Did you do anything special to help your older children prepare for the arrival of a new sibling (adopted or otherwise)?
I think parent's enthusiasm is a key when expanding the family. If you're excited, most likely your kids will be too. Also it is helpful to make sure that older kids still have a little space, whether it be a bedroom that is off-limits to toddlers, or just a top bunk on the bunk bed.
You've adopted children from Ethiopia and Korea. Do you worry about identity confusion or a loss of a connection to their cultures? How do you combat those issues?
We were very concerned about this with our first Korean son, and that concern played heavily into our decision to adopt from Korea a second time. We wanted him to be able to look across the dinner table and see someone who looked like him. We ended up adopting from Ethiopia next --- we now have four Ethiopian daughters -- and I think it is tremendously helpful that they have each other. We live in a fairly 'white' part of the country. But because of their sisters, they are rarely the only African American in the room. And that is important. I think if you are not able to provide your kids with siblings who look like them, it becomes even more important to reach out in your community and connect kids with adults and other children with a similar heritage.
How do you manage to juggle the needs of so many people without losing sight of any of them -- or of yourself?
Two keys for me are homeschooling and being a work-at-home mom. We are together for most of every day, which gives me more time to focus on the kids. My husband and I also try to "divide and conquer" whenever possible: We run errands or do projects or play games with a couple kids at a time, which gives us more time to interact with them. We also encourage kids to help each other. The parents are always the main nurturers, but it is really sweet to see a big brother help a little one with a math problem, or a big sister making cookies with a younger one. That kind of interaction enriches everyone. We don't get it perfect every day, but I think in the long haul we are doing okay. As far as finding time for myself, I'm a night owl -- I can often be found late at night writing on my blog or chatting on facebook with one of my grown up daughters.
How do you juggle your children's schedules, education, and interests? We limit the number of individual activities to one organized sport per year per child, and we encourage additional activities that multiple children can enjoy at once. For example, instead of having four or five kids in soccer at once, we have a casual soccer game every Friday night in the park with friends. It is great fun, and much less stressful than multiple practices and games all week long. Another thing that has been great for our family is a piano teacher who comes to our house for lessons, which is much less disruptive to our day than having to travel to her house and wait for all the kids to get done.