Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Mocha Club: I Need Africa More Than Africa Needs Me

Okay, Mocha's are my MOST FAVORITE espresso drink.  YUM!  So, completely jive with the name mocha club.

But, no, it's not a place for discussing my great love of delicious chocolate and deep espresso.  It's a place that challenges you to give up the cost of 2 mochas a month ($7) to make a difference in Africa.

They have 5 causes:
1. child mothers + women at risk
2. clean water
3. education
4. hiv/aids + health care
5. orphan care + vulnerable children

Go here to check out more about Mocha Club ( and ways to get involved.

LOVE their video "I Need Africa More Than Africa Needs Me."  Check it out...

In adoption news: Still waiting for our FDL and for more referrals to go out this month. :)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Catherine's Gift

I just finished reading Catherine's Gift: Stories of Hope from the Hospital by the River (2010) by John Little.  The Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia was founded by Catherine and Reginald Hamlin in 1959 to heal women suffering from fistulas.  John Little follows the lives of a handful of women who come to the hospital for treatment.  Amazing stories.

Fistulas are holes the are formed during childbirth after days of labor (almost always resulting in stillborn babies) when there is no access to medical care.  These holes constantly ooze and as a result of the smell women with fistulas become outcasts.  Many of them, in an attempt to slow the draining, remain laying down on mats for months or even years--causing their muscles to atrophy.  It is tragic.  It is preventable.  It does not happen here.

Because fistulas occur in remote villages, estimates are difficult, but a good guess it that 100,000 women develop fistulas each year. It is believed that 2 million women are currently living with fistulas. According to this site, "the world capacity to treat fistulas is estimated at 6,500 fistula repair surgeries per year."  Those numbers aren't so good.

Things that stood out to me in this book...
1..  Again, inspired by the power of just a few people to be able to make a difference for so many.  (30,000 women have been treated at the hospital in Addis Ababa over the past 33 years.)

2.  The importance of education and health care.  Having specially trained mid-wives at easily accessible hospitals all over the country would prevent and significantly reduce the incidence of fistulas.

3.  Struck by how blessed I am and how much I take for granted where I live. After a long labor and hours of insane pushing, M was delivered by C-section. What if I lived in a remote village in Africa? The women in this book could be me...

4.  The beauty of the doctors who work at the fistula hospitals and who perform fistula surgeries all over Africa.  They do not do it for money, they do it because of the love of seeing lives transformed through surgery. 

You can go here to get more facts about fistulas.  Or go here to find ways to help.  (For $450.00 you can cover the cost of one woman's surgery and medical care.)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Where's the lotion?

We have had a huge bottle of generic hand lotion sitting by the kitchen sink for a VERY long time.  As a visual person, the look of the bottle has bothered me for some time.  :)  I was going to buy a lovely dispenser to put it in, but in the end, I decided that I would like to try a more budget-friendly solution.   I decoupaged the unsightly bottle with some old scrapbook paper that I already had.  Yay for free projects! :)

And, if you haven't yet--you need to check out Andrea's updates at  She met Isaac for the first time yesterday and the pictures are breathtaking...

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sunday Funnies: Bear-adryl

This past week J has had a really bad sunburn on his back.  It was quite itchy and he was in a bit of agony.  He took some Benadryl and the kids felt bad for him. 

M's best bear is Ben.  When T heard that Daddy took "Ben"adryl he took his best bear "Bear" to J and said, "Here, Daddy, you can spread Beary on your back."  :)

(T and Beary Bear around Valentines Day.)

And, so cool!, Andrea (and some other AGCI families) are meeting their children for the first time today.  Check out Andrea's blog as   Especially this post:  Day 1 in Ethiopia...

Friday, June 25, 2010

Friday Favorites: "The Carousel Mall"

M and T LOVE the "Carousel Mall."  It's a mall that has a soft kid's play area and a double-decker carousel.  Every Miller kid's dream. :)

This mall is not so close to our house--maybe 45 minutes away, give or take.  But it has more stores than our "local" mall (making it one of my favorite places to shop) and on a really hot or rainy day it's a fun place to go.

Love this play area because the floor and climbing creatures are all super soft.  Great place to get some energy out and a very good reward for helpful little shoppers. ;)

Tumbling together under the caterpillar.

Posing on the bear.  (A little treat from McDonald's always helps with the ride home.)

We always go for either the horses on the top level or the spinning "cup" on the first level.

Fun place!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Theme Week: Word Week

Last week was "Word Week."  It was a low-key week.  Because M is in the pre-reading phase (she can write all of the letters and can copy words), thought it would be a good idea to start labeling things in our house.  (Which led to a funny note in her room that said "PottyTowel.")

We also finally took the time to write to our Compassion child, Ajith, in India.  I am HORRIBLE at correspondence (my family can attest to this very well!).  Hoping writing to him becomes a habit. 

Ajith's birthday is coming up this summer and M is very excited about making him a card.  She wanted to send him a cake, but then she realized that it would probably get really squished by the time it got there.  We also talked about how probably the cakes they eat are different from the cakes we eat.  She concluded that he has different "taste buns" than us. :)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mama Panya's Pancakes (100th Post!)

We're trying to do a bit more to get ready for sister to come.  We're talking about it a lot more and we're talking quite a bit about other cultures, etc.  We just got this book--Mama Panya's Pancakes by Mary and Rich Chamberlin.  M and T are loving it.

First of all, "Mama Panya" is just plain fun to say.  Secondly, they LOVE pancakes.  In the story Mama Panya is, of course, making pancakes.  She only has enough money to make pancakes for her son, Adika, and herself.  But Adika keeps inviting all of their friends.  In the end they have more than enough to eat because everyone brings something to share and they have a great time together.

The story is interlaced with words in Kiswahili (one of the languages of Kenya). It has kid-friendly descriptions about Kenya at the end.  Really like this book. :)

Bring on the Shots
In other adoption news, we are in the pursuit of travel vaccines.  I totally thought that this would be no big deal.  You know, just go to my family doctor and get some vaccines.  Not so. 

My family doctor told me to check out our state Health Department for travel vaccine clinics.   I have a list of recommended vaccines from the CDC--typhoid, Hep A, Hep B, meningitis and yellow fever.  This week I spent time getting prices from a few clinics.  I also found out that very thankfully our insurance will cover the travel vaccines.  But the 2 clinics I was able to contact also require a consultation fee.  There is also some sort of clinic that operates only 2 times a month, but I can't get any information about dates, etc. online.  Just waiting around for them to call me back.   Anyway, working on getting it all figured out. :)  (Exciting, I know.) :)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Three Cups of Tea

I finished Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortensen and David Oliver Relin over this past weekend.

Greg Mortensen is just an ordinary guy who saw a great need for schools in Pakistan in the early 1990's and he has been devoting all of his money and life to the cause of building schools--especially schools for girls--in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

A few things really stood out to me.
1.  The power of one man to make change (along with the incredible support of his wife). 
2.  Even when faced with HUGE obstacles--exploring insane terrain, being kidnapped, learning new languages, acquiring money on a nurse's salary--his passion helped him accomplish his goals.
3.  The beautiful cultures of the people living in the regions he has touched.
4.  The sense it makes to help build schools where there are NO schools.  The power of education--both for good and for bad.

It was one of those books that changes the way that I see the world--giving me a beautiful, yet overwhelming, look into a part of the world that I know so little about.  You can go to the book's website to get more information:  

Monday, June 21, 2010

Awesome First Day of Summer and YUMMY Dessert

What a FUN First Day of Summer.  We had pirate coves (it's Pirate Week), buried treasures (granola bars in the sand), the swimming pool, sprinkler, a tent under the sprinkler, watermelon wedges, and summer tunes blaring.  Oh, and lots of time to read on a bean bag chair on the deck while drinking cups of coffee.

And to end this fun day, a fabulous peanut butter fudge topping for some frozen yogurt.

My Mom's Peanut Butter Fudge Topping

1.  Make a simple syrup by bringing equal amounts of water and sugar to a boil until the sugar dissolves.

2.  Stir equal amounts of chocolate sauce, peanut butter, and marshmallow fluff in a bowl.

3.  Thin the peanut butter mixture with the simple syrup to a desired consistency.

4.  Serve on ice cream.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sunday Funnies: Animal Faces

A few days ago I saw T sitting at the table making some pretty funny faces. He was sitting very still and looking out of the sides of his eyes while very slowly moving his mouth like he was talking but without any voice.  I ask, "What are you doing?" He tells me that he's a frog. Of course, looks just like a frog! ;)

Here is our attempt at capturing the "Frog" on video.

Then, tonight at dinner he stood up and put half of a bun on each side of his head and starting moving the bun halves on his cheeks back and forth ever so slowly. 

"T, what are you doing?"  "I a black ant."  A black ant, huh?  This time I can see the resemblance--the buns are kind-of like antennas.

Here's our attempt at capturing "Black Ant" minus the buns. :)

Happy Father's Day!  We love you Daddy, Grandpa, Pop and Grandpa T! :)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Swamp Week

That's right, last week was Swamp Week.  We sang Old MacDonald as "Old MacT (or Beautiful MacM) lived near a swamp--E-I-E-I-O..."  And then we named lots of creepy things that lived in swamps and the kids LOVED it! 

I also attempted to capture a turtle that was racing across my neighbor's driveway.  Yep, racing.  Not quite like a rabbit, but it was booking it!  Tried to get it in a box, but I must confess I was a little too creeped out to pick it up--I was a definitely intimidated by its speed and claws.

I did manage to pick up a toad, though.  With gloves. 

And I know this is a bit of a stretch (would probably have been a better fit for, say, Beach Week), but we also finally set up a sandbox for M & T.  "Swamp dirt" as we called it. :)  It literally occupies them for an hour at a time!

I have given up on requiring shoes and socks outside.  Decided there were bigger battles to fight and that it does feel good to have sand between your toes. ;)

Inspiring Adoption Video

Last fall I was searching for videos of Hannah's Hope in Ethiopia (where our daughter will be coming from) and came across Lucy Lane's Gotcha Day Video.  Her video and blog are such positive encouragements.  This is her One Year Home! Video.  Check it out (and see if you see any familiar faces)...

Lucy Lane Gotcha Day - One Year Later from kristi johnson on Vimeo.

And here's her Gotcha Day video if you haven't seen it yet...

In other adoption news, I've been checking out international pediatricians and looking into travel vaccines.  More to come on all of that later. ;)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Confused and Mixed-up

Okay, so this process is definitely one that forces you to open your eyes.  It gives you crazy perspective on the important stuff in life.  And it is completely messing up my head.  (Which is a good thing.)

Recently saw this blog Be "THE HANDS AND FEET" (check it out and be inspired).  Two things stand out to me.  First, this girl's life is amazing!  Absolutely love and am challenged that as a young woman, she has decided to move away from everything familiar to do something incredible with her time and talents.  Second, I am overwhelmed by the stories of the children.  HOW CAN THIS BE?  6lb one-year-olds?  6lb one-year-olds?!  And not just one--it's a repeated story!  Seriously, how does anything in my life compare to this?  Food is a basic necessity. 

I just don't even have a way to comprehend this huge disconnect.  I mean, last week I spent like 10 minutes trying to find the perfect gift wrap for a present, meanwhile around the world someone doesn't even have enough food to feed their child even ONE meal a day!  How is it that I get to go the grocery store to decide which kind of ice cream I would like to buy for a casual snack, while in some places in the world parents mix mud with a small bit of food just to fill their children's bellies? 

Inside my head I am screaming, "THIS IS NOT OKAY!!!!"

There is so much to ponder and evaluate.  This stuff spins through my head and I'm not quite sure what to do with it.  But I do know that I would love to have it move from just thoughts into action.  Finding ways to better use our resources-time, talents and money-so that we can share the amazing blessings that we have. 

I know I severely lack in my ability to adequately communicate my thought processes.  But a week or so ago, I saw a post from another mom in the process of adoption.  Earlier this year she travelled to Ethiopia with her children.  She so eloquently put into words how I have often imagined that I will react when I see so much of what I have read or seen on videos with my own eyes.

"I liken my first taste of Africa and my processing of it these last few months to someone who is going through the five stages of grief. I honestly think while I was there, I was in a state of shock. Being slightly numb is about the only way I could keep from weeping at every moment. I was carried along by the rhythm and flow of life in Ethiopia—the sights, and sounds, and smells. But I didn’t know how to feel. I was overwhelmed by the need and my lack of ability to do anything about it. And I certainly didn’t know how to reconcile everything I was seeing with my life back in America.
Which led me to anger. At injustice. At rich, spoiled Americans. At myself. Some justified anger, sure, but mostly my anger was misdirected. I wanted someone to blame. Surely someone was responsible for all this death and sickness and disparity, and so it must be all those people who don’t know, who don’t care, who don’t do anything. If they would just listen. If they would just care. I was ready to point my finger at anyone and everyone.

And, of course, at myself. Because Africa, like a magnifying mirror, reveals more of yourself than you really want to see. Things you hide well in a land of prosperity--like selfishness, laziness, greed, arrogance-- get exposed in a land of want. When you see a woman who has nothing use her meager supply of water and injera to serve you tea-- you can’t help but think of how often you’ve opened your overflowing pantry and sighed that there’s just nothing to fix for dinner. When you meet a man who walks the 3 miles back and forth to work, works 12 hour days, 7 days a week, all for about $2 a day, and he counts himself as blessed—you can’t help but think of how often you’ve complained you needed “me time” after a day “stuck” in your comfy house homeschooling your well-fed kids and folding enough laundry to clothe an army. When you give a child a piece of gum, and you look back to see them sharing it with 6 other children around them--you can’t help but think of overflowing Easter baskets and Christmas stockings stuffed full of goodies. And you feel fat. Regardless how much you weigh, you just feel like a soft, flabby glutton.
And so I entered the stage of bargaining. OK, God, I can still live in my house as long as I speak up for orphans and bring one home to live in it. I can still have 25 pairs of shoes as long as a couple of them are TOMS. I can still spend hours online doing nothing productive, as long as I occasionally post something thought provoking on facebook. I can still own way more than I need, as long as I donate some of the stuff I don’t really want anymore to Goodwill."
Please go here to read the rest of her post: Three Months and Five Stages Later.

This is a life-changing process for sure...

Monday, June 14, 2010

Moving a Mountain (a Mulch Mountain, that is)

Here is some of what we've been doing to stay busy...

Ahhh...2 weeks ago I had a long-awaited delivery of mulch!  And not just any mulch--FREE mulch!  Well, actually, I had to pay for the delivery, but the mulch itself cost nothing! 

Along the back of our yard there are some planted pine trees and the ground around that is all stones and roots and weeds and dirt.  And such a pain to mow.  I have been dreaming of mulch.  Sweet mulch.

I found an add on Craig's List for free mulch-yay!  They asked me how much I needed.  Wow--I have no concept of that stuff.  I just said that I needed A LOT.  They told me that they would load up their truck and give me all that they had left.  Awesome.

I was SO excited when I heard the truck coming.  It sounded big.  It was big.  It was a big old dump truck full of mulch.  I was giddy with excitement.  Really, I was.

Yeah, so in my plans, of course, I imagined that the mulch would be dumped very close to where I needed it.  Unfortunately, like all projects, plans and reality are very different. :)  It had rained just a little bit before the truck came and the driver was nervous about getting stuck in our yard and we weren't too excited about that either. :)

Alas, the mulch had to be dumped along the road.  It was a mountain.  A mountain that had to be moved.  By me.

And thus began my two-week adventure with mulch.  Using a huge wheelbarrow from our neighbors (Thanks, T&D!), I moved the first half with a shovel.  Scraping it onto the street with a little shovel and then scooping it up with a BIG shovel--using proper lifting technique, of course.  :)  A week into my mulch moving, J got me a pitch fork.  Ahh...a pitch fork.  So much easier!  Having the right tools for the job totally makes a difference.

Oh, and when I had only about 10 more loads to move (really just the stuff that was covering the grass), I discovered that the reason the wheelbarrow had been squeaking all along was because it had a flat tire.  The whole time I had been pushing that thing with a flat tire!  When it was re-inflated I couldn't believe how much easier it was to push.  Imagine that! :)

And now I am finally done!  LOVE how it looks.  Love that it will make mowing the lawn so much easier.  And love that J is just finishing up our deck so that when we sit outside it gives us a nice view.

{After moving just a few loads.  This is about 12 cubic yards, which I can now say I have a physical concept of.}

{About 3/4ths of the way done!}

{My long trek to the backyard--with a flat tire, no less. ;) }

{The weedy, rocky back yard with just one tree done.}

{The finished project.  Ahhh....}

And there you have it--a whole post about MULCH.  ;)  Now onto other fun projects--like painting my bedroom! :)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sunday Funnies: Worm Racing

M & T racing inch worms down the driveway. :)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

New June Number (and some speculation)

Officially for a little girl 0-15 months (From 52 at the end of Feb). 
And #17 for siblings (0-15 months).

Unofficially we are #27 because 2 referrals went out earlier this week.

Here's the fun part, though.  And this is COMPLETE speculation.  Each week an unofficial list is posted on our adoption agency's listserve.  This awesome list shows the position and parameters (ages) of almost everyone who is adopting from Ethiopia.  By looking at the list, it looks like we are either the first or second family who can take a baby in the 12-15 month range.  Crazy!  Very excited to see what this summer brings. :)

P.S. Also changed my music at the side.  Love Aaron Ivey's song, Amos Story, about the adoption of his son from Haiti.  You can read more about it here.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Friday Favorites: Baskets!

Happy Friday!  I have new numbers to post, but in the meantime thought it would be fun to share some of my family favorites on Fridays. :)  You know, the stuff that makes me smile and that just make everyday life easier.  Things that I'm VERY thankful for!

For my first favorite--I LOVE baskets!  I love that they are incredibly practical, yet beautiful and homey.  I love their organic and handmade look.  Love them!

Favorite places to get baskets?  Clearance sections of TJMaxx and Target and yard sales, of course. ;)

Here are just a few of the many baskets that help keep our house organized and lovely. :)

Basket on top of the desk for printer ink.

Baskets in my closet for jeans and the like.

My nightstand.  The bottom basket if full of parenting books and mementos from M and T.  The top basket is for the books I'm reading now.

Another side-table basket in the guest room/office.  Full of adoption books and paperwork.

Entrance-way baskets.  Top baskets--one each for lint rollers, car games and extra keys.  The bottom three--one each for returns, cleaning supplies for M & T and M's artwork that we send to grandparents when it gets full.  And even a basket bag full of sun screen. :)

Shoe basket--this one gets crazy full!

Toy basket.

Wooden train basket.

Crayon basket.

Pantry baskets.

Basket for fruit (time to make some banana bread). ;)

Potty seat and TP basket.

Tissue basket.

And everyone's favorite--laundry baskets!  (Though seriously, can't complain about having too much laundry--definitely thankful to have more than enough clothes.) :)

Yep, very thankful for baskets! :)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Garden Week and Quick Adoption Update

Last week was Garden Week.  We finally planted some flowers and some cilantro, basil and mint.  Hmmm...I tend to be a hands-off flower person and so as you can guess, my plants usually don't last very long. :)  But I can say that the M, T and I have been faithfully watering them every day.

He might have been playing in the dirt. ;)

Yes, definitely playing in the dirt this day.  He actually got hosed off before coming in the house.  So glad that he has short hair--it's much easier to clean. :)

Some of our flowers.

In adoption news, from reading other blogs :), there has been a bit of a clarification about the new 2-trip policy.  Once we receive and accept a referral then the court in Ethiopia will set up an appointment with the birthparents.  After that appointment another court date will be set for us to be there.  During that trip we will meet our little girl.  Then after we return from that one week trip there will still be the expected ~2 month wait before we go back for a week again to bring our daughter home. 

From what I can understand, the court dates can be a bit complicated.  A lot needs to fall into place to pass court and in the past it can take up to 3-4 court dates before a family actually passes.  The first families that will need to travel twice are in process now.  So, we'll be able to see how it all works out. :)  

And we should be getting our new numbers very soon!  We'll actually unofficially be about 2 numbers less than our official number because 2 referrals went out this week! :)  Stay tuned...

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Preschool Graduation (Sort-of) & Microwaved Thanksgiving

M "graduated" from her first year of preschool today. :)  They had such a sweet little ceremony with songs and a slideshow.  We have so LOVED her school and teachers--what a great experience it's been!

I think the only thing that kept from crying was knowing that she's going back again next year. :)  We wrestled with the decision of when to send M to kindergarten all year.  She doesn't turn 5 until the end of October but the cut-off for kindergarten where we live is December 1st.  So we didn't know--should we send her to school as a 4 turning 5 or as a 5 turning 6? 

For lots of reasons, we finally decided that we will wait one more year.  Thinking ahead to the middle-school and high-school years we would so prefer her to be the older child in her class rather than the younger.  

And so thankful that we get one more year with her as she grows.  Love you, little M.  You're our girl!

Oh, and her teachers helped them put together an end of the year book with a collection of photos and art from over the past year.  So cool.  But there was some FUNNY stuff in there!  Like on the list of "What do you want to be when you grow up?"  Most of the other kids said something like a mommy or teacher or doctor.  M wants to be a princess.  Love that!  But my FAVORITE was a fill in the blank for Thanksgiving.  In response to "How do you prepare a turkey for Thanksgiving?" M said, "My mommy puts in the microwave and when it's done she puts it in a place to cool down and then I eat it."  Puts it in the microwave?!  Gotta love it!   :)

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Weekend Catch-up

Over Memorial Day Weekend we went to my cousin's wedding in Southern NJ.  It was such a beautiful wedding in a beautiful vineyard setting.

The kids watched the Sound of Music on the way (it was the perfect length for the whole trip!).  When we got there, M was pretending that she was Louisa (her favorite character) and she was dancing all through the grass.  :)

Me spinning with my guy, T.  :)

On Monday I went to the local parade in our very small town with M and T.  So never thought that I would like living in a small town--but I LOVE it.  We walked to the little town hall and watched the firetrucks and servicemen march in the parade.  Then we had watermelon, lemonade, blueberries and hotdogs and a yummy picnic dinner at Becca's.  What a fun weekend!

(J is expanding our deck to make room for a table, so our backyard is a bit of a construction site.  And, yes, T is wearing a pink ribbon--it's my hat, but I didn't want the top of his head to get burnt. ;)