Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Food Stamps Greater than Lives of Two Babies??

"Shaking my head...reprehensible.... makes me sick..... heartless"   The video making it's rounds on Facebook makes me want to throw up.  How someone, much less a family member, can laugh as they say that they care more about whether or not their food stamp card and purse survived a fire, than the lives of 2 toddlers - it IS sickening.    How we would all love to be judge and jury in this case..

What is our society coming to that someone can value a purse or grocery money more than a child?

What is our society coming to when a mother can leave her babies at home alone so she can take some dude home who cut her yard?

But as my mouse hovered over 'Share' with angry comments boiling over ...the Holy Spirit spoke and said, "she's no different than you and most you know..."

What is our society coming to that someone can value grocery money over the life of a child???
**** How often do WE have expensive meat with our meals, or eat out, or drink Starbucks coffee - while 16,000 children die of hunger every DAY.   
**** Do you know how many wealthy Christians have turned me down with child sponsorships - $34 a month to help feed/educate/give Christ to a child?   Too expensive? 
**** How many of those same Christians who can't afford to help a child they don't know personally, take expensive vacations, or buy new cars, or have their kids in expensive sports or gymnastics (like we do)...
**** Do you know how many people I have watched buy T-shirts and $20 Cd's at concerts, but pass right by sponsorship tables without even a glance?   

What is our society coming to that someone can value their own pleasures vs. taking care of a child's health (i.e. - taking some dude home while their toddlers hang out at home alone to start a fatal fire)??
**** How often have we passed along funny videos, articles, status updates - but how often have we even taken a sec to read or pray for children all over the world begging for someone to help who are orphaned, sick, sold, prostituted...
**** Funny posts - around 55+  'likes'.
**** Post about 33 orphaned children who died from diarrhea in two days in the Congo - ONE like.
**** Post about the need for the church to rise up and take care of the orphan - NO likes.

I know it is hard to stomach.   It is easier not to even go there...

I know it is hard to hear another sad story about poor orphan children overseas.  Or sick kids.  Or child slavery.    It is easier to keep our eyes closed....

But you know what?  I bet it was hard for those neighbors to watch those kid's lifeless bodies brought out of that home after they waited too long to respond to their cries. 

And that is what most of us do as we choose our own pleasures over sounding the warning alarm that it is OUR job to band together to save these children, before it is too late for them. 

As one person, we may think we are too small for an impact.  But one person could have busted that door down and saved those crying little boys.   And only 1 person, with 15,999 others, could abolish all the children dying of hunger today around the world.   In 2010, almost 14,500 children were in our state's foster care system.   1,700 of those children were waiting for a family.

1 person deciding that they are that one person to break down society's norms for the sake of 1 child??

THAT would have me shaking my head, but in a good way.

Need ideas on ways to help???  Research yourself, or ask - I'm sure I could recommend about 50 safe and impactful ways to help!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

My Passion for Baked Oatmeal

I have died and gone to Heaven, this stuff is SO good - and besides the amounts of brown sugar, isn't too bad for you!   You can do a search for them under Weight Watchers baked oatmeal and they usually come up as 8 servings for 6 WW points.   Not QUITE as healthy if you eat 3 servings...

I actually have become an addict of Lynn's Kitchen's baked oatmeal variations.   We have made the Pumpkin Baked Oatmeal many, many times and seriously, still am in love.   The canned pumpkin just gives it this perfect sweetness that makes me smile.

Until I met her Coconut Oatmeal, and I debated breaking up with Pumpkin.  But hey, a girl can have two besties.

UNTIL..... I saw her recipe for Peach/Blueberry and decided to jump right in with our glorious bounty of fresh fruits and fashion a love after my own heart...   I am usually a cook from recipe girl but decided to go at it on my own with a few tweeks and man, was it good!

The ingredients:
(pardon the olive oil hanging out in back, should have moved that)
Blueberry/Peach Oatmeal

3 cups quick cooking oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup almond milk (or regular if you can tolerate it!  Liv and me, not so much)
1/2 cup yogurt (vanilla or plain would work)
2 T melted butter
2 eggs
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp coconut flavoring (I am a cocoNUT.   You could use vanilla)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 fresh peaches, cut in chunks (or 1 can drained, if not in season)
3/4 cup frozen or fresh blueberries
* more brown sugar to sprinkle on top; around 1/4 cup

**Melt the butter and mix in all ingredients and spread in greased 9X13 pan.   I don't grease my pan because I am in love with Pampered Chef products and their perfect baking results.
** Top oatmeal with the extra brown sugar and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

It is the bomb, I tell you.  My 9X13 pan is already 3/4 empty and it has only been myself and two hungry Littles digging into it.   Olivia usually has about 3 bowls full of my baked oatmeal when I make it!    I usually have one bowl.   And maybe one (or two) later.... it really warms up great, even the next day.    Just ask my sitter who likes to 'make sure Olivia's tastes ok' when I send it with her lunch the next day, if it lasts that long!!!


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Just a sip of water...

Her little face has haunted me.   Maybe 8 years old?  Maybe 12?   Her image has now been replaced with the image of so many of the little girls I have now seen.   Dressed in clothing hand washed too many times.   Mended as best as possible.   Hair matted.   Combed as best as possible in anticipation of our visit.

But her face haunts me.   As it was one of the most shameful moments in my life that haunts me.   
Her hollow eyes looked to my sports cup sitting at my feet, and back to my eyes, begging.  Pointing at my water, then signing the universal sign “drink?”  “water?”   Back to the cup, and back to my eyes, begging.   

And then I did what I have done so many times before – I turned my head and ignored.    And I will forever feel the shame from that moment.

In my defense, it was only a few hours off the plane from our comfortable country that I had stepped foot on this dirty soil.    I had never traveled before but had been told – ‘drink as much water as possible or you will get sick.  And you don’t want to get sick.’    This was our first visit, our first project, my first real encounter with the third world.    If I handed her my only cup, full of clean water, would I get any more today?   Would she give my cup back?  What if she had a disease?   What if she gave me that disease?   All those thoughts went through my head in the span of those precious minutes when I choose myself over a thirsty little one.

“And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.”  Matthew 10:42.

CHRIST’S words.   And I lost my reward that day.    I chose self over sacrifice.   

How often does that experience play over and over today?   In all of our lives?   No – you may not be faced face to face with a third world child begging for a sip of your water…

But are we choosing our own comfort (bigger house, newer car, nice vacation) over a child begging you for only a sip of what you could offer?

Are we choosing to protect our bodies from harm by not reaching out to the little one asking for help?   What about the orphans with diseases asking to be adopted?   Are we scared of the harm they may do to our families?  Are we scared of what the world might say if we bring a child of another color into our family?   Are we scared of the emotional problems a foster child might bring upon our family if we were to reach out?

Are we choosing to protect ourselves, as we don’t know when we will get resources again – from this here and now loss of what we see as valuable?   Do we not give to the child in need because what if we commit to sponsor, but then loose our job?  Or need that money for other things later?
Do we choose not to help because of the distrust?   What if I don’t get back something from that which I have given?   What if others are just trying to take what is mine?

So you see – you have your moments where you deny those searching eyes as well.   We all do.   I still do.   But I know that God gave me that experience so that the next time those eyes come looking to me for aid – I hope I will not turn my eyes downward and ignore.   Lesson learned.

Everything I have has been given to me by my Father in Heaven.    All they are asking for is just a sip of that bounty I have been given.    So who am I to refuse to share?  Don’t we tell our kids they have to share?  Doesn’t God tell us the same?    

Are you obeying?  Or ignoring?   What is God asking you to share that you instead are grasping tightly to?  

Recent research has statistically shown the dramatic effect Compassion International and their sponsorship program has made on the lives of these children as they have grown up. 
Christianity Today news on Compassion

Right now some little ones have been waiting close to a year for that little bit of help you can offer - can you at least research these children and see if God is calling you to give them a sip from the huge pitcher he has given you??
Compassion International

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Meetcha Day Revisited

We've been a bit busy with wrestling and ball schedules, SOOO back to the story - I figure if I write one blog post every few months, I will have our 10 day trip journaled in what - a few years or so?? )

After landing in Addis Ababa, early Monday morning, we went back to the guest house to unpack and rest a bit before going to lunch and then to meet Olivia, for the FIRST time ever.  

Why not go straight there you say?   Because this mama was not in charge of the schedule, obviously...

This would also be the time to mention how hilarious it must have looked to have the 6 of us, and all 18 of our bags, loaded up on trolleys to tie to the roof of our van.    Even funnier, our guide was no longer allowed to come and meet us inside the airport so we were standing around - all 6 of us, and our 18 bags, in a foreign country - really looking like fools.  Kind of like Eddie Murphy on 'Coming to America'.   How much luggage do these Americans need???  Seriously?   (A reminder that 85% of that luggage was donations for the orphanages but the Ethiopians didn't know that!  And we were able to call our guide and found out that he was outside in the parking lot waiting for us.)

Once at our gorgeous guest house, a few of our crew fell asleep, a few showered or changed after our 2 days traveling.    After 2 days, I felt like stank with a capital S.  

After a quick (1.5 hr) meal at Island Breeze, (my least favorite of the restaurants we visited), we finally boarded back up to go and meet Livvie.   And FYI, liking tuna and liking pizza - together does not a harmony make.    We then started our habit of boxing up our left-overs to give to the street kids.  I think they got a whole Tuna Pizza minus one bite.   I'll just chalk my menu choice up to exhaustion.

After loading up we made our way to the big blue AWAA sign outside the gates of the America World transition home.   It is the pentacle moment of your Meetcha Day as it announces that you.have.arrived.

From there you wait at the bottom of the steps while they go to get your child ready.    In our case, our friend Mindy snuck in to try to find her while we waited outside.   She was able to snap some now-dear-to-my-heart photos of the nannies preparing our little one like a bride on her wedding day.  Minus the white dress and plus some mismatched clothing.   You can see the little cow outfit beside them that I had sent 3 months prior.    A size 3 mos outfit for my (then unknown) 9 mos baby girl.   The nanny must have taken one look at that outfit and then said, "yeah, that ain't gonna happen."

As we waited, our hearts going a million miles an hour, Mindy comes running out the door saying, "here she comes!" and there she is.   In the flesh, scared to death.

And thus Livvie fulfills her Daddy's prophecy of months earlier saying, "you know we will get the screaming baby, right??"   We later did find out that a screaming baby is actually a GOOD sign.   As it means the baby is able to attach to her caretakers (the nannies) so will have an easier time transferring that attachment to her new caretakers (us).  

Many have asked me if I cried when I saw her.  No.   She was my baby.  And she was scared, and upset, and I just had to comfort her and let her know it would be alright.   Crying wasn't on my schedule for that day.  (now the day we left, that is another story). 

Within a couple of minutes, she had stopped screaming and was only giving us little sniffles.   She would stick her little bottom lip out when she was feeling anxious and it was a good thermometer to know to back (the kids) off of her.
We emptied out her baby bag - trying puffs, rattles, squeaky toys.   She would look at each one but really had no interest in playing with anything at all.

I was able to get a few quick little half smiles.   Progress for only an hour in.   And she easily fell asleep on Daddy after he fed her some kind of gruel they brought her.    Their food usually looked like some kind of porridge, or smashed pasta bits with carrots, tomatoes, and onions.   And usually didn't smell so hot...   SO tired (him, not her).

The necklace I am wearing, I wore everyday.   She would hold onto the beads as she drifted off to sleep and smell the perfume I had brought to wear everyday.   I brought both back in May for her Gotcha Day, hoping she would remember them somehow and remember how much I had loved her, and how even though only 10 days later, I had left her (just like everyone else had), that I had come back. 

Hopefully my next post will be quicker than 6 months.   As her transformation over the next several days was amazing...  from orphan to daughter almost over-night.   Adoption is amazing, and painful, and tiring.   But so, so beautiful. 

Original meetcha day post posted on March 5th, 2012.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Jobs 2 Do - my 4,584th attempt at a chore chart

FINALLY!  Something that is somewhat working for chores!   We have tried charts, allowances, regular weekly chores, and nothing really worked.   Consistency.   Consistency is something I struggle with in making them follow through.  

So I turned to the Meca of Mommy ideas - Pinterest.    And hit gold.   (so far anyway)

Kirsten at Embellish designed the sticks and her sight features a free downloadable 'chore sticks' file and directions for making the sticks.    It is alot of pages with alot of chores.    I choose to print only the pages that I thought we would use and instead printed several pages of blank sticks for custom chores.

So with sticks, jar, and chore chart made - here's what is working for us:
  • We try to have our 'draw chore' day on Sunday so that they have all week to work on them.  Chores have to be done by Saturday night to get paid.
  • With three kids working at them, we have 40 main chores.   38 that are split into two piles (19 for every other week) and 2 extra that are in the jar every week (Freebee & Trade Chore sticks).
  • The kids like the freebee and trade sticks.  Unless they are the kids that doesn't get the freebee or trade chore stick.
  • So it works out with us to have 21 sticks each week, or 7 each.  I begin by having them each draw specific colors so the main jobs (like bathroom and kitchen) are split equally between them.  They place them in their pocket on the left and when it is done, move it over to the right, also where they store their 'chore bucks'.
  • Chore bucks are in 5s and 1s - I just printed them off the internet as well.   The kids get $5 a week IF they have done all of their 7 chores well.   If they miss one or two chores, they are docked accordingly.  
  • The reason I chose chore bucks vs. real money is that they tend to burn through real ones alot quicker.    Usually on dumb stuff like gum or chips.   With the chore bucks, they tend to save more.   The way we work it is with my debit card.   When we shop, they just know how many $$ they have and I just pay with my debit when they find something they want.   Eventually, we will move to them having real money so they learn the fun of taxes eating up more than the pricetag, but for now, this is working.  The bucks can also be traded for real ones if they need money for something at school or to give their tithe.
  • The spare sticks - they hang out in the can all week and can be used at mom's discretion.   They are a little harder chores, like cleaning out the fridge, refolding all the clothes in your drawers, dusting all the dustboards.   "You were talking really mean to your sister - go pull a chore stick".   
  • I also have chores that may be room specific that I can just add to their pockets when they need to be done - vacuum your room, put your clothes away, dust your room.   Things that aren't every other week chores, but need to be done asap. 
  • If by Saturday, one of the kids hasn't completed one of the chores, I'll ask one of the other kids if they want to do the job and give them the $1 or $2 from kid #1.   "Congratulations, you just paid your brother to vacuum the TV room".  
So far, so good.   The kids think it is fun to draw the sticks and are happy to finally have a real allowance again.  Mom's just happy that I don't have to clean toilets for the time being.  

Saturday, January 12, 2013

To Addis Ababa we went...

 So remember me saying that we had $2,000 + $5,000 = $7,000 for the kids plane tickets they had been praying so long for??     Half of what we needed.   Which would really have been sweet with a BOGO deal?

Ethiopian Air - if you booked by January 31st, and traveled in March of 2012 - you could get BOGO.    Slim to none chance as we had just gotten our referral on January 9th and court dates are usually assigned two months later.  

We got our call with our court date on January 31st at 1:30 pm.
Our court date was March 8th, 2012. 
Miraculously, our 6 plane tickets costed a little less than $7,000.  

And to sing the praises of my wise friend Farrah - we had been contemplating getting the kids shots 'just in case' (even though we didn't have their airfare) months prior and Farrah had said, "Get the shots.  Move like God has already put that money in the bank, have faith".  So we did.   Thankful that the Lord choose to show off a bit with minutes to spare, just so that we could laugh about his sense of humor and how it could only have been a loving God to provide such an awesome surprise.   

100's of dollars of shots in preparation, about 6 old and huge suitcases purchased from GoodWill, clothing sprayed down with the highest powered bug spray I could find online, and a TON of donations for the orphanages that I had been collecting for about, oh, 3 years.  

So it was great the kids got to go - otherwise there is no way we could have taken all those donations - toys, diapers, clothing, medicine, you name it.  I wish I had charted how many hours I packed, weighed, repacked, weighed again, repeat.   50 lbs is easy to hit with heavy baby items!   We each got one carry-on and 2 suitcases.    (Our friend Mindy had also volunteered to go to help with the kids).  This is just a portion of our finished pile.

The kids actually have commented how they loved flying and miss the airplane food.  (I think it was the drugs I was giving them... had to be).     Breakfast consisted of a bread, more bread, and a fruit cup.   (can't help but think of the K & W Cafeteria ladies - "bread, bread, serve you bread??")  

We landed in Addis Ababa and collected our mountains and mountains of luggage.   It was frankly, hilarious.   To see these clumsy Americans trying to roll along carts of 12 large suitcases and 3 carry-ons, all with backpacks on their backs.   We looked like the Queen going on holiday.   I wanted to tell everyone staring, "really, this isn't all for us.  I promise!  We aren't this high maintenance!!"

Riding through the steets of Addis Ababa, it felt like I had come home.   Having been there in 2009, not much had changed on the ride from the airport.   The same maneqquins that hang out in front of EVERY store.  

The same charcoal / car exhaust smells in the air.    The sights of donkeys, goats, and sheep being led by children down the busy streets.

The city is such a mish mash of old vs. new.   Villas and tin shacks side by side.   Internet cafes but yet a jungle of power lines criss-crossing every which way.
 Half finished buildings are everywhere.  It's like they start a big project and run out of money before completion...
 Raw meat hanging for sale in store front windows.   Our guide said that it can stay there for a day and still 'be alright to eat'.   I'll take his word for it....

And those on the streets -  Kids on the streets just laying around, or flocking our van signing 'eat, eat, mama - eat??'.   Teens on the streets busy shining shoes or holding their boxes in hopes of a customer.  
Mothers with babies begging for coins.  
 Traffic is crazy busy with an unspoken rule of drive fast, pass quickly, and somehow miss the millions of walking pedestrians.   There is a lot of beeping going on as well.   Beeping your horn can mean a host of things - and somehow the drivers understand their meanings like a mother understands her baby's cry.   There are no stoplights, or stop signs.  Just speed and quick turns down the hundreds of little bumpy streets.   Paved and unpaved.  We were amazed we didn't see a hundred accidents with the way we sped down the streets and pushed the nose of the car into traffic until we gained right of way.   It is a finely tuned instrument I suppose.  One I hope to never have to play on my own...

  Disabled dodge in and out of this crazy traffic begging...

 And it wasn't unusual at all to see someone sleeping (or using the bathroom) in the middle of a median.   Thankfully, I think the kids missed the latter of the two... 

We kept seeing tiny boxes we assumed are living quarters.  
 And tiny patchwork tin shacks we know held entire families.   And wondered how they withstood the rainy season when sheets of rain flood the city...
 Gorgeous homes that seemed so out of place dotted the city as well.  Most had high walls with broke glass across the top as security systems.  And most were next door to the tiny tin shacks like above.

And over my 2 trips - what became my favorite landmarks -
The familiar Coca-Cola store

The 'Tupperware' store.

Again, I thank God my kids were able to see a world where everyone doesn't own a car, kids walk to school in torn and ratty uniforms, children lay around on the streets as their parents can't afford for them to go to school at all.    Because although my photos are interesting, there is no way I can describe or help you to picture such a land without seeing it.   As I once told someone, we see these photos and they are but snapshots of a land far away.   A photo in a frame.    But to realize that the reality is, they are not singular shots, but a moving narrative that continues on, and on, and on.   The pictures of poverty never ended.  Those in Ethiopia cannot just 'leave the bad part of town' and resettle, as this is their everyday life.   And yet, it has a rare beauty in it's simplicity.

We later left the city for the countryside for a whole other view.   The beauty of this land is amazing and the contrasts in city/country and new/old stood out even more with each mile our bumpy van raced down the mountain, away from the capital, Addis Ababa, and into the true country of Ethiopia.

But that is a story for later..... 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Unwritten Story

This week has been a week of memories.    Remembering how depressed I was this time last year as we sat at #1 on the waiting list for 2 months, and had just missed another Christmas without our baby.   Remembering how many walks I went on on Friday afternoons, praying for that blasted phone to ring.  

And then Sunday, our pastor mentions taking that first step.  Walking in faith.   When God says move, making that move so that you don't miss the story he has for you.   And I wanted to jump up and run to the front to say "that was us!!  that's our story!!!  It was hard, it was long, but it was worth it to take that step!"  

And then another friend asked our story and I wanted to point her here - until I realized that in all the hard, long days of last year - I really didn't write our story.    Sure, I wrote the prelude but our actual story was lost in the excitement of 2 trips to Africa and bringing a new baby home.  

So here is my attempt to journal the story I forgot to write.  And if I have 2 readers still left after my months of no blogging - here ya go.

During the months and months of us waiting, the kids had been begging to go with us to Africa.   Knowing that tickets are around $1,400-2,000 a piece, I told them what any mom would tell a kid asking for $2000 X 3.  PRAY.

Pray for God to give you the money to go.  Because we sure don't have it.  So they prayed.  Like every night.   They even set up little lemonade stands asking for donations.   (I pity anyone on our block who received a dirty little cup of cheap Minute Maid Lemonade - but thank you for being sweet and helping my kids fly to Africa).    I told them, "if God wants you to go, he'll provide the money.   IF he doesn't, then we'll know that HE knew that if you were to go, you might get sick, or really sad, or hurt.   And we'll know he wanted to keep you safe at home."  

A couple months before our referral, we got the most unexpected gift from precious friends who donated $2000 specifically for our kids plane tickets.   They were saving for their own adoption but felt the Holy Spirit telling them to donate toward our kids as it was 'investing in their spiritual growth'.   Who knows what our kids will accomplish with this knowledge of missions so early??  

And $2000 was wonderful, and unexpected, and so, so generous.  But a far cry from the $6000 we needed just for them.   $14,000 for all of us to go. 

And then we found out Tony's job had an adoption stipend for adopting state employees.   For $5000.   So, work with me here - $2,000 + $5,000 = $7,000.    Half way there.  

Half way.   Which would be perfect if tickets were half off.  Which they were, IF you booked by January 1st and traveled in March.    What were the odds??  We didn't even have a referral yet.    (hold that thought)

Tomorrow is our one year anniversary of our referral day.   And looking back, in my frenzied state, I didn't set up the scene well enough for you.    

I get the call, miss the call, call her back and we can't get Tony on the line.  
I race to the courthouse where he was working.   Race up the front steps and run through security.   Seeing another deputy I tell her I need to find Tony because I have big news.  She lights up and asks, "THE news???"   I nod and try not to cry.   We run from room to room in the courthouse looking for him - no dice.   She says he must have walked a judge out so we head downstairs and out a back door.

Now I'll set this movie scene up for you - one year ago - I open the door as my husband is walking up a long handicapped ramp.   I run and jump in his arms and whisper in his ear, choking back tears, "we got our girl".    It was so Hollywood it is crazy. 

Until he had to go on a top secret job interview to change police departments.   15 minutes later.   So no going home just yet for Daddy.

Have I reminded you yet that it's about an hour since I got the call and I still haven't seen my baby's picture or know her name yet??

I race to Seth's school where I ask to sign him out.   I go to the front and wait a stinky for.ever when he comes walking down the hall.   He sees me and mouths 'a referral????"    He runs and jumps to hug me.  

We both go to the elementary school and I ask to sign Braeden and Addison out.   Addi arrives through the door first and I hug her and say "we got your baby!"  To which she says "Where????"

Braeden comes through the doors with HUGE eyes.    He takes one look at me and says, "Did we get a referral??"  When I nod yes - he jumps to hug me and for some reason (I later see on the video), I lift up my arms and he completely hugs thin air.  Whoops, middle child.   I completely stiffed you of your hug and I will forever hate that when I smile at your face when you found out.   

We go home, set up the video camera and about 30 minutes later Daddy FINALLY arrives home.  New job in hand, and we all sit together on the couch and open the emails with her photos.   These photos:  

She looked so sad.   And SO big.   A week before, a friend of mine had told us she saw them taking pictures of a 3 months old with long, curly hair.   I had just sent a 3 month outfit in a care package to Ethiopia with a friend.    This was NOT that tiny 3 month old I had pictured in my mind.  

But then I printed her photos out.  And took the middle one to my room that night to place on my dresser.  I placed it right beside a painting an adoption friend had sent to me ONE week before to try to cheer me up. 

And once again I knew that God had this all under control. 

And this my friends, is just the beginning of the rest of the story.... be continued......