Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A break in the action

We have been doing other things around here.  For instance, last Sunday we went to a Tet party sponsored by our Families with Children from Vietnam group.  It is always held a little after the actual lunar new year because that way the local troupe of lion dancers can come and perform.

There were dragon puppets to make:

K.

And lots of good food to eat:

L., A., and G.
And of course the lion dancers:


Everyone loves the lion dancers.  Well, almost everyone.  There were a couple of little girls who weren't convinced that they were a good thing.  When the lions first came out, G. started to scream at the top of her lungs.  Eventually, she calmed down and decided she liked all the fluff and shiny stuff on the lions.  Of course, at that point, one of lions came a little too close which terrified L. who started to scream.

The fun thing is that after the performance, the children are allowed to come and try to be lion dancers.  K. LOVES lion dancers and would have happily worn this the rest of the evening.  What you don't see is the person holding up the head of the lion because K. couldn't quite do it himself.


With the costumes on the floor, L. decided that perhaps they weren't as scary as she thought.


She even ventured to get underneath... and then proceeded to stand very, very still.


But underneath she was smiling.


K. managed to get several turns.


The dancers then put the costumes back on which made the little girls retreat again.  Poor L. was shaking every time one would come close and G. would sit on the risers and say, "Scary lion!  Scary lion!"  It was so pathetic... and cute.  We ended up taking them out of the room.

What else has been going on around here while I stalk my computer?

K. has entered a building phase and has built giant tower after giant tower with the Duplo.  He builds them all by himself by taking down upper sections, adding to them, and then carefully replacing them.  Tall Duplo towers are very loud when they fall on wood floors.


G. and L. have been taking many "trips".  This involves putting on all their outerwear (coats, hats, scarves, mittens, boots) and announcing to the room that they are going.  Off they tromp through the house, returning shortly with, "We back!"  At which point they go back into the mud room to take off all their outerwear.  They will then play for a few minutes, look up, announce they are going on a trip, and do it all over again.  It keeps them happy and they are cute wearing their hats.

G.

L.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Details, details

Guess what?  I've been spending my morning making real, honest-to-goodness travel plans.  Yes, it's true!  We have a consulate appointment of March 21 which means we need to leave on March 9.  That's just a little over a week away.  It's so soon!  We'll have our little girl in our arms on March 12.  Hooray!  Hooray!  Hooray!

I am now plunging into all the details of things which have to happen before we leave.  The flights which I have tentatively booked work well, even if I have to fly on a carrier that I'm not overly fond of.  The price and direct flights were too good not to use.  It's still a big chunk of change, but not quite as big as I was bracing myself for.  There are still quite a few details that have to be worked out, but here's the gist of our plans:


  • Fly to Beijing, go to hotel for a night where we will meet our travel group.  The next day, fly to  Zhengzhou where the adoption will take place.
  • After about a week in province, we fly down to Guongzhou where the US consulate is to do visa related stuff.
  • On the 23rd, fly back to Beijing where we will spend two days touring and visiting Shepherd's Field Children's Village.
  • Return home on the 26th!  Hug all my children who stayed home.  And then hug them some more.
A. and TM will be travelling with us.  A. is incredibly excited and I think she will be helpful in making H. comfortable in her new family.  A. is also very good with TM and he responds well to her.  It should be a fairly easy trip as far as travelling companions.  After much thought, J. and I have decided that we cannot squeeze a quick stop in Vietnam in.  Our initial plan was to stop in Vietnam long enough to have a reunion with TM's foster parents.  But two things changed our minds.  First, we hadn't counted on how expensive it would be to fly from Vietnam to Beijing.  Second, we became concerned that by trying to do this too quickly, we would be adding unnecessary stress to the whole trip.  (But, boy was I looking forward to Vietnamese food, even for 24 hours!)

Good friends of ours (the H-S) family, will be watching the children who are not travelling.  Along with their own, this will give them between 11 and 13 children to care for, depending on college spring breaks.  It's a good thing we have a big house.  And really good friends.

These travel dates also work well because it means we will be home to celebrate Easter with our family and J. won't miss any classes at which he needs to be present.  God has planned this well.

The one thing we will miss is the play that Thin Ice Theater is performing which B. is in.  They are doing You Can't Take It With You on March 23 and 24 at 7:30 and March 25 at 3:00.  I would love a large audience to show up to support him since his parents can't be there.  For more details go the Thin Ice Theater facebook page.

Now, I need to continue checking things off my to-do list.  If you can believe it, it isn't nearly as long as you would expect.  I've been pretty good about working toward this point all month.  My bigger problem is everything going to fit in my luggage!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Can you take some more joy and cuteness?

I wanted to post this news here in case anyone missed it on the facebook page.  Ready?  There is a family applying to adopt Joseph!!  How exciting is that?  I have emailed back and forth with them a bit and they seem great.  Oh, how I'm praying that it all works out.  I am also incredibly humbled and joyful that God used my blog to help put this boy and this family together.  I love seeing God work.  (And even better?  They don't live horribly far from us, so it seems possible that H. and Joseph can keep in contact.)

And I know that in my self-absorption with all things travel-approval, that those of you who require frequent little girl pictures have been suffering.  So here they are eating spaghetti at lunch today.  (Which explains the messy faces.)  I know I'm biased, but I really do think they are the cutest things.

Here's L. (You can also spot A.'s new glasses in the background as she complains that she'll be in the picture.)




And here's G.:






And I don't know about you, but I can't resist little girls in pokey tails.



The sun is shining, the house is almost clean, and we're going to get H. soon!  Even the piles of laundry don't look so horrible today.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Joy comes in the morning

Yes, it's true.
OUR TRAVEL APPROVAL HAS ARRIVED!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thank you all for your support and prayers.  I appreciate it so much.  I can't tell you how much of a relief this is.  (Though maybe you can guess.)

But I can't get off my knees yet.  (That's kind of how this adoption has gone.)  We now need to get our consulate appointment and then all the travel dates are based off of that.  Our agency says they have two options they can apply for.  The first one would have us leaving the first week of March, the second option is leaving late in March and returning after Easter.  Obviously, this is not ideal for any number of reasons, but we are willing to make it work if we must.  But, oh, how much I hope it is the first date.  

Since we won't know for sure until early next week, I'm just going to enjoy knowing that I will be buying plane tickets soon.

Thank you Jesus!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Weeping may tarry for the night

As you might have guessed, this hasn't been a very good week around here.  Good friends who were on the same timeline as we were received their TA a week ago while we still wait.  Not only is it difficult to know that we can't plan yet on when we will meet H., it also means that we will most likely not get to travel with our good friends.  It all just stinks.

And while it is disappointing and frustrating, my reaction to it had been out of all proportion to the problem.  For the past week, I had plunged into a despair I have never experienced, its intensity increasing daily, with yesterday being by far the worst.  I ceased to function.  My children watched a lot of videos and J. made a lot of dinners when he arrived home.  More than once I found myself locked behind a bathroom door, sobbing and sobbing.  I would regain my composure and come out only to find myself overcome by sorrow several hours later.  This went on for days.

A small glimmer came to me yesterday that this was not normal sorrow and disappointment.  Even at the time I knew my reaction was over the top, yet was powerless to do anything about it.  It felt as though despair was being poured into me and the only thing I could do was to cry it out.  I have never felt such despair.

I woke up this morning, for the first time in a week, feeling as though I could face life again.  I had hope again that we would receive our TA and we would bring home our little girl.  I even felt as though I could manage even if it didn't arrive today.  (Which is good, because it didn't.)  I had some hopeful emails on other things in my inbox as well as a note from a friend who felt compelled to tell me something that had been revealed to her in her prayer time, as she was praying for me.  That satan was having so much fun ruining my joy.

Without a doubt, I believe this is what was happening to me.  It was a new twist on the opposition we have had since beginning this adoption.  I won't kid you, it was dreadful.  But I know where the turning point was yesterday.  I knew I couldn't handle much more; I was done in.  The only thing I could do was to repeat over and over, "The Lord gives and takes away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord."

The title of this post is from Psalm 30, verse 5.  I sincerely hope that the next post I write will be titles with the next line.  Go look it up.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The power of God

working through families who say yes to His calling.  I'm not up to writing, but it doesn't get much better than Adeye at No Greater Joy Mom.  I would suggest reading these links in order.  If you do, don't stop before you read the last one.  God can do anything, but often He chooses to use ordinary people to do extraordinary things.

Start with:  If not us... then who?

then move on to The Power of One.

I'll pause now while you get some tissues and perhaps a calming cup of tea.

Ready?

There is hope!  Look what happens when families step out in faith and say yes to the least of these.  These are God's beloved children.  We are called to care for them.  To love them.  Even if it is hard.  Even if it makes us different.  Even if it means we have to give up other things in order to do it... including a comfortable life style.  It is worth it to see transformations such as these.  Read Seeing is Believing.

To look at all those pictures is difficult.  I don't know about you, but my heart breaks a little more each time I see them.  There are children all around the world suffering for want of a family and someone to love them.  If one of these children was yours, you would move heaven and earth to get them out of a horrible place; to bring them back to your family.  There would be no rest until you did so.  Or if one of them were a friend's child, wouldn't you want to help?  At what point does a child turn from a child into a statistic to be tutted about and ignored?

Monday, February 20, 2012

I'm here... sort of

I haven't posted because I have nothing to share.  And if I were to write what I really want to say, it would just be a written temper tantrum, which no one really wants to read.  I'm not sure it would make me feel any better anyway.

It's been a rotten weekend.  You can pity my family and I'll just say it's a good thing my husband loves me.  I am one walking, exposed nerve.  So if you know me in real life and happen to see me (which at this point seems very unlikely), and you say something benign like, 'Hi' and I burst into tears, don't take it personally.

So, please pray.  Pray that the &$^#* TA (yes Miss P19, Mom C. really did just say that) comes.  This afternoon would be nice.

And H. still doesn't know she has a family.

I'm going to go eat another piece of chocolate now.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Funny little girls

Another post to distract myself and save you from reading about endless travel preparations.

My two little girls are very, very funny.  At least I think so.  Two funny stories (so I'll remember them later on):

A week or so ago, I enter the little girls' room to get them up and dressed.  When I look at them, G. is all curled up, pretending to sleep and L. has stripped down to her diaper (not an uncommon occurrence) and has a blanket across her shoulders. She is standing in her bed with her arms outstretched, looking at G.  I pause to take in the scene when G. (while still pretending to sleep) says, "I, Baby Jesus, L., angel"  To which L. agrees saying, "Yeah.  I, angel, G. Baby Jesus" and continues to keep watch over her charge.  Evidently the Christmas pageant has made quite an impact on their little brains.  It is also interesting that these two year olds play imaginatively together rather in tandem.

And they love to imagine things.  L. often pretends to be an animal of some sort, but G. imagines other things. A few days after the nativity in their room, G. comes downstairs one afternoon, in just a diaper (again) with a hand towel from the bathroom wrapped around her waist.  She stands in front of me and announces, "I at beach."  She then proceeds to very carefully spread her towel on the floor and lie down upon it.  Having done this she informs me, "I lying in the sun, "  closes her eyes and lays there for a while.

I tend to want to just follow them around to see what they'll do next.  Not the most productive way to spend a day, but very enjoyable.

And now back to checking my email to see if that dang TA has arrived yet.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Hard things

I've been thinking a lot about this recently.  Life is full of hard things, and if you're a parent, there are even more. But is this really a bad thing?  Sometimes we have a tendency to think of hard and bad as synonymous.  I don't think they are.  Doing hard things, working at them, learning from them, and overcoming them are what help to give our lives meaning.  Without hard things in our lives to work at, our lives would feel emptier, shallow.  We think we want a life of ease, but I'm not sure we really do.

Think about it.  We are constantly looking for a new challenge.  It is what drives people to climb higher mountains, run farther, make or do something better.  It's why marketing campaigns such as, "The toughest job you'll ever love" works for the Peace Corps and "We do more by 9am than most people do all day" worked for the army.  (Though not being an early morning person, I always doubted the wisdom of that campaign.)  Overcoming challenges, especially when they are hard, gives us confidence.

Of course, that is for challenges which we seek out.  We don't quite feel the same way about challenges which are thrust upon us.  I think one of the keys to learning serenity and fearlessness is to start thinking about our hard challenges which are not of our own choosing the same way as the ones we seek out.  We may not have chosen these challenges, but God saw fit to have us experience them, so He must have a plan to make something good out of it.  The difference is what lesson we learn.  When we seek out challenges for ourselves; when we set hard tasks to accomplish, it is usually so that we can prove something about ourselves.  What we are capable of, what our abilities are.  But when we decide to embrace the challenges handed to us, it is a chance to show what God is capable of.  It tells us much more about God than about ourselves.  It is a chance for God to work through us.

Parenting can be hard.  There are many things which parenting requires that don't necessarily come naturally to human beings... patience, self-sacrifice, gentleness, self-control, to name just a few.  We humans are selfish creatures.  Parenting requires us to lay that aside and think primarily of someone else.  It can be stretching.  It can be hard.  But what is hard for us is not hard for God.  Nothing is too hard for God.  I don't think we take seriously enough God's promise of sending His Holy Spirit to live in us; to work through us.  We try to do too much on our own and in doing so become frustrated.

As I have mentioned before, I am working my way through the book of Isaiah with a group of girls (A. and her friends).  I am quite sure that I am getting far more out of it by leading it.  Yesterday we looked at chapter 30.  Having read this far, there are some repeating themes.  Israel being harassed by enemies and turning to everything but God for help being one of the major ones.  We see this again in 30.  In the midst of Israel fleeing unsuccessfully from her pursuers comes v. 15:  "For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, 'In returning [repentance] and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.'"  It goes on to say that while God was offering these things, Israel wasn't taking Him up on it.

How often do I do this? How often do I mentally try to run from my difficulties and not take God up on His offer of rest.  All too often, I'm afraid.  But that image of rest, peace, quietness, strength is very appealing.  It is the type of thing that makes me take a deep breath and feel the tension leave my body.  If God is truly in charge, and nothing is too hard for Him, and He can work through me despite myself, what really do I have to  get anxious about.  I may not always like what is happening, but I don't need to be anxious about it.  It is the same as a parent stroking an anxious child's forehead and saying things are going to be alright, there is nothing the child needs to fear or do.  The parent will handle it.

We may not always like or enjoy the hard thing.  But the hard thing may be more worthwhile than the easy one in the long run.  It may take longer to train my children to do household jobs, but in the end, they will have the satisfaction of being able to do the job well.  It may not always be easy to train my children to participate in worship, but in the end I hope I will have taught them its importance.  It may not always be easy to make the hard parenting decisions, but in the end my children can look back and see that we loved them enough to set boundaries.  It may not always be easy having children at all.  But in the end, the love I have for them and the growth they've brought to me are priceless.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

For E>>>From J


[This post is not from E, your wise and beautiful hostess.  Instead, this one is for her, from her husband, who apologizes for temporarily hijacking the blog.]

Happy Valentine’s Day, my love. 

I know that neither of us has had much use for Valentine’s Day as a holiday.  (At least that’s what we’ve always said.  And I hope you really meant it.  I hope you weren’t agreeing with me in attempt to use reverse psychology and subtly persuade me to invest in roses and candy hearts.  If so, then my psychology must be too rudimentary to have a reverse gear.  It never pays to be too subtle.)

Anyway, I don’t think I need the excuse of the feast day of an obscure Roman saint to tell you how much I love you.  If you don’t already know, then you haven’t been paying attention.  But I’ll say it again, “I love you, my most wonderful wife.”

I recall that my grandfather (Donald Buchanan) gave to my grandmother (Alice Hadley) an anniversary gift that included a framed quotation from one of Mark Twain’s letters.  In this letter, Twain reflects with pleasure on his first four weeks of marriage:

If all one’s married days are as happy as these new ones have been to me, I have deliberately fooled away 30 years of my life.  If I were to do it over again, I would marry in early infancy instead of wasting time cutting teeth and breaking crockery.

I, too, count as wasted time all those years before I had the good sense to marry you.  You have brought me adventure, laughter, companionship, affection, support, wisdom, interesting ideas, good conversation, and a boatload of children I adore.  I shudder to think what I might have missed if I had missed you.  Happily, you didn’t let that happen.

And so, happy Valentine’s Day, my darling and my best friend.

Indulge me while I do a bit of whining

Because while I haven't been whining out loud (much), I've been whining inside my head quite a bit.  I'm tired of all this paperwork and waiting and I'm ready to bring my daughter home.  Now.  I don't want to wait another week to hear that we have travel approval.  I'm just really done with waiting.

We first saw H's picture in December of 2010.  That was a long time ago.  Too long it seems, and I have hit the wall.  I want her to know she has a family.  I want to be able to have doctors examine her and see if anything can be done to relieve the pain she is in.  I want to be able to hold her and tell her I love her.  I want to show her the clothes I have bought for her and the doll I've made.  I want to find out what she likes and doesn't like.  I want to know what makes her laugh.  I want her to know she is loved forever.

I told my friend Ann today that it feels as though I am pregnant and overdue and just waiting and waiting until the baby arrives.  Except that I can see my feet and move without difficulty.  (These are not small things, I realize.)  But really adoption insanity and pregnancy insanity are pretty much the same otherwise.  I'm ready to be done with it and to see what our new normal is going to look like.

Right now.

I mean it.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Group home or family?

I've just spent far more time than I meant to looking for a post I was sure I had written, but evidently hadn't.  Somehow I really thought I wrote about the Chicago Tribune article on large families and adoption in Illinois, but I think planning for Thanksgiving got the better of me and I never did.  Perhaps that's why that article is still gnawing at me.  Actually it wasn't the article, but a line from it in reference to the position of IL DCFS that was written.  Let me quote it for you:  "But child welfare experts often see a fine line between a large family and group home and worry that parents can rely too much on older siblings to serve as housekeepers, cooks and caregivers."  Nice.

Hmmm... Yes, that was exactly my motivation for having a large family:  creating my own built-in staff so that I could loll around in the lap of luxury and have people wait on me.  You just have no idea how many bonbons I go through in a week.  I still have yet to get one that acts as a really good butler, though.  Maybe you get the butler when you hit 15 children.  Obviously, I think that assertion is too ludicrous to even begin to take seriously.  (I have touched on this and other common large family myths in my myth-busting post.)

It was the group home comment that really got me and has been fermenting now for several months.  It is such a slam that I can't let it go without comment.  First let's take a look at what group homes for children are.  They are much needed facilities which give shelter and support to children who, for one reason or another, cannot stay with their family of origin and need a safe place to be.  These homes try to create a family atmosphere as much as possible.  They have on sight supervisory staff or house parents and they are often in homes in real neighborhoods.  Ironically, from the brief research I did, it seems that between 6 to 8 children is often the average number of children who are allowed to live there at any time.  I am not writing against group homes.  They fill a huge need and often fill it well, but even the most family-like group home is still NOT a family.

Group homes by their nature are transient.  A child moves into one when crisis occurs and eventually that child is transitioned somewhere else.  In order to provide the stability that this population of children needs, strict rules are needed.  But, there are consequences if the rules are consistently broken.  The child is moved elsewhere.  When a child moves to a group home, no one is pretending that this is a permanent move, because it is not.

But a family is very different.  A family is the group of people you grow up with and who love and care for you not matter what, regardless of size.  A family may be a single child and two parents.  Just because there are fewer people in this family does not make it any less of a family than one with many children.  The nature of what a family is does not change because it is made up of fewer or greater numbers of members.  It is the love and permanency the define the family.  How this plays out is different for each family.  Every family has their own culture... how they live, how they show affection, what they see as important, their traditions, their beliefs.  Sure a large family is going to look different than a family with just two children, but then I know plenty of two children families and each of them is very different from the other as well.  

By implying that my large family is little different from a group home, what is in effect being said is, "We question whether you really do or can love all these children.  We don't think you are in for the long haul with them.  We question your very existence."  And that is what I find offensive.  Because I do love my children.  Every.  Single.  One.  I can't imagine my life without each of them.  When one of them is not home, the hole he or she leaves feels greater than one person because of all the interactions which are missing as well.  My children will always be welcome in their home.  Even if they have made mistakes.  Even if they don't follow the rules.  Because we are parents and we love our children no matter what.  We are not house parents taking care of someone else's children.  They are ours.  We are the parents they will come home to as they grow to adulthood.  We will be the ones at their weddings.  We will delight in their children.  We will cry with them and laugh with them.  And it really doesn't matter in what way these children joined our family.  Each and every one of them has a place in our hearts.

Yes, it is possible to love a great many children.  I am sorry for those so impoverished that they cannot understand this.  We may never be rich by the world's standards but we are wealthy in love.  And once you begin to realize what a joyous place this is to be, you begin to wonder why you shouldn't invite one more small person to join you.  Because there is always room for one more.

And this is why we are not a group home.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Sick of my computer

I have been sitting at the computer for more than a few hours.  I am in the process of making a photo book for TM's foster parents which will have photos of TM from the past 6 years.  It takes a while to sort through all the pictures, choose them, and then upload them.  It's fairly tedious, but I know it will be worth it.  Plus, if I want the book to arrive in good time before we leave, I need to finish it soon.

It's fun to scroll through all the photos and see how little everyone was 6 years ago, but it also makes my heart ache just a little bit because I want all my littler people back just for a moment so I can hug them again.  It also makes me realize just how behind I am in organizing the family photos.  I am seeing what my major summer project is going to be:  photo albums!  I think I have photo albums up to 2006 or so, but after that, I'm not so sure.  Having all my photos on disks and sorted into a CD binder has given me the illusion that they are organize, but no one can look at them.  What I should do is get in the habit of uploading photos to the photobook site every week or so and then when I have enough pictures, I can put them in a book.  It would be a lot less time consuming that way.

But, now I need to go and continue to work on my current project... the next set of photos are done uploading and I need to move on.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Photo vocabulary cards

Here is my solution for communicating with H.:


I found the best site last night and spent a while making all these photo cards which I printed out and then laminated this morning.  (I plan to put them all on a ring to keep them together.)  It took me a few minutes to figure out how to make it work, but after I did, I was able to make exactly the cards I wanted.  Essentially how it works is that you choose what word you want on the card and type it in.  Then there is a second box which you will type the key word for it to search for a photo.  You can scroll through several photos to find the one which works best.  I didn't always get a photo exactly as I was hoping, but for the most part they were close enough.  I used some of the example card sets, which you can change if you like, and then made other cards as I thought of them.  I covered food, clothes, modes of transportation, emotions, things found in a typical hotel room, types of places we might me (pool, hotel, park), and items I know we are taking for her.  I will still do cards for each family member to add.

This site would be great for making any type of vocabulary card.  (J. even jokingly suggested I make a set for some of our less communicative children.  At least I think he was joking.)  The only downside is that there is no way to upload a specific photo.  But, hey, it's free.

This is probably the better solution even if I could shell out the money for an iPad.  It's lighter and easier to carry around, plus it is easier to see all the options at once.  For a visual person like me, this is a big plus.  My plan is to have whoever is acting as interpreter to explain what each of the cards means and then she can use the picture to find what she wants to tell us and use it to communicate with us.

Not a bad evening's work, huh?

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Trivia you probably don't care about

My friend Ann, over at Crazy for Kids, has passed on an award to me.  Thank you!  Thank you for giving me a topic to write about.  (Do you know how hard it is to come up with something to write sometimes?  I am so happy for prompts!)  Ann is a fellow adoptive mom of a large family... and a real life friend.  It is inconvenient that we live so far away from each other.  So what is our solution?  To adopt from the same country at the same time so we can visit each other half-way across the world.  Our plan is working out quite well so far.  She had her paperwork picked-up at the same time, so we are both eagerly waiting for our travel approvals.

Here is my new, shiny award.  Pretty isn't it?


The rules of the award are:  1) Thank the person who gave you this award (see above),  2) List 7 things people may not know about you,  3) Pass it along to a few other bloggers.

Hmmm.... 7 things you might not know about me.  If you don't already know it, I wonder if you are really interested, but here goes.
  1. I have always wanted to live in a large family.  I have one brother, but as a child, I created 10 more children for my parents giving them a total of 12.  I had complete outlines on each child written out.... description, age, birth date, likes and dislikes.  I even created high school schedules for the oldest ones.  I am the oldest, but where did I put myself?  Right in the middle.  I always wanted older brothers and sisters growing up.
  2. I was also horse crazy.  That is probably an understatement.  I did learn to ride and even had free access to a horse.  He was a big 16 hand palomino who was fairly nasty and had a tendency to try to knock me off his back by ramming me into whatever was handy.  (Did you know that, Mom?)  It made me into a fairly good rider, though.  I was eventually on my university's equestrian team.  Sadly, I haven't ridden since M. was a baby and my legs ache just thinking about how much it would hurt at first to start again.  I would do it in a heartbeat, though.
  3. I grew up in Arizona, where I was born and where my parents were both born.  In a land of transplants, it is a bit of an anomaly to have native born parents.  I don't really miss the desert, though... except in the months of January, February, and March.  There is some part of me that is always surprised when spring doesn't start at the end of January.  And the orange blossoms!  How I miss the smell of orange blossoms.  Sometimes when my parents come to visit in the spring, my mom will pack some orange blossoms for me.
  4. We don't have TV access and I don't really miss it.  We do watch movies and such, though.  But I do admit to a current Downton Abbey obsession.  My mother gave us the first season on DVD and I have been slowly working through it.  Oh, how I love the dresses!  Don't spoil the current season for me because it will be awhile before I can watch it.
  5. I used to be painfully shy.  Shy to the degree that I would rather take a lower grade than speak in class.  (And I was a grade hound, so that is saying something.)  I still think of myself as shy, but I will now speak in front of groups.  I'm pretty sure the years of directing a children's choir helped with that.
  6. I spent a summer in Paris taking classes through Parson's School of Design.  I loved it and had some fantastic experiences.  I was convinced I wanted to be an interior designer.  Obviously, this is no longer my dream, especially if you are in my house and see my decorated-with-inherited/hand-me-down-items style.
  7. I don't like water and I don't like to swim.  If I had to give up swimming for the rest of my life, I wouldn't miss it.  
There you have it.  Seven things about me that you didn't care about.  Now I have to pass this award on to several other bloggers.  Amy at Loving Leah, Tommy, and Nicolas a real-life friend whom I knew outside of her blog; Law Mommy at Adventures of Law Mommy who is now a real-life friend whom I met through her blog and Sandwich at Blessings, Sandwich who is not a real-life friend yet, but we are working on it.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Being responsible

Sometimes being the grown-up isn't fun.  It means that you have to make the not-fun decisions; the decisions that  aren't glamorous, but are important.  Sometimes being the grown-up makes you unpopular, even with yourself.  In general, I try to portray adulthood to my children as something positive and something to look forward to.  I think we do a disservice to our children if we make adulthood out to be all worry, bills, and drudgery.  It is difficult enough to grow-up without adding a whole host of negative connotations to it.  Being an adult does come with some perks.  We do get to choose our own bedtime, what we watch for entertainment and when, what we do with our friends, where we go and how we spend our money, and we generally have access to a lot more resources than children.

But being an actual grown-up, as opposed to a physically mature child, means taking responsibility and making choices based on what is best and not what is immediately enjoyable.  This is very true in parenting.  There have been times when we have been out and I have been enjoying what we are doing, but a child has behaved in a way that has been unacceptable.  If I have told that child we're going home, as a warning for the behavior, then home we go if it happens again.  Even if I don't want to.  Or you say no to something an older child has asked to do because you have real reservations about it, even though you know it will not make your popular with that child and there will be some unpleasant moments ahead.  Being a grown-up parent means you make decisions on what is best in the long term and not on popularity.

Responsibly choices also play out in the area of money.  It's that whole delayed gratification-thing.  Not fun, but necessary.  I do find it easier to make responsible choices whenever I stop and look back at all the poor choices I have made.  It seemed like such a good idea at the time.  Whatever it was, I really, really wanted it. Wanted it so much that I was able to justify the expense even though it really didn't fit in the budget.  Whatever that thing was, it was going to make my life better, calmer, more fulfilling.  I was sure of it.  And then it didn't.  Because I owned this new thing, my life wasn't instantly transformed, but perhaps was slightly more stressful because of the expense.  I am a slow learner, because I have done this more times than I care to admit.  And I still have to battle temptation to not think this way.

Take my most recent responsible decision.  You know those iPads?  They're pretty cool, and once I realized they served a purpose other than playing games I haven't heard of, I decided I needed one.  (Notice the verb.  Be careful once it switches from 'want' to 'need'.)  There's this great speech therapy app that at least one of my children could make us of, plus there is an app for non-verbal children which uses pictures, so they can communicate.  I thought this would be perfect to use with H.  It would give her a way to communicate with us while she was learning English.  And it would be cool.  Did I mention that?  And then I started to realistically look at my checkbook.  Yes, I could pay for it, but then that money would be spent and couldn't be used for anything else.  (Don't you hate that?)  And then I started thinking about all the other things I might want that money for.  Things such as Typhoid vaccines... money to pay bills in advance for while we're gone... money to give to our friends to help out with the extra costs of taking care of our children.  Suddenly, these things seemed much more important.  And I thought about how cool that iPad would look when I couldn't figure out how to pay for the things we really needed after I had spent the money on something that we really didn't.  It became a very easy decision after that.

And even though I won't have the cool, fun technology to facilitate communication with H., that doesn't mean I can't still use the idea.  Taking a ring of photo cards that I will make will fill the same purpose and be lighter to lug around.  I don't anticipate needing to use them for very long.  Besides, I own a laminator...

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Stretching chicken

How about a recipe?  I realize I haven't posted one in a long time and it's either that or I drone on a bit more about the travel plans I'm making.  I think you'll all take the recipe.

When you're feeding a lot of people, you learn to stretch you meat.  A lot.  For instance, one dinner last week, I made about a pound of chicken stretch to feed all 10 of us.  Pretty impressive, huh?  Here's what I did.  (It's nothing spectacular, but is easy and tasty.)

Lemon Chicken Tenders on Egg Noodles

~1 pound of chicken tenders
Panko bread crumbs
Olive oil for cooking
Egg noodles, cooked
1 or 2 lemons, cut into wedges

Take the chicken and cut the tenders into smaller pieces.  I usually try to get three pieces out of one.  Take a meat mallet (or rolling pin or something heavy) and carefully flatten each piece.  I find this therapeutic.  But don't take all of your aggression out on the chicken, or it will not remain in one piece.  Pour the Panko bread crumbs into a bowl. (Yes, you really need these.. it makes all the difference.  You can find them in the Asian section of the grocery store.)  Coat each piece on chicken in bread crumbs and set aside.  I don't put anything else on, just the bread crumbs.

Heat olive oil in a frying pan and quickly cook the chicken, turning once.  It doesn't take long because the chicken is so thin.  I put them all on a plate and keep them warm in a very low oven at this point.  While you are doing this, have your water heating to cook the noodles.  I cook two bags of noodles, but you may only need one.  This is the key to stretching your meat, lots of noodles!  When they are cooked and drained, I put some butter on them so they don't stick.

To serve, put some noodles on a plate, top with a couple of slices of chicken and put a lemon slice on the side  so each person can squeeze the lemon over the chicken and noodles.  Since this dish is a bit on the bland side (thus making it very popular with certain children), I will always serve a bright vegetable along side.  Broccoli is good and the lemon can be squeezed on it as well.  The roasted Brussels sprouts with balsamic vinegar and bacon that my sister-in-law introduced us to at Thanksgiving would also be good.  Anything with color and taste.

This is an easy meal that is pretty inexpensive.  I figure that the total comes out to less then $7 for all the ingredients which puts it at about $0.70 per serving.
_________________
Since we're talking about food, I have a new article up at the magazine I occasionally write for.  It's on legumes.  And I did NOT make up the title.  There is also a recipe for roasted chickpeas that you can take a look at as well.  Thanks.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Prayer requests

As I begin the whole host of preparations to be ready to travel when the time comes, I thought I would share my list of prayer requests.  These are not in any specific order, just as they come to mind as I write.

  • That A. and TM's passports will arrive soon so that I can start the visa process
  • We are trying to make it work so that we can do a very quick stop in Vietnam and have a reunion between TM and his foster parents.  There are a few more steps to this than I had anticipated, but our agency thinks it seems very possible.
  • That the reunion would be healing and not overly stressful for TM.  I really believe he needs this closure.
  • That we receive our TA soon so that we have a bit more time to make travel preparations.  I am still holding out hope for travel in March; it is the best time to fit into J.'s school schedule.
  • For H. as she is told she is going to have a family.  As we get closer to her learning, I become increasingly nervous about how she will react.
  • Money.  We have been able to cover the orphanage donation and we will be able to pay visa fees with money that we have (tax refund and donations).  This is a huge praise.  Now we are on to travel expenses.  If I had a choice, we would hear that we have been chosen to receive a grant from ShowHope, for which we applied a few months ago.  But, I know that I have little say in the matter.  In lieu of the grant, wisdom as to how best to utilize the loans available to us to pay expenses.
  • For the H-S family who have generously offered to watch the children are staying home.  Depending on college spring breaks, they will be watching between 11 and 13 children while we are gone.
  • For our children staying at home.  This is the part of adoption that I do not like at all.... leaving my other children behind.  This will be especially difficult this time because of the little girls.  I just can't think about it.  Prayers for safety and health and good spirits are much appreciated.  
That's it for right now.  I'm sure there are many more, but these are the things that I am concerned with right now.  Thank you so much for praying with us.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Book organization... or not

When we switched the schoolroom to A., P., and H.'s new room, we discovered that they were in desperate need of storage, especially bookcases.  We decided to move the bookcase which had been in the hallway holding our picture books.  This was not a difficult choice because if you have ever tried to store picture books, you will know that they don't fit on shelves very well.  It was one of those areas that end up looking messy because it is difficult for small people to put them away correctly.  So off it went to the girls' room where it is much better used.

That did leave us with the problem of what to do with the current season of picture books.  While we were deciding, they were living in baskets in the hallway.  Not great, but not horrible either.  I thought we had hit on the perfect solution:  baskets which hang on the wall.  The pockets looked big enough to hold the books, it looks nice, and seemed likely that even the smallest could make it work.  Here is what it looks like:


Pretty good, huh?  (Well, except for the hideous wallpaper.)  The only trick is that one needs to be sure to put smaller books in the bottom baskets because the tall ones don't fit well and it makes it difficult to see what is there.  Well, that's not the only difficulty.  It seems I underestimated how many picture books we have out at a time.  I have done some significant purging, plus we only have a third of our books out at a given time.  I thought it was a small amount of books.  And compared to what we used to have out all the time, it is a small amount of books.  But, evidently, it is not small enough for my chosen storage system:


Not great, is it?  I'm stumped as to what to do, except use the baskets we had been using to hold the overflow.  It would at least contain them, but it defeats the purpose of the nice, stream-lined, and pleasant plan I had.  Humph.

How about some cuteness, instead of messy piles?  Here's L. from this morning:




(We see this face a lot.  She's a goof.)


And G.:



Friday, February 03, 2012

Getting older

Yes, I am.  I don't really feel older, but every so often, I have one of those moments where reality hits.  Take yesterday.  I was doing a bunch of adoption paperwork (again), and looking to see what passport size photos I had and how many more I needed.  For some reason I had one set of myself from the beginning of 2011 and one taken from much later in the year.  Oh my goodness.  I think the year was harder on me than I imagined.  Comparing the two pictures, I seem to have aged more than 10 or 11 months.  It looked more like 4 or 5 years. It may sound as though I'm fishing for compliments, but really, I'm not.  I was just shocked at the difference in the two pictures.  (I'm justifying it by saying I must have had several nights of poor sleep to explain the second picture away.  Don't dissolution me.)  It wasn't until that moment that I fully realized how anxious I have been about this adoption.  I knew I felt a little stressed about it, but until I saw it written there all over my face, I hadn't realized the pervasiveness of it.  I am also a little more aware of its weight now because of the relief I feel as we get closer and closer to actually travelling.  Being at the point of just waiting for our travel approval feels glorious.  I am so ready for this adoption to be completed and to have H. in our arms.

So, tell me, do you think relief can reverse the aging process?

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Hair Dos

A. enjoys fixing her hair and other's hair as well.  It's a shame that she is surrounded by sisters who don't share her enthusiasm.  M. isn't much for fiddling with hair, so A. is out someone who will style hers and P. does not particularly enjoy having new hairstyles put in, so A. is out someone on whom to experiment.  Enter her littlest sisters, who do enjoy having someone fix their hair.  (I will add that A. is also pinning quite a few hopes on H., that she enjoys it as well.)  Thanks to Pinterest, A. has also found quite a few websites that have instructions on how to do interesting and/or elaborate hairstyles.  She even found one for little toddler heads.  L. and G. were happy to oblige.

These two pictures are of L.:



And another of L. which demonstrates why she doesn't seem to appear on the blog quite as much as her sister.  She's a little goofy and wiggly.


Here is G.'s:


And here is G. showing that her sister doesn't have a corner on goofiness:



In return for sitting still for a long time, A. agreed to put on 'nail paint'.  (L. had purple and G. had pink)



Of course, this could be a blessing in disguise.  This morning I overheard this conversation as A. was putting regular pokey-tails in G.'s hair.

G.:  Noooo!  4-5-6 pokey tails!!
A.:  Just two today.  I'm just putting in two.
G.:  Noooo!  4-5-6!  4-5-6 pokey tails!  7!

I'm sure you won't be too surprised when I show you today's hairdo's.

G.


L.

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