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.