7 Quick Takes #43

Here’s another update on our process adopting “Valentine”, the 10-year-old orphan from Eastern Europe that we hosted last summer, and life in general.

  1.  We still don’t have our home study.  However, our social worker claims that she will have the copies notarized tomorrow and will mail them to us.  We’re  disappointed and impatient, considering that she had been planning to hand-deliver them over a week ago and now we won’t get them until next week.  As soon as they arrive, I need to get a copy out to USCIS to complete our Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition.  Apparently USCIS is taking a LOOOOONG time to process the petitions these days (from what I hear online, they are saying they have 75 business days to do it), so we want to get it off to them ASAP.
  2.  I just bought shower tabs from another mom who is in the process of adopting from Valentine’s country.  She and her husband are making and selling them as a fundraiser for their adoption.  Cold and flu season is rapidly approaching and I loved the thought of putting a peppermint, eucalyptus, and camphor-scented tab in the tub to dissolve in a hot, steamy shower when I’m feeling under the weather.  The shower tabs are only $1 apiece (plus shipping–up to 20 of them can ship in a flat-rate box for $7.16).  They also custom-make bath bombs in a wide range of scents and colors.  If you’re interested in purchasing some or seeing the options, you can find the info on this Facebook page.  Here’s a link to their Reece’s Rainbow Family Sponsorship Page, so you can read more about them (they have seven biological sons and are adopting two daughters!).
  3.  Speaking of fundraising, I’m still looking for photos for our Hearts for Valentine fundraiser.  If you make a donation of any amount to our Reece’s Rainbow FSP, you can send me a photo to include in the photo collage poster that I will make for Valentine’s bedroom.  I want him to be amazed when he sees how many people care about him and helped him come home!
  4.  Speaking of photos, here’s one I took in our backyard last weekend.  That old stump was a perfect seat for portrait-taking with the woods as a backdrop.  I wish I’d done it a few days earlier when there were more yellow leaves on the trees.IMG_8905 small
  5.  Fort-building is a popular activity here these days.  Simon builds elaborate forts with couch cushions, pillows, and blankets.  I think our couch cushions spend more time on the floor or standing up on their sides than they do positioned properly on the two couches in our living room.
  6.  Early to bed and early to rise makes a mom more patient with her kids and better able to get through the day.  Why I need to keep re-learning that lesson, I don’t know.  I’ve slipped back into the bad habit of staying up too late (and I’m even doing it now, Thursday evening, trying to get this post ready for tomorrow morning) and I need to kick it again.
  7.  Unlike previous years, it did cross my mind that I should locate everyone’s winter gear before we saw snow for the first time (which happened on Tuesday this week–yes, just days after I took that picture of the kids wearing short sleeves).  However, although we all have coats at the ready (except Clara–I still need to look to see if I have a hand-me-down that fits her or if I need to go buy her one), I haven’t pulled out the hats, mittens, snow pants, and boots yet.  It’s on my list for this weekend.  (It was on my list for last weekend, too, but I will make a point to actually do it this weekend.)

That’s my report for this week.  You can find more 7 Quick Takes here:



I’ve been wanting to write this for weeks, but I’ve been so busy doing adoption stuff.  Now I am finally caught up to the point where I don’t feel guilty about spending the time on this.  Better late than never!

This year, I am homeschooling two kids: Peter (grade 7) and Simon (kindergarten).  I have homeschooled each of them for two years previously, but not at the same time (Peter was homeschooled for grades 3 and 4, then attended public school for grades 5 and 6, during which time I homeschooled Simon for preschool and junior kindergarten).  One-year-old Clara, who requires time and attention, is also home with us.  We are a Canadian-American family and we live in Michigan’s beautiful Upper Peninsula.  We are in the process of adopting “Valentine” (not his real name), a 10-year-old boy from Eastern Europe who we hosted for the summer.  Barring major unforeseen complications, we expect to travel to Valentine’s country for the adoption in the spring; we’ll see how that messes with our school year when the time comes.

Funny family pic

In previous homeschool curriculum overviews, I’ve included our most recent family picture.  This goofy picture from March is not only the most recent, but is the only picture I have of all five of us.  If anyone wants to donate the services of a professional photographer to take a family portrait, I’m game.  (It would be a great present after Valentine comes home…just saying.)

Most of Peter’s curriculum resources are from publishers that we haven’t used before.  The jump from the grade 4 resources we used previously to the grade 7 resources he needs now is pretty big, and I was disappointed with some of the materials we used before (Memoria Press materials in particular, which we used for three subjects when he was in grade 4).  Thus, I’m trying new things that I think are a better fit for him now.  Simon is using a blend of “tried and true” materials–ones I used with Peter and liked–and new resources.  In addition to what’s listed below, Peter is participating in the 7th grade band at the local middle school and both boys are taking weekly swimming lessons through the local school district’s homeschool partnership program.

Together time:

Together time is a positive new development for us in homeschooling.  What many people call “morning time,” I decided to call “together time,” since it’s the only time the boys are doing homeschool stuff together (there’s not a lot you can combine academically with a kindergartner and a grade 7 student).  I implemented together time during the summer as part of my effort to establish routines to keep all the kids on track.  Because of Valentine’s limited English language skills, I intentionally kept it very short and simple.  After Clara went down for her morning nap, we started with a song (“This is the Day that the Lord has Made”) and continued with a prayer (the Glory Be).  I read a short story from the Family-Time Bible in Pictures and finished by reading a couple pages from a nursery rhyme book.  Now that Valentine is gone and we’re into the actual school year, together time looks pretty similar.  We’ve changed the song a couple times, switched the prayer to the Our Father, kept the Bible stories, graduated from the nursery rhyme book to a book of poetry, and added a French comptine (nursery rhyme) to the end of the routine.  Generally, we are able to make a smooth transition from together time into read-aloud and then into other lessons, though I’m not sure what will happen when Clara stops taking a morning nap.  Adding this short structured period has helped get our homeschooling day off on the right foot.

Peter, grade 7:

History/geography/read-aloud/reading–Sonlight Core F (Eastern Hemisphere).  Sonlight is the main thing I decided to keep for Peter’s curriculum this year; we have previously done everything from their pre-kindergarten core through their one-year elementary American History (Core D+E).  When we decided to homeschool Peter again this year, I gave him the choice between studying the Eastern Hemisphere and starting a two-year World History sequence.  He chose the Eastern Hemisphere.  While I actually studied the Eastern Hemisphere in grade 7 also (I remember learning about China and Africa), I didn’t retain much.  With the captivating stories in the quality literature that Sonlight is known for, I think Peter will get more out of his studies than I did.

Writing–Institute for Excellence in Writing: Following Narnia Volume 1.  I’ve heard for years that IEW is top-notch for writing instruction, but when I checked out their website, I found their products confusing and I was put off by the high price of their program.  I was never happy with the writing that I did with Peter before, though, and he LOVES to read fantasy books, so I decided to bite the bullet and figure out their system so that I could use their middle-school-level writing lessons based on the Chronicles of Narnia.  I am very glad I did!  I am thoroughly impressed with their approach to writing and the quality of the training in the Teaching Writing: Structure and Style DVD seminar.  I feel more confident than I ever have about my ability to help Peter (and eventually my other kids) develop strong writing skills.

Literary analysis–Essentials in Literature: Level 7.  So far I’m happy with this.  Peter watches brief lectures on DVD, reads material online, and does assignments from a workbook–there’s almost no prep for me.  I have been reading the short stories so that I can discuss the assignments with him, but that hasn’t been a burden, as he spends over a week on each story.

Grammar–Fix It! Grammar: The Nose Tree.  This is from IEW; I decided to give it a try because I thought that having only one sentence per day for Peter to mark up and copy over wouldn’t seem too onerous to him.  So far, I think Easy Grammar (which we used when Peter was in grade 4) is more thorough, but at least he’s doing the Fix It! Grammar without complaint.

Math–Life of Fred: Goldfish through Decimals and Percents.  Unfortunately, Peter developed a negative attitude towards math and his ability to do math while he was in public school.  Now that he’s homeschooled again, I decided the first order of business in math was to rehabilitate his attitude.  I chose Life of Fred because it is so entertaining and different from any other math program I’ve ever seen.  I intentionally started Peter below his level so the work would be easy and he could build confidence.  At the rate he’s going, he’ll be starting pre-algebra next year, which is behind an “honors” pace in math but entirely acceptable.  He probably could have done pre-algebra this year, but it would have involved a lot more frustration and stress for both of us, so I think holding back on it for a year while he strengthens his foundation in math and improves his attitude is worth it.  So far this year, he is not only doing math without complaint but actually enjoying it (at least at times), so my strategy seems to be working.

Science–Novare Earth Science.  Peter wanted to study earth science this year.  I wanted science from a Christian viewpoint that shows that there is no conflict between faith and science/reason.  Novare seems to deliver what I was looking for.

Religion–Image of God: Grade 7 along with Case for a Creator for Kids, Case for Christ for Kids, and Case for Faith for Kids.  Peter did Image of God in grades 2 and 3.  Although I liked the overall approach, I remember disparaging the cartoon-y illustrations then; fortunately, by the grade 7 book, the cartoons have been replaced with photographs of people and pictures of stained glass artwork.  This gives the book a more mature look.  The “Case for Kids” books are a little below Peter’s level, but I figured they wouldn’t hurt.

French–I set up a rotating schedule for Peter to read books or magazines in French,  watch tv in French, and do his current events in French.  I plan to incorporate some formal grammar instruction this year, but I’m still waiting for materials from the local school district’s homeschool partnership program (I only submitted the purchase order in August…grr…), so that’s on hold for now.

Current events–Every other day, Peter needs to either find an article online or watch the first 10 minutes or so of a news program on tv, then discuss with me what he learned.  Half the time he does it in English and the other half in French.

Scout work–Once a week, Peter needs to do some work towards a Boy Scout-related goal of his choice, such as rank advancement or a merit badge.

Logic–The Art of Argument.  He hasn’t started this yet; it’s scheduled for the second semester.

Simon, kindergarten:

History/geography/read-aloud–Sonlight Core A (Introduction to the World: Cultures).  I did this program with Peter when he was in kindergarten and it’s a pleasure to do it again with Simon.  Kids at this age love being read to–they enjoy listening to stories and they soak up information about the world from appropriate non-fiction texts.  Sonlight selects high-quality books, which makes it easy for me to focus on reading, not planning.

Reading–Little Stories for Little Folks.  I love these little books!  They are a wonderful resource for teaching reading and a great value.  I wrote about them in the fourth paragraph of this post.  In addition to Simon, I’ve used them with Peter, with a foster child, and with Valentine during the summer (and will continue to use them with Valentine once he comes home).

Writing–We are doing a daily journal in a primary composition book (with lines for handwriting at the bottom of the pages and blank space for drawing pictures on the top).  We talk about the day of the week and the date when we write those.  Simon dictates the text, I print it neatly, and then he illustrates it.  He is proud of his journal and often asks me to read previous days’ pages to him.

Handwriting–Little Folks Letter Practice and Catholic Heritage Handwriting: Level K.  Peter did levels 2 through 4 of Catholic Heritage Handwriting and I was happy with it, so I figured I’d start Simon with the same program.  I generally like the printing/cursive styles that they use, I appreciate the spiral binding at the top so that kids aren’t trying to write with their hand bumping into the binding, and I find the cost reasonable.

Spelling–All About Spelling.  We’ll start this after Simon finishes level 1 of Little Stories for Little Folks.  I did the first three levels or so of All About Spelling with Peter and found it a solid program, much superior to the traditional spelling-words-list-of-the-week approach.

Math–RightStart Math: Level A and Mathematical Reasoning: Level A.  We are doing a four-day rotation in math: RightStart Math lesson, 3 pages of Mathematical Reasoning, RightStart Math game, 3 pages of Mathematical Reasoning.  RightStart Math is another of my favorite curriculum resources that I used with Peter and am now using with Simon.  It is hands-on, very visual, and focuses on building mathematical concepts.  I started Simon in RightStart level A (which is intended to be a kindergarten-level program) when he was in preschool, doing one lesson a week and repeating each lesson (so weeks 1 and 2 we did lesson 1, weeks 3 and 4 we did lesson 2, et cetera).  Last year, in junior kindergarten, we continued in level A, doing one lesson a week without repeating.  We will finish level A this year, doing one lesson every four days.  RightStart has a wide variety of games to provide the practice necessary for students to master math skills.  Last year, we played a math game once a week; sometimes I chose the game based on what I felt Simon needed to practice, and sometimes I let him choose.  This year, I’m mostly picking the games.  As much as I love RightStart, I do feel that it benefits from some supplementation.  I had Peter do Singapore math workbooks along with RightStart, but I have since discovered the Mathematical Reasoning series, which I think is better-suited to my goal of promoting critical thinking, problem solving, and conceptual understanding.  I think that using both RightStart Math and Mathematical Reasoning provides a good balance between hands-on activities, games, and workbook exercises.

Science–Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding: Volume 1 (Grades K-2).  Of all the new materials I’m using this year, this is probably the one I’m most excited about (though Life of Fred comes close).  The author, Bernie Nebel, seems to have a strong conceptual understanding of how to teach science so that kids will really learn science.  You can check out a video of him explaining the basics of his approach on the BFSU Community website.  The program is very flexible, allowing me to determine how much time and energy to spend on each topic depending on Simon’s interest, his understanding of the concepts, the resources I have available, et cetera.  So far, Simon is loving science.  We recently finished the lesson on states of matter, during which we made a little book; Simon dictated the words for me to write and then he illustrated it.  He must have asked me to read him that book at least two dozen times.  He can’t wait to make an entire library of science books.

Religion–Image of God: Kindergarten.  We did the Image of God preschool program last year and Simon learned quite a bit.  The kindergarten program repeats a lot of the same material (which serves to reinforce it), but also includes some saint stories, which are not in the preschool program (both contain Bible stories).

French–Currently, in addition to trying to use some French for day-to-day activities, I’m just reading Simon a story or part of a story in French every day, along with one or two pages from a non-fiction book in French.  I have plans to do more, but I’m still waiting for materials from the homeschool partnership program.

Visual/spatial/analytical skills–Hands-On Thinking Skills.  This book has tear-out pages with activities using pattern blocks, attribute blocks, and interlocking cubes.  As long as I color the shapes for him, Simon thinks it’s fun.

Art–We’re doing art once a week.  I’m not using any particular curriculum, just coming up with ideas as we go along.  I have a list of ideas that I used last year, but I’ve also found inspiration from the books we’ve been reading.  We made a clove apple after reading about one in Little House in the Big Woods and we made papier mâché after coming across a mention of it somewhere.

So that’s what we’re doing this year.  It seems like a tremendous amount, but most of the subjects don’t take that long to do, and we don’t do every subject every day.  Peter does a good chunk of his work independently, and it takes maybe an hour to an hour and a half daily to do Simon’s lessons.  If you’re interested in what we’ve done in the past, you can check out the links below.

Previous homeschool curriculum overviews:

2016-2017 (junior kindergarten)  [Apparently, I never wrote anything about what I did with Simon last year.  Maybe one of these days I’ll put something together.]

2015-2016 (preschool, round two)

2014-2015 (grade 4)

2013-2014 (grade 3)

2008-2009 (preschool)


7 Quick Takes #42

Here you go–an update on our progress towards adopting “Valentine” (the 10-year-old orphan from Eastern Europe that we hosted over the summer), two mentions of next year, two mentions of chocolate, and pictures of a cute toddler.

  1.  First, the not-so-good news–our home study is not done yet.  Although our social worker had hoped to have our home study done so she could drop the copies off at our house when she was in our area on Wednesday, she didn’t manage to finish it in time.  We got a draft from her late yesterday afternoon; that meant I spent the rest of the afternoon reading and editing it (it is 18 pages long) and had to make a last-minute change to my dinner plan (I forgot to make rice in time).  It’s interesting to read about our life, our family, and our home from someone else’s perspective.  I think my favorite line was, “Simon was very talkative and social during all of the homestudy visits, asking questions and providing this worker with a tour of the home.”  (If you’ve met 5-year-old Simon, you’ll know that he is outgoing and talks constantly.)  We’re hoping that it won’t take long for the social worker to finalize and notarize the home study and get the copies to us so we can get it off to USCIS.
  2.  The medical paperwork is done!  The doctor got the re-done paperwork notarized and I picked it up on Wednesday.  Now, other than the stuff we’re waiting for from the social worker and the USCIS approval, the only paperwork left for our dossier is a stack of papers we need to have notarized.  We’re getting there…
  3.  I keep thinking of the experiences that Valentine is missing.  I see the vibrant fall colors while driving, but he isn’t in the van with me to see them too.  He didn’t eat turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes with us for Canadian Thanksgiving dinner.  The costumes and candy on display in the stores make me think of how much fun Valentine would have celebrating Halloween, but he won’t be here.  He should be here next year to do those things, but that’s a year away.
  4.  Our Reece’s Rainbow FSP account has grown again.  It now shows almost $1903 in donations towards our adoption expenses.  We also received another donation given directly to us.  We are very grateful for everyone who has donated.  If you’d like to help, you can make a US tax-deductible donation to our RR FSP account here, and if you give, please send me a photo for my Hearts for Valentine poster.
  5.  I surprised the boys with chocolate rosaries for the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.  What kid doesn’t like to wake up to find candy?  This should have been on last week’s 7 Quick Takes because it was on October 7th, but I forgot to include it.  I’m only mentioning it because I was so excited to actually do something fun for a feast day; someone mentioned it on Facebook the night before and inspired me to set them up on our kitchen island while the boys were in bed so they could find them in the morning.  Usually I see the cool things people do to celebrate feast days on Facebook after the fact and I just add them to my notes to maybe do next year.
    IMG_0187 small

    Chocolate rosary made with chocolate chips, M&M’s, and Hershey’s bars.  A pretzel stick cross like the examples here would have been more proportionate, but I used what we had on hand.


  6.  I took Simon and Clara on a special outing last Saturday.  Every day, when we drop Peter off at school for band, Simon wants to play on the large elementary school playground (all the schools in the district, K-12, are on one campus).  I’m not comfortable taking him during the school day (I don’t want the playground monitors to think I’m abducting one of their students), so the weekend when Don was out of town picking up Peter after his week at his grandparents’ house seemed like the perfect occasion.  We went to Burger King for lunch (a rare treat) and shared a chocolate milkshake.  The problem was that once Clara tasted it, she didn’t want to share.  Every time we took the milkshake away from her, she screamed uncontrollably.  I’m sure the other patrons were wondering what was wrong with her.  She comes by her newfound love of chocolate milkshakes honestly, though–they were what I craved when I was pregnant with her.
  7.  We’ve had many visits from our neighborhood deer.  We are impressed that we often see them in our yard in broad daylight.

And that’s it for this week!  You can find more 7 Quick Takes here:





7 Quick Takes #41

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.

You can find more 7 Quick Takes here:



7 Quick Takes #40

  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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7 Quick Takes #39

  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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7 Quick Takes #38

  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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