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There’s no news this week on our adoption of “Valentine” (the 10-year-old orphan from Eastern Europe that we hosted last summer).  I’ve put together a themed post on seven things that are working for us right now as I homeschool Peter for grade 7 and Simon for kindergarten.  Homeschooling this year is going quite well; I wrote a post last May about why this would be the best year of homeschooling yet and it has been mostly accurate.  I now present to you some of what’s working for us–many items having to do with scheduling and staying organized and others just about things we do.

Together time.  This is a short period that Peter, Simon, and I do all together; I described it in my homeschool curriculum overview post for this year.  In short, we sing, we pray, and we read a Bible story, a poem, and a French comptine (like a nursery rhyme).  We’ve moved it from the morning to the afternoon, when Clara’s napping, because that works better for us now that Peter’s home all day and Clara doesn’t nap in the mornings anymore.

Read-aloud.  While technically I am just doing read-aloud with Simon, most of the time Peter joins us.  The draw of listening to captivating stories is just too strong for him to resist.  It means it takes Peter longer to finish his own work, but there’s something so cozy and wholesome about having both boys on the couch with me listening in rapt attention as I read aloud that I just can’t discourage Peter from joining us.  I read the same books to Peter seven years ago when he was in kindergarten, but he doesn’t remember many of them.

Morning break.  Starting in the second semester, we are now taking a morning break at 10 am for approximately 15 minutes.  This was a difficult decision for me.  Our homeschool day is supposed to start at 9 am with Peter’s saxophone practice, although it’s often closer to 9:30 by the time we hear the first notes.  Why stop for a break when we’ve only just started our homeschool day?  Looking at the big picture, though, we’ve already done a lot of work.  Just getting myself and three kids up, and fed, and breakfast cleaned up, and vitamins taken, and all of us dressed, and clothes picked up, and Clara’s diaper changed, and hair combed, and teeth brushed, and the cat fed, and the humidifier filled, and the pellet stove cleaned and lit, and the floor swept, and the dishwasher unloaded, and and and…yeah, we kind of do need a break already even though it feels like we’ve only just begun our day (or at least *I* need a break–the reality is that unless I’m constantly cheerleading and reminding the boys what they’re supposed to be doing, they don’t get much done).  When 10 am hits, we either sing or have Alexa play some fun music and we dance, then we have a snack.  It gives us a little mood boost with happy music and a bit of exercise, which is often helpful for me in resetting my attitude after the effort of getting everyone up and ready.

Memory folders.  I saw this idea online and decided to implement it when we started our second semester.  Folders contain index cards with items to be memorized such as  vocabulary words, French verb conjugations, math formulas, etc.  I also include Simon’s Little Stories for Little Folks booklets (for his reading program).  I’m planning to add poetry to memorize but haven’t gotten there yet.  Each day, we pull out three folders–daily, odd or even, and the day of the week– and review their contents.  New material starts in the daily folder, and as it becomes learned, it gets moved progressively back so it is reviewed less frequently until it is retired.  Some people also do numbered folders for the days of the month, but I didn’t feel a need to go that far.


Our folders.  The blue ones are Simon’s, the red ones are Peter’s, and the yellow ones are waiting for “Valentine” to come home.

Flexible, by-subject scheduling.  This was one of my biggest improvements this year over how I approached homeschooling in the past.  I used to make big spreadsheets with each assignment for each subject for each day for a week at a time.  Then, as soon as life happened and Peter fell behind, things would get into a mess.  This year, I made a list of subjects for each kid and posted the list on our fridge.  Simon’s list is divided into “couch work” and “table work” (mainly as a reminder for me when I’m pulling out work to do with him), while Peter’s list has some rotations on it (for example, “current events/logic” means that he alternates between doing current events one day and logic the next day).  For each individual subject, Peter has an undated schedule of assignments.  When he gets to that subject, he does the next assignment on the list.  After I check his work, I initial and date the box next to that assignment.  If he misses a subject one day for whatever reason, he just picks up with the next assignment the next day.  Some of our curriculum resources came with schedules that I’ve been able to use, while for other subjects I had to invest some time in typing out schedules at the beginning of the year.


A schedule made by the curriculum provider, which I slightly adapted.


A schedule that I typed up myself.  The X’s indicate that there’s a video to watch.

A fixed order for Peter’s subjects.  There are some things I’m not uptight about.  When I was a high school teacher, I wasn’t one of those teachers who insisted that assignments had to be written in blue or black pen.  I told my students I didn’t care what they wrote with, as long as I could read it.  It didn’t bother me when students wrote in fluorescent orange gel pen–at least they were doing their work, which was an accomplishment in and of itself at the inner-city school where I taught in Detroit.  Likewise, having a fixed order for tackling the various subjects didn’t seem important to me; as long as the work got done, it didn’t matter to me whether math was done before or after history.  Although I sometimes suggested working on certain things based on circumstances (practice saxophone before Clara takes her nap, do writing now because I’m free and we need to go over it together), I left it up to Peter to decide what to work on when.  Often, he would get stuck during the transition from one subject to another, not able to make a decision about what to work on next.  I decided to eliminate that wasted time and mental energy by giving him a fixed order for his subjects when we started our second semester.  I considered which subjects were more and less important, putting the more important ones earlier to make sure they got done.  I also thought about which subjects were more and less challenging for him and tried to balance the schedule so he wouldn’t have two difficult subjects in a row.  I scheduled saxophone practice first thing in the morning and designated a quiet reading period for both boys after lunch, so they wouldn’t be disruptive while I was trying to get Clara down for her nap.  Now that Peter has a predictable routine and just has to move on to the next subject on the list when he finishes an assignment, his days are flowing more smoothly.

4:30 deadline.  Another schedule tweak I made for the second semester was introducing a 4:30 cut-off time for schoolwork (mainly for Peter).  If there’s nothing unusual going on and he works diligently, he should finish all his work before then.  On days with regular schedule changes (swimming lessons or ice skating), there are certain subjects that he gets to skip to lighten his load (they’re marked with an asterisk on his subject list).  However, sometimes one or more assignments take an exceptionally long time to complete, our schedule is disrupted by something irregular, or he’s just plain not focused on his work.  Once 4:30 hits, he can stop working on his schoolwork.  Unless I deem that the circumstances were entirely out of his control, he doesn’t get electronic privileges (tv/computer/Wii time), but he isn’t forced to keep his nose to the grindstone when he’s tired from the day and generally not all that productive anyhow.  He can choose to continue working and he gets electronic privileges if he finishes (which he often does).  To me, this offers some balance.  Yes, it’s important to finish your work, but everyone has rough days now and then.  Sometimes you need to take a break before you can get back to being productive.  If he were abusing this and slacking off all the time, I would reconsider it.  However, most of the time he finishes all his work, and even the days that he doesn’t, he usually gets pretty close.

Well, I’ve totally failed at the “quick” part of 7 Quick Takes again.  You can head over to This Ain’t the Lyceum to see if any other bloggers managed to do a better job than I did.



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Welcome to another edition of 7 Quick Takes, in which I discuss the Olympics, the beginning of Lent, and the latest in our journey to adopt “Valentine” (the 10-year-old boy from Eastern Europe that we hosted last summer).

  1.  Watching the Olympics is a chance for me to be amazed by the things that human beings can do.  I don’t have enough interest in most sports to watch them regularly, but every four years I can be impressed by the skill of the world’s best skiers, skaters, sliders, etc.  When I watch these elite athletes, I often wish I could be in their body for one event so I could feel what it feels like to slide down a track of ice at 100 km/h in control or do flips on skis or land a triple axel (all things I will never do).  Years ago, I did short-track speed skating, and I miss it.  I had nowhere the amount of skill that world-class athletes have, but I loved the feeling of flying around the rink on my skates.  I can only imagine how incredible it would feel to be an Olympic athlete, at the height of what is possible.
  2.  We feasted for Mardi Gras.  We had pancakes and paczki, two traditional Fat Tuesday foods.  I was nostalgic when I thought about all the pancakes that were being made that day by parent volunteers in Catholic schools across the province of Ontario (where I used to teach).  I recalled the traditional prune and rosehip flavored paczki from a Polish specialty shop that one of my fellow teachers brought in to share on my last Mardi Gras before we moved here; I prefer the Americanized strawberry-filled ones.  In addition to our breakfast-for-dinner, I broke out the heart-shaped Ding-Dongs a day early to round out our junk food feast.
  3.  We had a busy morning on Wednesday.  I haven’t verified this, but I saw online that it was the first time since 1946 that Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day fell on the same day.  On top of that, it was Michigan’s spring count day (which determines public school funding based on enrollment).  We went to 9 am Mass, then to the local school district’s homeschool partnership program center so that Peter and Simon could be counted, then to the library.  We skipped ice skating because I figured that was enough activity for one morning.
  4.  Maybe I should stop hoping to ever get things done so I can stop being disappointed when it doesn’t happen.  Since Wednesday morning was so busy and I have so many things to do that I never get to, I thought I would give the boys the day off lessons and let them watch a movie or two in the afternoon so I could get some things done.  Alas, Clara fell asleep on the ride home from the library and foiled my plans.  Not only did I have to make and eat lunch while she slept (not the most productive use of nap time), but she feel asleep earlier than usual and took a shorter than usual nap, so she was up before 2 pm.  So much for my “free” time.  Plus, a certain child who shall not be named managed to drag out the very minimal work I required of him until almost 4 pm, making both of us miserable in the process.  This afternoon, the boys are going snow-tubing with the homeschool partnership program.  Maybe, just maybe, Clara will take a good nap while they’re gone so that I can get her Canadian passport application completed (we got her passport pictures taken while we were in Canada for Christmas), work on the photo book we need to bring to Valentine’s country, and/or do a number of other important things that keep getting pushed to the back burner.
  5.  I’m trying to keep it simple this Lenten season.  Last year, I put considerable effort into preparing for Lent.  I’m glad that I did and that I kept good notes so I didn’t have to put much work into prepping this year, because I just don’t have the time and energy for it right now.  For the boys, we’re doing the Lenten calendars and Holy Heroes Lenten Adventure again, and again there will be no playing on the Wii except on Sundays.  For myself, I could think of many things that would be beneficial, but I didn’t want to stress myself out with too many sacrifices.  Ultimately, I decided on reasonable efforts in the three Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.  For prayer, the boys and I will pray the Angelus during our homeschool “together time”; it seems like an intermediate step between our usual prayer and saying a decade of the rosary, which I’m not sure they’re ready for.  For fasting, I will do what I did last year and limit myself to one sweet thing per day, usually a square of a chocolate bar.  (This still takes self-discipline, but it’s not as daunting as completely giving up sweets.)  As for almsgiving, we will participate in our church’s weekly soup and bread meals that raise money for local charities, plus I figure our adoption kind of counts.  All in all, I think my plans for this year are do-able, and perhaps I’ll be up to observing Lent more rigorously in the future.
  6.  Over the last couple weeks, we’ve made important connections with other adopting families.  We’re now in touch with two other families adopting from the city where Valentine lives; one family leaves today for their first trip and the other leaves soon for their final trip, to bring their newly adopted children home.  It’s helpful for us to learn about their experiences before we travel so we can be better prepared.  Also, another family from the Upper Peninsula has just started the process of adopting from Valentine’s country; I talked with the mom on the phone and shared some of our experiences with her.  According to Wikipedia, the population of the UP at the 2010 census was a little over 311,000 (just over 3% of the population of the state of Michigan), so it’s a pleasant surprise to have another UP family adopting from the same country at the same time.  These connections with other adopting families are a way to give and receive practical help as well as moral support.
  7.  We have received five new Hearts for Valentine photos since last week!  Our Reece’s Rainbow Family Sponsorship Program account is now up to $3698.  As we wait to be invited to Valentine’s country to receive an official referral, it’s reassuring to see some of the money we will need for our travel expenses coming in.  It warms my heart to see the photos people have sent for Valentine–pictures of themselves, their children, their grandchildren, their pets, and one of a baby blanket.  If you haven’t sent a photo yet, please do!

You can find more 7 Quick Takes (written by other bloggers) here:


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Our “paper pregnancy” has resulted in a “paper baby”!  Our international adoption dossier was completed on Tuesday, January 23, 2018 at about 2:50 pm and weighed 1 pound 11 ounces.  We proud parents quickly said good-bye and sent it off on a journey overseas.

  1.  Our USCIS approval finally arrived on Monday.  Although the approval was dated January 8th, we didn’t have it in hand until the 22nd.  Grrr.
  2.  This was the day after we learned that due to some changes in “Valentine’s” country, we needed more documents.  The last thing you want to hear when you’re about to send your dossier off (and especially with a deadline looming before some of your documents expire) is that you need more documents.  Fortunately, they weren’t too difficult to prepare.  We were able to get the five additional documents notarized and apostilled at the same time as the copy of the USCIS approval, so it didn’t delay us getting our dossier out.
  3.  We went on a trip to Marquette (the Upper Peninsula’s “big city”) on Tuesday to get our documents apostilled.  It was a two-hour drive each way on partially snow-covered roads, but it’s the only place in the UP where you can walk in and get documents apostilled.  If we mailed them to Lansing to be apostilled, it would take a couple weeks to get them back, and we didn’t have that kind of time.  After we got the apostilles, we went to the post office and express-mailed our dossier to a family in Illinois that is flying to Valentine’s country today; they will carry it over for us and deliver it to our adoption facilitation team.  While we were in town, we picked up some parts Don needed for our tractor, then went to an Italian restaurant where the food was only fair and they played the same cheesy song over and over and over again (I timed it–it was about 2 minutes and 40 seconds long.  I’m not sure how long we were there, but if we were there for an hour, we heard it 22 times.)

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    Outside the post office in Marquette, where we mailed our dossier.  36 documents in all.

  4.  Peter had his band concert on Wednesday.  I was proud to hear him play his saxophone in the seventh grade band.  It’s amazing how much improvement the students have made since last year.  After the concert, we celebrated Peter’s musical accomplishments with ice cream.  Now he is done with band for this school year.
  5.  We start our second semester of homeschooling next Monday.  I’m still trying to figure out a new schedule, now that I don’t have to drive Peter to school for band every day and now that he’ll be home in the afternoons.  We have a few changes on the academic side.  Peter is taking his online Great Books course (which he started last week) and will be studying informal logic.  Simon is starting spelling lessons (All About Spelling) now that he has finished the first level of Little Stories for Little Folks (his reading program).  He has also finished Little Folks Letter Practice and is starting his first actual handwriting book (Catholic Heritage Handwriting level K).
  6.  This little girl is now a year and a half old.  How time flies!IMG_8954 small
  7.  Our Reece’s Rainbow Family Sponsorship Program account hasn’t changed in weeks.  It’s stalled at $2970–I’m looking forward to seeing it pass $3000.  If you’d like to make a US-tax-deductible contribution towards our adoption expenses, you can do it here.

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If you’re a regular reader, I’m sorry (disappointed, frustrated…) to report that we haven’t received our USCIS approval yet (details below).

If you’re not a regular reader, a little background: We are in the process of adopting “Valentine” (not his real name), a 10-year-old boy from Eastern Europe that we hosted last summer.  We are anxiously awaiting our approval from USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services), which is the last thing we need to complete our dossier.  We need to get our dossier to Valentine’s country and submitted to his government by February 3rd or else some of our documents will expire.

  1.  We are still waiting for our USCIS approval to arrive.  Don called them last Friday afternoon and found out that although our officer had approved our application last Monday, it was still sitting on her supervisor’s desk, waiting for the final approval.  The holiday on Monday this week delayed it even more.  Don called yesterday and learned that it went out on Wednesday.  We should have it soon, but I don’t know yet when we’ll be able to get it to Valentine’s country.  Tune in next week to find out what happens.
  2.  Winter is hard.  It just takes more effort to get through a day in winter than in warmer weather.  I have to put more clothing on myself and my kids in order to go outside.  It takes time every morning to clean out and light the pellet stove in our living room.  Driving can be more stressful, depending on the road conditions and visibility.  Clearing the snow from the porch and the driveway is a chore.  Filling our multiple humidifiers with water is an extra daily task (though worth it to avoid the nosebleeds that Peter used to get from dry winter air).  Even something as simple as closing the garage door becomes a challenge in the winter–it usually takes several tries to get it to close all the way and stay closed.  I’ve said it before (though things are not so bad now that we’ve made some energy-efficiency improvements on our house) and I’ll say it again–our first winter here, Don accused me of not embracing winter.  It’s true.  I don’t embrace winter, I endure it.  There are many things I like about living in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, but the winters are hard.

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    This is how we clear our driveway.  I am so glad that we haven’t had any vehicles stuck in our driveway so far this winter.  Before we got the tractor, not only our cars would get stuck, but also the pick-up truck we used for plowing.

  3.  To make life somewhat easier, I’ve decided to take Peter out of band for the rest of this school year.  Ever since Clara went from two naps a day to one, the scheduling of dropping Peter off at school just hasn’t been working (of the four school days so far this week, there were two days that the only nap she got was 15-20 minutes in the car when we drove him to school, just long enough that she wouldn’t go back to sleep when we got home).  Her basic need for sleep is more important than Peter participating in band.  I made the decision over the Christmas break, but I’ve been putting up with it for the last few weeks so he could finish the first semester.  His band concert is next Wednesday and that will be his last day.  He will continue practicing at home and I am hopeful that he’ll be able to participate in band again next school year.
  4.  We’re giving online education a try.  Peter just started an “Intro to Great Books and Socratic Method” class aimed at 6th and 7th graders.  Each week includes a reading, a video lecture to watch, a comprehension assignment to be uploaded after completion, an online quiz, a study skills activity, and a 50-minute live class discussion  (and there’s a dress code for the video conference–he has to wear a shirt with a collar and sleeves).  After the first class meeting, he declared it was “fun.”  Thinking deeply about and discussing what he reads will be a valuable experience, and it’s helpful for him to be accountable for work to someone other than just mom.  It does mean adding something in to our schedule that requires him to be somewhere on time and prepared, but it’s only one day a week and I don’t have to drive him anywhere for it.

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    I was so impressed by the mountain of snow that dwarfed the school buses in the parking lot at Peter’s school that I took a picture.

  5.  You know your toddler is living life to the fullest when she poops blue glitter.   Clara is into everything these days.  I’ve taken to safety-pinning the zipper of her sleep sack closed because I was finding her after her naps with the zipper completely open and her socks pulled off (I’m not sure if she was doing it before or after she slept).  Her new favorite pastime is climbing on the table (over and over and over…).  I know this phase will pass, but having to supervise her constantly when she’s awake is exhausting.
  6.  I have been enjoying chocolate smoothies for breakfast.  Back in December, I did a “week of smoothies,” trying a new smoothie recipe for breakfast every morning for a week.  My favorite was a chocolate one, which I have since tweaked a bit.  I’ve been making it a couple mornings a week since.  It feels so indulgent to drink something chocolate for breakfast, yet it is super healthy.  If only I’d had this recipe when I was pregnant with Clara and craving chocolate milkshakes!  For easy reference, I wrote a separate post with the recipe here.  The boys have been clamoring for me to make other smoothies, but a cold smoothie isn’t the best winter breakfast.  I’ve promised them that I will experiment more when the weather warms up.
  7.  Finally, as usual, I will end with a reminder that we are very grateful for financial assistance with our adoption.  US tax-deductible donations can be made to our Reece’s Rainbow Family Sponsorship Program account, and I encourage anyone who donates to send me a picture for our Hearts for Valentine poster.

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This recipe is slightly adapted from Minimalist Baker’s Creamy Chocolate Breakfast Shake recipe.  I’ve taken to calling it “chocolate smoothie” instead.  If you’re expecting a chocolate milkshake, you’ll be disappointed.  If you’re expecting a healthy chocolate-flavored vegan concoction with no added sugar, it’s amazingly good.


  • 2 frozen ripe bananas, peeled and broken into thirds prior to freezing
  • 1/3 cup frozen strawberries and/or blueberries
  • 1 Tbsp flaxseed meal
  • 2 heaping Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 Tbsp almond butter

Put all the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.

This makes enough for two people to share (or one adult and a couple kids).  The quantity probably depends on the size of your bananas; I measured it twice and got 22 ounces and 21 ounces, respectively.

Just for fun, I did some quick nutritional analysis.  The fiber content of all the ingredients added together is about 17 grams.  The sugar content is about 37 grams, and the total calories is about 570.  Thus, if you drank half of a blender, you would get about 8 1/2 grams of fiber, 18 1/2 grams of sugar, and 285 calories–along with lots of other great nutrients.  Not bad for breakfast!

In comparison, a medium McDonald’s McCafé chocolate shake has 1 gram of dietary fiber, 90 grams of sugar, and 630 total calories.

The choice is yours.

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  1.  I’m not a huge fan of the term “paper pregnancy” (used by some adoptive parents to refer to preparing their dossier), but I can see the analogies right now.  Since we are expecting our USCIS approval–the last document we need for our dossier–to arrive any day now, our paper pregnancy is approaching its due date.  Just like with my actual pregnancies near the due date, every morning I wake up and wonder if this will be the day.  Just like having a bag ready to take to the hospital, I’m packed and ready to drive two hours to get a copy of the approval apostilled.  My emotions are all over the place–nervous anticipation as I wait for the mail to come every day, disappointment when the approval isn’t there, excitement that our dossier will soon be on its way, and frustration with the delay.  We were hoping to send our dossier to Valentine’s country with a family that is traveling this weekend, but it’s too late for us to get it to them in time.  We’ve lost a week now, because the next family is traveling next weekend.  If only I hadn’t missed that one stupid checkbox and the USCIS officer hadn’t missed the sentence that was correctly written in our homestudy, our dossier would be submitted to the government in Valentine’s country by now.
  2.  Early last Saturday, I went on a journey of love.  At 7 am on the first Saturday of each month, I get together with some friends at a local bakery/coffee shop.  I remembered that Don prefers for me to let the engine warm up a bit rather than driving away immediately after starting the car in cold weather, so I sat for a moment before leaving.  As I did so, I remembered the advice a friend’s father offered many years ago–before beginning to drive, place your hand on the steering wheel and say, “Now begins a journey of love.”  Feeling a little silly, I did it.  Then I backed out of the garage and hit the passenger-side rear-view mirror, breaking the plastic around it.  That was not an auspicious start to my journey.  I tried to pull myself together and headed off to meet my friends.  We chatted and laughed and caught up on each other’s lives.  Afterwards, one of my friends sent an e-mail to all of us expressing her gratitude for our get-together.  She had had some family drama over the holidays and hanging out with us was good for her soul.  I realized then that I truly had gone on a journey of love.

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    Clara modeling some clothes she got for Christmas while standing on her favorite present, a plastic slide.

  3.  We stuck with the traditional date (January 6th) and celebrated Epiphany on Saturday.  I made a galette des rois and Simon found the fève (a little ceramic treasure chest that came in a Red Rose tea box), so he was the king for the day.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t prepared enough to have a crown for him (I need to buy a costume crown to keep on hand for these occasions–I always think I can get a paper crown at Burger King but either I forget or they don’t have any, and besides, our family celebrations shouldn’t really be promoting a fast-food restaurant), so King Simon had to wear an imaginary crown.  We took down our Christmas decorations and did a very slightly modified version of this house blessing.  I did the actual chalking while everyone else watched from the window of our dining room because it was something like 4 degrees Fahrenheit (-16 degrees Celsius).
  4.  I have a saint for the year.  Jennifer Fulwiler has a saint’s name generator that will randomly choose a saint for you; she encourages people to use it to choose a saint for the year each year.  I’ve done it a couple times in the past and wasn’t inspired, so I wasn’t planning to do it this year.  However, there was a humorous thread on Facebook where people were posting their saint’s name and their word of the year together as a full name (like John Frolic, Martha Revolution, and Wenceslaus Wink).  I decided to try it for fun. The saint name generator gave me not one, but two saints in a row who were listed as the patron saints for people with Valentine’s medical condition (I stopped after trying it twice–it seemed like it wasn’t playing around and so neither should I).  I did a little research to see which was the more popular saint for Valentine’s condition.  Then I said a novena to him for a smooth and successful adoption process, starting on New Year’s Day.  I also asked for his intervention when dealing with the Request for Evidence we received from USCIS.  I’m confident that, unlike previous years, I won’t forget who my saint of the year is.
  5.  Don and I celebrated our twentieth anniversary on Wednesday.  Twenty years!  How did that happen???  We enjoyed going out for Chinese food, just the two of us, while Peter was at a church event and a friend took care of Simon and Clara.  It was the first time I left Clara with someone other than family and apparently it went well; my friend’s 10-year-old daughter enjoyed entertaining her and even gave her a doll to keep.

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    Clara getting in on the homeschooling action.

  6.  I got a thumb’s up and a “Yeah!” from Peter when I told him that I ordered him the next Life of Fred math book.  Don told me that this kid, who used to throw tantrums over his public school math homework, was telling his friends about his cool math books at his last Boy Scout meeting.  I agonized over the decision of which math program to use with him when we started homeschooling again; clearly, I made the right choice.  I told Peter that I was going to buy the Life of Fred kindergarten-level books for Simon to do over the summer and he immediately asked if he could read them (that’s how entertaining the Life of Fred books are!).
  7.   I’ve given up on the idea of a Valentine’s Day fundraiser.  It seemed like a great idea to do one, capitalizing on the “Valentine” nickname and only for a limited time, but I don’t have the energy to deal with it.  After Christmas and New Year’s and traveling and trying to get back into homeschooling after the holidays and then our anniversary and with two boys’ birthdays coming up in early February, I just don’t have it in me right now.  I already have more things to do than I have time to do them in; I don’t need more on my plate.  We’re expecting to take out a loan for the adoption costs beyond what we already had and what is donated to us; at this point, I’d rather just take out a slightly bigger loan than tackle another project.  We’ll get this adoption paid for one way or another.  If you’d like to help, you can make a US tax-deductible donation to our Reece’s Rainbow Family Sponsorship Program account here.

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If you’re following along on the story of our process in adopting “Valentine” (the 10-year-old boy from Eastern Europe that we hosted this summer)–there’s news!  But I will keep my quick takes in roughly chronological order so you’ll have to make your way down the list.

  1.  We went 5-pin bowling as a family outing while we were in Ontario.  Don and I both enjoy 5-pin bowling.  We even own our own bowling shoes (I never would have thought when I was growing up that I’d be the kind of person to own bowling shoes), though we rarely wear them.  I don’t know why 5-pin bowling is virtually non-existent in the United States because it’s much superior to 10-pin.  [If you’re not familiar with it, it’s sort of like a cross between 10-pin bowling and the arcade game skee-ball.  The balls are smaller and lighter and don’t have holes for your fingers.  The pins are set up in a V-shape and have different point values–5 points for the head (center) pin, 3 points for the pins on each side of the head pin, and 2 points for the pins on the outside.  You get to bowl three times per frame.  Strikes and spares work the same as in 10-pin.]  We got to wondering about what it would cost to install a 5-pin bowling lane and did some internet searching that evening.  Don found a 5-pin bowling alley with a 3-bedroom apartment above it for sale in a small town in northern Ontario.  We’re not in a position to buy a bowing alley right now, but we had fun dreaming about it for a few days.
  2.  We took advantage of grandparent babysitting.  Don’s parents watched our kids while we went out for an early anniversary dinner (our 20th anniversary is next week).  Then my parents watched them while Don and I went to a Great Lakes Invitational hockey game at the new Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.IMG_0583 smallIMG_0580 small
  3.  We enjoyed seeing the Christmas lights and decorations on people’s houses.  We took particular notice of them because few people decorate their houses where we live.  (I read a blog post recently that suggested driving around to look at Christmas lights as a low-cost family activity and I realized that that wouldn’t work here.)  Don’s theory is that it’s because our electricity is so expensive; my theory is that it’s because it’s so cold and snowy that it would be challenging to set up the decorations.
  4.  The discomforts of being away from home reminded me of how good I have it.  My hands smelled different because I was using soap with a different scent.  I had to adjust to sleeping with different pillows.  I didn’t have access to the same foods that I would find in my own pantry or refrigerator.  But when I thought about how many people in the world don’t have adequate sanitation, their own bed, or enough food to eat, I knew that those things weren’t worth complaining about.
  5.  When we arrived home on Tuesday evening, we had mail from USCIS.  Don recently signed up for the new service where the postal service scans our mail and e-mails him pictures of what’s coming, so we actually knew it had been delivered that day before we checked the mailbox.  We were excited because USCIS approval is the last thing we were waiting for to complete our dossier; we’d been waiting for two months and didn’t expect to get a response until mid-January.  However, when we opened it, our hearts sank.  It was a Request for Evidence (RFE), a notice that USCIS needed more information in order to make a decision on our application.  They wanted us to send back a copy of the RFE with a completed copy of page 4 of the 12-page application form and a home study update/amendment addressing our preparation, ability, and willingness to parent a child with special needs.  We despaired, thinking that this would cause such a delay that we wouldn’t be able to get our dossier to Valentine’s country and submitted by February 3rd.  That would mean that we would have to re-do all our medical documents and probably also get new copies of our marriage certificate, adding time and expense to the process.  (All documents must be less than 6 months old when they are submitted.)  Although the trip home was less grueling than the drive down, I was still very tired from being on the road all day and the RFE was unwelcome news.  I decided to say a prayer for God’s help, try to put it out of my mind, and deal with it the next day.
  6.  I got things straightened out with USCIS on Wednesday.  I looked at the application I had sent (I keep copies of everything) and realized that I missed one yes/no checkbox on page 4; it was a fillable PDF so I’m guessing that I double-clicked it and accidentally unchecked it.  I scanned the RFE and sent it to our social worker and the US contact for our adoption facilitation team to ask about the home study update.  Fortunately both were quick to respond and we had a three-way e-mail conversation going on during the day.  It turned out that what USCIS wanted in the home study amendment was already in the home study, so our facilitator suggested calling them.  It took a couple tries, but I talked with the USCIS officer who was filling in for the officer who sent us the RFE and she agreed that the language in the home study was sufficient and no amendment was needed.  Then I asked if I had to send a paper copy of page 4 of the application or if she could take my word for it over the phone and mark my answer down for me.  She said she would review our file, ask her supervisor, and call me back.  After a couple hours of anxious waiting, she called and told me to e-mail the USCIS international adoption unit, explaining the situation and what the answer should be.  She said that as soon as she got the e-mail, she would issue our approval.  Of course, I thanked her and sat right down to send the e-mail as soon as I was off the phone.  I got an acknowledgement from her early Thursday afternoon, so our approval letter should be coming soon!  We should still be able to get our dossier to Valentine’s country in time to get it submitted without having to re-do documents.  I will continue praying for a smooth and successful adoption process.
  7.  Do you have any Valentine’s Day fundraiser ideas?  I’ve been straight-up asking for donations of money rather than trying to sell people things they don’t need or want at inflated prices because I don’t like buying such things.  Plus, I’m busy enough without trying to make a bunch of crafts or fudge or something to sell.  However, since we’re adopting a child with the pseudonym “Valentine,” it seems like I should do something for Valentine’s Day.  If you have any ideas, please share them.

You can find more 7 Quick Takes (written by other bloggers) here:


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