October 2008

Last night, I took a rare moment. S agreed to take the kids out for a walk/bike ride around the neighborhood, and just let me take a relaxing shower. I have been on my knees in prayer recently regarding the decisions we have to make with our adoption, and during the shower, I just felt like God spelled the whole plan out for us. I told S about it later, and he agreed. So, we made our final decisions last night, and started the process. “Coincidentally” (God arranged?) S was off work all morning–something that only happens on occasion. So I stayed up relatively late going over all the paperwork. I spent several hours filling out what I could and marking things for S to fill out, or things that have to be signed by notaries. This morning, we hit the ground running, and decided to take advantage of S’s morning off. We fed the kids, and loaded up. I am ashamed to say, we were in such a rush to get out the door that I totally forgot to brush M’s hair or wash JR’s face (covered in cereal and milk residue!) Oh well! We started off getting our fingerprints done. You have to have several copies in order to have state and national FBI background checks done. Those can take 2-3 months for results, so you do them ASAP. Then we had to go get criminal records (or lack thereof, I should say! I have never been caught!) from the police station. That was followed by a trip to the bank to get cashier’s checks to pay for it all. Few folks accept personal checks anymore! Then we put all that together and dropped it off at an office for our social worker so he can start his process. Sound complicated? It’s only the beginning!

Over the next few days/weeks, I have to make copies of all our birth certificates, our marriage certificate, different ID and insurance cards, notarize forms, and gather criminal records from the last 5 years. For us, that involves 3 states (1 down, 2 to go!). We have to continue filling out mountains of paperwork. I personally, have found the written part of the homestudy is really not as bad as people make it sound. The problem is that you have to write the same things several times in some cases. There is the official agency application, then the personal profile and/or autobiography, and, in this case, the social worker has his own forms totally seperate from our agency. So I have to write some of this stuff 3 times! No one accepts copies. Then, our agency requires statements of faith since they are a Christian agency. Thank the Lord, we have recently gotten to know one of our pastors recently so he could help with that. I have to send out reference letters. By the way, if you know us personally, there is a good chance I will e-mail or call about it soon! LOL When we get all that stuff back, I then get to load up the 3 kids I have now and make a trip to the local fedex store for shipping services. Finally, the best part is when we create and order our “profiles.” This is a book we have compiled that tells the expectant mother about us. We try to answer the majority of questions she might have. She will be shown several of these profiles based on her criteria for adoptive parents, in order to help her decide who she wants to choose to adopt her baby.

It sounds intimidating, but amazingly, I am so relaxed about it this go around. It is wonderful having been through it before. God gave us the fore-sight to get extra copies of many of our certificates so we don’t have to worry about that this time, and we totally know what to expect this go around. I was just telling S that I have truly come to value the sense of peace I get when I/we have made the right decision (we hope! LOL). Only God ever knows for sure, but He hasn’t led me wrong yet when I pay attention to that feeling. So now, if you could just keep the whole process in your prayers once again. Pray that our fingerprints and paperwork can be processed in a timely manner so the homestudy can proceed, pray for everyone involved, and pray for the biological mother of the child God is planning for us, as well as the child him/her-self. Thanks!

Well, I guess it’s official…God has called us to adopt again, or maybe I should say, to be willing to adopt again.

For those of you who don’t know our story, there were many factors that brought us to the adoption of little A. One major factor was a simple comment made by someone I highly respect for her Christian character and her walk with Christ. She said, “if we as Christians are going to be against abortion, then we must be willing to personally offer an alternative.” God’s Word specifically instructs us to “…look after orphans and widows in their distress…” (James 1:27). While I am no theologian, and I do realize that this verse is really written to elders in the church, I have come to interpret the term “orphans” to include any child, born or unborn, living in an orphanage in a 3rd world country or in a foster home in the U.S., or an unborn baby whose mother decided (for any reason) that she cannot raise her baby. Furthermore, I figure since many “elders” today are not doing many of the jobs God assigned them, somebody has to. Additonally, I have come to view the term “widows” in this verse as including not only women whose husbands have died, but any woman, young or old, who is in some kind of distress. The simple fact is there are countless children, both unborn and born, around the world who are in need of a stable, loving home, and there are countless women out there who are struggling. I truly don’t know how Biblically solid this view and interpretation is. However, as Christians, it is our job to help others in whatever way God leads us to. S and I feel strongly that God has allowed both positive and negative situations in our lives to work together in such a way that we have the desire, ability, and resources to open our homes to young children and infants.

So why are we so passionate about adopting? Well, first and foremost, God has called us to do so. Contrary to our modern, worldly-view society, we firmly believe”sons are a heritage from the Lord, children are a reward from Him.” (Psalm 127:3) Contrary to popular views regarding abortion, God “created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”(Psalm 139:13)

While there is a need worldwide, our passion is for domestic (U.S.) adoption. Unfortunately, there is no reliable source with updated national information, but, based on what is available, here are a few statistics:

  • According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, in 1995, there were over 10 million women in the U.S. who had considered adoption. Of those 10 million, only 1.6 million had ever taken steps toward an adoption. However, only 437,000 women had ever adopted. EVER! That’s just 1.3 percent of the original 10 million!
  • Compare that to the fact that around 100,000-200,000 domestic children, age newborn-18 need adopting each year. A large number of these children wind up in the state foster care system. Obviously, it is a myth that there are no children available for adoption here in the U.S.
  • Furthermore, in some parts of the country, about 50% of newborns placed for adoption are white, with the other 50% consisting of every other race or mixture of races. In other parts of the country, about 50% are African-American, with the other 50% consisting of every other race or mixture of races.
  • Based on my research and experience, about 70-80% of people applying to adopt are caucasion, seeking caucasion infants. VERY few people are of other races, or are open to any race and older ages. Sadly, there is such a need for adoptive parents for African-American specifically, that many agencies and organizations offer grants and discounts for this race in order to help lower-income people afford adoption.
  • Obviously, when you do the numbers, they show a shortage of adoptive parents and an abundance of races other than caucasion, as well as an abundance of children older than the infant stage.
  • It is a sad state of affairs we are in. In fact, with the current economic “crisis,” recent numbers are showing a drastic increase in children of all ages being placed for adoption. Biological parents are hurting, they are scared, and they may desire something different or “better” for their children. They want help. Unfortunately, worldly lies have influenced many to believe that abortion is a quick solution to a “problem.” In fact, between 1 and 2 MILLION abortions are performed every year. And I won’t even begin to get into the statistics of the poor women who wind up suffering emotionally and physically after an abortion.
  • We have also learned that, contrary to popular belief, many women who abort truly feel there is no other option and later have many regrets, while most women who place their babies for adoption truly love their babies. However, some women have a desire to finish school, some feel incapable of parenting, some have no support system in place (which any parent needs!), some may have dreams for their child that they feel they cannot provide, some may feel a threat to their life or welfare if they keep the baby, some may already have a child or children and fear they can’t afford or handle another, some may be pregnant by rape, realizing that the baby is an innocent victim as well, and some may be battling an addiction that they just can’t overcome enough to parent. Think of it this way: no matter how messed up her life or priorities may seem to an outsider, she loved her baby enough to give it life! Furthermore, many women love their babies so much that they don’t want the child to be caught in the red tape of the state social system, and therefore choose to use a private individual adoption, private agency, or lawyer, where, in most cases today, the biological mother can actually choose the people/family she desires to parent her baby.

Our eyes were really opened to this incredible need through our first adoption experience. We encountered several situations, but one that really stands out was after we were already locked in with our agency. For some reason, I was on the phone with another agency. When I mentioned that we had told our agency we were open to race and gender, the lady excitedly said, “Really?! We have 2 babies right now, one has been laying in a hospital for 3 weeks, while the other was born a month ago, and we can’t find parents for either one because of race! They are perfectly healthy!” While I wish we could have helped out in those situations (we couldn’t because God already had little A picked for us!), I am happy to report they did soon find homes. Nonetheless, there is a need!

I would like to leave you with a youtube video slide show I found of a frequent type of domestic newborn adoption called open or semi-open (the birthmom and adoptive parents have met and may keep in touch. Communication varies based on all parties’ desires. This is similiar to what we have with A’s birthmom). Listen closely to the words. Oh, and you may want a box of tissues handy! If the direct video doesn’t work, use the link under it.


For those of you who are a little more experienced in the homeschooling area, I need a little advice….

When I started hs 4 yr old JR, my intent was to focus on phonics and reading this year and writing next year. However, he is reading quite well already, and wanting to learn to write now. So I have started letting him use some writing workbooks in just a relaxed, introductory manner. These involve tracing numbers and letters (dotted lines), then trying to do it freehand next to the traces. It is probably worth mentioning here that JR is a perfectionist. If it isn’t perfect, he will beat himself into the ground trying until he thinks it is. He just can’t make himself stop. While this can be a good thing at times, it is resulting in very unpleasant writing lessons, as he sits there crying, getting discouraged, and trying and trying and trying again. Mind you, that is with no pressure from me. In fact, I have to make him stop when his frustration gets too out of hand, because he just won’t let it go. But, taking it away will usually result in a complete loss of control, where I have to sit with him and encourage him to take deep breaths to calm down. What do I do?

I am perfectly content to wait until next year, when his fine motor skills are a bit more developed, but he is literally begging to learn to write. The problem is that he tends to do things backwards and/or sideways. Is there a manual I should use that will help him, or does he just have to keep practicing. Should I limit him to 1-2 a week, or just let him “play” at his own pace? I am just not sure about this one. Any advice would be greatly appreciated! Thanks in advance!

Have you ever had one of those moments where you just suddenly feel overwhelmed by the power, omnipotence, and blessings that our Lord God so willingly pours out? We had just such an experience this past week, and I would like to share it with you.

As you know, we had placed our car for sale about 6 weeks ago. For the quality, type of car, and price we were asking, we were really surprised to have had hardly any interest. In fact, in 6 weeks time, only 2 people were really interested, and both backed out “due to the economy.” We began praying and seeking God’s wisdom. We didn’t want such a resource just sitting in our garage if it could benefit someone else, and we also didn’t want to waste financial resources to continue paying insurance and registration on a car we weren’t using. Aside from the car, we had come up with this grand plan on the best way to invest the money, and began to question if God had another plan. So we really sought God’s guidance on how to handle the situation.

Within days of us beginning to pray about it, several things happened. The first was quite nerve-wracking. We both began to feel a calling from God to open our home once again to adoption. Seeing as how A is only 6 months, I really questioned this calling. We prayed some more, and a picture began to take shape in our heads of becoming a family of six. I tried to compromise by researching toddler and older child adoptions (thinking it would make things easier). Then, I thought, we could request a little girl to make our family “even”–2 girls, 2 boys. Not to mention, it just makes more “sense” because our house can more easily accommodate that setup than another boy. God seemed to have other ideas though. He seems to be giving us pretty specific instruction to just be open, once again, to age and gender, to following Him, and allowing Him to be in control. When we/I finally submitted, we realized that our asking price for the car would more than pay for another adoption, and that perhaps adoption was God’s plan for the money, rather than our ideas of investing. At the same time, we felt led that we should be willing to accept a much lower price on our car, if it meant helping someone. So we began contacting a couple of churches to put out word that if anyone was in need of a reliable car, to talk with us. That is when the second thing happened. Almost immediately, we received 2 responses to our advertisements, one of which was from a church (I’ll call them Person A). Person A came to look at the car, and really seemed to genuinely have more of a need. However, they were somewhat embarrassed to not be able to afford the asking price. We prayed about it. Though Person A did not make an actual offer at that point, we told them we would accept their offer, whatever it was. Just for fun, I did some calculations. I found that if we could get just X amount for the car, we would have exactly what we needed for an adoption. Person B, who was still considering his offer when all this occurred, finally called and wanted to come see the car. We told them that they were welcome to come look, but that Person A had priority, as they were already in the process of working out the financial details. Person B chose to come anyway, and made us an offer of our asking price. Right then, our phone rang, and Person A reported that they had the money. It was less than our asking price, but EXACTLY what my calculations had shown we needed for the adoption. S apologized to Person B and sent them on their way. In a way, we felt as though it was a bit of a test by the enemy to see whether we would follow God’s calling or accept the higher price. That evening, as we sat down and discussed the occurrences of the day, I was just overcome with the wonderful feeling that results from helping another, overcome with the peace that results from submitting to God’s will–or at least showing that you are willing to follow Him, even if it could potentially result in discomfort, and overcome with the abundance of blessings God has poured out on us as believers.

I am learning that God’s grace is something we will never, in our mortal minds, be able to fully grasp, but OH! what a wonderful thing it is. God loves us so much, and it takes so little effort to see signs of that unconditional love and grace. And all He asks for in return is that we follow His will. He doesn’t promise comfort or ease or popularity, but He does reward for that faithfulness in His own way and time.

I have been convicted recently about showing our children exactly how the Bible instructs us, so that they can begin to grasp that we are following God’s word in our obedience rather than just Mom and Dad’s. This task has caused me to hesitate somewhat though, as I am not good–in fact, I am downright terrible–at remembering actual scripture references. This is something I am working on currently, but decided that for my children’s sake, the best way to teach would be to dive right in (and become really good friends with my Bible’s concordance and reference index!)

Today we had a situation where JR disobeyed my instruction. Nothing major, but as a consequence, I made him stop doing his activity entirely. He is a very sensitive child by nature, so, because he wanted to continue so badly, this consequence caused the tears to flow. It was almost lunch time. So I briefly explained his disobedience and the resulting consequence, and then left him alone to calm down while I prepared lunch. It occurred to me what a prime opportunity I had to take him to the Word of God. So, as we sat down to lunch, I grabbed the Bible. I asked him about what he had done wrong, ensured that he understood his actions, and then asked if he understood why I had to discipline him when he disobeyed. He explained to me, “No, mom, obeying is ugly! I can’t do that.” This statement shocked me and as I delved deeper, I realized that JR had a total misunderstanding and confusion regarding the terms obey and disobey. BTW, these are terms I use regularly, so it had never occurred to me that he didn’t understand them. I was so incredibly thankful I had taken the opportunity to talk with him. So after some explaining, defining, and clarifying, I then asked him why he needed to obey. As expected, he answered, “I don’t know.” I then told him that God gives us instructions that we are to obey. I asked who wrote the Bible, and he answered, “GOD!” So then we went to Exodus 20:12 and Matthew 15:4, and discussed God’s instruction that we are to “Honor our mother and father,” and the fact that God promises rewards such as a long life if we obey. Then I asked if he understood why I have to discipline if he disobeys. When he didn’t seem confident in his answer, we again turned to the Word of God and looked at Proverbs 22:6, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not turn from it.” We discussed the meaning of that verse, and the fact that I have to teach my children, because God instructs me to do so, and I have to obey God. Discipline is how we learn sometimes. I used some examples of disobedient acts he had committed in the past and their resulting consequence, and he quickly seemed to catch on to how he learned through those experiences. We discussed what kind of little boy would treat his parents really ugly. JR replied that an “ugly” boy would. I asked the same about a boy who treats his parents nicely, to which he replied a “nice” boy. We then turned to Proverbs 20:11, “Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right.” We discussed different kinds of people and their actions and whether or not they are likely obeying God.

It may have been a little overkill, but it was the first time (I am truly ashamed to confess) that I have approached such a situation in this manner. It really felt good. Furthermore, JR truly seemed to enjoy the conversation, and even seemed to grasp the majority of the concepts we discussed. M was at the table with us the whole time, just listening. I have no idea how much she understood. After our conversation, however, she started her own conversation with JR about good people, bad people, ugly, nice, and spanks, so she obviously picked up a little from it.

Hopefully, as I am getting deeper into the Word myself, as we learn memory verses together, and as I take the kids to the Word for teachable moments, I will quickly get better at it. Some mom’s make it seem so easy! Nonetheless, I can’t think of a better way to spend a lunch hour, then with my family, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and the Word of God!

Since we started homeschooling, I have become somewhat discouraged by the fact that I seem to have such small amounts of actual “schooling” time. On the best of days, where we cover many subjects, it only takes about an hour and a half to two hours of our day. Also, I was having some difficulty teaching because M could do very little, so I would often put her in front of a pile of toys in the playroom or pop in a Veggie Tales so I could work with JR on reading. However, knowing she was watching Veggie Tales would distract JR, so he couldn’t focus on his reading. Then, after lessons, the kids get bored, often wind up watching Veggie Tales, and so I began researching new ways to do this homeschool thing. I began learning more about Montessori schooling, and have learned to appreciate what it is about–particularly for younger children. What little I know of it is this: you basically give children activities that involve one or more of their 5 senses, instruct them how to do it, then allow them to figure it out for themselves. In the process, they learn focus, independent play, coordination, and a number of other skills (depends on the activity). Now, I must mention here that I do not consider the Montessori method to fit with Biblical principal in some of its practice, and therefore, it will never be the basis of our curriculum. However, I think some of the activities involved can be very beneficial. So, since I am not very creative myself, so I decided to duplicate a few items to save some money, and unfortunately must confess I did have to settle for plastic in some cases. Anyway, today was a huge success, and the kids LOVED their new activities.

Sorting Activity: They really enjoyed the challenge of this activity. You simply need a bowl full of items to sort (i.e. coins, stones, marbles, toys, etc.) and a container to sort them in. I found these “non-choke hazard” v-shaped glass stones in the Wal-mart craft section, and got a couple of packs of childs bracelets and rings. You can change the activity by changing the item they sort or how they sort (color, size, shape, etc.). You can increase the challenge (and thereby, the skill lesson inadvertently learned) by not allowing the use of hands for sorting. Use an age-appropriate tool such as tongs, bag clips, or chop sticks.

Measuring activity: Of the things we did today, this was no doubt the favorite. You just need a tray a couple of inches deep, a couple bags of split peas, lentils, decorative sand, or aquarium rocks, etc. Then put a few extra kitchen items and measuring tools in the tray. I used a small plastic measuring cup, a tall 1/2 cup measuring glass, measuring spoons, a funnel, and a formula scooper. I found the split peas sometimes stick in the funnel, so I also added a bamboo chopstick to help stir the peas through when necessary. I think they would play with this for hours if I let them. Although they are too young for learning much about measurements, they are already learning the basics–it takes x number of formula scoops to fill the tablespoon, x number of teaspoons to fill the funnel, x number of funnels to fill the glass, etc. They also learn hand-eye coordination for pouring and preventing peas from coming out of the tray.

We also did some painting today. I had the kids paint some clothes pins for an activity I will discuss when it is completed, as well as their Halloween pumpkins.

You can tell the kids are still into the “mixing colors” phase! I drew these pretty little pumpkin faces for them to paint, and they just covered them up with various shades of mostly gray. What appears to be a painted face on the one is just my bit of fun when M finished her pumpkin.

I love homeschooling! You just have to learn how to assign a category to all your activities. So we can play in split peas and call it “Math” and paint pumpkins and call it “Art”! Isn’t that fun?!

I have pretty much decided to take a break from JR’s computer phonics for a while. He advanced pretty quickly, and he isn’t quite ready for the next stage. So, probably once a week or so, I will have him review a previous lesson, but otherwise, we are going to just have a lot of read-aloud time in his Bob books. We also pulled out the United States puzzle map and JR learned a new state. He now knows each state he has lived in, the states his relatives live in, plus one.

I just wanted to share what an evening around here looks like (though not every evening, it is one of our favorite types). Sorry, it is kind of a dark pic, we don’t have a lot of camera-appropriate lighting in this house, but we do have fun! I get such joy watching the smiles on their faces as they interact with their father, and see the love of music that seems to be developing inside them. Oh, and just for the record, I have no clue what JR is singing! LOL

My baby girl is growing up. Daddy and her have developed a special bond, although Mommy gets her moments too. This week, I treated her like a “girly-girl” and painted her finger and toe nails. She actually sat still for the whole thing. I couldn’t believe it. She was so proud!

Unfortunately, this past weekend, we began to fear the “special-ness” was going to her head when her and JR were tussling on the floor. At one point, JR tackled her and she said, “Don’t hurt Daddy’s little Princess!!” Oh boy, I think we are going to have our hands full with her!

This recipe has become a tradition around here for whenever the weather turns cool. I LOVE the smell that permeates the house, and this bread is so moist, filling, and just downright delicious!

2/3 cup butter
1  cups rapadura
2 eggs, slighty beaten
1 tsp vanilla
4 Tbs milk
1 cup (about 2-3) mashed bananas
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup crushed pecans or walnuts

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Blend butter and sugar; add eggs, vanilla, milk, and bananas. Mix well. Add flour, baking powder, and salt, and mix just until smooth and moistened. Stir in nuts. Pour mixture into greased loaf pan, and bake about 1 hour or until toothpick in center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before removing from pan. This is even more delicious served warm with butter on it. Enjoy!

There are a few things worth mentioning about this recipe. First, The more ripe the bananas, the sweeter and darker the bread. I often bake it just to use up my over-ripened bananas. Secondly, I have made this bread in 3 different ovens, and baking time has varied significantly–anywhere from 50 minutes to an hour and a half. If the center jiggles AT ALL, it is not done. When done, the crust will be a very dark golden and somewhat crisp around the edges. Only insert a toothpick or knife when you are pretty confident, otherwise your center will collapse. It will still bake, it just won’t be as pretty. Thirdly, this bread is a fairly heavy, quite moist bread. As a result, if it is not COMPLETELY cooled AND in a VERY well oiled pan, it will fall apart when you try to remove it. This is what usually happens to me, as I am never very patient for the cooling step! LOL After smelling it for an hour, I just can’t wait to taste! I just think of what my Grandmother used to tell me, “The more it falls apart, the better it tastes!” I don’t think this is exactly what she meant, but it makes me feel better anyway. Nonetheless, despite these quirks, this is the best banana bread I have ever had! Try it and let me know what you think!

So far, we have had a really good day today. Not that we don’t usually have good days, but most days seem a little monotonous, I guess. But today, not counting the little accident M had to start off the morning (let’s just say it involved urine, underwear, and carpet), we have really enjoyed each others company, stayed busy, learned a lot, and generally had fun. After starting the day with breakfast and a Bible story, JR did some read-aloud time in place of his computer phonics this morning. I got some cleaning done, and M and A played. After A went down for nap, M, JR, and I decided to bake my favorite cool-weather recipe: Banana Nut Bread.

While the bread baked, the kids worked in their activity books while I cleaned.

At one point, I began helping JR with a page that involved looking at an object and then circling the items that did not belong. For example, the object below was a fire truck. He had to choose from an ax, fire extinguisher, firefighter, ball, and banana.

As any well-educated adult knows, he was supposed to circle the ball and banana as NOT belonging with the firetruck. Right? When he only circled the ball, I questioned him about it. He quickly replied, “The fireman has to eat and the banana is his food, so it belongs!” Few things are as humbling as a just-turned-4 year old telling you how things are in a manner that you can’t argue with! I don’t know what kind of school teacher I am, but at least we seem to have mastered the art of deductive reasoning! Fortunately, the oven timer sounded soon after, allowing me to escape facing my humility for too long. And, as always, the bread was delicious!!

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