Thursday, June 30, 2011

Where is Summer?

Summer.  I really try to like summer and having my kids home all day.  Last week was a little rough as we worked out a new routine, but this week has been much better.  They've played with each, read, and even helped with the housework.  But summer would be a little easier to enjoy if we had some actual summer weather.

Today the kids dressed in red, white, and blue, we packed a lunch and the camera, and headed to the doctor's office to have my TB test looked at and doctor's form filled out.  Then we anticipated heading to the park for a picnic and some fun pictures for all the red, white, and blue photo challenges this week.  After all it was 67 degrees, a little overcast, with some encouraging sunbursts.

We came out of the doctor's office 10 minutes later to a frigid (for summer) down pour and black sky.  Obviously we drove home instead of to the park and I THINK my medical form for my adoption agency is still readable now that the raindrops have dried.

I don't think I have ever been so frustrated; well, at least not at any other point this week.  On the plus side I don't have TB, we got some afternoon cleaning in, and I did get a fun shot of my baby girl yesterday.
  Take that summer!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Trixie Belden, Star Wars, and Adult Novels

We sent Huckleberry to Kindergarten not knowing how to read and a few days later he came home, said, "I can read now" and he could.  SnapDragon entered Kindergarten already reading because Huckleberry had been home schooling him for years (he also knew most of his simple math add facts).

So the tricky thing has not been to get them to read, but to find books that are a challenge for them but age appropriate.  We were pretty consistent at pre-reading the books Huckleberry would bring home and probably a bit over cautious.  To be fair, we almost always said, "yes, you can read this," but it was handy to know what he was reading and fun (there is some great juvenile fiction out there).  Ironically, he really isn't very sensitive to adult or sad themes while his brother, who we have not been as successful at protecting, is. 

For Huckleberry's 5th grade graduation, Oak gave his uncle permission to buy him some of the Star Wars novels--probably two years after most kids start reading them.  The first book he read was the second of a trilogy, so he found it a bit confusing but enjoyed it.  The second book was the first of a different trilogy which explained a lot more of the back story and was thus easier to follow.

At the YMCA yesterday Huckleberry was reading his second book and explaining it to the lady next to him.  "This is the second adult book I read.  I understand it a lot more than the first adult book I read."

On the flip side, SnapDragon was on the third page of Huckleberry's first "adult" novel when we realized he was reading it.  I told him he couldn't read it yet (mostly because it is actually too difficult for him at 7 to read and understand).   But I offered him my childhood Trixie Belden novels (well, they are older prints I purchased as an adult since mine burnt in my parent's house fire).  He started the first one yesterday.

Today as he walked through the kitchen clutching the book he said, "Mommy, reading this Trixie Belden is THRILLING!" 

Oh, and now he is on book two. 
Now we just need to teach Sunflower to read and we might have some quiet peace in the house again.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Boring Adoption Details

Since technically this blog is about our adoption process, I should probably mention that we ARE working on our homestudy again, gathering papers, answering questions, and redoing all of our medical work.  Which means today I have a doctor's appointment, Oak has one tomorrow, and the kids have an appointment on Friday.  Some time this week Oak and I also have to be tested for HIV and have a urine drug test.  Then the whole family has be tested for TB--an annoying and possibly painful arm prick where you have to go back in at the exactly right time to be read, I think.

Of course, none of these things are recommended by our doctor so we get to pay ala carte (though I did suggest we lie to the doctor about being high risk so they'd pay for the HIV test, but Oak didn't think that was a good idea).  It didn't really bother me 5 years ago since it was part of the whole screening process and China wanted some medical assurance we would be healthy parents.  This time it is a little more annoying, mostly because getting the kids TB tested seems ridiculous AND none of this information will end up in China.  This is the medical report we need in order for our agency to do a new homestudy so we can apply for immigration status for our to be adopted child.

We also need to do 30 hours of adoption related training before we travel which I have no problem believing is good and necessary.  Unfortunately, every book read only counts for 2 hours, so while I have like 45 hours of training, my husband only has 12.  If we could just average them out we'd be almost there.  We do want to take the on-line class about conspicuous families, but since this doesn't has to happen before we do our homestudy we will work on our training hours after everything else is done--the homestudy and applying for USICIS or whatever the letters are now days.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

My New Toy

I got my birthday present a whole month early on Friday.  It is a new lens for my camera--a 50mm prime 1.8 for those that are interested.  It costs about $175 more than our usual birthday presents.  My husband even paid the extra $8 shipping so I could have the whole weekend to play with it and that is exactly what I did.

I played with it at dinner:
I played with it outside:
I played with it at bedtime:
Not bad given there was no light in the hall and I didn't use my flash.  They are reading "The Horse and His Boy." They like it a whole lot more than they appear to in this photo!
 I even got the camera out at breakfast:
Then the children had to paint so I could capture an image for my Scavenger Hunt Sunday post (at my other blog).
She has never been so focused and still!  Maybe I should let them paint more often.
A Hot Air Balloon
I needed to take a lot of pictures to capture just the right image, after all it is a new lens and takes some getting used to.
SnapDragon even painted his fake name so I could show his painting on the blog.
The Pie as his last name came from Huckleberry being Huckleberry Pie in a post a few weeks ago.  It doesn't work quite as well with SnapDragon...or Cedar...or Sunflower...or Oak.
Huckleberry wanted to share his painting, also.

Then I took my camera to a friend's baby shower and played some more.  It was a wonderful time with terrific chicken salad sandwiches:
Lots of presents:
And that game where you have to name the baby food...Yuck!
Then I came home eager to check out my photos only to discover all of the computers in the house busy with my husband and boys playing StarCraft and Sunflower "napping."  So I went outside and played some more to capture some more flowers...

 And some more bees:
Finally I skipped dinner to put my pictures on the computer and play with the pictures themselves.  Tomorrow I'll have even more pictures with a trip to a farm and a church leadership BBQ in the plans.  I'd better go eat some dinner and go to bed so I'll have the energy to make it through the day. 

Sunday Snapshot


Thursday, June 23, 2011

5 Big Noses

I have been working on a post for weeks on my thoughts of biology and adoption, but it is now like a 1000 words long.  We entered adoption with happy naivety that biological ties did not matter, and in some ways they do not and cannot.  But in other ways even 1000 words cannot cover all of the complexities (trust me, some blogs have posted those 1000 words and more).

Thankfully, so you can be spared from my rambling discourse, my daughter, Sunflower, gave me a perfect illustration of how things that do not matter to me can still matter to my child.  An example of how fitting in with similar physical traits can be an intrinsic desire.

"Boo-hoo-hoo, I don't have a big nose.  You have a big nose.  Daddy has a big nose, but I don't have a big nose.  Boo-hoo-hoo!"  Massive pout and continued half-cry.

"Ummm, when you get bigger, you'll probably have a big nose," I answered while trying not to laugh and not really thinking about whether that was the correct answer.

"Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!" with happy clapping and shaking.

For most, and even for Sunflower, this is just a silly little story but it can represent so much more.  It shows the innocent desire of  a child to look like her parents, to match.  Sunflower does "match" and will unfortunately some day inherit one of our big noses.  

I will not be able to answer my adopted child the same way because we will not know.  Maybe her nose will always be small (which seems probable) or not, but not knowing is just one more thing she will have lost in her short life.

It is a loss no matter that small noses are preferred in society, no matter how often we kiss her nose with affection, no matter how beautiful she grows to more loss that adds to the complication of adoption.

(Do I need to go into the corollary of how Sunflower decided big noses were desirable because her parents have them and how easy the same assumption can be made about white skin--especially in a society that reinforces that attitude--no matter what we say and teach?)

Monday, June 20, 2011

School Peace

I am so excited!  It turns out there is another family* sending their child to the in-district school with new programming where we are sending Huckleberry.  This is very reassuring to me.  We are not really close to this family since our outside church activities haven't crossed, but we have known them for years and really respect them.

If terrific parents like these are sending their daughter there, we might not be making a horrible mistake.  (I know they are better parents than us because their children actually finish their AWANA books while our Huckleberry had 1 page left in his.)

Their daughter is nervous about going to a new school apart from all of her friends, but they are convinced it will be a better education.  They are glad we are sending Huckleberry there.  

Huckleberry is very happy to know someone going there.  He says it changes his confidence that it is where he wants to go to school from an 81% to an 86%.

I am very grateful for this gift of peace from God.  Now if I can just not mess up the whole enrollment process somehow.  

*For those in the area wondering what family--they are the family with almost 6 year old twins, boy and girl, and two older daughters.  I see you nod, yes, they are better parents.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Vocabulary, School, and a Hi-Jacking

Me: How was your day?  Good, bad, or indifferent?

SnapDragon:  a little different.

Me:  How so?

SnapDragon:  It was 5th grade graduation so instead of library we had an extra long recess.

I guess "indifferent" isn't covered in 1st grade vocabulary.
On a side note tomorrow is Huckleberry's 5th grade graduation.  I cannot believe my baby is 11.  We successfuly enrolled him in the Middle School in our district that sounds like it has some great programming.  It is probable, though not definite, that he will attend there in the fall.  While turning in the paperwork I talked to a guidance counselor that says she enjoys working there, a district IT person that said every person she has met has been nice and friendly, and a parent of a 7th grader who said "It is the best school EVER!" and that his son attended in 6th grade and then over the summer they fired everyone (which was part of the government sponsored reworking of the school) and that "This year he loves it and has enjoyed school every day!"  I told the guidance counselor that my son loves to learn and we were looking for a school where he could learn the most and continue enjoying it, and she smiled.

I appreciate everyone's advice and wisdom.  Having knowledge of the atmosphere and the "more than test scores" of a school is certainly what we lack most about our in-district school option while we do know teachers and students and parents of students at the other school.  It is what makes me anxious about our choices.  The advice to find teachers and staff willing to lay it out is excellent though difficult to follow.  However, it definitely set me on the path of asking questions and getting some reassuring answers.  It is a path I will continue down for this choice and other school choices that will come up.   Thank you.

It does feel overwhelming at times--like I alone am responsible for gaurenteeing my child's safety and an excellent education.  Certainly they are part of my parental duties, but ultimately God is the one in control.  He created my son; He knows my son; He has knowledge about the teachers and school programs that I will never have; and most of all He has a plan for my son--His child--a plan to prosper him and not to harm him.
Pondering the secrets of the universe with every expectation that he can discover them all.  (I guess this was more of a post hi-jack than a side-note.)


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Extra Special

"There is something just extra special about you, Sunflower," I said as she snuggled in my shoulder as I lifted her from the car.

"What is it?  Tell ME!"

It isn't that she can spend 24 hours refusing to walk because of a scratch (wide but shallow) on her knee even convincing the children in church child care to bring her toys because the mean old teacher (Mommy) wouldn't.

It isn't because she says, "Buckle me out!" when she wants out of her carseat.

It isn't because she can say the same thing over and over for 10 minutes with different inflections quiet enough to not be irritating.  My current favorite repetitive phrases are "I got gobbels" (wearing her brother's goggles) and "I like Captain Awesome" (it has a nice ring with his real name).

She is sweet, funny, intense, smart, soft, pretty, and so much more, but really I meant "there is SOMETHING extra special about Sunflower."  I don't KNOW what that extra special thing is.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Some School Decisions

Well, we've decided about Huckleberry's school.  We are going to enroll him in them all and decide in September.   Whew, the pressure is off!

Actually, we have eliminated a few choices which does make things a little easier and we will be enrolling him in two options.

First, we will not be sending him to the other school that is not in our district but has the honors program he can get in.  We do not know a single parent satisfied with that school, the test scores are abysmal, and almost everyone that qualifies for honors is choosing the school we do want him in (thus the wait list) so they will be filling the honors class from general enrollees in the school.  The only plus is that is very close to Oak's work so transportation would be the easiest.  It is nice to have made one decision.

We also won't be homeschooling.  I think it would be fun to homeschool Huckleberry (either through an on-line program or a full homeschool curriculum and co-op) but my husband and Huckleberry are completely against it.  It is still our "back-up" plan if public school does not work for one of our children, but we are not starting next year with it in place.

That leaves three options that we are still praying about and exploring.

The first is Huckleberry attending the Middle School his friends will be at but not in the honors program.  I worry about the divide of being at school with your friends but not in classes with them.  He does not worry about it.  The test scores of this school are actually above par for our area and they have a "Pre-AP" track for those who don't fit in honors or have not taken the placement tests but enter the school with good grades.  Huckleberry visited the school with his classmates today and asked about the Pre-Ap track.  They informed him he will be taught the same stuff as his friends but it will be with different teachers so some of the projects will be different.  Huckleberry's enrollment papers are currently in place to go this route.  However, this will ONLY work if they have enough room for an out-of-district student in the school at all.  This we will not know until late June (after school is out and they start planning next year's enrollment).  If he can get in, it will probably be an adequate education and a safe-ish place to attend 6th grade (are there any safe places left?)

The second option still on the table is attending a Middle School in our district.  We (Oak, Huckleberry, and I) went to an information night about one of the Middle Schools last night and were very excited about what it has to offer.  It is the only school in our district we would enroll him in--there is one other that we have heard very good things about, but it is over a half hour drive away.  The school we visited has 8 classes, 4 a day, and 4 of them are core and 4 are electives.  There are 32 different electives offered including robotics and media arts.  It looked very innovative and exciting.  HOWEVER, this program began last fall with a complete overhaul of the staff and teachers (only 3 remain from the year before).  The test scores from the school are beyond abysmal, but that is the reason they received all the funding and complete restructure.  There are not yet any scores from this year to tell if the change actually worked.  How much of the 19% pass of 6th grade math in 2010 was the programming and how much of it is the general population it serves?  Last year, after the new programming and administration, they had a big "fight club" scandal involving 9 six graders.  Is it okay to be a little freaked out by that?

After visiting both schools Huckleberry is more excited about the second one.  He liked the ones his friends will attend okay, but he said, "there isn't anything special about it except the people were nice, but they were nice at the other school, too.  I can learn more at the other school with their cool classes even if the other students aren't interested."  Oh, and did I mention the biggest class at the second school is currently 17 students and they expect to max out at 21 students per class with some classes having as little as 11 children.  The first school runs 30-35 per class.

Not easy, huh?  Or do you think it is clear?  We don't mind advice, just don't be mad if we don't necessarily follow it.

Oak has a third solution he is still interested in.  Move into the 3rd school district in the area, the best around, by next fall.  We could do it, but it is a lot of work and we'd have to get this house ready to sell while finishing our adoption paperwork and living life.  He is basing this solely on test scores, but it hard not to when you look at the school Huckleberry should go to based on where we live and have 33% pass 6th grade math compared to the schools in the other district having all categories passed in at least the 60% to some in the 95% passing.  Oh, he is also basing it on the fact that it is where all the houses are for sale--lots of people "stretched" to live in the good school district and are now being forced to sell--and we would like a bigger house.  It is right to take advantage of their misfortune?  Too late for most, the banks have already foreclosed. 

Since moving takes time and energy and just might not work, our current plan is to put in the paperwork to enroll Huckleberry at both of our first two choices, keep looking at houses, and pray, pray, and pray.  The schools seemed to think that was a reasonable thing to do though it seems a little misleading to me.

In the meantime, if you don't mind praying with us for God's clear leading that would be very helpful.  Personally I think God might be leading us to the re-vamped school in our district since we got the notice about no honors the same day as the last information meeting about the school for the year and were able to find a friend to watch the littler kiddos.  Plus Huckleberry's enthusiasm for it and the possibilities offered there remain strong even knowing his friends won't be there.  However, even clearer direction and for Oak to hear the same needs to happen before we make a final decision (Oak wants to see the 2011 test results first).  

Really, very few 6 graders are killed and Huckleberry is one secure kid--he'll be fine.  He'll be fine.  He'll be fine.      

Thursday, June 9, 2011

School Choices

Huckleberry did not get into the school program that we want him in.  Not because he is not qualified.  Not because he hasn't been with these children the last two years doing well.  Not because he shouldn't be in the program.  Not because those taking his place will do better than him.

My beautiful boy did not get in because we are not in the district.  We have been waivering districts and going to this district since the beginning of Kindergarten.  For 4th and 5th grade he attended an honors program (Excel) for 24 students out of 12 elementary schools.

No one has competed for his spot.

But now it is Middle School.  In Middle School more parents want a better education for their child.  Probably because the difference between non-honors track vs honors track is less while in elementary school.  The difference didn't feel like such a big deal (though it was).  

But now more parents care.  Well, 8 more parents with qualified students.  That is where it puts him, 8th on the waiting list.

I am grateful for the last two years he had in the Excel program.  I am glad he had such great opportunities.

Now we are at a crossroads, and I do not know the answer.

I cry for his lost opportunity in a program we know is great.

We wonder.  Do we send him to the school his friends are going to but not in the honors?  Do we send him to the other Middle school that does still have room in honors but is not a safe school over all?  Do we try to move into district and thus move to the top of the waiting list hopefully eventually get in to the honors program?  Do we homeschool?  Do we move into another district?  Do we send him to his district Middle School?  Do we find a program in the district we live in and drive him long distances?  Any other options?

We have options.  We are informed enough to know we have options.  We are attending an information meeting tonight at a "Math and Science" school in our district to be even more informed.  We are in a comfortable enough place financially that while private school is not an option there are many choices for us.  

But even among the options I must turn it over to God.  I want God to guide our decision, all of our decisions.
Middle School won't kill him, but it sure feels like it might.  I would much rather have God make this decision.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Help Equals Love

I have been thinking about attachment again since so many of the people from my favorite adoption forum are in China meeting their children or are recently home.  Building attachment between a newly adopted child and two parents takes a lot of patience, love, and self-sacrifice (on the part of the parents).  I don't know how well I will do.  There is no way to be completely prepared, but I like to practice with Sunflower anyway.  After all she needs to feel loved and secure, also.

Last week she seemed to be a little more needy, needing a little more lap time, a little more grace, and a little more help.  One morning she insisted she needed help getting dressed although she has been dressing herself for almost a year.  I decided to help her.

As I helped her, I rubbed her arms and stroked her hair and said, "Sunflower, you don't need help getting dressed.  You know how to do it.  You are a big girl now.  But today I'll help you because I love you."

It seemed like a good plan at the time.  Give her a little extra reassurance with a gentle reminder that it is a special occurrence.

Later that day she made a puddle on the ground standing 6 inches from her little toilet (it was outside with her).  Oak took her upstairs, cleaned her up, and told her to get dressed.  A few minutes later she came downstairs still unclothed with a pile of clothes in her arms.

"Mommy?  You help me?"

"No, sweetie.  You need to get dressed by yourself."

"No, Mommy.  You help me.  You'll help me because you love me."

 Sigh...I helped her.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

What Does Viscosity Have to Do With It? -- Sunday Snapshot

Huckleberry examined how deep a little red boat weighted with 38 quarters sank in various liquids.
He tested 5 different liquids of whose "feeling of thickness" (viscosity) varied.
The liquids were water, canola oil, rubbing alcohol, saturated salt water, and watered down but not completely set orange jello.
His father helped pour in the materials and his mother took pictures, but otherwise Huckleberry did all of the work himself.
He ran 3 trials of each liquid and carefully recorded his data.
After reviewing his data he discovered that how thick a liquid felt was not a determining factor in how deep the boat would sink.  With some research and a discussion with his father, it was determined that the actual factor was the density (mass per unit volume) of the liquid.  This was most clearly illuminated by the orange jello vs. water comparison.  The water downed jello felt much thicker than the water.  However, since jello is primarily made out of water, and water-downed jello even more so, their densities are the same.  This is evidenced by his data that shows the boat sank the same amount in the plain water and the jello.  Salt water, being more dense than water, did not allow the boat to sink nearly as much though the feeling (viscosity) of the two types of waters felt alike.
His final project brought him an A+ at school and the right to move on to the Regional Science Fair.  In a surprising and tragic twist of fate, Huckleberry's parents forgot to take Huckleberry to the Regionals leading to many tears and apologies until Huckleberry finally snapped:
"Mom!  Stop talking about it!  I know you love me and there is always next year!"  

Huckelberry has every intention on taking on the Regionals in 6th grade when the awards are actual savings bonds as opposed to the blue ribbon he did receive in 4th grade.

Ni Hao Yall


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Be Still

Do you ever have one of those days when your heart just hurts, and you really don't know why?  Every thing is fine, almost everything, and some things are even more than fine, but you just feel sad?  Sure, Sunflower has regressed a little in her potty training and transition can be hard, but overall, I am loving my life right now.  I have good friends, a great family, a new hobby, and am involved in some projects that make me very excited.  But still, today is just one of those days (and Sunflower actually earned a rolo on her own). Maybe others are having one of those days, too, so I thought I'd share some scripture and nature from my photography blog because remembering who God is always helps.

"For  since  the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His  eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made..." Romans 1:20
Pslam 50:11 "I know every  bird of the mountains, And everything that moves  in the field is Mine."

So nice to know I belong to God.
And that He has taken away my sin because He loves me.
“Give ear, O heavens, and let me speak;
And let the earth hear the words of my mouth.
“Let my teaching drop as the rain,
My speech distill as the dew, 
As the droplets on the fresh grass
And as the showers on the herb.
“For I proclaim the name of the LORD;
Ascribe greatness to our God!
“The Rock! His work is perfect,
For all His ways are just;
A God of faithfulness and without injustice,
Righteous and upright is He."
Deuteronomy 32:1-4
So thankful that I can turn to the light shining from God's face and be enveloped in His welcoming arms.  So thankful that He has created so much beauty in this world; beauty we can find every day even if the darkness of the world tries to overtake it.  So thankful that I have access to God's word and can read it daily without fear.  So thankful for a God of power, and might, and love.