Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Our Adoption Testimony

**We are applying for a grant and the organization has asked us for our adoption testimony. Here is what I wrote: 

Our Adoption Testimony
                Our journey with growing our family through adoption started many, many years ago. I, Maile, taught 2nd grade in the public school system for 4 years. During my years as a teacher, I got to see all kinds of families and fall in love with all kinds of kids. I’ve always loved kids and this is true for my husband as well. My first year of teaching a little boy named Zachary was placed in my classroom. He was a foster child and had been through horrific, horrific abuse. Zachary became my favorite human that year. I begged my husband every day to let us adopt Zachary. I called his CPS worker, I learned about him through his foster mom, and I prayed over him daily while he was in my class. I was 22 years old, had never parented, and certainly had no experience with a traumatized child. My efforts to “adopt” him never worked out. However, I learned a lot from that experience. It opened my eyes to the world of foster care and adoption.
                Fast forward four years to when I gave birth to my first child. I had loved hundreds of children, but none like him. I loved him so much that I quit my teaching job and decided to stay home with him full time. During that time I got to see that life at home with children was exactly the life God had created me for. I was good at it. My husband was good at it. I liked it. My husband liked it. So when our son was 1 year old we starting talking about foster care. We liked our home and wanted to share it with others. The problem was we didn’t know any one who did foster care who also had small children at home. The only people we knew who fostered were people whose kids had grown up and moved away or people who for some reason couldn’t have biological children.
                In the spring of 2010, I was invited to an event hosted by Buckner Child and Family Services and while there I met a family who had 3 bio kids ages 3, 5, and 7 and 3 foster kids ages 1, 3, and 4. I know without a doubt that God had me meet this family for a reason because it was right then and there that I knew we could do this. I went home that night, told my husband, called Buckner the next day, and 6 months later I had our first foster baby in my arms.
                We have fostered 4 babies. We have said “hello” to four traumatized babies. We have fed them, rocked them, bathed them, changed them, taken them to countless doctor appointments, worked with them through hundreds of hours of therapies, escorted them to many family visits, sat in on court hearings, scrapbooked life books, filled out thousands of pages of paperwork, and ultimately said good bye to four healthy babies. We loved our babies. We died a little inside when our babies left. But we know, that we know, that we know, that we loved those babies well. Those babies changed us.
                With every foster baby we have hoped to keep them. Sure we’ve supported their bio families. We’ve encouraged them around every turn, but deep in our hearts we wanted to keep them forever. We learned through fostering that we could love any child. Any child.
                In June of 2012, my friend called me and wanted to talk about a boy that she knew. His name was Terrance and he was about to turn 12. Terrance had been in foster care for 2 years and his adoptive placement had just fallen through. She knew of him because on the day he was removed from his home there were four other children removed as well. One of whom she had adopted. Because of that adoption she had kept up with Terrance and his older brother Keishun and had invited them over for every family event: Thanksgiving, Christmas, birthdays, etc. She had spent the last two years getting to know him and was devestated that his adoption wasn’t going to work out. His caseworker had called her to let her know that both he and Keishun would now be available for adoption and would she like to take them both. She already had 4 kids, but decided that yes, they would take Keishun, who was 15. My friend wanted me to help her find a home for Terrance. I quizzed her briefly about him, I had heard her talk about him for years so I knew a little bit already, and I told her that I would draft a letter to our church and see if anyone there would be interested. Once I hung up the phone with her I couldn’t stop thinking about him. The weaknesses that he had were our strengths. The strengths that he had lined up with our values. He seemed like a perfect fit for our family. So I told my husband. And my husband said, “Let’s do it”. One month later, Terrance moved in to our home and changed our lives for the better.
                I had never, ever, ever thought about adopting an older child. Never had it ever crossed my mind. I’m actually glad I had never thought about it because I might would have talked myself out of it. But when I met him for the first time my heart said, “that’s my boy”. He has been my boy for 4 years and for 4 years I have delighted in him. Remember how I said that those foster babies changed me. Well, Terrance has changed me. He changed me so deeply that my husband and I made a commitment to only grow our family through adoption from this day forward. We took surgical efforts to assure this would be so.
                So now it is 2016. We have three sons: 2 bio and 1 adopted. There is a piece to our story that has yet to have been discussed and that is the piece that includes Hannah. Hannah is a child that my husband and I have talked about since before we were even parents. Hannah is an idea. She doesn not yet exist. At least I don’t think so. Hannah has always been our hoped for daughter who has a special need that we are deeply attracted to. The “Hannah” in our minds has Down syndrome. We both love people who have Down syndrome. I don’t know why we love them so much. We don’t have a person in our family with Down syndrome. Neither of us have ever had a close friend that has Down syndrome, but we love people with Down syndrome and because of that we want to raise one. We want a daughter who has Down syndrome. God placed this desire in my heart a decade ago and I have talked about her for as long as I can remember. All of our friends know about our desire for Hannah. We’ve talked about Hannah with everyone we know. We’ve always known that we would have a Hannah “some day” and that “some day” has arrived.
                We are actively seeking to adopt a daughter who has been diagnosed with Down syndrome. I have been asking the Lord to break my heart for what breaks His for the past 5 years and my heart is broken for people who abort their babies and for babies who are aborted. We want her because the world says she is not fit to live. In fact, that belief is so strong that over 90% of babies who get the Down syndrome diagnosis get aborted. Let that fact sink in. Over 90% get aborted! They never get their chance at life on earth. And we as a people group never get the chance to know them. The world says people with Down syndrome are a burden, but I believe children are a blessing from the Lord and that the highest calling on my life is to have a quiver full of them. Hannah is worthy of life and I can prove that because God is going to create her. He will knit her together in her mother’s womb and she will be perfect.

                So your question was, “How has God led you to adopt?” and my answer is that He has placed a very specific desire in my heart and I have carried that desire around for 10 years and now my heart is just about to explode with the waiting of that desire to be fulfilled. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

December Tubs for Adam

Adam is my busy boy, the busiest boy I've ever had. Therefore, I have to keep his tubs fresh and fun or else he quickly looses interest. This proves to be a challenge for me because I have four kids and lesson planning for my older two take top priority. However, as often as I can I rotate toys and make new tubs for Adam and when I do it makes for a wonderful learning experience for him.
Adam loves to DO. He likes to move around, play games that involve action, and have lots of activities on hand. He generally does one thing for a maximum of 4 minutes so if I'm going to sit and play with him for 20 minutes we need at least 4-5 games. I love this about him because I never get bored either.
Here are the tubs he has out for this Monday morning:
What Shall I Eat?
This tub has three little tong animals that all like a certain food. Their food is buried in the yard "tub of grass" and he has to pick out their favorite food. The squirrel has almonds, the frog has plastic flies, and the rabbit has orange pipe cleaners (carrots). This is such a great workout for his hands and is really fun for his animal loving self. He loves to make the rabbit grab a bug and then spit it out. Laughter helps this tub last a lot longer than 4 minutes.
 Snowball FLIGHT
Here is his action tub. His job is to squirt air onto the snowball and push it across the room. It is a workout! His little hands can't squeeze for very long, but the challenge of getting the snowball to a certain destination helps him persevere. He loves the reward of clapping and cheering once he gets it to the right place and it spurs him on to do it again and again.
 Build a Snowman
He did not like this tub. It was boring to him and he didn't quite get the point. But he did it with me because he's obedient and sweet. I think this will be more fun for him next year. He doesn't quite understand what a snowman is and therefore didn't really know where to put all the body parts. I'll pass this on to the 6 year old for now.
 Transferring Ice Cubes
He loves tongs. LOVES. TONGS. So every week I make sure he has something with tongs to play with. This week he is putting plastic ice cubes into a deviled egg plate. This is so great for his hands, plus we count as we go. We also practice little phrases like: "my turn", "your turn", "try again", "uh oh", etc. Adam doesn't say any real words yet so practicing these phrases is good for him and his speech.
 Cleaning up gave us the perfect opportunity to count to 24. We rarely get opportunities to count above ten because his attention won't last that long, but cleaning this game up and placing one cube at a time in the bag kept his attention long enough to reach 24.
 Sorting Shapes
I love Target's Dollar Spot. I just love it. Our new city has one tiny Target and that tiny Target has one stinky Dollar Spot, but this is an old favorite from years ago. He loves this sorting toy and almost always picks it to take with him to church on Sunday for a busy bag. I had it on his shelf this morning and he grabbed it first thing.
 This was our focused activity this morning. I had sticky notes with letters on them and he had to match them to his letter chart. Of course with him we have to add the action so I would hand him a letter, say the sound and word that matches that letter and then he would run around the run, slide down the slide and run over to place it on the board. Ha! Whatever works, right? We were able to practice about 10 letters before he tired of this and moved on to something else.
Telling the Story of Jesus
My goal for December was for all of my boys to be able to tell the story of Jesus' birth (well not the baby boy). I bought Adam this magnetic nativity set at Hobby Lobby and we've been practicing retelling the story. He's now to the point where he can put the magnets on the board while I tell the story.
Spelling His Name and Saying His Verses
This little chart is up in our playroom for Adam to practice putting the letters of his name in order. He also has two Bible verses that he's learning that stay on top. He can't say them, but he can do the motions for both. Eventually we will add another verse to his collection, but these have taken him a long time to learn. His brothers now know about 100 verses each so I know he'll be adding more soon.
His Morning List
This is Adam's morning list. His brothers get paid on Sunday for all the work they've done during the week and Adam has acted interested lately so we thought it would be fun to give him his own list. He gets a sticker for each thing that he does and then will get paid $1 on Sunday. His list includes: brushing his teeth, drinking a cup of water, giving the mouse her food, and bringing down the baby's bottle each morning. Simple, but fun for him. 
Here's hoping this week is a great learning week for my busy boy. I hardly post on this blog anymore, but I know how much I learn from other moms and the things they post so I like to share every now and then what I'm doing with my little learners.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Playing Lucky Ducks a.k.a Best Toddler Game Ever!

We have a game in our house that every baby, and I mean e.v.e.r.y baby has loved. It's called Lucky Ducks and it's nothing special other than it makes horribly loud quacking noises and little ducks spin around in a circle. However, when you mix in the skills of the genius Jeremy you have a doozy of a game.
Each little duck has a shape on the bottom of it. The rules in the game state that each player chooses a shape and if you pick a duck with your shape on it then you get to keep it. However, we don't play it like that.
 Jeremy planned out each shape to be a different activity: star is dance like a super star, circle is run around the circle in our house, triangle is kiss the mom, and square is usually something like bang your head in the couch, or throw a ball at the person next to you.  
 The boys adore this game and frankly so do I. I get kissed four times every game (because there are 4 triangles) and usually when one boy draws a triangle I get a kiss from everyone. It's great!
 Here's Adam running around the circle. Soooooo cute!
 Here they are dancing like a super star.
 Here he comes for a momma kiss :)
 And here they are, doing what Jeremy does best, playing games and making life fun.
Go play a game today. It's the best way to spend your time. 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Adam's Learning

This is my littlest man, Adam. He turns 2 this week and is a busy little learner. I'm always amazed by how many activities a toddler can go through in a day. I have to be prepared and ready if I'm going to make it through a day with him and get good school done with the big boys. He has one shelf just for him in our school area and my goals here lately with him and his learning are to help him love learning, talk to him as much as possible about what he is seeing and doing, and teach him to clean up after himself. (More about that later)
Here is a look at the activities he did this past week.
Putting ice cubes (glass rocks) in the ice tray. During this we talk about making sure only one goes in each square and counting to 16.
He loves to fill up his tray with "ice" and then use the squirt bottle to fill it all up with water. This is usually what he does while I wash dishes, clean the kitchen, cook, etc.
 Our flip flop faces are now our stepping stones. This is great for balance, bravery, and gross motor.
 Went to a garage sale the other day and they had several bags of these foam balls for $.25 a bag. I bought all they had and knew he would love sticking his golf tees into them.  
 Color sorting is always fun. He has several good color sorting games right now and is slowly but surely catching on to what it means to sort by color. At first, it was totally random where he would put the colors, but after talking and talking and talking about colors every where we go he is starting to figure it out.
 Here's a picture of him cleaning up after himself. Our rule is you can do an activity for as long or as short as you want, but you have to clean up before you get another one out. This helps our games not get mixed up and teaches him the valuable lesson of cleaning up after himself.
 Lacing Beads. He can't get the string into the beads yet, so that's my job, but then he pulls it through. We count, talk about colors, and stack the beads while we work.  
 Another color sorting game. He puts the bear in the correct color bowl.
 Connecting blocks. These are one of the things we also take to church with us. Perfect for pushing and snapping things together. I keep these on hand for him to do in his high chair as well. Simple, yet fun. I praise him for everything he builds and make up objects that I think he created.
 Color sorting
 Transferring large jacks with tongs.
 Letter matching. He still loves letters and knows almost all of them. I'm not sure what that means for him and his future hobbies, but he loves letters as much as his older brother loved numbers.
 Color sorting
 Linking chains. These are tough for a young 2 year old to snap together. These give his little hands a great workout. It's so rewarding for him when he is able to make a chain and so therefore he sticks with it.
 His all time favorite that we do 400 times a day: putting toothpicks into the cheese shaker.
 Stacking blocks and knocking them down. Popular since the beginning of time, I'm sure.
 Here are his favorite books at the moment. The number book is the greatest number book that we have because the pictures are very clear and easy to count.
 His farm animal puzzle.
 His shape puzzle. He is not very good at puzzles and so I keep these out on his shelf all the time so that he chooses them again and again. Rotating the pieces is hard for him.
 Here he is reading his counting book and sometimes while he reads we match magnetic numbers to the pages.
 His other puzzles for this week.
  You can see in this picture how his shelf looks. He takes something off his shelf, squats down and plays with it, then picks it up and puts it back (with lots of help). You can't see it in this picture but on the top of his shelf are two empty shallow baskets. He pulls one down and dumps his activity into it. Most of his activities are stored in pencil bags so the tray helps him have a designated spot to keep the contents.
It is very important to me that this child love to learn. We make learning fun as often as we can. He is busy, busy, busy and having these activities on hand helps me have meaningful things for him to do. Since he's the third child it can be very easy for him to just wander around the house searching for things to do and whining that no one is playing with him. Our homeschool day is WAY more productive when I plan meaningful things for him.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

New Blog Feature: Busy Bags

For the past month and a half I have been busy creating "Busy Bags" with my friend, Wendy. We have cut, laminated, traveled a million miles around town, printed, stressed, and rejoiced in order to prepare these fun bags for you.

My kids now have a large collection of these busy bags and are enjoying them on a daily basis. I've been offering them for sale on facebook for a while, but wanted to make them available on my blog as well.

Busy Bags are the perfect solution to those dull moments in your day when you wish you had a meaningful task for your child to do. Whether it be during your homeschool day, during a learning center in the classroom, at the doctor's office, sitting in the pew at church, waiting on food at restaurants, etc. Busy bags can fill the gap of time and create a fun activity that has purpose.

There are bags for 2 year olds and beyond. Each busy bag comes in a durable canvas pencil bag, has a laminated instruction sheet, and contains all the materials needed to complete the task. They are hands on learning at its finest. Just under my blog header picture is a little tab called "Busy Bags" and each month I will update what bags I have available. If you would like to order you simply comment on the blog or shoot me an email at mailekae@yahoo.com. Or look through the pictures and get some ideas of things you could make at home.

Check them out! They will not disappoint. Click the Busy Bag page link above. Or follow this link: http://www.jeremyandmaile.blogspot.com/p/busy-bags_30.html

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Table Time Tot Trays

 My little guy is now 21 months old. Unless he is sleeping, he is super busy. It's been more challenging to do activities with him lately because his attention span doesn't last long. I was wracking my brain the other day trying to figure out how to help him focus for more than 2 seconds at a time and I happened to remember doing table time with James, Remi, and Aiyana when they were so little. It worked like a charm with them so I decided to try it out with Adam yesterday. Sure enough, it worked great! 20 minutes of uninterrupted learning time with Adam happened and it was delightful for both of us.
 I chose to wait until after his nap and after his snack. Then I left him in the highchair and showed him 3 games I had for him. I let him choose which one he wanted to do first and he chose the bugs. This was an activity that literally lasted one minute and he chose to do it twice. So two minutes of color matching practice was plenty for this little guy. We talked about the colors, the bugs, and making "matches". He matched all the flies to their right color with only a little support from me.
 The second game he chose was his letters. He loves letters and already knows more than half the lowercase alphabet. I wrote four letters on a piece of paper and had him match letter stickers to the correct letter. Easy Peasy!
The last game he chose was play-doh. He is not a huge fan of play-doh because of how it feels, but he's getting better with it each day. Today I rolled all his play-doh into little balls and we practiced filling his cup with balls and then dumping them out. This was perfect for counting practice, vocabulary building, and cause and effect. He loved this! Near the end he began smashing the balls as hard as he could with his hands and piling them up on top of each other.
Table time will now be in our day as often as we can. The afternoon can sometimes crawl by as we wait for Daddy to get home from work. So this was a very fun 20 minutes of our day. Plus, once he's been stimulated a little bit with some learning activities he generally goes and plays alone for a while after. It's a win-win!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Learning Letters (birth-18 months)

After teaching for a few years in public school, then venturing down the preschool road with James, Nana, Remi and now Adam, I have learned a few things about teaching children their letters. First of all, don't fear. It's easy. It's fun. However, I believe they learn their letters best when you start from day one.
The first few months of a child's life they are learning EVERYTHING. This is the perfect opportunity to begin teaching them their letters. At first, letters are abstract objects, like shapes, and can be easily memorized at an early age. If you will point out the letters in your child's environment they will quickly begin finding them on their own. Just as you would point out a star in the book you are reading, it is also wise to point out letters.
With Adam I began with simply pointing out the letter A everywhere we went. He has A's in his room, there is an A on the Walmart sign, at the Dr's office, on the trashtruck, etc. By the time he was 12 months old he was finding A's all over town. He simply learned what the "shape" of it looked like and can find it anywhere.
When teaching a new letter, it is best to attach each letter of the alphabet with a meaningful name, object, or word. For example: A is for Adam, D is for Daddy, H is for Honey Bunny, etc. As they learn more names and objects they can learn more letters. If you will attach each letter with a person or an object then the abstract letter can become more meaningful which will help later when you begin teaching letter sounds. I will not have to work hard at all at teaching Adam letter sounds because he already knows A is for Adam and I can slowly transition into A says "ah" like Adam. Seriously it's that easy!!!
The first 3 years of a child's life are the easiest time to teach letters. Please don't think I'm crazy when I say this. It's true. They are sponges. If you have missed that window of time it's ok. Children are sponges for a very long time. Just start today pointing out the meaningful letters that you see. If your child doesn't know a word or person that starts with U then skip that letter and come back to it. Once he/she masters a new letter then add another one to their list.
I add one to two letters at a time to Adam's life. This week I added E for eat, P for Papa, and H for Honey Bunny. He knows the sign for eat so I say E is for eat and I sign the eating sign. When we look out the window at Honey Bunny we point to his letter. Sometimes Adam finds an H in the playroom and then goes to the window to show Honey Bunny.
Here is a video of one of Adam's letter tubs. He simply has to match the foam letter to the written letter. I started this tub months and months ago and he would just have an A for Adam and a M for Momma. Each time he gets really good at those I add another letter.

Letters can be learned easily if you just start talking about them. Point them out, play with letter stickers, write letters in front of your child, play letter games, find them on billboards, find them on menus, etc. Start now with attaching each letter with a meaningful name or object and I guarantee you it will be a piece of cake to teach your child the sounds each letter makes.