Across Five Mays

Three years ago today, Kiffanie arrived home and dove right into Prairiefrog life with joyous enthusiasm! Tonight we celebrate with waffles for dinner–the same meal we served four years ago when we announced to her siblings we were adopting!

Kiffanie--Three Years Home

Kiffanie–Three Years Home

The sequence below shows her in May of every year since we first knew of her in 2011. (The first frame is the first photo we have of her, the last frame from last week.) God knew our family needed a Kiffanie–and I am forever grateful.

Across Five Mays

Across Five Mays (click to enlarge)

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Celebrating Two Years Home!

May 11th was an important day.  Not so much because it was (maybe?) the last snow of the season.  Below is the vision we woke to this past Sunday in mid-May:

May 11, 2014

May 11, 2014

No, and not merely because Mother’s Day fell on Sunday this year, though I had a lovely day, and my children and husband spoiled me.

May 11th marked two years since Kiffanie arrived home!

Kiffanie: Across 4 Mays (Click to enlarge)

Kiffanie: Across 4 Mays (Click to enlarge)

What’s happening in the first picture?  Did someone score a touchdown?  Was she being mugged? Unique pose aside, it’s the first photo we have of her, taken in late May (or possibly very early June) 2011, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

She’d been home just  a few days in the second photo, then a year in the third, and the fourth frame is a shot fresh from yesterday!  She’s sweet, smart, spunky, and fun, and amazes us at nearly every turn.

Living the Dream

I plan to post glimpses our our Christmas celebration, as well as a couple of low-key January birthdays, but I have a personal policy that when I get behind on blogging (or other things) I continue with the present as my first focus, and catch up on the past (or not) as time allows.  So, December and early January may be forthcoming, but meanwhile, I bring you, today!  Today, we are living the dream as we study Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Our MLK kid quip of the day: After discussing the background, Kieran (6) had one question, “What are white people?” A big sister explained, “Peach skin people are called white.” He nodded soberly, then, a bit disappointed said, “Oh, I thought maybe ghosts or something.”

"I have a dream that one day, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers." -Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“I have a dream that one day, little black boys and black girls
will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”
-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

 

 

Kiffanie Earns Her Bible

Here at PrairieFrogs Academy each child earns an outing and a Bible upon achieving reading fluency!  Kiffanie is quickly moving into chapter books, and reading beautifully!  15 months ago she spoke no English; none!   15 months ago she’d had no formal education and no academic training.  She’s an amazing girlie in so many ways!  It’s surreal–in almost every way it seems she’s always been here.  She is wonderful, and God shines in her bright eyes!

(Scroll down for cute photos of Kiffanie with her new Bible–I digress into homeschool-mom curriculum-speak for the next several paragraphs.) Like her older siblings, Kifffanie began her reading journey with gentle phonics through Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, supplemented with eclectic, mix-and-match resources and some mommy ingenuity. This time around, I added something new for Kieran and Kiffanie–in part to give each of them something to do while I was working with the other one–we subscribed to Reading Kingdom–an online learning tool.

Both Kiffanie and Kieran learn well from technology and audio-visual media in a way my eldest 4 didn’t.  Because Reading Kingdom doesn’t use the phonics approach I believe is foundational, I didn’t introduce it until we covered some essential phonics and each tyke reached lesson 75 of 100 Easy Lessons.  We then continued phonics instruction (and finished 100 Easy Lessons) in addition to Reading Kingdom.  Despite the lack of phonics focus, Reading Kingdom impressed me–especially in how it connecting spelling with reading for my youngest two!  None of my children possessed the fine motor skills necessary to write at an age they were ready to read.  Not wanting to hold my eager-readers back, I skipped the writing portion of their reading curricula until they were well past the “learning to read” stage.   In my eldest four, this created a disconnect between reading phonetically and reproducing (spelling) those same sounds.  Reading Kingdom solves this brilliantly by having small children type a word back after hearing it.  Typing requires less precise motor skills than writing, and they were able to build both skills simultaneously!   We began the program somewhat skeptically, but I’m sold!  (They also have a generous scholarship program available.)  This was an unsolicited review and I’m receiving no compensation–I just love to share what’s worked for us in case it might fit another family.

There is no way Reading Kingdom, 100 Easy Lessons, my stellar instruction or anything else can account for Kiffanie’s acquisition of written and spoken English.  While I’m convinced all those things helped bring out her natural gifts, there’s no doubt she’s just impressive!

She chose a rosy pink, vine embossed, Bible with her name imprinted in gold, then I whisked her off to the pie shop/cafe for a celebratory lunch!

Another solid reader!

Another solid reader!

Congo Connections

This summer has brought two beautiful opportunities for us to celebrate Kiffanie’s journey into our home!

Last month, we attended a picnic for Congolese adoptees and met the judge from Kiffanie’s home region of Lubumbashi. Ken asked the judge if he remembered “Zephanie”, using the Congolese version of her name because he wasn’t sure the Judge would remember her American name.  This dear man said, “Kiffanie?  Yes!  Where is she?” Ken immediately called Kiffanie over from playing and we got this picture:

Kiffanie with The Judge

Kiffanie with The Judge

The judge’s heart for the children of his country, and for God was beautiful to witness!  We also sampled Congolese food including cassava and caterpillars!  Even Ken tasted the insects!  (We preferred the goat meat though.)

Yesterday Kiffanie romped and played with two girls she’d played with in Pastor Didier’s orphanage!  They joined their family a year before Kiffanie came home, but she remembered Jamie and Jordan, and the three girls took up right where they’d left off–albeit on another continent and speaking a different language.

Jordan (4), Jamie (5), Kiffanie (5)

Jordan (4), Jamie (5), Kiffanie (5)

We all had a fabulous time!  Jamie and Jordan’s parents are a dear sister and brother in Christ, and kindred spirits in many ways–they even enjoy some of the same shows we do.  (Their olders and ours snuck off to re-watch Blink together.)  Mostly though, the big-kid/teen/young-adult types stayed outside visiting and playing cards–Jessie (14) trounced Kaira and Kendra (and big brother Jason) at Phase 10.  Email addresses were exchanged between the girls.

I didn’t get a photo of the teens playing cards or visiting–which is odd because most the time they were right across the table from where I sat munching and visiting.  (Edited to add: Jennifer captured some shots I didn’t over on her blog.)

Keianna and Keegan were close in age to Jojo (8).

Jojo, Kieran, Keegan and Keianna

Jojo, Kieran, Keegan and Keianna

Kieran roved from group to group.  Sometimes he hung out with the dogs (not pictured)… sometimes with the middle-kids (see above), and sometimes with the little girls:

Jamie, Kiffanie, Jordan and Kieran

Jamie, Kiffanie, Jordan and Kieran

All the kids

All the kids

The whole crew (The L family is missing a teen son who stayed in California working industriously.)

The whole crew (The L family is missing a teen son who stayed home in California to work.)

Whether across the world or across the country, friendships like these are special.

Jordan (front) Kiffanie (middle) Jamie (back)

Jordan (front) Kiffanie (middle) Jamie (back)

We are especially grateful for Jamie and Jordan’s grandparents who hosted our crew!  The L family intended to come visit at our place the day prior but got into a fender-bender outside Denver en route to our home. With the borrowed van incapacitated, they lacked a vehicle big enough to accommodate a re-do, so we invaded them.

 

Created, Chosen, Celebrated, Cherished: One Year Home

Kiffanie has been home one full year today!   On May 11th, 2012, I posted this hasty entry.  Details followed the next day  in this post.  It’s been an amazing year!

Often, transitions are difficult for children from tough situations, but Kiffanie’s vivacious and adaptive spirit, the healing and nurturing time in the care of a small, family style orphanage, and God’s mercy and grace in ways we may never comprehend worked together to make everything far easier than we imagined possible!  God has given us a wondrous gift in this precious girlie!

The photos below highlight today’s low-key celebration.  She ate from the “celebration dishes” that are distinctive from our regular dinnerware, and reserved for special honorees.  At her place she also found a little package with a necklace. Each facet of the necklace is inscribed with a word reflecting an aspect of adoption:

Created: She was created by our loving God who knew her before the foundations of the world.  She was created within the womb of a special lady–her birth mother–who gave Kiffanie (and ultimately us) a beautiful gift of life.

Chosen: God chose her for us and us for her.  We believe He directed us in placing her on our hearts from nearly the first moment we knew of her, we chose her.

Celebrated: Kiffanie lives life as a party, and her role in our family is celebrated by all of us!

Cherished: She is cherished–by her Heavenly Father, and by us–her earthly family.

If you are reading through an external feed reader, click through to the blog to view the photo collage of Kiffanie’s Homecoming Anniversary Celebration.

Her First Snow

In mid-May, on Kiffanie’s first morning home, we had our last snow of the season.  It was a barely noticeable dusting and melted before breakfast.  Kiffanie was occupied with all the strange wonders inside and getting to know her new family, so we didn’t even point it out.  On that morning, it would have just been one more strangeness, not a wondrous delight.

Yesterday. rooftops were lightly iced in white, and Kiffanie nearly burst with the excitement of snowmen and snow angels to come.  Often we don’t get enough snow to play in–it snows frequently, but rarely with much accumulation here in on the arid plains–but she remained hopeful.  This morning, her optimism was rewarded with several inches of fluffy snow!

She giggled and romped, throwing snowballs at siblings, making a snow angel, and even a tiny snowman with a carrot nose!   I dashed out for a very quick photo, but my sinuses protested, and I missed most the fun.

Coming in was a shock–as her hands began to warm, the stinging, tingling, thawing-out sensation brought a few tears of surprised pain.  Her experience in the Congo didn’t include much below freezing cold.   She declares it worth it, and is already asking to don the snow gear again this afternoon.

Her First Snow

Kiffanie’s First Snow

Happy Birthday, Baby Girl!

Today is officially Kiffanie’s 5th birthday!  We tend to time-shift birthdays and celebrate whenever we can relish the moment, so we celebrated last weekend.

Although birthdays were foreign to her prior life-experience, she’d quizzed her siblings about this magical tradition and was more than prepared. By the time the celebration approached she sounded like any eager 5 year old plotting her birthday menu, requesting a favorite desert, and bursting with anticipation over presents!   She even made Lego® dessert models to practice just how she’d blow out the candles.

Packages arrived from my parents. (They made it in time, mom!  They were even a few days early, which was all the better to build momentum!)  Her brothers and sisters made cards.  (Kiffanie made a few birthday cards for herself too.)  Wrapped presents began to appear high atop the secretary.

The birthday person requests their dinner menu.  Kiffanie chose pizza, and deliberated over homemade, or restaurant.  Homemade won out and she helped with the baking.

Cake isn’t an automatic assumption for birthdays here.  The birthday honoree chooses any dessert they desire.   She flipped through cook books, and her sisters and brothers listed every desert they could think of for her consideration.   Several weeks ago she decided–peach pie.

She delighted in every present.  Stickers, a stamp kit, dolls, and a lovely doll quilt.  (Grandma helped Kendra quilt a lovely doll blanket to coordinate with the special quilt on Kiffanie’s own bed. My ten year-old quilts, my 12 and 8 year-olds knit–I don’t do either, and it’s totally cool to see my girls growing into such accomplished individuals.)

^ Look at that toothless, big girl grin! ^


^Kendra (10) made this quilt! (with Grandma help)^6K

She’s still savoring her birthday–there’s one present left–something very special (although she doesn’t know what) from Grandma Kay.

Happy birthday, my sweet Kiffanie-Girl!   Your sparkling giggle, your belly laughs, your hugs, kisses, and exuberant, can-do attitude bring a smile to my face every day.  You truly epitomize your middle name, Kiffanie Joy.  We love you bunches!  (And it’s ok to wait a few weeks–or even months–before telling me what you want for your dinner *next* birthday.  Really. )

Making Foo-Foo

Kiffanie made pretend foo-foo (a favorite African dish) outside today.

Just as with real foo-foo, it’s a time consuming process, and she enlists siblings to help pound various ingredients which vary depending on the day.  Today’s batch is primarily dandelion blossoms and leaves with a bit of gravel–yummy.

Making foo-foo

Making foo-foo