Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

 (okay, this time I will add a few words:  please pray that this little superhero will be ours!)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Happy Chanukah!

Today, our "guest lecturer"/nanny, Leah shared her family's traditions with us.  I can't tell you how excited the kids were (especially Olivia).  Leah celebrates Chanukah and made us some yummy food that she usually prepares at this time of year.

 She made Latkes and Matzo ball soup -- the best I have ever tried.

As you can see below, the kids loved it.

Well, not all of the kids....Ellie decided to stick with a hot dog.  You can't win them all!

Leah also taught the kids about the Menorah, and  -- the biggest hit -- the dreidel game.  Woo hoo!  It was hoppin' around here.  happy Chanukah, everybody!  Thank you, Leah, for sharing with us!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Trip to Arizona!

I have tried to find the time to blog since we got home last weekend, but there just never seems to be a moment.  I would love to hear from other moms who blog:  how on earth do you do it consistently?  I need some advice.

Anyway, we (well , just me and the 3 oldest kids) just spent 4 days visiting good friends in Phoenix.  It was so nice to get together with my best friend from college and her kids.  My friend Zoe and I really try to get together once or twice a year, despite the fact that we live on opposite ends of the country.  One of the nice things about this is that the kids are developing memories and lasting friendships with their "Phoenix friends."

 And, I must add, that is was nice to spend some time in the beautiful weather.  I am usually a big winter fan, but this time Phoenix was just so beautiful -- high 70's, dry, sunny -- that I didn't want to come back to a Jersey winter.  Nicholas clearly loves the warm weather.  He looks pretty happy, huh?

Zoe planned for us to go to a beautiful holiday celebration at the Desert Botanical Garden.  It was called "Las Noches de las Luminarias."  The entire garden was lit up in Christmas lights and live music was playing -- everything from jazz quartets to mariachi bands.  While Zoe and I sipped on glasses of wine, the kids ran ahead of us through the garden.  It was so fun and definitely made some memories for the kids.  They have never seen a Christmas celebration exactly like that before!

Once again, I am so thankful for our schedule this year and that we actually had time to do something like this.  The kids were so well-behaved on the plane (even on the way back, when we were delayed 4 hours!), and I truly believe that part of this is due to the fact that they are not exhausted.  I also hope that being home is helping their behavior in general.  Things are just so much more consistent in general, as well as the fact that they are learning to get along with each other better.  I was proud of the way they handled their manners and how they resolved the inevitable disagreements that took place. I told John jokingly (or maybe not!) that this was a field trip under the heading of "character training." 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Interview with Olivia

Olivia, age 8

Hi Olivia.  How are you?
Well, good.

How do you like homeschooling so far?
Well, it's good but I miss a lot of my friends at school even though we have a lot of playdates.  But, it's really fun.  And we get to finish early so we get to do all of these fun things.

Like what?

Going to the park.  Kidstown.  The zoo.  Chinatown.  Visiting my grandparents.  Stuff like that.

So what do you miss about going to school?

Pizza Thursday. The Olympics.  I liked watching everyone in the talent show but I was never in it.

Do you think you are learning a lot in our homeschool?

Yes, because everyone in my old school is not learning everything that I'm doing.  And I'm learning everything so quickly that we might do 2 years in one!      

Okay, just one more question about school.  How can we improve our school?

Pizza Thursday (giggles)!  Getting a pool in the backyard...

Ask Dad about that one.  Okay, I will change the subject now.  How do you like being 8 years old?

I just feel like all my friends.  I just feel like how everyone feels...

What do you imagine you will be doing with your life when you are a grown-up?

I want to be living with Nickie and Dave (aunt and uncle), and I don't know what I want to be yet.  Maybe I'll have 2 kids.

Do Nickie and Dave know about these plans?  Anyway, what do you like about being the oldest in our family?

I hate it! I have to take care of everyone.  Dad asks me tons of favors and I get the most work!      

I thought I said "what do you like about it?"

Oh, well...I love having a cute little sister.  I like getting to do things first, like reading.  

Okay, that's it.  Thanks for answering my questions today!

You're welcome! 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

He did it!

I have read many times that one of the best rewards of homeschooling is watching your kids reach a milestone.  And today that is just what Nicholas did!  He finished his first reading book.  What is most significant to me is the transformation that has taken place since September:  from a very reluctant reader to one who begs "Mom, can we do our reading first today?"  Wow!

I am so proud of you, Nicholas!  Oh, the places reading will take you!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

Cousins: Lucy, Ellie, and Ruby (clockwise)
 This was the first Thanksgiving that John and I have held at our house.  It was so fun to have the whole family together -- 20 of us in total.  YiaYia and Papou (John's parents) cooked up a storm, leaving only a few tasks for me (and Olivia) so I can't complain at all.  What a blessing to be able to give thanks for all that we have with all of our blessings in our home!  It was truly a special day.

Two years ago, John, Nicholas, and I left for China on Thanksgiving morning.  We were on our way to meet our new baby girl, Ellie.  While it was sad to not spend the holiday together, we were so excited to finally meet Ellie after waiting for her for 5 years (she was only 13 months old at the time, but we had told Olivia she was getting a baby sister from China when she was 3 years old...instead she got 2 brothers, but she was patient and finally got what she always wanted!)  Anyway, we will always associate Thanksgiving with our trip to our precious daughter and will always be thankful that we get to celebrate this holiday together.

Papa and Nicholas
dancing Lucy

cousins Peter and Lucy
my sister Natalie and my squishy niece, Lucy

yum yum - the feast begins

Theia Nickie with Peter, Olivia, and YiaYia

Natalie, George and their gorgeous kids

John's cousin Spero and his cute son, Gerry

Ruby is hysterical

Nicholas loves Ellie so much.  A bond that first began 2 years ago when we met her in China.

So very very thankful this year!!

"The thankful receiver bears the fruitful harvest" - William Blake

"Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever." (NIV)   -- Psalm 107:1

Monday, November 12, 2012


Hurricane Sandy and then a subsequent snowstorm kind of threw a wrench in my perfectly mapped out curriculum schedule.  We lost power for 6 days, but that is nothing compared to what some others had to endure (some still have no power; some lost their homes entirely).  While we were able to do a bit more school than most (the schools were closed; ours is never closed), we did not get done as much as I had originally wanted to.

Then, we were hit with a snowstorm.  And while this really shouldn't have affected our school day at all, I just had to let the kids play in the snow.  And play they did, all day.  I wish I had taken a picture or two.  But I think I was still catching up on all the laundry that had piled up during the power outage...

One of the best lessons of homeschooling so far is flexibility and learning to manage interruptions.  When you school at home, you are not in the same cocoon-like environment offered by a school building.  The phone rings, the delivery guy shows up, the dog throws up; life is just all around us.  We have to just bend with it and redirect.

When Olivia was born, I simply had no tools for dealing with interruptions.  I was so angry when things did not go as I planned.  Olivia was a horrible sleeper.  She did not sleep through the night until she was 16 months old, and she simply did not nap unless I was holding her.  Even when desperation lead me to the Ferber method (i.e. I let her cry it out), she would cry for 30 minutes, nap for 15 minutes, and then wake crying again.  This would send any new mother into crazy-land, but I was beyond crazy.  I was just so utterly frustrated that I could not clean the house, or read, or work out during her naps as I had planned.

So I stopped planning.  I just gave up.  it was my way or the highway. I stopped working out, stopped reading, stopped cleaning the house (sorry John).

This was not the answer.

If I had applied this way of thinking to homeschooling, I would have quit long ago.  Every day, something doesn't quite work out the way I planned.  But, I've learned that when one child is resisting reading on one day, often she is quite willing to do double on another day.  If one child struggles with a new math concept and I simply cannot push him any longer, when he gets it, he can zip throw a worksheet. I find that if I look at the whole week, rather than at what I wanted to do each day, I am much more encouraged.  We usually catch up by Friday.

This cannot be said for last week.  We got a week behind.  Instead of panicking, as I am prone to do, I just will try to look at the month instead of the week. We'll add a little more in each day -- or on most days -- and hopefully we'll be where we should by Christmas.

I continue to keep learning alongside my kids.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Dinner Is Served

I am loving Plan To Eat, a website that helps you to organize your menu, gather recipes from websites, and make a meal plan.  It is so easy and not very expensive at all.  Perhaps I am just happy to be in my (new) kitchen, but I thank this website for helping me to get dinner (along with breakfast and lunch) on the table 5 days last week.  And that did not include mac 'n' cheese or frozen chicken nuggets, thank you very much.  And, thanks to our schedule this year, I am actually getting the kids involved in meal prep.  This is usually Peter's thing, but Nicholas has gotten into to it too.  I imagine his future wife thanking me one day.

Your welcome.

Friday, October 19, 2012

More time

 Hands down, my favorite thing about homeschooling is that we have more time to do things that we want to do.  Like decorating pumpkins.  I am ashamed to say that last year we did not have, or make, the time to do that.  And the kids did not let me forget it.
 This year, we took advantage of a beautiful day and took to our front yard for some Fall fun.

 As you can see, each kid's personality was expressed on his or her pumpkin.

 I subtly work in some character traits I want to see in them as we do stuff like this.  Here, Nicholas is being helpful -- and he is proud of himself.

As Olivia decorated, she was muttering the six times table under her breath.  I did not ask her to do this; it is just something she is working on.  And, like me, a lot of mind-work gets done while doing something creative.  Its like one part of your brain is occupied and will leave the other part alone in order to do its work better.  Nicholas does something similar when he paces or wiggles while decoding words (reading). This reminded me of my now-favorite educational quote by Charlotte Mason:  "Self-education is the only possible education; the rest is mere veneer laid on the surface of a child's nature"  Olivia was teaching herself while I was merely trying to have the kids decorate for Halloween!

Monday, October 15, 2012

6 candles

Today is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Tonight at 7:00, the Wave of Light will occur across all time zones as we light a candle for those that left this world too soon. 

Nothing has changed me more drastically than losing 6 pregnancies.  Until then, I gotta admit, I led a pretty charmed life and I believed that hard work and good intentions paved the way to a happy life.  But it turns out, it is not that simple.  Life can be hard (much harder, I freely admit, than what we have gone through) and neither your diligence, your intelligence, nor your heart much matters in determining what you are dealt.  

Of course, how you deal with it is all heart.  

I was such a realist, such an agnostic, such an individualist.  God, spirit, charity, selflessness: none of it meant much to me.  But, when I had to dig down deep to get through our losses, I found something.  It took me a long time to identify that as God, but that is what it is.  

When I walked up those stairs in Langfang, China and saw Nicholas for the first time.  That was God.

When I attended my prenatal testing for pregnancy #8, with total peace in my heart, that was God.  I knew no matter what the outcome, it was all good (and, thank God, Peter is a healthy boy!)

Even  - smaller things - when the economy crashed and we thought John was out of a job, that there were few jobs in his field even in sight, that we would have to sell the house etc. etc....when I just exhaled and trusted, that was God.

So, alongside grief, I feel gratitude for my lost angels tonight.  It took a lot of repetition but I think I finally got the many lessons my babies' deaths were meant to show me:  

God exists.  

Life, for the most part, is shallow and fleeting.  

Love is the only real thing.  

I am meant to be a mother.  A mother of many.

I can relate to the grief and the horror and the complexity of the decisions that birth mothers have to make for their babies.  My kids' birth mothers are my sisters and I honor them.  

Everything sucky that happens is a gift in disguise.

I am beyond blessed.

We do school photos, too!

During this transitional year, I wanted to replicate a lot of the things that the kids might miss from school.  One of the things that topped the list was getting a school photo.  Who knew that was so important to them?  Thank goodness it was something relatively simple.  While I couldn't come up with a blue background, we decided that the outdoor fall light is better anyway.

Olivia, Grade 3

Nicholas, Grade 1

Peter, Kindergarten

Ellie, 3 years old

Class Photo.  I guess I should be in it, holding that little board that reads "Ms. Reid, 2012-13."  But, alas, I am the school photographer and although I wish I could be 2 places at once, it hasn't happened yet.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Can't Explain

It's hard to explain to anyone how I feel the way I do about this little guy.  We have only met once, and couldn't speak the same language.  He was too shy to even really make eye contact with me. But I adore him. And I ache to be his mama.

I understand -- at least intellectually -- that bringing home a 6 year old will be hard.  He does not know what it means to live in a family.  To have siblings.  He will need to learn English, to learn our culture, to learn to trust.  He will be grieving the loss of his friends and caregivers (once again).  He will be scared.

My other kids will have to make room in their already well-established sibling dynamic.  They will have to share Mom and Dad some more.  They will have to stretch to understand a little boy who has a lot of adjusting to do.  They will have a lot of adjusting to do themselves.

But I truly feel like I just have to bring this guy home.  It feels beyond my control, really.  Every step I have made in this adoption process has been compelled by thoughts and emotions that just won't leave me alone.  Or let me sleep.  Or let me leave my poor husband alone.

I pray every day for Elijah's heart.  That his heart has not been broken to a point of no return, by all of the moves he has been forced to make, by all of the attachments that have been broken, all of the goodbyes unsaid.  I pray that he was not traumatized by the surgeries and hospital stays that he had without parents there to hold his hand, and to be there when he work up from anesthesia, to reassure him that the pain will go away.  Perhaps he had a loving ayi with him during those times?  I hope so.

I am excited to see how Elijah's life unfolds.  I know God has a plan for him.  I hope it is with us, but perhaps it is not.  I place it all in God's hands and continue to work on my own trust issues.  Trusting in the process of life.  Trust in God.

101 in1,001

The Mission:
Complete 101 preset tasks in a period of 1001 days.
The Criteria:
Tasks must be specific (ie. no ambiguity in the wording) with a result that is either measurable or clearly defined. Tasks must also be realistic and stretching (ie. represent some amount of work on my part).
Why 1001 Days?
Many people have created lists in the past – frequently simple goals such as New Year’s resolutions. The key to beating procrastination is to set a deadline that is realistic. 1001 Days (about 2.75 years) is a better period of time than a year, because it allows you several seasons to complete the tasks, which is better for organizing and timing some tasks such as overseas trips or outdoor activities.
The Start Date:
The End Date:
Goals in progress are italicized, goals completed are bolded


  1. Attend Church  9 times in a row
  2. Take a Christianity 101 class
  3. Complete a Bible Study
  4. Read book of Mark
  5. Read Book of Matthew
  6. Read Proverbs
  7. Read Book of Psalms
  8. Begin day with devotions/prayer time 21 days in a row
  9. Join a church 


  1. solo trip with John
  2. visit Zoe twice 
  3. Visit Dana NM
  4. 'Christmas party' three times- fun with college friends!
  5. return all emails at set time -- 30 days/row
  6. remember friends' losses
  7. write to Aunt Margaret x4
  8. date night with John 10 times
  9. monthly date nights with John
  10. send birthday cards to 15 friends/family ON TIME!
  11. three overdue emails/calls


  1. Redo master bathroom
  2. Redo John's bathroom
  3. Redo Basement bathroom
  4. redo kids' bathroom
  5. decorate guest room (or turn into girls' room)
  6. new couches for basement
  7. redo desk area in basement
  8. curtains for master bedroom


  1. Complete all 34 weeks of homeschooling
  2. Help Nicholas to learn to read independently with joy
  3. Go on 5 field trips
  4. establish 3 homeschooling traditions
  5. do 12 art projects
  6. do 12 science experiments
  7. teach Peter to read (beginning level)
  8. teach Olivia to ride a bike
  9. teach Olivia to multiply and divide with ease (jncl memorizing mult tables)
  10. 2 (long) book reports with Olivia 
  11. read 3 homeschooling books I already own

Feeling and Looking Good

  1. white strips - 30 days/row
  2. do hair/makeup/nice outfit -- 2 weeks straight
  3. give myself a pedicure x3
  4. eat vegan for one week
  5. Isagenix to a "T" - 3o days
  6. run 1 mile without walking
  7.  run a 5k
  8. take a yoga class
  9. get to size 4/125 pounds
  10. drink 8 glasses of water/day - 21 days/row
  11. try one week of gluten-free diet
  12. work out 20 min 4 times/week for 30 days (Dustin Maher)
  13. Go to Onsen for soak and massage
  14. scrub and moisturize feet for 21 days/row 
  15. schedule and go to dentist, ob, dermatologist, and GP


  1. consistent chore routine for kids -- 21 days
  2. establish clean up time - 21 days
  3. morning routine 21 days/row
  4. evening routine 21 days/ row
  5. set up a meal plan and follow for 1 month
  6. set up mudroom
  7. organize bathroom supplies
  8. organize desk drawers
  9. complete Brook Noel Extreme Home Makeover
  10. 30 day fast from spending (other than essentials) 
  11. do one 'all out' week
  1. another adoption!
  2. Read Close Kids
  3. Read Grace Based Parenting
  4. read The Mission of Motherhood
  5. read Shepherding the Child's Heart
  6. read Parenting from the Inside Out
  7. spend alone day with Olivia
  8. spend alone day with Nicholas
  9. spend alone day with Peter
  10. spend alone day with Ellie
  11. throw surprise party for Olivia


  1. Complete Ellie's Lifebook
  2. make Peter's 4 year old album
  3. make Ellie's 5 year old album
  4. make Nicholas' 6 year old album
  5. make Nicholas' 7 year old album
  6. make Olivia's 8 year old album
  7. make Ellie's 2 year old album
  8. make Ellie's 3 year old album
  9. blog for 30 days in a row 
  10. take art or writing class at Arts Counsil
  1. Hot air balloon ride
  2. Build a snowman
  3. Dress up for Halloween
  4. Girls trip to Vegas
  5. Have a picnic in the park
  6. go to the movies by myself x3
  7. take kids to Broadway show
  1. visit elderly neighbor 3 times
  2. Complete ten random acts of kindness for someone who isn’t a family member
  3. take kids to do service in community
  4. visit a friend in the hospital
  5. send care package to orphanage in China or Uganda
  6. serve for a week in a Chinese orphanage
  7. raise money for 2 CFF Great Strides walks
  8. invite new family to area over for dinner

Description at the top shamelessly copied verbat

Thursday, September 20, 2012


People keep asking me how homeschool is going, how I like it.  And, truthfully, what comes to mind is, "I am free!"  I feel so unburdened and light.  Not the answer many might expect.  I am not a martyr.  I like "me-time."  I like quiet.  But homeschooling, so far, is less stressful than driving the kids to school and keeping up with all of the classroom activities, homework, field trips, papers, playdates, and parent association responsibilities that schools generate.  I would rush around all day getting things done for the kids -- things like gathering photos to be sent in for projects, getting lunches packed, making parent-teacher meetings, answering parent emails (little things that, when added together, take all day long) -- and then I would fall into bed exhausted not having spent any real time with them that day.  I was stressed out getting them up and out the door in the morning, stressed out driving from one school to the next, stressed out picking them all up and getting to various after school activities, and then stressed out getting dinner made at the end of the day.  And, since Ellie is still only 2, I did not have that "me-time" in the middle of the day that others think I am giving up.

So, right now, homeschooling is just freeing.  We get up and, yes, we are busy all day long,  Yes, I am a little stressed as I juggle 4 different kids' needs (and sometimes those needs all arise at the same moment!).  But, for me, that stress is nothing compared to the anxiety that getting my children prepared and off to 4 separate spaces each day.  I suppose it is just a personality thing. 

I like the unity of our life right now.  There is one schedule, one home base, one set of standards.  Yes, the kids have separate after 'school' activities, because -- in moderation -- it is nice for the kids to have their own space, a little break from the family.  But, all in all, I know what is going on with each of my kids.  I don't constantly feel like I am trying to play catch-up with what is going on in their lives. 

I feel this newfound freedom in my bones.  I am just less tense, muscles less clenched.  I feel at peace with our decision.  THIS is what making an authentic decision feels like. 

PS I think the kids like it, too

Sunday, September 16, 2012

It has to go up from here... has been an interesting week!  I had meticulously planned out our homeschool day, even to the point of making each child his or her own daily to-do list.  Everything was off to a great start.

 We sat in our "classroom" and started to work on our portfolios.  The kids each have a 3 ring binder that will showcase bits and pieces of the work they have accomplished this year.  On the first day of school, I had them fill out a questionnaire (which I got here) and asked them to decorate the cover.

Even Ellie got in on the fun!

 They all sat nicely and got their first project done.  Phew!  This homeschooling thing is not going to be so bad, I thought.

 Then I sat down to do our individual lessons:  one-on-one time for math and reading.  I started with Nicholas, because he is the biggest morning person and tends to poop out earlier.  He is just starting to read, so every word takes a lot of concentration. 
After about 2 or 3 minutes of work, BOOM BOOM BOOM came from overhead.  Debris showered from the ceiling above.  (Did I mention that we are having our kitchen renovated?)

 I tried to rally through the noise, hoping it would stop soon...but, alas, it was not to be.  So we took it outside, for science.  I read to them on the front porch about rock formation;  about the differences between Igneous and Sedimentary rocks.  Then we went on a rock hunt, to see what we could find in our yard.
 The kids practiced their skills of observation.

 And recorded their findings in their science journals. All in all, it went okay.  I did not complete what I had planned, but at least I was flexible (and did not have a complete meltdown, as I have been known to do when things don't go my way).  I gave myself a gold star for that.

Unfortunately, the next day got worse.  As we were trying to get school going again, things started to smell really bad.  Yes, smell.  The staining and application of polyurathane on the floor above not only reeked, but gave us headaches.  We had to get out.

Long story short, we spent the remained of the week at a Staybridge Suites.  I tried to homeschool there -- we actually got a little bit done -- but it was far from ideal.

The best thing about homeschooling, is that we can just adjust.  I reworked our 34-week schedule back one week and we will start over again.  Deep breath in, deep breath out.