"Sometimes I'd like to ask God why He allows poverty, famine, and injustice in the world when He could do something about it...but I'm afraid God might ask me the same question."

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Good bye summer...Hello fall...

Good bye baseball.
Hello book bag.
(notice our crazy dog in the picture? I really must write a post about him some time...I could use some help with him...he is quite the challenge these days.)

Grace is getting all set for preschool. She had a blast making her own book bag for school. She loves to do "projects," so this was a perfect way to start preparing for her first school experience.
She also loves clothes, so it was fun to talk about school clothes and how we will need to choose her clothes the night before school (thus eliminating the clothing drama that ensues around here when Grace complains that she does not want to wear something that I pick for her- I am sorry, but there ARE times when glitter, lace, sparkles, bows, and tutus are just not necessary).
Naartjie had a great sale. I love ordering from their website. It just so happens that most of the things I ordered feature the continent of Africa on them. I wonder if Grace will ever get sick of this????? For now, I love it!
The last thing we needed to do to get ready for school was to cut out Grace's braids. We decided that it was time to "rock the fro" again. We thought it would be nice for her new classmates to meet her with her "natural" hair. I thought it might eliminate questions and dumb comments that kids might make if, all of a sudden, Grace showed up at school with short hair instead of her long extensions.
Taking out the braids was a lot less dramatic this time around. Grace was actually excited about having her natural hair again.
So cute. She looks so much younger without the braids. I think I missed her cute curls more than I realized.
Now, all we need to do is meet Grace's teacher-I can't wait to see the look on Grace's face when we go to "open house" and she sees her school for the first time. She is going to LOVE it! Three more days until her first day of school. Hoping we can contain her excitement for three more days....

Monday, August 29, 2011

LOVE this t-shirt design

Remember to check out my friend Kim's awesome t-shirt design.
If you don't have a lot of money budgeted for adoption t-shirts, just spread the word about her cool design. She needs to sell a few more shirts in order to come up with the first chunk of change needed to bring her TWO girls home from Ethiopia.
To have a little bit of fun spreading the word about Kim's shirts, I have a giveaway going on. Read my previous post for all of the details...be sure to leave me a comment...your odds of winning are still VERY good!
It is so much fun to give out prizes!

Looking for a awesome new shirt? hat? purse for your little girl? Look no further...I can hook you up!

As those of you who have adopted know, there is something about adoptive moms that makes it really easy to hit it off with each other. I guess it is the fact that we share the same "calling" or something (it might also be that we feel so relieved that other people are as crazy as we are!). Recently I became friends with a wonderful person named Kim. Some of you have followed her blog (Change Me) while she prepared to travel to Ethiopia for the first time on a mission trip with Ordinary Hero. Before Kim traveled, I teased her that she was going to fall in love with Ethiopia and would come back a different person (I was right ;)). I also teased her that she was going to fall in love with a little PERSON while she was in Ethiopia and would want to adopt...I was wrong...she fell in love with TWO LITTLE PEOPLE!
To make a (really awesome) story short, Kim is now in the process of adopting two sweet girls from Ethiopia. And guess what? Since things have been done in a different order (no waiting around for a referral here = no time to save cash for the adoption fees), Kim and her family are working at warp speed to raise some funds for their adoption costs.

Kim has an awesome t-shirt design:
I absolutely LOVE her design. I can't wait to get my hands on the shirt I ordered. When we started our adoption journey, I became obsessed with inspirational quotes that would comfort me...after all, adoption is not for the faint of heart. I leaned heavily on certain quotes and Bible verses. Proverbs 24:12 was one of these. That is part of the reason I love this shirt so much. It is such a simple message of love...once we know, we must act.

The shirt is perfect for anyone who has adopted, gone on a mission trip, or has just become aware of the orphan crisis in the world. Once our eyes are "opened," there is no turning back!
PLEASE take a minute to visit Kim's new adoption blog (Put A Little Love...) and give her some encouragement.
PLEASE take a few minutes to consider supporting her adoption by either purchasing a t-shirt or donating a couple of dollars to help with their (huge...think TWO adoptions here) fees.

I really wanted to do a little something for Kim. She is such an inspiration. She is following her heart and calling even though it will be a long road financially, emotionally, and physically (so much to do in such a short time!). So, I tried to come up with a little "giveaway" to help Kim sell a couple of shirts...

I have three really cool, hand-made items that I will give away.
A cute little girl's purse.
Cute tan hat!
Cute black hat!
So...how do you win these cute things? Simple.
A) buy a t-shirt... earn 5 entries
B) donate to Kim's adoption... each $5 donation earns 1 entry *every single dollar helps*
C) blog about (or share on facebook) Kim's awesome t-shirt design and earn 2 entries!
Be sure to leave me a comment about what you have done and which item(s) you would like your entries to be for.
Come on...we can do this! Your odds of winning are pretty good ;) I (probably Grace) will draw the winning entries on Friday, September 2nd...noon (central time) after Grace's first day of preschool.

Better get on over to Kim's blog, because Grace and I really like these little goodies!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

AMAZING Goodies To Try...If You Dare...

Isn't this the COOLEST piece of playground equipment ever? Grace (and all the kids) had so much fun climbing around on it. Thank goodness I discovered this as a seasoned parent, or else I might have been too nervous to let her play on it. Gone are the days of paranoia (no time or ability to watch every kid like a hawk...don't worry...I still watch them).

The only other thing we've discovered the past few days that compares to the cool playground equipment, is this:
A ridiculously indulgent brownie recipe...it's crazy...They start with a layer of brownie, next comes a layer of (raw) cookie dough (no eggs to worry about), and they are topped off with a layer of chocolate ganache. Wow.

And if that isn't enough for you, check out these cookies:

Now it all makes sense. I am the only person I know who has gained weight this summer...the kids and I really need to stop trying new recipes (yes, I blame it on the kids even though I am the one in charge of grocery shopping for ingredients)!!!!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Let's Meet in Atlanta!!!! Created for Care 2012!

I am so excited about the upcoming (OK...it's still a long way off) Created for Care retreat. This sounds like the perfect get-away for all of us who love adoption, have a passion for orphan care, and want to connect with other adoptive moms (and like to spend time chatting with other people who "get it" the way we do).
I love what the retreat is all about...
While your hearts have been called to care, YOU were also created to be cared FOR.

The retreat is January 27-29th in the Atlanta area. Check out
www.createdforcare.org for more information.

If you are planning on going, please leave me a comment or send me a quick email to let me know. I have been in touch with a few of you about the conference, and I think it could be so cool to meet more of you who I have been sharing our adoption journey with.
Registration for the retreat is coming up soon...
mark your calendars for September 1st...last year, the retreat filled up in 48 hours.
September 1st is the first day of school around here, so I will really need to be on the ball to get everyone out the door for the first day of school and then register for the retreat. Wish me luck!

Cookie Cutter

In case you are in the market for a cookie cutter in the shape of Africa...
I ordered mine online from Copper Gifts.
*For those of you have have asked about where the cookie cutter is from...it's time for you to get cooking! I look forward to seeing what you come up with ;)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

"We're bored...there's nothing to do..." Oh...really? Kids in East Africa aren't "bored" right now...how can we help them???

Yesterday morning, my kids were hanging out with some neighbor kids. I wouldn't let them come inside and play video games (it was a beautiful day!). I heard them say "there's nothing to do..." REALLY?
What transpired was a good day...we shifted their "boredom" to "purpose."

About the same time as the kids' "boredom" comment, I received an email of the following video:

Humanitarian Crisis in East Africa from A Glimmer of Hope on Vimeo.

I immediately asked the "bored" children if they would like to see something on my computer (it was technology after all...as close to a video game as they were getting...). They came inside and I showed them a few videos of the famine stricken people of East Africa. We focused on Glimmer of Hope's videos...set specifically in Ethiopia. The kids were pretty quiet as we watched images of tiny children (starving children) and families without water and food.
I asked the kids if they had any ideas how we could turn a "boring day" into something with purpose...They decided that they would spend the day making posters, selling lemonade, and even going door to door to sell Africa cookies in the hopes of receiving donations.

"Phase One" of the kids' fundraising was a lemonade stand. A few people took notice of their sign and stopped to give a donation. The slogan on the sign was totally kid driven...they decided on "Every dollar makes a difference." I agree.
The lemonade stand only yielded about $12, but their hopes were still high.
After taking a break for dinner, it was time for "Phase Two."
We baked 30 Africa cookies to sell to our neighbors. The kids rehearsed their sales pitch. I quizzed them about what a famine is, where the famine is, how many people are effected, etc. They were pumped and ready to get selling!

With the wagon loaded, we were off. The cutest thing happened as we began to walk around the neighborhood. Lots of other kids on bikes, scooters, etc. began to follow us. Our sellers did an excellent job of bringing awareness to our neighborhood. The kids decided to ask for donations instead of putting a price on the cookies...turned out to be an excellent marketing strategy. Their other (smart) strategy was to stick Grace in the front while they were pitching their information to people. They were equipped with little handouts that provided people with more information on the crisis in Africa and a website that they could visit to make a donation or learn more.
Here are some of the kids hitting the pavement...
And after a night of spreading "hope" and bringing awareness, they got to count their money and enjoy a cookie (which I made them BUY to donate more to Glimmer).
I'm so proud of the kids! Their "boring" day raised $64.04 to donate to Glimmer of Hope's emergency relief efforts in Ethiopia.
Our day goes to show that everyone can do something to help out. My favorite quote from the video above (and what I really want my children to know deep down in their hearts), is that
"A person in Africa matters just the same as you or I or anybody that we know..."

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Bono and K'naan Talk Famine

PLEASE take a few minutes to watch this video. I LOVE what Bono has to say...all of it. My favorite quote:
"We must not let the complexity of the situation absolve us from responsibility to act."

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Colors of Us

Grace has been talking a lot about her skin color lately. She refers to her skin when we see other people who resemble her, when we see someone on TV with dark skin, and even when we are just sitting together reading books and she glances at my arm wrapped around hers. We always talk about how pretty her beautiful, soft skin is. She seems to agree with us. In fact, she commented that some of the girls in her dance recital were, well...not as pretty because they had "light skin."
Oh how I wish Grace would always be so confident about her beautiful skin color. I worry that there may come a day (hopefully not too soon) that she will realize that there are really not too many African American kids in our neighborhood, schools, or city.

We are blessed, however, to have some wonderful friends who also have beautiful children with brown skin! Take a look at these three beauties...
The three girls were playing together the other day, and it struck me that they are all adorable and unique, but that they have so much in common. They are all adopted, have families with multiple siblings, are not from good old Wisconsin, and have pale parents :) Grace has shared with me that she feels like her skin is "sort of like" her friends, but that it is darker. She does NOT think this is a negative thing. I love her confidence. The thing is...I wonder when it will be necessary or appropriate to share with her the opinion of some small minded people who disagree with her positive attitude. I read a great book that was written by an adult adoptee who explained how shocked he was when he realized that not everyone was so positive about dark skinned people. He said that he wished his adoptive family would have told him about racism. He felt sort of blind-sided by it when it happened to him. That being said, I can't imagine looking into Grace's beautiful dark eyes and telling her that some people may not like her just because of her dark skin. I simply can't imagine it....Have any of you explained such things to your kids? It was easy for me to talk to my bio kids about this before we adopted Grace, but it sure seems hard to have the same conversation with her. I would never want to even plant such a negative thought in her little head...
And...so...we read...We have several books about "differences." Watching Grace's two little girlfriends with her reminded me of this book:
The book does an excellent job of describing the different colors that people can be. Most of the colors are described as foods. For example, one of the characters is the color of "cinnamon." Another is the color of "creamy peanut butter." Grace thinks she is most like the girl who is the color of "chocolate brown, like cupcakes."

For now, I think I will still focus on the beauty of Grace's skin. I will continue to teach her that she is gorgeous. She seems to have no problem believing me. She thinks I have a long way to go to be as "fancy" and "beautiful" as she is. Her little dramatic self continues to focus on being as dolled up and glam as she can be- there is no doubt that she feels like a princess every day. Keep up the good work Grace!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Please Help Baby "E"...Awesome Fundraiser...

Please visit my friend Kim's blog to read all about her amazing mission trip to Ethiopia.

While Kim and her team were in Ethiopia, they met a tiny baby boy without a name. He was not named, in part, because no one thought he would survive long enough to be named. He is very sick. One of the team members knew that he needed to be named...she needed to know his name so that she could pray for him... The team could not sit back and let the sweet baby die without doing everything they could to help him.

After returning home, one of Kim's friends on the mission trip decided to help fund some of his medical care so that he could have the emergency surgery that he needs. The surgery was done this morning!

To help raise funds for "E's" medical care, Kim is having a ONE DAY blog giveaway. PLEASE visit her blog and make a donation. Every dollar raised will be donated to baby "E's" care. Kim is giving away a complete blog makeover and an awesome necklace...check it out and please consider helping. Like my friend Kim said, "Before, he had no one. He was a tiny baby in a corner with no name. And now he has ALL of us coming together for him!"

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Another Post About Hair...

Grace has had braids for about two months now. I have to tell you...I love them. I love how easy it is to "do" her hair. I love how they look on her. I love them in pig tails. I especially love how much SHE loves her braids.
Her first braids were done by a friend that I had come to our house. You can read the details here. Grace did a great job sitting for her 4 1/2 hour braiding session. Since that first attempt, Grace has decided it is not that much fun to sit still and have your head pulled at (even if you get to watch 4 hours of television).

After about six weeks with the same braids (and one touch up session with my braider friend), I decided it was time to revisit Grace's natural, curly hair. The braids were starting to come apart, her natural hair was sticking out of the braids, and we had been on vacation and had done a lot of swimming...the braids had run their course.

Here is Grace's response to having her extensions cut off...
I started by trimming the long braids before I took them out. I wanted to see how her hair would look with shorter braids. I really liked the shorter braids and wanted Grace to look in a mirror and check them out...she REFUSED. She was so sad that her "long hair" was gone. She was VERY upset. I honestly can not remember her being as upset about anything...ever....it was like I was cutting off her fingers, not her fake hair/braids. She was horrified by the idea of having short hair again.

It took a long time to take out all of the extensions and while I was working on it, Grace decided to draw a picture (between sobbing). She drew a picture of a cute little stick figure girl with a big smile on her face. The little stick figure also had long hair. Grace said "this is a picture of me when I was happy...I had long hair..." Oh the drama...

We finally removed all of the braids and it was so fun to see how much her natural hair had grown. It seemed to be at least an inch longer! Everyone in the family was excited to see her sweet curls again. We couldn't keep our hands off her little head.

Grace finally agreed to look in the mirror and decided that her "fro" did look pretty cute. She picked out a rainbow headband and was happy to strut her stuff...for about two days...then, she fell into her hair slump again and begged for long hair!

So I found myself at it again. I headed back to Sally Beauty Supply to get the necessary materials to give Grace the "long hair" she so desired. I admit that I was also excited to have the extensions back. They had really grown on me. She looked so cute, and with our summer activities and being outside, swimming, etc. the braids just work so well.

After watching a pro do Grace's hair the first time (and doing some touch up braids a second time), I decided that I would try to tackle the extensions myself. By doing it on my own, Grace would not have to sit for the entire 4 hours at once. I broke up the hair sessions so that I spent about an hour doing parts, gave her a break, and then got back at it for another hour or so of parts. A few hours later, I braided about half of her head. I saved half of the braids for the next day. Grace loved having the freedom to take breaks. It worked really well and I believe that my braids look just about as good as the ones done by the expert. I decided to make the new extensions a little shorter. They seem to be a more natural length for a four year old. Grace can still whip them around and I can still get them into pig tails.

I can't begin to tell you how much easier it is to maintain her hair this way. In the morning, I spray her head with Olive Miracle Braid Spray. That's it! At night, I use jojoba oil (I buy it at Trader Joe's- great deal) on her scalp and have her sleep in a satin sleep cap (a long version that fits around all the braids without squishing them). The hair routine could not be any easier. I have even found that redoing a couple of the braids on the crown of her head from time to time, freshens up the style and it will last even longer.

Our goal is to have the braids/extensions in until school starts. Grace with start preschool with her natural hair. I think we will all be happy to see her sweet curls again, but, in the meantime we are enjoying her cute little self with her cute little braids!

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Great Weekend...Is It Fair?

It finally seems like summer in Wisconsin. Warm temperatures, clear skies, and more time at home to relax. We decided to make the most of our weekend and spend some time together as a family of six.
We started off by taking out our boat. We drove to Door County and launched the boat in a really nice lake. The sun was shining and Grace couldn't wait to jump into the lake (clearly, she does not get this instinct from me...I am yet to jump into a lake with my kiddos).

The kids also had a great time in our tube/boat thing. It is so nice to see the two "big kids" getting along and riding around the lake at warp speed together...we don't see that every day ;)
Grace even loved the ride. It made me a little nervous to see her tiny body flying around behind the boat. Lucky for me, her big sister keeps a close eye on her.

Bryce soaked up the sun from the front of the boat. He is my least daring soul. We get along so well...we were both content INSIDE the boat.

Our weekend also involved a trip to the outdoor movie theater. I still get such a kick out of taking the kids to see a movie outside. I think I enjoy it more than they do. Of course, it was Grace's first experience and she seemed to like it. She thought it was fun to sit outside, eat lots of popcorn and (sort of) watch a movie...
Throughout the weekend, my mind kept wandering to those in Africa who are suffering through another famine. I don't want to sound melodramatic, but I can't help but wonder why we get to live our lives in such a carefree manner while so many are suffering. After traveling to Ethiopia, my heart can not just forget - I feel like it is going to be a blessing to have the experience imprinted on my heart, yet I am struggling with how to deal with the responsibility of it all. I want to do more. I can donate money, etc. but I want to be sure that I am doing what I am supposed to do -not to make MY heart feel better, but to honor God AND the people who have given so much to us.

While Grace and I sat in our backyard blowing bubbles, there were (and are) millions of women and their children making the long trek to a refugee camp somewhere in Somalia or Ethiopia simply because they do not have food and water. My heart aches for them.
It doesn't seem fair.
There were several times this weekend when I had to tell my kids that we can't worry about what is "fair" -they were bickering about how many pieces of candy one kid got and the other didn't, or when one kid complained because he couldn't play his Nintendo DS yet his sister could text her friend on her cell phone...I actually said "life will not always seem fair." As those words came out of my mouth, It really hit me that life is NOT fair- what we chose to do about it is what counts.
So, here we are...Grace is enjoying summer...living like a little princess...
...and others are hoping for a meal and some water to help them survive one more day.

If you are able to give (every donation helps), please visit Glimmer of Hope's website for more information....They are working to providing emergency relief for Ethiopia.

For more information about the crisis in Africa, check out this BBC article....heartbreaking...