Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Elusive Christmas Card Photo Strikes Again

First, no one would take me seriously.

Instead of posing nicely, they leaned hard on each other and poked each other and shoved each other out of the picture.

They seemed totally incapable of taking directions. 

When I moved one, everyone moved.

Chaos reigned.

And then Katherine stepped in dog poop.

While wearing her beautiful cloth TOMS.

I only got one good shot, and unfortunately, I seem to be missing one of the kids.

Friday, November 22, 2013

I am Devastated and Heartbroken

Hana Williams (Photo via Patheos)
Earlier this week, I read the feature story in Salon. Hana Williams, an Ethiopian adoptee, died after being systematically abused by her adoptive parents.

Researching Hana's story led me to the story of Lydia Schatz, a Liberian adoptee who was spanked to death by her parents.

In both cases, the parents, conservative Christians, seemed to believe they were disciplining their children as instructed in Scripture.

I'm devastated and heartbroken.

There really are no words.

Today, however, I feel compelled to speak up for these two girls who died at the hands of their adoptive parents.

What can I say that hasn't already been said? What can I add to the hundreds of news reports and magazine articles and blogs that are already posted online?

Maybe nothing. But I know that many families considering older child adoption end up here at my blog. Taking time to consider what went so terribly wrong in these adoptive families is an important step toward making sure it doesn't happen again. . . that it never happens in your family.

So if you are an adoptive parent, or if you know adoptive parents in your church, or if you are considering adoption yourself, please take some time to read the links below. Honor these girls by listening to their stories. Be informed.

Hana Williams, adopted from Ethiopia in 2008 at age 10; died May 11, 2011 at age 13. (Her age is disputed by her adoptive parents who claim she was actually older.)

Hana Williams: The tragic death of an Ethiopian adoptee, and how it could happen again - the story.

Corpses Don't Rebel: A former follower of Michael Pearl's "To Train Up a Child" reacts to the death of Hana Williams - a parent who at one time followed the same discipline system as Hana's parents speaks up.

The Legacy of Ethiopian Adoptee Hannah Williams - written by a mom with adopted Ethiopian kids.

Lydia Schatz, adopted from Liberia in 2007 at age 4; died February 5, 2010 at age 7.

Godly Discipline Turned Deadly - the story.

In which I discuss the unthinkable - written by a family friend in the days following Lydia's death. Honest and emotionally raw.

Couple sentenced for religious beating death and torture of children - the sentencing.

Tragedy in a homeschooling family - powerful words from a Christian dad.

There are some common threads in both girls' stories. Adoption. . . conservative Christianity. . . large families. . . homeschooling. . . and most specifically, following the teachings of Michael Pearl as outlined in the book, To Train Up a Child.

One thing I've noticed when things like this happen, is that if we fall into one of the groups listed above, we tend to quickly circle the wagons. We dismiss the offending families as fringe people who were not really part of our movement. Giving brief lip service to the dead child, we quickly move on to defending our rights to adopt. . . or practice our faith. . . or have a large family. . . or homeschool. . . or discipline our kids as we see fit. We worry about the fallout from the unfortunate incident.

That attitude compounds the tragedy.

Because this is not about defending our rights as adults. It's about speaking up for and standing up for defenseless children. They have to be the focus of the story.

There are so many thoughts swirling in my head, but underlying it all is a deep, deep sadness, that instead of finding love and safety in their new families, these girls were abused and tortured and killed.

And the part that makes my head hurt most of all is that I don't believe any of these parents thought they were child abusers.

They adopted older, traumatized children, and then viewed their every negative behavior as evil and rebellion.

Convinced that God had commanded them to use physical discipline, they punished every act of disobedience.

They fought to win every battle.

They killed their kids.

Heaven help us.

I've said it before. Dear Christian Parent Adopting an Older Child: Please Don't Spank.

And finally, To Train Up a Child Parenting Book Leads to Multiple Child Deaths. Some are asking if the author of this parenting book bears any moral responsibility in these children's deaths.

Sharing today at Imperfect Prose.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

She Wants a Make-Up Kit, and She's Only Eleven

Julia's Christmas wish list says make-up kit, and I have no idea what that really means. 

Look at those beautiful, make-up free faces. So natural. I have no desire to add anything to them at this point.

So, what would you do if your 11-year-old asked for a make-up kit?

Julia (left), in my opinion, is too young for any serious make-up, but certainly not too young to learn about skin care and beauty. After my initial shock at seeing make-up kit in place of toys on the list, I kind of got excited. I get to introduce her to this fun part of being a girl. 

So yes, I'm in. My 11-year-old daughter will get her first make-up kit this Christmas, and it will come from me.

As much as is possible, I want to be the one who introduces my girls to what it means to be a woman. When each of them turned nine, I bought them The Care and Keeping of You by American Girl. It's a great book about taking care of your body. It's written for young girls and progresses from taking care of their teeth and braces to healthy diet and exercise to the changes they can expect at puberty, including buying their first bra and getting their first period. I bought each girl her own personal copy, and we read it aloud, one-on-one.

So we've already read a little about skin care and make-up in the past, but back then the information was just tucked away for future use.

Sounds like Julia's decided it's time to put it into practice. And that's a good thing.

Sometimes I think we unintentionally shame young girls for their natural, God-given desires, like the desire to be beautiful. We tell them, "You're too young for make-up!" or "You aren't allowed to wear make-up until you are (whatever arbitrary age we pick) years old," without any affirmation for the rightness of their desire to be beautiful.

It would be easy for our daughters to get the idea that their innocent interest in beauty products and looking pretty is wrong.

It's not wrong.

So between now and Christmas, I'm on the hunt for a cute make-up bag and lots of goodies to put in it. I'm thinking facial cleanser, toner, and moisturizer. Sheer lip gloss.Maybe a facial mask, because those just look fun -- like a day at a fancy spa. 

One thing she made clear is that she'd like to try eye shadow. Yikes. I'm not ready to let an 11-year-old out of the house wearing eye shadow. But maybe I'll buy one of those inexpensive sets you can pick up around Christmas and tell her it's just for practicing and playing makeover with her friends. 

What do you think? Would you buy beauty products for an 11-year-old? Any ideas for what to put in her bag? Brands that are good for young girls without being too pricey? 

Waiting to hear your thoughts on this one.

Sharing today at Imperfect Prose and Ni Hao Yall.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

I Like Bunnies and Ostriches and Online Shopping

Several years ago, I was teaching Julia to write a paragraph where every sentence supported the topic sentence. To learn what it meant to write on topic, we did a little exercise.

Which sentence does not support the topic?

Topic: Spring

Spring is my favorite season.

The weather begins to get warmer.

Leaves appear on the trees.

Flowers start to bloom.

I like bunnies and ostriches.

It always made Julia laugh, and to this day, "I like bunnies and ostriches," is our code for random, off-topic comments.

Recently, Julia remarked that Stitch Fix is the "bunnies and ostriches" part of this blog.

In other words, what in the world does my trying on new clothes and having Julia take my picture have to do with anything?

I'm not sure, but my Stitch Fix posts are the most visited pages here at Death by Great Wall. Go figure.

And then, this November every time I sit down to write, I find myself wanting to share about shopping online. Stitch Fix was just the beginning. Then, I threw in a link for $20 off at Yesterday, I was raving about ThredUp. And honestly, there are still a couple of other deals I'm dying to share with you.

I'm supposed to be writing about older child adoption and family life.

And here I am. . . writing about bunnies and ostriches.

But the thing is, this is the time of year where shopping (which for me usually means shopping online) becomes a huge part of my family life. We're going to Alabama for Thanksgiving, and of course, every one of my kids has grown since last year. We wear flip-flops and shorts year round  in my neck of the woods, and all of the sudden all four kids need long pants and long sleeves and COATS. Yikes. Suddenly, saving money online becomes very on-topic for me.

And then there's Christmas. With four kids. You get the point.

So bear with me for the next few days, as I share another review or two and some of my favorite online shopping tips.

I promise to keep the older child adoption discussion going because I know that's why a lot of you are here.

But some days. . . it's just bunnies and ostriches. . . That's all I've got.

Ni Hao Yall

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

ThredUP Review and $10 Off Link For You

I'm pretty excited about ThredUP, so I want to tell you a little about it. This isn't a paid review. I don't do paid reviews because it's too tempting to write only the good stuff when someone is paying for your opinion. I tried ThredUp on my own, using my own money, because it looked promising to me. The folks over at ThredUp don't even know who I am.

So here's the scoop. ThredUP is a huge online resale site dealing in high-quality, like-new, brand name women's and children's clothing. I even found some of the brands I've loved from Stitch Fix.

Here are a couple of examples I pulled from ThredUP's site this morning.

This would make the perfect Christmas dress for some little girl.

The prices are more than what you'd find at a local thrift store, but these aren't typical thrift store finds.

The items are meticulously inspected. Each item is listed as either New With Tags, Practically New, or Tiny Flaw. If there's a tiny flaw, ThredUP describes it for you.

Shipping is free over $50. There's a deal going on right now where you pay $9.99 shipping once and then get free shipping on orders of any size for the rest of the 2013.

I decided to give ThredUP a try. About 9 days after checking out online, this package arrived in the mail. (ThredUP ships from California.)

I purchased a New With Tags denim jacket by Max Studio.

And a dressy yellow cardigan by Banana Republic.

The jean jacket was in brand new condition. On first pass, I considered the cardigan perfect as well. Later, I found two tiny pulled places on the cardigan. Honestly, I can't be sure I didn't snag it on my rings as I handled it. In either case, it's a beautiful sweater, and no one else will ever notice those two itsy bitsy flaws.

I paid 79% off retail for these items, and I couldn't be happier.

Bottom line: ThredUp offers exceptional prices, selection, and quality. Think end-of-the-season, rock bottom clearance prices every day of the year on thousands of items from top name brands. ThredUp's high standards insure top quality. The sheer volume of items makes it easy to find great deals.

Two things ThredUp could do better, in my opinion:

Better Descriptions: Each item has only one photo so you can't see the back or some of the details. Descriptions are scanty. I found myself wondering, "Is that colored denim or corduroy?" Or, "I wonder if that's Dry Clean Only?" And even, "Is that a chambray shirt (which I'd like to buy) or a light blue blouse (which I have absolutely no use for).

Easier Searches: ThredUp's search engine is still in BETA, and it took me a little longer than I'd like to sort through the thousands of items on their site.

Finally, ThredUP will pay you to clean out your own closets. I ruthlessly went through our clothes and cleaned out the things we simply don't wear anymore. Things that showed wear went to Goodwill, and everything that was in like-new condition went in this giant, pre-paid bag from ThredUp. I checked out ThredUp's Better Business Bureau rating (they get an A) and decided to give selling to them a try. There's no guarantee they'll accept everything in my bag, and there's no guarantee of what they'll pay for what I send. But it's out of my house. And that's worth something all by itself.

I'll write a review from a seller's point of view when I get my total for this bag.

Want to try ThredUp? Here's my referral link for $10 off your first purchase. Happy Shopping!

Sharing at WFMW.
Little by Little

Monday, November 11, 2013

Soccer Girl

Guess who got to see the U.S. Women's National team play this weekend?

Actually, all three girls at my house got to see them play - in person - and it was AMAZING!

Sharing at The Long Road to China.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

National Adoption Month

It's National Adoption Month, and all across America, people, especially people in churches, are talking about helping orphans.

Perhaps you feel God's tug on your heart to welcome an orphan into your home.

If so, one of the best things you can do is commit being a listener, a learner, as you enter the adoption process.

Today, I've gathered some links that paint a picture of the realities of adoption. This is a good place to start.

1. Listen by Carissa Woodwyk from Tapestry on Vimeo. I found this video through Lauren Casper's blog and her adoption series this month. Carissa Woodwyk was adopted from Korea. In this video, Carissa shares about the losses in the life of every adoptee and how adoptive parents can help.

2. Lisa Qualls of One Thankful Mom is a mother of 12 through birth and adoption. In this one hour radio interview she shares about how her family adopted four unrelated children from Ethiopia and how forming a new family impacted her bio kids. If you are thinking about adding to your existing family through adoption, please listen to Lisa's interview. I played it as I folded laundry last night. Worth every minute!

3. Working for Justice in Adoption - A true story of international adoption.

4. More than 10,000 families want to adopt orphan Davion Only - A follow-up to the story of the teenage boy in Florida who spoke at a local church, asking for someone to adopt him. The first story is here.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Stitch Fix #5 Review: Want to See What I Got?

Stitch Fix #5 arrived last week. I had a new stylist this time. Want to see what I got?

Item #1 - Corinna Striped Dolman Top by 41 Hawthorne (pictured above)
Perfect example of what's right about Stitch Fix. I would've never picked this top. I would not have picked the color. I would not have picked the style (dolman sleeves). I would not have picked horizontal stripes. But when my stylist, Jackie, picked it for me, I found a new favorite shirt. Status: Kept.

Item #2 - Ina Boyfriend Jean by Kut from the Kloth (also pictured above)
In my first 4 Fixes, I marked pants as an item I didn't want to receive. I'm 51, and all those stylists over at Stitch Fix look like they're about 12, and I just figured there was no way they'd pick pants that would work for me. No matter how many times I emphasized that I sort of have a "mommy middle," I just didn't think it would compute. However, I don't really need another maxi skirt or dress, so I figured, "Why not give them the option of sending pants?" 

To my shock and amazement, Jackie sent the perfect pair of jeans

Still learning how to cuff these. I love them with my comfy Toms.
Now here's where I kind of hop on the crazy train. I actually considered sending these back because they were a little pricey and. . . here it comes. . . "What if I lose weight?" I momentarily lost my mind. Then I remembered, "I buy for the body I have today." Seriously, if I drop twenty pounds, I'll throw a party, and Mike can buy me a new pair of jeans to celebrate! Status: Kept and worn about 4 times already.

Here's a photo of my new jeans and shirt in action. You know, Stitch Fix in real life. Now remember, my kids are homeschooled. Translation: I have them with me 24/7. If this was how you had to do your grocery shopping, wouldn't you want to at least have a cute casual outfit to wear? I thought so. (Dont' forget, there's one more. He's taking the photo with my phone.)

A fellow shopper walked by and asked, "Is school out today or something?" 

"They're homeschooled."

The raised eyebrows said it all.

Stitch Fix is so much easier than trying to go clothes shopping my unruly mob.

Item #3: Jaclynn 3/4 Sleeve Button-Up Cardigan by Mak (pictured above) 
I was so tickled to see this in my box. I'm pretty sure that Jackie looked at my Pinterest board because I made it awfully clear that I wanted a mustard cardigan. This one was a smidge too tight, and since I'm "buying for the body I have today". . . Status: Sent Back.

Very cool necklace passed down to me from my sweet mother in law
Item #4 - Annika Drape-Front Layered Knit Shirt by Colorworks (pictured above).
I mentioned on Pinterest that I love winter white. Status: Kept.

Item #5 - Anastasia Confetti Lines Wrap Scarf by 41 Hawthorne (no photo).
Too big, too bulky, too itchy, already pilling a little. Status: Sent Back

I was really pleased with this Fix. Except for the scarf, I loved every piece. And I was secretly grateful that only 3 of the 5 pieces worked. I was able to buy the three things I loved with my referral credit and change. 

If Stitch Fix sounds good to you, head on over, sign up, and fill out your style profile. There's no obligation to buy, no contract, no monthly shipments (unless you request them). You'll be put on a waiting list where you'll wait for an invitation to schedule your first Fix. Then, you might have to wait a little longer, because the next available date for a Fix might be a month or two away. Signing up and filling out your style profile today gets the ball rolling.

Any Toms fans out there? Here's a tip. Toms' youth sizes fit many adults. I wear a women's 7 1/2 in Toms or a youth 5. The youth sizes are less expensive and have a more substantial sole. I've bought Toms in both women's and youth sizes and I like my youth Toms better.  Here's a link to that will give you $20 off your first purchase.

Sharing at Ni Hao Y'all.

I was not paid for this review. I purchase clothes from Stitch Fix with my own money and with referral credit earned when readers join Stitch Fix through links in this post. When you buy your first Fix, Stitch Fix will give you a referral link to share with your friends. The Toms link gets me a little referral love as well. Thanks!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Top Ten Posts That Got You Talking

I love it when this blog becomes a respectful conversation, a community of sorts. Let's take a look at the posts that got you talking in the past.

I asked you to introduce yourselves, and you did! It was so fun to read your comments as many of you were preparing to adopt older kids. Now, four months later, I'd love to hear how things are going. Hint! Hint! If you commented before, I know you can do it again.

OK guys. Why don't you just say what you're REALLY thinking? Just kidding. 
No matter where you stood, you were pretty passionate about this one.

My most vulnerable post to date.

I loved this one because it got all members of the adoption triad talking.

I think the comments show how diverse opinions are on this one.

Humble pie. One commenter pointed out that I misspelled our president's name in this post. 

Tough subject. Brave comments.

A lot of you could relate.

Hard question. This post almost hurt a friend I respect.

Who could have predicted that my most "out of my comfort zone" posts would become my "most clicked" posts. That's exactly what's happened with all things Stitch Fix

So there you have it. The ones that got you talking. Thanks for being part of the conversation.

Do you know someone who would benefit from being part of this community? Perhaps a family considering older child adoption? Use the buttons below to share on FB or tweet this post. Thanks!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Don't Let The Photos Fool You

May I offer a suggestion?

Never go to Party City on Halloween Eve. 

Wenxin wanted to be something cool this year. I think cool actually means "scary." We've never let the kids dress up as anything scary before, but when he got a free pair of vampire teeth at one of Nathan's Boy Scout events, we decided it would be OK. All we needed was a cape and some white face paint. How hard could that be?

Which is how we ended up at Party City on Halloween Eve.

However, somewhere between the throngs of frantic last-minute costume shoppers and the empty shelf where the child's vampire cape should have been and the endless wall of costumes, Wenxin changed his mind. 

He didn't want to be a vampire anymore. 

He didn't know what he wanted to be.

He liked all the gruesome horror movie characters, and I kept saying "no," because we were way out of my comfort zone. 

Driving home empty-handed on Halloween Eve, I began to go through the list of costumes that would be acceptable to me and Mike. When I said "ninja," Wenxin piped up, "Yea, I could be a ninja." 

Mike reminded me that Wenxin's friend down the street was a ninja last year. A quick text to the mom, and Wenxin had the coolest ninja costume ever. Cost to me: Zero.

As for the other kids, we were just as last minute.

Julia's beautiful mask stole the show, even though it was an unplanned purchase just two days earlier. Originally selling for $30, it was marked down to $11. The only one left, it was cracked under the chin.

"This is damaged. Can you mark it down any more?" I asked, because it never hurts to ask.

Final price: $5.50. Julia added a long dress from our dress-up box, and she was good to go.

Katherine went as an injured person -- arm in a bloody sling, foot in a boot, head wrapped in bloody gauze. Even though I'm sad that the days of sweet costumes are over, I think I can live with a little red Sharpie blood. (Katherine's costume was so last minute that she missed the photo shoot. Mike arrived home with the gauze after it was already dark, and Katherine was convinced she was going to miss Halloween.)

Lastly, Nathan, age 13, opted out this year because he just got braces, and if you can't eat the candy, then really, what's the point? Anyway, at 13, it was time.

The other three pillaged the neighborhood and come back with close to 700 pieces of candy. It weighed over 15 pounds. And yes, before bed that night they counted it, sorted it, traded it, and even weighed it.

Don't let the gorgeous photos fool you. We totally winged Halloween this year. And everyone said it was the best Halloween ever. 

OK, maybe not everyone. Pretty sure Nathan didn't say that.

Last minute Halloween costumes for everyone for under $10. Works for me.