Monday, November 30, 2009

Super Math Website for Kids!

KidsKount is an amazing website, filled with math games and learning opportunities for kids ages 5-12. (Side note: I'm not able to run Java on my Mac using Firefox. I use Safari instead.)

Panda Express-Chinese New Year program, free!

Panda Express is offering a free program for use in schools. Homeschoolers have reported no problem in getting the same offer. Here's the information from the website:

Panda Express, America’s largest Asian restaurant chain, is offering a FREE educational program to your school and its students. For three years, our signature Chinese New Year Learn With Me Program™ provides educators with an instructional resource to encourage learning about one of China’s traditional holiday celebrations. The FREE kit, geared for second through fourth grades, includes:

* Panda Express’ Year of the Tiger DVD
* Year of the Tiger Fact Sheet
* Jade Emperor’s Interactive Game & Activity Sheet
* Chinese New Year Decoration Art Activity
* Lai See Activity Sheet
* Bookmarks (with a Free Kids Meal with purchase coupon attached)

Each classroom is limited to ordering materials for 35 students; please note that one school can have multiple classrooms ordering materials.

Please complete the information below to receive your free program kit.

Program kits will not be shipped to P.O. Box addresses. Please note that providing incorrect shipping information will result in not receiving program kit materials. You will not be contacted if this situation occurs. All submission must be received by Tuesday, December 8, 2009 by 11:59 pm Pacific Standard Time.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Winter Broccoli

One row of broccoli remains in the garden. Despite the cold, it continues to flourish. I picked some for lunch while watching the bees share the harvest.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

China...Getting New Information on Child's Past


Check, check and double check to see if your child from China has more information available from early life.

We were NOT told that any further information was available. We were NOT told that a an outside sponsor made his foster care possible. But I just received 154 new photos and 6 pages of written information about his early life.


I'm on a forum for his SWI. (Orphanage.) On the group one woman was offering to check to see if kids were sponsored by Grace and Hope in foster care. I was previously told that our agency and the government paid for his foster care, so for months and months I ignored her offer. Then, one day, I ignored what I "knew" and asked.

He WAS sponsored by Grace and Hope**. And for a small donation they sent me a CD FILLED WITH INFORMATION ON HIS EARLY LIFE.

I cannot believe that we came so close to not having this photo and 153 others like it. If your child was fostered and there is even a smidgen of a chance that some outside agency fostered him/her, CHECK!!!!!

**Many, many organizations are working in China to sponsor children in foster care. You'll have to check to see what groups are working in the area where your child is from.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Lost Boys of China

Want to read a tear jerker? Look at this blog entry. Many people have asked us how we were able to adopt a BOY from China. Unfortunately, many, many boys--older children or those with minor special needs--languish on "Waiting Children" lists for months or years without being chosen. If you follow the links at the bottom of the linked post you'll see photo listings of boys waiting for families.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Visitor from CHINA!

This weekend we were blessed with a visitor from China. J was our "guide" in GG's hometown. She knew him long before he knew us. Even as a toddler she would visit him in his foster home to get updates on his development.

J told us that she thinks GG is doing very well and that to her he acts more "real" than he did in China. She thinks he was quieter and more subdued (like a girl, ha!) in China and that he is "definitely louder and busier" here. I'm not surprised given that he lived with a little girl in China and he lives with LilDude here. Together they generate quite the activity. Or, as one fellow at church put it today, "Doesn't appear to be any energy crisis here." They've got TONS.

J also commented on how interesting it was to see our see that what we put in the photos is ACTUALLY the way things look. :) She said that she always figured that photos taken by adoptive families (for our dossiers) were showing the best of the best. But she says that everything is beautiful here and that now she thinks the photos just show how things really are. (It's good she wasn't here while I was cleaning out piles of junk!)

She also countered another thing we often heard in China..."why you have so many children?" When she saw our home (which isn't THAT big for 7 people) she said that she now understands why people here have so many children. She took a look at our field and told my dh that "100 Chinese children could fit back there." She told us to adopt more. Then we told her how much it costs to pay for college educations. :( Puts things into perspective.

GG took some time to warm up to her, but when she was ready to leave today he got weepy. Not sure why. He may see her as part of his China "family" or he may have just wanted to go along to the train station in the car...sometimes he gets sad if he can't go along. So he came with us. And was fine.

We sure hope to see her again soon. The boys had a marvelous time playing hide-n-seek and singing with her (at the top of their lungs) in Mandarin. She commented on how LilDude's Mandarin is better than GG's. (She found LilDude easier to understand.)

Friday, November 13, 2009

(Home)"School" Sneaks Up On Us...

I could feel guilty about the lack of "formal schooling" that's taking place in my home. But learning seems to happen whether we plan on it or not.

Take the last two days...

Yesterday, I'm cleaning my office floor. (Found the floor, btw!) LilDude is hanging out with me. Out of the blue he says something about "even numbers." So I ask him what he knows about even numbers. He goes on to tell me that 2 is an even number. So is 6 because you add 2s to get there. Hmmm. So I toss out a whole slew of numbers--including hundreds--asking him whether they're even or odd. He gets them all right. I finally say, "So it sounds like you only have to look at the last digit to know if it's even or odd."

He grimaces. "That's what I've been doing!" (Duh, mom!)

To reinforce our little conversation, I pull out a book about even/odd numbers. After reading it, he does one worksheet...just to make sure that this is really down pat. Duh, again. He really, really knows this. So even/odd #s...CHECK.

Then, last night, Anakin (7th grade) is studying for a map test of the United States. I guess LilDude overhead some of this because today he walks to the kitchen table and pretends it's a map of the U.S. and points to where a bunch of different states are. Intrigued, I let him try a U.S. Map Test on the computer. I'm surprised when he gets 13 correct on a timed test. Something obviously stuck when I had him follow a map of our trip to a family reunion...16 months ago!!!!

About this time Anakin returns from school and tells LilDude to try a different state labeling game. By the time they're done, LilDude is able to label most states correctly.

But today the only "school" we did was one journal entry and a few autobiographical sentences. I also read aloud several picture books and a chapter from On the Banks of Plum Creek. And Nana came over and read to him from another chapter book. But he mostly just played. And played. And played.

Build a fort with the couch cushions. Went outside when the sun peeked through. Took his bro on a horsie ride down the hallway.


Still Sad...

When one loses one's entire family, it makes sense to still be sad almost 6 months later. But that doesn't make it any easier to watch.

This weekend the guide from GG's province is coming to our home for a visit. I showed GG her photo and a little video clip to remind him of who she is and to explain that she is visiting but he is STAYING HERE. While we looked at her photo, he got the familiar blank, faraway look that I've learned to equate with grief. Then he wiped away invisible tears and asked to see more photos from China. As we looked at the pictures, his eyes gradually became more wet until a few drops ran down his cheeks. He continued to ask to see photos for several more minutes, including the "sad" ones from the day we visited his foster family. When it became too much, he looked away and said he was done. It's the saddest I've seen him in a couple months. I kept telling him that it's okay to cry; that he has good reason to be sad and that crying might help him to feel better. Not sure how much of my message was understood.

Last night (before any mention of the impending visit), he woke up crying. It happened again this evening. Twice.

I wish I could do something to erase his pain. He's three. This isn't fair.

China Foster Care

GG received incredible care from a very loving foster family for his first three years in China. Until recently, I believed that his foster placement was financed by our adoption agency and the Chinese government. (Information we were given in China led us to believe this.) Then, through a series of fortunate internet connections, we discovered that his foster care was supported by a private, non-profit agency. The "U.S. arm" of the agency, Grace and Hope, hooked us up with his actual sponsor in Scotland, Hope 4 China. Grace and Hope is sending us information (photos, reports, etc.) from GG's past that they collected and sent to the people who sponsored him. We are so excited to be able to get a few more glimpses into his past.

But that's not the reason for my post.

I know there are a lot of "good causes" out there, but if you're looking for one that will make a huge difference in the life of a child, consider sponsoring a child in foster care. Grace and Hope's website includes a photo listing of children who currently need sponsorship in order to move them OUT OF THE ORPHANAGE and INTO FOSTER FAMILIES. I cannot fathom how different GG's life would have been if he had spent the past three years living in an orphanage with ever-changing caregivers. Instead, he has a whole family in China who love him intensely.

To put it in perspective, I've been thinking about what a month of foster care is equivalent to:

* a tank of gas
* a mail order child's Halloween costume
* a Wii game (a Wii "Starter Set" pays for almost a year of foster care!)
* one meal for our family to eat out
* a family night at the movies (probably without popcorn!)
* one family trip to a museum
* photo Christmas cards
* the stamps for mailing Christmas cards

Kinda crazy when you think about it. I'm happy to forgo the Wii. Thrilled to invent our own Halloween costumes (or reuse the ones we have.) What "extras" in our comfortable N.American lives can we trade in so that more kids can have the amazing start that GG had?

BTW, it would have been excruciatingly difficult to choose a child to sponsor off that photo listing if not for one thing. A name. Many of you know that our niece, Selah, died a little over a year ago, just four months after being adopted as a newborn. So when we saw a Chinese baby from GG's orphanage who'd been named "Selah," it was a no-brainer. What are the chances? :)

P.S. If you'd like to help children from GG's orphanage, look for Guangxi: Nanning.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Honey Baked Chicken

It's a miracle! I found another food that GG will eat. Actually, inhale!

Honey-Baked Chicken is a longtime family favorite from the More With Less Cookbook. I haven't made it in ages. Why? Well, in my less-frugal days, I'd buy chicken breasts and just plop 'em in the baking dish. These days I actually have to CUT UP a chicken. Horrors. I got out my trusty Betty Crocker and tried to follow the photos. It worked. Sorta. Tasted good, despite how the rib bones de-connected from the leg bones. [Hum along if you know the song. And, yes, I realize that rib bones aren't actually connected to leg bones. Um, I don't think.]

Anywhoo...this recipe is awesome and GG loved it. What more could one ask?? (Today at lunch we ate it for leftovers and he kept nabbing chunks of chicken from MY plate.)

Honey-Baked Chicken
from More With Less Cookbook

Preheat oven, 350.

Arrange in baking pan:

1, 3lb fryer, cut up
(If you cheat and use chicken breasts, that'll work, too...but it might make me jealous. And forget that idea if you have a newly-arrived 3yo from China; he only wants dark meat and/or skin.)

Combine and pour over:

1/3 c. margarine, melted (I use less and sub in some butter)
1/3 c. honey
2 T. prepared mustard
1 t. salt
1 t. curry powder

Bake 1 1/4 hours, basting every 15 minutes, til chicken is tender and nicely browned. (I just turn chicken pieces over. And over. And over. When I remember.) Serve with rice; my family loves to pour the juicy stuff over the rice.

Monday, November 9, 2009

As Good as Grandma's? (NYNS #6)

After I cleaned off a counter, LilDude said this about our home:
"Pretty soon ours is going to be as good as Grandma's."


"Although that's kind of hard to beat!"

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Homeschool Hooky with Purpose

Confession time...

Homeschooling my 7yo.

Have Master's in Education.

And we've done almost no school so far this year. Extremely minimal.

I LOVE the fact that homeschool means I can give my kids what they need the most. And what my youngest two need right now is time to bond to each other and to me. So that's what we do. We stay home, going almost no where. They play outdoors pretty much every day for as long as possible. Yesterday it was around 60 and sunny and they played outside almost the entire day. They ran. Made stick houses on the back berm. Played with the dog. Ate broccoli from the stalks left in the garden. Soaked up the vitamin D.

I LOVE it that they're doing what they need to do the most. As I write this, the wind and rain are picking up. I look forward to more days of snuggling on the couch with a pile of books. Doing math with 'LilDude while GG plays with the manipulatives right along side us.

I love my life.

Deep, deep sigh of contentment. :)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

How to Reuse an Empty Altoids Tin (NYNS #5)

Still decluttering. :)

I don't actually buy Altoids. But I have a bunch of tins saved from a long ago project. Here is an awesome list: How to Reuse an Empty Altoids Tin
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