Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Back on Track (One Year Later)

Finally, we have our immigration papers updated.  Last time I posted (I know, it's been awhile), I was about to head back to Nashville for yet another set of fingerprints.  Good or bad, USCIS only makes you re-do them once.  So if they were bad again, it really didn't matter.

Since then, we went back for the fingerprints, got our I-797C (immigration approval), printed off another document saying that the I-797C is "True and Accurate", had that notarized, and had the notarization certified.  Today, we made the trip back to Nashville to have the certification of the notarization apostilled by the secretary of state.  Are you following?  The US government issued the I-797C themselves; you'd think that would be official enough.  Oh well, I'm learning to just jump through the hoops.

Tomorrow, I make sure I have scanned all parts of this document before mailing it to our agency so they can send it to Bulgaria.  Then I will email scanned copies to both of our agencies, and begin focusing again on fundraising.  Has anyone done any fundraising near Christmas?  My gut instinct is that it is a bad time of year to ask for donations.  After all everyone else is also asking, and there are Christmas presents to buy, etc.  I know folks are supposed to feel more giving at this time, but still.

I guess this all means we are back on track -- through with updating and back to waiting.  By the way, today marks the 1 year anniversary of our being officially registered in Bulgaria.  Maybe we are getting close to a referral.  At least we are a year closer!  LOL  My thoughts bounce around from being excited to feeling not ready; I'm scared to go, but I want the process behind me.

Just in case I don't post again before Christmas, I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas season.

  • Enjoy your family.  
  • Don't rush through the holidays.
  • Make memories.
  • Start a new tradition.
  • Focus more on others than on yourself.
  • Remember it truly is better to give than to receive.
  • And remember that it isn't about the gifts we exchange but about the Gift we were given over 2000 years ago when Jesus Christ was born.  (If you don't know Him personally, accept His gift this year above all others.)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I Stand Corrected

I stand corrected.  Apparently, the fingerprints did NOT go well.  I got a letter today from USCIS that they were unable to read my prints, and I will have to do it again.  Really?  Are you kidding me?  The computer said "accepted" or "rejected" as we took each print.  What is the point of doing them until they all say "accepted" while I'm standing there, if they are only going to wait two weeks and make me go back?

The lady and computer in Nashville thought they were fine....

Why can't you use the ones taken locally in July for our home study?  I believe they went to the SAME place.

Why can't you use the ones you took 18 months ago?  They don't REALLY expire, you know.  Fingerprints are fingerprints!

I bet there are people in prison who have not been fingerprinted as many times as I have.  Next week will make #8.

(Deep breath.  Let it out...)    : o

Lord, what do you want to teach me?  This has not been an easy process...I didn't expect it to be.  But I wasn't expecting blatant aggravation--feels almost like harassment at times.  Through Your strength, we WILL persevere.  We will not give up on our girls.  Please show Yourself in this process--despite the process.  May You receive all the glory and honor for completing this adoption.  For we cannot do this alone but through YOUR power and YOUR provision.  We are Your instruments...Your vessels.   May we truly be Your hands and feet.  Bless our family -- bless those who help us along the way.  Amen.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

USCIS, Olive Tree, Curves, School

I actually started a post a couple of weeks ago, but I see I never got it finished...much less posted.  So let's just start fresh.  (HA!  This post got put aside too!  But I'm just going to finish it as is...)

I made my first sale on Olive Tree -- sent one of my bracelets to Michigan.  That was cool.  Then we were named the Featured Family, which meant we would get a very small cut of any purchase that supported anyone.  THEN we got word that someone we didn't even know had placed a sizable order naming us as the family to support.  That was extra cool!  I'm now trying to make some baby blankets to see if I can sell those on Olive Tree.  (Just today we made two more sales.  Don't recognize their names and don't know what they ordered, but they supported us.  THANK YOU!)

We did get our second application submitted for immigration.  The appointments came and were set for Oct 20.  Yeah...not gonna wait that long.  We were in Nashville for a couple of doctor's appointments on Oct 4, so we just dropped by and had our fingerprints done.  By the way, if you've been reading my blog for a while, you will remember what a TERRIBLE time I had last year with my ink prints (for the FBI clearance letter).  33 WEEKS!!  Three trips to the police department!  Paid twice!  Well, that was ink..   But I also had trouble with the electronic prints.  At least with electronic prints you know right away to try again.  When we updated our home study this summer, I dreaded the two fingerprintings...even though they were both electronic.  At the first, the man started out having trouble with me.  He finally stopped and handed me some Corn Huskers Lotion.  After that, we got the prints!  So, just as we were leaving for Nashville this week, I remembered to check. We had some!  I put some on just before going in the fingerprinting place.  It worked!  She barely had to redo any of my prints.  I don't know if that would work with ink prints, but I do remember that I am supposed to ask for Officer Cross if/when I have to do ink prints again.

In other news, I have not made it back to Curves since school started.  It's just been SO busy!  I keep hoping that I can work it back in (especially since I'm still paying for it).  In the meantime, though, I finally starting losing!!  Yay me!  I've been trying to get this weight off since Eli was born (6 years ago) and was slowly losing until maybe 2 or 3 years ago when my weight suddenly jumped up and then kept creeping up gradually and consistently.  Five months with Curves had not done anything really, but I did use their philosophy to start my own program at home, and I've now officially lost 11 pounds.  I know that's not phenomenal, but it is a huge answer to prayer for me.  It's been maybe 6 or 7 weeks, and I've gone up and down, but overall I've gone down.  Whenever I notice the weight starting to climb back up, I take a couple of days "off" and eat whatever I want -- not binge eating, just not putting a lot of thought into it.  Then I jump back in, and it starts slowly falling again.

Back to school talk, we are doing well.  I actually bought desks for the boys and have them in the living room..I know it may sound dumb to some, but I'm really liking it, and the boys think they are neat.  It does let me tend to both of them at the same time, getting one started on something and then tending to the other without having to leave the room.  Did you know that if you leave a first or fourth grader alone with their work, they very often stopping working???  This keeps our day moving forward a lot better.  Sometimes I catch myself standing and pacing between them just like when I was in the classroom.  Now all I need is a whiteboard on one wall, and our living room will be complete.  ; )  Seriously, I think it keeps us from getting too relaxed and informal.

For those of you who may homeschool, I'm also trying a new approach with Colton (4th grade) that kind of goes against my "teacherness".  Instead of doing a lesson in each subject every day, we are attacking a subject a week at a time.  For example, we may do a week's worth of grammar and reading on Monday and a week's worth of math on Tuesday, etc.  He seems to respond well to having the subject over with, and he thinks he has less if he only does 1 or 2 subjects -- even though the number of lessons is the same.  My only exception to the all-at-once method is when there is a test.  I don't want him to study 4 math lessons and immediately close the book and take the test.  Maybe that is fine, but it just feels like short-term memory only to me.  So if there is a test this week, we plan 2 days -- one for everything leading up to the test, and one for the test and anything scheduled after it.  So far this is working for us.  He is staying caught up better and seems to still be comprehending everything as we go.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Olive Tree Promise

I wanted to tell EVERYONE about a website that is designed to help families who are adopting.  Whether you are an adopting family or someone who is trying to support an adopting family, you need to know about this site.  It's called Olive Tree Promise (OTP), and you can click on it on the right side of my blog.

I'll explain, but let me define a few terms first.  (Hang with me.  I may get wordy!)

Vendor - the person selling an item
Buyer - the person buying an item
Family - the family fundraising for an adoption
Cost - the amount the vendor receives
Retail - the amount the buyer pays
Family Cut - the amount left over between the cost and the retail prices

Example (I'm making up these prices!)
1.  A Vendor lists a t-shirt for sale.  He sets the cost at $7.  Then he sets the retail price at $12.  The vendor has already included a little for shipping in the cost.  That way shipping is included for the buyer.  The difference is the Family Cut (12-7= $5).
2.  Next, a buyer comes to the website.  They see the t-shirt and put it in their cart.
3.  During checkout, they are asked to choose a family.  They can pick the family who told them they were on here, or they can pick someone at random.  (You can even browse the families by country and read their profiles.  Remember, we are Bulgaria!)  The buyer pays $12 for the t-shirt and receives it later in the mail.
4.  OTP processes the payment (usually sending out checks once a month).  They send $7 to the vendor and $5 to the family.
5.  The vendor receives his $7.  Out of this he pays for shipping and his cost for making/buying the product.  Then he ships the t-shirt directly to the buyer.
6.  The family receives a check for $5 and deposits it into their adoption fund.  

It doesn't get much easier than that!!

Now, here's the icing on the cake.  Listen up, you adoptive families!  If you have something you have created to sell as your own fundraiser, sell it here!  I designed and made bracelets to sell for our adoption.  Sales went fine for a while but have now slowed down a lot.  After I registered with OTP as a family, I registered again as a vendor.  Then I began adding new products.  I listed my bracelets as well as some large and small American flag magnets.  (We had a ton of these magnets donated to us.)  So, let's pretend for a moment that I am selling that t-shirt up above for $12.

Scenario 1)  Someone buys the t-shirt AND chooses our family.  I get $7 for being the vendor and $5 for being the family.  I get the whole $12 (minus shipping and my original investment in the t-shirt).

Scenario 2)  Someone buys the t-shirt I am selling but supports a different family.  Now, I get the $7 as the vendor, and the other family gets the $5.  I'm cool with that because I might not have sold the t-shirt at all on my own.  If your friends buy it while supporting you, at least I get a little something out of it for MY adoption.  And I get to help you too!

Scenario 3)  Someone buys a CD (that I am not selling), but they DO choose my family to support.  I still get the Family Cut for this product even though it's not mine!  So ordering ANY product while supporting us will help us raise funds for our adoption.

Right now there are only a few families and a few products.  But they have t-shirts, CDs, necklaces, burp cloths, and more.  You can even purchase a Donation like baby formula for Ethiopia or mosquito nets for Zambia.  Of course, you can ALWAYS just buy up my bracelets and magnets, though!  (Is it too early to push these a great Christmas gifts?  Well, they are!)

So, go to Olive Tree Promise if you want to support us, if you are fundraising for your own adoption, or if could list items for sell and give a portion of the proceeds to an adopting family.

By the way, I'm always open to other ideas of something I could make and sell on here.  I would love to continue selling things here for other families even after our adoption is completed.

(Whew!  I hope that made sense...)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Time's Up!!

Remember when I said we were rushing around trying to get our immigration clearance updated?  Well, I rushed as much as I could, but I couldn't control others and whether they felt our sense of urgency.  I also couldn't turn back the clock and start sooner.  We didn't make it.  On my last post, I mentioned making a couple of changes on our home study and the fact that those changes would cost us $360 to renew our application rather than the $0 for no changes.  Remember that?  Well, since we missed the deadline, we now have to re-file from scratch and pay the $890 for a first time filing.  Don't you just love bureaucracy?  Why must they make this difficult!

At first I wanted to throw my hands in the air:  We're having a hard enough time raising the money with out throwing away part of it.  Why do I keep messing everything up!?  Are You trying to tell us to quit?

Then I looked for someone to blame:  I know I was supposed to keep up with expiration dates...and I was!  It was far off to me.  Doesn't everyone know I've never done this before and could use a little guidance??

I worried about how much we might be set back:  We're out extra money...Will the MOJ throw us out of line and cost us our registration date which is now almost 9 months old?  Will they deem us unfit parents if we don't care enough to keep everything up-to-date?

Then I thought about why I had hesitated to make the changes in gender and age.  It was partly because I did NOT want to make the trip again into downtown Nashville to have the changes apostilled.  1) Find someone to keep the kids because they are not allowed in the building.  2) Find someone to go with me to help me watch for the right exit while I'm watching 4 or 5 lanes of same-direction traffic (not used to that).  3) Drive around endlessly looking for one of the few coveted parking places within a block of the place.  4) Go to the umpteenth floor where I can barely look out the window from across the waiting area because the height makes me dizzy.  5) Find my way out of there because you can't leave the way you came for all the one-way streets.

I know.  That entire paragraph is pretty lame.  I didn't mind it too much the first time around.  It was one of those "necessary evils" to be endured.  And at least I had 30-something papers to have apostilled.  I did NOT want to make the trip for just one or two papers and just for a couple of wording changes.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that having to redo our USCIS application was certainly NOT optional like our change in parameters.  Now, we HAD to go back to Nashville.  May as well make those other changes and get those papers apostilled while we are there.  Perhaps this is God's way of making sure we make those changes.  Perhaps our daughters are not in the age range we originally set.  Perhaps he DOES want to us to adopt boys instead.  OR perhaps he just wants us to prove that we are willing.  I mean look at Abraham and his almost-sacrifice of Isaac.  God was looking at his willingness to obey, not that he went through with the original plan.  Can you imagine Abraham arguing and saying, "No, Lord, I have to do this thing.  You SAID...."  Perhaps we will make these changes and still end up adopting girls in the original age range...no changes needed.  Now that I think about it, I can also see now that we are making the changes for free after all.  It's the reapplication we are paying for, not the changes.  I guess it's all a matter of perspective.

One bright spot...our registration with the MOJ is still valid because our USCIS papers were valid when we registered.  Now, I'm sure they wouldn't leave it that way indefinitely, but maybe this won't turn into a problem.  I have the new application and check in the mail.  Pray that it will go through quickly and smoothly.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Update Complete

Summer is over. School is back in session. I am thankful for being back in a routine, but I catch myself often seeing something I need to do and thinking, "I'll do that this summer when I have more time." Then I realize summer just ended and it will be quite a while until the next one. Oh well.

Let's start with the adoption. We have done our home study update, and we changed two things. First we re-worded the age. When we started, we had said we wanted the girls to be between the ages of 2 and 7. Well, at that time our boys were 4 and 7, so that put them all about the same age. Now the boys are 6 and 9, so we felt we could stretch the age a little bit. But how much? That was the question. So we decided to try something perhaps a little unusual and set a date that they needed to be born after. We just picked a date 6 months younger than Colton and said that they should be born after this date. The other thing we tweaked was to say we are open to either gender. I still lean more toward girls at this time, but I have seen some awfully cute little boys' pictures go by as well, and we often hear that there are more boys available than girls. We figured it is better to make these changes now than to fall in love with two little guys and have to rush around making those changes later.

Of course, those two little changes in the homestudy means that renewing our USCIS forms will cost $360 instead of being free. While that seems like a lot of money to us, in the scope of the cost of the entire adoption, it is nothing...and it will bring us one step closer to the children God has intended for us.

We were not able to have as many yard sales this summer as we had hoped. We have now had 28 yard sales total and might get a few more in before we pack up for winter. I had thought we might at least make it to 30, but right now I feel like someone who has eaten the entire Thanksgiving meal alone and just can't choke down those last two bites. We went to an adoption support group meeting this week and listened to an adoptive mom talk about different fundraising options. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when I saw how many of her ideas we had already tried. I've said it before...we have two big obstacles in fundraising--no, three. 1) We aren't in jobs or large circles of people where we can promote our fundraisers. 2) Neither one of us are "salesmen". I don't think I could give away water during a drought! 3) We don't have rich friends or long-lost relatives; they are pretty much the same as us. I do have a few ideas for things we've not done thus far, but I really need to get back on the trail of grants. (Please pray for me to find the time to get these applications completed!)

In other news, school has been back in session for a while. We are in week 4 now. Colton is in 4th grade and doing more of his work on his own. Eli has stepped up his game with 1st grade...much more to do than in kindergarten. Colton just completed Level 3 swimming lessons and will be belt testing again later this week for taekwondo. This will be belt #8 (red); 3 more until black. Eli is trying out PE class. I thought he would be so excited to participate after being on the sidelines for 3 years, but he was very afraid of being in the class. I'm praying we can get this obstacle behind us before he faces another new situation. Like I told him, life is full of changes and new situations, and he just has to learn to deal with them.

Couponing did NOT work out for me. On the one hand, I think I overdid it. I worked WAY too much on it and overspent every month. I'm done. Kudos to those of you who save hundreds each month! The first month we quit, we came very close to budget--but that month included a lot of eating out on the road for vacation! The second month we came in under budget for the first time in over a year. That reminds me. I failed to mention that we also quit playing the "Rewards" game on the credit card. We had started buying groceries and such on the credit card to earn the rewards. We DID earn them, but overspent each month more than the value of the rewards. When I gave up couponing, I also went back to the envelope system and came in under budget. I think I'll stay here for a while.

Curves has gotten majorly interrupted. Trips during the summer, 2 weeks of intense planning before school started, chaos of the first week of school, and weeks 2 and 3 spent babysitting and going to swimming lessons...all of these have kept me from going to Curves. I even have a doctor's appointment today about my wrist. Remember the ganglion cyst I had removed last year? It's ba-aack! When that hurts, I can't push on the weight machines anyway. I'm trying to my own program here at home with protein drinks/snacks, portion control, and Wii Fit Plus. We'll see the results when I go back.

Monday, July 11, 2011

From Nothing to Urgent

Perhaps it is common in adoption to swing between periods of whirlwind paperwork to endless waiting and back again...with little to nothing in between. We spent all of last year running here and there trying to get all of the necessary paperwork together and made official. When it was done, we sat. All you could feel and hear was the sound of crickets in the dark. Nothing happened. There was nothing to do. There really wasn't anymore back and forth communication with the agency. Nothing. Nothing but silence. Now, all of a sudden, we are in a whirlwind again. How did I miss that we need to begin updating our immigration paperwork 3-4 months before it expired. After all, it is good for 15 (or maybe 18) months, and we were just registered in December. It FEELS like we shouldn't have anything to do this year but wait. On the contrary, the immigration papers were dated early 2010, so they expire in August 2011. Grrr!! So now we are rushing around trying to get our home study updated so we can refile with USCIS. We all have to have new medicals, 2 sets of fingerprints, another home visit, and lots of new paperwork that wasn't there when we did it the first time. Well, at least it gives me an adoption update to give you. ; )
I also promised to check in about Curves and couponing. Please don't let me discourage you from either of these activities. If you are the type of person who is easily discouraged, please stop reading now. But for the rest of you, I AM trying to be real here. I went to Curves at the end of June for my "weigh in". I just got my printed results back today because we have been out of town. The good news is that I have lost 16 inches. The bad news is that I can't tell it. My clothes still fit the same as always. The other bad news is that I had gained 1.6 lbs. Yay me! : (
As for the couponing, I guess I'm just not cut out for it. I DID find some great deals, and sometimes it was fun. I did NOT get into stockpiling (much less hoarding), but for two months straight I went overbudget by at least $100. I canNOT keep that pace! So for June, we went back to cash and envelopes (yes, the Dave Ramsey way). Keep in mind that June included our vacation. Lots of eating out on the road plus our traditional eating out once at our destination and once for ice cream. Even with all of that included, I only went overbudget by about $40. Much better. I can't wait to see how July will fare.
We were going to move forward with another yard sale this past Saturday, but we got back from Crossville later than expected and weren't quite ready. (We make an annual trip there around the 4th to visit Tim's sister and her family.) For one thing we needed more bottled water to sell in this heat. For another, we had another of our signs stolen, and we need to replace that. Makes you wonder why someone would "need" a yard sale sign that says Adoption Benefit and has our house address on it. But that makes 2 that have been stolen. Go figure.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Summer Started & Yard Sale 24

Summer is finally underway. We took the boys to Florida as soon as Tim got out of school. We went to Sanibel Island and had a ball! We saw so much wildlife and so many shells...some still inhabited! It was especially meaningful since Colton studied water creatures this past year in science. We saw dolphins almost every time we went to the beach. We saw fish jumping out of the water. Eli spotted an aligator on a bike ride with Tim. Tim and I saw a manatee swim by us, and Tim even saw a small shark before we were out of the water! Eli wasn't left out, though. He'll be studying flying creatures next year. We had a nest of ospreys right outside our condo. We realized the first day that the two "babies" in the nest (they were full grown in size) were stretching their wings and about to fly for the first time, and we were watching when they did. By the end of the week, they would fly out for pretty good distances before returning. We saw several types of birds that are common to us.
After vacation, the boys began swimming lessons. They were in the same class which covered levels 1 and 2 of the Red Cross levels. Eli finished with level 1 completed and a few skills of level 2. Colton finished all the way through level 2 and has signed up for level 3 in August! He also completed another belt testing in taekwondo and has now earned his blue black stripe belt (or 4th degree blue belt).
This past week, as we finished swimming lessons, we also had VBS week at church. The kids had a blast! Attendance seemed a little down this year, but the kids that came all seemed to really enjoy it. And there were quite a few visitors with us all week, so that was great!
We have been trying to start yard sale season since May. We've had weather issues (including the tornado at the end of April), end of school conflicts, out of town trips, etc. And I'll be honest, I've had a hard time getting motivated. I was not looking forward to the 1st yard sale. Gearing up for the 24th was no easier. Finally today was the day! We had everything ready. We got up early even after a week of late VBS nights. We opened at 7:30AM and closed at 10AM due to sprinkles and thunder. Normally we wouldn't panic over sprinkles, but the radar showed more rain and a small storm heading our way. We threw it all back in the garage and headed inside. Because of the impending storm, we decided we really didn't have time to pull it all back out only to rush around packing up again in a little while. So, we called it quits for the day. I hated that! I was finally mentally prepared for having a sale today. We had already had a very productive 2.5 hours. If we had kept going at the same pace, we would have been well over our average for a day's sale. What's worse is here I sit at 1:00 (just 1 hour shy of our usual closing time), and we've had MAYBE one more round of sprinkles. Apparently, the storm disapated or rerouted before it got here. Grrrr! Now I really feel like we wasted the day. Well, we'll just try again next weekend, and this time it will probably be Friday AND Saturday.
Oh, I just noticed my last posted included pics of the storm damage. We now have the roof repaired and new roofing on the front half of the house. The trees are cleaned up, and we are waiting for parts for the fence. Next, we still need to replace the trampoline and do a minor repair and repainting in the girls' room that leaked that day because of the tree damage. One other projected this summer is to at least get on the installation list for a storm shelter. Then we will be ready for the next tornado season.
I don't really have a couponing or Curves update today. I probably will in another week, but I hated to put off posting AGAIN.
Hope your summer is a great one!! I'll leave you with some of our vacation pictures.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

What a Month

I'm still working on posting more often. One topic at a time is probably better. But with that said...what a month April was!

Picking up from my last post, we still do not have anything new with the adoption. Everyone has now had a birthday. Colton has achieved another belt in taekwondo. He is now a blue belt.

CURVES: I'm still going to Curves, but I haven't been able to make my 3 visits per week for the last couple of weeks. I just had a "weigh-in". Since February I've lost almost 20 inches and a whopping 1.6 pounds. Okay, not earth shattering, but I'm still trying. I know I need to do a better job with my eating, for one thing, and get back to definitely doing 3 days a week.

COUPONING: I was SOOOO excited about this, but apparently I am a little...um...OCD about it. (Not sure that's the right label.) I have been putting WAY too much time into it. In my last post, I had hit February pretty close to average on spending. March was $100 more!! I was in shock. Toward the end of April, I was putting blogging on hold hoping to report a huge savings. Nope! I still went over--not as badly as in March, but still over. I'm feeling quite discouraged on this. Don't know exactly where I'm going from here.

APRIL 27: This was quite a day. I went to bed about 1:00AM because I had been monitoring the weather and letting Tim sleep since he had to get up early. By 5:30 or so, I was awake again watching the morning run of storms. I'm not sure what time we decided to get the kids up, but as we were getting in the closet at about 5:55AM, the noise made me think our house was about to start coming apart. When we came out we found two trees on our house and three down in the back yard. We later learned that we had been hit by an EF0 tornado. As you'll see in the pictures, the damage is not as bad as two trees could have done. And we fared WAY better than the folks in Alabama that day. We are still waiting to be visited by the insurance adjuster (on Monday), and then we should be ready to give the green light to our contractor to start fixing everything.

Finally, this wasn't technically in April, but we now have a new kindergarten graduate in our house! Eli and 6 others had their graduation ceremony last Friday night. It was very sweet. The moms and kids filed in to "Pomp and Circumstance". After a welcome, we showed the slide show I had put together of each of the kids. With only 7 grads, we could afford the time to have several pics of each one. Next, the performances. Eli was one of only 3 who did something. He recited the three pledges we have been working on: to the flag, to the Christian flag, and to the Bible. After this, the kids were seated on the stage, and each mom came up and presented their child with their diploma. Finally, we all filed back out and began to make our way to the pavillion for a pizza picnic. As we left, Eli said it was the "funnest picnic EVER!" He made some new friends, which was an answer to prayer. I'm convinced that each year should begin with a special get-together (or 2) for just the kindergarteners. They need a chance to get to know other kids early on so they can look for their friends at field trips and other such gatherings. Here are a few pics of our celebraton...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Just Living Life

I'm astounded that it has been 3 months since I updated. Nothing new is going on with the adoption. It feels more like we quit. The weather has taken a turn for the gorgeous (off and on), and while it has been great, there is also a sense of dread in my stomach. The pretty weather means it's time to start hauling the yard sale stuff out. I'm sorry if I've said it before, but I am tired of yard sales. That's just the harsh truth. I'm not doing these for fun. I'm doing them for my girls. You know, we give up a lot of comfort to have a biological child. (Yes, I still remember being VERY uncomfortable at times while pregnant.) So, I guess this is some of my discomfort for my next two children. It just gets tough not knowing when this "pregnancy" will end.

So, as far as the adoption goes, get ready for me to start blogging about our fundraisers. You've been warned! ; )

Now, an update on the fam. First of all, we are halfway through birthday season. Eli turned 6 in February. He is getting SO big. Okay, more like "big for his britches". He still weighs next to nothing. But he eats better most of the time and has TONS of energy, so I'm not worrying about that. We kept it fairly simple and had a Wii party with a few friends followed by cake and ice cream. Pretty basic. The weather cooperated and was pretty. The kids gradually found the backyard, and the trampoline was a big hit. The nice thing about February is that the flies are not out yet, so we just left the backdoor open so we could supervise kids both in and out. On the actual day of his birthday we took him to Chili's and Baskin Robbins. He was tickled with that.

Yesterday was my birthday. We didn't do much. Tim and I will go out to eat later this week since he is on spring break. It was a reminder, though, that I'm getting older with no known end to the adoption. I want my girls home. I'm not very good with floating through times of limbo.

Next month we tackle Colton's 9th birthday. He is so ready to lose the booster seat. He has reached the point where it is almost insulting to be in it. He is about an inch shy of the legal minimum for losing it now. I wonder who came up the the 4'9" rule. He looks too big for his booster now.

Just so he was mentioned...Tim's birthday finishes us off in May.

School is going well. Colton is keeping us busy with Taekwondo. We are now going twice a week instead of just once. He recently earned his fifth belt (I think they called it 4th degree green). We are also still doing PE once a week and have started staying afterward for an hour of swimming. Swimming lessons are in the plans for both boys this summer. Eli has been very concerned that he doesn't know how to swim.

I have 3 new activities. First I joined Curves in February. I have GOT to lose some of this weight. Maybe that will help with settling my heartbeat down (recently identified PACs and tachycardia). I'm also hoping that will help with my new enemy reflux. Besides, I need to manage stress, fit in older clothes, and just feel better. I haven't really lost any pounds, but my first check-in (at the beginning of March) showed a few lost inches. I'll take that for now.

Second, I am trying to be a couponer. I'm working on organinzing and trying to figure out everyone's couponing policies. I'm pretty pumped about this. My first grocery trip was to Publix. I had never shopped there because I perceived them as expensive. On my first trip, the receipt said I saved $64. I didn't really get excited since this was compared to the expensive Publix prices. I compared those same items to Wal-Mart and found I had saved $34. I still wasn't satisfied, though, since I usually buy store brands instead of name brands. So, I checked those items, and I still saved $20 over the cheapest way I knew how to shop. I was hooked...at least to keep trying and to keep improving. That was February. At the end of the month, we didn't have a big savings (about $4 under our average), but we had a lot more food in the house. This month I'm working on adding the drugstores to my couponing plan. So far so good, but I haven't done much yet.

Finally, I started giving piano lessons in March. I probably should have done this a long time ago for the adoption fund, but then again I've just now found a semblance of balance in homeschooling two instead of one. I started teaching now because Colton got braces at the end of January. (He's so cute with them!) Those brought a not-so-friendly monthly payment with them. I currently have two students (besides my boys). I had others interested, so maybe they will be ready to sign up soon.

Let me close with one last thing. I wish I had more time to read and could regularly recommend books to you. I've recently read a book, though, that I would encourage you to read as soon as you can find a copy. Heaven Is for Real is the story of a young child (almost four) who visited Heaven during a serious illness. The doctors never said he died and was brought back, so I'll just say "he visited". I just do not believe that a child of his age could make up the stories that he told. One of the most compelling examples was when he suddenly mentioned to his mom one day that he had two sisters. She said that he just had the one and maybe he was thinking of his cousin. He said no. There was a girl in Heaven who kept hugging him ("yuck" to him) and said she was his sister. She said she had died in Mommy's tummy. The mom had never told him that she had had a miscarriage between his living sister and him. This child also described Heaven in a way that matched Scriptures that he was too young to have heard, much less understood. Things in the book of Revelation, for example. It's a relatively short book (a little over 200 pages), so you simply must find it and read it.

I'm going to try to update more often. Please keep us in your prayers as we begin fundraising again. We still need to raise about $10K so we can accept a referral. We are also still waiting to hear from one grant, and I need to start applying for others.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Looking Back & Looking Ahead

This post has been a long time coming. Some days I've been too busy to blog; some days I just didn't feel like it. It seems I have way too much to say one minute but can't think of it the next. Let's start with a look back at the crazy year called 2010.

As the year began, we were in the middle of our home study (having applied in November 2009). I had my physical for that in January. Ironically, I was almost not a current patient of my doctor because it had been so long since I had been there. I just don't ever go. No serious issues, and I don't go for colds and such. Within about a week of that visit, I started having heart palpitations. It completely scared me. Not just because it was my heart, but honestly I was afraid it would jeopardize all the work we had done on the adoption. So far I've had an ultrasound of my heart, a nuclear stress test, and two emergency room visits with one overnight stay. I even spent Christmas and New Year's wearing a heart monitor. So far, they have not found anything wrong. Several people around me think it is purely stress. What stress? We're just your typical family of four living month to month on a teacher's salary in a very small house. Sure, we're trying to spend about $36,000 we don't have to bring home two girls from Bulgaria, but what's stressful about that? I'm not sure how two more kids fit into the budget or the house, but still... My husband is completely stressed with teaching, but that doesn't affect me, right? My boys are perfectly behaved angels who keep their room clean and do their school work without complaint, right? Honestly, when doctors have asked me if I have any stress, I want to say, "I breathe, don't I?" I mean is there a person on the face of the earth who is actively living life who doesn't have stress?

Okay (deep breath), I'm starting to rant and rave now. Back to blogging. Bottom line, it has been a stressful year made worse by wondering why my heart is working weird. Plus it would leave me really tired at times so I couldn't do anything. Now, I got the monitor off a week ago, and I don't think my heart has done anything strange since then. Go figure. You've heard of a 24 hr virus? It's as if I have had a 1 yr heart palpitation bug. PRAYER REQUEST: As soon as the cardiologist clears me from this monitoring period, I am going to join Curves. I REALLY need to lose some weight, and I know it will help the stress, too. Pray that she does give me the green light to move forward with this.

We started yard sales again in the spring and ended the year with a total of 23 sales since we started fundraising back in the fall of 2007. While I am very appreciative of the money we raise doing yard sales, I just wish I was a "yard sale-er". Personally, I hate yard sales. But sometimes a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do. Just this week, we finally got all of the yard sale clothing put away. It seems almost pointless since we'll be getting it all back out in 2-3 months. But hey, I feel like we did something toward cleaning the house.

Summer started with vacation!! The kids had so much fun. I'm thankful that my memories of the trip are generally positive because I remember a few times that my heart was racing, and I was so afraid that I would have to go to the hospital in a strange place with no one to keep my kids. Fifteen states in thirteen days...no stress! Seriously, the boys are very good with travel and enjoy it as much as their dad.

Late summer, Tim had knee surgery for torn cartilage. Next I had a sleep study to see if I had sleep apnea. I had hoped this would solve the heart mystery. I did have mild sleep apnea, which would explain the exhaustion in the mornings, but it didn't seem enough to cause the palpitations. In October I had wrist surgery for a ganglion cyst. Four weeks later, I had nose surgery to straighten a severely deviated septum (that happens when a ceiling fan falls in your face!) and to take care of some minor sinus issues. We also hoped this would help with the sleep apnea. The last measure taken for the sleep apnea was to get fitted for an oral appliance to sleep in. Never thought I'd be sitting in the orthodontist's chair again! Not to be outdone, Tim also had a sleep study done. He, of course, was much worse than I. He is currently adjusting to his CPAP machine. And since I had had two surgeries and he only one, he had to have gum surgery during Christmas break.

I am so tired of keeping track of doctor's appointments. There were some weeks when I would have 3 in the same week. I really feel for someone dealing with a catastrophic disease. I feel my situation is SO not serious by comparison, but it is tiring just the same.

On the adoption front, we finished our home study and our dossier, even though you may recall it took 32 weeks or so to get my fingerprints approved by the FBI. We were officially registered with the MOJ on December 6. YEA!!! One milestone reached. Now we just wait, right? NOT! If we were to miraculously get a referral soon (and everyone hopes to be the exception), we don't have the money to back up a "yes" response. I did apply for two different grants. One has already denied us. The other keeps postponing us month to month. That's better than being turned down, though! OBVIOUS PRAYER REQUEST: Effective fundraisers and additional income. I would so love to be able to add to our income while not compromising our homeschooling. Any ideas that don't involve salesmanship? I'm trying to turn into a couponing mom, but so far it hasn't worked.

Finally, just a couple of hours after I finished my last post, we got the call that Tim's grandmother had passed away...91 years and 1 week old. We were thrown into the whirlwind of planning arrangements for the funeral in Kentucky. We had a lot of counseling to do with the kids helping them deal with it and then had to face Thanksgiving and Christmas without her. All in all, the holidays went very well. The kids readily understood that Granny was a Christian and therefore in Heaven with Jesus. She had gone downhill fast in the last month or two, so it was comforting to know she was completely healed and happy...and that we would see her again. Colton became a Christian in 2008. Eli prayed to accept Christ about a week or two after Granny died. Thank you, Jesus!

This brings me to the Looking Ahead part of this post. On the health note, I already mentioned joining Curves soon. I'd also like to go in for allergy testing. Long story, but my dad had lots of unusual allergies to foods and chemicals. While being tested at an allergy hospital, he had an apple, and it made his fingernails turn blue and his heart rate dropped. So I don't discount the notion that my heart palpitations could be an allergic reaction. Dad didn't have allergies until he was an adult. I guess they have to start sometime. On fundraising, I guess we will continue offering the ones we have already done. We will definitely be having yard sales. I'll also start working again on more grant applications. I did finish my medical transcription course last year, but that looks like one more way I misspent money. I hate when that happens, and I think, "That could have gone into the adoption fund!" I know we will need to start soon updating paper work. Both of our medical letters have expired by now as well as Tim's fingerprints. I'm a little scared to start the fingerprinting again. I don't want to spend all year on it.

For the kids, Colton is moving right along with his taekwondo. He just earned his green belt in December. Both boys took piano lessons away from home during the fall semester. For money's sake, I've talked them into letting me teach them. Colton is being much more cooperative this time around. Eli has never had lessons with me and is complaining a lot so far. Eli also talked us finally into getting him a guitar for Christmas. Now I'm trying to weigh the pros and cons of paying for lessons...is he ready?...and trying to teach myself and in turn teach him. There may be a full-sized guitar on my birthday wishlist. (His is a half size.)

Well, if you have stuck with me through this long post, I've taken up enough of your day. I hope to blog more often in shorter installments. We'll see...