I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. Rom 12:1-2

Friday, March 30, 2012

The money post

Here is the long-promised money post with a general adoption update at the end. This is a relatively low cost adoption. Almost the only way to adopt with lower expenses is to adopt through the foster care system in the U.S.

For anyone who is interested, here is the breakdown of Baby Girl's adoption costs:

Application Part #1..............................$50 (paid 10/25/11)
Application Part #2............................$300 (paid 11/18/11)
International Adoption Seminar........$85 (paid 11/30/11)
Program Management Fee #1......$2500 (paid 12/27/11)
Home study fee (Hague)................$1750 (paid 12/27/11)
Program Management Fee #2......$2500 (paid 3/6/12)
Refundable deposit..........................$500 (paid 3/6/12)
USCIS fees........................................$720 (paid 3/7/12)
USCIS fingerprinting fee...................$85 (paid 3/7/12)
Post placement fee........................$1400 (paid 8/8/12)
International fees...........................$1500
Travel................................approx. $5000
Finalization.......................approx. $1000
USCIS N-600 (citizenship).............$550

The total comes to just under $18,000, but doesn't include physicals for everyone in the family, background checks, extra adoption education, printer ink (!), Fed Ex fees, etc. I would estimate the total for all the miscellaneous has been about $500 for this adoption, BUT you'll notice the refundable deposit up there (already paid). I will receive that back once Baby Girl's adoption has been finalized and she has her citizenship. So the grand total, still is under $18K.

The Finalization fee will be paid directly to an attorney after Baby Girl has been home for six months and after our court date. Remember that with Super-T? And AFTER that can we apply for her citizenship, so $1550 of the total is a LONG way off (possibly as much as 2 years). In fact the other $7900 is still quite a ways off, also. Most of it will be paid at travel (some even after travel), so likely in early 2013. The front end costs of this adoption are all paid! Yippee!

Now the general adoption update: I received new pictures and a tiny update about Baby Girl. She is growing and starting to pull up to standing. She is out of the hospital and at a great child care facility where she is getting therapy and lots of love (very unusual in orphan situations). I wish I could share her cute pictures!

On this end of things, I am almost to the end of the "second trimester" of this paper pregnancy. I am about to enter The Long Wait. Next week I have my fingerprinting appointment, shortly after that I should have immigration pre-approval (don't worry I'll let you know when I get it), then the WAITING begins in earnest. Good thing I have a bathroom remodel to keep me busy.

P.S. Less than two more days to add to the stew! See the Mulligan Stew button on the sidebar. And only 4 more days to get a deal on StelCon:Infinity on Kickstarter. That button is on the sidebar also.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Game Geeks update!

My friend Russ Rupe, game designer extraordinaire, just left a comment on the original Game Geeks post.  He had a personal message for a mutual friend, but then this, "To everyone else on Justine's blog...if you do head over to Kickstarter and support us (we are now in the final week), just shoot me an e-mail and I'll hook you up with the double-secret-internet-friend-of-a-friend good deal. info@conquestgaming.com"

How cool is that?  A double-secret-internet-friend-of-a-friend good deal on an awesome game!  So if you are gaming-inclined (board gaming...not the video kind, although I understand the demographic does overlap), head over to Kickstarter and back StelCon:Infinity.  It is in its final week; and The Philosopher would love to see it funded, so he can have Russ come over and teach him how to play it.  (For more great pictures of The Philosopher and his Warlords of Europe game, also designed by Russ, see the first Game Geeks post.

Russ is the one with the beard.
And as a special bonus for readers who are mutual friends, I will throw in another Russ Rupe story if his game gets backed.  I have known him since he was in fourth grade and we went to college together, so I have a few. 

Be very afraid, Russ.  Are you sure you want your game backed?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The toilet is where?

"Hey, Mom!  Why is the toilet in the front yard?"

"I guess I might as well sit on it!"

We are having our bathroom remodeled!  Yippee!  

It is about time.  When we moved into our 1950's era house, I didn't have the money for a bathroom remodel (after ripping out carpets, redoing hardwood floors, and painting everything), so I said, "I'll save up and do it in a few months."  That few months turned into seven years. 

The plumbing in the shower finally completely gave out and that motivated me to do it.  Fortunately my parents live next door because it would otherwise be very tough to live in a house with no bathroom for the next week or so.  THANKS, Pa and Grandma!  AND I miraculously have the money to pay for it, thanks to a gift that will nearly pay for half of the remodel plus another source of income that covers the rest.  I am so thankful and truly overwhelmed by generosity right now!  God always provides what I need when I need it!  He is never late! 

I remembered last night to snap a couple of "before" pictures.  Stay tuned next week for "afters."

I am looking forward to no more linoleum, paneling, or plastic trim; white tile instead of weird maroonish-salmon; a new sink and toilet; and, most of all, a shower that works! 

Any ideas for colors to paint the walls?  It is a very tiny bathroom, so I definitely want something light.  I am open to suggestions! 

P.S.  Don't forget about the Mulligan Stew giveaway on my sidebar.  Right now they have matching funds for the Lost Boys!  So exciting!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Game Geeks

My eldest child, The Philosopher (formerly known as LOTL for Lord of the Legos) is quite the chip off the ol' block.  He is my late husband's mini-me.  I have had the unique opportunity to experience some of the nature vs. nurture debate in real time, up-close-and-personal.  
You would be shocked to know the random things that appear to be inherited rather than taught. (Incidentally, this is also fascinating to me as an adoptive parent.) I wish I would have written down all of the little things that appear to be genetic, but this post is about one that I found out about over the past two days.  You see, The Philosopher was just two and half when his daddy died.  Michael and The Philosopher enjoyed a very close relationship, but two and a half years is not a lot of time for teaching things like strategy board games.  

Michael had a great love for all games, especially Axis and Allies and similar strategy/war games.  The Philosopher has begged me for YEARS to teach him how to play Axis & Allies.  Although I have played a number of times myself, I am hardly qualified to teach it, especially when our set is missing the rules.  The Philosopher ended up dragging our beat-up old game from the attic and making up his own rules for the little planes, soldiers, and boats.

Fast forward to earlier this week.  We have a family friend who is a game designer.  I have known Russ Rupe for almost 30 years (he and my brother were in school together and have been great friends ever since, and Russ is like another brother to me.)  Russ emailed me to see if The Philosopher would be interested in learning how to play Warlords of Europe.  They were planning on coming to town for spring break, Russ thought it was time to teach his son to play, and wondered if The Philosopher was interested.

Of course, The Philosopher was ecstatic about the idea, and Tuesday was the day.

The Game-Designer; his adorable, witty, and super-smart son; and The Philosopher

Warlords of Europe is a game designed by Russ and his partners.  I sat in for some of the instruction, and Russ's brilliant wife, a doctor of The Pregnancy Companion fame, also learned to play at the same time he was teaching the boys.  The shocker came when they were doing initial placements.  Russ actually used The Philosopher's visual planning (photo captured below) as an example of "what to do."  Hmmm...the boy didn't get that from me, but I have seen Michael do something very similar many times.  Heredity?  Maybe...

I didn't get to hang around for the whole couple of hours they played, after all I have two other children who don't seem to have the strategy game gene, but I was there for a significant part of the teaching, which turned out to be a good thing because my dad decided to purchase a copy of Warlords of Europe for The Philosopher right then and there.  Thanks, Pa!

Guess what we did ALL DAY yesterday?
Wonderful tiny plastic guys all cozy in their 2 mil sleeping bags. 

For the record: the boy's got skillz.  He trounced me.  It only took from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.  I stayed in my flannel pj's All Day Long.  Yep.  One of those.  Good thing it was raining all day to set the proper mood and eliminate garden-guilt.  And good thing the other kids were unusually mellow and happy to play with Super-T's iPad (thanks Mission iPossible!) and listen to audio books most of the day.  And Conquest Gaming has incredible customer service.  Within minutes of posting a rule dispute on Russ's Facebook wall he called me on my cell phone to settle it (okay, so maybe that was a bit of a special case, but they are a GREAT small company and if you are a gamer you should consider supporting them.)

My guys are the red dudes.  Apparently they didn't practice their fighting skills because the dice sure didn't roll in my favor.  That, in addition to some tactical blunders, did me in.  The Philosopher was the massive green/black army below.  This was right before he took my last castle at 5:00 p.m. 
In spite of the horrible luck and wimpy strategy I displayed, it was a really fun game.  I truly enjoyed it and look forward to playing again (and no, it won't take that long every time...we were in learning mode and had to stop to read the rules a lot, plus we did take some breaks to play with Super-T and Little Pud--the other kids weren't totally ignored).
But the best part?
The BEST part was spending the day with my son, seeing his father in him as he thought through some seriously complex strategies, and listening for the rest of the evening about how it was "The Best Day Ever."

...of course, now The Philosopher wants a copy of Stelcon: Infinity, Russ's next game... 

P.S.  A huge THANK YOU  to Russ Rupe for teaching my boy this game.  As a single mom, it really meant the world to me that my son got to learn something that his dad would have taught him if he was here.   I surely do appreciate the men in our lives that step up to do things like this for my kids.  It is GREATLY appreciated!!!

Friday, March 16, 2012


I still have a promised post coming about the financial aspects of Baby Girl's adoption.  I'll get to it eventually, really.  Suffice it to say right now that the money stuff is going quite well.  I will need another chunk of cash, but not for many moons and I already have some stuff in the works.  So far I have been absolutely blown away by friends', acquaintances', and even total strangers' generosity.  A few weeks ago my friend Sarah did this.  In May, local friends are holding a huge garage sale for me.  And just yesterday I realized that out of the blue someone had donated $200 more to my Reece's Rainbow Family Sponsorship Page.  I am truly blessed.

Then today I come upon this post on a blog I follow.  Go ahead, click on it.  I'll wait.

Vicky is adopting two older girls (ages 10 and 12) from China.  Did you see the ChipIn on her sidebar?  She still needs over $10,000 for the orphanage fees for her daughters and she travels in about a MONTH!  Was she begging for money?  NO!  Was she tooting her own horn?  NO!  Was she asking people to give to her adoption fund?  NO!  She was sharing about another single (widowed) mom adopting from China who was denied adoption grants simply because she is single.  She was asking for people to donate to that mom's account!  Can you imagine?  Then she told about me and linked to my blog too.  All the while not asking for anything for herself.  She even reiterated that in the comments.  I had no idea she was going to post about me.  In fact I was wondering why my blog was getting a bunch of hits, then I saw her post.

I would be honored if you would take a moment to visit Vicky's blog and give to her adoption fund or even just comment that you are praying for her (and then do it).  Comments can be so encouraging and every dollar makes a difference!  And before you say that I am doing the same generous thing she is doing: I have only about $6500 more to raise and almost a whole year in which to raise it.  She has $10,000 to raise and  a MONTH to raise it.  There is a world of difference there!

Thank you, friends, for helping out this friend!

P.S. Check out the Mulligan Stew button on my sidebar.  Great things going on there.  You don't want to miss out!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Super-quick adoption update

Yesterday I finally received the last document needed to send my I-800A to USCIS for immigration pre-approval and to send my dossier to Baby Girl's country.  Yippee!  Moving forward!   I updated the tab "Baby Girl's Adoption" to reflect this and added a bit of information.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A bloody mystery

We interrupt our regularly scheduled post to bring you this hideous mystery that occurred late last night.

Around 11:30 p.m., when I opened the door to the garage to bring in the dog for the night, I was shocked to see a huge pool of blood on top of the dryer.  I stepped down into the garage for a closer look.  Sure enough, puddling around the hammer, bicycle helmet, baseball mitts, and other garage oddments, was a large amount of bright red blood.

Immediately thoughts started flashing through my mind.  Is the dog okay? (Never mind asking how his blood would get on top of the dryer.)  Yes, the dog is fine...  Maybe a critter of some sort is lying behind all of that junk bleeding to death...Eewww!  Could the dog have attacked something without making a ruckus?

I stepped in even closer and tentatively reached out.  I smelled something...hmmm...something sweet and fruity.

Then I see it: a five-pound bag of formerly-frozen raspberries that I set on the dryer "for a few minutes" the night before while I rearranged the chest freezer.

Nothing like a late-night mystery turned clean-up project to cap off a Saturday.


And because the above episode went sadly un-photo-documented.  Here are a few pictures from our fun earlier in the day.  (All the while, unbeknownst to me, those berries were bleeding all over my dryer.)

Yesterday afternoon we went to an area-wide Campfire event.  The "rope" bridge was a favorite of the day.

Little Pud enjoyed the archery.  (The Philosopher, in all of his Boy Scout "I'm-getting-an-archery-merit-badge" glory thought the very nice Campfire volunteers treated him like a kindergartener.)

We all always enjoy a good "nature" hike, especially when the area is full of fun stuff like giant suspended spools and tires (so natural!)

Did you have any fun times or unusual happenings this weekend?