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It’s been a busy week with real progress towards our adoption of “Valentine”, the 10-year-old boy we hosted over the summer, and some quality family time.

  1.  We’re getting closer to having all the documents we need for our dossier.  Don got a letter verifying his employment.  Like the medical paperwork and the proof of home ownership, the employment verification also wasn’t done properly the first time.  The date that the notary wrote that her commission expires did not match the date on her stamp, so we had to ask Don’s boss to have another copy of the letter notarized (a different notary did it, and did it correctly).  Our apostilled FBI clearances came in the mail.  They are the first actual, completed documents for our dossier; I sent them already because they had to be apostilled federally.  I’m waiting to finish gathering the other documents we need before sending them to be apostilled by the State of Michigan.  We’re still waiting for doctor to have the re-done medical paperwork notarized.  She was out of town this week, so I hope she’ll get it done next week.
  2.  Our required online training is done!  While there are a few things I could work on, for the first time in months, there’s nothing that I urgently need to get done to keep the adoption moving along.  I know I kept saying I would celebrate by making chocolate chip pumpkin bread, but I finished on Thursday afternoon and was too busy/tired to do it, so it hasn’t happened yet.  I’m salivating thinking of it, though…
  3.  Speaking of being tired, I haven’t been sleeping well.  In the past week, I had to get up with both Clara and Simon during the night.  I’ve been awake at 4 am at least three times–once because I was stressing about the paperwork and the timeline for submitting it, once I was crying because I had unpleasant dreams after completing the course on helping adopted children cope with grief and loss, and once because Simon somehow set an alarm for a quarter to 4.
  4.  We’re very grateful that we’ve received more contributions towards our adoption expenses.  We now have $1751 in our Reece’s Rainbow FSP account.  A generous donation was also given directly to us.  We truly appreciate the support, both emotional and financial, that we are receiving for Valentine’s adoption.
  5.  Our Hearts for Valentine fundraiser is ongoing.  Please check out my Hearts for Valentine page for details.  Friends, family, strangers…I want pictures from all of you!  Please participate!
  6.  We had a lovely Canadian Thanksgiving dinner.  My mother-in-law and teenage niece drove up (yes, we live north of the part of Canada where they live) for the weekend to celebrate with us.  My mother-in-law made a fabulous traditional turkey dinner; she’s a great cook and I’m happy to turn the kitchen over to her when she’s in town.  We’ve been feasting on the leftovers all week.
  7.  Peter has been out of town this week.  He left with my mother-in-law and niece when they headed back to Canada on Monday so he could spend the week with his grandparents.  I had dreams of all the things I was going to get done while he was gone, but I ended up facing the reality that taking care of Simon and Clara and all the housework still takes up a lot of my time and energy.  If I’d given Simon the week off of homeschooling, I could have gotten a lot more done, but I already skip subjects here and there with him when life gets busy and I know that our school year will be interrupted when we travel to Valentine’s country for the adoption, so I felt like I should do a full week of lessons with him.  The greatest benefit to having Peter gone is not having to drive him to school for band practice every day.  That made it possible for me to go grocery shopping during the day on Monday (since the school year started, I’ve been mostly grocery shopping in the evenings after Simon and Clara are in bed, which is less than ideal–it means that I don’t get a break in the evening but instead am up late).  I also took Simon and Clara to a park yesterday to enjoy the sunny weather.  The main downside of having Peter gone is that Simon talks to me and wants to play with me ALL DAY LONG.  When Peter’s here, at least he spends some time bugging Peter instead of bugging me.  Plus, while he’s not an adult, Peter is at least more mature company than a 5-year-old and a 14-month-old, and he can be helpful in watching the younger kids and doing chores.  All in all, I miss having him around.

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  1.  Our social worker gave us a verbal approval at our final home study meeting on Wednesday.  Hooray!  (Not that I was worried about being approved, but it’s taken a lot of work to get to this point.)  Now she needs to write up the actual home study.  She will be back in our area on the 18th, so she is hoping to have it done to drop off to us then.  Although I finished the home study paperwork, I still haven’t celebrated with the chocolate chip pumpkin bread I’ve been looking forward to.  I have about four more hours of online training I need to do; maybe I’ll make some to celebrate when I get that done.
  2.  I’ve been to our doctor’s office three times so far this week and our medical paperwork still isn’t done.  The medical forms for the home study are done and submitted, but only one of the three medical-related documents for our dossier that will be sent to Valentine’s country is done correctly at the moment (my medical form is good; Don’s form and the copy of the doctor’s license need to be re-done).  The forms are prepared correctly now; the doctor just needs to have them notarized again.
  3.  It took two trips to the county office building to get our proof of home ownership document.  Don spent about an hour there getting all the data needed and the right person to sign it and have it notarized.  Unfortunately, the notary wrote her name on the line for the name of the person whose signature she was witnessing, so I had to go down there and get them to re-do it.  This is another document that will be sent to Valentine’s country with our dossier.
  4.  My goal is to get caught up with everything that *I* can do so that I’m just waiting for other people to do their jobs.  Ever since we decided to adopt Valentine, I’ve felt the pressure to get the things I need to do done so that I don’t slow down the adoption process; Valentine belongs here with us instead of in an orphanage and the sooner we can get him back here, the better.  While I still have a fairly long list of things to do, we’re approaching a new phase in the process.  Once we get the home study from the social worker, we need to send it to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS); it’s the last thing we need to complete our Application for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition.  I plan to get everything else done while that’s being processed so that as soon as we get USCIS approval, we can send our dossier to Valentine’s country.
  5.  Our Reece’s Rainbow Family Sponsorship Program account has had another bump.  So far, just over $1664 has been donated towards our adoption expenses.  We’re so grateful for everyone who donates–every dollar helps!  We will receive 100% of donations made to our Reece’s Rainbow FSP account (minus Paypal fees for online donations) and they are US tax deductible.  Plus, if you donate, you can send me a picture to include in the photo collage poster that I’m going to make to hang on Valentine’s wall!  See my Hearts for Valentine page for details.
  6.  This is Canadian Thanksgiving weekend.  (Technically, Canadian Thanksgiving is Monday.)  As a Canadian-American family, we enjoy celebrating Thanksgiving twice a year.  (Wouldn’t you rather celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving than Columbus Day?)  Don’s mom and step-dad are coming to visit for the weekend and we’ll be doing the traditional turkey dinner thing.  There are plans for Grandma and the boys to pick some of our apples and turn them into homemade applesauce and apple crisp.  Yum!
  7.  I’m looking forward to Peter being gone next week.  When Don’s mom and step-dad leave, they will take Peter with them.  While Peter hangs out with his grandparents for a week, I hope to use the time I won’t be spending on homeschooling him to finally make progress on other things than just adoption stuff.  I have a couple special activities planned to do with Simon, but my main goal is to peer into the bottomless pit otherwise known as my to-do list and see what I can get done.

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  1.  Today marks one month since we said good-bye to “Valentine” (not his real name), the 10-year-old boy from Eastern Europe that we hosted for the summer.  One month ago, we hugged him in terminal 7 at JFK airport in New York City and then left him there.  It will be many more months before we see him again.
  2.  I finally put pictures of Valentine up on the wall in our living room.  When I ordered prints for the souvenir photo album I made for him, I also ordered some for us.  I’ve been so busy ever since we got home that I didn’t get to it until a few days ago.  It’s heartwarming to be able to see his face every day now, and I’m sure he’ll enjoy seeing his pictures on display when he comes home after the adoption is complete.  (At this point, he doesn’t even know that we are working to adopt him.)
  3.  This week, I took an afternoon off of homeschooling Simon to make headway on adoption paperwork.  Faint though it may be, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  If Clara naps well, I might be able to finish the homestudy paperwork and required online training this weekend.  It will be such a relief not to have it hanging over my head anymore.  I haven’t baked anything since we got home because I would feel too guilty spending the time baking when I have adoption paperwork to do, which is of course more important.  I’m looking forward to celebrating reaching the end of the homestudy paperwork by making chocolate chip pumpkin bread.
  4.  Clara is just starting to point at things.  I can see her little mind working as she notices things and points to share her interest with me.  At 14 months, she still doesn’t have any recognizable words, but she clearly understands a number of words and makes a variety of tuneful vocalizations, so I’m not concerned.
  5.  Peter and I are both enjoying his Life of Fred math books.  To help Peter develop a better attitude towards math, I decided to use Life of Fred books this year because they are so entertainingly different from traditional math books.  My strategy seems to be working.  We’ve had no yelling or tears over math so far this year (I can’t say the same about his math homework last year when he was in public school), and he enjoys reading humorous parts of the text aloud to share them with me.  He just finished one book and started the next one yesterday; on the ride to drop him off for band, he actually set aside whatever fantasy novel he’s currently reading so he could dive into the first chapter of his new Life of Fred math book.
  6.  ‘Tis the season for our apple trees to produce in abundance, attracting ungulates with their fallen produce.  Last year, we were graced with the visits of many deer in the fall and early winter.  Our first visitors of this year turned up on Tuesday while we were eating lunch. IMG_0162 small
  7.  We want photos of your beautiful faces for the collage poster that will go in Valentine’s bedroom.  Please check out my Hearts for Valentine page for more details!

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  1.  Our Hearts for Valentine adoption fundraiser information is now online.  For the last two weeks, I promised I would get to it soon, and I finally got it done.  If you can spare a few dollars to help an orphan get a family and you like taking selfies or cute pictures of your kids or of crafts you make, then please participate!
  2.  As of right now, $1567 has been donated towards our adoption expenses.  It’s a great feeling to see our Reece’s Rainbow Family Sponsorship Program account grow.  We still have a long ways to go, but every dollar donated gets us closer to getting this adoption paid for (and reduces my stress level as I worry about paying for it all).
  3.  We had our second social worker visit on Wednesday.  I was a bit more relaxed in preparing for this visit, knowing that she’s already seen the house and the first impression is over with, and because Don had to work late on Tuesday night so I had to take all the kids to Peter’s Boy Scout Court of Honor myself (which meant Simon and Clara were up past their bedtimes).  Clara slept in Wednesday morning because she was up so late, so I did some last-minute paperwork to give to the social worker (I’m still not done with all of it, but I’m getting closer).  Then I spent the hour before she was due trying to eat breakfast, get dressed, get Clara ready for the day, and make our lived-in house look reasonably presentable.  I tidied the kitchen and had the boys do the living room and downstairs bathroom, and didn’t worry about the rest.  It worked out–since she toured the house last time, she didn’t go anywhere but through the kitchen to the living room, and the dirty dishes in the sink didn’t seem to bother her.  She’ll be back on October 4th and that should be her final visit.
  4.  I mailed off our FBI clearances to be authenticated.  Getting the FBI clearances for our dossier has been a multi-step process.  First, we had to get our fingerprints done, which required going to the county sheriff’s office (they walked us back and did the actual fingerprinting in the county jail, which is not a fun place to go).  Then, we had to mail the fingerprints off for the clearances.  Finally, we need to have the clearances authenticated (apostilled) to be able to send them overseas.  Most of our documents are apostilled at the state level, and we are lucky to live in Michigan, which only charges $1 per document for authentication (some states charge $10 per document).  However, since FBI clearances are federal, they have to be authenticated by the US Department of State.
  5.  We’re still settling into our routines for homeschooling.  We just need a little more time to get our routines well-established, since we’ve had a lot of disruptions.  In our first eight days of homeschooling, there was an early release day at the middle school, we had a chimney sweep come, and we had the social worker’s visit.  Today the boys start mid-day swimming lessons through the local school district’s homeschool partnership program, so that’s another adjustment to our schedule.
  6.  I’ve been so busy that I’ve wondered how I’m going to manage having another kid, but I would be pretty much caught up if I wasn’t trying to pull off an international adoption in my spare time.  Of course it will be challenging once Valentine is here permanently, but it will be do-able.  I reflected this summer when he was here that out of four kids, one was still in diapers, two didn’t speak English, and three couldn’t read.  Parenting will become easier as those numbers decrease.
  7.  So far, the best part of homeschooling is read-aloud time.  I’m reading one book to both boys in the morning, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, and another to just Simon in the afternoon, Little House in the Big Woods.  We’re all enjoying the stories, and Simon’s read-aloud has been quite educational for him.  We’re going pretty slowly through Little House because we keep stopping to look things up on the internet (Google image search and Youtube are a homeschooler’s best friends).  We’ve researched brass buttons, calico, bugles, square dancing, jigging, hazel bushes, and clove apples, among other things.  We were inspired to make our own clove apple.IMG_0153 small

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I’m pleased to announce that our Hearts for Valentine adoption fundraiser page is now online.  Please check it out and share with your friends!

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7 Quick Takes #37

  1.  Life is still extremely busy.  I used almost every possible moment to prep before we started our homeschool year on Tuesday.  I didn’t quite get everything done (in fact, I’m still not quite there), but I was ready enough to get the year going.  My nerves are settling now that our homeschool year has started, but I’m still nowhere near caught up with everything.  I currently have four loads of clean laundry waiting to be folded and I’m not sure when I’m going to do my grocery shopping (I used to go on Tuesdays between Clara’s naps, but now that conflicts with dropping Peter off at school for band).  I have barely done anything adoption-related this week other than going for my blood tests and urine drug screen on Monday, because I figured it would be easier to get them done before we started homeschooling.  I’m looking forward to the weekend and hoping I can get closer to being caught up.  Our next social worker visit is on Wednesday and I hope to get the paperwork for her done before she comes.
  2. We celebrated the end of our summer vacation.  After a weekend of intense prepping to start homeschooling on Tuesday, I made a point to take a break on Monday evening.  We went to a local park and had a picnic dinner.  The boys played for a while, then we got ice cream.  It was a relaxing end to a very full summer.
  3. Our school year is off to a good start.  Peter is in grade 7 this year and Simon is in kindergarten.  Lots of learning has already happened with just three days done as I type this.  I plan to put together a blog post with the curriculum resources we’re using this year, as I’ve done in the past, but I’ve had more pressing things to spend my time on.
  4. While caring for a baby is a lot of work, it does have certain benefits.  Three times a day, I sit down in Clara’s room, snuggle her in my arms, rock her, and sing to her to help her settle down before I put her in her crib to sleep.  It’s good for her, and it’s good for me too.  Having that regular quiet time helped me calm down while I was so stressed getting ready for the start of the school year.
  5. I’m enjoying the beauty of September.  The trees are gorgeous, with red and orange and yellow mixing in with the greens.  I love early fall, when it’s pleasant to be outside, the sky is blue, and the colors are bright.  When I was an elementary teacher, I savored recess duty in September (not so much in February)–I got paid to stand outside and bask in the sun, watching happy children at play.
  6. Our Reece’s Rainbow Family Sponsorship Program account has increased.  As of right now, just over $567 has been donated towards our adoption expenses.  We are very grateful for these donations–every dollar helps!
  7. Stay tuned for details on our adoption fundraiser.  I know I said that last week and I’m sorry to keep you in suspense.  Life has just been SO BUSY.  I’ll get to it soon, I promise.  You’re going to want to participate!  I can’t wait for you to participate!

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7 Quick Takes #36

  1.  It’s good to be home!  Our almost-two-week-long “great RV adventure trip” packed in many worthwhile experiences and will be long-remembered, but I’m glad it’s over.  Clara is still adjusting to being home; she has been having difficulty going to bed in the evening and was waking during the night for the first several nights after we returned.  The night-awakening is over now (thankfully) and bedtime is getting easier, so I hope she’ll be back to normal soon.
  2.  Great news!  The head of the facilitation team that we’re using for our adoption talked with the director of “Valentine’s” orphanage and we’re “all set” (to quote the e-mail I received).  We had been told by an unreliable source that Valentine would be going into a foster family (and thus would be unavailable for international adoption) after he returned to his country, but now we can be reasonably confident that he’ll be available for adoption when we get there.
  3. Yesterday we had our first home study visit.  We still have some paperwork to do for the social worker (we were hoping to have it done before she came, but life has been busy) and she’ll be back again for another visit on the 20th.  After that, we’ll be waiting for all the background checks to come in and for her to write up the report.  Fingers crossed that it goes quickly; we need the home study to be done before we do several other steps in the adoption process.
  4.  This has been a crazy busy week.  We have had at least one special event every day–two potluck dinners, Peter’s first day as a part-time student at the middle school (I went in and talked with the secretary, the band teacher, and the librarian to make sure everything was worked out right), a doctor’s appointment for Simon, the social worker’s visit, a homeschool partnership program orientation, and Don’s birthday.  All summer, I was planning to spend a week or two after Valentine left getting caught up on all those projects on my to-do list that I never seem to get around to.  I was going to get this house organized and get on top of everything.  Ha ha ha!  Instead, I’ve been fighting a panicky, overwhelmed feeling as I have tons of prep to do for our homeschool year and a pile of adoption-related paperwork fighting for my time and attention, along with all the aforementioned special events and the everyday work of taking care of kids, preparing food, doing laundry, etc.
  5.  We’re planning to start our homeschool year next Tuesday.  Our tradition is to start the week after Labor Day.  Usually we start on Monday, but I decided to give myself one more day to prepare (and Peter a day to sleep in and recover from camping with the Boy Scouts over the weekend before facing new academic demands).  I considered pushing our start date back a week so I could try to get the house organized and get on top of everything, but I think it’s better for the boys to get the year underway.  Now that the first social worker visit is over, I’m going to buckle down and focus on homeschool prep for the next several days.  I should be ready to start on Tuesday.
  6.  Peter is now a part-time middle school student.  He is playing saxophone in the seventh grade band.  His class is the second-to-last period of the day.  After band, he is going to the library to do independent work or read during the last period, then he’s riding the bus home.  That way, I only need to drive to the school once a day, to drop him off.
  7.  Adoption fundraiser coming soon!  In my spare moments, I’ve been working on a plan for an adoption fundraiser.  Stay tuned for details.  This is a fundraiser that you’re going to want to get in on!

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