Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Adoption Binder - For the organizing geeks

Ahhh, there is nothing so satisfying as a properly organized binder. With our first adoption, I used an expandable file folder system, but that got pretty full and clunky a few months in. This time around, I am using a binder system. If you are starting out, hopefully this can help you. And for those of you that love highlighters, post it flags, and tabs, feel free to give me some tips to make this better.

I used a D-ring binder with double pockets in the front and back (for forms, like medicals, that need to be completed). Currently, I have five tabs - Dossier, Homestudy, Agency, Travel, and Misc., but I think I'll add Fundraising/Financial and Post Adoption tabs. I put Dossier at the front since that is the most important and complicated. I put the checklist in front and instructions for each document are behind that in the order they're on the checklist. I used pink tabs for things that don't need notarizing, orange tabs for those that just need notarizing and blue for documents that need notarizing, certifying and authenticating. I also highlighted them in that color on the checklist. I can write on the flag the date that each step was completed. There is a closeable file folder at the back to keep the finished documents as I collect them. Of course, I forgot to add a pencil pouch at the front to put my pens, highlighters and flags in! :)

Monday, July 25, 2016

Our son is waiting in China!

I am so excited!! I got the word today that they decided to match us with Little E (pending homestudy)! I cannot wait until that pending homestudy part can be taken off. I feel like I am in the first trimester and I'm afraid to get too excited in case something happens. I will be doing the paper chase while we complete the homestudy to try to bring down the timeline a little. I can't bear to think of him waiting longer than he has to. We have been assigned a social worker, so we are just waiting for her to get the file and get started. In the meantime, I get to start getting all the documents in order. China has a few more steps and documents required than Ethiopia, so I feel like I've done this before but not at this level - if that makes sense. A little info - Little E is four years old and ridiculously cute. He has a vision issue in one of his eyes and a speech delay, but he is very active and smiley. He sounds like a handful, but I figure he will fit right in here.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Things we saw this year, in no particular order

 Caterpillar at Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge, FL
 Birds also at Loxahatchee
 Butterfly at Loxahatchee. In fact we saw about sixty different kinds of birds, butterflies and critters. We did not, however, see an alligator. They were uncooperative that day.
My dad's paradise in Oklahoma.
 Texas Skies
 Raccoon or Possum Tracks? Methinks raccoon.
 Splash Mountain at Disney
 The emergency exit of Splash Mountain
Disney in the rain (as I told my kids, "Lots of people get to go to Disney in the hot sun, but very, very few get to spend their day at Disney in the rain!") I highly recommend it, the lines were very short.

Friday, July 22, 2016

The beginning of waiting...

Ugh. I remember this part. I have done everything I can do for now. Filled out every form I received. Sent it in the mail then compulsively checked the tracking info to follow it's journey. I called them within three hours and left a voice mail, "I saw it was delivered today, so I just wanted to check in...". Then I sent an email just to be sure. Of course, they didn't even open it till today. Every doable task I was given today, I had done within an hour.

Yes, the eagerness has set in. I was so petrified and filled with fear when I wrote that last blog post. I knew what God wanted, but I was SO scared to say yes. I even knew I was going to say yes anyway. I kept asking my husband, expecting him to either say "You're driving this bus alone. You need to stop." or "God gave me a dream of this child, let's go." But all he said was, "I have peace about it." In fact, that was ALL he said. Then he went back to work. He didn't then spend three hours talking about all the pros and cons and also all the things that could happen post adoption. That was me. So later that day, I asked him again. Exact same answer. Then he went back to reading his kindle. It was just me being a big ball of stress, but I still knew the path. As soon as I told the agency we wanted to proceed, all my fear went away. Then the excitement and impatience came. I was praying everyone in the house would be excited too, and I was really surprised by how they were all on board as soon as we talked about it. The kids were enthusiastic and had all sorts of good questions. I was most surprised by my mom. Since she lives with us, she sees all the sides of our kids, and it usually drives her to her room. On particularly loud and whiny days, she might disappear mid-morning and not be heard from again until the next day. (This was good planning on our part to give her a mini kitchen and personal back door.) I sort of dreaded her reaction, but she totally surprised me. She was gung-ho almost as soon as I told her about my God moment. It was almost like, "if God told you this is your next child, then by golly, let's do it!" It is also a blessing that she has a heart for special needs, and she often helps out with the SN ministry at church. It was a huge answer to prayers.

I became super productive. I couldn't sleep longer than five or six hours a night. If I had no paperwork to do, I reorganized, cleaned and consolidated. I emptied out Child #3 and #4's shared bedroom, like totally. Those two are little hoarders. I have nothing wrong with kids' shows promoting caring for the earth, but now I have kids that save everything, saying, "I'm going to reuse this!" and "I'm going to recycle this." Bits of cardboard, toilet paper tubes, every kind of box, bubble wrap, bits of yarn, along with stray Legos, doll shoes, barrettes, crayons, colored pencils. They clean their room often, but their methodology is lacking. It generally involves a lot of stuffing random things in corners of the room. So when I emptied the room, I kept finding little treasure troves of useless detritus, behind the books, behind clothes, corner of the closet, behind the bed, etc. Then I had to sort it, I mean you can't just throw away Legos, pencils, socks and My Little Pony accessories. It was painful. I filled totes for the attic, for Goodwill and for consignment sales. I vacuumed, wiped down shelves and baseboards and windows, then I touched up the paint. Then I stripped the mattresses, vacuumed them, and used the carpet cleaner on them. Tomorrow, I'll shampoo the carpet and put everything back together. I don't know that I have ever cleaned a room quite so thoroughly. The sad thing is, I can't wait to do the boys room next! Anything to put this excess energy into use until someone gives me some more paperwork to chase. I am in full on nesting mode. I hope it lasts for a while because I have a few unfinished projects, plus I could always start school up again.

Monday. I won't be able to tell anyone until Monday. That is the day they decide whether to match us (pending the homestuday). We are doing it kind of backwards, which is not my comfort place, but apparently it's pretty common with special needs. So this is just the beginning of waiting. I will try to see it as the precious gift it is - time to prepare mentally, physically and emotionally. I wanted to share this amazing post again because it was true six years ago when she first wrote it, and it still applies today.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

You call me out...

I love the fact that right now very few people read my blog. Since I never have time to post, the readership has gone way down. But the introvert in me feels very comfortable here. (Side note: I have a really bad habit of spouting out verbal diarrhea when I am around someone that makes me a little nervous. This could be another mom that actually wears makeup and combs her hair or it could be my kids pediatrician or my pastor. It's almost always awkward and embarrassing. I take a normal How are you doing? into tangents and geeky non-sequiturs.) Oops, I do it in blog form too.

Anyways, as you can probably tell by my blog schedule, we were dipping our toys back into the adoption waters again in November, but we stopped before getting far. Paperwork completely filled out went into a drawer. We felt apathy. But for me it was a whole lot of fear. It was so much easier to put it all in a drawer. We have a happy family dynamic. We have busy schedules sometimes but relative harmony. Are we some kind of masochists that we always feel the need to create a challenge? Are we so used to difficulty that we want to create some in the calm? We had to ask ourselves this. Was it God or was it us feeling like we should? So we sat back and relaxed. We have had one of the most enjoyable summers in my memory, and we really didn't go anywhere beyond a 15 mile radius. We visited my dad in May then we sat back. We've done school a few days a week here and there to stay in practice, but that has felt very relaxed too. We said this is a good place to be, and it's fun thinking about building a pool someday or going on a trip to Korea (okay, that's just me). I love it that my youngest can get herself breakfast in the morning and I can actually sleep in on summer days.

But God set in motion a series of events from different people that came together like the Rube Goldberg OKGo video, and at the end was me rechecking an agency email I had passed over last week. And boom the banner falls. So we are in the infancy of a storm. I'm not going to say God spoke to me because I don't hear a man's deep voice in my head. It's still just mine, but I clearly thought. "Well, you've had your vacation. You've gotten to be lazy and kind of selfish, but now it's time again to go back out." I know with certainty the end of the path, but I'm uncertain of the twists and turns along the way. But man do I have FEAR. God has given me a spirit of adventure and productivity and perseverance, but on the flip side, I struggle with needing to be in control, of having everything planned and researched properly, and of everything being safe. My husband worries about the money aspect, and I'm uncharacteristically unconcerned about that. When God says we're supposed to do something, He brings the money together. But me, I worry about the family harmony, will someone be picked on or feel left out, will there be serious issues that develop that we could have avoided by just staying a family of six, will we die on a plane crash on the way there... My mind wanders to stupid places when I'm trying to sleep. But I remember the tree accident, one of the worst and best days of my life because God destroys, but He also restores. He is faithful through everything. On Sunday, we finally sang Oceans (Where Feet May Fail) after a year or two of that song not being in the rotation. So I have that song playing over and over in my head. Then after three weeks of sermons on stewardship and generosity comes a sermon on the parable of the talents. Do we bury the bag of gold out of fear? It was never our bag of gold to begin with.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Happy Adoption Stories

I've been hearing/reading some seriously rough adoption stories this week. Usually they have happier endings (present day), but boy, they could certainly scare a person off. I'm a big believer in reading all the bad stuff along with the good stuff, if you are considering adoption. Go to Pound Pup Legacy and see where some of those rabbit trails go. Google any agency you think of using and read everything. Read the horror stories. I know it can be harder to find the good stories, or just the not so bad stories. Certainly, the first year of any adoption is hard even when all other circumstances are perfect because we are dealing with human emotions and expectations. I guess it's possible that our adoption was the exception and we were blessed. Or maybe it's my perspective. Maybe I think it was the rosiest adoption possible because the "messy" or "difficult" stuff that came up wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.

Here's my experience, looked at through the lens of five years later:
We had three biological kids before our youngest joined our family. She was fifteen months old and very underweight. She came to us from an orphanage, and though there were many children, the caregivers were loving, warm and affectionate with the kids. Our daughter didn't smile at first. I didn't mind too much. I was grateful that she wanted to be held. I could work with that. We had a good first meeting. She went back to the guesthouse with us. It was all a bit surreal. I vaguely remember having a panic attack late in the night. There I was in a foreign country with all my other kids on the other side of the world. WHAT have I done?? But the sun came up again, and we went to the embassy. It was a whirlwind going to the airport and getting back home. I know she was literally attached to me for about 27 hours straight. Except for the 17 diaper changes (something about the airplane really triggered her digestive system to freak out). I distinctly remember using the airplane bathroom with her attached to me in the Ergo because she would scream if I took her off. It might have been difficult, but I just remember it as being really funny. I just talked to a mom last week and found out this isn't a very unique experience for a brand new adoptive mom on a ten or twelve hour plane flight. I also remember a four hour wait at customs where I was dead on my feet and falling asleep in the hard plastic chair (with her still attached to me). By that time my clothes were covered in all manner of foods, liquids and bodily fluids, and of course, I was wearing black! The first days home were surprisingly good as far as adjustment. She relaxed right away around the other kids and began smiling often. She quickly decided she didn't like my husband, and it took two solid months to begin to ease her into being held by him. I think the hardest thing for me was the health issues. She was generally healthy, although she'd had a double ear infection when we got home. That was normal for the kids coming home from the orphanage though. For me, it was the stomach issues. It took about a year and a half to figure out every parasite and worm that was plaguing her. But she was still having diarrhea and low weight gain. After celiac sprue came up, we cut out all dairy and gluten and it finally improved. A year and a half. I can't imagine what that was like for her. The other awful thing that comes to my mind was a phase she went through where she was smearing feces on the wall. Thank you God she didn't do that more than a few times. The cleaning and laundry each time was so exhausting! I guess she had a few peculiar habits that you sometimes see in children from orphanages. She would stuff little pieces of food down her onesie or tuck them under her pillow. She would hide toys in her bed. No big deal. There was no throwing food across the room, screaming rages, etc. But I wonder now if I would have handled that okay too and looked back on it fondly later. Maybe it's just perspective.
The big stuff: she attached to me, my husband and her sister and brothers firmly that first year. There was the occasional time of her giving out her affection to others a little too easily and we would reign it in when that happened. It took longer to build up her self esteem, but she has blossomed in confidence in the last year or two. We keep working on it. She has definitely turned downright sassy this year, so that is a new road for me. She is healthy, active, clever, detailed, beautiful, amazing, loving, and kind.
Now for a brief statement from my soapbox - I am grateful that I am a stay at home mom and we could cocoon ourselves in those first few months. It was a precious investment. My biggest piece of advice is don't go out for a while, and do not be a social butterfly. A newly adopted child does not want to meet all your friends and family, they just want to be fed, kept warm, loved and most of all, secure. That's it. Also, no matter how much you wanted this child or how long you waited, love is not automatic. While you are working on getting them attached to you, you are also working at attaching yourself to them. I didn't not fully realize that for awhile. Love takes work; it doesn't all just happen on it's own. There were times I plastered a smile on my face and hugged her when I really didn't want to. I don't have to do that anymore. That was a long time ago, and I'm grateful for all the growth.
I'm sure you've read or heard it, adoption is not for the faint of heart. That's the God honest truth. You need a strong heart, an open heart, a faithful heart and most of all, a committed heart. I think every parent's worst nightmare is the idea that you will make a mistake. You'll bring home the "wrong" child, a lemon. Plug on. Stick with it. Keep going. It's a marathon, and if you are committed, you will not fail. You will love and be loved. Besides, those lemons grow up into pretty amazing adults.
"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will not leave you or forsake you." Deut. 31:6

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Four Years Later

Yeah, so I've been gone awhile...
First, I just got too busy to post anymore. Then we had a crisis. Then I was super busy. Now I'm finally feeling like I occasionally have free time. I've said it before and I'll say it again, WHO are these moms who homeschool multiple kids and still have time to blog everyday?
So here's what the last four years looked like in summary...

2012 - A mostly quiet year
Boys took piano lessons with our friends down the road and did a few recitals.
Our favorite giant tree in the front yard fell across the driveway missing our minivan by about 12 inches.
My love affair with Korean Drama began with a marathon summer viewing of My Princess.
We all traveled to Florida to visit my in-laws, as my husband's father was healing from a head injury. He made an amazing recovery.

2013 -Year of the Tree
In January, we took an amazing family trip to Disney World and Epcot. I don't think we can ever top a trip like that.
Two months later, child #2 almost died after a dead tree fell on him as he jumped on a trampoline at a friend's house.
Child #2 got to take a helicopter ride downtown where he stayed for the next week with my husband and I on rotating shifts.
Only by God's grace Child #2 healed from injuries including fractured skull, broken pelvis, broken leg, broken toes, fractured vertebrae, not to mention the trauma of a catheter.
It takes a few months and includes a wheelchair, portable potty seat, walker, and making a bedroom downstairs where our living room used to be.
We all learned how much love and service and gratitude we are capable of. There is no limit.
The rest of the year is wonderfully quiet and the pins are removed from his leg at the end of the year.
Hmm, I should say quiet except for the Weimaraner puppy we added to the family. She has not been quiet or peaceful.

2014 - Year of the House
I built a house.
I became a full time general contractor, after mistakenly assuming I could do it part time.
I did a pretty awesome job and only took seven months to finish.
We move in and enjoy the fruit of our labor.
There were also birthdays, trips to the museum and some holiday.
I don't remember much
from last year. I was kind of busy.

2015 - Normal Rhythm
We homeschooled.
We bought chicks that are now egg laying hens.
Child #1 had eye surgery in April. He gets his braces off this month. It's a big year for him.
We traveled to Rock City, then a big, fun family reunion in Dollywood. Next we spent days going to Smoky Mountain National Park, North Carolina mountains and the Biltmore.
It was only a two week vacation, but we sure did a lot in two weeks.
So now that we're settled into a wonderful, comfortable routine, I wonder what God will have in store for us next. I kind of have a clue, but the coming weeks will tell...

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Vacation, Readoption and Birthdays, Oh My

It has been a very busy couple of months. We went to Florida the beginning of May. I got to go to the opening for my sister's solo show. My mom did face painting, and I got to vamp it up with my sisters. Oh, if only they lived closer! We went to the beach with my cousin and her sons (I love you, Cherie!). Thankfully, no one drowned, although Child #3 did her best to go face first into every wave, and Child #4 ate everything. Seriously, I pulled a rusty bottlecap out of her mouth, and she actually chewed a shell before I was able to fish it out. She pooped sand for three days afterward. We went to the Playmobil Fun Park, only $1 per child, and you can play with all the toys! It is still one of our favorite Florida spots. Then we went to the west coast and had a family reunion with my side of the family. I met my new niece, and everyone else met our newest child. We also had a blast at Busch Gardens. I highly recommend the Sheikra, funnest ride I have ever been on. Make sure to sit in the front row. We had tons of fun, but half of us had raging fevers/coughing by the time we drove the 18 hours home. Thankfully, everyone got better fairly quickly once we were home.

Soon after returning home, Child #2 graduated kindergarten. Generally I think graduation for anything less than high school is silly, but once I started homeschooling, I celebrate those kindergarten graduations.

Then the week after that, we did Child #4's readoption. If she had come to the U.S. on an IR3 visa, all we would have had to do was a recognition of foreign adoption, but since she came home on an IR4 visa, we had to do a readoption. We just recieved the TX birth certificate, and it was very exciting for us.

The week after that, we celebrated Child #4's 2nd birthday and Child #3's 4th birthday. I actually spent four days straight baking three different cakes and wrapping oodles of presents. I treated Child #4's birthday more like a first birthday, and made her a little square splat cake to dig into. She mostly poked it with her fork and ate the frosting off the top. Out of all the gifts we gave her, I think the thing she liked most was a pair of gold sandals my mom got her. She refused to take them off and wore them to bed.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Why Mothers Don't Nap...

Because their kids don't...

Actually, child #4 does nap. But this is the work of Child #3, capable of doing more disaster in five minutes than all the other children combined throughout a full day. What you don't see in the photo is that she also painted the walls, the windows (apparently taking the time to lift the shades, paint the glass, then politely put the shades back down), and dripped all over the carpet. I'm not entirely sure how she did that without painting the shades themselves. I was able to remove the paint from the shelf, the windows, and the carpet, but the upholstery has me stumped. Any suggestions?

So to recap, fifteen minute nap = four hours cleaning up (and still not done yet).