A large family, homeschooling, adoption, special needs, whatever strikes my fancy, sort of blog.

A large family, homeschooling, adoption, special needs, whatever strikes my fancy, sort of blog.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

I get it now

As a young homeschool mom, I never understood the line in the Christmas song, It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year that says, "And Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again!"

I liked my kids.  I was with them all the time, and yes, sometimes I needed a break, but I felt that if they went to school all day, I'd miss them.  Besides, I was Doing What I Was Called To Do.  I was a Wife and a Mother.  Yeah, I had a lot to learn.

That was years ago.

Fast forward to now, when I've had a week solid of a high-energy teen boy who is usually in school.  Suddenly, it makes perfect sense to me.  I really am looking forward to school starting again.  I miss our routine.

Yet another example of how I've had to learn the hard way not to judge other parents for doing what works for them.

It's hard.  As moms, we have sooo many influences telling us what we should be.  In just the last few weeks, I've read (and maybe this is my problem; I follow too many blogs) that:

--I should be successful if I want my children to be successful.
Um, okay?  I'm not sure that success if what I want for my kids, and I'm not sure how one would go about defining what successful looks like.  Seems pretty subjective to me.

--The old idea of the Proverbs 31 woman is bunk.
This was actually encouraging until you get to the part where you're supposed to train your husband to praise you for everything you do.  If you've met my husband, you'd be laughing.  He's hard on everyone, and very hard on himself.  You do what you're supposed to do, not because someone is going to tell you you did well, but because that's what you're supposed to do.

--That we should do something about Russia's ban on US families adopting from Russia.
This is frustrating, because no one seems to know exactly what it is that we should do, just that we should do something.  I agree, but I feel pretty powerless.  My heart breaks for the families who have already identified their children, maybe even visited them.  God's heart breaks for those children left in bleak circumstances I can barely bring myself to contemplate.

Then there's the whole Pinterest thing.  I haven't given in to that yet.  I don't WANT another source of feelings of inadequacy, thankyouverymuch.  I don't want to see all the amazing things I could be doing if I wasn't sitting in front of the computer.  It seems like even facebook and blogs have become, "Hey, look how great I am!  I did this!" complete with pictures.  I'm just as guilty.  I've got a post brewing about the things I've been sewing for Katie.  I don't mind people saying, "Wow, she has All Those Kids and still finds time to sew!"  But the last thing I want is for some sad mama in the trenches of toddlerhood look at my blog and feel bad because there's just no way she could sew her childrens' clothes right now.

It's about seasons.
I've been the young mama.  I've walked in awe of mamas with large families.  I remember having "stamp envy" at a MOPS meeting where everyone stamped a blue heart for each of their sons and a pink heart for each of their daughters on their name tags.  My tag only had 3 hearts, and I remember gazing longingly at a mama with half a dozen hearts on her tag.  Now I'm in a different season, one where I have 8 children, with a 9th on the way, and sometimes a couple of extras.  

I remember meeting other moms who had babies in February of 1997.  We had a big meetup in Monterey, and I was so amazed at one of the mamas who had sewn her daughter's dress and matching hat.  I gushed on and on about it.  All the while, thinking, "I'm inadequate because I can't sew."  Guess what?  I can sew.  I just didn't know it at the time.

Paul and I watched 2 families in our small church in Santa Rosa adopt internationally.  I was fascinated, and I remember saying that I would love to adopt someday.  I'm sure both mamas pretty much laughed at me on the inside.  I was perpetually pregnant at the time; why on earth would we adopt?  At that season, when we were breeding like bunnies, and usually broke, it was laughable.  But here we are a decade later, doing just that.

We're all a work in progress.  There's a song I love, called I'm Not Who I Was that's a good reminder of this concept.  I look back at who I used to be and pretty much cringe in embarrassment.  And yet, we all have to go through those times to emerge with the wisdom of age.

If I were to add to a Mama's Set of Commandments, it would be something along the lines of, "Judge not, lest ye awaken later and find yourself doing the exact same thing you're looking down on now."  Like counting down the days until your teenager goes back to school.

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Friday, December 28, 2012

New Katie Picture and Adoption Update

With all the excitement of Christmas, I missed posting a Tuesday picture this week!

My Katie girl!  What a little sweetheart!

I have mixed feelings about this picture.  On the one hand, I'm glad to see she's up and mobile.  On the other hand, I'm concerned that she's damaging her foot further by walking on it upside down.  I'm anxious to get her home and start the casting process to get it turned right side up.

We still have Hannah's walker, from before she got her prosthetic leg, so at least Katie will have that option available to her before she gets her prosthetic.  Mostly, I anticipate wearing her in a carrier or using a stroller when we're out, and that she'll crawl at home.  I'm not sure what we would do for shoes if she insists on using the walker outside.  But we'll happily cross that bridge when we come to it!  First we have to get to her!  

Paul took the bulk of our dossier down to the Chinese consulate in San Francisco the Wednesday before Christmas so we could have it processed the slower, cheaper way while we waited for that all-important final piece:  immigration approval.

I had emailed USCIS to let them know we were fingerprinted a little early, and ask if our case had been assigned to an officer yet, but I never heard back from them.  

Christmas Eve, we got an envelope from Dept. of Homeland Security.  I was so nervous that we'd gotten an RFE (Request For Evidence) and that there was some delay we'd have to address, but turns out, it was our APPROVAL NOTICE!  I was so thrilled!  

Yesterday, the kids and I took a photocopy of the approval notice to be notarized ($10) and then ran it up to the Secretary of State's office to be certified ($26).  Now, all that's left is authentication.  Paul will run it down to the consulate on Monday, and do same day service ($50) on this one piece, and pick up the rest of the documents that are waiting for us there.  

Once copies are made, we'll send off the whole thing (13 documents, plus photographs of our family, passport photos, and photocopies of our passports) to our agency on the East Coast.  They'll take a look at it and make sure it's perfect, and then send it off to CHINA!  

The paperchase this time around has been harder, emotionally, than last time.
I absolutely cannot wait for that dossier to be out of my hands.  

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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Me, the kids, and my mom. :)  Looking forward to Christmas with Daddy tomorrow.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Homeschool Weekly Wrap Up, Kenya week 2

A light bulb over my desk burned out, and Paul changed it for me.  
By standing on a narrow ledge over the stairs.  
It was hard to watch.

This week we made tribal masks as our Kenya ornaments for our around the world Christmas tree.
This was the child who decided that watching Madagascar should count for school since we're studying Africa.  Thank you, Netflix, for allowing me to humor him.

We started with a base of thin cardboard, recycled from the packaging of all the Christmas shipments that have been coming in lately.

Brianna was inspired by the Kenyan flag, and made a shield and spears design.  

I offered the kids coffee beans and told them they could use any art supplies they wanted.  
Jack chose paint.

Dressing up in playsilks!

Sparkle and Fluffy were back here for 4 days this week.
They're fun and cute, but we definitely don't get as much school work done with little ones in the house!  Makes me a little nervous about what next school year will be like, after Katie comes home.  

It seems this was the week for heights for Paul.
He also decided to hang up a painting his mom gave him last time he visited her.  

not my photograph

Tonight, we drove around looking at Christmas lights.
The teens are thrilled to be out of school for a couple of weeks.
A holiday atmosphere has taken over the house.

No homeschool, and therefore no Weekly Wrap Ups for the next two weeks.

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Friday, December 21, 2012

Hannah's Christmas Program

Getting ready to leave this morning.  She must have told me 4 times, "Thank you, Mommy, for buying me this beautiful dress!" (I bought it last year, but it was too big for her then, so she hadn't seen it yet.)  

And at the show.  

Yes, this was about the best shot I got.  I thought, having an aisle seat, that I might be able to get decent pictures, but...

The aisle ended up filled with parents taking videos.  

But she did a great job on her first stage performance, and I'm very proud of her.  

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Linking Up With A Place Called Simplicity

I follow an inspirational blog called A Place Called Simplicity.  Linny, the mama, has a heart for the orphan, and is doing a linkup to help adopting families.  If you feel led to donate, you may make contributions through the Reece's Rainbow button on the right. 

1.   Tell us a bit about the child you are adopting - including this treasure's age and name {Please post a picture if allowed.}

This is our sweet Katie girl.

This picture was taken over a year ago.  Katie turned 2 in September.

2.  Is the child you are adopting considered "Special Needs"?  

Yes, Katie has limb differences.  She has club foot and amniotic banding syndrome.  She will need a prosthetic foot and serial casting/surgery upon coming home.  She may also need some surgical revision on her affected fingers.

3.  What country or geographic area are you adopting from?


4.   Have you adopted before?

Yes, this is our second special needs adoption from China.  Our daughter, Hannah, also has limb differences.  We also have 7 biological children.

5.   How close to travel are you?

I anticipate travel in May or June.

6.   Do you attend church regularly?   If so, what type of church is it?

Yes, we've been at Impact Community Church for 9 years next month.

7.    Do you tithe with each pay {at least the scriptural standard of 10%}?

Yes, we have been faithful tithers since early in our marriage.  

8.  This week, did you participate in any way with the day of Praise, Prayer by giving praise on the link and then posting your request?

Yes, I posted both a praise and a prayer, and I took some time to pray for other prayer requests as well.  

9.  Have you read the entire Deadbeat Dad series?  {Yes or No}  Please read it in full, so you can better understand the heart of God for stewarding the money He has graciously gifted us with. 
It is a four part series and can be found here:  Part 1Part 2, Part 3Part 4


10. How did you hear about this Link up we are having? 

I'm a blog follower.  I've actually been looking forward to this since the last Linkup.

11.  Is there anything, briefly, that you would like to share with our orphan-lovin', God-honorin', Jesus worshippin' bloggy friends reading this?

We have such a neat story of how we happened to be matched to Katie, which you can read here.  I just want to say thank you for your prayers and support.  We're very excited to welcome Katie to our family, and I'm so thrilled to watch God work in our family.

Oh, and one more thing!  If you can't adopt, for whatever reason, have you thought about getting involved in Safe Families?  We are a host family, and I love it, but you don't have to host to help!  You can provide respite care, or transportation, or be a liason between family and hosts, or help out with supplies...  These are not adoptable kids, these are just kids whose families are going through a hard time and need a little help.  It's an awesome way to keep kids OUT of the foster care system.  Sorry, is my passion showing?  I could go on and on.
Finally, understanding that each gift received through this "Response Time" has been entrusted generously for our use from our loving Father, we promise, in the unlikely event that we would be unable to or decide not to adopt the children we are advocating for, we promise to return all of the money gifted to us as a result of this link to International Voice of the Orphan so they can, at their discretion, give to other families currently adopting.      

{Please place your initials on the line.} 
Yes, I will submit__SB____             No, I am unable to submit to this ________

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Photo Shoot

I've mentioned my snowflake outfit obsession here before.  

This morning, I decided to take some Christmas pictures of Sparkle and Fluffy, our guests via Safe Families, to send home to Mom with them this weekend.  

I wish I could show you the cute ipiccy collage I ended up with!  
Of course, my printer ran out of color ink as I was trying to print it, grrr!  But I had a new print cartridge and 2 more photo paper sample pages (whew!) so the second try turned out much better.

I was reading this morning about a family who is doing Random Acts of Christmas Kindness this month.  She's right.  It really does make you feel better to do something nice for someone else!

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Tuesday Baby Picture

A huge Thank You to those who've donated to our Reece's Rainbow adoption fund!  We're so very grateful!

And now, onto the picture!

Friday was kind of an up and down day for me, emotionally.  I was thrilled to get everything notarized!  I was nervous about USCIS turning us away from being fingerprinted early.  I was elated that they printed us anyway!  I was touched that Paul was willing to drive back to Sacramento to get everything certified in Friday afternoon traffic.  And then I was crushed when he told me that 9 of our documents were refused.  I was worried about the extra $90 it ended up costing to re-notarize things.  Then I was relieved when he was able to fix the problem and come home with those important shiny sticker pages.

So that's the backdrop of my day Friday.  I opened facebook and found a message from the friend who has volunteered at Katie's orphanage.  She had sent me TWO ADDITIONAL PICTURES of my sweet girl!  For those of you who've adopted, you know how precious even a glimpse of your little one is while you're waiting.  And how those few "before" pictures become very special to both you and your child later, when they're home and processing their story.

The two new pictures were something positive for me to hang on to after a draining day.

Isn't she darling?
The girl in the yellow shirt was part of the volunteer group that my friend was with.  

Weekly Wrap Up, Kenya Week 1

We're getting close enough to Christmas that the kids have started making paper chains to count down.  

And I finally have an idea for our Kenya ornaments for our Around The World homeschool Christmas tree.  Stay tuned, we'll be making those this week.

And a new page in our passports... we're on to Kenya!

Math.  I love having math on the computer, but I'm still hearing, "I don't get it!" far too often, and frankly, I don't want to help them, because *I* would have to figure it out, and well, I'm no good at math myself.  All that to say, I think we're going to switch to Teaching Textbooks next year.  For as many people who've had good things to say about it, it's worth a shot.  

New country means new flags!  

If you notice that some of the sticks are white and some of the sticks are black, it's because originally, I just bought random assorted flags from Oriental Trading Co.  Only the kids came to expect a flag for each county, so I ended up picking up flags for the rest of the countries we're planning to study each year.  

Can you imagine what this will look like at the end of the year?  
And, I may be delusional, but I like to think they'll remember better having actual flags around the whole school year than if they just colored a page, stuck it in a binder, and moved on.  

Come to find out, The Big Boys are going to have a big geography final next week.  So I forced them to play the geography game from our curriculum with us.  Brianna still rocks the house when it comes to maps.  I'm impressed with how many countries Jack has added to his repertoire since the beginning of the school year.  I'm so glad we did a pretest so we can really SEE how much they've learned at the end of all this.  

You have to use your imagination a little bit, but these are Santa Hats.  You take a strawberry, cut the top off, turn it upside down, and put a ring of whipped cream around it and a DOT of whipped cream at the top for a pom pom.  

We celebrated Daddy's birthday this week.  
The gift?  Don't ask.  His mom gave it to him.

Jack Jack went with me to photocopy the dossier for it's trip to the Chinese consulate in San Francisco this coming week.  $16 in copies take a long time to make.  I ended up handing over my iphone so he could play Swampy (Where's My Water?) while I copied.

And Eli maintains his interest in all things aviation related.  
This was an airplane he made from his Sunday School handout.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

Adoption Update

Progress is happening on the adoption front. We've gathered all our dossier documents except immigration approval. This morning, we had an appointment with our notary, and got everything notarized.

This afternoon, we successfully attempted an early walk in with the local immigration office. Not terribly early--our appointment is for Tuesday, so only a couple of days, but next week is finals week for Annaliese, and we had an 8 a.m. appointment. The security guard did a double take at the date and asked why we were early, and when I explained he let us proceed. We were in and out in under half an hour! The place was almost empty, it was an answer to prayer!

After getting back, Paul decided to run our documents up to the Secretary of State's office to be certified.  Only they kicked back several documents because they didn't like the way they were notarized.  :(  And this was after our agency approved them.  SO frustrating!

Paul followed the advice of the Secretary of State's staff and took the docs down the street to another notary and re-notarized them.  Then he took them back to SofS and had them certified. It's a lot of running around to do, but we saved over $450 by doing it ourselves, rather than having our agency do it for us.

This weekend, I'll spend some quality time at Staples making photocopies for the Chinese consulate in San Francisco, and for our agency, and for our records, and then next week we'll take them to the city to be authenticated.

We are getting close to the half way mark! Once all our documents go to China, we get a couple months "break" from paperwork, while we wait for it to be translated and processed. I am so looking forward to waving goodbye to that box of paper!

Please pray that our immigration approval comes quickly, and that none of our funky, over notarized documents get rejected by the consulate. Thanks!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Ready for the next baby picture?

For this week's new Katie photo reveal, I'd like to direct you to our Reece's Rainbow page.

Reece's Rainbow is an avocacy site for children with special needs.  Mainly Down Syndrome, but other needs are represented as well.  Reece's Rainbow graciously works with adopting families to receive donations on their behalf.  As a charity, anything you donate to RR is tax-deductible.  Reece's Rainbow then sends the money donated to the family's adoption agency to go toward their fees.

Here's our page:  http://reecesrainbow.org/43301/sponsorbernard, complete with this week's picture of Katie.  This one was taken a little less than a month after the last photo.  You can see she's still pretty bald here.  We'll get into some hairier pictures soon.  This photo was taken 2 short weeks before her first birthday, still well over a year ago.  You may notice that her limb differences are more obvious in this picture.  We're going to be looking at a prosthetic lower leg/foot on one side, a series of casts to turn her clubbed foot on the other side, and a couple of surgeries to release amniotic banding.  (Imagine a baby getting a rubber band wrapped around a body part before birth, and you have a pretty good idea what this means.)

I look forward to working with Hannah's team of doctors and prosthetists to get Katie up and walking on her own.

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Sunday, December 9, 2012

And a Little Child Shall Lead Them

Jack Jack, or Furby, as he's affectionately known around here, is 8. This morning while I was brushing my teeth, he came into my bathroom to chat.

We started talking about birthdays and Christmas. "Mom? Does Jesus get presents every year on Christmas?"

"Well, no, actually, he doesn't. What do you think He would like for his birthday gift?" I asked curiously.

He paused and answered, "I think He would want more people to listen to the Holy Spirit."

Wow. So do I, little man. So do I.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Homeschool Weekly Wrap Up, Germany Week 17

Not too much excitement this week.  We finished up the George Muller biography we've been reading aloud.  Really inspiring.  A couple of times, I teared up and had to have Brianna read for me for a little while.  

This week, we read about Christmas in Austria, ate Austrian cookies, and listened to Silent Night, which was written by an Austrian, in it's original German language.

I decided our Germany ornaments should be castles.  

So we printed some fold up castle boxes on cardstock, colored them, added a ribbon, and voila! castle ornaments!  (They also have a pre-colored version if you have a child who hates to color.)

Our Around The World tree is filling up nicely.  :)  
Next week, we start Kenya.
Any ornament suggestions?  Maybe something with coffee beans, lol.

Eli was thrilled to have another Nanoblock Castle Neuschwanstein building project.  
Sorry for the lack of detail, he took the pictures himself.
We learned that this was the castle that inspired Walt Disney's castle for Sleeping Beauty.

photo from June 2012

So every time you see this famous castle, think, "Hey, that's patterned after that castle I can't pronounce in Germany!"  You learn something new every day, eh?

Brianna has always liked shiny, vibrant things.  

She decided to save the wrappers from the kisses she unwrapped for a baking project, and will be making a collage with them.  "Found Art" is a nice, cheap motif, right?  

I contemplated waiting to start Kenya (which is set up to take 3 weeks) until after Christmas break, and even went so far as to print some activites for us to do on other countries for a gap this next 2 weeks before school is out for the teens and the kindergartener, but eventually decided I'm okay with starting Kenya now, stopping for Christmas, and picking up again afterwards.  

We will, however be adding something special this week.  

I found this "chocolate passport" at Trader Joe's recently.  I'm thinking these little, single-origin bars will be the perfect motivator to learn about some additional countries we're not specifically covering this year.  I'll break each one into 4 pieces and we can sample chocolates that range from "chocolate chip" to "tastes like dirt" (which Paul happens to like, so I may save my piece for him!).  
Hopefully the kids will gain both geographic knowledge and culinary knowledge in this fun rabbit trail.  

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