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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Ripple Effect

rip′ple effect` n. A spreading effect or series of consequences caused by a single action or event.

As we guided our weekend Chinese exchange student through Washington D.C. on Saturday, I heard him say multiple times with a big smile on his face, “I have seen these places in American films so many times. And now here I am. It is amazing.” And it really was amazing. We stayed up late and talked and shared each other’s cultures, we laughed a lot, we shared food, we taught him how to pick crabs, we introduced him to our family, we walked over four miles all over D.C., and we took him to church for the first time. Traveling from across the world, he became our fourth child for the weekend. Our family spent the weekend with a practical stranger because our hearts had been opened to Chinese students through a long series of events.

Had we not adopted Sunshine from China two years ago, we might not have a heart for China today. We wouldn’t have met the sweet family (who we now call very dear friends) that introduced us to IECS. My husband probably wouldn’t have spent two weeks in China (with IECS) teaching English to university students in May. And we probably wouldn’t have a heart for Chinese students now, which led us to host a weekend student, and is likewise leading us to host another student for the entire school year beginning next month. I should also add that we found out about both hosting programs through other adoptive parents that are part of the big, awesome, loving adoptive family network (which we also wouldn’t be a part of if we hadn’t adopted). And this particular ripple effect only has to do with serving Chinese students.

See what I mean?

There have been many other ripples caused because of our adoption journey, not even related to Chinese students. Too many to count. And I suspect probably many that we don’t even know about. It’s overwhelming to think about. We have met so many sweet families through adoption, some who have become our very closest friends. My best mama friends are part of the adoption sisterhood too. I have come to know many Chinese friends that I never would have met. I have had the privilege of ministering to other adoptive families, advocating for children, and watching them be united with their forever families. But it hasn’t been all one-sided - we’ve been poured into and learned from many other adoptive parents as well.

Our family has grown and changed in ways that I never dreamed of too. I love being a part of this ripple effect and walking through this journey. It’s amazing how God can use a willingness to step out in faith in one way to cause a chain of events that is much more widespread than one would ever think possible. And I know He isn’t finished yet.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Bring Me Hope Orphan Summer Camps

I am honored to have Nicole guest post on my blog today to share about a special way to care for orphans!  If you feel so called, please consider becoming a camp sponsor to give one of the precious Chinese orphans the opportunity to go to camp!  Let then know that someone cares and loves them, and that they ARE important!


I knew that traveling to China to be part of the Bring Me Hope summer camps would change my life, but I had no idea how deeply and permanently it would wreck my heart. 

It was only five days that I spent with those three orphans, but I still remember it like yesterday.  We ate our meals together, sang the silly camps songs, hiked the Great Wall and pasted and glued our hearts out at craft time.  As they opened up and shared their stories, I felt myself coming undone from the inside out.  How do you not when a gorgeous, twelve-year-old girl tells you that she was orphaned after her parents died in a murder/suicide?!  

Shock.  Then heartbreak.  Then the tears.  

Fast forward six years.  My trips to China have continued, my new dream in life is to get to 30 years old so I can bring our own son or daughter home.  From that first week at camp, I saw what a difference five days at a summer camp could make in the lives of chinese orphans, as well as their foreign camp buddies; I never wanted to stop being a part of this mission. Bring Me Hope is dedicated to improving the lives and futures of Chinese orphans. It begins at summer camp and continues with year-round programs to meet the ongoing needs of orphans in China.

We are currently in the middle of four weeks of summer camps in five chinese cities.  A great need right now is raising the rest of the camp sponsorships to make the fourth week of camp possible.  As a sponsor, you will become part of the team that makes camp happen for the kids. Sponsorships of $125 or more will receive a phone call and letter from one of the children attending camp.
Your camp sponsorship will provide Chinese orphans with a safe place to experience healing, be assured of their value, and be given opportunities to explore fun, new things like swimming, art, music and field trips. Camp also connects orphans with people who can advocate for them year-round. 
We would love to invite you to partner with us.  Would you help make these last weeks of camp happen with a camp sponsorship?!  {You can do this on our website here}  We also hope you would consider about joining us at the 2014 camps.  It is an adventure that will change your life.  Most of all, please pray with us that these children's lives could be changed through the power of love and family.
“We learned that orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they are not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes.” -David Platt


Friday, July 26, 2013

CC Memory Review {CC Sequence}

Homeschool planning season seems like a good time to share this fun review game!  I first heard about CC Sequence months back on Half a Hundred Acre Woods.  But the sweet homeschool mama who was selling them wasn't taking anymore orders at the time, so I couldn't get my hands on one of the games.  Instead of waiting, I spent some time to make my own.  I cannot take any credit for the idea, but I duplicated it for my kiddos.  I am happy to pass along the game to anyone else who might like to use it for CC review as well.  You can download the CC Sequence .pdf HERE.  It's played just like the normal Sequence game you can buy in stores, and is good for all three cycles of CC.  The first game board is Weeks 1-12, the second is Weeks 13-24.  You'll need some kind of counters, but I figure all of us homeschool mamas have several varieties to choose from around the house! I suggest printing on card stock and laminating.  Enjoy!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

CC Homeschool Planning

You may find it odd, but I sincerely enjoy the process of school planning.  Making lists, scouring the interweb for pinspiration, printing worksheets, filing, creating binders, and filling in blocks on my school planner gets my endorphins pumping.  And then there's the never-ending flow of coffee too.

I'm biting off quite a bit more than last year, but I feel ready to handle it and am so excited about the extra fine arts and literature I am adding into the school year.  I skated through that part last year by piggy backing on Classical Conversations, but am excited about what we are adding.  I am also incorporating quite a few more living books (ok, a ton more) and am thrilled about that.  I think "real" books, instead of text books, will be much more captivating for the kiddos.  We'll still use text books for references, but I am working on an awesome lineup of living books for history and science!  I'll share the list when I've gotten through planning the first 12 weeks of CC, but for now here's my ever-growing Amazon wish list for Cycle 2.  There are many more options out there, but I am choosing books that are geared to my kiddos and the time we have to read each week.

Aside from the resources from CC Connected and our text book curriculums, I want to especially thank Sola Gratia Mom for her CC plans, Half a Hundred Acre Wood for her Cycle 2 book lists (and her generally awesome CC/homeschool blog posts), and Jennifer of Teaching Boys for all of her fantastic CC week-by-week pinterest boards (her book pins are wonderful)!  I am also getting some great information from Ambleside Online's very thorough lists.

I am planning on having the first half of the school year (12 weeks of CC with breaks will take us through to Christmas) planned in the next week or so.  In a perfect world, I'd plan the entire school year before school started, but I'm not sure if that will happen.  I'll reserve judgment for now :)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Visiting Orphans

Have you heard of Visiting Orphans?  It is a 501(c)3 non-profit mission sending agency established in 2005 as a way to fulfill the biblical mandate given in James 1:27 to "visit orphans and widows in their distress". They are dedicated to building relationships and working toward long-term change in those they visit and in those they send.  Visiting Orphans currently sends short-term mission trips to visit orphans in 12 countries including: China, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Haiti, Honduras, India, Kenya, Ukraine, Uganda and Rwanda.

My very dear bloggy and IRL friend, Kelly from My Overthinking, is co-leading a Visiting Orphans team to China in March also!  Will you please take a few moments to watch this video and learn all about what Visiting Orphans does?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Summer School

Yes, they aren't thrilled about it.  But summer school is in session here at our house.  It takes less than an hour a day, but is so important.  We are still playing a bit of catch-up for Angel from when we made the switch to homeschool last year.

There were quite a few language arts/english concepts that she hadn't learned (or had learned but not retained), so we went through the first and second grade FLL and WWE work this year.  We'll be finishing up with most of it by the end of July, but will be continuing with writing studies clear through to the start of the upcoming school year.  She will also be finishing up the rest of her second grade math work at the end of this month (same issue - just playing a bit of catch-up).  At that point, she'll be caught up and 100% ready for her third grade curriculums!  She's also doing weekly violin lessons through the summer :)

And for Lovebug, we are jumping into All About Reading's Pre-Reading Program.  He seems to like it much more than The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading, which we worked through last year.  It's much more interesting with multiple sensory learning opportunities, and seems to grab his attention better.  I think Ordinary Parent's Guide was a little too bland for him, I'm hoping he'll retain more by trying this new curriculum.  I'm not on a set schedule with him for the summer though, but we'll get through as many lessons as we can before starting Kindergarten in the Fall.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Goodbye, sweet friend

I truly wasn't prepared for how difficult it would be to say goodbye to my sweet, loyal girl on Tuesday.  The actual process itself is so difficult, and then the grieving afterward just plain stinks.  There are so many things that remind me she's not here, and thinking about that just makes me so terribly sad.  She was so good to me, and now there is a void in my heart that I wasn't prepared to deal with.  She went peacefully on Tuesday morning, and both DH and I were there for her last breath.  The vet was so sensitive and compassionate, it was the best way I could have asked for it all to happen.

Now we pick up the pieces and move on.  I know some probably think, "she was just a dog," but she is very special to me and I am better for having her in my life for 13 sweet years.  I love her and miss her terribly.  Seeing Raven grieve her loss also is heartbreaking.  She has cried by the door and even had trouble eating.  She's been following me around and is clearly hurting, poor pup.  We brought Taylor's collar in to sit by the back door to help her "get" it.  That was difficult for me, but it's even harder to explain to a dog that her best friend isn't coming back.  Ugh.  On day at a time.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Bath time

I admit I'm not the best dog bath giver.  The dogs might get baths once a year.  Maybe.  And considering I couldn't even recall when her last bath was, I just felt like it was something I needed to do.  DH and the kids bathed Raven while I took care of Taylor.  I gave her a good massage and made sure to get all of her favorite spots.

Gosh this is hard.  I can't imagine what it's like to say goodbye suddenly to your pet.  But having this drawn out over a week knowing that it's going to happen is kind of torture.  I feel terrible every time I see her pep up a bit (like after her bath today, which always makes her run around the house like a maniac ... I should have thought about that ahead of time).  I'm thankful I have the extra time to work through this with my camera though, these memories will be priceless!

Sunday, July 7, 2013


Sometimes I forget how long and lanky she is because she really is just a big baby :)  Gonna miss this sweet face staring back at me.

My old girl

She's been with me for thirteen wonderful years.  I brought her home when I was only 20, still in college.  She has lived with me in six different homes, and has left her mark on each one.  She is the sweetest, most loyal friend, albeit a bit crazy and needy.  Seriously, she is crazy (and needy) ... just ask any of my family members.  Between the ear infections, the ear hematomas/lancings, ear surgery, bloody tails, pee stains, separation anxiety, doggy prozac meds, slobbery dog crates, chewed doors, chewed shoes, chewed underwear (yes, and I could continue the "chewed" list for quite awhile), along with all of the stinkiness that is Taylor ... well it's been an interesting thirteen years.

She has the sweetest, gentlest, most loving soul.  She has always been there for me, and driven me crazy at the same time.  She's made me laugh, and been the comic relief I sometimes needed.  I loved her from the first moment I met her.  She has brought so much joy to my life, and been the best doggie friend a girl could ask for.  Very sadly though, it's time for me to say goodbye to her.  This week we found out she has an aggressive cancer that can't be fixed.  Although surgery is a possibility, it will only prolong her life by months.  With her older age and general lethargy, it didn't seem fair to put her through surgery for a few months extra ... only to have the cancer just come back again.

So this coming week, I will say goodbye to my sweet girl.  She's given me thirteen great years.  It makes me sad, but I know in my heart that it's the compassionate thing to do.  And she's made it clear that she's ready, which gives me peace.  I've been loving on her as much as possible, as well as taking a ton of pictures over the last few days.  It's been good to have the chance to say goodbye. I know many people don't get that opportunity, so for that I am very thankful.