Tuesday, May 26, 2015

How to Certify and Authenticate Documents

I spent the morning downtown getting some of our dossier documents all officially sealed so that we can finally submit our dossier to China. Since some of you will never have the pleasure of getting to do this, I thought I would share the process so that you can feel as though, you, too, have been there and done that.

Step 1: Gather your documents together and make sure they are all in order and notarized. Make copies of everything.

Step 2: Recheck your documents so that you are sure you still have everything because something might have disappeared in the previous five minutes.

Step 3: Convince a good friend that she wants to go downtown with you because you want the company and moral support.

Step 4: Recheck your documents again and borrow your daughter's Ventra card because you don't take public transportation enough to have one yourself.

Step 5: Get up so you can get an early start and not get caught in the Chinese Consulate lunch hour break.

Step 6: Remember at the last minute that you need to print out the application form that needs to be turned in with your documents as well as a photo copy of your passport.

Step 7: Leave to go get on the train, stopping by the coffee shop so your friend can get some tea.

Step 8: Recheck your documents while you wait for the train to show up.

Step 9: Board the Evanston Express train which should whisk you downtown in in about 40 minutes.

Step 10: Spend an hour and forty minutes on the express which is not.

Step 11: Find the building which houses the Secretary of State Index Office and head up to the 10th floor.

Step 12: Complete the application, check the documents one last time, write the check, and turn everything in at the window.

Step 13: Sit down for two minutes, then go back up to the window when your name is called.

Step 14: Despite the fact that you've attended this rodeo many times, hear the reason why the Secretary of State is rejecting three of your nine documents. Resign yourself to making this same trip two more times and rewrite the check.

Step 15: Wait for ten minutes and then pick-up your state certified documents.

Step 16: Recheck documents again, this time being absolutely sure nothing happens to the precious staples holding the certifications to the documents.

Step 17: Take a 20 minute walk north from State Street, across the Chicago River, and up to near the Magnificent Mile. Enjoy the scenery and the fact it is not yet pouring as predicted.

Step 18: Find the building where the Chinese Consulate is located, sign in at the desk in the lobby, and take the elevator to the fifth floor.

Step 19: Enter the Consulate, push the button on the number dispenser which says, "Authentication/visas". Receive your number and realize that there are at least 30 people ahead of you.

Step 20: Use the rather bizarre copy machine in the waiting room (15 cents/per copy) to copy the certifications you just picked up at the Secretary of State's office. In the course of doing this, help several people understand the copy machine and help them with change.

Step 21: Find a flat surface to organize your stack of original documents, copies, application, and passport copy. Realize that the bizarre copy machine didn't scan your last document and instead gave you a copy of the previous one.

Go back and repeat Step 20.

Repeat Step 21.

Finally break out of this endless loop and move to...

Step 22: Wait for your number to be called. Now, you don't want to take this step lightly. There are three windows which call numbers. There are a lot of people waiting. The PA system is not very loud or terribly clear. If you happen to not notice your number is called, the person at the window will wait approximately two seconds before she calls the next number. Vigilance is necessary.

Step 23: Step up to the window when your name is called and hand in your stack of papers. Breath a small sigh of relief that you have learned not to add paper clips to anything, so you avoid the slightly annoyed and shaming sigh of the person on the other side of the window. Receive your receipt which says you can pick-up your documents on Monday.

Step 24: Very, very, very carefully place the receipt in a very safe place. Without this little piece of paper, you will never receive your documents. Just like the woman at the pick-up window didn't receive her passport while you were waiting for your number. NEVER LOSE THE RECEIPT!

Step 25: Recheck where you put the receipt.

Step 26: Go out to lunch with your good friend, catch the train and head home. The non-express train will zip you home in about 40 minutes.

Step 27: Enjoy watching everyone eat all the treats that B. brought back for them from Taiwan. Many of my children love seaweed.

Step 28: Receive phone call from J. that he is heading to the ER with M., who may have appendicitis. I'll keep everyone updated.

Step 29: Realize that you get to do this all over again, at least once more, but probably all by yourself and hopefully without Step 28.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Mom's day out

Last Saturday was the big semi-annual bulk order pick-up day. That means that I and a few friends load ourselves into the largest vehicle we own (we actually all own huge vehicles, so it's whoever can drive) and head southwest of the city for two hours. Then we load between 500 to 1000 pounds of food into the large vehicle, have lunch, and drive back home, stopping at each person's house to schlep their food inside. (Yes, I'm not too humble to say I can carry 50 pound bags of wheat around.) Do we know who to have fun, or what?

Actually, it is quite fun. The small town and the highway to get to the small town are hardly designated scenic routes, but we have come to count on our twice a year trips where we have six uninterrupted house to visit with each other. How often do mothers (regardless of the number of children they have) get to have actual conversations with each other without being needed every five to ten minutes? If your life is like mine, not very often. I really do look forward to it. Plus, this time I had hit that sweet spot where we had run out just a few days before of many items I was picking up. More often than not I either run out too soon and actually have to purchase these items in a store to get us by or I am just about to run out, but have the difficulty of not having enough storage space for it all until I do.

I am blessed with exceedingly good friends. We share a lot in common... we have a strong faith, we have many children, both adult and younger ones, we live in the same area, and we've known each other for a long time. We are also different... we don't all attend the same church, we don't all homeschool, our children are interested in different things and involved in different activities. We talk about a lot of things and discuss problems and difficulties. Spending time together is a wonderful by-product of what amounts to a very long grocery store run.

So, we are all stocked-up again, both in terms of food and time spent with friends. Because I know someone will ask, I'll also share what I came home with time. Here's a (probably incomplete) list:

Wheat berries (for grinding for flour)
Whole oats
Cane sugar
Baking powder (and then I discovered another can hiding behind a grain bin when I was putting everything away... we now have A LOT of baking powder)
Various spices
Sunflower oil
Yeast (and other bread baking supplies)

Inevitably, we each discover as we watch each other's order being loaded in the van that we forgot to order something. This time for me it was raw wheat germ. I hope I still have some lurking in the freezer downstairs.

I hope everyone enjoys their Memorial Day. We did most of our Memorial Day appreciation over the weekend. A. did traffic control for a Memorial Day parade with her Police Explorer post and J. took most of the children to a local cemetery to join TM and D.'s Boy Scout troop in placing flags on each veteran's grave. He figures they did about three miles of walking in the process. We have so much to be thankful and grateful for.

Friday, May 22, 2015

My day

What I did today...

Got fingerprinted for the 8th time.

Stood around the building supply store while M. bought the supplies she needed for her scenic design job.

Made people lunch.

Cleaned a very messy kitchen.

Hung around while the phone guy came to fix our horrible phone/internet service. Again. For the ~8th time in a year.

Made the menu for the week and made a grocery list.

Took H. to a birthday party.

Read many stories to little girls.

What I didn't do today...

Actually make it to the grocery store (I'll be leaving in a few minutes.)


Make any plans for dinner tonight.

Work on a massive writing project that is due at the end of the month.

Write a thoughtful and well-crafted blog post.

If you were looking for thoughtful, then I can send you to two articles that were recently published. (Go ahead and click and share... it's one of those writing gigs where the money I get paid increases with the amount of page hits.)

Book Review: Attaching Through Love, Hugs, and Play

5 Ways to Increase Attachment with Your Child after Adoption

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Science experiments

A while back, a friend shared a website that was giving away a free middle school physics kit to teachers and they allowed homeschoolers to participate. It sounded interesting so I signed up... and promptly forgot about it. A couple of months later, a box arrived on the doorstep. It was most mysterious as I hadn't ordered anything and neither had any of my older children. It wasn't until I opened the box and took a good look inside that I felt the vague stirrings of a memory of signing up for something scamper around the edges of my brain.

That's what it was. Three complete kits of a set of optics experiments, including laser pointer, flashlight, Fresnel lens, and other interesting things. The workbook is also part comic book with a story line that ties the optics experiments together. This week seemed a good time to spend some time with them, so that's what we have been doing.

I'm not sure how much actual science learning is going on, but the laser pointers and Fresnel lens have been popular, as have these water cubes.

They started out as teeny tiny little cubes and overnight they grew into these huge shapes. (We made three kinds... water, saturated with sugar, and saturated with sucralose.) They were part of an experiment to show the difference in refraction that occurs with different substances. I thought it was interesting, but I think everyone else was just a wee bit fascinated by the cubes. This morning we played with difference sized water balls and discussed convex and concave lenses as well as magnification.

The producer of these kits is Physics Central and it seems they make a new kit every year. (I don't know if they give them away free each year, but I'll keep an eye on it.) All of the kits for this year have been given away, but you can still download previous year's manuals, complete with the comic book story. You would need to gather the necessary supplies yourself, but the information is there.

If you have junior high aged students, it looks like a site that may be of interest.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A new favorite from the library

I've written quite a bit on the idea of storytelling and using stories to make sense of one's life. To catch-up, you can go back and read some of these posts.

Story Telling
How Pictures Work, and
A Book Report

If you don't feel like clicking and catching up, the gist of these posts is that stories help us make sense of our lives and that by learning to change our stories, it gives up a sense of control instead of feeling helpless. I'm sure all of us at some point have felt helpless in the face of current circumstances and being able to reframe the events of our lives can go a long way towards helping us through these crises.

Children can experience and practice these skills through play and story telling. Stories, and especially fairy tales, can give practice with facing and overcoming scary things. I think this is why I particularly love children's picture books which give children a hint as to how to do this. All of this is lead up to sharing one of our library books with you.

Have you heard of Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein? It has become a new favorite around here. The story is pretty straight forward... a father rooster is putting his little chick to bed and she wants a bedtime story. He agrees, but only if the little chicken won't interrupt. As he begins each fairy tale, the little chicken interrupts with words or warning (or common sense) to the main characters in each story and saves them all from unpleasant endings. At the end of the story, when the father has run out of fairy tales, he encourages his little chick to write her own story. L. was particularly taken with the ending, proclaiming, "Hey, that's just like me. I write stories!"

Check it out. It's both a fun story to share together and a great discussion starter. Plus, it might even encourage a young author in your family.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A good adoption news day

First, if you haven't already heard, HB 3079, the adoption reform bill, unanimously passed in the IL Senate this afternoon!  Hip Hip Hooray!! The last step is for the governor to sign it. As soon as it is signed, it will become law and IL families will no longer have to have DCFS approval for their intercountry adoption home studies. This has been a pipe dream for so long, I am having a little trouble really believing that it is happening. I have one last request for all of you. Please call Gov. Rauner's office and urge him to sign the bill as soon as it arrives on his desk. Here is the link to either call or email his office.

The other piece of adoption news for us today is that we unexpectedly received new photos and five, count them FIVE, new videos of Y. today. We now have video of her walking and jumping and cutting and putting on a sweatshirt and coloring and making her bed and working in the kitchen. It's pretty amazing and her skills have come a long way from the last videos we have of her. It says a lot for her care center that they would take the time to send us these videos and ones that cover such a lot of territory. We are truly thankful. I don't feel comfortable publicly sharing the videos, but I'll share one of the new pictures... this is from yesterday.

Now, go and call the governor and I'll go and enjoy the sun that is finally making an appearance.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Thinking unhappy thoughts about my camera battery

Last Saturday was A.'s graduation party. It went quite well and I think A. had a good time. Many of her friends were able to come which is no small feat given that it was a Saturday in May. That would be the month where everyone has a possible 10 activities on every weekend.

I took some pictures of the parts of the yard that we worked on.

One side of the front porch. It helps that the tree and bushes we planted a couple of years ago seem to have outgrown their stick phase and are starting to look more like real plants.

The vegetable garden

Of course, the part we have worked on is a very small portion of a much neglected yard. Here is a glimpse into the backyard which still needs hours and hours of work to make it look cared for.

So I took these pictures and my camera battery died. That's OK. I told the girls who were hanging out together that I would be back to take their picture. I go inside, switch batteries with the one that was charged and head outside. I start to take a picture of A. and some of her friends to discover that the battery I just put in has completely died and will not hold a charge.

No camera batter = No pictures of the rest of the party

It was very nice. There was lots of food, lots of little children playing, lots of adults visiting, and a whole gaggle of high schoolers hanging out. When I asked A. this morning if she or her friends had taken any pictures (because their phones/iPods/whatevers are constantly attached to them) she looked at me and informed me she was visiting and wasn't going to spend time taking pictures of the visiting.

Touche. I suppose I can't complain because I do remind my children not to view their lives through their electronic devices.

Instead you'll just have to imagine a lovely party with lovely weather. It's hard to believe we are now the parents of a third high school graduate.
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