Friday, August 29, 2014

7 Quick Takes



Thanks, Jen for hosting!


1. Not guaranteed tomorrow ...

This past week, my husband's cousin's husband died suddenly.  It was shocking news and so sad.  That day, I was reminded that we are not guaranteed tomorrow.  I know we all know that, but it is different when you are reminded of that.  With Sarah's death last month and Tim's death this week, it set a resolve in me to make all of us going to China together work.  We do everything as a family.  And why shouldn't we all be there together for this very special event for our family?  Since we are not guaranteed tomorrow, I want to make today and each moment count.  I want to make memories. I have no idea how we will make it all work financially, but at this point, our family being together in China is way more important that a few dollars saved.

2. Waiting is hard

I will be completely honest, this time of waiting to get Felicity Grace has been so hard on me.  But, what I did not realize is that the kids found it difficult too.  Yesterday morning, Caleb was sitting on the floor in Felicity's room and he started to talk to me.

"Mom, I wish we could go to China and get Felicity sooner.  It is hard to see all of her pictures around the house and not have her here.  The waiting is getting harder."

My heart melted in that moment.  I had NO IDEA that the little people in my house were feeling exactly how I was feeling about the adoption process.

Yes, dear son, it is so hard!

3. To lighten the mood . . .

Because I do not want these takes to be too heavy.  This short video is of Joel Osteen's wife, Victoria.  I have never been a fan of the Osteen's, particularly Joel's prosperity gospel message.  A friend told me to read his book, "Your Best Life Now" years ago.  I read the first two chapters and had to put it down.  It was awful.  Now, Victoria Osteen takes their message to a whole new low. Watch this short video.  At least the end will make you laugh.



4.  Little Flower Run Labor Day giveaway

Have you registered for the Run for the Little Flowers yet?  If not, do so by Monday, September 1st! If you do so, you will be entered in a giveaway to win a Shakeology Shake gift pack.

See the side bar to register!

5.  Adoption process update.

Things are MOVING!!  This week we got our approval to bring Felicity into the US, and we applied for her Visa.  Now, our paperwork is being dropped of at the Consulate in China next week and we wait on a couple more steps before Travel Approval!!  It looks like we will travel at the end of October or the beginning of November.  We are getting excited and so ready to get our little girl.


6.  Fun Friday Pop Quiz!

Last song I listened to . . . "Reason to Sing" by All Sons and Daughters






7. I am sneaking two 7's in because this is just too good not to share.  This is Cardinal Wuerl on the situation in Iraq and our response/lack of response.




7. Little Flower Cuteness . . . 


Happy Friday Everyone!!

Friday, August 22, 2014

7 Quick Takes - pictures of my girl, the run, and other Friday thoughts




1. Yesterday morning, I opened my email and saw an email from Helen, a woman who works for our agency in China.  She had sent pictures of our sweet Felicity Grace!  It just made my day! Our paperwork is going slower than expected at this point and that, combined with other things, has made this week difficult. These pictures came at the perfect time to give me some more endurance to get through the next two months before we bring her home.




2. Murphy's Law

It is in full effect here right now.  In the last few weeks we have had to buy a new refrigerator, get our dryer fixed (for the 2nd time in a month),  and attempt to fix our leaky toilet. The tuition to the new tutorial is due in the next few weeks.  The worst of it is that it looks like the transmission on our van (my car) is going (for the second time) and we will have to either get a new car for Pete or put significant money into his dying car.  Two cars with significant work needed!!! All two months before the bulk of our adoption money is due.

I had been warned that  things like this would happen during the adoption process.  We have not had expenses pile up like this in years!  I am stressing out a little, to put it mildly.  I know it is all in HIS hands and in a few months, when Felicity Grace is in my arms, I will not think about the fact the Murphy has been knocking on our door (a lot) lately.


3. Going solo?

Because of Murphy's Law, we have been seriously praying about only one of us going to China (me).  We had planned on taking the whole family, but financially, at this point, it just does not make a whole lot of sense.  All 5 of us are getting our visas, so we can all still go, but we are also making arrangements so that I can go alone, if necessary.  I have talked to others who have done it and said it was fine.  There is a guide with you pretty much the whole time and the guide takes extra care of the parents that are alone.  The boys are sad about the prospect.  Joshua said he HAD to go to China because he wanted to be in the room the first time we meet Felicity!  Andrew proclaimed that he will get off the plane and run to meet his sister right away.  Oh, they knew just what to say to melt my heart.  We will see what doors God opens and which ones He closes over the next two months.

SASSY!

4. Run for the Little Flowers!


The shirts are in!  If you have not registered yet, please do so soon.  My goal is to have the run sold out by October 1st!  The giveaway post will be up soon.  Please spread the word!


5. On fundraising, etc

I got my first negative comment on my blog a little bit ago.  It was about our adoption and fundraising.  I deleted the comment, but this person shared his/her disgust for the fact that we were fundraising for our adoption and how we clearly do not love, nor deserve our daughter.

I have lots of thoughts and feelings about that.  I wanted to devote a whole post to it and talk about adoption expenses, how my hubby works and has always worked in ministry/for the church (read: does not get paid tons), how we live frugally, etc, etc, but then I thought that we do not need to explain our reason for fundraising. 

Truthfully, I do not like fundraising.  Asking people for anything, particularly money, is tough for me.  I never want anyone to feel obligated to help us. Yet, many people have asked if they can help us. So we have set up an an AdoptTogether account.  It works like a GoFundMe account, but all donations are tax deductible.  For more information please go here.

*Just a note: I am more than willing to share about the adoption expenses; how much we have already paid, how much more we have to go and how we have been covering all of the expenses.  If you are interested, please leave a comment and I will gladly write up a post about it.  It has been an incredible experience . . . . I think similar to families who work so hard to get out of debt, you just find a way and are amazed how you were able to do it.


And since I overloaded you all with photos of our cutie, I am going to end at #6!


6. Little Flower Cuteness . . .
This is why I do the Run for the Little Flowers!

Have a great weekend everyone!! Thanks Jen, for hosting!


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

My new toy

I have wanted a camera, a good, DSLR camera for years, but just could not justify the cost.  Before digital camers came on the scene, I used very good 35 mm SLR camera.  My dad had purchased a Pentax Ashai camera while in Japan on furlough from Vietnam.  He purchased everything; about 5 lenses, filters, tripod, etc.  When I was a teenager, I had found the camera collecting dust in a closet.  I learned all about aperture, shutter speed, and lighting and took that camera everywhere.  I stopped using it about 8 years ago when we got our first point and shoot digital camera and it had gone back to collecting dust in a closet.

Our point and shoot has taken good photos over the years, so I remained fairly content with it, but I really did miss playing with a camera and seeing the world through the eye piece verses the digital screen.  So when we knew we were going to China, I knew I wanted to take a DSLR with me.  I sold off a bunch of things on Craigslist and eBay, including the old Pentax Ashai to pay for it, and two months ago, I got this new toy . . .

It is certainly not the best or most expensive camera out there, but for what I was looking for and for the price range I was looking in, the Nikon D3200 was my camera of choice.

I brought it out to use it for the first time while on vacation in Cape Cod.  I am a camera junkie and I just loved holding it in my hand, waiting to take some shots.



The first thing I loved about having this camera, other than the feel of it in my hand, was the fact that I could look through the eye piece again to capture a photo.  I LOVE that.  I feel like I am actually IN the scene again and not just watching as a bystander.


I can actually play with the lens and focus it again.




I am able to catch this boy in all of his silliness . . .





I can get up close to objects with out getting a blurry shot.


I can get this son of mine, who does NOT like getting his photo taken, before he turns around and is out of the shot . . . .














I can capture life as it happens.  Smiles and all.


I am THRILLED with my new toy.  I just played with it while on vacation and am excited to figure out all that it is capable of doing!  Then, to tackle Photoshop!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Do Something! Register for the Run for the Little Flowers!

Matthew West, writer and performer of the song "Do Something" is encouraging us all to have a Do Something Summer.  Since his song "Do Something" has been the inspiration for this year's Run for the Little Flowers and the refrain is featured on the back of the shirt.


So, if you have not, please register now, for the Run for the Little Flowers and Do Something for orphans in China.


If you have received your shirt already, please put it on, and take a picture of yourself in it and put it on social media and hashtag it #dosomethingsummer .  Matthew West is watching all of those #dosomethingsummer and will repost those he likes!  Let's give the run and Little Flower Projects some great publicity!

Please watch this video.  Mathew West explains his inspiration for the song. (And do not forget to register!)


Monday, August 18, 2014

Monday Daybook

Outside my window...
It is a cool, over cast August day.  It seems like the fleeting days of summer are already gone and we are in the Fall already.

I am thinking...
About our adoption, our girl, the start of the homeschooling tutorial and all the projects that need to get done around our home before we travel to China.  I cannot seem to turn my brain "off" lately and just relax.  And in the quiet moments all I can think about about is how I want to go to China and get our little girl.  That thought is overwhelming at times, yet I trust in His timing and pray for His patience and peace.

Oh, and the Run for the Little Flowers!! Please consider registering if you have not yet.

I am thankful for...

My husband.  He is the most wonderful man and I cannot imagine life without him by my side.  
Friends and our local community.  God has planted us among amazing families.

I am wearing...

Khaki shorts and a flowered short sleeve shirt and I am clod!  I may have to put on my yoga pants soon!

I praying...

For our adoption process; that we may get our i800 approval this week.
For the Harkins Family
For a smooth transition for Joshua and Caleb into the tutorial.
For our Walking with Purpose Bible Study that will start next month.


I am reading... 

A Million Little Ways by Emily Freeman
Little Oratory by Leila Marie Lawler
The book of Acts


I am hoping...
Our adoption process goes smoothly with no more delays.


From the learning rooms...

Books are ordered. Bookshelves organized.  Uniforms purchased.  Supply lists printed and ready to go out with me on my next errand.  I think we may be ready for the start of school when it comes in two weeks!



From the kitchen...

Sauerkraut fermenting, almonds being roasted, yogurt being made.  A chicken is defrosting to be roasted for dinner.  After about three weeks of being COMPLETELY off of GAPS, we all are ready to go back to the GAPS lifestyle.  There truly is a difference in the members of this household when we are eating GAPS foods versus when we are not.  There is a huge difference and I am convinced, even more so, that GAPS is a lifestyle that our family needs to keep.


Around the house...

It is quiet.  The boys are upstairs playing Legos. The scent of candles fills the air (I love candles). Other than the occasional, gun sound made by my boys, all I can hear is the chirping of crickets outside.  It is kinds of nice.

My nesting is in full swing and we are getting many projects done around here.  Adoption nesting is so much nicer and more productive than pregnancy nesting.  You do not tire as easily and there is no big belly to hinder you from doing projects.

One of my favorite things .
 .

Making our house more and more of a home each day.


A picture thought I am sharing ...
A vacation photo.  I miss Cape Cod!  It truly is my happy place.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Living in the Moment

 (Written last week while on vacation.)
 From The Screwtape Letters: Screwtape explains: Our business is to get them away from the eternal, and from the Present. With this in view, we sometimes tempt a human (say a widow or a scholar) to live in the Past. But this is of limited value, for they have some real knowledge of the past and it has a determinate nature and, to that extent, resembles eternity. It is far better to make them live in the Future . . .  In a word, the Future is, of all things, the thing least like eternity. It is the most completely temporal part of time — for the Past is frozen and no longer flows, and the Present is all lit up with eternal rays . . .
To be sure, the Enemy wants men to think of the Future too — just so much as is necessary for now planning the acts of justice or charity which will probably be their duty tomorrow. The duty of planning the morrow’s word is today’s duty; though its material is borrowed from the future, the duty, like all duties, is in the Present. This is now straw splitting. He does not want men to give the Future their hearts, to place their treasure in it. We do. His ideal is a man who, having worked all day for the good of posterity (if that is his vocation), washes his mind of the whole subject, commits the issue to Heaven, and returns at once to the patience or gratitude demanded by the moment that is passing over him. But we want a man hag-ridden by the Future — haunted by visions of an imminent heaven or hell upon earth — ready to break the Enemy’s commands in the present if by so doing we make him think he can attain the one or avert the other — dependent for his faith on the success or failure of schemes whose end he will not live to see. We want a whole race perpetually in pursuit of the rainbow’s end, never honest, nor kind, nor happy now, but always using as mere fuel wherewith to heap the altar of the future every real gift which is offered them in the Present. - The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
             The adoption process has been a training ground for me.  It has been the best and hardest growth experience for me thus far.  Patience?  Um, I thought I had some before, but it has taken years of being in the process, stopping the process, and waiting to be in the process again and now waiting to bring our daughter home to truly gain an appreciation of the Patience and Resting in Him that God is calling me to everyday.  And, now, God is teaching me to live in the moment.  To learn to be fully present in the moment I am in.

         And this is a difficult thing to learn when all you want is the moments you are in to fly by so that you can seem to time travel to the future date and time when you have your daughter in your arms and the whole family together.

          But, God does not call me to focus on the future.  He does not want me to live there or even live in want of the future.  He does not wish for me to long for future moments.  And He does not want me to squander the current moment, my current place seeking escape through the internet; stretching out hoping to be in a different place. He has placed me right where I am, in this very specific moment for a reason.  To love on my kids a bit longer.  To walk down the road, hand and hand, with my oldest before the moment is gone and he is “too old and too cool” to hold his mother’s hand.  It is to kiss my husband a little longer. Smile just a bit bigger. Making sure that each moment I am with them is just as important as that “Gotcha moment” I long for.  That moment I long for will come and go, but the present moment is always with me.  God is always with me in the here and now. 
The clock ticks slow.  I hear it for what it is: good and holy.  Time, what God first deemed holy above all else.  Thank God for time, and very God enters that time, presence hallowing it.  True, this, full attention slows time and I love the full of the moment, right to the outer edges.  But there’s more.  I awake to I AM here.  When I’m present, I meet I AM, the very presence of a present God.  In His embrace, time loses all sense of speed and stress and space stands so still and . . . holy. Here is the only place I can love HIM. - Ann Voskamp

           It is ironic that this is the lesson He has me working on right now.  Live in the moment. At a time when it is so easy to get lost in the counting of days until we meet our daughter, until the boys start another year of school, or getting lost in a to-do list that cannot be done today. 

“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” Matthew 6:34

           We are on vacation.  So perfectly timed.  Certainly not my timing, but His.  He knew what I needed, when I needed it;  to grow more in this lesson of living in the moment.  We have movement in our adoption process.  Others on the same path as us, same timeline, are filling out visa applications.  And I am running to the beach and searching for sea shells with my boys.  

        We are still on vacation.  We were supposed to go home today, but we decided one more day was necessary.  Just two days ago, I was lamenting the fact that we weren’t home.  I wanted to go home.  I openly said that to Pete.

“You know you cannot bring her home any faster if we go home.”

Oh, yes he did say that.  Oh, yes, an irrational part of me was thinking that.  Somehow, if I were home, time would go by faster.  Felicity would be in my arms sooner. 

But, that is not what God has been whispering to me all this time.

Live in the moment.  Be present. Here and now. That is where He wants me.


            And this vacation has been a testing ground for that.  I am sure that is why our LOA came while on vacation.  How would I respond? Would I get lost in the email attachments of “What is next?” or would I heed the advice of our Social Worker who said those things could wait until after we returned home.   I am happy to say that I have not opened the several attachments sent to me at the beginning of last week.  Haven’t even looked at them.  There are moments I fail and I seek solace in one of my adoption groups on Facebook.  But, I have sought His face every day.  I have sought Him in my family.  I have looked for Him in the beauty of nature that surrounds me.  I have been aware of the breaths I take and have breathed just a bit deeper in moments to really feel the moment.  Because, there is no better place to be, but with the Great I AM in the present. Here and now.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Getting ready for another year of homeschooling and some changes


I had the best of intentions of writing a post about wrapping up last year, our homeschooling plans for the summer and the big changes that are coming this next year.  Yet, today is the first day that I have been able to sit down and take some time to click out some words on the laptop and share about how homeschooling has been going and what lies ahead of us.

To give a brief synopsis of last year is simple; it was a tough year.  Probably one of our toughest yet.  Homeschooling, the way we have been doing it, was no longer working.  My two oldest needed a great deal of intense one-on-one time.  My oldest also needed to learn how to figure things out on his own, to an extent.  He was in 5th grade and I tried hard to give him room to work on his own and figure out how to manage with his learning disabilities, in a safe environment, but he continued to use me as a crutch.  Homeschooling became a regular battle.  And I was getting worn out. 

By March, I began to research tutorials.  And I already know what so many people are thinking; “You can’t put a child with learning disabilities in a tutorial! You are setting them up for failure.”  And I have heard that.  I had people gently counsel me that a tutorial is NOT the place for a child that struggles with school.  Yet, I continued to search.  I talked with parents and board members about tutorials. I asked specific questions about having a child with learning disabilities in that environment.  And many parents said their son/daughter actually did better in a tutorial than at home.

My boys were not too thrilled about the idea.  Both Joshua and Caleb did NOT want to go to a tutorial and when the day came for us to shadow at St. Thomas Aquinas Tutorial, they were both very against it.  I had asked them to be open to it and see where God may be leading us as a family.  Caleb shadowed the 2nd grade class and Joshua the 5th.  I sat in on Caleb’s class first and I will be honest, I fell in love with the class.  I was impressed with the Classical style curriculum and I loved the interactive nature of the class.  Caleb came alive in the classroom.  Naturally social, I could see how this setting would inspire him to learn more than he would be at home with his two brothers.

I was also impressed with the 5th grade class, and the more I researched the curriculum used, the more I felt it was the perfect way for Joshua to learn.  It would give him a systematic way of writing and learning grammar that would take a lot of the stress and indecision out of the “how” for him.  Yes, his work load would be more, but, in the long run, it would be easier and give him a firm foundation.  Plus, he would be forced to figure out how he needed to work WITH his learning disabilities instead of trying to avoid it all together. 

Earlier this year I read a book called David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell.  While I cannot recommend the whole book, the author does an excellent job at discussing learning disabilities and how they can actually be an advantage, one which he calls a desirable difficulty.  According to the author, when something is difficult, we often look at that as a disadvantage, but it can be an advantage when the person with the disadvantage works to overcome it.  Galdwell relayed story after story of how men and women with dyslexia worked to overcome their disadvantage and learned new ways of learning that allowed them to become some of the top in their professions.

I let Joshua listen to these parts of the book with me.  We discussed “desirable difficulty.”  I shared with him how my prayer for him is that STAT would be a safe place for him to learn how to learn best with the difficulties he has.  It is a place where he can use his voice to ask for the things he needs so that he can learn best.  Ultimately, straight homeschooling was not giving him that environment anymore.  Yes, he was still learning, but there is more for him to learn.  More life lessons; more finding how to stand on his own feet, seeking balance and, if necessary, falling a few times so that he can grow into the man whom God desires for him to be.

So, starting this fall, both Joshua and Caleb will be attending a tutorial two days a week.  There are times I am so happy with this decision.  I know it is the right one.  Yet, there are times I feel like I am admitting defeat; admitting that I cannot home school.  And I worry about the boys’ transitions to a tutorial.  Will they truly thrive there?  Will they love it as much as I hope they will?

Ultimately, like every parenting and homeschooling decision we make, I entrust it into the hands of our Creator, knowing that when we follow His will, it will all work out in the end. It may not be pretty or perfect, but it will draw us closer to the author of our Faith.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Adoption Update

 


Since getting matched with Felicity Grace, I know I have been silent about details on the adoption.  There has been not much to report.  Once we received PA from China, we began the long wait for LOA.  LOA, or Letter of Acceptance is the official document from China that our paperwork has been reviewed, the match has been reviewed and is official.  Once LOA is received, the process moves quickly and you travel to hold your child forever in your arms, 8-10 weeks from that point.

I am not a numbers person and I tried to stay away from counting the day we were on in our wait.  The LOA wait can be variable.  Some families get it in 60 days, others 100.  The average wait is around 75 days.  Last week, I knew we were on day “seventy- something,” but that was a close as I got to counting. Dates of ours along the way were longer than others, so I prepped myself for a nice long, 90 day wait.  But, in the middle of being “in the seventies”, we were headed on vacation.  We had had no movement in our paperwork; in the data base, we were still listed as OOT (out of translation), so we had not reached the “reviewed” or “match reviewed” stage.  I thought it would be unlikely that we would get our LOA while on vacation, but, just in case, I called our social worker to ask her what we needed to bring with us on the “off chance” our paperwork would come back while we were in Cape Cod.

The Friday before we left, I chatted with our social worker. She gave me the basics of what paper work I should bring with us.  At the end of the conversation she said, “Let me just check the database to see if there has been any change in our status.” 

Reviewed!

I was shocked and so happy.  She assured me that from Reviewed to Match Reviewed to LOA would be about a week, so we would have time and we may even be home from vacation before the hard copy of the LOA came in. 

By the afternoon, I received an email from our social worker . . .

We were officially match reviewed!

At that point I was elated; we were about a week away from LOA.  We were going on vacation for some rest, and rejuvenation before the craziness of travel preparations, final adoption preparations, and the beginning of another homeschooling year would be upon us.  So, we all packed up to go on vacation, I brought every important adoption related paperwork I could think we would need, and we headed out of town to spend some much needed time on the Cape.

We were not even there 24 hours and early Monday morning the phone rang.  It was our social worker.

“Congratulations, we have your LOA.”
I was stunned . . . . Um, this should have taken longer.  One business day after being match reviewed, we had LOA.  I asked her twice, “You mean, you have the actual hardcopy, from China, at your office?”

“Yes, and I need an address to overnight it to you.”

LOA.  We are 8-10 weeks from holding our little girl in our arms.

The document came the next day at 7PM . . . . the FedEx man, clearly not knowing how important this document is and how we needed to sign it and overnight it back to our agency, went to a dentist  appointment before delivering it.  But, God works in mysterious ways.  Because the paperwork was delayed and we could not overnight it back out that day, we poured over all the documents needed to send . . . and we found and error.  An error that was overlooked for months.  We had not been given approval to adopt a child with special needs by the US Immigration Services (because the wording in our home study was not “strong enough”).  If this error had gone unnoticed, we would have been denied, by the USCIS, to adopt Felicity and we would have had to apply for a change in our status a month from now.  But, praise God we caught it and we should only be delayed by a week.

Please pray for us as we enter the end of our adoption process journey.  There are visas to apply for, travel to prepare for and a life of forever with a little girl already in our hearts.