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

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

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

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

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

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This edition of 7 Quick Takes comes to you from northern Ontario (near Sudbury).  We are still on our “great RV adventure trip,” but if all goes well, we’ll be home tonight.  This is my final report on hosting “Valentine” (not his real name), the 10-year-old orphan from Eastern Europe who joined our family for a little over two months this summer.  It has been a very busy, full summer and now it’s coming to an end.

  1. I will get the complaints out of the way first. After almost two weeks of living in our RV, we’re all getting tired of it.  I am SO looking forward to getting home, where I can deal with everyone’s needs better (including my own).  I am tired of the inconveniences of traveling with this many people in this small of a space.  I’m tired of various other annoyances, like the fact that Don likes to sleep with the air conditioning on very cold (we don’t have air conditioning at our house).  I usually cloth diaper, but switched to disposables for this trip.  It hasn’t been hard to adjust to the disposable diapers, but I am not impressed with the disposable baby wipes.  They are incredibly inferior to the baby washcloths that I use at home.  Simon has been driving us crazy speaking like Valentine does; he sounds like an ESL student and not a native English speaker.  He says things like, “You no I like?” (“You don’t like this?”), “You come and me?” (“Are you coming with me?”), and “My name is airplane” (“I am an airplane”—pretending).DSCF0720 small
  2. Valentine had fun on our trip to NYC. He had a blast at the amusement park last Friday.  He had no fear of trying any rides he was tall enough to ride and he liked everything he went on.  He grinned through every ride.  (This is hard for me to understand because I am NOT a thrill ride fan.)  We got to the park right when it opened and Don stayed there with the boys until well past their usual bedtimes (I went back to the RV with Clara to get her to bed).  I’m sure that Valentine will remember that experience for the rest of his life.  We stopped and did a coal mine tour on Saturday.  Valentine seemed bothered by the fake animals—the fake rat, the fake canary in a cage, and the fake mule.  He kept asking me, “Statue?”  On Saturday evening, he and Simon playedd mini golf (or as Don likes to call it, “goofy golf”).DSCF0794 small
  3. We experienced New York City. Among other things, Valentine rode on the subway, saw the 9/11 memorial (we didn’t explain it to him or Simon), rode on the Staten Island ferry, saw the Statue of Liberty, went to Times Square, went to Central Park, went to the American Museum of Natural History, ate food from a food cart on the sidewalk, and saw a rat (a living rat, not a statue—it was in the subway).  This was my first time in NYC also (excepting the time Don and I took a cruise from NYC, but we took a ferry over from New Jersey and walked along the waterfront to the cruise ship and then did then reverse when the cruise was over; we didn’t go into the city at all).  I enjoyed seeing the great diversity of people (we live in a very not-diverse area) and the experience of being in the city.  After seeing so many TV shows and movies set in New York, it was interesting to see how the real city compared with my mental image of it.  It was exciting, over-stimulating, and exhausting.  We spent a small fortune on public transit and wreaked havoc on Clara’s sleep schedule.  I’m glad we went, but I’m glad it’s over now.DSCF0814 small
  4. We said good-bye to Valentine. On Monday evening, after all the kids were finally asleep, I stayed up very late going through photos, selecting the final pictures for the photo album I made to help Valentine remember his summer with us, and ordering them to pick up on Tuesday.  On Tuesday, Don took the boys to the natural history museum while I stayed at the RV with Clara so she could get a good nap in.  In the afternoon, I pushed Clara in her stroller over a mile to the drug store to pick up the photos, which wouldn’t have been a big deal if it hadn’t been raining and if I didn’t have to bring all of Valentine’s stuff with me (the SpongeBob backpack he came with and the string backpack we sent his care package in), in addition to the diaper bag, with only our little folding stroller.  As it was, it was a pretty miserable walk.  Then Clara and I walked another half mile and took a train from Jersey City (where we were staying) to the World Trade Center, then a subway up to the museum to meet Don and the boys.  From there, we took subways and the AirTrain to the airport, where we ate some dinner, met up with his group, gave Valentine the photo album, and said our good-byes.  We then headed back, taking another two hours on public transit to go from the airport to our RV.  Altogether, from the time Clara and I left in the afternoon until we got back from dropping Valentine off, we were gone for over seven hours, almost all of it spent either walking or riding on a train of some sort.  It was hard to say good-bye to Valentine, not knowing when or if we will see him again, but I was so exhausted that I was using all my energy to take care of Clara and Simon.  I had to shove my emotions aside to deal with later.IMG_0017 small
  5. We hope to see Valentine again; we’ve started the process to adopt him. We made the decision after he’d been with us for a couple weeks and got the paperwork started, but we decided to keep it quiet until after he left so that no one would say anything to him.  Most hosting organizations tell you not to discuss adoption with the kids; you don’t want them to believe they will be adopted and then be disappointed if it doesn’t happen, for whatever reason.  In our case, there was some drama with our hosting organization when we decided to use a different facilitation team for the adoption instead of the facilitator that they work with (who quoted me fees that were $4300 higher than the team we went with, then e-mailed me a week later when we hadn’t signed up with him to tell me that he had dropped his fees by $4000—I felt like he was just trying to see if he could get more money out of us, but he shot himself in the foot because I knew better than to pay that much).  We were harassed by e-mail (from the facilitator and the hosting organization) and phone calls (from the hosting organization director and a staff member) and the facilitator told me that when Valentine gets back to his country, he will be going into a foster family (which would make him ineligible for international adoption).  We don’t know if he’s lying to discourage us because he’s mad that he lost the business or if he’s telling the truth.  The way that adoptions from Valentine’s country work, we can’t officially have a referral for him until all of our paperwork is done and approved and we travel to his country (which should happen in the spring, if all goes well).  This uncertainty about whether Valentine will actually be available for adoption when we get there adds more stress to an already stressful undertaking.  (In case you’re wondering, if we do make it all the way there and he’s not available for adoption, we will be able to adopt another child who fits our homestudy approval.)I need a hug
  6. Now we need to come up with the money to pay for the adoption.  If you know anything about international adoption, you probably know that it is expensive.  We’re estimating the cost of the adoption at around $30,000.  We don’t have $30,000 lying around to pay for it.  We have about $7000 in savings and Valentine has received a grant of $2400 from Reece’s Rainbow (which is a child-specific grant that we will have to pay back if we are not able to adopt him).  That means we still have to come up with $20,000+ to pull this off.  We have the resources to take care of him once he’s adopted, but we are humbly asking for help to pay for the adoption.  Valentine is a good kid who will thrive in our family.  If he’s not adopted, his future in his country is bleak.  Kids “age out” of orphanages in his country when they are 16.  Theoretically, they can go to trade school and the government will give them a stipend to live off of, but in reality, most orphans end up homeless and turn to crime or prostitution to support themselves.  Most kids from good family environments are not mature enough to live on their own at age 16, and kids from orphanages are even less prepared.  To make matters worse, Valentine was born with a medical condition that is controlled with medication.  Because he has been labelled as having “special needs,” he is considered almost unadoptable in his country.  International adoption is his best hope.  I know that he has been in an orphanage at least since he was six years old; he doesn’t seem to remember living anywhere else so he may have lived in an orphanage since birth.  Children belong in families, not in institutions.  Please help us get Valentine out of the orphanage and into our family, where he has a real chance for a happy, successful life.  We have been approved for a Family Sponsorship Program account through Reece’s Rainbow, a non-profit organization that provides grants to help pay for international adoption expenses for children with special needs (with a special emphasis on children with Down Syndrome, which Valentine does not have).  When you donate to our account, you can feel good knowing that you are not only helping a great kid get a family, but that your donation is also tax-deductible.  You can donate by clicking on the graphic below or on the side of my blog to go to our Reece’s Rainbow page.  Please give generously!RRdonationbox
  7. I plan to post updates on my blog throughout the adoption process.  Please follow along!  We are very appreciative of your support, both financial and otherwise.

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This week’s update on hosting 10-year-old “Valentine” (not his real name) comes to you from central Pennsylvania.  We are on our “great RV adventure trip” on our way to take Valentine to the airport in New York City to fly back to his country next week.  Sorry, no pictures this week; it’s challenging enough just to get a text post up.

  1. It hasn’t been the most fun week of my life. I was dreading this trip because, among other reasons, it’s not easy to travel with Clara (who just turned 13 months old).  As I predicted, the stress:fun ratio is unfavorable, at least for the adults and Clara.  I think the hardest part of traveling is having less control over meeting people’s needs (including my own).  It’s hard enough to balance everyone’s needs at home and much harder on the road.  When it takes so much time and effort to deal with basic needs like eating, sleeping, toileting, and general hygiene, I don’t have much energy left for “adventure.”  As I’ve reflected on the difficulty of meeting everyone’s needs, I’ve been thinking about how hard it must be for refugee mothers in transit who don’t know where their child’s next meal will come from or where they will sleep that night.  I can’t imagine how horrible their lives must have been for them to make the decision to flee with their children and have to live like that, in the hopes of reaching a safe place.

 

  1. One of the biggest challenges has been Clara’s sleep. She naps well in the RV while it’s moving, but has a very difficult time going to sleep when it’s not.  Plus, for various reasons, we haven’t been able to coordinate our schedules every day to be able to drive when she needs to nap.  Because I need to stay with her until she falls asleep (to keep her from falling off the bed), it means I’ve spent a LOT of time lying on the bed with her.  She’s now decided that she likes to be in physical contact with me to fall asleep and while she is sleeping.  If she wakes up and I’m not there, I hear about it.  This is not how we do it at home, but I’m putting up with it for now because it’s easier than any other way.

 

  1. I think the boys are having a good time. There have been complaints of hunger and boredom and squabbles over who gets to sit where, but overall, they’re doing well.  They have been riding their bikes around the campgrounds and playing on the playgrounds, and they’ve been swimming twice.  Today is a big day—we’re going to an amusement park.  They are very excited about that.

 

  1. Valentine has eaten at restaurants as many times on this trip as in the two months he was with us before we left. (I would be happier saving money by doing more cooking in the RV, but Don likes to eat out.)  Valentine has now moved beyond eating a “gamburger” for every restaurant meal, but restaurant dining is still pretty new to him, as evidenced by the fact that he picked up the salt shaker from the table at the restaurant where we ate lunch on Tuesday and asked, “What is it?”

 

  1. Despite the stress, I am starting to appreciate the value of going on this trip. As we drove through the mountains yesterday, the boys were studying the view with rapt attention (well, Peter and Valentine were; Simon was sleeping).  I thought about it and realized that we haven’t been on a family road trip outside of Michigan/Ontario/Wisconsin/the Twin Cities (just inside Minnesota) since before Simon’s first birthday (well over four years ago).  It’s a good experience for the boys to get out of the Great Lakes region and see other parts of the continent.  I look forward to going on more road trips when Clara’s a little older and traveling with her is easier.

 

  1. Yesterday we had a mishap. The bike rack on our RV’s trailer hitch broke and the bikes fell off and got dragged a ways.  Amazingly, of the four bikes, the only one that needed repairs was Valentine’s—he needed a new inner tube and tire.  This happened not terribly far from the mishap Don and I experienced the last time we drove east across Pennsylvania.  Back in 2010, we were on the way to New York City to go on a cruise (the only time I’ve been to NYC).  I was driving our minivan and I smelled something unpleasant.  I assumed it was coming from the construction zone I was driving through.  I noticed smoke in the rearview mirror, then I looked in the driver’s side mirror and saw flames coming from the back of our vehicle.  That was scary.  I pulled over and we bolted from the minivan, not knowing if it was about to blow up (the flames were near the gas tank).  A Fed Ex truck driver pulled over, ran up with the fire extinguisher from his truck, and put the fire out before the fire fighters arrived.  One tail light was melted and the paint was damaged.  A police officer escorted us to his friend’s auto shop, where they got the light working well enough that we were allowed to drive off.  We were able to make it to our cruise and deal with the repairs after we got home.  I’ll take a broken bike rack over a flaming vehicle any day.

 

  1. Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion to my series of updates on hosting Valentine, which I hope to have posted next Friday.

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This was our last “normal” week in hosting “Valentine” (not his real name), a 10-year-old orphan from Eastern Europe.  Since we’ll be traveling, I can’t guarantee that I’ll have 7 Quick Takes posted here on my blog next Friday, but I’ll try not to leave you hanging too long.

  1. We leave this weekend on our “great RV adventure trip.”  We will travel to the East Coast to bring Valentine to the airport to return to his country.  I cannot express how much I am dreading this trip, in contrast with Don, who can’t wait to go.  It’s been a rough week and I am not prepared for what I know will be a stressful experience (vacationing with young kids is more work than staying home).  I have been fighting a feeling of impending doom, a physical feeling of anxiety in my chest.  I recharge my batteries by being alone, so the thought of being in close quarters with four or five other people (only one a mature adult) for almost two weeks is not a happy thought.  If you’re the praying type and could spare a prayer for me (and all of us), I would appreciate it.
  2. Valentine’s behavior this week has been challenging.  He has been deliberately annoying Peter and Simon by getting in their space, making obnoxious noises, calling them names, or repeating everything Simon says.  He hasn’t been stopping when they ask him to and even sometimes when I intervene, leading to consequences that make him mad, so he stomps around yelling and crying (and once woke up Clara from a nap in doing so).  I locked up his bike for a day because he rode off on a long bike ride down the street without asking me first.  I assume he’s acting up because he’s upset about leaving soon and I am trying to be compassionate, but it’s tiring to deal with.IMG_8830 small
  3. Valentine seems to think that “Why?” is something you say to express displeasure.  If he asks for something and I say no, he’ll whine, “Whyyyyyyyy?”  (He picked this up from my boys, but he has taken it to a whole new level.)  He doesn’t seem to understand that he’s asking a question; he doesn’t seem to care whether I respond or not.
  4. On Sunday, we went to our church’s annual picnic at the beach.  Normally I’m on top of things like making food for potlucks, but it slipped past my radar and I didn’t remember until that morning.  At Mass, when they mentioned it during announcements, they said, “Bring a dish to share if you are able.”  We came home to get changed before the picnic and I studied the contents of the cupboard, the fridge, and the freezer in vain.  I had no inspiration for anything I could throw together quickly.  I considered bringing a bag of marshmallows, but that seemed pathetic.  I was so stressed out that I just couldn’t deal with it.  I decided to take the announcement to heart and accept that I just wasn’t able to bring a dish to share, so we went empty-handed.  I figured that I’m doing the good work of caring for an orphan, which some people can’t do.  Other people can do the good work of providing food to share, which I just couldn’t do at that time.  I decided to accept their good work and be grateful for it.  Of course there was plenty of food and the world didn’t come to an end because I didn’t bring more.  The kids had a great time and I’m glad we went.IMG_8841 small
  5. We went on a nice family walk last Saturday.  Normally we go to parks and nature areas, but this time we had an “urban” adventure (“urban” in quotation marks because we’re talking about a city with a population under 10,000).  We walked across a large bridge, walked through downtown, ate at a pizza place, walked to another place where we had baklava for dessert, walked back across the bridge, and then walked a labyrinth.  I had made a list of fun things to do this summer before Valentine arrived.  We have done most of them and I’ve given up on what’s left (some things are hard to do with a baby who still naps twice a day); that was the last thing on the list that I wanted to get in before we leave on our big trip.
  6. Valentine’s knowledge of geography is quite limited.  We already knew that he was confused about where he was.  Due to our Canada Day celebration and various Canada-themed shirts that we wear, he thought he was in Canada, but he knew he was in America; he didn’t understand that they are two separate countries.  This week, I was reading him the children’s book Little Bear and Little Bear wanted to go in a tunnel to China, so I asked him through Google Translate if he knew where China was, and he said no.  I pulled out an atlas and we went over some basic geography.  He couldn’t find his country on the world map; he wasn’t even looking on the right continent.  He didn’t know the capital of his country.  I showed him where his country is, what countries are near it, where America is, where New York is, where we live, where Canada is, and of course, where China is.  He does know the colors of his country’s flag; he has mentioned them to me several times when he has seen things in those colors.IMG_8823 small (2)
  7. Valentine has made real progress in his lessons this summer.  He can now count by 5’s to 100 without a visual aid and can recite even numbers to 10.  He is pretty good at naming numbers up to 100 and finding them on a hundreds chart when I name them.  He can write almost all the capital letters and most of the lowercase letters if I say the most common sound that they represent.  He is reasonably good at telling time to the quarter hour on an analog clock.  He is currently on book 11 of level 1 of Little Stories for Little Folks.  He enjoys being read to and likes to look at pictures in books, especially The Action Bible (a sort of Bible comic book).  Sometimes he looks at books in French; I figure that since he can’t read well enough in English to make sense of English text, it doesn’t make any difference if he looks at English books or French books.  He was excited to find an illustration of the life cycle of the frog in one of our books yesterday; I showed him some Youtube videos on the frog life cycle several weeks ago after he saw hundreds of tadpoles swimming in a pond and had no idea what they were.  I asked him if he gets to read books other than in school when he is in his country, and he said no, which makes me sad.  I think he would like to be able to read for pleasure, and it would help him fill in some of the gaps in his knowledge of the world.  He has been attempting to read some environmental print, like “NO SMOKING” and “DO NOT PASS.”  I plan to continue our read-aloud and reading lessons during our RV trip, but I’m not going to work on writing, numbers, or telling time any more.

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