Saturday, June 9, 2012

Update on our Adoption

One of these days I'll post an actual update because we have an update and not just because I feel like it's time to say, once again, "We're still waiting."

At this point in our adoption, we're just waiting for a call from our agency to tell us that they have a referral for us. The other day, I looked at my phone and saw that I had one missed call - from our agency. Since there's really no other reason for them to call at this point, you can imagine what I felt. I'm pretty sure my heart skipped a beat or two and then sped up trying to recover for it! My excitement didn't last long, though, when I realized that they hadn't left a message. Come to find out, they were just letting us know about a change with our program coordinator. One of these days that call will come - and it will be real! It could be today, next week, in 3 months, or next year - it's really that much up in the air. I tell you, by the time this adoption is over, if I don't have faith and patience mastered, I never will!  

I decided one more step I could do to be ready was to go ahead and get the girls their passports. Feels good to check something off the list (even though it was a frustrating let's spend 4 hours doing something that should only take 15 minutes kind of thing)!

Ready to be world travelers. Check.

Speaking of the girls going with us to Bulgaria, there's been a little adjustment in our plans. We (or I should probably say "I" because Andy has always been the more practical we'll-see-if-they-can-go-when-it-comes-time-to-pay-money-for-the-trip one while I've been the it's-a-once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity-that-you-can't-put-a-price-tag-on one) have always planned on the girls going with us on one of the two trips that we have to make. In the beginning, after reading books and talking it over with case workers and adoption educators, we made the decision that the first trip would be the best one for them to go on. It would involve daily visits with our little boy, finalizing some paperwork, and not much else. We were continually told that the second trip, when we would be bringing him home with us, would be an important time for us to bond with him and have one-on-one time without other "distracting" parenting responsibilities during the in-country waiting time and the travel home. Made sense to us, so we went along with it. Recently, though, through having conversations with a family who just returned from their first trip to Bulgaria and reading about the accounts of others who have just returned, we've changed our minds. We will be going alone on the first trip and take the girls along with us on the second trip. From listening to some first-hand experiences, we've discovered that the first trip is actually much more involved than we thought. There's also the huge "unknown" aspect of not knowing what to expect concerning the city, the accommodations available in that city, the orphanage, the flexibility of those in charge (some let you leave with the child, some only offer supervised visits within one room, some could even have a problem with the girls coming to the orphanage and not allow it at all). It's an emotionally draining time (having our first interactions with him and also having to leave the country without him) and physically tiring (jet lag and following visiting schedules that are not very flexible). On the other hand, the second visit is much more relaxed and on our own than we first thought. We will basically spend as little as 30 minutes picking him up from the orphanage on the first day, and then we're on our own and he's ours; we'll just have to stay in country for about a week while the paperwork is finalized. Our time will be spent in the capital, so we'll know what to expect and be prepared for. Our days will be flexible, and we'll set our own agendas. We can spend plenty of time just hanging out in the hotel, throw in some sightseeing and shopping, and spend the time bonding together as a family of 5. It can be a scary time involving a lot of new things, especially the traveling part, for our little boy, and I just think that two silly, sweet girls who are excited about their new brother will be a big help, especially because it offers our little boy the chance to imitate and follow his new siblings into new situations. 

Well, consider yourself updated! Of course, I'm hoping for a real update to give you sooner rather than later! Please keep praying for us and for our little boy!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

School Recap: May

We finished out our school year in May. A lot of it was spent reviewing things we've covered throughout the year. I can't believe how much the girls have learned and remember! I'm so proud of them and have absolutely loved my time with them this year! Our monthly focus was capacity/measurements because I knew we could do a lot of fun hands on activities since we were running low on other school work. Here are a few snapshots of some of the things we did: 

You can click on the pictures for a better view
I gave them gallon, quart, pint, and cup sized containers and had them take notes and figure out on their own how much was in each one. We also used this story about the Land of Gallon and created little storyboards to help them remember how many quarts are in a gallon, etc.

We did some fraction work and then put it into practice through some baking. They followed a recipe, measured, poured, stirred, baked (in an easy bake oven), decorated, and ate little cakes all on their own.

We measured gummy worms and then stretched them out and measured them again to see how they grew. We used the information to create math problems.

The measuring scavenger hunt I made up for them was a big hit. They had to find 4 items for each page's description (things less than 2 inches, things less than 6 inches, things less than 12 inches, things between 1 and 3 feet, and things that are 5 feet or more.)

They really got into this game too. They used party blowers with velcro attached to the bottom to pick up cards that had objects written on them. They had to decide the best way to measure that object (ounces, pounds, tons) and place it in the proper category. They needed a little help with a few, but I think they learned something in the process.

I decided to give Emma Lee a standardized end of the year test this year (we're not required to until the 3rd grade). She was a little nervous about not knowing what to expect, but although we don't have the results back yet, I know that she did great! During the testing time, Andy took Kerri strawberry picking so the house would be distraction free. ;) Kerri did a lot of picking and eating and had a good time with her daddy.

We met back up and had an end of the year celebration at Chuck E. Cheese's. I think they're starting to realize that the little baby rides are not quite as much fun as they used to be, and they are all about searching for the games that can give the most tickets!

 Here are a couple pictures of them on their last day of school for this year (and just for fun - pictures from the first day of school for this year to compare).
Last day of school - 2011/2012

Last day of school - 2011/2012

First day of school - 2011/2012

First day of school - 2011/2012
They look forward to having a summer reading chart every year, so we're doing that again this summer. This year, instead of them earning lots of little prizes, we set a large goal for them both (Emma Lee - 50 chapter books and Kerri - 50 chapters), and if they meet it they get to take a trip to Build-a Bear. Although it sounded like a lot to all of us in the beginning, I'm starting to realize that I think we really set the bar low! Here's a picture I took today of their progress:
Guess we'll be making that trip sooner than I thought!
That Emma Lee loves to read is pretty much a given around here, but I'm so excited about how into reading Kerri is getting! (Although maybe it's just because she's been begging for a Build-a-Bear trip for a while....) I've haven't once said anything to her about her reading. She's picking up books all the time and not wanting to put them down until she's finished with them. 

We're taking this homeschooling thing one year at a time. We're constantly reevaluating what's the best decision for our family for the stage that we're in and know that it will look a little different next year and in the years to come. I have absolutely loved this past year. We've made some great friends, covered a lot of material, and learned a whole lot. I wouldn't trade the extra time I've gotten with my two girls for anything. They truly are a joy to teach and to be with, and I'm so grateful that I've had this opportunity and look forward to being their primary teacher again next year. For now, though, here's to a great summer full of fun activities (with some lazy days thrown in there for good measure)!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Simple Pleasures

Whether they're called lightning bugs,


or (thanks to Robert Frost) star emulating flies,

the girls had a great time catching a jar full the other night.

We have SO many in the woods behind our place. I was determined (but sadly failed) to get a picture of them all (or at least one!) flashing around. Those little guys don't like to stay still and let my camera focus in the dark though! I think I need a little more practice (and maybe a few tips on taking quick pictures in low light). I'm sure the girls won't mind going out again!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day 2012

My precious blessings!
I couldn't ask for anything better than being your mommy!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

School Recap: April

I can't believe that we're only a week into May because April already seems like it was so long ago. Our extra focus for the month was plants. We studied and read a lot about different types of flowers and trees and what they need to grow, and they got in some practice by planting some flowers outside with one of our neighbors. They also made a 3D version of a flower and labeled its parts.

Of course, we had to do the old "flowers in colored water trick," and they enjoyed watching the flowers change colors as they soaked up the water. We also "dissected" some of the stems to get a look inside. 
The green turned out the best.
Thanks to an idea from pinterest, we planted lima beans in cd cases, so we could watch them sprout and grow roots. Problem is, the only thing they grew was some fuzzy green stuff. Still not sure why that didn't work.....
One LOVES to get her hands dirty, the other can't stand it!
Kerri learned how to write her name in cursive (and learned how to spell her whole name because I didn't even realize she didn't know how to spell Elizabeth!). Here's one of her first attempts:
We took advantage of some Easter candy to help out with some math problems. (Well, Kerri did. Emma Lee insisted that she didn't need anything to "help" but she did enjoy eating them!)
 We are also still putting our math towers to good use. I can't believe that they haven't gotten tired of them yet, but they really love them.
In grammar, they learned about common and proper nouns, singular and plural nouns, and seven rules of capitalization. We had fun playing some different learning games (their favorite kind - ones that double up as a snack!) to help us practice these.

They also got in some practice constructing sentences following a certain pattern and then changing some of the words by replacing them with synonyms and antonyms.
I found a wonderful free reading program (sponsored by Sylvan) called Book Adventure. You read a book, take a quiz, and earn points to exchange for prizes. Go check it out! The girls love it!

Hard to believe we only have a few weeks of school left in the year! Summertime, here we come!

Monday, April 30, 2012

2012 Photo Challenge: April

Not super great ones, but I'm trying to focus on the fact that we are all in one picture together and not on the fact that I wasn't behind the camera getting things just "right." I got two this month: One slightly disheveled after church on Easter look and one of our new favorite evening ritual: cuddled up and watching Andy Griffith. (Emma Lee recently asked me if the world used to be all in black and white. Funny thing is Andy and I both remember having that same thought as a kid.)

DIY Marriage Retreat

Last year, Andy and I attended our first marriage retreat. We really enjoyed it and made the decision to make it a yearly habit - in some form/fashion. This year, we planned out a kind of DIY (do it yourself for those of you not addicted to pinterest or home improvement shows) retreat, and we enjoyed it even more! Andy covered some of the highlights and details in his post here, so I won't repeat it. We decided in advance to both separately read through Tim Keller's The Meaning of Marriage, so we planned out four specific times throughout our weekend to discuss the book and our marriage.

I decided to take my camera along almost everywhere to take pictures. Other than our honeymoon pictures (from 9 1/2 years ago!), we have very few pictures of us doing things together (minus the kiddos). I thought when we're old(er) and gray(er), we'll appreciate them - haha. Here are a few of our "outings":
Getting some house ideas for this summer when we have a new place to decorate/live in (and eating some yummy cinnamon rolls, of course!)
Enjoying a beautiful park
Yummy meal at a favorite place 

First time at the Fox, and we definitely were not disappointed!! Amazing place - amazing performance!
Another favorite place to eat
Enjoyed a funny improv show 
Underwhelmed by Underground Atlanta, but we found one place worthy of going in!
I realize what a blessing it is to be married to my best friend, and I thank God every day for the marriage and family He has given to me. We both fully believe that any marriage - no matter how strong - needs work/time/attention. We also believe that marriages do not get strong/stay strong on their own. Just like any other relationship, the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. Also, no matter how much I love my girls and how much I want to include them in everything we do, I know that the best gifts I can give them is parents who have a great marriage and an example that marriage should be a priority. It might take some extra effort, planning, sacrifices, etc., but the benefits far outweigh all of that.