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!

Karyn Purvis Insights and Gifts - sharing power