Thursday, January 29, 2009

A New Child at Seeds of Hope

Yesterday afternoon we went back to Seeds of Hope. There was a darling little boy there in a striped polo shirt, tucked into dark blue jeans. He had big bright eyes. I recognized that he had not been there when we visited the day before. Sandra whispered to me, "A new child today." As I questioned her, I found that the woman with him was his mother, bringing him to the children's home because she must work and there is no one to care for him while she is gone.

I was incredulous. Could nothing else be worked out? Will she just leave him at Seeds of Hope during the day and come get him at night?
No. This is it for this mother and her very small son. He will live here now.

As it turns out, this is the case for many of the children not only at Seeds of Hope but also at the other children's homes in Indonesia. There is no free public education here, so a parent's best hope of helping their child have a better life than they do, is to send them to a children's home where they will be sent to school. The education costs for the children at Seeds of Hope are paid for by a church in Ohio somewhere...

Okay. So the parents can come visit their children here? Do they come often?

No. They can't afford the transportation. But at Seeds of Hope they try to take the children to see their parents twice a year.

Sigh. Sigh. So different from anything we can imagine.

I asked Sandra how the children adjust. It is as you might expect. It is very hard for them at first. But Sandra said she tells the children that she loves them, and that they will be able to get an education, and eventually they are okay.

As she and I were talking, I heard this new child crying. And crying. The mother had left. Sandra directed one of the older girls (did I mention that Sandra had a stroke several years ago and is herself disabled?) to go get the little guy. I watched her carry him around for a little while, and then bring him to the table to join the other children who were cutting colorful paper.

Free public education. What a concept.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Seeds of Hope

We're in Indonesia right now, on the island of Bali, for the Chinese New year holiday. It's a gorgeous place... warm, lush greenery, very tropical. We've been enjoying the beach and the the pool and the sun.

Yesterday our vaction took on a little different flavor. Part of the reason we came here this week was to go to Seeds of Hope children's home, an orphanage that houses about sixty children, ranging in age from three years old to twenty. The children all ran to greet us as we pulled up, calling hello and smiling hugely. They all wanted to shake our hands, and asked our names. It was a joyful welcome! They led us into a room with tables and chairs, where they all sat down while we met the couple who started the home nine years ago, a pastor and his wife. A group of the children played some local instruments for us... they were amazingly talented. Something about hearing "Amazing Grace" being played in a sweaty room by Balinese orphans... well, I know I cry easily, but it sure tugged at my heart. We learned that the children play in hotels several times a week to raise money for the orphange. After the music, we brought out some pipe cleaners and beads we had brought along... we had fun with those with all the girls and the younger boys for several hours! 1000 pipe cleaners became butterflies, spiders and spider webs, crowns, baskets, and when combined with the beads, lots of beautiful bracelets. Scott and our boys and the older boys played soccer, basketball, and catch with the football, all in a small cement courtyard.

The children were so happy. Maybe because of their wide range of ages, they seemed to be like a family. At one point Gwen fell and scraped her foot and knee, and one of the older girls took her and washed her and put bandaids on for her. Towards the end of our time there, we were all outside. Caleb was in a one-on-one basketball game with another boy. A big group of the kids watched and cheered for every basket made, on both sides. I stood with the girls and cheered. As I stood in that group of beautiful Balinese girls, with their black hair and skin several shades darker than Gwen's, I wondered if any of these kids would want to leave this home if they were given the choice. As far as I know, Indonesia is not open for international adoption right now. But maybe that's okay. These children are living in what we would consider a very bare bones environment- no AC, living right below the equator, is a big one for us soft westerners, and that's just the beginning of all the things they seem to be lacking. But Thomas and Sandra have created a family here, where the children are loved and are hearing the truth of the love of Christ. It's good.

We asked Sandra and Thomas if they need anything for the children. They're saving money for a railing on the third floor to be repaired. They need toothpaste and shampoo. Is that all? It seems like they need so much, to me. No, Sandra said, toothpaste and shampoo is all. So we'll stop at the Carrefour here on the island on our way back to Seeds of Hope this afternoon and get toothpaste and shampoo and maybe a new basketball or two. I'm all out of beads and pipe cleaners... maybe we'll draw together today. I wish there was a big project we could do for them and with them... we asked in several emails before we came, we asked again yesterday while we were there. But maybe this is okay. It's so good to be a tiny part of what Sandra and Thomas have given their lives to.

Do you ever wonder what you're doing with your life? Seeing Seeds of Hope has made me ponder... what else might God have for us?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Still Making Sense of Things...

This morning Gwen asked Caleb where he was adopted from.

I guess understanding comes a little bit at a time.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

We Box

These Wii boxing pictures crack me up... good thing no one had a camera in their hands when I was playing... not sure I want to know how silly I looked!


Hi, this is Seth, and i made this logo for my mom, im just kinda testing it out. enjoy =]

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Check It Out

I wanted to point out a new blog link I have in my sidebar. "Pre-Loved" is the title, and it is written by my sister-in-law, Mindy. She and my brother are waiting for a little boy to be born, in mere weeks, and then adopted into their family. Her blog is a wonderful chronicle of how God has led them to adoption.

I think you'll enjoy it! Click here to go there now.

Slow Learner

I have been a mom for more than fourteen years. Why is it that I am so slow to learn the lesson of Time Alone?

I was talking with a friend the other day who told me that she had gone to a movie and out for a sandwich by herself after exhausting herself giving a big birthday party for one of her children. I was amazed... I don't think to do this kind of thing, and I told her so. She said, "What do you do for yourself?"


I am in my tenth year of homeschooling. Only one child this year, which is a fairly light load, especially compared to other years when I had four kids at home all day. Or compared to other moms I know who work full time and then come home to parent and take care of all their home tasks. Or compared to single parents I know who are responsible for everything.

Why should I complain?

I'm not complaining. I know I have it good. But I do think that sometimes I forget to take time for myself. I have one child, if not two or three or four, with me pretty much every hour of the day. Yes, there is that scant time between when I've left the last one's bedroom at night (it's 10:10 pm right now and he's still floating around the house) and when I go to bed, but it's not the same as Time Alone.

By dinner time tonight I had had about enough. Little One has been home from school this week with an unexplainable fever and general unpleasantness, which added to my need for escape. When Scott walked in the door at 7, I said hello and walked out.

It doesn't matter what I did, although it involved a honey orange latte from Starbucks and a walk in the cool,dark evening with my iPod, among other things, but as I neared home at the end of my several hours away, I realized how wise my friend is.

Thanks, Maribel, for reminding me of what I should have learned by now. Home and family look so much more appealing when you are coming back to them after Time Alone to recharge.

That's Final

Yes, even here in our rental house in China, I have started marking the kids' growth on the wall in one of the doorways. I had a spot in our storage closet in our apartment last year. Caleb is growing really fast these days and is wanting to be measured more often than seems necessary. Of course since he passed me last summer, he's a little calmer about it all. However, Scott is still ahead of him. The other day we did some marking of heights on the wall, and Seth began to see that he is gaining on me. He decided I should have a mark on the wall. Once it was penciled in, he labeled it. Not with the date, you will notice in the darkish photo above, but with the word FOREVER. Ha, ha. Then I marked Scott's height, also with FOREVER. Scott pointed out to all of us that actually, he and I will probably begin to shrink at some point.

Not if I keep taking my calcium. :-)
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Monday, January 19, 2009

Nine in 2009

Madelyn's 9th Birthday! Here, celebrated with friends (Azeria, Lily and Jalen) with feather fans~ say that five times fast! We had a birthday lunch with a couple of familes... here the group was singing to Madelyn before everyone decorated their own tiny bundt cake. Madelyn's finished cake!Later that night, we had Madelyn's friend Caroline sleep over. The girls changed to their jammies as soon as Caroline arrived, at four o'clock in the afternoon! Here they are making their dinner, little pizzas.
Later in the weekend we celebrated at our small group get-together... nine candles flaming on the rice krispie treat cake!
And now, nine days past her ninth birthday, we are still waiting for Madelyn's birthday gift to arrive. It has been stuck in customs in Shanghai since the day before her birthday. Madelyn has been (mostly) very patient. Not sure what the customs officers want with a doll...

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Mid-January Christmas Greetings

Yesterday's mail held a bumper crop of Christmas cards.

Yes, Christmas cards.

It's been nearly two weeks since we took the Christmas tree down and packed the decorations away, but we are receiving Christmas cards as if it were mid-December. I am reading each letter and hanging each card and photo up in the kitchen.

I guess living in China and getting mail very s-l-o-w-l-y, and only once a week to boot, really spreads out the season.

I'm not complaining. :-)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sweet Samuel

We were all so pleased to finally meet our darling new nephew while we were in the US at Christmas time. Isn't he lovely?

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Girls' Game

Nannie, Gwen, Maggi, and Grandma play a mean round of Go Fish on New Year's Eve.
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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

At the Basketball Game with the Other Woman

I got there a little late, but stayed for the entire game.

She came in the third quarter, and left before the game was over.

I watched the game with rapt attention.

She watched intermittently, messaging a friend on her laptop while she watched.

Why did he spring into action, playing ten times more energetically, when she arrived?

Pondering how this female, not a decade and a half old, who offered my son only slight attention to my full attention, can have this amazing affect on him.

Monday, January 12, 2009

For several weeks now...

... Seth has been twelve! Finally I am posting a few pics from our family celebration of his birthday, which we had the night before we left for the US for Christmas.

Birthday cookies!
Trying out the new rip stick in the dining room.
We love you, man!

Scott and Madelyn with our Christmas boy! I've always felt it was so special to have given birth at Christmas. What a gift Seth was to us that Christmas of 1996... we were about to move across the country, just a week after his birth. His coming made a move right after Christmas bearable... he was our gift, and the circumstances of the rest of our life paled in comparison to having him! He was born on the 23rd, and he and I came home from the hospital just 24 hours later, on Christmas Eve. I remember cuddling him on the couch on Christmas Eve afternoon, looking through Christmas cards as I rested there, and just feeling incredibly blessed to have this tiny boy beside me.

(Almost) Over Jet Lag

We've all struggled with jet lag coming back after Christmas... it's not been extreme, like waking up at 2 a.m. raring to go for the day, but rather just dragging in general. I had felt proud of myself on several recent trips, because I felt like I was hardly affected by jet lag, but this trip dashed my pride! As long as a week after we returned to Shanghai, I was asleep for the night before 9 o'clock. I took this picture of Gwen and Seth one late afternoon last week.

I'm happy to report that so far this week we are closer to being back to normal. :-)
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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Fun For All

Turns out that grinding oranges and cranberries for Grandma's Christmas salad was an activity of great interest to all! All the cousins helped and wanted to be sure of equal time turning the handle of the grinder. Grandma was so pleased (really, she was!) to have the crowd gathered in the kitchen.
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Thursday, January 08, 2009

Girls' Secret

Meredyth ponders whatever tidbit Madelyn has just imparted to her over their bowls of ice cream, raised pinky and all!
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Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Small Cousins with Caleb

Caleb has occasionally bemoaned the fact that he has no cousins his age. Being the oldest child of the oldest children on both sides of the family, he waited a while for cousins to come along. We have encouraged him that although he doesn't have cousins his age, he has really cool younger uncles... this is true, and has been awesome for both him and Seth.

Now that Caleb does have cousins, albeit much younger cousins, he is turning out to be quite popular with them. He hunted high and low to find the perfect Christmas gift for Caden, who is ten years his junior. That gift was a super cool, battery powered, lights and action toy machine gun. He called my sister before buying it to see if she would approve of this choice for her four year old. She did, and was Caden thrilled! He couldn't seem to wipe the grin off his face. Caleb got a BIG hug from Caden. :-) Caleb also had fun with the little girl cousins. Maggi, who is four, asked her mom several times while we were there if she could have a big brother like Caleb. He chased them, tickled them, and generally created much mayhem and screaming. The girls loved it! Here Emma Clare is happily in his clutches.Caleb was anxious to hold his newest cousin, Samuel. He generally doesn't take a lot of interest in babies, but soon after Samuel and his mama came in, Caleb quietly came up to me and said, "Can you get a picture of me holding him, Mom?" Even though Samuel doesn't seem especially happy in this photo, I think Caleb does. See his little smile? The look on Caleb's face reminds me of my two blonde preschool boys, Caleb and Seth, carefully cuddling their newborn sister, Madelyn, and whispering to her, "I'll take care of you, little baby. You're my precious baby in the world."
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Monday, January 05, 2009

The Adoption Miracle

"Mommy, you're the best mommy I ever saw."

And then, after a pause, she said, "I wanted this mommy." I wanted this girl, too.
Amazing. God is amazing. He knew we wanted each other far before we did.
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Sunday, January 04, 2009

A Place I Love

The house on Millington Court has new inhabitants, as of this weekend. The family that lived there last year has moved somewhere closer to the city, and a new family has moved in. They have four small children to fill it with laughter... to play in the basement we remodeled, to get new little hand prints on the wall going up the stairs, to take baths in the funky triangular tub in the master bath. The curtains I chose are still hanging at the windows in every room. The fireplace wall in the family room is still dark blue, a color chosen by the people who lived in the house before we did. When we were in the US a couple of weeks ago and drove by the house, the twig wreath I had hung on the front porch next to the door was still bravely in its place.
We have a realtor managing the house and the tenants for us while we are here in China. He had the house cleaned before the latest tenants moved in over the weekend, and took these photos for us so we could see the state of things. He took photos of every room, all of them empty except for a Foosball table in the basement, left by one of the last two families. I downloaded and opened each one, examining every corner of each empty room. There are still some butterfly decals on the wall in the girls' bedroom, and pennants over the window in Caleb and Seth's room. The carpet on the steps going to the second floor looks quite worn and even stained... how did that happen in the eighteen months we've been away?

I'm glad there's a new family living at Millington Court. I hope they take care of my house for me. I don't know if we'll ever live there again, but for now it's still our house, and I love it.
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Friday, January 02, 2009

Home Again

Waking up at 3:45 a.m., quick showers, dressing sleepy girls.
A ride through empty streets to the airport, on the first day of the new year.
A short flight and then a long layover at O'Hare.
Fourteen hours in the air.
Movies, naps, airline food, general fussing.
Landing through overcast skies, touching down at Pudong airport.
Immigration, waiting for luggage, customs.
A sea of Asian faces, and Mr. Wu!
Miraculously fitting seven large pieces of luggage, numerous carry-ons, and seven people in the car.
Opening the door to our place at last.
Kitties purring, luggage in a pile inside the door.