Thursday, December 29, 2016

Home Study Hell

We have been in the adoption circle for less than 2 months and it has flown by. For the most part, it hasn't been too rough. Yes, a lot of paperwork. Yes, many appointments: fingerprinting, medical check-ups, psychological exams, welcome calls, etc. But up until now, it hasn't felt overwhelming. We have juggled the tasks pretty easily.

The hardest part of the beginning stages of adoption, the home study paperwork, is waiting on others to move on to the next task. All pieces are needed before you can be assigned a caseworker and schedule home visits. We have worked tirelessly to gather all of the needed paperwork, mail/email everything the moment it is complete, and finish all of the assigned classes as quickly as possible. The home study is a huge hurdle for all adoptive families, and it has been the most stressful piece for Joe and I. The home study is all that is standing between us and a full match with our daughter. She is ours, no one else can adopt her, but our match is contingent on our completed home study. I have compete faith that we will pass without a hitch, but to us, this feels similar to the first trimester of pregnancy.

We are waiting on one thing. One piece which should not be the last piece, because it should have been one of the easiest parts. Our medical records. Joe had his appointment the last week of November and he got a call a week later saying his paperwork was done. I went in for my appointment the first week of December. Afterward, I waited patiently, knowing that there were snow days and other things on my doctor's plate. After two weeks with no response, I called. This was when I learned that my doctor had forgotten to order one of the tests needed to sign off on my health. The Tuberculosis test.

Image result for someecards adoptionFirst of all, she didn't contact me about the missed test, I had to call her office to find out. Second, the test takes 48 hours to complete. A bit of inactive Tuberculosis virus is inserted under the skin, then you have to wait two days for the doctor to look for a reaction to the virus, which indicates that you have been exposed. Because I contacted the doctor's office on Wednesday and the medical office would be closed both Friday and Monday for Christmas, I was not able to do the test until Tuesday of this week. Today I went back to have my body's reaction checked. I waited all day to hear back from my doctor. Nothing. At four o'clock I called to check on the status of the paperwork and was told it was done and I could pick it up at the front desk. Great! Why didn't anyone contact me? But, great!

As I was about to walk out of the door to pick it up and then immediately mail it to Holt, when my phone rang. It was my doctor's office. They had noticed that the paperwork required a notary which did not expire for at least two years and said that the notary on staff was only able to go through March of 2017. We quickly checked the notary date on Joe's paperwork and saw March 2017, which makes all of his paperwork invalid to the Korean court.

Joe and I spent the next two hours trying to track down a notary who is mobile and has an expiration date of at least two years. This was not an easy task, but we finally found one. Unfortunately, now we have to pay $110 that we didn't expect to pay, so they can come out to our doctor's office and notarize all of our forms. We also have to deal with the schedules of two doctors and a notary, to make sure that they are all ready and able to meet at the same time. On top of all of this, Joe's paperwork has to be completely redone. Another week or two of waiting for an "easy step".

I have learned so much through these past two months. The biggest of these lessons: never give yourself a self-imposed deadline. Joe and I have worked hard to have our home study paperwork done by Christmas. That was our goal. It did not happen. We will likely end up close to three weeks past our self-imposed deadline and that is a difficult pill to swallow. If we have learned anything from those who have gone before us, it is that adoption is an unpredictable process and no one's timeline or experience is the same- kind of like pregnancy. I have also learned that a week or two either way, can completely change your timeline.

We want our daughter home. We want her here for the 2017 holiday season (self-imposed deadline-I know, bad news!!). Today, I am impatient and frustrated. Tomorrow, I will be those things a little bit less. I hope. I will always be thankful for finding our daughter. From this point on, I will try to focus on that.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Our Adoption Story

I have always wanted to adopt. For as long as I can remember, adoption has always been a part of how I saw my future. When preparing for marriage, Joe and I talked about a plan for our future adoption- we would have two biological children, then when they were older, we would adopt older children locally. This was our plan for a very long time.

Becoming bilingual
After having our two wonderful boys, I started to feel more urgency in adopting. I longed for a daughter and the experiences our family would have if we added a little girl. Joe wasn't quite ready to take the leap, as this was new to him. Not what we had planned. We continued to do research into the requirements, possible outcomes, and resources available for a family grown through adoption. We also continued to discuss the topic regularly- as a family, as a couple, and with those we knew who had adopted. As the months passed, we chipped away at the mountain of decisions to be made and the details to be sorted out.

Many months ago, we landed on the plan to adopt internationally. We had always planned to adopt a local child through DHS, but our hopes for the adoption seemed unlikely enough through this process, that two DHS employees told us that international adoption would be our best option. We still weren't quite ready to apply, but we had made a big decision.

The boys picking out gifts
In September, I heard about an adoption support group which meets monthly in our town. We decided to attend the meeting to learn more about the process from the experiences of people who had lived it. After each class, we had endless discussions about what we learned, heard, and thought. It brought us a bit closer.

Then the big day came. Early in November, a member of the support group we have been attending, contacted me with the profile of an adorable little girl from South Korea. She was a "waiting child", meaning there was some prenatal health concerns. We requested her file and applied with our chosen agency that same day. After reading over the file on our own, we felt like we needed a bit more information to make the best decision for our family (but I had already fallen in love with her and hoped beyond belief that she was meant to be our daughter). We sent her medical files to a doctor who specializes in adoption. After the doctor's file review and our conversation about her findings, we were sure. We wanted her to be our daughter.
Our first care package

There were other families who also felt a connection with her and also wanted to pursue adoption, so we went through a process called committee. During this process, we filled out questionnaires about our family, our knowledge of her medical file and possible future concerns, and how we saw this little lady fitting into our family. We submitted the paperwork the week before Thanksgiving. We were told then that because of the holiday, committee likely would not take place until the first week of December. We nervously settled in for the long wait.

........and then there is the food
I got the call around noon, the day before Thanksgiving, that she was ours. Since hearing the news, Joe and I have been fingerprinted twice, filled out mountains of forms, taken class after class, and have been excitedly talking about Miss May non-stop. Our boys ask about her every day. In fact, Nolan has already started to blame her for the naughty things that he does.

We have only been a part of the adoption family for a couple of months, and we have meet some amazing people and created friendships that seem to have been bonded for years. We are thrilled to have a little girl to join in our adventures, we are excited beyond belief to bring the Korean culture into our home and make it a part of our family, and we can not wait for the day we get to snuggle our beautiful little Maylee Grace.
Anxiously awaiting sister

Friday, October 14, 2016

A Day in the Life of a Teacher

Since I was very young, I have known that being a teacher is my passion. Although it is tough and, sometimes thankless, I would never give it up. Being able to see the empowerment and pride in my students' eyes, knowing that I have impacted their lives, are things that could not be accomplished through any other career. Loving my career doesn't mean that it's easy or without rough days.

Most of my frustrations with my choice in profession, is how others perceive it. I don't "play" with kids all day, I don't "get summers off", I don't have "zero accountability", and I am not the reason for our country's educational struggles. I work very hard every day, as each of my colleagues do. We are professionals who strive constantly to stay current with student needs, seek out new strategies, find opportunities for creative learning, and collect data like a financial planner.

Not having support tends to boil down to a lack of understanding and misconceptions of what a teacher's day looks like. Well, if you want to know what an AVERAGE day for this PART-TIME teacher looks like, here it is. *My position is not average, but this is an average day for me.

7:30-7:50- Student Safety Committee Meeting- discussing my role in case of an emergency within the school

Inspiring8:00-8:59- Teaching: Reading Intervention (classes switch every other day)- Specially and specifically designed instruction for each and every student within my class and their literacy needs

9:03-10:02- Prep: Time to plan for days to come, answer parent emails, make copies. schedule and/or attend meetings, collect/anaylize data, write growth and professional goals, grade assignments, enter/post grades,  and plan for the Oregon Battle of the Books program. Just to name a few.....

10:06-12:11- (two classes-one hour each) Teaching: Language Arts- Blending reading and writing skills and strategies that students will need to be successful in their educational and future professional career. Striving to meet the needs of each and every student, each and every day

12:15-12:44- Close out classroom/Travel to other middle school/transport technology/set up classroom/lunch

12:48-1:47- Teaching: Reading Intervention (classes switch every other day)- Specially and specifically designed instruction for each and every student within my class and their literacy needs

1:47-1:52- Close out classroom and return technology

*This is where my part-time status kicks in

1:52-2:10- Pick up Nolan from preschool/daycare

2:15- Pick up Liam at school

2:45- Meet Joe at home- he had to come home early, so that I could go back to work

3:00-4:00- Intervention Strategies Meeting- discussing students who need more support and brainstorm, as a team, ideas to support them

*My work day is technically done at this point, however, I spent roughly another hour and a half of my evening returning emails, adding grades into the gradebook, checking student growth scores, and preparing for a day of Professional Development the following day.

This was yesterday. Today I will be spending my day presenting writing strategies learned over the summer, as well as in training for a new literacy assessment program and strategies and activities to use after analyzing the data.

Teachers juggle professional responsibilities, student/family needs, new curriculum/assessments, student engagement programs, meetings, data, etc. every single day. All this (for me) in a 6ish hour day. Obviously, this is not possible, as I spend far more than 6 hours a day making sure that I do my best for each of my students. I have one less class than most of my teammates, 30ish less students, and an hour and a half less time in the building. Can you imagine what their days look like?!

No matter what you have heard or believe about our education system, the teachers and their drive to support your children, are NOT the problem.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Getting Back

Hot dog in Central Park
For several months now, we have not been doing a good job with our family goals. Well, I guess we just shifted them for a bit, which I am totally glad we did. We needed a bit of a break. For many years, Joe and I have had a focus on debt pay-off, being super careful with a monthly cash budget, and have focused on healthier, home-cooked meals.

Anniversary trip view
 Since summer began, those goals  somewhat went by the wayside.  Specifically, the month of August. Between a conference in New  York, an anniversary trip, friends staying with us, and a family  vacation to the beach, we spent a lot more money than we are used t  to. We also ate a lot.......and I mean, a lot....of anything and  everything.

Bestie Vaca Weekend

Because we have been so focused and disciplined for so long, I do feel that this past summer was greatly deserved and a needed break to help propel us to the end of our debt pay-off plan. I have to say, I learned a great deal about my priorities after reflecting on this summer. I cherish the memories made and the irreplaceable experiences had, and I am now totally ready to get back on track.
Family beach trip

I spent this morning, my last weekday before school officially begins, clipping coupons, baking lemon poppy seed muffins, and cleaning our house after a whirlwind month. You know what? I loved it! I have missed this. I have missed the focus, purpose, plan. I am so so so ready for the structure that the school year will bring, for the home-cooked meals, baking, goal-setting, and a renewed focus on the future.

We are so close to the end. The hard part will be over soon. We just need to get back to it and stay with it until we pass the finish line. Today has been a great start.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Dear Mentor,

I thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Because of you, I am on a path that I would have never thought was within my grasp. Because of you, I have confidence in my skills and my intuition. Because of you, I see value in my ideas and am eager to share them. Because of you, I am mindful of the qualities needed to be a leader.

Without you, I would be a hard working teacher, but I would be learning at a slower pace. Without you, I would continue to be a follower. Without you, I would happily take on the ideas of others with little deviation. Without you, I would be content in my current abilities and leave true growth for the future.

Teaching is hard. Being a parent is hard. I have spent many of my years as an educator trying to balance the two hardest jobs I will ever have. For many of those years, I was all too happy to be stagnant- just "making it through". I have always loved my career. I love my students, my content, my path. I was content to be what I was and love my days in my classroom without change.

I'm not content any more. Because of you, I want to be more and because of you, I know I can be. Because of you, I don't want to wait for the future. Because of you, I have the drive and focus to be better now.

Being an educator requires that you never stop learning and growing, so I know that there is no end to the process. There is no finish line to cross. However, I also know that I can be more thoughtful every day, not just "someday". I can be the educator I want to be today, adjusting what that looks like as the years and lessons come and go.  I have learned that being the best me does not come with a title or test scores. It comes with a choice.

Because of you, I have made that choice.

Thank you for being my mentor. Thank you for believing in me. Thank you for helping me believe in myself.

Admiration Always,
Your Grateful Student

Monday, January 4, 2016

Healthy Mediterranean Pita Pizza

Our family has been working on a healthier diet. We have also been mindful of trying new things and being creative with what we make for meals. Today, I scoured the refrigerator and the pantry for ideas for lunch. It needed to be quick as the boys were "Starving!". For the past month or so, we have been huge spinach eaters. As a family, we always are, but lately it has been a daily food option. I have also been on a feta kick- sprinkling it in just about anything. With these things in mind, and a couple other finds in the fridge, the Mediterranean Pita Pizza was born!

I chose the name as all the ingredients originated in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Pita bread is from Syria, hummus is from Egypt, spinach came from Persia, and feta cheese is from Greece. That's it. Those are all the ingredients for this delicious, healthy snack. Sound easy? Well, it is. Not only are there few ingredients, but there are only three steps to whipping up this yummy dish.

Here's how to make it:

1. Spread a hummus of your choosing (there are many, many flavor options) on top of the pita bread.

2. Add a layer of spinach on top of the hummus

3. Sprinkle with feta cheese



Next time, I might try baking the pita bread a bit, just to give it a bit of crunch.

This is so yummy that my boys gobbled it up, and it was so easy that I just might add it to my packed-lunch rotation.