Wednesday, May 06, 2015

There Is a Little Boy (Referral Part One)

So there's this boy on the other side of the world. He's not ours yet, but his picture is on our fridge. His name is frequently spoken. Our family is preparing for him. He is our soon-to-be son, and we could not be more excited.

Now, here's how it happened. Buckle up. This could be a long post (or series of posts).

One Monday in February I received a phone call from our agency case worker in Birmingham. I was expecting to hear from her, because I had emailed her asking some questions about our home study update. After a little small talk, Cyndi asked me if Donny was available to talk as well. She said she had tried to call him first but was unable to reach him and asked if I could get him.

My response to her: "OOOOOOOOOOOHH. You want to have THAT conversation. OOOOOOHH."

I told her that I would get in touch with Donny and we would get back with her.

This was it. A referral. Could it be? It can't be. But I think it is.

I called Donny. And I called him again. And again. And again. He was in a lunch meeting. Thankfully, his meeting was wrapping up, but I was definitely interrupting it, and I definitely didn't care. He told me he would be home in about 20 minutes. It definitely took longer than 20 minutes, but he finally got home. We sent the kids to either watch a movie or play XBox (I can't remember), and we went up to our bedroom. Cyndi (our case worker) called us, and we talked with her on speaker phone sitting in the floor of our bedroom.

Cyndi's words: "I want to talk to you about a little boy."

Done. It's a boy. IT'S A BOY!!!! A boy. A little boy. I remember just staring off while Cyndi filled us in on a little of his story. From that point on, I was spaced out and in shock. We had waited for this day for over two and a half years. Now that the day had come, I had no idea how to respond. No idea. Cyndi asked if we wanted to receive a picture of him and more information in a packet via email. Donny asked Cyndi if we could hold off on receiving the packet in order to have time and space to process what is happening before we saw pictures and received more detailed information. He said we would call her for the packet tomorrow. I quickly interjected: "Or maybe later this evening after our kids are in bed. Would that be ok?"

And so it happened. The call. "There is a little boy." Five words that forever changed our family, because that little boy, by God's grace and sovereign good will, will become ours - a Friederichsen.

Mid-phone call selfie with Donny's iPad to document "the call."
Notice my red eyes. Many tears were shed that day when we first heard of our soon-to-be son.

Here's a little real life look into our referral call.
Can't believe it!!! We're thrilled (and in shock). 
Our case worker had no idea we were taking these pics while she was talking.

More to come...

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

It's Been a Long Time

Where have we been? It's been a long time, hasn't it? Yes. it. has. I struggle with where to even begin this post. Have you noticed? It's been a YEAR AND A HALF since I last blogged. That's a long time, folks. You know what else has taken a long time? OUR ADOPTION. 

Where have we been? Teetering between despair and hope for the last year and a half. The last time I blogged was in July 2013. That was right before Ethiopian adoptions came to an unexpected standstill for over a year. Due to some restructuring in-country, adoptions came to a halt. And so we have been waiting. And orphans have been waiting. And we teeter between hope and despair.

Today we have hope. Over the last few months, movement with adoptions in Ethiopia has increased, and we are creeping surprisingly closer to the top of our agency's waiting list. If things keep moving at the current pace, we could have a referral before the summer. This could be it. Do you hear the hope?

Would you pray for us? Now that receiving a referral and being shown the face of our newest child seems more possible, I am trying not to freak out. There is hope, but now there is a little panic. We've been waiting so long that I am not sure how to handle the reality that this might actually, finally happen. Pray for us and for our hearts - that the Lord would prepare us to see our child(ren) on the day he has ordained - and that we will be ready to unabashedly say "yes" to this child(ren) who will become fully a Friederichsen. Adoption. It's beautiful. It's scary, but it's beautiful.

Where are we financially? Well, that is not easy to answer. Since the process to adopt in Ethiopia has become sooooo long, many of our fees have increased. The most significant fee is the referral fee if we are referred siblings. We are open to adopting siblings, but fee increases could prevent us from saying "yes" to a referral of siblings. To be able to say "yes" to a sibling referral, we will need to raise around $10,000 in addition to what we have already seen God so generously provide through grants and through many of you. This week I will begin writing new grant requests and seeing how God will provide for our every need in this process. We are saving like crazy and waiting to see how the Lord will provide. If you would like to come along side and help meet this need, you can make a tax-deductible donation to Lifesong for Orphans on our behalf through the link in the top right-hand corner of this blog. 100% of your gift would go to our adoption. 

Please pray for us. In some ways I feel nervous to begin to hope again and to begin to fund raise again, because I wonder if it really is going to happen. And there goes the teetering again. I will put my hope in "him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think." (Eph. 3:20) May I ask and hope boldly as we wait for him to finish this process he began in us 2 1/2 years ago. Thanks for walking this journey with us.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

While We Wait - A Matching Grant!!!

One year ago TODAY we sent in our application to Lifeline Children's Services to adopt a child from Ethiopia.

One year ago.

It took about 6 months to get all of our paperwork to Ethiopia. Longer than we had hoped, but we trust the Lord's timing to lead us to our child(ren).

So here we are in the middle of our wait. We began in February on our agency's waiting list around #100. We now sit somewhere in the mid-70s on the wait list. That means there are around 70 families in front of us waiting to be matched with a child. Since the wait list is comprised of all of the families with our agency with a variety of parameters, our referral could come at anytime...or it could be a long time. We are approved to adopt a boy or girl or siblings ages 0-6 years old, so our parameters are wider than most of the families on the list. So...we wait and see what God has in store.

During our wait we are seeking the Lord for the funds we will need to complete our adoption. Our total adoption expense will be around $30,000 (more if we adopt siblings). By God’s grace, we've been able to pay the initial fees for our home study and agency fees. Additionally, we have applied for some adoption grant funding and have received $7000 in grant funding. God has been so gracious and faithful to provide for us at every step in this process. At this point, we still need a minimum of $13,000 to complete our adoption.

Hunter, Millie, and Will are thrilled to have another brother or sister on the way, and we eagerly await the time when we will find out who God has planned as the newest Friederichsen.

As we wait to be matched with our child(ren), would you consider helping us in two important ways? First, would you pray? Pray that we will wait well on God’s timing in this process, and that God would use this time of waiting to prepare our family for our newest child(ren). Pray also for our child(ren). The loss and brokenness that comes with being an orphan is unimaginable, so we ask for prayer for our child(ren) as they prepare to become a part of our family.

Secondly, would you consider giving a tax-deductible donation to help us with the remaining $13,000 of adoption expenses?  Lifesong for Orphans in partnership with Zarapheth Christian Church (a New Jersey church with an orphan care ministry) has graciously offered us a matching grant of $2500. That means that any gifts given toward our adoption will be matched up to $2500. Incredible!  Would you consider joining us in the process of bringing our child home from Ethiopia by giving a gift to our adoption?

To give a gift to our adoption, you can send a check to Lifesong to Orphans at the following address:

Lifesong for Orphans
PO Box 40
Gridley, IL 61744 

Please put our name and account #3489 in the memo. Note: In following IRS guidelines, your donation is to the named non-profit organization. This organization retains full discretion over its use, but intends to honor the donor’s suggested use. We have to say that...but the money will go to our adoption.

One of the incredible things about Lifesong is that there are zero administrative fees taken out, so if you give by check, 100% of your gift will go to our adoption, and the first $2500 will be MATCHED. Wow. 

If you would prefer to give online, click the "Donate" button on the top right corner of this page, or click here. Any donation you give (minus about 3% Paypal fees) through our donate button will go to our adoption. If it's more convenient for you to give online, DO IT. We would rather lose the 3% and have you partner with us. 3% is still WAY LESS than the admin. fee of most other non-profits, so we're cool with it.

Once we receive our referral we have to be ready to pay the $9000-$14000 (one vs. two children) referral fee within 10 days. Since we have no idea when our referral will come, we would like to be fully funded this fall so that we could say "yes" at any time without concern for the funding of that referral fee. 

Would you help make this a reality? Could we be fully funded this fall so that we can pour all of our energy into preparing for our little one to come? We are humbled by your love and care for our family, and we would love for you to join to help us bring our little guy or girl home.

So, at this one year mark, let's celebrate our adoption application's birthday by funding our $2500 matching grant by September 22 and asking the Lord for the rest of our funding (at least $13,000 total) sometime this fall.

Feel free to contact us or comment below with any questions. 

We trust the Lord with this process and believe that He who calls you is faithful; 
he will surely do it.
I Thessalonians 5:24

Saturday, May 11, 2013

It's Like Never Being Picked Up

Our family is traveling to Greenville, SC in June for our denomination's annual conference. Yesterday I signed the kids up for the kids activities that are offered during the conference. For a day and a half, all three of my children are signed up for nursery or other activities (without me) from 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m one day and 8:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. a second day. In some ways, my heart delights at the thought of two days to wander freely, attend seminars, grab lunch with an old friend, etc. I am a homeschooling mom, after all, and time away from all of my kids is a rarity. In other ways, though, my heart twinges every time I think about it - especially with Will. I rarely leave my kids for that long...especially with total strangers in a childcare environment. It was hard to make the choice (because it's not mandatory) to sign them up...but I know it will be good for me. They will be in caring, loving hands, and I will have them back in my arms at the end of the day - all of us refreshed from what is probably a much needed break from each other.

I am reading a book by Melissa Fay Greene called No Biking in the House Without a Helmet. Greene is a an adoptive mom writing about her family's experiences over the years. As Greene shares her experiences about visiting an orphanage in Bulgaria to meet her first of five adopted children, she writes this:

It was like day care twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, or like a poorly equipped preschool from which children were never picked up by parents idling in a long line of vans holding up placards with their carpool numbers.

Sigh. I hadn't ever thought of institutional care quite in that way. As my heart still twinges over the decision to put my own children in a day and a half of supervised children's activities, I am smacked across the face with the reality that children left in orphanages and other institutionalized forms of care are just that...left. Not picked up. When the craziness at the end of a day comes, there is no hope of Mommy or Daddy being on their way or waiting in line to pick them up.

Now hear me...I know children are left for a variety of reasons, and I do not write this to villainize the parent or caregiver who made the decision to put them there. I also know that the people who run these institutions are doing their very best (in most situations) to provide children with a safe, loving environment...but it's still institutionalized care. It's not a family. No one is coming to pick them up at the end of the day.

My heart is heavy this morning thinking of children waiting. Many orphans have little hope (for a variety of reasons that I don't fully understand) of leaving their orphanages. This article explains the reality of "unadoptable" children in Ethiopia a little more.

No one is coming for many of the world's orphans. Stuck in a never ending day at childcare. Even if a child was stuck in a never ending day at the world's best childcare, it is no way for a child to live. They need to know someone will come and get them at the end of the day.

I wonder where our next child is right now. Since we are open to an age range of 0-6 years, there is a chance that our child is already alive and is just waiting for us to come.

We're coming, dear one. Mommy is holding (sometimes waving maniacally) that carpool sign that says "Friederichsen" and is waiting (often impatiently as moms often are in the carpool line) to come and get you. Just hold on a little while longer. I can't come get everyone, but I'm coming for you.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Why I Love Classical Conversations

I never got around to Day 5 last week in my survey of a week in our homeschooling life. Last Wednesday was day 5. Wednesdays are Classical Conversations (CC) days at our house. School is fairly simple on those days. We go to class. The kids have rest time/book time in the afternoon after class, but that's about it. We drive an hour to our class, so we leave around 7:30 a.m. and get home around 2:30 p.m. It takes up most of our day, and we love it.

I didn't always love it. 

I questioned whether the drive was worth it. The relationships were slow and hard to build with the distance. The memory work was hard at the beginning. While I would wholeheartedly agree that the program was good, I wondered for most of the year if it was really something that we would want to invest in long-term.

And then February came.

In February, a few things happened that changed (forever) how we feel about CC. I was asked to tutor the 4 and 5 year olds for the final 6 weeks of the year, and Hunter and I decided to pursue "Memory Masters."

I have loved tutoring and would highly recommend it for any parents who have children in the class who have a little extra time and energy to give to tutoring. It's not too much extra time or else I would never be able to do it. I have loved how tutoring has forced me to engage in the material my kids are learning so much more. It makes me a better educator at home for them and fuels my own passion for learning (which is not always an extremely strong flame if I'm being honest).

Let me explain a little about Memory Masters. It's an honor given to any CC student who can "master" all of the year's memory work. The memory work covers the following:

  • 161 events and people in a chronological timeline from creation to the present
  • 44 U.S. presidents
  • 24 history sentences that add depth to the timeline
  • 120 locations and geographic features in Africa, Europe, and the "Old World"
  • 24 science facts (including classifications of living things and each continent's highest mountain)
  • 5 Latin noun endings and their singular and plural declensions
  • English grammar facts (including 53 prepositions, 23 helping verbs, and 12 linking verbs)
  • Multiplication tables up to 15x15, common squares and cubes, as well as basic geometry formulas and unit conversions

Hunter has to be "proofed" on the work 4 different times by four different people. Each "proof" requires a higher level of mastery. Once he passes proof four, he earns the honor of "Memory Master." I don't even know if there is an award to go with it, but it has been neat to see him commit to this goal and pursue it.

Did I mention Millie (age 5) has learned all of this too? It's taught in all classes from age 4 - 6th grade. She isn't going for Memory Master this year. We are doing our own little version she calls "Mommy Master" where she will recite portions of the memory work for me and receive her own little honor.

Tonight Hunter passed his first proof with flying colors. He only missed one thing. One. He's allowed to miss three per subject in Round One. He missed one thing overall while skip counting the 14s. I was really proud of him.

Now for the obvious question: So what?

One of the criticisms of a program like CC is whether or not all of this memory work is truly beneficial to a 4 year old or an 8 year old or even an 11 year old. I have wondered that myself sometimes. Let me share how we have seen immediate benefits this year. As the year has gone on, I actually feel like I see real life benefits almost daily.

Take today for example...

Today Hunter and I went downstairs to do his math lesson. It was a lesson on multiplying using the expanded form of a number (e.g. 4 x 604 = 4 x (600 + 4) = 4x600 + 4x4). Once I looked through the lesson a little, I realized that he was applying the distributive law. How do I know about the distributive law? It is not because I am an algebraic wizard. It's because week 23 of CC memory work introduces the distributive law. And, finally, I see it all play out in real life. They learn "a(b+c) = ab + ac" by rote memory. Then, when it intersects with real life, as it did today in Hunter's math lesson, he has some small framework and familiarity to tackle this new math concept.

Multiplication has been a breeze this spring...because he spent the fall learning to skip count the 1s through the 15s (up to multiples of 12).

History was a blast this morning, as their eyes lit up to hear more about the Magna Carta which appears in the Middle Ages portion of their history timeline. They just pulled that familiar name off the mental "peg" they hung it on when they memorized it, and enjoyed learning more about it.

Classical Conversations has offered us more than the memory work. Through the program the kids have been exposed to drawing techniques, introductory music theory and tin whistle, 6 great artists and related projects, intro. to orchestra and 3 classical composers, 12 science experiments, 12 science projects, and 24 oral presentations. Their experiences in the class have given so much that I would just never get around to offering at home.

We'll just say at this point that I am a big fan.

By the way, you don't have to tutor or go for Memory Masters to get all that CC has to offer. Those have just been two of the vehicles the Lord has used this year to propel us into a greater love and commitment to the program and the learning process there.

So that was our Wednesday last week. I encourage anyone who is considering a classical model of education to check out Classical Conversations in your area. We love it.

Next time you see Millie, ask her to tell you about Confucius or the liberation of South America. Ask Hunter to list the presidents (one of his personal favorites) or tell you the associative law of algebra. We all love learning more than ever, and I attribute a lot of that to our involvement in Classical Conversations.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Week in our Homeschooling - Day 4: Tuesday

Tuesdays - The day my house goes kaput. I lead a Bible Study at our church, so we are out of the house from 9:45 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. Tomorrow is Classical Conversations. Since I am now serving as a tutor for the 4-5 year old class, I spend much of Tuesday preparing the material for tomorrow...AND there's school for my own kids. So Tuesdays are normally the days when my home takes a turn for the worse. I am trying to be better about not letting a total explosion happen, but I just don't keep up with it well on Tuesdays. It's usually the day Donny comes home to a sink full of dishes and toys everywhere. I try not to be a total frazzle-dazzle...but it's Tuesday, and he understands.

5:35 a.m. Millie comes in our room saying she can't go back to sleep. I send her back anyway.
6:45 a.m. Awake and sipping coffee with my devotional by 7:00 a.m.
7:15 a.m. Millie comes back down and shows me what she has been working on upstairs:

Sweet her (and a sweet reminder for me as a new day is beginning). God iz with us.

Millie tells me she can't find her notebook. I go upstairs and find it (right where I left it for her on the end of her bed) and brought it down for her to work through the 2 worksheets.

8:00 a.m. Cereal for all

8:30 - 9:30 a.m. After breakfast Will played, and Hunter, Millie and I did grammar. Then Hunter and I did his spelling test. I turned on Sesame Street for Will at 9:00 a.m., and Millie and I did reading. Then Hunter and I went downstairs to tackle one part of his math lesson.
9:30 a.m. - We begin to pull things together for Bible Study at the church, and we leave around 9:45 a.m.
Listen to CC memory work CDs on the way
10:15 - 11:45 - Bible Study at church, and the kids play in the nursery. I used to have the kids bring their notebooks and do some work there, but they have become committed to doing all of their work beforehand so that they can play at church.

12:15 p.m. Home and lunch

After lunch, I sent Hunter down to the school room to go through all of his multiplication fact cards and then take a timed test on it. It was the first time he was timed on 100 random multiplication facts. He had 4 minutes. Our goal is to get 75 out of the 100 in 4 minutes. He got 69. Not too shabby for a first try. I was really excited with that result, because the corresponding addition sheet of 100 facts took much longer to get to 75. Looks like he'll meet that goal much more quickly.

While Hunter was doing his math facts, Will played in the kitchen sink with water and bowls, and Millie and I tackled her math lesson at the dining room table. It was a delicate dance with one downstairs, one in the kitchen, and one at the dining room table (with no open floor plan). I could have waited to tackle math until Will's nap, but I really wanted to get it done, so we went for it...and it went pretty well. I lost my cool once (beginning ruler skills with Millie), but we persevered and finished in one piece. :) 

1:30 p.m. Will went down for an afternoon nap.
2:00 - Hunter, Millie and I read more from our history lesson on the crusades.
2:30 - The kids played freely, and I put some time into preparing for my class for Classical Conversations on Wednesday. It usually takes about 2-3 hours of preparation to get ready for the class.
3:00 p.m. All the kids are occupied, I grab a bite of lunch and turn on the Celebrity Apprentice. Now it's 3:21 p.m., and I know I need to prepare more for CC.

During the late afternoon and evening, I finish my prep. work for CC and help the kids prepare their presentations for their class. Millie is reciting the words of the Doxology to her class, and Hunter is telling his class 3 of his history sentences from his CC memory work. They prepare a 1-3 minute presentation every week for their class on a variety of given topics.

7:30 p.m. Early to bed for the kids, because we will be early to rise for CC tomorrow.
Good night!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Week in Our Homeschooling: Day 3 - Monday

I am sitting down to type this at the end of a long day where I am asked to give my late afternoon/early evening/date night for the church...which is simultaneously an honor and a little sad for this mama's/wife's heart. To be with people in crisis - it is the honor and work of a pastor. It is also the sacrifice of his wife and family. Living in that place tonight. I am neither trying to exalt us or play the's just part of my day, so I thought I would share where I am at the end of my Monday.

There is a bright side. Donny is on his way home with Outback...including a bloomin' onion (Thanks, Ryan Newman for your top ten finish yesterday). I am thankful for a husband who is committed to his church but is also committed to his wife and is willing to stop for a nice "stay date" dinner for us. He must be so tired. Did I mention it's snowing, and he's driving home at that dangerous point when they haven't cleared the roads yet? BUT...there's a bloomin' onion coming. Love him.

So...back to my day.

6:45 a.m. Woke up, poured my coffee into my Dunkin Donuts styrofoam cup that I got over the weekend and washed...because I discovered that I really like drinking my coffee from a styrofoam cup. I read my devotion and also read/prepared for my Bible Study that I lead with some women from the church on Tuesday mornings. Tomorrow is our last day of our year-long study on prayer. Prayers of the Bible by Susan Hunt. Great in a group or on your own. I have really enjoyed it.

7:30 a.m. Millie came down, showed me the newest fashion for her stuffed bear, and told me she couldn't find her notebook. I went upstairs to find it had fallen off the end of her bed. She only had one easy worksheet and a new calendar to fill out for March, so she sat in my blue chair downstairs and did it while I did a few things on the computer.

8:00 a.m. Oatmeal on its way, Will gets up, and I call Hunter for breakfast. Hunter comes down on the verge of tears. He told me he woke up and felt tired, so he only got his meeting strip and math worksheet done. He still had quite a bit of memory work to review. He looked a little pale and felt a little warm. No temperature, but he went back upstairs to "rest" (also known as laying in bed reading Calvin and Hobbes). Millie, Will, Donny and I enjoyed breakfast together. Since I wasn't going to be hitting the ground running with school with Hunter feeling ill, Donny and I got a few minutes to talk. That was nice.

By 9:00, Donny was off to work, and Hunter came down for some toast. It was hard to tell the severity of his sickness. Gonna need patience and discernment all day.

Confession: It's 7:19 a.m. on Tuesday morning. I didn't get quite get this finished yesterday, so we'll see how much I remember.

While Hunter, Millie, and Will ate toast, I read more from Ruth and prayed for our day.

At 9:30 I turned Elmo on for Will, and Hunter, Millie and I sat at the dining room table for grammar. I could tell it was pushing Hunter a little too much to be sitting up for so long (Bible and then grammar), so he went to sit in the den with Will. Millie and I then did reading and her spelling bee.

10:00 a.m. - My school morning moved in here:

Hunter felt most comfortable sitting/laying down, and Millie built a fort right next to us. Thankfully, Will and Millie played happily in the fort while I sat on the little green stool next to Hunter and went through math and memory work with him. 

11:00 a.m. - I took Will up to his room for pack n play time and a snack. Hunter, Millie and I grabbed a snack as well and went back into the den to read our history lesson on the Crusades. I left Hunter with a math worksheet on subtraction. It was supposed to be a timed test, but it was clear that Hunter wasn't going to be doing anything very quickly today, so I just let him work through the facts (there were 100 of them) on his own pace. This is one of those times when I am thankful my math curriculum is so repetitive, because I know that this timed test on subtraction will appear again (and again) in the next week or two. 

Millie and I headed downstairs to the school room to do her math lesson on tallying and counting by 5s. She also had an oral assessment on counting pennies and dimes and telling me the days of the week. The lesson today proves again why I love Classical Conversations. She learned to skip count the 5s earlier in the year, so the lesson was a breeze, because she was already so confident with what was being introduced. 

At 12:00 we headed upstairs for lunch. The lunch hour is a blur. 

At 1:30 I took Will up for his nap, gave Hunter his spelling test, and finished quizzing him on his memory work. Doing the spelling may have been too much for him, but oh well. We survived. 

Today was one of those days when I wanted to quiz him through all of his memory work with CC. He has seven subjects of memory work:
  • Math
  • Geography
  • History
  • English Grammar
  • Latin
  • History Timeline
  • Science

He has 24 weeks of memory work in each subject. It takes a while to get through (like 1 1/2 to 2 hours), but  he is doing great. He is going for "Memory Masters" where he has to recite every single piece of it. The first round starts this week, and he is allowed to miss 3 per subject in round one. Once he gets to round 2 he can only miss one per subject. By Round 4 he can't miss anything. Today he did great. He made the goal of less than 3 mistakes in all subjects except history, so I put history flash cards in his folder for tomorrow's notebook work. It's a lot of hard work for my eight year old, but it's fun seeing all of this information become second nature to him. 

2:45 - Book time for the big kids - I took a shower, grabbed some lunch, and I really can't remember what else I did. 

I guess the biggest lesson from my day was to be flexible when the moving parts of children and homeschooling change. Being willing to do school on the couch and do almost everything orally still allowed Hunter to do what he could without pushing him too hard. It's really one of the reasons I love homeschooling. We can tailor our days to fit the needs of our family. While it required patience and flexibility on my part (which is hard sometimes), it also was nice to feel like we were a little more relaxed just sitting around learning together.

Ok (since it's Tuesday morning at 7:48 a.m.), time to start Day 4!!!