Thursday, September 25, 2014

September already...

I can't believe it is already September...and almost October. My life is a whirlwind...kind of a blur actually. It is still a blur and we are actively trying to slow it down! I have had several weeks at home this month because of working nights and vacation..but it still feels like I haven't had time to chill out. What is new. School is going great...I think it is going great. I am on top of the scheduling and it is mostly all getting done in a timely fashion. We have really and truly finished 4 weeks of school and I am pleased as punch. Han is definitely doing great learning English...he runs his words together a little too quickly and backslides on enunciation but he is doing really good. Ulysses is not talking as much as Han, but he is able to get his idea across pretty well. I think his receptive language skills are behind Han's a little more than is expressive skills. We are still working on the alphabet with Ulysses and learning letters. Ben and Zeb are cruising through their second grade stuff. We need to sit and read with them a little more than we do now, we have to prioritize the read aloud to mom and dad part of school! Alex is rocking her homework...she is kind of all over the place in terms of her assignments...math at one grade, history and geography at another grade, but she is reading right along with Lily at the 7th grade readers....you go girl! Lily is awesome - she still gets a little crazy and dysregulated when she is tire..I don't think that is something she is going to outgrow...she will just learn to manage it better as she gets older. She is waaaaaaaay better than she was 3 years ago! It was so sad to close the pool last week...I love having family time at the pool...I think the reason I love it so much is that it is totally uninterrupted and I am completely involved with the kids there with no other distractions because it is kids near the water. I am looking for the secret to endless amounts of mommy energy and making an hour last longer than 60 minutes...if you have any suggestions please let me know!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Why do orphans need families?

I am a very, very good procrastinator. I know that I am because I am racing against the clock right now to watch 18 Trust-based Relational Intervention videos and take quizzes all before midnight tonight. They are, of course, really good and I am regretting not making time for them earlier in the summer. I have been sort of a mess this summer! As I am frantically watching these great videos..I noticed in my email that I have a blog writing assignment from August 5th...oops. "Why do orphans need families?" I have been involved in the world of international adoption for a long time and I have seen a lot of heart wrenching loneliness, and sadness. I am not sure there are any words that can answer that question. I tried to sit down and make an outline...three points to answer the question type brainstorming...definitions...the whole 9 yards. However, the thing that answers that question for me isn't anything that I have read and I doubt I will be able to purvey it in anything I could possibly write! It was the first time I physically set foot in an orphanage. A real live, not on TV designed to jerk out some tears, first hand "here hold this tiny little guy with no parents" experience. On my first trip to Kyrgyzstan in 2007, I saw lots of kiddos that were referred for adoption to other families, I took pictures for their excited parents and I was asked to make a general evaluation of a little girl with various issues in her file that made her perspective adoptive parents nervous. Meeting this girl completely changed my life. I met lots of kids that day...including my son, Zeb, but this was the moment that personifies and explains why orphans need families. The nanny brought out this little girl that was small for her age and extremely delayed in her milestones. She had a marked dullness in her eyes....not really focusing on anything, not interacting with me at all, not interacting with her nanny. She was just kind of existing, alone. I took her and started talking to her, smiling at her, holding her up to my eye level and engaging her. For a lack of better phrase-ology..I was just pouring out some good old fashioned mommy-love. Then was I surprised when she looked right back at me, right into my soul like a laser and that look totally changed how I looked at the world. She connected, she still had hope and she had a palpable pleading in her eyes that was just so basic and innocent and longing... it shot a jolt of electricity through me, gave me goosebumbs and straight-up broke my heart. She was just a baby and she was languishing and losing hope....but even a small amount of attention and love could rekindle that desire to interact and seek love. Wow. So the answer to "Why do orphans need families?" is go and see for yourself. Go, visit orphans in the time of their distress...experience what the orphan crisis is. The faces of the orphans you meet will haunt you. Once you see; you can't ignore it. My totally broken heart will always be able to see room for one more in my family because I have really and truly seen why orphans need families. The insanity, inconvenience, and scaling down that accompanies a large family really seems like a small price to pay.

Yeah!

I am so excited to say that the handsome young man I wrote about in my previous post has a pretty cool family racing to get him! Yeah!!!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Aging Out

This is a 13yo little boy who will turn 14 in November. What does it mean to turn 14 to him? It means his chance at finding a family is gone. This is a little boy who is being hosted in the US for the next 2 days and he really wants to be adopted and find his family. Somehow, this little boy has remained considerate, sweet, and continues to care about younger children - trying to cheer them up when they are sad. His host family has many good things to say about this sweet boy.

He does have some needs that slow him down physically and he is somewhat small for his age, but he has a great sense of humor - as you can see from this lively picture.

Let me tell you why this little boy breaks my heart. Despite years in an orphanage, this little boy has retained hope and sweetness. It is so easy to lock yourself away, lash out and hurt others, to stop caring about those who are weak and vulnerable. So many people who have families and resources do that...look around...how many resourced, comfortable people do you see who have done that? Here, is a young boy who has not had a mom to comfort him when he was hurt. Yet, he continues to comfort and care about those who are more vulnerable than he is. Wow...what a heart.

He still has hope and he has only 4 months left. There are no crystal balls, but I imagine his life if he ages out. With his need, it will be difficult for him to find a job. Many of you probably know that there are quite a disparity between the number of men and women in China for his age group for one disturbing reason..so it seems unlikely that he will ever have a family. For some reason that breaks my heart for children who clearly have a great desire to love and be loved.

If you have read my blog, you know we have 9 children already. I would not hesitate to make him number 10, except my husband thinks I am certifiably insane and I have promised him we are done!

If you have any questions about adopting an aging out little boy please contact me, if you have an interest in this little boy...his time is so short! Please contact me and I will put you touch with his host family. Please pray that he finds his family soon! I will be praying hard for this little guy for sure!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Diapers

This week Ulysses had the splints taken out of his vesicostomy. 2 - 3 times a day we have to insert an 18 French catheter to keep his stoma from scarring over. I am really liking the vesicostomy. When he first came home with it we had a super hard time preventing leakage. We had to change his diaper every hour and it was still sometimes leaking through 2 diapers. We started putting an "ultimate absorbancy" poise pad horizontally across his stoma site and the leaking improved a ton. He has started leaking again from the top of the diaper. I think maybe he has just gotten a little bigger and the diaper is not reaching as high on his waist. Sometimes his shirt gets tucked into the pad and just wicks all of the fluid right up his shirt. UGG. So what is the answer? I researched cloth diapers tonight. Maybe that is the answer, but I didn't see any that came up high enough or that looked elastic - y enough in the front waistband. I was thinking maybe i will try to make a belt of some sort or get a bellyband type thing that goes his waist. Maybe we can just pull out the coban and wrap that around the waistband. I think we can solve this problem pretty easily...the answer just has to present itself! haha. Anyone have any other ideas? Overall, it is totally awesome to not have the suprapubic catheter and foley bag to worry about all the time. He is very mobile and i am less worred about him clomping all over the world! He also had his initial PT with all of the measuring for his AFO's. Apparently, they had to workshop him to decide what he needs, so we will get his perscription sometime next week and then work on getting them locally. I am really excited about that. He moves around pretty good but I know he will do so much better with the AFO's. The next big thing for us to tackle is the bowel management. We have him on miralax and senna and in a box, unopened, is a cone enema. At some point, we will open it up and watch the youtube video about a hundred times and then do it. We are kind of avoiding it and talking about the week long bowel managment program at Cincinnati Children's Hospital...but we can probably just do this at home. I have 2 weeks of nights and 2 weeks off in September for us to work on it. I know once we have it figured out it will be easy peasy...we just have to start! In completely un-related news...Han was overheard saying this to the other boys last night "Y'all need to be quiet". oh my! nothing as cute as my 14yo barely english speaker saying y'all! Love it!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

the teepee

Just because..

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Benjamin

Benjamin is such an enigma. He is complicated...he is the most tenderhearted of my children, I think. He is very sensitive, his feelings are very easily hurt but at the same time he is so strong willed and determined. He hides hurt feelings and anxiety with bravado and has been doing that since he was 3yo maybe.
Ben loves his yellow blankie. Last years birthday cake was a yellow blankie cake. This year he wanted a swimming pool cake...translation ..he got blue frosting. He asked for a yellow blankie scooter with a yellow foot brake. His cat had kittens...two of them..named yellow and blankie.
Ben and I recently had a lunch date...just the two of us to celebrate an accomplishment of his and he is so awesome in his benjamin-ness. We had pizza buffet and he had a plan for everything...which way we had to walk to the buffet and then back to the table. I just let him be blissfully in control of all the tiny unimportant details. He was so happy. Everytime I get to spend alone time with Ben, I am always surprised at how witty and adorable he can be when he is not struggling to be in control. Of all of our children, Benjamin is the only one that could be a happy only child. I see so much of Keith in Benjamin. I cant help but love him to pieces and worry about the world breaking his heart. I also worry that we might accidently break his spirit because , people, he is God's answer to teaching me patience if you know what I mean!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

church camp

Lily and Alex went to church camp....oh my! They have both been to sleep away camp before...all girl sleep away camp. This 5 day camp was co-ed. Oh my. Apparently there was a dance and both of my girls did some slow dancing with a boy..not the same boy. In fact when i was picking them up at church on Friday, one of the boys ran up to my friend, Katie....whose son is sitting next to my baby lily....and told her that her son now has a girlfriend. Oh my! At that moment I don't know if I was more worried that it was or wasn't Lily. According to Katie, it is Lily. According to Lily, he was dared to ask a girl out and that is all...they are just friends. She also got a valentines card from him this year that said "roses are red, violets are blue, flowers are pretty and so are you". He also later made her a duct tape purse and a pencil from a stick.
The cutest thing I have seen so far though is when he held her purse while she was climbing a rock wall at a scout field trip...he just patiently waited for her to finish so they could walk around and hang out. She thinks he is dreamy because he reads cool books and he knows his bible really well...he gets 100 s on his bible bowl tests. Lets keep the slow dancing out of it for now...I am not ready to deal with that yet!
I dont know the boy Alex slow danced with. I think he was from another church. I always worry about letting Alex go to camp because she dysregulates upon returning home...it is like she flips so easily back into institutionalized mode and has problems becoming her sweet family girl self when she gets home. I was hoping we wouldnt have that issue with only a 5 day camp but we have. Hopefully she will come out of it soon! I am actually really glad that Alex had a boy ask her to dance since Lily did. When lily got the valentine card and Alex didnt get one ...Alex had one of her freak out run away from home episodes after cornering lily and physically intimidating her. There is no telling how Alex might have punished lily for a boy asking her to slow dance if no one had asked Alex. This is the first time we have let the big girls do camp at the same time....it was risky but seemed to work out. I am not entirely sure I will let them go to the same
session again. We will see! Kids....especially teen age girls are always unpredictable!

Vesicostomy...whhhaaaa?

Ulysses had surgery 2 weeks ago. He had his annoying, leaky, suprapubic catheter removed...yeah! In its place...actually several cm superior to the catheter site...is a surgically created hole attaching his bladder to his skin and providing a nice big site for urine to escape his refluxing little bladder. the hope is that if we can take some of the pressure off of the kidneys (mainly all of the urine that keeps backing up into them!)...his little kidneys might improve. The urologist said we are talking about 18 - 24 months of this little vesicostomy. Now, Ulysses has some killer urine output he is definitely high output. When he first came home from the hospital we had to change his diaper (with a pad in front of his vesicostomy) every hour or more frequently to avoid having to change his clothes too. We have invested in some ultimate absorbancy Poise pads and put them over his stoma and we can actually make it almost 2 hours between diaper changes. We have been looking at switching to cloth diapers. We have never done cloth diapers before, but it might make sense for Ulysses...I have so many other things on my plate, I haven't fully invested myself in the undertaking. I have 2 weeks off in September...Imight get motivated to check into it. Any suggestions are appreciated! Overall, everyone is still doing really well. We are working on English and I am working on my patience. My kids are just so darn sweet. There are seriously not enough hours in the day! I am currently working nights and it is great because it gives me all day at home and I always plan a million things I am going to do over the week and I get about 10% of it done. I am wednesday now and I have literally not even finished the laundry. Not that it is every finished..haha! I want to spend more time just hanging out with everyone. I think I will do that tomorrow before our VBS at 6pm. I will just do luandry, pick up the house and hang with the kiddos.

The Week off?

It is probably noticeable from my lack of posts during my "relaxing week off" that it didn't work out that way! Well, that isn't entirely true. We had some great moments and we got some things done. Notably, We baked some brownies, some pound cake and some sweet cornbread cakes. I made dinner everynight and ate with the kids 2 nights this week (yeah that is pretty bad percentage!). We got homework done everyday for over half of the kids and Han can now write his name. We spent some good quality time in the pool (I love family time at the pool!) On Wednesday, Keith and I took Han and Ulysses up to Cincinnati Children's Hospital to the IAC and then Ulysses was admitted for aplanned 3 day admission to just get all of his complex issues evaluated. Without an admission it would have taken months to get everything done! I was kind of on the fence about the whole inpatient thing. We had only been home 10 days and it is scary to go to a hospital and have half of your blood volume drawn in labs over 3days and have everything imaged in 3 different ways. I was worried about things...as all mom's know that is what we do...worry! Thank God we decided to do the inpatient thing. We saw Urology, Nephrology, Orthopedics, PT, and Neurosurgery. We had Xrays, MRI's, Ultrasounds and more Xrays. There was muscle testing, catheter changes, and much cartoon watching by all. There was some expected bad news and some unexpected bad news and lots of plans were made. Basically, Ulysses kidneys suck. They have been bombarded with urine refluxing back from his sucky bladder for a long time and they are now sucking. The imaging looked awful even I could tell it was bad! He is on a low potassium diet now and the words Kidney Transplant have been uttered by Nephrology. No he is not in renal failure or needing dialysis or on the kidney transplant list...they just said he might need one in the future. However, it kind of freaked me out that it came up in the conversation at all. My little trooper spent 2 1/2 hours in the MRI on Friday night and we found several things we personally weren't expecting but the Neurosurgeon didn't seem too surprised by any of the findings and we will be doing another MRI in 3 months along with a dilated Ophtho exam in 2 weeks which will hopefully be the same week as Ulysses' first American Surgery. Happy Fourth of July to us! He will be having a vesicostomy. Basically, his suprapubic catheter will be removed and the pathway it has been sitting in between the bladder and the skin will be surgically left open..the bladder will be stitched to the skin so there will be permanent opening or communications between the bladder and the outside world. This will allow us to remove the catheter (yeah for removing apparatuses) and will allow more free flow out of his bladder which will hopefully take some pressure off of the kidneys. Hopefully we will be able to get measured and fitted for some new AFO's at that time too! He was a really, really, really good patient! Han visited the ophthalmologist who told us that there wasn't a correctable option for him..inother words....glasses would not help. After talking to some other CA mom's though I think we will get a second opinion from a low vision optometrist.

Monday, July 14, 2014

exhausted

Lilly is an amazing little singing machine. She is performing with the Mountain Arts Center Kentucky Opry Junior Pros. This last Saturday was her third performance. We brought the entire family for the first time. Thus was really our first big outing. Yes we have been to church, but that isabout it. The seating was a little confusing, the kids had been a little wild that day...and by "kids" you should probably just insert Ben...I was exhausted. Add to that the fact that I always get anxious for Lily and I was exhausted, on edge and less than at the top of my game. As we bring the whole....basically well behaved crew into the auditorium, I hear two of the elderly volunteer ushers talking about us in their outside voices...I don't remember exactly what they said...but one of them said something like "I would never do that I would be so exhausted" and then she said like the exact same thing four or five different ways. It was as if mojo jojo had
entered the room and in cahoots eith Benjamin, was purposefully trying to push me to my limits of sanity by using the voice of this woman tslking about us. I have actually never been botheted by people talking about or staring at us because my family is awesome. However, this particular night I really, really, really wanted to turn and get all empowered to connect eye contact, same level, her hands in mine and say..."yes i am exhausted please quit talking about my family." Instead, I managed to smile while gracefully begging my husband to organize the seating arrangements before i buried my head into one of the 5 boxes of popcorn we purchased for the show. Lily was fabulous and Ulysses totally frealed out in excitement when he saw his sister on the stage. It was a great outing...but you know what....I WAS exhausted and that was Ok.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Clearing my thoughts

I start a week of vacation today and boy am I tired! I got home this morning after being up working all night and got ready for church..there were many baths and showers to be had. After church Keith hit the road with O to take him to boyscout camp and I braved my first solo 8 kid trip to Walmart to look for some father's day gifts. Yes, there is nothing like last minute shopping on the day of the holiday! Usually I am much more prepared...it is Amazon shopping in the comfort of our own home. I love doing that because it is easier, but it kind of ruins the surprise for him if he gets an email from our prime account featuring his father's day gift! So, I put Violet in the baby seat of the cart, Ulysses in the front basket of the cart put a 5yo on each side, Lily rode on the front and Zeb, Alex and Han were my advance scouts mostly! We had a plan to go in and get a pocket knife and a big flashlight. We couldn't get anyone to help us at the knife counter so instead, each kid picked out a package of some kind of nut, got a big flashlight and an impulse buy by Lily of the pocket hose..something about her buying "as seen on tv" items for Keith! The kids were super good so I let them all get a treat...that was probably the most stressful part of the shopping trip. For some reason, when they are allowed to have a regular sized candybar...they start holding up like 10 pound hershey bars and asking "is this one ok?". They really did hold it all together, I was pleased. Since it was father's day and the kids wanted to stay up to give keith his gifts, I told them they could stay up late and catch lightening bugs if they took a nap. Wow...I had forgotten the joy of the 2 hour mid afternoon respite (for me)and was able to get a ton of stuff done. I made lasagna for dinner, cleaned off one of the dining room tables and the reading room and got almost all of the laundry folded. I had totally forgotten the mommy list crossing off joy of the afternoon nap. I might see how to work it in more often. In addition to providing me with some time to get some stuff done, I have a couple of kids who truly need an afternoon nap! I have really enjoyed starting up writing daily on my blog. I don't have anything very important to say, but it has helped me to stay focussed, organized, and I think even more relaxed. After I put the kids to bed tonight, I took a very long walk outside and it was extremely nice. There was a gently breeze, the temperature was a smidge chilly but not chilly enough for a jacket, the sky was clear with lots of stars and the cats kept me company. I had lots of time to remind myself how lucky I am and how really spectacular my life is if I can keep all of the mundane hustle and bustle in perspective. I think I am getting there! OK...how did I do today? Step 1 budget...I spent an unbudgeted amount at the store on Father's day and a ton of fruit...oops. Step 2 Family Dinner fail. I made lasagna and got everyone to the table, handed out plates and said grace. I even sat and ate a very small amount. Then, I put Lily in charge of seconds and went upstairs for a 45 minute nap until Keith got home. Yes, it was a family dinner fail, but my big girls really stepped up today and helped out when I needed to sleep. I am looking forward to this week. I have really been praying about mom as ministry and especially homeschool mom as ministry. Yes, I have some great material for school, but I am really soaking in the idea that multi-tasking is a tool to suck the joy out of accomplishment. By not focussing on doing what you are doing primarily to the best of your ability you are denying yourself the time to enjoy doing the task. It is all rush, rush, rush, and you can't truly be in the moment. I am really hoping to enjoy my family this week, to enjoy doing one thing at a time and appreciate the specialness of each kid...yes that even means Benjamin's constant dialogue. I am grateful that God has given me a Benjamin to build me into a more patient, relaxed woman..and I know one day he will change the world and it will knock my socks off. Now for some well deserved sleep before we start this really wonderful week. I am such a lucky girl.

One week Home

So as of one hour ago, the boys have been home officially for one week. I think they are doing great. Granted, this isn't our first child, our first adoption, or even our first adoption of an older child. It is, however, our first adoption of an older child who doesn't speak English. There are still moments of complete confusion for sure. We still sometimes find ourselves falling prey to the old...if you don't understand what I am saying if I say it louder you might understand mentality. Yes, I know it is stupid...but it is subconsious I think! the funny thing is that Han does it too! haha. We suspect that Han understands somewhat more than Ulysses because Han has studied English in school for several years. Han seems to react to our requests and our words more quickly and more appropriatedly than Ulysses, however Ulysses can really prounounce English words well and Han mispronounces a lot of the words he tries to say. The biggest thing my new boys have going for them is their resiliency and their great attitude. We decided to set up the Rosetta Stone English program and see if Han was ready for it. He sat on the computer trying to say "He is swimming" for like 30 minutes on the same phrase and couldn't get it right. He didn't get frustrated, he just stayed good natured and laughed at his own attempts. I think that the Rosetta Stone program will be really good once the boys have a more rudimentary vocabulary, it is a little too much for them now! There are certain areas that we are still working on to find the best approach for our family. I have been trying to keep a close eye (or have one of the other kids ... you know experienced kids) on the new boys at all times. It is hard when you are new and you need someone to show you the ropes and keep you from unwittingly getting into trouble. What that means is that the precarious balance we had before going to China that allowed us to get housework and homework done without too much chaos is gone. My two biggest mother's helpers have been reassigned! I feel pretty confident that once I am back on dayshift, I will gain at least one free hour at night after everyone (including Violet) heads to bed. This is the hour I can us for housecleaning, laundry washing, and homeschool management. I think an hour a night of doing chores by myself might really make a difference in how calm I feel. It will also be an hour of to do list check off-ery that won't interfere with my primary goal of building relationships with the kids and prioritizing all things intangible that aid in that endeavor. It seems like Han and Ulysses are still genuinely happy to be home with us. Ulysses is sooo darn adorable - the way he says "mommeeee" is so sweet. He loves to hug me and will just walk up to me and smile and say "mommee mommee...one two three" and then wrap his arms around me and give me a great big hug. I know he is 9yo, but he feels to me to be more like 4 or 5 emotionally. He is more develomentally appropriate in mental tasks. He doesn't have any problems putting together puzzles and he seems to be increasing his receptive understanding of English very quickly. Han is so smart. Apparently, he has some mad art skills too. Today we took a nature walk this morning and everyone drew one thing they found outside. Han took a very long time and created a pretty intricate picture - I was impressed. After we did our drawing, the kids came into the reading room and I read from Understood Betsy. They were all very good while I was reading...very good. I twas very weird. After we read for a while, Ben and Zeb took turns reading to me and Violet and Ulysses played connect 4. Han and Alex colored some more pictures. It was a pretty good morning. Keith went to the store and then spent some time hanging outside with our great new lawn people. He got home around 1pm and I went and took a nap until it was time to go to work. How did my steps to slowin down life come out today? Step 1 - I haven't bought anything yet today! Step 2 - Family Dinner. I failed today. I slept until after 5pm (that was still only 4 hours in 40 hours or so). When I came downstairs, keith was in the early stages of monkey bread and breakfast night....yummm. I had to go to work, so I missed breakfast night! Bummer. I am almost through my last night shift for the week and then I am off for an entire week! yeah...let the relationshipbuilding begin...oh yeah and the catching up of homework begin!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

My family mission statement

I have been spending quite a bit of time in the last 12 hours thinking about what changes we can implement in the way we run our family. I have had lots of time because I am working the night shift (in the Operating Room) on a Friday the 13th that is also a full moon...there has not been a whole lot of sleeping around here! haha. This is the family mission statement I have come up with: To create a calm, comfortable and relaxed environment where everyone feels safe, loved, wanted and special. I have come up with some tangible and measurable steps to work toward that goal, but i am also still working on it! Of course the first 3 steps I have been talking about for the last couple of days. Step 1 - stay in my budget so that I don't have to work extra shifts and can stay home with my family Step 2 - Family Dinner everynight regardless of other commitments Step 3 - Push my patience to the Max with Benjamin (ok everyone in the family...but it is mostly Ben) and stop yelling I had some problems tonight at dinner because the meal consisted of pork tacos and pork sandwiches which had to be assembled as kids wanted seconds and thirds and fourths (egads!). I printed off many crockpot recipes tonight and will try to transition to scoopable meals for a while. I think that will help make my family dinner time a little easier for me to enjoy. As we create our Household Management Binder, i will be creating 3 separate months of meal plans and attach the shopping list and recipes behind them so we can rotate through months (to keep in a little interesting), but I won't have to spend the time monthly to come up with a meal calendar. There are months that I just can't find the time at the beginning of the month to do it. Some other tangible steps We will be instituting is Special Day. Each child will get on special day a month where they get to pick the meals and a cake, pick activities for the day and we will spend time at Dinner where everyone takes time to say why that kid is special. It will kind of be like a birthday every month except with no presents. I have been reading the blog Amongst Lovely Things and I have been getting some great ideas. One of the ideas she mentions is switching to a time based schedule instead of a to do list (which I have been halfheartedly been trying to do for about a year now), and also only scheduling 80% of the school day. That is genius. I always overschedule school. I am waaaaay better than I was when we first started homeschooling Lily, but we still overschedule. So, i am going to cut back to scheduling only 80%. Just reading and re-reading parts of her blog are helping me to really dedicate myself to the proposition of being more relaxed. I can't wait to read her ebook, Teaching from Rest: a Homeschoolers Guide to Unshakable Peace. If Saturday night is anything like tonight was...I will have lots of time to read it! How can I do more to fulfill our family's new mission statement? Any suggestions are appreciated! What concrete steps do you take to make your home a respite for your families?

Friday, June 13, 2014

Trying to relax

I have spent a lot of time researching and thinking about a Home Management Notebook...which feeds into my list-making control freakery, I know! One of the things I have been thinking about is developing a mission statement for my home. Then creating clear and concise steps for achieving that goal. I have the 2 slowin it down steps that I am constantly reminding myself but in a few weeks I will add at least one more step to work on acheiving my goal of making my home all abou quality, relationship building time management.

Today was a pretty good day in that respect. I didn't get my newly minted requirement of 6 hours of sleep nightly, but I came close with 5 hours. I got home around 815 and half the kids were up. We had cereal and breif clean up time because the kids did a great job of picking up before bed last night. Keith took 3 kids to the store with him and I paired off the others for some schoolwork. Zeb, Zoe, Violet and Ulysses worked on letter flashcards and then watched a very rousing Angelina Ballerina and learned about what kids do when Mommies have got to take a shower...babysitting by amazon prime.

I started cleaning the schoolroom for this year's terminal clean...yeah! There are a few things that lily still needs to finish off, but we are virtually done with our school year. It is a good thing because I am spent! I am excited about next year, but I am also excited about just relaxing for a while and letting kids be kids. My guys just love running around outside and having adventures. We were hoping to get the teepee put up and have some camping out fun, but that hasn't happened yet. I think things around the house will chill out in the next couple of weeks and we will be able to spend some time and energy on making a fun event like that a reality.

keith got home and the big girls decided to make lunch...so Lilyl and Alex made grilled cheese sandwiches that Zeb swore were the best grilled cheese sandwiches ever. After lunch we let the kids have some digital time with their kindles and watched the Fox and the Hound. around 3pm we decided to take the kids to the pool for the first time of the season. I admit...I totally snuck out to the pool around 230 and swam all by myself for about 30 minutes. It was so nice that I decided to let the kids in on the fun! Well, not all the kids could get in the water....lets break it down:

O - swimming
Lily - swimming
Alex - swimming
Zeb - swimming
Ben - got pretty close to swimming without his floatees...I think he will finally be there by the end of the summer or sometime this summer
Zoe - stood on the stairs
Violet - she was jumping on the stairs and swimming with us
Han - not a swimmer
Ulysses - not able to submerge his tummy right now so sat on the side and kicked water at everyone else!

When everyone got in the pool, I gesticulated wildly to Han to stay in the shallow in by the stairs. Twice he tride to swim out with the big kids within the first like 3 minutes in the pool...I kept catching him and motioning for him to wait. I figured he had no idea how to swim. Although he did tell our Guangzhou guide that he knew how to swim. After me stopping him twice from walking out of the shallow end..he got by me whil I was getting Violet into the pool. He dropped like a rock when he got the deep end and keith had the opportunity to impress me with his BSA certified lifeguarding skills. Yes...my husband is pretty hot. After that he mimed to us in a jovial way that he wasn't going to try to swim anymore today. He is such a sweetheart. He didn't get all self-consious or defensive about it...he just laughed it off and gained some respect for the water. I was very impressed with his attitude and reaction to the entire ordeal. I probably
would have been happier if he had just stayed in the shallow end until a grown up had made it into the water...but it was ok. We didn't stay in long...about 20 minutes and then it started to rain.

We had some leftovers for dinner and I am again..surprised by the sheer quantity of food we went through for dinner. I am going to have to come up with some amazing kind of meal plan for July...maybe it will come to me in a dream! Althoug, I did have an idea to have a tab in my Household Management Binder labeld meals and have 3-4 monthly calendars with meals populated onto the days and have all of my recipes behind the calendar and a shopping list for each month. I don't think my kids need too much variety in their diets do they? Trust me, they are only getting the same 12-15 meals over and over again anyway!

Today was a good day.

I didn't buy anything personally, but I did have my friend who is cleaning my house for me come and straighten up. I know it is counter to my step 1 don't spend money...but I hope she decided to do this full time and I will beg her to come more than once a week! haha!

We had dinner together, but there was a lot of up and down for my because our dinner was pulled pork sandwhiches and pork taceos so I felt tlike I spent more time in the kitchen making meals instead of sitting on my butt enjoying the company of my kids. Everyone's favorite part of the day was swimming...except sweet Alex who said her favorite part of the day was helping Han with the English Rosetta stone. How sweet is that! Plus, I think Alex would really benefit from further developing her English skills and she will get that as she "helps" Han!

My favorite part of the day was swimming too I think. Actually, I think the favorite part of my day is about to happen....bedtime! hahaha!

caption this!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Where did all of our food go?

Ok...I know where it went..into little tummies! I stopped at the store on the way home from work early monday morning and bought 3 gallons of milk. They finished them up this morning...Thursady morning...that is almost a gallon a day and that is just for cereal. I think we are going to have to switch to maybe pancakes and bulk yogurt or oatmeal! Today was a good day. We weren't as structured as the last 2 days. I am trying to back down on the structure and see at what point our family devolves into chaos! Today was pretty good. I got home a little bit late, set the big girls to putting together cereal while I jumped in the shower. We had the kids working on writing letters and helping Han and Ulysses write some letters..that lasted a good hour. We split into a couple of different activites after that...a few little kids watched some Angelina Ballerina, my big kids played story cubes, Zeb and O played video games, Zoe, Han and ulysses played with our blocks and patternable worksheets. the morning sounds nice and calm, but it is peppered with an unending and unceasing running request for random items, attention, etc by one or more kids. All of the tiny requests and interruptions led to my 20 minutes of paying bills and balancing the checkbook to a 3 hour ordeal. Which was surprisingly ok with me! haha Part of the reason may be that I am so exhausted that I am kind of alike a rubber band that has been stretched way to far and now I am too stretched out to snap back into my normal tightly wound self! After lunch, some kids headed outside and 1/3 of the kids were bathed. Violet and I snuck upstairs after she had a total meltdown about something ridiculous and we took a cuddly nap. She fell asleept ridiculously quick (yeah!) and i snuck into my own room for a nap which lasted a very delightful 2 hours. My nap meant that I missed my "me" time for making phone calls and I also missed 3 phone calls from Cincinnati Children's Hospital...but boy was a 2 hour nap a huge luxury! I jumped out of bed at 415 and started some rice to mix with some chicken I cooked up on Monday. I made 12 cups of rice and do you know how much was left after dinner...none. I didn't even eat anything. So...we knew that our food consumption was going to increase..but I didn't realize by how much! This is crazy. I am hoping to come up with a new meal plan! Yikes! I found the most incredible blog today. I received an email from Classical Academic press that had a link to an ebook called "teaching from rest". I clicked on it because you might have noticed that i am on a mission to create a more relaxed, calm environment around me. Wow...was I blown away from this blog . One of the posts I hit on to read started with this: "My problem with schedules, routines, and general task management systems is this: most of them feed into my tendency to prioritize getting stuff done over building relationships. It’s the nature of a list of tasks to put priority on the doing, and my git-’er-done personality tends to take that up a notch." I have been struggling with finding a way to organize my day so that my priorities are building relationships and the pressure I put on myself to mark things off my to do list is an ever present 1000 pound elephant on my back! This is a blog written by a woman that I can relate to! I promptly ordered her Ebook and Companion and can't wait to read it! This email that led me to her blog was from a classical education group that Keith and I found at the homeschool convention. We recently read a book on building character that was instrumental in starting me on this journey to unwind and learn to prioritize relationships (however unquantifiable it may be!) over the very concrete to do list. That book was at the display for another classical education publisher. When we went to the homeschool convention we were focussed on finding more non-traditional types of curriculum and instead came home with a ton of classical education plans. All of the work I am trying to do right now to become a better mom is directly related to our change in direction of our homeschool and I am so excited about it. How did I do in my Slowin it down plan today? Ok... Step one was ugly...Budget blown. I bought some Shampoo on line last night...I know it is ridiculous. I have decided to keep my ridiculously long hair for a while longer and it is getting pretty damaged. Additionally, Lilianna is letting her hair grow out and I am soooo excited about it. She has beautiful hair but hates, hates, hates to brush it because it gets pretty tangles up pretty quickly. So, I bought us a 90 day supply of Wen..if it is good enough for Alyssa Milano it is good enough for us right? I also bought the ebook I mentioned above. So I blew the budget. Step 2 - family dinner. Done. No I didn't eat because apparently 12 cups of rice and 4 pounds of chicken isn't enough to feed my family one meal..but we did pray and we did talk about the favorite part of our day and the kids did have a good day. Step Benjamin - I only yelled at him once. He gets his own step because he is the loudest, most talkative, demanding 5 year old I have ever met and he will drive anyone crazy. Although, I know that God has blessed him with that drive to talk and that someday he will use that voice to speak for people who can't speak up for themselves and it will be an amazing sight. Until then, I must keep reminding myself that that day is coming! So being driven to the edge of sanity by Benjamin is a daily occurrence that will make me stronger...

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Still crazy

Today was just as crazy as yesterday...but with less sleep...how is that possible? I wonder the same thing! I was up until 3am and slept until 630. I headed home and did the dishes, made chocolate chip cookie dough (which I have not yet baked), started folding laundry. We went to the park with everyone - which was fun and really hot. It is definitely summer! Han and Ulysses are doing so good and the other kids are so excited to be helping out. We basically have a kid orientation schedule. han and Ulysses are paired with a big kid now and that big kid is responsible for making sure that Han and Ulysses don't do anything crazy while we aren't watching. They are also helping with teaching letters and words in English. I know that things eventually will get harder...but I am hoping that won't happen until they get easier first. What I mean by this is that I know that there is still novelty...the new kids are going to get stressed out by the stress of learning a new languange of not being able to communicate with us well. It is going to happen, grief will start, greif about leaving their friends and foster family behind, grief of realizing we are not the perfect, dreamed about parents. I know...hard to believe! haha! I know that the other kids will tire of the novelty and excitement of being a helper to the new kids and start to see it as work (and it is hard work!). Things will get harder. I think that things will get easier too as keith and I become more accustomed to a routine...are able to create a workable routine. Tonight we spent an hour mapping out our day tomorrow. My hope is that a well thought out plan will eliminate the lost time and inevitable pandemonium during transition between activities. Day 2 of slowing down: I didnt spend any money, but I am 3 days overdue balancing my checkbook....oops. I was running around crazy trying to get dinner made and to a work meeting. I was rushing around fully sure that there was no way i was going to get to eat a relaxing dinner with my family. Then out of the blue, my awesome husband reminded me to just sit down, have dinner with my family and be late to the meeting. Prioritizing my family dinners above other things means to actually prioritize it over other things...it doesnt mean successfully do it all.Doing it all is impossible. Thanks Keith.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Survival mode

I am on the night shift this week...which is great for many reasons. The one reason that it is not great...is that i don't get to sleep all night nor do I sleep all day which leads to some umm..exhaustion! Especially if you add the stress of the 32 hour travel day that ends the day you start on nights. That being said...I am not a total loon (as far as I can tell). Today was crazy. I started the day oversleeping. I should have gotten up at 830 but instead slept until 11. Our babysitter got to our house at 5am so that Keith could leave to pick up O and the kids got up shortly after that. Steph (the babysitter) came and woke me up at 11 because of Ulysses bag was leaking pee everywhere. There was a tear in the bag so we had to change it...no biggie, except all of the pee all over my house and germies that could have gotten into his system. Realizing of course, that it was 11am and the dentist hadn't called me back about the "emergency" I called in on sunday. There was an unfortunate meeting of the green and blue trapeze rings on the swingset and Zoe's front teeth ending in a bloody loose tooth mess with her front permanent teeth. So, I am dazed, half-asleep in my PJ's with already out of control kids swarming around me with leaky bags, loose permanent teeth, a play room that has exploded into nerf guns and that one second happens when all the kids just stop long enough to see if I am going to take control. Seriously, they all stopped for just a split second to see what was going to happen. I took immediate advantage and went to the go to bed making, clean-up the playroom, gather laundry fall back and the kids amazingly jumped in and order was restored (hhahahah that order restored thing..not so much...i crack myself up..) at least some children were distracted so I called the Dentist, gave Ulysses a shower and some stoma care..then jumped in the car with Zoe and my best I worked all night scrub outfit/pajamas and headed to the Dentist for a 40 minute wait. The Dentist was good news...her loose teeth actually weren't permanent teeth...oops but several of her permanent teeth are in the process of coming in around the baby teeth so there is some teeth pulling in Zoe's near future..so maybe that is bad news..but I will take it. Steph got the kids lunch while I was gone and I split them up into study groups to work on the alphabet then we watched some preschool prep letters and letter sounds while Lily worked on Math and logic. I was somehow able to get most of the laundry done, Chicken cooked, shredded and frozen, and dinner made. I didn't get anything on my list done today...but i survived. I only yelled at Ben once (if you know Ben...that is a major win) and that was when he hit me in the face with a paper airplane. I almost held it together all day. The kids are all adjusting way better than me. I still have these self-expectations that I know are outrageous and unreachable intellectually..but emotionally I really want to be able to be perfect. I want to do school with all the kids, get the housework done, and spend more hours of connecting quality time with my kids than are actually in a 24hour day. Today...i chose survival. Tomorrow, maybe I will get a little bit closer to the ideal I have set for myself! I didn't spend any money...stuck to my budget (although keith probably overspent on his trip to Bham to up O..and that is OK..I'm not complaining or judging). We did have a family dinner. We had jambalaya and goldfish crackers. All the kids used the chopsticks we brought back from China for everyone and watching Violet eat with chopsticks was hilarious. I don't eat with them so me trying to show them how to do it was probably equally hilarious. I would have liked to have been more relaxed and spent more time just chilling with the kids, but I survived and we had dinner together. My goals for tomorrow are to spend 2 hours (300-500) playing with all of the kids. I think we will play simon says to work on expanding some vocabulary skills for Han and Ulysses. I have some phone calls to make to get things set up at Cincinatti Children's Hospital and I will make those while I take Lily and Alex to their singing class (1-230) I promised Violet I would make chocolate chip cookies..so i might do that in the morning (8-9) School goals tomorrow. (8-11) Ben, Zeb and Lily will work on math and science while Ulysses, Zoe and Violet watch some cartoons...I am thinking Dora. Alex will work on her schoolwork and I think we might start up rosetta stone English for Han. Most importantly I am going to remember to tell myself continuously to slow down and enjoy spending time in the present..especially when I am eating some chocolate chip cookie dough...mwahaha

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Day 1 with 9 kids

We got home around 130 am this morning, so we decided to wake all of the kids up. The kids were so excited to see us - we were so excited to see them! they had made welcome home signs and put them up all over the house. the house was sooo clean..that was my welcome home sign..haha. The kids showed Han and Ulysses all around the house - showed them their favorite toys in each room. It was really nice. We all headed to bed around 315. Keith set up the camping cot in the boys room and stayed in there with the boys. I laid down with Violet in her big girl bed in the girls room until she fell asleep and then headed back into my room. It is so weird to have Violet in her own room instead of sleeping in our room. I think Keith sees it as a sign that his baby is growing up. He is not ready for Violet to be any older than 2yo! My super nice husband let me sleep in today - i awoke around 11am to Zeb yelling at me that Dad needed me downstairs right now. The day was a string of fires requiring attention all day...thankfully, thus far, there haven't been any actual fires. I did get the suitcases unpacked and laundry started. We made dinner (ok it was only a matter of throwing a prepared frozen crock pot meal in the crock pot...but still...it was dinner!), we had dinner altogether... yeah for step 2. I am working the night shift his week so that I will be home during the day and off next week for our trip up to Cincinnati Children's Hospital. The new boys are doing so well. We divided up the kids into teams to help the new boys learn our routines. Since I can't be with both of them all the time, I am trying to make sure that someone is with them all the time. Showing them things like we take off our shoes and wash our hands when we come inside from playing, how to rinse off our bowls after cereal in the morning. So far we haven't lost anyone or broken any bones...and like i mentioned before...no fires or explosions. When i had to leave for work tonight after dinner, we had put a movie in for everyone to watch so I came into the media room to hug everyone goodbye and my new boys ran up for a hug and kiss goodbye just like eveyone else did. I have been saying this since we picked each of them up....they are really good boys. They are sweet, smart, funny, and I just can't believe how lucky we are.

Slowin' it down y'all

You know what's tough? Change. It is hard. I am very good at being overworked, overscheduled, and overwhelmed by my own expectations of myself. Literally for the last year I have been talking about slowing down, paring back. I have said out loud multiple times that I am going to quit doing locums instead of vacation, that I am going to slow down.

How has thay worked out for me? Yeah...I have been doing a whole lot of talking and not a whole lot of paring down. In fact in the last year we have gone from homeschooling one to homeschooling 9, adopted two older boys with needs, started an American Heritage Girls troop and done months of locums. All are good things and I am overjoyed to be able to have done them all....but I really need to slow it down.

I know how to do the busy, pile so much on your plate it cant possibly all get completed thing. I do that very well. The exhausted, unrealistic expectation thing....I personify it.

I have read books and internet paged on simplifying life, i have talked about it ad nauseum. I think I need some sort of plan....a very simple plan.

Step 1 is money. It is time for me to realize and admit out loud that I am a terrible money manager and like to spend money. As a result, when I am offered a locums job...i take it spend a week or longer away from mt family so we can blow money on stupud stuff we dont need. What I need to do is stay on our budget and enjoy a week off with my family. Step one of simplifying my life is to get "gazelle-like" and put money where it belongs.

Step 2 is food. I like to eat great big cheesy carbolicious badness. We are so busy it is hard to spend time relaxing and eating good food as a family. I know it is important to spend family time around the dinner table...but we have scouts, dance, church, i work nights sometimes and then there are work meetings. Yeah...we all have those...you know excuses for prioritizing things over the big family dinner. It is easy to look at the tangible attendance record and see abscences. It is much harder to gauge what you have lost when you dont slow down and have a family dinner. I know we have lost lots of opportunities to connect. So step 2 is prioritizing healthy family dinners over extracurricular activities.

If i can successfully take those two steps...I am halfway there. Starting today....right now. Seriously.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Large Family

We have 9 kids.  We are officially a large family.  We went to an Together for Adoption Conference in Nashville when we only had 4 kids and boy did we feel like lightweights.  We went to another conference in 2011 and we had 6 kids...a little more respectable...still a lightweight.  It has been a long time since the size of a family has shocked me.  Yes, I have been known to peruse the Dugger blog for ideas...I admit it.

Today we were in the lobby of the hotel in Guangzhou and Keith was getting some more money exchanged while the bigger travel group from CCAI was meeting and getting their paperwork back.  One of the women started talking to my kids asking them how old they were and I answered her and gave her the rundown on the 4 - 5 words in English that they know.  She asked if we had any other kids and I told her we had 7 other kids at home.

I have never had this experience...ever....she opened her mouth in shock.  She was literally in shock.  She then walks around to every single person (there were 8people) who was standing in my general vicinity and told them each (even thought they all heard her the first time) how many children I had and that we were adopting 2 more.  Then she grabs me (all in my personal space)...and gave me a giant kiss on my cheek and said "God bless you!".  It was all very uncomfortable.  I think that people are sometimes surprised a bit by our family size.  I don' t think that this woman was mean spirited or anything like that.  She was just very surprised and I think genuinely shocked.  I also think she was very sweet and I appreciate her prayer for blessings! 

God has really blessed me with my kids and with my husband who is obviously just as crazy as I am!  I am one lucky girl to have a family like this! 

Shannon...I am pretty sure we are done! I have learned not to say that anything is certain.  In fact one of the other parents here from West Virginia thought we ought to adopt once more to make our family a perfect 10!  If we adopt again it will be Keith's idea not mine...and that would cement that he is actually crazier than me.

Visa's

We have visa's and sealed visa packets in our hot little hands.  We have had a great couple of days here in Guangzhou.  We took a very long walk yesterday to the Memorial hall about 8 blocks away and stopped at a Subway sandwhich shop on the way back.  It was a very interesting walk which involved Keith pushing Ulysses' wheelchair up a flight of stairs to cross the street.

Today we walked over to a local park which was huge and was bustling with activity.  It was quite a workout for Keith who again had to carry U in his wheelchair down to the underpass and then back up the millions of stairs!  We actually managed to take some more pictures of the park...we are the worlds worst picture takers...I am sure I mentioned that before!

We finished all of our souvenir shopping and everything is staring at me to pack up.  We came over with a small carry on suitcase and 2 checked suitcases.  One of those had a third suitcase packed inside it.  I thought we might need an extra suitcase for souvenirs.  When we arrived in Guangzhou our rep asked if we did a lot of international travel because we packed so light...he was impressed with how low maintenance we were..haha. 

Tomorrow we fly from Guangzhou to Beijing and we have to collect all of our luggage, change terminals and check in for our international flight.  I wish that I would have made the reservation with Delta from GZ all the way home...we wouldn't have to pick up our luggage...darn it!  In order to simplify things I am going to try to pack everything into 2 bags...we will see how that goes.

I was totally stressed out in the Beijing airport when we flew from Beijing to Hefei...the security checkpoint was really stressful and poorly organized.  I am not looking forward to going through it again and this time with a wheelchair.  At least we are almost broke this time so we don't have to stress about where our money belts were taken to! haha.

I am soooo glad to be heading home.  I am pretty sure that I gained like 20 pounds of noodles, rice and fast food while I have been here.  I can't wait to go on a diet...that is pretty sad!

One more night of fast food and one more day of airline food (which has been remarkably delicious).

Only 12 more hours and 15 minutes until we leave for the airport.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Tuberculosis

Part of the visa medical exam for children between the ages of 2 and 14 is a tuberculosis blood titer.  If that comes back positive, the child has to get a chest x ray.  If the chest xray comes back positive, the child provides three samples of sputum on three different mornings before eating anything.  Once those are cultured, if they come back positive it is 6 months of treatment in China or you can apply to the State Department for a health waiver.

You might be wondering why it is that I am so familiar with this process....or maybe you can surmise that one of my children came back with a positive blood titer.  We zipped over to the health clinic for a chest xray which was thankfully negative.  However, I got to spend a very long 35 minutes obsessing about the scenarios!

Apparently, about 10% of the children that come through the visa medical center require a chest xray because of a positive blood titer.  The incidence of actual positive TB cases is very low.  There was one case about 2 years ago and there is one family in Guangzhou now with a tb+ child and they are in the waiver process. 

I don't think we are ever adopting again...but if we do, we are going to double check that our referred child has had a tb test in the past.  One of our children had a negative tb on his referral medical, the other one did not have a tb test listed.  I think I could do without the extra stress! haha.  I was very relieved at the negative chest xray....to say the very least!

Another day in Guangzhou

Yesterday was Han's 14th birthday.  We had our visa medical appointment.  There are 4 families in our group and there is another CCAI group here right now that has like 12 or 14 families.  My group left for the clinic early around 845 but the 15 minute drive took us an hour.  UGG.  We are the only waiting child family I our group and it took us quite a bit longer to get through the general medical part.  So there are 4 stations...the general medical, the ENT, the vital sign/sight test and then for us..the TB blood draw.  Han had to get 3 shots too. 

On the way back from the clinic, everyone sang Happy Birthday to Han  and he was loving it! haha.  We had a little birthday cake for him and had pizza from Papa John's to celebrate. 

The boys are getting along so well. 

Today is Keith's birthday...he isn't getting a cake!

We did head to a new place for lunch across the street call the Coffee Club and it was pretty good.  I am getting so sick of eating out.  I can't believe I just said that! Haha.

We have done a lot of souvenir shopping today too.  We were out of town for Zoe's birthday on Sunday, so we are buying an inordinate number of gifts for her to assuage my guilty mom heart! 

Guangzhou has been a really nice time.  I am envious of any family that is actually adopting from this province and gets to stay here for the entire time! 

Tomorrow at 740 am we leave for our visa appointment.  We have visa appointment tomorrow and then Friday is packing day which is almost leaving day.  I am so excited to get home and start letting our family find its new normal.  I am feeling very old today...maybe it is because as of today I am married to a 43 yo instead of a sprightly 42 year old!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Guangzhou

You can almost hear the sigh as I type out the name!  We are on our last city in China and it really feels good to be here.  It is warm, there are palm trees, there is  a Starbucks in our hotel people...this is a good place!

We have the number to a Papa Johns delivery, we watched some Baliwood in our hotel room and bought the kids happy meals at the 24 hour mcDonalds next door. 

We also did a little exploring and found a mall very close to our hotel room that has souvenirs written all over it.  We haven't done any souvenir shopping at all because we have been worried about our money lasting until the end of the trip...but now the end of the trip is near and we have some cash left to blow.

For some reason a couple of months ago, Violet decided that there was tons of candy in China.  I'm not entirely sure where she got that idea, but she and I spent like an hour on the seesaw plane we have out in the backyard - flying to "candy china" and bringing back boxes of candy and putting them in an imaginary refrigerator near the dome climber.  Anyway, she asked on Skype while we were here if we were in Candy China and I said no there wasn't a whole lot of candy here.  So she concluded we were in present china and would be bringing her back presents.  So....we are definitely in need of some presents to bring back! haha.

Benjamin is expecting a Chinese yellow blanket.  I would not want to disappoint him in that regard!  There are 16 families with CCAI here at our hotel right now.  Our guide is taking care of us and 3 others.  Tomorrow we are headed on the optional guided tour that will include some shopping. 

Guangzhou is very nice and you can actually see that there is blue in the sky.  I am pretty sure my new boys have probably never seen a blue sky! 

So in summary...Guangzhou good, Keith and I are a tad rejuvenated and I think we are going to make it the rest of the week!  Ulysses is developing an infection at his stoma site...green purulence and much leaking around the stoma.  We have started him on some antibiotics and a serious topical care regimen so we would appreciate prayers for the antibiotics to stop this infection in its tracks! 

Friday, May 30, 2014

Last night in Hefei

We are leaving for Guangzhou in the morning and I am soooo glad.  I am so ready to be heading home.  We just have one more week getting visas for the boys then home!

The boys have been very good, but it has become clear some of the issues we are going to have at home.  Ulysses is ummmm...very exuberant!  He is nonstop bouncing around and all over everyone...me, dad, Han.  I think the first phrase he will be introduced to is "personal space".  He is just so darn full of life.  I expected that he would be more grieving early in the trip...I was wrong! 

Han is a teenage boy trying hard to navigate that weird place between being a kid and being a grown up.  I suspect he had a lot more freedom and control over his life here then he is about to have at home.  There is sooooo much that is going to change for him.  He struggles to be in charge of us everytime we leave the room.  I feel like he is on board with the family thing and is just trying to take care of us.  It is a little frustrating for us because we are the parents and we have no idea what he is ordering for us at Dinner or what he is saying to the waiter.  I understand his behavior is coming from a good place, so it has been a very good lesson for me in terms of letting go of some of my control freak tendancies! haha. 

Ulysses is a first rate, Olympic competitor in pouting when he doesn't get what he wants.  He will give Ben and Zeb a run for their money! He is amazingly resilient

I hope that time flies by in Guangzhou.  So far, I have read 3 books, written out a menu plan for june, done our family budget for june, written out our master weekly lesson plan sheets for each group of kids and family electives (6 different lesson plan sheets), and the master attendance form.  I have also played every free board of free flow on Keith's kindle...ok I am exaggerating..I have only done 450 game boards.

I just really want to go home.  I am sick of smog and carbs and living out of a suitcase. 

One of the books I read while here was by a psychologist named Stephen Birchak.  It is called How to Build a Child's Character by tapping into your Own.   It has been a super read...a super hard read.  Our children's ability to be resilient, content, and to develop a moral compass is directly related to how we treat them and model behavior for them.  I know...duh.  This book was really inspiring.  Keith and I both read it and were both very, very moved to make some changes in our everyday behavior.  I can't recommend it enough!  You can find it at on it's publishers website...Royal Fireworks Press. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Dora?

Apparently, both of my new boys are big fans of Dora the Explorer.  Yes a cartoon to teach English speakers Spanish that is partially dubbed into Chinese.

mmmm...very interesting.  Both the boys are totally transfixed by it. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Waiting for paperwork

Keith and I live a pretty hectic life and while we have been in Hefei...it has kind of slowed to a crawl.  Yesterday the kids watched cartoons for hour and we watched like 4 episodes of Once Upon  Time.  I can't even remember the last time I did that! 

Last night we decided to come up with some sort of plan to get through the scheduleless hours of today, Thursday and Friday.  Breakfast at 730, Skype calls with the kids around 8; morning walk to the shopping area and stopping at Starbucks...yes that's right...starbucks..yum.   Then back to the hotel for an hour or 2 of tv.   Then out to lunch and an afternoon walk in the park (where it is nice and shady).  Our plan is to stop somewhere every 10 or 15 minutes and let the kids run around for 10 minutes or so.  Our hope is that we can stretch the afternoon walk in the park out to about an hour.  Then we will sit in the lobby and play with some clay we brought and work on our English flashcards.  Back to the room for an hour of tv.  Play Uno and Tangrams for an hour and then dinner.

Yes we are desperate to fill our days! haha.  I think the kids would rather sit in the hotel room the entire time and watch tv, but it is driving us batty! 

It is a weird feeling of the land in between while we wait to go home.  We are trying to balance keeping everyone entertained, excited and involved.  We would really like to get home before the grief, defiance and frustration hit...I'm afraid we might not make it with our little teenager.  He seems to be getting less excited and more withdrawn.  They are both good boys and this is going to get hard for them.  I just wish we were home before the enormity of the change hits them!

Monday, May 26, 2014

PIctures

My boys playing drive ya nuts

 My new boys watching tv
 It's official...you can tell from the matching shirts!
 My boys in the park
 The park

More park.  
I have no idea what we are going to do to keep everyone occupied for the next 12 days....aaahhh!

Registration Office

This morning we headed back to the adoption center to register Ulysses adoption.  We met his orphanage director there and she was just so sweet.  She was in tears thanking us for making him our son because he is so sweet and special. 

Before today we had one amazing story this trip.  The first night we had Han we were looking at pictures.  I pulled up Facebook to show him some of the pictures on it and he saw a picture of a cross and pointed at the cross...said cross and then pointed at himself.  I pointed at him and asked "Christian?" and he said "yes...Christian".  Ok whether or not we understand each other I am not sure...but it certainly seemed like he was saying he knew about the cross. 

Today was another interesting story told to us by Ulysses orphanage director.  They drove in from Fuyang yesterday early and then caught a taxi to the adoption center.  The taxi driver was so happy that Ulysses was being adopted he donated 51 rmb to us to help take care of him.  That was very unexpected.  I think there are probably very few families who come to china and get a monetary donation from a taxi driver!  It was very encouraging.

After we finalized our adoption of Ulysses (may 26...which is also the day Zebbie's adoption was finalized in Kyrgyzstan), our driver dropped us off at the gate of a very large park.  When Hefei was just a village many years ago there was a moat around a city wall.  That city wall has since been torn down and turned into a road, but the moat remains to mark the city center.  Now there is a giant park inside the moat.  It is a beautiful park with lots of large trees, walking paths, amusement park rides, a zoo, tons of rentable transportation...bumper boats, paddle boats, those balls you run inside of on the water...all kinds of things.  We just walked around today taking stock of all the fun to be had later in the week.  We don't have anything to do until Thursday so we will have lots of time to visit the park. I do have some pictures of the park to post later.

Everyone is doing so good.  The boys just yammer back and forth and Han is starting to say a few words to us in English.  Just a minute ago he was trying to say something to us and got frustrated and grabbed our visual Chinese to English dictionary and looked it up.  He is such a smart one!  He has definitely learned to say Hungry and Tomorrow...yes it is a random combination! haha!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Ulysses!

I started the morning swearing that I was done eating carbs...my whole "lose weight in China" plan has been a bust...thank you noodles and fried doughnut sticks!  However, the buffet here was too carbolicious for me to refuse. 

We talked with Han through our guide and told him about Ulysses and asked him to be a good big brother and help Ulysses not be scared. 

Around 915 we met in the concierge level and headed to the adoption center.  Since Ulysses was coming from Fuyang he wasn't there yet.  There were some Italian families getting younger girls from Hefei and they were there already and crying at full volume!  After about 15 minutes, Ulysses got there.

He walked in looking extremely cute and immediately when he saw us he got a terrified look on his face...he was about to lose it.  Keith and I shot into emergency distraction mode...out came the stuffed panda, the toy cars and hard candy...go go go.  It didn't take much to get him laughing and smiling. 

Han jumped in too...taking pictures, playing cars with us and talking to him in Mandarin.  I think Han is just excited to have someone to talk to!  I was so proud of both my new boys...laughing, playing, and giving mom hugs like they are suppose to!  Strangely, the orphanage had brought the translator computer, some foley bags, diapers, a change of clothes, some snacks for him to eat later and 2 bottles of milk.  I haven't ever had that happen before!

I seriously can't believe how darn lucky I am.  Ulysses is full of JOY.  He has seriously not stopped smiling or laughing or just enjoying everything. 

We got back to our hotel room and I gave him a bath...I know the whole adoption world says don't do that, but I wanted to check out and see if he still had a bed sore, see if his AFO's were rubbing his feet wrong, see what kind of foley bag he had...that kind of stuff.  Also, his shoes and AFO's were without socks and it was a whole new kind of stinky feet smell...uggg.

I can not even tell you how much he enjoyed the shower...he just laughed and splashed!

There is a noodle house in our hotel and we headed there after the shower.  His AFO's were rubbing a small place on his foot raw and smelled so bad that they are now wrapped in a plastic bag.  He is still able to get around...I think the AFO's just make it a little bit easier.  He was already visibly getting tired of ambulating by the time we got back to our hotel from the registration center.  So we pulled out our super cool EZ Rider.  I was worried that he would not think a wheelchair would be cool.  He is so excited to walk so I was worried he wouldn't want anything to do with it.  On the contrary, as is consistent with this joy-filled little boy...he was ecstatic to climb in get buckled and roll down the hall.

The floor of the hotel is set up with the elevator in the middle and a giant square hallway that goes around the elevator area.  When we got to the square dad took off running around the square one way with Ulysses and his EZ Rider and Han took off the other way in a loud raucous race!  Oh the squeals of laughter!

We had a delicious and carbed out lunch of noodles, rice and tea.  We came back up to the room and the boys played some games and now we are watching some crazy cartoon on tv that involves moped riding pigs that turn into battling birds. 

We are so darn lucky. 

Ulysses the pictures





Saturday, May 24, 2014

The evolution of pictures

I have followed along with many an adoption blogs in my time...maybe hundreds.  There is something in the evolution of the pictures of the kids.  The gotcha day and the first couple of weeks of pictures most of the kids have the same kind of dazed look.  Then slowly, the children blossom into smiley family kids. 

As I was looking though our pictures today, I realized that Han totally has that look.  He is trying so hard to take care of us and be a good son, but he is really a scared little boy under so much stress.  I remember our previous adoptions, the kids slept a lot.  Most of the pick up trips were literally scoop and fly home trips and the kids slept almost the entire way home...hours and hours.  Han has been sleeping almost nonstop.  Naps, early bed times.  Even though he is almost 14yo, he is just like the little kids in so many ways. 

Of course, there are a lot of ways he is a teenager too.  I have been hit so many times today by things that remind me that even at 14yo...kids are still just kids!

I can't wait to get home and start the hard work and start getting to that silly, happy little boy that I know is in there.  Oh yeah and start working on manners...egads the slurping up of things right off of his plate is going to make me crazy in the next 2 weeks!

Sightseeing in Beijing

We started off today in a not so promising way...it was pouring rain and Han was in the bathroom with explosive tummy problems.  He would not have been my first choice as to who would be the first one to get sick on our trip!

We launched into immodium therapy and busted out the Thieves Spray from Young Living.  Within a couple of hours the weather improved dramatically and so did Han!  In fact, the weather was perfect for today.  It was cool and misty with a few showers of very light rain.  There was a small wind and perfect temperature. 

We left around 930 and headed to Tiananmen Square and enjoyed the sights.  It was interesting to hear the description of the 1949 "liberation" from our Chinese guide.  My favorite historical tidbit from today was that Mao actually wanted to be cremated, but the state went against his wishes after his death and preserved him in his mausoleum for the people to come worship him.  I wander what he would have though about that!

Then we headed over to the Forbidden City.  There were so many buildings involved in the compound...the sheer magnitude of buildings was impressive and just the size of the compound itself.  It was an interesting trip.

The best part of the trip was after the Forbidden City.  We went to an older part of the city near the forbidden city...I totally forget the name..I think it was Hutang but I am not sure.  We left our car and took rickshaws through the little alleyways to a "common person's" home for lunch.  It was very interesting.  While we were at the Forbidden City, our guide kept saying that it was set up to mirror the common people's home.  Ok...I saw a little resemblance.  There was a main entranceway and a courtyard.  There were little rooms built all around the very small courtyard.  This particular home, in addition to being a "certified" tourist home also raised competitive carrier pigeons.  The little dining room had pictures up of his prizewinning pigeons and close up pictures of their eyeballs.  Not withstanding the eerie d├ęcor...the food was super delicious.  I swear I have eaten so much pork since I have been here.  I don't usually like pork, but there is a lot of it around here.  It is also very good..it is ground up really fine and made into little porkballs.  I am a fan. 

After the dinner we rode the rickshaws back to our car.  I am not usually the rickshaw type of girl but there was something very nice about it today with the weather.  Although I must admit - I guess I don't really know a rickshaw type girl is! 

After lunch we went to a tea house and had a very educational tea experience.  In an uncharacteristic move, I also bought a little tea mug and some tea that I liked.  The lunch and teahouse were my favorite part of the day.

Once we were back in the room we played some Uno, watched some Scooby doo and now some sort of Chinese cartoon that is cracking me up.

We will hit the noodlehouse next door tonight.  Tomorrow we head for Hefei.

Sightseeing in Beijing...the pictures!






Friday, May 23, 2014

Our last day in Shiajiazhuang

 We started the day with some delicious starchy breakfast at the hotel and then headed up to the table tennis room.  Han has some fancy moves despite the fact that his vision is waaaaay worse than I thought it was going to be.  I wasn't keeping track of the points but I am pretty sure that Han won! 
After Ping-Pong we packed up and headed out.  This is the picture of the Shiajiazhaung Railroad station.  It is very new and very huge.  I was impressed.
 Once we got back to Beijing we checked back into the Dynasty Sunworld Hotel.  The room was so much smaller than the hotel at Shiajiazhuang that we literally couldn't find room for our luggage!  After we found aplace for our luggage we headed for the noodle house.  Right next door to the hotel, delicious, and super cheap!
Tomorrow morning we head to Tiananmen square and the Forbidden City.  I am going to do some fast research on what we are going to see tomorrow so I can get the most out of our sightseeing adventure.  I have come to one big conclusion...I am not a big city girl.  I dislike smog and traffic. 

Han is doing really well.  He loves to talk and talks nonstop with our CCAI rep when he is with us.  He is a little resistant to speaking English.  I suspect he understands more than he lets on...he just doen't want to try to speak it because lets face it....it is a hard language! 

His vision is sooo bad he has to hold things way up to his eyes to see and he holds it above his eyes...like at the level of his forehead to try to focus on it.  He has such a good disposition.

I remember when we adopted Zeb and even the girls.  When we picked them all up and travelled home it was lots of eating and lots of sleeping for them.  He is the exact same way.  I don't think he is nutritionally deficient...I think he is just a teenage boy.  Despite him being older than our other kids...he is sleeping a lot.  I think it is a response to the stress of all this change.  I find it very interesting. 

The Great Wall...the story

We woke up in the middle of the night last night...around 3am because of the joys of jetlag.  We took that opportunity to Skype with the the kids...which was really great.  They were playing with the little toys we put away for my mom to give them every night.  that was fun to see.  I am really glad we did that.  We talked for a few minutes then distracted them with telling them to go get a snack after we said bye. 

We took another little nap and then got ready for a day at the Wall.  We finished early so we wandered around the area near our hotel and found a 7-11 and Beijing's odlest Catholic church....who knew!  There was a group of women doing what I think was Tai Chi in it's courtyard.

 
After wandering around for a while we met our CCAI guide and headed out the Great Wall.  It took about 45 minutes to drive there and I wish I would have taken some pictures of the transportation oddities I witnessed.  There were all sizes and shapes of mopeds with multiple passengers on them, pulling trailers of unusual sizes.  One of my favorites was a man on a moped pulling a wooden trailer with a push lawnmower on it and 2 other bicyclists flanking him and holding the lawn mower in place.  There was a woman on a moped with a giant propane tank under her feet....I don't know how that could go wrong...eek!
 
Some things at the wall I didn't expect.  I knew there was a mountain involved at the wall, but I didn't know I was going to actually  be scaling 3000 feet of uneven stairs.  Part of the fun after we climbed to our stopping point was watching the stairs as people crossed the top of that layer and the hilarity of their exhaustion, panting, and unusual methods of staying cool.  I have never, until today, seen a man roll up the bottom of his button up shirt and make a halter top.  Well done crazy man who had to be from Germany...well done.
 
From the Great Wall we went to eat at a restaurant that was above a ming vase factory.  I had no idea how those vases were made.  I won't go into detail but it might turn up in our curriculum next year.  It was neat. 
 
We drove by the Olympic Park on the way back to our hotel.  I am not a big fan of the Olympics...ok..I never watch the Olympics.  I think my distaste for the Olympics stems from it pre-empting all of my favorite TV shows when I was younger.  I am just not a sports afficianado.  Keith knew all about it...I'm not sure how since we were married at the time and I wouldn't let him watch the Olympics.  He must have been sneaking around with another tv watcher.  I can forgive.
 
We got back to our hotel around 3 and now old man Keith is napping.  We had a super day and the next post has some pictures of our jaunt to the Great Wall.  We initially were going to skip the wall, but we ended up having an extra day in Beijing so threw this trip on our itinerary at the last minute.  I am glad we were able to do it.  We will be back in Beijing on Friday and doing some sightseeing on Saturday.  I will let you know where the Great Wall stands on my very limited must do's during a China Adoption Trip!

Karyn Purvis Insights and Gifts - sharing power