Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Family Preservation in Uganda

A friend shared this great article with me, and I hope you all take a few moments to read it... really, it won't take long, and is worth the time. It was written by a family on the ground in Uganda and is very insightful.

This sums up what I hope to see happening in terms of family strengthening/preservation in Ethiopia.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Family Preservation in Ethiopia

Family Preservation (FP) is complicated. Not because the goal is unclear or difficult to understand, but rather because the barriers to FP are often unclear and difficult to understand. Just like any decision we make, the factors that influence relinquishment/abandonment are often deeper than what can be understood by outsiders, especially by affluent Westerners. The cultural and religious norms/mores, the values of society, the political and financial situation of the country, and the availability of services are just a few of the external forces that drive decision-making. Many, many other factors come into play.

I want you, for a moment, to try to imagine a situation where you, as a parent, would feel desperate enough to consider abandoning or relinquishing your child. Personally, I can conceive of situations where I would consider it, but I cannot, in my wildest imagination, envision a situation where I would actually go through with it. And yet, we are led to believe that this act is "normal" or at least "predominant" in Ethiopia. (Keep in mind that up to 90% of orphans in Ethiopia have living birth parents.)

I firmly believe FP efforts start with access to basic health care. The plain truth is we cannot preserve families if the parents are dead, or in the end-stages of illness. Access to health care is crucial to maintaining families. The World Health Organization states that over 1,000 women die every day in developing nations due to complications of pregnancy and childbirth... many of which are preventable or treatable. 8.1 million children under the age of 5 die each year from illnesses that can be treated or prevented with access to simple, affordable medications.

On the "priority list" of medications that the WHO identified to reduce maternal, newborn, and childhood morbidity and mortality, a few common, simple, take-for-granted medications stand out: Oxygen. Normal Saline. Morphine. Amoxicillin. Vitamins A and K. These medications cost pennies. We hand them out like candy in the US. And they can literally save lives in developing nations. Add to that the fact that 1.8 million of the 2.1million children living with HIV are in sub-Saharan Africa (based on numbers from 2008), and the profound effect of ARV (anti-retroviral therapy) becomes evident. Most of these children are infected during childbirth. One third of HIV+ children will die before they reach 1 year of age. Another 50% will die before they are 2 years old.. ARVs save lives of children and parents. Basic health care is just a small part of the solution, but I believe it is a pivotal component.

Think for a moment what it would be like if each family that adopted from Ethiopia were to invest the same amount of money that they used for their adoption process into FP efforts in Ethiopia. Currently, the complete cost of an Ethiopian adoption, from initial application to the flight home on the second trip is probably about $25,000-35,000. Let's just say $30,000 per family. In 2010, there were more than 2500 children adopted from Ethiopia to US homes. FP donations would be about $7,500,000/year from the US alone . Yes, 7.5 MILLION dollars in family preservation funding... if we simply put our money where it's most needed.

Below is a list of organizations working towards family strengthening/FP, domestic foster/adoption, and non-IA services to vulnerable children in Ethiopia. I cannot personally endorse each agency, but most of this list was provided by someone who personally knows many of the founders of these organizations, or has worked with them in a professional capacity. Please, fully investigate any of these organizations and do not just take my word that they are doing good in Ethiopia. If you know of an organization that you would like added to this list, please let me know! If you can provide a reference for an organization and are willing to do so, please let me know that as well!

Yezelelim Minch
Foresaken Children
Compassionate Family International  (note: website not current)
Beza Entoto Outreach
Hope for Children in Ethiopia/WSG
Family Health International (part of the foster care pilot program in Addis Ababa!)
A Glimmer of Hope
Hope in Ethiopia: Zeway
Bring Love In
Embracing Hope Ethiopia
Connected in Hope Foundation
Home and Family Sponsorship through YWAM
Fayye Foundation (disclaimer: I am on the Board of Directors of this program)
Adoption Ministry 1:27
Mums for Mums
Because Every Mother Matters
AHOPE for Children
Selamta Family Project
Embracing Hope Ethiopia
Operation Rescue

A final thought: many, many people promote adoption as a Biblical mandate. In fact, we are to look after orphans and widows. But orphan care is not simply adoption... partially because many children who are orphans are simply not adoptable, and they need care too, perhaps moreso than those who are adoptable.  If you are engaged in an adoption because you believe the Bible instructs us to do this and/or you have been "called" to adopt, please, please keep in mind that this specific area of orphan care is just one of the many ways we care for orphans. But it does not "complete" or "fulfill" this mandate. It's not "oh, I adopted a kid, so my work for orphans is done." Adoption is just a small part of orphan care ministry.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Anna starts with "A"

Almost 4 year old + chaos of packing up house + Sharpie + too quiet in her room=

But see how well she made an "A"? And I think that other thing on the right is a "N"... maybe?

So much for not needing to re-paint the girls' room.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Seven Quick Takes Friday (2)

1. My neighbor has the ugliest vehicle. It's not an old clunker that's rusted or painted funny. No, it's a vehicle he went out and purchased new. Every time I look out the front window and see it (he kindly leaves it parked right at the end of my front sidewalk) I shudder. So ugly. 3 guesses what car it is! (Hint: it looks like a castrated Chevy Avalanche.) (Yes, I did just use the word castrated.) (John laughed at me when I made that comparison.)

2. I am Irish. On St. Patrick's Day, I wore green, but that was about the only Irish thing I did. In fact, 2 of my children didn't wear great because I wasn't together enough to make sure they had something green to wear. Yet another example of my (many) failings as a mom.

3. We made it to Philly on Wednesday to our USCIS appointment. The last time I tried to do that, I was in a major accident. Equally exciting news: Anna's COC should be in the mail shortly! Despite my concerns that I would have to replace the (missing) green card and all that jazz, it all worked out and I am now stalking the mailbox. Need the COC to get her SSN and file our taxes:)

4. In other accident related news, I am supposed to get my new vehicle tomorrow. Kia Sedona minivan. We test drove all the models out there, and the Honda Odyssey is my favorite, but the Kia was much less expensive, so we are going with that for now. If and when I am ready to pimp out my minivan, we will get the Honda O. They are nice:)

5. My little man turned 5 months old yesterday! The time is seriously flying. He is getting so big (which, I know, I say all the time.) He now laughs (but not like this baby) and he can "tripod" for minutes at a time. We are going to try rice cereal again; last time we tried it, he was excited to have it in his mouth, but didn't really "get" the swallowing thing:)

6. Confession: I don't love cloth diapering. I wanted to love it, but I don't. I mean, I will still do it, because I do believe all my reasons for doing it are good. I just don't love it. And if I can't find a diaper service in Jackson when we move, we will probably switch to disposables or cloth with disposable inserts.

7. After the great house-hunting adventures of the past few months, I think we are going to end up renting. There are many, many reasons to do this: financially, it makes more sense; it lets us get to know the area better until we decide where exactly we want to live; it gives us time to figure out what the market is doing in Jackson; we are not locked into a house when we are not sure how  long our tenure in Jackson will be; we don't have to worry about a downpayment, and if it takes longer to get our current house on the market or sold, it won't be a big deal. Plus, when we do go house-hunting again, we can take our time and wait for something we really love to come onto the market. Good. A bit disappointing. But mainly good.

Hey, do your own 7 Quick Takes! Then link up over at ConversionDiary!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Same story, different circumstances.

I was 19 years old and unmarried when I became pregnant. For a moment, I wished I could make this whole situation go away, but there were no abortion services available to me; besides, while a baby was the last thing I wanted, I loved it already. When my boyfriend found out I was pregnant, he thought that a baby would "ruin his chances," so he split. My family was shocked when I told them, and they disowned me, vowing to never speak to me or allow me to speak to my siblings again. 

I was working at a small shop- not making a fortune, but it paid the bills; when it became obvious that I was pregnant, I was fired. I could not find another job because no one wanted to hire the single, pregnant girl, so I took odd jobs as I could. I cleaned houses, bathrooms, and shops for pennies, just to earn enough money to feed myself; I depended on the generosity of others to house me. I did not have transportation, so I could not get away from my town, but within the town, my reputation as an unwed mother preceded me. 

I thought it would be easier once I gave birth; once I was no longer pregnant, perhaps more people would hire me. But it wasn't any easier. I had no one to watch the baby since my family would have nothing to do with her or me, so I carried her with me while I constantly looked for work. I clung to the few cents I made, stretching them as far as possible, trying to make sure I could feed myself and make enough milk for the baby.

For a year I did this. For a year I watched my lean body grow leaner. For a year I watched my baby grow taller, but not more plump. She was beautiful and amazing and I loved her with every ounce of my being, but I knew she deserved better than sleeping in shacks or on the rare kitchen floor of a generous people who would pay me 2 cents to clean their house. And on the first anniversary of her birth, I looked at my daughter and wept.

What could I do? What could I give her? How long could we go on like this? I could barely feed myself... what would I do when I needed to find food for her as well? If only there was a way for someone else to care for her long enough for me to get back on my feet! It was then that I decided I must place her with another family who could provide for her. I knew this would mean I would never see her again, and it broke my heart. But my love for her- my desire for her to have a life, a future, was greater than my desire to keep her with me. I made the arrangements, and when she was 13 months old, I took her to the appropriate place, hugged and kissed her goodbye, and walked away.

Once my baby was out of my care and my life, some things got better. Without the blatant mark of my sins strapped to my back, it became easier to find work. I got a permanent job, and found a place to live. My lifestyle was very modest, but at least I had dinner and a bed every night. Eventually, my uncle and aunt began speaking with me again. With their help, I was able to get a better job. I hope that soon my parents and siblings will welcome me back.

But every night I dream of the same face. The innocent face of my daughter. I remember the first time I held her, still covered in the blood and mess of birth. The first time she smiled at me, her mouth wide open and her eyes sparkling. The sound of her laugh, the way she said "Momma." My chest aches in the place where she used to lay while we slept, cuddled together. My cheek tingles where she would reach up and cradle my face while she nursed. I swallow back bile every morning when I wake up and wonder where she is and what she is doing. I hope she is happy. I hope she is loved. And I hope, one day, she will know that I did this... I suffered... for her. In the season of Lent, the sacrifice of Christ for the soul of each person is so much more real as I weep over the sacrifice of my happiness for my daughter's life.

Wait, wait, wait!

"Grace, that was not what happened," you say. And you are right. So let me tell you want did happen.

I was 19 years old and unmarried when I became pregnant. When I burst into tears at the doctor's office upon the confirmation of my suspicions, the nurse briefly asked if I wanted to make arrangements to "get it taken care of" at their sister office. When I realized she meant an abortion, I was appalled; I knew I could never kill the child that was growing inside me. When I told my boyfriend, he was freaked out, but decided to "do the right thing." We were married in a small civil ceremony a few weeks later, attended by our parents, siblings, and extended family. I didn't have to tell them I was pregnant for them to guess, but they supported me and when I officially announced I were expecting a baby, they were nothing but excited and loving.

I was working a job in retail at the time; it wasn't a great salary, but it paid the bills and gave me health insurance, retirement, and other benefits. When my manager found out I was expecting, he provided me with information about my sick time, paid time off, and FMLA. Together we came up with a plan to accommodate my need to be home with the baby and return to work... even a plan to continue pumping when I returned.

Though our income was modest and we were becoming parents far sooner than ever expected, my husband and I managed. We had the support of our parents for housing, and later we worked with a non-profit that provided us with housing for a small "rent" payment that was then placed into a savings account for us. After the baby came, I was able to work part time and received grants and scholarships from the government to go to college. When Abigail was a year old, we celebrated the anniversary of her birth with a party attended by many friends and family.

When my husband split 2 weeks later, I discovered even more resources to allow me to work and go to school. Abigail received Medicaid benefits and received all of her preventative care and immunizations for free. I received food stamps to cover all of our grocery needs. I was also able to receive a day care subsidy so that I could cut back my hours significantly enough to go to nursing school full-time. I found more government grants and private grants/scholarships to offset my college tuition and supplies, and received federal subsidized loans to assist with other costs. 

It was difficult going to school 40+ hours a week and working another 20 hours a week, but with the services available to me, both from the government and private organizations, and with the support of my family, I was able to finish nursing school and get a good job. The first full year of employment, my income taxes re-paid the government for all of the food stamp benefits I had received. The taxes from subsequent years have added up to repay the value of the day care subsidy and Medicaid benefits. Knowing that I was able to give back to society, not just through my income taxes, but through the job I did each day helping people... that felt great. And I loved that each day I was setting an example for my daughter of how to be a successful and independent woman.

The first story is not my story, but it is the story* of how one of my daughters came into this family. If the government or NGOs had been able to provide Anna's birthmother with just a fraction of the services I received, I feel confident that Anna would never have been relinquished. When I had the honor of meeting this brave woman who was so similar to myself, I was heartbroken. She desperately wished to continue parenting Anna, who she loved with all her heart, but because of a lack of services for the women and children of Ethiopia, it was not an option.

The first step in orphan care is preventing children from becoming orphans. If birth parents and extended families had resources to continue parenting children, many (up to 90%) of them would not be relinquished or abandoned. This is why I support MOWCYA (MOWA) in their decision to focus most of their resources on the 99.99% of vulnerable children in Ethiopia who will never be internationally adopted. These children need help, but international adoption is not the answer. Solving the humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia will solve the orphan crisis.

I am working on a list of NGOs that are focusing on family preservation efforts in Ethiopia. If you know of a reputable organization and would like them to be listed, please contact me (comments or email.)

*Some artistic license taken to protect Anna's story. But believe me, this is the story of many, many children in orphanages and care centers in Ethiopia.

Monday, March 14, 2011

I have cute kids.

It's much harder to get a good picture of 3 children (as in- they all look normal, relatively speaking) than it is with just 2 kids.

Also, note the Wii remote on the back of the couch. That's just how we roll.

Now Here's a Petition I can support!

We applaud MOWA’s efforts to maintain international adoption as an option for children in need of international placement rather than closing to international adoption, and we support efforts to better align international adoption from Ethiopia with the process and purpose established by the Hague Convention on the Rights of the Child. 

Go HERE to read this petition, and sign if you agree!

An Orphan Story

Many people who have read my last few posts think I am exaggerating the role of money in the adoption business. Yes, I do believe "money talks." I do believe money is a big motivator, especially when the amount of money an individual or organization can make from placing a child for adoption is double, triple, or quadruple the income of most Ethiopian homes. But I also believe there are many, many more factors involved in ethical adoptions. And I believe that sometimes, the ethical option does not always seem like the right option. Ethics are tricky that way.

So I want now to tell you as story that has nothing to do with the financial aspects involved in adoption.

When I was in Ethiopia in the fall of 2008, I visited Kebebe Tsehay orphanage in Addis Ababa. This is one of the oldest state-run orphanages in all of Ethiopia. This orphanage houses mainly young children and girls to age 12 or so. There are many, many accounts of the state of the orphanage, and of children who are at this orphanage, so I won't elaborate on the conditions- or the beautiful children- or even the humanitarian efforts aimed at this orphanage.

Instead, I want to tell you about one young boy who lives at Kebebe Tsehay. In the fall of 2008, he was very young, less than 12 months old. In a room of 20-30 babies and toddlers, he stood out... not because he was vibrant and full of life, but because just the opposite was true.

He was sick. Very sick. Possibly sick enough to die... from the looks of him, I doubted he had more than 6 months left. He moved me, touched my heart. Why is this poor baby laying here, dying, when there are so many parents who want to adopt a child from Ethiopia? Are people really that scared of his physical illnesses that they would allow him to lay here and die in this crowded, poorly-staffed, dirty orphanage? I decided right then and there that if he was still waiting for a family, I would start the process again and bring him home. I couldn't allow this injustice to occur any longer. I was filled with holy passion- passion to defend the life of this precious child of God.

I inquired after the circumstances of this boy. And my already broken heart, somehow, broke even more. This baby was born to a "loose woman." She brought him to the orphanage when he was very young because his wealthy father wanted nothing to do with him. She desired that he be placed for adoption. However, the father, while unwilling to parent the child, was also unwilling to allow him to be adopted. He refused to relinquish his rights. He paid a few dollars each month to the orphanage in exchange for their continued care of the baby.

This baby would never be adopted. He would never know the love of the family. He would grow up in this institution- if his poor health held out long enough to allow him to actually grow up. This precious child was stuck, and there was nothing that anyone could do about it.

The injustice of the situation overwhelmed me. I questioned... why can't something be done? Why can't the courts make the father either accept responsibility or allow someone else to accept the responsibility of raising his child? The response? Well, that's just not the way things are done in Ethiopia.

In that moment, I could understand why even those who have no chance at financial gain from this boy's adoption would participate in unethical behavior. How easy would it have been to forge a document, to pay a man to pretend to be the father long enough to relinquish him, to "lose" the file and replace it with only bits and pieces of the original so that this baby would have a chance to be adopted- a chance to live?

JCICS estimates that only 0.001% of orphans in Ethiopia will find homes through international adoption (IA). The vast majority, over 99% of orphaned children, will not be served through adoption... perhaps because of a lack of adoptive parents or a slow process, but mainly because most orphans in Ethiopia are simply not available for adoption. The remaining 99% of children need services from family strengthening/preservation to foster care to improved orphanages and care settings to accessible education and health care.

Given this huge need for services other than adoption, it should not surprise anyone that MOWA is cutting back their services in adoptions and focusing their resources on non-adoption services. It makes sense to me that since 99% of the vulnerable children that MOWA serves are not involved in adoptions and will not be involved in adoptions, 99% of MOWA's resources should be directed at non-adoption services. If that were the case, MOWA would most likely slow down to less than 1 adoption per day; the proposed 5 cases/day seems generous in this context.

Under the current system, there are very few resources for that precious little boy who will never be adopted. Even though his care givers and orphanage director probably would not have financially gained from engaging in an unethical act that could have made this baby available for adoption, I can see how they would be tempted to do it anyway. Because this baby does deserve something better than lying... and dying... in an over-crowded, under-funded orphanage. He does deserve a family. And what seems right in this situation falls on the side of illegal and unethical. But what other options did they have to meet this precious babe's needs?

By allowing MOWA to focus resources on non-adoption services, children like this little boy will have options. And by serving this child through non-adoption resources, the burden on the adoption system will be lightened. This is what MOWA is trying to do.

I know many PAPs/APs are looking at this slow down in light of how it will affect their adoption process. But even if you don't believe that weeding out unethical practices is necessary in Ethiopia, it would be hard to deny the need for non-adoption resources to aid the 99% of orphans who cannot and will not be adopted.

As PAPs/APs, we are the loudest voice and biggest supporters of care for Ethiopian orphans. I am sure that those parents who have decided to pursue or have completed an Ethiopian adoption have a huge heart for these precious children. Please, stop thinking of these new regulations in light of how they will affect your adoption timeline, and start thinking of them in view of what is best for the children of Ethiopia. Stop making decisions based on what feels right, and start focusing on what is right.

Because that is the least we can do for these precious children. It's the least they deserve.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

For the Grandparents

Last week I had a whirlwind trip to Mississippi, trying to do more house-hunting in anticipation of our move this summer. I took the baby with me, partially because there was no one to watch him while I was gone, and partially because the idea of having to submit my breast milk for screening at airport security is just kind of creepy. Much easier to take the baby with me. Until I realized, when I landed (late) in Charlotte, that I had 7 minutes to get from the end of the D terminal to the end of the B terminal, while pushing a stroller, pulling a carry-on, and toting a backpack. (That didn't work out so well for me.)

Anyway, that was the first time that the baby spent much time in the stroller; up until now, he's been in his carseat which was locked into the top of the stroller. Um, he pretty much loves his stroller... and being able to see everyone!

At one point, when we were walking through the airport, this lady was "flirting" with JohnAndrew, and he was being all cute back, and she actually walked into another person. It was funny (but only because the other person wasn't hurt:)

Unfortunately, the little man has had a cold which has made nursing him hard... he didn't want to eat because he couldn't breathe very well! So I've been pumping and giving him bottles a lot. Abigail is such a little Momma- she always asks to give the dude his bottle.

These two look so much alike. They have the same eyes and the same mouth. Baby pictures of Abigail at this age are practically identical to JohnAndrew right now. Maybe I will have to pull some of those out...

Sadly, my Anna has an ear infection, so she hasn't felt up for photos. Although, I did ask her what she want for her birthday next month and she told me "brown." Not sure what that means. But she wants "brown cookies with brown chocolate, and a brown shirt, and a brown light." Then again, she also wants "Abigail's doll, Abigail's bed, Abigail's puppy, Abigail's pen" etc.

This is what the weather was like in Mississippi.

I'm ready for spring.

What is an Orphan? Is there an "Orphan Crisis"?

I think part of what makes PAP/APs so quick to overlook "a few, isolated cases of abuse" in Ethiopian adoptions is the prevalent belief that there are 6 million orphans in Ethiopia that are institutionalized or living on the streets, and they need homes.

Now, I applaud the parents who recognize that there are many children who need parents/families and who are willing to become a part of the solution. But the view that international adoption is the "fix" for the orphan crisis in Ethiopia is as naive as believing that there are millions of orphans just waiting to be adopted.

I was privileged to have Amanda Cox, a Christian International Development Professional share with me the following information, which looks at the definition of orphans, street children, and the need for solutions.
UNICEF (and thus, worldwide child welfare organizations) defines orphan as a child who has lost one or both parents. So "orphans" worldwide are living...with their surviving parent. Yep. Up to 90% of "orphans" live with a surviving parent or a relative. (Emphasis mine)
First, I would like to point out that it is UNICEF's numbers that are quoted when we talk of the number of orphans in Ethiopia. In 2005, UNICEF estimated that there were 4.8 million orphans in Ethiopia, and so the number 5-6 million is generally used these days (new numbers from UNICEF are pending, so I will use the number 5 million since it is an easy number to work with.) But up to 90% (4.5 million) of those children still reside with a parent or other living relative. Yes, there are a lot of orphans in Ethiopia, but a rough estimate for the number who are in need of adoption (approximately 500,000 or less) is significantly less than the number "6 million orphans" that is used by adoption agencies to convince adoptive parents they are "rescuing" a child.

Well, what about the undocumented children? The children of poverty? The children who have nothing? The street children?
... "street children" is actually broken into two: Children of the street (those are the ones actually living alone and sleeping in the street) and children on the street or in the street. Those are more likely the vast majority of the ones you see in Ethiopia begging, selling gum, etc. They go home to their families at night. (Emphasis mine)
Yes, there are children who are living alone, in child-headed households, and/or sleeping in the street. But these children do not account for the majority of "street children" who we see in those poignant pictures... the ones we are heartbroken to help. So, if these numbers are true, why do we still persist under the belief that there are 5 million orphans in Ethiopia who need our help?
I've found that what we can see with our eyes when visiting a developing country or what we can discern by reading a website or blog are not always the realities on the ground. The reality on the ground in Ethiopia is that some children need intercountry adoption. The vast majority need family strengthening and preservation support. And reduced barriers to education! (Emphasis mine)
These children do need our help. But the help they need is not mainly through international adoption. It is primarily through the humanitarian work that will help them remain in their first families, receive education and health care, and provide for a bright future for them in their own family, country and culture.
... years of experience has definitely taught me that the average person (honestly no offense meant) cannot discern the on the ground, in the community, on the streets truths from a visit or two or from scanning basic literature. Each country has its own complex set of problems and each "solution" (including IA) can easily lead to a whole other and equally complex set of problems.    
Yes, international adoption is sometimes the appropriate and needed solution for some children. But even then, it does not come without a plethora of associated complications and problems. They are serious and complex, from the trauma, loss, and grief that adoption causes to the child, to the unethical and corrupt practices that can stem from an over-stressed system struggling to meet the demands of wealthy Westerners... practices that can include harvesting and trafficking.

Sadly, though, while many well-meaning people speak out and condemn child trafficking that results in children being placed into sex slave or slave labor situations, they condone child trafficking that results in children being placed into affluent, loving, Western/American homes. I believe this is partially because they want a child to love, partially because they do believe that a few trafficked children is worth the cost of many children being placed into homes, but mostly because they believe they are giving the child a better future- a future that anyone should want- that anyone should be glad to have.... even if it's at the cost of losing their first family and native culture.

So, is there an "orphan crisis" in Ethiopia? 

We see the orphanages and care centers that are filled to and beyond capacity. And we know that there are orphans in Ethiopia. We know that there are children for whom, sadly, family preservation efforts would not work because their birth family had died or is otherwise unavailable or unable to care for them. We know that there are some children who have been institutionalized for years. But does this constitute an "orphan crisis"?

Consider this: before IA became well-known within Ethiopia, there were only three orphanages in the country. Yes, they were crowded, but they were it. A handful of the children in the whole of Ethiopia. Most other children- even those considered orphans, were cared for in families.

But then the word was spread (by adoption agencies and their on-the-ground partners) that children could be placed into American homes. That children could have a better future, an education, health care. That they could go to America and grow up, and then come back home to their village. That American families would support the siblings and parents who remained in Ethiopia. That money was available for families who placed their child or children into orphanages for adoption. Suddenly, and not surprisingly, there was a boom in the number of children relinquished and abandoned... and adoptive parents had an endless supply of young, relatively healthy children.

This may sound extreme- cynical even. But this is what happened that led to orphanages full of children. I certainly believe that there are still many children who are orphaned and in need of adoption, but these children are rarely 2 month old healthy infants. They are the older children (older than 3, but most older than 5), children in sibling groups, children who have developmental delays, health concerns, HIV, deformities, etc. These are the children that are waiting in orphanages... I saw them for myself, and the numbers provided by people on the ground, working with orphans support this.

So, is there an orphan crisis? I believe that any child who is without a family is in crisis, so in one way, yes, there is a orphan crisis. But there is not an "orphan crisis" as you are led to believe by people who are trying to get you to spend money and adopt through them. There are not 6 million orphans in Ethiopia waiting for loving homes. Even the "orphans" who have no living parents and who cannot be maintained in their villages are not always legally available for adoption.

There is a crisis in Ethiopia. A crisis that is based on the lies of those who harvest and traffic children for profit. A crisis that comes when people make money by placing children for adoption and lose money when assisting children to remain with their birth families. A crisis that ensues when the limited resources of a country are expected to be used for the smallest percentage of vulnerable children, while the vast majority of vulnerable children are left unserved by the government and NGOs. There is a crisis in Ethiopia, but it's a humanitarian crisis. It's a crisis that diverts resources from the many, many unadoptable children in favor of freeing resources for the few children who will be adopted. This is a crisis... a crisis for the many children who are and always will be left behind.

And I believe MOWA's recent actions place them in the best position to address the crises facing the orphan care system in Ethiopia: the crisis of corruption and the crisis of limited resources for a vulnerable population.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Why I am a non-signer.

In my last post, I addressed the question "Who is JCICS"? I wrote that JCICS is basically a lobbying agency or mouthpiece of US adoption agencies. I shared that I could not, in good conscious, sign the petition that is part of their emergency campaign. I briefly touched on my reasons why I would not sign, and now will elaborate.

First, I do not believe that continuing adoptions at rates of 50 (or more) per day is in the best interest of children or birth families. Do not misunderstand me; I am not saying that I don't believe adoption is not in the best interest of children or families. I am saying that the current process is not in the best interest of children. Why? Because we know that with the current process, trafficking and other unethical practices are taking place at rates that are much higher than most people believe. And if even one child is trafficked, it is too many to allow the corrupt system to continue. I don't believe a total shut-down is the answer, but I do agree that changes need to be made. Petitioning to allow Ethiopian adoptions to continue as-is is the same as petitioning to allow unethical adoptions and child trafficking. I cannot do it, not because I don't want all children to have a loving, permanent home, but because unethical practices and child trafficking are never in the best interest of children or birth families.

Relatedly, allowing the Ethiopian system to slow down, self-regulate, and focus on other efforts of children and youth services is in the best interest of children. Allowing the system time and resources to weed-out corruption and unethical practices and focus on other programs for children (perhaps family preservation or foster care?) is in the best interest of the children and birth families. That is to say, allowing the Ethiopian system to do what it announced it would be doing helps children. I believe that adoption is a good option. But, I also believe (along with the Hague and most other voices of ethical adoption practices) that children are best served by preserving birth families, placing children with extended family or friends, or placing them within their own culture/country. Slowing adoptions to focus resources on efforts that could work towards these "better/best" options is absolutely something I support.

Third, I believe JCICS's approach to the recent announcements has proven that they are more interested in promoting the agenda of their members than in protecting and serving children. There are several reasons I feel this way.

  • The initial post outlining a call to action/plan for parents and other concerned individuals does not focus on fully exploring the state of Ethiopian adoptions. It doesn't even mention that there are concerns for corruption or unethical practices. It doesn't question if adoption is the best option for children in Ethiopia. It simply focuses on continuing adoptions at the current rate.
  • Additionally, the post requests pictures and stories (which, if you have already completed an Ethiopian adoption, you are already submitting to the court system annually in your post-placement reports). However, the stories submitted by parents who have discovered corrupt/unethical practices are being ignored.
  • The post feeds into the hysteria that surrounded this announcement, and is written as though a shut-down is imminent. The entitle their action an "Emergency Campaign." They actually state "join us in advocating for the continuation of intercountry adoption in Ethiopia" as if to say that without their advocacy and your support, intercountry adoption will be shut down!
  • The JCICS asks for money right after telling you that they represent your best hope of completing an Ethiopian adoption. That right there is just not right. They intentionally write a post that preys upon the emotional vulnerability of in-process families and implies that they will be able to keep adoptions- your adoption- moving forward on your timeline. Then tell you they need your money to do this.
  • The overall tone of this call to action is summarized this way "We want the Ethiopian government to give us what we want, when we want it, the way we want it. Sign this petition so that we can have our way." Selfish. Ignorant. Single-minded. And representing the interests of adoptive parents at the cost of the best interests of children and birth families.
  • (A friend also points out that the names/data included in this petition are publicly viewable, and more than likely can be used for data-mining purposes. Of course JCICS would like a big, centralized database of people to whom Ethiopian adoption is important! Why wouldn't they? At least some of those people are likely to donate to them, and all they had to do was post a few things on the web. Talk about a high-yield return!)
Fourth, and most importantly, you don't let the fox guard the hen house. You don't let Big Tobacco go into schools to determine the anti-smoking education children will receive. You don't let Big Oil or Big Auto determine the environmental protection laws governing their products. You don't take huge, wealthy, powerful advocacy groups into poor, underdeveloped nations and allow them to dictate the nation's laws, especially laws that have the potential to greatly benefit or greatly harm the advocacy group and it's members. Anytime a large, wealthy (American) individual or group goes into a small, poor, un- or under-developed nation and states they know what is "best" for that nation and that nation's most vulnerable citizens, there is a huge potential for corruption. When corruption is already known to exist, the potential for more/worsening corruption becomes overwhelming. Yet this is exactly what JCICS is proposing to do: as a large, wealthy, American organization, they want to go into the poor, underdeveloped Ethiopian adoption system and determine what is best for the children... the children that, in part, are their bread and butter. Could the fox be ethical? Yes, it's possible. But is it probable that the fox will leave the hens to roost in peace, to nurture their own children in their own way, and find a different way of procuring his dinner? I believe that is unlikely.

Finally, I was buoyed in my stance against the petition when I discovered that people on the ground in Ethiopia, both native Ethiopians and Americans, who work for my adoption agency are strongly against the petition. They do not believe it is in the best interest of children. That says a lot to me. If the people who are most aware of the situation in Ethiopia- the ones who are literally working day and night to help the vulnerable children of Ethiopia- cannot support this petition, why should I believe it would help these children? Answer: I don't. I don't think it will help children. I simply think this is a way for adoption agencies and adoptive parents to attempt to get what they want out of the Ethiopian system.

I did not write this post with the intention of changing any one's mind about this petition, but rather of informing you of my thought process. However, if you have already signed the petition and are now having second thoughts, you can remove yourself. If this post has made you reconsider your signature, please also send this post to others you know who may want to reconsider.

I have already been accused of not caring about orphans- of believing they would be better off on the streets, institutionalized, or dead. I have been accused of "thinking in dollars." If you have read this far and still believe that is where my heart is, I don't know what to tell you. My heart is with the children of Ethiopia. I am not anti-adoption, but I am pro-child. I believe there can and are options for children in Ethiopia besides the streets, institutions, death, and adoption; I believe in a child's right to family, but I also believe that the right to family starts with the right to staying in their first family. And I believe those options are where my focus- and the focus of anyone who claims to want to aid children in Ethiopia- needs to be. 

I will continue this series of posts soon, addressing next the questions of "What is an orphan?" and "Is there an orphan crisis in Ethiopia?"

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Who is JCICS?

The Joint Council on International Children’s Services (JCICS) recently launched an “Emergency Campaign for Ethiopian Children,” asking those affected by adoption to sign a petition to continue processing Ethiopian adoptions at “normal” rates in response to  the recent announcement by MOWA that processing will be reduced by 90%.

I cannot, in good conscious, sign this petition. It is not because I am anti-adoption. It is not because I am unsympathetic to the plight of Ethiopian children. It is not because I don’t sympathize with adoptive parents in process in Ethiopia.

It has a lot to do with who JCICS is, their motives, and the state of ethics (or lack thereof) in Ethiopian adoptions.

So, who is JCICS? According to their website, JCICS is a “coalition of over 260 international, non-profit, child-welfare organizations” who work “…to ensure that orphaned and vulnerable children can live, grow, and flourish in a family.” You can see a list of their members here.

Basically, JCICS is a mouthpiece for a group of adoption stakeholders; these stakeholders are benefitting financially from Ethiopian adoptions, and will suffer financially is adoptions slow or cease. While they claim to be in favor of children being in families, what they mean is they are in favor of children being in adoptive families; I could not identify a single member organization that was working on first family preservation.

(Additionally, Tomilee Harding served as a board member, VP, and President/CEO of the JCICS. Yes, Tomilee Harding, the Founder/President of CWA. Yes, CWA… the agency accused of trafficking in the news story “Fly Away Children” and follow up story “Fly Away Home” from the Australian Broadcasting Company. Take that for what you will.)

Does JCICS seem like an agency that has the best interest of children at heart? I do not believe any organization that has such financial ties to the continuation and unhampered growth of international adoption (IA) would truly stand up and say “IA is not in the best interest of this/these child(ren)” or “cases of trafficking are far too common to allow adoption practices to continue in this way.” I do not believe that ant organization that so strongly identifies with and represents a sole member of the adoption triad (and the wealthy, influential member- the adoptive parent) can be unbiased and also be working in the best interest of the children.

The plight of children in Ethiopia is as complex as the culture. However, I cannot support any organization who believes that the continuation of international adoption is more important than protecting innocent children from being harvested, trafficked, robbed of their identity/history, or otherwise victimized by unethical adoption practices.

I readily admit that slowing or even stopping IA will not “solve” the “orphan crisis.” But continuing or growing IA won’t, either. I would love to see JCICS step up and come up with solutions to “ensure that orphaned and vulnerable children can live, grow, and flourish in a family”… their first family. Family preservation, foster care, and domestic adoption are all parts of the solution to the orphan epidemic in Ethiopia. As written in this Ethica article, "the best use of the energy and efforts in the collective adoption community should not be spent on bombarding the Ethiopian government with pleas to keep business running as usual. Rather, our focus should be on joining the Ethiopian government in its efforts to stop the activities of those who perpetuate fraud."

In future posts, I will address the following questions related to ethical adoption:
  • What is an orphan?
  • Is there an orphan crisis in Ethiopia?
  • How and where do unethical practices occur in the adoption process?
  • What can I do as a PAP/AP to promote ethical adoption practices?
  • What about UNICEF? What about NGOs? 
  • What about the Hague?

as well as share stories from other adoptive parents who have engaged in activities to promote ethical adoptions, such as hiring independent investigators. I would also be willing to address questions you may have… please email or leave a comment. I am not an expert, but the conversation- even if there is no clear-cut answer- is valuable.

Until I can get those posts up, I encourage you to think strongly before signing a petition, and to do your own research into the state of IA in Ethiopia. For more reading about JCICS and the petition, check out this article

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

A Broken System

If the government of Ethiopia feel that their system (note: not adoption agencies, necessarily, but the WHOLE STSTEM) is so corrupt that they can only process 5 cases a day because they need to fully investigate every step of the process, don't you think it makes sense to support this?

A broken system is NEVER in the best interest of the child or the birth family. A broken system only helps APs. (see also: Guatemala and Vietnam)

Working on a series of posts about ethical adoptions and changes in Ethiopia. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The Jerk Down the Hall

You know when you were younger, and you would be at a hotel, settling into bed for the night. The lights out, the pile of pillows under your head, you would drift into slumber. Only to be awakened by the wails of a baby down the hall. And the crying would go on and on, into the night, seemingly for hours. And you wondered who the jerk down the hall was... the one who let their kid cry all night.

Dudes, I am the jerk down the hall.

Not because I am letting my baby cry, but because no matter what I do, my poor baby keeps crying! He's got a horrible cold, he's away form home, he had to spend all day on Monday in airports and airplanes, and most of today was spent in his car seat, driving from house to house. Poor guy. He can hardly eat because he is so congested it's making it difficult for him to breath. And he doesn't even have his sisters poking mothering him!

Last night I practically wore a whole in the carpet. Tonight is slightly better so far, but we'll see what happens around 3am. I am glad I only have "neighbors" on one side (and actually, maybe they checked out today, come to think of it!)

On top of that, I haven't been sleeping well since the accident, but really poorly the past week or so. It makes me wonder which comes first: the cranky baby, or the cranky Momma?

Pray for me. This is day 3? 4? 5? of getting less than 4 hours of sleep, and tomorrow we have to make the trip home. Not sure how I am going to do that. I am exhausted (but so reved up from the stress that I can't relax. Hence I am blogging. Well, that, and the fact that we are having severe Thunderstorms with tornado watch/warnings in effect here in Jackson. Grrr.)

Monday, March 07, 2011


I joined Twitter.

Now I Tweet. I think.

I don't get it. 

And I don't know how to make one of those super-cool buttons that you click on that takes you to my profile.

But if you are interested in following me*, you can do it here.

I am also on FB, if you didn't know. 

I worry about over-exposing myself on the Interwebs. But you know me- I regularly over-share as it is, anyway. One day my kids are going to be really embarrassed by me.

*It makes me feel really, um, un-righteous to ask people to "follow me." Because that is what Jesus told people to do- follow Him. And I cannot write or say the words "follow me" without connecting that to "I will make you fishers of men." I partially blame Seeds Family Worship for that.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Totaled, Revisited

My poor, lopsided car!

On Friday, I had to go clean out my car since insurance "officially" decided it was totaled on Thursday. I was surprised by the intensity of emotion that I felt- not of sadness or loss, but of gratitude. Gratitude to God, for his protection, gratitude to the designers of the vehicle's safety features (who, I am sure, rarely receive thanks for the job they do), and gratitude to the other drivers around me that day, who managed to avoid hitting us and each other. 

The front of the car took the initial impact, hitting the concrete median almost head-on, then continuing to spin.
Kind of looks like an ugly snarl, no?
 We were struck by one other vehicle while we were spinning, on the rear driver's side, I think. I didn't take a picture of that, for some reason.

The interior of the car was basically undamaged except the back hatch near the lights.
 Our momentum was finally stopped by the back of the car smashing into the median. The majority of the impact was on the rear passenger side.

John Andrew's car seat was just inside this door. Amazing that he was unharmed!
 When I opened the door to start cleaning out the car, I found a surprise...
Doesn't everyone carry a role of duct tape with them everywhere they go?

To read more about The Accident, go here. I am just so thankful to be here, to have my children whole and unharmed, and to know that no one else was hurt! I didn't even get a ticket! Yowsa!

Still, I often dream, reliving those moments that are burned into my mind. I somehow feel very responsible- very guilt- even though I didn't really do anything wrong, and I really couldn't have prevented this (unless I was driving at a speed that was significantly slower than traffic, which would also have been dangerous.)

We went car shopping yesterday. And yes, I am looking at minivans (hey, I'm not out to impress anyone with my vehicle- I'm just trying to keep my kids from sitting right on top of each other all the time!) Right now, the Kia Sedona is a front-runner. Turns out, when you have a 35" inseam, your legs do not comfortably fit into most minivans. Who knew?

Friday, March 04, 2011

7 Quick Takes Friday

Hosted this week by Betty Beguiles
 1. This is my very first 7 Quick Takes Friday. I first learned about this by reading Brianna's blog. I really enjoy her writing, and though we are about the same age, I kind of feel like she is a mentor to me (meaning she is much more mature than I.) She is Protestant, but has some really interesting thoughts on Catholicism. I hope she shares more. I have been thinking a lot about Catholicism, because as I have learned more about some of the traditions, I can see how good this can be. There are still some points of theology that I am not sure I agree with (see: praying to saints), but I would like to learn more about the Church's current theology. In particular, I am thinking a lot about the practice of Lent. I am kind of bummed that I will be traveling on Ash Wednesday.

2. Speaking of Catholics, I got to talk to Coffeemom yesterday on the phone! We talked a lot about post-adoption grief and loss, and some behaviors I am seeing with Anna. I may post about this more in depth, but let me just say that Michele is awesome. And very vibrant and young sounding on the phone. Although obviously very mature and wise. I get the feeling she could run circles around me in real life (and not just because I have a fractured sternum.) She is another woman whose (Catholic) faith has inspired me, and she has certainly played a big role in my understanding of the traditions of the Catholic Church.

3. Michele recently posted a link to this site as a resource for all things Lenten. I really learned a lot about Lent, and the practices surrounding Lent. I think the most important thing that I took away from my reading there yesterday was this: "remember the point to all of this isn't to get caught up in the details, but to allow our bodies to reflect the inner mortification and prayer our souls are caught up into. Without the spiritual effect, the bodily doesn't matter." I think that is where most of the Protestant criticism of the Catholic church stems from.... the idea that there are too many rules and mandates done with the goal of guaranteeing salvation, but they are flesh works, not done from the heart or with the goal of a spiritual effect. Well, that and purgatory. But I am no theologian. So what do I know?

4. Since the accident, I have had a lot of pain in my chest (see above reference to sternal fracture.) I have been nursing the baby laying down in bed, since this is the most comfortable position for me. This means increased traffic in my bed, and let me tell ya- my sheets have taken a lickin'. Currently, I have spots of spit up, wet diaper leak (small), melted chocolate ice cream (the diet is on pause!), drool, water, coffee,  and at least one boogie from Anna on my sheets. This is pretty gross, but not enough motivation to add to the piles of laundry I need to do. #Lazy

5. The baby has been on a sleep strike. Yesterday he decided he was going to sleep, but only if he was naked, wrapped in the blanket Mimi made him, and laying on Daddy's pillow.

I was totally okay with that. I am thinking that the sleep strike is related to the accident. Not sure if it's physical, emotional, or a combination of the two, but it is definitely related. We gave him some Tylenol yesterday, and it really helped, so I am guessing he does have some aches and pains, if nothing else. He also likes to sleep with his hands up above his head.

Sometimes, when he is stirring in his sleep- maybe a bit gassy or otherwise disturbed during his sleep, I will see him reach over and rub the side of his head, just the way I rub his head when he is falling asleep. Awww.

6. Speaking of things that hurt after the accident... My glasses went flying during the accident, although I later found them lying on the seat between the kids. I have been having headaches since the accident. At first, I attributed it to hitting my head, but now I am thinking it might be due to my glasses. They work, but they don't fit the same way, and I wonder if that change in how they fit could be giving me headaches. I really need to get new glasses, so I guess there is no harm in asking if my insurance claim will cover them:)

7. This was on my front porch this morning.

Consider yourself warned. Also, that is after my birthday, so I will still expect birthday greetings. And you might as well go ahead and get me some great big gift. Because you won't be around to feel the effects on your pocketbook. Just sayin'.

So, that is my very first Seven Quick Takes Friday. This is really fun. You should do it and link up over at Betty Beguiles (normally over at Conversation Diary.)

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Curl vs. Dime

I recently joined a group on FB that is focused on caring for our children's African American hair. I briefly wrote about Anna's hair a while back, and did a "puff" tutoriall. Since then, a lot has changed. And a lot has stayed the same.

When Anna came home, her hair was completely knotted up. When I could finally brush through it, it was fragile and difficult to identify the natural curl pattern due to being in such poor condition (from malnutrition.) We had to allow her hair to grow out and actually cut off ALL the hair she had when she came home before we could really start to see her hair becoming healthy. Since then, with proper nutrition and care, her hair has gown like mad. It is really shiny and healthy. She has type 4a (kinky) hair. This hair is usually very delicate, fragile, and breakable, but Anna's hair is very resilient and I don't notice any breakage. It is, however, curled. Very tightly curled. And when I say very tightly, I mean teeny tiny curls. How tiny? Well...

Curl and dime: a size comparison.

Estimated diameter of one of Anna's curls? 2-3 mm.
John and I watched "Good Hair," the Chris Rock comedy documentary about African American hair are in America. (It's available streaming on Netflix, and if you haven't seen it, you need to watch it. But not with your kids. Not appropriate for them.) This movie affirmed our choice to keep Anna's hair chemical-free, and to limit heat treatments of her hair as much as possible. She has the hair type that is most often considered the exact opposite of "good" hair. In fact, it's so common to chemically process her hair type, that the stylists at our AA salon comment on how they have never seen hair like Anna's before (what they mean, I think, is that they have never seen untreated hair like hers before.)

Our hair care routine is fairly easy. We only shampoo when her hair is out. If her hair becomes wet with chlorine (swimming), dusty from playing outside, etc, we rinse with water then use a spray-on oil. We also use the spray-on oil every few days to keep the hair shiny. He hair is pretty healthy and her scalp and hair don't get really dried out, so we don't have to use a lot of products between styles, unless her hair gets wet. When we do take out a style, we shampoo, rinse, heavily condition and comb through, rinse, and use a leave-in conditioner. Blot dry lightly (with a dark-colored towel to avoid light-color lint) then style. We comb out using a wide-tooth comb and a water spray bottle to keep the hair wet. I don't heat-style at home (although they sometimes do at the salon.)

We have found that styles like cornrows and twists work best for us; the less often we mess with her hair, the better. While John, my mother-in-law, and I can all style her hair in twists, we do take her to the salon to get it done (especially since the baby was born. Hard to find a solid block of time to work on her hair. The baby tends to want to eat and such:) We have not yet figured out how to do cornrows successfully, although we can do some larger braids.

We also take Anna's wishes into consideration. Anna hates getting her hair done, but in the end, she loves to have beads to "click." She doesn't really care to "do" her hair on a daily basis (and if she had hair like Abigail's , I bet she would often do what Abigail does- brush and ponytail every morning!) She doesn't have the patience, attention span, or desire to style her hair every day, or even every week. So long-lasting styles work best for us right now.

This past weekend we really needed to do something about her hair- it was well past time! Her twists had been in for over a month (we can usually keep them looking good for 3-4 weeks, but they were downright embarrassing by the beginning of the week last week.) I've been trying to let them go as long as possible, hoping to wait until twice-weekly swim lessons were over. But it was time.

We took out her twists in the evening, then put her to bed with her hair in ponytails. In the morning, my MIL washed her hair, but didn't comb out in the shower. This is what her hair looked like.

Wet head, thick curly hair!

When her hair is pulled straight, it is easily twice as long! I would say her hair more than doubled, and this isn't even pulling it all the way straight:)
We combed out her hair in sections, spraying with water to keep it moist. We sectioned her whole head, and when a section of hair was combed out, we applied a little "grease" to the roots and worked it through the length of the hair. I put a bob-lob around the base of the hair, then sectioned into 2 parts and created a twist. That got a small rubber ponytail at the end, and then I wrapped the whole twist into a "bun" around the bob-lob, tucking the end of the twist into the bob-lob to hold it in place.

We were making due with the supplies we had on hand. If we had options, I would have chosen smaller bob-lobs, and I would have been more particular about her parts, which are pretty messy. However, including the comb-out, this entire style took less than 45 minutes (with both my MIL and I working on it) which is a record for Anna's hair. And she loved it. So it's a win for the time being:)

One thing to be aware of: when you put hair into styles that you leave in for weeks on end, you will notice a lot of hair loss when you do finally comb out the hair. This is not due to damage to the hair or being rough on the hair by combing or anything. This is simply because we naturally lose hair every day, but in a twist or braid style, it doesn't "fall out" of the style. So when you comb out, all those hairs that were lost but stuck in the style come out.

This was the hair that came out while combing out one small section of hair. There was a LOT more by the time we were done. But don't worry; Anna still has TONS of hair left:)
I'm no expert, but thought others might benefit from what work for us:)

Wednesday, March 02, 2011


"Momma, Dallas* wants to take me to dinner tomorrow, at Wendy's," Abigail said, taking a big bite of her taco.

"Uhhh," I stalled, "like a date?"

"No, not a date. He just wants to take me to Wendy's."

"Why?" Maybe I was reading the situation wrong. Maybe his family was going to celebrate his birthday or something. Maybe it was innocent.

"Well, because he likes me."

"So," John interjected, "that would be a date. How were you planning on getting there?"

"Uh, he said something about he could drive me, but I knew Daddy wouldn't be okay with that."

"But you thought we would be okay with you going on a date?" I asked incredulously. "What is the rule about dating? You aren't allowed to date.."

"Until Daddy is dead. I know."

"Why Daddy is gonna die?" Anna asked, her brow wrinkling.

"Daddy's not going to die. Yet. And you" I eyed Abigail, "are not going on a date."

We then had a long discussion about the purpose of dating, which is not to get to know each other, because that's what friendship is for. And how the purpose of dating is to work towards marriage. And since you date people to figure out if you should get married, it's pretty silly, pointless, and downright against the rules to date at 8. Or 13. Or 16. Or any time before you finish college.

"Or until Daddy is dead, right Momma?"

"Well, not quite. I do hope Daddy lives longer than 12 more years."

"Why Daddy is gonna die in 12 years?"

"He's still not going to die. Yet. And you" I eyed Abigail, "may invite Dallas to go to dinner with us when we go as a family, if you want to invite a friend."

"As long as he is a good friend. I mean, he's a good kid, right? Not too hyper? Nice to other kids? Doesn't cheat in math or anything?" Daddy interjected, trying to sound calm and reasonable.

"No, Daddy. He's a good kid. And he's a nice friend."

"And that's all you need right now. Good kids who are nice friends." Because my little girl dating is almost more than I can handle, even if it doesn't happen for 12 more years. And if it's almost too much for me, I'm sure it's way past the line for John. And we can't have Daddy die. Yet.

*Name changed to protect the guilty. It also turned out that "Dallas" asked Abigail on a date because "Micah" likes her too, and Dallas was trying to get Abigail to be his girlfriend. His old girlfriend was "Jenny," and she broke up with him on Manner's Day, but Abigail doesn't know why.

**The social dynamic of 3rd grade is totally complex. We also had a long discussion tonight about "popular kids" and why they really aren't cool. And why nice, kind kids are cool. And how girls are downright mean sometimes. And how you can be a good friend.

***Lately, I've been wondering if it was a bad idea to start Abigail into school a year early. Because the other kids are 9, and she is 8. And they talk about boyfriends and girlfriends. And she comes home and plays Polly Pocket, My Little Pony, and American Girl dolls.

Accident Humor (and other stuff)

I don't take it lightly that we were able to walk away from the accident. I know that was the hand of God protecting us. And I don't take it lightly that another family was involved in the accident, or that many people were put in danger and inconvenienced because of it.

But, you know me. You know that I will joke about this. Because that is me- it's part of how I deal with stressful situations.

That said, here are some "funnies" that came out of the whole situation.


Grace: You know, honey, I've never been in an accident before. I think I did a real bang up job, for my first one!

John: Yeah, you were a real smash!


I've been wanting a minivan, not because they are oh-so-fashionable, but because we need the room. It's hard for us to go places as a family because of the space issue. I was even thinking the other day that driving down to Mississippi with 3 kids, the cat, and hopefully my mom or a friend would be pretty rough because we wouldn't have any space for luggage!

But with the car totaled, I guess this is as good a time as any to "upgrade" to the minivan. I commented on this observation to John, who has been opposed to the minivan, mainly for the sake of his vanity.

John: You know, there are easier and less dangerous ways to convince me we need a minivan.


Let's face it: Anna is nearly 4. Even if she wasn't as precocious as she is, she would probably still get into a fair bit of trouble, because that's what kids do at that age. But she is Anna, and she does get into more than a "fair bit" of trouble. Which is why her conversations with John while at the hospital were kind of cute.

Anna: Daddy, the car is broken into lots of pieces. And Momma did it!

John: Yes, there was an accident and the car is broken, but you are all safe. That's all that matters!

Anna: Yeah, but Momma did it! Not me, Daddy!


At the hospital, Anna didn't really seem to understand why they put me in a bed, stuck an IV in me, and weren't letting me do anything.

Anna: Are they going to put the baby back into your tummy now, Momma?


John recently lost his set of keys that included the house key and my spare set of car keys. I was wondering how I would replace the "clicker" for my car for him. I guess I don't have to worry about that now:)


It just occurred to me that I am shopping for both a car and a house right now. No pressure.


I was concerned about taking Percocet since I am still breastfeeding.

Guess what? Percocet didn't make my little dude drowsy. Nor did it constipate him. (Ask me how I know this.)

WIA&D 2/22-2/28 (Kinda.)

2/22/11 (-490 cal)

  • Oatmeal- 150 cal
  • Coffee with FF 1/2 and 1/2- 20 cal
  • Tea with Splenda- 0 cal
  • Salad with light honey dijon dressing- 80 cal
  • Salsa Soup- 200 cal
  • Banana- 90 cal
  • Pear- 100 cal
  • Salad with hummus, feta, and meatballs-510 cal
Late Night Snack
  • HSDCCB. Uh, x2- 360 cal
What I Did
  • Keep on keepin' on. (-1500 cal)
  • Sometimes I feel like a cow. But not a steer. (-500 cal)
2/23/11 (-740 cal)
  • Oatmeal- 150 cal
  • Coffee with Splenda and FF 1/2 & 1/2- 30 cal
  • Salad with hummus, feta, tomatoes, carmelized onions- 300 cal
  • None. :(
  • Beef and Broccoli- 330 cal
  • Rice- 170 cal
Late Night Snack
  • Apples and Peanut Butter- 265 cal
  • HSDCCB x 2- 360 cal
What I Did
  • Keep on keepin' on. (-1500 cal)
  • Sometimes I feel like a cow. But not a steer. (-500 cal)
  • Cto5K W3D1 (-345 cal)
2/24/11 (-645 cal)

  • Oatmeal- 150 cal
  • Coffee- 20 cal
  • The Littles and I had lunch with Daddy!
  • Salad at ABP- 540 cal
  • Breadstick- 180 cal
  • None:(
  • Beef and Broccoli. Lots and lots of broccoli. - 350 cal
Late Night Snack
  • Apple and PB- 265 cal
  • HSDCCB- 180 cal
What I Did
  • Keep on keepin' on. (-1500 cal)
  • Sometimes I feel like a cow. But not a steer. (-500 cal)
  • Cto5K W3D2 (-330 cal)
  • This was the day of THE ACCIDENT
  • There was no counting of calories
  • And I don't think a "racing heart" counts as exercise.
  • But it should.
The rest of the week was pretty much a diet/exercise FAIL. But that's okay, because we are all alive and relatively well.

I finally got up the guts to step on the scale today, and guess what? I lost 1.4 lbs! Total weight loss is 12.4 lbs,  which is 22.5% of my goal. Maybe the racing heart and adrenaline surge burned more calories than I thought? Or possibly the healing process is using more calories than I imagine?

I need to figure out what to do while I wait for the sternum to heal. Right now, anything jarring is just too painful, and will probably prolong the healing process. I think walking and stationary bike (nothing with weight/pressure on the arms/shoulders) are about all I can handle. I will also be starting some PT for my shoulder/neck/chest. I think I will resume the whole"official" dieting/exercising thing next week. Until then, I will still be mindful of my calories and attempt to get as much activity as possible, but it's too much to put more pressure on myself right now.
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