slide show

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Her Story

I returned from the Created 4 Care retreat late Sunday night. Wow, my head is spinning with all of the information I took in. I still have a lot to sort out, but one theme that really stuck with me is telling Sunshineʼs story in a way that is respectful and considerate to her. Telling it in a way that is sensitive to her perspective and honors her past. Why had I never given this the thought it deserved? This breakout session really made me think, and Iʼm hoping a post about it might help others too.

Iʼve already messed this up, so I want to do my best to get it right going forward. Itʼs her story. Not my story, but her story. Iʼve always been open to sharing about her referral and what we know about her time in China because I think the details are beautiful. I think the way God weaved her into our family is gorgeous and should be shared. I also want to help other adoptive mamas to understand the adoption process, and I foolishly thought telling her story would do that.

What I didnʼt think about was how sharing those details might make her feel in the future. I didnʼt think about how she might not see those details the same way I do. How the way I shared might undermine the beauty of her being my daughter and make her feel like less than the amazing little person she is. As her mama, that is surely the last thing Iʼd ever want her to feel. I cringe as I think about how easily I have talked about her story. No, I fortunately have not shared the most intimate details. I am thankful I had enough forethought to not do that. But, the details of her time in China, no matter how small, before she came home to us, as well as how she came to us, are hers, not mine or even our family’s.

Even though she is still too young to understand and truly grasp what happened, her story is still her story. I didnʼt think about the fact that sharing would be taking away her ability to tell her own story when she is ready. I didnʼt think about how insensitive it was for me to tell her story without her consent. I didnʼt think about how she might want me to answer questions about her past. I didn’t think that she might prefer to be simply “my daughter,” instead of “my daughter who was adopted from China.” Why didn’t I think about any of this?

Long hours of traveling home gave me long hours to wrestle with all of this. For the first time, I’ve been confronted with my insensitivity. And, it wasn’t easy. In some ways, I feel like I let her down. I owe my daughter an apology and need to ask her for forgiveness as I promise her to put forth my best effort to get it right from now on. I will be more guarded with the details of her past. Because they are the details that make up her past, not mine. She is her own person and deserves to share the way she wants to when she is ready. I want to empower her by giving her the words she needs to share for herself. We will help her learn to tell her own story through books, conversations, and the use of a Life Book so that she can share if she wants to. And if she doesnʼt want to share? Well thatʼs perfectly fine too. Because itʼs her decision, not mine.

(Shared at Death by Great Wall)

Monday, January 28, 2013

Created 4 Care 2013

Too many thoughts are swarming around in my head to make a comprehendible post, but I had an amazing time at C4C again this year.  450 of my adoptive mama friends all together to support each other and worship our Heavenly Father.  Yes, it was beautiful. 

Here are the blog posts from Created 4 Care 2012: HERE and HERE.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

"Even the sparrow has found a home ..."

Packing up and getting ready to road-trip it to Atlanta with my sweet friend, Angie for the Created 4 Care Retreat.  We'll be in good company with 450 adoptive mamas who have hearts for Jesus, adoption, and each other.  I cannot wait to see some of my favorite friends there and also meet all the new faces.  I'll be there representing Red Thread Sessions this time around.  So if you're gonna be at the retreat this weekend too, you had better stop by our table and say hello so I can wrap my arms around your neck!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Lovebug has been obsessed ever since he got his 3DS for Christmas.  Fortunately he has a like-minded friend and they are both willing to sit and watch the other one play.

This was f/1.4, ISO16,000, SS1/125.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

This is what I call ...

... homeschool paradise ... everyone working independently without complaint.  Now where's my coffee?

The Homeschool Helper App

I recently stumbled upon an iPad app that is going to change the way I organize our homeschool, and I thought other homeschooling mamas might be interested in reading about it too.  I have been using a paper system for planning that works, but I don't love it and had already been thinking about how to change it for next year.  For planning, I'm more of a write-it-down mom instead of digital ... but when I saw this app, it sounded so perfect and was only $4.99, so I wanted to give it a try.  I suppose that is expensive for an app, but for all that it does, I promise it's a steal!

It's called the Homeschool Helper, and it does everything!  Literally.  You can add all of your children separately and pre-plan the year by entering in lessons for each school subject, checking them off as you complete each one.  You organize the subjects however you prefer - it's very intuitive but also allows enough freedom to organize the way that works best for you.  You can keep track of attendance AND grades, it's wonderful.  I love that it automatically tracks grades for me because ... although I have to teach math, I don't like it much :-)  You can also keep track of the time used for schooling if needed.

You can create task lists, keep track of upcoming field trips, and also run several different types of reports (including report cards).  You can run a list of lessons to be completed for the day, which I really like because I can check them off as completed while we go about our day.  There's nothing like checking through a to-do list, right?  This list could also be emailed and then printed - I haven't done that yet but I am tossing around that idea to use for Angel so she can work independently.

I absolutely love this app.  It created more work for me temporarily because I went back through the school year and entered in all the lessons and grades, but I am all caught up now :-)  Homeschool Helper is awesome ... it was developed by a fellow homeschooler and is going to make my life so much easier!  Yay for easy!  If you are a homeschooling mama and looking for a fantastic way to organize your planning and grading, go check this out on Facebook!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Adoption Fundraising and a GIVEAWAY

I have always been inspired by the mompreneurs that use their businesses to help adoptive families bring their children home through fundraising.  After journeying through the international adoption process to bring Sunshine home, I know all too well how quickly the fees can add up! But I do truly believe that when a family steps out in faith and says “YES,” that God will provide the way for them, whether that be financially or by filling some other earthly need.

Fundraising is a wonderful option that I know many adoptive families utilize to help defray the financial burden.  There are many businesses willing to donate toward this very worthy cause. The nature of my business has made offering adoption fundraising a bit difficult because my clients are local and in a limited niche, but I’ve constantly had the wheels spinning trying to come up with something. Although I enjoy giving back in other ways, I’ve just felt that helping families fundraise for their adoptions was something I really wanted to do too.

So last November when I added an online version of my beginner photography workshop to reach moms all across the U.S., the fundraising idea came to me. I am so thrilled to be announcing a new fundraising opportunity for adoptive families through the SHOOT MY KIDS! Workshop! During the workshop, I teach moms how to use their digital SLR cameras to take better pictures of their children. By learning how to adjust the settings on their camera to get a proper exposure, moms also learn how to creatively capture every day ordinary life to show its true beauty. During the three-hour workshop, I also give lots of photography tips and we take some time to discuss equipment and lenses. I have gotten a lot of positive feedback about the workshop, and am eagerly anticipating how God will use the adoption fundraising program!

All the program details are on the website, but the idea is simple: fundraising families will receive $25 toward their adoption fees for every mom who they refer that attends a workshop. The fundraiser can last for the duration of a family’s adoption journey if they desire, and there is no limit on the number of referrals they can receive a fundraising credit for. The fundraising program is applicable to online workshops for moms across the U.S., and in-person workshops for local moms.

It’s my prayer that, in some small way, I can help make adoption a bit more feasible for families and ultimately be a small part in helping more orphans find their families. If you are in the adoption process and are looking for unique fundraising options, I’d be honored to partner with you through the fundraising program. If you know a family who might be blessed by the fundraising program, will you please pass the information along to them? I would be delighted to schedule more workshop dates if it means that more orphans are finding their way home!

And lastly, if you’d like to earn a chance to win a FREE seat at one of the upcoming workshops, all you need to do is write about the workshop on your blog in a separate blog post, include the html code for the workshop (provided below), and then add the link to your blog post below. I am keeping the giveaway open for a MONTH to give everyone time to get their blog posts written and submitted ... I’m hoping this will help share the program with many other readers! The winner will be drawn on February 20, 2013. Please let me know if you have questions!

Friday, January 18, 2013


Homeschooling is never dull, I can definitely say that.  This is what my goofball was "practicing" this morning after his letter work was done.  Love this little man!

I broke down and bough the 50mm f/1.4 a few days ago ... this is my first shot with it.  I don't typically shoot at f/1.4 but I adore it!  Although I would definitely still recommend the 50mm f/1.8 to others, the f/1.4 is more accurate with focus and is faster.  It was absolutely a good $350 investment!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

CC'ing it through the iPhone

I see so many precious moments at our Classical Conversations community day on Mondays.  But I don't ever bring my good camera with me, so I've been trying to utilize the iPhone a bit more.  Here are a few iPhone shots from our most recent days in Lovebug's class ... egg painting, learning about the artist Ghiberti, making a foil relief, re-creating the Earth's layers with playdoh, and pretending to be asleep :-)  Oh they are so stinkin' cute!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Smarty pants

So what do you do when you've finished your school work and are waiting on mom to finish up a lesson with your brother?  Why, read the dictionary of course ... don't you do that in your spare time?  Uncle Tommy, your Words With Friends opponent is becoming stronger by the page :-)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Red Thread Sessions 2012 Adoptive Families

I am so honored to have helped found an organization of photographers that gives back to adoptive families.  It has been so thrilling and inspiring to see over 450 professional photographers across the U.S. selflessly volunteer their time with Red Thread Sessions over this past year.  There is so much talent among our photographers, oh what a blessing they have been to us and to adoptive families throughout the nation!  I think our launch year has been much more successful than any of us would have ever dreamed.  After working our way through it with lots of trial and error, it will be even more exciting to see Red Thread Sessions continue to blossom and reach more people.  I am so grateful to call this "my baby" and am so incredibly hopeful to see what the future holds!

As we celebrate our one year anniversary, please help me in congratulating the Red Thread Sessions 2012 Adoptive Families, there were over 100!  I put this slideshow together for the upcoming Created 4 Care retreat, and absolutely adore it.  It is easy to see LOVE in these images, oh it makes my heart sing!  Thank you for your support!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Not letting go

This girl loves her Daddy.  Adores him.  It's an ever-developing relationship that was slower to form, but ohhhh she is smitten.  She still prefers me when I'm around (especially for bedtime), but she cannot get enough of her Daddy.  Took her awhile, but she finally figured out how fun he is, and I'm pretty certain she's not letting go anytime soon.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Homeschool {CC Week 13 in Review}

This was our first homeschool week back after Christmas and New Year.  It was great to have two weeks off, but now that the homeschool planning for the rest of the year is done, I am ready to get going again!  This week, we were learning about the Earth's layers in science ... we had some fun with jello to represent the layers ...

And then we also created a layered playdoh Earth - this was Angel's favorite!

We created sock "monkeys" (I put that in quotes because I know neither one really resemble monkeys, but oh they had fun!) to "trade" just as the Kush traded real monkeys with the Egyptians in ancient times.

We played with measurement equivalents for math too - Angel had a lot of fun doing that.

And I just had to throw in one of Sunshine - she got to play along with most of our activities as well.

And of course, there was also the "boring" work, as Angel calls it ... but we are moving right along and back into the swing of things.  I am giving my BEST effort to get our Bible studies back into the schedule ... we did 2 this week, so I'll count that a victory considering where we were before break.  It was an awesome first week back ... we have so many fun and exciting learning opportunities awaiting us in the next few months also!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Prepping, CC style

One of the things I love about Classical Conversations is that the kids prepare weekly presentations for their classes.  There is a different topic each week, and they only present for about 3 minutes, but it's great pubic-speaking practice.  Even the 4-5 year olds do it.

Angel's presentations are much more thought-out and practiced, while Lovebug is given more free reign to just talk without any big plan.  Each week, we practice presentations in the family room (usually Sunday night).  During practice on this day, Sunshine decided it was high time for her to be preparing her presentation too ... oh it was a precious sight.  I have no idea what she said, but she pulled out books and was quite animated ... her topic was very serious and clearly needed to be told!  I'm looking forward to more of this ... a public speaker in the making!

Beyond Ordinary {A Review}

What a great book Beyond Ordinary was.  It is written by Justin and Trisha Davis, of RefineUs, in a he said/she said format about what it takes to have the extraordinary marriage the God intended for us.  They use their own experiences of living an ordinary marriage for years to help others transform their own relationships.  They not only share truthfully about issues that all marriages go through and how to overcome them, but also share about how they worked through and overcame the ultimate betrayal in any marriage.

It was a perfect reminder that an extraordinary marriage does not come easily.  It requires prayer, intentionality, love, honesty, sacrifice, forgiveness, a strong oneness with God and with your spouse, and so much more!   Living an extraordinary marriage requires time and energy.  It sounds easy enough, but thinking about living this way versus actually living this way are two different things.  An "ordinary" marriage can be easily slipped into, over time.  It's unintentional and happens as spouses slowly drift away ... stop fighting for each other ... stop pursuing each other.  A slow fade.  It's something we can all identify with at certain times in our marriage.  But this is the last thing that most spouses want, and it certainly isn't what God intends for our marriage either.

"God is fighting for you right now.  God is fighting for your heart.  God is fighting for your husband.  God is fighting for your wife.  God's vision for your marriage is extraordinary!  Don't stop fighting.  Don't stop pursuing.  Don't stop sharing the truth.  Don't stop forgiving.  Don't stop praying.  Don't lose hope.  The vision you had when you said 'I do' isn't nearly as extraordinary as God's vision for your marriage. ... God's vision for your marriage is oneness.  It is possible, but it has to be intentional.  You have to choose it, day after day, moment after moment.  One step at a time."

Justin and Trisha Davis' book is a beautiful story about love, grace, forgiveness, and redemption.  I enjoyed it on so many levels, but also really liked that I was able to identify with both of them at different times throughout the book.  They hit on just about every issue that could come up in a marriage and also thoroughly discuss how to overcome those problems.  It's a book that all people can learn from, whether married or not.  Even spouses living an extraordinary marriage will be happy they read this book.  It's a reminder that the oneness God designed for your marriage is a choice that is most definitely worth fighting for.

BeyondOrdinary from RefineUs Ministries on Vimeo.

(I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Her first vist

To Chuck E Cheese, that is.  She had a blast, along with the older kids.  I had an unusual Saturday morning yesterday without a newborn session, so we took advantage to do something FUN.  While DH hung with Angel and Lovebug, I followed Sunshine around with the little tokens as she motioned to which games she wanted to play.  She thought it was the greatest thing to be able to put the tokens into the machines and watch them light up.  She'd bang on them for a few seconds, lose interest, and then move onto the the next one.  She did stick with this little swing thing for several turns, but mostly, she toddled around from one game to the next, in complete bliss ... a huge smile plastered to her face.  It was awesome.

I wasn't able to grab any shots of the older kids because I pretty much stuck with Sunshine.  But I can promise, Angel and Lovebug adored every second of it too.  And because this was Sunshine's first visit to Chuck E Cheese, you can probably calculate how little we actually go there ... so it was definitely a treat for everyone!  Yay for a free Saturday morning!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

My daughter, the photographer

Angel was bored yesterday, so I suggested we play "photographer" ... she was thrilled when I pulled out MY camera to give her.  LOL.  I popped the 50mm 1.8 on the MarkII and she was in 7th heaven.  She pulled up props out of the basement and was totally in her glory telling the other kids (and me) where to sit and how to pose.  I set the camera and only helped her a bit to try to maximize the window light.  She snapped a couple hundred images, but this was one of my favorites.  Me with two of my babes.  Everyone smiling at the camera and in focus ... at f/1.8 ... pretty impressive if you ask me!

Thursday, January 3, 2013


A sleeping babe has got to be one of the most precious sights for a mama ... total bliss.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Homeschool Planning

I am in the thick of planning the last half of our homeschool year.  I honestly can't even believe that the first half is already over, I don't know where the time has gone!  I've had a chance to reflect over those first few months though and make some changes/add more things in.  I am really super-duper excited about what we're doing in the next several months.

One of the main differences is that I am actually planning ahead ... not just a few days ahead like before but months ahead.  Some of the planning is just a matter of opening up to the next pages in the book (Math, some of the English, etc.), but the really cool stuff requires more forethought.  I'm completely finished planning through the middle of March right now, so I'm a little more than halfway there.  I've been able to do lots of research and plan even more fun and educational activities to tie into our memory work at CC ... mostly relating to our history, science and art work.  I'll be finishing up the rest of the year's plan by the end of this week and there are so many awesome projects I cannot wait to work on with the kids!  I also purchased the Primer curriculum from Math U See for Lovebug ... I am interested to compare it to the teaching style of Math Mammoth.

I also bought tickets to several cultural events - we'll be seeing the Peking Chinese Acrobats, a live performance of The Wizard of Oz, a symphony rendition of Peter and the Wolf, a fun and energetic "Math Maniac" performance and Jabali African dancers. My mom is going with us too, so I'm even more happy about sharing these events with her!

We also just signed up for a local athletic club that has TONS of kid activities ... they'll finally be doing swim lessons and Lovebug will be taking Tae Kwon Do after that.  They have a free homeschool group class a couple times a week that teaches sports and also give the kids free time to socialize and hang out.  And in the event that Sunshine gets comfortable enough to be left in the kid area, I can work out and take yoga classes or pilates classes ... oh the possibilities are endless!  Mostly we joined for the kids, but I'm excited about the prospect of eventually getting some "me" time too!

So in a nutshell, we have several nice additions to the last half of the homeschool year that I am so thrilled about!  I've been pinteresting like a maniac and filling in lots of dates on the calendar.  Eeeeek!  There's nothing like being excited over your homeschooling plan, lemme tell ya.  I'm starting to get the hang of the homeschooling mom thing and I gotta say, I totally dig it.

Exploding things

Lovebug got one of those exploding volcanoes in a box for Christmas ... all of the kids quite enjoyed it, despite Angel's face.  Sunshine got upset when I said it was time to clean up.  I have a feeling our studies on volcanoes later this school year will be very exciting for them ... we start back next week!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Ringing in the New Year

This was the first time the kids stayed up to watch the ball drop.  So. Much. Fun.  Sunshine didn't make it, but it was awesome to watch the older two experience New Year's Eve for the first time.  Some of our dear friends from church celebrated with us and it just made the night so sweet!  Of course not going to bed until 3am will take it's toll on us parents, but oh my goodness what a wonderful night we had!  We feel so blessed to have found such good friends and kindred spirits in the E. Family.  The kids get along swimmingly and it sure helps that the parents feel mutual too :-)

It was an awesome celebration and I gotta say ... I am super excited for all that's in store for us in 2013.  So many blessings and so many things to be thankful for.  God is good!  Happy New Year to all of my bloggy friends!