Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Better late than never

I set a goal this year to be more faithful about doing my Visiting Teaching, but February nearly threw me off! I've had a hard time connecting with my companion, so I decided rather than just not do anything, I would do something and at least let my friends know that I am thinking of them.

I found this cute little lantern printable here. I printed it out on fuchsia card stock and put the lanterns into cellophane bags with a battery-operated tea light, and then tied the message to the bag with black and white gingham ribbon. I thought they turned out pretty nice, and I wish I would have gotten a picture before dropping them off. Most of all, I hope that the women I visit don't feel like they got snubbed this month.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The name game. And we still stink at it.

Each time we've brought a new child into our family, whether by birth or adoption, we've racked our brains to come up with names. In the case of our older adopted children, we haven't always chosen a new first name, but we have chosen at least a special middle name that helps solidify their place in the family. You'd think that after 12 times doing this, it would be easier to choose names, but we're as stumped as ever. We have a short list of names we both like, but we can't agree on any that we love. And it doesn't help that some of our older kids keep shooting down the ones we both like. (Yes, I know it's not their decision, but it's hard to consider a name that you know 50% of your family thinks is dorky, lame or weird.) ;o)

I don't normally care too much for last names as first names (but we broke that rule with Jackson), and I don't really like creative spellings, although we did take some license with Sofie's spelling. I also don't care for made up names, or names that are too far up on the popularity list. (Again, we broke that rule with Joshua!) What I do like are old-fashioned "grandma-ish" names (e.g. Cora, Maizie, Sofie, Zoe and Lily, although we didn't get to choose Lily's name) and unique names.

If you feel like sharing any of your favorites, I'd love to hear them. I've read through the baby name sites until I'm blue in the face. The only thing we think we're decided on is a second middle name of Fearn, the surname of some of my ancestors.

Weekly menu

We're using lots of Bountiful Baskets produce this week. Actually, I guess that goes without saying - we always do that!

Authenticatin' this, authentication' that

Today I mailed off Curtis' birth certificate and our marriage certificate for authentication. I wish I could get going on the other three states, but I'm still waiting on my birth certificate (Texas), a reference letter (Colorado) and our homestudy and two reference letters (Montana). All of the reference letters are done, but because they had to be mailed directly to the agencies, I don't yet have them for authentication. Hopefully soon!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Homestudy visits - finished!

Last Saturday and Sunday we met with our social worker to finish up our four required homestudy visits. If you ever want your social worker to see the "real you," just invite her to have breakfast with you in a hotel breakfast room. Yikes! We had children all over the breakfast room with pile of bagels and cinnamon rolls and fruit and bowls of cereal. ;o)

I was a bit worried over the fuss we were making to find vegetarian options for the kids (they make their own food choices when we're away from home) and vegan options for Curtis, Maizie and me. I was concerned that the social worker might have a negative opinion of vegetarianism/veganism, so we were all delighted when she told us she's been a vegetarian for 18 years. We were also relieved when we learned she has LDS family. Given that we can't even apply for grants with most "Christian" adoption grant organizations because of our faith, we were grateful to know that she had a good understanding of our beliefs.

She told us she'd begin working on writing up our homestudy within the next two weeks. I know this is fast compared to many social workers' speeds, but our old social worker used to work on them immediately. In fact, she would have had it essentially written after the first visit, and would then add information from the reference letters and the additional visits to finish it up. Since we're still waiting on our passports and a couple of other documents, I guess it's OK. I'm just not good at being patient, especially now that we can no longer send in our I800A without the homestudy. We used to be able to send the I600A separately. Gah. Patience, Tana, Patience.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Beautiful words - pre-approval!!

This came from our adoption agency this morning:

Hi Tana, Good Morning. I wanted to let you know that we received your pre approval!!! Congratulations. Now let's bring her home.
With regards,


I'm just a tad excited. ;o)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Package full of love

Last week we used Red Thread China's services to order a care package to Song Guo. I'm not sure when she'll receive it, but she'll be getting a cake to share with her friends, a stuffed animal, a camera (for the orphanage staff to take pictures of her with) and an album full of photos of our family. We also wrote her a letter, which I know she won't fully understand, but I just pray that on some level, she'll comprehend that there is a family out there in the world who loves her to pieces already and can't wait to bring her home. Here are some of the pictures we put into the album.

We'll also hopefully be getting some new pictures and an update on Song Guo once the care package is delivered. Cross your fingers. :o)

Weekly menu

I'm a little late posting this, but I've been enjoying the more laid-back pace of my life since we're in the eye of the paperchasing storm for the moment. For the moment. ;o)

The past weekend's Bountiful Baskets have left us awash in squash, mango and cucumbers, in particular, and we also loaded up on tomatoes, bok choy, lettuce, spinach, bananas, apples and oranges, among other things. I also had some stuff left from the previous week since we had a few cheater dinners when I was still frantically doing paperwork.

Last night we had this yummy meal. Everything in the salad came from Bountiful Baskets except the olive oil - cucumbers, tomatoes, lemon rind and juice, radishes, green peppers, onions, mint. It was yummy, but the chickpea-apricot couscous was to die for. I used to make something similar in our pre-vegan days with shredded chicken, but this is even better. Yum.

As for the Qdoba-style burritos, I'll be grilling up our summer squash and zucchini (I just love having those things in the dead of winter!) and piling them onto big tortillas with black beans, lime rice, guacamole and sour cream. I can't wait!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

One more picture

It isn't much, but I realized I'd forgotten to post the tiny picture from Song Guo's file. She doesn't look too thrilled in this picture. About like I look in my passport photo. ;o)

All that remains

I'm finally starting to feel like we're getting somewhere! I have one adoption class left to do, and then I am nearly done with anything I have any control over. I have to mail in our medical and guardianship paperwork, but other than that, I'm just waiting on our reference letters, my birth certificate, our passports, our financial statement (will be here tomorrow), and our homestudy (which will be finished up after our last visits next weekend).

Besides the kids' medicals today, we picked up our own medical forms after having our TB tests read, and picked up our dossier passport photos and picture pages. I won't know what to do with myself this weekend without all this extra stuff to do!

Perks of small town living

I don't love everything about where we live, but one thing I do love is that people in our community bend over backward to help one another. From a notary who makes housecalls (and won't accept a dime!) to a pediatric clinic who squeezes seven appointments into one week to a police dispatcher who works on our police clearances until they're just right - we are very blessed. I can't imagine how much harder this process would be without those caring people to help us.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Pictures of Song Guo's children's home

This is an album with many pictures of the children's home where Song Guo lives. It reminds me a lot of Sofie's former home in Shanghai.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Thank you, thank you, thank you

I don't know who you are, but we've had a couple of donations to our Reece's Rainbow account, and we are so very grateful for your kindness. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. <3

Getting there...

Today started bright and early with medical appointments for me, Curtis and Joshua. After getting our TB tests and labwork done, I picked up our pets vaccination certificates and went to the police station (for the third time in two days) to pick up our clearance letters. I tried to do this last night when ingot fingerprinted for my Minnesota child abuse clearance, but they'd forgotten the letters needed to be notarized. This time they were right, thankfully!

Just as I was headed to the post office to mail several packets of info, my homestudy agency called to say that there was yet another form for me to fill out for Minnesota, and this time they were sure. I printed it (and ended up NOT needing the dang fingerprints!) and mailing everything at the same time. I also dropped off our guardianship form to my sister and her husband. There's a special place in Heaven for people willing to take on an instant huge family!

Now I'm headed home to do another adoption class.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Homestudy visit #1: check

Our homestudy lasted over three hours this morning, but thankfully our new social worker is really laid back and funny. We really enjoyed talking to her and she put us at ease, even when the getting-ready-for-school chaos was going on. Our next visits are scheduled for February 25th and 26th, and then we'll be done. She told us that she is pretty quick with getting reports done, so I'm hopeful that we'll be sending in our I800A by this time next month.

Today I've been figuratively (so far, it could change!) beating my head against the wall as I try to figure out which of the myriad background check forms I need to submit to Minnesota. Their website is completely confusing, and my repeated phone calls to the Department of Human Services got me nowhere. I left messages and no one returned my calls. I'm thinking I might send in three of the forms I think could be the right ones and let them sort it out. ;o) On top of the annoying form confusion, I have to get fingerprinted tonight and send in my fingerprint cards. All this for a two-and-a-half month period between my turning 18 in Minnesota and heading to college in Utah. Grrr...

While I'm getting fingerprinted, I get to pick up our local police clearance letters, so that's one more dossier item I'll have done. At least there's that! Oh, and I got all of our reference letter writers contacted and gave them the letter guidelines.

Slowly but surely...

More yummy food :o)

My Bountiful Baskets photos all pretty much look alike, but I still like to take pictures whenever I sort my stuff. It helps me keep track of what I have, and it also helps people who might be interested in participating to see how much stuff they can get. Each basket is $15 ($25 for organic) and I've always been more than pleased with how much produce we get. This week was no exception, and in fact, I was able to donate a bunch of it to my parents and sister.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


This has been a whirlwind weekend. Curtis, Jonah and Ethan left for the Klondike Derby on Friday afternoon, which meant I was home alone with the rest of the kids. This wouldn't have been such a big deal except for the fact that they were on another scout campout just two weeks ago, and this happens to be the weekend before our homestudy. Ack! The kids and I spent most of Saturday cleaning, running errands, doing laundry, cooking, and all sorts of other exciting things. I also had to pick up my Bountiful Baskets and get all the food sorted, processed and put away. Thankfully, we had a little time left at the end of the day to relax, so we ate dinner and licorice and watched a movie together. Curtis and the boys came home really late, so I didn't have to see the mess they made when they came in. ;o)

This morning I got up early and prepared my church lesson that I'd put off all week, and then we went to church. As soon as church was over at 1:00, we raced home and threw together the fastest tacos ever so that Curtis and the boys and I could be back at the church at 2:00. There was a special meeting for the boys and men in our church, but I went along because Joshua was one of the speakers. It was a webcast, and he was in another town speaking while we watched him on a screen in our home church. Pretty cool! His talk was great, but he finished up by saying how grateful he is to have the parents he does and said that we had taught him well, and my eyes welled up with tears. I can't believe he'll be leaving to serve a two-year mission at the end of the summer. I don't know what I will do without him. He is such an awesome kid.

We'd left the big girls in charge of feeding the littles and cleaning up, and when we got home, I was grateful to discover that they'd done a great job. After that, the real craziness started! Normally we don't do housecleaning and laundry on Sundays, but since our homestudy starts at 5:45 tomorrow morning, we were pretty much stuck. We got all the laundry done, everyone's rooms cleaned up, and generally spiffed up the house. Curtis hauled some of the construction mess that was in our driveway out to the alley, and got all the bikes put away.

We've never had such a bright-and-early homestudy, and I have no idea how our kids are going to react to the whole thing. Cross your fingers for us. ;o)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Oh, my heart!

Today I got an email from a woman who lives in China and visits our daughter's orphanage periodically. She said she has a bunch of pictures of Song Guo that she will send to us! I can't wait! I asked her to tell me a little more about what Song Guo is like, and this is what she said:

Song Guo is a combination 'Bundle Of Energy and Girly Girl!!'

She is bright for Downs Syndrome, caring and generous.

Everything that you could hope for in a Daughter!!

How's that for a melt-your-heart description? She also told me that Song Guo will do great with special ed services and that she is learning ASL with an American volunteer. This is awesome since our family signs.

What a blessing to get this information!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Second wind

I managed to get over my feelings of drowning today and got some real work done. I sent in our passport renewals, ordered our birth and marriage certificates, and I wrote my autobiography for our homestudy (15 pages!). I also found out that our agency will let us get our kids' medical forms completed if they were seen in the last 12 months, rather than 6. That will mean at least two fewer appointments for me, and I'm so relieved! Tomorrow I have to get my hair cut, and then I'll be dropping off the medical forms to the appropriate providers. By this time next week, we should have all our medicals done. Yay!


Behold the triple threat: homestudy packet, agency packet, dossier folder. They're like more children. I take them everywhere. ;o)

You'd think that after having done this so many time before, it wouldn't be so distressing. I'm making good progress on the paperwork, but with each additional thing I realize I have to do, I'm feeling more and more overwhelmed. I'm a top-down, orderly sort of person, and having to do so many things (or parts of other things) all at the same time is just crazy. I'm a list-maker and organizer and I can barely stand this. It makes me wonder how a mom without those traits can even muddle through dossier prep!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A baby step...

Our agency emailed today to let us know that our pre-approval documents were sent to the CCCWA. I can't wait until we hear back!

We need your help

Although we've adopted 8 children, this adoption is something of a first for us because it's the first time we've ever asked for any outside help in making all of this happen. It's an uncomfortable place to be, but the reality is that we dearly need that help this time around.

This adoption came as a complete surprise to us. One day (and for the past four+ years!) we were done, absolutely done, and the next - our Father in Heaven let us know in a very big way that we were NOT done. Our prayers have included a lot of "but-what-abouts," but the answer has come each time to have faith and trust that the help will come.

In the coming weeks and months, we'll be getting super serious about raising money to fund this adoption. For now, until we have our pre-approval, we're lying low to avoid letting our younger children know. It's such a long time to wait, and the wait is often fraught with so many crazy ups and downs, and we just want to spare them that as long as we can. Still, we are faced with mounting up-front costs that must be paid. So far, we're looking at $4750 in agency fees (which includes a $1000 grant we were most grateful to receive), $1000 for the initial part of our country fee, $2000 for our homestudy, and $550 for application fees. Another $1000 or so will be needed for document gathering, certifying, authenticating, and mailing.

Reece's Rainbow is a wonderful nonprofit organization that advocates for children with Down syndrome and other serious special needs to find families. People volunteer to advocate for specific children, fundraise, and pray. We have a family sponsorship listing there and have contributed to others' family sponsorships in the past. All contributions made are tax-deductible. As I said, it's a wonderful program, and any funds raised are available to help with the family's travel costs. However, the money cannot be used for any other adoption expenses, including those we are facing at this time. For that purpose, we've added a "Chipin" contribution box to the sidebar of this blog. Those contributions, unfortunately, are not tax-deductible because they go to us personally, but you have our absolute assurance that any contributions made there will be used solely for adoption expenses.

Our future fundraising efforts include having the mother-of-all yard sales in the spring, and we will be selling all of our Sonlight homeschool curricula. We will also look into other fundraising opportunities and will perhaps do some sort of a raffle. We will be as careful with our resources as we can so that we can contribute as much as possible from our own family to this effort.

This is a humbling and somewhat awkward place for us to be in, but we pray for your help in bringing our sweet little girl home. We know she is ours and that the Lord will provide a way.

Monday, February 6, 2012

A letter and a homestudy

Today I wrote a letter to my parents about Song Guo and why we are going to adopt her. I can't give it to them just yet as we want to be sure we have our pre-approval before telling our family and close friends, but it felt good to get all my thoughts and feelings down on paper. Or screen. ;o) We have been very fortunate in that our family and friends have always been very supportive of our adoptions. I know many people who aren't so blessed in that department and who struggle with busy-body relatives or parents who think they're nuts or neighbors who worry their property values will decrease with so many kids running around. Still, I know our parents will have some worries, and I'm hoping this letter will help assuage their concerns. I assured them that the most important fact in this whole scenario is that we know Song Guo is supposed to be a part of our family. We're trusting in God that the rest will fall into place - that the funds will appear, that we'll be equal to any challenges that come up along the way, and that we'll be able to help Song Guo achieve the most she possibly can.

I also got the somewhat shocking news that our social worker will be here MONDAY! I'm grateful she's coming so quickly, but a little (OK, a lot) stressed about the fact that my husband and older sons will be on a Scout campout (Klondike Derby) this weekend. There is always a lot of cleaning to do on Saturday, but homestudy-quality cleaning? That's a tall order for one mom who's home alone with mostly little ones! Also somewhat concerning is that she is coming before school starts on Monday - 5:45 am! That was the only time we could make it work and ensure that everyone can be here. She must love her job to be willing to come here so early. ;o) I just hope our kids aren't like zombie children when she's trying to interview them. And then there's the fact that the most stressful hour of our day is 7-8 am as we're getting everyone ready and out the door for school. She's going to have a front-row seat for all the fun! :o)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

I wish I had a picture...

Today was one of those rare blissful days where everything pretty much went perfectly. Except for the fact that I was still making key lime pie when everyone was leaving for church (because I HAD to get it cooling in the fridge so it would be edible by lunch time!) it was just a great day.

At church, I looked down the pew in one direction and saw one of my 13-year-old twin boys rubbing Cora's back and comforting her when she was upset. Just beyond him, Zoe was sitting next to Jackson, who tends to get a little wild, and was keeping him quiet. At the other end, Loundia and Lily were sitting reverently together, and Maizie was whispering about wanting to get up and share her testimony, but being too scared. I had Beck snuggled up to me, and Sofie was sitting quietly on Curtis' lap.

After church, we had a yummy Haitian lunch that was thrown together quickly because I had so many helpers. We had a meaningful Family Home Evening about the power of prayer in our lives, and then everyone ate pie and pitched in to help clean up the lunch mess. A solid hour of quiet time afterward put me in a very good mood indeed.

There are so many times that I notice sweet little moments in my family. I try to focus on them and press them into my memory like snapshots stuck to those old school sticky-page photo albums. For all the chaos that sometimes erupts around here, we get our share of wonder-moments, too.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Bountiful Baskets Saturday

This week marks the first time that we start getting Bountiful Baskets weekly. Not only that, but we're getting two trucks each B week. This is great news because it's so hard to get any baskets here. Last Monday our site sold out in less than 16 minutes. Crazy!

Today I got two organic baskets, two conventional (I bought one from my sister), and two tropical packs. As I do every time, I sort it all on the table, take a picture (because it's always so amazing!) and write up a list of all the produce I have, including anything I already have on hand. Then I make up a menu for the coming week based on what we have. This way I can't forget about things and leave them to rot. Everything gets used, and everything is yummy!

I posted a weekly menu on my old blog and will continue to do that here. For any vegans who may happen along, any reference to milk, yogurt, cheese, etc. always means vegan versions.

Friday, February 3, 2012

A drop in the bucket

Today I mailed off our homestudy application packet, our agency application packet, and our Reece's Rainbow family info. Even though it's not much in the grand scheme of things, it's nice to finally have the adoption ball rolling. It's starting to feel real!

Tonight we're having dinner and playing games with my parents and two of my sisters and their families at my parents' house. My sister, K, and her family will be leaving to go back home on Sunday morning, so I'm grateful for the opportunity to spend some time with them before they go. They're been here nearly a month and I've hardly seen them! Curtis and I are taking Chinese food, and I'm looking forward to having my beloved kung pao tofu. I always ask the cook to fry the tofu first, and it is amazing. Mmm mmm!

Thursday, February 2, 2012


This, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, is our new daughter-to-be!

Her name is Song Guo, and she just turned 7 years old. She lives in Asia, has Down syndrome and is quite possibly the most adorable child ever! My heart aches at the thought that it will probably be a year before we can bring her home, but we're filling out paperwork as fast as our fingers will let us. In the meantime, we'll pray like crazy that God will watch over our sweet little girl and keep her safe. I love her so much already I could explode!

For those who know us personally, please know that we are keeping this from our kids as long as possible because the waiting is SO hard. Please don't mention it to them just yet.