Friday, April 29, 2011

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Six months. That's how long we've been getting pictures and updates for Abi. That's how many different pictures I have. Six. She looks older. In this one, she also looks sad, but a comment on the paperwork says she had just awoken and was actually sleepy, not sad.

Our paperwork is translated. It's ready to be filed at court. Of course, now would be the moment when we're snared by a new tangle on Abi's side of things. Our agency called the other day. "Brace yourself," our social worker said, and I felt myself go very still. What was wrong?

"You know how Abi was processed as an abandonment case, right?" she said. "Well, it turns out that was inaccurate. She was relinquished, and we found her family."

WHOA. This changes everything! My first reaction was one of joy. She is not alone. She has a history and a people. She has a story I can tell her some day. She does not have to be envious of Bean and how he has Miss A to tell him she loves him.

Then the short-term reality hit me. More waiting. We have to wait for this new-found family to sign relinquishment papers. What if they won't sign? What if this delay puts us into the rainy season, and we have to wait until fall to go to court? What if, what if, what if?

"I'll call you as soon as I know anything more," our social worker said sympathetically.

Today I looked on the newest picture of our little girl with a heavy heart. How long will it be, little one, until I can hold you forever? Will I ever be able to, or will something go terribly wrong?

Don't get me wrong. I am very pro-reunification. If Abi were to go back to her birth family (which is very unlikely) I would not be devastated, for her sake. But for my sake, the mother on the other side of the world who has prayed for her and payed fostering fees, and bonded already in my heart, it would be very, very hard. Like I said, her family could not care for her, although we do know that she was raised by a loving grandmother for the first couple of years, which is fantastic news.

I could not decide whether to tell this news or not. Part of me wants to keep Abi's story private, for her sake. For this reason, I have not shared many of the details I know. It's her story, and it's personal.

Still, this blog is my story. And today my heart is heavy as I gaze on her precious picture. Hour by hour, I remind myself to trust God, that He is the one orchestrating this family, and I don't really need to know where the next bend in the road comes. I need to keep walking, keep working here, keep praying, and keep trusting. Today, though, it's hard to do.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Actually, I Love Their Mess

I know, I know... as a good, freaky-clean mom, I am supposed to have them keep their room tidy. They ought to pick up their toys, make their beds, etc.

Although I really do like a clean, tidy house, there are times when I'm glad for the little things they leave here and there. I went up into their room yesterday, and there were so many little things on the floor that spoke volumes about my precious little people. Also, the vignettes I found made me laugh, and think to myself how short these wonderful years of magical childhood really are.

For instance, a wooden train has Playmobil people stuck into it at right angles.  Are they riding on the train?  Are they being punished?  Were they exhausted parents who literally wanted to crawl into a hole?

This curved wall is the beginning of a new City of Kells, I believe.  Its careful construction amazes me when I think of the uncoordinated little hands that put it together.

Some of the things I found puzzle me.  For instance, two nests sit on a ladder at the top of a castle.  Beds? Roofs? Hanging gardens?  Only the imaginations of my playful children could solve this mystery.

I found a tower, and below it a toy car.  A tiny one, a toy car for the toys.  Was this a monument?  What story has been associated with this monolith of wooden blocks?  As an adult, I may never know, but I remember the enchanting days when I still knew the way to fairyland, and plain wooden blocks could be infused with adventure.

A puzzle sat on the floor, completed.  Who sat here, carefully fitting the pieces together, smiling as he or she snapped the last piece into place?  One of them did, and I smile at whoever it was as I exit their bedroom.  I had thought to ask them to clean things up, but as I thought of that puzzle sitting there, a tribute to someone's patience, I decided to leave it for a day or two longer.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Snapshot: Playing Music With Myself

Computer: expensive
Microphone: not very expensive
Flute: really freaking expensive
Extremely high-tech microphone holder (a pipe cleaner, swiped from the kids' homeschool drawer): uh...
Downloaded sheet music, recording software: free
An evening of harmony after the kids are in bed: PRICELESS!!!

[Edited to Add: Yes, I live in this shirt. Why do you ask?]

I'm in danger of becoming a nerd.

Oh wait, I already am a nerd. To prove my worthy nerdiness for this week, let me show you what I have been doing all afternoon.

We're planning a trip to CdA this Saturday, and I've been using Google Maps to get directions, look at maps, and even view the houses of the friends we plan to visit. I'm so excited... we're going to see Miss A, for the first time in several months; we're going to get to play with Andrea's fun homeschooling family, and we get to meet E&K's delicious new baby! Can you tell I'm excited?

It's funny, some of the bloggers I read have been talking about their summer travel plans. Trips to the Grand Canyon, Italy, or New Zealand sound so exciting and thrilling, yet I think I am just about as pumped about our one-day trip to the next town over. Possibly this shows just how crazy a house-bound WAHM can get. ;)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Removing Hard Water Scale

This morning's project was removing all of the limescale that had built up around my bathroom faucet. Our town has terribly hard water and the scale builds up quickly.

Doesn't it look nice and shiny-new? That makes me happy. :)

For comparison, here's a bit of the tub faucet that still needs to be cleaned. Regular cleaner does NOT take this stuff off; it is really tough to clean.

Here are a few of my tips and tricks for getting hard water off of the faucets. Some of these I learned while cleaning dorm rooms over several summers in college; some I have just picked up along the way.

Remove the handles and clean them separately. They usually come off with a smal screw and aren't hard to remove.

Use a foaming bathroom cleaner that specifically says it works on limescale. Even this doesn't get much of it for me, but it is a start, and it softens the grime. Vinegar would also work, as it is an acid and would eat away at the lime, which is basic in ph.

The best tool for scraping away the buildup (are you ready for this?): a kitchen knife! Oddly enough, this works better than anything else. Use the tip, not the serrated blade. And don't press hard enough to score the ceramic or the metal. But if you're careful, it works great to chip away the scale.

I also use a green scrubbie, but that will scratch the metal, so some people may not go that route.

When you're all done and everything is rinsed, shine up the faucet with some window cleaner. It gives it that sparkling, shiny new touch.

It took me quite a while (about an hour) to get all of the lime deposits off, but it was so worth it to have my faucet so new and pretty! While I worked, the Bean got into the bathroom cupboards, and pulled all of the bubble bath out onto the floor. Very, very helpful...

If you have any additional tricks, please leave them in the comments section. :)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Proverbs 31 for Today

Proverbs 31 has always been a source of frustration to me: an unattainable portrait of perfection, usually taught upon by men who don't realize the burden they are inadvertently laying upon us. It's the fodder of "pink Bible studies" which tend to send me running in the other direction.

Yet, as with all Biblical wisdom, it exists for a reason. Since I love the Bible, I thought I'd tackle this difficult chapter and attempt to translate it into more realistic language, while still retaining the essential teachings to women, particularly tired, stressed, discouraged women who chase a houseful of Goombas, hold down a job (or three), live with a less-than-ideal budget, and wonder how they're going to get up tomorrow and do it all again.

(Note: I mean absolutely no disrespect to the Bible or Proverbs 31. I love the Bible and I believe with my whole heart that it points the way toward Jesus Christ as well as giving us essential wisdom to live a righteous life. Still, I think playing with a piece of wisdom literature can't hurt, and might give a new spin on what has become for me a pretty threadbare chapter.)

I also tried for the acrostic, since the original was written in that style.

Proverbs 31 - Today's Mom Version

[skipping the first stuff where King Lemuel's mom gives him mom-advice.]

Epilogue: The Wife of Noble Character

10 A wife who really tries to be Godly is pretty unusual. Young guys: you definitely want to try to hook up with this kind of girl. You can't pay money for such a one.
11 Because her husband can trust her, he is able to become the kind of man God wants him to be.
12 Can he become a Godly man? Yes, because she doesn't selfishly hold him back, but encourages him instead. She's confident enough in who God made her to be, that she doesn't need to compete.
13 Doing hard work never scares her away. She can't be accused of being lazy.
14 Ever see those big ocean-liners importing food? To her family, she brings wonderful ideas to the table, just like those big ships bring exotic foods.
15 For she begins early to do the work of the day, [coffee in hand], planning meals, organizing and remembering everyone who looks to her for care.
16 Going about her day, she's a frugal shopper, but is not afraid to invest intelligently in her family's future.
17 How delighted she is with her work! Her good attitude makes the days go by quickly and makes even hard work light to her.
18 In her ability to multitask, she not only helps to contribute to the family budget, but she she notices and carefully restocks all of the household supplies.
19 Keeping her family clothed and presentable gives her a feeling of delight.
20 Loving others, even those who have less than she does, makes her stand out from the selfish materialism all around her.
21 Moreover, even in cold weather, she makes sure her kiddos have warm coats, and even understands that fashion is important, especially to teenagers.
22 Not only are her children well-clothed, but she dresses herself well to bless her husband, and doesn't put her marital bed on the back burner.
23 On the Hubby's side of things, he is able to become a well-respected member of the community; since he has such confidence in her respect for him, it gives him the self-confidence he needs.
24 Producer, not just consumer, toward the family income. She finds a job that she's good at doing, and does it as well as she can.
25 Rather than wasting her energy worrying about the future, she relaxes in the joy of the Lord, and knows that the work she does today will contribute to her family's well-being tomorrow.
26 Spoken words have power, she knows. For this reason, she tries not to complain or be snippy, but tries to speak respectfully, thinking about what she says before she says it, and being consistent with her words.
27 To her, the family she has as her responsibility is her primary focus, and she does everything she needs to do to keep them well and healthy.
28 Unafraid to be a competent parent, she deals out firm discipline with love. Her children will look back someday and realize how well she raised them. Her husband too, in the difficult job of Fathering, appreciates her.
29 Women everywhere are good mothers, excellent wives and hard workers, but you can strive to top all of them, not in a competitive way, but in the comfortable assurance that you have done your best.
30 Youth and beauty fade over time, so don't make these things an idol, guys. Look for a wife who is committed to living her life for the Lord and growing in His character, for then you'll find a real treasure.
31 Zap your wives with a little appreciation, Hubbies. They won't know what hit them! When others praise them, let them enjoy it, because they don't get it very often.

There we go. Like all good advice, it can seem a bit scorching in large doses, and I know I still feel like it's an impossible goal. Still, if we wives and mothers are looking for a bit of a shove in the right direction, it can actually be pretty encouraging. Even on those days when our hair looks like robins built nests in our crowning glory, if we're faithful in the work God calls us to do, we can be assured that we're on the right track.

I'm writing this to myself as much as to anyone else. I feel discouraged right now. Our adoption feels like it will never be over; even when it is, I'm nervous about adding a fourth child to the Goomba-zoo. The whirlwind of a Bean, though I love him dearly, exhausts me, and I worry that I'm not doing enough with the older kids. I struggle too with the chronic pain issues: lifting the Bean makes fire shoot up my back all day long, and trying to get all my work done with that kind of pain makes me want to give up and crawl into bed. Yet I persevere. I keep working and teaching and lifting and praying and wiping everything in sight with "disconfender wipes" as Curly calls them. Being a woman isn't easy; being a Proverbs 31 woman seems even harder. Yet when my sweet Little Mister drops a butterfly kiss on my cheek at night and tells me that he loves me, it somehow seems all worth it.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

We're at the Park!

We're at the park! Well, we were last night, anyway.

Little Mister climbs high. Look at me, Mommy!!!

I have a hard time capturing Curly with the camera. By the time the shutter clicks, she is gone.

How about I take a picture of you...

...and you can take a picture of me!

I am a very small Bean, and I would like to get up on this very large swing, please.

Then I would like to swing and swing and swing.

When you get me down, I shall cry, for I am well pleased to swing.

So Daddy holds me and we all swing high into the air.

Little Mister found a track with cars.

At last, a picture of Curly Miss, peeking.

Hooray for warm weather (sort of), a camera with auto-focus, and fun at the park!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

If you help a kid make cupcakes...

If you help a kid make cupcakes...
...then her little brother will want to help frost them...

...and the baby will want to get in on the action.

She will decide it's her pet dinosaur's birthday...
...which of course calls for sprinkles...

...and once they are eaten after lunch, will end up being so much fun...

...that they will want you to help them make more cupcakes!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Living by Faith

Admittedly, I'm more on the mystic side of my Christian belief than some. Hubby, for example, is more academic in his approach, and when I talk about walking in faith and hearing God's will for us, his eyes tend to glaze over just a bit.

I've been a Christian since I was four years old. I approached my faith like I do everything else in life: 150%. I decided early on that if I was going to be a Christian, I was really going to be a Christian. I spent much of my childhood "getting to know" God, a term that will horrify some of the higher-church believers like our Catholic friends, E & K, who hold God in reverence, but don't necessarily consider Him very personal or approachable.

On the other hand, I consider God to be quite approachable. In fact, from what I can tell, the reason He created humans in the first place was in order to have relationship with us. He certainly doesn't need us for any other reason as He is pretty self-sufficient, along with having legions of angels around to worship Him constantly. Anyway, I digress. Throughout my life, I have tended to approach God. I love to draw near, to worship, to talk, to listen... to know I have pleased Him in my life and my choices brings me great satisfaction.

When I was eight, my third grade teacher had our class memorize Hebrews 11, the faith chapter. Looking back on it, I consider this to be a defining occurrence in my life and Christian walk. Since then, I have defined myself as a person of faith. By faith, I don't mean a religion, but a person who goes beyond the natural, logical order of things to walk in the supernatural plan of trusting God to order my steps.

Let me give you an example. When I was about to graduate from college, I was going to be sent to Eureka, Montana to student teach with a very good music teacher there. I had never been to Eureka; I did not know anyone there. It was a small town with no rentals available, and I didn't have any money anyway. We were to student teach without working an outside job, so I had no way of making any money to live on. I knew this was my first big test of faith. Somehow I knew that God wanted to care for me supernaturally that semester. I knew, because I knew Him. Other than that, I can't explain how I knew. I just knew.

To make a long story short, I was provided with a wonderful Christian lady to board with at minimal cost, and had a wonderful semester. After months of waiting, the details had been worked out right before I had to go, and my faith in God was infinitely strengthened by the experience.

Fast forward to this year. Hubby and I were certain that God wanted us to manage our money in such a way as to get out of debt. Then, we were equally as certain, He wanted us to adopt Little Sister. Since the two things were impossibly exclusive, we soon realized that we were in another test of faith. We could choose to obey God and go out on a limb, or we could play it safe and say "no" to one or both of those things that He wanted us to do.

Although Hubby doesn't see things in quite the mystical way that I do, he agreed that we were going to walk in faith. We would do both, even though it was impossible.

I wrote already in this post how God has met our need above and beyond what we ever expected. Today, however, I realized that the other half of our faith test has also happened. Today I made the last payment on our van, eliminating a car payment from our budget! The really amazing thing is that this is the exact month I would have paid our van off if we had stuck to our original plan of getting out of debt without doing an adoption at all. I feel so amazed and humbled at the incredible way God is providing for what we need.

The Bible says we walk by faith and not by sight. Sometimes it's so tempting to maintain absolute control over our lives and our finances. It's so tempting to back away from a ministry because it's too much of a drain on resources we don't think we have. I have found that when God asks us to do something that looks impossible, He is just waiting for a chance to show us just how able and willing He is to make the impossible possible. Not only that, but we lose all bragging rights for accomplishing this adoption and all of the glory goes to Him for placing this little girl in our family. I think I like it that way.

Edited to add: To those of you who are thinking about adopting, like we were, but you don't know how you're going to pay for it, I'll give you the advice I read on the blog of another Christian family who had adopted:

1. Pray and be sure that this is what God wants for your family.
2. Begin to aggressively get out of debt (or if you are, to save).
3. Give to the widows and orphans. Whatever God lays on your heart.
4. See what God does. He will show you which way to go.

That's it! If the desire to adopt is on your heart, and does not go away, very likely it's from Him and He will take responsibility for making it happen. All you have to do is listen and give.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Loving Kells

The current favorite movie in our house is The Secret of Kells. At first I was against my kids watching it over and over because it has some really scary sections, as wells as the usual Pagan/Christian myths all wrapped up together.

After the kids had seen it once, however, they were hooked, and clamored to watch it again and again.

I have to admit, the movie has grown on me. It tells a fictionalized version of the making of the Book of Kells, with all of the artwork mimicking the Celtic style of the illuminated manuscript.

Rather than fight it, I've discovered that embracing their interest in the movie has led to some fairly amazing teachable moments.

For starters, we built the city of Kells with wooden blocks. The kids insisted that we build the circular wall, the domed Scriptorium, and the tall Abbey tower in the center.

Once they finished their building, later that evening, Hubby helped them look up Ireland on Google Earth. They found Kells and Iona, the island where the Book originated. They have had long, involved, conversations about the history of illuminated manuscripts and the necessity of copying the Bible in such a painstaking manner.

Not least of all, the little fairy character, Aisling (say: Ashlin) has captured Curly's imagination. She says her lines, and learned the little Gaelic song that the character sings in the middle of the movie.

She had me look up the words on the computer and write them out for her so she could teach herself the song, Gaelic and all.

Aisling sings the haunting little song to the cat, Pangur Ban, when she asks him to turn into a sprite in order to free the main character, Brendan, so he can save the precious Book.

I attempted to get a video of Curly singing the song, although the Bean's help made it next to impossible to film. I guess maybe you get the general idea. Even though she's only six, Curly imitated the style, and Gaelic pronunciations accurately, although her pitch, well... she is a lot better than I was at six!

It surprises me the amount of history, geography, music, architecture, art, religion and myth we have managed to extract from the children's interest in one simple movie. For now, our homeschool has a decidedly Celtic flavor.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Adoption Update: In-Country

To the many of you who have been praying for our Ethiopian adoption, thank you! I realized today that it's been quite a while since I posted an update here, so I'll attempt to sum up all that has happened in the last few months.

As you know, we finished our Dossier and submitted it, thus achieving the status of "paper-ready." We then got officially matched with our little girl. There was a bit of a wait then while we applied for the I-600A approval, which is a pre-approval by the US government to be an internationally adoptive family, and I think that number is specific to Ethiopia.

We had to have a special set of fingerprints taken for that, and it ended up being sort of a funny story. Hubby took the afternoon off and we hired a sitter to drive up to Spokane for the appointment, so it was a pretty big deal. We got to the Federal Building early, but like the naive little country folk we were, we didn't realize they would have a security process to get into the building. Well, I had a pocketknife in my purse that got scanned. The knife was confiscated and I felt like an idiot. Luckily the security guards were nice and understanding; also they promised I could have the knife back when we left.

Once we got up to the waiting room and checked in, we were making small talk and listening to the couple next to us talk in Spanish at 100mph. I could understand some of what they said, but Hubby said he doesn't remember any of the Spanish he learned in school. I coughed a couple of times. I was just at the tail end of a cold, and I'd had a bad asthma attack the day before. I commented to Hubby, "I'm so tired of coughing!"

He turned to me and said, "Shh, there is a sign that says if you're sick, they won't take your fingerprints."

Uh oh! Just then, the man at the window called Hubby for his appointment and asked him if his wife was sick. He'd heard me cough, apparently. The thought flashed through my head that we would be rescheduled, have to drive up another day, take time off work, hire a sitter.... I could have kicked myself.

Hubby assured the man that I didn't have a communicable illness (true, since the cough was just asthma) and they relented and took both of our fingerprints. Imagine my relief! We left the building, retrieving my pocket knife, and drove back home to our small town, glad to be done with Federal Buildings!

Once that approval came through, our dossier was sent to the US State Department, received approval, then was shipped to Ethiopia, where it is being translated into Amharic right now. Our status this week is "in-country," since our paperwork is now there.

Several weeks ago the news came through that the Ministry of Women's Affairs has slowed their rate of approvals to international adoptions from 50 per day to 5 per day. For a while, we didn't understand exactly what this meant, but last Monday we had a teleconference with our agency and she explained it to us.

We travel to Ethiopia the first time and go to court there to adopt Abi. Once we give our statement of intent to adopt, the MOWA has to give a comment before the court can finalize. This is where the slowdown might affect our case. We're hoping that our case will get a quick comment, since Abi is not a parental relinquishment case; also the fact that she has special needs might encourage them to approve more quickly.

In any case, we should be assigned a court date quite soon, which will allow us to make travel plans for the first trip. We hope our court date will happen before the rainy season in August and September, because the courts usually close then.

Last night I dreamed again about Abi. I dreamed about meeting her, about seeing her and holding her and talking to her. Things are moving toward their conclusion...the third trimester in our Paper Pregnancy. We still hope and pray that things will move smoothly and that we have no big red-tape hangups. The worry over the MOWA slowdown is worry that we'll be delayed in bringing her home. Already that eight weeks between the first and second trips seems so long! To meet her, then have to leave her there sounds devastating; if it's delayed, it will be even more agonizing. Like everything in the adoption process, I have to leave it in God's hands and trust that He will give me the strength to do what I need to do when the time comes.

We got a new picture of her the other day. We have been receiving pictures for six months now, and I can see a change. She is getting bigger. She turned three in March. I found is difficult to know I missed her birthday; a grief for the time with her I have missed. Still, the knowledge that I'll get to celebrate her next birthday with her, and Christmas... and just to tuck her into bed at night... it makes this all worth it.


Every morning for about two hours, The Bean and I have a quiet time of play while the older two Goombas play downstairs. Well, to be more accurate, he plays and I sit with my laptop, dinking around, checking email and Facebook, and writing blog posts. I've discovered (third learn these things) that if I get out one new toy every day, he's happy for quite a while. If I leave a pile of all of his toys, he whines and fusses, is bored, and begins looking for mischief.

Eighteen Months is an age of wonder and discovery. He learns a new word nearly every day. It's also an age of tantrums and worry as he squirms away from me and dashes across the yard toward the street. It's an age where he is still very much a baby, snuggling in my arms for his morning bottle of whole milk, warmed to just the right temperature. I know it's an age that will pass all too quickly, and I'm enjoying every moment of it.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

More Woodcraft

Little Mister, rather than Curly, has been the one to insist that the details of the dolls' dwelling be accurate and complete. He decided that since I was able to successfully make a bed from wood, he ought to be able to order whatever additional furniture he thought they needed. The thing uppermost on his mind was a bookshelf full of books. A house is not a home without a bookshelf. I like how he thinks.

A trip to Michael's provided the book shelf, but alas, no books to put on it. During nap time today I went back out to the shop to see what I could do. Some pieces of basswood, sandpaper and carving tools came out, and soon I'd made several tiny books to go on the bookshelves.

Our dolls will sleep comfortably and be well-read. What more could they possibly need?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Inaugural Project

Last summer, I finished my wood shop, but since then I have not had any time to make anything in it. We've done some minor repairs around the house using the tools, but so far, I have not actually done any woodworking.

Today, though, the weather was balmy (the shop isn't weatherproof), and The Bean slept for a good, long nap. The kids and I had earlier looked for a bunk bed for the doll house, since the little brother and sister didn't have a bed at all. The toy store downtown, unfortunately was out of beds.

With the baby asleep, I headed out to the shop to see if maybe I could round up enough scrap wood to make something for the doll house. I have a baby monitor set up out there, which generally lets me hear the parakeets chirping at one another all afternoon (and, of course, the Bean when he begins to squeak).

With scrap pieces of cedar, dowels and craft wood that was leftover from other projects, I went to work.

Now the little brother and sister dolls have their own beds! Little Mister, who is enamored with bunk beds right now (and wants one of his own in his room) thought it was just right, and could hardly wait for the glue and paint to dry so he could take it down and put it into the dollhouse.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Natural Consequenses

No parent likes it when their kiddo is hurting. Still, once in a while, it comes along as a good teachable moment.

Last night Curly and Mister were goofing around in a parking lot, racing and pushing past one another like they have been told a million times NOT to do. On the other side of a full-length sign, I heard a screech and hurried over to find Curly in a miserable heap on the ground.

She'd tripped during her roughhousing and skidded on her chin. [insert cringe here.] I'm ashamed to admit that my first reaction was not to gather her in my arms and snuggle her. I guess I'm just not that kind of a mom. Instead I wanted to smack her. I didn't, of course. I made sure she wasn't hurt anywhere else and then lectured her sternly on how her misbehavior had caused the pain she was now experiencing. Oddly enough, parents don't make rules just to squash children's fun.

Later, though, I got over being mad at her and snuggled her for quite a long time on the couch. We also let her skip violin practice, because, really, who should be expected to practice through such an injury?

She went to bed feeling like a martyr and definitely much better. The drama of having a WOUND was a balm as surely as the Neosporin.