Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Thank you...


Within one week, we have met our goal to receive our matching gift!

Within one week, you rallied around us and donated over $500 toward our puzzle, toward our matching gift - and toward bringing T home. Bless you and thank you!

With our matching gift, we now have 335 of our 500 puzzle pieces sponsored. Please take a minute to check out all the wonderful puzzle sponsors listed at the bottom of the blog.

We still have work to do. We are still selling puzzle pieces ($10 a piece). We want to finish that puzzle!

We are still selling yummy coffee - Just Love Coffee - lots of yummy free-trade choices. They would make wonderful office/teacher gifts for Christmas!

We are close to choosing a t-shirt design that we will be selling soon here on the blog.

In a couple of weeks, we will have info for our local friends, inviting you to our open-house Holiday Market. We'll have an afternoon of Christmas shopping here at our house with lots of vendors, door-prizes, and holiday cheer!

In the meantime, we are applying for adoption grants and filling out more paperwork!

Yes, more paperwork - OUR REFERRAL PAPERS!! Yes, T's actual referral arrived yesterday along with tons of other papers, immigration applications, etc. So we are sending those all back to the agency in a day along with the final agency fee! The other cool news we got this past week is that our dossier is now listed (on the China Affairs adoption website) as being "in process." Apparently our agency said this was very quick for them to already have it translated and to be working on. It seems like things are currently moving a bit faster than usual. YAY!

You may have noticed that we are now referring to our new daughter as "T." Last week we received a new form from our homestudy agency, stating that we are not allowed to put info or pictures on the internet until our adoption is final (soooo bummed about this as our placement agency had said we could post pictures as soon as we received our next China approval). This is apparently a new Virginia policy but we will be investigating it as the wording it vague and it contradicts what we were told by our placement agency. So for now, I will be going back through the blog to change any reference to our new daughter to "T."

I am so sad if it is actually true that all photos of waiting children will ultimately not be allowed on the internet. I am particularly sad for adoption advocacy sites that post info about children who are waiting or are in the process of being adopted. What a shame if waiting children can no longer be shown in pictures on the web. This is how we found T and our Ethiopian daughters. More to come on this new development.

My pictures didn't download in time right now, but be looking for a photo-full post coming soon, of our Fall fun weekend with the cousins!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Wordless Wednesday


I have AMAZING news! An awesome friend and her family (a fellow adoptive family) have offered us a wonderful and generous gift. We are overwhelmed by this family's kindness, generosity, and encouragement to us. They have offered us a matching gift.

They will match all puzzle pieces purchased from today until the end of 2012 - up to $500.00!

If you have given to us already - thank you so much - we are humbled and so very grateful. If you have been wanting to help us out by sponsoring a piece or one for each member of your family, but haven't yet - now is the time!

The puzzle we are putting together is pictured at the bottom of this page (bottom border of the blog) and is a 500 piece, children's puzzle of the world. Each piece of the puzzle costs $10.00 to sponsor. When a piece is sponsored, the sponsor's name is written on the back of the puzzle piece. Once the puzzle is completely sponsored, our family will put the puzzle together, glue it (never tried that before), and frame it between two pieces of glass so that the names are visible on the back. This will be a visual reminder to T in the years to come of all who have shared in our effort to bring her home.

Purchasing a piece can be completed here on the blog - at the right, on the chip-in (it will take you to Paypal and can only be seen when using your computer - not phone), by check, or by cash. If you are interested in paying by check or cash, let me know in the comments here, on Facebook, in a letter, or in an email (juliesnell@picturehealth.net). If you are buying several puzzle pieces, be sure to tell me the names that you want on each of your pieces.

At this time, all our adoption agency fees are paid (the last one should be paid in another week). Now we are saving for plane tickets, hotel stay, travel expenses, visas, dr. appointments in China, adoption fees paid while in China, etc.

I will be regularly reminding you - here, on Facebook, in emails - about this matching gift challenge (hope all my peeps won't get sick and tired of me). We so want to make the most of this gift - to be able to add another $500 in donations toward the puzzle - and thus earn the $500.00 match - will get us $1,000.00 (duh, I know you can add...just wanted to write out the $1,000.00!) closer to our daughter! Please feel free to share this post link with anyone you know who might be interested in playing a part in bringing a little girl home to her forever family.

In the meantime, I am working hard on planning our holiday market open house in November, here in our home. We will be hosting up to 10 vendors here at our house for some comfortable Christmas shopping and fun fellowship. Our vendors have graciously agreed to gift us with money toward our travel expenses rather than with hostess reward products. It is shaping up to be a fun event - which will benefit our adoption fund as well as help all our kind-hearted vendors meet some new customer contacts and sell some of their goods! I'm looking forward to a full house! More details on this event coming soon.

We are constantly working around here to add to our adoption savings account. Just this past weekend we threw together a rather impromptu garage sale - so last minute. But we had lots of clothes, a few pieces of furniture, and a few other items that we decided to part with. We did well for the little that we put into this event and sold nearly everything!

I have finally gone through our basement shelves of homeschool curriculum and books and have advertised and sold nearly all I was willing to part with. A few of my baby items (handsewn baby blankets and knit hats) have been selling in a local friend's store - we received a check from them just yesterday... it all adds up.

We are continuing on with our coffee sales (coffee would make great office or teacher gifts, hint, hint) and we hope to have a t-shirt available sometime closer to  Christmas.

Thank you to you, my growing community of blog readers. I appreciate that anyone takes the time to check out what's happening here - to listen to my ramblings, and brags on my kiddos. Thank you to all who have given something to help us to reach our little girl. I appreciate you all - my friends I know in person, and the friends I know only through "blog-land." You are all special to me!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Compassion Sunday

Compassion Sunday 2012

Hello to those of you who are stopping by! Today was Compassion Sunday at church and I got to set up a display, say a few words to the congregation, and show a video about something near and dear to my heart - child sponsorship through Compassion International. For those of you who missed church, or who don't live nearby, here's what I shared -

We saw a short, sweet video that followed two "Elizabeths," one a sponsor and the other, her Guatemalan sponsored child. The child, through an interpreter, relates her story. This is a child who, in the eyes of the world, has nothing. She lives in obvious poverty, has no mother, a father unable to work due to injury, and she is doing the housekeeping and care for her younger siblings.

But the light in her life is the Compassion program at her local church that she attends. There she receives food, health care, educational help, and Biblical teaching about Jesus. She is there because she has a sponsor - Elizabeth from the USA. She and Elizabeth exchange letters and drawings, prayer requests, and friendship through a relationship through the mail. Her life's story has been changed because of Compassion and her sponsor's help. I just figured out how to share the video so here it is if you missed it -

Compassion Sunday 2012 Elisabeth (short) from Compassion International on Vimeo.

I challenged our church to see if we could sponsor all 25 of the child info packets that I had at our display out in the lobby. Sponsorship is a wonderful ministry - just $38 a month. You can forever change the life story of one little child living in extreme poverty and most importantly, introduce them to Jesus Christ.  There are many wonderful groups that have child sponsorship programs but through our family's years of sponsorship, we have found Compassion International's Christ-focus (where care is given through a local church and families are plugged into a church community) to be our favorite.

Well, God was faithful and moved in the hearts of many today - 19 of the 25 children were sponsored. I am hoping to speak again at our Bible study on Thursday and perhaps more will be sponsored. We will try again next week as well. Feeling so excited that 19 new children will be getting wonderful news soon that they have been chosen to participate in a Compassion program. Great things are in store for them! Of the 19 that were chosen today, several were children who were considered to be "priority" kids - ones who had waited over 6 months to a year for someone to choose them. YAY!

The simple act of saying "yes" to the opportunity to sponsor is huge - huge for that child and also for the sponsor. I can't tell you the number of times that our sponsored children have written us of how they are praying for us or show care about our wellbeing. It is truly humbling. I consider them my "extended family" or my  "long-distance kids." They hold a special place in my heart.

While I am at it (plugging Compassion and child sponsorship and all..), I want to encourage any of you who might be curious or want more info, to check out the Compassion website (www.compassion.com) for lots more videos and information. You can find pictures of children from all over the world (or search a particular country, age child, or even a child born on your birthday) and begin a sponsorship right now - today! If you are local - I still have 6 beautiful children's info packets - kids who are waiting to still be sponsored by our church family.

That's it for today guys, Happy Compassion Sunday to you - I am happy to say that....

Join the Compassion Blogger Network

**UPDATE: By the end of the week, all 25 children had sponsors! AWESOME!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Guess what? Got a call today...

If you recall a few posts back, I ran through the long list of steps we still have til we meet our new daughter. We are now in the middle of those steps, waiting for one step after another (yes, most are known by initials) of the process in China. At this point we are L.I.D. which means our paperwork has been "logged in" to the adoption system in China.  The "D" stands for "date" which is today, October 9. Sometime during this step, all of our paperwork will be translated into Chinese in order to be ready for our future court date (I had incorrectly thought this was done before it went to China).

The next step is a long one - L.O.A. (Letter of Acceptance) -it can take from 2-4 months and most parents in the China adoption world actually count the days - you sorta kinda need to know your number of days til you receive the next step as you WILL be asked by someone at some point as they are going through or have gone through the process. Sorta like a childbirth labor story - the number of days you had to wait for your L.O.A. is just something you know (tho' knowing me I am likely to lose track). In the meantime, we will receive a bunch of paperwork in about a week - lots of official things to sign. I thought we got the actual referral papers at this point but we don't get that til we get the L.O.A. More immigration application forms will be filled out next week when we get them so they will be ready to send in once the L.O.A. arrives.

Once we have the LOA - and the LOC (the letter of confirmation that we will receive with that), we can send T a care package with our family pictures and gifts!

Praying hard for T's little heart for the time when she learns she will be leaving the home she has been in for so long. Praying too for an easy transition into our family. 
We are moving right along...

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Be a fly on the wall while we homeschool...

So what is homeschooling really like? What is a typical day at our house like? Well, join me as I ramble on about a typical day here...

6am - I am up to either read my Bible or one of my kindle books (I have about a hundred going at any one time), play on my phone, or exercise....Drew is up and about around 645 so we chat and I make him a sandwich to take to community college.

7am - wake the little girls, help them pick out clothes, make breakfast, pack their lunches, deal with endless fussing and arguing, brush out and condition hair, drive girls to school (used to take the bus each morning but I have found that since we live less than 3 minutes' drive to the school, it pays to let them sleep a bit later and drive them myself - if we are ready early, we will walk). John is up now and we get to visit for all of about 2 seconds, kiss, and say goodbye for the day.

745-9am - walk the dog, exercise if I haven't already (DVD or walk the neighborhood), make breakfasts, wake the other three, check email/facebook/blog, make the day's to-do list, start some laundry, have some strong tea.

9-1030am - Kate, Jack, Ben and I meet in the family room. I like to sit on the floor and each of the kids take one of the two sofas and one chair. Often the kids are still eating their breakfast, some might be in pajamas...(gotta love homeschooling!). We are studying Sonlight Curriculum's Core F - Study of the Eastern Hemisphere this year. I love Sonlight - which is a Christian (very missions focused), literature-rich - very thorough course of study - with almost too much packed in so we pick and choose what we do and it is still a lot. I chose this Core since it covers China and Africa which I thought would be appropriate for our family! (I love Asian studies/history). We will be covering many, many countries - we have been studying China so far which has been great (especially fun because of our future trip to meet a certain cute little Chinese daughter!).  I am supplementing our readings with movies and documentaries. On a typical morning, we would accomplish the following (Sonlight covers our history, geography, literature, Bible, and missions):

1. Read a Psalm and one chapter from John - discuss and answer questions.
2. Work on memory work (Psalm 91).
3. Watch the current movie for Sonlight Curriculum's current mission project and discuss. This year, Sonlight is partnering with the Far East Broadcasting Company to help provide radios to the unreached people groups throughout Asia with the Gospel. Today we watched a short movie about Bali - it's culture, religion, animals, etc. As a family, we are planning to help purchase several radios.
4. Read today's current country article from our World Book DVD (today was the Great Wall of China) - answer questions in workbook as a group.
5. Locate on the globe the locations mentioned in the article and any locations of current Sonlight books we are reading.
6. Readaloud book - currently we are reading two books - one about the first missionaries to China and the second is a novel about a boy living in China in the early 20th century as an apprentice coppersmith. Typically we will read aloud a chapter from each, answer questions, write up new vocabulary words. This year we will be reading over 45 books total (that includes those read aloud and those read on their own).
Sonlight's Core F - Study of Eastern Hemisphere

Around 10:30am we begin our individual work. Here is what might occur on a typical day:

Jack will go off to read the assigned chapter in our Sonlight reading book. This book will be shared by all of them throughout the day. Currently we are reading a book about an American child living in China in the 1940s. Ben will go to the basement to practice his music and then shower. Kate will meet with me. We will go over the prior day's work and together will put together her list (in an assignment book) of what I expect her to accomplish during the day. Along with her academic assignments, will be chores like cleaning her room, doing laundry, workout (she walks to our neighborhood exercise room some days to workout).

Her typical assignments are (10th gr):

1. Writing homework - she takes a college prep writing class at our local co-op. She has homework nearly daily as she has assignments and papers due each week.
2. Math lesson each day - she is doing Saxon Algebra and meets with John on Monday nights to go over the week's four lessons and to review areas of difficulty. Thank God for John!!!
3. Grammar - we are reviewing grammar using an Abeka grammar book - in preparation for the community college entrance exam.
4. Art - Kate is taking a high school studio art class at the local co-op. She has weekly homework and I have also just started another art workbook with her (she is a really gifted artist so I am trying to allow her extra time to draw).
5. Science - Kate is taking Physical Science (we did things a bit out of order - she did Biology last year). At the moment we haven't started as we are waiting to borrow a friend's DVD series. As soon as we get that she will start. We have all the Sonlight materials for the experiments as well.
6. Driver's ed - will be starting the online course shortly.
7. Chinese. Kate is quite good at languages and is currently teaching herself Chines (she wanted a switch from Spanish). At the moment she is watching a youtube video series called Chinese with Mike. They are hilarious videos made in Mike's garage - teaching about the history, culture, language and writing of Chinese. It's fascinating and entertaining and Kate is already teaching us things about Chinese and begging me to buy the Chinese Rosetta Stone program.
7. Literature reading - Kate will do the same assigned book that all three are reading with an additional classic book or another book of my choosing that goes along with our history studies - or even a current book that I have read and think she will like or find interesting. The main thing here is to just have a good book going at all times and to read daily. She will also have a few books to read for her writing class soon.
8. Chores.
9. Many days, when Kate is done she spends time creating something - sewing, painting her walls in her room, making magazine scrap mosaics (here's a photo of her first one), you never know what idea she has come up with.

Kate's collage made with ripped pieces of magazine pages.
Her latest project - hair bows to sell to help fund our adoption - "Ting's Hair Things"

After meeting with her - which takes about a half hour, she is on her own. She organizes her time, does things in the order she chooses and is typically done by mid-late afternoon (except on Mondays when she has "math class" with Dad after dinner).

After meeting with Kate, I move on to Ben (if Jack finishes his reading, he can get his shower). Ben and I meet to do much the same as Kate tho' we will spend more time on math and grammar as I teach new skills. We cover the following (6th gr):

1. Math - doing Saxon. We go over the last day's lesson as we correct it, answer any questions and then move on to the mental math part of the Saxon lesson. After that we read through the next lesson - cover and practice the new skills so he can do the lesson problems on his own later.
2. Grammar - using ABeka grammar book. I assign about 2 pages a day.
3. Spelling. We are working our way through Spelling Power. We are working through lists of words and reviewing those that he misses.
4. Writing - Ben and Jack will start an online creative writing class later this month. It is taught by the writing teacher from our co-op. Both boys will start taking her classes at co-op next year. We will listen to the class on line on Mondays and work on the handouts and writing assignments each day.
5. Music - Ben plays guitar, drums and a little piano. He is in the middle school youth band and has music to practice each week.
6. Science - Ben and Jack are sharing books and doing the Sonlight Science F  (Health, Medicine, and Human Anatomy). There are four different books and a workbook. They have reading and workbook assignments three days a week.
7. Reading - Ben is also reading the Sonlight assigned book each day (typically a chapter).
8. Chores.

(Ben takes art, gym, and chess at co-op - none of which have homework.)

Ben now has his list and heads off to do his work on his own. Of course, if any of the kids have questions or trouble they are welcome to come and find me!

It's about 1130am at this point. Jack comes to join me. He sees a tutor once a week so all of my language arts assignments come from there. We do the following on a typical day: (8th gr):

1. Math lesson. Using Teaching Textbooks but without the video portion this year. I found that the last two years he loved this video curriculum (as much as one can love math), but NEVER wrote much down so we are doing the curriculum in the book only this year.
2. Language arts - provided by tutor - today we did word study (reading long word lists, dictation of words in like groups, and sentences), worksheets on pronouns, reading comprehension packet, reading and taking notes on a chapter of The Hobbit in preparation for an upcoming paper.
3. Writing - Jack will soon start the creative writing program with Ben.
4. Science - same as Ben
5. Reading - same as Ben
6. Art - he's also taking a studio art class and has homework each week.
7. Chores.

(Jack also takes chess and yearbook at the co-op but neither have homework).

This all takes us to about noon or a bit after. We all break for lunch and then the kids get right to work on their own - seeking me out if necessary. I have a bit of free time now for a exercise (if I didn't do it before), shower (thank goodness, right?), laundry, phone calls, cleanup. About once a week we do a movie time at 1:30pm. Today, for example, we watched a History Channel documentary on the Great Wall of China.

At 240pm my little darlings arrive home on the bus. I spend about an hour at the kitchen table with the girls - eating snacks, reading, homework, Bible verses - and then on to the couch for a chapter in our current book (can't help doing a little "homeschooling" with them). The three big kids are typically wrapping up their work by around 3ish - sometimes a bit longer.

SCHOOL is OVER....and we are off to - play board games, ride bikes, play in the yard, visit the neighborhood park, run errands, soccer practice,  ice cream run, kung-fu class, youth group... and of course, make a fabulous home-cooked meal for the family...

Jemila at soccer practice in the background.

Drew arrives home around 530pm with John and will work most of the evening til late at night at the dining room table - with occasional calculus assistance from John, or paper editing suggestions from me.

Then there are the different days like - Mondays when we try to have a family evening time - dinner and a family meeting/devotion followed by math class - Tuesdays with tutoring and co-op classes instead of our usual schedule - Thursdays when I am attending a women's am Bible study at church. On Thursdays, the kids do things in opposite order (individual work in the am while I am gone, working together with me in the pm). Drew is home doing his work all day at the dining room table on Tuesdays and Thursdays. When the girls are out of school for the day, then all bets are off. It is hard to do school at best, so we just shoot for accomplishing the most essential subjects (math, reading, language arts).  There are days, and even weeks, that require that we re-work our schedule. Flexibility is key - especially on days when several are going to the dentist, dr, or orthodontist. Many days run so smoothly, I can't believe how awesome it all is...some days...well, not so much! lol

So, there ya have it...phew...

Monday, October 1, 2012

Some blog reflections...

HI peeps...I have been reflecting a bit on this blog lately. Why am I writing it? Well, I can't seem to even begin to get into scrapbooking again (oops, wait - I sold most of my stuff), and it is a fun way to keep up with the busy and sometimes ridiculous hilarious interesting happenings with our gang. 

I have been so surprised that many of you are reading and even sharing our blog. Thanks for stopping back again and again. I am excited that you care to follow our adoption and that you have enjoyed reading about our wacky family (and my random thoughts!).

I remember reading a while back that if you want to have a large blog "following," you need to have a niche - something that people can take away - something they can learn or a specific hobby, craft, style, etc.  Since I never set out to have a "following," I haven't really cared about that.
But I am finding that I really want to branch out from just family/adoption news and happenings. Although I could write about some of my interests and current lifestyle things like homeschooling, budgeting for a large family, knitting, crafting, Weight Watchers....I sorta don't want to have to have that be my blog's niche. While I probably will, from time to time, write about these things, it just seems like too much work to have to "choose" one or two of those topics to always focus on and have to keep up with new ideas/patterns/recipes etc.  

So instead, what is my heart passionate about?? 

I have found that lately I have wanted to share my faith - what I believe, why, and why I so much want you all to know Jesus like I do - to know that He loves you and died for you and promises to be with you in all your joys and trials.

 As you must know by now, I have become passionate about orphans - I want people to be aware of the enormity of the issue and want people to know about how others are helping and how they can help. I want to challenge YOU to help in some way.

Over the years as I researched adoption, I have gotten to "know," thru the internet and our Ethiopian adoption, a number of truly amazing families who have done some pretty awesome things in the world of adoption - one family who has adopted 20+ children, another adoptive family who sold everything to go run an orphanage in a country no longer open to international adoption, another woman who was so impacted from her adoption experience that she now single-handedly runs a very popular blog where she fundraises for families and shouts advocates for special needs orphans.

My plan is to highlight some of these amazing people, link their blogs, share their stories. I hope to do a little advocating too of some of the beautiful children that are waiting...just waiting and wishing and hoping that they will be "picked." So be looking for some posts with info about adoption, photos of the beautiful children, and what others are doing to serve in the area of adoption and orphans.  WE are GOD'S solution to the orphan problem. Yes!

The other thing I am passionate about is child sponsorship. For exactly half of my life (exactly), I have - and now my family has - sponsored children. We have, over the course of the years, sponsored 9 children through various organizations. As the years have gone by, we have found that aside from feeding and clothing and educating our sponsored kiddos, we have wanted to make sure that our money was providing the most important gift to our sponsored children - the gift of the Bible and knowledge and teaching of Jesus. That is what led us to Compassion International. 

Among Compassion's several initiatives to address the needs of the poor in third world countries, their sponsorships (and actually all of their programs) are carried out by local churches. The food, education, aid, etc. is given in the name of Jesus (not the government or some social group). This is important to us. The children (and by association, their families) get plugged into a church where they receive programs, Bible instruction, aid, and the love of Christ.

A few years ago, I signed up to be a child advocate (not anything too big mind you - just enables me to set up sponsorship tables at concerts, events). I have done it a few times and it has been exciting to me when a new person takes on a sponsorship - I know how this one decision and commitment will impact this child forever.

Join the Compassion Blogger Network
So, from time to time, whenever you see this icon, I will be "blogging for Compassion." That post will be highlighting something about Compassion International, child sponsorship, our sponsored kids (we currently have 5), or the needs we can fill to serve and minister to those children living in poverty around the world.

Compassion Sunday 2012If you are local, you will get a chance to hear a bit more about Compassion and the wonderful sponsorship program - in 2 weeks our church is sponsoring a "Compassion Sunday" - I will be sharing a video, some of my experience as a sponsor, and will have a display table with info/photos of children just waiting for you to say "Yes- I will sponsor you!!"

Well...this was a wordy post...ya still with me??? Off to bed now - it's been a long and busy day and tomorrow promises to be the same.

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