Wednesday, May 28, 2008

We might be at the half way point...

4 months of waiting down and hopefully only more 4 months to go (I won't complain if it comes sooner). Many, many Children's Home Families received their long awaited referrals the past two weeks. It is so awesome to see their joy and excitement on our agencies online forum. I can't wait to read about their travels this summer to Ethiopia. It is always so cool to see families meet their babies for the first time. The emotions are so strong and wonderful. One of the best things in life if you ask me.

On another note, I got a call of World Refugee Services this afternoon. It looks like Raniz and his family are coming to Chicago and coming very, very soon. This is totally overwhelming and exciting. Brian and I are not quite sure what to do with ourselves. Our case worker strongly recommends that Raniz and his family live with us in the beginning. I think she used the words "more successful integration" to motivate us. How does it work when another family comes to live in your house for who knows how long? How do you prepare to help war refugee assimilate? I have a hundred questions and I am not really sure where to start. But, I am total jazzed that I get to be apart of this family's journey. I am now totally, 100% sure that 2009 is going to be interesting. Iraqi family in the basement, new baby in the nursery, preschool for Noah - who could ask for anything more? Not me...and to be clear I am NOT asking for anything more!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Too Cute

The "Summer of Leah, Brian and Noah" is in full swing now! We're totally enjoying being just the three of us. Noah got his summer hair cut after two failed attempts by Brian...he kind of looks like a Marine, but I still think he is cute.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

This may really be the land of opportunity

Some of you may know the story about the man, R, that I worked with in Iraqi while deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003/2004. But for those out there that do not, I want to share a bit of the back story before I share the great news.
My unit relocated to Mosul in January 2004 from down south. Mosul was occupied by the 101st AA Division led by GEN Petraeus at that time. Under his expert, exceptional, amazing leadership (can you tell I am a BIG fan of the guy?), Mosul was a relatively peaceful city quickly progressing to pre-war functionality. From my point of view, the system that GEN Petraeus and his commanders set up was to flood the local population with money (for services provided) to help assist in a quick return to normal life. The idea is if "they" are not hungry, "they" will be less likely to help the bad guys. So, men in the thousands would report everyday to the several different base camps throughout Mosul to work for "good" money moving dirt, cleaning offices, organizing equipment, pumping fuel, parking vehicles, building buildings etc. By good I mean Iraqi good not US good just to be clear. One of my job was to keep my unit fully supplied so that the mission could be accomplished successfully - nothing like creating a link between toliot paper and victory (Classic This American Life episode on this point). In the beginning, it was possible to go to the market and buy various supplies with no problems except the mass of excited children asking for "Mister, Mister Pencil Please."
When the 101st returned home and the troop numbers continued to drawn down...much like the support back home...things started to change. Iraqi's were left to defend themselves against the quickly increasing number of increasingly sophisticated insurgents coming into their country to kill Americans. The best way to sum it up the position we put these good people in is "if you can beat them, join them." Needless to say I could no longer go to the market to pick up a few printer cartridges. This is how I met R. He came to our base one day and offered to pick me up a few things. The relationship developed and soon he took over my job. If toilet paper really is mission critical, this man was the key to our mission success. Seriously, without R my unit would not have been as effective and your son’s & daughter’s would have surely done without on many important fronts.
After my unit returned home, things for R quickly turned south. He received numerous death threats, his wife was sexually assaulted, his car and house were vandalized all because he supported the US lead war effort. He and his fled to Jordan and then Sryia hoping to get asylum in the US. Fat chance in 2005. Don’t you remember “we declared Victory in Iraq and there should be no reason for Iraqi citizen asylum in the US” (direct quote from Sen. Obama’s office). Nice.
Things have started to turn a corner for those Iraqis living as refugees in places like Syria. For R and his family hope abounds. The Syrian UNHRC is working to get R a travel date for official immigration to the US. He had is official US immigration physical last week. R and his family could be in Chicago in less than two weeks!
Can you imagine starting a new life in the US? Going from refugee to life in the US – what a transition. Brian and I are praying that God will use our family to help R in a big way. I don’t know what that will look like but join me and pray for this family. Pray that they get granted asylum in the US. Pray that the next few weeks everything falls into place. Below is a picture of his sweet daughter - I can't wait to meet her.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

One major step

Monkey George is in big boy undies now and so is Noah!! That's right folks, my baby is officially taking charge of his own bowel movements. It's been a great week. (a big, big thanks to my sweet neighbor for sewing George's undies)

I don't know if you know, but I am really, really into throwing parties. The idea of a potty party was great for me because I KNOW how to throw a great party...not so much knowledge on potty training a 2 year old. Given Noah's recent obsession with bugs it was easy to pick the party theme. I can say with confidence this is the first party I have hosted that centered around the potty. It was kind of fun to work my magic in a new location.

For entertainment, I set up the camping tent in the family room and I rented & wrapped every potty book/DVD from the library. After lunch Noah got tired of opening up his potty present's b/c they all had the same theme, same pictures, same boring main point...ALWAY put your poop in the potty. We did this a cheer every 3 minutes - "Where does poopoo go, Poopoo goes in the potty." It was a fun, life changing party from the little man. I'm thrilled to get back $40 a month (no more diapers) to spend on shoes . . . or gas.

For the grand finale, we moved the party to one of my favorite locations (I mean least favorite locations) - Chucky Cheese. There were over 200 people there and the visual, audio stimulation was over the top. Noah was in heaven. He even used the potty twice at The Cheese.

I am really proud of him and happy to see him grow into a big boy. Way to go Noah! Keep up the good work.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

So Cool

Being apart of this kid's life is so cool (he is looking for buggies).