Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Budget Cuts--Everyone is Doing It

Today was SnapDragon's school conference.  Tomorrow is Huckleberry's.  There were no surprises, and I don't expect any tomorrow.  What did surprise me, no it wasn't a surprise...what did sadden me was the newsletter that came home today explaining how the expected budget cuts would be affecting my children's schools.  In some ways, we are luckier than other districts.  Our class room sizes might go up a little, but they are actually keeping most teachers and not closing any schools.  In the more specific, the losses are devastating.

Our district is cutting specialists.  I don't know how it is impacting the middle schools and high schools, but for the elementary schools it is across the board.  Currently every school has two out of three specialists--P.E., Library (ITT), or Science.  Huckleberry's school has the first two and SnapDragon's school has the second two.  Next year they will have no specialists though the libraries will be open for use and some Librarians will stay with less hours.

I am most upset about the science teacher (who does get to stay at the school as a regular teacher) but who as the science teacher has the children come down from each class 3 days a week to a "lab" and is able to do continuing science education from year to year.  The librarian is, of course, helpful in keeping the library neat and the collection up to date, but she also teaches the children power point and the Dewey decimal system and how to research and use the computers.  There will not be time for all of this anymore and the teachers who were able to work on their own curriculum and class projects during specialist time (including P.E.) will have only more to teach and less time to prepare.

I know how dedicated and hard working the teachers are at my children's schools.  Their passion is not always rewarded with successful students; state tests say our schools are failing as badly as the rest of my state's public schools.  I understand we are out of money.  I believe the best key to a child's success in school is parental involvement.  I do not know the solution.  

What I do know is that one more blow has been dealt to all those teachers, administrators, specialists, bus drivers, and lunch ladies* who still pour their heart and soul out in an effort to help and educate children.  Maybe my children's schools will rise from the beating with continual hope and renewed dedication...this time...but maybe someday they'll give up.

Why not?  So much of society already has.  I am certainly losing heart.  What kind of future does our country have then?

*SnapDragon's lunch lady continually followed up on him after the death of his grandma last year because he was so clearly sad--and he usually brings a sack lunch.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Getting a Little Excited

This is a post about math.  Math and adoption.  Things can always change, but the math is starting to look good.

It appears fairly definite (though not completely confirmed) that China sent out referrals for families that have Log In Dates of June 21-30th.  10 Days!  

This puts our LID of 8/15/2006 only 46 days from referral.  Even if they go back to the more usual pace of 5 days a month we are only 9 months away from a referral (46/5=9.2).  Yeah, yeah, I am properly saddened that those babies need homes in the first place, but I cannot help be a little happy that we might someday actually get a referral!

On the flip side, if they do a few more 10 day batches we could be only 5 months from referral (46/10=4.6).  Ummmm, that is a problem because in a desire to not have our paperwork expire we haven't actually renewed anything yet and some of it takes a bit of time.

So I am little excited AND a bit panicked!  This is not a bad place to be.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Wisdom from Above

I have always wanted to have wisdom.  Ever since I was a little girl and heard the story of Solomon pleasing God by asking for wisdom.  I was bright enough to know the point of THAT story!  I've studied the passages that say those of us lacking wisdom can ask God for it and He will grant it.  So I pray and ask God for it.

With three children and a desire to adopt a fourth, I can always use some more wisdom.  And I believe God has given me some from time to time; I am certainly wiser than I was 20 years ago, or even 2.  However, I've never thought, "oh, me.  I'm so wise!"  This is probably good since pride is a sin, but it has also made me skip over some verses that I recently read anew and felt quite struck by.

James 3:13-18:
"Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.  But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth.  This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic.  For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.  But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.  And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace."

Okay, this is going to seem pretty silly, but basically, this passage starts out with "Who among you is wise and understanding?" Because I didn't think of myself as wise and understanding, I didn't really bother applying this passage to my life.  Jealousy and selfish ambition are rarely my "sin of choice" ie my biggest temptations, so I've never taken the time to memorize this scripture or meditate on it.  

However, last week I was struggling a bit with jealousy and selfish ambition AND this passage came up in my Bible study homework.  Immediately God used it to speak to me and sooth my soul.  Truly it was like an immediate balm; I cannot even explain it unless you have also felt God's word seep into the cracks in your hurting heart. 

The details of what was happening to make me hurt is not relevant, but I really want to share what the passage says to me.

First, "who among you is wise and understanding?"

Well, not I, but I certainly WANT to be.  God will give me (and you) wisdom and understanding, and this passage tells us what that will look like.  

It will be and be evidenced by:
good behavior
our gentle deeds
full of mercy
full of good fruits
without hypocrisy
sowing peace

It will NOT be:
bitterly jealous
selfish ambition

I know it is just a list straight from the Bible verses.  But it is the scripture that has the power to change us not my rambling words.  But the thing is, when I pray for wisdom and ask God to guide me, it is such a big idea and almost too vague.  When I look at God's definition of wisdom, how He breaks it up into little pieces, all of a sudden some decisions become much clearer (not all, but some).  

Why do I want to make a decision one way or the other?  

What is difficult in this choice?  

Is it because what I want to do personally conflicts with what is ultimately best for all?  

If so, all of a sudden my decision becomes easier.  It can still hurt to let go of my selfish desire/ambition, but there is peace in the confidence that comes from choosing the right behavior that is clear with God's wisdom.

Are there any verses that the Holy Spirit has revealed to you in a whole new light, that God has poured like molasses over your heart and filled in some aching cracks?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Chalk, Pirates, and PinWheels--Sunday Snapshot

On my photography blog I participate in a weekly shoot and edit challenge.  There is a contest for the best straight out of the camera shot.  These week's theme is sidewalk chalk so I went outside in the quest to take the best picture of chalk that I could.  

It started in the morning with Sunflower.  However, she wanted to take the chalk in to wash it because it had dirt on it, wanted her hands washed, and squatted in a most unladylike way (some cute photos, but NOT blog appropriate).  
Very shortly we ended up picking up the chalk and playing in the backyard instead.

Then in the afternoon, when the boys were home, we tried again.
SnapDragon decided to draw flowers for me, but that didn't sit so well with Huckleberry.
He decided to pout sit down in sadness if brother wasn't willing to draw boats with him.  Sunflower didn't care.  
She was more interested in organizing the chalk than drawing anything.  However, SnapDragon quickly gave into his brother's emotional blackmail changed his plans and started creating his boat. Then everyone was busy.
Huckleberry's boat was completed first so he started searching the area for enemies.
 Soon another pirate attacked leading to a long and lengthy battle.
Huckleberry was eventually overcome by SnapDragon which required the building of an underground brigade.
He did say brigade, but I think maybe he meant brig.  The ability to build a brig underground is the wonderful magic of chalk.
Eventually Sunflower brought all of her pieces of chalk over for her brother to pick up and we all went inside for dinner.

We had a great time outside playing (so grateful for this week's sun) but I never got the perfect straight out of the camera shot I wanted.  I might enter a pinwheel shot instead.
Pinwheels are identical to sidewalk chalk, right?

Ni Hao Yall


Friday, May 20, 2011

Adoption Questions and Nothing Else

It almost feels like today is Sunday and Tonggu Momma posted Sunday Linkage (which is on hiatus while she focuses on going to China).  There were just so many new thought-provoking adoption posts today, and I cannot process them all.

How can you not cry for the family who God moved heaven and earth to match them with their child only to have the child die before she could be brought home?  Yet today, only a few weeks later, in the midst of their own pain, you see them rejoice over a child who a year ago was also seriously ill and today reached his 4th birthday happy and healthy in the arms of his family?

Or what about the teen girl who is settling into her forever family with the two brothers brought home a year after her--all with deep wounds but finding healing in their forever family and in Christ?  Slowly, but finding purpose.

Then there are the children in Uganda highlighted at one blog--not babies, but children.  Children who have no families but do have loving care facilities in their birth country.  Children who want families and pray for families but might not find families because people like me don't want to adopt out of birth order; maybe can't even get approval to adopt out of birth order.

Or the post a few days ago about abuse in the foster care system.  Abuse that is not perpetuated on every child or occurs in every family, but that even one child suffers is more than enough to make one feel ill.

And I think, God, who? how? what am I to do?  Is there a child that our family can love, invest ourselves in, and, well, help? 

But than I look away from the computer and come back to a whole new set of posts.  This set reminds me that we did not choose to adopt because we wanted to rescue a child; we felt led down a certain path and we took it.  It has not led to a child and may never.  But neither has God changed our direction to switch to foster care adoption or older child adoption or special needs adoption.  He has told us to wait and renew so we do.  But waiting in the NSN line certainly feels embarrassing at times.

Yes.  We would like to adopt a girl.  Yes, we would like her to be younger than Sunflower.  This apparently, according to one post I read, makes us delusional people who cannot see that our desire to adopt is the cause of all abandonments of babies.  That if I do not see it I am defensive, unwilling to treat adult adoptees with respect, and unfit to be an adoptive parent because I will expect the child to be grateful and not listen to her.  Maybe I am reading more into the post than was intended, but it is what I hear, and I don't know what to do about it.

Do we just not adopt?

What about the post last week about how horrible it would be to adopt a child into a family with bio-siblings because they would always feel less.

Before I go any further, I would like to say I understand these are complicated issues.  That people have been very hurt by the adoption industry.  That there are some unethical practices that need to be stopped.  That I believe family preservation should come first in solving the "orphan crisis."  That I think International Adoption is at best 3rd optimal choice for children who need families and possibly should be the 4th or 5th option.  That if we adopt someday, either from China or the US, and do not strive to end social injustice in this world, we are in the wrong.  (That all should be striving to end social injustice, but that is a different post, and I suck at it).

I also know there is no way to please everyone.  People want me to adopt older, switch to SN, do foster care, or not adopt at all.  Some see nothing wrong with waiting for a NSN baby girl in China while others think we are adopting so we can "be the exemplary, trendy, progressive multi-cultural, multi-ethnic family" we've always dreamed of being.  I have no intention of pleasing everyone; I want to please God.

The problem I am having is who to even discuss these questions with as I try to see what is right.  Those against adoption say don't do it.  Those for adoption (not all but some) say why let that angry adoptee bother you?  The contented ones aren't as vocal.  Those adopting special needs (many whom I admire and respect a great deal) aren't necessarily pondering the issues I am pondering because they have the added confidence that they are definitely helping a child if only medically though always more.  Some Christians say, well, this way they'll hear the gospel--like God cannot penetrate China with His message.

Will my dropping out of the NSN program in China stop baby abondment in China?  Well, no.  But what if I drop out and spend all of my time trying to convince the other 30,000 people in line to drop out.  Will that change China's system?  No.  Can I change China's one child policy, its government, its illegal family planning actions such as taking an illegal child from its family or late term abortions?  No.  Then what do I do?  Is it so wrong to want to bring one of those lost babies into my home, to want that child to love?

If I adopt while I already have 3 children, how do I help lack of shared genetics not cause her pain?  Do I search for her birth family so she can have shared genetics? or is that taking the choice away from her and the search itself away from her?

Some adoptive parents in the world, according to the adult adoptees, listen and work for change and understand all the complications and the adoption isn't all "rainbows and unicorns."  But these parents all "got it" after they had already adopted.  Is there someone who "got it" before they adopted and still chose to adopt (specifically NSN)?  I know of at least one, but she is very busy right now.  What questions did they face?  How did they reconcile it all?  Does it all just boil down to God told me to do it, so I did?  How do non-religious people answer the questions? 

Many days I have my own set of answers.  Many days I rest in assurance that each day I just need to follow God and He will set my path right.  Many days I just live my life one day at a time and don't have time to ponder all the mysteries of adoption.  But some days like today, I wonder if anyone else has questions and what their answers are. 

Thursday, May 19, 2011


I love my baby girl.  She is sweet, smart, sometimes cuddly, and funny, so funny.

"Catch it to me!" she says when she wants you to throw the ball to her.  She will even show you how you should hold your hands when it is her turn to "catch it to you!"

"That's Awesome!"

"Sunflower really loud!" when Daddy told her at swim lessons to say her name really loud for the other kids.


"Guys!" when talking to or about her brothers.

"I love Captain Awesome.........and Mommy...and Daddy Guys!" when asked who she loves.  I'm amazed at her persistence in putting Captain Awesome first since we haven't seen him for over a month and won't see him again for many more months if not years.

"Yeah!" accompanied by clapping hands and a happy dance for anything even remotely exciting.

"It's okay," when someone is upset or something falls, etc.  Sometimes it isn't as okay as she says it is.

"I getting hungry," when she sees something she wants to eat (this is more annoying than funny but something I want to remember.)

"You so funny!" 

I may not ever be a stand up comedian but my daughter might have that option--remember she is only two (and a half, Mama!).  It is all in the grooming.  Some raise their children to be doctors; me, I want a comedian (a clean, family friendly one).

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

To Blog for Me

When I first made this blog public, my goal was to write at least 30 posts before I was bored with it and to never, ever say..."sorry it has been so long since I posted, I'll catch up soon."  

The reason for the first goal was I was following people's forum posts back to their blogs and finding one post.  Sometimes I wanted to know a lot more.  I figured about 30 posts would be the most anyone would need to feel like they were visiting a "real blog" and not an accidental web page.  Since this is my 148th post on this blog and I have 58 posts on my photography blog, I have definitely achieved this goal.

The reason for my second goal should be self explanatory.  I don't mind reading posts that explain why time has passed, but I cannot tell you how many times I've read someone's most recent post that said "I plan to catch up soon" that was posted 6-8 weeks ago.  Truly bugs me--I feel like the person is clearly dishonest.

However, there is one goal that I "set" that I have not attained.  I wanted to always be writing for me, to not feel pressure to write what I think others want to hear or to even post just to keep/get readers.  I didn't want to lose my joy of blogging or have "write blog post" become something on my ever lengthening to do list.  However, when I made this goal, I did not realize how much satisfaction I would derive from having readers and comments.  If I don't write a post, I don't get "hits" on my blog.  If my post isn't interesting or impact others, I don't get comments.  Sometimes I lose readers because I'm not interesting enough, or they disagree with me, or people can only read so many blogs because oddly enough they also have a real life or some other reason.  

It doesn't matter why some people read for a while and then stop.  I exercise that same right towards other blogs myself.   Losing readers or not getting comments can make me a little sad.  I lose a little of the joy I receive from writing a blog post.  It would not have that power if I had retained my original goal in blogging--the goal I had when I first started writing weeks before I "went public."  My blog is a place for me to write, explore my own thoughts, reach conclusions, document my growth in ideas and my family history in order to become the person God designed me to be.

I want to go back my original motivation for writing, to be less self-conscious in my posts as I was earlier when I knew no one was reading.  Blog visits and comments will always give me bursts of happiness, but I do not want them to be my reason for writing--especially since I get so very few comments here and my photography blog can definitely generate a satisfying number of comments--I want to write because of and for me.

Let's see if I can do it.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Meet and Mix

Blogger was down the only day this week I had time to write a post (Thursday before I committed to being gone all day today) so I'm going to send you to a link.  I found it hilarious.  Most of my readers may have already seen it, but for my friends not obsessed with adoption, you should definitely check it out.  I believe you will find it funny and it isn't adoption related, in fact far from it.

So go check out my favorite Tonggu Momma and her recent conversation.  

It is possible I find this particularly funny because it reminded me of our conversation with our then 5 year old and 9 year old boys about how our DNA is a mix of our mother's and father's with lots of information on chromosomes, etc. but not one question or answer on how they meet.

Also, I just needed a good laugh.  Thanks, Tonggu Momma!  Happy Packing!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Hamlet and the Village People--Monday Rewind

Just so you don't get the impression that my life is all about me and Sunflower, last week was pretty busy for the boys, too.  Each of them had a performance at school, SnapDragon finished his AWANA book (just in time), and Huckleberry was gone Wednesday morning to Friday afternoon for 5th grade camp.  I am glad they didn't make us go camping when I was in 5th grade.  He came home filthy and wet but beaming with happiness.   I do have some pictures from their plays to show you so linking up with Monday Rewind.
On Monday, Huckleberry preformed a 5th grade version of Hamlet 4 times to all the other classes at school.  Large portions of the plot were narrated to make it shorter and easy to understand and some of the plot was changed a little, but all of their actual lines came straight from Shakespeare's Hamlet.  Huckleberry was cast as King Claudius.  
He was originally disappointed he wasn't Hamlet until he realized he had one more line than his friend.  Here he is hiding behind the tapestry.
We missed the end because Sunflower had to use the restroom, but I have it on good authority that the climax was quite exciting.
Then on Friday evening, after we picked Huckleberry up from camp, SnapDragon had his 1st grade play.  6 classes (1st and 2nd) said some lines about taking care of the environment and sang 7 songs.  Sweet and short.
This was the wave at all the parents moment to get all the flashes out of the way.  SnapDragon originally had a speaking part, but he switched so he could be a dancer.
He had a lot of fun!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

I Know What I Did Last Weekend

I spent last weekend at a women's retreat with some wonderful women.  The weather was fantastic, the music was great, and the food was good.  
We had lots of free time and some truly awesome fellowship.  I came home refreshed and energized.  Okay, and a little bit sleepy and behind.  I am finally a little caught up (and ignoring some vacuuming and laundry) so I thought I'd share some of the pictures I took.
The location was beautiful with lots of birds to see.  A group of us went on a walk to see if we could reach the water.
It looked like a long walk, but so gorgeous.
I lost track of some of my friends while taking pictures of these purple weeds.  Apparently they waited for a while but I got confused at an earlier fork in the trail (in retrospect it wasn't a real fork--one kept going and one went back to the grounds).  It gave me lots of time to pray and take even more photos.
This moth landed while I was thanking God for the beauty of His creation.
 How do I let myself forget God's power?
or His love for color?
or His creative variety?

Another friend came to where I was waiting and we continued down the path to find the others.  We didn't find them, but we did make it down to the water.
It was well worth the walk...at least the down part.
So beautiful. 
We ran into many bird watchers on the paths.  My other friends saw some Eagles on the walk they took.
Eventually we went back.  Overall a wonderful weekend of faith, fun, and fellowship.  I cannot wait for next year!

Be sure to check out some other Sunday Snapshots and Happy Mother's Day!

Ni Hao Yall
After reading the other Sunday Snapshots I feel a little bad not honoring one of my mothers in my post--even though they are all gone now.  I'd be happy for you to meet them from my past posts.  My Mom, My Step-Mom, and My Mother-in-Law

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Ladybugs and Earthworms

It is hard to believe it has been a week since I've posted.  May is not going to win my internal contest for most posts in a month.  This is the longest I've gone since I started blogging;  I would say that means I'm getting a better balance on blog land versus my real life, but I have been posting on my photography blog.  It isn't that I don't have as much to say, but I have had more face to face conversations making the need to post a little less urgent.  However, there is one story I don't want to ever forget and SnapDragon said I could share it.

My SnapDragon has really strong feelings when he sees things that are sad or people hurting.  This can overwhelm him at times as he feels their pain so acutely.  In an effort to give him some tools to handle this I've gotten some advice from people.  One thing suggested was to remind him that God made him this way for a purpose and that feeling sad for someone can be a reminder to pray.  The other day while he was sitting on my lap and the other kids were already in bed, I decided to try this out.

"Are you happy?"
"You're sure?"
"Yes."  (His feeling others' pain sometimes means he is unhappy himself, so maybe I worry a bit.)
"You know how you are so good at compassion?"
"Did you know God made you this way on purpose, that there is reasons for it?"
"What do you think one of those reasons might be?"


"I know.  It's kind of a silly reason."
"Oh?  What is it?"
"So I won't kill the lucky things."

What popped into my head was the image that without compassion SnapDragon would just go around on a killing spree and so would everyone else, so I was momentarily quite horrified.  It is always good to ask clarifying questions.

"What do you mean?"
"Well, ladybugs are lucky and if I didn't have compassion I would kill them."  (We have never talked about the "luck" that some associate with ladybugs; he got that from his friends at school.  But this now officially makes this an adoption post.)

Well, I refuse to pray for bugs, so we continued on with our conversation.  He also thinks God made him compassionate so he "won't hit people and will care for people in harm."  This led to a deeper, more personal conversation and prayer for a friend.

My husband was in the room clipping SnapDragon's toe nails during the conversation.  I asked him what he thought later.  He said, "Makes me glad I haven't given him more guff when he makes me not step on the earthworms."

Really, who would step on earthworms anyway.  It is gross.  It rains a lot here, so I'm always watching my feet.