Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Little Dude




Just came back from snuggling the little guy in his room.  He woke up crying--maybe he was a bit cold because he was sockless.  :)  So, put his socks back on and added another layer of sweatshirt and then I cuddled with him until he fell asleep again. 

Love those moments when you can still get that glimpse of him as a tiny newborn--the smooshed up little face with pouting lips.  Love rubbing his fuzzy little blond head and trying to drink in the sweet moments before they pass quickly away without me taking the time to notice. 

But as I sat there tonight I thought of how soon he will be the big brother in our family.  Hard to imagine but totally cool at the same time.  He will make an awesome big brother (just like M will be a great big sister for her little sister). 

T is one of those funny little mostly-easy-going little guys who loves to smile and loves his people.  When M and I get dressed he calls our outfits "Cute."  He's been calling us "M-honey" and "Mommy honey."  And I don't know if it's his age or if it just makes sense to him, but I rarely have to prompt him to say "please" or "thank-you."  He is easily delighted and that is simply delightful. 

Oh, all of this to say, that I am so thankful that God created little T to be in our family.  He is an amazing gift.  I pray that God will give us the wisdom as parents to help him grow up to be all he was created to be.  Love you little dude...



Drawn from Water

Tonight as my two little ones are tucked snuggly in their beds there are two very sick little children who have been rescued.  This is happening now...   

For more of the unfolding story check out the blog and website at http://www.drawnfromwater.org/.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Eve



We got to spend today with my family.  My family has a lot of unique holiday traditions.  Every year they make a HUGE batch of fresh fruit salad on Christmas Eve.  Usually they put it in large bowls, but this year they opted for something a little bigger...



Yes, they used one of those big plastic bins that are perfect for storing clothing under your bed.  That's a lot of fruit salad...  :)

And ever since we've been in college, my sisters and I (I have 3 younger sisters) put together a skit for our parents--we might poke some good-humored fun at them for funny stuff that has happened over the year or do something a bit more sentimental.  This year, D and M put together a slide show using just 3 words to describe every photo.  They did an awesome job--thanks girls!  My parents have started joining in the fun and they have been putting together game shows--this year's attraction--Are You Smarter Than a 57-Year-Old?  (Almost, but not quite.)  ;)

And my mom always gets us all look-a-like shirts.  This year she went for red t-shirts.  Here's our whole gang all decked out in red.




And then after opening a mountain of presents (thanks Mom and Dad and girls!) and after naps, we went sledding "my-dad-style."  He attached sleds behind the tractor and then pulled us around the fields at the farm we he grew up next to my parent's house.  We did this a ton as kids, but I think it's been almost 15 years (wow--that is crazy to write!) since I've done it.  So much fun!  Thanks, Dad!




And today J and I had a little time alone in the car when we went shopping for few last minute gifts.  We talked about how cool/crazy it is that next year we'll be a family of 5.  We can't wait!

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, again, and many special memories with your families!



[And, W, thank you for all of the beautiful pictures.  They are awesome! :) ]

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Morning in New York




We had our family Christmas this morning so that we can head out to PA for a few days of more festivities. :)  Big hits this year--bean bag chairs, puzzles and a race track.  Fun to watch their excitement.  Also really crazy to think that next year we might have another little person to share that fun with.  Oh...much to ponder...  But wishing you all a very Merry Christmas with your families! :)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Simple Pleasures on a Tuesday





Ahh...Is there anything so lovely for your feet as a new pair of slippers (besides a foot massage)? 

Today I am thankful for the simple pleasure of a new pair of Christmas slippers.  (Added bonus that they were really on sale at Kohl's and I had a 20% off coupon :) ).  My creamy colored ones from last year are definitely showing how much I love them. ;)  So, as I vacuum and mop and get ready to open stockings with M and T (afterall, tomorrow is Christmas in NY for our family), I am smiling because of my cute and comfty feet. :)


Monday, December 21, 2009

Orphans Worldwide



There are approximately 145 million orphans in the world today.  Okay, that is a HUGE number.  What does it mean?  What does it look like?  Where are they?  WHY?

I've been wanting to understand a little bit more about orphans worldwide.  The video above (made almost 2 years ago) gives me some perspective on what the numbers might look like, but it is still pretty difficult to fathom. 

I also found an article from World Vision that helps explain the impact of the AIDS crisis on the growing number of orphans, particularly in Africa.  Click here to see the article--World Vision - AIDS Factsheet for Press.  Below is a short excerpt...

A global pandemic
About 33 million people globally are living with HIV or AIDS (nearly the population of Canada).

Last year, more than 2.5 million people were newly infected with HIV.

More than 28 million have already died of AIDS.

The pandemic is the greatest medical, social and economic challenge the world as a whole now faces.

AIDS is primarily a disease of the poor; 95 percent of all people living with HIV in the world live in developing countries. While improved medical treatment and drug therapies are extending the lives of Americans and others from wealthy countries who live with HIV, worldwide, only 28 percent of the 7.1 million people who need anti-retroviral therapy for AIDS receive it. Sadly, only 17 percent of the 780,000 children in the world who need treatment receive it, much lower than the global average.


AIDS and children
Children are the top priority in World Vision’s HIV and AIDS response.

Those most affected by HIV/AIDS are the children: A generation -- more than 15 million -- has been orphaned (lost one or both parents) to AIDS. That’s the current number, not a cumulative total.

By 2010, the number of children orphaned by AIDS will be more than 20 million, according to United Nations estimates. Africa alone will have nearly 16 million children who have been orphaned. When you add that to the 37 million orphans from other causes (including malaria, tuberculosis, malnutrition, and war), that’s 1 out of every 8 African children who will have lost one or both parents. In the five countries (Botswana, Swaziland, Lesotho, Zambia and Zimbabwe) where the crisis is expected to be most acute, 1 in 5 children will be an orphan in 2010.

In the United States and other developed countries, there are more than 400 adults for every orphan; in nine African countries, there soon will be fewer than 6 adults for every orphan. And some of those adults will be too ill to make a meaningful contribution to their care.

Children are suffering the loss of parents, teachers, community members and peers as a result of the pandemic. The tragic loss of key adults who once provided stability and protection has resulted in a rapid increase of children who are malnourished, forced to drop out of school and exploited for cheap labor.


AIDS in Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa, home to just 12% of the world’s population, accounts for two out of every three people living with HIV, and three in four AIDS-related deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa.

More than 2/3 of the world’s HIV-infected population live in sub-Saharan Africa.

The number of children orphaned by AIDS in Africa – already more than 11 million – is growing five times faster than the total number of children on the continent.

Women and girls are particularly susceptible to the virus. Bound by cultural traditions that afford them a lower social standing than men, they often cannot control the sexual behavior of their husbands. Also, poverty drives many women to seek income as sex workers.

By 2020, Africa will have lost almost 12 percent of its labor force – or 58 million people – to AIDS.


Honestly, these numbers are beyond my level of comprehension.  But, what I do know is that everyone of these numbers represents a person like me or J or M or T--the most important people in my life.  Those numbers are people who are just as important. 

Below is one more clip from Show Hope with a few more stats.  Praying for full bellies, warm beds and loving arms for all of the children without a family tonight.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sunday Funnies #1


So, I've been posting some pretty heavy stuff lately, and thought it would be good to share some of the funnier tidbits of everyday life.  Having kids gives us some good material.


Let me set the stage.  We're all sitting in front of the fireplace asking M about her friends in preschool and she says something like,

"I have a friend in my class named Laundry." 

Surely, we assume, we have misheard her.  "What's her name?"

"Laundry."

"Hmmm...I don't think that's her name, are you sure?"

"Yeah, I asked her if her name was 'Laundry' and she said, 'yes.'" (Can you imagine that conversation?)

So, I've heard of some unusual names, but "Laundry?"  I just don't see a parent wanting to name a child that.  But here's the best part...

"Actually, I think there are two "Laundry's" in my class."

Two Laundry's!

This is when the mental rolodex kicks into high gear (and believe me, it's had a lot of practice over the past 4 years).  Laundry.  What name sounds like "Laundry?"  Maundry?  Oh.....!  Then it comes to me--Audrey!  There are two Audreys... 

Love these little funny things she comes up with as she grows.  Thanks for the smiles, M! :)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

AGCI Rwanda Program

I recently received this email from our agency (AGCI) about their new program in Rwanda. I wanted to share an excerpt from the email...

One of our team members just returned from spending over three months in this beautiful country. Her experiences traveling through Rwanda have been very inspiring to us. Through her emails, she describes the breathtaking beauty of the people and of the land. During her time in Rwanda, she took many photographs trying to capture the light and hope in the eyes of even the most destitute child living on the streets. She visited orphanages, spoke with the caretakers, met with government officials and helped provide relief to the women and children living in extreme poverty.

Her passion for this country increased each day as she faced the great need. One of the most powerful experiences she had, was visiting the Mother Teresa's Home of Hope and seeing the children who patiently wait for parents to bring them home.




She writes, "This Catholic orphanage is based out of Calcutta, India, and photos of Mother Teresa are on many walls giving her the honor she deserves for the countless millions of lives she brought hope to. I notice two young children who are about three and four years old with arms around each other. Chatting and hugging and walking down a set of steps together. So sweet – like the flowers I smell behind me. My desire to photo this precious scene is struggling with what I have been told by the nuns. No photos! As we walk down the steps, our nun becomes very talkative! She is Indian and visiting from Calcutta. I am glad that speaks wonderful English. Even though she is young, she is extremely advanced in wisdom and compassion for both the orphans and the mentally handicapped adults which she cares for personally. Our nun then hurried us down a long, cement hallway to another room – I was so shocked to see over a hundred metal cribs, pushed together in clusters here and there. The silence was my first shock, not one baby was crying. The stillness of the room caused my heart to freeze, as well as my feet and thoughts. Why are they so quiet?

She began again, “All of these babies are orphans. True orphans. No father, no mother. They come to us sometimes in the middle of the night with umbilical cords still attached, naked, filthy from being birthed into a pit latrine hole (usually 20’ deep) and they are left at our gate in plastic bags. Sometimes the person who found them in the latrine has put the newborn in a plastic bag and leaves the child in the road in the middle of the night because they don’t want to be noticed by neighbors. The Sector official gets up in the early morning to see if there are any ‘bags’ on the road, and if so, he brings them to the metal gate. That is how we get most of our children.” Prostitutes, especially child-prostitutes, and over-burdened widows are desperate to get rid of their baby. They feel they have no other way. They are starving themselves. Some of their other children are beggars on the street. They live in the mud huts, they have no hope.

We have only been in this cemented room for a few minutes when I find myself just standing and staring. Then my third shock came to me - in the form of rashes and open sores on the baby’s skin (due to the bacteria and insects in the latrine) and the broken legs of one baby (because of the fall down the deep pit). Orphaned, deformed, and no arms to hold or comfort her pain. Only cold, lifeless metal bars are her world. Our talkative, friendly nun shares with me that this is not uncommon. The fall is too great.

The enormity of what my eyes are seeing and the visualization of that child’s entrance into this world now registers in tears. I thought that men were the tormentors of these people, that they were the ones who had stifled life and dreams and hopes with the Genocide killings in 1994. Maybe that is exactly what they did – and hope is still gone for many Rwandans. I am now listening to this young woman tell me how thousands of mothers choose to dispose of their child and in many cases, the child dies alone in a bag. I slowly look around the room. There’s too many. My eyes and hands fall to the nearest one. I touch his frail fingers. My touch startles him. Did this little one come in a plastic bag only a few months ago? I didn’t know this existed in our world. How is America to know? Will they care? Or is this just another Africa story on poverty?

I don’t remember what was said for the next few minutes as she ushered us into the sunlight, then under an awning where children were sitting down to eat. Now I hear clamor. Laughing and energetic little three to four-year old children who bear smiles and are singing. I make the connection - these nuns nurture and transform lifeless, lost babies that someone thought was refuse into happy, and seemingly healthy, children. God Bless these nuns.

The children are not very clean or not at all well dressed. Must not be enough clothing for the 55 children I count at the long two foot high table – but they are happy. They get to play outside, bang drums, and run around and find some joy in this little prison of theirs. But I saw them. They are there. One hundred and thirty children. They are waiting. They don’t know they are waiting – right now they are a mass of humanity waiting for life to unfold. Like a rose bud. The petals are fragile – but each uniquely beautiful. They are too young for dreams or opinions or even the knowledge of a family. They know caring, yet I don’t think they know love. They only know the hands of the nuns – not the arms of a mother. And there are too few nuns to share arms.

My frozen heart begins to melt as I see God’s presence in their smiles, the nun’s gentleness, and the photos of Jesus on the outdoor brick walls. Jesus loves to shine in the darkest corners of earth. I believe it is His way to show Hope."

For more information go here.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Gifts that Give Back



So, as I continue to ponder the question of what to do with a growing understanding of world poverty and my own priveleged life, one of things that I can do is shop for gifts at stores that give back.  Here is a list I've been compiling.  Please let me know about other sites, too. :)
  • http://www.joinred.com/ --proceeds benefit the Global Fund--money that goes directly to Africa to fight AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria
  • http://www.thehungersite.com/ --give free food while shopping for cool gifts made by artisians all over the world
  • http://www.globalgirlfriend.com/ --fair-trade and beautiful clothing and accessories "handmade by women and communities in need."
  • http://www.greatergood.com/ --links to stores that benefit various causes such as children's health and breast cancer
  • www.stjude.org/shop  --profits fund research and treatment at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
  • http://www.worldofgood.com/ --part of ebay, "ethically sourced, Fair Trade, and eco-friendly gifts and goods"
  • http://www.tenthousandvillages.com/ --beautiful gifts, the store "provides vital, fair income to Third World people by marketing their handicrafts and telling their stories in North America"
  • http://www.lindsayolives.com/ --wreaths benefit meals on wheels
  • http://www.greenraising.com/ --provide "products that help (people) consume less, preserve natural resources, and help others."
  • http://www.sambazon.com/ --acai products and jewelry that preserve the rainforest while benefiting indigenous people.
  • http://www.goodshop.com/ --up to 30% of every purchase from your favorite stores (like Kohl's, Gap, Target) goes to a charity of your choice
  • http://www.uptownliz.com/ -- a website that promotes "products from companies whose proceeds directly give back to charitable organizations."
  • http://147millionorphans.com--sells/  --cute necklaces, clothing and accessories.  Proceeds help to feed children in Uganda and Haiti, help families adopt HIV+/AIDS, help local African refugees earn an income and encourage adoptive families on their journey.
  • http://www.one.org/us/ --cool t-shirts and accessories.  "ONE is a grassroots campaign and advocacy organization backed by more than 2 million people who are committed to the fight against extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa. Cofounded by Bono and other campaigners, ONE is nonpartisan and works closely with African policy makers and activists."
  • http://store.showhope.org/ --awesome clothing that supports families in the process of adoption.
  • http://store.invisiblechildren.com/ --purses, bracelets and other gear.  "All of our programming is a partnership between those of us at Invisible Children and those in the Ugandan community. We focus on long-term goals that enable children to take responsibility for their future and the future of their country. Our programs are carefully researched and developed initiatives that address the need for quality education, mentorships, the redevelopment of schools, resettlement from the camps, and financial stability."

    Have fun shopping!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Terrible Incongruity

Okay, some tough stuff...  As part of the adoption process we need to take 6 online courses about issues in adoption.  Last night we took two classes--The Journey of Attachment and Medical Issues in International Adoption.  As part of the attachment class we had to go through 5 case studies about attachment issues.  Probably the one that struck my heart the hardest was a story about a 2 year old who had been raised in a foster home for all of his life and was then adopted.  The class asks you to consider what that grief process might look for him to lose the only mother he has ever known.  So, T is almost 2...  Can I even imagine what it would be like for him to leave everything he knows and loves?...  No... 

The Medical Issues Class was very long--lots to be aware of--alot like any pregnancy I think, you never know what issues the child you are blessed with may have.  But some issues that you wouldn't have with a biological child are things like malnutrition or parasites or scabies.  Awful words.  But here's the thing--this stuff is real.  Not just something in a textbook, but there really are children who live this life...

Which brings me back to, well, me and my family.  Everynight I hold the little people in my family and I talk to God about them.  I pray that they will have a relationship with God, that He will protect them and keep them safe, that they will live long and healthy lives, living to their full God-given potential.  I know how much I love them.  I know that God loves them more than I can imagine.  God loves those children who are hungry, sick, and without a family as much as He loves my M and T.  It's not fair.  It's not right.  So, what can I do?

How easy it is to just go about my regular life.  I read a sad story about a 15lb 7-year-old and then later because I'm bored or maybe a little hungry I go get a snack from my overflowing pantry.  I see barely clothed children and then I go back to my to-do list that probably includes making sure that M has pants to match her new sweater.  I hear about children who recieve Operation Shoe Box gifts and that they treasure the stuffed animal inside and later in the day I wonder if I have enough Christmas gifts for my own family.

There is a terrible incongruity between my life and the reality of people in need.  Through this process I am definitely being challenged to open my eyes a little wider--it's not so comfortable--or pretty.  We have small ways that we give as a family, but I feel challenged to do more.  This is going to be a life changing adventure. 

I wanted to share a clip that I recently watched on a blog.  It is not easy to watch--it's actually horrifying.  What do I do with it?  I share this because information is power.  I can make a small difference.  Working together we can make a big difference.  (Please watch the follow-up, too, by going here.)


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Welcome :)



Welcome to our blog! :) If you're new to blogs, let me tell you a little about it.

We created this blog to follow our family's journey as we go through the process of adoption from Ethiopia. It's a great way for us to share with our family and friends about what's going on both in the adoption process and in our everyday life as we wait for our little girl. It's also a good way for us to connect with other families who are also in the process of adoption (See the blogs I follow on the right side--"My Blog List"). And once our paperwork is finished and our dossier is sent away to Ethiopia, we will be placed on a referral list and we will share regular updates about where we are in the referral process (for example, we might start at number 40 for baby girls and then we will move up from there until we are number 1!).

You can sign up to be a "follower" of this blog by clicking on the "Followers" icon at the very bottom right-side of this page. Or you can just check in periodically by typing in our web address www.millersmudges.blogspot.com (Miller Smudges).

On our blog, you can check out our "Adoption Timeline" to see how far we've come. You can also see the current Time and Weather in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (the capital and city where Hannah's Hope--our orphanage--is located). I also have some books that I've read and have found to be really helpful or inspirational in my "Book Basket" (because you know I LOVE baskets). And along the right side there are a few other "buttons" that link to cool sites if you click on them. For example "Amazima" is an amazing young girl living in Uganda who takes care of orphans. Her life is unbelievable to me. Check her out.

Oh, and you can also comment on anything we write by clicking on the "comments" link at the bottom of each post. And while you're on our blog you can listen to some music by clicking on a song in my "Tunes" player. :)


Thanks for checking out our blog! We are so excited about our adoption. And we have a ton to learn--about being parents, the adoption process, and about Ethiopia, too. Join us for the journey! :)


Friday, December 11, 2009

Homemade Christmas Ornaments

Because I didn't want to use breakable ornaments on the tree this year--I could envision cleaning up broken ornaments every day :)--after talking with my awesome friend E, we decided to make homemade dough ornaments. Super fun and fast. :)

We made them on our first snow day in NY (between power outages--very weird day--lots of snow and then a thunderstorm). The recipe is below, but basically, after mixing up the dough you can play with it like playdough and cut out any shape you want. I have some fun cookie cutter shapes, like this elephant...
Then after poking a hole in them with a pen cap I popped them in the microwave for 3 minutes. Just 3 minutes! After they cooled (again, like within 2 minutes) we tied a ribbon through them and hung them on the tree. It worked so well because it was very fast from start to finish. And you can paint them if you wanted to--we opted for the more natural look. :)

I also love to do handprints for any holiday decoration because I know how quickly they grow and that someday it will be cool to look back and remember how little their hands were. This is T's hand...

Here's the recipe for Salt Dough Ornaments...
4 c. flour
1 c. salt
1.5 c. hot water
After mixing the dough well and rolling it out, use cookie cutters to make fun shapes. Remember to poke a hole for ribbon. Then place on a microwave-safe dish and microwave for 1-4 minutes, checking every minute for doneness (when they are firm like a cookie). Let them cool and then if you want to you can use paint and other decorations to make them more festive.

Have fun!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

From the Heart of M



So, tonight when J was putting M to bed they were praying for sister. J prayed that God would be taking care of her wherever she is and whatever she is going through. He also prayed that we would know our sister when we saw her. And M said, "Jesus is the one who chooses our sister. If He chooses to give our sister to a different family than that's fine. Because He chooses. We don't choose. He chooses." Wow, don't know where this comes from but love it!

She also said tonight, "Do you know what Jesus doesn't remember?" And just as I was about to say something like, "Oh, Jesus knows everything." She said, "He doesn't remember when I make mistakes. And when I say to Him, 'Remember when I was naughty?' He doesn't remember." This special little girl of ours has an amazing "remembery"--she never ceases to amaze us.
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Saturday, December 05, 2009

My Heart on the Outside



Hmmm...there are so many deep thoughts that continually run through my head as we go through the adoption process.

Much like when we were expecting M and T my mind was pretty much always preoccupied with their anticipated arrival and all that comes with that. Both M and T were so desired and they came into our family relatively quickly. The new member of our family has been in my heart for just as long as they have been.

I remember a precious moment when M was maybe 10-months-old. She was all snuggled up in a towel after a bath and I marveled at how cool it was that I got to watch her grow. I knew her from before she came screaming into our lives--and I had the awesome privilege of being able to stay at home with her each day--to be a part of almost every moment of her early life.

And even then, my heart was with a future part of our family who would come from far away. As I watched M that day I also thought that it was such a blessing that my little daughter could show me what it looked like to be a baby--from a bumpy lump in my belly to a tenacious toddler--I was getting to see through her what I would miss in the life of the little person who I couldn't wait to be a part of our family.

They say that when your child is born it is like a little piece of your heart walking around outside of your body. I can not wait to meet that part of my heart that has been with me for so long.

The Christmas Tree



We brought our Christmas Tree back from PA last weekend from J's Grandparent's tree farm. M and T had a ton of fun riding on the golf cart out to the trees and then running through the tree fields. Anyway, it has been on the deck all week (without water). Hmmm...hoping that we can put it up tonight. It's a great day for Christmas stuff--our first snow of the year.