There is a baby in the crib next to me

This was written almost six months ago, but I didn’t know if I should press publish or not.. Too much of his story? Fearful it won’t be final? But then I realized this story is my testament to God’s work in my life… I’ve tried to leave out some of the details of my son’s story so he can be the one to choose to tell it when he gets older.

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No really there is…for real. I couldn’t even make up this story if I wanted to. Do you remember my last post… over four months ago, well… it’s been an amazing whirlwind few months.  We had found out our wait time for adoption and it was longer than we thought it would be when we originally started the adoption process.  I’m in an adoption group with women whose whole process took 9 months… but I also know some who’ve had to wait five years, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when our wait looks like it’ll be somewhere in the middle just closer to the longer side. But I was sad and disappointed. Lately, God had been building an ache in me for this child. I wanted to meet him, or even just know something about him. I felt like I was ready, that I was almost hurting waiting for this child and he wasn’t going to be coming… for years.  I was crying at church worship and thinking about it all the time.

But you see God is amazing that way. He prepares your heart for what is coming, and sometimes he works through tough times to get you ready for joy. So I went to my adoption group whining about the wait, complaining about feeling so sure that God had called me to this, so why would he make us wait so long…. Then one of the women talked about knowing a little boy born prematurely that needed an adoptive family. I blurted out – what like I could adopt him? And she said the word… yes. Wait what. For real. God, wait is this what you want, is this really going to happen? Is this just me wanting it so bad? A million things whirled through my mind. I cried, we all prayed. I went home and had a very serious conversation with my husband. Now imagine how it was for him, we’ve been in this adoption process for over two years and had been praying about it for two years before that. We’ve notorized and signed what seems like thousands of papers from three different states and have gone through lots of trainings, how could I then make an adoption match at a meeting?  We talked, we prayed, we waited. We knew one thing for sure that we didn’t want to do anything that would affect our adoption in progress, but because it was such a time off we seemed to be okay with that. Were we prepared to take care of a preemie and anything that might entail? Was this our son too? An infant – we were never expecting that… or prepared.

We were always talking and praying and trying to find out every piece of information we could. Oh how I grew to love this little boy even if he wasn’t going to be ours he was on my heart. We decided YES… and then so much happened, all God’s path taking us to a place where we would be comfortable fostering and now we are his foster parents. All the details had God written in them and they are all part of his story so we aren’t going to share those. We said we never wanted to foster we couldn’t handle it, our daughters couldn’t handle it… but it worked and we are handling it.
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He has been with us for almost 6 months and I visited him in the hospital about 7 times before that. I learned everything about him.  I held him, learned how to give him a bath, how to read his monitor, how to get him to take his binkie and he has learned how to win our hearts. I was wrong to think my daughters couldn’t handle it. They were like.. okay, cool. They pray for his birthmom daily. They adore him. I realized their idea of the orphan was very much the international adoption picture and they couldn’t wrap their minds around this at first. Orphans shouldn’t have moms – that doesn’t seem right to them. They couldn’t reconcile it at first and we got the book “Maybe Days” that really helped and we would just talk in general about why kids could be in foster care. It broke our hearts for the foster care system. A system we will now be involved with for the rest of our lives in someway or another as we have learned of the needs there. We are all in.

We are learning how to survive with an infant and homeschool and work and somehow make food (really we are relying on the incredible generosity of friends). I forgot how great babies smell and how fun it is to push a stroller, I could totally do without his monitor, but as I type that I know I would be a wreck putting him to bed without the confidence of knowing he’s totally okay.  My daughters have definitely had to do without extra attention, quality schooling, and outings, but they are loving every bit of this. They will sit and hold him for an hour at a time. They’ve both fed him his bottles and my youngest always picks out his clothes and puts the diapers in the diaper champ thing. They are invaluable in his care, and it’s brought us all closer even though it seems like there is less time. There is more together time just sitting and talking and cuddling, even if we all have to whisper.

The point of this post is that I think sometimes when things are feeling hard, check out your heart to see what God is doing in there… He maybe preparing you for something amazing.

 

My Adoption Journey

I’ve tried to write this post many times, but it never came out right. Well here’s to imperfect… I had never thought of adopting. Not that I was against it, but it wasn’t on my radar, not like Jaime from Simple Homeschool whose mom reminded her that when she was a child she said she was going to adopt a little girl from India.  Maybe it’s because I didn’t grow up a Christian or maybe it’s because I had a strained relationship with my mom that I was so nervous about being a mom, that being a mom of a child from a hard place wasn’t even a thing I could imagine? But I love kids, I love them like crazy, heck I’m a kid still, often the one causing ruckuses, bending rules that include jumping on furniture and ball playing in the house and telling my 8-year-old that I’ll take her hang gliding or parachuting when she turns 18.

In the midst of really trying to figure out how to be a mother, when my girls were 3 and 1, learning how to be unselfish, loving, and yet not permissive, I met a young girl. I’m going to call her M for the time being.  Our church had decided to help a family from Liberia that was in a refugee camp in Sierra Leone get settled in America in our little town. I had volunteered to help get the 6 young children registered in the school district since I use to work in it, but other than that I was a little leery as I still had little ones at home.  It was then discovered that the oldest of the young kids (there were 2 adult kids and one mom) who was 15, was pregnant. This was M and she was scared and trying to adapt to life in a whole new culture as well as being pregnant. I was the only one on the team that had been through childbirth who was home during the day so I became M’s advocate. We went to all her OB appointments together. We went to WIC and a new school where they taught pregnant teenagers how to take care of their babies as well as how to provide for them as well as their classes. M who I originally thought was quiet, turned out to be an amazing girl of drive, intelligence, and had a will to succeed like no one else I’ve ever met. She enchanted everyone she came into contact with and always, always smiled even though home life was difficult, as money was tight with lots of young kids and not as many working adults. She was a straight A student and worked hard. Then it was time for her to have her little baby. I can still remember her bouncing on my exercise ball as she was having contractions, and then I remember being in the delivery room holding her leg as she gave birth. It was amazing – I had never been on that side before…. it’s much more fun not being the one to have to do all the pushing.  M’s baby was so handsome. Little A was perfect,  not a problem – just a perfectly healthy bouncing baby boy. And M having been there to help with little brothers and sisters really did already know so much. I remember the first time she pumped milk for him for the nursery while she would be in class and she got 9 ozs!!! I’ve never pumped that much.  She was a great mom and began a path to being an American teenager. I tried to give us some distance so she could learn things on her own and she had already found out ways to get baby A day care, diapers and more. She was amazing, we still talked once a week but she was sad because her family wanted to move and sadly my family was moving to Virginia for a year.M

But then on the trip to move, M got into a car accident and she ran to check on 9 month old baby A but as she was checking on him she was hit by a car and died. Baby A was fine, but now orphaned. I was ridiculously beside myself. We had a memorial and I tried to work through my feelings with God, but I was stuck on baby A. Their family had so many mouths to feed and M and her mother didn’t always see eye to eye, she was even considering staying up here when they were going to move. What if they wanted to put baby A up for adoption? And instantly my life changed. M use to joke because my youngest (2 at the time) would always call baby A her baby. M loved it and laughed and would always hand her baby A who was really only about 5 pounds less than she was. We loved him and his mom. I felt so responsible to them, I felt like family, but I wasn’t and M’s sister just a year younger than her was an amazing caretaker of Baby A. They never put him up for adoption and he is in a beautiful family that still has struggles but can completely surround him with stories and songs and the life of his amazing mother.

But now I was different, I really and truly was ready to do anything for this little boy, he had already had my heart. That was when God starting to work on my heart, yearning for another child. Really feeling an ache for another child (Sarah Bessey talks about that Ache here).  I began journaling and praying and God talked to me about adding to our family through adoption. I wasn’t sure…what would my hubby think, our family? I prayed and prayed for it to be made clear. Since we just moved we found a new church in Virginia and guess what, several people that we became friends with were adoption advocates, two families in particular each had had multiple adoptions, we talked, we prayed and God did one of those rare things. He made it so clear to me that this was our path that I had complete peace… and he confirmed it with doing the same for my husband. We were on our way. This was our path… but now what. We knew we were only going to be in Virginia for a year so we didn’t want to start the process to have to redo it all again, but we tried to learn everything we could.

We originally wanted to adopt through the foster care system, but we knew we wanted our children to remain in the same birth order and we weren’t sure if we could handle a situation where we were taking care of a child, but that he might not be adoptable. I’m not sure if we did it more because we thought it would be hard for our kids to understand or if it would be too hard for me to handle. So we decided on International Adoption. We chose our agency because their mission is to find a family for every child, not a child for every family. We love that they only work in countries that they do social services in as well. After finding out which countries we qualify for we decided based on time… shortest possible. And we came to choose a beautiful country. We began the process of working through dossiers and home studies, and then the process of waiting.

What we’ve been doing while we wait:

  1. We are learning Amharic.
  2. We are celebrating holidays of this new country.
  3. We are learning about transracial adoption.
  4. We are learning that International Adoption is really not the preferred way for a child to find a forever home. We always knew from baby A that more means doesn’t necessarily mean the better choice, there is culture, blood, and similar experience and there is something to be said about trying to preserve that in any way we can, but really it would never be the same as getting to grow up in your country of birth, or with those who are of your nationality.
  5. We are learning that waiting is hard. It is so heart breaking to feel useless, not knowing what exactly we should be doing to prepare. It is so hard to wait not knowing when. After our first daughter, we had a miscarriage after 13 weeks. After getting over the pain it was the question will we be able to get pregnant again that was hardest to deal with, and then when we did get pregnant it was watching and waiting to see if the baby was okay that was hard. This is different in so many ways, but yet so similar. That ache for a baby, a child, your child hurts and then can feel crushing even sometimes.
  6. We are learning to see our lives through different eyes. I think of my brown-skinned boy walking with me wherever I go – will he see people like him when we go to church, to school, in our neighborhood. We are making intentional decisions so that we can answer yes, but there is so much self-doubt. Can I prepare enough for this? Can he truly be able to grow and mature into a strong man with a great self-identity if I’m his mom? (This blog post does an amazing job of putting into words what I’m feeling, and then another one today- so I bought her book on amazon).
  7. I’m learning to feel differently. My husband and I have always had race issues near and dear to our heart. We belonged to a small church dedicated to racial reconciliation and learned that it is a long slow process of true healing and understanding. We learned through friendships and meetings and just general living together the racial inequality and divide is still occurring, even though some dismiss it, and it takes work to heal it. My heart has always hurt for it, but now it’s different. The shooting of Trayvon Martin hit me in a way that I wasn’t expecting. I expected anger and disappointment, but I wasn’t expecting fear and deep sadness. That could be my son walking around. That could be my son judged solely on perception and ignorance. I struggled to figure out how can I prepare him for this world, how can I talk about this reality that pits those of my color that are lost and ignorant against people of his color, when I really just want him to know that he and I are exactly the same inside and that our love isn’t affected or dependent on color, blood running through our bodies, or which continent he was born on. Because we live in a reality where some people do let it affect their respect and love for others and a mother needs to help her child feel safe and feel pride in who they are I need to do more than to pretend we are exactly the same. I need to empower him with self-confidence, love of his culture, his race, his identity as a wonderful black man, but I am not. Can I help instill that which I am not? I’m going to do my very bestest (and most importantly with God’s help and a community) to do that. But mostly while I wait to hold him, I struggle with fear of my inadequacies, fear of my own lacking, my own desire to be more than I am.
  8. I’m learning more and more that there are a lot of very well-meaning people who kind of get the adoption thing wrong.  I can’t even tell you how many times I hear “you are such a good person doing this, your child is so lucky”. I know a lot of adoption blogs talk about it, but it seems only people who are adopting must read the blogs. There is this weird set up as the child undeserving of this love and the adopters self-righteously bestowing it. Don’t get me wrong I think a lot of people just use the wrong terminology and really mean that it’s hard to bring children into this world no matter what way they come to your family and that is a brave and wonderful thing, and I think some people are saying that because the adoption process is long and hard… because as you can tell from this post it is. But there are some who really feel the other way. But right now my son might be dealing with the biggest traumas in his life. He is losing his parents and having to navigate a system that is confusing and hard.  He has to leave the only country he knows and has to be with people he doesn’t know and that don’t speak his language well and live with them forever not knowing what to expect. He is losing control, safety, and a part of his identity. And even though my family has had paperwork, a financial commitment and the burden of waiting, it is nothing to his loss. We gain everything we’ve been waiting for. We get to have and to hold him and have him in our family. Our family grows. His does to and I know that our son will be loved completely, but at a cost -  a huge cost, one he didn’t have any say in. Calling him lucky isn’t really a fair thing to do. But I know that many just mean that they love us and the child is lucky because they know we will love him like crazy and he’ll get to be apart of a family that does messy well. So maybe I’m just sensitive. Maybe I just already want to protect him.
  9. I’ve learned that I am not enough, that through this I’ve needed God so much. And as I learn more and more about adoption I know that I will need him every step of the way. It’s a lesson that I keep seeming to need to learn again and again.

I just want to give a thanks to Katie… she knows who she is and might actually might be the only person to get through this ramblingly long post. :)

Are we doing Martin Luther King Jr. Day correctly?

IMG_6848[1] IMG_6847[1]Today was a beautiful day.  The girls started with their journaling. I found this great printable from Thirty days, and I love what the girls wrote. Sadly the long adoption process is always on the docket here at our house… and it ended up on both girls dreams for our family. I think my favorite is that my 8 year old said her dream for the world was for women to have the same rights as men around the world. We often talk about the fact that women can do all the same things men can do and that in America that is mostly true, but it is not so around the world. She is realizing that there are those disenfranchised that are just like her, but in  different countries, and she has trouble wrapping her head around it.

The girls have read lots of books about Martin Luther King Jr. We own Martin’s Big Words and have read so many other books like it. I can’t get enough of reading about how love will conquer hate. I can’t help feeling that all of his quotes sound like they have come straight from the Bible. I can’t help but marvel at this peace, passion, and love in the midst of such a time and place filled with such anger and hate.  But I’m white and half a decade after the beginning of civil rights movement, can I really even understand the amazingness of this choice of love in the face of overwhelming ignorance and hate? I want to.  I think of how hot I get just hearing a random comment from a little kid saying well “She’s just a girl she can’t do it.” How would I feel to hear people constantly telling me that I have to sit in the back, use that bathroom, saying I couldn’t be what I wanted to be? How would I feel towards them? How could I love them? Jesus talked about turning our cheek, loving our enemies… but I think it’s often hard to feel connected to that… Jesus you were the son of God, that gives you a bit of an advantage in this… But Martin Luther King Jr. he was just a man. Don’t get me wrong I’m not elevating him to higher than Jesus but he was a true example of someone who followed Jesus’s example.  A man who stood in the face of ugly hate and chose love, chose peace, chose the better way. And even though my kids get that he was a true man of love and peace, they don’t really understand the world he had to live in. They get that they serve others on his birthday to celebrate his dedication to the betterment of other, his dedication to loving others, his dedication to service. They don’t see the other side though, they don’t realize what sacrifices he made to be able to serve others. They don’t get that he was surrounded by people yelling and hating on him, that he had to ask others to choose this tough way of peace and that many suffered because of it. Am I not doing Mr. King justice by keeping this side?  Today at the library we read Busing Brewster.  It was a random pick up by me. I was drawn to the illustrations. It was a tough book… My 6 year old made it half way through and then got upset and stopped listening. My 8-year-old wanted to finish but wouldn’t read the history part on the back. The story was about the forced busing to help end segregated schooling in the 1970s.  WHAT the 1970s???  I was born  in the 70s… okay granted the very end… but I had no idea that there was still segregated schools in the 70s that people would attack verbally and sometimes physically kids coming into schools. How could I be so ignorant? How can this horrible thing that happened to kids over and over again have happened in my lifetime in the United States? And it also made me realize my kids aren’t necessarily ready for all the details of this time. And I am thankful to those who write books and movies for children about this time to ease them into the full understanding.

I love what Denene Millner said in her MyBrownBaby article: Beyond MLK Day: Teaching Kids Why Martin Matters  saying that our kids generation see Dr. King as a past, often not realizing that Dr. King’s words aren’t that far in the past. We are in a very different time then Dr. King lived, but I hope that my grandkids will live in a very different time than my kids live now.

Today our church had a day of service at a nursing home. We played bingo, we laughed, my kids made friends, my kids loved every minute of it. They definitely didn’t feel like they did any service, but they connected with people. We connected with people who don’t often get that opportunity, we connected with people who are in some part disenfranchised. I don’t know if I’m doing right by the amazing Dr. King, I don’t even know exactly how I can, but I know that today was a beautiful day. We felt love, shared love, and remembered a past that wasn’t always full of that love. My prayer is that they will continue to remember this man in a way that they will continue to be change in the world.

Doll Making for Christmas

If you read my last post you saw that I learned that things can get stressful in December with all of the activities and magic that gets made. Something that is stressful and stress-relieving for me at the same time is making presents. I love making something cute/fun/perfect for one of my loved ones, but often it is very time consuming and is almost always more expensive than if I bought a gift.
Last year I made my youngest daughter a soft Lalaoopsy type doll, that I found directions for at the amazing My Froggy Stuff. I made my daughters best friend from kindergarten a pair of dolls from the Wee Wonderful’s Kit, Chloe, and Louise doll pattern. They were so lovable my older daughter would hold and look at them longingly, but I was so done with making them after making those two.4(We made the little girl a book about the dolls friendship.)
I have two nieces that are 6 and 4. They are the only relatives close that are my daughter’s age and their mom and I are super tight even though she is related to my husband. They are all about each other so I knew I wanted to make them something matchy matchy. Then I found dollie and me nightgowns on sale at Kohl’s… now I just needed dolls so I went to the cutest doll pattern I’ve ever seen… the Wee Wonderfuls Kit, Chlole and Louise pattern. It didn’t cost anything because I had the pattern, fabric and yarn already (I’m like a mini joanns at my house).
Here are some pictures along the way. All the girls love superheroes (my daughters 5th birthday was a superhero party) so I decided to give the dolls a super hero outfit and then save the matching night gowns for a surprise gift.dollmakingIt definitely saved time making them factory style, but I was getting a little crazy at the end. Since the dolls look similar I drew little hearts that said super and their names. Next came the hair and their faces. I sewed on felt circles for their eyes and used a fabric marker for the facial features.doolshairFor three of the dolls I used the directions for Louise’s hair and for my younger daughter I used the directions for Chloe’s hair… if I could redo it I wouldn’t have used the Chloe pattern hair it made a bump in the back. My older daughter’s doll is my favorite because I used two types of yarn and it really looked like her hair.  If you don’t like how you can see the scalp Imagine our life made her wigs differently which is pretty cool.doll4I was sewed out after making the dolls so the clothes are simple. I used knit and fleece so I didn’t have to finish edges. The skirts are just circles like donuts – no elastic – the belts hold them up! And the shirts are all done differently and I couldn’t get any one to really work well. I was just too tired to find a pattern and I didn’t want the shirts to open in the back. The capes are pretty simple and it was fun to make each girl’s different with their favorite colors. I’m most proud of the boots. I used the bottom oval from the pattern and then tried different shapes that would kind of look like boots.bootsI then embellished them with some felt stripes. I also used fabric to make simple masks. You can see one doll has a heart on her mask… I forgot to sew the elastic between the two pieces so I sewed on the heart to cover up the mistake… don’t be fooled – these dolls have so many mistakes, but the eyes of these little girls didn’t notice.dolls2dolls3 doll5 doll3dollsdonesuperdollsI used iron on printable fabric to make the letters on their capes.. and then as you can see I decided to make them little super dogs as side kicks. These four girls are huge dog fans so I thought it would be a nice touch. I used this Scottie dog pattern and made it smaller and then adapted it to make a wiener dog pattern (which wasn’t as easy to make and didn’t come out half as good).superdogsThe dogs being side kicks and all needed masks and capes… totally not worth it except for pictures they were ripped and lost within the first five minutes the dolls were in action.
And finally after they were superheroes for an hour I gave them the matching nightgowns. I’m glad we slept over. I have to alter the sleeves of all the doll nightgowns because these are only 16 in dolls, but the length was fine since it’s just a nightgown. girlsnightgowns

What I learned in December

I just love Emily’s monthly review of what she’s learned each month on Chatting at the Sky – Here’s mine for December.

This December I learned…

1. That the Christmas season is often stressful for Moms as we take on the role of magic maker. One who buys perfect presents, one who hosts great parties, one who creates meaningful traditions, one who makes everyday a joyful dedication to the celebration of Jesus… often leads to one who doesn’t want to wake up in the morning. Around December 15th I stopped trying to do that and tried to become one who is thankful to God for a season dedicated to celebrating His Son. Some traditions weren’t followed (we did try to do it at least more often than my kids bathed… which isn’t saying much), I gave up any idea of well planned out meals, homeschooling was less than stellar, but we did the important things and we weren’t stressed. My girls were troopers as we forgot to read our daily advent reading from Luke 2,  as we had to cancel some advent activities, and as some days we just wrapped all day. We laughed and enjoyed all of the fun things we did do. It really reminded me that I have to simplify… more isn’t better… more causes you to have no room to reflect, to be spontaneous, to feel at peace… Jesus came in a lesser way, not the way of Kings, not the way He deserved, but maybe it’s because He knew that a lot can get lost in all the pomp and circumstance – like the whole reason.

2. The one thing we did do was have our ornament making tradition with all of our friends.  I learned that hosting doesn’t have to be perfect. Every year we put out lots of supplies and glue and sparkles and friends come over, make a donation to a cause and make ornaments. I’m a horrible cook, or at least I have no confidence in my cooking so I’m always anxious about hosting even though I love spending time with my friends. But crafting,  that I’m confident about… and this little tradition is not stressful. It’s messy, and full of yelling kids, and sitting parents, and people meeting new people over the glue dots… it really makes me so joyful. I’ve learned this December that God has given us a way, a way for us to help, to build relationships, to love one another that is different from anyone elses way and they are all good and this is mine. ornamentmaking3.  I learned of an organization in Ethiopia that brings together Orphans and Widows. I love this beautiful picture of family, a beautiful picture of those broken coming together to become whole. It is really so wonderfully simple and powerful in mission. I just wanted to share because this organization like so many others we know of is carrying the work of healing and joy out into the world, but this one is doing it in a whole new way. Please check out Bring Love in .  I really can’t get over the beauty in this. I love this paragraph explaining what they do:

Far and away the most exciting part of the work that Bring Love In does; is creating new families from widows and orphans in Ethiopia. To see a child, taken from an orphanage, once abandoned, but now in a home, with a mother who loves them, it is beautiful, and good all around for everyone-the widow who does the nurturing-the child who so desperately needs love-and the community that benefits from having strong Christian families who live here and grow up to become the future leaders that help Ethiopia move forward.

They train widows who have a love for children and help them adopt the children and then set up a household where they will become a strong Christian family raising up future leaders in Ethiopia, creating strong families in communities, and healing those who have been broken through loss. If you have any last-minute giving to do and you have a heart for the Widow and the orphan consider giving.

4. My father-in-law bought the girls “Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego?” It is the cartoon version of the game that every adult aged 30-40 has played at some point in his/her life. We’ve watched 4 episodes already. It’s the only TV we’ve been watching. It is so awesome and the girls are already learning so much. I’ve learned that watching TV together with your kids can actually be a great bonding experience. We are usually fairly strict about TV, they always have to read first and usually for only the amount that they have read and usually I take that time to rest, read email, or just cook or clean. However this time is so precious, I may have to bend the rules. It’s only $5.99 on Amazon !Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego? - The Complete Series

5. Did you know that the Mayans developed intricate roadways and that we still aren’t sure how they did it? I learned that little factoid on Carmen Sandiego… but they also said that scientists are working on developing larger more hardy fruit and that one day the fruit will be so big and help feed the world… I guess this was way before we learned of the evils of GMOs.

6. I learned that there is only one sport that I’m better at then my husband and it is ice skating… I need to capitalize on that.

7. I learned that if you continually spout the need for girls to be encouraged into engineering your family will buy your kids engineering toys.  We are going to play with them all and let you know how they are.
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8. The rainbow loom has taught my kids some skills. My 6-year-old received this circle knitting loom for Christmas. She worked on it for almost 6 hours in the car and has about a foot of scarf made, she is doing an amazing job, and I’m beyond impressed. I really didn’t think she’d be able to do it. I love when my kids acquire new skills.knitting loom

9. I have been seeing a lot of talk on pinterest and on different blogs about choosing a word to have as a focus throughout the year – ie.. joy, peace, patience, adventure.  My husband and I talked about it with our girls and said we should try to come up with one together. We have never done this before so we came up with lots. My 8-year-old said, lets each think up three and put them in a jar and pick one out for each month. Brilliant! I love it when they are the ones coming up with all of the ideas.

Happy New Years!

I think EVERY kid should try this!!

I never really look too much into the links on the Google Home page… but last night something caught my eye. It said “Be a maker, a creator, an innovator. Get started now with an Hour of Code.” underneath a cool picture of Grace Hopper (an amazingly smart woman in the field of Computer science (and the Navy) when woman weren’t really in the work force never mind a man dominated field like Computer Science). My interest was piqued - I want to be a maker, creator, and innovator  (isn’t that what I’ve been learning in a Million Little Ways).  And to my pleasant surprise it is everything that I hold dear lately (well except God and my family).  In comes THE HOUR OF CODE – This week is Computer Science Education week and in honor of that they are encouraging everybody – really everybody to know that they can learn to code, they can learn to create computer programs and understand the process.
Check out this video -

But the real fun begins when the kids get to use visual coding to get an angry bird through a maze. There are 20 levels that get harder and harder… it took me a couple of tries to get through level 20! But even the youngest of kids can get through the first 3 levels and they will have so much fun!  If you want to give it a try go here for puzzle number 1 .There will be a video with a little introduction again (but don’t be put off they are goign to explain the challenge) to coding but then a young girl (yay!) will show you how to go through the challenge. When the video is over, just click the x in the upper right hand corner and you’ll see the puzzle. There is a new video for each puzzle to give you a little tutorial… to be honest the robotics kids and I just xed out of the videos quickly and tried the puzzles on our own.

Timing was perfect. I help teach a robotics class on Mondays after school and even though the class is mostly boys, my girls love to be a part of it and help. Today it was like a party for everyone. Each kid went through the coding challenges, helped each other out and laughed the whole time. They would run their program and see how they got stuck in a loop as their character spun around and around. They learned more in that hour about programming (very important in Robotics) then I had taught them previously. But don’t get me wrong this isn’t for just kids interested in robotics – this is for all kids!!!!!! My 6-year-old loved it. Any kid that plays mindcraft will love it, any kid that loves video games or apps will love it… (and to be honest these days that’s most kids – and even if you’ve stayed off technology this long, this you’ll want to see!) Programming teaches kids to break down problems into small doable parts, it teaches kids to think about the journey and the end result. It teaches kids that they are powerful, as powerful as their imaginations… please, please try it, do it with them, you’ll be amazed when they learn to do it quicker than you can. If you check it out please let me know in the comments, share it on facebook, spread the word. If you are having trouble navigating the Hour of Code website let me know and I’ll help in anyway I can.
hourofcode IMG_6430 IMG_6431(Note pictures weren’t staged… they really played for over an hour… you won’t be disappointed.)

Advent Ideas

Every year the girls and I make an  advent calendar. After we read parts of Luke 2, put in an ornament on our little board, read a holiday book and pray for a family member we see what our advent activity for the day is. They vary from year to year and I am always on the look out for more ideas. Below I’ve just posted a list of ideas to give you some ideas if you need them. PS. to set this up I print out a calendar for december and write in all the definite dates (family visits, dancing recitals, etc) since they are permanent (I count those as activities) then I look on the library websites in the area to see if they have anything cool for us to do and I put those on, and then I fill in the rest with other activities.
adventcalendarLast year we used these printed cards (they are on this blog, but they have taken down the printable) , but this year I’m going to use these scratch off cards instead because they seem fun. The other cards are a little easier because I just put a yellow post it on the back with the activity so I can change them around. These are set, so hopefully everything goes according to plan :).

Here are some ideas…
Game night
Tickets to ride around and see the lights – I like these printables
Make grandparent scrapbooks (go to Michaels)
Send postcards to cousins
take treats to a neighbor
plan the holiday ornament day
have the holiday ornament day
Dinner by candle light – longest day of the year – dec 21
national cocoa day – eat lots of chocolate – dec 13
Make snowflakes
Lets eat candy canes – in cereal on top of everything!
Decorate the outside of the house
Decorate the tree
Make reindeer cookies
Watch a Christmas movie with popcorn – or do it with a friend
Christmas Dance Party while cleaning the house
Call relatives and sing a Christmas carol
Wrap gifts
Visit a nursing home
Crazy day – kids are in charge
Sweet and sassy day (we got a living social deal last year… but sadly not this year so we aren’t doing it) – but I think we’ll have a salon day
Go to the town’s tree lighting
gingerbread houses at  library
nutcracker (we go to the local Community Art center, but there is always one around)
Visit relatives
decorate cookies
Act out the nativity play – video tape it and send to friends
giving tree shopping
ice skating
Coupon for an extra late night
Make the Christmas card – choose the pictures – We use smilebox and then donate money to buy something from World Vision
Christmas Program at school
Make a birthday cake for Jesus
Make an ornament scavenger hunt – You describe an ornament and they have to find it on the tree
salt dough ornaments
Donate old but good toys to charity
Go to the dollar store or thrift store and let the kids pick out a present for each other (secretly)
Donate money to salvation army
decorate cards for your teachers
snowman pancakes for dinner or tree quesadillas
diy cardboard gingerbread houses  or make a life-sized one!
photoshoot day
decorate the christmas envelopes to go out
Wrap presents
decorate the tree
Put lights on the house outside
We have a friend who last year sent us cards once a week… this year we are going to try to one up them!

Things I learned in November…

1. The rainbow loom can come apart and you can change the direction of the middle row. If you don’t have a child from ages 5-11 then you might not know what I’m talking about, but my once pretend and building play oriented two girls now spend their break time from homeschooling making bracelet after bracelet. We were watching one of  Ashley’s video‘s (she is the 10-year-old guru of rainbow loom bracelet making) and we couldn’t figure out what we were doing wrong, we couldn’t get it to work. Seriously I was an engineer why can’t I do this??? Then we realized it came apart… I’m happy to say that I’m the one that figured it out and my daughters were ecstatic… but I’m not happy to say that it took me almost an hour. By the way if you are going to get your child a loom for the holidays.. get the real deal rainbow loom, my dad bought the girls the crazy loom (the one you get at toys r us) so they could each have one… it really isn’t as good and can’t do as many things, so they still take turns with the rainbow loom. Also my favorite bracelet is the nautique… it looks like chevron and I love the one my girls made.
rainbow loom bracelets2. You can make your own fonts for free… and it’s easy. Sassy Pants (age 6) is reading up a storm and I love it, but we are still doing several sight words a week. I saw that Moffat Girls (this woman is amazing!) had made a crack the code for sight words with pictures of an object of the sound of the letter (ie. apple for a, bat for b, cat for c, etc!) But I couldn’t use hers because we are working with a different set of sight words and it seemed like inserting in pictures for each letter of five words a week would be hard… but then I found Fontstruct. I created alpha code to use with the girls. The best thing is that it’s a font so I just choose it in Word and type the sight words (you have to hold the shift button down because I only made capital letters) and instantly I have a worksheet. Here is an example of our last sight word list ( sightwordbreakthecode2 ). You can download the font here. Put this file into your fonts folder – well just follow these directions. So you have to draw the font with little squares so the pictures aren’t great… the Y is a picture of a yo-yo even though it doesn’t look like it and the M is an envelope (Mail) but neither were a great choice, but what’s done is done. Remember to get the letters to print out you must have cap locks on or use the shift key. I hope you like it.

2. Girl engineers are awesome and I’m always excited about them. My husband and I have been helping at a local school that is starting a VEX robotics team. We have been having a lot of fun and I take my two girls every time. Unfortunately the whole team is boys, just perpetuating the stereotype that girls aren’t interested in engineering. However, an all girls FRC Team came with their amazing robot to show our team all of the cool things you do in robotics and it was amazing. My girls were enthralled and when they boys saw the robot do a chin up and shoot our frisbees they were amazed. It confirmed my feelings lately that encouraging girls in math, science and engineering is something very near and dear to my heart. I have to admit I was a little bit proud when my 8-year-old asked the team question after question.
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3. I love the card game golf ( I learned two days ago). It’s awesome, easy to learn quick and can be played by my 6 and 8 year old. It will replace our Phase 10 days!
GolfHere is the best explanation I could find, but we played that one-eyed jacks are 0 and two-eyed jacks are 10 but they still cancel each other out. It sounds complicated but is pretty simple when you are playing. As both a teacher and an engineer I think it’s really great to play strategy games with your kids, it helps them think ahead and try and hold several factors and thoughts in their heads at once. It also helps them develop thinking patterns and strategies that may help them in other projects. (We also love blockers, checkers, connect four and blokus and we can’t wait until the get a little older and play Settlers of Cattan and Bonanza).

4. I have learned that I can’t really blog and get stuff done and this makes me sad, I’m up to hearing ideas besides staying up really late like tonight.

5. I love making presents… I learn it every month… it’s my happy place and I hope that I don’t ever stop doing it. I made this pillow and little tiny princesses for my little niece. Lil Blue Boo is so awesome and made a free print out that you can use for a box o princesses… but mine were extra tiny so they are in a minimason jar and I had to set my printer to multiple so it made the print out half the size. I also made her a shirt and a chevron L pillow. I think if I had more time this is what I’d like to do, but I’d have to figure out my own craft not copy one.
IMG_6228DSC_0617[1]DSC_0638[1]5. I learned that I really love young adult literature and the somewhat cheesy movies they inspire. Since I don’t have too much time to read nonadoption related books I listen to them on my phone while running. Audible.com is an awesome Christmas gift to give to any runner’s in your family. I agree with Emily F. I think even though the actor that plays Peeta seems amazingly sweet and adorable, he was supposed to be blonde and bulky…  (Throw huge bags of flour bulky!) I did really like Catching Fire though and going with a big bunch of my friends helps.

6. Kristen Bell can sing. I loved Veronica Mars, and I will go on record saying it was the best tv show of all time. If you have room on your netflix que… give it a try you won’t be disappointed by the quick sassy humor and the thought provoking mysteries to solve. But Kristen never sang in it… but here she is in a Disney movie singing her little heart out and she pretty much rocks. And that group of girls and I will be first in line to see the Veronica Mars movie!!!!

7. There are so many amazing advent ideas out there so this might not be helpful but this year I bought Truth in the Tinsel because I’m really learning this month and the past several that my girls want my time not really for me to set up elaborate activities. It is worth the money to have someone else set it up and enjoy the time together and enjoy the Word of God together.

What I learned this month… what I do is art

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I love art. I might (in my own mind) consider myself a real artist, but I’ve never been paid so I’m thinking I’m just someone who enjoys painting, drawing, sewing, photography, building, and well any kind of creating. So it is easy for me to feel like that is my art, that is the art I do. And well that is it, the rest of my life is my life. My cooking (really less than par), my cleaning (even worse than the cooking), and my parenting and wifing (if that’s a word) and even my engineering are all really just my activities, how I’m spending my time. Then I started reading A Million Little Ways – uncover the art you were made to live by Emily Freeman. On a very high level it talks about that we are art (made and created by God) and we make art (not just my narrow definition of it.) Now usually I stay clear of such heady, deep books like that. I’m in a stage where I like to read practical books like The Connected Child and other adoption books. However, I am often taken by Emily on the Simple Mom podcast and subscribe to her blog and thought I should try it out. I was wrong about it not being practical. I’m not really sure how she does it, but she is really helping me uncover my art. She is showing me that “There are many ways, a million little ways, that Christ is formed in me and spills out of me into the world.” (p.29).

This is hard for an engineer like me. Even though I think of myself as creative and out of the box, I also put things into categories all the time. This is my work time, this is my play time, this is my time to be with my kids… etc. But I’m realizing that if I stop that, if I am fully present in what I’m doing if I pursue the things that God gave me passion about and pursue them in His ways, I’m creating art. So here is my art..
homeschoolI am a homeschooling mom now. I wasn’t before and I won’t be after this year. You see we are adopting and my two daughters go to an amazing, small, loving Christian school. It’s probably not expensive in the realm of private schools, but it is still a good percentage of our income. My husband and I chose together that I would homeschool the girls this year to save that money instead of starting a job. It is a pretty big change from staying home with a preschooler and one kid in school full-time, it takes away a lot of my free time, it often makes our house a disaster place, and it almost always leaves me pretty tired and a lot less patient by 3:30 pm. But lately I’ve been letting it be my passion. I love crafts and activities and fun. I love my daughters. I love reading with them. I love being outside with them. I love all of these things. These things bring me joy so I’ve decided to focus on them through out our day. We don’t worry about crossing every T and dotting every I, but we sometimes read for two hours in their bed before they’ve even changed, we frequent the park, we’ve cooked so many things (they’ve cooked so many things on their own, our watercolor paints now stay in our diningroom permanently… and so do our smiles. Somehow all the spelling gets learned, and we make sure we do the minimum… but don’t get me wrong they (we) are learning so much more. We learned about a whole bunch of presidents, had fun learning capitals, learned to embroider, charted our families favorite types of oatmeal cookies, made our Halloween costumes, are known by name at the library and get to do a quiet time together everyday. The laundry no longer gets put a way… I literally clean the clothes and put them on the guest bed and we pick out what we need.  I cook the same 5 things over and over, and well even though I try to keep the kitchen clean, the other rooms are proving entropy (tending toward disorder without the addition of outside energy)  to be true.  But that isn’t my art. The bond that I’m growing with my two girls is my art. Learning Amharic together as we prepare for their brother is our art, tickles and laughs are my art, letting them be more responsible is my art, and teaching them how to be a mom is my art. Even though my mom and I are growing closer as I become an adult, I lived with my dad as a child, I often grew up wondering if I’d even be able to be a good mom, there was pain and hurt there…  but it’s healing now. Jesus shows us that He fills us up and He comes out of us in a million little ways (in art)… even ways we didn’t ever think we’d be able to do, even ones we were never prepared for. Emily says – What if I look inside and I’m a hot mess? Then states… you are. I am a hot mess, but I’m a hot mess who is learning that Jesus is helping me find my passion and making art that is affecting the world even if it’s just starting with those in my home.

The day my daughter lost her sh*@! over the word an

I don’t ever curse… you can ask my friends they’ll back me up, but I had no other way to describe today… the day I’m still in as I hide in my room with the timer set to 15 minutes as the girls have break/running/no work time. I’ve spent the last two hours with a screaming and crying almost 6-year-old. I am using this post to literally unpack what happened in my mind and hopefully try to learn from this experience for her benefit and my own. She is doing great in kindergarten, I can’t  believe how much she can read already and how she loves to sound things out. She really can do anything she wants to do WANT being the operative term. This week we are adding color words to our list of sight words, she pretty much knows them but I thought we could do some fun activities and Miss thing (my 8-year-old) has to do a color wheel this week and well it’s fall and those are my favorite colors coming around… so I thought it was perfect.

I decided to have her make a color book. Se loves making books and I”m really trying to do this enrichment stuff led by her interest. Each page was a different color and she was going to write “ I see a ______________   _______________. ” She was going to fill in the color of the paper and add an object to the sentence. She already knows the sight words I, see, a, an, and all the _at family words so I thought with a little help she could make a book she could feel proud of. She did black first great – she just forgot a… no big deal I was helping her sister.book
Next I wrote I see a black cat. and then under it I wrote I see an orange… and it was all over. Mom it’s a orange. Then I told her about the word an which she had already learned how to read and that this is what an is used for. It goes before naming words that start with a vowel. Which are all terms she can understand. She threw a fit. I mean an all out hissy fit. She screamed ” I will not write that and you can’t make me!” It was crazy and illogical and had some more screaming in it. Normally I’d loving say ooh we need to calm down let’s go up stairs and have some alone time, but I’ve been reading AHA parenting. It’s an amazing read. It makes so much sense. I struggle with big feelings, and that’s why I can be passive aggressive and try to eat away my feelings… I don’t want to do that to my girls… I want to handle this situation right so here goes.

So here’s how it went down. She is literally screaming, stamping and yelling about how she won’t write an and I can’t make her. (This is a true story, and  it was as surreal as it sounds.) THese are the tips Dr. Laura gives..1. Take a deep breath. Remind yourself that there is no emergency.  2. Remind yourself that tantrums are nature’s way of helping small people let off steam3. Remember that anger comes from our “fight, flight or freeze” 4. Set whatever limits are necessary to keep everyone safe, while acknowledging the anger and staying compassionate  5. Set limits on actions only, not on feelings.  6. Keep yourself safe.  7. Stay as close as you can.8. Don’t try to reason or explain.  9. Don’t try to evaluate whether he’s over-reacting.  10. Acknowledging her anger will help her calm down a bit.
Sadly I didn’t have them with me but I remembered quite a few. I talked calmly and quietly and stated that I understood that the word didn’t sound as good to her as a. I said that it’s not fun to not want to do something, I stayed close, I let her be mad. But I did mess up one part I tried to explain “an” thinking maybe she’d understand… big mistake mentioning “an” set her off all over with more passion (seriously I was thinking in my head is this really happening?) I did acknowledge her anger. Finally I just hugged her and didn’t say anything and it took another 20 minutes till she calmed down… but now I’m at a point of what do I do now. She needs to learn to use the word “an”. She also needs to learn that just because she doesn’t like something doesn’t mean she doesn’t have to do it. What happens when she’s no longer homeschooled and has to do what her teacher says. I’m a little unsure of how to go on, we ended up doing a math sheet on apples. The irony is that her word family of the week is the _an family. I have printed out about 20 activities to do with the _an family. Oh the irony is not going to be lost on her, she’ll be annoyed and might throw another fit just because of it. But I’ll press on. Today for my own sanity we are going to avoid the an word even as an ending and begin again tomorrow.

My take away: It’s true kids can’t listen to reason or make good choices when they are throwing a fit and punishing them more for that reason is just continuing the cycle. They need to learn coping methods for calming down. This little girl likes hugs (it was a little funny to see her internal struggle of wanting a hug and not wanting to be nice to me). I’ve learned that she is stubborn and doesn’t want to conform just because you say so and hopefully as an adult this will be a great quality that will have her thinking out of the box and maybe keep her from negative peer pressure. But alas for now it is to be parented and reigned in. I know what I’m about to say next is a bit controversal, but I want her to be able to obey. I want her to question, but to be able to be obedient to her parents. We are loving and caring parents that have always loved, admitted our mistakes, and never ever spank. She needs to trust us and obey us. The word an is a part of the English language and she needs to learn how to use it. It’s my job to teach her and just because she doesn’t like it doesn’t mean she can just choose to ignore it. Just like she can’t choose to ignore safety rules, or rules about how to treat others. Sometimes we have to do things we disagree with because they are the right thing to use!

After she calmed down we tried to brain storm solutions..

My idea… lets write it an  with the n being really small so she can show it that she disagrees but is still writing it the write way and that she would still be learning how to use it in the correct way.
She vetoed that idea.

Her idea… She could write two books one the way I want and one the way she wants, but then she added in a not great tone “but I’m only going to read the one with a”. I told her that statement was meant to be unkind and we don’t talk unkind to each other.  (Just so you know at this point I’m on the point of losing it and that my nice voice really sounds like it’s on the edge of me screaming even though it’s really quiet.)

I said maybe we aren’t quite ready to share yet while we are still angry so let’s do something fun, I read her a story for her reading word pages. Then it was break time.

I am not sure what tomorrow brings or if I’m ridiculous for feeling – Oh she will learn to use the word an, but it’s how I feel and Dr. Laura says we should validate feelings. And that is what this blog post is doing for me.. writing it out is feeling validating… also I’m really up for suggestions. Also I really wished I could have video taped her all and out fit because i know my words don’t do it justice. But really all I want is to say thank you to Dr. Laura or helping me from keeping that girl in her room til she calmed down teaching her that I can’t deal with her big feelings, because even though I really don’t know the right way to deal with them I want her to know that I want to try to deal with them with her and that I want her to learn how to work through them, and that it’s okay to have them.

Please check out AHA parenting.. .this is not a sponsorship – she has no idea who I am…