Saturday, October 2, 2010

listen to those left behind

Hello. For those of you who don't remember me, let me introduce myself. Again. I'm Julia. I like to write it as "julia" b/c capitalizing on the keyboard makes me crazy. And b/c I tend to mis-type my name 90% of the time (usually it ends up as "juila) and the capitalizing always pushes me to 100% failure. And that's misspell your own name. But I digress. I do that a lot. I think it's the fact that for the last 12 and 1/2 years I've been a stay at home mom and I tend to always get side-tracked in my actions and thoughts. It translates into not so great paragraph structure.

I'm writing here for the first time in months b/c I actually have something to write about. Again. Adoption! That's right. We're starting our 2nd adoption for our 5th child. Does five sound like a lot? Because it does to my husband and for some reason does not to me. I think it may be b/c I have a lot of homeschool friends and they tend to have larger than average families. So 5 doesn't seem that crazy. Andy, however, lives among the "real world" and out there people tend to think 4 kids is a crazy big family. So he is always hearing, "Oh. 4 kids. That's a lot." And I rarely hear that and even less rarely (I know, so not good grammar) think that. I find the whole thing fascinating...that "big family" is such a relative term.

Anyone who knows me for say, 5 minutes, probably knows that I was ready to go "back to China again to adopt" before we even got on the plane to get Caleb. I just knew that once I came face to face w/a real live orphan, once I touched the hand of child who had never known what a mother's hand felt like, once I walked through an orphanage, once I saw how many kids we would walk away from and leave behind, I could not NOT go back. I could not look at my life and say, "Nope. No more room. We're full. We're busy. We're done." I just could not say that. And trust me, all signs point to us being done. Our 4 bedrooms are full. Our van is almost full. Our calendar is generally full. Our kitchen table perfectly sits 6 and looks full. Our bank account, however, is definitely not full. So we have many, many reasons to be done.

But one of the many reasons why I can not say no is heard in this video. Andy took this on the day we met Caleb in his orphanage last summer. We were walking down the hallway and we heard these lovely voices singing in the background. We peaked into the door and what we saw you won't be able to see b/c we weren't allowed to take any video of the children there. But the image is etched in my mind forever and I'm pretty sure the sound will be etched in your mind as you listen. I can almost guarantee it.

What you don't see is a "classroom" of children standing on a small stage in a room that mimics a school gymnasium. The kids were elementary aged and were standing all tall and proud and were singing. For no one. For absolutely no one. The gym was empty. It should have been full of chairs w/doting parents looking on. But there weren't any parents. In fact, there were no chairs. Because no one was coming to hear them sing. And no one would ever hear their beautiful song. Their voices were echoing through hallways. Hallways that were always full of children and never full of parents. And I whispered to Andy, "No one is coming." And I cried. And that, my friend, is one of the many reasons why we're going back to China. How can we not?

Monday, August 9, 2010

you'd think i'd have this perfected by now

We started our official school year last week. Kara is in 7th grade, Anna is in 6th, Nathan in 2nd, and Caleb in pre-K. You would think that after all these years of homeschooling I'd have things figured out by now, right? Well, I do know what DOESN'T work. I guess that's a start! And I do know that no matter what I'll spend hours and hours researching and contemplating curriculum choices year after year after year. Well, except for Math. That one is a no-brainer. I did find the perfect math program for all of my kids several years ago and it's a keeper. That program is written in black permanent Sharpie ink in my mind every year. All the other subjects are in pencil.

And for all my homeschool curriculum obsessed are my 2010 winners. Enjoy! (All others may sign off now b/c you'll be bored to death!)

6th/7th grade:

Math U See. LOVE IT. Can't say enough good things about it. Worth every single penny. And it's not cheap, so that's saying a lot. I'd pay twice as much for it if I had to. But don't tell anyone that.

Alpha Omega's Switched on Schoolhouse Science and Bible. Once upon a time I swore, swore, SWORE I would never use DVDs or the computer as part of my children's school. Nope. That was what lazy moms did. And things like that ruined their creative minds. Well, I'll just say that "never" has come and my girls and I love this computer curriculum. If you have more than one child, it may become your best friend too. The Bible curriculum is good for learning Bible content and history. It's not easy. It's a ton of work. This is the second year the girls will be doing it. I wasn't going to buy it b/c we already had the "Who is God?" book (see below). But Anna BEGGED to continue on w/this one as well. Who can say no to a child begging to do extra Bible?! Kara, on the other hand, didn't beg so much. But she is doing it as well. The science is also not easy at all. The girls had gone through most of the Apologia science books and I was looking for a change last year. They both liked this. So we're doing another year of it. Then it will probably/maybe be back to Apologia.

Apologia's new Who Is God Biblical Worldview. Oh my goodness this one is good. It's the first in a series of books from Apologia. I love it. My kids love it. It's that good. Get it. This is a MUST HAVE book for all families. Homeschool or not. It's a great book to go through together as a family.

Notgrass's America the Beautiful. This hasn't even been published yet but is supposed to be out this month. I check my email everyday in hopes of getting an "It's done!" email from them. I'm pretty sure it's going to be worth the wait. I saw a rough copy of it back in the spring at a homeschool convention. I loved it. I was actually looking at their high school curriculum and was falling in love with much as one can fall in love w/curriculum. Some of you know what I'm saying here, right?! Anyway, I loved how it blended history, literature and bible all in one. Three subjects in one?! Now that's speaking my love language!

Latina Christiana. Can't say much about this mostly due to the fact that I don't teach it and have no idea what the kids are learning. They have passed me up in my Latin expertise (uh, that wasn't hard b/c I know no Latin!). This is a DVD curriculum w/a workbook. I do purchase the extra activity book that goes along w/it (Ludere Latin). They all have answer keys and that's how I stay involved. I grade the work. I have no idea WHAT I'm grading, but I do. If I have questions, I ask Anna. She loves Latin.

Diagramming Step by Step. The girls had been using Rod & Staff's Building Christian English Skills for the past few years and I just kind of got tired of it. As did they. It's a great curriculum but it didn't vary a lot from year to year. I'll use it later on for Nathan b/c it was good. But this year I wanted to focus more on sentence diagramming for the girls. I bought this Step by Step book at the homeschool convention as soon as I spotted it. We'll see how it works out. It gets pretty intense so it may take longer than a year to get through.

IEW's Student Writing Intensive. If you're looking for a great writing program, this is it. Zero teacher prep time. Need I say more?!

2nd grade:

Mystery of History. Started this last year w/Nathan but never finished it. It's good. Really good. And I'm determined to make the time to teach it this year. I used Story of the World for the girls. It was good but wasn't strong on incorporating Bible history into the text. My plan is to use Mystery of History for a few years and then switch to Story of the World when Nathan is a bit older and will be able to appreciate/comprehend it a little better.

Writing With Ease. Just discovered this. Bought the wrong level so we haven't started it. But I'm very excited about this one. Again, no teacher prep. Open it up and begin. My kind of teaching!

Math U See. See above.

Easy Grammar. Tried and true. Used this for the girls years ago. Easy. Good.

Spelling Workout. Your typical spelling book. Doesn't work magic but is good for your average spelling student. Ick. Spelling. It's kind of like cleaning the dishes. You just have to do it. Nothing special or exciting. Just needs to get done.

Apologia's Exploring Creation w/Astronomy. Love this. My kids love this. We pretty much read it and enjoy it. They do keep a notebook. Perfect for elementary/middle grades.

Studying God's Word. Good book for independent Bible study. My kids have all enjoyed this series. The only bad thing is that the verses are all in KJV. I ended up buying a KJV paperback Bible so they wouldn't be so frustrated w/the crossword puzzles/games.

Flashmaster. If you've made it this far, I've saved one of my best homeschool finds to last. Flashmaster. It's basically an electronic flashcard/calculator. It's how all of my kids have learned their math facts. Great to take in the car or use when at doctor appointments/etc. All of my kids started out thrilled about doing this but w/in a few weeks dreaded it. Again, it's kind of like doing dishes. Not a lot of joy in it. But it's necessary. If you are at a loss as to how to get your kids to practice their math facts, get this. It's worth the price.

Friday, April 30, 2010

the long awaited april post

Just noticed that I hadn't posted anything since last month. And I could not let the whole month of April go by without a post. Cause that would be tragic for all of you. Right, mom. And whomever else out there still checks this.

All of my real-life friends are always asking how things are going with Caleb. And I never quite know how to sum it up. Because I could go on and on about how much progress he's made and how clever he is and how much he makes us laugh each day and how much weight he's gained (12 pounds since June! 10 of them were w/in the first 6 months of being home), how quickly he's learned English, and on and on. But I don't. I usually keep it simple and just say, "Great." Because that pretty much is the truth. I'm telling you, he is THE happiest kid ever. And I'm not sure how we managed to get the cutest boy in all of China, but we did. Or the smartest boy in all of China. Or the funniest. But he is all of that and more. Now, don't get me wrong, he's not exactly perfect. And his siblings will let you know that about 6 times a day (x3 siblings = a whole lot of tattling and bickering). Just this morning I woke up to the sounds of sibling bickering. So, as I said, he fits in perfectly. He holds his own among two very mothering and sometimes overbearing sisters and a brother who 1/2 the time just wants his little brother to leave him alone. And pick up his side of the room. Yes, that brings up Caleb's biggest problem. He completely trashes our house. And he does it in such a quiet sort of way that none of us realize what he's done until it's way too late. His latest tactic to "leave his mark" in every possible place and way?...He takes the hinged handles on my dresser and lifts them up. Each and every one of them. I'm not quite sure what the fascination is with drawer handles is, but he just can not resist the temptation. And cars and pennies. I find pennies and matchbox cars His most clever place to leave them? Inside my shoes. I'll pick up my shoes to put them on and sure enough, I generally hear a ratt-a-tat-tat kind of rustling sound. I am getting pretty good at distinguishing between money and plastic cars. So, there you have it. A little known fact about him. And me. He has obsessions w/drawer handles and hiding cars. I can shake a shoe and tell you if I have money or cars in it. Random. Huh?!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

i don't want my kids to be happy

Ok, I know this is yet another "go read someone else's blog" post. But I have to do it again. Because it's that good.

You must read this. Because it's good. And true.

It's about a fairly common thought/concern/question that quite a few people bring up when discussing adoption. It's the "what about college" question. Well, to be quite honest w/you...Andy and I have asked ourselves that exact same question more than once over the past 12 years. Adoption or not. One kid. Or four. And my thoughts have always been pretty much what Missy so clearly writes on her blog "It's almost nap time."

Hope you enjoy the perspective as much as I do.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

dear orphan

I read this post on One More Ladybug and it made me think of how our actions (and inaction) speak so much louder than our words...

Dear Orphan~

I saw your photo today. You are so adorable!
Your eyes are so deep and full of hope.

I love your little smile.
I know it must be hard some days to find
the strength to smile.
I have heard how little food you have,
but you are still willing to share
with your friends.
What a sweet little person you are!

But, I am writing this letter to tell you that I will
not be able to help you.
You see, my family is happy with the life we
are living.
I know that we could get bunk beds and you could
share a room with one of our bio kids,
but really,
that is no life for either of you.
We have so much going on around here and
life would just be too chaotic.

Our neighbors just got a new TV and game system,
we really think we need to have one too.
I have a 'ladies night out' next week and
I have nothing to wear.
I really need to purchase a new outfit.
I guess I could sponsor you...
it will have to wait til next month,
I really need that new outfit
and my kids are dying for some fast food tonight.

Good luck to you!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Feeling a bit too comfortable

Reading blogs can be a waste of time.

But sometimes you "meet" a person who inspires you. Humbles you. Challenges you. And makes you wonder if your life is way too comfortable.

I'm speaking of a young girl who has given up just about everything in her life to follow God's calling. She lives in Africa and is raising 14 children. She recently posted some of the most convicting and challenging words I have ever read. Ever. You'll be much better off reading her words than mine today. You can meet her here amazima

Thursday, January 14, 2010

no award for me today

First of all, let me start by saying that I've been on blogger hiatus for such a long time that I'm not sure there is anyone even reading this. I almost titled this post "helloooooooo, anyone out there?" But, for what it's worth, I'm back. At least for today. Probably tomorrow and the next few days too. I am having dental surgery tomorrow and will pretty much be laying (or is it lying? that is one verb I can never get right) around all weekend so I should have plenty of time to get some cute Caleb photos up here as well as recap some of what's been going on around our home.

I had a moment today that was worth posting. I needed to run to the store and my list was random enough to warrant not going to the grocery but to my favorite-of-all-time-but-ends-up-costing-me-10-times-more-than-I-should-be-spending-store Target. I rarely go there anymore b/c my list of 10 things usually ends up becoming a cart full of 50 things that I didn't even realize that I needed until that very moment. And the bill is never less than shockingly "too much". But today was different. I needed things like light bulbs, food, paper products, and b-day gifts for friends of the girls. Bottom line: I ended up at Target and was thoroughly enjoying it. Well, as much as one can w/4 kids in tow. Anyway, toward the end I was getting a bit grumpy b/c I couldn't find several of my "must have" items on my list and I was going to have to make another stop at a "real" grocery store and my purpose for even going to Target was to get all my things at one place. Mission not accomplished.

So I am standing in line. The nice lady at the check-out says, "Oh, is school out today? I've seen a lot of kids lately." I'm a bit grumpy b/c I'm thinking about having to stand in line again at the grocery store across the street so I am not exactly in my happy/friendly place and answer w/a fairly short, "No. They're not." Silence. So I add, "We homeschool." And she says, in a really friendly kind of way, "Oh, do you make shopping into a school experience?!" And, fortunately, what I am thinking stays in my head and I simply say, "No. We just needed to go the store." I wasn't in the mood for hanging out and talking homeschool talk at that moment. Just wasn't. Usually I'm nice like that but not then. So she says something to the effect of, "Well, sometimes when I take my nephew to the store we make it all fun and I have him tally up the cost of everything and guess how much the bill will be. There are so many lessons in shopping." I just swipe my card and look down. Cause I'm really thinking, "Hey, lady. I just needed paper towels and light bulbs, ok? Nothing homeschooling about it. I mean, I guess if I wanted Homeschool Mom of The Year I might do that. But today, I'm just a mom needing toilet paper."

By the time I get to the parking lot and start unloading my things into the van I just started laughing and I asked the kids if they heard it all. They did. And I burst out laughing. There was a time in my life when I would have been all about promoting the homeschool family and making sure that the nice lady knew that my kids had, indeed, done school in the morning and we were just taking a break but it was back to school when they got home and how lovely it is to share these moments together and how wonderful it is that we can spend leisure time together during the days AND in the evenings b/c we finish school in record time and have no homework and la, la, la, la. But today I'm the mom who secretly wishes I could go to Target BY MY SELF during the day like all the other moms that I run into there. So, definitely no Homeschool Mom Award for me today. Or ever probably. But I'm fine w/it. Awards just get dusty on a shelf and end up getting thrown away anyway, right?

Oh, and as we were all in grocery store #2 a few minutes later, there was a large display of Bugle corn chips on sale for a dollar. I LOVE those things and say, "Look, kids! Kara, pick one up." Kara gets giddy and says, "Oh! Bu(insert short "u" symbol here)gles!." And I start laughing and say, "BUUUUgles, Kara, Bugles. Not Buggggles." And then I tell her that we COULD, just COULD make a phonics lesson out of it since we ARE a homeschool family. And all of us start laughing. Except, of course, Caleb. He is oblivious to any of it and is still asking if he can open his valentine stickers that I bought him back at Target.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Calling all facebook-ers

If you are on Facebook, PLEASE take a look at this video and vote for Half The Sky starting on Friday, January 15th. It's worth a million dollars. For real.

This is the organization that works in Caleb's orphanage as well as others throughout China. They could be working in every orphanage in China if they win this. So go and vote!