School’s in Session: 8th Grade

Bailey – 8th Grade:

Physical Science – So far so good, as far as I know. I will admit at this point that I’ve been hands-off in Bailey’s science this year and need to focus a bit more on it.  The luxury comes in the fact that he’s ear-reading and another homeschooling mom is heading the experiments at co-op.  Because I don’t like science I tend to put it off and probably at the detriment of my students.  (SORRY KIDS!!)
Algebra 1– Bailey’s dyslexic brain makes mental math much easier for him than it does for some students.  He can often see the answer in his mind long before I can get to it on paper.  This is a benefit, for sure, but a stumbling block in many ways, as he needs to master the long way of working problems so that when they are more complicated, he is able to follow the path the math requires him to follow. Working on that a bit this year, as we have every. single. year.  A student who can often see the answer in his head understandably feels no need to do the paper work required to get the answer, showing all the steps.  It feels stupid and unnecessary.  What I know, as a teacher, is that the problems are going to be more complicated soon and will require 4-6 steps.  If he doesn’t show his work and gets the answer wrong, he’ll have to start all over, instead of just going back to the step where the mistake was made.  This is one of the most difficult aspects of dyslexia in my opinion.
Writing – As I mentioned above, Carson and Bailey are doing the same writing program and I’m extremely pleased with where they are.  Bailey’s writing sounds fluid and natural. He’s beginning to see that, quite often, the “dress-ups” are coming out in his first draft rather than having to be added in later.  This is proof that the formula is converting to instinct!
Literature and History – Last year I started Carson and Bailey out with Core 100: American History.  Within a few weeks I realized I was going to have to let Carson move ahead of Bailey and I felt it had a lot to do with Bailey’s dyslexia. I called Sonlight and spoke with an advisor.  God directed me to the perfect advisor as she had done the high school cores with her son who also had dyslexia.  She surprised me, though.  She told me that even students who were not dyslexic but were taking Core 100 in the 7th grade were encouraged to spread it out over two years!  It wasn’t just the fact that Bailey was dyslexic that was making it take us longer to get through certain books, it was his age.  I believe this made him feel much better and so we are just now, in his 8th grade year, finishing up the core he started last year.  Going at our own pace has made the material sink in much deeper and with absolutely no stress.  He’ll probably finish the core in the spring and will start on Core 200, the one Carson is currently on, at that time.
P.E. – Bailey bikes all over post to hang out with friends, but lately he’s been on a running kick.  He’s trying to run farther distances and increase his speed, and I enjoy seeing him excited about pushing himself to do better.  I keep saying I am going to get out there and run with him… maybe this week will be the week!
German –  Rosetta Stone
Speech – At Co-op

Bailey at Co-op playing Ge-to-know-you-BINGO:

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School’s in Session: 9th Grade

Carson 9th Grade:

Biology – Carson is doing much better at learning Biology than I am at teaching it.  He’s understanding the material much better than I am and for that, I’m thankful.  We did have a fun few weeks watching home-made cultures grow under the microscope… until we had to dump them out and the entire house smelled like something I can’t describe.  Who knew rotting rice could out-smell rotting egg yolk?!?  Neither of us are loving biology but we’re managing.

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Geometry – Nothing to speak of here except a steady plodding along with Math.  I did have all three bigs take a week off of TeachingTextbooks math a couple of weeks ago to strengthen their foundations in their respective math subjects.  Khan Academy has been an invaluable tool for me.  I found a few weak spots in each of the boys’ understanding of their respective math levels and assigned videos and practices related directly to those weak areas.  Having a different teacher explain the problems from a different perspective helped and I do intend to utilize that throughout the year.  I think Carson is doing very well in Geometry and is fairly independent in the subject.
Writing – Carson and Bailey are doing the same writing program:  SICC-B from IEW.  If you aren’t familiar with The Institute of Excellence in Writing and you are in the market for a good writing program, I HIGHLY encourage you to check this one out.  As someone who finds writing an easy task and does so naturally, IEW can feel mechanical.  At first I didn’t love the program because I felt it was a bit formulaic  (In fact, it is completely formulaic.)  But what I have discovered is that the students learn the formula and then, with time, their writing becomes more fluid, more natural, and they begin to write with more variety in their sentence structure.  Now that we’ve been using the program for a few years, Carson and Bailey both surprise me with their writing examples.  This “formulaic” approach is helping my students write more naturally!  It sounds very counterintuitive but it is working.
Current Events – Carson is required to turn in two current event reports a week.  I want him to know how to dig into the current goings-on in our world and I want him to be able to pump out one-page reports on topics he selects.  He loves World News Group Magazine and our friends, The Hales, have a subscription.  Carson brought one home that they were finished with and read it through several times.  They have offered him all of their old copies and now he’s loaded with content to write about.  I love to see my history-buff read these as they are articles of history in the making.
History – This year Carson is doing Core 200, History of the Christian Church.  The beautiful part of this core is that it gives the back story to why our world is at war today.  The war we are fighting today stems from events that occurred centuries ago and I believe the current events that Carson is writing about can be traced back to many of those events.  If his brain doesn’t connect the dots now, it will as he goes through this course.
Literature – Core 200 also includes Classical Literature.  He’s currently reading Jane Eyre and I finished it just last night. I had never read it! Other titles he’ll read this year include, A Christmas Carol, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Oliver Twist, Pride and Prejudice, Robinson Crusoe, and Romeo and Juliet. I am very excited to ear-read some of these along with him!  I am quite disappointed that I didn’t start Sonlight early enough with Hayden for him to get through this Core.
P.E. – Carson is in the habit of going for a bike ride very early in the morning.  He’s home by 7:15 or so, ready to get started on his school work.
German –  Rosetta Stone
Speech – At Co-op
Foundations in Personal Finance – Dave Ramsey’s high school version of Financial Peace University

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With Carson in the 9th grade, I officially have two high schoolers.  Next year, I’ll have three!  The core he’s doing is fantastic and one of my favorites so far.  Paper management is one of Carson’s least favorite aspects of school and I find his papers everywhere… a serious downfall of homechooling is that students aren’t forced to do a good job at this.  If they get to “class” and don’t have all their work, they simply need to go to the other room to find it.  Had they gone to school without it, they would have been out of luck. As a homeschooling mom I struggle with just how to emphasize the importance of this skill to my kids.  Any suggestions?

 

 

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School’s in Session: 11th Grade

Hayden – 11th Grade:

Chemistry – neither of us are a fan.  We are glad he has a few friends to go through this experience with to make it less ugh. Call me a horrible homeschool mom for saying that we don’t like it. I don’t care.  It’s the truth.
Algebra 2 – I think I like this more than he does, but he’s doing fine at it.  Nothing to speak of other than the fact that I would encourage all homeschooling moms to make sure their kiddos get a good, solid understanding of Algebra because there is a LOT of it on the SAT.
Writing Class in Copperas Cove – This is an intense level of work but I am enjoying seeing what he is doing.  I like that he has a teacher other than me and that he gets his work done without nagging from me.
SAT Prep – He and I have spent a few months working on this and we are both still completely confounded by some of the stupid questions that are on there.  We’ll do a section (out of the official SAT guide) and both get 96% right and then the next day we’ll both crash and only know how to do 5 problems of the 20.  As an educator, I don’t see how this is a very good indicator of my son’s ability to do well in college or in life-beyond.  And yet, it’s a hoop we know he must jump through.
History and Literature – So much reading but good stuff.  This semester Hayden is doing Government and Civics and, honestly, it’s not his favorite type of reading.  He knows its beneficial and important for all Americans to study, but he is not enamored by the topic.  Hayden is currently reading “The Chosen” and he said it’s really interesting. It’s getting “theological” toward the end, and I will be listening to this on audio starting this week.  That’s the only way I can even attempt to keep up with what the boys are reading.
P.E. – Skateboarding.  Hayden has been mastering some difficult maneuvers at the park. I need to get out there and video a little!
German – All three of the bigs are doing Rosetta Stone – German.  We’ve done RS before with Spanish and never had much luck.  It’s a great program that works beautifully, and I assign all fault to the users, especially to the teacher of the users for not setting proper expectations or following up on the given expectations.  This year, however, all involved are doing well.  I’ve set my expectations to be just bit higher than would be “easy” for each individual student.  I’ve let my expectations be VERY clear.  And, what I believe is making this year successful, I’m checking their work every other day or so. Basically, I’m doing my part to keep them on track.  I’m very pleased so far!
Speech – The older three are also taking a Speech class training them in Public Speaking.  Stephanie is teaching this and I LOVE seeing the boys up their presentation skills.
Foundations in Personal Finance – Hayden and Carson are taking this in the co-op we’re a part of.  Good stuff, but a LOT of work!

 

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With this being Hayden’s 11th grade year, I’m feeling all sorts of nostalgic.  I know we’re reaching the end of his time as a homeschooling kid.  I had absolutely no idea that we would homeschool throughout his entire career.  It was supposed to only be his kindergarten year due to a PCS mid-year.  It has been an absolute joy… and his upcoming graduation excites me on some levels because it will mean he’s stepping into the pages of his life that HE gets to write, but the thought of him not being here with us hurts more than I can even express.  And because of that, I’ll move on and write about another kid.  But it’ll post tomorrow.  See you then!

 

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School’s in Session

That’s what’s been going on around here.  School.  And a lot of it.

Today we started the 8th week of this school year and it has absolutely flown by.  I’m amazed that we’re already at this point!

We head out of Killeen in less than 3 months, off to our next adventure.  The emotions tied into that are not 100% positive, I’ll admit.  Figuring out how to get as much school done before we pack everything up presents a challenge but one we’ll manage, I suppose.

As a homeschool mom who was a teacher by profession, I find it hard to let go of our schedule at times to do fun things… you know, the fun things that homeschoolers get do to “because they homeschool?” I’ve been making a concerted effort to institute “because we homeschool” days into our weeks. On “eclipse” day we made the one-hour drive to Krispy Kreme and bought their special chocolate glazed donuts.

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On the day Krispy Kreme released Pumpkin Spice Glazed donuts, we loaded up the van and went with another family to Cedar Park (1 hour away, I remind you) and enjoyed the delectable treats.

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We have a few more “because we homeschool” days planned, to include a pumpkin patch or two. I need to remind myself that these days are rapidly flying by and I want my kids to look back on their homeschool years and remember that we did fun things that others couldn’t do… I want to take advantage of our freedom.

Random fact about our homeschool:
It is often said that homeschoolers have the luxury of sleeping in as late as they want.  I would agree… This is very true.  Unless they have a mom who wakes them at 6:15 and says, “Eat breakfast and then either start school or go get some exercise.”  My bigs have a mom who wakes them early.  This is a relatively new change to our homeschool that has developed out of necessity.  Our best working hours are in the morning and with the amount of school work that high school is, we need to get an early start in order to finish by a decent hour.  I once heard a homeschool guru encourage a group of homeschooling moms to find that ONE thing they can’t live without; the ONE thing that makes them feel like they’ve done right by their kids when they get that done, and plan their day around that. For me it is reading aloud to all of my kids.  I want to read to them, regardless of their age.  I want to read something that all of them can learn and benefit from.  I wake my littles at 7:30 and we start our “read-aloud” time at 8:00.  For the next 30 minutes we spend our time together.  Last year we read a dozen books on black history, books that are not often found on public school reading lists.  This year I’ve been mixing it up a bit and I just finished reading, “The House at Pooh Corner.”  A.A. Milne has a beautiful, descriptive way of writing.  If you don’t know what I mean, click here to read the chapter titled, “In Which Piglet Does a Very Grand Thing,” and pay close attention to the paragraph in which Milne describes the tree tipping over.  I think I read that aloud to the kids 3-4 times so they could soak in the author’s style.

Over the next five weekdays I’ll share a bit about each of our kiddos and what their school days are like at the moment.  It started out in one post but when it hit 2500 words I decided to break it up!  Have a great week and we’ll see you tomorrow!
~j

 

 

 

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Homeward bound {NC – Summer 2017 (Part 5)}

After our exciting time with Mama Kim and Aunt Charlene I crashed.  I ended up with a cold that took me down for a few days.  I can barely remember driving back from Virginia to NC.

Once back at my parents’ we unloaded the van one last time.  I cleaned it as well as I could, washed clothes, and then strategically packed our suitcases so that we could take as little in to the hotels each night as possible.

On the morning of the 25th we spent some time taking the obligatory Harley Davidson pictures of Anna.  All the kids at 18 months have had these pictures taken.



 

 

 

Typically when I leave NC I can get home with only one hotel stay.  By that time we’re usually so ready to be home that I can push through and drive half-way two consecutive days.  This time, with me not feeling 100%, I knew I needed to give myself more time to get home, thus less driving time each day.  I could have delayed leaving until I felt better but we had our first day of the 2017-2018 school year less than a week away and I didn’t want to get back so close to our starting.

The driving time itself is not very memorable.  Everything went smoothly and we were happy to see each state’s welcome sign.

Things went wonky during our first hotel stay.

For the first time I can remember (during our time in Texas) we stopped for the night while still in Georgia. Typically that wouldn’t feel quite far enough along the way to make it worth stopping (heading back to Texas) but we got a later start than usual (1:30 p.m.) and the goal was to get past Atlanta… we managed to do that and found a hotel in Smyrna.

The boys swam in the weirdest of pools to get the wiggles out before bedtime.  The room we requested was a suite and these typically have a fold out couch.  Here comes the first of many issues on our trip home.

  • No fold out couch.

This was fairly easily resolved as we had an air mattress in the car.  Our second issue:

  • One washing machine and one dryer for the entire hotel.

I had really hoped to throw our wet suits into the dryer so we wouldn’t have to carry wet clothes with us in the car the next day but it was in use.

Our third issue is explained in my Facebook post from shortly after we checked into our hotel:

  • The smell was… odd.

Our hotel is fine… Good enough for a night’s sleep with a pre-bedtime swim to get the wiggles out. One complaint: the hallway smells like nicotine and chewing gum.

Not smoke, necessarily. It’s a weird smell, though.

You can research a hotel only so much…

I guess I need to add to my litany of questions: “Does your hotel have a funky nicotine/gum smell?” along with “Do you have a pool and if so, is it in working condition?”

And this leads us to the next, most substantial, issue of this hotel stay:

  • The fire alarm shrieked at us for 3 hours.

It literally took the alarm representative and the fire department three hours to make. IT. STOP!  Anna woke once.  Hayden never heard it. While I was downstairs trying to see how much longer this was going to last (I was worried about my ability to drive or stay awake while Hayden drove the next day), Bailey woke up and tried to find me.  This leads us to the final, though minor, issue.

  • Bailey got locked out of our room.

I was downstairs on the 2nd floor which had a balcony over the lobby.  I could hear and see what was going on which allowed me to know how much longer the madness was going to last.  When it finally stopped I headed back to my room to find Bailey sitting at on the floor outside our room.  Poor kid.

Thankfully the hotel was apologetic and handled the irritated guests very well the next morning.  While they didn’t refund my money, they gave me enough points for a free hotel stay.  And to make things truly right, they applied the points immediately, so that I could use them that night.  (Typically it takes three days for points to show up in my account.)

Driving Day 2:

Everything went smoothly and we had lunch plans with friends we met in Germany. All was well and good until we got out of our car to walk into the restaurant.

  • Parker stepped in a mound of dog poop.

People. For the love of all that is decent on this earth, if you let your dog poop in the tiny bit of grass that separates a McDonald’s from a Chick-fil-a, pick it UP!  I had to bag his Chacos until we got home (to TEXAS) because it was in, on, and around the shoe.  I got his foot cleaned fairly well with a baby wipe but I wanted to say words that I’m not in the habit of saying.  Remember, I wasn’t feeling well to begin with, had (not) slept through a 3-hour-long fire alarm the night before, and had been driving for a few hours already with several more hours of driving to come.

Thankfully Mason had given Parker a pair of shoes he’d recently outgrown so we didn’t have to go through the strategically packed suitcases to find another pair for my guy.

Lunch was pleasant and we enjoyed catching up.  Our babies who were born in Germany are now in 2nd grade! Crazy!

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Thirty minutes after resuming our travels Alabama decided to show it’s ugly side.

  • Rain came down in sheets.  It was the most difficult rain conditions I’ve ever had to drive in.

You can only imagine my relief at arriving at our hotel in West Monroe that evening.  We’ve traveled this drive so many times we feel like West Monroe is a bit a second home. Our hotel’s parking lot was attached to the Duck Dynasty restaurant.  This was our “free” stay hotel and we began by hitting the pool right off.  When Hayden had had his fill of swimming, I sent him over to Pizza Hut to pick up a few pizzas for dinner.  (Having another driver in the family is quite convenient.)

One minor issue that I guess I shouldn’t complain about but will anyway, because, when you stay at any hotel, these things should be taken care of:

  • The area surrounding the pool was filthy.  Dead frog, cigarette butts, and beer bottles.  I was too tired and sick to complain.

They didn’t have a room large enough for our family (and that was without Matt) so they gave us two different rooms.  Whatever… just a few minor things that made this stay fit right in with the rest of our trip home:

  • No washer or dryer.
  • There was a lizard in my room which I made Hayden dispose of.

At this point I was almost laughing through tears at the absolute absurdity of this trek home.  Any of these things alone isn’t a big deal but they were piling up on top of this tired, sick mama.  (Tack all these experiences on top of the fact that we had had a very emotional and whirlwind trip.)

My sleepy girl:

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The next morning I used my hotel-coffee-trick to make coffee that was strong enough to get the job done.  I put both coffee pods in the pot.

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Travel that day was smooth enough.  I can almost remember some of it. I think my cold was subsiding by that point.  We hit Texas and rejoiced, even though we still had, like, 7,000 miles before we got to our house.  (I exaggerate, sort of.)

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By the time we reached Temple, a town near home, and one we have to travel to for Carson’s orthopedist and to go to a Staples Office Supply store, we hit our last few snags of the trip.

  • Dead. Still. Traffic.
  • 107* heat.  (I didn’t get a picture of the temp at 107 so please imagine with me that the picture below shows that instead of 105*.)

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We really hadn’t missed that at all.  

It took some breathing techniques for me to work my way mentally through that traffic but before too long we were on our way.  My mantra the last few miles was, “Most accidents happen close to home when people lose focus.”  I focused.  HARD.  I wanted my house, my bed, my best friend.  I wanted my baby girl to have her space and my boys to have their friends.  I was ready.

And finally we were home…

After 18 days on the road, unpacking the car 11 different times for overnight stays, visiting friends and family in 6 different states, traveling 3,400 miles, we were home.  We are so thankful for such a safe, eventful, trip.

My Facebook status that evening:

We are home and refuse to get in the car again today. Matt’s running out for Mission Taco. I will be largely ignoring FB for the reminder of today and tomorrow.  🙂

We missed home as we always do but this time, more-so. Anna loves being in her house and we love having a place for her to roam freely!

Thank you to everyone who showed hospitality and let us crash in your homes…. I know it gets harder and harder the bigger our family gets. Your welcoming hearts are greatly appreciated.

Bedtime was sweet that night.  You know how it is after being gone so long.  You slip into your own bed and think, “There’s no place like home.”

And then, this:

I got to enjoy the craziness that Matt had endured while we were going.  Three straight weeks of this:

Crazy.

 

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I Love Our Open Adoption! {NC – Summer 2017 (Part 5)}

Sunday morning we woke up and enjoyed a lazy (if warm) morning in our room. Around 10 my boys started asking if I could take them to a beach with real waves.  I left Anna with Nana, Papa, and Mason (who wasn’t interested in going to the beach), and drove my eager crew to Virginia Beach. I knew we’d have to stop and get lunch on the way home and, doing the math, I worried we’d be late getting back to our visit with Mama Kim.  I sent her a message and let her know that and asked if she wanted to push the schedule back a little or go on to the hotel and visit with Anna and my mom.  She sent me the sweetest message and told me that she would keep the schedule and play with Anna and that I could take my time.  I am so thankful she is comfortable with my family!

Let me tell you… I am NOT a beach person.  Not even a little bit. I don’t like sand, sun, or salt water.  I don’t like crowds.  I don’t like sweating.  This experience had all of these things.  To top it all off, the water was freezing (76*) so I couldn’t even comfortably get in to cool off.  I had to stand with my feet in the water to maintain some sort of reasonable level of comfort while I counted “1-2-3-4” over and over again.  (I lost one of them for a while which had me in a bit of a panic but he was not missing, just mixed into a large bunch of people.)

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First attempt had Parker gagging with a mouth full of sand.

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Second attempt went much better.

I let them stay as long as they wanted, which turned out to be just about as long as I was okay staying, knowing we still had to go through a drive-through on the way home.  We carried half of the sand on the beach back to our still-crammed-with-stuff van and made for the hotel.

My Panera pick-up was ready within minutes while the food from the boys’ choice of fast food restaurants took over 10 minutes… we sat in the drive-through wondering why in the world it was taking so long… and every moment I was eager to get back to visit with Mama Kim.

Eventually we did make it back and I said a quick “HI” before jumping in the shower to rinse off the salt, sand, and sweat.

We chatted and watched Anna play around for a while. After we had caught up and before Anna got fussy and needed a nap I gave Mama Kim a gift. She unwrapped a small pewter box with “My First Curls” etched in the top. I told her that we had waited until we were with her for Anna’s first hair cut and that we were going to do that right then.

We videoed and took pictures and we all got a lock of Anna’s hair for keepsakes.  This happened to be Anna’s 18-month-birthday.

Please forgive the messy counter tops! We had to keep everything on there so that Anna couldn’t get to it when she was free to run around the hotel room!

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Here’s a good look at Anna’s awesome rat-tail!

We ended up spending most of our time visiting in the dining area of our hotel where the AC was working just fine.  There was a small room that offered a little privacy but with a moving toddler, we were really all over the place.  Anna colored, talked, played with cars, etc.

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Around 6:30 we had a very special visitor:  Anna’s paternal aunt!  We have been so happy having Anna’s mom in the our lives and now we have a direct relative on her dad’s side!  We FaceTimed with Anna’s grandmother and expect to be able to meet her in person in December.  I got permission from Charlene to share these on my blog. Charlene was an absolute joy to spend time with and I look forward to her and Anna having a fun long-term relationship! We have created a special place on Facebook just for Anna’s “first family” where we share pictures, videos, and stories.

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I believe we visited until close to 8:00 pm and, as usual, the goodbyes were gut-wrenching. Thankfully our next visit will be in December which is just around the corner. We shared with them that we are moving to Germany, a difficult conversation to have, and while they are sad, they are excited for Anna to have this experience. I assured them that when I come back to the US to visit, I’ll make sure to visit them.

I long for more people to understand open adoption. I feel like I say this all the time but I do understand that it isn’t possible for some people to have one… these words aren’t directed to those who, for whatever reason, can’t. Sometimes the reason is because the child was adopted from overseas. However, within the United States there are so many cases where open adoption would be possible and, not only that, would be beneficial to the child. Most people who hear that we are in direct contact with Anna’s first family look at me with bulging eyes, wondering why in the world we are doing this. They have believed so many of the myths and horror stories that they can’t imagine a situation where contact could be positive. I hope that by sharing Anna’s story (the little that I am willing to share publicly, and which I share with permission from Mama Kim and anyone else I mention in my blog) will help to turn the tide. I hope people will stop being so afraid of open adoption and will start considering it a true possibility. I have two very close friends who are in the beginning stages of adoption and my heart longs for them to be able to have open ones. I have another friend who has adopted internationally and has done everything in her power to get a message to her child’s parents that their child is safe, well, and that they would love to open a conversation. I find this brave and admirable. They are not using the fact that theirs was an international adoption to wipe their foreheads, say, “Shew, at least we don’t have to worry about that aspect of adoption.” No. They’re seeking and doing everything in their power to offer their child contact with the first family. An adopted child is 100% part of the family who adopts him or her, but that child is also 100% from another family. My 7 year old gets this.  Just a few minutes ago I asked him this question:

“Parker, what was your favorite part about the day we went to the beach. The little beach, not the one with the waves.” His response blew me away… I wasn’t prepared for him to say this and I wrote it immediately so I would get it right. He said, “Seeing my sister’s birth mom ’cause that’s pretty special.  She’s still pretty much her mom.” YES! She is! She is still Anna’s mom! I am her mom. Mama Kim is her mom. Having an open adoption does not make me any less Anna’s mom. I urge anyone who is on the fence to do some deep digging into the facts of open adoption. To research the mental health of adult adoptees who were raised in both open and closed. To begin to see that open is actually becoming the norm, which I think is a good thing. To understand that “open” can range from mailing letters back and forth through the adoption agency to visiting and sharing holidays. I’m going to say something that will sound crass. Once  an adoption is final, the adoptive parents hold all of the power. All of it. You may think, “as they should.”  I don’t look at it that way. I want to understand that legally I do have the final say in what goes on in Anna’s life and I will give my own life to make sure she’s healthy and well taken care of. It also means I will sacrifice what is comfortable to do what is right by her. I firmly believe that having Mama Kim in our lives, that showing her that she has two mommies who adore her, that letting her know the aunts and grandmother who can see their brother and son in her facial features, is a gift that I have the power to give her! I don’t have the power to give her a set of parents in her house who look like her. Neither of us is black so she’s going to stand out when we are in public… she is obviously adopted. But I can give her relationships with people she does resemble. I can give her family members who are black and who can speak to that part of who she is… who can affirm her in that culture. I have the power to do that and I want to. I want to use my “power” in the adoptive relationship in such a way that everyone else feels that they, too, have influence in Anna’s life. I want them to know that they matter to me, to our whole family, and that they matter to Anna. There are differences in her first family and her current family and those differences are to be experienced. I have the “power” to let her experience those. It hurts me to even use the word power. I really don’t like it. I use it here because I’ve read it in the articles written by first-mothers who were promised contact with the child they were placing in an adoptive family’s home only to have that family drop contact altogether. It’s a word that evokes emotion in my heart and keeps me on my toes about updating the group I referred to above.  In fact, I’ll add some pictures this today since it’s been a few days. Recognizing that I have this power and determining to do something to honor Anna’s first-family is my responsibility.  I don’t take that lightly.

If you ever want to talk about what it means to have an open adoption, I am more than happy to have that conversation with you. I honestly believe that ONE person changed  my entire perspective on this topic and I know God put us at Fort Hood at the same time so that the picture below would be a possibility for Anna.  Had I not met Kathie Harris, I may never have given open adoption a thought. I hope that I can be that ONE person for someone else; that I can allow at least one adoptive family to recognize the power they have in the adoption triad and to work toward a healthy version of open adoption for their situation.

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NC – Summer 2017 (Part 4)

We arrived at Nana’s after the trip down memory lane and proceeded to get right on some four-wheelers.  We all rode for quite some time (taking turns since Anna was in the bed and someone needed to be inside with her).  I actually rode the longest, making a few extra laps through the woods.  I always enjoy riding and wish the opportunity was something I could offer the boys more often.  I’m just thankful Nana and Papa have the machines and the awesome property to allow it when we visit.

I did all the prep work for our upcoming trip and we had a relaxing evening.

The next morning we had plans to pack up and leisurely head to Virginia, stopping for the night about halfway so the kids didn’t have to be in the car for six + hours all at one time. However, as happens when you own a business, work duties called and Papa couldn’t leave that day.  We searched for a hotel in VA Beach and found that everything was booked solid.  It was not looking good for us to leave on Friday, which was the goal, as we wanted to wake up and have the majority of Saturday in VA Beach.  The alternative was looking like waking at 0500 and driving a straight shot.  It would do, but it would not be best.

I put out an all-call on Facebook to see if anyone had a place we could stay for the night and, not at all surprisingly, one of our Army Families did!  They were heading out of town and offered their entire house to us!  After a quick swim to get all the wiggles out, we finished last minute packing and got on the road.

I took my five and my nephew Mason, Parker’s best bud.  We only had one scary event when Hayden walked into the bathroom at a random McDonald’s and found a passed-out druggie.  Yep.  That happened.

Fortunately we had already eaten and were heading to the car when that happened… and thankfully I have a strict rule that no kid goes to the bathroom without a big kid.  Hayden reported this to the management and they rushed to take care of it while we rushed to the car.

We made it to our destination and within an hour everyone was settled in for the night. Everyone but Anna.

Anna was NOT tired and would not stay in her pack-n-play.  Nor would she rest quietly in bed with me.  I finally gave up and took her to the couch where we scrolled through FB and looked at cute baby pictures together.  At one point I realized I was very near where another friend lives (a friend from our pre-Army days who is now an Army wife… a friend for whom Matt was honored to fly home from Germany to perform her wedding, a friend whose parents were on the church committee to bring Matt on staff as a youth pastor… a friend of that sort… a life-long and precious friend).  I opened my contacts and clicked on her name, then her address.  Maps pulled this up (street names removed for privacy):

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Asleep on Cody and Tara’s comfy couch.

I messaged her the next morning and she was super gracious to let us come by for a quick hug, and, a great surprise: her parents were in town as she was due with Baby #4 any day! We got to introduce Anna to Mark and Cathy!  Just six days later Candace had Catie Jo, her second beautiful girl!

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Some of my kids were already buckled in and it was a difficult task getting in and out of the van.  They stayed put!

After a short visit the kids and I headed toward VA Beach and on the way I connected with a former-Fort Hood friend of mine, Amy, who was generously passing on some much needed school stuff for Carson.  We met at the NEX just a few hours before the President was to commission the USS Gerald R. Ford.  Amy had met Anna and been a part of her earlier visits to see Mama Kim, so it was great to let her see Anna as a toddler!

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Parker and Mason participating in the Spiderman Jumping Jack challenge.

As we were heading back to the car I received a text from Mama Kim and we decided to meet at a local park just a few minutes later.  It was a park she had visited often as a child. It was very sweet watch her play with Anna at that park.  We chatted some, but mostly we watched Anna climb and walk around.

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My big kids were entertaining themselves skateboarding at the skate park and Parker and Mason played nearby on a larger playground.  We pretty much had the place to ourselves… probably because it was the hottest two days of the summer!  I believe we brought Texas weather with us to Virginia!  After about an hour the bigs came to me and told me that they were literally baking in the metal skate park.  I asked Mama Kim if she wanted to head to the beach and she said she knew of a perfect spot.

We loaded up in the vehicles and she took us to East Beach.  It took a few minutes but I recognized the place from a picture she had sent me earlier this summer.  It was of two hands making a heart with the sun setting in the background on the horizon of the ocean. The hands were her’s and Anna’s biological father.  The text that came with the beautiful picture was:  “So much love from Virginia!”  A second picture came of the two of them, which I treasure.  I got permission to post this version of it to maintain his privacy.

Hearts from Hands – Version 2

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Our time at the beach was so fun!  The water was the perfect temperate and Anna loved it. I am happy that we got to take Anna to the same spot where that picture of her first-parents was taken just a little over a month ago.

Mama Kim and Anna played with the seaweed and, later, Mama Kim told me when that she got to work her manager pointed out that she still had some in her hair!  OOPS!  Saving that for later, I suppose.

Our time at the beach was worth every single grain of sand that followed us around for the next week! We left on cloud nine, excited that we had another day planned with together.

IMG_2753IMG_2757IMG_2758IMG_2760When the kids and I reached the hotel, my parents had just gotten there and were in the process of checking us in.  Perfect timing!  I believe that night was the night Nana ran out for Wendy’s so we could avoid getting all of the kids back in the car.  (Mine had already traveled over 1,600 miles and anytime we could avoid the car it was worth the effort.)

Bonus fact:  the AC in our room didn’t work well so it was pushing 80* in our room the entire time we were there.  It did cool down to 72-ish at night and the hotel sent an employee out to buy a few fans, but our room was not comfortable, in the least.  Fortunately, the indoor pool was fun and offered a bit of reprieve from the heat.  As tired as we were, though, I believe most of us slept very well after such an eventful day!

Our hotel’s pool provided the boys with a lot of fun!

 

The next post will share about Day 2 with Mama Kim.

 

 

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NC – Summer 2017 (Part 3)

We left Grammy’s house and headed back to Nana’s, but we had plenty of time to kill before we needed to be there.  When I got near the exit Matt and I used hundreds of times in our college years to visit one another I asked the boys if they wanted to see the house in which I was raised.  They were all in, which sort of surprised me.  Their enthusiasm made me wish I could remember the location of the single-wide I lived in when I was in Kindergarten and First Grade.  Some of my earliest memories are events that occurred while my family lived on that street.  However, I had no idea where in Charlotte that street was, and my parents were both working and I didn’t want to disturb them.  I was content to show the kids my home church and the house in which I spent most of my growing-up years.

I exited only to find that major changes had been made in the roads and I was brought to a T-intersection.  I have a rule… when in doubt, turn right.  So, I did.  I had no idea where I was so I asked Siri to find “Hickory Grove Baptist Church” and start directions.  Her instructions were to turn left at the next light and I trustingly obeyed.  Within milliseconds a flood of recognition washed over me and I started repeating, “NO WAY!”  The boys were curious as to what was making me sound so shocked and it took me a moment to gather my thoughts in order to catch them up on what I explained in the first paragraph:  “Only five minutes ago I was wishing I could take you to the place I lived when I was in Kindergarten and First Grade.  I had no idea how to find that place so I let the idea go.  When I got off the interstate and the roads rerouted me, I asked Siri for directions to my church, which is one mile from where I grew up.  Her first instruction was to turn left here… now that we’re here I recognize this as the neighborhood in which my family lived when I was five and six!”  We proceeded to my former street and we slowly drove up the hill, snapping pictures discretely.  I still could not believe that I was there… It was incredulous that a freak circumstance directed us STRAIGHT TO IT.

 

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This is not the actual single-wide but this is the lot. I remember being angry that I didn’t learn to read on my first day of Kindergarten.  I felt like my mom had lied to me whens she said I’d learn to read “when I went to school” and that the school had not done its job.  I remember my dad wrapping a piece of jewelry up in a refrigerator box to trick my mom and having a BLAST with that box after the gift-giving was over.  I remember learning to ride my bike on that road.  I remember my mom cutting her knee open and needing stitches.  That was traumatic.  I remember falling out of the top bunk and biting my tongue which bled like the dickens.  (Or was that Josh?)  I remember sticking a fork or some other metal object in a socket in our bedroom and getting shocked. (Or was that Josh?)  I remember walking through the sliding-glass door and busting my face; the glass didn’t break but it was not a fun experience.  (Or was that Josh?)  As you can tell, memories at that age are blurry and are often a conglomeration of the stories having been told over the years.

I told a few of my stories from that era and then we followed Siri’s directions to the church.  I pulled into the parking lot and shared some stories from when I was a tiny one.  I remember being in the nursery and one of my teachers singing, “Elvira” to us.  I remember sitting in the baby-doll crib. I remember snack time; guessing my age at that time was about three.  I told the boys stories about when we broke ground on the “new” sanctuary and how we had huge ropes attached to a bulldozer.  All the church members pulled on the ropes to pull the bulldozer, thus ‘breaking ground’ together.  I’d say a good 50% of my memories from age 3-18 were tied, in some way, to that church.  All great memories.

I retold the story of how Matt proposed to me in the parking lot and about our wedding there.  Good times.

From there we made the long trek (1 mile) to the house in which I was raised.  It was red when I lived there, and the yard was a bit more manicured.  My bedroom window was the far right one.

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Most of my childhood memories were made while we lived in this house.  I pointed out that my kids won’t have the same kind of story that I have: I can take them to “the house I was raised in” while they will have to tell their kids about the time they lived in Colorado, or the times they lived in South Carolina or Germany, or that one really long season of life they lived 4.5 years in Texas.  Neither of our stories is better than the other… just different.

From there, since we had still more time, I took them to my high school.  In years past, none of my kids would have cared about this part of my life but now we have two high schoolers, and one more to join them next year.  I parked in my old parking space and told them a few of my most memorable moments.  (To be honest, most of my high-school memories were either at church or traveling back and forth to see Matt!)  I loved my weight-lifting class; I had the best biology teacher in the world;  My homeroom teacher rocked.  My International Studies education was unique to our school and I’m thankful I was a part of that program.

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And with that my drive down memory lane was over.  Sort of.  Our next stop was to Concord Mills, which wasn’t built until I was in college or round-about, but I do have very sweet memories of taking the three bigs there when they were babies.  I remember the thrill of pushing my first baby in his stroller around the mall, ecstatic that I had finally joined the coveted mom-club.  I loved everything about it… the nursing room, the diaper bags, the stroller, the feeling that I had finally reached the point in life where I was doing what I was put on this planet to do.  I sit here in a Starbucks in Texas amazed that I have now had this incredible blessing five times over; that the first baby I pushed around with such pride is now a sophomore in high school; that he’s approaching the age Matt and I were when we met one another. I have had that same sense of pride with each baby.  With the third was added to the mix I felt like a circus-show at times… people wondered how I got around. I didn’t have a triple-stroller but used my double and carried Bailey.  I got asked every time Carson and Bailey were in the stroller if they were twins.  Nope.  I didn’t get a two-for… I had 18 months of pregnancy to enjoy those two.

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After spending a while in the mall we headed back to Nana’s.  We weren’t going to be there long, as we were to leave the next day for Virginia.  We were there to ride a few four-wheelers, clean the car out (again), wash clothes, and pack up.  The trip had officially hit its whirl-wind phase.

In the last post I said that this post would include pictures of our visit with Mama Kim but the walk down memory lane was too fun to leave out.  (Fun for me, even if not everyone agrees.)  One of these posts will be about our time in Virginia!  We had an amazing time!

 

 

 

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NC – Summer 2017 (Part 2)

After a few days reprieve from the car the kids and I loaded up once more and headed to Belmont to visit with Matt’s side of the family.  We were particularly excited about this part of our trip as we were to meet our newest family member!  Brad (Matt’s brother) and Erin have been together since Bailey was a baby and have recently added their own little boy to our crew.  Lincoln is such a beautiful baby with a calm demeanor.  (And he is SUPER cute!)  We wanted to get to NC to meet him when he was first born but school commitments got in the way.  This introduction was long overdue!

We were happy to get to visit with one set of Matt’s aunts and uncles for dinner, Gail and Jr..  We really appreciated them coming to spend some time with us!  Grammy had prepared a delicious dinner of BBQ and fixin’s.

Brad and Erin had a surprise for us…. they had taken the next day off to spend it with us!  Military families – you know…  You know what a big deal this is.  I only hope that Brad and Erin know how much we appreciate it!  An additional surprise Erin had in store for Grammy was that she had hired a photographer to come to the house to get pictures of Grammy and all her grandchildren.

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Brad and I took all the big kids to see Despicable Me 3 while Grammy and Erin kept the littles at home.  Grammy had the best bubble blower I’ve ever seen – Anna really enjoyed that!

The boys had fun throwing a football and generally spending down-time with Grammy.  (Oh, and eating snacks that she can be counted on to purchase!)


Anna slept like a pro in her pack-n-play even though she had learned how to get out of it. If you tire her out enough she’s happy to go to sleep for nap and bedtime!  We look forward to our next visit with Grammy, Brad, Erin, and Lincoln in December!

The third part of this series will be coming soon and will include our visit with Mama Kim, beach time, and quite possibly the events of our absolutely unbelievable journey home.  (We have met Murphy and we are pretty sure we never want to again.)

In case I don’t get around to it soon, I will state that we are starting our 2017-2018 school year today!  I can’t believe I have an 11th grader! I also can’t believe that I am close to being able to say I homeschooled a kid all the way through K-12!  I NEVER planned on that and remember thinking it was one of the most daunting tasks ever.  I have loved every single year of it!!

Hayden – 11th – Sonlight Core 400
Carson – 9th – Sonlight Core 200
Bailey – 8th – Sonlight Core 100 (second half)
Parker – 2nd – Sonlight Core B
Anna – 18 months – play time!!

Here are more pictures from the photo shoot!

Happy Monday!
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NC – Summer 2017

Last Monday (a week ago) the boys and I were feverishly packing the van to head to NC three days early. We cancelled a few things that were on our calendar for the week so we could get a head start on our long drive. 
Our friends have been moving away slowly but surely over the past year and a half and we had to drive right past one of these sweet families! Of course, that meant we had to stop by and we appreciated the opportunity to rest our heads in their home for the night.


 
The next day was momentous: Chick-Fil-A’s “Dress like a cow” day… We stopped at the nearest Wal-mart and purchased a package of vinyl letters and spelled out two messages on our shirts:
“Eat More Chikn” and “Cow sez moo.”
 
The first CFA we came to was a little out of our way in West Monroe, LA. They were so impressed with our idea that they rang the large cow-bell!
Our second CFA was in another state… Alabama, perhaps? They, too, enjoyed our “costumes” and we ate again, for free!
We stopped at a Barnes and Noble for an hour to let Anna run around and for the boys to buy their souvenirs. (When you’re visiting the state you’re from you really don’t need souvenirs, so a book for each kid is a great way to spend a few dollars.)
 

Our hotel in Alabama had an indoor pool which we made good use of to get our wiggles out and tire us enough for a good night’s sleep. And we did sleep well that night.
 
The next morning we got on the road and, for the first time, made it through Atlanta in a decent amount of time. We were in stand-still traffic for only about 30 minutes. Best time yet!


 
We met up with the Ramsey Family at our old stompin’ grounds: Gardner-Webb University. This is where Anna and I first met and it just so happened that Olivia was attending a Volleyball Camp so in order for us to get to see her, we had to meet there.
 


After some fun catching up we got back on the road. We were excited to eat at a Cook-out after being away from this delectable treat for so long and even more happy about it when we found out Anna and Logan were able join us.
 
We then drove to my parents’ town.  When we were 40 minutes out I called my brother to see if he wanted in on the surprise.
 
We met up at the gas station in their town (yes… I said “the”) and drove to my parents’ house. Their driveway is long and gravel and they know the sound of a car on it so we pulled in just far enough to get out of the street and I sent a few back-to-back texts:

We decided to get a head start:

 
I then sent pictures of every state line we crossed, followed by this one of us with my brother and his family standing in my parents’ driveway: 

We may have thrown them for a bit of a loop as it takes a bit to prepare for a group of six people to come and stay with you for a few weeks, but they rolled with it and we’ve had a blast.
 
Getting there a few days early gave the kids and me some down time before we start the next few legs of our trip… which start today. (More on that later.) Had we left when we originally planned we would have arrived, then had only 48 hours of rest before the busy legs of the trip began.
 
Thursday we spent avoiding the car (we were done with the car!) and riding four-wheelers. 


Friday, more of the same, except the bigs did some yard work for Papa to earn some spending money.

Saturday we had “Christmas in July without the presents.” Mom hosted the family with a BIG Christmas brunch and we ate our family’s traditional foods to our heart’s content.
That afternoon my aunt and uncle on mom’s side came to dinner and it was so nice to introduce Anna to them!

Throughout this entire week Parker and my nephew, Mason, have been inseparable. They are the cutest little things!!  My niece, Madison, has really enjoyed being the “big kid” for a change, feeding Anna and helping out when she can. 


 
Sunday we skipped church to rest. None of us could have made it to church if we wanted to! A friend of ours from way back when I was homeschooled came out to meet my kids and reminisce about old times. Anna adored her and entertained us all with Beverly’s glasses!


A few of the boys took rides on Papa’s new motorcycle and as he was about to put the Harley away for the night, asked if I’d like a ride. The sun was setting, the air was perfect, and I couldn’t turn that offer down! When we got home I glanced at the clock and was absolutely stunned to realize we had been gone an hour. It literally felt like 15 minutes. Time really does fly when you’re having fun!


Monday we took the kids to a park giving Anna her first true moments of freedom since we left home. There really isn’t a good place for her to roam safely here so we have to be right on top of her. 

 (She’s even managed to master escaping from her pack-n-play!) Being at a park and watching her play with dirt and walk where she wanted to walk was so delightful that I hated to end the fun… but the rest of the people (including myself) were hungry… we were breaching hangry. 
We may or may not have eaten Cook-out again (and this wasn’t just the second time… I shall not reveal the accurate number of times we enjoyed their food while on this vacation).
After a run through Wal-mart I got my littles home and resting and made the bigs clean the bonus room (the room that they pretty much take over while we’re here). For the first time this week, Mom, Ashley, and I got to sit and chat with no interruption. These precious moments lasted all of 30 minutes… maybe. And then it was time to get the crew dressed and ready to go swimming!
Last week at our hotel Bailey taught Parker how to dive and Parker’s actually really good!
 
Today we head on the second major part of our journey: the kids and I are leaving this part of NC and heading to visit Daddy’s side of the family. We are very excited to see Grammy again and we simply can’t wait to meet our new cousin Lincoln! We wanted to get here to meet him when he was first born but we simply couldn’t get away in the spring! I can’t wait to see Anna loving on the younger cousin!
 
We have a third part of the journey that begins on Friday: we are heading to Virginia to see Mama Kim and Anna’s half-siblings. There are going to be many hours spent in cars over the next 2 weeks and we know the driving time will be worth the experiences we will have, but we do covet your prayers as we travel.
 
The final leg of our journey takes us back to Matt… we all miss him and wish he were on this trip with us! 

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