Thursday, February 28, 2008

Wrapping Up Black History Month

Below is the article "Bond Between Ethiopian, African Americans Examined." It gives an interesting viewpoint of the historical context of the relationship between Ethiopians and African Americans. Very informative.


On Monday night, a bus full of New York Abyssinian Baptist Church members drove to Washington, D.C. to join the Ethiopian community to honor the church and its pastor, the Rev. Dr. Calvin Butts III.

The event, which was hosted at the Ethiopian embassy, was also intended to celebrate Black History Month and to strengthen the historical and spiritual connections between the Ethiopian and African-American communities.

“During slavery, African Americans always looked at Ethiopia as a place that represented freedom, black culture, history and religion,” said Princeton University professor Ephraim Isaac, who spoke at the event. “It inspired the fight against discrimination and religion. When slaves were told they were inferior, they were animals or subhuman, they would think of Ethiopia.”
Isaacs, who is also the founder of the African-American studies department at Harvard, quoted Langston Hughes’ poem, “The Call of Ethiopia.” The poem addressed the freedom of not only Ethiopia, but also the entire African continent.

Sociology professor Alem Habtu of CUNY Queens College described how, as an international student from Ethiopia, he learned from African Americans during the civil rights movement.
Habtu, along with some peers, took over the Ethiopian embassy in protest of issues concerning their country after hearing Stokely Carmichael and members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) speak.

The guests included members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), and the ambassador of Ethiopia, Samuel Assefa.

Robert Wallace, CEO of Birthgroup Technologies, said he plans to build orphanages for children whose parents died of AIDS/HIV.

Gary Flowers, executive director and CEO of the Black Leadership Forum, addressed the need to get back to the root of black culture.

“I am, because we are; and because we are, I am,” Flowers said. “There is no individual advancement without group advancement.”

The director of communications for Ambassador Al Rutherford said the program is the first of many that will recognize the connection between the two cultures.

The evening ended with the honoring of Butts, as he was presented with a piece of artwork by a famous Ethiopian painter.

His long-term goal is to use the church’s developmental corporation to build housing and educational facilities in Ethiopia.

“We can not be chauvinistic about our connection to Ethiopia and cannot deny what needs to happen,” said Butts.

Naughty Cat

Overheard in the dining room...

Abigail: Lily Grace Kirk! Get off the table. You know you are not supposed to be up there!

Later...

Abigail: I had to tell Lily to get off the table.

Me: Oh?

Abigail: Yes, she was being bad, so I told her "Lily Grace Kirk, get off that table!"

Me: Oh, I didn't know that was her name.

Abigail: Well, it is when she is being naughty. Like my name is Abigial Grace Kirk when I am being naughty.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A Tribute to Someone I Don't Know (11/20/06)

I was scanning a few blogs, not really looking for anything in particular, when the above phrase caught my eye and captured my imagination. Sometimes, that is how I feel. Especially lately. In my mind, and even sometimes fully expressed to others, I give a tribute to someone who then turns out to be completely opposite of who I thought they were. How does that happen?

How is it that I allow myself to become emotionally intimate with people who are so capable of deceiving me about who they really are? I know part of it is my problem: I don't protect myself emotionally the way I should, and I enter far to quickly into intimacy, and to a lesser degree, vulnerability. And by the time I have figured out their true self, they have hurt me immensely. Yes, part of that is me: I know I need to guard my heart more carefully.

But is there a part of me that is simply willing to be deceived? Is there a part of me that is so desperate for emotional intimacy that I perhaps deceive myself? These thoughts are pouring out now, and I can't stop them from coming. More and more I see that perhaps if I am not deceiving myself, I am allowing myself to be deceived... or maybe better stated, I am allowing myself, against common sense and against reason provided by past experience, to believe the absolute best of people's intentions and communications. I am setting myself up.

Setting yourself up inevitably leads to being knocked down, and that hurts. I am tired of that.


11/20/06

Check Up

This morning, I mentioned to Abigail that my arm was hurting a bit (from the shot I got yesterday.) She immediately became "Doctor Abigail" and insisted that she give me a check up. She did the usual, checking my temperature, looking in the back of my throat, checking my blood pressure, and listening to my heart. Then, not sure what the "beeper" in her kit was supposed to do, she insisted that I watch "the big screen TV" and proceeded to turn it on using the buttons on the beeper.

What was I watching? Well, I was watching about eating healthy. The rules for eating healthy, per Dr. Abigail, include:
*Eat your dinner and your vegetables
*Only eat a small amount of dessert every day
*Always only eat a little dessert to make your heart healthy

She wanted to provide me with some other educational materials, so she offered me a choice of 2 titles: "Harry Potter" and "Health Care." Since I was supposed to be getting healthier, I chose "Health Care" which she then read to me. The content goes something like this:
It's important to be healthy and to see your doctor and your nurse. And if you are sick you have to take your medicine and get shots. And you get shots so that you don't get more sick. You have to get lots of medicine when you are sick."

Next she decided that in order to treat my headache (I didn't know I had one) she needed to give me 3 shots. The first shot was so that I wouldn't get a headache in Ethiopia, and the other 2 were to make my headache go away.

Finally, her parting "doctors orders" went something like this:
It's important that you get rest every day and that in the afternoon you take a rest. So when you take your break, you need to leave the hospital and come here and lay down for a few minutes. And then you can take a rest and when you get up you will be refreshed (she was very proud of using this word) and you can go back to work and take care of your patients.

Oh, Abigail, how I wish...

While on the topic of cute (and odd) things that Abigail says:

Sitting at the table in Friendly's last night, Abigail suddenly cringed and dissolved into a puddle of wails and tears.

Me: What's wrong?

Abigail: My vagina hurts!

Me: It does? Let's go to the potty (we had already been there before we were seated and everything seemed normal, so I was kind of freaked out.)

Abigail: I can feel it coming up!

Me: What? What can you feel?

Abigail: I can feel my potty coming up to the potty place!

(Mind you, this whole conversation is taking place in a crowded restaurant while Abigail sobs uncontrollably and talks in a louder-than-normal voice. Embarrassment is a parent's middle name.)

Long story short, we got to the bathroom, and she does some business (and not vagina business, if you know what I am saying.) We end up having to go back to the bathroom to do the same business before we leave, and shortly after we arrive home, she does more business. First thing this morning, she did business, and again before we left for school. Maybe she has some sort of stomach bug? Or could this be a side-effect from the Typhoid shot she got yesterday? We may never know.

Updated Adoption To-Do List

Here's an updated to-do list for the adoption.

*Prepare girl's room (assemble bookshelves, toy box, buy second mattress for bunk beds, hang new curtains, hang new artwork, re-organize closet)
*Buy baby stuff- carseat, highchair/booster, clothes, shoes, diapers?, sippy cups
*Present lesson to Abigail's class about Ethiopia and kick of donations drive
*Talk to pastor more about how the church can help
*Buy granola bars for the begging children
*Prepare information for day care center employees about adoption/attachment/possible delays or medical conditions
*Work ahead in school and try to complete classes as early as possible in case of early referral/early travel
*"Dry run" packing my stuff and Abigail's stuff in the compression bags I bought
*Revisit and trim the packing list
*Finish as many household projects as possible and clean house
*Consider and/or organize large garage sale (whole church, whole neighborhood, whole daycare?) to raise money for travel expenses

Week 6

6 Weeks (1 month, 1 week, 4 days) of waiting for a referral... where does the time go? When I was working on my dossier, I felt like the time between when I would send a document by FedEx to be authenticated and the time when it would arrive at it's destination took weeks when it actually only took a few days. Now I feel like the weeks are flying by- 7 days feels like 3, and I am starting to get worried that I just won't get everything done.

In actuality, I've made a lot of progress on the adoption to-do list, but the problem is that I keep thinking of more things to do! But, I think that is typical momma behavior- as they say, a woman's work is never done.

Week 6 highlights:
*Got our typhoid shots yesterday. Abigail was the hero! She didn't cry, and was super-helpful by cleaning my arm with alcohol for the nurse, and then putting the bandaid on when the nurse was done. Great job, Abigail! (My arm is sore, but I don't feel like I've been hit by a truck like I did with my last batch of shots. Apparently it's the Hep A shot that can give you the flu-like side effects.)

*Completed and sent off all the paperwork for the Oxford Adoption Foundation loan that I have been awarded. Now all I have to do is sit back and wait for the adoption to be finalized in Ethiopia, and the loan will be funded, with disbursement directly to Gladney. So, my Gladney costs left to pay before travel have just significantly decreased! Yea!

*Was blessed to receive a random package from Abigail's teacher, Ms. Barbara. She has been following along with our adoption journey, and has invited me to teach Abigail's class about Ethiopia, which will "kick off" the donation drive at Abigail's school/day care. Anyway, last week she pulled me aside as I was picking up Abigail and handed me a shopping bag. She said she had been at some stores, saw some great deals, and picked up a few things to give to the orphans. The bag contained clothes, art supplies, and toys. Thanks Ms. Barbara!

*Started the F.B.I. It's been really great to learn about other Gladney families, as well as having the opportunity to see a more realistic picture of referral to court, and court to embassy times. If you know of other Gladney families that are not on the list, please let me know! I am hoping that once I move past the time where this info would be helpful to me, that someone who is further behind in the process might take over the maintenance of the list, and hopefully it can be kept going to be a reference for Gladney families. All you need is a Google account!

*I've had lots of fun seeing the responses to the polls I have posted. If you haven't voted yet, please do so, and please feel free to leave a comment with your rationale! Do you all know something about summer vacations that I don't know? I'm wondering if the Gladney caseworkers all take a summer vacation and that's why no one has chosen June 1-15 as the time frame to receive my referral?

Well, that's about it on the home front. We're off to take Abigail to school, and then I have to call the township and find out why I haven't gotten any info about enrolling Abigail in first grade. All the other parents have gotten info packets and are doing stuff... Hmm. A mystery.

Progress

There has been some progress in the court case with the Prior. He is requesting to settle. His lawyer told my lawyer that he doesn't really want custody, or even to have us move back to IL, but he doesn't "have the money to pay child support, day care, and expenses" (court order is for 50% of child care and expenses such as medical care or ballet classes.)

Yes, the man who lives in a $230,000 home and drives a 2007 Toyota truck does not have the money to take care of his child. Right.

We have a pre-trial conference on March 11, and hopefully a lot of things can get worked out at that point. My happiness would increase, my stress would decrease, and my pocketbook would sing a little song in anticipation of not having to pay gazillions more dollars to the lawyer.

So, can you say some prayers? Not that I "get everything," but that God brings about justice in this situation.

Monday, February 25, 2008

APB!/Forensic Blogging Adventure #1

Okay Ladies and Gents, I am doing a little experiment in forensic blogging, and I need your assistance! This is a call to the public in response to the APB I am putting out on my referral.

Now, before I start, let me just say that I am not over-eager for my referral (it will happen in God's time, and the good Lord knows I have a lot to do between now and then.) I am, however, very curious, and hoping to successfully plan my summer/fall class schedule and vacations. So, don't take this as a "I want my referral!" post, but rather a "Hmm, can I accurately plan on taking a trip to the Blog Union or taking 4 classes this summer?" type post.

Okay, disclaimer aside...

My goal is to figure out a few things:

a) How long is the recent wait for Gladney families requesting a toddler girl, with or without correctable medical condition?
b) How long is the recent wait for a court date for Gladney families?
c) How long is the wait between passing court and embassy date for Gladney families?
d) How many people are on the Gladney wait list ahead of me?
e) For those ahead of me on the wait list, how many are requesting a toddler girl?

First step- visiting the most up-to-date, organized, and informative Gladney blogger I know: Amy "Momma to many, and now home with Nathan" Breedlove. She lists blogging Gladney families in the left sidebar (scroll down, it's there- or stop and check out her blog first:)

First question, readers, is this: who else do you know that is a Gladney family, besides those on her blog, and where are they in the process (most interested in waiting, referral, court date, and traveling families). The key to successful forensic blogging is the amount and quality of your information!

So help me out fellow bloggers and blog-readers! I know you know much of what I don't know, you know?

Happy Birthday, Hunkle!*


Today is my brother Jordan's birthday! He turns 23 today:)


*Hunkle is like Uncle and Hunk put together. Now, I don't call my brother this, and I certainly didn't think this one up, but my mom sure tries to get Abigail to call him this.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Wise

Take a guess...

Here are some questions for you to ponder... (Keep in mind I went on the wait list 1/16/08 and I am requesting a todder girl, under the age of 36 months, with or without a minor medical condition, with a preference for a girl 12-14 months at age of referral.)




Just for fun...

Friday, February 22, 2008

Jealousy

Alright, I might ruffle some feathers here, but I trust that my regular readers will not be offended:)

I'll be honest: until I started educating myself about transracial adoption and parenting a black child, I never heard of "white envy"- an idea that basically espouses that black kids want to be white and that is the reason why they want straight hair or lighter skin or whatever. From the reading I have done, it seems that this idea is not really "true"- Dr. Wright, who wrote "I'm Chocolate, You're Vanilla," debunks this myth in her book, and for a further discussion, I recommend you read her book.

Now, I ask you, has anyone ever heard of "black envy"? Because I think it's real, and I think Abigail has it.

This girl is so in love with black people! She could look at pictures of Ethiopians for hours, and keep up an endless stream of how beautiful their eyes and smiles and faces are. She loves black skin of all colors, and is always asking to touch it because "it looks so soft and shiny." (This is odd in public places, and I hope we have not offended anyone when she has made her request in a voice loud enough to be heard by others.) And black hair... she has never seen a black hair style she did not want to imitate. Ballies, cornrows, locks... she cries when my attempts at braiding her hair fail (which they inevitably do since her hair is just not the right texture to hold a braid.)

Every time we see a referral picture, every time we click to see Micah, Pacey, the Owlhavens, the Quinns, or baby Ian she ooohs and ahhhs and asks if her sister will look just like these beautiful kids. When we read her favorite book "We're Different, We're the Same" she always chooses the eyes and skin and nose of the black characters as the most beautiful (and sometimes even as the one she looks the most like.) This girl has black envy. I love it!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Hibernate Turtles

This story is called "Hibernate Turtles."

One day it was spring. It turned winter and it was very cold and they didn't like to waste food. And it wasn't very good.

"I had to go look for more" said mom. "Sometimes moms just have to go and find food. It helps them to be strong, and we really need to do that. That could help us."

It was very very cold in winter. When Abigail's mom walked outside, the winter winds stung her shell. She burried deep in the water. It wasn't okay. It was so nice of the mother to go out first. Then all the other turtles went out to find food. But Abigail and her father stayed home in the water, burried in the mud.

The End

by abigail

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Horizon House Prayer

I saw this on another blog. I was touched, and wanted to share. Here is the daily prayer recited at Horizon House

In the name of the Father (beh semeh ab)
the son (beh wold)
and the Holy Sprit (beh menfes kidus)
One God (ahadu amlak)
Amen. (ahmen)

Our God, we pray to ask you to please bless this bread and this water,
we pray to ask you to please provide to those who are hungry and thirsty
and give to them with your blessings,
Amen.
Let those who are working hard for others and those with giving hands be blessed.
In the name of your Son, Jesus Christ,
Amen.

Kiss Me

On days that I work, Abigail gets up at 5:45am so that we can leave the house no later than 6:30am. Even though it does not take 45 minutes to get ready in the morning, she has a better morning if we have a few minutes to cuddle before she gets going. Lately, she has gotten out of her bed, and climbed into mine to "chat" with me while I am getting ready. Then we cuddle, she gets dressed in my room, and we brush our teeth together.

So this morning, she comes into my room and climbs into my bed.

Me: Good morning!

Abigail: Gmorg.

Me: (hugging her) Can I have a kiss?

Abigail: No.

Me: No? Why not?

Abigail: I'm too tired to turn my head.

Well, excuse me! :)

Week 5


Another week down of waiting. The weeks are really flying! Let's see, what adoption stuff did I do this week?

* Bought a nice blend of a croc/sneaker at W*lmart for $8. I think they will work well for walking and be easy to keep clean. Plus, they are pink, so... You know:) They are happy!

* Picked up more travel/trip stuff at said store. Got a great deal on clearance V-Day shiny pencils (they have hearts on them.) Thought this would be great for the orphanage.

* Finished all 10 required hours of Hauge training.

* Did I tell you I ordered the bunk beds? Can't remember if I told you, but I did. They should arrive some time around Easter.

* Stalked the Breedlove's blog and Jocelyn's blog. Cutie pie babies!

* Decided that rather than trying to explain to non-adoption people what a referral is, that it is much easier to say "I am waiting to be matched with a child." People get that.

* Bought mirrors.

So, I am making some progress on my adoption to-do list. There are some things that I simply cannot do until I have a referral, others that I can't do until I have a court or travel date, but there are still some things I can finish up before then. I forsee a trip to Sam's and then a little rendezvous with some suitcases for a packing "trial run." And I definitly foresee more lists:)

Monday, February 18, 2008

Adoption Counting- Like Pregnancy, but Different.

When I was preggers, everyone always wanted to know "how far along" I was. I always responded in the number of weeks pregnant that I was, but most people were looking for a quick "5 months" or whatever. This created a problem, because people who heard "oh, I'm 20 weeks" would listen and translate that to 5 months and assume I had 4 months to go. In actualality, because pregnancy is a 40 week process (or 37 weeks in Abigail's case), 20 weeks meant I had about 5 months to go, not 4. (This is because of when you start "counting" the pregnancy- it's all medical stuff, and I won't bore you, but suffice it to say that I counted by weeks, others counted by months, and this created mass confusion.)

So, now with the adoption, I find myself in another counting dilemma. I am tracking my wait for a referral in the number of weeks I have been on the wait list. But my anticipated wait is predicted in months, not weeks (3-5 months, to be exact.) So, it's not really accurate to say "at least 12 weeks for a referral" because months are not exactly 4 weeks (more like 4.3 weeks.) It is more accurate to say at least 13 -14 weeks of waiting before a referral.

All this to say, should I switch and start counting my wait in months instead of weeks? I don't know. All this silliness.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

By Popular Demand

Here is Abigail singing a song and being silly.

video

You are my sunshine...

Abigail got a pillow in the mail from her Gaga and Pepaw that says "you are my sunshine." It also plays the tune- a song that Abigail frequently heard as a toddler as it was my second-favorite lullaby (can you guess my favorite lullaby?)

Anywho, by popular demand, here is Abigail practicing to sing a lullaby to her sister:)

Warning! This video rated "H" for Ham!

Ladder

"Some people spend their whole life climbing a ladder, only to discover it's been leaning against the wrong building."

Pastor Glenn Peck

Saturday, February 16, 2008

$10 Day

Proof that life can be fun on $10 or less:

$4- tickets to Veggie Tales "Pirates Who Don't Do Anything" at the $2 theater

$1.89- Wonton Soup to share

$2- RedBox, Cinderella III and Becoming Jane

$1.99- Small container of favorite deli salad (Karnes Cauliflower-Cheese Salad)


Abigial and I had a great day. We slept in, cuddled, saw a movie in the theater, cruised the mall, bought mirrors at the dollar store, picked up a toy box from W*lmart, and enjoyed salad and frozen pizza while lounging on the guest room bed and watching movies! We spent the whole day just having fun. It's been a long time since we had a day like that. And except for the small pre-caffine headache I had first thing this morning, it was great!

Look Like Me

Abigail: Momma, I want to buy a mirror for me and one for my sister.

Me: Well, that's fine, if that's how you want to spend your money. But do you both really need your own mirror?

Abigail: Yes, because then she can look like me!

Advice

People with recently broken hearts should not watch movies like Becoming Jane or Miss Potter.

Movies like these leave one far too aware of how strong love is and yet how delicate the path that leads to matrimony.

Clearly, not the best choice in Saturday night entertainment in the Kirk household.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Getting Some Education!

Tonight I did the Ethiopia-specific Gladney training that is required by Gladney as part of the 10 mandatory Hauge education hours.

It was sooooo good- really educational! It gave me a lot of insight into the Ethiopian culture, as well as good info on the Gladney process from referral forward. If you are a Gladney family, I strongly encourage you to do this training as soon as you are committed to Gladney and Ethiopia!

(I did it online and had no problems. The quiz was 10 T or F questions.)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

You know it's a good book when...

...you still worry that Elizabeth and Darcy won't discover they love each other! (Even though you've read the book about 20 zillion times:)

...you still wonder if Ron and Hermione will ever figure out how they feel about each other, and if Harry and Ginny will ever kiss already! Geesh!

...you still can't believe Anne doesn't see that Gilbert teases her because he loves her!

...you still giggle each time Emma and Knightly get all uptight about "after all, it's not like we are brother and sister!"

...it's written by Jane Austen. (That's to save you from all of my increaingly obscure references to her characters:)

Week 4


Today we have been waiting 4 weeks for our referral (Saturday will be 1 month.) Whew! So stinking busy!
I finished up my 8 hours of NCFA's Hauge training today, and only have 2 hours of Ethiopia-specific Gladney training left to complete the required 10 hours. I will be glad when that's done, because trying to get ahead with schoolwork (in case I travel before the semester is over) while also trying to do a bunch of adoption stuff is too much.

Ooohhhh! Also found out today that one of the new ladies I work with is an adoptive parent to a 6 year old Abigail Grace who is from Russia! And that Abigail Grace might get a new sister sometime soon:)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Getting Discouraged

Okay, I haven't written about work in a while, but boy oh boy, it's been a major thorn for me. Don't get me wrong, I am blessed to be in a full-days postition, and hopefully will be moving to every 3rd weekend soon, but...

Well, the attitudes of people I work with are just getting to be overwhelming, and seriously endangering my security in my job. It's not that I don't like my job (although wiping up poop for 12 hours a day is actually not my dream job), it's bearable. I can do it. I only have to be there 3 days a week, after all. But still.

The truth is I was forced into taking a position that I had no interest in taking- I wanted to float because I know myself well enough to know that I am not the kind of personality that can show up and "take it" when it comes to office politics. Floating looked like a good way out of having to deal with all that cattiness. And yes, I was excited about moving into my current position because I thought it would increase my nursing skills. But the truth is, a lot of changes in my hospital have made my current position into a joke. It's very dissatisfying, and the cattiness and bad attitudes of many of my co-workers do nothing to improve the already poor situation that my hosptial has created for my unit.

I need out. And I can't just leave and go to another bedside position. I know what that's like, and it isn't challenging to me, nor does it give me any sense of pride in my work or help me feel like I did something worthwhile in my day. I have no problem working, it's doing a job that doesn't require thought that I have a problem with (in school, we call this "busy work." Do you have any idea how unfulfilling it is to do a job for 12 hours every day that is mostly "busy work"?)

I applied for several different positions, and just now got off the phone with Human Resources. I don't have enough experience for these positions. Not that I as an individual don't have enough experience, but me compared to the more senior nurses applying - that's my problem. And because nurses are union at my hospital, it means that for virtually any position I apply to, if someone more senior that me applys for it- well, it's not likely I will get it, even if I am more qualified (ie- I have way more computer experience than many of the more senior nurses, and I have critical care experience. But they have more YEARS of experience.)

At this point, I don't even want to be a nurse. I pretty much hate my career choice. But I will continue doing it as long as I have to because it allows me to provide for my family. I want out of nursing (hence the non-nursing Master's program I will be applying to...) And I definitly want out of bedside nursing. But it's getting very discouraging.

So pray for me, okay? I need some major job help. And until a new job can be found, I need some serious grace with my co-workers (they could probably get me written up for things I didn't do.) And some major reminders that I need to work with all my heart, as working for the Lord.

Sigh.

Monday, February 11, 2008

3 More Cabbages!

Okay, scroll down to the very bottom of this page. See the ticker of the little girl in the cabbage patch? Well, Abigail was wondering how long it would be until her sister came home.

So, first I showed her the ticker at the bottom of my Gracelings page that is counting down the days to her birthday. I explained that her 5th birthday was at the left-most part of the ticker, and her 6th birthday was the cake at the right-most part of the ticker. She seemed to understand what that meant, and how time could be visualized by counting down the number of flowers it would be before her next birthday. She's on flower #3, and 8 more flowers until the cake. (Seriously, do you have any idea how hard it is to make "time" into something concrete enough that the 5 year old mind can understand it? God bless the teachers of the world. I do not envy them.)

Then I showed her the ticker at the bottom of this page. I explained that we would go pick up her sister when the baby got to the 6th cabbage plant. Maybe before, maybe a little after. We don't know for sure, but probably not longer than the 7th cabbage plant.

Her reaction? "Only 3 more cabbages, Momma!"

Home Sick, Revisited


Abigail is home from school today, sick with a little fever, and just plain not feeling well.

I called school to let them know why we weren't coming in, and I was told that as of 11am, there were only 6 students in Abigail's class. The rest were out sick, most of them vomitting- or worse!

Hey, I'll take a fever any day fo the week:)

Homesick

Abigail was feeling yucky and tired yesterday. By bedtime, she was pooped and had a little fever. Not surprisingly, she woke up this morning with a fever and generalized malaise. We talked about it and agreed that she couldn't go to school.

"Are you going to call them and tell them that I am homesick?" she asked.

"Well, I will tell them that you are staying home because you are sick."

"Right, that means homesick, right?"

I explained that staying home sick and being homesick were not the same thing. Staying home sick means you can't go to school or work because you are sick. Homesick is when you really want to be with your family and in your home, but you can't because you are far away.

"Oh, so, I am staying home sick. But my sister is homesick."

Blowing Away Dark Clouds

Please check out this post by Tiffany.

The girl just solved the orphan epidemic.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Politicizing Morals

What I am going to share here will almost certainly ruffle some feathers. I want to preface by saying that I am not trying to influence anyone's thoughts, change their opinions, or prompt them to any actions. I simply intend to share my thoughts, struggles, and ponderances. While I welcome feedback, I ask that you try to remember to speak to me with grace. Whew. Here goes.

Recently there was a discussion on a Christian adoption group that I belong to regarding pro-life vs. pro-choice politics. Some argued that the "right" or "Christian" thing to do is to vote for a pro-life candidate. Others said that pro-life is more than being anti-abortion; it extends to one's views of gun control, capital punishment, and war. Some argued that capital punishment and war are sanctioned by God, and are therefore acceptable, but abortion is never acceptable to God. Others stated that we are constrained to uphold the 10 commandments, and "Do not murder" is one of the commandments. An interesting point (and one that is not commonly heard in the Christian community) was that we all make choices- in fact, we must choose to accept Jesus Christ as our savior to even be called a Christian, and therefore, a pro-choice political standpoint (meaning, allowing choice in abortion) is most in line with how we as Christians live.

Before I talk about my views on these things, let me first say that I believe life is created by God. He is the author of all life. Everything He has made is good. Therefore, every life He has created is good. We know that God knows us and loves us even before we are born, and that He himself knit us together in the womb. Thusly, to take the life of an unborn child is wrong. It is sin.

Here is where I am going to get a bit controversial.

I do not believe that the best way to protect the life of the unborn child is to criminalize abortion. For that matter, I do not think that the best way to live out our morals is to politicize them. Allow me to explain. I will start with my views of abortion and the legalization or criminalization of the act.

We all probably know someone who smokes pot. The possession of pot is illegal. The legality has very little effect on the act. If we make abortions illegal, they will continue to occur. However, they will not occur in a sterile environment where emergency care is available to the mother should something go wrong. Rather, they will become "black market services." They will be dirty. They will put the life of the mother at risk. They may kill her, and they almost certainly will leave her with long-term consequences such as disease or sterility. My personal view is that since we know they will continue to occur, we should want them to occur in as controlled of an environment as possible. We want the delivery of an abortion service to be seen in public. We want states to require sanitation and paperwork and options counseling. That is our greatest foothold into the mind of the undecided mother- the mother who thinks she may need an abortion but is not completely sold on the idea. More on this later.

Valarie wrote a great post about the role of choice in Christianity. As she points out, becoming a Christian begins with making a choice- the choice to accept your position as a sinner, incapable of anything but destruction. A choice to accept Jesus Christ as the only Savior, the only HOPE. From there on out, life is a series of choices. It's complicated, because life is not dictated to us. We live in a world where many things are not addressed in the Bible. Nowhere in the Bible does it say "don't listen to this music" or "don't support the Human Genome Project." Things aren't always clear.

Some might say, "Well, we have the 10 Commandments. There is our guideline." And that is true. We do have some guidelines. But does that also mean that we must accept all of the guidelines established in the Bible? If so, that would mean some crazy things for women who have had babies recently!

Others might say, "Well, we are not under the law but under grace." And that is true. Jesus was the fulfillment of the law, so we are under grace. But without laws, what is our compass for morality?

I believe that our compass is Jesus Christ, as we are empowered and guided by the Holy Spirit. As Christians, we are to be Christ-like. What greater example could we take than God incarnate? A perfect man, tempted in every way, yet without sin! A man who sought and followed the will of God, and was obedient in everything, even unto death! A perfect example. So I ask myself: what would Jesus do?

Jesus was not a political figure. Yes, he got political attention, but he was not a political figure. He didn't go to the authorities and ask that they pass a law or make a proclamation that he was the Son of God, the Savior, Emanuel. He didn't even go to the church leadership and ask that they proclaim it from the pulpit. He simply lived his life, spoke the truth, and loved people in real, tangible ways. He met people where they were, real people, with real problems, with real sins. Yes, he told them that they were sinful. But he didn't make sin a legal matter. He made it a matter of the heart.

When we politicize our morals, when we make morals a criminal matter, we are setting ourselves up to ostracize those that need to know Jesus most.

Yes, some would say that we "politicized" murder. Yes, it is illegal to kill people. It should be. But really, take a look at the 10 Commandments. That was pretty much the only commandment that we made into a law. In the US, it's not illegal to covet your neighbor's stuff, or take the Lord's name in vain, or break the Sabbath. In fact, those things are all pretty acceptable in our culture- they are even pretty common and acceptable in the church! It certainly isn't illegal to not honor your father and mother (although, as I look forward to teenager-hood, I'm thinking it should be illegal!:)

Now, we know that abortion is sin. People who get abortions, those who commit the abortion act, and those who encourage others to get abortions- they are all sinning. We need to pray for them. We need to love them. We need to share Jesus with them. We don't need to take them to court, fine them, or lock them up. We need to help them discover the reason to choose a different path.

Let me give you another example that was discussed. In this country, we have the right to bear arms. Each of us judge for ourselves if we believe we should own and operate a firearm. If we do own/operate a firearm, we each have the choice of how we will use that firearm. We can choose to shoot pellets, animals, objects, or people. We can use that gun to kill people. But, just because we have the choice of owning a gun does not mean we will act upon that choice, and it certainly does not mean we will kill people.

Our problem is not having choices. Our problem is not knowing how to make good choices.

Just because we are Christians does not mean we always make good choices. And just because we may know what a good choice is, it does not mean that we act upon that knowledge. I am a conceptionist. I believe God creates life at the time of conception. For me, any form of birth control that causes the loss of a pregnancy after conception is abortion. This is not just the "morning after pill." The Pill (oral hormonal birth control pill) has the potential to cause this to happen. And IUD (intrauterine device) uses this as the primary method of preventing pregnancy. (For more about birth control and abortive and potentially-abortive means of birth control, please see this awesome sermon!)

How many people do you know that became pregnant while taking "the pill"? I was one of them. I know several others. It happens. One of the ways The Pill works is to make the uterus "reject" an embryo (fertilized egg.) In effect, it causes an abortion (obviously, this doesn't always happen, because- hello- Abigail is here! But it does happen.) How many Christian couples do you know that use the Pill as their only form of contraception? How many do you know that use an IUD? And maybe you don't know any Christian woman who has had an abortion, but I guarantee they are out there. Some estimate that as many as 250,000 evangelical Christian women get abortions each year.

Just because we are Christians does not mean that we have it all together, are doing everything right, have the right to judge, or have the right to impose our morals on non-Christians. We need to remove the plank from our eyes, get our hearts right with God, and then stop looking for the specks in our neighbor's eyes, and rather focus on ways to love others until they, too, want to have the source of that love inside them.

There is a practical side to this debate as well. The minute abortion becomes illegal will be the same minute that the rights of the patient are blown away.

Let me tell you a story. A few months ago, we had a young woman admitted to our unit. She was newly diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia. With prompt, aggressive treatment, this woman had a chance of survival and recovery. Without treatment, she would almost certainly die within months. Not years- months. 3-4 months.

This woman was 10 weeks pregnant. Chemotherapy would kill her baby. Save her life, but kill her baby. What a horrible choice to have to make. I can't imagine being in her situation, especially as she was not a Christian and did not have the Holy Spirit to comfort her. She made the choice to go ahead with the chemo.

Like I said, I can't imagine being in her situation. I can't imagine the horrible struggle of making a decision about getting chemo. But if abortion was illegal, I don't think she would have had to make that decision. To me, if abortion was illegal, it would not be a far cry to make it illegal to administer treatments and therapies that could kill an unborn baby. I am not saying that she made the right choice, nor am I saying that I would or wouldn't do what she did in that situation. I am simply saying that by forcing legislation to make abortion illegal, we are only a short step away from making these difficult decisions into a criminal matter.

I believe firmly in the right to life. I also believe in the right to die.

As Christians, we can welcome death. We don't need to struggle and fight to hang onto life here on Earth, because we know our life will truly begin when we are in paradise with our God! So it seems to me, knowing that death will come to us all because of sin, that we should have the right to be allowed to die. To refuse treatments and therapies that would sustain life. I think this is true in general, but especially true in terminal cases. In fact, I see death as the most merciful ending for many of our sick.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think we should assist a person to die, but I believe that we should not force them to live when they are ready to go home. We should not put them on ventilators or stick tubes into their stomachs to feed them. My opinion is, as Christians, we should live like we are ready to go. I am not saying that treatment and life support, etc. are evil, because I don't think their nature is evil. But I do believe these treatments can be used for evil. And I believe we should have the right to refuse treatments. We should have the right to say "enough is enough." We should have the right to die. Presently, we do have that right. But if abortion were made illegal, I can see how it would only be a small step to taking the right to die away from us.

Politicizing the right to life, making this legislation rather than morals, would set this country up to politicize life and death. The right to die would be trumped by the need to protect life (which is the political standpoint of legislation that makes abortion illegal.) Would that be moral?

Law should be guided by good morals- laws should be in line with good morals, but good morals do not necessarily make good laws. Similarly, morals do not a political platform make.

When I consider the upcoming elections, I am looking for several things in the candidate that I will support. Yes, I want them to value life as a God-given gift. I hope that they will strongly support the freedom to worship as each sees fit. I pray that they will see the wisdom of seeking peace rather than war. I hope that they will view themselves as stewards of the wealth that God has given this nation. In short, I hope they share my values and morals.

But I also hope that they will be a good leader. A good person who cannot lead will fail as a leader. A well-intentioned leader who divides this country rather than unites it will fail as a leader. A leader whose priorities are out of whack creates an unsustainable vision. Yes, I hope the person that I vote for will value life, but I don't need them to take a Pro-Life political standpoint. I think they have bigger fish to fry. And I think they have better ways of supporting life than making abortion illegal.

Yes, there are better ways of honoring life than making abortion illegal.

Good choices lead to life-honoring, God-honoring actions. I firmly believe that one of the best things we can do to prevent abortions is to provide accurate and compassionate "options counseling." Right now, "options counseling" is required in some states, but (to my knowledge) not all states. The extent of the required OC drastically varies by state, and the content varies even more. The local abortion clinic near my town provides OC in the form of a 45 second script that is read when you call to schedule an abortion appointment. Effective options counseling, combined with mandatory waiting periods, could drastically decrease the number of abortions (and probably increase the number of adoptions) that occur in this country. I would love to see legislation that makes options counseling and mandatory waiting periods a requirement nationwide. We have mandatory background checks and waiting periods for the purchase of handguns, why not for abortions?

Did you know that most states do not have parental consent or spousal notification laws? It's true that a 13 year old girl can get an abortion without telling her parents, but she can't get her ears pierced or get into R-rated movies without their consent. A married woman is under no obligation to notify her spouse that she is pregnant or getting an abortion. Non-married women frequently get abortions without ever telling the father of their baby. Where is the legislation that will correct this?

Partial-birth and late-term abortions are still legal in most states; where is the legislation that protects these children who would almost certainly survive outside the womb (many without medical intervention!)

Where is the legislation that helps protect the girls/women who choose to bear a child? Where do they get free adoption assistance? If they have an agency nearby, they may get that, but if not, they are on their own. What if they don't have health insurance? What about programs that help the mothers who choose to keep their baby?

Where is the legislation that protects our children from the graphic sexual images and content that surround them in our culture?

Where is the legislation that presents abstinence as a viable form of birth control? Where is the legislation that requires kids not only be taught about "safe sex" but also about "responsible sex"?

Where are the role models, the leaders of the youth and young men and women who stand up and say "it's okay not to have sex!"?

Most importantly, where is your heart? As a Christian, are you finding it easier to point fingers and make a "big deal" out of this sin rather than examining your own heart and your own sin? Is your heart so in line with God's heart, that when you see a young woman walking into an abortion clinic you want to hug her and shower her with love and compassion, rather than condemn her? Is your heart so full of respect for the life God has created, that rather than picket (and in extreme cases, bomb) an abortion clinic, you seek to find ways to connect to these women who so desperately need love, truth, and mercy in their lives?

Are you more interested in making laws that dictate your morals to others, or introducing people to Jesus so that He can become their moral compass?

I simply cannot see how politicizing our morals is right, nor can I find a way to reconcile what I think Jesus would do as a voter in these elections to the staunchly pro-life line that many Christians take.

What do you think?

My Heart Will Be Glad!

My son, if your heart is wise,
then my heart will be glad;
my inmost being will rejoice
when your lips speak what is right.
Do not let your heart envy sinners,
but always be zealous for the fear of the LORD.
There is surely a future hope for you,
and your hope will not be cut off.
Listen, my son, and be wise,
and keep your heart on the right path.

Proverbs 23:15-19

Inheitance

"I am your share and your inheritance..."
Numbers 18:20

Adventures in Cooking

Saturday night, I entered into an Ethiopian Cooking Adventure. I bought my supplies at EthiopianSpices.com and used thier recipes for Shiro and Kik Wot. I have never had Ethiopian food before, so I have nothing to compare this to, but I will go ahead and give you my impressions.

This is the injera I ordered. Injera is a staple in Ethiopian food, like bread, rice, or pita might be to other diets.
The injera was mosit and spongy. The thickness was between a crepe and a pancake. It was a very bendy, flexible bread. It is kind of tart and sour, and the taste reminds me of lime.
These are the red lintel I ordered. They are really more orange than red. I made Kik Wot (Red Lintel Stew) with these. They are also used in other recipes, and next time I will try making Misir Wot (Yellow Lintel Stew.) The main difference between the red and yellow lintel stews seems to be that red is made with berbere as the main seasoning, while the yellow is made with Turmeric.
I started by cooking the onion, garlic powder, and berbere in oil.
I then added the water and Lintel and let cook. I cut the recipe in half. (In the future, I think I would add more than one cup of water. The Lintel never really softened up, and maybe a better proportion would be 2:2 rather than 1:2 for water:lintel.) It wasn't really a stew as it was pretty dry.
This is the Shiro. Shiro is flour made from ground yellow chick peas. I don't know if it was because the Shiro was shipped in the same box as the berbere or not, but the shiro had a slightly spicy aroma.
The Shiro recipe started much the same way as the Kik Wot- cooking the onion, garlic, and berbere in oil. (Note- I used only about 1 tsp. of berbere in both recipes, and it was still pretty spicy. Granted, I am a spice wuss, but still...)
Then I added the water and the Shiro. I had to let it cook much longer than 20 minutes to get it to thicken up enough that it was not runny as the recipe calls for...
It did eventually thicken up, and of course, thickened more as it cooled.
Here is our Shiro and Kik Wot on injera.
And here is Abigail trying it... she didn't really care for it. I didn't care for any of the parts seperately, but eating the Shiro and Kik Wot with the injera tempered both. (The injera was pretty sour! And the Shiro and Kik Wot was pretty spicy! But they worked together.)
Overall, I can't wait to try more recipes, and to try some authentic Ethiopian food on March 1 so that I know what I am supposed to be aiming for:)

Toddler

Person at Church: So, you are getting a little sister?

Abigail: Yep, and she's gonna be a todd-year-old.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Rubberrmaids?

Rubbermaids? Yes, Rubbermaid containers.

Check out The Tale of Two Rubbermaids, which is where I got this idea.

Mary (of Owlhaven fame) used Rubbermaid containers to transport her donations. Rather than buying more luggage (duffle bags of this size start around $25), she packed up these containers, secured them with zip-ties, and used them as part of her checked luggage allowance. (Note- she strongly recommends the "roughneck" containers as other brands have not held up so well...)

(Bought my zip-ties at Home Depot today:)

Abigail's Picks

Abigail's favorite pics from our walk today...



Salted?

While singing a praise song in the car...

(He is exalted, the King is exalted on high, I will praise Him!)

Abigail: Momma, is God really salted?

Grace: Salted? God?

Abigail: No, sultan. Like Jasmine's dad.

Grace: Well, kinda, but- um, no. He is exalted.

Abigail: What's that mean?

Grace: Well, it kind of means that we think God is better than anything else.

Abigail: Well, I think the song says He is the sultan. Because He is the king! Like Jasmine's dad!

Big Sister Interview

Get your daily dose of Abigail right here! (How do you like her new, super-short hair cut?)

Friday, February 08, 2008

More Check Marks

Here are things I've done this week to prepare for the adoption:

~Ordered bunk beds (estimated delivery time: 3/21/08)
~Bought comforter sets for girls' room (they were on sale)
~Bought neck travel pillow thingy for Abigail and Little One
~Bought Rubbermaid containers for packing donations (on sale at Target thru tomorrow for $4.99! What a steal!)
~Bought bookshelves and toy box for girls' room (should be available for pick up by 3/1/08)
~Put packing list online, and went over it about 6 times (lots of thoughts traveling though my head about what will end up going with me and what won't)
~Bought hair care products for Little One (and some cute toddler-sized headbands, too!)
~Reviewed completed FMLA paperwork that was returned from Gladney (to be handed in next week)
~Considered buying the travel size Charmin rolls- but couldn't bring myself to spend $0.99 on 55 sheets of toilet paper when Abigail could easily use 20 sheets on a good potty stop. Decided to just take whole rolls with the cardboard interior removed, stuffed into a ziplock to keep it safe.
~Did a "dry run" of toiletry packing (some people think I am taking too many tolietries:)

Still so much to do... and since my stuff arrived, I have to cook Ethiopian food sometime this weekend, too!

Conflict

I am borrowing this info from Habesha Child.

Ethiopia seems to be surrounded by conflict and the latest violence in Kenya is just one more to add to the list, I’m sorry to say.
If you think about Ethiopia’s neighbors, it starts to sound pretty scary:


On Ethiopia’s Eastern border lies Somalia - tons of violence and conflict there.

Depending on your politics, you could count the next bordering country as self-declared state of Somaliland. Again - high conflict, high violence.

Just north of Somalia / Somaliland on Ethiopia’s border is the tiny nation of Djibouti - probably the only stable place around right now. Thank God, because it’s Ethiopia’s primary access to a seaport at this point (Kenya’s Mombassa is an alternative, but Eritrea does not allow Ethiopia to use its ports).

Continuing counterclockwise, the next country is Eritrea, to Ethiopia’s North - bad news here. Ethiopia and Eritrea have increasingly hostile relations, and are on the brink of another war over the long-contested border between them.

To the West, we find Sudan. The site of perhaps the worst genocidal violence in the world right now. ‘nuf said.

Finally, to the South, Kenya. (Lots of tribal violence at this time.)


While I am not particularly concerned about our safety while in Ethiopia, I will ask you to pray for safety for us in our travels to and from Ethiopia, and while we are there. Addis Ababa recently hosted the African Union summit, and is considered a safe and stable place. But anything can change.

So pray for us. But more importantly, please pray for my Ethiopian daughter, as she waits for her Momma in a land surrounded by conflict. And pray for the children of these nations whose lives are being cut short by grown-ups who can't find a way to peacefully resolve thier conflicts.

So you see? The whole thing in Kenya conflict starts to sound pretty tame, although I’m sure that’s not the case for people there.

Packing List Manifesto

So, you know the travel companion postion I have been looking to fill? Well, I think it has been filled by my friend Liz, geographer and world traveler, coffee lover, friend from high school, and all around fun person. Upon reading my packing list she had a few things to add...

Now, I realize my packing list is excessive for a 10 day trip. The list is really a compilation of the list and hints of many different people, who traveled at different times of the year. Therefore, a lot of things, like clothing and an umbrella, might not be needed based on when I travel. I also realize I mentioned a ton of food to take with me, and I probably won't need all of it, but since I will be traveling with Abigail, I want to remind myself of good options that have worked for other moms. I have also excluded a lot of new kid items, because I don't know anything about my child yet. Carry-on stuff for Abigial has been omitted. I also added the "Omitted" column to the right to better keep track of what I actually ended up using.

So, here is Liz's packing manifesto. Based on her rather extensive world travel, I think she has included lots of good hints.

OH! I love commenting on packing lists.

First of all -- you don't need travelers checks (at least that is my personal opinion). I haven't traveled with them in quite some time -- and they are more of a pain than anything. Its much easier to just use cash. Second of all -- its not really the date thats an issue -- you just have to make certain you have the latest release of bills -- so that means the new 20, and the new 10. 20s in general, are the preferable exchange in banks -- they REALLY don't like small bills (1s, 5s, and 10s can be iffy). Now I will travel with a few ones -- because occassionally I'll take those to a market or give it to a taxi driver.

Next up. Make copies of everything. and then make another copy. Keep one copy in the bag you check. And one copy with someone back at home. As crazy as this sounds -- I also make copies of my credit cards especially the phone numbers if they get stolen. Also. When you are getting ready to go -- call your bank and credit card companies and let them know that you are traveling to ethiopia, and give them the dates that you are going to be there. (I recently had my credit card numbers stolen when I was in canada and had my checking account emptied out. Now thankfully everything got returned but now I'm very careful about telling banks, etc that I'm traveling -- primarily because I won't have immediate internet access to find out if my accounts have been fished. Which is how I found out this last time). Also -- you can even tell them some sort of limit for charges if you want. Now, I travel a fair bit -- and just in case -- I made a document with my passwords to things like email and my bank accounts for my dad (he legally would have the rights should something drastic happen to me). I realized that when so much of my life relies on email/my cell phone/online banking -- they would have to know these things in order to access them should something happen. I may be a tad fatalistic I realize this -- but it was a piece of mind to know that should something happen -- they would have an easy way of knowing how to get in touch with the people who matter.

Phone Cards / cell phones.
Chances are your phone will work in Ethiopia (mine worked in Rwanda). Now CALLING people from it is VERY expensive. Texting -- its the same international rate. So. Example. I'm sitting in the Nairobi airport waiting for my best friend hannah to show up (she was coming to Rwanda with me and living in Nairobi at the time). She has a kenya cell phone number, I have a u.s. number. I just texted her back and forth to find her in the airport. when I came back and checked my cell phone, I only got charged the int'l texting fee. So. If I go with you -- I'll probably bring my cell phone (if worse comes to worse I can also just get a SIM card there too and plug it in my phone), and I'll just text folks. Now -- you should also have a phone card -- but I tend to think thats more for emergencies... you can get some great deals on int'l phone cards.

Food:
I wouldn't worry about bring a hot pot. You'll be able to find hot water, its the land of coffee remember!. Next, I remember you had it on your list from before -- bringing granola bars or snacks for street kids. Now -- this is a personal opinion, and one not necessarily shared by all, and you can do as you see fit. I know your intentions are good. A couple of things -- I am actually against bringing and giving food to street kids. I know that can be taken as harsh and what not -- but there are a couple of reasons. First of all, yes, I know that many of them are hungry -- but it is impossible for me to provide long term care to them. Secondly, there has now become an expectation of kids expecting hand outs from westerners. This is NOT something that should be expected. Sometimes the kids can be very forceful. It can be a challenge -- and I guarantee your heart will break. But I think you make the situation worse by giving them the food -- often times its the kids who are the strongest (hello survival of the fittest laws) who get the 'goods' anyway -- or they will take it from the weaker ones. Your intentions are good, I'm not argueing that -- but there are appropriate mechanisms. That being said, if you decide to bring 'treats' for the orphanage -- give it to who ever is in charge at the orphange. The same goes for books, toys, etc. Let her (or him) appropriately give it out at the right time. You may already know all of this -- and therefore I'm being redundant. :).

Next up. PEANUT BUTTER! Unless someone is allergic to peanuts. This is my food traveling kit: Peanut Butter (sometimes even 2 jars if I'm gone for longer than 2 weeks), Salt Shaker, Pepper Grinder (or shaker), jolly ranchers (then if I'm craving flavored water -- I just throw one in), sometimes tuna (depending on where I'm going and the time of year), crackers, coffee (but its ethiopia -- so thats a non issue), ginger tea (I get upset stomachs a lot from food -- so that tends to settle me pretty quickly), fruit leather (dried fruit substitutes in a pinch), oh. and hot chocolate mix -- thats to add to my coffee when I'm craving something a bit more creamy and sugary. I think thats all that I typically travel with. Now granted. You have a five year old who won't necessarily understand that there its not readily available, especially if it is something that she is used to. If Abigail regularly eats pudding cups, than bring them -- just make certain you pack them in lots of plastic cause they may explode in the plane.

How long are you traveling? (thats actually something I was in general wondering -- 1 week, 2 weeks, 3 weeks, 4?) Cause you are packing a HOUSE! :)

Grace and toiletries :). First of all -- those face cloths, kind of like handy wipes, are your friend. Second of all, I hope this doesn't come off as harsh, but you are going to a developing country -- do you REALLY need all of these things? :) And yes. Abigail can share. As I'm sure you've realized -- you may want to find out a little bit about african hair care -- but I doubt that you will have to wash your new daughters hair while in Ethiopia... seems to me that african hair isn't washed very often in general anyway. But -- there are other ways to appropriately take care of it.

Underwear. Depends on how many days you are going. I tend to pack a weeks to a week and a half worth (because I'm a bit excessive) others will just pack five pairs. I really don't like doing laundry -- I can live in the SAME clothes for however long I need to -- I just really like clean underwear. and Bra's I only bring 2. Swimsuit tops also work as bras -- and depending on the bra, vice versa.

I would also say you only really need one dress, if that is even necessary.

Liz's packing list when she was in rwanda (and I over packed)
5 t-shirts (that was because I was painting).
5 nicer short sleeve shirts that I could wear when I wasn't painting and that would also go with skirts.
2 skirts (I think I only wore one)
2 jeans
2 pairs of misc. pants
1 pair of pj pants
2 long sleeve shirtslots of socks (I brought WAY too many pairs of socks)shawl/wrap/sometimes skirt thing.
gym shorts
1 sweatshirt
3 sweaters (it was a little colder)
1 swimsuit (didn't use). Actually, I'll just typically swim in shorts and a t-shirt, unless I'm at a VERY european type place.
2 weeks worth of underwear.

shoes:
1 pair of flip flops.
1 pair of tennis shoes
1 pair of ballet slippers
1 pair of 'hiking' boots.

BANDANAS! (I never leave with out them)
Baseball hat (I left it there)

I could have not taken some of the shirts, socks, the hiking boots, and the ballet slippers.

Next up. Compression sacks are your friend. You can find them at camping stores. I recommend not buying the plastic compression sacks at target, and instead going to an REI or some sort of camping surplus store and getting a few. You could probably do with 3-4 medium to large size ones. Here is why. they will SERIOUSLY suck your clothes down to nothing. It's pretty much amazing. When I travel, I try to only go with 1 duffel bag. You don't want to carry a lot. And you don't want to attract a lot of attention. Plus, if you travel with less -- if it gets lost its not the end of the world. 2ndly, when then when you get going in your travels you can have a compression sack for clean clothes, and one for dirty clothes. I'm a HUGE fan of compression sacks. I started traveling with them three trips ago I think, and now I won't travel with out them. I also try and limit myself to packing in 1.5 compression sacks (.5 compression sack is in the backpack).

More packing hints.
When you fly internationally -- you are actually only allowed one carry-on item. Period. That could be your purse. That could be a backpack. That could be a small duffel. I pack a purse in a large back pack :). Now. in this backpack goes everything that is essential should your luggage get lost. On the Rwanda trip 3 people had their luggage lost / it didn't arrive in time. I've never had 'lost' luggage -- but then I'm also prepared to survive should anything go wrong.

In my backpack (using a compression sack!) I pack a change of clothes -- plus an extra t-shirt and a pair of underwear, maybe another pair of socks for the plane. I pack the essential medication (malaria -- though I've actually quit taking that these days, so mostly IB Profin, vitamins, anything I have perscriptions for, etc) I travel with shampoo bars (solid shampoo -- at LUSH (www.lush.com), so one of those. Purse and under clothing money thing (the one that hangs from your neck -- I don't like the money belt one personally). Some snacks. A book. A deck of cards. Essential electronics (phone, ipod, laptop if I feel I need it -- most of the time its a relief to NOT bring it -- especially if its a heavier one) and all their chargers, Flashlight. Bandana. Gum. Maybe a pair of flip flops. Basically. Enough to live out of my backpack for a couple of weeks if I have to. Some of my make up. an eye shade thing. ear plugs.

Other packing list hints.
You need either crocs or walking shoes. Not both.
BUG SPRAY.
I really like those travel sleep sack things...they pack down to nothing -- and are great if the sheets are slightly questionable (I've slept in some questionable places in the past...)
I think I mentioned some sort of sarong type thing. Multi purpose. Love them. Also function as towels.
Oh. pack some towels. not huge ones. but larger than a hand towel.
Yes. Bring Toilet paper. In fact. Pack one in your backpack.
I'm noticing that you are very very cleanly :). as you have every imaginable cleaning product... if you can let any of those go -- that could be useful. If they are essential -- then don't worry too much.
Duck Tape. It is so multi-functional. A small roll goes in my back pack.
Nalgene bottles. Empty. I carry one on -- and fill it up with water once I get through security. You have to make certain you stay hydrated on the long flights.
Bandanas

I'd recommend bringing some games... like cards, mad libs, string for cats in the cradle, a jump rope if you are playing at the orphanage, deflated balls for the orphanage if you want, books for the orphanage (again given to the head of the org). Things to draw with. Actually -- I'd get abigail a journal too. Even if she can't write manifesto's have her draw something that was new each day, or something that she liked, or something that she didn't like -- at the same time that you journal.

Make a binder up of pictures from home -- like what the parks look like, what your little girls room will look like, what a school looks like, what some of the day to day activities are that she will now be a part of. Use it as a teaching tool not to demonstrate opulence -- but to instead talk humbly about our culture. Try and grab things that are typical day to day tasks. You know -- this is what a bedroom is. This is us eating dinner with our extended family. Cultural things that are the same in function but different in execution. Does that make sense? So then people can see that really -- ethiopia and the us aren't that different -- because we are ALL HUMAN! :).

Why are you bring clothes pins? For laundry? In that case -- bring a clothes line -- cause you won't find those there. Either that -- or just wear not so clean clothes :). Though. Depending on the hotel -- they will often offer laundry service. This is a great way to bring money into the local culture. Though it depends on the hotel. Also typically -- if you have laundry done, they will not wash underwear. Hence why I pack lots and lots of underwear. Suggestions for gifts...I recommend little things -- something that can be unique to your home. You're from hershey penn. Bring some chocolate bars (even if it isn't the BEST chocolate in the world). Or -- bring a picture of you and abigail in front of the house -- or bring a book (with lots of pictures) about your hometown.

Rules to live by.
Don't bring anything that you can't leave behind. (Now there are somethings that would be a loss, like say, your laptop... so minus that... things like sandels, clothing items, sunglasses...even photos)Be flexible.

Things you don't need.
An umbrella.

Have I written a manifesto yet? It's only cause you touched on a topic that I think a lot about :). And everything I've said. Guidelines :). Just a few (or more) thoughts on things I do...I'm sure I could add more. We'll save that for later.

So, there you go! Lots of good info and advice. I will certainly be limiting my packing based on some of these hints. After I travel, I will update my list with what I took, what I used, and what I didn't use.
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