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The Salamander Room

On: Sunday, August 31, 2014

I researched quite a bit before choosing our curriculum for school. There is so much available and it seems like every family chooses something different. We are mainly using Sonlight this year, but I am stretching out the history and science portion over the next two years so that Calla can keep up with the content and I can school them together for those subjects. I was a little nervous about what this would look like, but I am enjoying it because it's allowed me to expand on the kids' interests. I've basically been taking a topic from our week of Sonlight and choosing a book from Five in a Row and "rowing" that book for several days. It's been so fun to combine these two curriculums.

Since my kids were really into frogs/amphibians, we rowed The Salamander Room this past week. Such a cute book!
In the book, a little boy finds a salamander in the woods, brings him home, and dreams about turning his room into a perfect home for the salamander. After reading the book, the kids helped me make a list of all the things a salamander needs to live. After compiling our list, we put together our own salamander room. Katee loves to sit and play with this scene.

We talked through the lifecycle of a salamander. Above is Calla's journal drawing. It made me smile.

For their sensory tub, we reviewed the frog's lifecycle. The tub was filled with water beads, foam lily pads, and toy frogs in different stages (eggs, tadpole, froglet, frog).

The highlight was probably the principal (aka Daddy) teaching art one evening: we made clay salamanders!

The kids are pretty proud of these. ;)

We did a little nature hunt/hike one morning and played in the river that evening. It was a fun-filled week of learning together!

As we have adjusted to homeschooling the past 3.5 weeks, I have felt even more lacking in the housekeeping department. Homeschooling can be messy. And did I mention it's time consuming? ;) Thankfully, Mr. Principal called a family meeting and we implemented a chore chart system (as well as a no-wrestling-during-the-day policy! ha!).

This has honestly relieved so much stress! I don't know why I didn't do something like this earlier. I guess I thought since I was the mom that I needed to "do it all". Other times I'd think, "It's easier/faster to just do it myself." It's been so helpful to hand off several of these daily responsibilities and the kids have responded very positively. I basically give them 3-4 jobs each day. Some jobs are competed after every meal, some jobs rotate between kids, and some stay the same each day. It's really been a good thing to share the responsibility around the home. My kitchen table and floor has never been cleaner... and the kids are learning life skills at the same time. ;)

(For those who are curious, I downloaded the cards many months ago when they were offered as a free download. You can purchase them here.)

Breezy Acres Academy

On: Wednesday, August 20, 2014

We have had a really great summer! (Well, minus the few weeks we were plagued with hand foot and mouth disease--I'm still losing several finger nails from that terrible ordeal!) We enjoyed a week in Colorado with great friends, soccer camp, swimming lessons, extended weekend in Branson with my family, mornings at the lake, fun with friends, BBQs, etc. Someday I might blog about our summer, but today I have to document Ori starting Kindergarten. Such a big milestone for our boy.

We decided to homeschool Ori for Kindergarten. Today marks 2 weeks in already and it has been so much fun! He is thriving, asking many questions, and talking Daddy's ear off each evening about what he learned in school. Honestly, he makes homeschooling very easy (although a certain emotional three year old can make it challenging at times. ha!).

The girls are tagging along for most of what we are doing, and I am also adding in preschool activities for them. We are using Sonlight Core A for Kindergarten; it's literature based program and since my girls LOVE to be read to, it is working out quite nicely to keep them all together. (I knew there would be a pay off somewhere to having three children all 14 months apart. ;) )

Here is a glimpse into the first two weeks of school at Breezy Acres Academy:
Fingerpainting letter "F" for preschool while Ori learned how to write "F" correctly.

For history, we read about dinosaurs and then I sent the kids on a dinosaur dig.

They dug up the dinosaur skulls, brushed off the sand with a paintbrush, and matched the skull to the proper dinosaur fact card.

Dinosaur toss!

After learning about dinosaurs, we shifted our focus to learning how people lived long ago. Long ago, people made boats by stretching skins over a round wooden frame. This boat was called a coracle. The kids made a model coracle out of pipe cleaners and plastic bags . . . they were thrilled to watch their boats float around the pool.

We also built a shelter, as the early people did not live in one place all year, but built shelters from branches in the summer and lived in caves in the winter.

We have been learning about the different seasons in science. The kids did this series of paintings representing the four seasons. I love how they turned out!

The Lego rainbow was a hit as well (after reading about how a rainbow is formed).

We've also been learning about tadpoles and frogs. Ori can hardly contain his excitement when we get to work on our frog books. The boy loves frogs. When a zoo employee asked him what his favorite animal was at the zoo, his answer was, "The frogs!"

Another favorite science activity was creating a model of the earth out of Rice Krispies. DELICIOUS. The test to be able to eat your treat? Tell Mommy the layers of the earth: crust, mantle, core.

I think I'll stop with that, although I could share so much more. ;)  I am LOVING the conversations that come up throughout our days together as everything points to Christ. Homeschooling is a lot of work, but it has given intentionality to our days and I have been reminded how much I love to teach. We are excited to continue on this journey!

AMC Awareness Day: June 30, 2014

On: Monday, June 30, 2014

Today is arthrogryposis multiplex congenita (AMC) awareness day. Many of you know that AMC is the rare condition sweet Katee was born with. Before Katee's referral, I had never heard of AMC and was clueless as to what it was. In fact, I found the word pretty scary.

In honor of AMC awareness day, I thought I would share a few facts about arthrogryposis in hopes that your eyes would be opened to this condition and that you would see how incredible these kids truly are (especially if you are considering adoption!).

Arthrogyrposis means "multiple joint contractures present at birth". This condition causes some of Katee's joints to be contracted, or stiff and lacking normal range of motion. AMC only occurs in 1 out of every 300,000 births and is caused by an unborn baby not moving properly during fetal development.

Common joint contractures include clubbed feet, extended or flexed knees, dislocated hips, internally rotated shoulders, extended or flexed elbows, flexed wrists, and fingers fisted or extended.

Arthrogryposis is not progressive, meaning that it is as severe as it's going to get at birth. However, it is regressive in nature. This means that even after effective treatment, the contractures can re-occur. For example, Katee's feet will most likely go back into a clubbed position during a major growth spurt and we will need to cast them again in the future. Post-treatment bracing is important to prevent relapse, but even strict bracing cannot stop all relapses.

Arthrogyrposis can cause height and weight deficits. Children with AMC tend to be on the low end of the growth charts for weight (or in Katee's case, not on the chart at all!). As adults, they tend to be 4-8 inches shorter than familial height and weigh 10-20 pounds less than their peers.

While there is no cure for AMC, many people with arthrogyrposis will walk, but some will need a wheelchair for effective mobility. Those who walk may need braces or walkers/crutches.

Most children with AMC grow up to be independent and successful adults. I am already amazed by how Katee figures out ways to do things and get around.

We are so glad she is ours!!

To learn more about AMC:

Life givers. Life nurturers.

On: Sunday, May 11, 2014

Women are life givers. Life Nurturers. Those words describe the essence of motherhood.

As I read through the first 10 verses of Exodus 2 earlier this week, tears welled in my eyes. I clearly pictured women all over the world who are forced to make hard decisions regarding their children--Katee's birth mama included.

Pharaoh had ordered all the newborn Hebrew baby boys to be thrown into the Nile because he feared the Israelites would fight against them if war broke out. The passage tells of a woman who gave birth to a son. She lovingly hid him for three months, but then could not hide him any longer. She knew if she kept the child, he would die. However, if she made a basket and placed him in the Nile River, at least she wouldn't have to watch him die. And maybe, just maybe, he would be saved. I can't imagine the pain this birth mother experienced when she said goodbye to her beautiful baby boy and placed him in that basket. And then . . . God showed His mighty power. He had plans for this child that even Pharaoh's death orders could not thwart.

The baby was drawn out of the water by Pharaoh's daughter, who named him Moses. Moses's sister, who had been watching, offered to find a woman to nurse the baby. She found her mother (of course!) who was blessed to nurse her own baby for a season before taking him to Pharaoh's daughter for adoption.

The circumstances surrounding Moeses' birth were filled with loss and pain, and yet His adoption story is a perfect picture of the redemptive work our Heavenly Father does.

Just like Pharaoh's daughter saw the baby crying in the basket, about to drown, and in need of salvation, our Heavenly Father sees us lost in our own ways and in need of a Savior.

Just like Pharaoh's daughter rescued Moses from death, God sent Jesus to rescue us from death through the cross and resurrection.

Both stories end in adoption. It's redemption. Beauty in brokenness.

I am forever thankful that I am Katee's forever mama. God created us to be nurtured in loving families. However, on days like today (Mother's Day), I cannot help but hurt for Katee's first mom who could not keep her, yet gave her life. (I pictured her so well when I read that passage in Exodus and it tore at my heart.)

God is a protector and defender. Yes, he hears the cries of the weak and hurting children across the globe; they are not forgotten! But don't forget that He also hears the cries of the birth mothers who (for various reasons) could not raise their babies and carry that pain. And most importantly, don't forget that our powerful and faithful God promises to make all things--even the most difficult and trying--work for the good of those who love him.

I love having a front row seat to see healing take place in Katee's heart as she is grafted into our family. Her birth mom was her life giver, and I am honored to be her life nurturer.

God truly used Show Hope to draw Katee out of the water and give hope. It was through a partnership with them that Katee received amazing care at New Hope Healing Home in China. Show Hope also helped us financially so that we could afford to adopt. I encourage you to pray about sponsoring a child through Show Hope this Mother's Day. It's a gift that will transform a life and hopefully enable a child to enter a forever family.

It's a way to be a life giver. A life nurturer. 

Easter 2014

On: Saturday, May 3, 2014

With our trip to St. Louis falling during Easter weekend, Easter celebrations continued into this week. We spent Easter evening with Ian's family and the following Sunday afternoon/evening at my mom's house. It was quite the windy day, yet the cousins managed to have a splendid time hunting for their Easter eggs.

Well, minus Katee who was having a grumpy day. If you ask her about the Easter egg hunt she will say with a scowl, "The wind just knocked me down 1-2-3-4 times!! I don't like wind!" Poor girl . . . but her prizes/candy were worth it!

We finished Matthew in Bible Study Fellowship on Wednesday. The lesson was about the resurrection, so we spent Tuesday evening making Resurrection Cookies and discussing the truths of Jesus' death. Each ingredient told part of the story. The kids put the cookies in the oven, taped the oven door shut, and went to bed.

They could not wait to check the oven in the morning and see the surprise! The cookies were hollow inside, just like Jesus' tomb was found empty.

We celebrated that Jesus is alive by eating cookies for breakfast before Bible study and reading about the resurrection. It was a very special morning. :)

We are thankful that Jesus conquered death and allowed a way for us to be free from sin and reconciled to our Heavenly Father. Because of Him, we have hope!

St. Louis

On: Wednesday, April 23, 2014

This past weekend we took a road trip to St. Louis so Katee could be seen at the arthrogryposis clinic at Shriner's Hospital for Children.

We left on Thursday and took our time getting there, enjoying stops/time together along the way.

Shriners had us stay at Haven House St. Louis and we LOVED our time there. I highly recommend it for medical families traveling to St. Louis. The staff is so friendly and we all had lots of fun playing in the gym and playroom. It was also nice to connect with other families seeking medical assistance for their children--it creates an automatic bond.

We spent over 3 hours Friday morning at the hospital. Katee was thoroughly evaluated by a team of doctors and therapists. Lots of x-rays and measurements were taken, and we learned new ways to stretch her joints. All the doctors and therapists said she was doing great and that we are on the right track with her care. So great to hear! Our main purpose for this trip was to  seek a second opinion before proceeding with Katee's hip surgery. The surgery described (along with the risks and outcomes) was the same as what our current orthopedic doctor suggested. Arhtrogryposis hips are tricky compared to regular hip dysplasia and the surgery will be difficult . . .but it looks like we need to do it in the next 6 months. While we didn't learn a lot of new information, we felt the trip to the arthrogryposis clinic was worth our time.

After lunch and brief naps we headed out to see the St. Louis Arch!

It was absolutely beautiful.
Katee called it a "rainbow"; and, if you know her, you know that rainbows are her favorite. ;) (and aren't my boys cute??!)

 And the best part?
My friend, Tera, who I met online through adoption, drove from Indiana to meet us that afternoon!! She was just as sweet and genuine as I thought she would be and we had a great time together. Tera has been such an encouragement to me through our process of bringing Katee home. I emailed her a lot during our process and she encouraged me and answered my questions and pointed me to Jesus through it all.

Our kids hit it off right away, which was an added bonus.

Tera's older two girls took great care of Katee the entire weekend and Katee loved their attention.

Our Chinese princesses were a little unsure of each other, but they did have a cute conversation regarding their next birthday parities. I loved seeing our girls together! Pure sweetness.

I think my kids liked playing in the fountains best. I kinda did too. ;)

I was so impressed with Katee's endurance on this trip. She walked. And walked. And walked. It wasn't all that long ago when she could only walk (with a walker) about 10 feet before tiring. Such progress!

We went to the zoo the next morning, had lunch, said goodbye to our new friends, and headed home. I'm thankful we had this time together as a family and also thankful for friendships deepened.