Friday, September 12, 2014

Staci + Ryan's Wedding Sneak Peek

Hi friends! I just posted a sneak peek of pictures from Staci and Ryan's wedding last weekend to my photography blog, but since I haven't posted anything there in ages, I thought I'd share the link here, too. Their wedding was beautiful and perfect!

Click here to go see!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

A Non-Update Update on our Foster Adoption

You may or may not have wondered over the last year how our foster adoption journey has been going. If you see us regularly, you probably realize that it hasn't really been going anywhere at all, because we don't have any new kids.

It's been 10 months since we were approved for foster care through Sunrise Children's Services. We've accepted a handful of referrals during that time for kids from 2 weeks old to 12 years old, but we weren't chosen for any of them.

I didn't know exactly how the referral process worked before we got into this, so I'm going to assume that at least someone who reads this won't either. I thought that if we got a call and accepted a placement, then that child or sibling group was as good as ours. Not so. Usually several people will accept the same placement, so the child's worker will collect all of the homestudies and decide which one seems like the best fit.

There are several factors involved in choosing which home is right for each child: obviously the needs of the child are the top consideration, but we've learned that the convenience of the worker is also weighed. If it's between two ostensibly equal homes, but one is a 10 minute drive for the worker and the other is an hour drive, guess which one they're going to choose. I really can't say I blame the workers, but it just stinks when you live out in the middle of nowhere like we do.

We LOVE Sunrise. We really super do. Sunrise is a ministry of our Kentucky Baptist Convention, and if you are a member of a baptist church in Kentucky, then it's likely that part of your tithe goes toward supporting them. You should be proud of that. Our training was wonderful, and the post-placement support is apparently top-notch. One of the things we loved about going with Sunrise is that they hold your hand and help you out a lot more than the state caseworkers are able to. Being a Christian organization with Christian staff, it is wonderful to pray with them, receive Godly counsel, and know that they are making their decisions based on prayer and a desire to honor God.

That said, we knew going into it that we may wind up having to switch to going through the state. With Jude being nonverbal, our parameters for the children we will accept are pretty narrow. That, combined with us living in no man's land, has made getting a placement through Sunrise difficult.

We began the process of switching to the state a couple of months ago, and I'm told that we should be approved by the end of the day tomorrow. Everyone at the DCBS office has talked like we should receive a placement pretty quickly after that, so we'll see what happens.

We are so eager to have more kids in our home and in our family! Will you pray with us that the Lord would be pleased to do that soon?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Homeschool Room Tour

I know I'm a little late for all of the fun room tour blog hops that happened a few weeks ago, but better late than never, right?

Welcome to Theodore Roosevelt Academy. Also known as our basement. This is what you see when you open the door to go downstairs:

Well, hello there little classroom. Look, there are my boys picking up toys before the first day of school. That big red bucket of soft toys drives me batty, because it just always gets dumped out.

 I hung the curtains to hide some pipes on the wall, and I think they help cozy up the space a bit, too. The "Nothing worth having was ever achieved without effort" is a quote from TR, and one that I thought was very fitting for a homeschool room. The world flags are a free printable from Mr. Printables, and were a crazy amount of work to cut out, but I love them. I added a few more countries that are near and dear to our hearts, but were missing from his original pdf (Moldova, Malawi, Romania, Nicaragua, and Poland). Before you get to that area, though, you walk past this spot:

The Veggietales growth chart is very precariously hiding the fuse box. "Comparison is the thief of joy" is another quote from TR that really speaks to my heart as someone who has always struggled with what I call "the grass is greener syndrome."

This was our classroom after the first day of school:

Oh look, now it's magically straightened up:

Beside the lockers is a dry erase calendar where I've roughly planned our school year. Seeing it all at once like this is priceless to me:

On the other side of the area is a reading tent that Jude hates (but the animals love, so there's that) and a few toys. Beyond that is my poor neglected craft area. You can also see the swing where Jude swings while we sing our memory verse of the week.

 Going back toward the stairs, I can't leave out the hammock and trampoline. They are crucial to our sanity on very cold and very hot days! Behind the trampoline is an office-y space where I do my printing and cutting and whatnot, and also where the file cabinet is that holds all of my plans for the year:

And I'm so excited to have finally found something to make our bare bulbs look a little more finished. I'd been searching and searching for something that would look nice, but not interfere with the light, since the basement is kind of dark anyway. These were pendant lights from Target that I got on sale, and I just took them apart. The big body of the CFL bulb holds them up on its own, otherwise I'd have been in trouble. I love them!

Well there it is! It isn't anything fancy, but I think we've made the most of it! If you homeschool, what does your area look like? Or if you don't, do your kids have a special place for homework or crafts?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

First Day of Kindergarten

Jude had a really great first day of Kindergarten... right up until it was time to actually do school.

We did our usual Monday morning run to Etown to visit the Chiropractor, and then I dropped him off at Renee's house to play while I did my grocery shopping. Renee does therapy with Jude four mornings a week. Three of those mornings are at our house, but on Mondays he gets to play at her house. 

Jude has quickly gotten used to Chiropractor visits and does really well there, and he loves going to Renee's house.

After lunch, it was time to start our school. I've planned to spend about two hours in the afternoons working on school with him, with a potty break in the middle. Two hours may not seem like very long, but it's intense, one-on-one, non-stop school work. When he went to preschool last year at the public school, he was there for four hours and I figured up that he got less than 30 minutes of actual instructional time. And when you add the three hours he spends in one-on-one therapy every day, we're more than satisfied with his "course load" for Kindy. We've taken a break this summer, but in the spring we were doing school work for an hour at a time and he loved it. 

I took the above picture to compare with his first day of preschool picture from last year, but I also wanted to start a fun new tradition in front of our lockers:

About the t-shirt: Let me tell you a story about a little girl about 25 years ago who had a Batman t-shirt that she loved. Said little girl really wanted to wear her Batman t-shirt on her first day of Kindergarten, but her mama (understandably) wanted her to dress a little cuter than that for the first day. When she got to Kindergarten, half of the class had on Batman t-shirts! So when that little girl grew up and saw this Batman t-shirt, she knew exactly what her son was going to wear for his first day. It's the cirrrrrrrcle of liiiiiiiiiiiife! (Please don't think that I was somehow scarred or affected by this event. I only know this story because my mom told it to me. I don't even remember it happening. But my mom has never forgotten it! Jude's shirt was as much for her as it was for me.)

His first day of school was ROUGH. He yelled/cried through the whole thing. (If you've been around him much, you probably know what I mean when I talk about his yell/cry. It's a loud AAAAAAHHHHHH that basically means, "I don't like this." The good news was that he still did everything I wanted him to do, even though he was yelling/crying the whole time. He's great like that.

I can't end things there, though. I have to add that the second day of school was a million times better. He didn't yell/cry even once, and he actually seemed to enjoy the activities. So please don't worry that I'm just torturing him and/or myself with all of this. I'm sure not every day will be awesome, but I'm also sure that not every day will be like the first day.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Charles 6 Months Later

I thought somebody might be interested in seeing how Charles has grown in the six months since we got him. Everybody's been commenting recently on how big he's gotten, and they are right! What I didn't realize until I looked back at these pictures from the day we got him was how much his face coloring has changed. I didn't know that would happen!

Oh Charles. You make our lives so much more wild. And chewed up. And peed on. And barked at. Let's hope that this winter, you also learn to make our lives much more rabbit-y.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Teaching in the Lower Shire

On Monday morning, we woke up at 4am to drive 4 hours south to the Lower Shire (which they pronounce shear-ee) Region. The land around Blantyre and Zomba is on a plateau, and when you get just south of Blantyre, you get to the edge of the plateau and can see the Lower Shire Region for miles and miles. Well, at least that’s what we’re told. As we were driving down the plateau, there were clouds so low that it caused a very dense fog, and we couldn’t see anything.

This is how Michael rode the whole 4 hours from Zomba to the first village, because there were already 5 in the cab.

But as soon as we got to the bottom, we were finally below the clouds and could see the wide, flat plains. It’s called the Lower Shire because of the Shire River which runs through it. Our plan was to drive all the way down to a village on the outskirts of Nsange (4 hours south of Zomba, almost at the very bottom of the country), then drive back up north 2 hours to stay at a rest house in Nchalo. The next day, we drove to another village that was only about an hour south of the rest house. On the third day, the village we visited was only about 30 minutes south of the rest house. And on the fourth day, we only went about 15 minutes away. It may have made more sense to stay a little farther south, but good rest houses are hard to find in the Lower Shire, and Eric knew that Sarah’s Nest was a good one.

In each of these villages, there lives a regional coordinator for the EurAfrican Baptist Mission, which is the mission that Eric started. The regional coordinators regularly visit the churches in their regions, and they communicate with the churches when Eric needs to spread the word about something, like this week’s schools or the day camps they will be doing in a few months.

The first village we went to is on the northern outskirts of Nsange. As we drove through the village to get to the regional coordinator’s house, kids ran toward the truck pointing and excitedly shouting, “Mzungu!” (“White person,” or literally “miracle worker.”) In the third village, the kids actually started chanting “Mzungu! Mzungu!” as we drove by. Everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY stares at us.

Women and children hanging out and cooking in front of one a regional coordinator's house.

In each village, we quickly drew a large audience of children who would stare at us and giggle. In the first village, I made the rookie mistake of thinking that if I interacted with them a little then the mystery of the mzungu would lessen and they’d go play. That drew more and more kids. They just kept coming from every corner of the village. The teens were more shy, but even some of them couldn’t resist the urge to go see and try to talk to the mzungus.

Kids in the first village we visited.

Kids in the first village we visited.

Josh entertaining kids while Gama taught the pastors.

Finally I just had to learn to ignore them, and especially not to take pictures of them. They would eventually get bored and go play, though a small group of the most curious kids would still hang out nearby. Usually after lunch we would interact with them for a while. Josh tried to teach them songs, Stephanie tried to tell them Bible stories with her limited knowledge of Chichewan, Eric chased them like a zombie, and I took pictures of them.

Josh teaching in the first village.

Josh teaching in the second village. I'll never complain about uncomfortable church pews again after sitting on these for three hours! 
Josh teaching in the third village.

Josh teaching in the fourth village.

After Josh would finish teaching (he taught for 3 hours straight every morning), we’d eat lunch, which a few women had been working on since our arrival. 

The women fixing lunch in the first village.

The women dishing out lunch in the third village. Everybody got a huge portion of rice and nsima.

Lunch was always rice and/or nsima (cornmeal cooked into a texture between that of bread and mashed potatoes), beef, and cooked cabbage with tomatoes. They’d feed us inside a house each day because apparently everyone would’ve been too interested in watching the white people eat if we’d eaten in plain view.

The regional coordinator's house where we ate lunch in the first village.

Lunch every day. The mushy stuff on the left is nsima.

The regional coordinator's house where we ate lunch in the second village.

The regional coordinator's house where we ate lunch in the fourth village.

After lunch, Gama would spend an hour talking about church planting and preaching, and then we’d load up to head back to the rest house in Nchalo. 

We have had an incredible time here. We are so thankful that God worked it out for us to come, and that our parents were able and willing to keep our boy this whole time. For as great as this has been, we miss Jude so much, and we are so, so ready to get home to him! Please pray for us as we travel home over the next two days. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Sunday in and around Zomba

You know how I've mentioned a couple of times in the last week about climbing a huge mountain to go to church in a village today? Well, after Eric and I were both sick yesterday from drinking the lake water, we called off the trip up the mountain for all of us but Josh. He got to hike up there with two other men, and you REALLY want to go to his blog to read all about his adventure.

I, on the other hand, got to stay at home and do laundry. By hand. In tubs. With water from jugs because the water is out. Let's just say that I can't make any guarantees about how clean our clothes are, or how well the detergent got rinsed out.

Then after the laundry hung on the line all day, I got to bring it in and iron it. All of it. Even our underwear and socks. Why? Because there's a fly here that lays eggs on damp laundry, and if you don't iron your clothes, the larvae will hatch and burrow into your skin and grow until they get big enough to come out. Do a Google image search for putzi fly if you're really brave.

Anyway. That's not nearly as interesting as Josh's story today. Go read it.