Thursday, August 30, 2012

Welcome, Jett!

Last night was the end of one chapter and the beginning of another.

My sister and brother-in-law started the adoption process nearly three years ago, and last night, finally, finally, finally, Jett flew into our family, all smiles and cuddles.

We have been watching him grow up from afar for one and a half years - he'll be 2 in September and he was matched with T&B (my sis and bro-lo) when he was 4 months old. In the brief videos we've been able to watch of him, he always seemed quiet, contemplative and incredibly sweet. Many times I've wanted to plop a big kiss on the computer screen just watching him.

Waiting to get the call that J was coming was like waiting for labor. We had no idea when it would happen, but just knew it could be any day. Then on Friday T&B got the call that he would be here Wednesday. We didn't know what his first moments here would be like - he'd be tired, in a foreign country with people speaking an unknown language. So we were prepared for a messy airport scene - lots of crying, and not just from us.

But if you had pictured a romantic, beautiful homecoming - you would have pictured it aright.

Alas, I can post no videos or pictures because of some rules or other with the adoption agency, so you'll have to rely on my description.

My family, being my family, arrived over an hour early to stand at the top of the escalators, waiting to see the new family. Beyond reason, we watched each new group of passengers arrive, thinking maybe, just maybe it would be them. Allie was a trooper and remained quiet, if tired, through the whole escapade, despite it being later than she had ever stayed up before.

Finally, someone yelled, "It's them," and pointed. We saw T coming up crying - she hates to cry in front of others, but is a cryer nonetheless - and B carrying a boy resting his head on his chest.

Despite having flown from South Korea all the way to Denver - a flight I've done myself and was rather crabby afterwards - J was just like he was in his videos. He smiled and waved and ran and had a good ol' time. Someone gave him a stuffed dog and he held it and kissed it on the nose many times. He loved yanking on the Elmo balloon a friend had brought, and he especially loved giggling at another friend's two little daughters, adopted from China, perhaps happy for more familiar looking faces.

J had to hang around with us for an awful long time - although we're from Colorado, we've mastered the Minnesota Goodbye. But he was just a perfect little pea the whole time. Allie was beyond tired, so she just sat like a lump in my arms - not reacting to much of anything, not even to J stroking her face.

So now the next chapter begins, and we can't wait to see what will unfold.

Here is a video of all of us waiting around at the airport- sorry, no J in it!

And, just 'cause I like you, here's a video of Allie crawling. She has changed so much in the past week since she learned how to do it!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

We Did It!

Yesterday was my 15-mile walk to help raise funds for children in need in Thailand.

We started at 7 am at Palmer Lake, and I expected it to be a peaceful morning in the mountains. But there just so happened to be a track meet going on there at the same time, so it was a madhouse. Soon, we out-walked the high schoolers and got on our way.

The first handful of miles flew by and we had stops in Monument and Baptist Road - where there are bathrooms, happily. Heidi's mom met us at three stops along the way and had watermelon, protein bars and water for us. How sweet! It was fun to have someone cheering us on.

After about seven or eight miles of walking, our bodies started protesting in various ways. My hips, feet, and ankles were all rather upset with me. Walking 15 miles isn't that much of a physical feat, but if your body isn't used to walking for six hours, it is rather uncomfortable.

But I had great company to talk away the hours with. At about mile 13, I despaired that I would need a stretcher as my knees were popping, my ankles were giving out and my hips were hobbling. But at about mile 14, I saw my hubby and baby coming toward me, and they walked the rest of the way with us.Mike, being a good husband, had an apple fritter waiting for me at the finish line at Ice Lake.

It was a lot of fun and I'm glad we did it. I'm especially glad to all of you who helped me meet my fundraising goal. Thank you so much to everyone who supported my walk! I believe God will use it to improve the lives of children living as refugees in Thailand.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Cook with Compasson: Carrot Kheer

The other day I made a carrot milkshake...and it was delicious! Find out more over on the Compassion blog.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Big Day for Baby

Yesterday, we went for a walk in the woods. The girl paddled in a stream and loved it. I like this picture of me and the girl.

On an unrelated note, the girl is doing this a lot lately.

And then today, she up and did this.

In all, she crawled about 10 feet. What a girl!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Life for a Burmese Refugee

In my peaceful life at the foot of the Colorado mountains (wildfires notwithstanding), it's hard to imagine what it would be like to live in a war zone. Here's a story from Compassion about a boy who lives on the Thai-Burma border. Take a journey with Supakit to learn what daily life is like.

You can help children like Supakit and his parents get legal rights in Thailand by supporting my walk!

by Arada Polawat

Ten-year-old Supakit walks in the oppressive 100-degree heat along a narrow red dirt path. His feet are cut up and blistered from frequently journeying on this path full of sharp rocks. Every day he travels this trail to get water from the Sop Moei River, the border between Thailand and Burma. Supakit has to constantly be on guard and aware of his surrounding environment.

The closer he gets to the river, the closer he gets to his former home town in Burma, the place his family fled many years ago. Supakit and his family are a part of the Karen tribal group, a minority group in Burma. The Burmese government had been oppressing numerous ethnic groups in Burma, which pushed Supakit and his family over the Sop Moei River into Thailand in search of better lives.

His father had high hopes for his family to have a safe environment where he wouldn’t have to worry about bombs or patrolling soldiers. They built a basic house made of thatched bamboo, covered with leaves. It hardly protects its residents from the harsh winds and rains during the monsoon season.

“During the winter it is very cold here, and I have only a small thin blanket to cover myself. Sometimes when it gets unbearably cold, I give my blanket to my little brother to keep him warm, and I make a fire and sit around it to get warm instead,” said Supakit.

The house is divided into two parts, a balcony and a bedroom. At night, the family of eight sleeps together in this very crowded room on one old thin fabric with torn pillows. There is no electricity.

“When it gets dark, I sometimes fall down into the holes in our bamboo floor and I injure myself,” said Supakit.

Supakit must bathe in the river when he gets the water because there is no bathroom in the house or running water.

Supakit’s family are recognized as Burmese refugees in Thailand who have limited rights. One of the many limitations includes not being able to own property. This means that instead of growing crops to feed themselves, their only option is to work as hired laborers, earning less than $3 per day if they picked to work that day.

Every day the family waited for Supakit’s father to bring home some vegetables he would collect from the forest alongside the Thai-Burmese border. The typical meal for Suppakit’s family was rice, boiled vegetables and chili paste. They hardly ever got the chance to eat meat because it was too expensive.

But one evening their father didn't come home. They learned that their only breadwinner was seriously injured by stepping on a landmine on the Burma border while collecting vegetables for the family. Supakit’s father lost one of his legs.

Soon after Supakit’s father recovered, his mother was diagnosed with cancer. She was admitted to the hospital in the local refugee camp and Supakit didn't see his parents for two years while they were at the hospital.

“I missed my mother so much. I don’t like being alone without her in the house. I just wanted my mother back with me,” cried Suppakit with tears in his eyes.

Because Supakit was a refugee with no legal rights, he wasn't allowed to travel outside his village of Nong Bua to the hospital. He didn't have the money to anyway. Instead, he stayed with his grandparents for two years. 

In Nong Bua, there are many refugees in the same situation as Supakit. But in this small village, there is a church dedicated to helping these families through Compassion. Nong Bua Church Child Development Center exists to help the needy children in the Nong Bua village.

“In Nong Bua village, more than 70% of the villagers are Burmese refugees. Most of the villagers are illiterate and they are living in very poor conditions. We want to do something to help them to have a better life,” said Sudthida, a staff member of the center.

“The project did not hesitate to register Supakit into the program because his family is one of the poorest families in this village. His parents don’t have stable jobs. Occasionally they have to go to the refugee camp to ask for some rice. I have never seen Supakit and his brother wearing new clothes,” said Sudthida.

Now Supakit is getting love and support from the project.

“I love going to the project every Saturday morning.” Supakit said. “The project provides me with food such as rice, eggs and canned fish. I am very grateful and happy that I have food to eat each day. I also received a blanket and a thick shawl to cover me when it gets cold.”

The project is helping families with basic needs, such as food, knives, spades, shovels and in building safer homes. For the long-term, they are training children in vocational skills like agriculture so they can earn an income when they grow up. They are also training them in languages such as Burmese, Thai, and English. 

The staff pray to see refugee children like Supakit come to salvation and have a close personal relationship with God through attending Sunday school at the project every week. Most of the Karen Burmese refugees are from a Buddhist background, but they also have strong animist beliefs. They have village headman who communicate with the natural and ancestral spirits on their behalf.

The Compassion staff help the children learn about the God who loves them, even in a society where they are considered the lowest.

Now Compassion in partnership with IJM is helping these refugees earn legal status in Thailand so they can have rights such as owning property, getting healthcare, and traveling freely. Please consider helping children like Supakit and his family earn rights to a promising future!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Vampire Tickles

A flock of Swans descended on us this weekend, otherwise known as the Swan family. Travis let me borrow his bounce flash, and apparently all I needed all these years to take better photos was a $500 flash.

I finally got a photo of vampire baby.


She enjoyed gazing at Mrs. Swan.


And getting tickled by her.

Baby Scout gave her kisses.

But  she just wasn't too sure about it.

11 Months and Counting

Our photographer friend Travis was here to take her photo this month, so I can't help but post two more.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Redeeming Injustice for Good

A friend of mine from Thailand who interviews people for Compassion posted this on Facebook yesterday:

please pray for the people in and along the Thai-Burma border who live in such poverty and helplessness. many people committed suicide, hung themselves or drank insecticide, because the heavy burden of life was too much too bear. it saddened my heart to hear these stories. but there is always hope. a karen-burmese pastor, who at the time a karen army captain fleeing war from burma 20 years ago said, "we can never know how good will come out of the really bad situation. but if it weren't for those burmese soldiers who came raiding our villages and caused me to run to this side of the country, there would never have been 490 people believed and got baptized today!" what an awesome testimony. 490 believers and more...out of the situation i deemed as "injustice". God does great things in this world. and you just have to be available for Him to work through you.

God can turn the evil injustices of this world into good! Even now, the Burmese refugees who faced horror are now being shown kindness and love by Christians in Thailand and they are coming to know Christ - who can give them ultimate hope. That's an amazing story to be a part of!

If you want to be part of helping these Christians minister to these hurting refugees, support my walk coming up in a little more than a week!

P.S. If you're wondering why my goal for donations suddenly went up, it's because we're having technical difficulties, so this page is now serving as the donation page for all three of us!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Watercolor, a Bubble Quilt, and a Nest

Remember when I told you about my friend Liz's giveaway for her adoption?

Well, "the time has come," the walrus said, "to win so many things! Shoes and hats and and watercolors. Cabbages and kings!"

Seriously, I'm mad about this fundraiser because I want to win, but I know I'm not going to. But if Liz and Joe draw closer to bringing home their little bundle of baby, then we're all winners.

Even if you don't know Liz and Joe, it's totally worth entering. You could win a quilt which would usually sell for a couple hundred dollars for $5. You could win a $200 photography session for $5. You could win a water color by a fabulous artist for $5. (But you better not, because we wants it, yes, we wants it.) You could win an autographed copy of my book worth...well, let's face it, that's just priceless.

Here's how it works: You can donate $5 to get one entry in a gift package. There are 8 packages. I'll let you head over to Liz's page for all the details, but here are just a few highlights.

You could win this adorable zebra hat, part of the boy package. But you better not, because I want it.

You could win this nest necklace, part of the fashion one package. But you better not, because I want it.

You could win this water color that reminds me of Breckenridge, part of the home package. But you better not, because I want it. (Are you catching my drift yet?)

You could win this adorable little doll, part of the girl package.and made by my friend Robin. Sheesh. Why are all my friends so talented? Now, as Cher would say, "None of my extra curricular activities seem good enough."

You could win this sweet little purse, also made by sweet little Robin, part of the fashion two package.

You could win this puffy bubble quilt, which I want to watch movies wrapped up in.

You could win this primary color quilt, made by the same woman who made Mike and I our lovely baby quilt, and I can tell you that her stitchery is beautiful!

And last, but not least, you can win a photography session to take pictures of your wee one's wee bits!

Do you get the picture yet? OK, so follow the links to join the fun!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Back by Popular Demand

The question I get asked most often is, "Amber, what do you think about the situation in Chechnya?"

Not really.

The question I get asked the most is, "Does Allie still pirate laugh?"

The answer is a resounding yes, though she often strays from pirate laugh to evil villian laugh to Jaba the Hut laugh. It's a fine line.

Even when she's super tired and and her parents cruelly bury her in a pile of laundry, she can still muster the laugh.

But we have found a way to tame our crazy little girl. Every time Mike does this, she goes nearly comatose. (She was pirate laughing just seconds before I hit record on the camera.)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Giving Burmese Refugees a Chance

My walk for the rights of refugee children in Thailand is coming up fast! Several years ago, I had my intern write a story about Compassion's partnership with International Justice Mission to help refugee children in Thailand - the very cause for which I am raising funds now. Serendipity, no?

To help you understand why something as fiddly as citizenship paperwork matters in the life of a child, read Rachel's story below. And if you feel so moved, please consider donating to help these children!

By Rachel Moye, Field Communications Intern

With an internal war in Burma tearing at the country for over 50 years, refugees have been pouring out into Northern Thailand, seeking for some way to survive. In response to this need, Compassion International and International Justice Mission have partnered to help fight the injustices these refugees face and support them as they begin a new life.

Over the last four decades, the UNHCR states that there are 1.3 million refugees who have emigrated from Burma to Thailand, fleeing persecution. According to the humanitarian group Free Burma Rangers, “the Regime’s army has built roads and camps in ethnic homelands forcing people to relocate or flee into the jungle. There is documented forced labor and the use of rape as a weapon.”

Currently, Thailand hosts 112,000 registered refugees in camps and various villages. Returning home is too dangerous.

Homes along the Burmese border

“The Regime’s army lays land mines down to keep villagers from returning home and supporting resistance. They aim to dominate the population, assimilate them and exploit them,” states the Free Burma Ranger.

 The refugees are mainly ethnic minorities such as Karen, Hmong, and Kareeni. These minorities are considered to be the lowest of the low in their society.

A typical Hmong home

“The minority live with fear and insecurity,” reported by the Thai Freedom House. “They lack food, medical care, education and suffer from health problems.”

For more than two years, Compassion and International Justice Mission have been partnering to help support the Burmese refugees. Compassion Thailand has 13 child development centers located along the Thai-Burma border, where Karen children are receiving support through child sponsorship. But among these children, there have been many issues of non-citizenship and child rights.

Because they aren't citizens, the parents aren't able to work. The children don't have access to health care. And being stateless children, they are at risk of exploitation and even child trafficking.

Because of these risks, Compassion joined with IJM to train Compassion staff in child protection - learning the signs of abuse and how to respond to it.

Now Compassion and IJM are working together to help the children and their parents gain citizenship. Many of the refugees have not received Thai citizenship simply because they don’t know how, they don't speak the language, and they don't know their rights. Compassion will work in partnership with IJM to research each child's nationality, obtain the proper documentation and file for citizenship for these families.

Through this vital intervention, these families will have the support they need to start new lives of safety and hope in Thailand.

Give to help these children and their parents get a new start in life!

Friday, August 10, 2012

A Kick in the Pants

A woman named Pranitha Timothy kicked me in the pants today.

My walk to raise help for vulnerable children in Thailand is in just two weeks! But I've been feeling sheepish and dragging my feet. You see, a secret is that - although I work for a nonprofit and part of my job is to write copy to ask people to give money - I really hate asking people for money. I'm also kind of lazy. So every time I thought about my walk getting closer and closer, I felt that icky knot in my stomach and a deep desire to push it to the back of my mind.

Enter the Willow Creek Leadership Summit.

Each year, I have the blessing to go to a conference where amazing, inspirational people share their stories and I get all revved up and say, "Yeah! I want to do it! I want to change the world! Yeehaw! Woohoo!" People like Gary Haugen, Jessica Jackley, and Condoleezza Rice. Then today I met a woman who is quiet and wouldn't be much thought of by the world, but who is a hero in every sense of the word.

Pranitha Timothy was the daughter of Indian missionaries, so she grew up in boarding schools. She hated Christianity because it took her parents from her. She grew up angry, cold and bitter. Her nickname in college was "CC" for "cold and calculated." 

But she was miserable. She had no hope and no life, so eventually she turned back to God to ask Him to give meaning to her life. She got a masters in social work and cried out to God, asking Him to use her life. He reminded her of this passage, and she had a keen sense that it was His calling on her life:

"Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets...In faithfulness he will bring forth justice." Isaiah 42:1-4

After hearing this message, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She lost feeling in her left shoulder, the left side of her face, and she lost her voice. They removed the tumor and it was benign, but for two years she was mute. After two years of not being able to speak, her voice returned. It's a weak, shaky voice, a hoarse whisper. 

And she remembered these words: "He will not shout or cry faithfulness he will bring forth justice." 

Pranitha accepted a job with International Justice Mission, which helps to bring justice to oppressed people around the world. She has led dozens of operations to rescue laborers who are being held as slaves in India. Her work is dangerous. Slave holders are violent people and many times her life has been at risk. Each day when she says goodbye to her daughter and husband, she doesn't know if she'll return home that night.

But this quiet, unassuming woman with a weak voice still lays down her life every single day to "bring forth justice" for the oppressed.  

And that's when she kicked me in the pants. 

One can't help but listen to her and want to do great, noble, mighty things. And then I was reminded of my own little walk and this verse: "Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much." (Luke 16:10).

I was reminded that I need to be faithful with my "very little" - my little inconsequential walk. It seems so small compared to the need and compared to what others contribute. But I was reminded of the great urgency in this world. The need of these stateless children in Thailand is great - they are at risk of being exploited, they are denied education and health care, and their parents can't work. 

But if I am faithful with my very little, the small things I can do from day to day to bring help to others in this world who are desperate, I know God can use me too. 

So, look out! I'll be posting more about my walk in the coming days.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

I'm Gonna Need to Sanitize the Ottoman

This video perfectly shows how babies learn. First, Alexandra watches her dad blow raspberries on the ottoman. Then she learns how to blow them herself, then she learns how to do it on the ottoman. I'm pretty sure these videos are going to be used in child development classes in universities from here on out.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

When Letter Writing Isn't Fulfilling

I wrote another post for the Compassion blog today... If you have a hard time writing your sponsored child, check it out!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Operation Storage

It's been a couple of months since Mike finished our master bathroom. After every project we (he) think, "Ah, time for a nice break..." until we (me) start getting ideas.

This time around, though, Mike was the one who broached our (his) next project, one that we're really excited for....Wait for it...Built-in bookshelves!

Mike and I have a plethora of books and very little closet space in our house. Our solution: built-in bookcases on either side of the fireplace with cabinets on the bottom. As you can see, this space really isn't being used for anything currently, and this room is a little blah.

(Hey, you might also notice my birthday present from my in-laws and Mike - a new ottoman with built in storage! On the outside, it's slick and sophisticated. On the inside, it's bursting with fluorescent baby toys.)

I've been having fun getting inspiration on Pinterest.

Mike has already torn out the carpet on one side and built a base for the cabinet. (You can see it on the lefthand side of the photo.) After pricing out building materials, he found we could buy pre-made cabinets for less than building them ourselves - $97 at Lowes! So our project just leapfrogged forward about a month.

I can't wait to get working! By which I mean, sit on the couch watching Project Runway while Mike gets working.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Post 1,000 Giveaway

Today is my 1,000th post! Hooray! Wahoo! Yeehaw!

For the occasion, I thought I should have a giveaway. That is, I thought I should let someone else give something away. :)

My friend Liz is one of the sweetest, kindest people I know. She was one of my husband's best friends growing up, and she and her family are still an important part of our life.

Several years ago, Liz gave birth to her sweet little girl Micah very prematurely...I can't remember exactly, but I think at about 31 weeks. She was tiny - 1 lb and 14 oz, and the size of a bottle of Coke. Now Micah is an adorable bundle of yellow curls.

Unfortunately, Liz's emergency c-section with Micah led to complications in her second pregnancy, and they lost Liam last year. The doctors told Liz and Joe the devastating news that they couldn't have any more children.

So Liz and Joe have decided to adopt!

What does this have to do with a giveaway? Well, Liz is going to have a swell fundraiser to raise funds for her adoption. She'll be raffling off illustrious prizes such as a glossy, signed photo of me. OK, not really. The prizes are way better than that.

So to kick off her fundraiser, she's giving away two lovely pairs of earrings, just for leaving a comment on her blog. How generous! Head over to her blog to leave a comment and remember to come back August 13th for the fundraiser!

Friday, August 3, 2012

An Afternoon Walk

I've been meaning to take a hike behind our home for weeks now, but every time I thought of it, it just seemed too depressing. Finally I went today.

The hillside that was burned black is now soft green - brighter green in fact than the grass that didn't burn on the other side of the path.

For a ways up the path, the left side burned and the right didn't.

But by the time you get to the flower meadow, our favorite part, it's all burned.

But if you look close, there are baby pink flowers at the base of the burnt scrub oaks.

They're sweet little things. Nature's peace offering.

And if you look close, there are yellow flowers scattered all around.

Even little baby yuccas were making an appearance. They looked tender, like tulips.

As you got higher, it got worse, as the forests change from scrub oak to pine. The most startling thing is how you can see everything. You are not in a forest anymore. A neighbor was walking his dog on a hill a good ways off from me, but he was clearly visible, with no trees or brush to block him. Usually I run into a couple deer when I walk here, but there are no deer now. 

But some of the upper slopes of Blodgett still have pines, for which I am so grateful.

Here's our sweet little hamlet sitting under the burn.

You could see so clearly how the quarry wrapped her arms around us and kept us safe. Below, you can see the burn on either side of the quarry and the green valley left between. The burn on the top is Mountain Shadows of fiery fame. I've kindly labeled it for your viewing pleasure.

I got choked up surveying the burn, but I pulled it together. After all, my neighbor could see me from a mile away. And there's always some green to brighten the black.