Thursday, February 28, 2013

And Even MORE Responses!

Tracy asked-
I hope this question has not already been asked, but what I wanted to know is: I know that you homeschool all of your children and was wondering how do you even begin to start that process with your older children who come home and speak little to know english? Do you start with a KG curriculum and work your way up through each grade until they grasp it? Or do you teach them basic english first before you start teaching them?

First I evaluate where they are at academically. Then I work with them from where they are at or below so they are successful. No matter what, I think you always need to begin at a pre k level just to learn the basics. If it is super simple to them we move ahead quickly. 
Math is pretty universal so I have Mia and Melissa doing flashcards and worksheets for review until they learn enough English to really get going. I also have them sit in on our first graders math so they can see what they are doing and maybe start to get familiar with some of the "lingo" such as plus, minus, equals, half, etc
IMO they need a predictable schedule pretty early on- we started it after one week home. 
 I want them to get used to doing school and to learn some self discipline instead of constant play and running around- they already play enough!
Every morning is school until lunch and then sometimes for another hour or so.

I am having them write their new names(first and last) and the names of everyone in the family. They can already read the names! They are working on numbers 1-20 and counting to 30. We are focusing on the ABC's and especially the vowels. We are reading simple repetitive books and doing simple songs and finger plays. 
We are practicing greetings!
Hello, My name is _____!

Madeline seems to have a hard time with forming the sounds of English words. Some of the children home have said they cannot understand her. She has a speech eval coming up in a couple weeks. Mia and Melissa know most of their colors. Madeline feels like a preschooler to me but when Luke and Madeline played they started to "get into" a few things so now I am bringing them to the school room too. Now they can prepare for when they start school and use their morning time learning.

I can see Mia and Melissa being in combo grades- math- 1st or 2nd (they know a lot but there are so many holes and they need the language)
Reading will begin at K (because we are already doing pre K).

I do a pre K circle time with all the new kids, Emma, Luke and Abby.

I guess I am constantly evaluating and figuring what should be next and when they will start formally in a grade maybe after 6 months?
Language will take longer this time with 3 Chinese speaking children and all the others chiming in...

Which is another post... ugh!

Mandy asked-
When do you blog (like what time of day?/how do you make time? I really struggle with consistency with my blog even though I'd really like to be a more frequent poster!)?

What time do you usually wake up & go to bed?

This question may not apply yet, since you just returned from China and may still be trying to carve this out, but what is a typical day's schedule like for you?

Everyday I have a list of things to do- I put blogging on my list! When I get a moment to myself I try to read a few blogs and then post.  I don't always get to do it but I try. It is a hobby and relaxing to me!
As I am posting now I have Emma and Melissa doing my hair! It's 5:00 and some of the children just came in from playing outside. Others are playing card games next to me!

When I think of something I want to blog about I put the title in and come back to it later. Often times I think of many posts and other days I can't think of a thing!
Okay now Madeline is on my lap- it's very hard to type!

I wake up around 6:45 and to bed around 11:00.

School 8:45- 12:00 lunch 12-1
finish school 1-2 depending on the day
activity in the afternoon
ymca homeschool gym and swim
and soon PT, OT and Speech

We also have pretty many DR appts- so we often just do 4 days of school per week.

We save field trips for the weekend with Dad.

Alexa asked-
 I was wondering how you work on getting the children to bond to their new siblings? 

Most of our bonding happens naturally by just being together. We are together almost all the time. It has helped that our children at home can understand Chinese and some of them can speak it. 
That helps both the new children and the ones already home!
I do some things to facilitate bonding- like placing them next to a certain sibling in the car and at the dinner table. Taking a few on errands when possible.
We don't allow the children to mistreat a sibling.
We tell them we are a family and we work together.
We insist on respect for everyone.
We have not had any problem with our children bonding to each other.
I think it does help that our bio kids are older. There is no conflict of interest.

Lilijane asked-
How did you get a Dx on Emma. My daughter adopted from China is also dev. delayed. I'm currently fighting with the Children's Hospital for months just to get into the Dev Clinic for a formal Dx. She's also 12, like Emma, but after 10 years here she's obviously not going to catch up. I'm really getting frustrated because I need to start planning for her future.

Our Adoption clinic sent us to a neuro psychologist after the girls had been home 6 months.
He tested and gave her an approximate  IQ, not to label her but to help us understand where she was at.
1.5 years later we had a follow up appt with the same neuro psychologist and they retested. The results were the same. After 1.5 years Emma still had to do the non verbal test.
Maybe she is higher than they say but it really doesn't matter if they are off by 10-20 standard deviations . 
We love her and continue to work with her where she is at... 

I longed for an answer to why she struggled so much.
I wanted a diagnosis- so I could better understand her situation or try to fix it.

This last time he explained to me Emma's situation. He was blatantly honest and it was hard to hear- (another post). She only needs to see him one more time. There is no reason for her to keep coming back.

Cara asked-
I would sure love to hear more about raising a childwith anal atresia?

When we saw Sam we new he was our son. We did not know how involved his situation was, in fact we only knew he had a colostomy.
Once he got home we took him to Cincy- they are the best! 
Dr Pena and Dr Levitt.

They did all the tests there and the surgery to hook him up (bring the end of the bowel down and connect it to the anus they constructed). The colostomy stayed for 2-3 more months.
We had the take down here in MN. 

He is doing very well right now, wearing underwear and going just like the rest of us!
He has a few mistakes each week but we deal with it.

Since Sam's case was pretty easy I am not as knowledgeable about all that can be involved. If you have more questions you should join the IA adoption yahoo group. They are a great resource!

OpenID  Familjenlindgren asked-
I have a question for you. When you started your adoption journey you were already an experienced mum, maby wiser ;-) and older. Is your way of parenting different now than when you started with your five children by birth? In what way and why? 

We do parent differently than we did when we were younger.  
We are more relaxed and we do not worry about what others are doing with their children.
I think we appreciate them as they are and celebrate them without worrying if they are behind or different than other children their age.

We actually feel free to parent them the way we feel is best...
instead of they way the neighbors do or did.
There is no peer pressure on us and since we homeschool they do not have peer pressure either.

We make a point of including our faith and love for the Lord in our everyday.
We rely more on the Lord each day, instead of feeling like "hey, I can do this by myself ".

We enjoy every little thing!

I think we did a good job with parenting our older children. They are doing well and we have very strong relationship with each one! We loved our schools, our friends and the things we were involved in.
BUT we too often took control and didn't allow God to guide us.

We just weren't up for doing it that way this time.
We felt it was necessary to make a change in our parenting style this time around.
And we are thrilled with the changes!

I think this concludes the Q and A session!

I have one more post on how a large family differs from an orphanage setting.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Adopting HIV- updated and updated again!

We want to share our experience in hopes of encouraging others to adopt a child with HIV. 

I can tell you about my experience but it is not all my story to share so I will not identify our child that is HIV positive.

We were one of the first families to bring home an HIV positive child from China. 
The adoption process was no different than any other special needs adoption.
However we needed to follow CDC rules in order to bring that child back to the USA.

For three mornings we brought our child to the health clinic for sputum tests.
They nebulized him/her to loosen up the secretions and then had him/her cough up whatever he/she could into a cup.
The health care providers were helpful and encouraging.
Our child responded to this and did just fine.

When we first started to consider this special need we had many of the concerns that you probably have-

Will our family be safe?
 Could we get it?
What is the life expectancy?
What is involved when caring for a child with HIV?
Will children that play with this child be safe?
Will future grandchildren be safe?
How easily is it transferred from person to person?

Who do we share this information with?
Who do we NOT share this information with?

Will my child be unaccepted by other children or families?

Is he/she putting others at risk with playing sports?

Can he/ she have a relationship with his or her spouse?

Will his/her children be HIV positive?

Are their other families that have adopted HIV children and are there support groups?

Our Story-

It started when we saw a picture of a cute little child with a scary diagnosis.
Although the diagnosis sounded scary their was nothing about the child that was scary- in fact we were completely taken by the picture.

In our first conversation about adopting a child with HIV we decided we needed to know the answers to all the question above!

I started by researching on the internet. Then we discussed how 20 yrs ago so many people would die with this diagnosis... except Magic Johnson was still alive? (hubby loves sports so he identifies with this) 
One of the first HIV meds was developed at our University of MN. It was big news around here and everywhere!
We sent the file to our local adoption clinic and they referred us to an infectious disease doctor.
She reviewed the files and got right back to us. She made herself available to us if we should have any questions.

We found out that many of our fears were do to a lack of knowledge.

We learned that HIV CAN ONLY be spread through sex and needles.
That's it... really, that is it... and since neither of those would be happening in our house we would all be fine!
We needed to know that we were NOT putting others or ourselves in danger before we proceeded.

That even though we would be around our child all the time we would not get HIV from this child and neither would anybody else. 
We learned that he/she would be put on appropriate meds and that the virus would be basically undetectable in blood tests.
We learned that if the child has a cut and we have a cut- that NO ONE HAS EVER become HIV positive through the mixing of blood in open wounds.

We learned that HIV is NOT present in saliva, urine, or feces.
And that the virus dies the minute it hits oxygen.
So you can freely hug and kiss your child and even share a dessert!

The life expectancy of a person that is HIV positive is currently undetermined.
because the oldest people that are taking the meds are still alive AND they are in their mid to upper 60's!
(and still going strong!)

So what's involved in caring for a child with this diagnosis?
First thing is send the referral to an infectious disease Dr in your area and hear what they have to say about the referral and the condition of the child.

The children that are on the waiting child list for China are receiving the necessary meds.
To be honest they are actually in fairly good health.
It's their future that is questionable- how will they continue to get the meds they need? Are they actually being followed properly by a physician and once they turn 14 what happens after that?

Our Dr. has us visit right when the child comes home(within the first week or two). She does a physical assessment of the child with lots of questions on what we have seem health wise in our new child, and she will order new American medications for your child. They will draw blood every time you go to the specialist... 
FYI - 
HIV kiddos are used to this and they don't even flinch.

 2 months later we come back for a follow up appt.
  2 months after that we have another follow up appt.

And then if all is well we move onto every 4 months.
So our child goes to the specialist 3 times a year!

We still see our regular pediatrician but they communicate and coordinate the care of the child.

The doctors are very thorough with these children and they really get good care.
If they have a runny nose or cough- they don't wait to see if it turns into something else- they get antibiotics, NEBS or whatever else they need.

We homeschool so we are not exposed to as many germ, and viruses. BUT you do not need to homeschool if you have an HIV child.
They are fine going to school and living a completely normal life!

Children may freely play with a child that is HIV positive and the parents do not need to be concerned.
However, many people are not educated and are fearful of HIV.
You may incur unwanted, unnecessary and unkind feedback if others know your child is HIV positive.

Somewhere along the line you will receive negative and hurtful feedback regarding your child having HIV. It is something that you need to prepare yourself for- it has not happened to us yet. . . but. . . sadly I assume it will happen.

All health professionals and all people who are involved in any kind of medical situations are required to use "universal precautions". This includes school nurses, coaches, EMT's, the neighbor, anyone! If someone chooses not to use universal precautions they are willingly putting themselves at risk.

Do I use universal precaution at my home?
No, not usually- although I am sure it is recommended.
I would seldom wear gloves for small inflictions (such as a tooth being pulled, hang nail, a small scrape, dry lips, etc). We have gloves if we feel it is necessary.
Honestly, this is my child...
I have monitored his/her health every step of the way.
I know this child has a undetectable viral load.
He /she is fine.

The two important things to know about your HIV child is his/ her viral load and his/ her CD4 count. Your Physician will explain this to you.

We are cautious regarding sharing our child's private health information.
You are NOT obligated to share it with anyone.
And since we know our child's health situation we can proceed confidently.
We share it with physicians and dentists and whoever else we feel should know.
We expect them to treat our child like all of our other children.
With universal precautions!

We do feel that it is very important for us to share our faith and love for the Lord with this child and ALL of our children. This child will need to understand the importance of not being sexually active without precautions. We feel this child will need to make good choices regarding future relationships and will need to have a faith background in order to protect others and himself/herself.
This is the main issue that brings me to my knees...
protecting my child and others.

My child will be able to have protected sex with his or her spouse. And as a couple they will be able to have a child that is not HIV positive.

There are support groups out there- both yahoo and facebook groups.
They have been helpful and they are a safe environment to ask questions in and to share your situation.

Would we adopt another HIV positive child?

In a heartbeat!

How do we see our child's future?

This child is incredible! We see this child has having no limitations and having a bright and wonderful future!

The medication for a child with HIV is very expensive.  The child will be on a mix of three different medications. For our health insurance- we pay our deductible in the beginning of the year and then it is covered. I cringe when I hear the amount but then I know it will soon be covered.

Any questions? 
Ask now in the comment section!
Because I will move on to other topics with the next post!

Our agency says that HIV positive children in China are almost "not existence", because China wants to hide away the fact that they have this kind of problem. Do you know anything about that? Are there just a few or maby not any children with Hiv avalible for adoption from China?

Yes, this is true. China would prefer that the world does not know that they have orphan children with HIV. It is an embarrassment.

But China like America is uneducated about HIV.

If families start asking for children that are HIV positive- there will be more and more children available that are HIV positive.
Sadly to say, it is a supply and demand issue.

They will make the children paper ready when families start wanting to adopt them. So start by asking your agency!

Children with HIV in china often go to special private homes to be cared for...
Some are Christian facilities.
All are privately funded and privately managed.
Basically they are top secret.
to protect the people in the care facility. Usually they house adults, children and pregnant woman with HIV. If word got out that they had HIV children and adults they would be evicted from their rented facility and have no place to go.

There are a handful of different organizations with homes scattered throughout China.
These homes try to give the best care  they can to their residents. Usually the children are able to get the meds they need (through donations) and they do their best for the adults too.

BUT the kids can not stay their forever- 
they need a home and they need the medication throughout their lives.
The medication is too expensive for anyone in China to afford long term.
These care facilities are usually pretty good BUT pretty good means a mattress on the floor, 2 meals a day, children with fevers, and little heat throughout the winter.

The children have the opportunity to attend public school.
 However, their health status is not revealed
that would end immediately...

The child comes to you in fairly good health and on medication.
They have had some education.
Sometimes they even know Jesus.
One of our children was sent home with a Chinese bible!

we have more than one child with HIV...

These children have actually been living at a place with consistent caregivers that are knowledgeable and not fearful of their diagnosis.
They have received love and they have attached to a caregiver...

It's a no brainer!

Start asking about these children-
they are there in China
and they need a home!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Empowered to Connect AND Haircuts!

I will be working on more answers to questions but just wanted to take a short break and ask if anyone is planning on going to Empowered to Connect in Chicago?

I really want to go! Hubby will stay home with the children but I think I am going to move forward and make my plans. I would LOVE to meet some of you there if you are going!

Please leave a comment and lets try to connect (kind of a pun!)

I also am saving two of the questions and have a post dedicated to each of those questions. They are "Adopting HIV" and "multiple adoptions/is your home turning into an orphanage".
Interesting, but I had no idea when I began thinking of going to "Empowered to Connect" I had no idea they actually spoke on this subject.

Today I took all the kids to get their hair trimmed!
Madeline just got a little off the bottom and ends.
Trying to get it into a little bob!

Melissa has layers and a natural wave. We just trimmed up the edges and layers!

Mia needed 2-3 inches off to get it even. We have decided to grow out the bangs. I love it both ways but she prefers to grow them out!

Ellie got 3 plus inches off- it was just to dry and unhealthy at the bottom.
(yes, I know her bangs are a bit short but they will grow ; - )

Sweet Emma has a ton of gorgeous hair BUT it is very hard for her to take care of... which means it's a challenge for me too. So we took off 3-4 inches to make it healthy and easier to deal with.

Everyone comments on how well behaved the children are!
I am so thankful for that because it enables us (me and the children) to go out and do things like this!

It wasn't until the very end that I pulled out the iPad!

And here is the finished product!!
Sam and Luke got a haircut this weekend!
They love the TLC and are so happy with their haircuts!

And the back view!
How did I get these pics ?
I told them they couldn't go outside until Mommy got her pictures!

After that it was stampede to the mudroom for their snow gear!

I will answer more of the questions in the next post!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

More responses!

Megan asked-
My (very important) question is- what is your favorite (local) Chinese restaurant?? 

Hi Megan! Our favorite local Chinese restaurant is Yangste in St Louis Park off of 394 and Xenium Lane. It is by the park place hotel and next to A Taste of India.
It opened the year we were married and we used to live only a couple blocks from it. We have been going there for 31 years!
We love their Imperial Beef, Sesame Chicken, Cashew Chicken and then we get the beef lo mien because the kids love it! All of us(11 kids and 2 adults) can eat and be full if we order 7 meals!

Julie asked-
How are the new girls doing with your dogs? I haven't seen the dogs in any pics. Just wondering!

The girls are doing really well with the dogs!! At first it was a love / hate thing with Madeline and the dogs but now she tolerates them just fine and is not afraid of them!
I often find the doggies stuck in their kennel- poor things! I think it's the work of Melissa! She just likes to let them know who is in charge!

I will get pics of the children with the dogs soon! I don't have any yet- oops! 
Our doggies do live in our mudroom and outside. We don't have them run the house.
However, if we did I bet I wouldn't have to vacuum everyday in the kitchen!

Karen asked-
I do love your blog! Could you describe how you've taught the children to read in English? Do you use a certain curriculum? When do you start teaching them?

Every child is so different- one method does not work for all of them and it doesn't work for me either.
I have to arrange it in the schedule I currently have going on and it's different each time we bring different kids home.
With Sarah- home at 8.75 yrs home we worked for the first 45 days on English, family life and enjoyed Christmas! Then we hopped into school because she desperately needed a predicable schedule.
I started with Hooked on Phonics, Saxon math 1st grade, Explode the code and A Reason for Handwriting K. It went well but was more of a time filler as she still was adjusting to language and life in a family.
Sarah could do beginning reading with HOP! She was proud of herself and we were proud of her!
We then found our selves floundering a bit for a curriculum that worked.
She was doing very well BUT there were so many holes in her education partially due to the language barrier so we began Abeka video series (we started her in 1st grade- she is now in 3d grade) and we love it!
She is doing excellent in every way BUT still has challenges with reading comprehension.
We have also done Sylvan for her and it helped but I think more time and more reading is what she really needs!

Some of our children have cognitive disabilities which greatly interfere with reading skills.

The next group was Anna, Ava, Sam and Ellie. We went right into Abeka K4 and then K5- it has been successful for us!
With this group it is evident that some children have an aptitude for reading while others do not.
And we have to consider how long they have been home.
Anna has taken off and is above grade level.
Ava is doing great and at grade level.
Sam(young for the grade) is doing really great in Math and is almost at grade level for reading.
Ellie has a cognitive delay and is a grade behind at reading level.

With the new crew we are doing preschool learning, counting to 20, learning our colors in English, beginning English words, doing our ABC's and the phonetic for the vowels. Mia and Melissa are ahead in math facts- the end of first grade level BUT they have missed so much - skip counting, time, and so much more. 
They are a mixture of grades and as they learn English we will have to figure out where hey belong?

Madeline, Luke, Emma and Abby are preschoolers!
(Sweet Emma will always be a preschooler)

There are so many options- go with what works for you as far as the style and content.
If it doesn't work for your child you may have to switch.

Sherri asked-
I love your blog and this was the first time I have ever followed you. You do have a big family and I too wonder how you do it with so many? I have two children, one bio 12 yrs and one adopted in Feb 2012, been home one year (2) yrs old and it's hard sometimes. My real question for you is, how did you get to adopted 3 at a time? I have a friend who now wants to start paper chasing but is hoping to adopt 5 this time around and one agency that he spoke too, told him he could adopt 2. Any suggestions for him? Thank you! And God Bless

Adopting 3 at a time is not the norm but an aception. Our agency was willing to ask China for special permission to adopt 3.
A few agencies allow families to adopt 2 at a time from China. China allows it BUT some agencies are not okay with it. IF your friend wants to adopt 2 at a time he should go to an agency that allows that in some circumstances.
To the best of my knowledge families can only adopt 5 at a time IF they are bio siblings and that would not include China.

mbcfree asked-
Hello! I want to know what your husband thought when you first mentioned adoption and what does he think now? Has he ever said enough? Is there a final number? I know talking about money is tacky but how do you afford all these adoption? Two adoptions has practically killed us! Thanks!
Adopting was actually my husbands idea and he was the one that started to look into it!
Of course, he knew me well and he knew my heart. I was in shock, disbelief and thrilled all at the same time when he brought it up!
HOWEVER, he had know idea how much this spoke to me and how many treasured blessings this would include!
Hubby has seen the blessing that have flowed freely from our adoptions.
He is happy, peaceful and thankful to GOD!

Is there a final number?
Sadly, yes... there is and then we will work hard to bring the children to others home instead of ours.


Laura asked-
I have been following your blog for several years and only now posting a comment. Sorry! Here is my question: How do you care for yourself and take time for your own needs with so many children? Do you have someone who cleans, cooks, and looks after your children? Thanks! Bless you for providing a home for these precious children.

I do a few special things for myself.
I get my nails done every 3 weeks and my hair highlighted every 7 weeks.
I have a wonderful friend that babysits for us when we have Dr appts, when we go to China and when I have a little me time.
I put ion make up every morning and fix my hair- whatever happens after that... happens!
I really can't worry about it- too many important things going on!
We have a cleaning lady every week and hubby and I do the cooking- BUT we live very close to the grocery store- thank you Jesus!
Our children have blessed us more than we could have imagined!

Judy asked-
Hello! As a mom of 6...only 4 at to you keep all the coats, hats, SHOES, and closets organized? Do you have a chore chart? What do you feed everyone? that in itself seems monumental! Who babysits....and ok this is personal.....but with 3 kids in the in bed with you....HOW do you ever get any "hubby" time? Mine would mutiny! just sayin. your house always looks so picked you have toy rules? or no toys...or are they all in the basement?

We have so so many shoes and in MN they need to stay in the mudroom!
Usually they are put away but sometimes they are a few layers deep ; - ) in the mudroom closet!
We clean the closet out seasonally and often shoes that are in good shape "move on" to the next child!
e have cubbies in the mudroom and hangers in the closet- we hang or hook everything!

Toys belong in the basement or window seats/cubbies in their room.
We will always struggle with things out of place BUT that's okay!
AND we will always try to get things in their place!

Right now our new children need to be with us- they alternate between the bed on the floor, our bed and their bed in their room.
Truthfully they would ALL sleep with us IF they could! 
We often feel more popular that we would like to be!
However, with new adoptees this is major success!
So for now, we do what we need to do for the children.

As far as our time... well, we make it work out!
Sorry, your not gettin anymore info than that ; - )
BUT good question!
wink, wink!

thesleepyknitter asked-
We do something very similar to the color-coded, three-ring binder idea for medical appointments. I love it and couldn't survive parenthood without it.

:-) Thanks for asking for questions! I have a thousand, but I'll just ask three, and maybe one of them will be one that you want to answer.

1) What would you say are the top five most important, *specific* things that you have done to develop attachment in older adoptees (not general, such as spend lots of time, but specific, such as requiring that they hold your hand in China)?
2) How do you handle chores -- do you have a chore chart, and if so, do your children respond to it well?
3) I'm always curious about laundry issues in large families; do you have a "system" for getting it all done and redistributed to the right places?

Blessings! So happy to see things going so smoothly for your family.
Question 1-
While in China we serve all the children's food to them on their plates- so they understand who is in control and who it is coming from. We do not even allow the waitress to put the food in front of them. They will look at pictures of food, point to it and act like they want it and then not eat it. We make the decisions and get the food that we think our family will eat. They have to say "thank you" with eye contact to us in Chinese or English.

We have them hold our hands in when walking down a busy road, crossing streets or whenever we think it is needed.

If they want something- only Jim or myself buy it and give it to them(not other siblings and not other people). Such as gum, candy, a little toy, etc. We do not let them give away what we give them. They will do that to be liked by others. 

No one touches our new children but us. We ask the guides not to touch them. Sometimes the guides want to help the children so they hug them or hold their hands. We ask them not to do that- it's awkward but necessary.

And now the one answer you didn't want- we spend LOTS of time together. We have been with the children pretty much all the time. We have not socialized with others yet because it would get out of control and roles would be mixed up. They would become fast friends with the other mother ; - )
Especially if she is younger and prettier!

And... we are continually re- evaluating our strategy! Hubby and I work together to get the attachment results we need!
We are persistent in our efforts. Mia may prefer not to sleep with us one night BUT if the previous night didn't go as we had hoped we are doing it again! (in hopes that it will go even better the next night- and it usually does!)
It is so worth it, even though it may feel uncomfortable.

Both of us want the love, the conversation, the comfortable atmosphere that comes with attachment- it is such a blessing!

Question 2-
We do not have a chore chart although we may in the future.
Right now they know what they need to do and they do it happily. 
I sometime do a gentle reminder and it gets done.

Oh sweet Sarah- you look oh so young in this picture !
You are such a blessing to us!

Question 3-
We have two washers and dryers- at this point three would be nice!
They are almost always going!
The five older girls help fold and everyone else wants to help too!
We are starting to wear clothes for two days!
Me too!
So I hope I do NOT see you on Saturday and Sunday- I'll be wearing the same thing!!
In the summer we will not be able to do that but during the winter- it works!
Our sitter did it while we were in China- I thought it was brilliant!

That is all I can answer for today!
I will be answering more questions in the next post!
Blessings to you!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Some Responses!

I probably can't get to all of them today but I'll do what I can and post more answers next time!

Katie Lee asked
My question is... When will you be coming to Germany again? :)

I love you honey! You are so cute!! I want to come NOW! I miss you so much.
You are coming home in the late spring(May) and summer(July). I will most likely be coming to Germany in the fall(Sept or Oct). Unless we can't stand being apart any more and Daddy sends me earlier!! Go ahead and tell him how much you miss me and how homesick you are- April would work for me! He cannot bear to have you sad!
And now everyone who reads this blog is witness to our plotting!
Mums the word!
(Katie is our oldest daughter living in Germany)

Sally asked
Who is your BBFF? wink wink! You can answer that via text and not publicly. I will understand!!

And sorry Katie, but she is due in California next! :-)

You and Katie are my BFF's!! I do have a few other friends believe it or not but since I don't get out much...
Well, you all get it!
Poor Sally has done quite a few reference letters for us!!
And yes- I will get out to CA- especially since you told me it was 70 degrees when you left... wow! So long MN!

Nancy asked-
I want to know when we will see you and meet the newest treasures, and play with the not-so-new treasures? I hope I don't have to wait until summer playgroup time! I feel like I just got to know which one is Abby and which is Ava, and now your are giving me three more names and faces to remember! I still get Ellie and Emma mixed up. Oh my!

My real question is, how are the dogs doing? :)

 You are funny too! I hardly get to leave the house! I wanted to go to the CNY lunch but then envisioned 11 children running around and 3 of them not speaking English! 
What a nightmare that would be! 
HOLD IT! That's my reality!!
I cannot wait to see you, your kiddos and the gang again!
Maybe we should do a March party at the MG Maze!

And as for the dogs... they are doing great and adjusting to their name change!
Our dogs were named Mia and Missy ;-)
Yep but then we decided to name two of our new girls Mia and Melissa so the dogs had to go through a name change!
They are now Mimi and Sissy!
The have not been seriously traumatized and will recover just fine!

Rebecca said
Ha! I love the joy over the binder! So hilarious! I'm so glad to see that you're doing really well. I've thought about you quite a bit lately:)

Thank you for your thoughts and YES, I am giddy about my color coded three ring binder!

Okay... now I will try to be more serious and actually answer questions!

Easy ones first!

Chloe asked
What is the age spacing between your children? It seems like you have several children very close in age!

Our kiddos from China are very close in age!
Sarah- 13 yrs in 2 weeks (March 2000)
Emma- 12 yrs old (July 2000)
Ellie- 10 yrs old(July 2002)
Mia- making her about 9.5 yrs old (October 2003?)
Ava- 7.5 yrs old (June 2005)
Melissa- 7 yrs old (November 2005)
Abby- 7 yrs old (January 2006)
Anna- 6.75 yr old (April 2006)
Sam- 6.5 yrs old (August 2006)
Madeline- supposedly 6 but I think she is 5 (October 2006 or 2007)
Luke- 4 yr old (November 2008)

It has gone very well- and we are very thankful for that!

We would not artificial twin with a birth child but it has gone well with our newly adopted children.
We have a lot of fun together!
There is always someone to play with!

Eileen asked
I just wonder how you get any housework done with the home schooling? I only home schooled one child for one school year, and he needed lots of supervision or his mind would wander, and that year the house suffered greatly! Do you have someone come in to help with the cleaning?

I do have help with the housework! We have 2 wonderful ladies come every Wednesday to clean the house. They used to work for my Mom and now they come to my house! They are from Russia and they are WONDERFUL! Almost like family!

Every Tuesday night it's a group effort to pick up the house for the cleaning ladies.
We do try to keep it picked up throughout the week but sometimes things do gather on the countertops and various places.
Toys are supposed to be in the toy room downstairs and some in their rooms. Arts and crafts are in the upstairs school room. HOWEVER, things are always migrating around the house and we are always putting something away (and it's often in the wrong spot).

All the children help with meal set up, the dishes after a meal, unloading the dishwasher and the laundry- folding and putting it away.

They always help pick up the house too!
I am a big believer that "many hands make light work"!
They make their beds and put their dirty clothes in the laundry basket(usually).

We all work together! I could never do it all myself. If I tried to I would go crazy it would send the wrong message. We work together, we love each other and care for each other. Our home is all of our responsibility to care for and respect. 

Our China Girls asked- 

Love question and answer sessions! I know that you have several kids/room but how many bedrooms does your house have? You mentioned that you were going to describe some of the special needs your children have so others may consider a child with those needs. Will you be doing that soon? And last but not least. We have adopted six girls from China and would love to add more, however financially we are maxed out. How do you afford to adopt so many and how do you feed them all? With eight in our house I find that I have to make 2 or 3 casseroles just to feed our family!

 We have 4 bedrooms upstairs-
Master is supposed to be for Hubby and myself but lately we have been invaded by cute little Chinese girls!

Older girls bedroom- Sarah, Emma, Ellie and Mia
It has two sets of bunk beds, three dressers and a 4th dresser in the closet.

 FYI- I only take pics of our children's rooms right after the cleaning ladies have been to our house!

The little girls room have 2 sets of bunks and a single bed, along with 2 dressers.

 There is one dresser in their closet. I do their clothes by size not by person because there are too many that are the same size or various versions of a similar size.

Ava, Melissa, Anna, Abby and Madeline are in this room!

Sam and Luke are in the boys room! One set of bunks and the clothes are in the closet.

We have one bedroom in the basement. It has a double bed and a set of extra long bunks in it. It is for when the boys come home... and Katie and Andrew since Sam and Luke took her room!

Financially speaking adopting is expensive- but oh so worth it!
Hubby's job and a small inheritance from my parents has allowed us to adopt our children. 

Meals are kinda crazy as we are continuing to search for what works and what doesn't work for 11 children and 2 adults. Lots of plates full of food, lots of dishes- dishwasher running 3 times a day! We live close to a grocery store so often plan dinner last minute and do what we think will work for that evening. Hubby stops on his way home about 3 times a week. I have meals in the freezer that I make and we order pizza once a week. The kids and I eat spaghetti when hubby is gone- we love it (he doesn't)!

Our children have a variety of special needs-
 Hep B, severe cognitive disability, Severe speech disabilities, moderate cognitive delays, Cleft Lip/ Palate, HIV, Congenital Siderblastic anemia(regular blood transfusions), Dextrocardia and TOF, Anal Atresia(Imperforate Anus).

I do plan to do more advocating for these needs and others in the future. 
If you are considering adopting a child with ANY of these needs and you have questions PLEASE email me!

Stacy asked-
We are in the beginning of our first adoption and I am struggling with deeming someone's special needs more than I can handle. How do you know when it's a good fit? We are looking to adopt a girl between 4 and 7.

We pray and pray about it. We ask God to reveal our child to us. I used to get kind of nervous about it- thinking what if God makes a mistake but after so many adoptions I realize that God does not make mistakes. We do! Maybe there is a special need that you might think is too big for your family but IF GOD says you can do it- YOU CAN!

It is really hard filling out that form. It is not my favorite thing to do. We are conservative when filling it out but often we go with a special need that we did not say yes too on the list.

I go a lot by the picture and feelings I have when I see the picture. Sometimes the children look "familiar" and you know it could be a fit.
I am a nurse so I am familiar with many special needs. I also research them online.
Many times we have blindly gone into an adoption- knowing that we can't do it BUT God can do this!
We adopted Abby thinking she had cancer- we prayed and prayed and 10 months later she was re diagnosed- no cancer ;-)
We had no idea what Sam's real situation was- it was better than we could have hoped for.
Emma was supposed to not supposed to have a special need and only be a below average student- she is severely cognitively disabled- still a huge blessing to us.

Some people like to be matched through an agency. We like to see the picture and pray over it.

Trust God, pray and go where he leads (or go with your gut)!

Lisa asked-
i'm probably going to think of 20 more questions,lol, but I'll start with did you manage the paper chase of the home study and dossier preparation while maintaining your life? We are adopting again and I feel like I have to everything twice because doctor forms aren't done correctly, fingerprints are smudged, how do you do it...without going crazy, that is, ha ha.

The paper chase can take a lot of time away from your family and your life.
Hubby and I would work together to get it done. On Saturday mornings we would have coffee and a meeting while the kids ate BKF and played. We would review what needs to be done and what our goals were for that week.
Sometime we would send gentle reminders to each other.
We promised to always be nice to each other through the process because it can be frustrating and we both had more than we could humanly do each day. We would set realistic goals for getting something done. Sometimes we made it but often we didn't. 
Our process still went pretty fast even though we didn't always reach our goal.
We aslo prayed for God's perfect timing for all the details and our travel.
When things went wrong we gave it to HIM!
Surprisingly- HE wants it!
It helped us not to get frustrated.

Okay- I'm taking a short break and will do another post answering the rest of the questions!

Thank you!