Tuesday, May 27, 2008

What can I possibly do??

Do you ever just feel so ... small? Like there is so much violence and hate and suffering in the world and we can't do anything about it? So let's just get back to our Starbucks and American Idol and let the powerhouses of the world figure things out? I feel like this sometimes. Things are just so overwhelming that I want to hide in my world of comfort and possessions. Enjoy a little Dance Dance Revolution on the Wii and catch the latest episode of Lost without guilt! So what if there are starving children in China! I don't want to clean my plate mom!

But other times I want more - I want to HELP. I want to feel like I'm doing something - and actually DO something - like I'm making a difference in the world.
And those feelings are equally frustrating. Because no matter which side of the coin I'm on that day, the problems seem so insurmountable.

I mean, really, what can I (me?!) do about the
tragedy of the quakes in China, the horrible instances of starvation in Ethiopia, the suffering in Darfur or the many other atrocities going on in our world today?

The sad truth is that we all feel this way. Even the Clintons and the Bushes, the Mother Theresas and the Ghandis, the saint and the sinner. But if we all do something, as seemingly insignificant as that may seem, this would would be a different place.
So what can we do?

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Progress is being made in South Africa with regards to the AIDS crisis, but it just can't come fast enough. According to this article:

An estimated 5.4 million of South Africa's 48 million people have the virus — the highest total of any country. But after years of pressure from activists, South Africa now boasts the world's biggest AIDS treatment program.

The number of people receiving therapy has more than tripled in just two years, from 143,000 in March 2006 to 456,000 at the end of February, according to government statistics. That's still only half the estimated 900,000 who have developed full-blown AIDS and need treatment, but a national plan launched a year ago aims to provide care and treatment to 80 percent by 2011 and halving the number of new infections.

"For every two people put on treatment, five get infected. It's just unbelievable. You are chasing the tail the whole time," exclaims Venter, the doctor. "Prevention is just a disaster zone."

South Africa is not alone. Major initiatives like the WHO's "3 by 5" campaign, which aimed to put 3 million people worldwide on AIDS drugs by 2005, and much of the Bush administration's AIDS funding, are criticized by experts for focusing on treatment rather than building up the health system, condom distribution or HIV testing.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Beauty


The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen, nor touched ... but are felt in the heart.

~Helen Keller~

Now that's a Long Weekend!

Amazingly enough, the house is STILL quiet! We had a great weekend and are all completely exhausted. Mark's parents came to visit on Saturday and we had a ball just hanging out and swimming at their hotel here in town. The kids have a lot to learn, but they are little fish and really loved the water. Ally was less than enthused. ;) We also decided to give them a taste of Ethiopia so headed to the local ET restaurant for a feast. It was a bit spicy for everyone except Abi, who ate us ALL under the table. But fun nonetheless.

Yesterday we spent the day in Saugatuck and the kids had there first look at a Great Lake! Priceless. We hiked in the state park, up the sand dunes and played by the water. More swimming at grandma's hotel and then dinner out on the town. The kids were great and very well behaved (even Ally, our resident hellion). We ended up crashing there for the night. Unfortunately Ally wasn't feeling good by then (very congested!) so she didn't sleep well. Consequently, neither did anyone else! But overall was just a great, great weekend. It was great to see Mark's parents and his sister Stephanie even came for the day yesterday.

ROAD TRIP!!!!




Two mile hike!
Found the dunes - almost to the top!

Running on the beach
Ally did NOT like the sand.
Fun with Papa and Grandma!

Cool car!





Down on the Farm...

So, the house is quiet (which is very unusual) and I'm exhausted from a wonderful long weekend (but no way can nap b/c I ingested way too much caffeine this morning) so I'll do some catching up. A few weeks ago we visited my family for the day. This was our first major "outing" as a family of 6 and was a really, really great day. The kids did wonderful and had lots of fun seeing Grandma Diana and Grandpa Joe (although he had to work so that was pretty limited, unfortunately) and of course Aunt Julie! They also got to meet Uncle Charlie and the fam which was a ton of fun. And, last but not least, the reason for the trip - Grandpa Pete turned 89! Happy Birthday Grandpa! Here are just a few photos of the kids enjoying their super-fun day!


Enjoying a (rare) quiet moment...

Whoa buddy - where ya goin?



The. Most. Tolerant. Cat. Ever.

Tractor pull training starts early 'round here.

Don't see as many of these in the city! Too fun!


Beep beep!

So big sisters ARE good for something after all!

Say cheese!


Friday, May 23, 2008

Friday Silliness

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Updates!

Hana and Grace this week before school. Hana was all set (and super excited!) about Kindergarten field day. As she explained to me "Hana... running!" (lots of miming involved). =) Very cute. She had a ball.
Ouchies! Last weekend was a bit rough for Hana! She and Grace had been goofing around on the slide and somehow collided (we never got a straight story...). Well, Hana is such a teeny thing that it didn't take much - pop! Nursemaid's elbow. She was pretty sore. We had to go to the urgent care for xrays and to have it popped back into place. The doctor was rather rough and she was pretty sore for a few days, but she's doing just great now. She rather enjoyed the extra attention I think. ;)





Oh, and here are Daddy and Abi being silly!

Right in Your Own Backyard

It's not just a problem in Africa:

"Last year, 2.1 million people died as a result of AIDS, including 330,000 children under the age of 15. Today, 33.3 million people are living with HIV infection. Although the problem is most severe in sub-Saharan Africa, the United States also has been hard-hit: more than 565,000 people in this country have died of AIDS and an estimated 1.1 million are living with HIV infection. African-Americans and Hispanics shoulder the greatest burden, accounting for 59 percent of U.S. AIDS cases in 2006. In some urban areas, the HIV infection rates rival those of Africa. Nowhere is this more shocking than in the nation’s capital, where one in 20 Washingtonians have HIV and one in 50 has AIDS. " (See full article here)
May 18th was HIV vaccine awareness day. This disease has been raging, almost unchecked, for more than 25 years, and, unfortunately, a vaccine is still a long ways off. But may have been working hard to find it. And according to this article, scientists are getting closer.



Monday, May 19, 2008

Walls of Fear

Once there was a people who surveyed the resources of the world and said to each other: "How can we be sure that we will have enough in hard times? We want to survive whatever happens. Let us start collecting food, materials and knowledge so that we are safe and secure when a crisis occurs." So they started hoarding, so much and so much and so eagerly that other peoples protested and said: "You have more than you need while we don't have enough to survive. Give us part of your wealth!"

But the fearful hoarders said: "No, no we need to keep this in case of an emergency, in case things go bad for us, too, in case our lives are threatened." But the others said: "We are dying now. Please give us food, materials and knowledge to survive. We can't wait ... we need it now!"

Then the fearful hoarders became even more fearful since they became afraid that the poor and the hungry would attack them. So they said to one another: "Let us build walls around our wealth so that no one can take it from us." They started erecting walls so high so that they could not even see anymore whether there were enemies outside their walls or not! As their fear increased they told each other: "our enemies have becomes o numerous that they may be able to tear down our walls. Our walls are not strong enough to keep them away. We need to put bombs on top of the walls so that nobody will dare to even come close to us."

But instead of feeling safe and secure behind their armed walls they found themselves trapped in the prison they had build with their own fear. They even became afraid of their own bombs, wondering if they might harm themselves more than their enemy. And gradually they realized their fear of death had brought them closer to it.

-- Henri Nouwen, Seeds of Hope p. 166-67.

Still Not Enough...

"In Africa, not even 10 percent of the people who need treatment [for HIV/AIDS] are getting it," says a leading French researcher, Olivier Schwartz, noting that for every person in low- or mid-income countries who began receiving antiretrovirals in 2006, six new people became infected.

Grrr...

Thursday, May 15, 2008

What a Trip!

Finally! We (mostly Cat) finished the slide show of our trip to Ethiopia. Here it is... Great job Cat!
video

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

I (verb)

I am: having a very hard time focusing today!
I think: I am one of the luckiest women in the world.
I know: I need to put my emphasis on my friendships.
I want: to be "...the change [I] wish to see in the world." -- Mahatma Gandhi
I have: the most amazing husband and partner in life - I couldn't do any of it without him.
I wish: there were at lease 30 hours in a day (and that chocolate was calorie free...)
I hate: injustice, prejudice, pride, stigma ... and hatred.
I miss: my friends.

I fear: that I will not become the person I was meant to be.
I feel: angry that money affects my decisions.
I hear: the whispers of my future ... but I'm not quite ready to listen just yet.
I smell: like teen spirit. (just kidding)
I search: for balance.
I wonder: what life holds in store...
I regret: apologies that went unsaid.
I ache: when I think about Abenezer's and Hana's first families and the profound loss that brought my children into my life.
I care: about the millions upon millions of orphaned children with no one to tuck them in tonight.
I always: want the best for my children.
I am not: who I want to be yet.
I believe: I can that person if I continue to work hard at it and think outside the box.
I dance: more frequently after a few drinks.
I sing: more often than my kids would like!
I cry: more often each time we've added to our family (I used to think it was just hormones).
I don’t always: think long enough before I speak, especially to those I love the most.
I fight: too quickly.
I write: because there is no better way for me to express my deepest fears and dreams.
I win: when have a clear goal.
I lose: when I lose focus of what's most important.
I never: want to forget.
I confuse: myself far too often!
I listen: to my heart the best when I'm able to clear my mind.
I can usually be found: in front of a computer.
I am afraid of: not being a good mom.
I need: to loosen up a bit more often.
I am happy about: finally having the adoption finalized and my kiddos HOME!

First Day of School!


Yesterday was Hana's first day of kindergarten! Yes, we realize there are only 3 weeks of school left. But she has been DYING to go and it finally worked out. She did great! She goes half-days and her teacher seems very nice. It sounds like she'll have the same teacher next year (for kindergarten again). Mark met her ESL teacher today (or ELL?) and she'll be doing that every day this year and next year. So that's great to get her started on that too!

Abi was excited for her, but I think he missed her. =) Hana seemed very pleased overall (especially with the playground equipment). She is a little irritated though that it is only half-day (Grace gets to go ALL day). But she was pretty darn tired last night so half days are probably enough for now (well, that and she got up before 5 yesterday b/c she was so excited! too early for me!)

Sigh. Time goes so fast...

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day!

First, I would like to say Happy Mother's Day to my wife Cat, who works so hard for our family. There are so many things about Cat that make me smile; so many things I admire. When I think about Cat, I think about our kids and how much she does for them. I think about how they light up when they see her and love to be around her. We didn't plan to do a whole lot this year for these kinds of special days but I wanted to let the world know how much we all love her. She really is the center of our world. The kids and I can't wait to spend the rest of the day with her and hope to make it as special as she is. Thank you, Cat, for being there for us.


And Happy Mother's Day for all the other special mothers we know out there! You know who you are!

-Mark

**Editted to add *** This is Cat. Isn't he wonderful? That ^^was about the best Mother's Day gift I could've asked for ...

Monday, May 5, 2008

Just to Keep It Interesting...

Artsy Grace

Kissy-face Al (and Claire!)


Abenezer the Bubble-nator


Yum


Hana - Safety first!



New Words, Sick-Os and Other Fun Stuff

So, apparently I'm not so good at this "consistent" blogging thing. I don't know where people get the time! =) But I know I'm going to be sorry if I don't keep track of these times. So below is a completely random update!

Things are going pretty well in our house! Well, other than the sickness. Poor Mark has had a crazy sore throat for over a week now! It's starting to go away though. Hana woke up last weekend with a mysterious rash that ended up being shingles. Poor kid! It's pretty rare for kids to get it, but she did have chicken pox in ET and the last 2 months have been pretty stressful for a 5 year old (!) , so you can understand how it could happen. Fortunately, we were able to get her some medicine pretty quickly and it seems to have pushed it through her system pretty fast. We are hoping it is pretty much "over" at this point.

Speaking of Hana, she CANNOT WAIT to go to school. And even though there are only a few weeks left (where have the months gone?) we did plan to send her, but now she also has a terrible cold too! Abenezer and Ally have it too. Yuck. Not sure we can send her coughing, snuffly mess to school right now. =( Please keep us in your thoughts so that this junk can move out of our house ASAP! I think she might hate us forever if she can't to go school until Fall...

Grace is doing well and getting back into a routine. She recently started track again and seems to be enjoying it. It's been a lot of fun to see her mature this year. She's also grown a foot and a half (well, maybe a bit of an exaggeration) and is no longer the smallest kid in class any more. She's just looking so ... old!

Hana and Abenezer are adjusting at an amazing rate! The good days far outnumber the bad. Even when the kids get into a bit of a funk, it often doesn't consume the whole day. They are grasping English at an amazingly fast rate. I noticed that Hana and Abi rarely speak to each other in Amharic any more. Or at least have lots of English mixed in. to be honest, it makes me really sad. =( But a natural part of the adjustment I guess. It is just hard to watch the Ethiopian culture slip away so quickly... but I know they are very proud of what they have learned. I have a few "favorite" Amharic words, so I think I'll keep using those - for my own sake I guess.

The toughest thing right now is certainly the emotional issues. Although the kids can express so much in English, the "feeling" words are harder. For most other things, they can mime it out and point and grasp the concepts. But when they are sad and mad and hurting, they have a much more difficult time (how can you mime those?). Mark and I are trying our best to be there for them, but we are still finding our way through this.


Ally continues to be a stinker. =) She's the bully of the house and can get the other 3 scrambling to make her happy. She can also be the biggest sweetie and lots of fun. She too is starting to talk her head off. She mimics amazingly well and is picking up new words left and right. One of her current favorites is "shoe" and she loves to show them to you and repeat (over and over) "Sho sho sho" very determinedly! Oh, and one word that gets shouted around our house far too often she has learned too: "share!" She woke up yesterday morning to hear the other 3 kids already arguing over something - she started yelling in her crib: "Sh-ah-rr" (share). It was hilarious. She also does this when she wants something someone else has. She's a smart cookie (although a stinker for sure). Ally and Abi in particular have a great bond and are so much fun to watch together.

On Friday Mark ran to the grocery store when I got home from work. I was washing the dinner dishes and we had some music going. then I stopped to look around for a moment - Grace and Hana were busy coloring at the table and chatting a bit. Abi and Ally were sharing a chair in the living room and giggling like crazy.

I couldn't stop smiling.

Friday, May 2, 2008

A Haiku... by Grace

Milyins
of fich

Milyins
of ock trees

But uwnly
oun muthr
for me.



Awwwww!