Thursday, June 30, 2011

A little fatherly advice

My dad just emailed me and gave me a few suggestions of things that my grandfather did with my sister and I when he found himself on baby sitting duty:

1.  Play hide and seek with him in living room and count to 100 - several times (he used to watch and think "they will fall asleep in their hiding places before he moved - then what, how will we ever find them"). 

2.  Have them work on a jig saw puzzle (but remove 10% of the pieces - every 30 minutes or so drop one near the table).  

3.  Scavenger hunt (again removing several items until they are an hour into it then selectively place one or two items back into play).

  I know all this is sneaky, but I prefer to call it clever or creative stress management allocation.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Kuiper Belt Cake

We are using Apologia for Astronomy this year.  It's been a great curriculum to do with my oldest two.  We started this course while we were in the States for two reasons.  First, we lived in Houston and could go to NASA and let the kids learn about space exploration first hand.  Second, we could actually see stars.  Normally, there is a lovely gray afghan draped comfortably across our sky. 

We are almost finished with the book and are rounding out the planets with the "Is Pluto a planet?" debate.  We studied the different theories scientists have about the Kuiper Belt.  This thing was only truly discovered in 1992.  I was in high school folks.  Just shows you that while science is good and helpful, let's just remember who gave all of these things their existence. 

The funny thing about homeschooling is that I often don't know the answers to their questions.  I'm not even sure I ever formally studied Astronomy.  So when they ask me questions like "What kind of gases make up Neptune's atmosphere?",  I use this as an opportunity to let them use their research skills.  And then we learn together.  I have loved this journey of learning Astronomy with them.  

We made a cake with the orbits of several planets outlined in purple frosting.  The M&M's are planets, the wafer is the sun, the wobbly elliptical orbit is Pluto's (this is part reason some scientists don't consider it a planet.), the sprinkles and broken M&M's on the outside are the Kuiper Belt.  It's made up of lots of really cold rocks and satellites (the natural kind, not the NBC kind).  

Some of Pluto's orbit includes the Kuiper Belt.  So, we added the last bit of sprinkles and we finished with this:  

Why does my 9 year old look 16 in this picture.   I'm going to have to burn this one.  

We had a blast.  Then we cut it up and gave a bunch to neighbors.  

Happy Kuiper Belt Day!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The day we almost got mauled by a wolf 5 little sheep and I almost got mauled by a wolf.  Why, you might ask, does a wolf live in a city of 6 million people?  I will tell you very straight faced, never ask why.  That is a dangerous question when living overseas.  Just keep it to yourself.

So, the double stroller is weighed down with all things inflatable.  We look like a walking trade show.  One child is crammed in the front seat with his head lodged under a floatie.  An old lady across the street is yelling at me.  She is vigilantly telling me that there is NO way all those children are mine.  When I tell her, a good 8 times, she decides I am lying and scoots across the street to further interrogate my children.  As we are having this friendly little discussion, my peripherals notice a stirring in the bushes.  The very large dog like creature had been resting under the shade of a tree when his curiosity got the best of him and he decided to come our way.  As he stumbled up to where we were, I noticed that this indeed was not a nice domesticated animal, but a mangy, rabbis infested wolf.  His eyes had crusty white circles around them and his mouth was dripping with foam.  Its fur was dark brown and was twisted in knots covering the patches of scars and disease.

Normally, when I see a stray dog, I make a game plan on how best to drop kick it to the next county.  Had I tried to drop kick this thing, it would have taken off my leg.  At this point, the old lady who was grilling me about my family was now screaming and running around like a bee had flown up her shorts.  She wailed in fear for a security guard while another man called the police.  The wolf has now sauntered over to my area.  I grabbed all of my kids and threw them behind the bushes.  I told them to face the wall and don't talk.  Selah was crying, Makaria's face was jammed into the concrete and Kesed was not within arms reach.  I used the stroller to barricade us in and frantically grabbed Kesed to my side.  Earlier, I had been upset with myself for forgetting to bring snacks.  Snacks are always an important pool outing element because it gives me a reason for a fake safety break so that I can get warm.  Mr. Wolf is now sniffing in our stroller looking for food.  Thank you Jesus I'm so disorganized!  There was no food to be found.

After circling in our area for a few minutes, he galloped over to the old lady.  She had dropped her bag of groceries and he was now tearing into it.  Now old lady is not just scared, she is ticked.  If there's one thing you need to know about Chinese grandmothers is that buying groceries is no laughing matter.  They take it VERY seriously and now big wolf man is eating her fish, meat and plastic bags.  She is now crying, stomping her legs and yelling at the wolf to stop eating her dumplings.

As he began in on her bag, I saw an opportunity to get my kids out of there.  I whispered to them "GO, GO, GO."  There was a fence about 50 feet away and I knew that if we could reach that then we would be safe. Albeit for a much less valiant cause, I did feel a bit like Harriet Tubman smuggling slaves in the cloak of night. I was pushing the stroller in one hand and had a child dangling in my other hand and running towards the fence.  Once we finally reached the safety zone, we felt relief as if we'd just crossed the border into a freed man's territory.

The kids and I were all visibly shaking.  By that point, about 10 security guards had come and were trying to solve the little wolf issue.  But not even policemen carry guns here, so I'm not sure what they were going to do with this thing.  All I know is that we are all safe.

*as a side note, this internet picture of a wolf doesn't even come close to the size of that huge thing we encountered this morning.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Week 2: Operation Sanity

We have crossed the finish line of week 2 of hubs being gone. In the last lap of this week's race, it felt like a band of hooligans jumped out from behind a low lying bush and ambushed me with a two by four.  But as I reflected back on this week, there are a few things I am sure of:

1.  Adrenaline is God's greatest creation.  Ever.  He created it to keep all mothers out of jail.

2.  I am tired of hearing the phrase "Mommy, I need..."  While this phrase was cute and innocent and left a sense of joy and purpose in my mind when my first child began to speak, this phrase now feels like the moaning of a dying cat as his abdomen is being run over by a semi.   It makes my shoulders tense up and a look come across my face like I'm trying to saw off my arm.  With a spoon.

 Here's a little math fact for you:

If each of my children say "Mommy, I need..." 7 times in one hour, 5 x 7=35 times an hour I hear that lovely phrase.  14 hours later (14 x 35=490 times in one day).  Currently there is only one set of ears to hear that call and I will say that at about the 314th time, I want to run, hide under my bed, and suck my thumb.

3.  I wish I was one of those parents who just let their kids watch movies and play video games all day.  They could eat Coco Puffs and drink Mountain Dew and just inhale movies all day long.  I realize that this formula adds up to the makings of either a unibomber or someone who eats Cheetos off their sweatshirt at age 40, while living on my living room couch, but man it would sure make today easier.

4.  I just ate a mango.  Ya know what, mangoes are one of the most amazing fruits ever to grow on a tree.  But they are also incredibly messy.  Beautiful, sweet, satisfying and alarmingly messy.  If I had more than one brain cell working at a time, I would write about what an accurate analogy this is to life.

As I go into the weekend, I have a very simple goal:  Not blow it.

Keepin' it simple folks, keepin' it simple.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

My inheritance

A.W. Tozer wrote, "The man who has God for his treasure has all things in one.  Many ordinary treasures may be denied him, or if he is allowed to have them, the enjoyment of them will be so tempered that they will never be necessary to his happiness.  Or if he must see them go, one after one, he will scarcely feel a sense of loss, for having the Source of all things he has in One all satisfaction, all pleasure, all delight."

The Lord has been gracious to me this week and given me unspeakable joy in Him.  As I was talking with a friend last night in my kitchen, I was reminded of this gift from the Lord.  It truly is a gift because as I'm rounding out week 2 of hubs being gone, I am also finishing up a week that brought me:

loss of electricity
broken internet
a wanky air conditioner
a broken stove
and a househelper that is out sick (I will say that I could NOT do life here with 5 kids without her help)

But in all these things, I am reminded that I've been given an inheritance from the Lord that should outweigh all the inconveniences in my day.  That, and that alone, is the only truth that will sustain my joy today.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Coffee Issues?

I will affectionately title this picture
"Chinese student, PhD candidate, father of 5"

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Adoption "Ideal"

Sometimes I get really frustrated at people asking the "Is this ideal?" question in adoption.  I've had people run fearfully away from adopting because having an transracial family isn't "ideal."  As the world sees it, our identity is merely formed by the bits and pieces of our environment.  Where we live, who are our neighbors, what type of house do we live in, the color of our skin.  All of these things come together to fashion who we are.  What the world fails to see is that Christ took all of those fallen identity bricks and replaced them with a redemptive cornerstone.  He knew an identity built on bricks made by our own decisions and life patterns would crumble or at the very least become replace with new, more promising bricks as our discontented hearts yearned for our neighbor's homes.  Jesus knew our transformation had to require a complete leveling of the old structure.

This is why adoption makes no sense to the world.  Bring a baby into a white family who lives in China among all yellow faces?!  Ridiculous.  And they will puff up and retort "Certainly this will cause that child's identity to be confused and misplaced!"  So they recommend leaving that child, leaving my daughter, in an orphanage among her own people and culture.  To leave my daughter in a place that can't feed her or put a book in her hands to read.  Why has remaining in a home culture become a blinder to seeing what is really happening? If I gave birth to a child with one arm, would the logic tell me that I should ship this child off to some camp of one armed people so they can raise him and where he can feel good about himself?! The Livesays who live in Haiti just aptly wrote on this from the perspective of what they are seeing happen there in regards to orphan care.  We had a friend just this week get notice that his adoption agency was dropping them because they lived in China and were adopting an Ethiopian baby and the agency thought that the social pressures the child would feel were just too great.  Sociologists and psychologists make these hypothesis' about what is best for a child based on what they assume is best for a human-to remain among it's own people.  What they are forgetting to see is the whole child.  Is remaining in a home culture best when that home culture is not able to provide what they need?  Is it ideal that a white mom is raising a black child, maybe not.  But I would also argue that living in a fallen world also isn't ideal.  We live in a world where ideals are many times just a mirage.  We live in a world where children die of dehydration, parents sell their children to the black market, and diseases are spread simply because people aren't wearing shoes.  Ideally, none of these things would be  happening.

God knew all of this.  He sent Joseph a dream to reveal to him that his adoption of Jesus as his own Son was a perfect plan.  God gently whispered to Makaria that although her birth parents weren't able to raise her, His plan was to bring her to an all white family living in China.  And that... was a perfect plan. If we place our identity in the things and people around us instead of on being a new creation buried in Christ, then we will continue to see adoption as a set of "not ideals", but it is so much more than that.  It's the story of Christ being adopted by Joseph, being raised by parents who taught him the Jewish scriptures, sent to the cross by his Heavenly Father and killed by the children He was sent here to save in the first place.  This is a messy, tragic, beautifully perfect plan set in motion by a God who has His very own definition of what is 'ideal'.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Week 1: Operation Loneliness

Week 1.

It's been a week since Brad left, which I realize for all those military wives, is pathetic and not worth mentioning.  For the most part, it's been a good week.  There have been a few bumps along the way, like the speed bumps that you think will be small but then you actually  hit them and it sends your neck whiplashing forward like you've just been hit by a semi.  Ya, those types of bumps.  But we've made it.  I'm trying not to look forward on the calendar and gaze at all the empty boxes still left to mark off.

I actually think that one of the hardest parts is loneliness.  I have found myself having very profound conversations with my coffee mug.  See, in our new city, I've only got a few people that I can call friends.  The past two weeks, two of those people have been out of town.  They come back this week, but I have realized how quickly I grow weary without community.  I've seen my head swivel as I look for someone else to receive the words "Mommy, I need..." I have watched myself start and not finish 15 blogs because writing about how I saw a bird take it's last breath and keel over in the street yesterday isn't really blog worthy material.  I just needed to tell the story.

So many of you have been incredible in your consistent emails and prayers for me and my family.  Those words on my computer screen have been a huge source of encouragement.  There are times I've been clinging to the words that you all have typed to remind me that we are not forgotten.

And...the birds are eating my basil again.  I don't want to have to drop kick a sparrow, but I'm getting dangerously close to having to do it.

Thanks for praying, thanks for writing, thanks for sustaining.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Gospel Coalition on Adoption

Voddie Baucham and Russell Moore do an incredible job of explaining adoption and it's implications at both a practical and Biblical level.  Even if you aren't going to adopt yourself, as a believer, we need to fully understand what adoption and being adopted fully means.

Take some time to listen or politely send the link to all the people that think you have lost it for even considering adoption.  It's a polite way of telling those naysayers to stick it.

Here ya go:  Gospel Coalition on Adoption

Last year, I was blessed by getting to go to the Together for Adoption conference in Austin, TX.  This year they are meeting in Phoenix, AZ on Oct. 21-22.  This is something that you cancel meetings and find a good baby sitter to come to.  It places the gospel rightfully in the center of adoption and gives you a weekend to learn, grow and be broken for the cause of adoption.  I cannot more strongly recommend this conference to you guys.  I've even had single guy friends go and come away changed. So hop over, register and figure out the details later.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Children's Day 2011

June 1st is Children's Day here.  I will argue that most days are children's day here, but this is the designated celebration day.  4 of our kids go to the pre-school/kindergarten for half of the day.  But today the school was turned into a 3 story playground.  Previously, our children have been subjected to
danced in their Children's Day performances.   I am convinced these performances are only for the parents to get pictures and mortify their children on the day of their wedding. I told the principal this year thank you for not making us do the performance thing again.

On the third floor they decorated hats, 

did a sand art project with 85,000 other kids,

and gazed longingly at the outside festivities.  It was this glance downstairs that projected us to skip most of level 2 and 1.

But on level one there were lots of snacks that could be earned as you moved around to each station.  

One of the large dance rooms had several games laid out.  There was the "blow the ping pong across the cups" game, the "hang the banana on the wire game" and finally, the "stack the empty crushed cans game."

And no Chinese celebration would be complete without a Karaoke station.

Remaining culturally appropriate, the kids slid on silver plastic slippers before entering the sand box.

But then took off their shoes, shirt and pants to step on and crush 
catch unsuspecting fish.  You were supposed to catch these little guys and then take them home and cook them for lunch.  Tapping into the conservationist side, or maybe just the wise parent side, we simply let the fish go.

None of this stopped my boys from jumping right in.  Any excuse to be naked, stomp around in water, catch fish and step on the dead ones was good for them.

And of course, no event is complete without an interview of the foreigners.  They pulled Malachi aside and asked him several questions.  Then they grabbed Brad and I and asked us our thoughts on the celebration.  The camera man and interviewer lady ran around the rest of the park looking for the other foreign kids to catch on camera.

And then we headed inside to pose for more pictures.

This time the pictures were for the other parents attending the festivities.

Makaria has got this school wrapped around her little finger.  She flashes those eye lashes and says good morning in Chinese and just about gets whatever she wants in a day.

Malachi wanted to make sure and do everything, so he ended his time by making soy bean paste with an ancient Chinese machine.  The school did a fabulous job and each kid walked out with treats and toys in the end.  I will say that it was crazy, but super fun.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Star Wars part 9: Battle of the Air Conditioner

You can hear the Star Wars music begin to wash over the sun as we enter the bedroom for the night.  It's been a day of wins and losses.  Triumphs and victories.  

Yet...the biggest, most epic battle was still to come.  Just how low would the air conditioner be set in our bedroom.  

The warm blooded Luke Sky Walker always sneaks in as the sun tucks in for the night and begins running the air conditioner while the unsuspecting Princes Leia is still at the table.  Sky Walker is used to the nightly battle and tries to subvert her attempts by setting the evil air conditioner to "Arctic" while they peacefully eat dinner with their 5 crazy Ewoks.  

As Princess Leia enters their room, her skin begins to shrivel into tiny ice crystals.  She tries to throw on her force field blankets and roll up into a protective sphere, but they are no match.  Luke Sky Walker's blood is made of molten lava.  He will never grow cold.  

So, Princess Leia will continue to shiver and resort to resuscitating all of her frost bitten appendages each morning. 

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Trying to be brave

It's day number one.  I have moved my computer into his spot at the desk.  The coffee is set for one cup and I'm going to leave my socks on the floor tonight.  All of this reorganization and shuffling happened after my husband took off this morning to study in the States for the next month.

The few days before he left were spent wrestling, pretending to camp out in the living room and making sure I knew where money was stashed.  While I am used to him traveling, I am not accustomed to him being gone so far away for that long.  As I got breakfast ready this morning, I realized that fear has crept in.  All the 'what if's' have leapt their way into my mind.  "What if one of my kids breaks their arm and I have to drag all 5 of us to a hospital?  Taxi drivers won't even stop to take us because we are too many people?"  Or "What if one of my children gets cancer while he is gone and I am left to make an international flight by myself and my 5 wigwams?  I mean, 3 of their passports are almost expired!"  I realize that most of these 'what if's' are a little grandiose in their drama, but these have been the thoughts plaguing me today. And if I get right down to it, I'm just not trusting my family to the Lord's care. God doesn't promise me that something major might not happen, but what He does promise me is to walk me through whatever may come.  

We ended our time as a family with hot pot.  It's my favorite thing to eat in China.  The boiling pot of soup is one-half spicy and one half plain.  You toss meat, noodles and vegetables and they cook while you hang out and enjoy the company.  We laughed and prayed and reminded each other what it means to remain joyful in unsteady times.  

Tonight we will go to bed and enjoy tomorrow.  The Lord's mercies will be new as we wake.  The same Holy Spirit that has equipped me with love, joy, peace, patience and kindness with my husband at home will be waiting for me in the morning.  I cannot allow myself to use his being gone as an excuse to be angry with my kids or put out by their interruptions.  I am called to remain steadfast in my pursuit of Christ no matter what the day is demanding of me.  

Thursday, June 09, 2011

White Mom, Black Hair

I have avoided this post for about a year now.  I've avoided it because I feel like I'm still on junior varsity at the whole black hair care game.  I've watched so many Youtube videos and looked on blogs like: keepmecurly and beadsbraidsbeyond and others that I forgot to bookmark in my 'black hair care' folder.  I also feel like by posting this, people will comment and say I'm doing it all wrong and I am just days from Makaria breaking out in a scalp rash and loosing all her hair from my moronic care of her hair. But, despite my confidence issues in this sphere, I am posting because hopefully it will help some other poor white mom with a black child.

I wash Makaria's hair about once a week.  Sometimes twice if she's been outside a lot or it's dry winter time. Again, blogger won't let me cut and paste my pictures, so they are out of order. Ugh.  When I wash her hair, I make sure to really rub the hair follicles.  Black hair pores are different than my white hair and they need to be massaged and the hair needs to be pulled out gently from the follicle base.  Both this and combing her hair every morning will keep it from matting, storing sand and dirt and help it to grow out faster.

When I'm done with the conditioner, I usually comb it out in the bathtub.  I try and hold it at the roots to try and not pull her hair too much.  This is still the most dramatic part of the process and is usually done with tears and trauma.

At this point her hair is in a round afro.

When she gets out of the bath, I spray on some Black Vanilla Leave-in Conditioner from Carol's Daughter.  Everything I use is Carol's Daughter.  They are a bit pricey.  I've tried other, cheaper products and they just don't seem to work on Makaria's hair.  With the amount of product that I need to put in her hair, I also like that the products are natural.

Then I take some of  Hair Milk and rub it in both of my hands.  I use my fingers to comb it through her hair.  This defines her locks and keeps it from getting too frizzy.

You can see the difference now as opposed to the fro action happening in her toilet seat picture above.  I've even had black women ask how I got her curls to stay so tight and non-frizzy.  It was strange to be giving hair advice to grown black women.

I use this leave-in conditioner right out of the bath and then a few times a week.  I use the hair milk every morning.  You are supposed to put more on after nap time, but I live in a country with about 13 black  people.  That makes it very hard to find hair products and consequently super expensive to mail from the states.  We go au naturale in the afternoon.

The Tui Herbal shampoo and Tui Smoothie conditioner are what I use once a week to wash her hair.  I love the smell of these.  They are not fruity, but more herbal smelling.  This feature may seem insignificant, but it can be a big deal.  When we first brought Makaria home, we were using another product line.  My husband hated the smell of it.  He commented to me one day "This stuff smells so bad that it makes me not want to hold her and hug on her."  I switched the next day.  

This is Lisa's hair elixir.  It's kind of a hot oil treatment.  You can add heat or just leave it in her hair for 5 minutes and then rinse it out.  I do the later.  I can't imagine her sitting still long enough to add any type of heat whatsoever.  I don't use it every time I wash her hair.  Maybe every other time. 

Every morning, I use a water bottle and spray her hair until it's fairly damp.  I then use this comb of torture to brush it out.  This is loads of fun each day.  

Don't be deceived at these sweet, shifty eyes.  This girl hates getting her hair combed out.  I've tried every trick in the book, she can see that comb coming a mile away.  Then I add a dime size of hair milk to shape her hair.  Every few days I'll add the Mimosa Hair Honey.  This is more of a greasy product that keeps her hair from frizzing.  You can add it if you are keeping their hair in braids or pony tails to tame to fly aways.

Here's my team:

I've recently gotten these children's shampoos, but haven't used them yet.  I treat my black hair care products like gold because they are so hard to get here.  So when I finish the bottles I am on, I'll give these a try.

This is the elixir that I add some times while in the bath and let it sit for 5 minutes.  The Tai Jojoba and Shea Butter Hair Sheen is used to give her hair a little glisten.  It came free in a set I bought.  It works great, but not an essential.  I just use it when I remember to.  You spray it on as you are putting the bows and trinkets in her hair.

I have a satin pillowcase for her pillow that helps keep her hair from getting too crazy.  

Doing her hair has been a 2 year journey of trial and error.  I asked tons of questions and read a gazillion blogs by other adoptive parents.  I feel like we're in a good rhythm in our little hair world, but still have a lot to learn.  

Monday, June 06, 2011

Care Package!

A few weeks ago, we got a fabulous package from the Trejo family.  They put some fun Easter goodies and cards that kids had made for us.  There were pictures of each kid inside and a note or picture.  Kesed walked around for 3 days with his tucked under his arm.  All of them took the cards and put them in their beds so they could read them at night.  

This really blessed our entire family!  It was such an encouragement to be thought of and taken care of in such a unique way.  The pictures of the kids who wrote each card was so fun.  Our kids knew all of these kids from going to church with them each Sunday.  It brought back fun memories of our time in the States.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for sending the package and blessing our family!

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