Tuesday, July 30, 2013

How we are getting ready for Marin

Our sweet Marin.  So much of my preparation is centered on Nellie's needs (since she is blind, non verbal, and not walking independently) but don't for a minute think Marin's needs are not on our list!!
Youngest picture we have of Marin.  I can't believe we missed this age!
Our Marin will be dealing with grief, a new language, a new home, and much more.  What is a family to this little one? We have much ground to cover, but some things I can plan for and set in motion.

First, this boy needs basic understanding of the Phoenician alphabet.  Jericho (6) is working on phonics and reading right now, so many resources and time will be devoted to this subject.  First step for Marin? Knowing his alphabet and the sounds the letters make, learning some sight words, enjoying being read aloud to (picture books).

In addition to phonics work we have decided that Marin needs a grounding in US history and specifically our New England history.  If he doesn't he will run the risk of missing so many references in our daily life (we are Yankees after all - history is everything).

I want to give Marin real world experiences.  So trips after he arrives will be (but not limited to):

  • Old North Church (One if by land, two if by sea)
  • Concord Bridge (The British are coming!)
  • Fenway Park (c'mon that is history - and the Futures at Fenway games are affordable)
  • New Bedford (or as we say, New Bedfid) Whaling Museum
  • The Boston Freedom Trail (which included the USS Constituion and Bunker Hill)
  • The Boston Black Heritage Trail
  • And the amazing Boston Museum of Science

Jericho took this picture.
Then we can come home and read about these things in easy picture books but he will have the basis for true literacy in English.  And it's fun!!

We want a Bulgarian student to come over and eat a roasted chicken and chit chat with our boy.  Luckily we have 5 colleges full of students!  Nate plans on getting some Bulgarian books when he's in Bulgaria for Marin to enjoy and to build our library of Bulgarian books (along with our Braille books :)).

And last I have been researching ways for Marin to play music (Jericho plays the violin, Gaelan is taking up the cello or piano in the Fall, and Lucas acts and sings in musical theater, Olive is just a ham).

Guitar maybe?
Violin like Jericho?

The sky is the limit!!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Please pray!

Well it's off.

Our whole and completed dossier (the package of papers we've been fingerprinted for, given our financial and health records for, our completed home study, marriage licence, HIV status etc.  all which had to be notarized and apostilled).   Seven months worth of work.  Lots of fees, lots of prayer.

It's off to Bulgarian to be translated and authenticated.

The Bulgarian government is in transition.  The meeting we need to approve our papers happened last week (after NOT happening for 3 months) and since they didn't get through all the already authenticated dossiers they are having another one on Thursday.  Our dossier may or may not be ready on time.

I need your prayers!

Please pray that they authenticate and translated our dossier in record time.  Please pray the officials find room for "just one more" dossier on Thursday and give us their approval.  If they do Nate could be traveling for our first trip in 3-4 weeks.  Which means our kids could be home by January or February.  If not, I'm not sure what the future holds.

So please pray for us!!  Send a message to the most Blessed Virgin Mother because I know she would like our children home too.  She is my rock (along with Him) in these trying times.  I have faith that our God is bigger than the paperwork and that all will happen on His timetable.  Please most gracious and powerful God guide me in what is good and true.  Help me abide in you.  Blessed Mother grant me peace.  Amen.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Learning Braille as a family

In our homeschooling family, learning usually happens as a group.  When we fell in love with our Nellie and started the adoption process, I started learning Braille with Hadley School for the Blind.  It didn't take long for my son Jericho (6) to join me in filling in the Braille cells with dots for fun.  Since we were already learning the sound of the print letters I just added learning the Braille letters into our education plans.  

I've learned how to identify and write the letters, numbers, and some symbols.  I feel like I am cruising right along and will be able to help Nellie learn Braille when she is ready.  

Hadley starts us sighted people out with identification first and then writing with the slate and stylus second.  Right now Jericho is working on identification while Gaelan (14) is identifying and starting to emboss.

Jericho is terribly excited about using my new labeling tape and the fancy Braille label maker.  You know when you see or feel the Braille in the elevator?  I find that exciting!  Well our house will soon have labels for Nellie.  Refrigerator....piano....window...  I want Braille to be as common as print in our house (and we do love our books!)

And since now you know I get excited by seeing and feeling Braille in an elevator, you won't be surprised how I love ordering Braille books.  I've begged my library to join a book club for the newest Braille and text books and I've started our personal library.  These ones are perfect for family read aloud - Braille and text with the original illustrations intact.  This Peter Rabbit one also has tactile elements.  Be still my heart.

The Tactales books have Braille and tactile illustrations.  We got them free through the Braille Institute.  Nellie will need to work on her tactile discrimination before we start Braille.  So we'll be doing lots of sensory activities.  But first we will help her feel safe and secure in her new home.  Lots of kisses and real experiences for concept development.  She'll need to have real experiences of up-down, in - out, over - under before they mean anything in Braille.  No comparisons to her peers, just slow and steady with lots of support.

This one has labels to label items in the bathroom.

This one is amazing!! Tactile illustrations for how to fold Origami!

And then my handmade Braille chart, situated in a strategic place, at least in my house (the bathroom!!!)

And NEWS:  we have USCIS approval and our letter is on it's way.  We will have it notaried and apostilled and off to Bulgaria it goes and then we are FULLY SUBMITTED!! If the Bulgarian government stays in shape we should have our travel dates very soon.  Prayers are welcome.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Consider supporting us

Hello friends!!

After first trip we still have our last agency fees, USCIS fee, travel fees for second trip, and post placement reports. That sounds like a lot but really we are in the HOME STRETCH!!

Please continue to participate in our Puzzle Piece Fundraiser by sponsoring a piece for $5 or more to help raise the last expenses. Your name will go on the back of a puzzle piece, so we can remember all the people who helped us bring our two children home!

Instead of purchasing a coffee this weekend think about these two kids who need a home.  Every dollar counts! Thank you!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Getting ready with our cane

We got a free cane for Nellie via the Early Explorers program.  You not only get a free cane (with the name of the person attached whose donations made it possible - I said a little prayer for them) but you get this book, a special copy of Future Reflections magazine on mobility, and a DVD. We also bought some purple duck tape for embellishments. 

Joseph Cutter suggests that children have access to their cane right from the beginning.  It should be part of their play and their toys.  We have decided to order a second white can for our youngest two children and a cane for us. That way we can all use our canes when out and about.

 In addition to cane use, Nellie might enjoy a few toys around our house that will allow her more secure mobility.  The push duck will alert her to changes in the terrain or objects in the way.

 And the baby stroller will allow her to feel secure when walking.  The stroller will take the impact of any collisions and look cute while doing it.

Olive spent the morning (with her shirt off) trying out Nellie's cane.  I see these two using their canes at the library and pushing their strollers with their dolls.  I just can't wait.

And speaking of waiting USCIS has said we are APPROVED (they just need one more little piece of paper - which they are getting!!).  AND the Bulgarian government has scheduled an IAC meeting which is the meeting we need to have happen to be invited to travel.  On our way!!!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Real Living & Learning

Education in our family is an ongoing process.  We like taking real world events and real life experiences and expanding on them.  If we are reading Peter in Blueberry Land for instance, you can bet it's blueberry picking time.  If Kim has  a free moment (HA!) she might sew up a quick outfit or  provide a wicker berry basket.  Kim and I have always stressed learning in its natural context. Learning from books certainly happens and experiments are staged indoors - I'm not saying we never pick up a workbook - but we try to keep it as real as possible.

Real world manners anarchy - sitting on the table and eating.
I’ve seen this play out in the educational plans that Kim has  been developing for our blind daughter Nellie when she arrives.  Much of the advice I've seen related to the important task of providing tactile experiences for kids with visual impairment involves children learning with plastic, beeping toys.  We've always been more Waldorfy than that, so Kim wanted Nellie to have tactile experiences involving tree blocks and leaves and rocks and seashells.  Instead of electronic beeping, Kim prefers small percussion instruments or even pots to bang on (Kim butting in here to say sometimes I think beeping and plastic are needed and I will use when needed).  Petting our cats and Corgi (yes – be jealous) or chickens or manipulating a spoon or dice are opportunities that present themselves naturally in the world – real things as tactile learning.  I believe real learning in context, for everyone,  leads to usable knowledge – if you learn and do something and it is relevant (not contrived) then it stays with you.

Just anarchy.

This reminds me of an issue of Future Reflections I was just reading.  The focus in it was on fostering independence in blind children.  Rather than setting the blind child up to become dependent on a care giver or isolating them in a “special” learning/living situation, several authors stressed the idea of blind students developing knowledge and skills that would allow them to more fully integrate into the world.  Giving real experiences – tactile, audial, learning, and life experiences – is part of this.  Understanding what a cat feels like or what a spoon striking a pot sounds like is more applicable to life than all the designed toys in the universe.  It is an educational foundation that ripples into other aspects of learning and life and this perspective will inform how we work with Nellie just as it informs how we work with our other kiddos. (Kim again - and it's more sustainable for the main educator *me* and for the wallet.  Learning to tie your shoes by tying your shoes is cheaper than a "tie your shoe/buckle your jacket" puzzle.  I can never find the puzzle when needed but I have many times during the day to help them tie their shoes.)

Olive looking like a Bill Peet creation.

The world can be scary for people with visual impairments just as it can be for the rest of us.  To some degree, almost everyone finds something attractive about controlled, safe situations, regardless of what the trade-offs are.  We always wanted our kids to learn and live in the world - in the community, with people of all ages and different backgrounds and abilities.  We have made learning a part of everyday life.  We want Nelllie to be out and about in the world too, we want her to put her isolated beginning behind her and engage life and experience it in a genuine way.  How and what we introduce to her will shape how she relates to the world around her, and we want  her to be a big part of our community just as we have wanted this for our other children. 

Now that is scary....

So as we work on our homeschooling plans for next year and our ideas for learning with Nellie when she comes and even as we (continuously) reorganize the house to make it more conducive to learning and living, we keep this in mind.  What do we want/need to learn, and what is the most real way to learn it, what brings us more into the world and our community rather than into isolation.  It's a pretty basic thought, but it helps us to keep focused on what is important to it and better choose what resources to invest in and how to allocate our (very precious and highly sought after) time.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

It's Braillester!

 Put your right hand on the letter A and your right foot on the Braille for A.
 Puffy paint would make this accessible for those with visual impairments.
Tubby thinks Corgis would like it more with dog treats attached.
If we can get 500 people to sponsor a puzzle piece for $5 we will be fully funded for first trip!!

More information HERE 

Hot pink Paypal link to your left <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Thank you!!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Getting ready, making room: a partial house tour

My husband will tell you that moving furniture is a little hobby of mine.  Coming home for work is always an adventure!  The other day I totally re-organized the kitchen (it's great by the way) but he couldn't find the trash can or the pots and pans.  

With Nellie (and Marin) coming (c'mon USCIS!!!) I have been thinking about "space".  Mostly how Nellie will be able to use the space and explore her new world (she basically sits in her chair in the orphanage all day).  I wanted it to be small enough for her to feel safe, yet spread out enough to encourage her to explore while having some tactile reminders of where she is.

This is the view from our kitchen.  Our house is a contemporary with an open kitchen, dining, and this space all attached.  The living room is through the arch on the left and has our wood stove (which basically heats our house in the winter).
I've since taken out the playstand you see with the silk on top.  It was one too many things for my comfort.
I gave Nellie a rug to define her play space and to ground her since I think this may be her comfort zone when first arriving.  We can bring toys to her and sit and play with the warm sunlight streaming in.  She'll be right in the middle of all the action.
A cozy spot to make imaginative scenes and play.  I have a feeling this might be a stretch for her when first coming home.  I'm not sure she knows how animals and pesky little gnomes behave to fuel her imagination and in turn her play.  Lots of book reading is in order.  Lots of experiences. 
This bookshelf holds lots of tactile goodness.  Crystals, rocks, pine cones.  Each can become part of an animals habitat or good things cooking in the play kitchen.  The top baskets hold Jericho's knitting needles and finger knitting yarn.  The one of the right has Olive's wool and her small carders.
Nellie's beloved piano.  At the orphanage she totes around a small, electronic one.  I can't wait for her fingers to find this one!
The round table is great for doing art and tactile activities.  We use it daily.
Accessible kitchen tools.  Jericho has been making good use of them since I put them on display.  Never underestimate the power of having tools out and easy to grab.

I love that are toys are simple and many are free.  Almost all the toys you see we have had since Lucas was a baby (18 years!!)  Many I have made.

I'm sure I will tweak this set up a few more times before she arrives.  I can imagine Marin making good use of the kitchen tools (he loves helping at the orphanage).  I hope Nellie will soon learn to dust the piano and crack an egg.

Now that the kitchen and play area have been tackled it's on to the closets and upstairs!  Can anyone answer why I decided to do this in 90 degree heat?  I'm nuts I tell ya'.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Getting tactile part two

Since I can't have my timing with this adoption (USCIS c'mon!!) I can focus on getting as many tactile/early learning activities read to go.  Luckily I have some willing test subjects.

Egg shell mosaics.  Clean out your egg shells, color them with food coloring (I used a plastic bag), let them dry in the sun.  Glue on paper.

Tactile sand (in this case salt) writing tray.  I put black construction paper in the bottom.  The kids can write letters or shapes.  I made it with an old Melissa and Doug box I had (the one the toys come in) but you could use a tray or cookie sheet.

This limbo is not what I want, nor what I think I need.  I've learned that what I want and what I think I need are usually in the wrong, tied up too tight in my limited perspective.  The Bulgarian government is not totally in place so even if we had our USCIS approval - we would still be waiting.  And we don't have all the funds to travel so this waiting time is giving us more time to fund-raise.

It is in His timing that I need to trust.  Please keep praying and supporting us.  Adoption is a long tough road but I wouldn't trade the opportunity to parent these two children for all the quick paperwork in the world!