Thursday, December 31, 2009

I'm sitting here thinking about the new year. Tonight my newest baby is far away. He doesn't understand that his mama and papa are moving mountains (of paperwork) to get him home. He doesn't know that he has a sister and two brothers that are excited to meet him. He has no way was comprehending the how his life will change in just a few short months. He will be loved and cared for in ways that are not open to him in Russia. He will have educational opportunities, friends, a chance to become a productive member of society, and a chance to live and never be considered "less than."

There are children all over the world who will never have that chance unless we do something about it. Children who will be shamed and abused. Children who will be abandoned to mental institutions instead of nurtured to their best ability. They will not have the medical treatments they so desperately need to make their live productive-- things like hearing aids, prosthetic limbs and education for the blind. Some kids will make it and some will be scarred . Some will die due to lack of love and care.

Tonight I'm asking everyone to think about what they can do.

Can you open you heart and home to one of God's forgotten children? We are so much stronger that we think. You don't have to be Super man or Mother Teresa to adopt a child with special needs. I'm sure not. If you had asked me two years ago if I though I would be adopting a child from Russia with life long medical needs, I wouldn't have believed it. And yet looking back, I can see how God prepared me for it through the people we met and the circumstances we've encountered.

Can you financially support another family's adoption? Did you know that there are adoption grants to help families pay for their adoptions. Brittany's Hope and Reece's Rainbow are organizations that help defray the initial adoption costs.

Finally, if those options are not open to you, consider "spiritually adopting" a child. Pick a child and pray for him. Pray that he has enough to eat. Someone to comfort him in the night. Good doctors to care for him. A family to love him forever. No prayer is wasted. Ever.

(All of these kids need a home and your prayers)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, Everyone! May the peace of Jesus Christ be with you throughout this year.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. We did. I am always torn around holidays. Our families live so far away and traveling is a HUGE pain, but staying home just doesn't feel like a holiday. There is no hustle and bustle and a thousand kids and hugs and kisses.

Anyway, we stayed home this year and it was lovely (even though we were by ourselves). The present opening lasted all day. Of course, first thing in the morning the children got up to see what Santa got them. All of his offering were well received. Pookie got a doll strolled and some big girl panties. (I'm not sure what she will do with them since she refuses to sit on the potty right now. GRRRR) Jophus was offered a really great sled and a Scooby Doo board game. Wonder Boy also received a nice new sleeping bag for his scouting adventures and a book. Charlie and I received items that we really needed, mostly for reenacting-- not like socks and underwear, and would have had to buy anyway. It's so nice when Santa get you that kind of stuff.

After church the kids had a big snack and a rest while Charlie and I began to cook Christmas dinner. The kids did a great job helping us plan the meal and even preparing it. On the menu was duck, a roasted beet and goat cheese salad (their choice, honestly) wild rice stuffing and candies sweet potato wedges. We had a creme brule and roasted pear tart for dessert. Yum!

Christmas dinner was about three o'clock and after that we opened the rest of the gifts. Jophus loved his puzzle from his god parents and then came the big gift from their grandparents. They each opened a big box and . . .
(I was expecting screaming and shouting)
. . . what i got was stunned confusion.
"Wii? This won't work," says WB. "We don't have a Wii system."
"This is the system." I say smiling. It took a while for them to understand that they were really going to get to have a Wii, I think because I am not a huge computer or video game person and thus far had declined to let them have anything. They have had a blast the past two days playing around on it.

Now for the very best. I got a new sewing machine. My old one was worn out and not really up for the kind of sewing I'm starting to do. the new one is so pretty and has a case to keep it safe in. Yippee!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wonder Boy's best friend is in the paper

Two years ago Wonder Boy met a lovely little girl that we all adore. They quickly became best friends. (My diabolical plan is to keep her around until they are old enough to date. Shh, don't tell Wonder Boy. Seriously, we don't tease him because we don't want to him to not have a friend who is a girl.) Her family made to Detroit paper in an article that highlighted the religious importance of Christmas.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tales from Wonder Boy

G and me were fishing when suddenly we both felt a tug on our rods. We both reeled in our rods. To our surprise, we had the same fish. So we had had our picture taken.

The End.
--Written by Wonder Boy.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Smiles and Trials

Sunday was our 11th wedding anniversary. Sometimes I think "Wow! That's a long time. I can't have been married that long." Other times I can remember not being married. We had a great day and had a special lunch with the kids at the Eagle Tavern at Greenfield Village. The I had a great time learning about Christmas traditions from the oldest homes in the village through to the most modern. The rest of the family put up with me and we had a lovely day. After that we took in the sight of the Wayne County Lightfest. It is a huge light display that you can drive through. After that the plan was to have a small romantic dinner or dessert after the children went to bed.

You know what they say about the best laid plan?

I am fine, but on my way to the grocery store the was an accident in front of me. As I slowed in the road to see what had happened and how best to get around it, a car struck me from behind. Cop car and fire rescue come flying to us. Sadly all four vehicles had to be towed and now my car in smooshed in the back. Hopefully today we will have an estimate and see what it will take to get it back on the road. For now we have a low cost loaner and all is well.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Preparing for Court

We got our list of documents that have to be updated for court. It looks like court will be in February. Here's hoping that we'll be able to get the packet done ASAP so we can get this finalized!

Little Bit

We are going to have to find a new blog name for Little Bit. He's a big boy. I missed his current weight during the medical report, but he defiantly weights more than Pookie. (That's not really saying much since she's pretty tiny, but still.)

Suggestions are welcome!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Back from Russia

On Monday we returned home from Russia, well we returned from Houston. We stayed a few extra days to visit with family. It was so great!

The trip was really long. Charlie calculated that he and I took 10 flights in two weeks. The day before Thanksgiving we flew with the three kids to Houston for the holiday and to visit my sister. On Saturday we flew from Houston to Amsterdam (9 hours) and then from Amsterdam to Moscow(three 1/2 hours). From there we changed airports and then flew to Stavropol (2 hours). All told we traveled about 20 hours.

We stayed in the Eurohotel, which I thought was really nice. Even better, the coordinator made all the arrangements and breakfast was included. There was also a nice shower and a hairdryer in the room. While these things were not mandatory, it was really nice not to have to worry with the details.

Our agency is affiliated with Frank and the Frank staff took suck great care of us. We were met by a translator in Moscow and put on the plane to Staropol. In Stavropol we were met by our regional translator. Baulina was there for everything we needed.

On Monday (day #1 in Russia) we met Little Bit and then met with the orphanage director to go over his medical information. We went back for a second visit in the afternoon. On Tuesday (day #2) we visited with Little bit once in the morning and once in the afternoon. That evening we had a meeting with our coordinator to let us know what to expect on trip two/ court. Wednesday (Day #3) we were not able to meet with Little Bit because we went to notary's office to sign the Petition to Adopt. In the evening we went for our last visit. We had to arrive late so it was shorted that usual.

Thursday we spent getting back to Moscow and we let early on Friday morning.

Little Bit seems emotionally normal and health. It took him a while to warm up to us, but was progressing. It was also comforting to see that when is caregivers came into the room he would light up. He clearly is attached to them. The speech therapist also took time to talk to us and let us know that although little Bit has some delays, she believes that they will be resolved once he is at home.

I was really impressed with the orphanage. The playroom we saw was very nice and the children also had music lessons once while we were there. At the end of the lesson a group of children about Little Bit's age came the the playroom. They were all well groomed and dressed.

We almost got to go into the area where Little Bit slept, but the caregivers nixed the idea. Too bad! It would have been great to see where he spent most of his time.

I have a new neice and nephew

The day before Thanksgiving our family was blessed with two beautiful babies. My sister delivered Thumbelina and Chill with no complications. Even though they are twins they were just over and just under 6 pounds and perfectly healthy.

God is good!

Jophus lost his first tooth

Wednesday was very exciting for us. Jophus lost his first tooth at the skating rink. His front two teeth we soooooooo ready to fall out. And finally he wiggled it right out. Later that evening he was showing he the gap me had and I noticed the other one was sitting crooked.
Mom: You know you can just pull that out?
J: How?
Mom: Just pull it out.
J: Like this?

And out it came. My boy looks so big.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Travel Moved

Jeny called today. Our travel dated have been moved up two days. Now I am freaking out that we will be able to get everything ready before we need to leave. There is only one document left out and I will call to get is done ASAP. We overnighted our visa application today and we are still exploring airfare. So far we haven't found anything that works our perfectly.

Wonder Boy Can See

At his physical a few weeks ago, Wonder Boy did not pass his vision screening. When we told him he needed glasses he nearly cried. He was so worried that people would tease him. We took him to LensCrafters and with in two hours he could see again. He had no idea how poorly he was seeing until he put on the glasses. Now we can barely get him to take them off.

Friday, November 13, 2009



Jeny called us this afternoon and said that we have travel dates from the region. In two weeks we are going to meet Little Bit! We don't even have all the paperwork together. (It should be all done by end of next week.) She said to just hand carry it to Russia.

Even more amazing was the fact that she said that they may try to get everything finalized before the end of the year. I personally think that is kind of a longshot, but I'll take it!

The timing isn't great because my lovely sister is due with twins any day. We planned for my parents to watch to kids, but understandably they want to be with her and the babies. We'll work out the kinks.

I had to go out for a little while and the boys were supposed to do their before dinner chores, when I got home I noticed Wonder Boy had a funny look on his face. We call it his "Wiley Look."
"Mom, the boys had a hard time concentrating on cleaning up. Boys, do you want to tell her why?"

This is the first time in my life that I remember crying tears of joy. We are going to meet our little boy!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Brother

Yesterday I was changing Pookie's diaper. She was chattering as usual, and I was only half listening. Then I heard her say "I want 'Brad' " -- the adoption agency gave Little Bit the ID name Brad and that is what the kids have been calling him. We have told them that is not his name, and that we will give him a new name when we adopt him because his Russian name would not be popular in the US. We also told them we don't want to use him new name until we've at least have travel dates and are more certain he will be ours. Anyway--

"You want Brad?" I said.

"I do!"

"Do you even know who Brad is?" I asked

With total certainty she replied,"A brother."

Friday, October 30, 2009

God's Consolations

Want to hear something really weird? I'm in two e-mail support groups-- one for those adopting children with limb differences another for children with amputations. They are both very active, and I may get up to 25 messages a day. During the couple of weeks after we heard about Sweet Pea I stopped getting messages from those groups. As soon as we made a decision about Little Bit the message started coming again.

I think it was god not giving me more than I could handle.

Little Bit

So- at least for now- we have been calling our new little guy Little Bit. (We don't want to call him by the name we have choosen until we have travel dates.) I can't even tell you how adorable he is. His smile just melts you. The agency sent three photos with his medicals, and later they sent a baby picture as well. In the baby picture he looks about three months old. I'm so thrilled to get that baby picture. So many people who adopt have no idea what their child looked like in infancy. This is a huge gift. Using a Russian photolisting we have also found a picture that we think is him. It is more recent than the ones from the agency. I'm looking forward to seeing if we got it right.

The boys are very excited to be getting a new brother. Even more so than about Sweet Pea. Little Bit has the same birthday as Wonder Boy and Wonder Boy loves it. "We'll be like twins, huh, Mom?" (Except for that five year age difference, sure, Son.)

Ironically, I've gotten rid of most of our toddler boy clothes. We saved most of our stuff for so long, since we thought we'd need it for future children but have run out of space and I've had to start selling and donating things. We thought we were going to have another girl, so . . . well the best laid plans and all.

Wearing Me Down

We have been dilly dally-ing getting all this paperwork going again. After the monumental disappointment of losing Sweet Pea it was hard to get motivated to start diving through hoops again. I think we are back on track though. I have contacted everyone and now I'm just waiting to get papers back from all parties involved. This includes:
- our family doctor (5 appointments)
- the city assessor
- the mortgage company
- Charlie's HR department (twice-- three time really since the first time they didn't quite do what we asked the first time)
- new document from the homestudy agency
- new police checks
- a psychiatrist
- a CPA

In adoption it's more than "Here, jump through these hoops." It's "Wait, let me set the hoops on fire before you jump. Try not to get singed."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Meghan changed my life

About three years ago I attended a women's conference and one of the speakers was a woman named Ellen Salter. Ellen's young daughter, Meghan, is seriously incapacitated for unknown reasons. She is unable to move on her own or communicate with others. Meghan requires constant nursing care to make sure continues to breathe. She has had multiple surgeries in her short life and has nearly died several times.

One might be tempted to say, "Poor dear, what kind of life can that be? " Let me assure you Meghan in an active member of her family. They make sure she is included in family events. They even converted the living room into her bedroom so she can be in the middle of all the action.

It was hearing about Meghan that made me understand that out intrinsic value as humans is not in what we do or accomplish in life. Meghan is valuable because she is Meghan. She doesn't need to cure cancer or become the president. All she has to be is be.

Meghan opened my eyes to the value of all God's children. Not that I look back I can see how hearing Ellen Salter planted the seeds for me to be able to pursue special needs adoption. What a gift!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

In light of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I thought I'd look into some disturbing facts that I've heard about.

1. Susan G. Komen affiliates donate quite a lot of money to Planned Parenthood. Komen states that the national organization does not give money to Planned Parenthood and that the money given is not for abortions. In my opinion, though, that is not enough. Any money given to one area of Planned Parenthood let the organization shift other money to providing abortions. If it were me I would want NOTHING to do with an organization like that. The end does not justify the means. We can't do good (providing cancer screening for some) at the expense of being complicit in evil.

2. There may be a link between breast cancer and abortion. Many researchers have questions, although result are not conclusive.

3. There may also be a link between using birth control pills and breast cancer. Breast cancer is highly influenced by hormones, and any substances that manipulate the body's natural hormone level could increase cancer risk.

I bring these things up for a couple of reasons. No one has to do any of these things. No one has to donate money to Komen (although it can be hard to avoid). No one has to have an abortion-- there are crisis pregnancy centers in nearly every community. There are are pre-adoptive parents longing for a baby. No one has to risk there health and fertility with birth control pills (and yes, I believe that birth control pills seriously hurt my fertility and made it very difficult to conceive Wonder Boy). Let's guard our physical and moral health aggressively, not only for our own sakes, but also for our family and society in general.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Thoughts on Health Care

Who looks at Medicare and says, "Wow, that's worked out so well. Sign me up. Let's see what the Federal government can do for me?"

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Zero Tolorance?

I love Cub Scouts/ Boy Scout. This program has built into everything that American boys need to be learning: teaching children to be brave, active, and honorable. American schools leave alot to be desired, though. I am so upset to see this news story.

Boy, 6, Faces Reform School for Carrying Camping Utensil to School
First Grader: 'I Wasn't Really Trying to Get in Trouble'

A Delaware mother whose 6-year-old son was suspended for 45 days for carrying a camping utensil to school is speaking out against the suspension and saying he should not have to face reform school as a consequence.

Debbie Christie's son Zachary, a first-grader at Downes Elementary School in Newark, Del., was suspended for carrying a camping utensil that contained a spoon, fork, bottle opener and knife to school.

"I wasn't really trying to get in trouble," 6-year-old Zachary said. "I was just trying to eat lunch with it."

"I got a call from the principal, telling me to come down, that Zach had carried a dangerous weapon into school and was going to be suspended," Christie told "Good Morning America" today.

School administrators deemed Zachary to be in violation of their zero-tolerance ban on weapons, and he may have to attend the district's reform school.
The decision has been widely criticized as being too harsh, and Christie started a Web site with a petition of support that has garnered more than 29,000 signatures.
"They are using black and white rules and applying them to everybody," Christie said, "and there is a lot of damage to the kids that happens in between who are innocent victims of this zero-tolerance policy. "

George Evans, the president of the Christina School Board, defended the decision to suspend Zachary, citing student safety, but he told The New York Times that the board might make changes to its regulations for cases involving younger students.

His parents bought Zachary the camping utensil for his trips with the Cub Scouts. They said Zachary has always been an enthusiastic student.
"Most fun is having to do work," he said, "and playing all that fun stuff and work and recess and math and science and all that and reading."

School policies should be a tools to manage student and teacher actions. However this is not a tool but a tyrant-- something used to bludgeon this child and possibly harm him worse by exposing him to discipline and behavior problem at his "reform school ."

Monday, September 28, 2009

Decision Made

We found out, shortly after the last post, that another family had requested information about one of the kids that we were interested in. Since they were equally desirable to us we decided to get the other child's medical records looked at. The whole time we were trying to make a decision, we said if there was something that would make one child harder to place, we would pursue that child.

His records came back without anything unexpected on them, so we are asking our agency to register us in Stavropol so that we can adopt him. It's a big change from Ekat, which is known for being difficult and slow. I'm hopeful that the speed in which the process will speed up considerable.

The doctor had many encouraging things to say about this little boy, including the fact that the Russian doctors imply that he is healthy because they immunized him, and they wouldn't do that if they thought he was sickly. He was also developmentally right on target at the time of the medical report.

By the way, we used Dr. Jerri Jenista and really liked her. She cut right to the chase and let us know if there were any issues.("You see all this stuff? It's meaningless. Ignore it.") I also really like that she is local and we could actually see her in the future.

A Giggle for You

This is only funny because it is so true.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hard Decisions

Sadly there is no time out period after losing a referral. We know that we are called by God (and who am to argue) to adopt. I feel a little bit like the Blue brothers "We're on a mission from God!" At our request our agency sent out possibilities almost right away. Right now we are examining the files of two wonderful kids. Their medical histories are more complex that Sweet Pea's was, but we could choose either one of them. There are two main problems: 1.) in order to choose one, we have to say no to the other. Still, we could get past that except that Charlie and I are leaning in opposite directions.

That's just not fair.

The thing is there are no criteria for choosing one other the other. Their medical conditions are different, but equally complicated. We physically have space for either. They are both very cute and personable. We would have to re-do some paperwork for either child. There are no straight forward answers. I will keep praying and hope we receive guidance.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Can I Live?

Popular culture is so anti-life, I'm always so thrilled when an entertainer braves going against popular opinion and delivers a pro-life message.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Love and Pain

I have never before lost a child, and some may argue that I did not. I think that they are wrong. When you adopt you promise to love you child as if he was a biological child and that's what we did. We loved all our children from the moment that we knew that they would join our family. We planned and dreamed for them. We put together their bedroom and wondered how each child would add to the family. We found doctors and bought clothes. There are nine months of possibilities and potential to celebrate. The point is that the love and connections starts long before a child comes home to live with you. We did not hold back with Sweet Pea. In my mind she wasn't someone who would one day join the family. She was my child living far away.

So now we are mourning the loss of that piece of the mosaic. Our family will grow and will fit together, but it won't be the way I expected. The shape will always be different. I imagined Pookie and Sweet Pea being best friends and terrorizing the boys. I imagined the whole world opening up to her in ways that won't be available in Russia. Nothing could hold her back from a normal life here, so much there can. I won't see her smile or see her first steps

Tuesday night I laid down with the quilt my mom had made for Sweet Pea. It's a photo quilt with pictures of the family so that she could see us all the time between trips. I cried and prayed. I have no idea if she is healthy or sick. I don't know why someone would deem her unadoptable or if maybe someone in Russia wanted to adopt her. (Would that be wonderful?)

I feel so guilty, too. I feel as though I failed her. First of all, her chances of reaching her full potential are very limited in Russia. There are so many orphans and the system is heavily burdened. Many of the orphanages struggle to meet the basic needs of the children in their care, much less pay for very expensive prosthetic limbs and rehabilitation. (Just one leg can cost over $10,000 in the United States.She needs two and they would need to be replaced every year until she about 5 and then every other year thereafter.) Second, you don't just abandoned the people you love. You certainly don't say, "Too bad. so sad. Who else do you have?" But that is exactly what we have to do. Do we quit? No. We still feel like this is the path we are called to. Do we want more children? Yes. Are there still children in Russia who need families? Yes.

Ironically, Tuesday was the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. Well, I guess She understands.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Terrible News

We began this adoption journey nine months ago, and when we did we always knew that there was the chance that something would happen and we wouldn't be able to adopt her, but I never really believed it. Today our wonderful social worker called and said that she had just been informed that Sweet Pea had been moved into a specialized Baby home and was no longer available for adoption. She went on to say that usually this happens when a child is seriously sick although the agency had no indications that this is the case. I asked if this was something that was likely to change, but she said no. It seems that we will have to abandon the dream of bringing this child into our family.

She was never officially ours, but I am mourning the loss of our Sweet Pea.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Adopting the Waiting Child

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Back to School

Yesterday was our first day of school. Wonder Boy started third grade (mostly) and Jofus was very excited to begin kindergarten. We started the day with a special breakfast at IHOP and then had a great day learning. Both boys professed that they had a great day. If only it would stay so good. I know it won't though. Homeschool, just like any other education, has its ups and downs. Some days we fly and some days we crash and burn.

The Civil War is Over . . For Now

We spent the weekend at our first Civil War re-enactment. It was so fun. Our family was blessed to meet the Schroeder family a few years ago. Memorial Day 2007 we met for the first time at Greenfield Village (a living history museum) at their annual Civil War memorial weekend. The next year I spoke to Wendi (the mama) again. This time she asked my if I wanted to try out the hobby. I said yes and then never got my act together and got things ready. This year I made plan to talk to them at Greenfield Village and we plotted when and how to make it work.

The Schoeders and their many children were so generous and and invited us to visit their camp during the day and lent us uniform for Charlie. I was worried on Friday because it was pouring buckets and the ground was so muddy in the civilian camp area. All I could think was all this work and the kids will be nuts because they can't do anything , and we'll have to go home. As Saturday went on the weather cleared and stayed nice for Sunday.

It was fantastic. People were so kind, and our hosts have two sons around the same ages as Wonder Boy and Jofus. They "shot" the confederate soldiers all weekend. I'm surprised that any survived for the men to "kill" in battles. I met a thousand people and they were all welcoming. (I was a little nervous about our clothes since I had made everything and I hoped it was accurate-- or at least accurate enough.)

It was sometimes strange. Spectators would come through and look around and watch us, but it wasn't like being in a play. There was no script and we weren't doing a demonstration. We were just cooking or taking care of children or washing dishes. There were a few moments where I thought, "so this is what the tigers at the zoo feel like." Luckily no one threw sticks at us. (side note: If you are going to throw sticks at an animal in the zoo, why would you antagonize the one that could eat you?)

When the event was over and it was time to go, the kids did not want to leave and were asking when they could go back. Charlie and I are already making plan to upgrade our wardrobe and attend another event in October.

Still Waiting

We have still not heard anything from from Kids to Adopt. I am hoping it will be very soon. If you are one to pray, please say a prayer that we will soon get our travel dates. We are all so anxious to meet our little girl.

The wait is so frustrating. Some days I want to scream "Stop holding my baby hostage!" Even though I know that no one is doing any such thing. When we started out it was possible that we would be bringing her home now, so it is disheartening that we still have not met her. I know at every passing day is one day more that she doesn't know people love her already and want her home. It is one more day she is limited by not being able to move around as she likes. One less day of having a forever family

May God protect you, my sweet girl.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Never Eat Anything bigger Than You Head

We have a rule in our house: Never eat anything bigger than you head. I so bit off more than I can chew. One of the reasons that it's been so quiet on the blog is that I made a commitment to attend a Civil War re-enactment this coming weekend as a re-enactor. I'm really excited. I get to dress up in period clothes and talk to people and learn all about the Civil War from the inside out. BUUUUUUT, in order to dress in period clothes, you have to have period clothes, and you can't just go buy them. (Or rather you can, but its really expensive.) So you have to make them. Great . . . except I don't sew. Well, I didn't before, but in the last six weeks I've learned. I've been spending several hours a day making shirts for the boys, a corset, petticoats, chemises, and dresses for myself and Pookie. Thank goodness Charlie is able to borrow what he needs.

Waiting Children at Kids to Adopt

My adoption agency, Kids to Adopt, has the most beautiful waiting children available for adoption. You can read about them at their website and they would be happy to send you more information about any of them.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Hidden Riches

Sorry I've been gone for a while, folks. My father-in-law, Lyle, died about two weeks ago. He had been suffering from cancer for a very long while and we knew he had a very little time left with us on Earth. We got a call from my sister-in-law letting us now that he was close to death. We decided quickly to pack and get in the car in hopes that we would make it in time to be there before he died. Unfortunately, he passed away before we could get packed. We were able to make the 750 mile drive with little incident, and that in itself was divine intervention because usually the drive is awful.

I was struck again and again by the beauty of our family during this emotional time and the many ways we were blessed by God.

One of Charlie's brothers had been estranged from the family for a very long time. There were periods of time where no one in the family knew how to reach him. Through the magic of Facebook he was located and other family member flew him home to see his father before he died. I know my mother-in-law believes Lyle was waiting to see his son before he died. Lyle died mere days later.

Charlie, my husband, is from a very large family. He is the twelfth of fourteen children. Everyone except for a few of the adult grandchildren were able to drop everything and race to Minnesota. Of course, everyone would come, you're thinking, but if you count his siblings and their spouses or fiances and their children and the great-grandchildren then we are talking about nearly 60 people. That is no small feat.

Even in the midst of all the sorrow our family was kind and thoughtful enough to remember Pookie's birthday, which was the day after Lyle Sr. passed away, and bought her a cake.

After the funeral, we all went back to the family home to write thank you notes and simply be together. As dusk fell I looked around at our family spread our before us. My boys and a couple of their cousins were climbing in an apple tree. My teenage nephew was playing with Pookie. Some were outside talking and telling stories. Others put out leftovers so that we could have dinner. It was amazing. If you cast a movie showing family togetherness, this is what it would have looked like.

I love my family and thank God for the reminder that I am truly blessed.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Getting Closer

Our dossier is in Russia! I want to shout it from the rooftops. My case worker, Jeny, said that we may hear from someone after the inspector is back from vacation in mid- August. Jeny said that she was hoping to travel in late August or early September. I'm trying not to get too excited yet, but I am dying to meet Sweet Pea have her become a reality.

Right now she is a shadow. I love her in the same way I loved each of the children before they were born. Because although she has a personality, I don't what she is like. I don't know what she likes or dislikes. What makes her laugh? Is she easy going or is her behavior challenging? Is she scared of anything? Going to meet her is the first step to learning about this new person that will bless our family.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Pookie Is Growing Up

On a lighter note, Pookie went poo poo and pee pee on the potty for the first time last week. For the last little while she has felt that she needs to potty but couldn't figure out how to get her body to do what she wanted it to. She is very proud of herself.

Our Dossier Is Ready

My amazing case worker, Jeny, just told me that she is sending my dossier to Frank right now. (Our agency is affiliated with Frank Adoptions.) Finally we are getting everything over to Russia. My heart is overflowing with joy. I hope we will meet our sweet girl in September. When we started this adoption journey I secretly had hopes that that Sweet Pea would be home with us by August or September. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that we would still be waiting for our first trip right now.

Maybe God is using this time to help us gather our resources and prepare and strengthen us for the path we have chosen. I am amazed by the wonderful internet support groups that I have found. They are a wealth of information and support. Most of all I know that we are not alone. There are children all over the country that face the same challenges that Sweet Pea will face, and they do it with grace and fortitude.

By being a part of these groups I get to see first hand the struggles that families of children with limb differences and amputations face: the emotional struggles, their refusal to be held back, and their ability to solve problems their own way.

I can't wait for our family to really get in on the action.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Reason 874 We Homeschool

Wonder boy has religious education for three weeks this summer. He has to be at church at 7:45.

How do you people do this nine months out of the year?!?

This is awful. We have to drag him out of bed, rush to make sure he is dressed and ready. This morning I realized he hadn't brushed his teeth before he left. I'm going to have a nervous breakdown if this doesn't end soon. It puts everyone in a bad mood for several hours.

People tell me all the time that they respect me taking the time and effort it takes to homeschool, but they could never do it. Well, to all of you whose children go to a traditional school, I respect you. There is no way I could get my kiddo up, ready and out the door every day.

Some Pictures from MN

We went to Minnesota the last week of June to visit Charlie's family. The kds have a great time because there are so many cousins about the same age.

Happy (Late) Birthday

Wonder Boy turned 7 at the end of June. His oh so exciting present was a magical fun-filled drive to Minnesota. Did I say present? I meant booby prize.

Seriously, We celebrated at home the night before and we are still planning a party with his best friend later in the summer.

I love you, baby!

Plumbing Woes

Last month we finally had our powder room remodeled. It had been torn apart for about 2 years. The final thing for the contractor to do was put in the toilet . that was when he came to me and said that the toilet wouldn't flush. the returned the toilet and got a new one. Still not flushing. I called a plumber and the final diagnosis was that the sewer line in the laundry room was back-pitched. What does this mean you ask? Well, it means that the pipes are tilted the wrong way and the water and such can't flow downhill to the main sewer line. On Friday they busted up my floor (It's never a good day when they bring a jack hammer into your laundry room.) replaced the pipe and closed up the floor.

Guess what? The toilet still won't flush. At first they thought they would have to put in a vent, which would mean cutting (the newly finished) wall open, but upon further inspection there is another pipe under the main part of the house that is also back-pitched. Tomorrow some unlucky soul (by virtue of being the thinnest employee and therefore able to fit into the crawl space under the house) will have to replace it.


Friday, July 10, 2009

Awwww. . . .

This morning Jophus was saying grace before breakfast. After he finished, he immediatly started to say the prayer again. Sometimes the kids just pray by rote and go super fast, then they forget what they just did. "You just did that," I informed him. He looked up at me in all seriousness and said, "Mom, I'm extra thankful this morning."

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Runners' Stories

This petite powerhouse has fought adversity—and won.By Nancy Averett
Image by Amanda Friedman
From the August 2009 issue of Runner's World

Scout Bassett has always thought of herself as an athlete. But other people have not. When she was 12, the single-leg amputee gave her junior high school's basketball, soccer, and softball teams a shot, only to find that the coaches wouldn't give her one. "It was an incredibly awkward time in my life," says Bassett, now 20. "I sat on the bench a lot. My softball coach didn't let me play at all, ever. I didn't realize the stigma that's attached to being disabled until then. I still remember that to this day. It had a huge effect on me."

A good one, it turns out. Bassett became more motivated than ever to become an athlete; she wanted to prove to those who couldn't see past her prosthetic leg what she was capable of achieving. With a tenacious drive, Bassett transformed herself from benchwarmer to a world-class triathlete. In 2007, she won silver in the above-knee physically challenged division of the ITU World Triathlon Championships, a feat she repeated in 2008. This September, she's going for gold at the championships in Australia.

It might be easy to underestimate the power of such a tiny young woman (Bassett is 4'8", 78 pounds). Yet she's been battling adversity since she was 12 months old, when she was left on the doorstep of a Nanjing, China, orphanage. There was no explanation for her missing lower right leg or the burns and scars on other areas of her body. Her caretakers built her a makeshift prosthesis. "It was made of belt straps and masking tape," Bassett says. "It clanked and fell off." During the next six years, she was passed over for adoptions and was often put to work feeding babies and scrubbing floors.

Then one day in 1994, Susi and Joe Bassett, of Harbor Springs, Michigan, arrived. The Bassetts had flown to China to adopt a baby. While touring the facility, Susi saw a 6-year-old girl with soft brown eyes and a pixie cut, and thought, "She needs me." The Bassetts returned to Michigan with their baby and began making plans to go back for the 6-year-old girl, whom they would name Scout, and a boy they'd also met at the orphanage. Ten months later, the Bassetts were a family of five.

In Michigan, Bassett was fitted with a new prosthesis that enabled her to walk easily, but the leg wasn't designed for quick turns or sprints. So in 2001, the Bassetts met with Stan Patterson, a prosthetist in Florida who helps amputees realize their athletic potential. Patterson made Bassett a leg that allowed her to run and move with agility. With Patterson's encouragement, Bassett ran in a 100-and 200-meter dash for disabled athletes just a few hours after receiving her new leg. Even though she finished last, the experience was defining. "I was in the company of amputees who were also athletes," she says. "It showed me what was possible."

Bassett's high school didn't offer track or cross-country, so she played golf and tennis. Then in 2006, when she enrolled in UCLA on a full academic scholarship (she's now a junior communications major), Bassett decided to get serious about running—and biking and swimming.

Patterson made her two new legs, one for biking and one for long-distance running. Bassett's new running prosthesis was advanced—but heavy. At first, she could barely run 100 yards. Still, she stuck with it, and within three months, she finished her first triathlon (sprint distance). "I didn't feel disabled," she says. "I felt strong and alive. It was empowering."

That's a message Bassett, a spokesperson for the Challenged Athletes Foundation, conveys to the athletes she mentors and the students and executives she addresses. "Everybody has challenges," she says. "No matter what your obstacle is, you can overcome it. Take small steps. As time goes by, the steps will get bigger and you will reach your dream."

This summer, Bassett is squeezing extra running into her training. In addition to the seven triathlons she has scheduled for the rest of the year, she's also planning to do the Silver Strand Half-Marathon, her first distance run, in San Diego in November. Her ultimate goal is to compete in an Ironman and in the 2012 Paralympic Games. Her upward trajectory should surprise no one, says Creighton Wong, a challenged athlete and friend. "She competes and she competes hard," he says. "Don't let that cute smile fool you."

Monday, July 6, 2009

Just One Little Break?!

Seriously. I was all set to get a few documents notarized by my doctor when I got a call that we had to cancel the appointment. The poor man was in a car accident and broke his arm. It has been a week and he's still not really back to work, although he is trying.

Come on! Can't this be easy just once?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Common Ground?

I have frequently heard Obama supporters say that the president wants to find common ground with the pro-life community. My question is, is there any? At first I though so, but my beloved husband pointed out that he didn't think so. I said that the president could let abortion be legal, but not use taxpayer money. He oh so intelligently, replied that was compromise, not common ground.

I am convinced. This common ground argument is empty political posturing. Either you think that it's okay to kill a baby before it is born or not. It's a really black and white issue.


You think that a baby can be killed because a big person decided that they want to. You think that an unborn child is not a person. You may think that a child that has certain medical conditions do not have the same value as a healthy baby.


You know that life begins at conception. (If you don't know when life begins, shouldn't you err on the side of caution?) You think that the weak defend the strong. You don't think that people have the right to do things to the detriment (and death) of others.

What common ground do we have? Pro-abortion supporters feel that abortions should be "rare,"but they don't really try to talk mothers out of the abortion. No, they resist pre-natal ultrasound and parental notification. Pro-abortion supporters think people have a right to kill an unborn baby. Pro-life supporter believe it is wrong to kill any innocent person.

What common ground is there?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

More Paperwork

I spent today at doctors' offices getting all our medical forms renewed. This is the third time we've had to do it, which is ridiculous. I think the doctors are sick of us. The last 4 months of work were essentially wasted. On the other hand, my resolve has only been strengthened. Although I am frustrated with the whole process, I am very peaceful that we should be adopting Sweet Pea.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Abercrombie and Fitch is being sued in Great Britain for discriminating against a congenital amputee, claiming that she didn't meet the "Look" code. The college aged employee was hired and then told she would have to work in the stockroom until winter uniforms (that would cover the joint between her arm and prosthetic) were available.

This is at least the second time that the company ha been sued for discrimination. The first time, nine employees claimed there were forced to work in the stockroom because they did not meet the "Look" standards because they were of minority ethnicities.

Click here to read the full story.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Where I Live

Dear Friends and Family,
Many of you have never been able to visit or haven't been here in a long time. I thought I'd let you see what the house is looking like these days. A few months after Sweet Pea was born, we had some MAJOR renovations done on the house. It was re-sided a lovely green. We got new windows, we had the driveway paved and a new front porch put in. At the moment we are have our half bath renovated as well. When we worked on the laundry room, we kind of ran out of steam and that bathroom was never completed. It's exciting to think that after so long it will be back in service. It should be done on Tuesday. I'll try to post pictures when it is.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Lot Crunchier Than I Used To Be

I thought that as I got older everyone got more conservative. And I have. Although I was always pretty conservative. That urge that many young adults get to reject everything they ever heard and see what they believe to be true did hit hit me as hard as others. I have definitely become more socially Conservative, more religious, less inclined to have government interference in my life and less inclined to pay for it in other people's.

On the other hand, I also do some things I always thought much more liberal, march to the beat of your own drummer, mamas would do. I homeschool-- given people on both ends of the social spectrum do this. I cloth diaper, co-slept, and carried the kids in a sling as infants. I am still nursing a nearly two year old. We drink organic milk-- those growth hormones scare me and have been linked to the early onset of puberty. We recycle, compost and use lots of reusable containers instead of single use packaging.

Do we have different motives for doing the same things? Or have some gone left and others gone right and then we all ended up circling around to meet each other? Food for thought. Granola, maybe?

I Dare You

Go ahead, leave a comment. I double dare you.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

My New Favorite Person

My new favorite person is Jack Y. Lin, the Immigration Field Office Director. We just got our I-171H. That is the permission to bring an orphan into the country. This is a biggie. Without it we couldn't bring Sweet Pea home. God is good!

Of course some of our paperwork has now expired. (this is like some sort of farce.) In the next two weeks we should have new police checks and be on our way. Again. I think. Please God.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Summer is almost here

We are done with school in just a few days, and today was the last day of gymnastics. I feel oddly bereft. Already our schedule is packed:
two weeks of swim lessons
one week trip
catechism for Wonder boy and day camp for Jophus
Cub Scout day camp for WB
more swim lessons
(wow, look its August!)
family vacation
one week of nothing
gymnastics starts again
school starts again


Saturday, June 6, 2009

Isn't funny the things that you said that you'd never do, and then you end up up doing them? After Jophus was born, I was never having another child. I distinctly remember standing the the kitchen and saying "I'll never be one of those crazy people who homeschools their kids." Finally, I said that if a child can ask then they are too old to nurse. Err, umm. Yeah, about that.

All of my children were breastfed, but Pookie has embraced the experience. "Experts" recommend that you don't introduce a bottle for the first few weeks, if you are nursing in order to establish a good nursing relationship. Well, I was so focused on that, I kind of forgot to introduce a bottle, so Pookie never took one. Ever. Not even once.

Now she will tap me on the chest and say "I nur! I want nur!" I know its time to start weaning her. In theory, we will be going to Russia sometime in the next few months. I'd like to be weaned by then. The thing is we don't really want to stop. I don't know what God has in store for us in regards to the size of our family. We may never haven another infant. Even if we do have more children after Sweet Pea, we may decide to adopt again. I like being able to nourish and comfort our baby. I like having a tiny to hold and love.

This may be the first of our "lasts." The last baby to nurse. The last child to use the crib or use that baby blanket. Is it the last child we will see learn to talk? It is so hard to admit that one stage of my parenthood may be ending.

Friday, June 5, 2009

iPhones Have Consequences

iPhones Have Consequences

by Sally Thomas

Copyright (c) 2008 First Things (November 2008).

In a Doonesbury cartoon of recent vintage, Zipper, nephew to the 1960s slacker Zonker Harris, sits in a college class, his laptop open before him, giving every impression of industrious note-taking: Tap tap tappity tap tap. "Dude," a classmate instant-messages him. "The professor's calling on you."

While Zipper, stalling for time, asks to hear the question again, the classmate googles the answer and zaps it to him. To the professor's obvious surprise, he rattles off, correctly, the names of the four greenhouse gases. "Dude," the classmate messages him, "you owe me." But Zipper's thoughts are elsewhere: "I'll never get through my email at this rate." Tap tap tappity tap tap.

The project of Emory professor Mark Bauerlein's new book, The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future; or, Don't Trust Anyone Under 30, is to confront and dismantle the claim that digital technology is producing a higher-powered, better-informed, all-around smarter new generation than, say, the .01 percent of the Facebook population born in the 1960s.

Bauerlein recognizes that we live in a world where anyone with online access can read the Bill of Rights, dissect a virtual frog, take an online math quiz, tour the Metropolitan Museum of Art, watch a 1959 film of the German baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau singing Franz Schubert's Erlking, and read Plato's Crito, any time of the day or night, for free.

But he also asks why, with all these advantages, so many young Americans sound like the high-school student who called a talk-radio show to complain about "all the boring stuff the teachers assign," like "that book about the guy. [Pause] You know, that guy who was great." "You mean The Great Gatsby?" asked the host. "Yeah," said the caller. "Who wants to read about him?" The cultural candy shop is open as it's never been open before, but evidence suggests that the kids aren't buying.

Bauerlein offers exhaustive statistics that point to steep drop-offs in reading habits and general knowledge over the last twenty-five years. In the eighteen- to twenty-four-year-old demographic, for example, literary reader rates have declined by 17 percentage points since 1982. This, says Bauerlein, "isn't just a youth trend. It's an upheaval. The slide equals a 28 percent rate of decline, which cannot be interpreted as a temporary shift or as a typical drift in the ebb and flow of the leisure habits of youth. If all adults in the United States followed the same pattern, literary culture would collapse."

It would be easier to dismiss Bauerlein's claims as mere reactionary hysteria if the collapse were not already so evident. He quotes interviewees, from the "Jaywalking" segment of The Tonight Show, who don't know where the pope lives ("England?") or the tenure of a Supreme Court justice ("I'm guessing four years?"), or the title of any classic work of literature.

Their ignorance would seem outrageous if it didn't sound just like the kind of thing my college-professor husband has been reading in student papers, hearing in conversations with students, and seeing in course evaluations for years. This is a 100-level course, and we shouldn't be expected to do such complex reading, griped an entire chorus of students from a world-religions 101 course, for which the core text was a trade paperback that myhusband's father, a college dropout, had once been assigned in a Sunday School class. In another religion class, a student paper referred repeatedly to something called the momentous island, a phrase that mystified my husband until he realized that what the writer meant was that infamous school-prayer compromise, the moment of silence.

At the prep school I attended, "where girls prepare to be tomorrow's leaders today" and where every middle-school student now receives a school-issue laptop computer, ninth-graders no longer read The Once and Future King, because it's "too long." My eighth-grade English teacher, a patrician Southern lady of pronounced opinions, used to say, "My dears, you are not stupid. You are merely ignorant. And do you know why you are ignorant?" No, we really didn't, but we were going to hear it anyway: "You are ignorant because you watch the idiot machine."

This was thirty years ago, when there was only one idiot machine. Television, vehicle of Masterpiece Theatre and Match Game '74, has now been joined by a whole Information Superhighway, with a seemingly infinite number of exits to places that might be, but too often are not, Project Gutenberg's collection of electronic texts. Rather than connecting the new generation with the thought and achievements of previous generations, the Web, says Bauerlein, "encourages more horizontal modeling, more raillery and mimicry of people the same age. . . . It provides new and enhanced ways for adolescents to do what they've always done in a prosperous time: talk to, act like, think like, compete against, and play with one another," nowadays in a hermetically sealed, youth-culture cyber-bubble.

To get an account on Facebook—as, in the interest of full disclosure, I should say that both my teenage daughter and I have done—is to enter a world in which people spend hours not only chatting but pretending to be werewolves who deliver bowls of pain to each other, or pretending to be pioneers on the Oregon trail who eat each other, or pretending to be superheroes who make each other levitate.

In such pursuits can an entire afternoon evaporate while the sentences sit undiagrammed, the history chapter unread, the magazine article unwritten. The Crito is out there, too, among the werewolves and the cannibals, but Socrates sits in his prison in vain: The youth of Athens are busy finding out what breakfast food is preferred by boy bands such as the Jonas Brothers.

The real outcome of Internet technology, argues Bauerlein, is not that it makes high culture readily available but that it usurps high culture's place altogether. As one college student says, half-apologetically, "My dad is still into the whole book thing. He has not realized that the Internet kind of took the place of that." An Apple Store window display features a row of gleaming laptop computers and a sign proclaiming, "The Only Books You'll Ever Need." Not, as Bauerlein points out, "The Only Computers." Not "The Best Computers." In the digital age, the Apples have trumped the oranges and rendered them obsolete, and already Johnny can't remember what an orange tastes like.

While apologists for digital technology in the classroom trumpet computer smarts as an entirely new form of intelligence, an "e-literacy revolution," Bauerlein offers page after page of studies that suggest e-literacy is merely newspeak for illiteracy. If students visiting interactive sites and playing video games develop, as the claim goes, "the kinds of higher-order thinking and decision-making skills employers seek today," these skills come at the cost of time spent reading, digesting, and retaining hard knowledge. In fact, says Bauerlein, the average person's "screen reading, surfing, and searching habits . . . mark an obdurate resistance to certain lower-order and higher-order thinking skills [including] the capacity to read carefully and to cogitate analytically."

Contrary to claims that computer use enhances functional literacy, Bauerlein cites research suggesting that screen time actually inhibits language acquisition by limiting exposure to complex or unfamiliar words. Even "software god" Bill Joy, cofounder of Sun Microsystems, dismisses the world of blogs and gaming as "encapsulated entertainment"—adding, "If I was competing with the United States, I would love to have the students I'm competing with spending their time on this kind of crap." So much for "digital intelligence," says Bauerlein, if even technophiles recognize time spent at this generation's idiot machines as largely wasted time.

But are the machines themselves the villains in this story? Could technology, on its own, spawn an entire mindless culture of flirting, gossiping, photo-uploading, and virtual navel-gazing—all in service of flipping off the phonies out there who don't get that every passing emotion experienced by Tarquin D. Pebbleface and set down in textspeak is, like, "wry and hilarious," dude? If, as Bauerlein claims, "the genuine significance of the Web to a seventeen-year-old mind" is "not the universe of knowledge brought to their fingertips, but an instrument of non-stop peer contact"—well, how did we get here?

The answer lies in the same dismal territory already traversed by Diana West in her recent book The Death of the Grownup: the wholesale abdication of adults, not only parents but teachers, in favor of adolescent self-government—a culture that nurtures its present at the expense of its past.

At its heart, Bauerlein's book is not about machines at all but about what he calls "The Betrayal of the Mentors." Simply put, the educational and cultural establishments have sold out tradition and authority in favor of "collaborative-learning" models and objectives like "working with every young person's sense of self." The average teenager, not surprisingly, views himself not as a student in need of enlightenment but as a kind of automatic savant.

"It is the nature of adolescents," says Bauerlein, "to believe that authentic reality begins with themselves, and that what long preceded them is irrelevant." But when the larger culture collaborates in this belief, the outcomes are, if not actually disastrous, at least depressing. Bauerlein notes that in a Time magazine cover story reporting on the "Twixter generation"— the demographic of twenty-two to thirty year-olds—"not one of the Twixter or youth observers mentions an idea that stirs them, a book that influenced them, a class that inspired them, or a mentor who guides them. Nobody ties maturity to formal or informal learning, reading or studying, novels or ideas or paintings or histories or syllogisms. For all the talk about life concerns and finding a calling, none of them regard history, literature, art, civics, philosophy, or politics a helpful undertaking."

From the professor of Renaissance literature who declares, "Look, I don't care if everybody stops reading literature," to the urban teenage artist proclaiming that he's not trying to be "Picasso or Rembrandt or whoever else, you know," the leap is short and damningly direct. If even the grownups believe that what they know is not worth knowing, then the grownups—"teachers, professors, writers, journalists, intellectuals, editors, librarians, and curators"—are more than complicit in the creation of an exclusive teenage universe where the news is always "Me and How I Feel Now." The technology, it would seem, merely facilitates the assumption that this is all the news that's fit to print.

Ideas have consequences and, according to Bauerlein, the consequence of this particular idea will be the coming of age of successive generations who know less and less about the ideas that gave us Western civilization, and who therefore have less and less investment in its continuation. "Knowledge," writes Bauerlein, "supplies a motivation that ordinary ambitions don't."

The kind of knowledge of which he speaks isn't the sort that makes a person rich, beautiful, or popular. "It merely," he writes, "provides a civic good." In other words, learning a little, a person might come not only to regard himself as a member of society but to regard that society as something worth preserving.

Sally Thomas is a poet and homeschooling mother in North Carolina.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Pretty Pookie

Pookie is 22 months old now, but is still quite small so at first she looks younger. If you really look at her you can tell she's older because her proportions are that of a toddler and not an infant. I was pretty worried for a while because for most of the winter she didn't really gain any weight, but in the past few months she has gained a few pounds. It is something of a shock to go from these giant boys who are usually at the top of the growth charts to this tiny petite princess.

Pookie understands most of what people say to her, and I'm excited that she she is starting to follow basic instructions like "go put that on the shelf." She is also starting to speak in multiple word sentences-- as long as no one else is around. She reminds me of that Michigan J. Frog from Bugs Bunny. This guy finds him and the frog starts to sing and dance. Every time the guy tries to show someone, the frog goes limp and mute. That's my girl! One of the few places that is different is at the gymnastics studio, where she has the coaches trained to give her stamps and sticker after classes. Yesterday that girl ended up with three stickers and a stamp.

She has no fear at all on a playground, which scares me to death. She will climb up ladders and nets and go on the big slides all by herself. When we go to the park I almost need another parents. One to run with her and one to help the boys, otherwise if I turn my back for a second, then she is doing some thing insane.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Food Journal

Today was an encouraging day. I did not follow my plan as much as I would have liked, but I did do better than I week.

Breakfast- skim milk, 2 frozen waffles topped with applesauce

mid morning- I was unusually hungry. Had a bowl of veggie soup

lunch- chicken pot pie (homemade, not frozen A much better choice. Whatever you do never eat the chicken pot pie from KFC. It had like a half a day's calories in it.)

snack- 3 dove chocolates, bowl of watermelon, and diet coke

dinner- chicken sandwich, watermelon, veggie soup

dessert- sauteed banana with 100 cal. Reese's sticks. (I know. that's why I said it was better, but not as good as I'd like.

Usually things start to hit the skids about 1:00 pm and they didn't today, so I'm pretty happy. It's been pretty hard so far trying to convince myself that I'm not really hungry, but tired, sad, frustrated, whatever. Here's to more success tomorrow.

A Day at the Farm

Homeschoolers are frequently criticized for not "socializing" their children. Some people seem to think that if a child is not sent to school, then obviously he is kept them locked in a dark room and never allowed speak to another child. Nothing could be further from the truth. Kids in our homeschool group play sports, are in plays and band, scouting, and rollerskating.

One of the things we do every year with our homeschool group is visit the "Real Life Farm." I love the farm. The kids get to do so many fun activities that they would normally not get to do. When we arrived all the kids we able to play on the playground until it was their turn to ride a pony. There was even a miniature horse for the toddlers. Pookie, of course, was not interested in getting anywhere near the horses. Wonder Boy and Jophus both took a turn, though.

After that it was our turn in the barn. There were goats, rabbits , and kittens to pet. Farmer Don introduced to children to different kinds of goats and each child was able to bottle feed a kid (baby goat, not another student).Then buckets of feed were set our and the children were able to hand the goats and sheep. They could even climb in to the pens. The final activity in the barn was to milk a cow.

When the kids (children, not baby goats) were finished we had a lunch break and more play time. Our final activity for the day was a hay ride. The whole day was a great time for parents and children to learn, play, deepen friendships, and make new ones. It was great!

Friday, May 29, 2009

What do you do all day?

6:00 Mom pray Kids asleep
6:30 Mom dress
7:00 Kids rise. All do morning chores.
8:00 breakfast (journal)
8:30 Family prayer and circle time
9:00 Moms teaches preschool, WB does independent work
9:30 Outside
10:00 Jophus does rotations (30 minutes in different activities) while WB does lessons
11:30 I make lunch
12:00 lunch (journal) and story
12:30 rest-- Pookie naps, Jophus listers to audio books, WB reads for 30 minutes then can listen to audio books, finish school, or play quietly for a while, I have computer time or read.
1:30 Weekly Cleaning
2:00 outside
3:00 snack (journal)
3:30 Afternoon activities like go to the gym, swim, library or gymnastics
5:30 Make dinner, kids do before dinner chores the can watch television
6:30 dinner (journal)
7:00 put Pookie to bed, boys do after dinner chores
7:30 prayers and stories
8:00 bed

Homeschool Solution-- Dawdling

Wonder Boy is a, well--er, wonderful boy. However, he is a somewhat challenging child. He's not one to take the easy way. He becomes obsessed with certain ideas. For example, he loves comic book/ superhero characters. If you tell him the name of one, you'd better know his whole life story, his superpowers, and the villains he fights. Then Wonder Boy will want to see pictures and ask if there is video on youtube. (You get the idea.) He has a bright and active mind, is prone to temper outburst, and can be socially immature. (Actually, some of these are characteristics of a gifted child.)

He is also a dawdler, and I've had enough! It's one thing to spend the day homeschooling because you child is working and learning. It's quite another to waste the day waiting for you child to get it in gear and finally work.

Solution-- Assign a reasonable time limit then anything left over gets done during free time. For us, this is during play or television tine. In our house the television is pretty limited, so its a pretty hot commodity. I hope this will take the responsibility of finishing work away from me and give it to Wonder Boy.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Getting Real

I have gained a lot of weight. After Pookie was born I joined Weight Watchers and lost 18 pounds and had about 10 more to go. Then I stopped losing. Then I quit going altogether. Since then I have gained all that back. I have racked my brains trying to figure out what went wrong. I have read book about nutrition and weight loss, none of which were very helpful.

This gain is very painful and humiliating. I don't want to be "mommy shaped." I don't want people to think "She's really let herself go. (She must be really busy.)" I want to be the cute, fit, "Wow, she's really got it together" mom. I respect myself lees because of what I see as a weakness in me. I see the failure I've had so far and fear it will never end.

Why? Why do I keep doing this to myself? I think one reason is that I saw losing weight after Pookie was born as a "diet"-- that is a short term change to get me back on track. The fact of the matter was I was overweight before she was born, so I really needed to completely overhaul how and what I was eating. Like an alcoholic who denies has a drinking problem because he never drinks before noon, I could not admit the extent of the problem. I wasn't 250 pounds, so things were OK. I just needed to lose the baby weight. This denial crippled me and my efforts.

So here in public (OK, semi-public), at the risk of humiliating myself, I admit I have to relearn how to eat in a healthy way. I don't want to be overweight and have to change permanently to to be thin.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

About Face

Since the last MOE Blacklist came out, we are trying to figure out how to proceed. Our case worker, Jeny, has been talking to facilitators in Russia, representatives from other agencies, and our homestudy agency. Then, last night, we got a small miracle. We have been given permission by Ekat (our region) to send in our dossier because the missing PPR has been received in Russia.

We're on our way again!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Laugh it up, Mom!

Today I threatened Wonder Boy that if he didn't pay attention and do X, I would take away his book for the rest of the day. I can hear my mother laughing now. Boy, what goes around, comes around!

(I am a voracious reader. I read in the bath. I read while blow drying my hair. I read while nursing. I read while riding in the car. I also remember, at one point when I was a child, my mom refusing to buy any more books.)


One of the things we like to do is sail. When Charlie and I were dating, one of the most frequent dates was to go sailing at the university sailing club. One of the first major purchases we mad as a married couple was a sailboat. After the kids were born we didn't use it much. Wonder Boy and Jophus (pronounced Jo-fus) are very close in age, only twenty-one months apart. By the time Wonder Boy was old enough to be on the boat, Jophus was too little.

Last year we joined a yacht club, which sounds very snobby and ritzy, but is not. At any rate now we can sail a lot more. Today the weather was perfect-- clear, warm, nice wind. Even though I really didn't want to go because was tired and have a little cold, I sucked it up and did because I knew once we were out there it would be great. And it was! Probably the best sail we've had as a family. (Last summer Pookie didn't like it much, mostly I think because her PFD was uncomfortable.)

We had a picnic there and after the sail the boys swam at the beach even though the water was cold enough to make your toes a little numb. What a great way to end the day!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Imagine That!

(CNN) -- For years, Candace Eloph searched for her half-brother, who was given up for adoption in 1977. She found him -- living across the street.
"I never thought it would happen like this. Never. Ever," Eloph of Shreveport, Louisiana, told CNN television affiliate KTBS.
Three decades ago, Eloph's mother gave birth to a boy at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. She was 16 and gave him up for adoption.
"They took him from me," said Eloph's mother, Joellen Cottrell. "I only got to hold him for a split second."
Cottrell searched for her son over the years, without success.
She eventually left Louisiana and had other children. But she did not keep her son a secret.
"My girls always knew they had a brother," she told KTBS. "I always told them. They knew it from the very beginning. And I've always looked for him."
Fast forward three decades.
Eloph moved into a house in Shreveport. Across the street lived a 32-year-old man named Jamie Wheat.
"We were sitting one day, talking, and she said, 'You know what? I had a brother born January 27, 1977, that was adopted,'" Wheat said. "I was like, I'm adopted."
Surprised, Eloph mentioned that her mother was 16 at the time. His mother was 16, too, Wheat replied.
All the details fit, and Cottrell and Wheat decided to take a DNA test.
The results: There's a 99.995 percent probability that the two are related. Watch family open DNA results for first time »
Wheat's adoptive parents are excited about this new stage in their son's life.
"It just almost knocked me out for the joy," Wheat's adoptive mother, Ann, told KTBS.
Added his adoptive father, Ted Wheat: "It was just surprising that they lived across the street from us for two-and-a-half years. When they told us, we said, 'This is the greatest news it could be.'"
Reunited with his birth mother, Jamie Wheat plans to make up for lost time.
"I feel like a weight has been lifted off of me," he said. "I can move forward. Like a new beginning."

A Major Setback

We've been a holding pattern for the past few weeks in regards to sending in the paperwork for Sweet Pea because our homestudy agency is on the Ministry of Education's list of agencies with delinquent post placement report (MOE blacklist). The agency said everything was sent in and they were just waiting to hear from Russia. That hopefully it would be "soon." I just knew that all we had to do was wait until the next list was released. The new list was released yesterday and our agency was still on it.

My heart cracked a little.

I have lost faith in the agency and their ability to resolve this issue in a timely manner or to be honest and upfront about what they are doing. Our communications have gotten less friendly and have been full of butt covering lawyer-speak (sorry, sister of mine, but no one can use so many words and say so little as a lawyer.)

We are going to pursue getting our homestudy transferred to another agency. Then we'll have to redo everything that has expired (for the second time). Maybe then we'll be back on track.

Is this a test to see if we are really committed to this child? Maybe God and Russia really want to see if we mean it. We do. I thought briefly about changing regions or countries after my placing agency said we could if we want to. No. If we did that, for the rest of my life I would feel like I had abandoned my child. I am committed to Sweet Pea, not Ekat (the region-- city really), not Russia, but to her.

I pray everyday to the Holy Mother to intercede for us, as one mother to another. I pray that our path will be cleared and we will be able to bring this little girl home. I pray that we will be strengthened so that we can surmount the obstacles in front of us. I guess I will just have to keep praying.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Reason 999 we homeschool

You can do it anywhere! And we do. We school at gymnastics classes. We school outside on the patio. I'm going to take them to Greenfield Village and let the kids do their lessons in the one room schoolhouse tomorrow.

I love to sit outside with the kids and do Wonder Boy's lessons with him. The other two kiddos can ride scooters or bikes, play in the sandbox, or go on the slide. It's so nice to be outside in the sun and fresh air and not cooped up at a desk. It also give me a chance to get in the gardens or read a book.

We are getting close to the end of the year. Only about three weeks left to go. You know, I think that one of the reasons that the end of the school year is so tough is that the teachers are so burned out, as well as the kids. Once school is done we will be so ready to veg out this summer. We are looking forward to swimming lessons and other fun things we can't do during the summer because we are too busy.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Two Things I Hate

At the grocery store on Friday a nice little old Italian lady saw me with the kids and said, "You were so smart. you had two boys and then tried again and had a girl. Me, I said, I'm not going to try again, and risk having another boy. Boys are nice, but girls . . . " Oh my goodness, my boys are standing right there! I mean, they are short, but not deaf. Nor are my kids stupid. They are going to get the implication that they are not as cute, lovable, or valuable as girls.

This attitude is one I have run up against again and again since Pookie was born. "Decided to try again and see if you got a girl this time?" "Got your girl, so you're done now, huh?" For all I complain about things my kids do (and I do, we all do) I like having boys. I like the energy. I like the straightforwardness. I like how boys get right in the thick of things. I like camping, toads and skinned knees. A boy will never wonder if they should go play or not because they might get dirty. A boy will never come crying to you because someone "won't let me apologize." In conclusion, my first two children were not place holder or consolation prizes that I got until I received what I really wanted. (Told you I really hate this.)

The second thing I hate is when strangers see me out with the kids (I'm a really bad stay-at-home mom) and say, "Boy, are you busy!" Why would you say that? I never look at someone in a store who doesn't have kids and say, "Boy, you look like you watch soap operas and eat bonbons all day." I just don't get it. Are they saying, "Look, crazy lady, your kids are out of control." Have they compared themselves to me and found me lacking. Are they jealous that not only do I have a girl, but two boys, too? Do they know how dirty my house is, and want me to clean it? What are they trying to say?!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Spring is Here!

OK, spring has been here for a few weeks but I didn't have the pictures to back me up. I've been working in the yard, and have been fairly pleased with the results. I always get an itch to garden at this time of the year, but usually only succeed in spending lots of money and then killing everything. Last year we started on our Mary garden and this year things are really growing in nicely. Featured in this garden are bleeding hearts (symbol of Jesus's suffering), marigolds, lamb's ears (symbol of Jesus as the Lamb of God), columbines (symbol of the Holy Spirit), and lilies (symbol of Mary's purity).

I also started an herb and vegetable garden. Herbs because we cook a lot with them and they are expensive. They are also hard to kill which is a bonus for me. I wanted vegetable so the kids could see how vegetables grow. In another flower bed we have lilies, black eyed susans, and garden phlox. Our newest addition to that bed is Siberian iris in honor of Sweet Pea.

I hope you enjoy the photos!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Jophus is a Gymnast

About two years ago Jophus started taking gymnastics lessons. I'd like to say that decision was motivated by the desire to be a great parent-- to get him involved in an activity that he enjoys and that will teach in to be healthy and exercise. Those are great reasons, but I signed him up for lesson to save the couch. Jophus is a BOY and being so he jumps, bounces, twists, stands on, launches off of, and generally misuses all the furniture. All I really wanted was to save us the purchase of a new sofa and maybe a trip to the emergency room.

He's doing great, and is becoming very strong. His teacher is amazing! Jamie loves her work and the kids. She also doesn't let him get away with anything, which is very important with my kiddos who define "give and inch, take a mile."
At the end of every tweleve week session, I always ask Jophus if he wants to try something new, but he always want s to take more classes because "I'm going to be a gymnast!"

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Wonder Boy lost another tooth at dinner!

Wonder Boy Loses a Tooth

Last Week Wonder Boy lost his second tooth! Very exciting for everyone involved. Of course, in true Wonder Boy fashion he did things his own way. Wonder Boy is nothing if not quirky. I don't know what else to call a 6 year old who loves Greek mythology, ancient literature and uses words like uproarious and giddy in everyday conversation. Anyway, the second tooth he lost was not the second bottom tooth like most people, but one of the top ones.

(Cool tooth fact-- Did you know that you can see all the adult teeth in a child's mouth on their x-rays?)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Adoption is an Act of Love

No, I'm not talking about adoptive parents. I'm speaking of birth parents. We don't know anything about Sweet Pea's biological parents. I hope we will someday. The information that we have coupled with some guess work suggests that she has been in the orphanage most if not all of her life. Why is she there? Could her parents not afford to care for a child with special needs? Was there a social stigma surrounding having a child with physical disabilities? Did they not want a child that was not "perfect"? Maybe one day we'll know so that we can help her understand her past when she asks us.

What I do know is that her mother loved her enough to give her life. This gift cannot be understated. Russia currently has one of the highest abortion rates in the world. In 2006 (the most current statistics available) Russia reported 1.5 million births--- and 1.6 million abortions! No matter what we discover, I will always try to remember that abortion in Russia is affordable, common and acceptable. It could have been her. I don't know if Sweet Pea's mother knew about her legs before she was born. Prenatal care is not as common in Russia as it is here. If they did, I count us doubly blessed and doubly thankful that she is alive. Even in the US, where those with physical disabilities have the opportunities to be educated, have jobs, and recreation just like the able bodied, some doctors will still suggest abortion to the parents of those with limb differences.

It would be easy to think poorly of birth parents. Some are drunks and drug users. Some are child abusers or neglect their children. Some simply abandon their children when it gets to be too much. But they chose life, and they didn't have to.

So thank you, and Happy Mother's Day!