Monday, January 31, 2011

I Heart Faces--Best Face Photo of Jan 2011

So I entered a contest.

A photography contest.

Yes, it's a picture you all have seen before, thanks to my Project 353 but the contest people haven't seen it!

Can you believe it?

I haven't entered a contest since the 5th grade when I wrote a DARE essay about why not to do drugs. (I didn't win, by the way.) And you can't call races "contests" because they're not. Everyone gets a fancy technical shirt and finisher's medal at the end (though I and only I did get a bat stuffed animal with a "#73" around its neck when I finished my marathon.) Oh yeah...the contest...

It's hard to blend in when you're a 6'4 American living in China. But we do our best.

If you want to check out some other fun shots (which will most likely be better than mine!), you can hit this way cool website:
And maybe you can enter a contest too. They have one every Monday. But they don't give away fancy technical shirts, finisher's medals, or stuffed bats.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Project 353-Week 3

January 23
Name that Fruit

January 24
The Joy of Cooking (in a small kitchen)

January 25
Fairy Princess Ballerina

January 26
The Littlest World Traveler

January 27
Ready & Waiting

January 28
First Snow Day

January 29
Let the Fireworks Madness Begin

Friday, January 28, 2011

Adoption is Not Plan B

I promised on my Adoption FAQs post last week to give a bit more detail behind our motives to adopt. So this is the candid truth...

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage…

It’s a funny thing when you unknowingly allow a silly nursery rhyme to shape the expectations of your life. So after a year and half of marriage when Kevin & I sensed it would be an appropriate time to welcome a little one into our family, we figured we wouldn’t be any different from the slew of other young newly-weds we knew who were decorating nurseries and reading up on birthing techniques. But in our case, neither my childhood imagination nor my college-educated reasoning could predict that life would take a drastic divergence.

After year one, year two, and going on year three of trying to conceive, we realized that it’s not as simple as a song-and-dance to go from a family of two to a family of three. (Well, maybe for some people all it takes it one “dance!”) We’ve grieved the loss of two unborn babies, who are almost always just a thought away from me.

But our adoption journey isn’t only a story of loss; it’s a story of great gain.

Before adoption can be considered a gain, we have to see its origins for what they really are: a fallen and broken situation. Ideally, every couple should be able to enjoy the fruits of conception. Ideally, parents should be able to care for and be outlived by their children without the evil interference of disease, poverty, or indifference toward life. But we don’t live in an ideal world. We live in a world ransacked and marred by the effects of sin. Effects that end lives prematurely, leaving defenseless babies alone in the world. Effects that keep hopeful mothers from feeling the first butterfly flutters from within her womb.

Our struggles to conceive are not the primary reason we’ve chosen to adopt, as if a biological child is our best and only option and anything else is just Plan B. We’ve always loved the idea of adoption and knew it would eventually weave its way into the fabric of our family. Ever since Max from the Ukraine served as ring-bearer in our wedding; ever since we gathered at the airport to meet a flight from Vietnam and welcome William & James to their new home; ever since we prayed for little Ethiopians Elijah, Meseret, Benjamin and Asher to join their forever families; ever since Makaria came on the scene as the only black baby in this great sea of yellow that we call home. Ever since those kids left indelible marks on our lives, we knew.

But the most important reason that we desire to bring children that have no biological connection to us into our home is because we ourselves have been adopted. Long, long ago, into a dead, lost world burst a beam of hope: a perfect father who paid a great price to bring strangers into his family. The father is God; the price is Jesus’ precious blood shed for our sin; the strangers are us. An inextricable relationship exists between the gospel and adoption. To put it simply, the gospel is the foundation of adoption; adoption is but one of the foundations of the gospel.

So maybe my life isn’t such a divergence after all. Maybe my life fits into the sing-song tale after all. There will be a baby in the baby carriage—two at that! Thankfully, our God is not a God of my “expectations.” He is the God of more than I could ask or imagine. Adoption first and foremost blessed me by bringing me into the family of God. Soon enough, it will bless me again by bringing me into the role of mother. And along the way, as more expectations fall as casualties to the wisdom of God, I hope to gain not only a few notches on my mommy belt but a better understanding of the mystery that informs all of life: the beauty of the gospel of Jesus.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Little Girl With the Big, Blue Glasses

(Sorry for the repost but the picture didn't upload properly the first time I did it. And how can you label a post "The Little Girl With the Big, Blue Glasses" and not include a picture of the little girl with the big, blue glasses?)

Some kids look like they should be cheerleaders, some kids look like they should be soccer players, and some kids look like they should be readers. How can a kid look like this and not like to read? I think it's physically & genetically impossible. They don't make glasses that big for nothing!

So when I was young, my near & dear friends included Ramona Quimby, Kristy Thomas, Claudia Kishi, Marianne Spier, Peter & Farley Drexler Hatcher, Ralph S. Mouse, Nancy Drew, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Matilda Wormwood, Jo March, and the like. (Cool points to you if you can name the books in which those characters are featured. Or maybe I should say nerd points instead of cool points?)

As I've gotten older, I'd like to say my taste in reading has matured as well. I'd love to take Elizabeth Bennett and Jane Eyre to coffee one day and hear their stories in person. There are a few things I love about classic literature: 1) I can download them for free on our Kindle 2) I can purchase them in print in local bookstores since the English major students have to read them for class 3) The authors actually have the audacity to include plot twists and upsets that modern authors don't seem to be willing to pull 4) They give me opportunities to look up words like "phantasmagorical" in the dictionary, so my English doesn't digress as quickly as my Chinese progresses.

So here are my reading goals for 2011 (or at least the first half of 2011 before I become a mom and have no time for extracurricular activities such as reading):

I'm Chocolate, You're Vanilla by Marguerite Wright--a child psychologist's research of how children develop a sense of race & color as they grow up. Should be an interesting read as these two white people attempt to raise two black people in a place filled with yellow people.
Empowered to Connect by Karyn Purvis--a book about connecting with adopted kids that was recommended to me by a dear friend who has started a journey with their first foster child.
Instructing a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp--we loved his first book, Shepherding a Child's Heart, and are excited to read its companion.

The Roots of Endurance by John Piper--because we all need some encouragement just to keep on keepin' on and who better to encourage than John Newton, Charles Simeon, and William Wilberforce?
Big Truths for Young Hearts by Bruce Ware--because the Wares are one of my favorite families in the world and reading Dr. Ware's book will remind me of sitting around their table at Thanksgiving.
Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands by Paul David Tripp--because, as the cover says, we're all people in need of change helping people in need of change.

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne--because I just want to understand Hester a little bit better.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain--because I don't think you're really an American unless you've read a Mark Twain book.
The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane--because it's one of the most moving and widely read American novels (or so says the back of my copy).
Billy Budd, Sailor by Herman Melville--for those of us who would like a taste of Mr. Melville but aren't quite ready for Moby Dick.
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens--because my husband is convinced that it's the best book ever written and I'd like to be able to either agree with him or argue with him.
1776- because the only copy we have access to will leave the country this summer.

Perhaps a steep list but I'm at least going to give it a try! Does anyone have any other suggestions that I should add?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Project 353-Week 2

January 16
Squishy Puppy

January 17
What goes up, must come down.

January 18
Proud Mary

January 19
Swagger Puppy

January 20
Peanuts, Peanuts, and More Peanuts

January 21
Another Domestic Disaster

January 22
Superhero Watches Always Get the Girls

This picture has absolutely no artistic merit whatsoever. In fact, it has no mature merit either. It's just plain funny.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Adoption FAQs

As the days get closer to when we'll bring our little ones home, I figured I'd make an effort to fill everyone in on the background of our adoption...

Why did we decide to adopt?
The short version: because God loves adoption

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15)

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (James 1:27)

The longer version: blog to come...

Does this mean you don't want to have/are giving up on having biological children?
No. We would love for the Lord to bless us with biological children as well. We love the idea of having a multi-racial will look more like heaven that way!

Why did we choose Ethiopia?
Reading an outstanding book called "There Is No Me Without You" gave us a deeper understanding of the situation there. Because of poverty and AIDS, the number of orphans in Ethiopia is heartbreaking. There are an estimated 5 million kiddos there without parents. No one to tuck them in at night, no one to kiss their boo-boos, no one to tell them that they are loved by a mommy and daddy on earth AND a Heavenly Daddy. Adoption is obviously not the solution to the country's deeper issues but to our little ones, it will make a world of difference.

For practical reasons, we chose Ethiopia because we have some good friends who completed an Ethiopian adoption while living in China. Things operate so differently for ex-pats that it was helpful to know someone who had successfully navigated Chinese, Ethiopian, and American red-tape. Also, currently Ethiopia has one of the most inexpensive and quickest adoption processes.

What agencies are helping us?
Our primary agency is International Adoption Guides, and Small World Adoption helped us complete our home study. We chose IAG because they've worked with other Americans like us who live overseas. So far, they've been wonderful--really responsive to our questions and very thorough in explaining the processes & procedures.

Why did we decide to adopt two?
We figured if we're going to do it, we might as well do it big. Plus, Kevin grew up as a twin so we think that raising "twins" of our own will be really special. They are not likely biological siblings but once they come home with us, they will be siblings for life.

How much does adoption cost?
For two, it will most likely cost between $45-50,000. That includes two round-trips to Ethiopia, agency fees, government fees, etc. We might also have to take a trip to Hawaii to complete the citizenship process.

How in the world are we paying for it?
By faith and by savings. We were very fortunate that while we lived in Louisville, I had a pretty nice salary. We lived simply while we were there and managed to save quite a bit. We're drawing on most of those savings now for the upfront costs. We've also had some very gracious & generous friends and family who have helped us cover some of the payments as well. The US government also has a tax refund available for adopting families, which could help us recover $13,000 per child, which would mean around $26,000 for us. This credit has not yet been approved for 2011 adoptions so we are waiting, hoping, and praying that it will be.

When do you blog readers get to see more than just bits and pieces of their faces?
We can't post their pictures on the internet until they are legally our children. This will not happen until we are assigned a court date, and we can fly to Ethiopia to appear in front of a judge. This probably won't be until March or April.

When do we get to bring them home?
If all goes well, we are hoping to bring them home by May or June. But, of course, the word to live by in the adoption world are flexibility. Anything could happen to postpone our pick-up date. So we'll wait and hope and pray some more.

How can you be a part of our adoption?
Wait and hope and pray with us! Pray for the health of our little babies. Our younger son is extremely underweight and our older son's height is way below average. Pray that these issues would be corrected. Pray for their little hearts & souls. Pray for Kevin & me as we prepare to jump into the deep end of the big, scary world of parenting. You could also help us collect some of the things we need by sending us a care package. Shockingly, there isn't a large market for black hair & skin care products in China! Or, if you feel lead & able, you could help us pay for some of the expenses associated with our adoption.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Project 353

This is the first of hopefully many posts for my new project for the year. The idea seems simple enough: just take one picture a day and then post my week's labors every Sunday. The bigger goal for me is to keep my camera from becoming a dormant bag-dweller and to force my creative horizons beyond dozens of pictures of our dog and, when the boys come, zillions of pictures of them. To me, photography has become a new way to express the way I see the world around me, a challenge beyond the typical medium of words that I'm used to. With my Rebel as my trusty sidekick, I want to see beyond what I see, capture cultural nuances, and reveal realities of life here. Hopefully, my photography skills will get better along the way and at the end of it all, I'll have a portfolio of the craziness that 2011 is shaping up to be.

Most people call this kind of thing Project 365, ie-one picture a day equals 365 pictures. But then again, most people don't have issues with being indecisive like I do and actually start their project on January 1. My project started on January 13, hence then name Project 353.

So here are my first shots:

January 12
Out & about on the bus

January 13
The lake outside our apartment. For some reason, the kids think it's fun to break up the ice with rocks, bricks, and sticks.

January 14
our tutor's birthday cupcake

January 15
my pre-school students at our final class of the semester

Any comments or suggestions are most welcome, especially from some of you photography-minded friends!

Friday, January 14, 2011

A Boy & His Cake

a limerick by Becky

There once was a boy with some cake

But there was a terrible mistake

No fork to be found

No chopsticks around

Oh how was he to partake?

After one bite, then two

He knew what to do

Dive right in

Frosting all over his chin

Just hope he remembered to chew.

The poet would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to the Little Dolphin Kindergarten for extending the invitation to come and play for the evening and providing inspiration for the above ditty.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Out to play

In Chinese, if you ever want to ask someone to hang out with you, you ask them if they want to "play." A strange way of saying things, if you ask me. A bit too reminiscent of elementary school sleepovers or neighborhood kids dropping by to invite you out to ride bikes or tromp through the backyard creek. Nonetheless, that's what we say and now I too often say it the same way in English as well as Chinese. Oops.

Kevin & I took last Monday off as our Anniversary Play Day. In years past, we've tried to do something special for our anniversary: Year 1--a weekend in the Smokey Mountains, Year 2--downtown fun eating at a fancy steak house & seeing "Phantom of the Opera," Year 3...well, Year 3 doesn't count due to jet lag but Amy served us some really good soup at her house (I think...), Year 4--an overnight at the Sheraton. Which brings us to year 5--a little bit more low key due to most of our money & vacation time being allocated to our globe-hopping adoption coming up later in the year.

We stared off the day at Starbucks for coffee, pastry, and quiet. OK well Kevin mostly enjoyed the coffee and pastry but I enjoyed the idea of coffee & pastry. And the quiet & conversation was great for both of us.

Then we headed to Papa John's for lunch. It's funny to think that the restaurant which sponsored my first 10 Mile race back in the states is now part of our international stomping grounds.

After lunch, we biked back home for games & a restful afternoon. Kevin acquiesced to have popcorn for dinner, which is a rarity. He is convinced popcorn does not constitute a real meal. I'm convinced it does. This disagreement usually causes conflict in our marriage but not on anniversary play day. My olive branch was to make him monkey bread for dessert.

I think he was satisfied.

But Kev wasn't the only one with a happy tummy on anniversary play day.

My anniversary present that he'd given me the week before was a turkey. A big ol' bird that he biked an hour in the cold to go buy for me. What a man. I gutted it (and I'd just like to say that these guts were not in a handy-dandy bag. No. When I say "gut," I mean it in the most literal sense. Guts. Real guts. Oozy, gooey guts.), roasted it, carved it...all without nary a kitchen disaster! And after it was all said and done, I let Beans have a little birdie bliss too.

So we may be simpletons in our anniversary celebration but we're satisfied simpletons!

Friday, January 07, 2011

5 Years Later...

And I'm still this happy...

We still laugh this much.

He can still put a smile on my face this big.

I never could have guessed on this day 5 years ago what our future together would hold. A move overseas, the loss of our babies, the gain of our Afri-kids. Sanctification, struggle, depth, growth. Joy, laughter, fun, growth. All part of God's wise & loving plan for our lives. I'm looking forward to the next 5, 15, 50 years with my best friend.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Happy 2nd China-versary!

Today marks our two year anniversary of China life. There is a grammar structure that communicates the idea of the longer something goes on, the more something becomes. I would say that Year Two in our Eastern journey can certainly be qualified as "Yue lai, yue Zhong Guo" (The longer we've been here, the more Chinese we've become). I thought I'd include some pictures of us over the years at the "hot spots" of our home.

And in keeping with last year's tradition, here's my Top 10 List of How You Know You've Lived in China for 2 Years...

10) When swapping bakeware or meals with friends, you realize you only need to label your dishes with initials instead of your whole name because you are only one of a few people who own an oven & use letters instead of characters for your name.

9) You spend so much time sweeping up dust bunnies, that you've come oh-so very close to putting it as one of your "hobbies" on Facebook. But can you blame me? How satisfying is it to get junk like this off your floor?

8) You actually miss the smell of "stinky tofu" when the street seller on the corner takes the day off.

traditional painting

7) You worry that when you return to the states next year, you won't be able to hold a conversation without throwing in random Chinese words (Because sometimes "mafan" just captures the idea way better than any English word can.)

Great Wall

6) When you're convinced that there is no better mode of transportation than this:

5) You have local friends who know you well enough to buy you extremely thoughtful gifts. For example, for Christmas a friend bought me a pair of furry earmuffs because she knows I hate to wear hats because it makes my curls go flat but I'm always out in the cold riding my bike. I loved my earmuffs for the four days I got to wear them before they broke. (At least one ear will be warm.)

4) When selecting an outfit to wear to a party, you realize that the crucial element is not your shoes but your socks. Shoes get left at the door but socks party with you all night long.

Terracotta Soldiers

3) You've come up with gracious ways to deflect questions like "You're fatter/skinnier than you used to be" and "How much do you pay for rent?" and "How much is your salary?"

Forbidden City

2) When views from your kitchen window of sunsets like this thrill you because the pollution finally lets some semblance of color peek through. (There's a strip of pink. See it?)

1) There is still no better place to be than the place where you're supposed to be.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

One more Christmas post to ring in the New Year...

Because what's cuter than little Chinese kids in Santa hats?