Monday, March 22, 2010

Back from the Dead and Dedication Day

You have not heard anything from me in a week because I have been about as close to death as I think I've ever been. That is a bit of a clinical exaggeration but I certainly felt like I wanted to die this last week. I somehow ended up with some terrible flu virus that basically debilitated me - put me flat on my back - for several days. Compounded with that was the fact that being so sick from the flu triggered the onset of a relapse of mono (something I had the pleasure of enjoying in high school; mono evidently stays in your system forever...yuck). Needless to say, it's been some good times for Mommy around here lately. No blogging. No nothing. Just laying in bed, shivering while wearing a sweater and scarf and being under a huge blanket in the middle of the day. Doing the aforementioned with two toddlers around also worked out nicely - as you can probably imagine. In the last day or so, I appear to have rejoined the land of the living and have finally gotten around to posting about the girls' dedication last week. It was a very meaningful and memorable time.

In honor of the one year anniversary of the Little Ladies being a part of our family, we hosted a special dedication at our home. It was an intimate occasion with all of their best little friends and all of the many "aunties" and "uncles" who adore them. Our friend Dianna, who teaches our home group, began the dedication by sharing about the significance of the girls' names, explaining who Junia was in the early church and what the name "Eden" means in the Bible. My dad then shared a wonderful message about how God calls our girls His daughters and He prayed for them that God would allow them to know their worth in His sight and the power of His Word. It was truly a blessed day and one of our favorites thus far as parents. We followed the dedication with lunch and a fun time of fellowship with dear friends and family. We played with pinwheels and bubbles, ate cupcakes and enjoyed each other's company. It ended up happening that everyone left right around the same time except for the Ethiopians. At the end of all the festivities, there were five little Ethiopians still ready to party. Our friend Ant, who is from Ethiopia, remarked that Ethiopians know how to party. So we did just that. We followed the dedication party with another Ethiopian Afterparty, filling up the blow-up pools and dousing the slip-n-slide for an outrageous water adventure. Luckily it was in the 70's that day. Even so, we kept having to wrap the kids up in towels to warm them up before sending them back out to the water. Eden just kept saying - as her little shivering face peeped out of the towel burrito in which she was swaddled - "More pool. More pool." It was pretty hilarious. We proved that day that Ethiopians do know how to have a great party - especially if water is involved. What a joy for the girls to have two sets of "cousins" - all adopted from Ethiopia - to grow up with!

Other highlights from their special dedication weekend included having both sets of grandparents in town and being given some precious jewelry - ID bracelets with their names on them from Gammy and Poppa (they are SO tiny!) and beautiful handmade charm necklaces with their initials on one side and a tiny picture of our family on the other (an amazing surprise from sweet Auntie Alisa and Uncle Jim). This celebration weekend reminded me once again of how God lavishes His love on us. God could have just given these Little Ladies parents and that alone would have demonstrated that He sees and He cares. But God is generous, He is good and His love knows no bounds. In His generosity and providence, He also gave our girls with an entire community of people who will love, cherish and support them for a lifetime. He didn't have to do that but that is how He loves - extravagantly. I am humbled by that and reminded too that I will never love my girls more than He does.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Photo Friday

If I could collect memories and string them like pearls on a necklace, these would be two of my favorite baubles.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Unexpected Bit of Sunshine

As a part of Gotcha Week, we have both sets of grandparents in town for the girls' dedication this weekend. To be sure, there will be much shameless spoiling of two very excited Little Ladies. Yesterday, the girls and I also arrived home to find a very unexpected balloon bouquet on the front doorstep sent to us from Davis' boss to congratulate us on one year together as family. I love how God knows when you have a really - I mean really - hard day as a parent (like yesterday) and sends an unexpected bit of sunshine to brighten your day.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Celebrating Gotcha Day

Today we celebrated the birth of our family with ice cream sundaes and milkshakes on a warm sunny patio overlooking an airplane runway, a runway that reminded us of flying "over the moon and through the night" to find each other just a year ago. Thank you, Little Ladies, our Big Bear and Little Bear, for turning our world upside-down - or maybe rightside-up.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Our Gotcha Week

We are coming up on a big week for our little family. Yesterday marked the first day of being united with our girls in Ethiopia. We have been a forever family for one entire year. My sweet parents sent us this in honor of "Gotcha Day".

Given that we had such a ROUGH start in Ethiopia (feel free to dig through old posts if you want to read about us being covered in barf for an entire week), we have opted to celebrate the day we first set foot back in the US as our "Gotcha Day" this year. We were never so thrilled to find ourselves in the LAX airport as we were on March 15, 2009. On that day, our new life here at home began. In a few days, we'll be celebrating with the little ladies by having a special family date (Junia loves family "dates") to our small local airport that has a cheezy little restaurant where you can watch the planes land. We'll share some ice cream and talk about how we flew over the moon and through the night (if you don't have this great adoption story, get it!) to bring our precious daughters home.

Much more to come on this one year anniversary of so many things - bright eyes and smiles, lots of talking, fluffy pink carseats, mornings that begin WAY too early, lots of talking, wiggles and giggles, swirls of curls, did I mention lots of talking? and falling in love with two amazing little ladies. Our girls. Forever.

Speaking of amazing ladies, I just discovered, thanks to several blogger friends, this inspiring company, Raven and Lily. Check out what two motivated and talented women are doing to bring dignity and independence to the lives of empoverished women around the world through design.

Raven+Lily: EMPOWERING WOMEN THROUGH DESIGN from raven and lily on Vimeo

We are also thinking today about all of the families currently in process on Ethiopian adoptions who have now been told that new Ethiopian law will require them to travel to Ethiopia TWICE to finalize their adoptions. This will add thousands of dollars to many families' overall adoption expenses given the need for even more international airline tickets. No doubt recent unfavorable media coverage of Ethiopian adoption factored into this decision to change Ethiopian adoption law. It appears that there has also been a problem with adoptive families showing up to claim children they had already adopted in Ethiopian court only to end up leaving the chidren behind as they felt the children were not what they had agreed upon with the adoption agency. It blows my mind that people could/would actually do this and it is understandable that the Ethiopian government would want to keep this from happening by creating a way for families to have a "right of refusal" prior to finalizing the adoption. As I have been trying to encourage families I know who have been discouraged by this recent development, I am reminded of a verse that meant so much to us during our process, a process that was also characterized by many frustrating - and seemingly endless and senseless - delays:

"For the vision is yet for the appointed time; it hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay." Habakkuk 2:3

Adoption is ultimately an act of faith and it is God who can and WILL complete the good works He begins in the hearts of families who open their lives to His call to care for those in need.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Grieving With Nigeria - Again.

Our prayers are with those grieving the loss of so many innocents who were brutally slain in Nigeria on Tuesday. You can read more about the massacre in the Christian farming village here.

We need to pray fervently for the African continent that God would protect the African people and restore to them all that has been stolen, broken, brutalized and destroyed.

"The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed." Psalm 103:6

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Here We Go Again...Thanks, ABC!

So did you see this that aired a few days ago? Yet another "be wary of adoption" story offered to us courtesy of our wonderful media in the name of "journalism". While this particular story does highlight some of the serious issues raised by transracial adoption (I myself highlighted an obvious one - hair care - last week), it focuses the entire story on one particular maladjusted young man and his documentary on the tensions in transracial adoption. I hate to break it to you, but there are lots of biological kids out there who feel disconnected from their birth parents and that has nothing to do with issues of race or adoption. Similarly, there are lots of very happy, healthy, and well-adjusted adults who were adopted into families by parents of a different race. I know this because several are friends of mine. If news outlets are going to at least attempt to be objective and offer something newsworthy, let's hear their stories too.

Here's a story you might have been less likely to see in the mainstream US news media, but one that is hopeful, offering a positive view of transracial adoption and a sense of context that helps viewers understand WHY transracial adoption is needed in the first place (thank you, BBC). It's all well and good to say kids should be adopted by people who share their race and culture, but the last time I checked, there were not 4 million Ethiopians - or even 4 million African-Americans - lining up to adopt the 4 million or so Ethiopian orphans currently in need of support. I find it hard to see how living on the street, in danger, terribly malnourished, and lacking any basic medical care would be better than having a white mother. But that's just me.

Matching Apple Outfits - sparkly red tights added by Big Bear, boots courtesy of Little Bear. Well played, Ladies.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Injustice Slayers

If you read this blog, you know it's always an adventure around here these days. The other day, Junia started drawing faces out of the blue. I never showed her how to do this and apparently she's quite the artist for 3 1/2. Are these the two faces she sees from me most often? I hope not or else I must be shocked or dismayed most of the time! I can find consolation in the fact that she did tell me these were "happy faces".

Lately, I do find myself dismayed - dismayed at the state of this world. What else is new though, right? I recently found the time to finish a book (**minor miracle**). The book, Little Bee by Chris Cleave, is a powerful - albeit very sad - story that deals with issues of corruption in Nigeria. The book revolves around an orphaned girl named Little Bee who flees to the UK as an illegal refugee. When I finished the book, I had that frustrated feeling of insulation-meets-ignorance. I told Davis, "I had no idea this stuff was going on in Nigeria." Sadly, I know I'm not alone and that Nigeria is not alone in Africa as a nation dealing with horrific human rights abuses that affect the lives of good people each and every day. Just today, PRI's The World ran a story about a bus robbery in Nigeria that involved 100 bus passengers - simple traders on their way home from work trying to feed their families in a country where that is very difficult - being made to lie down on the street while the bus driver was forced at gun point to run over them all and kill them. Man's capacity for evil is beyond comprehension to me sometimes and stories like this truly make me wonder what is happening to this world - my world - the world my daughters' will inherit. More than ever, this world needs those who will stand for the marginalized and fight for those who are being abused by those in power whether it be the child forced to work 12 hour days making bricks in India, the 14 year old girl sold by her uncle into the sex trade in the Philippines or the orphan who is simply left on a street to die in any number of countries around the globe. I recently came across a great t-shirt that I want to order for the girls that says "Global Poverty Slayer" on the front. I love that. I think the creators need to make another one that says "Injustice Slayer". I find myself inspired by a quote I read on a coffee mug the other day: "Good Women: May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them." I hope that I can be a woman who fights passionately and tirelessly against injustice and teaches my girls to do the same - battling for their world and the continent of their birth. I hope they grow up angry at the senseless kinds of killings seen this week in Nigeria and I hope that anger moves them - and all of us - to action.

"The Lord looked and was displeased
that there was no justice.
He saw that there was no one,
He was appalled that there was no one to intervene."
Isaiah 59:15-16

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?"
And I said, "Here am I. Send me."
Isaiah 6:8

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

And So It Begins: Good Hair

Recently, we watched the new Chris Rock documentary Good Hair. In it, Rock offers an in-depth look at the black hair care industry here in the United States.

The documentary was birthed when one of Rock's own daughters asked him "Daddy, why don't I have good hair?" The whole concept of "good hair" and "bad hair" is one that, while apparently commonplace in the black community, is pretty far-removed from the lives of many outside of that community. While the idea of a "bad hair day" seems to be fairly universal and transcendent, the concept of hair that is by definition "good" or "bad" seems to be a significant part of the black experience, an experience that those of us outside of the black community do not share.

When we were in the process of adopting, we heard so much about hair as it related to transracial adoption. While I understood that it was an issue to be addressed like all others, I felt like maybe too big of a deal was being made over the topic of hair. After all, hair is hair - right? Wrong. I had one friend (who is black) remark when she saw the pictures of our girls, "Oh, they have good hair. You'll be fine." I actually heard that several times, even once from an Ethiopian woman who told me that we wouldn't have any problems taking care of them as they had "good hair". In many ways, these friends have been right. Their hair really has not been that big of a deal. Does that fact that I have to pick out and style not one, but two, little heads of curls add 20 extra minutes to our day every time I get them ready? Absolutely. We are pretty much late everywhere now, in large part because of those curls (and a million other things on any given day). But aside from the time styling requires, their hair is really not that big of deal to manage. I found through trial and error two great products (Just for Me Hair Milk and Redken Outshine) that I love and we just know that we will go through LOTS of hair product in our home. But my girls' hair looks great and I have never felt "overwhelmed" by their hair. I often tell people that it's really not unlike the curly hair of friends I know of other ethnicities. Their hair is just really curly - two little mops of tight ringlets. I think that their hair is one of their best features because it is so unique. I can't tell you how many times I have envisioned them as teenagers rocking their gorgeous manes. And then I saw Good Hair.

What this film reminded me of in a very obvious way is that my girls and I are different and the societal pressures for beauty that they will experience will be different from my own. As women, we will share the same experience of living in a culture that tells us we must be in a continual process of self-modification as we try to make ourselves "beautiful enough" by a societal standard imposed on us by advertisers and celebrity stylists (among others). But there are areas of divergence where I will not be able to relate to their experiences in our culure. Yes, many white women dye or highlight their hair (myself included) and do all kinds of other random things in the name of hair care (anyone heard about the $300 Brazilian Blowout we all just have to have right now?) but most of us in the white community don't put a product on our heads - sodium hydroxide - that can eat through a tin can in four hours and causes terrible skin burns on the scalp just so that we can try to morph our own hair into something that will be socially accepted as "good".

It is going to be hard raising girls. I have had concerns about this since the day we received our referral for two sweet little ladies. Our culture is fairly toxic to young women and girls but from what I saw in Good Hair, it may be even more toxic to black women. As I white woman, I feel no pressure to have the hair of a woman of another ethnicity sewn onto my own so that I fit a social model for attractiveness (did you know that a huge export from India is human that is used to create the weaves that give Beyonce and many other black stars their amazing locks?) Good Hair suggest that this is a norm in the black community and that women of all socio-economic backgrounds pay thousands of dollars on weaves that in essence give them hair that can be tossed around over one's shoulders a la Farrah Fawcett. This is troubling to me as it appears our culture is telling black women that their own hair - something that is indicative of their ethnic background and heritage - is not acceptable. I can now understand why having an afro in the 1970's could have been seen as a political statement about reclaiming one's "blackness". After viewing the film, it made me wish more women felt comfortable enough to do what Solange Knowles (Beyonce's sis) did by ditching the weave in lieu of her natural hair - which is gorgeous on her.

The other day, Junia was riding in the backseat as we headed off for some family adventure. She said - totally out of the blue - "Mommy, when I grow up, I want to have straight hair." My heart broke a little at that and I thought to myself, "And so it begins." I told her how beautiful her curly hair is and asked why she would want straight hair. She had no answer other than to reiterate emphatically that she wanted straight hair. She brought this up again a few days later saying once again how she wanted straight hair. I had kind of assumed that since my girls have "good hair" (or so I have been told) that they would celebrate their gorgeous curls in the same way I do. Perhaps not. Why does she want straight hair? It's not like she's watching Hannah Montana at 3 so as to get the idea that she should look like her. As far as I know, Barney and Elmo (well, maybe Elmo) don't get weaves. The hard thing here is that she probably wants it because that is what I have. Mommy will always have the kind of flowing mane that society calls beautiful in its very limited definition of beauty and she will not. And that, among many other things, will pose challenges for us in a transracial family. It will be easy for me to tell her not to want to use toxic chemicals to relax those precious ringlets, but I don't have to live with them in a culture where they serve as a reminder of how I am different. Good Hair is a very interesting and funny film but also one that offers a sobering reminder that transracial adoption should not be entered into lightly. I like the idea that "all you need is love" but life doesn't work that way. My job as mother will be hard enough as I try to convince my daughters to reject all of the media crap that says they aren't beautiful enough. Add to that the additional challenge of having to help them navigate many social messages about beauty that affirm my ethnic heritage while ignoring or rejecting theirs, and I have my work cut out for me. Lucky for them, I think they are truly the most beautiful little girls I have ever seen in my entire life. It's just a matter of helping them see that too. As Stormie Omartian writes in her book The Power of Praying Parent: "One of the difficult things chidren must deal with are the lies that can come into their minds masquerading as truth." She goes on to say that if a child knows that God loves her and accepts her, that can radically change her life experience as it relates to seeing herself as a person of worth and value. She reminds parents that we are often the channel by which God's love is experienced in the life of a child. I know that I will spend my life praying that God will teach me how to love my children - beautiful black children who do not look like me - in such a way that they will see how beautiful they are in His sight.

How can you not love this? A 3 1/2 year old wearing purple skinny jeans with ankle zips and doing so with such gusto. Rock on, Big Bear.