Thursday, May 31, 2012

Montgomery Adoption Playgroup

Montgomery has a fantastic adoption community.  It has grown by leaps and bounds since 2008, when we began the adoption process.  I felt an instant bond with so many of these women, most of whom I've spent little time with but am willing to share my whole heart with. Our common faith, lives, and passions create fast, deep friendships...  friendships I truly believe will last even as I travel to a new city.

I may be wrong, but Mobile doesn't appear to have an active adoption community.  I'm sure people adopt, just like any city.  But getting these family's to gather in Jesus' name and serve the foster system, adoptions of all kinds, birth mothers, etc?   That is an exciting challenge I'd love to take part in.

For those of you still in Montgomery... please take part in the amazing adoption community here!  Play groups are a great place to get started.  On Facebook, join "Montgomery Area Adoption and Foster Families."  They meet every third Thursday for a fun time.

Tell them Rachel sent you.  And send my love.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Waiting Wednesdays

For those of you who are waiting...

" 'Stand still' - keep the posture of an upright man, ready for action, expecting further orders, cheerfully and patiently awaiting the directing voice; and it will not be long ere God shall say to you, as distinctly as Moses said it to the people of Israel, 'Go forward.' "  - Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Moving on Monday

If there is a Guinness record for the world's longest move, our transition from Montgomery to Mobile might rank.

Yep, we're still in the PROCESS of moving.  Not moved yet.

I usually hate change, but the dots after our "to be continued" have stretched too far, and I'm over this land of limbo.  I'm ready to live in ONE city, call ONE place home, and settle into the new life God has for us.  (Although, don't get me wrong, I've love hotel beds and an excuse to not cook.)

So, here are our plans:

  • On Sunday, we'll be out of our Montgomery house.
  • On Monday, we'll move into our Mobile house.
  • In the meantime, I find packing boxes extremely therapeutic.
  • Packing makes me feel useful while avoiding house cleaning.
  • I hate to clean.
  • But I am no longer gainfully employed.
  • So I should probably at least up my cleaning skills.
  • And my cooking.
  • (Do I have to?)
  • I probably have to.
  • I'm scared of what cobwebs the movers will find under our furniture.
  • I avoid things that I'm scared of.
  • So I'll pack another box.

Are any of you out there really bummed you don't have enough baseboards to scrub?
I'll share mine; you're welcome to scrub them any time this week.
No takers?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Humor, Hair, and Bonding with Your Adopted Child

All of my talk about Amelia's hair has me thinking about attachment. Because in case you didn't know, there are two major concerns for every white family adopting a black child... Attachment, and hair. :)

Yep, those are the biggies consuming our pre-adoption thoughts. 
Racial harmony, self-esteem, and social issues? 
Secondary to the hair. 

Okay, I kid, I kid. Sort of. 

In Amelia's case, hair and attachment were integrally linked. In the early days after she came into our family, Amelia would shriek in ear-splitting agony as I fumbled for hours with her hair. We'd both be crying before her hair was detangled. Sometimes Caroline would join in the tears.

Thank God Amelia's preschool teacher stepped in to allow us a year of bonding and hair care learning while she styled my baby's locks.  Trust is hard to earn while yanking a child's tangles. 

Fourteen months later, hair care isn't so traumatic.  Sure, Amelia has come a long way. She's less anxious, less volatile, and more trusting.  But I've come a long way, too. 

See, one of the essential ingredients to proper attachment is a parent's sense of humor.  Humor is what I lacked in the early days when Amelia was newly ours. 

Her world had been turned upside down, and she was determined to tantrum over it. Often. Go for it, baby girl. You have a right. Change is hard, and you've been dealt a heaping serving. Scream, if it makes you feel better. 

Amelia would stub her toe and fall into hysterics. She'd see a picture of her prior orphanage worker and slap me. She'd want food and convulse on the floor rather than ask for it.

I overflowed in compassion over Amelia's pain. Compassion is good, right? You can't have too much compassion, can you?

Wrong. When it comes to parenting a new-to-you child from across the world, compassion, unchecked by humor, can cause great grief. 

Back then, when Amelia would fall apart, my compassion-softened heart would crumble to the floor. Neither of us could hold it together. We were two distinct puddles of tears, each unable to accomplish a thing. I couldn't see any humor in the situation.

Today, life is different. Smoother. We're more resilient.

These days, we laugh a lot. Sure, Amelia freaks out much less. But when she does, we don't attribute it to her being adopted and say "bless her poor once-orphaned soul!" Humans are all crazy; it's not a unique condition for Amelia. We might as well laugh at the lunacy. Today we're more likely to watch Amelia's tantrum in amusement as I pat Brad on the shoulder and console him for having a house full of dramatic women. Chances are, I was also recently "tantruming" (in a different form) only hours before.  

And because Amelia's insanity is no longer fueled by my own wild response, she generally decides the energy isn't worth it, gives up the screaming, and calmly climbs into someone's lap.

It's not like I never worry about how we're bonding, or never think adoption affects us. Many nights, Amelia begs her way out of my arms because she prefers Daddy put her to bed. I, of course, think this is clearly a diagnosable attachment issue. What two year old doesn't prefer her mother? Brad winks and says it's a matter of Amelia having good tastes. She's simply a daddy's girl. 

He could be right. 

Please don't mistake what I'm saying here. There is an entire spectrum of attachment disorders that can be debilitating and severe. In many cases, the solution is not a simple need to laugh more often. It would be cruel to stop naming true disorders, making them difficult to identify and treat.

But for those of us who've had great adoption bonding with normal bumps in the road, I do think laughter can be the best medicine.  Lighten up.  Tantrums can be as endearing as they are annoying, if you put the right spin on them. Marvel at the humor of your child's fist-sized snot balls; and then take the opportunity to grab a tissue before Junior buries his slimy nose into your shoulder. The dry-cleaner will thank you. 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Afro: Washing and Styling for Loose Curls

With all of the major life changes we're undertaking -- moving from one city to another, from suburbia to a midtown area, from working mom to stay at home, from five day school to homeschool -- one major one I've failed to mention is that I am now in charge of Amelia's hair.

I've been so spoiled.  Amelia's saint of a preschool teacher (who is also armed with a beauty license) kept our girls' hair properly combed, styled, and moisturized.

Moisturized, moisturized, moisturized.

I have some learning to do.  Look how dry my baby's hair was yesterday, just one week since Amelia last had the help of her angel teacher:

The hair along her hairline threatened to roll into parched balls.

Amelia's been home with a head FULL of long hair for over a year, yet I've fixed it myself less than twenty times.  It's time for me to learn my baby's hair. 

You can watch as I fall all over myself learning.

Feel free to offer some advice.

The first thing I do when taking out Amelia's old 'do is this:

I carefully run scissors underneath each hair rubber band and snip it, careful not to cut hair.  Cutting the bands off avoids breakage.

Then, section by section, I detangle her hair using only my fingers.  Sometimes I add moisturizer to help detangle as I go, but this time, I didn't have to.

You can see white hair product buildup in her hair in the picture above, higher than where I am finger detangling.  This needs to be washed out!

See the white film that had been hiding inside of her braids?

Time for a bath!


...and shampoo!  (Those tears are ironic. I used tear-free shampoo!  I guess tears caused by your big sister can't be avoided by shampoo choice.)

I don't shampoo Amelia's hair often. I usually conditioner-wash.  When I do shampoo, it's because she swam, or got into a mess, or has severe product build up.

I use the same kids' tear-free shampoo that I use on Caroline's silky hair. 

But at Target, I saw a tear free organic shampoo made by a brand called Mixed Chicks. Anyone know if this is worth trying?  Should I buy it? It was maybe $12 for a small-medium sized bottle.

When I shampoo Amelia's hair, I don't scrub in the wild way I scrub mine or Caroline's.  Detangling Amelia's hair is hard work, and she got into the bath fairly detangled.  Crazy shampooing might tangle it.  So a do a lot of squishing and gentle rubbing to get a lather.

This conditioner smells amazing. I bought it for Amelia, but I also use it on Caroline's soft silky curls.  It's incredible stuff that it can multitask between their very different hair.

I used the amount shown twice, rinsing much better the first time. The second time, I purposely left most of it in her hair.  (I'd never leave it in Caroline's!)

Next, I (somewhat) brush Amelia's wet, conditioned hair with the OH-SO-AMAZING Tangle Teezer brush. It's the most life-changing invention of my lifetime.  
You must have one. Must, must, must.

I was nervous to use this styling cream in case it left not-so-organic loads of buildup in Amelia's hair. I'd never used it before.  So I applied it lightly while she was still in the tub, then poured on cup of water over her hair to dilute it some.

It's the chicken-out way.

All clean!

I do not towel-dry Amelia's hair.  The fuzz from the towels sticks to her curls.

Instead, she laughs as she shakes her head wildly.
(Yes, like Fido. Sue me. It works.)

And her hair then looks like this:

In need of some help, but precious anyway!
So I add some styling product.  

I loved this Curling Souffle.  It's like runny hair gel in a tub.  I just rub it through my hands and then scrunch it on Amelia's hair to help define her part and shape any wild areas.  

The container says that the wetter the hair is that you apply it to, the wilder the curls.  Applying it to barely damp hair creates curls more loose.

Amelia just isn't going to have loose curls, so I add it early and get the job finished.

Before I know it, I have a rock star.

How precious is the finished product!?

Tips for upkeep.
(I'll keep her hair loose for several days.)

  1. Use a sleep cap to avoid crazy fuzz and things finding their way into the curls. (Or, errr... pantyhose on the head!)
  2. Spray in moisture after every nap/bedtime, and any other time the hair starts feeling dry.  Much more moisture is needed on loose hair.  

The Kinky Curly Spiral Spritz is great for second day curls.  Spray it into your hands first. It's somewhat thick and will shoot out in a straight line.  Rub it into your hands, then scrunch onto the curls.

Cheap and simple olive oil spray is a must have.  I use this on loose or braided/styled hair, ideally at least once a day.

(Notice that I said ideally. Meaning it doesn't happen at my house.)

This Cantu pomade is great for smoothing fly-aways into braided or fixed styles, but it also helps smooth down parts of loose hair.  For example, I may use some of this to tuck the front of Amelia's afro into clips or behind her ears.

Okay, so how did I do?
I'm sure some of you are laughing at all I did wrong. Please, give me your tips and tricks!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Friday Flashbacks: Sin & Adoption

Posted January 25, 2010, after the birth of a much prayed-for baby, which left me feeling emotionally schizophrenic.  Little did I know then how joyously Amelia's life would be celebrated.

I was unprepared for the range of emotions that hit me Friday night.

First was utter awe and joy.  I wanted to cry because I was staring at the perfect little face of my friends' newborn girl.  After a long battle with infertility and learning to lean on God like many of us may never understand, they held their prize -- a precious infant whom I instantly recognized because she bears the image of them both so beautifully.

Not only did I see their own victory wrapped up in that soft pink blanket. I saw the victory of others whom I love who are waiting on their own happy ending to infertility.  Some will end in the delivery room, staring into baby faces resembling their own.  Some will end in court rooms, where finalized adoptions cause family trees to become diverse like Heaven itself.

But when sadness washed over me, I was confused. I left the hospital disheartened.  I had no idea why.  What could bring me down in the midst of such a fairy-tale ending? As I talked to my mom and husband later, I was surprised by the words that spilled from my mouth.

I mourn that our baby will be (or has been) born with no celebration.  Fear, or shame, or poverty, or death... something negative surrounds the circumstances of our sweet child's entry into this world.  There is something sad about adoption.

Don't get me wrong -- adoption may be the most incredible thing I have ever experienced thus far.  God anointed it. It is His holy plan.  But it is also the result of a fallen world.  If we had never sinned -- if we had never orphaned ourselves from God's perfect love -- then there never would've been the costly price paid on the cross for our adoption as sons.

It is sin, also, that caused our world to fall apart.  Famine, disease, poverty -- these all come from the sickness of original sin.  And they orphan children.  And while adopting orphaned children is the glorious redemption from these things, I couldn't help but be saddened on Friday by the sorrow making our sweet baby available to us.

Please don't hear me say adoption is inferior to pregnancy because adoption results from our brokenness.  This is not true.  Genesis says that the pains of childbirth, too, are a result of the curse of sin. Everything is affected.

God redeemed the pains of childbirth by sending us our Savior Jesus through Mary's labor pains.

God redeems the sting of being orphaned through Jesus' death on the cross, paying the fees for us to be adopted as His children.

Sin tainted it all, and God beautifully redeemed it all.

I guess I don't know what I'm trying to say.  All I know is that God is in control, and He makes all things beautiful in their time.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

If I Could Say One Thing

I'm dumb. I've been worried about silly stuff lately... First impressions, moving boxes, finishing books and getting a tan. Not exactly life and death stuff.

And on my blog, I've struggled for content. For heaven's sake, I blogged about a four ingredient sandwich, and I didn't even like yesterday's Waiting Wednesday quote! (nor do I know who the guy is who said it, or where I found it.)

I'm so consumed with our life changes that I'm functioning like a lobotomy patient. I stare at my blog and can't think of ONE THING to say.

Until now.

Now, I remember why I started this blog.

I started it to tell the One Thing that matters. Jesus. That He died, then lived to save us from pitiable lives where our greatest concerns are tans and moving boxes. 

He adopted us into a family filled with
and the most wonderful ability to both love others and simultaneously not care in the least what they think of us.

We're hidden in Him; what does it matter what they think of us?

No, I don't have much to say.
Except this:
Living for Jesus is the only true satisfaction you'll ever find. 

I know, it's hard to believe that an invisible God can satisfy us when so many tangible temptations float before our eyes.  We all get distracted.  Lately, I have been beyond distracted.

But when I'm distracted from Him, life suddenly becomes pointless.
And life is too short to live without a point.
It's too short to live with a lesser point.
I want to live ONLY for the Creator and Savior.
I don't want to waste my life.
I don't want to waste our move to Mobile.
I don't want to waste even this hour.
How about your?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Waiting Wednesdays

For those of you who wait...

"It takes two wings for an eagle to fly. If an eagle were to try to fly with just one wing he would only spin around in circles on the ground. The same is true with many people who are trying to soar spiritually on their faith, but have not added patience. These just keep going around in circles, getting more and more frustrated and kicking up a lot of dust. Any truth that we teach without this counter balancing truth will lead us to frustration, not fulfilment."  - Rick Joyner, MorningStar Ministries

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

303 Calorie Lunch

My real-life friends just groaned and are yelling at the computer screen, "Don't try to make this a food blog! You don't even cook!"

True, true. The latest family meal I cooked involved removing a frozen dish from cardboard and placing it in the oven. 


There is one easy, tasty, 303 calorie lunch that I love to make for myself: 
Chicken, Tomato, and Avocado Sandwich.

I use one small tomato and half of an avocado.  I photographed both halves only because they're so stinking pretty.

Arnold makes super thin sliced bread.  I love it. Two slices are about the size (and calories) of one typical slice of sandwich bread.

The avocado is so creamy and decadent, I don't feel the need to use cheese or condiments.
Plus, let's face it, I'm attempting to make a low calorie meal. Mayo and cheese don't help the cause.

Add six slices of Oscar Mayer Roasted Sliced Chicken Breast, and you're done.
If I weren't in a hotel room stealing my girls' Cheerios, I'd make it right now. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Girls' First Sunday in Mobile

Another Sunday in Mobile.
Another wave of gratitude for the warm welcome we're receiving.

Dozens of people must be praying for our girls' transition. After arriving in town on Saturday, we dropped our unsuspecting daughters with a babysitter while we attended a street party. I wanted to dance for the first hour of the party simply because of how well the girls handled our leaving. Amelia didn't shed a single tear; she even smiled and cheered goodbye. Caroline was stuffing her face with green beans -- GREEN BEANS instead of fried chicken and macaroni -- as we shut the door behind us. Miracles do happen. 

(Mobile street parties, by the way, manage to be simultaneously casual and dreamy, as if someone sprinkled fairy dust on the neighborhood at twilight.)

Saturday night set the tone for the rest of the weekend. Caroline and Amelia each courageously entered new Sunday school classes, receptions, lunches, and nighttime childcare. Several people mentioned how sorry they felt for Amelia as she cried a few times. But for our sensitive Amelia, a simple cry without crumpling to the floor in shrieks reveals immense fortitude.

As for me, I've felt ministered to here already.  Although I knew months ago that God was calling us here, I let logistics and packing and first outfits and first impressions pull my eyes briefly off of the Reason we're here.  The people here lovingly pointed me back to Him already, without even knowing it.

The only problem? It's exhausting being new.  I miss my friends in Montgomery.  But, we'll be back Tuesday!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

How to Survive a Road Trip with Preschoolers

Today, we're headed to Mobile for our girls' first overnight stay in their new town.  Four days and three nights of important first impressions: the girls' first impression of Mobile, and the church's first impression of our girls.

They are two and four.
On a road trip.
Sleeping in a hotel.
Off of any semblance of schedule.
Attending new church childcare.
Being approached by endless unfamiliar faces.

Any parents out there feel me?  It's more the recipe for tantrums, breakdowns, and parental embarrassment... not cordial first meetings.

But have no fear, I am equipped!

How to Survive a Road Trip with Preschoolers

(What to Pack)

I love the Target dollar bins.  I found two miniature clip boards and similar sized flower paper for coloring in the car, as well as stickers.  (Truth be told, I am okay with my girls whining in boredom on our car ride to Mobile.  As long as no one is around to judge us.  Coloring supplies are more likely to make their debut during our Sunday afternoon lunch with the Staff-Parish Relations committee.  Important lunches seem to always fall during nap time.)

Speaking of coloring, have you used Crayola's Color Wonder paper and markers?  They bypass two major travel pitfalls:

  1. Crayons melting in a hot car
  2. Marks on clothes
They ink shows up clear unless it is on special Color Wonder paper.  Genius.

My girls drink NONSTOP.  They typically drink milk.  During a Christmas road trip, we lost track of which sippy cup had  the freshest milk.  We found ourselves at a gas station cleaning up vomit and bathing Amelia in the sink.  No more milk on road trips.

Juice boxes are great because they're relatively clear, (think no stains,) and don't need refrigeration, which we may not have in the hotel.  l I also grabbed a couple of cheap Disney cups so they girls would be pumped to drink water at the hotel. 

Like I said, the girls won't know these items exist until the moment they use them.  Novelty will keep them happy.

Food purists, hide your eyes.  Few of the foods above are organic.
All of the items pictured share three common denominators: my girls love them, they stay fresh at room temperature in a hotel, and they won't stain clothes.  Hungry children are cranky children, so I am coming prepared.

I will probably keep the almonds and raisins visible in the hotel room.  If my girls are hungry, they can ask for these healthier options first.  They will not know that I've also packed sandwich baggies full of Cheerios, Goldfish, and gummy bears until the situation is desperate and they're in those pudgy, precious hands.

Sure, Easy Mac isn't healthy, but the peaches!  Look at the peaches! It balances things out, right?

Once again, my girls won't know the Easy Mac exists unless we become desperate for them to have hot, filling food and STAT! (As if I don't feed it to them all of the time, *cough, cough*.)

Unlike my other choices, peaches and Easy Mac can get clothes dirty.  You can't win it all.  Bananas might be another good option.

For when clothes and kids do get dirty, antibacterial wipes and Shout wipes.

Okay, I won't get more ready than this...
Load the car.  :)
And wish us luck for our first family weekend in our new town and at our new church!