Sunday, January 31, 2010

What Were They Thinking?!

I'm annoyed today. Really annoyed. Several of my poor girlfriends have already been subjected to my impassioned rant about the recent situation in Haiti that left 10 Baptists charged with child trafficking for attempting to put 33 Haitian children (some of whom were not even orphans) on a bus and take them to the Dominican Republic without the paperwork or the authority to remove the children from the country. Now, thanks to some big-hearted people who failed to do the most basic of homework on Haitian law, the Haitian government will be looking at foreign adoption with an even more severe lens. And perhaps, rightly so. I honestly have no idea what these people were thinking. The fact that they thought they could just fly into another sovereign nation, find some kids in need and exit the country with them is mind-boggling to me (can you imagine if someone did this in the United States?!). If you haven't read the full story yet, you can read it on ABC News. CBS also covered the story:

Watch CBS News Videos Online

It seems like just about everybody is covering the story (there is even a story on a leading Islamic news website) and the images being broadcast around the globe are not good ones. They are images of what appear to be rich, arrogant, white people "stealing" darker skinned children - images that reek of centuries of imperialism around the world. What this group did was inexcusable in my opinion, regardless of their intentions. International adoption is complicated, even when natural disasters are not involved, and a certain sensitivity and even delicacy is required. What this group did, whether they meant to or not, was send a message that said, "We think we are better than you, so we will disregard your laws, because we think we know what is best for your children." As I have written before, international adoption is not the first or even the best solution in many of the crisis situations across the globe. Taking children from their culture to be raised in another country by people who do not look like them and do not share their history - even if they really, really, really love them (as we do our precious daughters) - is less than ideal. International adoption is a means by which God is able to bring redemption to broken situations, but it is not an ideal scenario. It is a scenario that grows out of many things in many larger systems being broken. Ideally, birth parents and biological families should be able to and want to raise their own children. It breaks my heart to read stories like this coming out of Haiti right now where parents are trying to decide which child they are going to give away for foreign adoption because the situation is so bad there now that they think entrusting their children to total strangers may be their only hope. Rather than take these children from their parents, we should first do everything in our power to get them tents and water and food and medicine NOW, and then work on rebuilding their city, and then focus on rehabilitating their country and then - and only then - should we talk about whether or not foreign adoption is a necessary last alternative. I, like many adoptive parents I know, am getting lots of questions right now about Haitian adoption. It almost feels like saying you are thinking about adopting from Haiti is THE cool thing to do. One adoptive mom I know told me she was asked, "How do I go and get one of those (referring to a Haitian orphan)?". That is a big-hearted question but it is the wrong question right now and it demonstrates a true lack of understanding of the multiplicity of variables involved in foreign adoption. International adoption is messy for many reasons, as you learn very quickly once you take on a project of this nature. I'm all for adoption becoming more popular provided that those who are now turning to adoption for humanitarian or faith-based reasons are well-informed, rather than just driven by the emotions of watching a lot of CNN. If we are going to go out into a hurting world bearing the name "Christian", let us be cautious. When we go into other countries in sensitive situations like this one and do so openly in Jesus' name, we have the obligation to make sure that we are acting in ways that are respectful of the cultures in which we are attempting to minister and be "helpful". This means making sure that we are informed and acting above reproach. In this case, this group demonstrated minimal effort to gather basic information about Haitian law and their actions are now going to effect others who have been working within the law to help get these kids into safe situations in legal and ethical ways that prevent children from being exploited. What this group did was misguided, particularly in a country where the potential for child trafficking is very real.

Follow-Up: Since last night's post, this has been filed by the AP. Note that the individuals charged lacked "any significant experience with Haiti, international charity work or international adoption regulations." Let me reiterate: What were they thinking?!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Photos for Friday: It's So Difficult...

...having such a painfully introverted child. How ever will we draw her out of her shell?!

Yes, it may be difficult having a child with chronic "faucet nose" but as my Southern friend says "she is so cute, you just want to sop her up with a biscuit".

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Pacer

It has been a very busy few days around here. This past weekend I ran my first half-marathon thanks to my best friend from high school who got pregnant unexpectedly and needed someone to fill her spot. Given that I have two toddlers, I had done no additional training for this outside of my normal workout regimen. I am happy to say that I actually did really well, finishing quite a bit faster than I had expected. The fact that I can be ridiculously competitive with total strangers (this is a by-product of my "Type A-ness") actually served me well in a race environment. Once the gun went off, I found a woman in the wave ahead of me who had really great legs and a serious looking running watch. I told myself that she was not going to cross the finish line without me and for 10 miles I didn't let her out of my sight. I stayed close behind, even stopping to drink only when she did. Come mile 10, I realized that I was only 3 miles from the finish line. At that point, 3 miles felt like nothing. I knew that I could run those last three miles no matter how much that right hip and left knee hurt so I bid my running mate (who probably thought I was a creepy stalker by then) adieu and let her eat my dust, running as fast as I could to the finish line. (:

The whole experience got me thinking about adoption. There are a lot of parallels with doing something gruelling like competitive racing and adopting (which as a process can also be nothing short of gruelling). I finished the race because I found a pacer. I found someone who was a little further ahead of me, running just a little bit faster than I might normally run. I found someone who had a little more confidence than I did, because she probably had a bit more experience than I did - and I followed her. And having her to follow made all the difference. This is why those of us who have adopted need to share our stories. The process can be so daunting (much like mile 10) but when you can keep your eyes on someone ahead of you who knows the course, you can muster up enough hope and faith to take the steps needed to cross the finish line. We had pacers in Shelley and Dan. This couple dared to open up their home to a precious Ugandan orphan, having minimal resources and a house full of kids already. We watched them and in some ways followed them along the course, especially in the early stages. We have now crossed the finish line and are hopefully helping others as pacers. We as members of the larger adoptive community need each other in this way. We need to share our stories so others can finish the journey too and God can create forever families. Ultimately, we are also all following Christ's lead as the master pacer who encourages us to do "all things" (even marathons and adoptions) through Him who gives us the strength we don't think we have to endure.

I'm really glad I did the race as I had always wanted to do some competitive running but just never got around to it even though I've been running forever. I wanted to do a race this year and my birthday is this week. I guess that's one thing I can check off on my list this year (along with "Leave carefree yuppie life behind and become a mom to two toddlers from another country"). As I reflect back on the year, it's hard not to be acutely aware of how much my life has changed. Allow me to provide just one story by way of illustration. When we left for the race, we were of course running late and I was questioning why I was even bothering to do this given how much hassle things that used to be easy (hop in the car, go somewhere and run) are now. We were not 20 minutes out of town when Big Bear - and I am not exaggerating here, I thought she hit me in the head with something - projectile vomited all over the back of my seat and me. It's also worth pointing out here that the very same laptop on which I now type was put in the seat pocket on the back of my seat for "safe keeping". We had to pull the car over at a random Target off the freeway, strip Junia down, wipe the barf off of her, her clothes, her carseat, my seat, the floor, the laptop, and did I mention my hair? Thankfully, Davis managed to find some wipes at Target that took out most of the smell so we were able to endure the rest of the drive to our destination. Let's just say that cough syrup, cottage cheese and car sickness probably don't mix. The crazy part of it all was that by the time we got to my parents' house where we were staying the night before the race and got the kids bathed and fed, I was so dog tired that I honestly had the following thoughts in my head: "My hair doesn't really smell THAT bad, does it? (*actually sniff hair here to test odor*) I mean, there wasn't THAT much barf in it and it's not really even hard anymore. Do I really need to wash it now or can I wait until after the race?" So this is now my life, one where there are actually varying degrees of "barf grossness", and life is good.

Next year when I run this, I want to run for Heart for Africa. It was so cool to see runners wearing Heart for Africa shirts during the race and to see a big tent hosted by the organization to raise funds for Swaziland at the post-race festivities. I guess that means there will be a "next year". I only wish I knew for certain if there was another adoption race in our future. Thankfully, God knows and hems us in both in front and in back, placing His hand upon us as we seek to follow His will. I know that when the time is right to step out again, we will both know it as we did in our race to Junia and Eden. Hey, at least on round two, we'll have had almost a year's worth of training. That's got to count for something, right?

Thanks to Gammy who yet again gets the award for fun fashion finds for the little ladies. Loving these race day hats.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Why I May Resign

The brave JuneBug survived her big dental procedure today. Luckily, she ended up not needing a root canal. Our wonderful dentist was able to dig out all the decay and fill the tooth without having to go as deep as the root. I will say, though, that if I have to be the one to take this sweet child to one more event that ends up causing her pain and leaves her screaming and crying (shots, absesses that need to be lanced, skin infections that have to be cut out), I may just resign. If being a mom means you protect your child from suffering to the best of your ability, it's hard not to feel derelict in your duty on days like these. This is one of the less-than-fun side effects of a having a child whose earliest moments in life were characterized by malnutrition, illness and want. Once again I marvel at the courageous and bright spirit of my little girl who has learned from life how to be a fighter - even at 3 1/2.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Orphans on the News Agenda

There appears to be one "good" thing that has come out of the Haitian crisis and that is that orphans seem to somehow have made it onto the agenda of major new agencies around the globe. I wish that it didn't take a tragedy like this to get people thinking about orphans because Haiti and Ethiopia and India and Uganda and (fill in the blank) had orphans long before January 2010. They just weren't as newsworthy then, apart from a global catastrophe, even though many of them, like Haitian orphans now, lacked food and shelter and safety. I heard more about orphans today on CNN that I have heard in the last year as the network covered the many ways that Haiti's numerous orphaned children are being united with forever families, many of them American. Thankfully the US government has taken action at some of the highest levels to expedite the process of bringing Haitian orphans to the US where they can be provided with adequate medical care and support in a safe environment through the provisions of humanitarian parole. How can you not want to applaud Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell for calling on every resource at his disposal to get in there and rescue orphaned children? I know I cried when I watched this.

However, there is another important point to be made that may be being missed by some of the emotional image-driven media coverage of late about the Haitian orphan crisis. I appreciated hearing this interview with Tom DiFilipo, head of the Joint Council on International Children’s Services, on PRI's The World today. The JCICS plays an integral role in helping to ensure that international adoptions are ethical and legitimate. In the interview, DiFilipo reminds listeners that the children coming to the US now are children whose families have been in the maddening paperchase for 3-4 YEARS. It's not as if you can just show up with a big heart and take a child home to safety (as much as many of us would love to do that). He points out that airlifting children to another country (as is currently being proposed by Sen. Bill Nelson in what is being called "Operation Pierre") is not always the best or most appropriate course of action, even if the motivation behind the action is noble and compassionate. If children are true orphans, then finding them a forever family is certainly the goal. However, it must first be determined that the children in question are indeed orphans. And there lies the problem in Haiti now. With such a radical lack of infrastructure given current conditions (infrastructure was sadly lacking before the earthquake), determining whether or not a child's relatives are dead, in a hospital or merely just displaced by impassable roads becomes incredibly difficult. So what are the alternatives? Leave children sleeping out in the dirt, unprotected, with lack of adequate food or water until someone shows up or ship them off to another country hoping that you aren't taking them from their culture and their lives without just cause? It's a tough situation and one I find very discouraging. My heart breaks for these children and I would take a Haitian child tomorrow if I was asked to. But, I also know that as an adoptive parent, that last thing I would ever want to do would be to take a child from a birth family that loved that child and wanted to care for him/her. It's an incredibly difficult situation and one that, more than anything, needs to be bathed in prayer.

I continue to pray about what I can do to help. Here's one fun thing I came upon today. If you like Petunia Picklebottom Diaper Bags, you may be interested to know that the company is connected with the Hands and Feet Project, an orphanage near the epicenter of the quake. They are currently running a Shop for A Cause sale right now to raise funds for Haitian orphans. Buy something chic and help those in dire need. It's just one way among so many to help right now. Here's one more great program - also a HopeChest initiative - providing funding to Haiti. As many of us that can need to do all that we can.

Monday, January 18, 2010

My New "Favorite Book Ever"

This is the best book ever. An absolute must-read. It's written by the President and CEO of International Justice Mission, Gary Haugen. If I could start my professional life over, I'd become a lawyer and work for these guys. They do amazing work. I just ordered a copy of their At the End of Slavery materials (for only $15!). I'm planning on hosting some casual house party get-togethers to screen the IJM film At The End of Slavery. A movie over dessert with friends is the least I can do to raise awareness in our community about the plight of so many who suffer worldwide. There are so many more things I want to say about this book - and about God's heart for justice - but I am on Day 4 of "single mom-ing" with Super Dad stranded out of town thanks to bad weather on a backpacking trip. More to come later. Read this book.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Photo Friday

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Shirts for Shoes

Today is a sad day. I can hardly watch CNN without crying at the coverage of the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti. Surely this disaster will create even more orphans in a country that has already had numerous issues with adequate orphan care.
It is a sad, sad day.

Tomorrow offers the promise of hope in a great opportunity to reach out to orphans - in this case Ethiopian orphans. Tom Davis and Children's HopeChest will launch a great fundraising project tomorrow, just in time for Valentine's Day. It's called Shirts for Shoes. For the purchase of a $25 shirt, an Ethiopian orphan will receive a shirt and a pair of shoes. You can read more about this great new program at My Crazy Adoption. I know what I want for Valentine's Day.

Also, here are two new videos from Tom Davis that highlight the urgent need for orphan care. The first is a collection of photography from Tom Davis, Hannah Leman and Simon Scionka. The second is a powerful illustration of why orphan care needs to be on the top of all of our agendas as Christians.

Simply Love Like Crazy from Kari Gibson on Vimeo.

Rabia Sayid Story from Children's HopeChest on Vimeo.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Pray for 103

Tomorrow we will be praying for the children of Swaziland and we hope you will join us. As you know if you read this blog, we are volunteering with Children's HopeChest to try and find sponsors for 25 children in the Mangwaneni Manzini Carepoint in Swaziland. According to the latest Hopechest information we have received, 172 children at our Carepoint have been profiled. 58 of them are officially sponsored and 11 have unofficially committed sponsors. That leaves 103 of the currently profiled children still waiting for a sponsor.

Sandra Carmichael, who works as a liason for the Carepoint, effectively explains why sponsors are so important: "A sponsor is a life-line for the children beyond basic needs. Many of these children are orphaned and those that aren't could be at any day due the ravages of HIV/AIDS on the country of Swaziland. A sponsor is a source of encouragement and provides a valuable role-model to a child that helps them grow into the kind of person God intends for them to be. Half of the country is under the age of 15, so the need for God-honoring role-models is great."

Would you pray with us tomorrow that God would bless these precious Swazi children and help us as their advocates to find more sponsors for them here in the US? We are finding that locating sponsors has been harder than we anticipated and we would appreciate your prayer support. If you, or anyone you know, might be interested in changing the life of a child for just $34 a month, please don't hesitate to contact us via our email here on the blog.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Miry Clay

We have someone very dear to us who is really suffering right now. This person is "walking through the valley of the shadow" that David described so well in Psalm 23. We are honored that this individual has chosen to confide in us and seek counsel from us during this time of need. As we talked tonight, I shared that as I have gotten older, I really have more questions than answers where issues of faith are concerned. I have been a Christian my entire life and yet the more I see of the world and the pain and suffering in it, the more I have been forced to accept the reality that we will not know the answers to some of the really difficult questions on this side of heaven. The bottom line is that life can be really hard sometimes, even for really "good" people. The one thing that I have grown to believe even more strongly as a Christ follower is that God hears the cries of the broken. I believe that God's ears attend to those who cry out in pain, desperation, loneliness, brokenness, emptiness and grief. Adoption taught me this. I have seen firsthand how God took my children from the "miry clay" and led them to "still waters" where they could grow and bloom. God did this because they - and their families - were in need and He heard their cries for help. He saw them and He heard them. For some reason, that resonates deeply with me and provides me with an anchor for faith amidst the myriad of questions that often swirl in my head, particularly when faced with the suffering in the world today. God sees. God hears. God cares. And because of that, no matter now dark the valley, we are never alone.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Something Annoying

The girls new birth certificates finally arrived today and the woman listed as their mother is not me thanks to a clerical error. It took almost six months to get these so who knows how long it will take to get replacements. I'm totally bummed out about this. I'm was also frustrated to read this story today about clothing companies cutting up unsold clothes before throwing them in the trash so no one else could use them. Shame on you, Walmart and H&M. I know of a whole lot of precious kids who would have loved your castaway shoes and coats.

In our family, we think castaways and hand-me-downs, like this sweet vest, are pretty swell. Too bad major corporations seem to be missing the party on this one.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Meklam Gena! Merry Christmas!

Today is Christmas in Ethiopia. BBC News has a wonderful narrated slide show with pictures from the Christmas celebration in Lalibela. I am so glad we travelled some in Ethiopia prior to picking up the girls. I feel like we have such a better sense of Ethiopian culture and of Ethiopia as a nation. We took this picture right in the same area the BBC report is focused on. (Who is that blonde with my husband?!)

We've been getting a variety of questions about our adoption experience lately. Here are a couple of quick thoughts on our experience as it relates to things we would do again:

1. We were very pleased with Gladney - even though the process itself with any agency is incredibly tedious and frustrating at times. We would use Gladney again. Our caseworker Jessica was a saint for putting up with so many of my annoying phone calls and emails. They are also doing some wonderful humanitarian work in Ethiopia for the many children that remain without forever families to adopt them.

2. We would absolutely adopt multiple children - in our case two - at the same time again. We believe our transition to parenthood has been easier because each of our girls came to us with an instant best friend. Yes, it has been a challenge at times but if you think you can handle two, you should take two. The need is great and keeping families together is a wonderful thing. We also feel even more strongly having now spent time as a transracial family in a suburban area that bringing two children into our family that look alike (even though they don't look like us) and have a shared history different from our own will make for a much better adjustment for them later on in life. We understand now why one agency working in Uganda actually only adopts children out in pairs because of what they have seen with regard to healthy adjustment in adolescence. It's hard sometimes to not have my children look like me. It will probably be even harder to not look like your Mommy or your Daddy. Once again, if you have the ability to take more than one child, you should.

3. We would strongly recommend taking just a few days before your placement to see the country from which your children came. It is very doable pre-placement and is a life changing experience that helps you understand WHY your children came to be orphans in the first place.

4. We would choose adoption again. If you have room in your family for a child/another child, you should ask yourself "Why not an adopted child?". Ultimately, for us, we could not make any case for why NOT to adopt. Have you ever seen that bumper sticker "Don't breed or buy while homeless animals die"? I have to resist the temptation to get soap box-y here but it does seem reasonable to me to apply that same logic and compassion to human beings, at least on some level. What if every family that was open to another child (or a child at all) opted to include adoption as a part of their family plan? That would change the world. Literally. The children are out there and they need you. They need all of us - desperately. Giving the gifts of hope, future and family is one of the greatest things you can do in life.

Merry Christmas! Meklam gena!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Dancing Queens

I haven't uploaded much video here on the blog but this one was just way too funny not to share. The girls love having dance parties. They love anything with rhythm. One of their absolute favorite albums is Putamayo's African Playground. We often begin our days to the opening song "Batu". The other night I was playing some John Legend during dinner and the girls decided to get their groove on at the table. I hope this isn't how we dance but they say kids provide you with a mirror of yourself. Scary.

Disclaimer: Our girls have had dripping noses for a ridiculous amount of time. Please ignore any boogers you may notice in this video. We really do wipe their noses. We promise. Also, we fully acknowledge that Eden is rocking a "hot mess" in this music video. Give her a break. She's two and it's late.

We hope the dancing queens brighten your day as they do ours.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Two Worlds

One of the many things I have been reflecting on this Christmas season is how much we have been given. I think about this a lot and this powerful sense of feeling the need to respond tangibly to the abundant blessings in our own lives was really what spurred us to adopt in the first place (and inspired the name of this blog). The fact that we have a roof over our heads, the support of friends and family, food in our stomachs and the freedom to worship makes all of us in the US incredibly wealthy in comparison with millions across the globe. The thing that I find so difficult, irritating and terrifying about my own life now is that I straddle two worlds. One the one hand, I desperately want to focus on what really matters in life both now and in the bigger eternal picture. I want to be that person who is able to transcend the inanity of our culture and use the resources I have been so graciously given to do my part to somehow address the gross inequity that exists in our world today. I want to be the one who cares about what is close to God's heart - and we know that God cares about the poor, the needy, the lonely, the desperate. I guess that's my "good side", the part of me that has this "gnawing" in my heart about adopting another child even knowing what a headache the process was the first time around. That's the part of me that thinks all the time "But what about those that remain?" Now, on the other side, part of me seriously thinks about how I will need to get Botox in a few years because of the wrinkles on my forehead (I do live in California so you have to cut me some slack on this...) and how I really need to figure out a way to get rid of cellulite. (Ironic that we try to rid ourselves of weight in the US using every new fad diet under the sun while other parts of the globe lack the food tor survive). The other half of me is wrapped up in the trappings and pressures of my culture and is prone to waste time on things that are frankly - pointless, albeit sometimes amusing. I recently read a book called It's Not Okay With Me by Janine Maxwell. In it, she shares her story of leaving a successful marketing firm to head the group Heart for Africa. She was utterly compelled to recklessly abandon the life she had in lieu of something that she determined mattered more. However, even she writes in her epilogue about the fear of slipping back into one's own comfortable life upon a return from Africa. She writes: "No one who has gone to Africa ever wants to forget. We all get on a plane to come home and we make do something for the beautiful people who welcomed us into their lives without hesitation or expectation. But we all get caught up in the distraction of "real lives". We so want to help the people we hold in our hearts, but their faces fade as they are replaced with the faces of people in our offices. The sight of their mud huts disappears as we frantically try to wash the dishes after a great dinner party or finish off the renovation on our own home. We thought the smiles on the little children could never be forgotten, but they too start to gray as we pick up our kids from piano lessons and drop them off at soccer. Before we know it, we too are saying it's okay that they are hungry and thirsty and have no clothes or parents or education or safe home. And before you know it, it will all fade to black." Now, Janine Maxwell is not an adoptive parent of an African child and her view may be a bit extreme. As an adoptive parent, having your own children come into your lives birthed out of the pain of an entire continent in jeopardy means that you have a very tangible reminder of the work that remains to be done. But even so, your own children very quickly become very "American". (Case in point: Junia recently put on a new shirt I got her and looked at me and said "This is a-dorable!" and ran to look at it in the mirror.)

Our girls are thriving and the temptation now is to pour all of our resources into these two children - the two that are now our own - having done our part to save the world. But, that just isn't enough for me and I'm still not sure what to do about it. As a bit of a visual example of the worlds I inhabit, above is a picture of me with my beautiful grandmother and my sister-in-law. My grandma has been a style icon her entire life and even now at 90, she looks amazing. On her own this year, she perused the Nordstrom catalog and found an amazing sexy pair of way-too-high high heels that she thought I just had to have for Christmas. They really are "a-dorable" and they will always remind me of her. I will add them to the shelves of shoes in my closet and wear them out on a special occasion. I don't need them but I have the luxury of owning them in the life I lead. And yet, below is other world I have foot in. I keep asking God to show me what he wants me to do about this world because these circumstances just aren't ok with me.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy Nu Nu!

We celebrated our first New Year's Day together as a family by keeping with a tradition Davis and I started a few years ago of going on a new hike each New Year's Day. We were joined by friends who have a little boy that is one of the girls' best little buddies. Eden greeted passersby on the trail with a big "Happy Nu Nu!", her two year old way of saying "Happy New Year". With three kids age three and under and one enthusiastic dog in tow, our little herd went quite a bit slower than last year when we traveled light as a mere twosome. It was another new day in our new life as parents - one that reminded us again in this new year that life is sweeter with little friends along for the journey. Perhaps this is because they force you to go slow enough to take in the view.