Wednesday, October 30, 2013

"My Back Porch, Moonlight Birth": An Inspiring Birth Story

This is the birth story of my friend Allison's most recent baby, her second.  You can see her blog here.  This story was originally posted on her blog here, where you can also see pictures of her beautiful baby and birthing process (nothing graphic of course!).  Too many women see giving birth as a scary, painful, dreaded thing.  Allison's story sheds light on the other side of the story.  I love this story and it makes me look forward to hopefully having a home birth one day, if God allows!
It's true. Under the clear night sky on a warm spring night, I did a glorious thing - I gave birth to our sweet baby girl. My husband, smelling of patchouli (one of my fav scents on him), sipped a beer and with the other hand held my hand tight, kissing the top of my head and speaking encouragement when it seemed right. My other hand was held by my doula (I always recommend a doula!), massaging my lower back during those last contractions and coaching me how to breath when it came time to push.

My view was a half moon and a backdrop of stars.  It was beautiful.

Also present was my legendary midwife, her apprentice, my aunt who is more like my big sister, taking pictures and video, and another friend of mine who has had four homebirths and equally ecstatic about childbirth as I am (she also brought a table full of food - fruits and veggies, homemade pizza, soup, all kinds of gluten free treats, lettuce wraps, a bowl of m&ms, and of course birthday cake!).

They all arrived for the last couple hours of my labor and delivery, and all hung out for the after party as well.

My labor was about 24 hours total. The first 22 hours it was just me and my husband mostly. We took walks, got it on (cause hey, it's gonna be awhile!), watched a couple shows of Parks and Recreation (our current Netflix season at the time), ate some of the table-full of food my girlfriend brought, and just hungout. It felt like a really long day.

My doula had come the night before when I started to have contractions to be my friend while my husband worked (he works nights). While I slept, she wrote a song for me which she played/sang for me the hour after baby girl was born. My doula was and is awesome.

Having amazing womanly support around me was just as it should be, at least for me. The month prior to my birth, these gals came over to my home and prayed with me/for me and over my home, my family and birth to be. It was so special. I was so looking forward to having these strong women at my birth to cheer me on and support me during this treasured time.

My labor was slow for the first 18 hours. My contractions were 30-45 minutes for most of that time then down to 20 minutes apart mid afternoon of baby's birthday.

I was having an emotional afternoon. I missed my firstborn who was with my mother and I felt like I was disappointing people (like family, my birth attendants, even my husband) with my slow progression and I was also bummed that things were moving slowly - I had presumed I'd have a shorter labor this time around, but that was not the case.

I talked to my four-homebirths-girlfriend on the phone and told her how I was feeling.  She encouraged me to speak out (after I got off the phone with her) all that was bothering me, all that was making me emotional, and let it go. She also spoke to my heart and mind to embrace this labor for what it is because it is beautiful and special. She reminded me that this little babe I was carrying was so much different than babe #1, so this labor will be different as well - to not compare them. She encouraged me to let it remind me how unique and special this little girl is, and be joyful about her coming at her own pace with my body. Revel in this labor for what it is (special! unique!), and bond with my little babe.

It was just what I needed to hear and after I hung-up with my girlfriend, I spoke out all that was getting me down and asked Jesus to fill me with truth and peace and joy. He did! :)

My mom and sister came over with my niece and my daughter to give us some company, make me laugh and I needed kisses and hugs from my little girl. They hung out an hour and upon their leaving, my contractions jumped up to seven minutes apart!

I called the midwife and things started moving.  My husband aired up the birth tub on the back porch and began filling it with water.  My doula and aunt showed up, then my midwife and her apprentice.

At that point my contractions were just a few minutes apart. I could feel baby coming down.

I absolutely cannot sit down nor lay down during a contraction. I think the pain turns times two! I've gotta be standing up.  It just makes sense too with a baby coming down through your body, right? I gripped the bricks on our fireplace those last couple hours of labor. My doula was so good to me, rubbing my lower back (I have hefty back labor) and she just being beside me was a comfort to me.

My husband was busy filling up the tub. The hot water did run out so they were boiling water on the stove and pouring it in the tub, ha! It was a funny sight to see the gals and my husband back and forth from the kitchen, carrying pots of water to the tub.

There was a chance I'd be delivering baby girl inside, but at just the right time the tub was filled and the water at just the right temperature for me and baby girl.

I got in the birth tub in-between a contraction. I was complete, transition closed, my body rested before pushing stage, then it was upon me - time to push!

This is the hardest part for me. I can do contractions fine because there is that gracious time in between contractions to rest, feel normal, have a laugh, eat a cookie (I have a friend who calls it Christmas morning, ha!). And really during contractions your body is doing most of the actual physical work. As the woman in labor your job is mostly mental - focusing, breathing, letting your body do what it has been instructed to do. It's actually a bit enjoyable for me, the feeling of baby coming down is incredible. I am in awe of the process as I'm experiencing it.

But now pushing is the hard work.  It's where I grunt and yell and feel like I am having the most gigantic poo of my life. Fortunately, we live on eight acres in fine country land and our neighbors' homes are far enough away to hopefully not hear my primal sounds, or perhaps they thought it was a deer delivering triplets in the woods. :)

My midwife and doula instructed me in pushing and breathing.  At one point, I let baby girl's head sit there to stretch my perineum - this was my midwife's instruction, of course. She was trying to prevent me from tearing down there and allowing baby to come out steady and not quickly.  I had to breathe quick breaths during that time, and my midwife said "You're basically breathing her out right now...". I wasn't sure whether to believe her or not, at the time.

My midwife encouraged me to feel her head which I wasn't inclined to do, but she asked me a second time and so I did. I'm glad I did, I still remember that squishy feeling of her exiting head. So amazing.

I remember during delivery thinking "I'm too old for this." You may hear from others and in my experience twice now it's been true, just when you think you can't go any further, your baby is almost in your arms. Just keep on for a bit longer, and you will receive your reward.

Before that final push after my midwife checked for the umbilical cord, Ryan left my side to "catch" baby girl. I gave that final push and baby girl was caught in her Daddy's embrace and given to me.

Her warm wet body on mine, I can recall the feeling like it was minutes ago.  The endorphins and happy hormones flew through my body in that moment. I remember the rush of what I could say was physical joy moving through my body.

I did it. We did it.  Baby girl and I worked hard together. We conquered labor and delivery, and received our prize - each other. It is an incredible moment.

I so wish for every pregnant woman to have such an experience, though I know for some they physically can't and I'm so thankful for hospitals and doctors trained for those specific situations when the body is not doing as it should.

After baby girl was born, we enjoyed her. I delivered the placenta maybe 15 minutes after. The placenta was put in a bowl I bought just for the placenta at Target (how many bowls do they have bought for placentas, I wonder?). With baby in arms, I got out of the birth tub with support of my husband and the women.  We walked indoors to my recovery room.  We let the placenta drain completely (about an hour) so baby girl received all of those wonderful stem cells and nutrients.

She nursed on her own about 45 minutes after birth.  It was so funny.  She was rooting around, so I gave her a little help by bringing her up to my breast.  She then lifted her head back (strong newborn!) and with a mouth wide open planted herself perfectly on the nipple. I laughed. She nursed.

Now if you know me, you know I love a good party. And that is exactly what this was.  The gals, my husband and I, talked, ate, laughed, celebrated.  My husband made coffee for him and the gals, and we all shared in our little girl's first birthday cake.  Delicious! My doula sang the song she wrote for me the night before on her guitar.  And we drank in this glorious night of our baby's birth.

All was precious, and remains so very close to me now.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Should Every Christian Couple Consider Adoption?

[This was an email I sent to a friend, slightly edited from the original, in answer to her question "Do you think the question for Christian couples is not 'Should we adopt' but rather 'Should we not adopt?'" Note that the conversational tone of the writing is precisely because it was originally an email.]

Your question is a hard one and one that I have thought about some.  To be clear, since God has given us a desire to adopt, I would say that its hard to give an unbiased opinion to this question.  When God gives you a passion for something, its easy to wonder why everyone else doesn't share the same passion... but that is because we are the body of Christ with unique giftings and callings.  I think that adoption is great and I wish more Christian couples would consider it.  Adoption is on the rise in the past few years in Christian circles, but I can't help but to think about the 200,000 kids in the US alone who are still without a permanent home and ready to be adopted today if a couple would step up.

To start out, one question every Christian couple definitely should ask is, how does God want us to be relationally involved in caring for orphans?  Giving money to organizations that support orphans is good, but the wording of James 1:27 ("visit orphans and widows") has me convinced that God wants us to be in the lives of widows and orphans. In fact, it was a result of meditating on the word "visit" and praying about what it meant for us that lead Alex and I to pursue adoption so early on in our marriage.    

I think a good second question to ask after that is to ask does God want us to adopt as part of our relational care of orphans?  There are lots of programs and organizations that care for orphans.  But no volunteer work or ministry, nothing will ever come close to type of whole life blessing a family can give to an orphan through welcoming him or her into their home.

In light of this, I wish that more people would realize how easy it is to adopt.  I really think that we are in a unique time in history where many factors have come together to make this easier than at other times.  There are so many myths about adoption and I think people shy away because they think its hard.  And on one hand, admittedly, it IS hard (the emotional side). But logistically, its easy (though you have to be patient because it takes a while... but growing a baby in your womb also takes a while!).  Because of airplanes, its easy to fly to another country that is a half a world away and get connected with a child in need, and bring him/her back to your house.  Because of the abundance of orphans in the US, the government has made it easy to adopt by paying all of the expenses for an adoption through the foster care system.  There are 3 different types of adoption available to couples in the US (international, domestic private, and foster care) and numerous adoption agencies that can connect you to any one of these types, and advise you and help you in the process.  There are also a myriad of books and resources about adoption, from every topic ranging from the biblical basis for adoption, to how to attach to an adopted child to how to care for child with a different ethnic hair type than your own.

This is also an unprecedented time in the history of the church because couples also have control of their  fertility through various birth control methods (but not the pill).  Now, I hesitate to say this because I think birth control is over used in many Christian families and that many couples are limiting their family size for ungodly, worldly reasons (like the desire for money, comfort, ease of life).  But at the same time, I see birth control as making it possible for couples to plan when to have children, allowing the space in their lives to allow for adoption (whether before, after or in between bio kids).  

To be clear, I don't want to sound like its more important or more godly to adopt than to have bio kids, because bio kids are a blessing even if you have 20 of them (though some people will try to tell you that you are overpopulating the world and glare at you and tell you that you can "stop already now"... and I know this because it happened to me when we only had four kids).  But the difference is now, couples can pray and ask God if he wants them to limit bio kids for the sake of adoption, where in the past that wasn't even an option.  And I don't see why he wouldn't want some Christians to do this, in light of the fact that there are millions of orphans worldwide.  I hope that he changes the hearts of many Christian couples who are thinking about following the typical American "two and done" route with kids to expand their willingness to sacrifice and lay down their lives to increase their family to four, five, six, seven, for the sake of giving every orphan a home.  For us personally, we don't see bio kids and adopted kids as mutually exclusive, and hope to have lots of both, by God's grace and with the measure of strength he grants us to do so!

So maybe the right questions for Christian couples are "How does God want us to relationally care for orphans?" and "Is adoption part of that?" and thirdly, "Because of the unique ways that God is making it easier at this point in history to adopt, is there any reason why we should not pursue adoption?"  Any couple asking these types of questions is on the right track.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Visiting Orphans and Widows

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:27

What does it mean to visit orphans and widows?  While the Bible does command Christians to care for the physical needs widows and orphans, this verse commands us to take this to the next step: God wants Christians to be relationally involved in the lives of widows and orphans.

Coming from a Western mindset, most of us see poverty in terms of material things: poor people don't have stuff (clothes, food, etc) so the solution to the problem is to give them stuff.  This belief is the basis for welfare, medicaid, food stamps, food banks, health clinics and many non-profit organizations in America to help the poor.

The problem is that many poor people suffer not just from physical/material poverty, but also relational and spiritual poverty as well.  The later two are often the cause of the former, and addressing relational and spiritual poverty often results in resolution of material poverty.  God wants Christians to minister to the whole person: relationally, materially, and spiritually.  This is the basis for his command to visit widows and orphans.  Its one thing to give money to a homeless person or a poverty-relief organization, but its a completely different thing to be relationally involved in the life of someone in need.

1. Invest into kids without a Dad (or a Mom). 
When the Bible often refers to orphans as the "fatherless".  This is because a child without a father is missing a significant part of his or her life.  Furthermore, a child without a father is likely to grow up in poverty (that was definitely true in Biblical times, but studies show that is still true, even in when fatherlessness is caused by divorce and not just death).  In our day, missing fathers are epidemic, and missing mothers are becoming an increasing problem as well.

Children (of both genders) growing up with a single parent still need the influence of the absent opposite sex parent.  The Church has an important duty to provide that influence and close adult relationship in the lives of children with a missing parent.  Being regularly involved in the life of a child without a mother or father is a blessing beyond measure to them (and to their single parent!).

It is important to note too, that consistent, long-term investment is what is needed in the lives of fatherless (or motherless) children.  Making up for the deficit of a parent is not a task that can be done with a spare few hours per year.

2. Come alongside a foster family, love on their children.
Being a foster family is hard.  Foster families are faced with a litany of uncertainties and injustices in the foster care system.  Foster children often need more time and attention than typical kids, and parents can use all the help they can get in order to make this happen.  Coming along side a foster family, whether by babysitting, making them meals, helping with housework or even just being a listening ear when things get hard is a blessing to both the foster parents and the children in need in their care.

3. Help regularly at an orphanage.
I say regularly, because like I noted above orphans need relationships, not just handouts.  There is a group of people from our church who visit several orphanages in Mexico on a monthly basis.  I have heard of other people who "adopt" an overseas orphanage and make it a point to visit once or twice a year for an extended period.  When doing short-term missions trips like these, it is important that you make sure you are helping without hurting.

4. Adopt or do foster care.
This is becoming a popular avenue for orphan care in the US, and I thank God for that.  Many orphans have found life long homes and families through adoption, and many foster children find great second families in their foster families (or, if things go that direction, they could eventually be adopted by their foster family).  

Foster children are an invisible, hurting population in our country.  Currently, there are a half million foster children in the US, most of whom have already experienced more pain than you or I could imagine.  Legally, they might have parents, but unless they are in a good foster home, in all practical senses of the word they probably don't have parents. These children are faced with instability (often changing homes several times per year) and a litany of injustices inflicted on them in a system that sometimes does more harm than good.  While changing the system is hard, you can change lives by being a stable, loving home in the midst of the chaos of their world.

Adoption is bar-none the best and deepest way to care for the whole orphan (physical, relational and spiritual needs).  In this sense, it far outshines all the other types of orphan care.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Adoption Myths (part 2 of 2)

(Continued from part one here.  Myth #1 Adoption costs tens of thousands of dollars. Myth #2 Adoptive moms can't breast feed their babies.)
'Newborn son: Tim' photo (c) 2012, Jan de Graaf - license:
3. Its almost impossible to adopt a newborn.
This depends on the type of adoption (see my explanation of the different types of adoption here).  For overseas adoptions, this is true, because the paperwork can take months to finalize, so realistically you will not be taking home a newborn.

As far as domestic private adoptions, these are almost exclusively of newborns.  Adoptive parents pick up their baby from the hospital, and in some cases may even be present at the birth, or within hours of the birth.

For foster care adoption, the answer is yes and no. Because the first priority in the foster care system is to reunite children with their birth families, babies are not usually adoptable as soon as they are born (there are a few exceptions to this, such as when a mother signs away her parental rights at the hospital. I have a cousin who was able to adopt a baby in this type of situation). In other situations, adoptive parents have to be open to taking a baby who may or may not be adoptable, and support the possibility of reunification until reunification happens or is terminated.  As far as the availability of babies in the foster care system, it does depend a bit on where you live (in an urban vs. rural area), but suffice it to say, we have only ever waited a few weeks, tops, for each of our foster placements.

What are the chances that a baby in the foster care system will become adoptable versus being reunited? I'm not sure a number can be easily quoted (though someone somewhere probably knows it). Our has been that we have had two babies so far, but that neither have been adoptable (but God has used our time with those babies for good, even when it didn't turn out as we hoped). We are now on our third baby, and its too early to predict if this baby might be adoptable or not. However, we seem to be a bit of an anomaly, as about 90% of the couples we know have adopted the first child that has come into their home. So there is risk involved, but for the believer who trusts in God's sovereignty, this risk is mitigated by the knowledge that God is in control. We always say "If God wants us to adopt this baby, there is a 100% chance that we will adopt".

4. Adopted kids are damaged goods.
I have never heard this stated in exactly these words, but people will often imply that they don't want to adopt because adopted children are messed up in some way. The biggest thing that people comment on (especially in the foster care system) is whether a child has been prenatally exposed to drugs (even though children prenatally exposed to drugs rarely have life-long effects from this).

It is true that adopted children face unique challenges.  If nothing else, they must mourn the loss of the birth family, and sometimes there are other wounds that must be healed. However, growing up in a fallen world, all children face some kind of hardship. The job of parents is not to protect their children from all hardship, or avoid welcoming children into their family who have faced some hardship, but to equip their children to deal with the hardship they will inevitably face, and to love them well at their lowest times.

Many, many adopted children grow up to be productive, emotionally-stable adults. Examples of famous adopted people include Nelson Mandela, Steve Jobs, Faith Hill and Dave Thomas (founder of Wendy's).

Have you heard any of these myths?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Adoption Myths (part 1 of 2)

We are approaching our fourth year of pursing adoption. During this time I have heard a number of myths about adoption in America repeated over and over. Like most myths, they are believed because people repeat them over and over, not because they are true.
'Day 11: can't even imagine' photo (c) 2011, Cathy Stanley-Erickson - license:
I have found that some of these myths are based on the type of adoption that a couple is pursuing. For the sake of clarity, let me describe the three types of adoption available couples in the US:

International Adoption- International adoptions have become more popular through the influence of famous adoptive parents like Madonna and Angelina Jolie.  International adoptions are facilitated through an agency in the US who works with various overseas orphanages. Adoptive parents have to travel overseas (sometimes several times) to meet the children and finalize court proceedings before the children are allowed to be brought to their adoptive home.

Private Domestic Adoption- Private domestic adoptions usually happen through an adoption agency.  A mother with an unwanted pregnancy will approach the agency to help find an adoptive family for their child.  Usually a pregnant mother is presented with several prospective adoptive families from which to choose.

A less common type of private adoption is when a family adopts a child without the help of an agency (just child/family lawyers). There is usually some kind of connection between the birth and adoptive families.

Foster Care Adoption- This is the type of adoption that we are currently pursuing. Foster care adoption involves adopting a child through the US foster care system. Sometimes adoptive parents foster for a period of time before adopting, providing the child(ren) a home while they are pursuing reunification with birth parents. If reunification doesn't work out, these families will adopt the child in need. Other families choose to adopt a child for whom reunification has been terminated (these children are usually older, at least 5 or 6 years of age, but often older). There are 200,000 children available for adoption today through the foster care system, and 500,000 total foster kids in the United States.

With these different types of adoptions established, here are some of the myths that I have heard:

1. Adoption costs tens of thousands of dollars.
This is true of private adoptions (whether domestic or international) but not foster care adoptions.  Private adoptions are expensive because the litany of legal fees.  International adoptions add the cost of multiple flights to the county a couple will be adopting from among other things.  Domestic adoptions add the cost of the birth mother's hospital bills among other things.

However, this is emphatically not true of foster care adoptions.  To the contrary, adoptions through the foster care system are free on the legal end of things. Furthermore, children adopted through the foster care system have access to a number of benefits until they turn 18 (such as free medical care) as well as a monthly stipend for "high risk" children who are adopted (most foster children fall into this category, even seemingly typical kids).

2. Adoptive moms can't breast feed their babies.
Breast feeding is an important part of parenting, as it promotes bonding between mother and baby, and sets babies up for the best lifetime health.

Many people believe that adoptive mothers can't breast feed their babies, mistakenly thinking that pregnancy hormones are the only way to induce lactation.  In fact, there are a few protocols that adoptive mothers can follow to induce lactation (describing them is beyond the scope of this blog, but for more information I recommend a visit to a lactation consultant or reading Dr. Jack Newman's Guide to Breastfeeding.

Through the foster care system, the policy on this varies state to state.  In California, foster mothers can give breast milk to foster babies with permission from the baby's social worker.  We were given permission to give breast milk to our second baby, as she came to us when Esther was 11 months old and I was still lactating. She was eventually reunited with her mother, but we are happy that she was able to get the best milk for the first eight months of her life.

Have you heard any of these adoption myths?

Continue on to part two here...

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Following Jesus and Spiritual Refinement

Before you do foster care, or before you adopt, it is easy to have a really romanticized view of the process. You will take in a child in need, and that child will be so grateful and love you forever and you will feel so good for doing such a good deed and everyone will live happily ever after. But then you actually become a foster parent or actually adopt or even just start the process and reality hits like a brick wall. Suddenly its not fun and its not easy and its not romantic.

This hit home one night recently when I got up to comfort a fussy baby. After an hour of comforting to no avail, the tears were streaming down my face. "Why, Lord?" I called out to the darkness, "Why does serving you have to be so hard?" It didn't seem fair. It should be easy to serve God, not hard. It should be easy to live in the way that he designed us to live, not seemingly counterintuitive.

I don't have answers to all of this. I still mostly feel that following Jesus should be easy. But I do know that God uses steps of faith to refine us, and he says this about the refining process,
"Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver, I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another" Isaiah 48:10-11
In the absence of bold, underlined or italicized font in the ancient Hebrew written language, God emphasizes his point by repetition. For my own sake I am refining you, says God. Period. It is for God's glory and by his power and wisdom and goodness, so who are we to question? (see also Romans 9:20)

But we should also take comfort. One does not waste time trying to refine a rock. One only refines a mineral of value, such as silver or gold. Christian, God sees you as something of value. He sees you as worth his time and effort to refine you, to make you more precious and of more value.

So give in. Don't resist. Don't struggle against the refining fire. Allow him to burn off the dross, and rejoice to see it go. Rejoice that God would count you worthy of refining. Rejoice that you didn't have to force your own innate goodness to be worthy of God's blessing, but that He made you worthy by purchasing you with his blood.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

I Needed This Reminder Today

I have posted this before, but I went back to it today because I needed the reminder.  Maybe you need it today, too.

“Reader, if God has given you His only begotten Son, beware of doubting His kindness and love, in any painful providence of your daily life! Never allow yourself to think hard thoughts of God. Never suppose that He can give you anything which is not really for your good. Remember the words of Paul: ‘He who spared not His own Son—but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things’ (Romans 8:32). 
See in every sorrow and trouble of your earthly pilgrimage the hand of Him who gave Christ to die for your sins! That hand can never smite you except in love! He who gave His only begotten Son for you, will never withhold anything from you which is really for your good. Lean back on this thought and be content. Say to yourself in the darkest hour of trial, ‘This also is ordered by Him who gave Christ to die for my sins. It cannot be wrong. It is done in love. It must be well.’” -J.C. Ryle

Saturday, October 5, 2013

What I'm Reading Right Now

I usually try to keep myself to 2-3 books at a time, max.  But right now I have found myself in the middle of 5 books, all of which I am really enjoying... although the "J" in me really wants to finish a few just so that I'm not in the middle of so many books.  But it is helpful to have distraction from my nausea, especially since I have been spending so much time on the couch.

Is Everyone Hanging Out without Me? by Mindy Kahling - This was a gift from a friend for my birthday.  I am enjoying it so far because its really light and easy reading, which means that it requires about the amount of concentration that I can give while rocking a crying baby (a frequent activity of mine since the addition of little man to our home).  I'm also a big fan of "The Office", so its fun to have hear the perspective of one of the writers and actors in the show.

Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson- I've almost finished this book except for the concluding chapter, which (unlike the rest of the book) I have found difficult to get through.  This 500 page book is really interesting, though its length could be intimidating to some.  Isaacson goes into detail in every aspect of Franklin's life, from his ancestry to his death and legacy.  Isaacson is a masterful writer (he is also well known for his biography of Steve Jobs) and I appreciate the way that he portrays the complex and sometimes controversial life of Franklin.  Reading on the life of Franklin was also a refreshing and interesting journey through the history of the founding of our country.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot- This book gives the biography of the woman from whom the world's most prolific cell culture, known as HeLa came from.  It also portrays the complex ethical issues that come from her cell line, as they were taken and grown without her knowledge or permission (and without her family's knowledge for decades), as well as the vast number of medical breakthroughs that have come about as a result of her cell line (everything from the development of in vitro fertilization to chemotherapy and anti-depressant drugs to the first photos of and understanding of cell division).  This book is a page turner... I should know since I got halfway through in just two days of reading (thanks also to many hours of nausea that left me unable to do much else than read).

End the Fed by Ron Paul- This is the perfect book to satisfy my political and economic taste buds that need to be fed from time to time.  And who better to do it than Ron Paul? :)  Of course its also pretty frustrating and depressing to see the economic mess the Federal Reserve Bank has gotten our country into, but I am encouraged that Paul states throughout the book that he is an optimist when it comes to sound money and sees good things in our economic future.  It certainly is true that many young people (many of my friend included) see the need for change in our economic system, starting with the Fed.  And if young people's eyes are opening, I do think there is reason for hope in the future.

As as side note, I really want to read his new book about public schools, but our library doesn't have it. Anyone have a copy they want to lend me?  Or buy it for me as a belated birthday/early Christmas present? :)

Winston Churchill - This is a short (under 200 pages) biography of Churchill.  I picked it up as I was finishing the Ben Franklin book, as it got me in a historical biography mood.  I knew little about Churchill before this book, and have found it to be good.  The only downside is that the author is a military historian and goes a little more in depth into the military engagements that Churchill was involved in than I would like to hear about.  But I am enjoying (as I did with Franklin) journeying through an important time in history through the life of one of the key figures of that time.

What are you reading right now?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

September in our Home

September started off and ended with weekend trips.  First, over Labor Day weekend we had a fun overnight camping trip to San Onofre Beach.  This was our first time camping with Esther and she did pretty well.  Lots of dirt eating and of course a later than normal bedtime but a fun memory for all of us.

The last weekend of September we flew to Connecticut to celebrate Esther's birthday with her cousin, who is one day older than her.  It was good to see Alex's family there, as we have not spent time with them since before we moved to California.

In mid-September, we welcomed a new foster baby boy into our home.  To be honest, it has been a rough transition.  The past few weeks have been some of the roughest in my life.  He is definitely the most difficult baby we have ever had (and that is coming from a family who has had 4 babies in the past 3 years) because he is very fussy and doesn't sleep well.  His nighttime sleep is getting better over time, but day time naps and fussiness are about the same.  Its not surprising, as we don't know much about his history but can piece together that it was probably pretty inconsistent (sleep/eating-wise) and possibly stressful.  He is likely very anxious and unable to express it any other way than crying.  But even from all the cases our social worker has seen (and she's seen a lot in her 10+ years), he is among the most difficult.

To top it off, my nausea hasn't gotten better as we were hoping, and has actually gotten worse from lack of sleep.  Feeling sick makes everything much more difficult to deal with, and has really exposed my sin in an unpleasant way. Furthermore, Esther has had a much rougher adjustment to little man than she did when we got baby girl about a year ago.  Right now, my activity is cut down to just the essentials, and somedays its hard to even do the essentials.  So please pray for me and for us.  The biggest thing that would be a game-changer is if my nausea went away.  Pray that that will happen soon.  And until it goes away, please pray that I would be filled with the Holy Spirit, and overflowing with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control in my interactions with my family.

At this point, things are very unclear with his family situation.  On one hand, his parents have shown little effort to being reunited with him.  On the other hand, there is a cousin who has expressed interest in getting custody of him, and has already competed some of what she needs to do to make it happen.  Things move slowly around DCFS, so we're not sure how long it will be until we know more.  Until then, he is in a safe and loving home with us.  Please pray that God will direct him to the best home for him, and that above all else, that he will know God and walk with God.