Friday, November 27, 2015

Giving Thanks--Plus Awesome Cheesecake Recipe

Giving thanks for so very much.  Feeling blessed by so very many.  Thanking God for the gift of life and love! 

We started checking out ads after eating.  We went shopping late last night and again early in the morning.  For several hours. Yes, we are those people!  Craziness!!!  But yes, I got my half-price socks!  And a few other important things . . .

And for all you haters out there--I shopped with love in the spirit of Thanksgiving.

And now what you really want--my awesome recipe for fantastic cheesecake! 

A Family Favorite: Cheesecake
1 1/2 C. graham cracker crumbs
mix with 2 Tablespoons of sugar and
3 Tablespoons melted butter.
Press into cheesecake pan or large pie pan.
Bake at 350* for 10 minutes.  Cool.  Reduce oven to 300*
Beat 19 oz cream cheese with
1 Cup sugar
Add 1 teaspoon vanilla.
Add 3 eggs ONE AT A TIME (beat mixture in between adding eggs)
Beat well
Pour onto graham cracker crust
Bake 1 hour at 300*
We love blueberry topping (also good on waffles).  I don't really use a recipe.  You take about 2 Cups of blueberries (fresh or frozen) and add about 1/4 Cup water and heat on medium.  Mix with masher or fork (keeping some berries whole).  Add some sugar (about 2 Tablespoons--more if you want it sweeter).  In a separate cup mix about 2 Tablespoons flour with 1/4 C. water into thin paste.  Add flour paste slowly to boiling berry mixture, stirring until thickened.  Delicious!!! You can also top with any canned fruit pie filling, chocolate syrup, whipped cream etc.  Or just eat plain.  Yum!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Orphans Are Easier To Ignore Before You Know their Names

"Orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names.  They are easier to ignore before you see their faces.  It is easier to pretend they're not real before you hold them in your arms.  But once you do, everything changes."
                                                                  ~  David Platt
David Platt's words from his excellent book, Radical, stick in my mind.  And they sum up my feelings about our last few days in China.  On my first day with the kids their special needs were noticeable, but as the days passed, so did their differences, and all I could see were their individual hearts and gifts.  The kids radiated a desire to love and be loved.  
Each and every child was precious, and what I thought about again and again was how each and every one deserved a loving home.  Each child's gifts far outweighed their challenges, and in fact, it was amazing to see the determination and grit that so many possessed.  It was incredible to see how kind the kids were to each other--how they shared everything they had even though they were used to having almost nothing.  What a life lesson for us all. 
What really broke my heart was how the kids seemed compelled to prove to us how wonderful they were.  They want a family.  They want to belong.  They want love.  It sticks with me in a way I haven't experienced before.  I am changed in a way I can't explain.  I have been to orphanages before--but this is the first time I've had a chance to really get to know specific orphans before leaving them behind.  I am broken-hearted.  And it makes me want to do more. 
Not everyone is meant to adopt, but everyone can do something for an orphan.  Each one of us can reach out to a homeless child somewhere, in some way.  We can find a way to make a difference.  This action might be through sponsoring a child; donating to a special needs adoption fund; being part of your state's foster care system;  advocating for children in need, or offering support to someone who has recently come home with an adopted child.  We can work in family preservation programs to keep children from becoming orphans in the first place. We can offer our time, treasure, and talents.  We can offer our hearts.  WE CAN PRAY!  We can join together and we CAN make a difference! 
These photos were taken on our trip to the zoo.  It was a first for all the children and their delight was evident.  As a reminder, "Philip" and "Ione" are waiting for families, along with all the children who we worked with in China.  Also pictured above are 4-year-old "Elise" and 7-year-old "Lyle."  They are all listed on Holt's Waiting Child Photolisting.  Please call Holt International 541-687-2202 for more information. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Day We Met The Kids

Our first full day in China we met the kids.  We slept well the night before, out of the pure exhaustion, and we unexpectedly had very little jet lag despite the 16 hour difference.  We had a delicious Chinese breakfast--we especially loved the noodles and I am happy to report that after a week my chopsticks skills improved!  Mei Mei ate several plates of food everyday.  I promise, we do feed her at home! 
Then, it was time to meet the kids.
I can't really describe that first morning.  It was excitement and sadness all rolled into one.  We were all in a large conference room and the kids sat in front of us, all lined up in chairs.  The kids had their backs to us, but I knew immediately which child was "ours"--Yum Yum.  My heart strings pulled.  I had seen his photo before we had arrived, but seeing him in real life was, well, SO REAL.  He moved and giggled.  I just wanted to watch him, and yet we had many officials making speeches.  At that point we weren't sure who our second child would be.
We watched a video and then . . . the kids came up front and they sang the same song Lan Lan had when she participated in her Journey of Hope.  It was all I could do to keep from crying, because I knew if I let the tears start they would never stop!  I was so emotional I didn't get a single picture.  Lan Lan has told me the song means a child wants a better life and love.  Sob!  Lan Lan had been in Holt's first Journey of Hope in 2009.  My good friend April called to ask if maybe we were thinking of adopting again?  Memories. 
After a few more songs and entertainment, we had the hand-holding ceremony.  We got to meet Yum Yum up close and personal, and he immediately grasped my hand.  We also met "our" second little one, Lee Lee.  Lee Lee was shy, scared, and sweet, with such a gentle spirit.  We would get to spend the next four days with these treasures (at night they stayed with their nannies). 

At lunch, the kids ate with us.  There is nothing like watching kids experience a buffet for the first time in their lives.  Such excitement, happiness, and disbelief!  We were told Lee Lee couldn't eat too much (we never understood why, but she is well fed).  Yum Yum especially loved the fried meats! 
After lunch we had time for crafts and more entertainment with the kids.  It was exciting, beautiful, moving, overwhelming, and desperately sad to know all these sweet children are waiting for families.  Each and every child was beautiful, with their own story to tell, and yet they all had one thing in common--the deep desire to belong and be loved by their very own family. 

I've saved the craft that Yum Yum and Lee Lee made.  They adorn my dresser and I look at them first thing in the morning, and last thing before falling asleep.  I dream of the day I  will be able to send them to their forever families.   If you think that might be you please contact Jessica, at Holt International, for more information.  The kids are listed on Holt's Waiting Child listing.  Yum Yum is listed as "Phillip" and Lee Lee is listed as "Ione."  They want and need a family of their own!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Beijing: Off To China

Before too much time passes I want to blog about our trip to China.  I hit the ground running once I got back, advocating for the orphans we worked with in China.  I also had lots of catching up on my work, the girls' school work, and life!  And Lizzy moved out while we were in China.  She is all grown up now, with a real job, as a real nurse, working in a real children's hospital.  Where did my little girl go?
Lizzy and I went on a mother/daughter date to buy scrubs before I left
And Lizzy moving out had the cascade effect of kids moving bedrooms.  In a large family, the bed's still warm when the next child moves in!  Lan Lan has been talking about a "vanilla" colored bedroom forever.  She's finally getting it. 
Lan Lan was so excited to get her own room.  But then she and Mei Mei slept together the first few nights because they both thought it was so strange to sleep apart.

 As we prepared for our trip I felt the gamut of emotions.  I wondered how the girls would do.  I thought they would do well--but I've been surprised before!  They were both very excited, but we also spent time talking through some of the feelings they might experience.  I especially wondered how Mei Mei would do returning for the first time.  I also wondered how I, myself, would emotionally handle the trip.  I have the "gift" of being able to distance myself emotionally when needed, but I decided I was going to fully love on the children and my goal was to leave them broken hearted.  My heart did not disappoint. 
Our trip was part of the Holt International Ambassador Program.  This was a first for China, but Holt has had similar programs in other countries with great success.  Holt is an amazing adoption/child welfare agency and I can't say enough about them.  I have so much love and respect for this agency.  We had a total of 7 different families represented (some couples, some singles, some moms/daughters) and all the families had a connection to China.  We had an AMAZING group and it was SUCH a blessing to spend a week together.  I feel a lifelong connection.
We left for the airport at 4am.  Yawn.  With China being 16 hours ahead of us we were already in process of switching over.  We left our city and all the Holt families met up in San Francisco.  I was a bit worried about making our connection so we did all carry-on.  Get that? 
All carry-on for an international trip.  With three women (and some gifts for the orphanage).  Yes, I am so impressed with myself that I am bragging.  Big pat on the back!
We flew Virgin Airlines to San Fran.  It was the cheapest.  Although I wasn't sure I could trust an airline with that name.  It was cool!   It had a party feel and in fact, when we got on Lan Lan said it was like being at the club!!!  (I'm hoping she doesn't really know what being at the club is like!!!). 
It was awesome though!  All I can say is that our United overseas flight was a great disappointment with NO individual screens, and no Wi-Fi, BUT it gave us a chance to talk and read (for 12 hours) and get to know the other members of the group. 
We landed in the afternoon and had GREAT Chinese food at the hotel--we ate most our meals there and the girls were especially thrilled!  And the next day it was time to meet "our" kids.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

To China And Back--Advocating For Two Beautiful Children

Did I really go to China and back since we last talked?
It seems like a lifetime ago.  And my life is forever changed. 
Before I left I knew I would feel heartbroken over the children.  Which was actually my plan because I didn't want to protect my heart from that brokenness.  My heart did not disappoint. 
A few of the children singing

Since returning home I have spent time advocating for all the children, but especially the two that we were directly working with.  Each and every child deserves the love of a family and these two are simply precious.
Meet "Philip" and "Ione" who are currently with Holt International.  I will be writing a lot more here but for now look into their beautiful faces, pray for them, and share their need for a family.
Nine--year-old Philip desperately wants a family.  He said over and over again that he wants a mama (baba and siblings too!)--he said he would even take an old white-haired grandma-mom!  This made me both laugh and cry.  Philip is personality plus!  He is cute, loving, funny, and intelligent.  He is full of joy.  Philip has vision impairment but can easily navigate the world. 
Six-year-old Ione is sweet and shy, with a gentle spirit.  She loved making bracelets and pushing the baby stroller.  She has an adorable, impish grin, great determination, and a deep soul.  Ione had surgery on her spine for a tumor (perhaps Spinal bifida?) and she walks with a stiff gate, but she walked all day at the zoo quite well.  She can run and use stairs.  She has developmental delays, but with the love and care of a family she will be able to reach her full potential. 
For more information on "Philip" or "Ione" please contact Holt International and ask to talk to Jessica Zeeb:  541-687-2202.  You can read more about them and request information on Holt's Waiting Child Listing. 
Perhaps "Philip" or "Ione" are meant for your family?