Thursday, March 31, 2011

Adoption tidbits

  Just a gathering of recent items that affect the adoption world.
  • China is now allowing single women to adopt through their Special Needs program.  Singles were allowed years ago, then when eligibility guidelines changed a few years back, they no longer were allowed to adopt.
  • The Soviet Union had their first Down Syndrome adoption court hearing, and that family was denied approval to adopt the child that they had been pursuing for over a year.   The judge in the case stated that Down Syndrome children aren't "acceptable" for adoption, but should be institutionalized instead.  Many people stateside are petitioning the Soviet Union's government to reconsider.
  • China has instituted new requirements for the homestudy procedures for all future adoptions.  Mainly, all homestudy agencies have to be Hauge certified, they've increased the number of follow up visits by the agency after the adoption, increased the number of training hours, and they are requesting additional written reference letters.
  • Ethiopia is so far sticking to their decision to reduce adoption court hearings from 50 a day down to 5 a day.  They feel this will reduce fradulent adoptions, but most feel that it's an over-reaction to some isolated cases.  Stateside petitions are being passed and signed, requesting that the Ethiopian government reconsider.  This new policy of reduced hearings would add an additional 1 year wait to most Ethiopian adoptions.
As for OUR adoption news, we are still waiting for our I800A approval to come from the USCIS office.  In plain talk, that means we are waiting for our government to review our paperwork and give us the OK to adopt from a foreign country. 

We did manage to sneak in and get our fingerprints done on Wednesday at the USCIS office- one more thing checked off of the list!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Children of God- adoption video

Make sure you have a kleenex handy.....  it gets me everytime the adults take off their outer shirts to show what's underneath. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

Frugal Friday~

Frugal Tip of the week:  Use Libraries

“Thrift was never more necessary in the world's history than it is today.”
--Francis H. Sisson

I have a family of  book lovers.  We are avid readers, and have even TURNED OFF THE TV (gasp) to have reading nights.  Here is a pic of one of our bookcases, of which we have many.

The books are actually layered so that we can fit twice as many on one shelf.  Due to the cost of purchasing books and the necessary storage issues, we decided a few years back to make more use of our libraries.  Not only do we now have more choices for reading material, but IT'S FREE!!! (And they take them back, so I don't have to store them- whoo hoo!) 

Lo and behold, they also have music CDs,  magazines, and DVDs to check out!  I know!! Who knew??
Checking out movies saves us from having to rent them at the local Pump and Stuff for $3 a piece (that has to be returned the next day) so we save even more.  (Don't even get me started on late fees....UGH)

We've become library nerds- the librarians know us by name and we each have our own fabric library bags to carry our treasures home.

Home with our treasures! 
I am so thrilled that my kids love reading-  it's a habit that I hope they will enjoy for a lifetime.
“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” - Ray Bradbury

Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.  ~Charles W. Eliot

The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them.  ~Mark Twain, attributed

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


We've all seen the TV movies where a war vet comes home and is plagued by memories of their time on the battlefield.  These memories are often preceeded by a trigger; a sound, a smell, or something said, that brings them back to the feelings of fear or anxiety.  (You know, a car backfires, and suddenly the guy is hiding behind the couch?)

These triggers happen also to our kids who have a history of trauma, and it can lead to negative behaviors, or what we call in the field "bad days"!
   "Yes honey, we had a bad day today- that's why there is marker on the walls, the cats are all hiding, and I look like I ran a marathon."

I'm not a psychologist (nor do I play one on TV :-)) but after 7  years of raising our little one, I can pretty much anticipate what her triggers are.  Birthdays are one of them.

The buildup is often rougher than the actual day, because of several reasons.

First, the traumatized child often doesn't feel they deserve anything as wonderful as a birthday, so they will rebel against the good stuff.  Self esteem of a child who has endured abuse is bottom-floor low, and they have been made to feel that they don't deserve good treatment or love, so why should they deserve a celebration?

Second, to accept gifts and accolade on your special day, that involves some bonding on their part, and trust is always a scary issue when all these old feelings of DISTRUST are bubbling up in them. What if they actually relax and ENJOY the party- that could lead to relying on a party next year.  What if all this "good" goes away?  They have already experienced a lot of loss, and they aren't anxious to tackle more.

That brings us to third- the feelings of loss of their birth family.  Their birthday reminds them of the family that they no longer know, and there is always sadness associated with that loss.  They may be wondering where their birth family is, and if their birth family is thinking of the child they no longer get to see. 

Fourth, they can't control these feelings of "not good enough", but there ARE things they can control, so they do.  They can pick their skin until it bleeds as a release, they can stuff dirty clothes under their bed until you can't fit anymore, they can cut off Barbie hair, break their favorite jewelry, forget all of the house rules, horde food, eat too much or not eat at all.  All ways of trying to control their universe.  We saw several of these emerge the week before our recent birthday celebration.

The real celebration comes in the growth and change that has occurred in this child over the past 7 years.  She has come to rely on two adults taking care of her and wanting what's best for her. She knows that she is loved and that she is worthy of a celebration.   She no longer has to be hyper-vigilant in taking care of herself, and if she needs soothing, she has two laps that are waiting for her.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Happy Birthday, Camille!

When it comes to birthday parties, my younger kids kinda get the shaft.  No longer do I host the 14 guest theme parties with Pin the Tail on the Donkey, matching plates, and gift bags that I planned for our older kids. 
Been there, done that.  And I learned many valuable lessons. 
Mainly, kids rebel against structure or planning of any sort, so why ruin a birthday with it?   I’ve learned to just turn the kids loose and let them choose their own activities.

  Today the kids had a great time playing Thomas the Train set, swinging outside, and trying out just about every board game that we own.  No stress, no expectations…everybody is happy.  Camille was thrilled to be the center of attention, the kids didn't want to go home even after 5  hours of "party", and I wasn't worn out, so that's a success in my book.

Camille, Lexy, Bri, Shania, and Grandma Lee
Dietrich, Camille, and Lexy

 Can't believe you're 9 years old already!  You are such a blessing to our family and you have grown into such a sweet young lady. Happy Birthday, Sweet Girl!!!

Love Mom and Dad  xxoo

Friday, March 18, 2011

Frugal Friday

Tip of the week- Consignment clothing stores

"If you can, you will quickly find that the greatest rate of return you will earn is on your own personal spending. Being a smart shopper is the first step to getting rich. "~ Mark Cuban

 I know!  Who the heck is Mark Cuban?  I liked the quote, but didn't recognize the name, so I looked it up.  He's the owner of the Dallas Mavericks,  President of one of the HDTV cable networks, and a billionaire.  He's only 3 years older than me.  (sigh)
ANYWAY, I like his way of thinking, and it's something I am constantly applying here at the Johnson household.  There are so many ways of cutting costs on how we shop, and any money NOT spent is money earned, right?  (Or so sayeth Benjamin Franklin, but in a more poetic way.)
One area that I can honestly say we ROCK on not over spending is clothing.  We just dont.  buy.  new.  clothes.  It is such a bad return for your money, because once you wear it, it's used, and unless it's a Power Suit that you're wearing into a major life-changing meeting, the return on your investment is just not there. 
 We do go hog wild and buy new underwear, socks, and occasionally new shoes, but then when we do, it's such a big deal and the kids appreciate it so much that it's become a treat for them to get new socks! ( Not sure how I pulled that off, and it's one of the perks that I hadn't expected.....!)
So, we shop used clothing stores like Once Upon a Ch*ld, Kids and K*boodles, and we also cruise the rummage sales in the spring. Hey, if it's good enough for the neighbors, it's good enough for us.  I can get very well made name brand clothes for a fraction of the cost, and it fits into my budget.  Because we do fostercare and are always needing clothes of various sizes, it also allows me to dress our little ones in nice clothes and I can then send more clothes with them when they leave because I didn't have to spend as much. 
Some of the other ladies at our church and I have worked out a trading system of sorts- we bring bags of clothes that our children have outgrown and give them to families who have kids approximately that next size down.  This has been a wonderful way to pass nice winter coats and dress clothing around, so that we don't have Christmas dresses hanging in the closet that only gets worn once. 
Because I track all of our expenses, I went back to check out last year's clothing expenses.  I spent less than $1600 on clothing ALL YEAR.  For 8 people, that works out to about $188 per person for the year.  Not too shabby.  Of course, we are fortunate that Loren gets a clothing allowance for work clothes, so that definitely helps us out. (disclaimer- one of our foster children was only here for 6 months, so maybe I should divide it by 7.5 instead of 8?)
I have to confess- this past month I just about blew my yearly clothing allowance on a new Columbia jacket!  The one I had was almost 13 years old and I had lost the outer shell to it, and with South Dakota winters, a warm jacket is a necessity.  So, I waited until the end of February, and purchased a $200 coat for $59.95.  Now, if it lasts me over 10 years like the last one did, that's about $6.00/year- not a bad return for my money. :-)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patricks Day and Adoption Update

One of the benefits of homeschool- the kids can get comfortable.... should I say VERY comfortable, while doing their work.  Here is Luke laying across my bed, doing his reading.  He needs to get away from the girls, otherwise he gets very distracted and doesn't get it done. 
Luke doing his reading
The green thing on him?  My yoga mat.  He's warding off evil leprechauns (his sisters) who were going to pinch him because he wasn't wearing green.  So this is his solution.  Pretty clever.

On the adoption front, we have sent in our USCIS request on March 4th, and we have received confirmation that they have received it!  This doesn't seem like a big deal, until you realize that we have worked 6 months to get to this point.  Once we receive the approval and get that notarized, then we are ready to send our dossier on to Pierre to get State Certified.  This process just can't move quick enough for me.

The paper chase continues....

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Special Olympics

Yesterday and today we spent the afternoons watching the South Dakota State Special Olympics Basketball tournament.  More than 500 athletes were competing from all around the state.  If you ever get a chance to attend a Special Olympics event,  you won't regret it.  The athletes are so happy about playing, so proud of their abilities, and for the most part, they are playing for the right reasons- to have fun!  We saw some athletes being given the chance to shoot over and over again, by both teams, so they cold have the thrill of making a basket.  We saw more volunteers show up than were needed, coaches volunteering alot of time to train these athletes, and families following their athletes from game to game, cheering them on.

Tanner taking the tip off.

Luke, Tanner, Grandma Lee, Michelle (me)
Special Olympics gives these kids and adults a chance to experience the excitement of participating in sports and the comraderie of being part of a team.  I can't say enough good things about this organization.

We are very proud of OUR athlete- wonderful job today, Tanner.  

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lent Conversation

So we're getting ready to attend Lent services at church, and Camille says to me "So how long is Lint and what's it for?"  (no, that's not a typo, she thought it was "Lint")

I explained that Lent was a kind of preparing for Easter Season, and that it was used as a time for self reflection, doing acts of love, and even sacrificing things that you indulge in that may get between you and being the best Christian that you can be. 

"Remember last year when Mommy gave up Diet Coke for over a whole month?"  I asked her. 

Oh yes, EVERYONE remembers that sacrifice.  Apparently it's a bit more legendary in our home than it should be, (and maybe there was more fall-out that I had anticipated from depriving me of caffeine for 40 days...hmmm?) but I did it to make a point.

Afterwards, I found out that the bets were all for me NOT making it, including my husbands, who only bet I would make it two days.  (thanks, honey)   Well, now they all know how stubborn we Danes can be. ;-)

So during school today, I had the kids write down something to give UP each day, in a way of observing Lent. Then each day we can talk about how hard it sometimes is to stick to a commitment, and also how it takes a lot of self discipline to give up the things that we enjoy.

 Here's what Camille wrote:

"I'll give up food, give up water, and pop."

Man, she is one, tough cookie.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Lead Me

The first time I heard this song by Sanct*s Real, it gave me goosebumps.  I felt such a connection to the singer- the lyrics echoed thoughts I have had about my husband and how important his role is in our home.  It has led to some wonderful discussion and a new way of looking at the dynamics of our family.

I hope it touches you as much as it did me. 

Saturday, March 5, 2011

4H and Violin


  Today was back to back kids events- first the SE Area Violin contest this morning for Bri and she came through like a trooper. She never fails to impress me with her courage- even though I knew she was very scared, she still kept her composure and performed beautifully.
She also earned her first 10 pt cup in violin performance- it takes at least 3 years of contests to earn enough points to win it, so she was very excited to find out that she had won it today.  Yah Bri!

We finished at the violin contest in Vermillion, and left for our 4H Talk and Demo Day in Viborg.  The kids each gave their presentations, along with about 20 other kids, and finished with a pizza party and basketball.

Bri's talk about Anacondas
Camille's talk about Sign Language

Luke's demo on equipment he uses for milking his cow
 All in all, a good day.   :-)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Frugal Friday~

"Beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship"- Benjamin Franklin

I am always looking for ways of saving money or conserving resources.  I was "green" long before it was a coined phrase or a yuppie movement, and I continue to look for ways of running our household more efficiently and more "frugally". 

Tip of the week- whenever you can, hang your laundry on drying racks or clothes lines instead of drying them. 

This can save so much money!  Any appliance that has to generate heat is going to be your biggest energy users; this includes hair dryers, clothes dryers, and water heaters. 

The first time I tried it, there were only 4 of us (less laundry then), and it was over 20 years ago- but the savings in my first electric bill was still over $50 dollars.  With a savings like that, I was hooked!

 Purchasing racks is your only investment, and they can run between $12-$20 each.  (Rummage sales and auctions are also a great place to find extra racks.)

After letting them dry over-night, I do a quick 1-2 minute "fluff" in the dryer with a dryer sheet, and they are done.  This is less wear and tear on your clothes as well, and your clothes will last longer.
Once the weather gets nice (meaning above freezing) we start hanging the clothes out on the clothes line.  There is no better smell than clothes fresh off the clothes line- I guess that's why Febreze has a scent named after it :-)


Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Homestudy is done!!

FINALLY!!  Similar to your final weeks of pregnancy, when you think that baby will just NEVER GET HERE, then suddenly it does.  And you can hardly believe it. 

We began this adoption last September, and we are now authorized to adopt a child from China, preferably a girl, 1-5 years old, with any of the special needs that we have indicated we could handle.  Now the waiting for a referral begins.

The homestudy, that was estimated to take 6-8 weeks, took almost 5 months.  Our agency was going through policy and procedural changes at the national level, so our local agency was plugging along, trying to figure out how to do the new process.  Just when we would think we were done, another item would come up, and then another...    We were their guinea pigs, I'm told.  


Now we can send off our I-800A form to our government, with a sizeable check, to request their permission to adopt a foreign born child, and that is estimated to take anywhere from 2 weeks turn around, to 2 months or more. 

I've had the envelope addressed and ready to go for almost 3 months.

This paperchase makes adding to your family "the old fashioned way" look like child's play.  Plus, it's alot more fun. ;-)

On a sidenote- we are REALLY enjoying our heat!  Last night we had the thermostat set at 64 deg and we all thought it was toasty.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Baby it's cold outside...

I have a love/hate relationship with my furnace;  I love it when it works, hate it when it acts up and refuses to keep me warm.  And EVERY year, it loves to test my affections by going out.  Every year. 

So this year, it was making funny sounds on Friday afternoon and smelling like burning rubber, so we turned it down until that night and ran the woodburning stove.  ( I DO have a love/love relationship with my stove!
  Maybe my furnace is jealous? ) 

Anyway, we woke up to a cold house Saturday morning, realizing that the furnace had gone out again.  We're tough midwest stock, so we decided to wait and call our furnace guy on Monday morning. Hey, our ancestors lived through South Dakota winters in meager homestead shanties, so we should be able to handle a few cold days as well!  Burned lots of wood over the weekend, and then called our furnace guy on Monday to ask him to kindly come and fix our quirky furnace.

 Bad news- he's had surgery and is laid up- can't work.  Plan B- call another heater repairman in our area who doesn't know the quirks of our furnace, but should be able to fix it.  Placed the call on Monday and left a message with his wife, then suffered in silence on Tuesday, figuring that he was busy.

 Today we are on day 5 without heat.  In South Dakota.  In February/March. Cold north winds.

Huddling around the woodburner, eating warm banana bread.

  Finally this morning I called him again. Somehow the message from Monday didn't get to him, but he was GREAT!  Came right over, found out that the motor thingy had gone out, and replaced it.  I didn't care how much it costs- I just wanted to feel my toes again. 

So now we are all laying around the house, enjoying this blissful heat that we often take for granted. 

Back to loving my furnace.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Homeschooling humor

Look closely at the bottom of the photo- see the fingers drawn on the page?  I thought Camille was just doodling and trying to avoid doing her math, but when I asked her about them, she said "Mom, I'm doing subtraction and I don't have enough fingers!"

Speaking of homeschooling, I have to admit that science is one of my favorite subject to teach (with English being my worse!)  This week we're learning how things work, including elementary physics to explain gravity, force, friction, and work applied to an object.  We have 2 boxes full of odds and ends that we use to test out our science experiments- most of them left overs from Luke's dissection of our old VCRs or CD players.

Here we are learning how a lever and fulcrum can be used to balance or raise a load.  We are using backgammon pieces for the loads because they stack so nicely, rulers for the levers, and a chinese checker game piece for our fulcrum.  Too bad the park is buried in snow, otherwise we would've gone to use the teeter-totter to demonstrate some of these principles.
Our "fulcrum" pieces also served to demonstrate how air can displace an object and lift the object, similar to a hover craft.  When Camille blows air down into the hole at the top of the cone, it actually lifts and moves- it's a fun and easy experiment.

I have found that just by living on a farm, my kids get more science opportunities than most kids that live in town.  They are exposed to living things with their livestock chores, plants and biology when helping with the gardening or harvest, construction and repair opportunities with the buildings and facilities, how weather affects our products and livestock... the opportunities are endless. 

Plus, it's Mom's favorite subject :-)