Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Travel Approval being mailed today!

We just got word that our Travel approval is being mailed from China to our agency today.  They should receive it and then they will book our Counsulate Appointment. Tentatively we are now scheduled to travel 5/3-5/17.  This could change, depending on when our actual travel date is.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Action Video games improve vision

Video games with lots of action, such as the shoot-'em-up variety, can improve your vision, a new study finds.

Players became up to 58 percent better at perceiving fine contrast differences in the tests.

"If you are driving at dusk with light fog it could make the difference between seeing the car in front of you or not seeing it," study leader Daphne Bavelier told LiveScience.

The ability to discern slight differences in shades of gray, or contrast sensitivity, is the primary limiting factor in how well one sees, said Bavelier, a professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester.

"Normally, improving contrast sensitivity means getting glasses or eye surgery-somehow changing the optics of the eye," she said. "But we've found that action video games train the brain to process the existing visual information more efficiently, and the improvements last for months after game play stopped."

The new finding suggests action video game used as training devices may be a useful complement to eye-correction techniques, Bavelier said, since it may teach the brain's visual cortex to make better use of the information it receives.

In 2007, Bavelier found that action video games substantially increase a player's ability to accurately see objects in a cluttered space. A study at the University of Oregon found that some video games improve the ability of children age 4 to 6 to focus their attention, also by training the brain.

In the new study, her team tested the contrast sensitivity function of 22 students, then divided them into two groups: One group played the action video games "Unreal Tournament 2004" and "Call of Duty 2." The other played "The Sims 2," which is richly visual, but does not require as much visual-motor coordination.

The volunteers each played 50 hours during the 9-week test. Then their vision was tested again.

Those who played the action games showed an average 43 percent improvement in their ability to discern close shades of gray - close to the difference Bavelier had previously observed between game players and non-game players - whereas the Sims players showed no improvement.

When comparing people who played action video games routinely for more than six months to those who do not play them, the increase was 58 percent, Bavelier said.

"To the best of our knowledge, this is the first demonstration that contrast sensitivity can be improved by simple training," says Bavelier. "When people play action games, they're changing the brain's pathway responsible for visual processing. These games push the human visual system to the limits and the brain adapts to it, and we've seen the positive effect remains even two years after the training was over."

So despite concerns that time spent playing action video games could be bad for people, that time may not necessarily be harmful, at least for vision, she said.

The research, funded by the National Eye Institute and the Office of Naval Research, is detailed today in thejournal Nature Neuroscience.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Put us on the List!

The Prayer list that is, at church, in your prayer groups, with your prayer partner, wherever.  We need prayers for wisdom and for finances.  We've discovered that it will be more money for us to re-adopt Calliandra here in MI than it would be for Bill to fly over there. So now we need prayers for these specific things.
1) We have the wisdom to decide who goes and how long they stay.
2) We have the money we need to fulfill these decisions.

We continue to walk on faith on these points as we have on the entire adoption, and we ask that you spread the word so we have more praying for us.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Why I push for Acer and Calliandra to learn Braille

Fewer than 10% of blind Americans read braille...

By BEN NUCKOLS, Associated Press Writer Ben Nuckols, Associated Press Writer – 2 hrs 36 mins ago

BALTIMORE – Jordan Gilmer has a degenerative condition that eventually will leave him completely blind. But as a child, his teachers did not emphasize Braille, the system of reading in which a series of raised dots signify letters of the alphabet.

Instead, they insisted he use what little vision he had to read print. By the third grade, he was falling behind in his schoolwork.

"They gave him Braille instruction, but they didn't tell us how to get Braille books, and they didn't want him using it during the day," said Jordan's mother, Carrie Gilmer of Minneapolis. Teachers said Braille would be "a thing he uses way off in the far distant future, and don't worry about it."

That experience is common: Fewer than 10 percent of the 1.3 million legally blind people in the United States read Braille, and just 10 percent of blind children are learning it, according to a report to be released Thursday by the National Federation of the Blind.

By comparison, at the height of its use in the 1950s, more than half the nation's blind children were learning Braille. Today Braille is considered by many to be too difficult, too outdated, a last resort.

Instead, teachers ask students to rely on audio texts, voice-recognition software or other technology. And teachers who know Braille often must shuttle between schools, resulting in haphazard instruction, the report says.

"You can find good teachers of the blind in America, but you can't find good programs," said Marc Maurer, the group's president. "There is not a commitment to this population that is at all significant almost anywhere."

Using technology as a substitute for Braille leaves blind people illiterate, the federation said, citing studies that show blind people who know Braille are more likely to earn advanced degrees, find good jobs and live independently.

"It's really sad that so many kids are being shortchanged," said Debby Brackett of Stuart, Fla., who pressured schools to provide capable Braille teachers for her 12-year-old daughter, Winona.

One study found that 44 percent of participants who grew up reading Braille were unemployed, compared with 77 percent for those who relied on print. Overall, blind adults face 70 percent unemployment.

The federation's report pulled together existing research on Braille literacy, and its authors acknowledge that not enough research has been done. The 10 percent figure comes from federal statistics gathered by the American Printing House for the Blind, a company that develops products for the visually impaired.

The federation also did some original research, including a survey of 500 people that found the ability to read Braille correlated with higher levels of education, a higher likelihood of employment and higher income.

The report coincides with the 200th birthday of Louis Braille, the Frenchman who invented the Braille code as a teenager. Resistance to his system was immediate; at one point, the director of Braille's school burned the books he and his classmates had transcribed. The school did not want its blind students becoming too independent; it made money by selling crafts they produced.

The system caught on, but began declining in the 1960s along with the widespread integration of blind children into public schools. It has continued with the advent of technology that some believe makes Braille obsolete.

"Back in about 1970 or so, I was heading to college, and somebody said to me, 'Now that you've got the tape recorder, everything will be all right. In the early 1980s, somebody else said, 'Now that you've got a talking computer, everything will be all right,'" said Marc Maurer, president of the federation.

"They were both wrong. And the current technology isn't going to make everything all right unless I know how to put my hands on a page that has words on it and read them."

Audio books are no substitute, said Carlton Walker, an attorney and the mother of a legally blind girl from McConnellsburg, Pa. Walker once met a blind teenager who had only listened to audio books; the teen was shocked to discover that "Once upon a time" was four separate words.

Walker also had to lobby teachers to provide Braille for her 8-year-old daughter, Anna, instead of just large-print books.

"At 3 years old, Anna could compete with very large letters. When you get older, you can't compete," Walker said. She once asked a teacher, "'What are you going to do when she's reading Dickens?' She said, 'Well, we'll just go to audio then.'

"If that were good enough for everybody, why do we spend millions of dollars teaching people to read?"

Gilmer, now an 18-year-old aspiring lawyer, worked on his Braille in a summer program when he was in middle school and can now read 125 words a minute, up from his previously rate, an excruciatingly slow 20 words a minute.

"Just try it," Carrie Gilmer said. "Go get a paragraph, get a stopwatch and try to read 20 words a minute. Try and read that slow and see how frustrating it is."

Fluent Braille readers can read 200 words a minute or more, the federation says.

Carrie Gilmer is president of a parents' group within the federation for the blind. She believes poor or haphazard instruction is largely responsible for the decline in Braille literacy, but she says sometimes teachers push Braille only to meet resistance from parents.

"They're afraid of their child looking blind, not fitting in," Gilmer said.

The report outlines ambitious goals for reversing the trend, including lobbying all 50 states to require teachers of blind children to be certified in Braille instruction by 2015. But its immediate goal is to simply make people aware that there's no substitute for Braille. It's not just a tool to help people function — it can bring joy, Maurer said.

"The concept of reading Braille for fun is a thing that lots of people don't know," Maurer said. "And yet I do this every day. I love the beautiful, orderly lines of words that convey a different idea that can stimulate me or make me excited or sad. ... This is what we're trying to convey."

Why Toddlers don't do as their told

Scientists think they have the answer to this question that has been plaguing parents for generations.

LiveScience.com livescience Staff

Tue Mar 24, 10:45 pm ET

Are you listening to me? Didn't I just tell you to get your coat? Helloooo! It's cold out there...

So goes many a conversation between parent and toddler. It seems everything you tell them either falls on deaf ears or goes in one ear and out the other. But that's not how it works.

Toddlers listen, they just store the information for later use, a new study finds.

"I went into this study expecting a completely different set of findings," said psychology professor Yuko Munakata at the University of Colorado at Boulder. "There is a lot of work in the field of cognitive development that focuses on how kids are basically little versions of adults trying to do the same things adults do, but they're just not as good at it yet. What we show here is they are doing something completely different."

Munakata and colleagues used a computer game and a setup that measures the diameter of the pupil of the eye to determine the mental effort of the child to study the cognitive abilities of 3-and-a-half-year-olds and 8-year-olds.

The game involved teaching children simple rules about two cartoon characters - Blue from Blue's Clues and SpongeBob SquarePants - and their preferences for different objects. The children were told that Blue likes watermelon, so they were to press the happy face on the computer screen only when they saw Blue followed by a watermelon. When SpongeBob appeared, they were to press the sad face on the screen.

"The older kids found this sequence easy, because they can anticipate the answer before the object appears," said doctoral student Christopher Chatham, who participated in the study. "But preschoolers fail to anticipate in this way. Instead, they slow down and exert mental effort after being presented with the watermelon, as if they're thinking back to the character they had seen only after the fact."

The pupil measurements showed that 3-year-olds neither plan for the future nor live completely in the present. Instead, they call up the past as they need it.

"For example, let's say it's cold outside and you tell your 3-year-old to go get his jacket out of his bedroom and get ready to go outside," Chatham explained. "You might expect the child to plan for the future, think 'OK it's cold outside so the jacket will keep me warm.' But what we suggest is that this isn't what goes on in a 3-year-old's brain. Rather, they run outside, discover that it is cold, and then retrieve the memory of where their jacket is, and then they go get it."

The findings are detailed this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Munakata figures the results might help with real situations.

"If you just repeat something again and again that requires your young child to prepare for something in advance, that is not likely to be effective," Munakata said. "What would be more effective would be to somehow try to trigger this reactive function. So don't do something that requires them to plan ahead in their mind, but rather try to highlight the conflict that they are going to face. Perhaps you could say something like 'I know you don't want to take your coat now, but when you're standing in the yard shivering later, remember that you can get your coat from your bedroom."

Monday, March 23, 2009

New blog look again

The last look was a bit to bright pink for Bill's comfort, so I changed it to this.  Not quite as fun, but it still has the, important to Calliandra, Pink and White.  Enjoy!

Saturday, March 21, 2009


We went to the visitation today.  Acer behaved reasonably well for a bored 4 year old. especially since BaBa kept walking him outside the room.
Mrs Clark's family was happy to see him as they'd heard the tales of him this year.  He was able to the answer the following questions to show that the words, if not their meanings had sunk in.
Did you love Mrs Clark?
Did Mrs Clark love you?
Where is Mrs Clark now?
and you'll see her again when you go there.

We met another set of parents  and Acer's classmate Julia, whom I told it was okay to tell Acer that taking her toys was rude.  She looked relieved in her 7 year old way.

There were a lot of her family there and many teachers from the school.  Acer's Orientation and Mobility (O&M) and his Teacher of Visually Impaired (TVI) were both devastated because they known her for 10 and 7 years.  I can just imagine as I was pretty torn up and I'd just met her a handful of times.

What a day.

Friday, March 20, 2009

A Sad Day

Today we had very shocking news from Acer's school.  Acer's classroom Para-pro, Mrs Clark, was taken to the hospital tuesday night with a severe headache and died the next day of a brain aneurysm.  
She was a delightful gray haired older woman, probably doing this as a second career.  She taught the little kids, which for most of the year meant she was almost exclusively Acer's teacher as there were really no other little ones.
It's very hard to explain this to Acer.  He has no frame of reference.  The only time he's even heard the word 'Die' is in his 'Now I lay me' prayers at night.  I told him she was dead, that she was the part of 'Die before I wake part of  his prayers'. I didn't know what else to say.  I told him that Mrs Clark wasn't going to come back to school and he told me that she was home sick with the 'flu.  I know he doesn't understand, but I don't know how long it's going to take before he does understand.  We're going to the visitation tomorrow night to let her family know how much she meant to Acer.
I also don't know how he's going to deal with the change in people, he didn't like it when garret joined that class and he had to share  Mrs Clark with him.
Prayers please.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Day 5 Waiting for TA

What a busy busy day.
We started out the morning with Bill and Acer heading off to Band Practice.  I stayed home as I just couldn't seem to stay awake.
Bill and Acer hit the stores afterwards and then we went straight from there to meet my friend Pete, from St Louis,  to do some shopping and some hanging out.
We started at Nordstrom Rack, went to my work, and then to a flame broiled chicken restaurant.
We went from there to Beq & Carl's where we dropped Bill off to help Beq wih a computer issue. Back to the Nordstrom's parking lot to drop Pete off, and around back to pick Bill up.
We got back home just in time to make sure Acer and Unca James were set up for the evening.  Bill and I headed off to Fireproof Your Marriage.   It was a good study, discussion despite having half the couples missing as they were all at a play.  There were more than a few good points made and I came home with a couple things to mull over and store in my heart.
We had to stop for gas on the way back because of all the running around we had done!
There was peace in the house when we got home, evidently a good time was had by all and Acer was sound asleep.  I guess being on the run all day with little rest will tire a generally tireless Little Man out.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Day 4 waiting for TA

What an odd day.  Acer was very well behaved throughout most of it, it just ended up being very draining and I'm still not quite sure what to make of it.
Acer's yearly eye check up was today.  Because of his Peter's anomaly, we need to watch the pressure because glaucoma is a threat.  Dr R. came in, looked at Acer's chart and asked us if we'd seen Dr X., a cornea specialist.  Well, no, he'd never told me I should see Dr X, this was the first time I'd ever heard Dr X's name.  I suggested that maybe he'd consulted with Dr X during Acer's last bout of testing.
That past we moved on to trying to get Acer to open his eyes.  This is a concept Acer just doesn't understand.  Totally doesn't understand.  The last time Bill and I had asked him to do it, he put his fingers on his eyebrows and pushed up.  Amusing to watch but ineffectual.  I tried to explain, opening my eyes against his palm, but there was just nothing connecting to turn the little idea light bulb on in his head. 
So, here Acer is in the Dr's office, and he's a little nervous and a little afraid because 9 times out of 10 he goes to the Dr's office, he gets shots and the Dr tells him to open his eyes. Well, he may not know how to open them on command but he sure can squeeze them shut in a hurry. A minor wrestling match ensued and the score, Acer 1/Dr R. 0.  
The Dr then decides that he needs to do another Exam Under Anes. to knock him out and take another look and get his pressure.  At this point I am still unsure if this new Dr will be involved or if I'm supposed to make contact on my own.  Guess I'll call and leave a message on Mon. to clarify things.
So I went to check out and mentioned to the ladies that they had no toys which made noise in the new office.  They smiled and said yes, isn't it nice and I had to tell them, no it was not good, not all kids can see these toys.  I mean really, bead mazes galore, an abacus (more beads), some peg gear boards which were all disassembled and all over the floor and a play house.  Acer was extremely bored.  The only thing that made him even slightly happy was the thought of going to the drum store afterwards.  We waited in the waiting room for 45 minutes and he was really pretty good despite being so bored.  The only reason he likes to go to the Dr's is to check out what toys they have to play with and here he didn't even have that option.
So, off to the drum store we went.  This time Acer got to listen to three drummers trying out drums, unfortunately two were playing at the same time.  He liked that and was happy enough to leave when I said it was time. The deuling banging got to me tho', more than a little loud.
Bill took Acer out grocery shopping that evening, Acer was desperate for some batteries for a piano toy and we needed a few things.  I happily tubbed and read and tried to wrap my brain around the day. Still not sure why it was so exhausting, but I sure was tired.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Day 3 waiting for TA

This was a stay at home day for us.  Acer has been out and about  (or oot and aboot for my Canadian cousins) all week and we needed some down time.
We did make spaghetti, one of Acer's favorites and Bill will upload pix from that later. We'll just say that there's a firm reason behind my getting kids into their skivvies to eat it.
We also got good news, one of Calliandra's friends will be moving to IN, just about a three hour drive from us.  Check out ChunYan's new family at Moving Mtns on my sidebar.
We were also able to have a good talk with Calliandra and tell her our approval had come. I don't think she quite gets how many approvals we need to go through, but it was good to be able to tell her.
She also reiterated that she likes Pink and White, and that she REALLY doesn't like purple.  Good thing I have NO purple accessories for her room, I'm not sure what I'd do with them, but they would need to go.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Day 2 waiting for TA

Acer and I trekked over to Aunt Kerry's to work on a project. Acer, Oliver and Lucy hung out, each enamored with each others' toys. Ah, the joy of novelty.
Kerry is an excellent Sister-In-law, we work well together, brain storming and coming up with nifty ideas. We've thrown more than one really cool shower together. I won't say that it's my wacky ideas and Kerry's talent because that's not quite right, but our styles complement each others and she definitely is more talented.
In this case, I had an idea, searched up a pattern on the internet and asked Kerry if it could be done. Kerry, accomplished seamstress that she is, said yes. Then she told me how much fabric to buy, and even where it was on Sale! You go Kerry!
Our Project - fleece cloaks/capes with hoods. A very simple design, basically one long piece of fabric cut up the front with a hood attached. Kerry will assemble them and serge around them in a contrasting color. Mine, charcoal blue and iridescent thread; Alex's, royal blue with orange (her school colors) and Calliandra's, pink edged with white. These will be our multi purpose travel garmets for Alexandra, Calliandra and myself. While on the plane they can be used as blankets, the front pieces can be rolled up for neck roll pillows and the hood could be slipped over the face for snoozing (don't think that'll happen, it'd be weird, but it might). They'll hold out over light rain, and will be some extra snuggle warmth on the beds.
We were there 'til evening, we walked to their new library, and ate a wonderful dinner before heading home. Acer was asleep before we even left their small town.
The only downside, it takes so long to get there, an hour and a half makes our going and hanging out together a once or twice yearly thing. Maybe when Calliandra comes home she'll be the impetus to go more frequently because then she and Oliver; Acer and Lucy could play together more easily.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Thank You Mr UPS man

Yes, I'm sure I bewildered him by dashing out the door, camera at the ready, but I felt I'd at least make an attempt to catch him. I'll have to see tonight how poorly I did.
Anyway, the official form is here and we just need to sign it and send it back. Hurrah!!! One more step down.
We are now waiting for that form to travel to China, be processed and a new form called the Travel Approval (TA) to arrive to tell us it's really okay to travel and pick her up. As soon as that arrives, our agency makes a Consulate Appointment (CA). That date will tell us when we really travel, usually that will be about two weeks after the TA. We (Alex and I) will travel for two weeks and finish up the day of the CA.

A new look for the blog

To celebrate our pink and white loving girl's future homecoming, I've changed the blog from our Maple Leaf background that celebrated Acer. (Acer is the botanical genus for maples). Hope you enjoy the change up. Definitely is more feminine now eh?

Day 1 waiting for Travel Approval

I just found this article on another VI life blog. I pray my children will find people like these throughout their lives. Read this article.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Acer in the Rain

The Call !!!!!!!!

Wow, We didn't expect it today, but we have the all important Seeking Confirmation Letter on it's way to us overnight UPS.  We were waiting until the end of the week, beginning of next week and here it is !

And now a blurb for our Fundraiser - we've raised over 6400$ mostly by $5 and $10 donations with two huge donations and four very large ones.  If you have had it in your heart to donate, please visit our etsy store or click the chip in button.  

Please help bring Little Miss Home!

Friday, March 06, 2009

Some news, not THE NEWS

Our agency called, they said that Dennis (who was our guide with Acer) has found out that the CCAA will be mailing our seeking confirmation letter next week. we could be hearing as soon as late next week or early the following.
For those who follow dates, our Log In Date for Acer was 10/19, for Calliandra was 10/20. Our Seeking Confirmation Letter for Acer was 3/12 and our Gotcha day was 5/13 (Mother's Day). Looks like with Calliandra we'll be following those dates pretty closely. Acer's SCL was actually delayed with three extra requests for info, I'm not sure what delayed Calliandra's

A Mother's Day gotcha is good and meaningful as far as dates go, but as far as work goes - it's horrible for me - it's the busiest time of the year.

No news

I just got done talking with our agency, no news and no hope of news until Monday at the earliest.

God's timing, God's timing. I just have to keep praying this, and pray not to be too mad at the girl in our HR office who didn't return my call in time and caused us to be slowed down.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Funniest Spam ever

Try reading this aloud with a straight face (it came in a spam email)

For example, the wheelbarrow behind the avocado pit indicates that the flatulent cloud formation gives secret financial aid to an industrial complex. If a dreamlike maelstrom usually gives a pink slip to the overpriced bowling ball, then some pig pen beyond a power drill trembles. Some mating ritual hibernates, or a shabby tornado recognizes a cocker spaniel. Most people believe that a dolphin around a microscope gives secret financial aid to the barely bohemian maelstrom, but they need to remember how lazily the mastadon meditates. For example, a fire hydrant defined by a tornado indicates that the tabloid of the turkey almost avoids contact with a polygon.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Still waiting, but blogbuddies are traveling

Yes, we're two weeks past the late end of average Seeking Confirmation Letter date, I'm past crazed, but I'll live.  Prayers always needed, we're putting our finances in God's hands, so please keep up the prayers about that.

I have four buddies traveling right now, so go ahead and read about them,  Good news there.
Bringing home Eric, is back in China to bring home Matty
Henderson home is bringing home seven year old son Zane
Faith hope and Love is bring home their son Reed from the same province that Acer is from.
We also have friends we travelled with, the Satlers who are are over picking up daughter number two. Sorry their blog is private, but add them to your praises when you talk to the big guy tonight.

What blessings!