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, March 31, 2013

Safe Families, 6 weeks in

Photo taken by Miss A during a play date last week.

This is the last night the little ones will be here.

My emotions are all over the place.

I will miss them.

I got an email from Walgreens with a coupon for a free 8x10" picture collage, so I made one with Sassy Girl, Mr Jingle Pants, Sparkle & Fluffy, and these 3 guys.  

We'll likely be taking a break from hosting for a bit until after Katie and Luke are well settled in, so I wanted something tangible I could see as a reminder of our Safe Families extended family.

I know there are seasons of life, and I'll likely be able to get back to it eventually, but I've really really enjoyed being able to be a host family.  It's something I can point to that feels like it's making a difference.  

What will I miss about these guys?

I'll miss the girls' wispy, out-of-control hair.

I'll miss the suck-suck-swallow pattern I hear when Gogo has his bottle.  The first time I sat in the rocking chair giving it to him, the sound transported me back to my breastfeeding days.  It sounded just like nursing.  

I'll miss feeling Miss No's breath on my neck as she snuggles up to me during worship at church, and waking up to her blonde mop of curls peering over the crib rail at me, talking gibberish in her cute little voice.

I'll miss celebrating the little victories as we see Big Sis achieve new things.  She's saying BEAR now, thanks to Teddy Grahams.  She's sitting on the potty every time we do group diaper changes.  While her pull-up is always wet, she does "produce" about half the time.  This is huge for her, and all thanks to Miss S, as I wouldn't have messed with it, had she not tried it with some success when Big Sis was at her house.  

I feel like we've made so much progress (mostly with the girls) since they've been here.  Routine and consistency have helped them know what to expect, and they've settled in nicely.  I hope that their next transitions go smoothly, and that they can continue to gain new skills and experiences.  

As Paul read the Easter story from the Bible at dinner last night, something jumped out at me.  Jesus said, "The poor you will have with you always."  I had a squirmy Gogo on my lap as he was reading, and my first thought was that we certainly did have.  But then His meaning hit me.  He was saying, "You'll always have the poor, but you have to make a special point to put Me first."  Convicting.  God, don't let me get so busy doing good things that I forget to spend time with You.  

I think the chance to reset our version of normal will be a good thing for our family.

But I'm still gonna miss the little buggers.

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Friday, March 29, 2013

How about a Katie picture?

Seriously, is she not just the cutest thing?

I'm getting so excited.  

After this, I have just ONE more unshared picture of her.
But, our agency is requesting an update, so I'm crossing my fingers that we'll get some new ones next month.

I can not wait to go get her.

Two more months, two more months, two more months.

As soon as our temporary littles leave, I get to drag out the suitcases and pack all of Katie and Luke's things!  Last time around, all of Hannah's stuff was packed by now, but I've been a wee bit busy this time, and honestly, there's just no room for me to spread suitcases all over right now.  Once the crib is empty, though, I'll put them in there.  

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Maybe I need to work on my definition of RESPITE

I wasn't sure I'd make it before Easter, but the littles were gone this morning, and I managed to finish.

Cheap and easy matchy match outfits for Easter Sunday. Pink is Big Sis, lav is Miss No, and blue is Gogo, of course. I had high hopes of making something combining the leftovers for Hannah to wear (patchwork, maybe) but it's just not going to happen.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Our Safe Families kids 5 weeks in

Celebrate with me!  Miss No is talking!

She is saying her version of "thank you" much more consistently at meal times. Sunday, we had not one, but TWO new words from her: "sock," while getting ready for church, and she spontaneously told Brianna "bye bye" when Bri went out my bedroom door at bedtime. So exciting.  And today, she said, "ALL DONE!"  I feel like they're finally settling in and starting to thrive.

The kids are getting better about playing, too. There's a long way to go yet, but it's a start.

Gogo scrounges floor food every chance he gets. He inspires us to sweep very regularly.  He likes cat food.

I shared some of these pictures on Facebook, but for those who haven't seen them yet:
Aren't they precious at nap time?

Yes, that's a cloth diaper on Gogo.  I was running out of disposables and decided to make the switch.  Problem is, these guys are BIG.  Most of my diapers and covers from Jack and Hannah don't fit them.  So there's some trial and error going on, but at least with 3 in dipes, I have enough dirties to wash often, right?  I was looking at toddler prefolds on Amazon, but was taken aback at the cost, so I went into the sewing room after the babies were in bed and made a couple "prefolds" out of knit terrycloth.  Perfect texture for using a Snappi.  

We used to get a whole lot of this from Miss No. Now, she happily settles down with a board book and chatters to herself. She's really thrived on having a routine and knowing what to expect.

before (I took this the first week they were here)
imagine angry wailing and drool dripping on the floor

after (taken just a few days ago)

It's not all sunshine and roses, of course. She still tells me no occasionally when I ask her to help clean up before lunch or dinner. However, the plus of having a huge family is positive peer pressure. My kids are pretty good sports. They'd come into the kitchen and I'd say loudly, "Are you hungry, Eli? Do you want to eat?" They'd answer yes, and I'd say, "Go pick up 5 toys, and I'll give you your plate." They were great about modeling right responses, and the mess shrunk really fast. Miss No soon realized that if she wanted her plate, she was going to have to help, too. She's gotten decidedly more helpful in other ways lately, too. Putting trash in the garbage for me, putting Gogo's bottles on the kitchen counter, things like that. She's a sweetheart. I just think she's not used to having anyone place expectations on her. It's been a privilege to watch her blossom from an angry, sick little cranky pants, to a funny, cute, sweet little cuddle bug.

One of our Safe Families respite caregivers offered to work one on one with Big Sis, to try and help her past some of her delays.  I jumped at the chance.  She really needs someone pouring into her and as much therapeutic play as possible.  So Big Sis went off to Miss S's house today, and came home having played and gardened and GONE POTTY IN THE TOILET TWICE and having had a wonderful time.  Folks, this is huge.  Miss S and I are trying to mesh schedules to make this happen regularly.  Big Sis NEEDS this.  I'm so thrilled for her to be given this chance to bloom.

We're being told we'll only have them another week, but we'll see what happens.  Again, open hands. If this is the last week, at least we're doing everything we can to help them while they're here.  Please pray that God's will would come about in their lives.  Obviously, I can't get into specifics here, but God knows, and I would so appreciate your prayers for their situation.

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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Beautiful girl

I haven't had a chance to post much lately, but when Bri and I were sitting down to play a game of Blokus while dinner cooked, we saw the orange cat against the green yard, and I realized it was that perfect sunlight time again.  I got the itch to take pictures, and she happily obliged me.

It's funny how I don't see it until I'm looking through the lens, but she's turning into a beautiful young lady.  The top one looks a little bit like my baby sister.  

I'm so thankful it's springtime and the kids are able to get out in the fresh air and sunshine more now.  

Linking up with:
Ni Hao Yall
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Friday, March 22, 2013

Oh help

It's spring break.

For the next 9.5 days...


and this

will be home, bored all day.

All week next week, I really will have 10 kids all day (and all night).


That's not entirely accurate.

Hannah's school doesn't do spring break.

So twice a day, I'll have to remember to drop off or pick up Hannah.
Should be fun times.

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Retail Therapy

Paul recognized the wild look in my eyes that comes from staying home with the children for too long and let me have a little time out recently.

As usual, when I put my shoes on and ran a rake through my hair, Brianna appeared and wanted to go with me.  
Wherever there were no crying toddlers.  
I caved, of course, and let her come with me, but I'm not sure Toys R Us is the best place to go if you're trying to escape crying toddlers.  

When Zach was little, he used to call it "Toys Fer Us!"  Man, I miss him.

I actually had the foresight to write down Katie and Luke's weights before leaving the house, so I was able to pick up some 'sposies.  I'm planning to take some disposable diapers with me to China, in case we don't have time to shop before receiving the first of the children.  We'll use cloth diapers when we're at home.  I had fun adding some cloth diapering items to our Amazon Wish List the other day, to keep track of for later.  

After wandering about in the diaper aisles, I turned my thoughts to travel, and picked up a few little things.  I've always loved "matchy" things.  While Katie and Luke aren't going to be twins, they would qualify as Irish twins (less than 1 year apart), and wanting to minimize fighting, I purchased two of the same thing in different colors.  Balls, bubbles, and toothbrushes, so far.  

Sunscreen and bug spray were on sale, so I also bought those.  Last time we were in Guangzhou, I got horribly bit up when we walked through the pet market.  I picked up some Burt's Bees natural insect repellent to hopefully avoid that this time around.

We have an end date for our hosting.  It's over a week away.  After the little ones go back to their parents, I am looking forward to pulling out all the tucked away treasures I've bought over the last 8 months of waiting and deciding what to pack for the trip.  I really hope that the sizes I've guessed for the children are close enough to work!  

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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Just Keep Swimming

I had half a blog post typed out on the iPad yesterday, but I lost it.  It was going to be about retail therapy, but when I sat down this morning to reconstruct it, this is what came out instead.  

This was originally going to be "Katie's Dresser."  

Right now, the top drawer is full of Gogo's clothes.  
Hey, they're in the drawer.  Folding is for people with 2 kids.  Don't judge.

Second drawer is full of Miss No's clothes.  I left some of Katie's things in here for Miss No to use, since they're close in size.  

The upshot of hosting is that I've realized that unconventional solutions work just fine for kid clothes storage.  (Which, one would think that I'd have learned by now, given that one of my sons keeps all his clothes in a huge rubbermaid bin under his bed.)

Big Sis's PJs are in the bottom cube, her shirts & dresses are in the upper purple cube, and her pants are on the little shelf.  The green cube is random baby stuff:  Stink Sacks, the baby headrest pieces from the double stroller, extra wipes, etc.  

As you can see, our host kids are still here.  Open hands, open hands, open hands.

Miss No is really liking our collection of board books.  So much so, in fact, that she will lay down with a book and chatter herself to sleep instead of always needing an episode of Blue's Clues on the iPad every nap and bed time.  I have to admit, I'm going to miss this blonde mop of curls peeking over the crib rail to wake me up.  Even though she can be a stubborn as a brick sometimes.  ;)  

Funny anecdote:  So last night, I have the 3 amigos in the tub, and I'm sitting on my sewing room chair about 5 feet away from the bathtub, checking email on my iPad.  I hear one of the girls say, "Ew, nassee."  I think to myself, "Odd, usually the only time I hear them say nasty is during an icky diaper change."  Then it hits me.  Crap.  I get up and look, and Miss No hands me a turd.  Awesome.  You know you're a mom when?  

Big Sis is having a hard time.  The last few days have been rough.  She's decided that she's not going to cooperate with me, and you can imagine how well that goes over with me.  Please pray for her.  I feel sorry for her because there's so much she just doesn't understand.  But that doesn't make it any less frustrating to try to communicate with her.  

The babies have a playdate (respite care) tomorrow morning.  I'm going to try to cram as much group schoolwork with Brianna, Eli, and Jack into those couple hours as I possibly can.  Even though what I really, REALLY want is a couple hours alone in my room to go through Katie and Luke's stuff that got packed away before the babies arrived so that I can start packing for China.  I know it's 2 months away, but I want to make sure we have everything we need, and packing their stuff is something I can do now while we wait for our paperwork to finish winding it's way through the labyrinth of immigration and approvals from 2 governments.  

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Quick Update

We're being told once again that the babies might be leaving.  Obviously, we've been down this road before.  I'm not packing all their stuff this time until I get the "we're on our way to pick them up" text/call/email.

Last time, I didn't want them to go.  This time, I have mixed feelings.  There's a part of me that wants to start "nesting" for my own babies, Katie and Luke.  I am ready to sort and pack for China.  I am ready to start crossing things off my lists again.  I am feeling the pressure to get caught up on homeschooling so we can finish our year before I go to China.

I have very mixed feelings right now, and if you could pray for me, I would ask that you pray peace for our family regardless of what happens today or tomorrow with our host kids.  And, of course, be in prayer for the little ones, and their family.  That all the things that need to happen there would fall into place.  Thank you.

In other news, our matching grant is FULLY FUNDED!  A huge thank you to everyone who helped us reach our goal in just two weeks.  We are humbled and touched.  May God's abundance pour down on all of you.

Linking up with:
The Ramsay Grace Blog

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Sunday, March 17, 2013

How to freak out the Fed Ex guy

I meant to post this the day our LOA arrived, but my time in front of the computer is so very limited lately that if I had to go find the camera and download the picture, I never would have gotten anything posted.

But for the sake of posterity:

Yes, I photographed the Fed Ex guy delivering our adoption documents.  I'm sure he thought I was totally crazy.  And I'm okay with that.

In other news, I think our matching grant may be fully funded!  I have to wait until Tuesday to find out for sure, but I'm pretty sure it's hit $1,000.  In a mere 2 weeks time!  Yeah, God!

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Saturday, March 16, 2013

3.5 Weeks In

Our "borrowed babies," or our Safe Families kids, have been here three and a half weeks. We're settling in to our new routine.

It's a bummer to have chosen their pseudonyms so early on, before we "knew" them as well as we do now. I would absolutely change Miss No to something a little less negative. She's a sweetheart, with a good spark inside of her. There's still a lot of "NO!" from her, but there's a lot of compliance now, too.

Big Sis is making progress. It's neat to see and hear new things from her. I still feel strongly that she needs services and she's still a seriously delayed little girl, but she's teachable to some extent, which is encouraging. She's getting better at dressing and undressing herself. She takes her bowl & spoon to the sink. She puts her dirty laundry where it goes. We're working on putting 2 words together now. (Yes, she's 3.5 years old.) We've done, "Night night, [sister's name]!" the past couple of nights. She willingly repeats the Night Night part, and has to make several tries to get sister's name on there at the end. Tonight we tried, "Night night, Ese!" as we passed Annaliese on the way to bed. It took a few tries, but she got it! I still can't get her to say Auntie.

I'm seeing a lot more smiles from Miss No. She likes me. And she's a snuggle bug, which is fun. Baby Gogo is a snuggle bug, too. In fact, one day I was holding Big Sis through a raging tantrum, and both Miss No and Baby Gogo climbed up on either side of me on the couch and leaned on me.

Still working on some food issues these guys have. Gogo wakes up cranky and wants food instantly. I have a feeling he may have been used to getting a bottle first thing in the morning. They want to eat All.The.Time. I'm not sure how much of it is boredom and how much of it is insecurity about food availability, but we're working on it.

Speaking of boredom, these guys don't know how to play! Ack! It's getting better, but they seem to think PLAY is a 4 letter word because if I tell them, "Let's go in the playroom," or "Go play," they often just stand there and cry. Now that the weather is getting nice, we're playing outside a bit more, but the first couple times I took them out, they just stood on the patio like, now what?

Logistically, it's a whole lot of "Just do the next thing." Big Sis's clothes are in 2 little cube drawers and a shelf, and Gogo has a drawer and Miss No has a drawer in what was set up to be Katie's dresser. Socks and shoes are kept in the changing table. The girls came with velcro tennies, and I got them each a pair of white dress shoes for Sundays. Gogo had a bad owie on the back of his foot when we got him, and by the time it healed up, he'd outgrown the shoes he came with, so he's been wearing booties that I bought for our China babies.

Actually, being in preparation for Katie and Luke has been a big help to us with this hosting. We already had much of what we needed, and it has been a real eye opener to see what the logistical challenges may be after they come home.

Like homeschooling. Just. Not. Happening. At least not all of it, and not regularly. Brianna and Eli are keeping up with math on the computer, and both boys are sorta kinda keeping up with handwriting. I need to figure out a way to make this all work. Maybe as the weather gets nicer, we can do more downstairs in the playroom and outside.  Need to get to the library to stock the older kids up on fresh books, too.

Mostly, we're just taking one day (sometimes one hour) at a time.  It's a lot of work, but it's rewarding work.  Still no idea how long they'll be here.  And that's okay.  We'll just worry about today, and see what happens with tomorrow when it gets here.  

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Guess What We Got?

The same day that our agency (Madison Adoption Associates, love them) called to tell us we got the update on Luke, they also shared the exciting news that Katie's LOA had arrived!

Our caseworker sent a message to their staff in China to check in and see if Luke's LOA was in the works.  The idea being that we would file the next paperwork for both kids at the same time after we got both letters.

Katie's LOA was issued 3/7, which was 51 days after LID.  Luke's LOA was issued 3/12 which was 8 days after PA.

And now they're both here!! The next step is to file the I800 (immigration) paperwork with USCIS.

Paul signing Luke's LOA

From here until TA (travel approval, permission to come to China) is about 2 months, so we're expecting to travel in June.

We've received $385 toward our matching grant, and we have $615 to go!  If you're able to help, it's greatly appreciated!  Thank you!

Hang on, babies!  Mama is coming!  

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Just a little something I made from blog words.  :)

Today we're at $385 for our Brittany's Hope matching grant! Only $615 to go!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Adoption Progress

It's funny how there are long stretches of waiting and then short bursts of frantic activity and excitement in this process.  This morning was one of those bursts.

I received a call from our adoption agency this morning.  We got the update on Luke that we asked for on March first!  So we have current height and weight and other measurements, including foot length and number of teeth!  

This little guy has 12 teeth now!  And weighs 7# less than Baby Gogo, even though Luke is 2 months older than Gogo is.  Judging from the new numbers, it looks like Luke will be in size 18-24 months clothing when we travel.

Also, our Matching Grant balance is $165 now!  $835 to go!

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Saturday, March 9, 2013

More About Our Matching Grant

I'm very excited about our matching grant from Brittany's Hope.  So far, we've had 2 donations, totaling $65.  Thank you!

"Wait, you've been fundraising to bring home ONE child, now suddenly you're bringing home TWO??"  Actually, that's a reasonable question.  I wanted to do as much fundraising as possible to convince Paul that we would be able to afford to bring home both children this trip.  Which really IS more cost effective than back to back adoptions, where you have to travel twice.  We are fully committed to both children, having promised China to take good care of them.  We will do whatever it takes to get them home.  We have invested over $15,000 in the process so far.

So many people have said, "Oh, that's so great that you're adopting!  I wish we could."  or  "That's so cool that you're hosting, I'd like to do that someday."  Please consider this as an opportunity to come alongside us in our journey and be part of our story.  Your gift is a huge blessing and encouragement to us.

How, exactly, does it work?  Let me present you with 3 scenarios:

Scenario 1
We raise $879, not quite meeting the $1,000 goal.  Brittany's Hope sends a check to Madison, our adoption agency for $879, and we do not get any matching grant money.

Scenario 2
We raise exactly $1,000, meeting our goal, and Brittany's Hope sends Madison $2,000!

Scenario 3
We raise $1,245, exceeding our goal.  Brittany's Hope sends Madison a check for $2,000 and the $245 extra goes to help other families adopt.

Make sense?

How are we planning to raise the funds?  We have our community garage sale coming up next month, where we will sell both our own stuff, and stuff donated from friends.  All money from that event will go to Brittany's Hope and count toward our $1,000 goal.

We are also hoping that you will consider donating.  Donations are tax deductible.  Go here, select Special Needs Adoption Grants from the pull down menu, and enter Paul & Shecki Bernard as the recipient family.  Thank you!

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Friday, March 8, 2013

Or Not

Remember when you were in high school and someone would say, "Omigosh, __________ is totally looking at you!" and you'd turn around to see and the person would laugh and say, "Psych!"?  Well, that's sort of how planning goes when you are hosting.  Earlier in the week, it looked like the babies would be going back to their parents yesterday.  Now, they could be here another month or two.

I'm trying to hold this very lightly, with open hands.  They're here today, and that's all I need to worry about.  I have Easter outfits planned for them, but I hesitate to try to actually SEW them, because I know I'll be horribly disappointed if I actually make the outfits and then they're not here at Easter.

We had friends over yesterday who have 6 kids, and her baby (right) is close in age to Baby Gogo (left).  2 moms and 13 kids make for a fun outing.  I didn't even attempt a group picture.  

Brianna let Miss No help her make brownies.  We're going to just take this one day at a time and see what happens.  

In other news, Big Sis went to the doc yesterday, and has double ear infections.  I'd really like to get the other two in, as well, but they still have no medical cards.  They've been sick ever since we got them, although I'm dealing with less snot now than at first.  I can't seem to get Miss No's ringworm to go away with over the counter goop.  

I let them get away with things I wouldn't have allowed my other kids to do.  I try to tell myself it's because I've realized what does and doesn't really matter in my old age, and it's not that I'm just too tired to stop them.  With Hannah the rule has always been, no movies in the mornings.  We do morning chores, homework, and she can play upstairs or downstairs until going to school, or until lunch on non-school days.  After lunch comes naps, school pickup, and snack.  So usually the tv/dvd player doesn't go on in our house until about 4 p.m.  I'm typing this at 10 in the morning, with Gogo on my lap, to the tune of The Rescuers Down Under playing downstairs.  

Some days you do what you gotta do, I guess.  This movie has bought me enough time to get caught up on a little paperwork and some homeschool record keeping.  My students are limping along in math, handwriting, and health mostly on their own.  The babies have a play date Sunday afternoon, and I'm hoping to get a little intensive school time in while they're away for that.  

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