this is a sweet moment, one to remember and mark as good.

I will also mark this sweet moment today at the park as Little Bear climbed up the ladder and went down the slide over and over again to be "caught" each time by her big sister at the bottom who waited with delight to be knocked over each and every time she came down the slide. They were a pile of little girl giggles and it was good. I will mark this moment too.

Lastly, have you seen this promotional video? It's been on a lot of the blogs. I'm excited for this documentary. What an inspirational family!

Promo for "We Have Room" Documentary from David Watson on Vimeo.