We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. ~Isaiah 64:8

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Just a safety reminder

In the interest of family safety, please be sure to avoid using our last name and the children's first names when you comment. If you have in the past don't worry about it, we've editted comments.

This level of safety allows us to share our blog across the internet rather than keeping it private for only "approved" readers.


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Getting ready for the Home Visit

Wondering what it takes to get ready for a Home Visit? I'll share with you what we did, but keep in mind agencies and situations will differ. If you are thinking of adopting, you'll need to check with your placement agency and/or your home study agency to determine what they will be looking for.

1) Prepare yourself.

Start doing your homework about being an adoptive parent. Read magazine articles, books, websites, etc. Of course, you don't need to be an expert, just start educating yourself on the issues involved in the adoption process.

2) Prepare your family.

Talk with your kids about what to expect during the home visit. Your social worker will want to spend some time talking with your kids about their thoughts and feelings concerning the adoption. Don't coach them, just help them understand what to expect and why your social worker wants to talk with them (their input is important, too!). Read some kids' books about adoption with them if you can as it will help give them some language with which to talk about their feelings.

3) Prepare your house.

Clean your house like an acquaintance is coming for dinner. Would an acquaintance check your dusting? Under your bed? For cobwebs in the corners? No? Well, don't expect your social worker to do that either. Clean it up (because an out-of-control messy house doesn't reflect well on your family), but don't stress about it. Your social worker does not expect immaculate, especially if you have kids. (In fact, mine told me that if a home were immaculate she'd be worried the parents were too invested in keeping a neat and orderly home.)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

This little Cheerio...

Do you see these little Cheerios lined up so neatly? Over the past couple of weeks, our 6-year old daughter has pulled out 4 Cheerios from her breakfast cereal bowl and lined them up in descending size. These little Cheerios represent all her brothers, herself, and...her new sister-to-be! How cute is that?

I'm amazed at how the kids have really assimilated this sister they don't even know into their lives already.

Friday, April 25, 2008

7 Habits of a Happy Homeschooler

Habit #1 - Routine is your friend!
Some people like those wonderfully detailed MOTH schedules. I abhor them. But...we do need a routine and if you are a homeschooler, so do you! It does not have to be rigid, but pick a few times of day that can be "hardstops" in your day. Times of day when your family always does certain things.

For example, in the mornings after breakfast we have family Morning Prayer together. (This is part of the anglican "Daily Office" a series of prayers used at different times during the day. We use Anne Kitch's The Anglican Family Prayer Book. Based on the Book of Common Prayer, this book provides wonderful "family-friendly" language and suggestions for use.) We don't always do it at the exact same time, but we do have that routine. Another example, is that we ALWAYS have "read or rest" time after lunch. These are expected routines in our day that help my kids know what to expect when...and me, too!

Habit #2 - Don't answer your phone just because it rings!
I do not answer the phone during school hours. In fact, in our home we rarely answer the phone because we are almost always in the middle of something (school, chores, a meal, a nap). When my phone rings and I answer it, it can easily derail my day. The kids scatter while I talk and then I have to spend 30 minutes corralling them back to their tasks.

So, instead, we listen to the message as the caller is leaving it and if it is truly an important and/or urgent call, THEN and ONLY THEN do we pick up. (Or if Mom just needs some adult conversation!) The next break we have I sit down and return any calls necessary. So, if you have an answering machine, USE it...if you don't seriously consider it.

Habit #3 - Know what you are having for meals each day.
Having a house full of kids all day, every day can mean a lot of time in the kitchen between snacks, meals, and more snacks. They have to eat, so there is no getting around that, but it sure makes life easier when you know what you are having at each meal and for snacks, too.

Dinner is the most important meal to plan, then lunch, and then breakfast, and then snacks. If you can only handle planning for one, make it dinner. http://www.donnayoung.org/ has wonderful planners, including meal planners.

Make sure you know what you are having for dinner each morning. Allow yourself the time needed to do any prep. work, defrosting, marinating, etc. In fact, many times you can get some of this prep. work done during the day rather than waiting until 5:00. Also, make sure you have all the ingredients on hand!

One more note about this - always keep the ingredients for an easy, family favorite on hand. Ours is Tuna Tetrazzini. Everything can be kept in the pantry and needs no defrosting or prep. Other ideas: "Taco Night" and "Breakfast for Dinner". These favorite easy meals are wonderful to pull out when you need to "punt".

Habit #4 - Know how to PUNT.
Ok, you are going to have one of THOSE DAYS at some point in your homeschooling career. If you are a normal person, that might be once a month or even once a week! :) It is important to know how and when it is time to "Punt" - a term that means, "just getting the job done any way you can". Plans fall apart, kids get sick, moms get sick, friends need big favors, etc.

So, how do you know when to "punt"? Anytime you are feeling overwhelmed and "normal" seems beyond your reach.

How do you "punt"? Keep a PUNT plan in your head - maybe even make a special PUNT box. In this box, keep fun, educational games, activities, books, movies. Throw in some special art and/or craft supplies, too, if you like. This is a good time to plan simple meals (like the "family favorite" mentioned above). Remember, kids CAN live on cereal for a day or two if they have to!

Habit #5 - Nurture the Nurturer
Take care of yourself. I repeat...TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. Find a hobby or craft you really enjoy and schedule time to enjoy that hobby. Read books and magazines of interest to you - only for you. Spend some time learning something new or researching a subject you are interested in. Arrange to get some time away and alone on a regular basis. For me, I subscribe a few great online and print magazines and journals. I love nothing better than to spend some set-aside time digging into a great article.

Habit #6 - Refuse to feel the need to defend your choice to homeschool.
Sharing your reasons is one thing, but don't feel that you need to defend the whole of homeschooling everytime someone questions or disparages your choice. A simple, "We find it works best for our family and our children," will surely suffice. And if not, just change the subject. "Oh, Norma, have you been doing something different with your hair? It looks just lovely!"

Habit #7 - Find an "accomplished task".
With motherhood and homeschooling, come many, many tasks that are never ending: laundry, meals, kitchen clean up, cleaning the house, planning school, etc. These are not tasks that have a completion point. (Oh, you complete them for one day, but just have to repeat them again later.)

Find an activity that you enjoy and that provides you with an "accomplished task" to which you can point at the end of each day or week or month. For me, this blog is one of my "accomplished tasks". Each post is complete and finalized when I'm done. I do not have to continue to redo and redo those posts. I can look back and see what I've accomplished.

Many creative outlets will provide this also (scrapbooking, painting, crochet/knit, etc).

This post is part of The Heart of the Matter's weekly Meme.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Considering Adoption: Looking at motivations

Informed Adoption Advocates has a good article on common motivations (bad and good) for adoption. I found it illuminating - especially as some of both the good and the bad resonated with me. If you have or are considering adoption, especially internationally, this is a good place to start.

Do any of these resonate with you? What are your thoughts? Do you agree with her assessment of good and bad motivations? What might you add in light of your faith (if you are a Christian - considering that the bible tells us that caring for widows and orphans is pure and true religion)?

Informed Adoption Advocates is an excellent resource for prospective adoptive parents.

Updated to add the article link. (thanks, Kate, I didn't realize I'd linked only to the main page)

Sunday, April 20, 2008

I need your advice...kids and church

What do you do when your children don't want to go to church?

Our church is in transition and we are having to worship on Sunday afternoons (4-6). This isn't the best time of day for kids...they are tired and cranky and hungry. I don't blame them for not wanting to go somewhere this time of day...especially somewhere that they have to be quiet and well-behaved. :) But, we have to go to church. There is a point where as the parent I have to say, "We are going to church today." And that is it, but I'd much rather encourage them.

Hopefully, our afternoon/evening worship and Sunday School will soon be ending and we will be able to return to mornings, but we can't skip church until that happens. (Although, there are some days when they are just wiped and we do stay home.)

So, any suggestions for ways to encourage them about church attendance, or make it more "fun"?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Initial thoughts from DH

Last Friday, I asked my men's group to pray for this adoption process. Sometimes, those prayers work quickly!

I have been overwhelmed at times in my life by the love God showers upon us. I remember, about a month after our first child was born, on my homeward commute, coming to the full realization of my own mortality, the magnitude of my (new) responsibility, and the depth of a parent's love. Growing up, I knew my parent's loved me - I took it for granted. I didn't realized they LOVED me - to the point that they would sacrifice almost anything.

Shortly thereafter, while I was watching my son sleep peacefully in his crib, I realized just how shallow and insignificant the depth of my love for my child was in comparison to the love of our Father in heaven. That just about made me a puddle.

As my lovely and talented wife mentioned in her first post, we have been longing for another child for a significant amount of time. I had not equated the amount of time to the biblically significant number of 40 (months.) For me, I felt God's presence in October of 2004, as I was listening to a song a dear friend of ours wrote about the blessing of children. I was faced with the tremendous gift we had been given in the ability to have children, and had so inconsiderately and irreverently squandered. It's not an easy thing to understand you have thwarted God's will. I wept for my transgression, for that which I could not undo.

So, I had a reversal to at least place the option of biological children back in God's court. Still, our hearts ached for another child as the months rolled by and the clock ticked. (I have this thought in the back of my head, in God's humorous way, we'll get pregnant shortly after we adopt a child and I'll be raising children until I've been a longstanding AARP member.)

My daughter has asked me to pray for a sister during bedtime prayers for at least a year now. My middle son loves, absolutely loves, babies and toddlers of all shapes and sizes.

It's probably an understatement to say there has been a lot of joyful expectation in our household these last few days! I told the kids we were looking at adoption on Monday (2 days ago), and their faces lit up! Questions, questions.... On Tuesday (yesterday) they named her and started a collection jar. We've got $3.40 already - this is going to be easy! :) Today, middle son (8) was creating a flyer and planning a lemonade stand. Our oldest son (almost 12) was planning weekend trips back from college (he says he'll attend in NC so he'll be close enough to return) so he can visit his baby sister.

I have been touched by your responses and support thus far. We covet your prayers and enjoy this walk with you. Again, I am almost overwhelmed by the Lord's love, and how that love can flow through us. To have the opportunity to give that love to one of his dear little ones, and to reap that love back tenfold, is a gift to be cherished.

Please pray for His will to be done, and not our own. For we know how our own will can turn out.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Examining Adoption Issues

Part 1 of a series: Examining Adoption Issues

I wish I could remember where I found these great questions, but I don't. I'd love to engane in a conversation about how others approach these questions...so leave comments!!!

Here are the first set of questions for the adoptive parent to consider:

How do I feel about not being genetically related to my child?
In the past, I thought very hypothetically about loving a child not related to me and thought, "Sure, I could do that." But I don't know that I really BELIEVED it. However, having been closely involved with my neighbor's adoption of a daughter, I now know that it would be a delight to love the child the Lord brings to us. I adore my little YuYu and she's not even my daughter!

Honestly, I am more concerned about establishing that mother-child bond. One of my biological children and I had some bonding issues in the first couple of days after the birth, so I know how essential this is.

How do I see myself talking about adoption with my child?
Gulp! Here is an area where I really haven't begun to put my thoughts together. I still have time, right? :) This is one I'll be coming back to.

Any resources or wisdom you can share?

How will I help my child to understand his/her "pre-placement background," when there is little information, abandonment, or a difficult history?
Double Gulp! One I'll need to learn more about and come back to.

Again, resources or wisdom needed!

Am I prepared to maintain my child's positive identification with his/her origins and culture?
One thing I've learned about myself is that I love cultures of all types - and so does my husband. We will delight in becoming a (whatever the child's birth country)-American family and regularly incorporating our child's heritage in our daily lives. I can imagine learning new recipes to add to our family meals, enjoying local cultural events, and becoming involved in a local community related to her culture.

Other ideas? Or - how have you done this in purposeful and casual ways?

Am I open to dealing with birthparent issues, which are just as relevant and important in international adoption, as they are in domestic adoption?
Yes, I am open, but in all honesty, I don't have much of an idea how this happens with an international adoption. Check this off as another area about which to learn.

Please someone educate me! How does one deal with birthparent issues in the international adoption situation?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

An Adoption Self-Assessment

I've been looking at lots of adoption websites in the past day as I search for information to help hubby and I make this decision. A couple of websites have featured "self-assessments" for prospective adoptive parents to use. These are a good starting point to discussion. However, I find myself thinking that if indeed the Lord is calling us to adoption many of these issues need to be addressed in a much different way. Instead of asking, "Can I?" the question becomes "How will I?"

Here are some of the initial questions - there are more specific ones, but I'll wait to post those as we get to those decision points. These are my thougts now, I'm sure I'll revisit these later.

Do you clearly understand why you want to adopt?
I do believe the Lord may be calling us to adoption. All three of our children have expressed a desire to have another sibling. My middle son was the first and most persistant, but now my daughter has taken up the adoption banner, too, in hopes of having a baby sister.

I believe we have a lot to offer a child. I certainly feel both hubby and I would enjoy having another little one in the house - and we are good (not perfect, but good) at this parenting thing. We are devoted parents and spouses.

Are both parents committed to adoption?
Yes - we both believe adoption is an excellent thing for a Christan family. We believe whole-heartedly in the adoption process as "true religion". And we will be utterly committed to it specifically for our family if that is the Lord's will for us.

Does your lifestyle allow you the time necessary to meet the needs of the child you are seeking to adopt?
Yes. I am a stay-at-home mom and we homeschool our kids, so we are with them quite a good deal. We are very family-focused!

How will adoption change the dynamics of your family and do you have what you need to make it work?
I don't know how adoption will change the dynamics of our family - it will depend a lot on the child's needs, age, etc. But I know what it is like to welcome a new child and make the needed adjustments (having done it 3 times). I do know that hubby and I are pretty good at "rolling with the punches".

Do you have deeper issues in your marriage which you are hoping the adoption will help with?
Only growth in Christ. Hubby and I have, truly, a good, solid marriage. I'm sure as we walk through this adoption journey we'll find areas we need to work on, but we are not seeking adoption in order to "fix" something lacking in our marriage.

Do you realize that the notion of saving an orphan and their gratitude to you for doing so is not a foundational reason on which to base an adoption?

Finally, do you possess these needed characteristics: Perseverance, Patience, Commitment, Resourcefulness?
I hope so, and if we lack, we'll pray for the Lord to provide!

First Questions about adoption

Some of the first questions we are considering as we seriously look at adoption for our family are:

1) Finances
2) Family dynamics
3) International or Domestic
4) Open, Closed or Semi
5) Which agency

but the most important is, "Is this the Lord's will for our family?"

Hubby and I will be tackling these together and sharing our thoughts on this blog. If you are interested in following or contributing any experiences, ideas, information, why don't you subscribe by email or in and RSS feed? You can do either in the sidebar.

Friday, April 4, 2008

She's got me pegged.

This is our privilege ladder. The kids move up and down it based on how they are behaving. (I'm happy to expound on this concept if anyone is interested, but I bet you get the general idea.)

It helps me not to have to remember what privileges each child has at various points during the day. All I have to do is look at the "ladder". While not the most natural consequences, it is natural to loose privileges when one doesn't abide by family rules.

So, this week my daughter (6) made ME a privilege chart:

As first, I wasn't sure if I liked this or not - but in truth it is really funny. In fact, Daddy did something funny, but a bit rude last night and we all agreed he should be "moved down a notch". :) We were all in stitches at that!

In case you can't decipher the drawings, my privileges are (the top being the highest level of privileges):

1) computer time
2) going on long trips
3) reading books
4) going around the world to China
5) long meetings
6) getting coffee
7) playing Wii

(the little smiley faces at the top are her daddy and me - she taped the drawings to magnets that can move up and down the chart)

Oh my, does she have me pegged!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Baked Maple Barbeque Chicken

Baked Maple Barbeque Chicken
from Simply In Season

3/4 C maple syrup
3 T cider vinegar
2 T oil
1 T minced onion or 1/4 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Combine in a tight-sealing container and shake until well blended.

6 boneless chicken breasts, chicken thighs or legs
Add to container and marinate, refrigerated, at least 1 hour. Transfer marinated chicken and marinade to a greased baking pan. Bake at 350, basting every 15-20 minutes, until done (about 1 hour with bone in, less if using boneless meat).

Serves 6. I'll complete this meal with a side of steamed broccoli and fresh bread.

Summer Squash Bake

Summer Squash Bake
from Simply In Season

6-7 cups zucchini or yellow squash (shredded or chopped)
1 small onion (minced)
Combine with enough water to cook or microwave until tender, 3-4 minutes (shredded zucchini may be used without cooking.) Set aside.

1 can condensed cream soup
1 c plain yogurt or sour cream
1 c. carrot (shredded)
Mix together in a seperate bowl.

2 T fresh oregano (chopped)
1 C cooked chicken (diced, optional)
1 C cheese (shredded)
Add and mix thoroughly. Stir into squash mixture.

1/4 C butter (melted)
2-3 C herbed croutons or herb stuffing mix
Mix together in a seperate bowl. Put half into the bottom of a 9x13 baking pan or deep casserole dish. Add the squash mixture and top with the reserved croutons. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Serves 6 as a main dish; 8 as a side dish. I'll serve with a fruit salad and rosemary bread (homemade if I have time).

Zucchini Garden Chowder

Zucchini Garden Chowder
from my favorite local and seasonal cook book: Simply In Season

2 T butter
Melt in soup pot over medium heat

2 med. zucchini (chopped)
1 med. onion (chopped)
2 T fresh parsley (chopped)
1 T fresh basil (chopped)
Add and saute until tender

1/3 c flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3 C water
Stir flour and seasonings into vegetables. Gradually stir in water to make a smooth stock.

3 chicken or vegetable bouillon cubes
1 tsp lemon juice
Add and mix well. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes.

2 C tomatoes (chopped)
1 1/2 C evaporated milk
2 C corn
Add and return to boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 5 minutes until corn is tender.

2 C cheddar cheese (shredded)
1/4 C parmesan cheese (freshly grated)
Just before serving add and stir until melted. Add a pinch of sugar to tast and garnish with chopped fresh parsley.

This will serve 6-8. I will serve it with lots of warm, buttery corn muffins and maybe a salad to start.