Friday, 31 December 2010

Happy Ending


2010 marked a number of transitions for us. Jeff took a new position that required him to learn a number of different skills, which, of course, he is picking up quite well. Tommy officially joined our family when we completed the final step of his adoption. I finished my formal education, and am now really home full time, as opposed to home full time but working during Tommy's naps. Last but certainly not least, we were matched with boy number two. We are so thankful for the many blessings in our lives this year.

As for our latest blessing, little Mtoto, today we got an email saying that our court case is going well! Our lawyer hopes to have all of the documents we need completed in the next four to six weeks. We are cautiously optimistic. With Africa, you never really know what might happen. It's a crazy place, but we LOVE it, and hope to be spending some time there in 2011.

Cox Christmas (both parts)

We had Cox Christmas officially on the 27th, but a few relatives stayed over at my parent's house that night, which extended the celebration to two days. Lots of fun!





Christmas Baking Marathon

We did a two day cookie baking marathon with Jjaja, Aunt Emily, Gigi (my Grandma Kay), Aunt Annie, and Molly. The outcome of two day's labor was sugar cookies, gingerbread cookies, snickerdoodles, pumpkin cookies, chocolate-chip/toffee cookies, Butterscotch bars, and gluten-free peanut butter cookies. We also managed to listen to a great deal of Christmas music, watch Miracle on 34th Street and Sweet Home Alabama, and eat a massive amount of cranberry cheese.

Certain family members have complained about not being featured on the blog prominently enough. To rectify that, here are some pictures (all from the second day, when Aunt Emily and Gigi weren't around).





Thursday, 30 December 2010

A Little More Christmas Cheer

Tommy with Aunt Colleen and Uncle Kevin

Don't we look lovely on Christmas morning?

Great Gran and Poppa

With Aunt Annie and Cousin Molly

Breakfast with family

Christmas is exciting!

New Christmas duds

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Christmas

Well, as usual we had a very busy Christmas!

Tommy had a wonderful time, and I am happy to report that our practice paid off and he was polite during present opening. Tommy did not demand to open more presents as we had anticipated, but actually ignoring the unopened presents...why find out what all those boxes are when you have a brand new car to play with? Or a bunch of Duplos?

We do three celebrations on Christmas day- my immediate family, Jeff's immediate family, and my extended family on my mom's side. We do my Dad's side a few days after Christmas, which is nice because you always have another party to look forward to. It's a whole lot of Christmas, but we are so thankful that we can see everyone.

Most importantly, on Christmas Eve Jeff asked Tommy "Do you know what tomorrow is?" He responded (totally without prompting): "Baby Jesus' birthday!"







Family Christmas

Since we spend Christmas day with our extended families, we decided to do a "just our family" Christmas a little early. We had a nice dinner together that I "cooked" with some serious help from Trader Joe's (it was a crazy weekend, I really can cook by myself), then we opened presents.

I am very thankful that we did a practice round, because Tommy's response to his first present was an exuberant "I want more!" He had plenty of opportunity to say "Thank you mum and dad" and politely request to open another gift, so hopefully the lesson will stick. We may have gone a bit overboard.






He got a Mr. Potato Head (the surprise hit of the night), a Melissa & Doug mailbox/letter set, two wooden jigsaw puzzles (also M & D), two hardcover books, an Eric Carlisle sewing card set, a Goldilocks sewing card set, a foam Pirate bathtub play set, and a Little People Noah's Ark set.

I feel a wee bit guilty about giving him so much. But, I am rationalizing with the fact that I only spent $20, because I got it all previously loved. It makes me feel a little better.

I still can' t get over how much he likes that Mr. Potato Head.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

A Great Christmas Gift

Certain people in my family have difficulty keeping secrets, thus I can say with complete certainty that I am getting some sweet presents this year. Nothing I need, in that none of it is necessary to sustain my life, but definitely some fun stuff I want. That's exciting. I like getting fun things that I want. Really, who doesn't?

However, this Christmas I will open all that neat stuff knowing that halfway around the world I have a child who may not be getting the things that he needs.

I have been very cautious when discussing Mtoto's country, because we have decided to keep the blog open. But this I can tell you: formula that is sold in his country is not adequate by any standard, and many babies who drink it get very sick. It is probably not a coincidence, since the more developed country that supplies formula to Mtoto's country had a formula recall not long ago when it was discovered that there was a chemical in some cans of formula that was making babies very ill. Since that recall, babies in Mtoto's country who rely on formula have been getting ill from formula. It doesn't take much cynicism to suspect that all the recalled formula, unfit for the babies in the country that manufactured it, has been shipped to Africa where it is now being sold, for a high price, to people who have no alternatives. And that is the world in which we live.

Mtoto needs formula. And that's needs, not wants. Currently he has a supply of formula sent from the US. One of the hardest things during the wait has been thinking about what will happen if his formula supply runs out. As our wait has gotten longer, Mtoto's formula supply has become more important. It is probably the thing I pray about the most, next to maybe getting approval to adopt from his country's court.

I shared that with my coordinator this week, and she sent me this picture:


This shows the supply of formula brought over by the latest group of families to travel and pick up their kids. It will be split among many children and multiple orphanages, but, I now know Mtoto will have clean formula this Christmas.

Now that's a Christmas gift.

Friday, 17 December 2010

The Early Bird Gets the Bacon

On Monday I got an email, with the subject: "your trip is just around the corner!" How convenient, I thought, now I don't have to look up my itinerary, or Tommy's. I clicked on it and glanced at the flight time (I knew the day already), and filed the information away. I was a little bummed that it was at 7am. I mentally kicked myself for scheduling such an early flight, because I hate having to get to the airport by 5:30, but, I figured it must have been the cheapest ticket and resigned myself to a very early start.

On Wednesday Jeff and I woke up at 4am. Jeff got the car loaded, defrosted, and warmed up (it was 6°F outside) while I got myself and then Tommy ready. We got out the door a little before 5, and on the way I groused about how much I dislike 7am flights, and told Jeff I was never scheduling another one, and that I couldn't fathom why I had scheduled this one. Thankfully we made it to the airport by 5:30 (a Christmas miracle). By 6:10 we had finished with security, despite an absurd hold up at the scanner due to a cat urinating in the exact center of the scanner path, and the TSA agents insisting that anyone who wished to be scanned had to shuffle through the exact center of the scanner and actually place their feet in the puddle- no hopping over it. Then two agents got into a fight over whether or not they should let people do it because a few people did (sick), so the entire line was stopped while we waited for someone to clean up the pee, and apparently there was no one qualified to do that because it took forever (seriously, how hard is it to clean up pee? Do you have any idea how much pee I have mopped up in the last few months? GALLONS. If I had a paper towel I would have done it).

Anyhow, there we were at 6:10. 50 minutes to go until our flight. I decided that we should probably check our gate, because the gate we were told when we checked our bags was all the way at the end of the terminal. I pushed Tommy over to the big bank of monitors and found our flight. Found the 7am flight, departing from B9-a different gate- and mentally congratulated myself for having the foresight to check. I was feeling a little smug. I had timed everything so well. We had only twenty minutes to kill before the flight left. With Tommy, that's like a trip to the bathroom and the drinking fountain and once or twice around the moving walkway. I had managed to make it up to the counter with a minimum amount of help, and Tommy was an angel going through security. Everything was going perfectly.

Then, my eye caught the info for the next flight down. Los Angeles, 9am, gate B23. Hmmm, B23 was the gate we were originally supposed to report to. Scramble for the boarding passes. Glance at the time. 9am.

I went from smug to chagrined in 2 seconds flat.

And, I had three hours to spend at an airport with an extremely tired (and therefore hyper) two year old.

Ahhh, the morning of every mother's dreams.

Did I mention that I was running on only a few hours sleep? And that I am the type of person who really needs to sleep to function?

So, I did what any good mom would do in such a situation. I stuffed my beloved child full of bacon (thank you awesome airport Potbelly's for being cheap and decently good). Then, I capitalized on his love of throwing things away by having him clean up our breakfast one piece of trash at a time. We maxed out his love of moving walkways, checked out some planes being de-iced, watched the planes taking off and landing, and played the trash game again with a trashcan that was pretty far away- and in doing so cleaned out my entire diaper bag (bonus). Finally, we boarded our plane and made it through a delay and a rather long flight.

It was all worth it for temps in the 60s and In-N-Out. Our family is nice too, but no double-double.

In case you were wondering, I figured out my mistake- the email wasn't for me, it was for Jeff!

Friday, 10 December 2010

Little Update

We got new pictures of Mtoto today! I so wish I could share...he is getting so big. Ugh. It is so hard to see evidence that he is growing up without us. Obviously not seeing pictures wouldn't change the fact that he is getting bigger, but it alters it from an abstract idea to a reality. Some things are just easier in the abstract.

There is no news in terms of our progress through court. Things have slowed down considerably in a short period of time. This is not good for us, the other families, or any of the children being adopted. However, that's international adoption for you.

Please pray with us that whatever the hold-up/blockage is would be taken care of so that we can get our son home!

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Adoption Tax Credit

I seem to be running across more and more questions about the adoption tax credit and how it works. Since I got a head start on my taxes, and have thus put a little time into figuring out how it works, I thought I would share. As a disclaimer, I am not a tax adviser, accountant or anything else official. If you have questions, call the IRS hotline, they are actually quite nice and can usually help you (but sadly, not always- I've called many a time so I know). Or I guess you could pay someone to do your taxes.

Short Version:
Add up your allowed adoption expenses.
Subtract grants and employer benefits.
Claim leftover amount, up to $13,170, as your credit.
Wait for your check.

Here is the longer, more complicated, but also more informative version of how you prepare for filing the adoption tax credit:

First, you must keep track of all of your allowable expenses while you are adopting. If you can, pay either with check or credit card, and get receipts whenever possible. While you are in country keep a little notebook with you to track your cash spending. Put in in your purse/backpack/diaper bag and make a habit of recording your cash spending as soon as that money leaves your hands. You may not be able to get a receipt at say, the fruit market or rolex stand, but be sure and record what you spent precisely so that you have a record of it. You will need those proofs if the IRS decides to audit you. Also, you will get receipts when you withdraw currency from either an ATM or when you go to exchange your US dollars for foreign currency. Keep those receipts as well to back up your cash spending record.

Allowable expenses are those "reasonable and necessary expenses related to a legal adoption" that you paid out of pocket. This includes (but is not limited to): agency fees, lawyers fees, court costs, fees related to the preparation of your dossier (fingerprints, required training, document costs, notary, apostilles, etc), fees for any other required documents, and travel expenses. Travel expenses also need to be "reasonable and necessary" and "related to your adoption." According to the IRS tax topic (607, if you want to look it up) this includes travel costs (airfare, transportation in country) and costs related to meals and lodging. Although all adoptive parents know that it is necessary to do some sight-seeing and bring home items from your child's country, it is worth noting that the IRS did not include those things under their guidelines of allowable expenses. I've read that the question you should ask yourself is "could the adoption have been completed without paying this fee/expense?" if the answer is no then that expense is eligible. But things like a poster of native animals that your child needs to connect with their culture, or extra donations to your orphanage (those requested but not required, for example we bought some bags of food for the kids when we visited and a bunch of clothes and toys), visits to museums or cultural centers (unless required by your country or agency as part of the process), or trips to the pool to save your sanity cannot be claimed.

On a quick side note, any donations that you make to your child's orphanage can be deducted if you itemize instead of taking the standard deduction. However, you cannot claim a donation as an adoption expense and also as a deduction. Also, claiming anything labeled as a donation as an adoption expense is a bit murky. From reading some message boards on this topic, it appears that most accountants tell clients that fees labelled "donations" can be counted as fees IF (note the theme) they are actually required for the completion of an adoption. I read about this in the context of Chinese adoption, because the government has a mandatory "orphanage donation" of a few thousand dollars. This expense is not a gift, because you cannot complete your adoption without paying it. Thus, families adopting from China who pay this claim it as an adoption expense. If you do make a donation that is requested but not required, you may not be able to claim it as an allowable expense for the tax credit (but could claim it as a deduction).

Now that you have all of your receipts out and have added up all your expenses, you need to confirm that you spent over 13,170 (haha- of course you did). The other thing you need to check is how much you received in grant money or employer adoption benefits. You can't double dip here. Let's say you spend 25K. The tax credit is a little over 13K. If you get a 3K adoption benefit at work, and also received a 10K grant (unlikely, but this is for the sake of argument), then your total grants/credits, including the tax credit would be 26K, a full 1K more than you spent. You aren't allowed to make money on your adoption (although it is unlikely you would, because most grant organizations will be careful not to give too large of grants, and most work benefits require you prove costs above the tax credit before they will cut you a check). That said, before you can claim the tax credit you must subtract from your total costs any money you received from any organization or employer that was intended for the costs of your adoption.

You do a have a little wiggle room- donations made directly to you by your relatives or friends as personal gifts to help with the adoption can be used on those things that are not required (like donations to your orphanage, sight-seeing, etc) and on those things that you might not have the best documentation for. We were even given some money with a note saying we could spend it on getting Tommy something from his country- obviously I would not claim the things I bought Tommy as required adoption expenditures, but nor would we need to subtract the personal gift from our adoption costs before claiming the credit. The IRS allows each person to receive up to $11,000 a year in gifts tax-free (which is why you never think about adding up and reporting the value of the birthday and Christmas presents you receive). So any money given as a gift- that is- from an individual- with nothing of monetary value received in return- does not have to be subtracted from your claimed costs and can be used for those expenditures like visiting a museum or giving to a church you visit, or meeting a need you see at the orphanage or among the people you meet(and you will see plenty) that we all know are necessary to do, but that the IRS does not view as necessary for completing your adoption.

The only other wrinkle here is money that you may have raised for your adoption. Lots of families fund raise to help with expenses. Now, if you fund raised through a non-profit that provided a tax deduction to those who purchased something or donated, the money you raised would be treated as a grant. However, if you raised money as a private individual directly by selling something and making a profit, then that profit (not total money taken in, just profit) must be reported as part of your regular income. The bummer is, you have to pay taxes on the money you raised. The bright side is that you don't have to mess with subtracting that income when you are dealing with the tax credit. For example, if you raised 10K (again, highly unlikely, I know) by selling soaps or t-shirts or coffee, you must report that money as income because it is income. But, legally you would not need to subtract it from your total adoption costs before claiming the credit. You might decide to donate any extra to someone else who is adopting or use it for another adoption, just as a matter of conscience, but that has nothing to do with the IRS.

Ok, so back to that 1040. The adoption tax credit is a refundable credit.

No one pays taxes on their whole income. We all know about income deductions, exemptions, and adjustments that help to lower the taxes we pay each year. Those things reduce the amount of income you pay tax on. For example, a married couple making 50K gets to take a standard deduction of about 11K (it's a bit over that, but lets use round numbers). If they have two kids and have contributed to an IRA or spent money on certain things, like higher education, they might have another 16K to subtract from their income. So, their taxable income (adjusted down from 50K) is 23K. The tax they owe is $2,600.

Now, on to credits. Say they have 2K in credits, and had 2K of income tax withheld from their paychecks.

Their total owed is $2,600

Their total payments/credits were $4,000

Now, lets say that one of their two children was adopted and their adoption was finalized that year.

Now their total owed is still $2,600 but their total credits, including the adoption tax credit of 13,000 are 17,000.

Now some credits are refundable, some carry forward (this is how the adoption tax credit used to be) and some are not useful if you can't take advantage of them right then- they expire yearly. The adoption tax credit is now refundable, which means, if you don't owe the taxes, the government will send you check for the credit.

So, the couple can subtract from their tax bill their 2,00O in regular credit (unrelated to the adoption), and they are left with a tax bill of 600. They have paid 2000 into the system and are owed the adoption tax credit of 13,000. The couple must still pay the 600 in taxes they owe, BUT, they can then get back all of their remaining tax payments, and their adoption tax credit. Their total refund check would be about $14,600 in this scenario. That refund number reflects them receiving back a portion of the money they paid for their taxes that they ended up not owing, as well as the credit for money they spent on their adoption.

What we did- our adoption finalized in January 2010, right before Jeff started his new job. When he filled out his paperwork, we filed an outrageously high number of exemptions and we have not paid any federal income tax into the system this year because we wanted the money to start adopting again and we knew that we would not owe taxes. This would be a risky move to make if you were not positive that you were finalizing, but since we finalized so early in the year it made sense for us. We still pay state and payroll taxes (social security) of course, but it put the money we would get back later into our pockets more quickly. Of course, our "big check" come April won't be so big...but it will still be better than nothing!

I hope this is helpful. I will update it after I get the new tax forms and actually do my taxes if I think of anything else that needs to be said. (Or if you have a question/see a problem email me and I'll either try and answer or fix my error). Have fun crunching your numbers! Or at least have fun cashing that check!

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Snow!






Wednesday, 1 December 2010

One For the History Books

December first brought our first real snow this year, and our first biting cold. We had bible study this morning, and thus we had to brave the unpleasant weather. Tommy is still fighting wearing his snow gear, so by the time we reached our destination he had on no hat, no mittens, and he was missing one boot.

We were running a bit late, so I hurriedly clipped my keys into the bag, got out and shut my door, than ran around to Tommy's side to dress him and haul him out.
Only his door was locked. All the doors were locked.

Oddly enough, I don't remember locking the doors. That isn't my "autopilot" because that isn't my routine. I lock the doors using the passenger side door, after I have retrieved Tommy and my bag. My problem, typically, is forgetting to lock the car. Clearly, something threw me off this morning. I blame the cold!

Other women from my bible study were getting out of their cars, so I called out to see if anyone had a cell phone. I have one, but I keep it in my purse. My purse was in the car. With my keys. Someone did, and she suggested I call 911 (as opposed to AAA) because at 20 degrees getting Tommy out of the car quickly was the most important thing. I called, got transferred to the dispatcher for my city, and explained that I had locked my keys and my son in the car. She verified my location, and then asked "is the car running?" No. "Is there a baby in the car?" Yes, of course, not only had I already said that, but why else would I call 911? Who calls 911 just because they get locked out? (Answer: apparently lots of people). The dispatched let me know that someone was on the way.

It's hard to tell how long we waited, at least ten, maybe fifteen minutes before the officer showed up. The first question he asked me was "may I see your license?" I told him it was in my purse...in the car. He had to do some extra verification because our car is not in my name (it was purchased a few years before we got married), and then he got to work.

Up until that point Tommy was doing OK. I think the first few minutes he just thought I was having a little conversation before getting him out. After about five minutes passed, he started to get a little worried, but I managed to calm him down. When the officer arrived he was getting increasingly anxious and crying a bit. As the officer made attempt after unsuccessful attempt to break into the car, it freaked him out and he was howling.

The good news is, our car is hard to break into. Anti-theft locks make it very difficult for anyone but a locksmith to open. And pulling on the handles won't open the door either. The bad news is, our doors are pretty scratched up from the repeated attempts to open them. The worse news: after about ten minutes the officer decided we should probably break a window. Ouch.

Thankfully, one of the women who sat with me as I waited had a better idea, which she shared with the officer. He didn't think it would work, but thought it was worth a try before breaking the window. It worked! (I'm not telling what it was, because I don't want you breaking into my car).

So, we didn't have to break a window. Tommy was rescued in a timely manner- the inside of the car was even still warm. I'm not surprised since the heater was on high up until the time I turned the car off. I like to be toasty.

Tommy recovered well and decided he wanted to attend what was left of his class. He ended up having a great rest of the morning, which was fortuitous considering he had two immunizations scheduled for the afternoon. And, I accidentally injured his, um, boy parts while trying to adjust his car seat. Also, he crashed his head into the refrigerator while spinning and dancing in the kitchen. Poor kid. What a day.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

We Are Thankful for...Abundance

As we all gather with family and friends around our Thanksgiving tables, we will be thinking about all the blessings in our lives: the people, the provision, and all the extras we enjoy. We all know that Americans live in extreme abundance. We all have access to clean water, free educations, and more material goods than we need. Yet, for much of the year, we often forget all that we have and focus on what we don't have. I include myself in this list. Just yesterday, as I stepped outside into the hail/wintery mix to throw a load of laundry in the washer, I was lamenting the fact that I don't own a washer and dryer, that I have to walk outside all winter to do load after load of laundry, when I remembered scrubbing Tommy's parasite poop covered clothes in a little bucket over and over, wringing them out, and hanging them to dry, then having to make sure they were ironed before anyone wore them to kill any mango worm eggs (worms that burrow into your skin to incubate and then crawl out when they hatch), and I realized that I shouldn't complain. I have a lot to be thankful for.

I originally started the remainder of this post about a week ago, inspired by a poll I saw next to some article posted for National adoption awareness month. I saw an (admittedly unscientific) poll posted online asked parents, "If you haven't adopted, what is the biggest reason why?" The primary reason, cited by 56% of respondents: "money, money, money, money!"

In response to that, I decided we need to share our testimony of God's provision for Tommy's adoption, and I decided to post this today because, of course, Tommy is at the top of our "thankful for" list, and because we are so thankful for the abundant provision we received during our adoption process. Today is a day to reflect on one's blessings, and this is an area where we have been blessed beyond what we could imagine. So, here is the post I wrote, minus the original intro which explained the "money, money, money, money" poll referenced above, originally just titled "Abundance:"

I truly believe that if God is calling you to adopt he will provide, just as he provides for all the rest of our needs, and often for our wants as well. Yes, part of that provision may come from your income, which can probably stretch farther than you think. Most adopting families cut back and make sacrifices, but often that is not enough to come up with the huge amounts required to adopt. Yet, the more families I talk to about this subject the more evidence I see for not letting money hold you back when it comes to deciding whether or not you should pursue an adoption, because I have heard so many stories of provision that echo what we experienced. Anyhow, here is our story:

When the doctors first told Jeff and me that the condition that killed Leah was genetic, we shared with them that we would prefer to adopt rather than pursue the options they had for us. They thought we were crazy, but we had always wanted to adopt after having biological children, so it seemed to us that God was simply accelerating our adoption timeline. I called a large Christian agency and shared our desire to adopt with an intake employee, and talked a bit about our living and financial situation. She told me she was sorry, but they wouldn't be able to work with us, because our apartment was too small and they did not believe that a couple in our position would be able to meet our financial obligations (i.e. pay them their money). At that point, I believed that the reason we wouldn't be adopting was "money, money, money, money!"

This was terribly discouraging. Our health insurance would pay for various fertility options, but that was not something Jeff and I felt comfortable pursuing, and we truly preferred the idea of adoption. We thought through our alternatives and came to a place where we believed we had no good options. A few weeks later we shared this with our small group during prayer time, and a friend in the group, who also happened to be a social worker employed by a foster care agency, indignantly responded that she was sure we could adopt and that she was positive that the information we had been given regarding our eligibility was off-base. That was the encouragement I needed to make a few more phone calls. The next agency I called told me exactly how they would "fix" the "problem" of our apartment, and that as long as we weren't in debt and had some savings they weren't concerned about us paying our bills. Although we didn't end up working with that agency, that phone call gave us hope, and we began seriously researching adoption. We found both an international and home study agency and got started.

Money was once again a consideration for us as we looked at adopting from various countries. Some countries require that couples have a significant amount of assests, which disqualified us, or have yearly income standards that we could not meet. I had initially wanted to adopt from either South Korea or China, but we were ineligible for both of those countries. Uganda did not have those requirements, so we were able to pursue adoption there.

The projected cost of Tommy's adoption was roughly $28,000. Jeff and I were both still in graduate school, and making only slightly (very slightly) more each year than the projected cost of the adoption. We did manage to live on less than we made, barely, but God always seemed to provide when things were tight, and thus we did have money in our savings accounts to get started.

Amazingly, it seemed like whenever we withdrew significant funds to pay for adoption costs: our homestudy, visa, or to make agency payments, those funds would be replaced. Early on some very generous friends and a relative provided enough to cover our homestudy costs and first payment to our agency. Then we recieved a grant from Show Hope, and then another grant from an organization partnered with our international agency, which covered the rest of our agency costs. Right before we traveled more friends and family pitched in, with both money for travel and donations of clothes and shoes for us to take to the orphanage. Finally, when we came home (and faced all those credit card bills), we were given an incredible grant from the St. Andrew's adoption fund. Of course, we did spend more traveling and finalizing the adoption than we received in grants/donations, but in just a few short months we will file our taxes and apply for our adoption tax credit. Between the credit, the grants, and the personal donations, the cost of Tommy's adoption will be covered. Or at least, all of the costs that I remembered to properly record, and I'm sure I wrote down almost everything.

God's provision was abundant.

The funny thing is that I didn't do the math on Tommy's adoption costs until about a week ago- just in time for adoption awareness month, and right after I happened to see that poll. If you know me and my love for number crunching, that might be surprising, but it was a really daunting task. What really inspired me to slog through four envelopes of receipts, most of which were in UGX and not US dollars, was the desire to be ready to send in our taxes the day after we get Jeff's W-2s. We want that refund! I kept meaning to do it, so that I could write a post and let everyone know how amazingly God provided (I knew he did even before I ran the numbers), but I forgot about it, then I didn't have the energy, and so on. In the end, apparently, the only thing that motivates me is "money, money, money, money!"

On a serious note, the adoption tax credit for adoptions finalizing this year and next is higher than ever: $13,170. In countries that allow independent adoption, fees can be closer to $15,000 or 20,000, depending on airfare costs and the price of home studies and US court adoption in your area. Domestic adoption programs for children of color can be less than $20,000 as well. Foster to adopt is very low cost- often free. Adoption can be affordable. All that is to say, if you feel the call, don't let "money, money, money, money!" hold you back.

On this Thanksgiving, I am so thankful that money did not hold us back. I'm thankful that we have Tommy, and that he has us, and that he will soon have a brother. I'm thankful he is now well nourished and growing, that his body is continuing to heal, and that he feels secure and loved. My list could go on and on, because we have much to be grateful for, but I need to get going because it is time to eat and celebrate.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

We're Thankful for...Water!

Earlier I shared that the water at Holy Innocent Ibanda Babies Home (Tommy's orphanage) is contaminated, and that BABTU has been raising money for a well to serve the orphanage, and possibly the hospital across the street as well. We just heard that they have met the fundraising goal, and will be able to move forward with putting the well in place!

We know our family and friends have been contributing to this project, so a big THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts to those of you who helped make this possible. Clean water will make a huge difference in the live of all this kids served by Holy Innocent!

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Saving Life

Are you perhaps looking for an opportunity to care for a child who has been orphaned? Juna Amagara (translation: Saving Life) Ministries is looking for sponsors for children in western Uganda. We have been very impressed with everyone we have met who works for this ministry (and we are so thankful for the role Juna Amagara missionaries played in our adoption story).

$35 a month can provide the funds necessary for an orphaned child to go to school. Please take a minute to look at the pictures of these children waiting for sponsorships and prayerfully consider if one of them is waiting for you.

One of them has been waiting for us! We have been wanting to sponsor a child in Uganda for a while now, but had a previous commitment to a young woman in Bolivia. Monday we got a letter in the mail announcing that the community that the young woman lived in was "graduating"- they no longer need intensive aid- and thus our sponsorship commitment was coming to an end. The next day we got the email from Juna Amagara about sponsoring an older child (coincidence? I think not), and promptly filled out our paperwork. We are so excited to find out who we will be matched with and to begin a relationship with them.

From Juna Amagara's recent newsletter:
If you go to our website sponsorship page, you will find 20 children waiting for sponsors. Most of these are teenagers, some of them 18, 19 or older. Why, you may wonder, are these kids needing sponsors when other orphan care organizations offer only small children, ages 5 and older?

Rev. Ben offers this answer:

"Given the opportunity of promise of a better life and hope through education, teenage orphan boys and girls who didn't get a chance to start school early because their parents had died and there was no one to give them a glimmer of hope earlier until they heard of JAM, their pleading for help is: IT'S NOT TOO LATE FOR ME TO START STUDYING, PLEASE GIVE ME A CHANCE! Then ugly reality stares you in the face that these teenagers who have lost all or one of their parents and all sense of security gone, and if they are girls will soon lose their virginity and innocence due to rape or sexual exploitation as they look for support and survival, a sense of exciting assurance wells up in our guts that ALL IS NOT LOST for these precious ones once IF they can get sponsors to get them into JAM Programs. We have seen it happen that age ceases to be a deterrent for these teenagers and with ambitious gusto they pour their youthful wits and strengths to studying hard.

"There are kids like these all over Uganda. Growing older with no education leads to all kinds of problems, the greatest of which is HOPELESSNESS. That's why we run Youth for Survival Conferences around the country - to give hope to those we cannot bring in to the program. We need to tell them that with God, ALL IS NOT LOST."

Indeed, seeing a tall young man in class with small children seems odd, but to him, a 16 year-old going through primary school, is the chance of a lifetime, a drowning man grateful that someone saw him in time and threw a line.

Sponsoring a young child is perhaps a 15-year commitment. But many people would like to see a "return on their investment" much earlier, say 5 years or less, watching a child gain enough education - reading, writing, arithmetic and English - to support him or herself in that time. Sponsoring a teen will do that. And when you come to Uganda, you can hug someone your own size."

Thursday, 18 November 2010

T is Thankful For...

Today we made a turkey with five paper feathers. On each feather I wrote something that Tommy told me he was thankful for:

Five hot dogs
Tacos and beans
park and zoo
Daddy, Poppa, and Tommy
Being treated like a prince

Of those five things, guess which one was totally unprompted? That's right. Being treated like a prince. In fact, he just wanted to write that on every feather. I'm still shaking my head/laughing at that. We are in for trouble.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Waiting, Waiting, Waiting...

Any new news on the adoption? Um...no. I wish. This one will probably be quite a wait.

I knew entering into this adoption that we would be waiting much longer than we did with Tommy's. Or, at least, much differently.

With Tommy, we waited about five months for our match with him. Those months were excruciating, as we were matched and then unmatched with a child whose circumstances should never have led to a referral, found out that our international agency was not as ethical as we were led to believe, and later found out that someone at our agency had actually deliberately stalled our final match. Lovely.

That said, God absolutely used all of that to bring us together with our precious boy. Therefore, I am glad that I suffered during that time, although then I certainly did not feel that way. I wish that God would have found a more pleasant way to bring our family about, but every single tear I shed led me one step closer to my amazing son. I'm trying to hold on to this perspective as we wait for Mtoto to come home.

This time around the process is different. We were matched with Mtoto within weeks of receiving our visa approval, and now we will be waiting on the slow wheels of bureaucracy to turn, while he gets older, and someone else gets to witness all of his firsts. I know I missed all of that with Tommy too, but I didn't know I was missing it, and knowing does make a difference. This part of waiting is hard.

However, waiting with a child at home is far easier than waiting without one. The house is full of laughter, we get tons of "slobby kisses" (as T refers to the wet ones), and we are both rather distracted by his many hijinks. I'm guessing this wait has also been easier because our wounds from losing Leah are no longer as fresh. We aren't simultaneously mourning and waiting, and, we no longer have the "what if we never have a child" scenario in the back of our minds.

We know that our paperwork is with our lawyer and that he is pursuing a court hearing for us, and has been since mid-October. Unless something is wrong with our paperwork, we likely will not know about our hearing until it is finished and we have received approval. It is a little disconcerting to know that someone across the world is deciding your fate without having any idea of when that might be happening. We have been told that cases are currently averaging two to three months to get through court. Right now our prayer is for a quick hearing and a positive ruling, and lots of patience as we wait. We know the timing of everything is in God's hands, and when there is new news we will be sure to share.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

A Little Tommy Update


Tommy has begun to occasionally refer to himself as "T-Master." (How Jeff is that?)

He tell us, "I'm a big guy. I'm a man."

Tommy gives me a serious look:
T: Mum! Bears put their pee pee in the toilet.
M: Oh, ok.
T: Yay Bears!
(Variations of this conversation occur frequently with different animals, or the names of people we know)

The other night we were having dinner with Jeff's supervisor and his wife and son, and at one lull in the conversation Tommy turns to me and says: Mum wearing underwear? Then to Jeff: Daddy wearing underwear?

When he needs to respond to a question in the affirmative, he no longer just says yes, but "Yes, I did." Or "Yes, I am..." His inflection when he does it is so funny.

People have begun to ask how Tommy has reacted to news that he will have a brother. I don't think he really understands what it means quite yet. Sample conversation:

Tommy runs up to me hold the letter "F" magnet.
T: Mum, F is for family!
M: That's right. And do you know who is in our family?
T: Papa!
M: Yes, papa is in our extended family. But our immediate family is Tommy, Mum, Dad, and soon, Mtoto.
T: Mtoto toot?
M: Yes, Mtoto toots.
T: Mtoto say excuse me (this is said as a command, not a question).
M: Well, you can teach him.

In other news, he wants to name his brother "Boris." He has become possessive about the empty chair at our table, informing guests that it is "Mtoto's chair." Also, he will say, when handed a picture of Mtoto, "this is my baby brother." Or he might just mention that it is a picture of a sleeping baby. Still, progress. I've checked out a few books at the library about getting new babies, and so far he seems to be enjoying them. I am confident that he will adjust to having another child in the home, and he has quite a while to get used to the idea. I'm just not sure how it is going to play out when he actually sees me holding someone who is not him...this has been a big struggle in situations (like church nursery) where I have had to hold other kids.

But for now he is very anxious to have his brother home. He recently ran and opened up our front door. When I asked him to shut it, he told me "no, door open for mtoto to come in." Explaining to him that it will probably be another six months just breaks my heart.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

The Call to Orphan Care

Disclaimer: This may be a hard post. My intention is to encourage reflection and discussion, not to guilt or preach. After all, it is God who knows and speaks to our hearts, not me.

If I had a dollar for every time I heard "I've always wanted to adopt, but..." we would be well on our way to paying for adoption number two. Now, there are plenty of great reasons for not adopting. Not everyone is called to adopt because God simply has other plans for them, and many people who might otherwise be willing are disqualified from adopting based on age, medical conditions, marital status, or financial situation. However, the sheer volume of adoptable orphans begs an important question about the adequacy of the church's response to the needs of the parentless.

Providing for the parentless is something that has to be done on numerous fronts: giving resources to keep families intact in the first place, assisting willing relatives to care for orphans in their family group, encouraging adoption in the child's place of origin, and providing for children who live in countries where adoption is not an option. However, when adoption is a possibility and these others options are not working, social science is abundantly clear that adoption is the best option: children prosper in families, and wither in institutions. In the long term even the best institution cannot provide the security and stability of loving parents.

Adoption is not the sole province of the infertile. Those who cannot create children biologically may adopt in higher numbers as a way of building families, but the idea that adoption is or should be the "back-up" option for building a family both places an unfair burden on those who already struggle with the emotional weight of infertility and incorrectly places those who are adopted into families in a "second best" category. Adoption is for those whom God has called. Period. It doesn't matter how that call comes about.

So, here's the pertinent question: is God calling your family to adopt? There are millions upon millions of orphans in the world, and only thousands of adoptive families each year. The imbalance is striking. If you have felt the call to adopt, please seriously examine what is holding you back (if you haven't, feel free to skip on down two paragraphs). Is it that the child you adopt might not be perfect? Are you simply complacent? Too comfortable with the status quo? Afraid of the bumps in the road? Perhaps you are concerned about racism effecting your family (or is it in your family)? Lack of money? Unwillingness to travel? Fear of paper cuts?

Adoption can be painful. So is labor. It can be expensive. God provides. Adoptive kids can have special needs, and require extra effort to catch up developmentally, they can have long term effects of malnutrition, including a slightly higher rate of learning disorders. But passing on your genes isn't necessarily a guarantee of superior performance or behavior. Adoption can be hard, but there are numerous avenues of support from other adoptive families, families who will lift you up in prayer and provide you with encouragement when you need it. Yes, racism exists. Yes, you will get intrusive questions, but is that a reason to deprive a child of a home? Travelling to another country can be nerve-wracking, but it can also be a huge blessing. Sorry, I've got nothing for the paper cuts, except to assure you that band-aids are cheap.

Is God calling you to support children without parents in another way? You have no idea what a blessing you can be to a foster or adoptive family by coming alongside them in prayer. On hard days (during the looooonnnnnngggg wait to get Mtoto), I am so thankful just knowing how many of you are praying for his healthy, safety, care. It really makes a difference. There are many other "tangible" options as well: you could sponsor a child, support an orphan care organization, support special needs orphans with little chance of being adopted, donate to your church's adoption fund, babysit for an adoptive family that has training or interviews to attend, make a meal for a family that has recently brought a child home, help an adoptive family clean their home pre-inspection (huge huge blessing, trust me), become a foster parent, volunteer to support local foster parents, help a single mom or dad who has decided to parent, honestly, I could go on and on, there are so many ways you can serve.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Halloween

Last weekend we made the first attempt at wearing this year's Halloween costume, a very cute and warm tiger outfit. To say that it did not go well would be an understatement. There were tears, screams, and desperate pleas to get out of it. Needless to say, we took it off. Then we spent all week talking about how great it would be to dress up like a tiger, how it would be kind of like Tigger, and how big kids like to wear costumes and trick or treat. All week Tommy has been telling people that he was going to be a tiger for Halloween, and has been making comments about wanting to trick or treat.

Today when the time for trick or treating arrived, Jeff and I both made a huge deal about how wonderful it would be to wear a tiger costume. Jeff put it on his head first, and then when Tommy agreed that it was cool and tried a few roars we helped him into it. For about the first 30 seconds I thought he was actually going to wear it. Then the meltdown started. Despite all of our best efforts it became evident very quickly that there would be no tiger prowling the streets for candy this Halloween. I was bummed because it was a really cute costume, but not that upset because it was a hand-me-down, so it wasn't like we had spent a ton of money on it, and Mtoto can always wear it in a few years. But, Tommy still wanted to trick or treat. And, (no surprise here) he declared that he wanted to be a pirate.

Jeff thought fast and pulled together some pirate-like accessories, and in about three minutes we had a decent costume together. Had Tommy agreed to wear the "treasure" we had, or to put on a make-up beard it would have been even better, but those ideas were flatly rejected.

The Pirate:


The Booty:


The Booty after Mum looted it (hey, I had to get the "dangerous" candies and the gluten out...and if a few candies that I happen to like got mixed up with those, Tommy will never know):

Monday, 1 November 2010

It Sure Beats Olan Mills

Our church is putting out a photo directory. Instead of going with the old stand-by, they used Hop Skip Photography. This resulted in my favorite church-directory photo ever:


I wish T would have smiled, but he was going through a no-smile phase this summer. He's back to smiling now, of course. As a side note, can you believe how color coordinated we are? And we didn't even buy anything new for the picture. So, basically this photo is a double miracle. 1. We all look good. 2. I pulled together decent matching outfits from our closet. Seriously, this has never happened in my long church directory photo taking history. But then again, maybe it isn't me, maybe all those bad photos should be blamed on Olan Mills...

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Pumpkin Carving





Thursday, 28 October 2010

Before Five in a Row

I admit to having some suburban mom guilt. Recently, someone informed me that it was time for me to start looking into preschools, in order to insure that the one I enrolled Tommy in was excellent. I felt a little guilty. I didn't bother telling her that I probably won't be sending Tommy to preschool next year. Maybe I will, but probably not.

It isn't that I don't think Tommy will like it, because he probably would. It is partly because it is so expensive, well more than partly. But it is mostly because I dislike the idea of having to drive him 15 minutes each way for him to spend 2 hours someplace while I have to figure out things to do in that "wasted" space. I don't spend much time shopping, and I'm sure neither Jeff nor our bank account would appreciate it if I started creating errands to fill four to six hours a week. Also, with number two on the way (officially), I would be toting around another child during these errands, and I have found that kids seem to have a limited tolerance for shopping. Thus, I think the cost to benefit ratio is a bit too heavy on the cost side. I know, sacrifice, children, love, blah blah blah.

My solution has been to find activities where we all get something. I go to bible study, Tommy plays with his friends in the nursery. We go to the library together for storytime and picking out books. I go to MOPS and he goes to Moppets. Soon, we hope to get in to BSF, which has an actual program for the kids (come on, extra teacher for the two year olds). We are out three to four mornings a week with this schedule, not to mention Sunday brings Sunday School, so Tommy is getting plenty of socializing in (plus more at play dates, the arboretum, and the park, but that will be on hiatus for the winter).

The second part of my solution, and the alleviation of my "my child will be so far behind when they start kindergarten" suburban mom guilt, is Before Five in a Row. On it forces me to make up craft projects for Tommy. I have felt particularly bad about our lack of crafts because I actually liked crafts when I was younger and I always had to seek them out for myself. We have some craft supplies, but since Tommy doesn't ask for crafts I never remember to get them out.

The point of BFIAR is to read the same book everyday for a week, and do a little project that relates to the book.

I let Tommy pick the first book, and he chose Corduroy.

We did various activities that tied into the book:

We learned a bible verse about friendship, talked about what family and friends are, and had a discussion on polite manners in a store.

He made a button box, and has been having a blast sorting buttons (well supervised, I assure you).


He made a bank, and received some money to save. Six whole pennies!


We acted out the dramatic scenes. Tommy particularly enjoyed pretending to fall off the bed and crash into a lamp.

On the last day, we took a field trip (this was my idea, not the book's) to a "department store" (Ikea), so Tommy could do things like Corduroy did. We brought the book and started the story downstairs, then went up the escalator when Corduroy did, then Tommy chose a bed to sit on, just like Corduroy for reading the rest of the story and pretending to hide from the night watchman. Tommy had a blast, and I got to stock up on frozen meatballs. Win-win.




I thought the Corduroy ideas were pretty good. This week we are doing Good Night Moon, and it has been less inspiring. However, at least it is getting me thinking about activities for Tommy other than pulling out the cars or the trains, again.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Progress!

Well, we have been making some significant strides in the area of potty training. After the last round I decided we needed a long break. We were both done. But then Tommy started insisting on wearing underwear. He didn't do it everyday, but when he did he was rather stubborn about it. When he asked I let him. He sometimes went in the toilet, and sometimes didn't. He also began requesting to go more even when he was wearing a diaper. When he asked he got to go, but we didn't push it.

After a few weeks of this I got tired of the underwear battle. I didn't mind letting him wear it around the house, but when he insisted on wearing it out and not consistently going in the toilet...that was less than ideal.

I received a great deal of advice after the last attempt. Thank you all. I decided I would go in the opposite direction of the "three day method" since that absolutely did not work for us, and basically adopted all of the "do nots" from that plan. We are going slowly. I am using bribery- multiple types- stickers for peeing in the toilet, little plastic sea creatures for pooping in the toilet, and Hotwheels for days that he stays totally dry. He also gets to help clean up when he makes a mess. I am using diapers at night and during naps, and occasionally when we go out and I don't want to worry about him wetting. I am also allowing Tommy to go on trees, the grass, etc when we are in the backyard instead of having him pee on himself while I rush him to the toilet.

Tommy is doing such a great job. He has been dry at church and at the playtime during my bible study, he has stayed dry at Costco, Trader Joe's, and the Zoo (huge triumph). The only issue I am having is getting him to go in public toilets. He doesn't like being held up, standing on the seat, or sitting on the seat, and he is way to short to reach otherwise.

This may be a long process with lots of laundry to do and messes to clean up, but so far it has been much easier this way.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

That Time We Met SCC

So, if you know Jeff well, you know he has a great sense of humor and spends most of his time making jokes. Now, Jeff is also rather quiet, so it is very possible that you don't know this about him. But, it is important to know that for the purposes of this story that we often have running jokes.

When we were in the process of adopting Tommy, we applied for a number of grants. One of those grants was from Show Hope, the adoption assistance/orphan care organization started up by Steven Curtis and Mary Beth Chapman. When you apply for this grant, they tell you that you will receive a letter in a certain period of time letting you know if you qualified. After a few weeks had passed from our application date, Jeff and I began joking that we would get a phone call from SCC letting us know whether we got the grant. So, every few days I (as the person who picked up the mail) would report that we had not gotten our phone call from SCC yet, or Jeff might ask if SCC had called yet. It was slightly more elaborate at times, involving The Great Adventure album references, and so on. Finally we did get our letter, and we did receive a grant. It was such a blessing to us. But, no phone call from SCC, of course.

About a month or so ago we got an email inviting us to volunteer for Show Hope at an event in a town about an hour away from us. We jumped at the chance to give back...and to show off our adorable child. Last night we attended the "Evening With the Chapmans" tour and worked the Show Hope booth as a family. It was very simple, we just showed up for a brief training and then manned the booth and helped people fill out forms during the pre-concert, the intermission, and after the show, and passed out packets at one point during the show. The rest of the time we got to hang out with other Show Hope families and watch the concert for free. It was so encouraging to be in a group of other adoptive families and have a chance to talk about our experiences. Plus, it is always fun to get to see a free concert.

I cannot say enough about the Chapmans and everyone involved with Show Hope that we met, and their incredible commitment to adoption and orphan care. Julia Chapman (daughter-in-law) was actually the one who ran the booth and did our training. Apparently there was a much larger than expected response (go Illinois!), and seeing her face as she tallied up the sponsorship commitments we received, it was obvious that her heart was in it. While the show was not about adoption specifically, the subject repeatedly came up as the Chapmans frequently refer to their kids. Three of their six were adopted, and the experience has had a huge impact on their lives.

Show Hope sponsorships address orphan care on two fronts: providing for kids who are in immediate need of medical care and may never be adopted as well as making it possible for more people to create forever families. The model of Show Hope sponsorship is not one to one (one sponsor to one child in need), like you see with many organizations. Most organizations that provide child sponsorships work with children living in families, or at least with a relative, and thus are geographically stable. Orphans in many countries move around. They may transfer from orphanage to orphanage, into and out of foster families, or hospitals. They simply aren't as easy to track. Also, many of the kids that receive help from Show Hope are special needs, and likely need more costly medical care than a sponsor might be able to provide in one month. Thus, sponsorship is split between two separate (but important) ministries. Half of the money goes to orphan care. The majority of this is in China, because Show Hope has a special needs hospital there where they house about 130 special needs orphans, some of whom need simple surgeries to be deemed "adoptable" other who may need long term care and may or may not be adopted, and some who need a hospice where they can die with dignity.

The other half of the sponsorship money goes into the adoption aid program, to provide grants for families who need assistance with their adoption costs. Grants range from $2,000 to 7,000 based on need and available funds. They give about 30 grants a month, but turn down about 100 qualified families every month simply because they don't have the funding to do more than that.

I shared in a previous blog that I've never been a big SCC fan. Nothing against him, my family just never listened to him. We mostly listened to Rich Mullins, Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith (ask Kevin how he feels about Go West Young Man), and the incomparable Don Fransisco. I didn't (until last night) know his kids names, or much about his family other than a cursory knowledge of Maria's death (as in, I read an article in the news and read about it on the Show Hope website). I've also mentioned that I love love love the album he wrote in the aftermath of that loss. I can't listen to the album often. It is a hard listen because it is real. If you ever wondered what it really feels like to bury your child, listen to that album. When I hear it, it absolutely takes me back and it resonates with my experience. This is both very healing but also very difficult, thus, I can only handle it from time to time.

Last night's show was at least half older songs, ones that I recognized from ACTS (our church's high school choir) or that Jeff knew from his childhood of listening to SCC. Apparently the audience was allowed to submit requests, and he even did a verse of Got to B Tru. Very funny. Then Geoff Moore (who I had never heard of before last night) came and did some songs with SCC and then talked about Show Hope. Enter the volunteers passing out packets, then intermission. I have no idea what the other concert goers did during this time, but I was mobbed by people who wanted to sign up to support Show Hope, and I helped them out with that. Afterward SCC did a few more songs, and then Mary Beth came and talked about her experience with losing Maria. Then SCC did a few songs from his Beauty Will Rise album, which was awesome for me. Tommy was sleeping at that point, so I just sat in the aisle holding him and crying. Thankfully it was dark.

All that to say, if you either like SCC or care at all about adoption, or maybe just like people who are very sincere about what they believe - go to this show. Just go. That is about as ringing an endorsement of anything music related that I will ever give.

After the show we had a few more people interested in information, and then when most everyone had cleared out we helped break down the booth. At that point Geoff Moore came over, which I thought was cool because he is on the board of Show Hope, and my Jeff thought was cool because he was a fan of Geoff Moore and the Distance. He met Tommy and chatted for a minute, and then we got back to cleaning up. At some point Jeff told me he was certain if we hung out long enough that we would meet SCC (this was actually an extension of the conversation we jokingly had in the car on the way over, wherein I deemed it a 5% chance that we might meet him, and Jeff said he bet it could go either way). I laughed. Then we said goodbye to everyone, Julia Chapman informed me that she loved my shoes (which are super cute), and we got Tommy dressed in his pajamas and headed toward the parking structure.

On the way out we were stopped by this man, who asked about Tommy's adoption (hey, is he domestic?). We got to talking and it turned out that he was the director of Show Hope. He thought Tommy was awfully cute (because he is). At the end of the conversation we said something about how great it was for Show Hope to help bring Tommy home. He said, "wait, he's a Show Hope kid?" We said yes, and that we had been there volunteering at the booth. He responded "Come on, I have someone you have to meet." He takes us through a small group of people, into a room, and then says, wait a minute I need to check, knocks on the door and says, "Steven! There's someone here you have to meet." The whole time this is happening, I'm thinking "where are we going?" until we walk into what was clearly backstage and then it was like "oh my gosh, are we going to meet SCC? That's crazy!" So, we got to meet SCC. He was very nice, pretty much exactly what you would expect based on how genuine he seems on stage. So, that was the rather exciting conclusion to our long night.

The less exciting conclusion involves me getting a terrible headache, having a miserable ride home, and then accidentally squirting soap directly in my eye while trying to get ready for bed in a haze of pain. Nevertheless, overall a great night.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

The Getty

This post should have been done a month ago. This is the day after our unforgettable trip to the Aquarium.

My history crew and our future not historians (please, please let our children study something that pays better) took a trip to the Getty on our last day together. Between the train rides, the gardens, and the play room our kids had a better time there than they did at the Aquarium. It was much harder to get them to leave.

We had a few incidents. I blame the arboretum for the first one. The arboretum, which we love and visit often, has some great water features in the children's garden. The best part of these features is that the kids are invited to play in them- grab out rocks and drop them back in, wade, splash, sit, and so on. Tommy's favorite is a little frog pond with smooth stones. The Getty also had a pond with those same smooth stones. Guess what Tommy did? He leaned right in to pick them up and drop them. Then he ran straight into the other fountain, the one without any rim or railing...lovely. He experienced the consequences of wet shoes for the rest of the day.

I also think he may have touched one of the paintings when I wasn't quite as fast as I should have been. Since no alarms sounded I can't be sure. I am happy to report it was a very ugly painting, though it is probably worth more than we will earn in a lifetime.

Still, Tommy and I had a great time. He had checked out a book on impressionists from the library, and it was fun to show him some of the works from artists he had read about. He also got to have a hot dog and sweet potato fries for lunch which always makes his day (I was impressed by how inexpensive and good the food was at the cafeteria and they were so helpful with finding out about allergens). But best of all he spent the entire morning chasing after big kids, while I got to hang out with some of my favorite grown-ups.


It isn't easy getting three active kids to stand still for a photo!




Fun activities in the family space! Above: rearranging art. Below: making masks.