7 Quick Takes #49

Welcome to another week’s notes on our family life, including an update on our adoption process for “Valentine” (not his real name), the 10-year-old orphan from Eastern Europe that we hosted last summer (though it’s not particularly exciting news).

This isn’t an official 7 Quick Takes because Kelly at This Ain’t The Lyceum isn’t hosting 7QT for Advent, but I’m in the habit of writing weekly and I don’t want to fall off the bandwagon.

  1.  We’ve nearly made it through the first week of Advent.  As in years past, we have our Advent wreath set up and we’re singing a verse of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” before dinner instead of our usual grace.  This year, for the first time, we’re doing the Holy Heroes Advent Adventure–a free, low-prep daily program aimed at kids ages 5 to 12 (perfect, as I’m doing them with a 5-year-old and a 12-year-old).  We got a lot out of the Holy Heroes Lenten Adventure so we were all excited to start the Advent version, and it hasn’t disappointed us.  Although we don’t do all of their suggested activities, both my boys enjoy the videos and we’re doing a paper Jesse tree on our living room wall.  We are all learning from our participation.
  2.  Advent is a time of waiting, of hopeful expectation.  For all three of my children, I was pregnant during Advent, waiting for the child growing inside me to be born.  Now we are in the adoption process during Advent, waiting for all the paperwork to be complete so we can travel and meet Valentine again, waiting for everything to be done so we can bring him home with us.  The Advent experience is enhanced when you’re waiting for a child to join your family.
  3.  We celebrated Saint Nicholas Day on Wednesday.  It’s another of those little holidays that are fun to add in; we celebrated it last year but I think that was our first year.  Even Clara got candies in one of her little shoes; she enjoyed sucking on the candy cane (which I held onto for safety and to prevent a sticky mess).  Simon was thrilled with the gold-foil-covered chocolate coins.  I used to get them in my Christmas stocking as a kid and I didn’t care much for them, but at least now I understand why they are traditional (the story is that Saint Nicholas threw bags of money through a poor widower’s window at night so that his three daughters could have dowries to get married, and the money landed in their shoes that were set out to dry by the fire).
  4.  Winter has arrived.  Although we got a good dump of snow at the end of October, most of November was remarkably mild for around here and the majority of the snow melted.  I savored the ease of getting around while it lasted, knowing it wouldn’t be for too long.  A winter storm hit here Monday night, bringing snow and high winds, and causing school to be cancelled Tuesday and Wednesday.  We’ve had a good amount of snow every day since.  Peter was not happy that homeschool lessons weren’t cancelled too, even though I reminded him of the many times that he hasn’t had lessons when school was in session (the most obvious being that we start our homeschool year a week after the public schools start and that he went to his grandparents’ house for a week in October).  I can’t say I’m thrilled to be clomping through snowdrifts in my big black winter boots again.
  5.  We’re still adjusting to a one-nap-a-day schedule for Clara.  Unfortunately, Peter’s band class at the middle school starts at 1:44, which is when Clara ought to be napping.  When she was napping twice a day, I was dropping Peter off early, around 1 o’clock, and he was hanging out in the library until it was time for his class.  However, if she doesn’t nap in the morning, she’s too tired to make it home without falling asleep, and then it’s iffy whether or not she’ll go back to sleep after I carry her inside (especially with icy wind whipping her in the face between the garage and the house–I can see the appeal of having an attached garage).  Peter already doesn’t get home until around 4:30; with certain lessons that he needs to do at home and with lunch, it just doesn’t seem very do-able to drop him off even earlier.  So instead, I’ve been putting Clara down for a nap around 10:45 so she can get a couple hours of sleep before we take Peter to school, leaving here around 1:15 to get him there about 1:30 (with a little fudge time so he’s not late if the roads are bad).  That means that Clara sleeps through lunchtime, so I need to feed her after we get home from dropping Peter off, which means she’s eating lunch around 2 o’clock (I do give her a snack before we go).  Having to feed Clara when we get home has messed up doing lessons with Simon in the afternoon.  Then on Fridays, the boys have swimming lessons at 11:30, and on Sundays, Mass is at 10:30, so she can’t nap on a consistent schedule all week.  The whole situation is not ideal, but I don’t know how else to make it work (other than pulling Peter out of band, but I don’t want to do that to him).
  6.  In adoption news, yesterday we received ten apostilled documents in the mail.  It took three and a half weeks from when I mailed them to Lansing until we got them back.  We’re waiting for a second package of apostilled documents that we sent just after Thanksgiving; presumably we should have them by Christmas.  Once we have those, the only thing we will need to complete our dossier is a notarized, apostilled copy of our USCIS approval (we’re not expecting to receive the approval until January).  Once we get the USCIS approval, we’re planning to drive two hours to a state office where we can walk in to get it apostilled the same day so we can get our dossier to Valentine’s country without any further delay.
  7.  In this season of giving, if you feel moved to donate towards our adoption, it would be much appreciated.  Donations to our Reece’s Rainbow Family Sponsorship account are US tax-deductible.  We currently have $2640 in our account–it’s such a wonderful feeling to see our account grow and know that friends, family, and even strangers are supporting us in this endeavor.  A gift of any amount qualifies you to contribute a picture to our Hearts for Valentine photo collage poster.

Thanks for reading!


I will be the first to admit that I am not a master of time management.  Yet, over the years that I have been a stay-at-home mom, I have learned a few things and developed some systems that work for me, which I will now share in case they might be useful for someone else.

  1.  I have a short list of what I call my “core areas”: dinner, dishes, laundry, lessons.  I run through this list in my mind at various times during the day to remind myself what needs to be done.  I figure that if I keep up with these tasks reasonably well, I’m doing all right.  Everything else around the house gets done either when I notice that it needs doing or when we have company coming over.  Trying to schedule chores like cleaning the bathrooms or mopping the floor just ends up stressing me out when they don’t get done.
  2.  The “dinner” category includes everything related to food–making a weekly meal plan, putting together a grocery list, actually going shopping, making lunches, and preparing dinners.  I have a spreadsheet with lists of food that we like in various categories (soups, meatless, chicken, etc) that I refer to for inspiration when I plan meals.  During the week, I try to look a day or two ahead at my meal plan so I remember to do things like pulling chicken out of the freezer to defrost or starting a crock pot meal in the morning.  I only plan meals for Monday through Friday; Don usually takes care of weekend dinners.
  3.  I don’t think I have anything inspiring to say about dishes.  Fortunately, we have dishwasher.  (Once upon a time, we didn’t, and I was very grateful when God gave us one.)  We load dirty dishes into the dishwasher as we create them and run it when it gets full.  The designated dishwasher-emptier for the week unloads it when the dishes are clean.  Stuff that doesn’t go in the dishwasher piles up on the counter next to the sink, waiting to be hand-washed.  Even if I don’t have time to do all the dishes, I may wash a few of the larger items so that the pile doesn’t take over the counter.  Sometimes Don washes a few dishes while he’s waiting for something else in the kitchen, sometimes I deal with them, and sometimes I assign them to Peter as a chore.  If all the dishes get washed and the counter is clear at some point during the day, I consider that a success.
  4.  Laundry is an ongoing process.  We have two laundry baskets in the hall outside our bedrooms for everyone to put their dirty clothes into.  Colored clothes go in the green basket and whites go in the white basket.  When a basket gets full, I tote it downstairs to the laundry room.  Ideally, each load gets washed, dried, folded, and put away in one day, but in reality, I often have one or more baskets of clean clothes sitting on my bedroom floor waiting to be folded (I keep an extra laundry basket in the laundry room that I pull out when necessary).  Generally, I fold clothes while kneeling on the floor in my bedroom, making piles of clean clothes around me, grouped by family member.  When I am able to fold clothes with no kids around, I enjoy listening to podcasts, which makes the laundry-folding almost fun.
  5.  “Lessons” means homeschooling during the week, and prep on the weekend.  With my more flexible approach to scheduling this year (mentioned in this post I wrote about why this will be the best year of homeschooling yet), prepping on the weekend for the upcoming school week doesn’t take long (except for watching the training DVDs for Peter’s writing program, but I don’t have to watch them every week and I only need to watch them this year because it’s our first year using IEW).  Overall, I probably keep up the best with the “lessons” part of “dinner, dishes, laundry, lessons” because I prioritize my children’s education over having clean pots and folded underwear.
  6.  Establishing a morning routine has been helpful.  When we hosted “Valentine” (the 10-year-old boy from Eastern Europe that we are now in the process of adopting) this summer, I made a morning routine visual schedule for all three boys and posted it on the side of our refrigerator.  With clip-art illustrations, it’s easy for even non-readers and non-English-speakers to understand, and I can just point at it to remind kids to stay on track.  Tasks to be completed are: eat breakfast (which implies cleaning up afterwards), vitamins/medicine, get dressed, put pajamas in your dresser or the laundry basket (Simon has a habit of leaving them on the floor), brush teeth, comb hair, and unload the dishwasher or clean the kitchen/dining room floor if it’s your week (we rotate weekly between setting/clearing the table, cleaning the floor, and unloading the dishwasher).  During the week, I wake the boys up at 7:30 if they’re not up already.  They have until 9 o’clock to finish their morning routine, or else they lose 10 minutes of time playing on the Wii (which they can make up by doing an extra chore, if they choose).  If they finish their morning routine early, they have free time until 9.  On the weekends or days off of homeschooling, the timing is more flexible, but the same tasks need to get done.
    Morning routine

    The current version of our morning routine visual schedule.

    Chore wheel

    Our chore wheel showing who has which chore for the week.  I made it by attaching a large paper plate and a small paper plate with a brass fastener.  The outside wheel with the names rotates clockwise one spot each Sunday morning.  I originally made it for the three boys, then I took over Valentine’s spot when he left at the end of the summer.

  7.  Finally, I make sure to have some leisure time.  Years ago, I read Jennifer Fulwiler’s blog post on having the courage to rest.  When she sat down and tried to schedule out everything she wanted to get done, she realized that it simply wasn’t possible.  She needed to stop and rest, even if everything wasn’t done.  That message stuck with me.  I work hard every day.  Being a stay-at-home mom is way more than an 8-to-5 job.  But after the kids are in bed in the evening, even if there are dishes piled up or clean laundry is waiting to be folded, I take a break.  I need a little time to check out Facebook or watch Stephen Colbert with Don (we record it and watch it a day late so we don’t have to stay up).  These things help me stay sane.  I’ve been trying to make Sunday something closer to a day of rest.  I can’t take the day completely off of work, but I do try to make it different from the rest of the week more than just going to Mass in the morning.  I’ve designated Sunday as my day to get caught up with e-mails to family and friends.  Keeping up my relationships with those I care about is a rewarding way to start my week.

You can find more 7 Quick Takes here:


[Why this post instead of my usual assortment of 7 Quick Takes?  Yesterday evening, Clara and I went to a lovely Advent tea at a friend’s church.  We sat at a beautifully decorated table, ate too many treats, chatted with tablemates (or at least I did, while she tried to put cookie crumbs down my shirt), then went into the sanctuary for an Advent program with readings and singing.  Clara demonstrated her newly-developed walking skills for those sitting in the back (she just started walking on Saturday) while I watched her to make sure she didn’t get lost or cause too much of a distraction (to other people than me).  By the time we got home, I got her to bed, and got Simon to bed (both considerably later than usual), the thought of writing my 7 Quick Takes for the week had completely slipped my mind.  I didn’t have any notes from the week and I did have this draft, so I put this together on Friday morning while Simon and/or Clara interrupted me at least every five minutes and while trying to keep Peter somewhat on track with his schoolwork.  I am fully aware of the irony of writing about time management while doing a pretty lousy job of it.  Anyhow, there’s no new news on the adoption front and I hope to be back with my usual variety of notes about family life next week.]


Last Sunday was Christ the King Sunday.  It’s the last Sunday of the liturgical year.  Next Sunday is the first Sunday in Advent, the beginning of a new liturgical year.

(Side note: I couldn’t have told you when the liturgical year began until I was in my thirties.  Despite the fact that I went to church almost every week when I was growing up, despite attending Sunday school and vacation Bible school and confirmation camp, I feel like my religious education was lacking.  I had a solid grounding in the basics of Christianity as a child, but minimal guidance in how to continue learning and growing in my faith after I was confirmed in the Lutheran church at age 13.  If I had had a more thorough religious education, perhaps I could have avoided some of the many years of religious wandering that I experienced as an adult.  But that’s a story for another time.)

Last year, I did something I’d thought about doing but had never done before–I made two liturgical new year’s resolutions.  One was to put God first in my life and the other was to live the liturgical year.

Since I was a child, I had heard that God should come first in my life.  However, I didn’t see many people who really seemed to live that way, so I didn’t take it seriously.  At varying times in my life I gave varying priority to God, but I had never consciously made an effort to put God first.  I decided it was time to try it.

Last October, I read Jennifer Fulwiler’s book Something Other Than God, about her conversion from atheism to Catholicism.  As a long-time reader of her blog, I knew much of the basic story, but there were many additional details in her book that made it a worthwhile read.  One of the things she described (which wasn’t new to me) was how she reached a point in her faith journey when, although she wasn’t convinced, she decided to live as if there were a God.  Once she started doing that, everything seemed to fall into place and life made sense to her in a way it never had before.

While I certainly have not done it perfectly, my experience with putting God first over the past year has been similar to Jennifer Fulwiler’s experience living as if there were a God.  Changing my priorities has changed my life.  I returned to the Catholic church after pursuing other paths (Quaker/Friends and Lutheran) for the previous three years.  I have resolved long-time anxieties related to being a stay-at-home mom.  I am homeschooling two kids while keeping up with a toddler and I am not completely stressed out and exhausted.  We welcomed an older, minimally-English-speaking institutionalized orphan with (relatively minor) medical special needs into our home for the summer and are now in the process of adopting him.  I feel happier with my life and more at peace than I have in a very long time.  By giving my relationship with God the priority it deserves, everything else has fallen into place.

My second resolution was to observe the liturgical seasons and celebrate the special days on the church calendar.  I wanted to make faith a greater part of my family’s daily life.  I also wanted my kids to have some fun with their faith instead of just thinking that it’s about going to Mass and being bored.  As with putting God first, my attempt at liturgical living was far from perfect.  I did better with the seasons of Advent and Lent than I did with the feasts and holy days of obligation; the one-day events seemed to sneak up on me and take me by surprise.  I probably missed or failed at as many days as I celebrated, but I did take good notes for the next time around.  Incorporating the cycle of the church year into the rhythm of our family life was a valuable experience and I am expecting it to be better the second time around.

I am not making new resolutions for this upcoming liturgical year; I am going to continue living the same ones.  I look forward to sharing more special days with my family and seeing what God will do in my life over the next year.


7 Quick Takes #47

Thanks to Thanksgiving, I didn’t get my Quick Takes written last night (I usually write them Thursday evenings so I can post them first thing on Friday).  I was busy today, but I didn’t give up!  Here you go:

  1.  We had a pretty quiet Thanksgiving.  Some friends invited us over, so we split the dinner prep with them.  The highlight of the evening was going to their barn and checking out their animals–chickens, rabbits, and a horse.  The boys got to collect fresh eggs and bring them home.  Now we have more eggs than we know what to do with!  Don is planning to make French toast for breakfast tomorrow to use some of them up.
  2.  Our 2018 photo calendar arrived.  I made a photo calendar last year for the first time as a Christmas present for Don, and I decided to make another for next year.  I included photos of “Valentine” (the 10-year-old boy we hosted for the summer and are now trying to adopt) in June, July, and August–all of the photos I used were taken in the months they illustrate.  Valentine enjoyed looking at our calendar when he was here; as I worked on next year’s, I imagined how much it will mean to him to see himself on the calendar when he comes home.

    IMG_0313 small (1)

    Technology has profoundly changed our children’s lives.  When I was a kid, my brother and I took turns pulling each other around on blankets.

  3.  Making the calendar led to reflections on some of the differences in adopting after hosting.  I have read many adoption blogs over the years and something that has come up more than once is the importance of making it through the first year after homecoming.  When you start doing yearly things over again instead of for the first time (the second Thanksgiving, the second Christmas, etc), traditions are established.  The kids feel more comfortable as they have a better idea what to expect.  Since Valentine was with us for over two months in the summer, he will have that familiarity for certain events.  Assuming he’s home by the summer, he’ll get to celebrate my birthday for the second time, Canada Day/US Independence Day for the second time, and Clara’s birthday for the second time.  We’ll repeat many of the same summer activities, like going to the beach and the park.  However, once next fall starts, everything will be new again.
  4.  We finished the last pile of paperwork for our dossier (other than the USCIS approval, which we realistically won’t get until January).  We had nineteen documents notarized on Wednesday, then re-did two of them yesterday because they didn’t pass our facilitator’s scrutiny.  (We scan all our documents and e-mail them to her to check.)  They went out in the mail today to the State of Michigan’s Office of the Great Seal to be apostilled.  This is one of the times I’m glad to live in Michigan.  Some states charge $10 per document for apostilles, but Michigan only charges $1 each.

    IMG_0313 small (2)

    Clara modelling her new snowsuit.

  5.  The kids and I went to a Veterans Day ceremony at the local high school.  I forgot to mention it last week.  The day before Veterans Day, a Friday, was a half day of school and Peter had band in the morning.  Instead of dropping him off and having him take the bus home like usual, I took Simon and Clara to the shared public/school library while he had class, so I could drive him home afterwards.  I saw a number of students in JROTC uniforms in the gym across the hall and realized they must be preparing for a Veterans Day ceremony.  It turned out that the ceremony started about 10 minutes after Peter finished his band class, so I made the decision to stay for it.  The JROTC students led the ceremony, the high school band played the national anthem, the choir sang a patriotic song, there was participation by some of the elementary school students, and the ROTC rifle drill team members from our local university demonstrated their skills.  It was a solid community event.  However, as we headed home afterwards, I wondered what impressions my kids were left with.  Spiffy uniforms, shiny buttons and shoes, precision marching, ritualized flag-folding, and the whirling and tossing of rifles are all very impressive, but they don’t reflect the reality of war.  War is chaotic, frightening, and filthy, not immaculate and carefully scripted.  While I believe that it is appropriate to honor veterans, I prefer Canada’s name for the day–Remembrance Day, to remember those who served, those who died, and all those affected by war.
  6.  The boys’ swimming lessons are going well.  Getting them in the pool on a weekly basis is making a difference; both boys have shown improvement.  Simon can do a back float better than I can.  (I’ve never been able to do a back float.  It seems impossible that a person can just lie there on top of the water like that.)  The downside of swimming lessons is the timing.  I have to pack a lunch for us to eat hurriedly at the athletic center after lessons, before driving Peter to his band class.  Clara goes down for her nap later than usual after we get home and she is often so overtired that she won’t sleep at all.  (The logic by which overtired toddlers can’t sleep baffles me.)  It’s not ideal, but I do want Simon to learn to swim and I do hope Peter will eventually be able to pass the Boy Scout swim test so he can participate in more fun activities (for example, it’s a prerequisite for canoeing), so I’m putting up with it for now.
  7.  Clara pooped in the potty four out of five days this past week.  It’s such a great feeling to wipe her little bum with toilet paper, flush, and be done, instead of having to clean up a poopy diaper.  I’ve done elimination communication (EC) with all three kids since they were newborns.  I do pretty relaxed EC, not trying to “catch” everything but just making an effort to offer the chance to pee/poop outside of a diaper at least a few times a day.  Babies can learn to release much earlier than they learn to hold it.  In other words, if you offer them a chance to go, they will pee/poop out whatever they can at that time, but if their bladder/bowel gets full, what’s inside will just come out.  (I once impressed a nurse by how quickly and easily I was able to get one of my babies to provide a urine sample when they wanted to test for a UTI.)  The most consistently successful time to potty is right after waking up, and I’ve made going potty part of our getting-ready-for-nap/bed routine.  I offer the chance to potty when I do diaper changes but occasionally also when I notice that the diaper is still dry and it’s been a while.  For me, the benefits are fewer dirty diapers and an easier transition to actual potty training when they get older.  I wrote this post about EC when Simon was a newborn.  If this sounds crazy to you, feel free to ignore it, but if you’re intrigued and want to learn more, check out DiaperFreeBaby.

You can find more 7 Quick Takes here:


7 Quick Takes #46

In which we travel to Milwaukee on short notice, as part of the process to adopt “Valentine” (not his real name), the 10-year-old orphan from Eastern Europe that we hosted for the summer.

  1.  Last Friday afternoon, Don and I received notices in the mail to appear at an office in Milwaukee for the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) to capture our biometric information.  Having USCIS take fingerprints for everyone in the household who is 18 years old or older is a necessary step in an international adoption.
  2.  The appointments were scheduled for yesterday (Thursday) at 9 am.  I’m in a couple online adoption groups and based on what other people have said, I was expecting to have several weeks to a month’s notice from the time we received the appointment information until the actual fingerprinting.  Often, people will attempt to walk in to their local USCIS office to try to get their fingerprinting done earlier, if the office is not too busy and will accommodate them.  However, our “local” USCIS office is about a five and a half hour drive each way (not counting stops), so walking in was not an option for us; we figured we’d just have to wait until our actual appointment time.  It took us by surprise that we had less than a week’s notice from the time we received the notices until our appointments.  Unfortunately, the quick fingerprinting doesn’t necessarily mean that our application will be processed any sooner; the processing is done at a different office.
  3.  Despite the short notice, we pulled it off.  Because it’s such a long drive and our appointments were at 9 am, we had to go down Wednesday and spend the night.  However, Don had an important work event on Wednesday that he couldn’t miss.  We talked about having our appointments rescheduled, but we were concerned about how long we might have to wait if we did.  Eventually, we decided to leave in the early afternoon, after Don’s work commitment.  It wasn’t ideal, but at least we didn’t have to reschedule.
  4.  Times like these are when it’s actually helpful that Don travels fairly frequently for work.  He was able to use Marriott reward points to get us a one-bedroom suite in a Residence Inn (our favorite hotel brand, because they have full kitchens and hot breakfasts).  Staying in a one- or two-bedroom suite is the way to go when you stay in a hotel with kids.  Younger kids can be sleeping in one room while adults and older kids are awake in another room, with a closed door between them.  Otherwise, when you stay in a hotel room with little kids, you try to put them to bed and then sit around in the dark yourself so you’re not disturbing them.  Being able to stay in a well-furnished suite (that we otherwise wouldn’t spend the money on) when we have to go somewhere is a small compensation for all the days I spend solo parenting when Don’s out of town.

    IMG_0297 small

    Clara playing in the hotel crib while we were packing up.

  5.  The appointment itself went quite smoothly.  We allowed plenty of travel time between the hotel and the USCIS office, because we didn’t know how hard it would be to find the office and a place to park.  It turned out to be easy to locate and we found a free parking spot less than a block away.  We entered the building about 20 minutes before our appointment time, so we were among the first people with 9 o’clock appointments to check in.  Since they processed us mostly in the order in which we arrived, that meant we didn’t have to wait as long.  We were done and out of there before 9:30.  The women working there were friendly and efficient.  I was particularly impressed with the way one of them was engaging the kids (there were many there, including seven children in one family that was processed before us).  As native English speakers with US passports, we were certainly the oddballs in the waiting room.  I enjoyed seeing the diversity of people and I hope they all do well living in the United States.
  6.  The driving was the less-than-fun part of the trip.  By my rough calculations, we spent about two-thirds of our waking hours between 1 pm Wednesday and 9 pm Thursday in the car.  I tried to be prepared by buying snacks, bringing water bottles, and getting books and audiobooks from the library.  However, I forgot to bring headphones for Simon to listen to the audiobooks with, so he was stuck with an uncomfortable pair of earbuds that was in Don’s work bag.  He didn’t like using them, so he didn’t listen for long.  I was able to read him a few books, but I had to focus a lot of attention on Clara, who only napped for 45 minutes on the way down (her only nap of the day).  It probably wouldn’t have been such a difficult trip in the summer, but with the early nightfall (it was dark by 6 pm), the boys couldn’t see to look at books or play with toys; they were still wide awake and bored.  After our appointment, we let the boys swim in the hotel pool before we checked out, ate lunch, and headed for home.  In retrospect, we should have skipped the swimming.  The pool was cold, they didn’t enjoy it much, and it would have been better for us to get on the road earlier so we could get home earlier.  We were all tired from being up late on Wednesday and Don and I were particularly tired because Clara had woken up screaming at least a half-dozen times during the night (she doesn’t sleep well away from home).
  7.  This was just the first of many trips to Milwaukee for Valentine’s benefit.  The nearest children’s hospital to our house is in Milwaukee, so we plan to take him there twice a year to see a specialist for his medical condition.  From what little I saw of it, I liked Milwaukee; I’m sure I’ll get to know it better on future visits.  I just hope we can make the drive a little less like torture.

7 Quick Takes #45

  1.  I declared yesterday an NPR Day and we took the day off of homeschooling.  At one of the Catholic elementary schools where I taught in Ontario, the staff had a monthly after-school NPR meeting.  We ate snacks and socialized; it was a meeting for No Particular Reason.  One of my strategies for staying sane while homeschooling this year was to sprinkle a few NPR Days on the calendar.  I decided to skip the first one I had scheduled because it was when Peter was gone to his grandparents’ house for a week, so this was our first actual NPR Day.  The boys binged on tv and video games.  I dealt with adoption paperwork and organizing Clara’s clothes (putting away things she’s outgrown and pulling out larger sizes).
  2.  It was a great day to take off.  Peter didn’t have school (it was a half day and they were only having morning classes, thus no band), so he got to stay home all day to fully enjoy the NPR Day.  Not only that, but we had a lovely winter storm dump several inches of snow on us, while the wind whipped it around and the temperatures dropped to the single digits.  It was wonderful to not have to go out.
  3.   I also found some time to read yesterday.  I managed to finish Mission to Cathay, one of the books Peter read for his studies of China as part of Sonlight’s Eastern Hemiphere core.  The plot was surprisingly gripping and I had a hard time putting it down.  I don’t have time to keep up with reading all the books that Peter does for his studies, but I do try to read some of them.  I’m usually impressed with the quality of the books that Sonlight chooses.  Their literature-rich curriculum is a great fit for our book-loving family.
  4.  Clara’s Canadian citizenship certificate arrived!  It looks a lot like mine (I became a Canadian citizen in 2013–I was the last in our family to become a dual citizen), but it has a special Canada 150 logo because this year marks 150 years since Confederation, when Canada became a country.


    After my Canadian citizenship ceremony in October 2013.  Clara’s certificate has a Canada 150 logo where the red maple leaf is at the bottom of mine.

  5.  I’m still recovering from the time change.  Clara apparently misunderstood the concept, because on Monday, instead of sleeping in an hour, she got up an hour earlier than she usually would.  I suppose the bright side is that it felt like getting up at 6 am rather than the 5 am that the clock showed, but the downside is that it felt like I had been up until midnight the night before.  Now it gets dark so early in the evening that it’s demoralizing; at 6 o’clock you might easily think it’s the middle of the night.  At least it’s better than when we lived in Alaska; the extremely long hours of darkness there in the winter were harder to deal with than the cold and the snow.
  6.  I’m declaring Clara’s official first word as “up.”  She waves bye-bye, she reaches out and says “myum-myum-myum” when she wants food, she often says “bup” when I’m changing her diaper (I’m not sure what it’s supposed to mean), and she tries to copy words that I say, but this is the first recognizable word that she used spontaneously.
  7.  Our Reece’s Rainbow FSP account is up to $2216.  We’re so grateful to everyone who has contributed, including two friends of my sister-in-law (people we’ve never met) who donated after she mentioned our adoption on Facebook.  If you’re active on social media, please consider sharing our FSP page or our Hearts for Valentine fundraiser page.  You never know which of your friends might feel led to help out.

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7 Quick Takes #44

It’s been a busy week!  Often I struggle to come up with my last few quick takes, but this week I had so much to say that I had to cut some out and combine some.  In addition to Halloween and the changing of the seasons, we reached an important milestone in our process to adopt “Valentine”, the 10-year-old boy from Eastern Europe that we hosted for the summer.

  1.  We got our home study!  The four notarized copies that we need (one for USCIS and three to send to Valentine’s country) arrived last Saturday.  With the agency’s application fee, home study fee, and “program/coordination fee” (whatever that means), the home study set us back $6000; it’s our biggest expense before we travel.   Because we live in a fairly remote area, there is only one state-licensed, Hague-approved agency that would prepare a home study for us.  Thus, we had to pay what they asked.
  2.  With our home study submitted to USCIS, we now wait for fingerprinting appointments.  The annoying part of this is that we must be fingerprinted at a USCIS office and we live in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, nowhere near any USCIS offices.  From my research online, it looks like we’ll have to go to Milwaukee, which is about a five-and-a-half-hour drive each way.  No matter when the appointment is scheduled, it’s not exactly going to be convenient for us.
  3.  Here’s my obligatory fundraiser plug.  (I think until this adoption is done, my 7 Quick Takes are going to be 6 Quick Takes plus a polite request for money).  You can make a US-tax-deductible donation towards our adoption expenses through our Reece’s Rainbow Family Sponsorship Program account.  Our FSP is currently just 20 cents short of $2000–who wants to bump it up over the $2000 mark?  After you donate, you can send me a photo for our Hearts for Valentine poster.
  4.  In non-adoption-related news, I shouldn’t have patted myself on the back last week for thinking about pulling out the kids’ snow gear before snow came.  Within hours of publishing my post last Friday morning (and before I pulled out the snow gear), the heavy rain that was falling turned into wet, heavy snow and didn’t stop for over 24 hours.  With some melt and more snowfall, we’ve had snow on the ground ever since.  Blah!  I was not ready for winter.  The first winter after we moved here, about three years ago, Don accused me of not embracing winter.  He’s right.  I don’t embrace winter, I endure it.


    This picture is from our tower cam last Saturday.

  5.  Of course, we didn’t have a snowsuit that fit Clara.  Near the end of last winter, it was a race against time.  It was a toss-up as to which would happen first–would winter end or would Clara outgrow her snowsuit?  When I finally went digging in the closet last week, I found that the smallest snowsuit we had that was not too small for her is a 24-month size and she was swimming in it.  I wasted time and energy driving around town last Saturday trying to buy her a snowsuit, but I wasn’t happy with the choices I found (there weren’t that many; it’s a fairly small town).  Then I spent more time and energy trying to find one to order online.  I finally chose one with the features I was looking for (one-piece with hand/foot holes that can be open or closed) that didn’t cost a small fortune and placed the order.  It arrived yesterday and fits her well; I’m sure she’ll be happy not to have to wear the way-too-large snowsuit anymore.
  6.  A white Halloween just doesn’t have the same sentimental appeal as a white Christmas.  We kept it pretty low-key this year.  I feel a little guilty for slacking in the costume department.  When I was a kid, my mom used to make me homemade Halloween costumes.  She let me choose what I wanted to be and then she made it happen.  I would pick out my costume idea months in advance and eagerly anticipate Halloween.  With Peter, I did about half-and-half between making him costumes and using store-bought costumes.  Simon, however, is the beneficiary of a large box of hand-me-down costumes that we have accumulated over the years.  He didn’t even know what costume he was going to wear at a quarter past four in the afternoon on Halloween day; that’s when I pulled out the box and told him to pick something.  He decided to be a knight (a good choice, because the costume easily fit over his coat and snow pants).  In my favor, however, I did buy a huge pumpkin (the biggest I’ve ever had) and the boys and I took a break from homeschooling to carve it on Halloween.  For trick-or-treating, we drove into town (we live out in the country) and hit up a rather hilly neighborhood.  Pushing Clara (wearing her overlarge snowsuit) in a stroller up a steep hill in the snow while my fingers were going numb and reminding Simon at every house to say “trick or treat” and “thank you”…great times.  He didn’t last too long, which was fine by me; it’s not like we need a huge pile of candy anyhow.  At the rate it’s being eaten, the candy will be gone before the weekend is over.
  7.  It has been a rough week due to Clara’s sleep schedule (or lack thereof).  I think she’s at the point where she needs to go to one nap a day, but she’s so off-schedule that it’s hard to implement.  She’s been waking up really early, so I feel like she needs a short morning nap or else she won’t make it until after we drop Peter off at school for band after lunch, then she fights the afternoon nap and won’t sleep, then she either takes her afternoon nap late and then goes to bed late or else she doesn’t take an afternoon nap and then crashes in the early evening.  Of course, since she’s not getting the sleep she needs at the right times, she’s been much fussier than usual.  Now we have the time change this weekend to confuse things even more.  I need to bite the bullet and just keep her up until the afternoon nap so she can get back on a reasonable schedule.  I’m not sure how we’re going to handle homeschooling in the mornings without her napping, but our afternoons have been so unproductive lately with her not sleeping that it will be helpful to get them back.

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