Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Rumor...

We just heard that a certain someone's file arrived at a certain government office.

We're not holding our breath because we have heard things before that have turned out not to be true.


it sounds hopeful!

This could be one big hurdle overcome.

We just need one more miracle after this…


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Paperwork Again

And, so, once again I sit down with a stack of paperwork -- no, make that 2 stacks of paperwork:  one from the agency that works with China and one from the agency doing our home study.  I should be good at this by now, but it seems that adoption is a lot like child birth:  you seem to forget the experience, and all its associated pain, once it is over with.

Over a year ago, we decided the start the adoption process for Elijah.  It started as us advocating for him (i.e trying to find him a family, and trying to get China to file his paperwork).  We said that we would start the adoption process for him so that if his file comes along, and no other family grabs him up, we would be able to do so.  The last thing we wanted was for his file to be sent back to China.  The last thing we wanted was for him to live in orphan care forever.

But, somewhere along the line, we started envisioning him as our own child.  Another brother to fit nicely between Nicholas and Peter.  Another brother to aggravate Olivia! We imagined kissing that sweet face.

I know, I know, this is dangerous business.  He is not our son, and he might never be.

We've been waiting a year and still his file has not been listed.  Why?  We're not sure.  Probably beaurocracy.  Perhaps corruption.  We don't know. All we can do is wait.

Our agency explained to us that the waiting could take years (our social worker waited 3 years in a similar situation).  Further, they explained that even if he does become listed, his file will be posted on the "shared list."  This is a list to which all agencies have access.  Once the files are posted, agencies grab the files and whoever gets it first, gets to list the child with one of their families.  So, our agency might not get Elijah's file.  Another agency might very well take his file and match him with another family.

And that is okay with us.

Ok, I might cry a little (a lot) but I will be very happy for Elijah to find a family.  Even if it is not ours.

So, why more paperwork right now?  We are updating our home study to allow us to adopt two children.  Yes, 2 children!  But, it is not as exciting -- or crazy -- as it sounds.  We are simply starting another adoption so that we can bring a child home while leaving our dossier in place for Elijah, should he ever become available.  We decided that otherwise, we would not be able to ever move on to other options.  I am dead set against using the file intended for him for another child until we have exhausted every option for him.  We just can't leave the possibility of Elijah not having a home out there.

So our other option is to start an entirely new adoption for another child.  And, if we start that adoption now -- this time for a child that we have not yet identified -- we actually might bring a little sweetie home in the near future.

Whether, Elijah becomes ours is yet to be seen...

Little story:  we just had to ask our pediatrician for medical clearances for our children for this home study update.  This is the fourth time we have asked him for such help.  He looked at me, wide-eyed and asked "Can I ask why you are adopting again?"

I am so glad that I actually had a coherent answer (usually I giggle and stammer and spit out something trite).  I told him the answer is twofold:  one, we always wanted a large family (ok, maybe I stretched the truth a little bit:  I always wanted a large family and John is slowly warming to the idea…LOL) and two, it is simply heartbreaking to see these wonderful kids in institutions.  We feel a big responsibility to do something about it.

So, I better stop blogging and get back to filling out child abuse clearances and income reports.  Fun fun!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Six years ago today, I finally got my arms around this little guy, my son Nicholas.  The wait for him had seemed agonizingly long.  In truth, we really only waited 18 months from the day we submitted our adoption application to our U.S. agency (others have waited much longer).  But, the years before that were long.  We battled the demons that come with multiple pregnancy loss:  depression, guilt, jealousy, desperation.  

I thought this day would never come.  Oh, what a wonderful day it was!

Even after we started the adoption process, the road was hard.  We started the process in 2005.  At that point in time, China adoptions took 6 months from start to finish (at least that's what our agency was telling us).  But slowly, gradually, silently, the program slowed down.  

I mean, really slowed down.  

It eventually got to about 5 years.  No one, including the American adoption agencies, seemed to know what was going on, why the referrals weren't coming in.

We were waiting for a "healthy" baby girl, which was the norm in Chinese adoptions in 2005 and before.  I say "healthy" with a wink and a nod because, although these babies did not have any clinical diseases or deformities, most of them had all lived in institutions for their babyhood and had a lot of issues to overcome when coming to a family for the first time.  I also put the word "healthy" in quotes because I mean to point out that the children deemed "unhealthy" are not always so. In my mind, a cleft lip or a club foot does not make a child unhealthy, just in need of some surgeries and therapies.  But, I digress…

As we were waiting, I saw a post on one of the websites I frequented for waiting adoptive parents.  It was a suggestion to look at some "waiting children" on a certain agency's website.  Since we were already working with a different agency -- paid a whole lot of money to that agency -- I don't know why I bothered to look.  But I did.  And I found my son.

It was as simple and as magical as that.

We had never considered special needs adoption.  We had never considered adopting a boy (we were told over and over again that it was nearly impossible to adopt a boy from China).  But, I immediately loved this little boy in the picture and felt everything, all of my years of fantasies about the baby I wanted, shift.  It all shifted from abstract to very very clear.  

The little boy in the picture was called Nicholas.  It turns out my boy was never actually called Nicholas, it was simply a name the agency gave him as a reference on the site (better than giving him a Chinese name which no American can pronounce, or an impersonal number).  But, it caught my eye because John and I had always said we would name our first son Nicholas.

I also noticed his birthday:  it was the due date for one of my lost pregnancies.  The pregnancy that had gone the furthest and caused the most heartbreak, if you can rank such things.

John immediately went to work doing what he does best:  getting things done.  He called the agency about Nicholas' file.  It was still available.  We read ever inch of it.  We sent it to pediatricians.  John called our agency and Nicholas' listing agency. and somehow convinced them to transfer his file so that we could adopt him without the loss of precious time slowing down his adoption.

And it all happened to easily.  After years of nothing going the way we wanted.  After years of striving and planning and yearning, everything suddenly got really easy. 

We always tell Nicholas that adopting him was the best decision we ever made: because we got him, and because we learned that taking leaps of faith is the way we want to live.  In fact, he taught me to simply have faith.  That there are two choices in life: fear or faith.  And, after such a beautiful and unexpected gift, how could I lose faith ever again?

Happy Adoption Day to my beautiful, sensitive, loving, funny little man.

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 

2 Timothy 1:7

Monday, January 14, 2013


One of the hardest things for me has always been self-discipline.  It is so easy to just let things slide.   I have fit into the category of "over-achiever" in some areas of my life in the past, in many ways due to my desire to please others.  I grew up loving to make the adults in my life proud:  my parents, my parents' friends, my teachers.  Now that I don't have "grown-ups" to impress, or even a boss, how do I motivate myself to wake up early every day?  To exercise?  To keep our homeschool running efficiently?

I am thinking a lot about this lately.  And I realize that, as mothers, our actions speak more loudly than words.  My kids are watching me.  I don't want them to grow up not knowing how to use their own self-discipline because it was rarely modeled to them by me.

I guess this is a New Year's Resolution of sorts, a few weeks late.  I am doing an 'All Out Week.'  For 7 days I am going to try to live the life I wish I lived 365 days per year:  following my exercise schedule,  my eating plan, my homeschool schedule, my home routines, even down to the drinking of my 8 glasses of water each day.

I'm hoping at the very least to get out of my winter doldrums by kick-starting my motivation.  It's either this or a last minute trip to the Caribbean (and I don't think that's happening).

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Day in the Life

I am shamelessly lifting this idea from my favorite homeschool blog, Simple Homeschool.  For years, Jamie has published her own and other homeschooler's schedules.  It is so helpful to see what other moms do, and to see if any of those ideas might fit into one's own homeschool schedule.  Lately, I have had a lot of people ask me how exactly I homeschool all 4 kiddos.  What do the other kids do while I have individual time with one child?  What does a typical lesson look like?  Where do I get my curriculum?

Some people are just curious, and some friends are actually considering homeschooling (yes, please join me on the dark side…)  So I thought I'd record a typical day.  Keep in mind that I am very flexible, perhaps too flexible, so our day changes depending on my kids' moods, health, interests, attention-spans, etc.

  • 6:00 am I get up.  Exercise, reading, getting laundry started.  The only time of day the house is quiet.
  • 6:30 Boys get up.  They are allowed to watch TV in the early morning.
  • 7:00 Ellie comes screaming down the stairs.  We eat breakfast
  • 8:00 Start our "morning routines":  make beds, get dressed, chores etc.
  • 8:30 start school with Peter (Nicholas is usually playing, but sometimes he joins us; Ellie is alternatively interrupting us and joining us.  She likes to cut things out, color, play with manipulatives etc.).  I used Sonlight curriculum with all the kids. With Peter in particular, I do reading, writing, math, and some basic Kindergarten stuff (like learning the months of the year, as we are doing now).  We also do a little but of Bible and scripture memorization.  I started this because it is part of the Sonlight curriculum, and because I want to learn it myself.  Yes, I need to start at a Kindergarten level!
  • 9:30 Start school with Nicholas.  We do the same things as I did with Peter, but it just takes a bit longer since he is in 1st grade.  (Peter is usually doing "Reading Eggs" or "Math Seeds" on the computer. Also, around this time, Olivia usually gets up, makes her own breakfast, showers, does her morning routine, and starts the schoolwork she can do by herself.  Sometimes (ok, most of the time) it takes some prodding.  But, I am intentional about letting her get more sleep and about letting her work later in the day which works better for her.)
  • 9:45 on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Ellie has speech for an hour.  She is doing wonderfully!
  • 11:00 - 1:00 work individually with Olivia.  Lots of writing workshop-y things, spelling, vocabulary, science, cursive, and math.  
  • 1:00 on Tuesdays and Thurdays, Olivia works with her math tutor -- doing more in-depth work than I haft time to do.  Olivia is really into logic problems, especially. 
  • We are also going to start Science Seeds classes in the afternoons for the 3 oldest kids.
  • Early afternoons, for the other kids and for Olivia on the days she is not with her tutor, involves science for the boys, a lot of outdoor play, and naps for Ellie.  Sometimes, Mommy naps too (shhh, don't tell…)
  • 2:00 Our wonderful babysitter Leah comes.  She takes the kids to their after 'school' activities, or stays home and plays with some of them while I do other things.  This is really flexible.  Sometimes, I need to finish work with one child; some times I need to go to a doctor's appointment etc.  I love the fact that we redirected out tuition money towards such a useful purpose.  One day per week, Olivia and I cook together, following our "How to Be a Grown Up" plan.
  • 4:00 start making dinner.  Now that I am not always sitting in the waiting room at The Dance Factory or guitar lessons etc., I actually have time to cook.  I love it.
  • 5:00 - dinner (kids can't wait until Dad gets home -- I read from our current book while they eat).
  • 6:00 John gets home; Leah leaves.  John and I eat dinner.
  • 7:00 bath time
  • 8:00-9:00 bedtime.  John and I collapse!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Fun Day Out

We had a very fun day of learning and fun at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.  We went with some good friends and neighbors who had the week off from their school, and with our wonderful babysitter Leah.  We got to go through the Titanic Exhibit, which was amazing and thought-provoking (we weren't allowed to take any pictures).  Olivia, in particular, loved the Titanic Exhibit because the museum staff gave each of the kids a ticket with a real passenger's name on it, including what class ticket they bought, and where they were from, etc.  

At the end of the exhibit, you got to see if your passenger survived the disaster or not.  Very poignant.  Probably a bit too much for the littles, but Olivia and her good friend were really into it and I think got the full impact of how sad it all really was.

The boys were really happy that we visited the physics section afterwards, as you can see below.  Here they are launching rockets after pumping up air pressure.  Cool!  

Nicholas played around with some gears.  He is so mechanical.

Then we went on to the human biology section.  Here the kids are getting their heart rates up.  The faster they pedal, the louder the "opera singers" on the TV screens sing.  We must have spent more than an hour here, seeing how much blood is in each of our bodies, climbing through the enormous model of the human heart, looking at a model of open-heart surgery, etc.  Fun times.

Of course, ever the Numismatist, Nicholas fund his way to a coin exhibit.  This one asks "which one is the real penny?  After getting out a penny from his pocket, he figured it out...

After lunch, we got to see an experiment with liquid nitrogen, and learn all about heating and cooling and how that causes expansion and contraction.  The science teacher shrank balloons, cooled off a bouncy ball so much that it shattered when he dropped it, and just plain showed off (to our delight).  So much fun!

Ellie loved it so much she almost charged the poor Science Dude.

I can't believe I was afraid I would not make my goal of 5 field trips this year (I am a little bit of a homebody):  we've already exceeded this goal in January!  Its so much easier to motivate myself to plan ahead for these days when I see how much fun the kids have, and how easily they learn, when they are interacting with the subject.  And I don't even have to sign-up to be a school chaperone!

Thursday, January 3, 2013


I loved this book.  It was exactly what I was looking for:  a memoir, a book about not just Christianity but about how it can be applied by us, particularly young(ish) women, in our world today.  And have it be meaningful rather than just abstract and lofty.

In this book, Allen describes how she was inspired by Katie Davis, a 24 year old American girl who is now the mother to 14 Ugandan girls and who gave up the American dream of college, boyfriends, and 'happily ever after' to live in Uganda.  The author is not inspired to move to Uganda like Katie but just to follow God's desire during this short time we have on earth.  (love this blog and book, by the way.  Amazing).

So her prayer is "Anything; God, I will do anything you want me to do."

I was so touched by this.  This is my prayer for 2013.  I want to God's will to be done.  I want my dreams and aspirations to die and for God's dreams to be realized.  They are always better than our own anyway.

Unfortunately, they are sometimes not pleasant.  But always, in the end, better.

I give up my grand plans ( I am famous for my grand plans, just ask my husband) and instead will try to follow God's.  For this new Christian, it is sometimes hard to hear God's voice but I am trying.  I pray that he will be very obvious because I am not good at subtlety.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

How to be a Grown-Up

Last month, Olivia started a new "course" in school, called "How to be a Grown-Up."  I got the idea from one of my favorite homeschool blogs.  Basically, I am teaching Olivia to bake, cook, and clean.  She is beyond psyched about the idea (and the boys cannot wait until it is their turn -- I followed Jamie's lead and I am having them wait until they are 8).

We started with bread.

I can't tell you how much fun this has been -- not just for Olivia.  I am learning right alongside her.  

The plan is:  we make each item 3 times.  We do this every Wednesday afternoon when the little kids go to swimming lessons.  The first time I show Olivia how to do it and she assists (actually, the cookbook tells me how to do it and I pretend that I knew it all along!).  Then, the second time, Olivia does all the work with me assisting.

The third and final time, Olivia does everything all by herself.  I only helped her place the bread in the oven.  The bread actually turned out best the last time.  I give all the credit to my beautiful girl (and perhaps to the fact that we forgot about the bread and it rose for a very long time -- making it lighter and less doughy than the other 2 attempts.)

We are going to make a simple white cake next.  As I said, I am learning along with Olivia.  As I grew up, my mom's idea of making a cake was from a box mix.  And I love me some Dunkin Hines, but there ain't nothing' like the real thing, so we are going to try to master this next.  

My only complaint with this whole program is that it is a little repetitive (making the same thing 3 times in a row) and that Olivia was kind of bored by the time we got to 'her' turn.  But, on the other hand, I think the kids of this generation are so used to being continually entertained with the next, newest, most  innovative thing…that perhaps it is important to slow down and learn the basics.  And, sometimes that means repetition and a little boredom (hello housework, and hello schoolwork).

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Revolution!

It was Patriot's Week last week in our area.  This is the time of year that the Revolutionary War battles were fought in New Jersey, and there are a lot of reenactments and exhibits going on to celebrate this time of our history.  We really wanted to see Washington crossing the Delaware on Christmas Day (as he did in 1777) but because of the holiday, we did not make it.  So, instead we watched the 1st Battle of Trenton a few days later.
Nicholas was stoked.

Here an actor is performing the "mourning pose" which soldiers would hold when a soldier was lost in battle.  The actors are doing this in honor of the announcer of this reenactment, who was involved in the historical society of NJ for 19 years.  He passed away just last week.

The gunfire was spectacular.

Here are some Hessian soldiers, who helped the British during the war.  They did not anticipate some of the Colonist's tactics.

Oh, the Redcoats.

 Here are some Patriots.  I am so excited that this coincided with our studies of US history. We are not quite at the war yet, but we are learning about what led up to the war.

I did not get a very good picture of this Massacusetts troup, but they were especially interesting as they were dressed in various, homemade "uniforms" (they were not uniform) and rags.  This is what the Patriots looked like, especially in there beginning of the war:  they were just a bunch of town militia joined together.  A MA group came up and blocked off the bridge in Trenton, cornering the Redcoats and the Germans helping them.

We headed to the soldier's Barracks after that, but it was snowing pretty hard and we were freezing so we didn't stay long.

What fun!  It was so cool to watch and learn alongside my whole family. This is the type of thing I would not have done if our kids were in school.  I certainly could have done so, but most likely my lazy self would have assumed they would learn about it in school.  I am so grateful for memories like these.  Not to mention my gratitude for our forefathers who died so that we could be a free nation.