Saturday, January 31, 2015

Wish I could travel now!

I am still giddy about our Skype call. We got to see our girl for 40 minutes! She's shy and beautiful and I can't wait to see her again. The translator was perfectly happy to spend the majority of the call telling us about how our girl is doing in school, how they are helping her learn English, what she does and does not like to eat, what she likes to do for fun, etc. Most of the information was familiar to us, as it had been included in her file. It was just so good to see her face and, after awhile, for her to smile at us. She definitely wants a family and I am thrilled that WE get to be her family.

The morning after our call, we received an email from our agency that said we already have another Skype call scheduled on February 15th. I am thrilled! She is on winter vacation, so I have a feeling they are utilizing that time to help her become more familiar with us and with adoption. We received permission to write her a letter and I'm working on that tonight. I'm writing part of it in Chinese so that she can see I am trying. I didn't really get to say anything in Chinese on the call but hope to next time. We also get to send a letter to her social worker to ask questions about what she thinks of the adoption, of family, etc. That information is invaluable to us and I can't wait to hear what they are willing to share.

Can we go to Taiwan now? I can't wait to see her in person and give her a hug!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Skype call

Our Skype call with Cin-Ru is tomorrow! I am super nervous but am looking forward to it. Just in case they ask me to say something in Chinese, I prepared a short introduction. This is my very first Chinese paragraph. I posted it on lang-8 for correction and only had to correct one sentence. Not bad for my first try!

我很高興認識你. 我叫Cassandra. 我三十二歲. 我是家庭主婦. 我非常喜歡看書. 你呢. 我學了一年的中文了. 不好意思. 我的中文不太好.

The above basically says: "I am very happy to meet you. I am Cassandra. I am 32 years old. I am a homemaker. I love to read books. What about you? I have been studying Chinese for one year. Sorry, my Chinese is bad."

Hopefully she'll be able to laugh at my attempts and it will help lighten the mood and allow her to open up to us.

20 hours and counting!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Mushrooms - Day 7 and 8

My mushrooms have exploded!

Day 7

Day 8

They will be ready to harvest on Wednesday. We eat mushrooms several times per week. I am dying to know if I can grow more after this first harvest. The box says these are grown in old coffee grounds. We drink tons of coffee! Might I be able to start my own mushroom farm?

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Mushrooms sprouting overnight

I am in awe of how fast things grow. My avocado tree sprouted overnight and grew visibly each day. My mushrooms are now doing the exact same thing.

Here is what they looked like when I started.

Day 0

Nothing happens for a few days and I wonder if I messed something up.

Day 4

All of a sudden, white growth happens in the corners.

Day 5

And then the mushrooms start growing.

Day 6

It is supposed to take 10 days for these mushrooms to grow big enough to harvest and eat. I don't doubt it! I can't wait to see what they look like when I get up in the morning.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Forever Mom - A book every adoptive parent should read

I loved this book so much I read it in less than two days. I just couldn't put it down. I laughed, I cried, and I marked sections to go back and reread later. This is more than just a "how to adopt" book. It covers the transition of a new child into the home and how to connect with your child over the next few years. It's not super in-depth, but it covers more than most of the introductory adoption books I've read. Plus, the author admits her mistakes so that you can avoid making the same ones in your own adoption.

Forever Mom: What to Expect When You're Adopting, by Mary Ostyn

I loved this thought, which echoes some of the material covered in our 10 week parenting class:
But children can't model positive behavior on the outside until their brains heal. Amy Monroe, from Empowered to Connect, said that expecting emotionally healthy behavior from an emotionally wounded child is like setting a three-month-old baby in the middle of the living room and telling him to walk to you. He's not mature enough to do it yet.

We parents desperately need to understand the level of woundedness that drives difficult behavior so that we can remain compassionate toward difficult behavior over the long term. We've got to address the root of the behavior instead of focusing on the behavior. Only then can we create a healing home (page 65).

In a section that offers suggestions for bonding with a newly adopted little one:
All these activities are ones we tend to do naturally with little ones, but they're especially important for adopted babies who need extra time and interaction to make up for the time you missed before you became a family. And don't listen to the folks who say you're spoiling your baby. Spoiling is something that happens to fruit that is forgotten, not babies who are well loved. So love on that new kiddo of yours. It's one of the joys of parenthood, and it's just what he needs (page 78).

This next quote is something I need to remind myself often.
John and I assumed that once their behavior improved, our relationship would grow too. We didn't realize for years that we had that little equation exactly backward. It goes: first relationship, then behavior. It's how we did it with our babies, right? We build the relatioship for many months, saying yes to their needs thousands of times before we ever add in behavior expectations. But somehow with our hurt kids, we expect all sorts of things just because they're older. Well, guess what? Relationship still needs to come first. The more we tried to change our kids' behavior via consequences before we had the relationship piece in place, the further their hurt hearts fled. The more I tried to encourage right behavior using typical parenting methods, the more like a drill sergeant I became. The gentle, patient, intuitive part of my soul was getting buried. And drill sergeants aren't so easy to bond with. I had to take control of my frustration and learn a new way to relate, one that looked a lot more like the love that comes from Jesus. Instead of being a nagging taskmaster, I needed to be a channel of His grace (page 154).

That last section was reinforced by a Bible text quoted later in the chapter. Romans 2:4 says, "God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance." There is a lot in this chapter to chew on, both in how I relate to God and how I should relate to my children.

Ostyn also quotes John 10:27, which says, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me." She adds a note to say, "our kids won't follow us until they know us (page 162)!"

One of the last chapters includes advice directly from adoptees. I love what this adoptee had to share:
Be patient. Most older-adopted kids are broken people. We don't trust easily and we are cautious. Once we feel secure and safe, we open up. Be kind. Harsh words and anger tend to hurt us more than the average person. For me, knowing I disappointed my parents was enough punishment. Be kind to yourself. You are going to make mistakes, but any parent will. Know that being a parent of an adopted child is harder and more emotional. Have faith in yourself and God. Know that all we as adoptees want is a loving, stable home (page 203).

Overall, I loved this book and would recommend it to any parent who is getting ready to adopt or who has already adopted but is looking for encouragement. This book is going on my bookshelf to reread right before my daughter comes home. Thank you to Booklookbloggers for a copy in exchange for my honest thoughts. I would have bought this book had I discovered it at the bookstore before being given the chance to review it!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Gimbap and oyster mushrooms

I've been having some motivation issues lately. A lack of motivation to blog, clean, study, etc. I'm not exactly sure what's causing it but I'm pulling myself up by my bootstraps and forcing myself to move forward. My wonderful husband cleaned the bathrooms for me today, which was so very much appreciated!

I started overhauling my menu planning and recipe book. Both have gotten very sloppy. Last week we added a new recipe to our rotation: gimbap!

We did "veganify" the recipe, leaving out the meat and the egg but adding in tofu. The rest we kept the same. This was our first time trying pickled radish (also known in Korean as danmuji). It was really good!

My mother-in-law bought me a mushroom farm for Christmas so today I got it started. I'll be taking pictures every day to record the progress. It's supposed to be ready for harvest on day 10. This particular farm will grow oyster mushrooms so I need to start looking for a recipe that highlights oyster mushrooms. I can't wait!

Here's to a productive week!

Monday, January 12, 2015


I found such a wonderful surprise in my inbox this afternoon! My coordinator emailed and sent along an update on our kiddo! She's grown half an inch since the last update in October. I'm starting to wonder if all of the clothes we bought are going to fit her... I think they will. We bought a size larger than we thought we would need.

We also learned a couple more things she's interested in - board games and drawing! My husband and I LOVE board games so we look forward to play with her. We've found a couple board games that require little to no English and will hopefully be able to play more complex games with her in the future. We love Euro-style board games, but they require a lot of English to play. In the meantime, we'll teach her simpler ones like this cake building game I found.

I mailed off Cin-Ru's care package this morning. It is supposed to arrive in Taiwan before our Skype call so that they can give it to her during the call. We sent her a t-shirt, a pair of warm fuzzy socks, a book, and a mosaic to put together. We are hoping that we will have time to work on the mosaic with her during the call. We sent her one of the photos and a pile of mosaic pieces and kept the others here. It's an activity that requires no English but will keep us busy for five to ten minutes if we can do the activity together. I meant to take pictures of the care package this morning but completely forgot.

Then we received another fun surprise in the mail. Letters!

We received five letters from our sponsored kids today, four of them with photos. I love receiving the new photos and the letters! Now I have lots of letters to respond to this week. Two of our sponsored kids have birthdays next month so I need to get cards in the mail soon as well. I do my best to keep the Post Office in business!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Skype and care packages

We have our first Skype date scheduled! I am so excited because it's in less than four weeks. I am also terrified because the Skype call on our last adoption attempt was awkward and not at all what we had expected. I'd almost rather go into this Skype call with no prior experience because I know how hard it can be. On the other hand, I know a few things I can do to help it go better. Hopefully this Skype call will go much more smoothly. At least we know that Cin-Ru wants to be adopted!

Because we have a few weeks until our first Skype call, we have time to prepare a care package for her to open on the call. I am excited to put this package together for her. We already have a couple of things picked out to send and want to pick out one more. Hopefully we can go shopping tomorrow to find that last item. I want to send the package off as soon as possible so that it will definitely arrive before our call.

All of our dossier paperwork is on its way to California! We received the contracts this morning, finished filling out dossier paperwork, and visited the notary this afternoon. The notary was so fast. He just signed everywhere we pointed. We were in and out in only 15 minutes, which means we made it to the post office in time to guarantee delivery to our agency tomorrow.

Next up - sending the contracts back to Taiwan so that the agency will release the rest of Cin-Ru's paperwork. We need that in order to submit our I600 application to USCIS. The I600 is the US government's method of verifying that Cin-Ru is an orphan and thus eligible to be adopted by an American. While that is going on, our agency will send our dossier to a couple government offices to get the authentication processed. That prepares all of our paperwork for the court process.

I am trying so hard not to figure out a timeline of how much longer it could possibly be until we travel. I've already worked out a rough estimate in my head but don't want to rely on that. We know first hand how much things can change. After all, it's already been over 18 months and we still have a long way to go. All of our research showed that Taiwan adoptions are supposed to take under a year. In the meantime, I will just take it one day at a time!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Thank you!

Thank you SO MUCH to everyone who leaves comments and writes notes of encouragement. It means the world to me and I appreciate it tremendously. Thank you!!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

December Goals - Wrap up

The last week and a half of December were a complete wash as far as decluttering went. Our house is cleaner than it was but I still have plenty of work to do. I'm on the hold list at the library to borrow The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up but it will definitely be awhile before it is available. I am hold number 125 on 73 copies of the book. Hopefully soon. A friend of mine said it's a wonderful book and that her house is now cleaner than it's been in years!

My Chinese studies have made some progress but slowed down over the holidays. I fell behind on my flashcards half way through my MIL's visit, which was expected. No grammar progress this week but I'm still thrilled with my overall progress in December.

Totals for the month:

Grammar lessons - 9 completed
Time spent studying - 25.8 hours

I hope to make lots of progress in 2015 because I'm hoping our daughter will be home by this fall! The more I learn, the easier it will be to communicate with her. That is great motivation to keep pressing forward.