November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving in Nebraska

Liam shows his beautiful great grandmother the wonders and magic of the iphone.

October 07, 2010

The final photos of our home renovation

A long time ago, back when we started our house project - I started out the documentation of our lengthy home renovation process. You can see the posts under our House Renovation link on the right side. But I never took any final photos. Well, someone else did - a talented architectural photographer, Jonathan Jackson ...He made our house look great. What a talent. Our architect submitted our house and it was chosen for the AIA tour this year, and Jonathan Jackson was the official photographer of the tour. The tour apparently sold between 4000-5000 tickets. That means thousands of people walked through our home. Umm....strange. But years ago, the AIA tour is what originally inspired us to hire an architect and start our home project, so we were happy to let them borrow our home for the weekend (even though it was awkward to have so many strangers in our home).

Get ready for our little tour... You can call this number to get the audio
that goes with this tour. (provided by AIA) . Call 512.590.8362 (USA number) and enter #3 to hear about the Chan house.
Here are a few photos.

As a reminder, this is what the house used to look like. Nice, huh? Looks like it has been through a war. It was actually just a hailstorm. And it has a few years on it.

And here it is today. Now we just try to keep it clean and free of bird droppings.

A lot of people don't realize this, but our wonderful Architect, Hugh Randolph - worked hard on the re-design of the front part of our house. He transformed the front of the house to look clean and traditionally modern- Americana. We like the front because it's simple and blends in with the neighborhood. It usually causes surprise in people because of the ultramodern design inside and in the back of the house.

The above and below photos weren't taken by JJ - but I found them (not sure who took them). The above garage was a project/story in itself. We wanted to save our live oak tree (Texans - you know how valuable live oaks are to us) - so we built the garage around the tree. We realize most people don't do this- but we are happy that we made the decision. We wanted to use the garage as a pavilllion (and keep it empty except for cars) for parties and also for outdoor play with the kids. It has been a great outdoor shelter from the heat in the summer when kids want to play outside. It also has been nice to drive into a clean and white garage - what a strange concept, huh? We are using a shed for garage storage.

Can you guess where the bathroom is? Hmmm... I don't think any visitors have been able to find it without assistance.

We have a secret James Bond door for our bathroom. And we're not exactly sure why.
In our previous house, our cabinets were original circa 1927. Let me tell you, cabinets have come a long way since 1927. We don't have wood shavings sprinkled on top of our pans every time we open the drawer above the pot cabinet. Ahh, clean pots.
The Chan family in action. The bar shelf you see below is a preserved pecan tree from Shady Grove RV park in Austin (a special spot that has been a sentimental victim of the condo madness in downtown Austin)...our little attempt for a story.

William's favorite part of the house - the media cabinet.

The screened in porch - aka - the cat room...also aka the "art room".

And that's it...a few final photos of our long house project. Maybe down the road, I'll post a few pics of our current construction project in my favorite room - the playroom. Friends and family, hope y'all will visit us soon.

September 25, 2010

Liam turns TWO and raises money for Ethiopia

We had a party for Liam's 2nd birthday! It was also a fundraiser for Ethiopia - Glimmer of Hope, a nonprofit for Ethiopia that was founded here in Austin. Liam raised over $2,000! Here is Liam's fundraising Page. Want to donate? He is still raising money!

Here are some photos of our 1st "real party" at our new house. Photos were taken by our cherished friend - Deji. Mr. Walter, Liam's musical hero and teacher - played with his band while children played along with them with music instruments and pots and pans. We also had an auction of Ethiopian items brought back from my recent trip. The smoker was cooking for hours ...ribs, brisket and chicken...mmmmmm. It was so good that we had no leftovers. Liam had a great time at his party. So did Mom and Dad.

September 12, 2010

Orphan Delegation in London and Ethiopia

I had a unique opportunity to attend an orphan delegation (there I am above... I cropped others out b/c they probably don't want to be posted on my blog - hah!) between the US, UK and Ethiopia involving government, nonprofit and business leaders in all countries. We started out in London meeting at Legatum Institute, a global think tank, and then traveled to Addis Ababa for more panels, meetings and opportunities to meet with those that are being impacted by the poverty and orphan crisis in Ethiopia. Various news outlets ran the story from AP - here's a quick quote: " a high-level U.S. delegation — led by Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Susan Jacobs, the State Department's special adviser on children's issues — came back impressed from a visit to Ethiopia last month in which they met President Girma Wolde-Giorgis.
"What's encouraging is they want to work with us, they want to do it right," Jacobs said in a telephone interview. "Other countries should look at what Ethiopia is trying to do." (David Crary)

It was very interesting and enlightening to be there and experience what's going on with the orphan crisis - from a government and NGO perspective. Here's a link from the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia that discusses the delegation:

Here are some links to others that were involved in the orphan delegation - these links discuss some of the activities and discussions and discoveries.

Being an adoptive mom, it was a very emotional trip for me - going back to Ethiopia after I had connected so strongly with the country and had adopted my son. I could write for hours about the trip - but I'll keep it short - just some info towards the adoptive community. From my perspective, the most important lessons from this delegation for adoptive families were these:

1. As adoptive families, we must be very careful and discerning about choosing an adoption agency when pursuing international adoption. The agency should always be nonprofit - in other words, the organization should not be depending on any income coming from "adoption fees" in order for their organization to survive. Make sure the organization is charitable and focused on raising money for orphan care (specifically for non-adoptable orphans), alternative care and increasing domestic adoption and foster families in their country.

2. If we have adopted or are considering adoption from another country, we must be willing and committed to adopting that country as well. Meaning, we must stay connected to the country for our children and our family. As a family, and as a group of adoptive families in the world - we need to communicate this to the population of our adopted countries. I'm not so sure countries realize that many adoptive families (at least the ones that I know) are very committed to their adopted countries (through service, visiting, and establishing lifelong connections as well as bringing in the culture into their own families).

3. The definition of adoption in Ethiopia (and in many countries, including the US) can be misconstrued, misunderstood and even perverted. For example, some cultures don't view adopted children as "equal" - but instead as a family "helper". We as adoptive families need to change this. The definition of adoption needs to be re-defined culturally on an international basis. A very simple legal definition (love it when the law brings it on our side) is this: "To bring a person into a specific relationship - to take another child as one's OWN child."

4. We as adoptive families can look at opportunities in participating in cultural exchange student programs from our adoptive countries. Hosting students in our homes will help us learn more about our adoptive country and also build relationships- and may offer future opportunities of our own families being hosted in our adoptive countries. Anyone interested? Let me know!

Overall, I believe that adoptive families need to come together as a strong force - a group that represents all of the adoptive families - to communicate to countries, to governments and to general people. One that is not affiliated with an agency, an NGO....just families - healthy adoptive families. What exactly would be communicating? . . . who we are.
Sometimes there are some dramatically false (and good for a story) opinions about the character and motives of families - I've heard many. Maybe people will realize that a majority of adoptive families aren't exactly
*farmers in Idaho who are looking for child laborers
*trendsetters who are desperate to improve our "open-mindedness" image for Hollywood and whomever else
*shady basement dwellers looking for bait in our trafficking business
*do-gooders who want to call themselves a heros or rescue teams.
*world dominators who want to create more purebred Americans out of foreign babies.

We are simply people who love and care for our families with all of our hearts...and have chosen to build our families in a different way - through adoption.

I took a break from the delegation to visit the slums. Here's one clip of an 80 yr old grandmother whose children had all died from AIDS. She was left with 10 grandchildren to care for - and they were all living with her in this "house". There were cots lined up against the walls up to the ceiling...and the ceiling had holes in it with water dripping through down to the dirt floor. Yes, it was heartbreaking.... along with many other experiences.

I also was able to visit Liam's original nanny from the orphanage. It was priceless - I am so grateful for our meeting. She is an amazing soul and I am very thankful for her time in Liam's life. I was able to show her recent photos of Liam!

September 03, 2010

DTE - for Baby #2!

What does that mean? That means, we have officially completed our US paperwork for our 2nd adoption with Ethiopia. The paperwork is called our "dossier". Our dossier is officially in Ethiopia .... so we are "officially" waiting for Liam's little brother. We hope to get our referral (a match with a baby) sometime between 4-6 months. The journey of adoption is not predictable, so who knows what will happen - but that is the current best guess. Here's our photo with the UPS guys who do all of our notarizations and paperwork. They are near our home and are father and son.
Here's the FIRST photo from when we sent off Liam's dossier .....
It's a very special moment for an adoptive family.