Greatly Blessed

Greatly Blessed

Friday, November 25, 2016

Our Before and After China Weeks and Thanksgiving


We managed to do school work right up until I left for China.


Jack and Hannah, working on Geography.


We're 21 weeks into a 36 week book, only 13 weeks into our school year.  I have no worries about finishing this one, despite them taking time off from Geography while I was gone.


Our last Art project prior to the trip was Lonely Highway from the 4th grade Home Art Studio DVD.


As you can see, it was about perspective.  They used sharpie and watercolor pencils.  Interestingly, we see a view much like the top picture every year when we drive to Nevada in the summer.  Except there are no power lines.  Or anything else.  For miles and miles.


Our first art project after the trip was also from the same DVD.


This project was about differences.  The difference between organic and geometric shapes,


and the difference between warm colors and cool colors.


Miss Katie hit a milestone this week!  Remember her phonics program?  She's done with book 2 now!


We'll be starting book 3 next week!


Really, I promise we do more than just art in our homeschool.  But who wants to take a picture of kids scowling at a math book, right?


The camera comes out when they're making things.


Like this 3D sculpture, which, honestly, was kind of a flop project.


Still, there's value in experience and following directions.


Hey, look!  It's Josiah!  While I was in China, he got injured at boot camp.  The army sent him home and said he could try again in 6 months if he wants to.  Both boys' cell phones needed fixing, so we took a trip to the phone store.


Brianna did a mini masterpiece on black canvas with the Kwik Stix.  


Silly panorama shot of everyone at the Thanksgiving table.   I thought about trying to get an actual picture picture of everybody on Thanksgiving, but without Zach's family and Annaliese here, I guess my heart wasn't really in it, because it never happened.  


I printed some Thanksgiving coloring pages, and we colored between the main meal and the pie course.


I teasingly said we were going to have a coloring contest and the winner was going to get the biggest piece of pie.


They took me seriously and did their best coloring.


Eli even brought out extra light.  Plenty of pie was had by all.


This guy totally beat me at Star Wars Battleship.

Still getting over jet lag (I'm up at 4 most days), still trying to process my experiences in China, still working to get back into the home and homeschool routine.  But I'm pretty excited to be at my lowest weight in at least 2 years.  I'm almost at the 40# goal I set for myself in June.

Now comes all the Christmas shopping, crafting, and preparations.  I think most years I see the holidaze as an interruption to our structured world.  I'm hoping to embrace the chaos this year and be more relaxed about what gets done and what doesn't.  It's been a long time since I've really enjoyed Christmas.


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Thursday, November 24, 2016

Doing Assessments in the Baby Room


On this trip, not only did I get the opportunity to see parts of China I hadn't seen before, and meet new friends who are just as passionate about orphans as I am, I also got to meet and interact with dozens of kids.  One of the ways was through the assessments we did.


I'm not a child development specialist, but I've been parenting for a quarter of a century, and I've been around a lot of kids during that time.  We took some 3 on one time to see each child and get an idea of what they could do.


Things like copying a + sign or a circle, stacking blocks, identifying colors, etc.


It was a low pressure environment designed to get a feel for whether a child was on target with their peers or not.


I love the way each advocate or nanny would cheer on the child they were helping to assess.


And I loved the opportunity to capture photos of the kids shining.


We hope there will be files coming soon for some of the kids that we did assessments on.


When that happens, each child will get their own advocacy post, letting families know all about them and how they can be adopted.


This little boy has Apert Syndrome.


Because his hands are fused, he couldn't complete the fine motor activities we were looking at.  But we still got to dress him up and love on him.


And we took some pictures just in case they decide to make a file for him.


My darling Finley showed totally age appropriate stranger anxiety and did the toddler, "You not the boss of me!" thing.


Stack the blocks?  No, thank you.  I'd rather eat them.  Isn't she precious?  I'd scoop her up in a minute if I could.  Our agency director feels she'll probably be placed domestically in China, since her "special need" is such a non issue.  I keep telling myself that's a good thing; she won't lose her language or her culture.


Puffs bring out the fine motor skills in just about everybody.


I loved the way certain advocates clicked with certain kids.  We all tried to love on everybody, but there were pairs that made you smile.


Some kids struggled with certain tasks, and it was hard to tell whether it was from lack of ability or lack of exposure.


I really hope our agency gets files for some of these kids soon so they can find families.


And this little love muffin?  Spent the entire morning in Shannon's lap while we did the assessments.  Such a precious little doll baby!


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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

An Outing to the Park


As a counter balance to yesterday's heavy, teary post, today I'm sharing with you about a fun day.


We got some of the kids dressed up and took them out to a local park.


This little guy's advocacy name is Paul.  He has Down Syndrome, and he was my buddy for the day.

Now, before we go any further, you need to understand a cultural difference.  In the US, you hear park, and you think, "playground."  Not so in China.  In China, park means adults doing tai chi.  It means old men playing mah jong.  If you do see equipment planted in the ground, it's just as likely to be exercise devices, intended for grown ups.  You may see concrete ping pong tables.  But you're not likely to see swings and slides at your typical local park.


This it totally a Chinese park experience.  This man, and several others like him, are writing out poetry in characters in the blocks of the pavement.  They're doing with brushes that have water in the handles.  Their work will evaporate as the day goes on.  I saw this going on at a couple different parks this trip.


Waiting for the rest of our team to arrive.  We were kind of a spectacle.  Not as many Westerners visit China outside the provincial capitals, and to have a bunch of funny lookin' foreigners out with a bunch of special needs kids was quite a sight to see.


Writing with sidewalk chalk.


Shannon with Ella.  <3  Ella.  Oh, this girl!  I'll have to do a post just for her soon, but I left a piece of my heart with her, too.


If you've been reading along since the start of the trip, you may recognize this pair.  This is Tina and her new son, Nathan.  You'll see another picture of them when I get to the Hong Kong photos at the end of the trip.


As we walked through the park, we heard musicians playing traditional Chinese instruments, and even people singing.


We brought along some things to help entertain the kids at the playground-less park.  This is Daisy, who also has Down Syndrome.


Blowing bubbles.  This was a universally popular thing to do with all the kids we met.


Hey, there's Tina and Nathan again!


As we walked along, we came to a lake.  On the left, sitting on the wall, is Morgan, a neat young lady, who was a real asset to our group.  She was born in Beijing, and adopted to the US as an older child.  She was helpful in translating for us, and she had a lot of energy to keep up with busy boys.


After our walk through the park, we took the children to lunch at McDonald's.  The kids passed the time with play doh.


The advocates passed the time taking pictures of the kids.  Roland recently had eye surgery.


Ordering food was quite the hilarious ordeal, and for some reason our table's order took forever to arrive.


Eventually, we all got fed.  It was fun to see the kids' personalities come out.  Daisy, who was so excited about the prospect of french fries that she had to be assured over and over that she was going to get some.  One little guy, who cleaned up any hint of a mess.  Another who slurped down a packet of dipping sauce.  They're all funny and endearing.

The restaurant staff even brought out free mini ice cream cones for the children.  I like to think that in some tiny way we were helping to change societal perception of special needs.  Of course, I'm pretty sure Chinese people in general think Americans are crazy, so no knowing what we'll do next.  This was several days before the election, and while we were in McDonald's, the television played a clip of our Orange Emperor and his Fierce Opponent.  It was a little embarrassing.


After lunch, the nannies took the kids back to the orphanage and we caught a city bus back to our hotel.  Being out and about in China is always fascinating.  You always see interesting things, like this street vendor, sampling his wares.


A mobile pet store near the bus stop.


And there's the bus!  It was quite full, so our team had to stand.  All part of the adventure.


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