Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Making the most of every inch...

We live in a townhouse. It's a nice townhouse, we have quiet friendly neighbors, and it's on a dead-end street that leads to a secret path and a field full of blackberry treasure and winter adventure walks. Someday we'll have a place with actual space around it, maybe a few acres to grow some food and build a treehouse or two. For now, it's awfully nice to never mow a lawn or worry about leaving our house empty with all our travels.

So, all that aside: it is feeling tiny lately. I wonder how well it will function with another little set of feet running around. I have always wanted the boys to be able to play outside but because our unit is at the entrance driveway of the complex, it's not possible for them to play freely in front.

The back, well, the back has been like this for 8 years:
This is actually the tidied-up version.
There were spider webs from the 80's up in there,
little spider VCRs plugged and set to record Cheers.

Hey, if you look past OUR deck, you can see that the neighbor's is pretty cute. 
That HOA-provided bark mulch on the ground is the stickery kind (that's my Eeyore voice right there).
So doing something with the porch has been a theme conversation in our house since the first day we walked through it. At one point when the boys were littler we had a rocket-shaped chicken-wire fort dug into the dirt. Another year we had a sand bin, but two year-old Isaac would not stop eating by the shovel-full it so we threw that out. After that, it pretty much became a lousy unused space for close to 3 years. Every once in a while I would raise my head, grumble a bit about it sucking back there, then get distracted and not do anything to make it better.

This summer, with a new kid coming to our space, I am finding my need to make every inch count has finally spurred me to action. Lots of action. I mean, I cleaned out the whole pantry cabinet, our big living room sideboard, re-did part of our homeschool. People, I taught the boys how to alphabetize using our whole kids dvd collection as the practice zone. I'm a little obsessed. The nesting has pushed out into the porch rather than into a specific room for her since she'll probably start out in our room anyway.

So adding to the chairs and an umbrella we had bought (but never put in a holder or raised), I found a cute outdoor rug at Walmart and a few other fun things at TJ Maxx.

The main porch is just about complete, and we have been using it every night. This is a great thing, a new space! Isaac in particular loves being out here.

I figured it was as good as it would get, since the part of the yard off the deck is a dirty weedy stickery mess slowly being washed away by lousy gutters when it rains. Then yesterday I made a great find at IKEA: they have plastic snap-together decking in packs of 9 for $25. It turns out I could have gotten away with one pack, but having two makes the space look better/larger.

Now that it's on the internet I realize the pattern is
not in keeping with my usual OCD tendencies.
And I'm not going to fix it. Well, not tonight, anyway. 

Those of you concerned with physics and flammable objects should know we haven't actually lit the BBQ in around 4 years so the ridiculously overgrown shrub and our A/C intake is in no danger... yet. I am thinking of ripping out the sadly hollow-backed bush (take that, Gwen Stefani!) so we can put the bbq in its spot and actually, y'know, cook stuff on it. Maybe we could even cultivate some grown-people friends to invite over. Anything is possible.

Clowns added for size comparison.

Hunting and gathering

We're deep into adoption preparation. I accidentally spent the bulk of the last two days dragging the boys around doing errands to complete our packing list.

At the start of the day, brothers.
Today we braved Goodwill, looking for books they can take to Grandma's house while we're gone and for cute things for our daughter.
We were successful at Goodwill.

The register malfunctioned, inputting the SKU number rather than the dollar amount. I was kinda impressed that Toby figured that out just by glancing at the back of the book we were buying. I'm slowly catching on that you have to find the humor in all these little things in adoption. Doing it in day to day life is good practice for me as a parent and for them as my kids.

The total for the things I could thoroughly justify buying for our trip.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The final weeks of waiting...

... have not gotten any easier. We're busy cleaning up from three weeks of music camp, organizing next year's homeschool, and making travel arrangements. Busy is a close proximation of comfort at this point.

I wonder how her foster family feels just now, and whether they have grown to dread the day they have to leave her at the Child Welfare Institute. We won't meet them; the hand-off is performed by orphanage workers. Maybe the fosters are experienced, and have the right metric of loving care + personal preservation intact so they're able to help children make this transition again and again. I hope the bittersweet knowledge that she will have a family is a comfort to them.

There are so many things I don't want to miss for her. What if we forget to ask something that could become important to her when she's older? I've been trying to research and find out what the parents who have done this and who have grown children now would do if they were new like us. You can ask for information about the leaving spot, the note (if any), pictures of the child on that day. People don't always get them and they don't always get even enough to find a family later. It would be such a shame to miss out on information she will want because we simply didn't think to ask. I trust our agency (Holt) but still, the responsibility for so much of this lies with us.

We're going to try to post a laminated picture that announces to her city (of 10.2 million) that she will be okay. That her surgery was a success and she'll have a family who can care for her, and that someday we will come back to visit all together. Her beginning will always be a part of her, and while I never understood this when I read other adoptive parents' words, I believe I already love all of her. It might be harder later as a mom and a human being, but right now I hope she does want to embrace China and find the beauty in its relationship with her.

Our plane tickets are purchased, our first few nights in Hong Kong reserved. Now to prepare the boys' school work and little gifts to open at Gramma's while we're gone... just 17 days left.

My expression when I learned there is more paperwork to be done in China! (and that there are at least two Starbucks within walking distance of our hotel in every city we'll visit...)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Travel Approval!

We have travel approval! We should be in the mid-August group and will find out for sure within the next 48 hours as Holt hears back about our necessary visa appointments. That's the very last bit, the last cog to turn before we buy tickets and lose what's left of our minds.

We've been waiting so long, it is an odd mix of emotions now that we're finally here.

Becoming a parent of three kids is a big change. We've had people tell us it's much more than going from one to two. The boys are old enough now (6 and 8) to entertain themselves, to be helpful and to have glimmers of self-sufficiency. Our first adoption... our first girl... and to have her join us at almost two years old...

Preparing for it is kind of like preparing for the first time leaving home. You can ask people all the right questions, read all the right books, take the classes, and still have no idea what you will really need. She will be unique, and our big day (week, month, year) will be unlike any of the others we've seen described.

One thing I know. Adopting adds layers to the anticipation of a new kid; travel, more paperwork, having a baby in a hotel, meeting a child with expressible opinions and set needs about which we will have no idea. Our daughter will need a thorough check with a specialist when we get her home. She probably won't need further surgeries, but she could. Sometimes kids in the special needs program have other issues as yet undiagnosed. There is simply no preparing for any of this.

We're going to call her Primrose.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Allllmost leaving. Allllmost home.

We are supposed to travel about a month from today. If all goes as our agency expects, we'll need to be in her city (Wuhan) by Monday, August 18th to meet her. To take her with us. To start caring for her in person, with our actual hands and feet. It's like that part of a mega roller coaster where it's ratcheting up the hill, jerking and clicking along, building anticipation in the region of your lower abs.

I watch the videos on YouTube. Search "China Gotcha Day" on there and pull up a box of tissues. I really love the ones that show the people become a family and then go on to show the next year of the new member's life. The changes in their bodies, their health, their lively eyes. The way they become at home.

What will our day be like? Will she cry and struggle to get away? I imagine my boys would have, had they been handed to a foreign family just months before their second birthdays. I can't go too far down that road, actually, or I get weepier still.

We're going to cheat and bring her treats, bring ipods, bring all sorts of distraction tools. Someday when we look back, I wonder already which things will stick out. Which will be important because they showed the core of her personality from the start? It's a lot to have entrusted to a couple of average parents. I'm so grateful we'll have a lot of years to wrap our minds around the depth and richness of that blessing.

Here she is! Matching outfit, beautiful little human.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The tri-annual catch-up post

All of us in Tualatin, Oregon
 Well hello there! In keeping with my blog tradition, it has been years since my last post. I thought I ought to dust off this old thing in order to be able to post about our current big thing: adopting a daughter from Wuhan, Hubei, China.

 Our daughter is beautiful, smiling for her foster family in her pictures like the well loved child she is. We were given a video of her at barely a year trying to sit on a plastic horse, and pictures of her at 1 1/2 walking gleefully outdoors in a thick pink matching outfit. She was born with digestive tract malformations that caused her to need surgeries at the age of just a few days old. We haven't even met her, yet I ache thinking of her family having to relinquish her, whatever the circumstances.

Isaac in Florida
China Special Needs was not the first adoption program we tried. We nearly adopted a relative from foster care about 6 years ago, but the timing fell apart as Isaac made an appearance instead. We also signed on with a domestic agency for a while, then a local attorney, all of which netted us zero and made me feel we were competing with infertile couples, to be honest.

A friend recommended in January of 2013 we look again at international, and Holt's programs in particular. Our daughter was actually born right around that time! For those who might be adoption savvy, we now have our i800 approval and are waiting on Article 5 and Travel Approval. If my extensive googling is correct, we might be on a plane in the next 6 to 8 weeks.

 A quick run-down of the rest of our family life:

We are now fully committed homeschooling weirdos. We do Classical Conversations, a homeschool community, once a week during the school year and tons of stuff related to our family's travels and interests. It is great, and Toby who is 8 now loves reading so much we had to make a rule about closing books whenever one is walking about. (He came a bit late to reading and then took it in all at once, so I am still a bit in awe of the development.)
Isaac's Homeschool Group
J is working in law but has experimented with two different jobs since last we spoke, including toying with starting his own firm. His current position seems the perfect balance of freedom and income. He can do the work just about anywhere and it is nice to find a firm that is okay with that.

J and I started running about a year ago and ramped it up when we decided to start scuba diving. We did a 10k in January and the Vancouver USA Half Marathon last month. I thought I didn't like races (I am double-digit-minutes-per-mile slow and am about 30% overweight still) but was surprised how much I liked it. My dad, a long-time Marathon and ultra-Marathon runner, has been a great source of training advice/info and did the half with us. It was on father's day; perfect!

I'm still running a small music academy and performing. Today we're heading to the Oregon coast for a chamber music festival where I get to play Brahms and Schubert. Also Hummel, but I'm not sure yet whether that piece falls in the "get to" or "have to" category... That's all the news that's fit to blog for now. I plan to update with adoption news in particular, but I've made blog promises before...
Toby and Isaac at an old tungsten mine in Montana
Hope to see you around here soon!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

I love Adoption stories...

This article was linked today on a conglomerator blog I like to read. The author is part of a reformed theology conference we attended a few months ago, though he didn't speak at the Oregon event.

I like the perspective of this father, and I love adoption stories of any kind. His family includes several children added the "old fashioned way" before they adopted a baby from Russia.
But when the sentence changes from "We're going to have a baby" to "We're going to adopt," things change. All of a sudden the qualifications of good marriage, sufficient income and a home aren't enough. All of sudden, we need to look at the facts.

and this is beautiful:
We had faith in the God who loved us enough to adopt us, sins, scars, imperfections and all, into his holy family. We had faith that just as he knew each of our children before they were born, he knew that Mary was for us, even though she was conceived and born in a different country, by different birth parents.

In our specific situation, we're waiting for our minivan fund to come together and then we'll be moving forward. At this point we're thinking a domestic adoption will be the best choice and we've started gathering paperwork and are researching the options available. Every once in a while when reading statistics about African orphans our thoughts & hearts sway that way, but then we remember the expense and the travel involved, and the stories of kids waiting in foster care are also inspiring.

"We even asked each other, why are we considering this?... But we are not alone. God has given so many others a heart that is sensitive to the needs of the orphans. Some satisfy that sensitivity by providing the finances necessary to make adoptions happen, some build orphanages, some give clothing, some pray without ceasing."

He writes about being grateful. Grateful for a loving God, for the opportunity to have these two daughters in his family, for people who are willing to adopt other children.
"...And, if that is not you, pray about supporting those in your church who are doing this. If you can't do that, pray for them! Love the children they adopt. I can tell you that six years after adopting Mary, and three years after adopting Ana, none of us would trade our family for another. We praise the Lord for his grace and the blessing of adoption - first into God's eternal family and then for permitting us the privilege of picturing this in our earthly family. There is no greater joy. Adopt."

Friday, April 08, 2011

Loud and Proud

So about the homeschooling kick I'm on...

Here's my trajectory, laid out so I can remember because I already find myself forgetting how I came to think of it as remotely possible in the first place.

I read Anthony Esolen's Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child, which I believe I found by bopping around the "Customers Also Bought" links on Amazon. That raised some good points about education and started me thinking about what I hope for my boys to learn.

Then I read a whole bunch of stuff on teh webz and from the lie-barry. Some useful, some fascinating in a wow that's differnt kind of way.
Somewhere in there, more toward the second category if I'm honest, I read the Duggar's book. Yes, those Duggars. While I don't agree with the quiverfull movement (i.e. having a jillion kids because you believe God commands it) as theology, there's something to the openness with which they live their lives that I find admirable.

There will be things I do in my life which won't find approval from the majority of people. They will think I'm small-minded, provincial, perhaps even a "neanderthal" as one of my colleagues has said about women who stay home. Well, we're adopting. We're Christians. We are looking at homeschooling. There are mistakes to be made, and I'm going to set out and make them without hiding what I think or just plain hiding. I hope I don't swing too far the other way and err toward squashing others in the process, but I'm done with worry silencing me.

Dave Ramsey reminded me of a quote today at a seminar full of great quotes:
"To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing. ~Aristotle"

... and of course “The fear of man lays a snare,” the Bible says, “but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe” (Proverbs 29:25).

The fear of man is a somewhat Christianese phrase, but it is such a great concept, and encapsulates one of the primary differences between a Gospel-centered theology and one based falsely on ideas of prosperity, ease and blessing belonging to Christians in their worldly lives. Being driven by prosperity gospels and even bless-perity gospels lead Christians to be all sorts of jerks to their fellow humans. I like how Piper describes our longing to worship the blessings rather than the God giving them:

"We all make a god out of what we take the most pleasure in. Christian Hedonists want to make God their God by seeking after the greatest pleasure—pleasure in him.

By Christian Hedonism, we do not mean that our happiness is the highest good. We mean that pursuing the highest good will always result in our greatest happiness in the end. We should pursue this happiness, and pursue it with all our might. The desire to be happy is a proper motive for every good deed, and if you abandon the pursuit of your own joy you cannot love man or please God."

Totally unrelated to the post, I giggled when I saw that googling "fear of man" gives you an option of googling "fear of
mannequins". Let's face it: they are creepy, creepy indeed.

Tap tap tap...

Is this thing on?

I just read the stale old posts left here, and realized I'd like to get back to this whole blogging schtick.

Updates are: We left that church we were going to after 2 years there. We wish them well, but I am much happier at our new digs. We've been reading the Bible a lot more in the last 18 months or so, and went to the Desiring God conference, and a few other reformed theology conferences. I hope to write more about this stuff, but if you're looking for good podcasts I recommend Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church, Dr. John Piper, and a whole bunch more. Start with Marky D's doctrine series- it's very good. Perfect length for listening on the treadmill, too.

I'm thinking of homeschooling. In related news, we bought some hermit crabs, I'm making a fort out of a huge truck hubcap and curly willow, I like canning vegetables, and if I had a zillion dollars I would buy a small farm slash compound. You'd be invited, but only if you promise to shoot me on sight if you see me wearing floor-length denim skirts with white tennis shoes (my first ever homeschooling joke, you're welcome).

Isn't there a blog around here somewhere?

Isaac turned 3 and has developed a fascinating array of facial expressions. Many approximate real faces people make. All are more dramatic. Like William Shatner in face form.

At the end of the summer we plan to adopt. A human, not a habit or a theology or a pet. Though those sound (mostly) simpler.