Saturday, November 30, 2013

Advent!

Tonight at dinner we began our celebration of advent!  I've been inspired by some of the blogs that I am reading to make advent more of a priority.  Specifically, we are trying to make it less of a month-long Christmas celebration, and more of a time of  reflection and preparation for Jesus' birth.  We've decided on a few things to focus on:
  1. A while back I read on someone's blog (sorry! I can't remember who!) a suggestion for the Holy Heroes Jesse Tree videos.  I got it and the kids are really looking forward to watching one each day!  I'm not sure if we will make the ornaments, but at least we will watch and discuss.  
  2. Haley has mentioned a few times in her blog and in her new book about how her family likes to simplify their meals for advent.  I liked this idea, so we'll be going vegetarian for advent.
  3. We will light our advent candles every night that we do a family dinner.  John has even started teaching the kids a great song that he remembers from his childhood to go along with the lighting!

Speaking of advent candles, I am totally loving our advent "wreath" this year!

I won the candles in a giveaway from Toadily Handmade Beeswax Candles on Carrots for Michaelmas!  It was a candle rolling kit, so the kids got to help craft the candles, which was so much fun. Since I got such awesome candles for free, I decided that we needed a nice advent candle holder in which to display them.  After much searching, we found this beauty on Etsy.  I love all the textural elements going on, with the honeycomb on the beeswax, and the birch wood holder and the fresh pine branches! 

 It may sound silly, but it was really a blessing to win this giveaway.  I've wanted a great advent wreath for our family for many years, but we haven't had one because I haven't had the energy to figure something out.  I immediately loved the candles when I first saw them, but I knew they were out of our budget, so I definitely felt God smiling down on me when I got this gift.  The kids and John all thought I was a bit crazy after I started jumping around yelling "I won!"  :-)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

WWRW: Love Never Fails

I'm always on the hunt for more blogs of people who have adopted older children from foster care.  I hit the jackpot when I came across Schumm Explosion.  This is a couple who has young biological children and has also adopted two sets of five siblings each.  They have 14 kids total!  I love that they have embraced God's call.  Their blog is great, and she just put out an e-book entitled Love Never Fails.  You can download the book from Schumm Explosion's Facebook Page.


The subtitle is Tending Forgotten Seeds: Cultivating Fruit in Foster and Adoptive Children.  Although her aim is to reach adoptive and foster parents, her message is applicable to all parents.  The e-book leads you on a study of the New Testament's teachings on love and the fruit of the Spirit.  It is really short - something like 20 pages - but Allison encourages you to read it in small chunks over many weeks and really meditate on the scriptures and their applicability.  I first read it straight through and am now beginning to go back and use it as a devotional and give it the time it needs to soak in.

In her introduction, Allison states her goals for the book:
"Through this study I hope that you will:
     1. Grow in your maturity in the Lord and will more fully show the Holy Spirit’s fruit
     2. Glean a better understanding of how to raise children to show the Holy Spirit’s fruit
     3. Understand that we are all sinners who need a place to safely mature fruit
     4. Gain tools to help your hurting child mature and grow through their past damage"

If any of these things jump out at you, head over to Schumm Explosion's Facebook Page and download the free e-book!

And check out more great books @  Housewifespice!








Friday, November 22, 2013

Quick Takes #7

1.  The Steelers game was on TV here this weekend, but thanks to some nasty weather, this is how I had to watch it:



2.  Our preschool curriculum suggests using phonics cards, so I ordered a cheap set from Amazon and Finn loves them!



3.  I've been wanting to paint our bedroom purple since John and I first got married, but I've never been able to pick the right shade!  This weekend, John painted our ceiling white (it was yellow before), so I really need to make a decision about the wall color!  Anyone used a great purple color and have suggestions?  I want it to be light, relaxing and mature, but not too grey and gloomy or bright and little-kid-ish.



4.  What is always the best toy?  Boxes, of course!
     
   


5.  Grandpa and Grandma are here!  I had some little helpers assisting me in getting the house ready :-)
   
(Lucy and Juliet making the bed)                                  (Blaise doing the laundry)


(Finn vacuuming)


6.  I've mentioned before that Flowering Baby is our preschool curriculum.  I love it a lot because it is simple and doable and has great book lists.  However, the math is a bit too simple for Blaise so I've been enhancing it some.  By far Blaise's favorite thing is when the math is edible.  They often have kids counting or sorting with finger snacks.  I've taken it a step farther to teach Blaise the basics of multiplication.  We pick a number of snack items and then group them.  Lately we've been liking 24 marshmallows.  We do 2 groups of 12, 3 groups of 8, and so on.  He is so enthralled with how we can arrange things into different groups but still have the same total!



7.  I co-teach a biweekly preschool for the 3-year olds in our Christian community.  We do some crafts, sing some songs, and have a lesson.  Blaise is one of the six kids in the class.  Pretty much whatever we are doing he is not.  He rarely does the coloring or crafts, he never joins in the singing, and only participates in the lesson if someone is reading a story.  But this week was different.  Blaise LOVED the craft!  We were making turkeys for thanksgiving and they kids were using glue sticks.  Blaise had never used a glue stick before and it was a hit!

This picture shows this week's activities... at the top is a sheet that the kids were supposed to put handprints all over.  Everyone else loved sticking their hands in paint, but Blaise refused.  The one hand you see is actually one of the other kids!  The coloring sheet used to have a mouth in the middle, which Blaise scribbled out.  But look at that turkey!  He was so focused and just loved creating it!  On the way home I asked him about it.  He told me that he really likes non-messy crafts and he asked if we could do more non-messy things!  Funny kid ;-)


That's all for me this week!  Check out more Quick Takes @ Conversion Diary!
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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

WWRW: Foster Care and Adoption Books

While browsing photos on Instagram, I ran across the hashtag, #KnitTogetherByAdoption.  A foster adoptive mother is hosting a photo sharing initiative throughout the month of November for Adoption Awareness Month. Each day she posts a prompt with the topic for the day, that people respond to by posting pictures. The day I stumbled upon this hashtag happened to be the day that they were sharing books.  I requested every book suggested, so now I have quite a pile to read!


I started with Adopted for Life by Russell Moore.  It is about how the Gospel should make adoption a priority for Christians and Churches.  Basically the idea is that we are all adopted into God's family and thus adoption is central to who we are and how we should live our lives.  


I actually found this book to be relatively boring.  Sure, it has lots of scriptural references (almost too many!) and good stuff in it, but I didn't actually think it went very deep and didn't find it very compelling.  Also, his theology is that of the elect, predestination, and the rapture, so it may or may not jive with what you believe.  And his parenting philosophy is that spanking is OK (and often necessary and best) and so he warns that Christians may have a hard time with foster care where corporal punishment is not allowed.  I certainly didn't appreciate his encouragement of spanking and discouragement of foster care!

That being said, Moore does have some good things to offer.  First, I loved this paragraph:
"An adoption culture in our churches advances the cause of life, even beyond the individual lives of the children adopted.  Imagine if Christian churches were known as the places where unwanted babies become beloved children.  If this were the case across the board around the world, sure, there would still be abortions, there would still be abusive homes.  But wouldn't we see more women willing to give their children life if they'd seen with their own eyes what an adoption culture looks like?  And wouldn't these mothers and fathers, who may themselves feel unwanted, be a bit more ready to hear our talk about a kingdom where all are welcomed?"
And second, all of Chapter 7: It Takes a Village to Adopt a Child, is great advice for pastors/priests and churches.  It is about the specifics of what churches should be doing to encourage adoption.  If you are a pastor or priest or someone with leadership in your church or just someone who thinks your church should do more on this front, read chapter 7!

Since Adopted for Life left me unsatisfied, I started another book right away.  This time I reached for something more personal - Another Place at the Table by Kathy Harrison.


Kathy is a foster and adoptive mom who has made foster care her life's work.  In this book she tells her story and through it the stories of a handful of her foster and adoptive kids.  This is a well written and compelling book!  I started it at 8pm on a Sunday night, thinking I'd just read a chapter or two before going to bed.  Well, I just couldn't put it down!  I especially appreciated her brutal honesty.  She doesn't shy away from the heartbreaking and challenging aspects of fostering, but she throws in enough of the triumphs to keep things hopeful.  If you are thinking that foster care might be for you, or are just interested in the system from the family level, I highly, highly recommend this one!

I'm sure I'll be back in future weeks with more from my stack!  Until then, check out more great books at Housewifespice!






Sunday, November 17, 2013

Meal Plan Monday: Veggie Pasta

This week is a very busy one for us because John is heading off to Boston to present a paper at an academic conference!  This will be his first ever conference presentation, so it is really exciting!  My parents will be staying with me and the kids to help in John's absence.  Because of all this, we won't be celebrating any feast days, but we do have John's birthday on Monday!  Thanksgiving week will be even crazier, so I think this will be my last meal plan post until December!  So here goes:

Sunday: Quiche
Monday: Lasagna
Tuesday: leftovers
Wednesday: Chicken Stir-fry
Thursday: Baked Potatoes
Friday: Veggie Pasta

This week's recipe is for Veggie Pasta.  It is a modification of a recipe for Spaghetti al Pomodoro from The Classic Pasta Cookbook.  We love this cookbook and it is the only one we use other than Joy of Cooking.

Ingredients:
6 Tablespoons butter
1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
3/4 cup finely diced carrots
3/4 cup finely diced celery
1-28oz can whole tomatoes with their juice
salt
1 pound spaghetti

Directions:
1.  Melt the butter in a saucepan.
2.  Stir in the onion and cook until it has softened.
3.  Add the carrots and celery and cook until they soften
4.  Coarsely chop the tomatoes.  Then add the tomatoes with the juice to the pan.  Season with salt.
5.  Cook about 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally
6.  While sauce is cooking, boil water and then cook the spaghetti.
7.  Drain spaghetti and then return to the pot.  Add sauce and toss!


Friday, November 15, 2013

Quick Takes #6

1.  I have been starting to enforce Blaise's quiet time in the afternoons and it has been going remarkably well.  Why?  Because of stickers.  Best invention ever.  Blaise loves making 3D artwork and stickers make that so easy!  The gold one is 2 inches high!
   


2.  After 45 minutes of quiet time, Blaise and I spend some one-on-one time together.  Mostly we work on his reading, but lately he's really been into playing games.  His favorites are Memory and Candy Land, although he refuses to follow the rules of Candy Land.  He always wants to get the fast tracks and the special people and get stuck!  Here's a picture of him flipping through the stack of cards to find the exact one that he wants!


But he does always follow the rules at Memory.  And he's getting better.  I don't let him win, but he still enjoys it!  Yay!  Here he is showing off his first match (on top of his head) and cheesing it up at the end of the game.
   


3.  Following her brothers' lead...



4.  I'm always fascinated by just how different our two boys are.  Take for instance this scene from making dinner a few nights ago... Lucy and Blaise are right in the action, never leaving my side.  And Finn is having a great time relaxing in the living room reading a book and listening to a lullaby CD!
    

And here is another picture of my peaceful introvert that I had to include because he is just so cute!


5.  The cold has really started to set in here, but before it did, we had a few extra sunny fall days.  This is a picture of the kids checking out all the cool bugs that call this tree home.  Mostly ladybugs, but there are some others there as well.  The kids may all have different personalities, but they share a love of bugs!


And the cold weather isn't all bad... look at the lovely snow :-)



6.  My husband really is a Saints fan... both the sports team and the Catholic ones!  The Saints played on Sunday night football this week.  Also on Sunday night John needed to make the croissants for our first ever celebration of a feast day - St. Martin of Tours on Monday. So what did he do?  Set up a cooking workstation on top of the ottoman in the living room of course!



7.  If you missed Thursday's post, we had our first training meeting to license us to adopt from foster care.  It was quite an adventure, so click here to read the whole thing!





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Thursday, November 14, 2013

RAPT I

Resource and Adoptive Parent Training 1.  Our first 3 training hours out of the required 16 to be eligible to adopt from foster care.  That is what was on the agenda for last evening.  But at 11 in the morning I receive a call from John that our babysitter has two tests the next day and that her parents just could not let her come.  They were willing to have the kids at their house if we could not find another sitter, but ultimately are hoping we can find someone else.  Ugh.

We weren't quite sure what to do...all of our usual babysitters were currently in school, so it would be challenging to arrange something for 4:30 the same day, especially on a school night.  Taking the kids to someone's house could certainly work, but it would mean that they would stay up nearly 2 hours past their normal bedtime, which would be sure to wreak havoc.  With all these things floating through my head, I tried to just remain calm and pray.
Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT)
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
It was hard to find peace, though.  If we didn't attend this meeting, or if only one of us went, we'd have to wait until at least January for the next RAPT I.  Currently they don't even have a date for the next time RAPT I will be offered.  I just felt this ache for my future child who would have to stay an extra two months in his/her foster home.  One of these 80+ kids who are currently in foster care in Indiana, whose parental rights have been terminated, but whose foster parents are not willing or able to adopt them.  One of them is my child.  And I have a million hoops to jump through to make that happen and I want to start jumping right now!
"When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible." (When Harry Met Sally)
And just as the tears were starting to fall, John called.  One of the tests had been cancelled and our babysitter could come.

------

When we arrive at the meeting, there are quite a few of us getting there at the same time.  But the door is locked.  When someone opens it, they stare at us all blankly.  "We're here for the foster care training...".  Still a blank stare as she tells us that she doesn't know anything about that and shuts the door.  Immediately someone chuckles about how the stereotypes of the system are showing themselves true already!  Thankfully she returns in a few minutes and lets us in.

As the meeting begins, we are asked to introduce ourselves and say why we have come.  There are some who have come because of infertility and this is their way to start a family, there are some who have come because they have had relatives placed with them and need to be formally approved, and there are others who just want to do the right thing and be foster parents.  From the start the woman leading the meeting is rather discouraging towards those of us who are just looking to adopt.  I understand her wanting to be realistic about the chances of getting a baby, but we want to adopt a waiting pre-teen or teenager.  What is the point of discouraging us?  There are plenty of kids that fit the profile of what we are looking for.  I know her goal was to have more foster families.  They desperately need more foster families.  And maybe there are more kids that need fostering than need adopting, but there are still kids who need adopting!  We're not called to foster.  We are certain about that.  We are called to adopt.

The meeting was basically an overview of how the foster care system works and what steps we need to take to become licensed.  Although RAPT stands for Resource and Adoptive Parent Training, it was really not geared towards potential adoptive parents at all.  In fact, some of the information presented was in direct conflict to what we had been told by the Indiana Adoption Specialist we had talked to!  Again the stereotypes of the system are proving true.

We left the meeting feeling emotionally exhausted.  We were frustrated.  We were confused.  We tried to talk it out for a bit upon arriving home.  In the end, it is that our hearts are heavy for these children.  The children who are waiting.  The children who no one is helping.  The adoption hotline that no one ever answers.  The money that is supposed to be allocated for adoption subsidies that we were told doesn't exist anymore.  These kids deserve a family.  They deserve to be loved.  They deserve someone to advocate for their needs.  It was clear tonight that the system is failing them.

So we just keep moving forward.  We try to fill out the mounds of paperwork and press on through the confusion.

-----

Oh, funniest bit of new information from the night... one of the things on the checklist for the homestudy is verifying that any pets are up-to-date on their rabies vaccines. Ours most certainly are not! Since our cats are exclusively indoors, we haven't worried about it.  Kitty does not let anyone pick her up or even touch her, much less get her in a cage to take to the vet!   Her rabies vaccine may prove to be the most challenging part of the homestudy!  

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

WWRW - Sweet Dreams


The current library favorite in our house is Sweet Dreams by Jewel. Yep, the singer/songwriter that I loved in high school is writing lullabies now!  This is a combo CD and book, which is why we love it.  The kids have been playing the CD nearly non-stop for over a week now.  It's very peaceful and not at all annoying; and I find most lullabies annoying, so that is saying a lot!

I don't actually recommend just reading the book.  There aren't really enough words on each page to linger long enough to see the illustrations and yet not lose focus on the message.  We like to listen to the CD while turning the pages.  Since my kids are all too young to read, they can stay on a page until they feel compelled by the music or their own interest to move on.

     

Aren't the illustrations beautiful?
And if you want to preview part of the song, you can do so in the music player below.  Check it out!





Check out more great books @ Housewifespice!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Meal Plan Monday: Salmon Patties

A few of the Catholic mommy bloggers that I read talk about celebrating the feast days of the saints. Some people do this in very elaborate ways with crafts and creative meals. But others do it in a much more realistic way for our lifestyle. I particularly liked this blog post by Kendra about how they have gradually become more liturgical over time.  A couple things she mentioned that I want to start putting into practice:

First, celebrate three special days for each child - their birthday, baptism day, and feast day of the saint they are named for.  Thanks to Google calendar and my mother, I was able to figure out each of my kids baptism days!

Second, celebrate other feast days by simply making a meal that fits the culture where that particular saint lived and then talk about the saint over dinner.  Thanks to this website, I was able to import all the feast days right into my Google calendar.  They even have a link to information about the saint!  And since I already meal plan in advance, I think this is a realistic way for us to celebrate the saints!

So this week's meal plan included St. Martin of Tours on Monday and St. Josaphat on Tuesday.  Since St. Martin spent a decent amount of his life in France, we have the croissants.  St Josaphat is from Ukraine, which made us think of sausage, which made John really want his favorite sausage pasta!  Clearly our links between saints and food are rather weak, but at least it is a start!

Monday: Chicken Noodle Soup with Croissants
Tuesday: Sausage Pasta
Wednesday: Leftovers
Thursday: Baked Potatoes
Friday: Salmon Patties

This week I am sharing my recipe for Salmon Patties, which is modified from the recipe for salmon burgers that is on the back of the can of salmon.

Ingredients:
1 can pink salmon
1 cup bread crumbs*
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
2 eggs*
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 Tablespoon parsley flakes

Directions:
1. Open your can of salmon and clean the fish. You need to remove and discard the skin and bones.  Then crumble the meat into a mixing bowl
2.  Add the rest of the ingredients and mix with a fork or your hands
3. Shape into 4 to 6 patties
4.  Spray skillet with cooking spray* and cook patties over medium heat.  Flip half way through cooking.
5.  Serve with ketchup or tartar sauce

* If you like more of a salmon flavor, reduce the bread crumbs to 1/2 cup and only use 1 egg
**For added flavor and crispiness, use 2 Tablespoons of butter or oil to cook in

Friday, November 8, 2013

Quick Take #5

1. Halloween was last Thursday, which didn't give me enough time to get those pictures up before last week's quick take.  So here they are!
  
Oh wait, even though he looks remarkably similar to the frozen fish man, John is not in fact dressed for halloween.  This is just how he dresses every rainy day to ride his bike into school ;-)


2.  Here are the real stars of halloween, the kids! (they are taking a candy break!)

Blaise is wearing a ladybug costume that my nana made for me back in the mid-80's.  And Lucy is wearing a bumblebee costume that my brother wore in 1989.  Finn is in an ever-classic jack-o-lantern from Pottery Barn circa 2010 =)


3.  For speech class, Blaise is doing "horn therapy".  This means that each week he brings home a new "horn" that he needs to practice blowing 25 times in a row, each day.  The latest horn is a small whistle with a pinwheel on the end.  Boy is this thing loud!  Yesterday while doing his repetitions, he started to vary up how he would blow so that the sound would change.  It reminded me so much of that scene from the Sound of Music where the Captain is trying to teach Maria the signals for the children!  Too funny!



4.  Which reminds me, have you seen these ads?
      
     I am horrified and intrigued, all at once!  Will you be watching?  I will!


5.  Do you shop at Habitat ReStore?  If not, you should!  This past weekend I picked up a new 5-gallon bucket of paint for $58, a bright yellow two-drawer locking filing cabinet for $35, a subwoofer for $2 and a 50-cent 3-ring binder.  Now I just have to work up the energy to paint the kitchen, file 5 years worth of papers, and set up the sound system in the basement =)




6. Since switching times for daylight savings is already a challenging thing for toddlers, John and I decided to double-down and introduce some other sleep challenges.  First, we converted Finn's crib to a toddler bed since he had recently mastered climbing out.  And then to top it all off, we moved Lucy into the same room as the boys!  I'm loving having our home office back, but I'd really like to sleep in past 5am! 


7.  In case you missed Tuesday's post, we have officially started on the adoption journey!  We got fingerprinted for our background checks!






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Wednesday, November 6, 2013

WWRW - Adoption: Choosing It, Living It, Loving It

A couple weeks ago, I put out a request for suggestions of adoption-related blogs. Maia responded with a book recommendation - Adoption: Choosing It, Living It, Loving It by Dr. Ray Guarendi.  I picked it up at the library and was able to read it over one nap time.

This is a great first book to read for anyone even remotely contemplating adoption.  The author, Guarendi, is a psychologist and adoptive father of ten.  His writing style is very laid back and personable, which makes the book so accessible and easy to read.  The book is organized in a question-and-answer format, divided into chapters by general themes.  Some questions I found most helpful were those involving upsetting birth order and the idea that love is enough.  He does a good job of dispelling myths by using current research.  He very realistically lays out what the research says and how this may or may not affect any given child.

Although this book has a lot of good information, it is entirely at an introductory level, so would likely not be suited for someone who is already well into the adoption process. But I certainly recommend for anyone who is just starting to think about whether adoption could be right for them!





Check out more great books @ Housewifespice!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

And so it begins!

This morning we checked off our first requirement for adoption: fingerprinting!  It was quick and inkless and I was already emailed confirmation that I have no criminal history =)

Next week we have our first meeting, a 3-hour introductory training session. Please continue to pray for God's guidance as we walk this path!