Thursday, November 29, 2012

Heartbreak and a Christmas carol

I am heartbroken this week.  Since we started this blog five years ago, I've tried to be honest about all aspects of adoption, and this week has brought its share of heartbreak. 

First, I am so sad for Henry's family, as they had to say goodbye to their precious son in this life.  Truly, his short life mattered, and led to hope and redemption -- and forever families -- for other children.  You can read more about him here:  I hope you'll join me in praying for his family.

And some of you have also been following the journey of Urmila and her family.  Her family has been trying for nearly 4 years to bring her home, with roadblock after roadblock being thrown in the way.  After her case was dismissed in the state court system, her courageous family pressed on to the Supreme Court in her country.  Now, they have received the crushing news that she cannot come home to them.  The decision is final, and they are at a loss for how to go on.

I'm also so sad for Karen and Sarah, two friends of mine who have been waiting 4 years to adopt, and still have no referral and no end in sight.  Adoption can be uncertain, frustrating, confusing, and heartbreaking, both for the adoptive family and for the first family that lost the chance to see their child grow up.  Today, I am face-to-face with the reality of the sadness, fears, frustrations and injustice that can be part of adoption -- and part of this broken world in general.

Last night I sang one verse of "O Little Town of Bethlehem" as part of Anya Rashi's bedtime songs. It was the only verse I knew by heart.  This morning, I looked up the lyrics for the rest of the song, and they spoke life to me. 

It's a strange kind of Christmas carol that would mention "dark streets," "fears," "misery," "dark night," and "this world of sin."  But that's why we needed Christmas in the first place -- why we still need Christ, who can bring hope into even the worst situation.  And this week I am acutely aware of the need for redemption in this life.  I am clinging to the line "the dark night wakes, the glory breaks, and Christmas comes once more," and praying for the hope of the "everlasting Light" for my hurting friends.

O Little Town of Bethlehem
written by Phillips Brooks in 1867

O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

For Christ is born of Mary, and gathered all above,
While mortals sleep, the angels keep their watch of wondering love.
O morning stars together, proclaim the holy birth,
And praises sing to God the King, and peace to men on earth!

How silently, how silently, the wondrous Gift is giv'n;
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His Heav'n.
No ear may hear his coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.

Where children pure and happy pray to the blessed Child,
Where misery cries out to Thee, Son of the mother mild;
Where charity stands watching and faith holds wide the door,
The dark night wakes, the glory breaks, and Christmas comes once more.

O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Puerto Rican Thanksgiving, and dolls for brown-skinned girls

We are all stuffed from my sister Alicia's Thanksgiving spread.  Every year, she comes up with a different theme for Thanksgiving dinner -- past years have included a Civil War Thanksgiving, things the Pilgrims and Native Americans actually ate, and (the year before we traveled to meet Anya Rashi) Indian-influenced Thanksgiving food.

This year's feast was all Puerto Rican food, and it was AMAZING.  She collected recipes and cooking tips from friends, and we had tostones (fried plaintains), pernil (pork shoulder roasted for 18 hours), arroz con gandules (rice with all kinds of spices, olives, onions, etc.), habichuelas (bean stew with bacon, olives, and more), a pear squash salad, and flan for dessert. 

Obviously, this woman loves to cook, and loves us well each year with her adventurous spirit!  As we thanked God during the holiday, she was definitely one of the blessings I am very grateful for.  We are very different in our interests and talents, and always joked that if we weren't related, we would never have met each other in high school or college (even though we went to the same university).  I am so glad that we are sisters.

Another fun "first" was helping Nathan make his first apple pie (so our allergic Aaron could have a non-egg dessert).  We had a lot of fun together, and he did a great job!  Being a creative sort, he had to carve an apple-o-lantern while cutting up the apples . . . :o)

* * * * *

With Christmas just around the corner, I thought I'd share a link to a blog post featuring a variety of brown-skinned dolls:

I also have some beautifully-made dolls by another adoptive mom.  Lynda makes dolls from a variety of countries, and they're especially good for younger girls -- they are classic, soft, rag dolls that are perfect for hugging, squeezing, and sleeping with.  Each doll has a heart embroidered on it, in the colors of the country's flag.  If you'd like her contact info, leave a comment and I'll get you in touch with her.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Baby blankets, pajamas & more made from sari fabric!

From our 2007 trip . . . beautiful!

There are several companies I love that help women escape the global sex trade by teaching them sustainable job skills -- Freeset, Sari Bari, Love Calcutta Arts, Samaritana, and more.  The women learn to make beautiful, unique clothing, purses, and jewelry . . . and can support their children and escape a painful past.

Some of my favorites items are made from recycled sari fabric -- you can find baby blankets, pajama bottoms, laptop covers, and purses all made in beautiful, colorful sari fabrics!! 

So, when you do your Christmas shopping, please consider stopping by this web site:
* If converting to pounds scares you, just do a search for the name of the company -- Sari Bari is located in the US, and some of the other companies have North American distributors who price things in dollars.  :o)

On a personal note, I serve in a ministry that reaches out to women in our local sex industry -- and I've been able to attend conferences and meet some of the people who run these companies.  They are the real deal, and are coming up with creative solutions and programs to help women who desperately need healing.  They are truly on the "front lines," often putting themselves in danger to be the face of Christ in very dark places.  Thanks for considering supporting them!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Chicken Makhani for Diwali

We love celebrating the heart of Diwali: the victory of good over evil, light over darkness.
"In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.
And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."
~ John1:4-5

I'm happy to say that last week we received an e-mail from the orphanage saying that our dossier was in their hands!  (Yipeeeeee!) 

I was really excited for a few minutes . . . and then I remembered that Diwali will shut down all court activity for a few weeks.  (Nnoooooo . . .) 

But overall, I am very, very grateful that it's there, in India, at last.  Or again.  However you prefer to think of it!

In the meantime, I am planning our family Diwali celebration later this week, which always involves food.  Glorious, yummy Indian food!  The kids have requested Chicken Makhani, which I make so often that it doesn't feel like holiday food anymore.  (But it does for the kids, who LOVE it.)  It is such a savory, delicious recipe -- the aroma alone will make you weak in the knees.

I posted this recipe a few years ago, but thought I'd re-post it for the newer India adoptive families we've "met" online during the past year.  This is a very easy, lighter version of Chicken Makhani  (pronounced "mock-a-knee").  It's also called Butter Chicken at some Indian restaurants; the restaurant version is delicious too, but MUCH richer and a wee bit less healthy.

Chicken Makhani
2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts (you can use frozen)
1 medium onion, diced
1 14-oz. can coconut milk (I use the light version)
1 6-oz. can tomato paste
6 cloves garlic, chopped
4 Tbsp. butter
15 cardamom pods*
2 tsp. curry powder
2 tsp. garam masala
1/8 to 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper, depending on your preferred level of spiciness
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 cup plain or Greek yogurt (can be fat-free)

Place frozen chicken in crockpot.  Layer with onions and dot with butter.  Place cardamom seeds in middle of layers.  In a medium bowl, mix tomato paste, coconut milk, lemon juice, garlic, curry, cayenne pepper, garam masala, and ginger.  Pour the mixture over the chicken.  Cover and cook on low for 8-9 hours, or high for 5 hours.  30 min. before serving, remove chicken pieces and shred with two forks, then return it to the sauce to keep warm.  Remove and discard cardamom pods or seeds, then stir in yogurt 15 minutes before serving.  Serve over jasmine or basmati rice.  Enjoy!

*If you don't have an Indian grocery near you, Penzey's carries whole cardamom pods in their stores and online.  You can also buy the seeds loose; there are 18-20 seeds in a pod.  The authentic thing to do is tie the pods together with string.  (Yeah.  I am not good at this.)  What I do instead is empty out a cheap tea bag, put in the pods or seeds, and tie it shut with the tea bag string.  (I know-- I am such a cheater!)  Penzey's also sells Garam Masala.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Fun with dossiers

Since I can't publish photos of the letters, here is a gratuitous photo of my FINISHED mosaic!  I started it a year ago, after rescuing a nightstand out of someone's trash.  I decided I better finish it before we have another little one in the house.
For those who have been paying attention to our very convoluted dossier update, you will be happy to know that it's on its way to India right now (or possibly there already?).  It's a little weird, because no one in India asked us to update it, but it is over 2 1/2 years old -- and we didn't want to get bogged down waiting for NOC, only to find out that our documents have been rejected because they were so OLD.
(That's not another adoption acronym, it's just the word "old."  Although in our case, maybe it should be an adoption acronym!)

One of the really fun parts (okay, possibly the only fun part) of doing the new dossier was reading the boys' letters of consent about having a new sister.  I took pictures of the letters, thinking I'd post them here -- but then realized that they contain her name and one of her medical conditions . . . so all you'll get is the typed version.  Bummer -- somehow, it's even sweeter to read the letters in their own handwriting!  But here, for K's future enjoyment, are her big brothers' letters: 

From Nathan:

Dear staff at CARA,
     I am hoping to get a new little sister.  My other adopted sister, Anya Rashi, is an amazing, cute, fun little girl.  She learns quickly, and is now attending my school.  I think K____ will be the same, but with her own perks and talents.  She has _____________ (medical condition), but will heal.  All in all, I think that K____ will be a rising star in the Appleton family.
Nathan, age 10

From Aaron:

Honorable Sirs and Madames,
     My name is Aaron, and my family is hoping to adopt a little girl, K____.  She is in Bangalore, India, and we would love to have her home as soon as possible.  My little sister, Anya Rashi, was adopted from India, and she is a very beautiful, fun little girl.  I expect that K____ will be the same.  We are really looking forward to welcoming another sister into our family.  Thank you.
Aaron, age 12

This was Aaron's second draft.  His first letter was a little, umm, *testy* about how long the process is taking.  We explained that perhaps we should try to stay in CARA's good graces by not scolding them . . .  :o)