Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Share the Love: Taking the Classroom Outside This Spring at the Chicago Botanic Garden

Last fall we decided to transition our oldest son out of traditional school and into a hands-on school setting that includes homeschooling and a Waldorf-based co-op. It's been an exciting year of learning, growth and development for him and for me!

But when we traded workbooks for real-life experiences, I began to realize that we were going to have to venture out further into the world (and outside of my poor kitchen) to keep exploring -- especially in the realms of biology and ecology. 

We've long been fans of the Chicago Botanic Garden, but this spring we have found a renewed love after taking a nature walk there as part of science "class."

The boys and their friends skipped along the paths, marveling at the different blooms popping up in the spring. 

They intently watched the carp swimming in the ponds during our expedition in the Japanese Garden.

And they excitedly monitored a family of frogs and frog babies hiding out in the grass just off the beaten path. 

What an adventure we had as they discovered spring in a very hands on way! And the conversations we have had in the aftermath have been great as well as its given way to talking about how new life blooms in the spring. 

Of course, we don't have to be homeschoolers to enjoy a nature walk with our kids! Right now the garden is in full spring bloom, and it's a great time to take a day to walk, explore and enjoy. 

Some ideas I'm considering:

  • make your nature walk into a scavenger hunt
  • bring pads of paper and colored pencils along for budding artists to draw what they see 
  • do a gallery display of the different drawings from the garden during spring, summer and fall and invite grandma and grandpa over to hear all about it

Of course, if you prefer programs that are already put together, the garden has plenty this time of year. Here are a few favorites we want to catch!

Fruit & Vegetable Garden Family Drop-in Activities – Daily, May 30 through August 30
Enjoy free summer activities each day during family drop-in activities in the Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden. Activities vary from week to week and include Plant Parts, Powerful Pollinators, Super Seeds, Rainbow Garden and Wiggling Worms. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Click here for more information.

Nature Nights – Select Saturdays, May 30 through September 5
Bring a picnic dinner and spend an evening at the Chicago Botanic Garden! Children ages 4 – 10 and their families will explore different areas of the Garden and enjoy a variety of discovery-based activities. Participants will park in lot 1 or 2 and check in at Annex 2 or the Fruit & Vegetable Garden classroom. The program facilitator will lead them to the activity site where they will eat their homemade sack dinners (not provided) and begin the exploration activity. At each Nature Nights, participants will enjoy a short tram ride, plant a take-home plant and conclude the evening by making s’mores at a fire pit. Hours are from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Cost is $26 per chregister and for additional information. The event is held regardless of weather; indoor spaces are used in case of rain.

Click HERE to see more family activities planned at the garden for this spring and summer and check back at the beginning of summer to see what else we're up to at the garden this year!

Disclosure: Because my family loves the outdoors, we are happy garden ambassadors for the Chicago Botanic Garden. We receive a membership in exchange for writing about garden happenings. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

God-sized Dreams: On Letting Go of My Timing

I would do it all over again.

If it meant we would be where we are now, sitting in the glow of the miracles of the past week, I wouldn't want it any other way.

The stressful and strained parts of hosting our first host daughter.

The heartbreak of losing our first host daughter I in a "failed" adoption.

The overwhelming feeling of choosing to adopt two girls from another country so shortly after our "failed" adoption.

The constant challenge of growth and dealing with our own past hurts and hang-ups as we have step-by-step walked this journey.

The waiting, the tears, the 16 weeks of wondering and waiting if a referral for our girls adoption would come, the mornings it was hard to even get out of bed, the nights I spent more time praying than sleeping.

I would do it all over again to be standing where we are now.

This morning, we received word that the ministry of the welfare would have the information for our adoption for us soon.

We received it just in time to make the decision not host again this summer.

In perfect fashion, though, too, we received this information, an answer to our long-standing prayers, as a pre-curser to other joyful news.

I have sobbed happy, thankful tears three separate times during the past eight hours.

As I've processed through everything, I've realized that if we wouldn't have waited this long that I wouldn't have had a breakthrough, beautiful conversation with our soon-to-be daughter this morning.

And we wouldn't have had that conversation were it not for her attending a camp this past weekend where God really spoke to her heart.

I realized this morning, too, that if this timing hadn't played out exactly I wouldn't have had the chance to spend time writing some advocacy blog posts for New Horizons for Children's Orphan Hosting Program ...

and that two families shared with me, one just this morning, that they decided to host because God used those words to speak to their hearts ...

and that one of those families, our neighbors and friends, is hosting our soon-to-be-daughter's friend this summer ... just down the street from our home.

I am awed and overwhelmed and GRATEFUL to have even played a small role in this, and I am overwhelmed with the beauty, the wonder and the fruit that has been born of the struggle, that has been born of the waiting.

And you, my friends. I am overwhelmed by God's goodness in bringing you alongside of us.

You have been part of this story.

You have encouraged us when I thought I couldn't do this one more day.

You have supported us when what stood before us to do alone would have been nearly impossible.

You have prayed for us when it was hard to pray ourselves.

You have lavished love on us when it was difficult for us to feel anything at all.

You have been part of more stories than just the one I have the honor of sharing.

I cannot thank you enough for being part of this story God is writing in our family and in the lives of others.

What a story that is unfolding, and how this unfolding in this way and time and space is teaching me that God's plans are so much more vast and unimaginable and better than my own!

There is, indeed, deep purpose in the pain and deep purpose in the wait, and beauty really can and really is often born from the broken.

All in His time.

Why does hosting make a different? Former host children share their stories. 
The Joy of Uncomfortable Love

If you'd like to continue to be a part of these stories, please pray for our family as we await our referral and travel dates. If you would like to support families in the midst of orphan care financially, you can do so at our site A Just Love or the Crothers' family's site Piecing Together Our Hosting Journey.