Tuesday, November 27, 2012
So first, the most significant piece of progress: Sabrina has a family coming for her! They have already met her, they will accept a referral for her shortly, and she'll probably be home within a couple of months. I am so, so excited for her! I'm not sure yet if the funds I'm trying to raise will still go to her (depending on if her family is funded yet) or to another orphan waiting for a family, but either way they'll help make sure one child is an orphan no more.
The next bit of awesome progress: before Sabrina's family committed to her, she already had $380.50 in Angel Tree donations. That's more than a third of the way to the $1000 goal. If any of you contributed to that amount thank you so, so much!
And now for the updates on my more personal goals. Well, those are okay, but not going quite as well. I have never managed to finish NaNoWriMo, and a big reason for it is that November is Thanksgiving break, and we almost always go on a family trip then (usually to visit extended family). Oddly enough, I pretty much don't manage to write on these vacations. I probably could, but it would mean not much time actually interacting with either my immediate or extended family, and as much as I want to write, I don't think that's really the trade-off I want to make. So though I started off all right, I've only written about 3800 words this month. I'm extending my writing goal to end when my exercise goal and fundraising goal end (the end of December), and hopefully I'll be a lot closer to writing the 50,000 words by then.
My exercise goal is going a bit better -- so far I've walked or run 22 miles, which is close to a quarter of the way to my goal of 100 miles. I need to pick up the pace a little bit, but even if I don't quite make it, I've still exercised a lot more this month than I have any other time in recent memory, which is definitely a success.
And, as further motivation for myself, I'm going to stay off facebook until I've gotten 30 miles and 20,000 words under my belt. Hopefully that will get me motivated to really get back into a groove now that vacation is over! (Also, if you see me on FB, ask me if I've finished, and if I say no, tell me to get off!)
Thursday, November 1, 2012
Then we committed to adopting, and I mostly concentrated on that here on the blog. And then Brigitte was transferred, and since then I've been struggling, scrambling, babbling, and in general just trying to figure out what to do from here. And I haven't really come up with a solution, but I have come up with a purpose and goal, at least temporarily.
To begin with, when I started this blog and used "changing lives" in the title, I was thinking about the ability to change the lives of orphaned children. But one of the first thoughts I had was that if I wanted to change lives, I might do well to start with my own. And even though I haven't talked about it a lot on here, I have worked on that, and been semi-successful. But not nearly as successful as I could be, or as I probably ought to be. So over the next two months I'm going to buckle down.
November is National Novel Writing Month. For anyone who doesn't know, I write. I've been writing for years, but have yet to actually finish anything. Now, there are good and valid reasons for this (mostly 3 kids and a husband who works long hours), but it's still something I would like to change. I try to be good about writing every day, but while I manage for short periods of time, something always comes up and I slack off again. I've tried doing NaNoWriMo before, but I've never gotten close to the 50,000 word goal. But this year, I'm going to try again.
Since you're supposed to start a new project for NaNoWriMo I've decided to work on the sequel for the novel I'm about 3/4 done with. I'm hoping that will get me back into the setting and characters, so I can then use December to finish the first draft of that one. Plus, it will hopefully help sell the first one (either to a publisher or as an e-book I publish myself) if I have another in the series that I can finish soon after.
And, since I'm very prone to distraction, I'm putting limitations on them to encourage my productivity. No FB, reading blogs, or computer games until I've written 2000 words in a day. So, um, if you don't see me for the entire month, that's why. :)
Also, since I often fail miserably when making big goals, I decided why limit myself to one? If I can't manage one, it would be better to try for THREE, right? I know, I make no sense. It's been a long time since I claimed to.
So, on to number two! I really need to be better about exercising, and I've been thinking about doing a couch-to-5K type program for a while. And I'm going to try to start that this month, too. My goal is to run/walk 100 miles in the next two months.
And to top the other two goals off, I've signed up to be an Angel Tree warrior for one of the little cuties on Reece's Rainbow. This is a program designed to raise awareness of orphans in the holiday season, and also to hopefully raise $1000 for each of them during the months of November and December. Usually the Angel Tree is limited to kids with Down Syndrome between the ages of 0 and 5. Not because these kids are more special or more worthy than any others, but just because there's only so much you can do at once, and so you have to choose something to focus on. These kids have been the focus of Angel Trees in years past. But various advocates love many kids who don't fall into that age range/diagnosis, and so every year they ask if Angel Tree will be expanded to include more kids. And this year it is! Three children from each of the other groups of kids on Reece's Rainbow were chosen (by voting and donations) to be included on the Angel Tree this year. Including 3 from each of the age ranges of the HIV+ kids, who have my heart. I decided that I couldn't push to get those kids included in the fundraiser and then not be willing to step up and help fundraise for them.
I'm pretty much horrible at fundraising, but I have a few ideas and I'm going to be doing my best over the next two months to share the profile, and hopefully raise the grant fund (at least a little bit) of a gorgeous girl named Sabrina:
She's five years old and lives in Eastern Europe. When we weren't able to adopt Brigitte, I wondered if maybe we should go for Sabrina instead. I prayed about it, but I've always felt was not supposed to be ours. But I know she has a Mommy and a Daddy out there somewhere, and hopefully I can help them find her.
In the meantime, I've decided to kick off my fundraising efforts by (hopefully!) getting a few of my friends to sponsor my self-improvement efforts. Do you want me to finally finish a book so you can read it? Maybe you would be willing to pledge just $.01 for every 100 words I write (that would be a $5.00 pledge if I meet my goal of 50,000 words). Or maybe you'd rather promote healthy living. Would you be willing to pledge $.05 for every mile I walk or run (again, that would be a $5.00 donation if I make my goal of 100 miles). I'm hoping that if I know people are donating based on what I accomplish it'll provide the extra incentive I need to not just start these improvements but actually meet my goals!
If you'd be willing to make a small pledge, let me know here or on FB! And even if you can't, could you share Sabrina's profile and join me in prayer that her family will find her? Thanks!
Thursday, August 30, 2012
And so some days I wonder, "Why am I still trying?" And lately, many days, I don't have a good answer. The truth is, I'm often overwhelmed. School's starting, therapy schedules are changing and becoming more complicated, we're starting activities for the younger kids, and things are busy. Jacob's often working long hours, we're both over-tired, and the house is kind of falling apart a lot of days. And I think, "Why add more? Can I actually handle more?"
And it's more than that. I feel like we should adopt, but whereas before I had some pretty clear direction, now I don't really know who, or where, or when, or anything. And I don't like disagreeing with my husband (okay, if you know us, you're probably laughing right now, but, well, I don't like it on the important things, at least). If I don't have a clear direction, and he doesn't want to move forward, why create contention by continuing to talk about it and ask about it?
Plus, the truth is that while I adore my kids, being a mom is not really my favorite job ever. Don't get me wrong -- I feel very blessed to be a mom to my kids, and I've felt like staying home with them was the right decision for our family (at least for now), and I'm grateful that my husband makes enough that we have that option. But really, in thinking just about _my_ career choices, it's not even close to the top of the list. I completely respect people who teach or do childcare for a living. I'm so grateful for them, and how awesome the good ones are with my children. I'm not someone like that. I enjoy kids, but mostly in small doses, and that generally goes for my own kids, too. I have a lot of fun with them, but then I turn on the TV so I can distract them while I escape. And the truth is that I'm pretty happy with my 3 boys. They're great, we have fun, and I really don't feel any longings to have another baby. (Honestly, I've never really gotten those.)
But though I've been feeling discouraged lately, wondering why I'm even still trying, I got a great reminder today of why I am. Why it's important, and why I still want to do this, in spite of all the reasons for not doing it. My friend is over in EE adopting for the second time this year. I want to share with you some of what she wrote after returning.
And, now the sorrow. When we came here 6 months ago the groupa was about 15 children. Today I saw 6 total. That includes V. The other little girl that was so close to EM and V was not here anymore. She could not be adopted so that means she aged out of her baby house. Another little girl that pulled at my heart-gone. Most of these children were not available for international adoption. These kids were in the oldest groupa in the orphanage. Most of these children have been transferred. Whether they went to the institution or the internat depends on how severe their needs. But either place will not be what they are used to. It will also not be a family. And their chances of being adopted as they age gets smaller.
I looked into these children's eyes. I held their hands. I talked to them. For them to be gone, most likely transferred, is heartbreaking. I am hoping that some of the parents came for them. I am hoping some of them were adopted. But I will never know.
And how awful for V and the other little ones that have been left behind. Can you imagine losing most of your friends in 6 months? One after another. Being left behind. Can you imagine what that would do to your heart? How that would harden you over time?
I hope our girl was just nervous today. But I also imagine it has been a rough 6 months. I am so glad we are here for her. That she won't be left behind to age out and face the internat alone. But so many more have been and will be. It is overwhelming. They are all deserving. Where are the parents for these other precious children?
And that is what it is like to be over here doing this. Full of joy, love, devastation, heartbreak, fear, sorrow, happiness, elation, worry, anger, frustration, hope. It is so emotional. so hard. so draining. And yet I am, of course, so grateful to be here. Not only for my family and my daughter. But for myself. That my eyes have been opened. Better to see even when it hurts than to look away ignore the painful reality. These kids are real. These kids are there. waiting. wanting. needing whether we want to look at them or not. As hard as it is for us, imagine how hard it is for them. If we open our eyes and see, we can do something.
It was just the reminder that I needed today, that it's not about me.
I was reminded of a conversation I had with a friend recently. She was asking about our adoption, what we were thinking, if we were planning on moving forward, etc, and I mentioned (off-hand) that I didn't want to adopt a healthy baby. She looked at me in genuine confusion and asked, "Why not?" It was a legitimate question, asked thinking about the heartache some of her family members have gone through with their adopted daughter (who was adopted as an older child, and has some special needs). She wondered, if I could choose, why I wouldn't want to adopt a healthy baby and avoid some of those issues? I told her a truth -- that if I wanted a healthy baby (though really, there's no guarantee of that through birth or any type of adoption) I could have my own. I probably didn't delve far enough into the greater Truth -- that it's not about me.
This isn't about me, though I know I would benefit, learn, grow, and become a better person through the process. This isn't about my bio kids, though I know they'd love another sibling, and would learn valuable lessons about love, caring, and being grateful. This isn't about our family at all, though I think if we do adopt we'll be blessed. This is about children who have nothing and no one, who are simply waiting for someone to love them, someone to choose them. This is about being the hands and feet of God, reaching out to the least of these, and saying, "I love you. 'Come unto me.'" The truth is, these children need someone to step out of their comfort zones, be willing to go out on a limb, and say, "We choose you." If not us, then who?
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
But since I love all my blog readers, I thought I'd catch you up a little bit. We went on an awesome long vacation during which my kids saw both sets of grandparents, all three great-grandparents who are still living, 10 of their 16 aunts and uncles, and 19 of their 23 cousins. We also went to theme parks, aquariums, dinosaur museums, and national parks.
It was great, and exhausting. At the end I was more than ready to come home, and the kids were, too. They were so happy to see all their toys again, and I was happy to let them play without worrying what they were getting into or what they might break.
Not much else has been going on around here. We've been trying to have some sort of routine to the rest of our summer, but other than therapies we don't have much going on (I rather like it that way). School starts in just 2 weeks, so that will end soon. Spencer will be in 2nd grade and Travis will be in 1st grade. I might try to find a Pre-K for Nathaniel if he ever decides he's willing to use the potty. We'll see.
As far as adoption plans go, I'm still obsessing about trying to figure out what we should be doing, but we continue to not get any answers (or rather, the answer is probably just that we need to wait, but I'm not very good at that). I'm hoping things will change sometime, but I guess we'll just have to wait and see. I do hope to at least start updating the blog a little more frequently, though!
Monday, June 11, 2012
It's a little different for everyone, but my guess is every parent has a list of things they've unexpectedly gotten to learn. For me, it started with the names of all the Thomas trains.
Yes, I can probably name every train in that picture without having to look them up. My younger two were that obsessed. (Luckily, the makers of these trains provide parents a built-in cheat sheet by printing the names on the bottoms of the trains themselves. Someone is brilliant!)
I've also learned the names of quite a few of the Transformers.
I already knew the names of quite a few Transformers, but I've learned quite a few more. We're still in the Transformers phase.
I've probably learned the most about dinosaurs. Do you know how many different types there are? Hundreds. I certainly can't name them all, but you'd be surprised at how many I can name and identify. Probably more than you've ever heard the names of. And do you know how much more they've learned about them since we were kids? It turns out Triceratops likely had feathers.
The other thing I've learned a ton about recently that I never expected to is sea creatures. I already knew there were tons and tons of different kinds (and that they're always discovering more), but I never expected to be able to tell you so much about them. This happens when your child is obsessed. This is one of Spencer's current favorite creatures:
Those are cookiecutter sharks. They're only about 20 inches long, but they can take huge, round bites out of the sides of much bigger creatures, like whales or dolphins (thus the name). Spencer thinks they're awesome. He wants to see one. I don't know of any aquarium that has one, but if one does we might end up traveling however far it takes to see one. Even though I don't think they're that impressive in person. That's what happens when your kids are obsessed. But hey, he's learning, I'm learning, his dad and brothers are learning, we take field trips to educational places on a regular basis, and the kids like it. You can't get much better than that, right?
So, share with me. What unexpected things have you learned about since becoming a parent?
Saturday, June 9, 2012
So, I'm struggling to come up with much to talk about. Some days words flow, other days not so much. At least when we were actively working on adoption stuff I could update on progress (or lack of it) on the slow days.
So, since I don't have much to say today, I thought I'd link to a few of my favorite adoption blogs. All these blogs are written by friends of mine. I love their hearts, and I love reading their words. I'm blessed to "know" them, and their words have lifted me numerous times.
First off, Julia adopted a little boy named Aaron from a mental institute in Eastern Europe. It was a hard road for their whole family, especially for Aaron. But he's been home for a while now (a year and a half, maybe?), and he's made amazing progress! Julia now spends her time shouting for those still waiting, and helping raise funds for the kids and the families coming to get them. She's awesome. http://covenantbuilders.blogspot.com/
Secondly, Renee recently went to Eastern Europe to adopt her cute 6yo Emma. They were told she was in an institute and went expecting the worst. What they found surprised them -- the children were wonderfully cared for and cared about by the staff there. Unfortunately, since they are all physically handicapped in some way, there is no life for them in their country once they age out of this institute at 16. There are no wheelchair ramps or elevators, and therefore no place for them to live or work. These children need to come to a place where they have a chance. The director and staff are very protective of the kids there, but Renee and her husband made friends with them, and told them there were families who would love and care for these children. They took new pictures of the kids, and then Renee started blogging. She started telling the world about these kids, their personalities, and their amazing potential. Many of these kids had been listed for a long time and no one had ever inquired about them, but once Renee started blogging, and everyone started praying, miracles happened. Ten of the fourteen kids listed from that orphanage now have families coming for them, and hopefully the others will soon! http://butbygraceitcouldbeme.blogspot.com/
Last is Catherine. She's adopted a few times, most recently two little cuties from Eastern Europe. One has Aperts and one has arthrogryposis, and both have needed multiple surgeries, lots of therapy, and mostly lots and lots of love. Their family is a bit crazy, but Catherine tells it like it is. It's awesome. I'm pretty sure if we lived near them our kids would have a total blast being completely crazy together. http://wronginalltherightways-travcat.blogspot.com/
There are lots of other blogs I like to read as well, but those should keep you busy for quite some time, and I need to save something for the next time I can't come up with anything to write!
Friday, June 8, 2012
So anyway, days like this sometimes make me stop and wonder what the heck I'm thinking when I want to add another kid. Aren't the ones I have enough? The truth is, yes. They are. If we never had another child the three we've got would fill up our days completely. There would be more than enough blessings and triumphs, pain and frustration. Life would be great many days, aggravating many days (probably the same days, most of the time). But the truth is, I could have (and would have) said the same thing if we'd stopped at just one child. There would have been both wonder and aggravation in hefty doses, and we would not have been lacking in things we needed to get done that we never quite had time for. I could have said the same thing after number 2, as well. But that doesn't mean I regret for an instant adding number 2 or number 3. The good moments more than make up for the bad ones.
And do you know what? My kids feel the same way. I don't think they ever wish, even for an instant, that they were an only child (though I suspect as they get older there probably will be a few of those moments). Even when they fight (and boy do they fight some days) they adore each other. Brothers are awesome built-in playmates. My kids are best friends, and it's wonderful. And because they love each other so much they are incredibly enthusiastic about more siblings (one day when I asked my 5yo told me he thought we should add 17 kids -- 10 and 7, though I don't remember now which was brothers and which was sisters -- either way I thought he might be going a bit overboard). And whoever we add to our family will be loved (probably stiflingly so), and have the best built-in playmates and best friends.
Which brings me to the reason for wanting to do all of this. It's not about me, it's not about my family. It's not because I have things so together I feel like I should take on more (anyone who actually knows me would laugh in your face if you suggested such a thing). It's not because I'm such a great parent I feel like I should pass my wisdom on to more kids (again with the laughing). It's because, as much as my life could be complete how things stand, there are so many kids out there whose lives aren't complete, and won't ever be unless people are willing to step up, leave their comfort zones, and take a chance. Our family would be fine as it stands, but theirs would not be. Though I'm sure the blessings will be multiplied on all sides, for all of us, if we're blessed to bring another little one home.
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
We quite enjoyed it, but our house rules were a little interesting. They were many and myriad, but they all centered on one thing: getting as many children as you could. Note that this was not because we wanted to have lots of kids when we grew up (though I think maybe my little sister did want that). No, we played to get lots of children because we'd play with the families after the game itself ended. They had little houses right on the board, and cars, and places they could visit, etc.
Of course, before we could play with our Life families we had to determine the names and ages of the parents and all the children (there were usually about 12 each). I think this was actually our favorite part of the game (including the real game and the after game activities). It's certainly the activity we spent the longest on. We all loved getting to come up with names for all those kids! (This was the biggest reason we all tried to gather a lot of kids during the regular game play -- more people to name at the end!)
So I've been loving that recently the awesome lady who adds kids' listings on one of my favorite websites (http://www.reecesrainbow.org) has decided to play the Name Game. I think it started because she was bemoaning trying to come up with more unique names (that haven't already been used on the site) one day (though I could be mis-remembering that). Then someone suggested a particular name that she loved be used for the next girl to be listed. Sure enough, a newly-listed girl was shortly named that.
Then someone suggested that we all pay for the privilege of naming the new little cuties who were listed. Reece's Rainbow collects lots of grants for families who are adopting and for children who are waiting to be adopted, but they also have a specific fund for administration costs (called the Voice of Hope -- it's used for server fees, printing costs, and to cover paypal fees for the donations given to the adopting families, among other things). That fund gets overlooked a lot of the time, so someone suggested that whoever wanted to name a child listed on Reece's Rainbow donate $10 to the Voice of Hope fund for the privilege.
And thus the Name Game was born. Now when Michelle posts that she has new little ones to list people scramble over each other to make a donation so they can be the lucky one to pick their name! (Apparently my sisters and I are far from alone in our fascination with names.) I've been wanting to do it, but I always seem to miss the times when she posts. Until yesterday. Finally, finally, I got to name one of the cute kids listed on RR!
Isn't she precious? I love her little pigtails. I think she's adorable. Of course, I might be a little biased because I got to name her! :)
Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Now, this is a post I've been thinking about for quite a while. For the last 2.5 months, really, since "Brigitte" became unadoptable. To begin with, I grieved. It hurt to lose her, this little girl I was sure was my daughter. It hurt even more knowing she would never be adoptable, that she would never have a mommy and daddy. I've seen others compare the feelings to those you have when you miscarry, and I think the situations are very similar. And this was a late-term miscarriage. We'd been falling in love and preparing for her arrival for 6 months (and I'd fallen in love a year before), and had just 2.5 months until we were going to meet her. We were already making the plans for her arrival. Losing her hurt.
And that's the thing with loss -- it hurts. And as a human, one of your initial reactions is to draw in and close up upon yourself. After all, opening up your heart hurt, and we naturally don't want to let ourselves be hurt. So sometimes we try to protect our hearts by not letting anyone in.
I didn't want to do that, but that didn't mean the temptation wasn't there. It would be so easy to stop looking at little faces, stop praying about them, stop falling in love. If I don't care about them then I can't be hurt by them. Sometimes when you're hurting anything you can do to protect yourself sounds like a very good idea.
But the truth is, as much as I was hurting, as much as I was grieving, I never once regretted falling in love with Brigitte. She's a very special little girl, and she deserves to be loved. She deserves to have someone think about her and pray over her. As hurt as I am, I am privileged to be one of those people. I am privileged to love this wonderful little girl, and I hope someday I'll be able to meet her and tell her how much I love her and how she has touched my life. Even if I never meet her, though, I won't stop praying for her. I continue to love her, even if I can't tell her that.
And the more I thought about things, the more I realized -- as much as it hurts when you lose someone you love, you never regret loving them. You might be hurt, but you'd never choose to have not known them simply to relieve yourself of the pain of losing them. The love is more powerful than the hurt.
All of this made me think a lot about some of the decisions I'd already made. When considering life in general, and adoption in particular, there were some options I'd already ruled out because they were just too hard. There was too much uncertainty, which meant there was too great a chance to get hurt. But if I could look at this one experience and be grateful for it in spite of the hurt, didn't that mean that these other experiences would also be worth it, even if they didn't end up how I'd like them to? I became more open, and started looking into all sorts of possibilities and praying God would lead me in the right direction.
I still don't know for sure where we're going or what we're doing. I have hopes, and I'm getting some small idea, but the truth is we might end up not adopting at all. That would be pretty devastating. But I still wouldn't regret what I've done in the last year. The possibility that things won't end up how I want is not going to keep me from looking at pictures and falling in love. Whoever I bring home (whether I even bring anyone home), these children are children of God, and showing them love, praying for them, is never going to be a bad decision. I hope that I continue to love these children, and have my heart break for them, however much it hurts. I imagine it's how Heavenly Father feels about me.
"There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear" 1 John 4:18
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
I'm sorry I've been so bad about blogging. It's been hard to talk about things when I can't talk about what I really want to, which is where we're going from here. But there have been others who've gone through this before, and I'm sure there will be more who will go through it, and maybe talking about it will help someone else. It will probably be good for me, so I'm going to try to do better.
The reality is that we are currently standing still. I hate it. I'm a planner, and I like to have direction. Since we lost Brigitte I have taken some time to mourn, but mostly I've spent so many hours trying to find new direction. I have talked to multiple agencies and looked into many countries. I've inquired about maybe 20 kids in at least 7 or 8 different countries. I've looked at hosting through 3 different programs, and I've looked into adopting from foster care or disruption. More than anything, I've spent countless hours praying for direction.
So far the direction just isn't there. I don't know if this is because none of the kids I've looked at are supposed to be ours, or if it's just not the right time yet, or what. I do know that I wish I had some direction, if only to save myself from the hours and hours vainly searching for one.
I'm trying to step back a little. I definitely want to keep praying (and I am, and I will), but I'm trying to check photolistings less often, and I'm trying to stop looking at the processes for different countries, and mostly I'm trying to not waste all my time researching 50 bazillion different things that may or may not be useful to me down the road. I want to spend more time being present for the kids I already have while waiting on the one (or more!) who the Lord has waiting for us. I'm not saying I'm succeeding in this endeavor, but I am trying.
I'm also trying to take Psalms 46:10 to heart: "Be still, and know that I am God". Stillness is not my forte, but I'm trying. I'm trying to take each day as it comes, to keep praying, and to wait for God to reveal His plans. If any of you would like to join me in those prayers, I would love and appreciate it.
Friday, March 30, 2012
Which brings me to this post. One of the options I've considered going forward is hosting. That's where you invite an orphan (or 2 or 3) into your home for 3-6 weeks over the summer. Most orphans don't know much beyond the walls of the orphanage where they live. Even if the staff is wonderful and caring, there's just not money for many trips or cultural experiences or many things that we take for granted. And even more than that, most of these kids have no idea what a family really looks like. They might sort of know, intellectually, what a mother and father do, but they've never seen it, and they don't really know. How can they ever be expected to grow up and be able to hopefully move beyond their upbringing and start families of their own if they can't even picture what a family is?
Hosting gives families a chance to give orphans the experience of their life. Many orphans who are hosted learn to swim or ride a bike for the first time in their life. They might see the beach, a zoo, a museum, an amusement park, or a concert for the first time. But even more than all the things they get to do, they get a chance to build relationships, and to see what family relationships are all about. They have a model that they can use as they try to, against all odds, make a normal life for themselves after aging out of an orphanage.
Though one of the best parts about hosting is that many of the orphans don't have to use just a one month model of a family to build on the rest of their lives, because more than 65% of children who are hosted get adopted. Some people host with adoption in mind. It's a great chance to see if a particular child or children will mesh well with the children you already have at home. This is of particular concern when adopting older children or sibling groups, and if you're nervous about these issues it's great to have a chance to test the waters before making a long-term commitment. But even if you can't adopt, hosting can be a wonderful opportunity to show a child unconditional love and teach them what a family is, and most people who host without adopting will take the opportunity afterward to advocate for a family for the child they hosted. Even if you can't adopt, the fact that you hosted a child would raise their chances of being adopted exponentially, both because their face would now be out there for others to see and consider, and because anyone considering adopting them would have someone who knew them who they could talk to. That's a wonderful things when you're thinking about international adoption.
So, if you have a heart for the orphan but can't adopt, or aren't ready to yet (or already have, or whatever!), consider hosting a child. There are a number of organizations currently looking for host families for the coming summer. I've seen the children all of these organizations are listing, and they're precious. I don't know the rules about posting pictures of these kids, so I'm just going to link to the websites and let you go there to get the information on how to see pictures.
Children's Cultural Connection
New Horizons for Children
And a special shout-out -- Children's Cultural Connection has about 10 kids on their hosting list who have to have families commit to them by April 1 or they won't be able to be hosted. For a few of the kids, it's their last chance to be hosted before they age out, so if you're thinking about this at all, especially about an older child, please go look and see if maybe you want to open your home to one of them!
Also, please share this info. These kids deserve every chance they can get. I'm still pretty new to this whole hosting thing, so there's lots I don't know, but if you have any questions I'd be happy to try to answer them or direct you to someone who can, so please, feel free to comment or e-mail me!
Sunday, March 25, 2012
Just over a week ago we found out that Miss "Brigitte" was being transferred to another orphanage where she is not and will never be adoptable. There's nothing we can do, and this journey, at least, is over.
I couldn't bring myself to talk about it before now. Honestly, I'm still mostly not talking about it, but just trying not to think about it and go on with life. Most of the time that works, and our family life is mostly normal and fine. When I do think about it (actually, mostly when I try to talk about it), however, I end up in tears, often for hours. My heart is grieving for the daughter I love but will never be able to hold.
I don't know what this means for us, for our adoption journey, or for our plans moving forward. I still want to adopt; Jacob isn't sure. Of course, I have no idea who I want to adopt, or where from, or when. We're praying for clarity and direction, but so far there is none. That might be partly due to the grief, or maybe just because right now we're supposed to wait on the correct timing. I don't know.
My heart still breaks for the orphans, for my not-daughter and for all the little ones out there waiting for families. I will be continuing to blog, talking about them, talking about our family, and sharing with you as we hopefully get clarity and move forward. Hopefully in time I can come to learn whatever it is God wants to teach me through the grief.
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
The reason I've been so bad is because I'm having a great time on vacation with my family this week. It's the kids' Spring Break, and Jacob took some time off work to coincide with it so we could hang out together as a family.
First Jacob's sister and her family (she and her husband and their 7 kids) came to our house for a few days, and now we're busy going out and doing things every day. Today we went to a children's museum. Our kids love to take trips and go do stuff as a family. Spencer especially loves it, and connects with us better during those times than any other, which is why it always remains a priority for us. It's been a while since we had a good trip, and this week has done pretty well for getting him to interact with us, which I'm grateful for.
We're playing one more day, then spending Thursday trying to get some stuff done (like both sets of fingerprints!), then Friday we're heading off to see Jacob's sister again, and his parents who are going to be at her house. I'm pretty sure we're all going to be completely worn out before we get back to school and work next week, but at least it will be a good exhaustion.
Anyway, my computer time is pretty limited right now, but I'll try to post at least once more this week, and then get back to regular posting next week!
Saturday, March 10, 2012
Julia has adopted from our daughter's country, and has such a great heart for orphans. Now she's running a huge giveaway to benefit many families and waiting children. So go over there and check out the awesome prizes she's assembled, and if you're able, give a little bit to one of the wonderful children she's trying to help. If you're not able, consider sharing the giveaway with your friends, or just take a minute to pray for the children and families. Also, be sure to go back and read through her posts from the past week introducing you to the orphans and their families -- the stories really are amazing! Thanks so much!
Friday, March 9, 2012
My latest thought/scheme has been along the lines of, "If you write and can actually publish something and make some money, adopting again won't be quite such a financial burden and Jacob's more likely to agree to do this again." This is directly related to me not being able to stop looking at all the faces of waiting children and my heart breaking and wishing I could rescue all of them (which, obviously, I absolutely can't). Unfortunately, this was not really a great motivator. I mean, it is in theory, but in reality it failed dismally, as do most of my motivators.
It turns out that adoption is very similar to pregnancy for me in that it does bad things for my creativity. As much as I try to think about my stories, when my mind wanders it pretty much always heads to EE, not to a fantasy world. And I realized this is the problem with almost all of the things I've tried to use to motivate myself -- they're all about the other things I can do if I write (big things like rescuing orphans with the money, or just little things like having more computer time if my writing's done).
It turns out the only motivational techniques that actually work for me are those that are inspired by the actual writing, not by external factors. I'm not sure why it's taken me so long to figure that out, but it's a new concept for me, and I've been writing for years. (Apparently, I'm kind of slow. I blame it on having 3 little boys who run me ragged. I used to blame it on having three toddlers, and before that I blamed it on pregnancy. Kids are really good for some things.)
I do know how I came to this realization, though. It came because I had my first sale from my etsy shop this week. (Well, my first completed sale. A friend tried to buy some cards from me a little while back, but I still haven't gotten back to him. I'm sorry, Ben! I promise I'm not deliberately ignoring you! Just, you know, managing to do so anyway, because I'm kind of a crappy friend like that.)
Anyway, back to my etsy sale. The purchaser wanted 16 sets of hair clips, expedited, so I went and got the color ribbon she wanted and then spent a while the next day gluing the ribbon on and finishing them. While I was doing this I realized I probably ought to charge a little more for what my items -- I was making up the materials cost just fine, but not accounting for the time required very well.
I mentioned this to my husband and he said I probably shouldn't up the price yet, because after all, it was my first sale. Most businesses lose money at first, and if I really wanted to make a go of it I should keep my prices low to begin with until I got established.
This conversation kind of freaked me out. I mean, I like making cards and hair clips sometimes. It's nice to have something to do with my hands while I'm watching TV or a movie. And it's nice to make something, complete something, that isn't immediately destroyed (you know, unlike most of my work (laundry, dishes, cooking, picking up toys, etc, etc)). But I only started my etsy shop because I don't need all the cards or hair clips that I make, and it's a way to pay for the supplies I use to make them. This is a satisfying idle pastime for me, not a business. And I freaked out because I realized there's no way I want this to be a business. I like making the stuff sometimes, but not that much, and I don't want to be constantly getting orders and needing to make things for people. I would go crazy.
But it made me realize what I _would_ like to make a business for myself -- writing. The thought of _needing_ to spend my days making cards because I was depending on the income left me almost shaking, but the thought of needing to spend my days writing because I needed the income had me excited. I mean, I've known for a while that I love to write and that I'd like to someday be able to make a career of it, but for the first time the other things involved in making it a career (like marketing, etc) sounded kind of exciting, because they would mean I could spend my days making money by writing!
Apparently this was the motivation I needed, because I picked up my work-in-progress (WIP) that's closest to done and started re-reading so I could work on finishing it. Then I got slightly frustrated that it was taking me so long to read through it, but I stopped before that went to far to think about the reason. I mean, I knew I had almost 70,000 words written, but since I figured this book would end up being about 100K words when I started it I still felt pretty far from the end. But I picked up the novel I'm currently reading and did a quick estimate of word count on it, and a quick estimate of how many pages my WIP would be if it was printed similarly to the book I'm reading -- and guess what? It would be a 250 page book already. No wonder it's taking me a while to read back through it! And that information made me excited -- seriously, I already have 250 pages, I can totally finish this thing!
And so even though this is ostensibly a blog about our adoption, I'll probably start talking about my writing some here, too (at least for now -- maybe sometime I'll start my own writing site, but not yet). Writing's what I'm thinking about today, so that's what I'm writing about. I'm sure I'll talk about adoption again tomorrow, though!
Thursday, March 8, 2012
One other little one found their way to MFFM today -- Miss Angelica. I haven't talked about her on here yet, but she's one of the kids I'm in love with. Anyone who peruses adoption photolistings tends to have a few kids who they feel a special connection to, whether it's because of their picture, their story, their great need, or whatever. Something about a particular little one touches your heart. Angelica's one who's been in my heart for a while. She reminds me of my sweet little niece. She's been listed since I started looking at RR a year ago, and seeing her getting older and growing up without a family made me so sad. Seeing both her and Duncan on MFFM today pretty much made my day.
And I know I spend a lot of time talking about other orphans on here, but I just can't help myself. I can't bring them all home, but I can't look in their faces and not desperately wish for them to have families of their own -- parents who will love them and take care of them and give them the chance to just be the awesome children they are. Another adoptive mom shared a scripture the other day that really spoke to me, and expressed how I feel pretty much all of the time lately:
"Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the Lord. Enlarge the place of they tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare them not." Isaiah 54:1-2
"Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare them not." I have been so greatly blessed -- how can I not want to share what I have with these little ones who have nothing? How can I turn my back on them? There's a song (Because I Have Been Given Much) I've always really liked that speaks to me even more lately:
Because I have been sheltered, fed by thy good care…
I cannot see another’s lack and I not share-
my glowing fire, my loaf of bread-my roof’s safe shelter over head,
that he too may be comforted.
How can I not enlarge the place of my tent, share my food and shelter with these children? "Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God." (Mark 10:14) I only wish I could do it for all of those who are waiting. But as I've read many places (I could possibly find the origin of the quote, but I don't want to put that much effort in right now): How can you possibly save 147 million orphans? One at a time. I just have to do what I can, and hope and pray that everyone can step forward to do their small part, and hopefully we can all make a difference.
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Lately, though, I've realized we do have our own obstacle when it comes to this adoption: time. I mean, I know everyone else is busy, and finding the time to add one more thing to an already crazy schedule is hard. But somehow everyone else seems to be able to do it without too much of a problem. So far we've managed to keep on top of it as well, but it turns out it's the area we're really struggling with. Jacob's work schedule is always pretty crazy, but every time we need to get something done for the adoption it seems like the craziness goes through the roof. We finally got our fingerprint appointments from USCIS, but we haven't been able to go to the office to get them done because he's had non-stop meetings all day every day. I mean that literally -- tomorrow his first meeting is at 6:30am, and I doubt he has a break of more than half an hour any time during the day.
And every time his schedule finally gives him a (tiny) break, something seems to happen with the kids. They need dental work done, or we need another IEP meeting, or they're just having such a hard time in school that they desperately need one on one time with Mom or Dad. We only have a few more pieces of paper left to finish for the adoption, but lately it seems like we can't catch a break. Tonight was the first time in two weeks when Jacob and I even had a chance to sit down and talk about our schedules and what we might be able to make work (though we didn't actually come up with a solution).
Luckily we still have about a month before the paperwork needs to be completed, but unfortunately we mostly only have the hard papers left, and they'll require at least 5 trips to offices of various sorts during business hours. If you wouldn't mind praying that somehow we'll be able to find the time to make all of this happen when we need to, I would really appreciate it.
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
I'm trying to come up with some more interesting/exciting/informative/cute/fun posts, and hopefully you'll get one tomorrow. But if anyone has any suggestions, comments, questions, etc, please, please ask! I could use all the help I could get!
Sunday, March 4, 2012
Now Duncan just needs a family.
He also turns 16 soon (in June), so he needs a family quickly. I know there's at least one family that's inquired about him, maybe more. Hopefully one of them can move through the process quickly enough to be able to adopt him. I would so appreciate if you would pray that he'll also get a family before he turns 16.
And one more prayer request. Some friends who are adopting from our daughter's country just got back to the US with their little one, who was immediately admitted to the hospital for renal failure, bowel obstruction, and dehydration. Please keep him and his family in your prayers. If you want to leave them some words of encouragement, their blog is here: http://carmichaeladoption.blogspot.com. Thank you all!
Saturday, March 3, 2012
It's not that my boys aren't super cute -- they really are. It's that I don't take very good pictures of them. There are a lot of factors that go into this.
1. My camera is not that good. I have dreams of getting a DSLR, but I know that wouldn't really fix the problem, since if the camera doesn't fit in my pocket or very tiny purse it wouldn't get taken with us, and I wouldn't get any pictures, good or otherwise. I asked some photographer friends their opinions on cameras, and one suggested this one:
I want it, but haven't felt like I could spend the money on it yet, since we're currently saving for an expensive adoption. But maybe someday.
2. My boys do not stay still at all. This means almost all my shots are candid shots. I occasionally get super cute candid shots, but those don't include close-ups of their faces, which is what I wanted for the blog header.
See, cute, right? Just no faces.
3. Apparently I don't try to get close-ups of their faces very often any more. I did when they were little, but now I spend more time trying to get pictures of all three of them together, or pictures with things in the background so we can remember places we went or things we did. While those are great pictures to have, it'd probably be good to get a few more so we can remember what they looked like.
You'd be surprised how many pictures I have of dinosaurs. Hundreds, literally. (Unless you know my boys, especially my oldest -- then you probably wouldn't be surprised at all.)
4. My oldest's current "smile for the camera" face looks like a grimace. Seriously, the kid has the greatest smile, but his pictures look like this:
And he thinks he's smiling. Sigh.
5. Also, apparently my kids just suck at looking at the camera and smiling. Not only do I have more pictures of my daughter doing this than any of my sons (which might be due to the people taking her picture having much better picture taking skills), I also have a lot more pictures of my nephew doing this than any of my sons. Just in the pictures I've taken of my nephew, which are a lot fewer than the pictures I've taken of my boys.
See the one in the middle looking straight at the camera and smiling hugely? Yeah, not one of mine.
I have a new strategy to remedy this problem, though. As a Christmas present to myself, I bought a session with a real photographer. While she won't be able to overcome all the problems, I'm hoping with a better camera and an hour dedicated to trying to get a good picture of the boys and nothing else, maybe, just maybe, I can get some cute close-ups of them again. In the meantime, I'll have to settle for some old favorites.
Friday, March 2, 2012
1. Medical forms and a doctor's license for both of us. We need to go to the county health department and get a couple of blood tests, then go to the doctor (hopefully they'll let us come for a regular office visit) and get her to fill out the forms for us. We needed a physical in Sept for our insurance, so they won't pay for another one now. We also got the bloodwork done while we were at it, since we knew we would need it, but since it'll be more than 6 months old when we submit our dossier we need to do it again. Hopefully by going to the health dept for the bloodwork we'll be able to get the doctor to fill out our forms while we're there for the office visit (rather than waiting on blood test results) and we can make sure they're done immediately and right the first time. A lot of people have problems with this form, but our doctor has a notary on staff and is familiar with international adoptions (though not necessarily from our daughter's country), so hopefully it will be easy for us.
2. State police clearances for both of us. We have to go get our fingerprints taken and fill out a form so they can do a background check on us. Since we're in the state capital we should be able to walk in and do it all in one place and drive back to that place a few days or a week later for the forms, rather than waiting a few weeks turn-around mailing it all in. At least I hope.
3. Jacob's employment letter. This one I'm a little worried about. There's a way to get one, but it's through a process, not a person, and I have a feeling it's not going to be notarized when it comes, which won't work. In that case we'll have to ask his boss to fill one out for us, which Jacob doesn't want to do. We'll see. Hopefully the letter we get will be good enough, because if it isn't we'll have to submit our taxes as well, and I have no idea when they're going to be done. Ugh.
4. Letters of obligation. These are forms saying we'll comply with our daughter's birth country's post-adoption requirements, like filing reports and telling them if we move. We actually already filled these out once, but the notary date was wrong on one, so we need to re-do it.
5. Permission to let our daughter's country put our data on computer. This is also a pretty simple form, but it's new so I forgot it when we went and signed the huge stack of papers at the notary.
6. Jacob's name declaration page. This is a form stating that all versions of his name that might be on other forms (with or without his middle name, etc) are him. I'm pretty sure he did this one once, but I couldn't find it in the huge stack of papers later, so he needs to do it again.
7. Our I171-H. This is approval from the US government to adopt a foreign orphan. We sent the paperwork off for this, now we just need to get our fingerprints done (this is a separate set of fingerprints from the ones for state police clearances) and wait for them to send us the form.
Then we have to get these papers plus two more (that I forgot the first time) apostilled, which is just a fancy way of saying the secretary of state attaches a paper saying the person who notarized the form is, in fact, a valid notary.
After that we're pretty much done with our part of the process. We ship it all off to our daughter's country and wait. They'll (hopefully) accept it, and issue us a travel date to come and accept our daughter's file and then meet her! Hopefully that will happen in about 3 months. Some days it seems so far away, and other days it feels so close (just 3 months and I can finally give her a hug!). I can't wait!
Thursday, March 1, 2012
But that's not really why I've avoided my tendencies toward whininess here. (What do they mean, whininess isn't a word? It totally is.) I've avoided it here because for the first time in a very long time people are judging me and I care what they think. I mostly got over worrying about other peoples' opinions in high school. I'm far from perfect, but I'm fairly happy with who I am, and I'm not going to change based on what other people think I should be. My real friends take me as I am, warts and all (and I love them for it!). But now...
Well, first I had to pass a home study. I had to invite someone into my home and convince them I was a good enough parent that they would recommend that someone trust me with more children. Luckily, our SW was very nice, and she did in fact recommend that we be approved to adopt, in spite of my fears that she'd look at me, my house and my kids and say, "Really, lady? You think I'm going to approve you for more?" So that's one fear down. But I still have a ways to go. You see, in a few months I have to stand before a judge in my daughter's country and convince him (or her) that they should trust me with this little girl. That in spite of all my shortcomings and failures, they should let me take their precious little one home with me. And I'm petrified that they're also going to look at me incredulously and laugh in my face.
For the first time it really matters what other people think. If they don't think I'm good enough I won't get to take my daughter home. I can't bear the thought. So I'm sometimes inclined to hide the bad. To not whine or complain, and to pretend I think this motherhood thing is absolutely the coolest thing in the world.
And in some ways, I do. I adore my kids. They're smart and fun and hilarious and I can't express how much I love them. I can't imagine my life without them. (Okay, I kind of can, and occasionally (on bad days) it seems like it'd be really nice. But in reality if my kids were gone I don't know how I'd function with the gaping hole that would replace the very center of my being.) I'm completely blessed to be able to be their mom.
But the reality is that I'm not really very good at this whole mothering thing, and I don't really like most parts of it. (Yes, I'm freaking out a little bit at writing that on my blog right now. I'm hoping and praying that if an EE judge reads this they're also a parent and understand that it's a hard and sometimes thankless job, and they won't judge me too harshly. Either that or they won't understand English very well and will stop reading this post before they get to this part.)
I love my kids, but unlike most people (it seems) who write mommy blogs, or even adoption blogs, I'm not really a great mom. I pretty much never do crafts with my kids. They're pretty smart, and know a lot, but almost all of it has been learned from TV shows and video/computer games. I don't like playing games with them, and I absolutely hate having to get food for them three (or more) times a day. While I've chosen to be a SAHM, and I feel like it's the right choice for our family (at least right now), I often wish it wasn't. I often wish I had a viable career, and could pay someone else to do all the things with my children that would enrich them but that I don't want to do. I think it might be better for them and for me.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not a horrible mother. I might yell a little too much and get short with my kids, but I do apologize for it. I might not do any crafts with them, but I do regularly take them on trips to museums, zoos, and national parks. I might let them learn their numbers from TV shows, but I spend a lot of time researching and becoming an expert on their host of medical issues. Overall it balances out all right. At least I think it does.
But I'm unlike some adoptive moms (or bio moms) I know, who keep adding to their family because they love kids and love being a mother. I have enormous respect for those women, but I'm not one and will never be one. In fact, while I wasn't sure we were done after 3 kids, I wasn't sure we weren't, and I kind of liked the idea. Three was enough, and I could have been quite happy to stop. At least, until I saw my daughter's face, and knew she was supposed to be mine. I'm adopting not because I love mothering, but because I love my daughter. Just like I mother my sons not because I love mothering, but because I love them. The work itself is hard and often thankless, and it's not something I enjoy.
And some days, on hard days, I look at myself like I expected the social worker to, and think, "Are you kidding me, lady? You're adding another one? You can't handle the ones you've already got." And I seriously question why I think I should add one more when I'm often not that great with the ones already here. But then I picture my daughter's face, and remember the feeling I got when I saw it -- "She's yours." And I think of the saying, "God doesn't call the equipped, He equips the called." And I have to trust that if He wants me to do this He'll make me capable of it. Not perfect by any stretch, but good enough.
Good enough to apologize when I hurt my kids' feelings. Good enough to always stop what I'm doing to kiss their boo-boos. Good enough to give enormous hugs and cuddle them whenever possible. Good enough that they always know that whatever my faults, I love them more than anything. Hopefully that will not only be good enough for God, but for my kids, who are, after all, the ones who have to live with the consequences of having a seriously imperfect mother.
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
When we left off, I had found Miss Brigitte on Reece's Rainbow and was sure she was supposed to be our daughter. However, there were a lot of things standing in our way.
Jacob was miserable in his job and had been looking for a new one. I was willing to stay where we were long enough to adopt, even though I didn't particularly like it there, but I knew that wasn't a good option for our family. Jacob couldn't handle any more strain than he already had, and adoption is not an easy process. So for us to adopt he had to find a new job.
Along with a new job came a host of other obstacles: moving to whereever the new job was, selling our old house, buying a new house, managing to not completely wipe out our savings in the process, getting a new house set up, figuring out school, doctors, etc for the kids, and on and on.
It seemed fairly insurmountable, at least in the foreseeable future for us to be able to adopt, but I still felt strongly that it was what we were supposed to do. So I prayed, a lot, about all the obstacles before us. I had many conversations with God, and I told Him that I was more than willing to adopt, but if it was what he wanted us to do there were a lot of things that He was going to need to take care of for us to be able to do it.
And do you know what? He took care of them, one by one, and in not that long. Jacob was offered a new job that he was excited about. We went on a house-hunting trip for a single day, and were able to find a house that was big enough that we'd have room for additional children but was well within our price range. Even though the market was horrible we managed to sell our house (close on the sale) less than 3 months after we listed it, and we sold it for enough that we were able to get out from under our loan and pay off what we needed to (though we did lose quite a bit on it). But even after losing money on the house and all the expenses associated with moving, we somehow managed to come out at the end of this months-long process with quite a bit in our savings account that we could use to put toward an adoption. It still doesn't completely make sense how it worked out like that, but it did.
In fact, in just a few months God had provided everything I'd told Him we needed -- all except for one thing. The most important thing I needed was for Jacob to also feel like we should be adopting, and that hadn't happened. It was hard not to despair, but I think that's the next part of the story...
Monday, February 27, 2012
But for me, the waiting, while frustrating, is still just a step. It's something that's necessary in order to bring our daughter home. I can see the bigger picture, I can see the end goal, and I know that waiting, while hard, will get me where I want to be.
The other side of the waiting coin is much worse. It is the children waiting for parents. If you look at adoption websites that's literally what they're called -- "waiting children". They're available for adoption, they want parents, they're simply waiting for someone to choose them. Waiting to be wanted, to be loved, to belong. Unlike me, they have no control over the situation. They can't complete paperwork to move things forward. They have the same end goal I do in this adoption process, but they have no idea if they're ever going to get there. They just have to sit, and wait, and hope. But hope is a scary thing, because what if no one picks them? What if they wait all that time and no one wants them? It's absolutely heartbreaking.
I think it's great to have biological children (as evidenced by the three I've already got, who are awesome!). I think infant adoption is wonderful, giving an important choice to someone who may find themselves unexpectedly pregnant. But I can't imagine much that is better than giving a family to a child who is just waiting and hoping for one. Please, if you've ever thought about it, there are so many children out there, waiting for a family to call their own. Those pictured in the post are all waiting children. There are many more. Here are just a few websites who list them:
Think about the blessing you could be in their lives.
And yes, I know I missed posting yesterday. Oops. And then today's post is late. This is what happens when I don't write the post and schedule it before I go to bed the night before. But I promise a post tomorrow morning! I'm planning on writing the next part of our story, so be looking for that!
Saturday, February 25, 2012
I will leave you with a picture, though.
It's from Halloween, but I think it appropriately expresses the feelings at our house today.
*Update* -- I couldn't handle leaving the blog as it was, so I redesigned it yet again. I like this a little better, though it would be even better if I'd sized the header correctly before editing it -- then it wouldn't be so blurry. But that really will have to wait to get fixed, because I'm already up _way_ too late.