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Posts Tagged ‘7 quick takes’

This is the post that many of you have been waiting for!

  1.  Meet our new daughter, Amina Noelle.  Amina was her name before adoption; we kept it as her first name and gave her a middle name that we chose.  She is 10 years old and will be 11 in August.  Amina pic 1Amina pic 2Amina pic 3
  2.  Peter, Simon, Clara and I survived our trip home from Sault Ste. Marie last Saturday.  We drove our RV there on Friday (7 hours travel time), had dinner with friends who live there, played at the playground, camped for the night, then took Don to the airport in the morning.  He flew from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, to Toronto, to Munich, to Lviv, Ukraine.  The kids and I stayed to see him board the airplane and watch the plane take off, then we made the long trip back home with no adult to focus on caring for Clara (since I was driving).  Clara didn’t nap as well as I would have liked and Peter wasn’t as attentive in caring for her as I would have liked; however, the trip overall went pretty smoothly. It took 9 hours and 15 minutes from the airport to our house (including border crossing, a quick grocery run, buying gas, and stops for lunch and dinner).
  3.  Several weeks ago, I came across the daily decalogue of Pope St. John XXIII.  I printed it out and have tried to make a habit of reviewing it daily.  It struck me on our trip that traveling with children is a very good opportunity to practice living “only for today,” especially number four: “Only for today, I will adapt to circumstances, without requiring all circumstances to be adapted to my own wishes.”
  4.  “Come on already, tell me more about Amina!”  Okay, okay.  Don arrived in Lviv on Sunday and traveled to Amina’s town on Monday.  He visited with her in her orphanage Monday afternoon/evening.  On Tuesday, he and the facilitator couldn’t make much progress with the “paper chase” because the woman who had to sign something for one of the first steps was out of town, so Don spent most of the day with Amina, walking through town with her and bringing her to the hotel, then returning her to the orphanage in time for dinner and bed.  Wednesday, he and the facilitator spent the whole day dealing with paperwork and bureaucracy, so he didn’t get to see Amina much.  However, they accomplished what they needed to do, so Wednesday night was Amina’s last night sleeping in an orphanage.  They picked her up yesterday (Thursday) morning and headed to Lviv to finish her passport application (she doesn’t become a US citizen until she lands on American soil, so she needs a Ukrainian passport to travel home).  Don and Amina are spending a couple days in Lviv doing touristy things before heading to Kyiv on Sunday.  Amina has to do medical and US embassy appointments in Kyiv, but the passport is the real hold-up.  They can’t go to the final embassy appointment to get her visa until she gets her passport.  Don was told that it should take about 18 calendar days, so we’re looking at an early July homecoming.
  5.  This week has gone well on the home front.  Simon has been going to Totus Tuus (basically, the Catholic version of vacation Bible school) during the day with the elementary-school-aged kids, and Peter went in the evenings with the middle-school- and high-school-aged kids (elementary kids are Mon-Fri, older kids Sun-Thurs, so Peter’s done now).  They were only home and awake at the same time for about three hours a day, which made the atmosphere in our house a lot calmer.  All the parishes in our area combine for Totus Tuus and the location rotates from year to year.  The parish hosting it this year is 11 miles away.  They hire a school bus to drive around and pick up the elementary-aged kids from the various parishes in the morning and drop them off in the afternoon (which gives homeschooled Simon the opportunity to ride a school bus and it means I don’t have to drive as far for drop-off/pick-up), but there’s no bus for the older kids.  Fortunately, our parish set up a carpool this year, which was a lifesaver for me.  It’s meant I’ve only had to make three trips a day instead of four to get kids to/from Totus Tuus and I’ve been able to get Simon and Clara to bed more or less on time (it’s still tricky to do bedtime for both of them by myself).  I’ve been busy, but I’ve been keeping up with everything so far.  Next week will be more relaxed and we’ll start getting into more of a summer mode, though we haven’t completely wrapped up our homeschool year yet.
  6.  Amina’s room is ready and waiting for her.  We brought over four paint color samples when we traveled for court and let her choose which color she wanted for her room.  The rest of it, we decided (keeping the existing carpet and curtains).IMG_9092 smallIMG_9098 smallIMG_9099 small
  7.  Sunday is the deadline to send in photos for the photo collage poster that I’m going to have made for Amina’s room.  If you’ve been meaning to participate in our Hearts for Valentine fundraiser and haven’t gotten around to it, now is the time to act!

That is my 7 Quick Takes post for this week.  You can find other bloggers’ 7 Quick Takes here:

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Okay, so I wrote all of the following and then went to link up and realized that 7 Quick Takes isn’t happening this week because of Memorial Day.  Oh, well.  You, my dear reader, get a list of seven supposedly-quick takes anyhow.  Enjoy!

  1.  Last week, Kelly Mantoan mentioned me on her blog, This Ain’t the Lyceum.  That makes me almost-sort-of-a-little-bit famous!  Of course, it was the week that I decided to skip writing a 7 Quick Takes post because I was still recovering from jet lag (I was sleeping through the night by then, but hadn’t slept past 6 am yet, and I wasn’t getting to bed early enough to make up for my early rising times).  The thought crossed my mind that I should put together a welcome post for visitors to my blog who found me through her blog, but tiredness-induced laziness struck, along with rationalizing that it was already the end of the day by the time I realized my sort-of fame and so I had probably already missed much of the possible great onslaught of visitors.  Anyhow, if you’re new here, the best quick summary of our adoption story is probably to be found on our Reece’s Rainbow page.  If you’re interested in orphan hosting specifically, you can read about our experience last summer in my series of orphan hosting reports (I apologize for the fact that some of the previews are messed up, but you’ll get the right text when you click the links).
  2.  I’ve been tired of telling our story lately.  I went to the dentist last week and the dental hygienist, who cleaned Valentine’s teeth when he was here, asked about him.  I just didn’t feel like telling the story all over again about how we tried to adopt him and it didn’t work out and who we’re adopting now.  Since the weather has finally warmed up and we’ve emerged from hibernating for the winter, we’ve caught up with our next-door and across-the-street neighbors whom we haven’t talked with in months and who haven’t been following our story on social media, so we had to update them also.  Fortunately, by now, most people we interact with reasonably often know what is going on.  It’s helpful to blog and to share info with friends and family on Facebook; we only have to write something once and many people can read it, so we’re not repeating ourselves as often.  I’ve been making a point to share our story, both because I was inspired by reading many adoption blogs over the years before we started our own journey and in the hopes that it might help our fundraising efforts by giving people a greater feeling of connection with our story, but it does take a lot of time and effort to write and it can be tricky to find the right balance between sharing and maintaining privacy.
  3.  We (mostly Don) have been working hard on Noelle’s room.  We brought four paint color samples for her to choose from on our last trip and she chose pink.  Now the trim in her room is freshly painted white, the walls of her room are pink, and the closet doors, the inside of the bedroom door, and the doors to a storage closet in her room are painted a brown that the paint company recommended as an accent color (the carpet is a brown berber, so we figured that brown would work).  Although we have an unoccupied twin bed in Clara’s room, we needed a dresser for Noelle.  When researching dressers, Don talked himself into ordering a bedroom set, with a bed, dresser, and bedside table.  They’re not top-of-the-line or anything, but they all match, which is more than you could say of the furniture in any of the other kids’ rooms.  Plus the woman at the furniture store gave him a pink lamp when he went to pick up the bedroom set and he told her about Noelle.  I’ll post pictures once we get the room done–we’re waiting on wall decals and haven’t bought bedding yet.
  4.  Our Hearts for Valentine fundraiser will be ending soon so that I can get the photo collage poster for Noelle’s room printed and hung in her room before she comes home.  The deadline for sending me your picture to include is Sunday, June 17th!  If you miss the deadline or just don’t care about sending a photo, you can still make a US tax-deductible donation to our Reece’s Rainbow FSP account up until Don and Noelle come home.
  5.  We won’t know for sure when Don and Noelle will come home until just before it happens.  It depends on how long the paperwork takes, particularly getting Noelle’s passport.  (She has to travel with a passport from her native country because under US law, she won’t be a US citizen until she lands in the United States.)  Based on the recent experiences of other families, we’re expecting it to take 2-3 weeks.  Don starts the paper chase on June 12th, when he picks up the court decree and goes to get Noelle a new birth certificate listing us as her parents.  Thus we are expecting them home in late June or early July.
  6.  On to non-adoption-related matters…  Clara has started using two-word phrases.  These have included, “in pocket,” “pants off,” “shoe-shoes on,” and the endearing, “Daddy home!”
  7.  The weather here is rather ridiculous.  We still don’t have full leaves on all our trees; a week ago most trees had nothing more than buds.  Yet, it’s been in the 80’s (Fahrenheit, of course) for the past several days.  This heat feels foreign, like there’s some kind of mistake.  We had a late, cold spring and now we’re fast-forwarding to get to summer.  My brain isn’t quite ready for summer, especially because we’re behind in our home school year due to adoption-related disruption so we’ll be homeschooling pretty much until Noelle comes home.

And that’s my update for this week!  Thanks for reading.

 

 

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This week’s edition of 7 Quick Takes comes to you from Eastern Europe, where Don and I are on our second trip in our adoption of “Noelle,” a 10-year-old girl.

  1.  Don and I left home early last Saturday morning.  Fortunately, my mom was able to come to our house to watch the kids this time, so we didn’t have to make the grueling drive to the Detroit area with them.  Skipping the drive with the kids is definitely less stressful, and I think they’re happier staying at their own house.  We made the ~7 1/2 hour drive to Chicago, because we don’t live near any major airports and that was the cheapest one for us to fly out of.  We had great weather for the drive and no problems until we reached O’Hare.  The on-airport economy parking lot where we planned to park was closed because it was full, so we were directed to another lot that was twice the price.  Then we anxiously drove up and down and all around the huge lot, not finding a single empty parking space anywhere.  We finally gave up in frustration; the parking attendant didn’t charge us and gave us directions to the area where off-airport parking was located.  We made it to an off-airport lot, then had to wait for their shuttle to take us to the airport.  Although we had budgeted some extra time, we were feeling stressed and nervous until we finally made it to the airport, through security, and to our gate.  Our flights from Chicago to Vienna and then from Vienna into Noelle’s country went smoothly.  We had a layover of about four hours in Vienna, where the sun was shining brightly, although it felt like 2 am to our bodies.  They had nice couch-like furniture in the airport where we could lie down and rest, so that’s what we did before eating breakfast/lunch and going to our next gate.
  2.  We spent two nights/one day in the city that we flew into.  (I know, it would be a better story if I told you the name of the city–hang in there!)  Despite the fact that we spent two nights there on our first trip (one on the way to Noelle’s region with our facilitator and translator and the other before we flew home), we hadn’t been into the city.  This gave us a chance to explore the more touristy areas, learn more about the history and appreciate the heritage there, and start working through the jet lag before meeting Noelle.  (A seven-hour time change is challenging.)

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    Don enjoying eating outdoors on a pedestrian street.

  3.  We spent some time with Noelle before we had court on Thursday.  We took a train to a city near the orphanage on Tuesday, arriving midday, and the owner of the small hotel in Noelle’s town picked us up.  We walked to the orphanage in the afternoon, after Noelle returned from school, and spent about three hours with her until it was time for her to eat.  We showed her photos and videos, gave her the paint color samples so she could choose the color for her room (she wasn’t ready to decide right away, but we asked her again on Thursday and she chose pink), and then went outside to play.  We played catch with a fuzzy tennis ball and velcro mitt things, frisbee, and hide and seek.  Noelle and I played on some of the playground equipment and blew dandelion fluff at each other.  Then on Wednesday, it was a holiday here, so Noelle didn’t have school.  We went to the orphanage mid-morning and were asked if we wanted to go for a walk with her in town, which of course we agreed to.  The caregiver sent Noelle to change her clothes (she came back in a beautiful dress, like she was going to church), then we went out for a lovely walk.  Noelle showed us her school, we walked through a large park and around a small lake, went to another small park with various memorial plaques, then we went to a restaurant and had pizza for lunch. After lunch, we bought ice cream cones at a grocery store and ate them as we walked back to the orphanage.  We went back to our hotel for a short rest, then returned to the orphanage, where we played some more catch, shared jelly beans with all the kids, and then did a craft to make a ladybug with plastic beads.
  4.  We passed court on Thursday!  Our facilitator/translator (she was the translator on our first trip, not the facilitator who was a crazy driver) took the overnight train from the capital and arrived at our hotel at 8:30 am.  The orphanage had sent Noelle to school and our facilitator confirmed arrangments with the orphanage director and regional social worker by phone, so we didn’t need to be anywhere until 1:30 pm, when we were to meet them at the courthouse (our case was scheduled for 2 o’clock).  We walked to a grocery store, bought some food, came back to our hotel room, and ate and chatted until it was time to leave to walk to the courthouse.  (We can walk everywhere here, which is both good exercise and saves us money on transportation.)  Ours was the first international adoption in this city and our judge was very by-the-book.  The whole thing took two hours, but 10-15 minutes of that was waiting for her to type up the document saying that our translator was allowed to be in court and another 25 minutes was waiting for her to type up the decision at the end.  Noelle sat in the hall outside the courtroom for most of it (which was probably very boring for her), but she did come in and speak to the judge and jurors.  The first question they asked her was if she knew the people behind her (us), and she answered “Yes” in English.  Our ability to communicate was one of the things the jurors were concerned about, based on their questions, so I think that helped show them that she will quickly learn English.  After court, we gave Noelle a necklace with a small heart charm on it and told her that she can wear it and think of us while she waits to come home.

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    Noelle and me, just “hanging out” (I couldn’t tell you how many years it’s been since I last did that)

  5.  Now we wait to find out when we will be able to pick Noelle up.  There is a mandatory 30 day waiting period before the judge signs the adoption decree.  However, the 30 day wait is not based on the date of court, but the date that the judge registers the decision, which they must do within 10 days of court (so it can be up to 40 days of waiting after court). We were told that, for technical reasons, the decision wouldn’t be registered until the 16th, but our facilitator is trying to see if it can get done sooner.  I know that you’re eager to see photos of Noelle and learn more details, but out of an abundance of caution, I am waiting until the adoption decree is signed before I share those things out on the open internet.
  6.  Staying in this hotel is different from most hotel experiences I’ve had.  It’s a very small hotel, the only one in town, and so far we haven’t seen any other guests here.  The couple that owns the hotel lives next door; clearly, this isn’t their main source of income.  There is a housekeeper here regularly, cleaning the (presumably still clean) empty rooms, but she hasn’t touched ours since we arrived.  We ran out of toilet paper and just bought a package at the store.  Our garbage can was full, so we took the bag out ourselves and replaced it with a plastic grocery bag.  Yesterday evening, we came back from dinner late (9:30 pm), and the hotel owner, who was standing outside (possibly waiting for us) asked us if he could come in our room to water the flowers in the flower boxes outside our windows.  The blinds do very little to block the light from the windows; I am awakened early every morning as the light from the rising sun hits me right in the face as I lie in bed.  I assume that the towels are dried on a clothesline because they are the stiffest, scratchiest hotel towels I’ve ever used.  However, what the hotel owners lack in knowledge of hotel operations, they make up for in friendliness.  They frequently greet us as we are coming and going.  On our first trip, they invited us to attend the Easter Vigil Mass with them and gave us some traditional Easter bread.  This trip, they invited us on a day trip to a local attraction, which we politely declined, because we want to spend the time with Noelle.  This morning, they gave us a plateful of homemade cookies.  The husband is interested in ham radio (though he’s not a ham) and enjoyed looking at photos of Don’s ham shack.
  7.  We expect to be back home on Monday.  Today (Friday) we will visit Noelle at the orphanage after school.  On Saturday, we’ll spend time with her in the morning and the afternoon, before taking the train back to the city we flew into.  We’ll spend the night there, then fly through Munich to Chicago on Sunday.  After sleeping near Chicago, we’ll drive home on Monday.  Then my travels to/from Eastern Europe will be over, while Don will prepare to spend about three weeks here in June/early July when he comes to pick up Noelle.

Thanks for reading!  You can find other bloggers’ versions of 7 Quick Takes here:

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  1.  Our dossier was approved and we got our appointment date!  The current plan is that we will leave here on the 17th to drive to Don’s parents’ house.  We fly out on the 18th, arrive on the 19th, and our appointment is on the 20th.
  2.   We’ve decided to bring Peter with us.  Simon and Clara will stay with Don’s parents.  Leaving Clara behind will be very hard for me because she’s not old enough to understand why we’re gone and when we’re coming back, but bringing her with us would be a lot of work and a major distraction.
  3.   There are things going on behind the scenes here.  I wish I could write about them now because I’ve been trying to be transparent and share our story as it unfolds, but Don feels a need for privacy at the moment.  Stay tuned and I will share when I am able.
  4.   We have so many things to do to get ready to go.  We have ordered useful items like a mini travel coffee maker thing (for Don; I don’t drink coffee) and electrical outlet adapters.  I just finalized my selection of pictures for a photo album featuring our family and home that we will show to the orphanage director and social workers, who must approve the adoption.  We have lists galore–lists of things to do and things to bring and things to pack for Simon and Clara.  There is so much running through my mind right now, I’m having a hard time sleeping, which is not helpful.
  5.   Homeschooling productivity has taken a hit since we got the news on Monday.  I didn’t do lessons with Simon at all on Monday or Tuesday and only managed about half of his lessons on Wednesday and Thursday.  Peter has fared somewhat better, but Thursday was the first day this week that he finished all his work and I managed to check it all.  Next week will be as bad or worse; not only will we be packing and doing our final preparations but Simon is going to be participating in an ice show and has two rehearsals, a photo session, and then the final performance on Friday.  (There are actually two shows, but he’ll miss the Sunday one.  I’m relieved that he will be able to perform in the first one at least; I’ve been stressed about the possibility of him having to miss it ever since I realized that we might be traveling sooner than we had originally expected.)
  6.   We finally managed to take a family picture.  Previously, the only picture with all five of us in it was a goofy one taken last March.  On Monday, we made the effort to set up a backdrop and decorate it with a heart banner I bought for 25 cents on clearance after Valentine’s Day, then took a bunch of pictures using the timer feature on our camera so we could choose the one that turned out best.  It’s not exactly professional-looking, but I’m happy with it.  However, we’re about to add another child, so this family picture will soon be obsolete.Family portrait small
  7.   And now, my obligatory fund-raising plug.  Travel will be our biggest expense for this adoption; we will be making three trips to Eastern Europe.  If you’d like to make a US tax-deductible donation towards our adoption expenses, you can donate to our Reece’s Rainbow Family Sponsorship Program account.

Thanks for reading!  I don’t expect to post next week because I will be running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to get everything prepared to leave.  We do expect to have internet access while we are in Eastern Europe and I will try to post something while we are there, but expect details to be limited.  While you’re waiting for me to post, you can find other bloggers’ 7 Quick Takes to read by clicking the graphic below.

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Today I’m going to try to stick to the “quick” aspect of 7 Quick Takes.  Here goes!

  1.  We got a grant!  A local organization that sponsors an annual “Mom Prom” event gave us a $2500 grant towards our expenses for adopting “Valentine” (the 10-year-old orphan from Eastern Europe that we hosted last summer).
  2.  And we got more money!  Someone connected with the Mom Prom organization was moved by our story and decided to anonymously make a personal donation of $1000 towards our expenses.
  3.  Our Reece’s Rainbow Family Sponsorship Program account is now up to $4098!  I feel like I’m overdoing it with the exclamation points so far, but this is all great news.
  4.  We haven’t received travel dates.  As of Tuesday, our dossier hadn’t been processed yet.  There is a new person reviewing dossiers in Valentine’s country and apparently she is very picky.  If she rejects just one of our documents, it will cause a several-month delay in our adoption process, so please pray that she will find everything acceptable.
  5.  Don made a “quick” trip to Marquette on Tuesday to get a copy of our tax return apostilled (it’s a four-hour round trip, plus 45 minutes waiting at the Secretary of State office).  Our adoption facilitation team requested it in case the person reviewing dossiers wants it.  It was an inconvenience to have to get one document apostilled and sent to Valentine’s country ASAP when we don’t even know if it will be needed, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
  6.  We didn’t make it through this winter without getting a car stuck in the snow in our driveway.  It happened when I was trying to go meet the Mom Prom people so they could give us money.  At least it was pretty easy to pull the car out with the tractor.  I hope it will be the only time this year.
  7.  Clara’s vocabulary has exploded over the past few weeks.  If anyone needs a housekeeping inspector, they can borrow her–one of her favorite new words is “dirt” and she loves to point it out all day long.  She’s added several two-syllable words, the first of which was “bubbo” (bubble), which sounds very cute when she says it.

I did it!  Since that was so quick, you have time to read other bloggers’ 7 Quick Takes now.  Click on the graphic to find some:

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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.

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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.

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

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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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