Saturday, January 31, 2015

Child sponsorship... or I should have been selling Skillet t-shirts

Last night, J. and I took P., H., TM, and D. to the Winter Jam concert. We got in free because we were volunteering with one of our adoption agencies, Holt International, who was sponsoring the concert. J. had P., TM, and D. with him inside the concert and passed out sponsorship folder during intermission and H. and I sat outside the concert at one of the child sponsorship tables. That was perfect for both of us. We could hear the music, but it wasn't quite so deafening. (I was also a little afraid of what the noise, lights, and over-stimulation would do to H. as far as seizures.) H. had a ball. She is such a people-person. She sat at the table and smiled and waved and said hello to everyone who passed by. At first I couldn't understand why people were coming up to us to say hello when they weren't greeting the other people working the table. Then I caught the Miss America waving and smiling going on and understood. I also bought us some pizza slices and sodas, thus H. declared the evening, "So, so fun!"

The table where we were working was directly across from Skillet's booth. (If you are not aware of Skillet, they are a heavy-metal Christian group who is popular in both secular and Christian arenas.) I am now intimately acquainted with the full line of t-shirts which Skillet has for sale, having stared at them for six hours. They are very popular. The booth was never quiet and there was a steady stream of customers buying a lot of rather high-priced t-shirts. I briefly thought about going across the aisle and suggesting that they let me give a child sponsorship pitch with every t-shirt sale. My children are relieved that I didn't.

I understand that many of the people who passed by our table already sponsor a child, many people came up to say hello and mentioned this. I'm also pretty sure that many other people hadn't ever heard of child sponsorship and would glance away once they saw what the table was about. I did my darndest to convince people of the importance of child sponsorship... and did a lot of educating as to the difference between adoption and sponsorship.

For those of you who haven't heard about child sponsorship, or who haven't taken the plunge, here's my plea. (And we sponsor more than one child through more than one organization... I understand the financial sacrifice involved.)

Child sponsorship is when an individual (or group of individuals) send money through an organization to support a specific child. Often this means the difference between being able to stay in one's family of origin and being relinquished to an orphanage or abandoned. Poverty is one of the number one reasons children lose their first families. For many families, they live so close to the edge that disaster is often just a meal away. Child sponsorship helps to push these families just a little bit away from the edge and also gives them other support in terms of education and therapies and access to other social services. If you are pro-adoption, you really also need to be pro-sponsorship. Our first duty lies with the children and keeping their families intact if at all possible. As much as we support adoption, in a perfect world, it would not be necessary.

Think about how much you love your children for a moment. Now, imagine with me what it would be like if financially you could not provide enough food for them and had to watch them starve. Parents around the world face this every day. Often they make the heart-rending decision to relinquish their child to an orphanage so that their child will be fed. Now imagine if some unknown benefactor started giving you enough money so that you could feed your child and did not have to face this gut wrenching decision. You could do that for another family. You could do that by spending as little as a dollar a day. Why don't you?

Child sponsorship programs all differ a little in the nuts and bolts, but have the same goal. We do sponsor through both Holt and Compassion International and like them both for different reasons. But we also want to be careful with our money and make sure the programs do what they say they are going to. If you are on the fence about their effectiveness, you really need to do read the in-depth report that Christianity Today did on the economics of child sponsorship programs. They do work.

It was interesting last night to watch who was drawn to our table. Inevitable, it was the children who would stop and look and ask questions. More than once I saw a young child literally try to drag their parent(s) over, the parent would glance at the table, and pull their child away as they kept walking. Also more than once, someone would come up and sponsor a child because their child wanted to. We need little children around us because they keep us honest and help us to remember what is important. Listen to them.

Friday, January 30, 2015

My newest favorite cookbook

I like to add food into our learning whenever possible and studying the Silk Road seemed like a perfect fit. The first thing to do, of course, was to find a book. I had found one at the library and it was OK, but I wasn't wild about it. It was very glossy with lots of color pictures. I have found that while these books are beautiful to look at, their value as actual cookbooks isn't all that much. While doing a more intensive book search on Amazon, I found another book. (An aside... I always felt as though I were cheating a little bit when I used Amazon to search for titles and then looked for those specific titles in my library's catalogue. That is until a librarian was helping me find a book at one point and did the very same thing.) This book, though was not available at my library or any of the libraries in its inter-library loan group. The book looked so intriguing that I did something I rarely do and went ahead and bought it.

I am so glad I did! The book is The Silk Road Gourmet by Laura Kelley. The subtitle is A Journey through the Cuisines of Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, and Sri Lanka. The author, trained as an anthropologist, but then ultimately combined her passion for cooking with her career to become an ethnic food detective. The front matter of the book contains information on food movement, the silk road, and origins of spices and cooking methods. For the recipes, the book is divided by country with a selection of recipes for each. It is highly interesting reading, even if you never cooked a thing.

But you should cook some of the recipes because, at least judging by our sampling this past week, they are very, very good. We've had a fish curry from Bangladesh, saffron rice from India, coconut rice from Sri Lanka, and meatballs with garlic and mint and chicken with apricots with lemon-pepper sauce both from Afghanistan. They were all hits and I will definitely be making some of them again. They were pretty straight forward to prepare and the only difficult thing for some people would be to find some of the less well-known ingredients. If you happen to live in an ethnically diverse area, this shouldn't be a problem. I had most of them already and only had to pick-up a couple extra.

Plus, there are lots of other recipes I'm excited to try. Usually I check new cookbooks out of the library first because a book that looks promising often ends up only having a few recipes that I want to try, or are different from the recipes that are in the dozens of cookbooks I already own. Perhaps that is why I'm so excited about this one... it's not the same old stuff I usually cook.

My only quibble with the book is the index. Why, oh why, are indices so difficult for publishers to get right? I have some cookbooks where the index is virtually unusable and is little more than a table of contents in the back. Forget about searching it for an ingredient. Others get it right and I can find whatever recipe I want easily by searching either the name or ingredient. The index in this book nearly gets it right. You can search by ingredient, but then you are only given a list of page numbers instead of the name of the recipe along with the page number. If I'm searching 'rice', it is not so helpful when there is a list of 20 page numbers without any indication as to what they reference.

I would recommend trying this book if you are tiring of cooking the same old stuff every night. Plus, remember that the best way to create children who are adventurous eaters is to expose them to lots and lots of different tastes, textures, and smells in their food. Our taste buds and the nerves which attach them to our brains of some of the most plastic. That is both good and bad in that we can change what we like fairly easily with enough exposure, but we can also solidify pickiness just as easily.

Be adventurous and try something new.
Hey, local readers... if any of you are heading out to the Winter Jam concert tonight, stop by the adoption information table. H. and I will be there (at least I'm assuming that's where we'll be) and you can say hi.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

"But you asked for it"

This has been rolling around in my head for quite some time, but before I go on, I must write a disclaimer. We're fine. I have no trouble with telling people when life is hard or being truthful about what life looks like... and most of the time it actually looks pretty OK. So, if you read this and are suddenly concerned that it is a desperate, silent cry for help... it's not. Still, others don't quite feel as comfortable sharing when life is hard (often for a reason) and that is what I want to address.

I have contact with a lot of different people. It won't surprise you that many of them of mothers of large families, mothers of adopted children, or both. When more than a few of these mothers get together, there is often a common theme that arises in the discussion. That is, when they are with other people who 'get' them, there is a freedom to kvetch and share the hard stuff. Now I know that this is natural. When you are with a group of people who have the same experiences as you, there is a level of understanding that just doesn't happen anywhere else. There is nothing wrong with this and it is healthy. But there is something else going on here. These mothers feel a freedom to share the truth with each other because they know that no one will say to them, "But you chose this." (I have only heard this line once or twice. People tend not to say it to me, it seems. But I know others hear it quite a bit or hear its implied meaning in other veiled comments. Trust me when I say it's a 'thing' and it happens.)

There seems to be the mistaken assumption out there that because someone chose to have more children than usual (or chose to adopt children) that it means it can't be hard or there can't be moments where you don't enjoy it or you can't complain. Nothing else in life works this way. In politics we are told the only way we can complain about something is if we had a voice in the choosing. People choose their spouses and complaining about them seems to be a national pastime. You often choose a career and complaining about your job is second only in popularity to complaining about your spouse. Yet I have heard innumerable stories from mothers of many that if they voice anything along the lines of how hard it can be sometimes, they are are shut down and essentially told you made your bed, now lie in it.

What I can't figure out is why this is. Parenting can be hard; it doesn't matter how many you have. We love our children and want the best for them. We want them to be healthy and happy and preferably not screaming at us. But they are little human beings with all of a human beings faults (just like us adults) and they will do things that annoy us and irritate us and scare the heck out of us. It's all a part of parenting. If you've ever parented, no matter how many children, you understand this.

So if parents of one, two, or three children get to complain about parenting and hard and crazy life can be, then why not parents of eight, nine, or ten? Mothers of large families feel as though they carry a burden to constantly defend their choices... life must be always wonderful, easy, beautiful... or somehow it feels it makes these choices invalid. Some mothers feel this pressure to an unhealthy extent and the consequences can be devastating.

We must decide to get rid of this image of mothers of large families or mothers of special needs adopted children as somehow more superhuman than your average mother. Because if you want the real truth. We're not. Not one mother who fits into these categories (and I know more than a few) feels as though she is any better or more equipped than any other mother, regardless of family size or dynamics.

The truth is, we have more practice so some things are just easier (laundry, cooking, navigating schedules). These are learned skills that anyone who practices them consistently can learn. There is nothing superhuman about it.

The truth is, that as much as things can be difficult, we also have the possibilities for a lot of joy. I get a lot of hugs and kisses and pictures and "I love you's" throughout the day. The different number of personalities makes for great entertainment and laughter and there is always someone to do something with. There are a lot of good things and these good things can get you through the day.

The truth is, things can also be hard. Stomach flu through a family of 12? Really not so fun. When you have so many children you are opening yourself up to greater possibilities of being hurt. At times the worry for each of these precious children can be overwhelming. When everyone is grouchy? Having a lot of grouchy people around isn't fun.

The truth is, it doesn't matter how many children you have, you will experience the same things. The mother of many will just experience each of them to a greater degree... both the good and the bad. If she complains or is having a hard time, allow her the space to express these feelings. Treat her as you would any other mother. Because when she says something is hard, it has no reflection on anyone else. It also doesn't mean that her choices were wrong. Just because raising many children can be hard, doesn't make it wrong. Just because opening your home and family and life to a child with special needs is hard, doesn't make it wrong.

We are not superhuman. No one is. We may have just learned a little bit better that we do nothing in our own power. I may not be amazing, but my God certainly is.
Another new article:  Word of the Year: Beautiful

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Ideas for high school

A reader asked on my post about A. graduating from high school early what are some of the things we've done that haven't been exclusively text book based. I'm sure I'm forgetting something, but here are some of the 'classes' my various high schoolers have done.

B. received a credit for Apiology (that would be bee keeping). He reads dozens of books and magazine, took a class offered by a local bee keeper's group, and built and kept his own hive.

All of my high schoolers have earned at least one credit in Sound Technology. That would be the live, hands-on working of how to run a sound board, do recordings, and run live sound for an event. It is a lot of practical experience learning from an adult who knows what they are doing. None of them have listened to things the same since having this experience.

We have made use of many of the Great Courses CD's to supplement various classes. M. did linguistics and B. did quite a few economics lectures. These would be the courses aimed at adults and not their high school classes. In my opinion, the courses aimed at adults are far more interesting because they have to be... adults don't have to listen to them.

Often we'll go the route of using a variety of books for one subject, just not a textbook. This is what P. is doing for her Japanese History and Culture Class and what A. is doing for History of Police Work. I also created a class like this on the Gold Rush for B. I will then add some written assignments to go along with the reading. Pretty much it is what happens in many college classes.

For B.'s World War II class, I really didn't have to do anything. He was avidly reading about this era and probably I could have given him three credits based on the amount of reading and study he did. At some point, though, it starts to look a bit ridiculous and you want the college to believe you, so we kept it to one.

Sometimes I've gone the easy route and used an already assembled list of resources. For B.'s History of the 20th Century class I did this using the outline on Ambleside Online.

And, of course, for some things we do use textbooks, usually for math and science. It's not that textbooks are evil or bad, it's just that if that's your only way of learning things, they can become a bit tedious and dull. Sometimes we will use them, but as a reference.

Learning is happening all the time and in so many different ways, it's really just a matter of being aware of what you child is doing and helping to add in enough resources to fulfill those Carnegie hours so you can call it a class and create a transcript. By doing it this way, you are putting the focus on learning and not coursework, which is as it should be. We want to create learners and not grade-mongers, right?

My older children continue to learn. B.'s love of all things growing and all things farming continues. He learned so much working for my brother last summer and I know he wants to continue that. M. has lists of things she wants to learn... glass blowing and welding currently being towards the top of her list.

Life is so interesting and there is so much out there. Model learning for your children. Be interested in things. Learn new things all the time. Your children will see this and they will be interested in things as well.
I had another article published that I think I forgot to mention here. Adopting a Child with a Facial Difference

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Learning through dissection

(Warning... I'm including pictures of what we were doing with our dissection projects. Please, DO NOT scroll down if this is a problem for you.)

Because you just never know what you are going to find when you visit here....

In my very informal and non-scientific poll on the Ordinary Time facebook page, some people indicated interest in seeing our dissection projects. We just finished the second one this morning.

We have studying the human body and the different body systems. Really, one of the very best ways to really see and understand body systems is through dissection. It helps that M. has always loved dissection and comes equipped with her own dissection tools. (It was a Christmas gift one year.)

 The first thing M. dissected with everyone was a pig heart.
(And now you're going to have to scroll down a little bit because I don't want anyone to accidentally see the pictures if they don't want to.)

She found a valve and everyone could see how it opens and closes.

I had two hearts to work with, so she cut each of them a different direction. In this one they were able to see the different chambers and she demonstrated who the blood can really only move through those chambers in one direction.

This view showed how the different chambers were next to each other and the size of the muscle that pumps the blood.

Dissection was a hit and everyone enjoyed it. So today we moved onto the sheep's head I had bought at the store.

Opening up the package.

Taking a look at it and discussing it's teeth and how everything fits together.

Here you can see the opening up into the mouth and nasal passages and that white rectangular shape to the left of the opening is the epiglottis.

The tongue

Lower jaw bone

Tried as she might, M. just could not get to the brain to look at it. (It is amazing the amount of skull a sheep has to protect its little, tiny brain.) She found a way they could feel it, though. Here's TM...

And D.

M. and K.

It was a great success that took up our morning. What was best in my book is that everyone had been paying attention when we had talked about various body systems earlier and were able to discuss and name various parts so they really knew what they were seeing. 

M. did a great job and I told her she could probably pick-up some extra money by offering her services to other families to do dissection. She didn't immediately shoot down my idea... just sayin'

Monday, January 26, 2015

Instant Wedding

What do you do when one of your best friends asks you to host her daughter's wedding at your house... in 24 hours? Say, yes, of course, and be thrilled that you can do this for a dear friend and an equally dear almost-daughter.

I love the fact that all my children will pitch-in and help when the situation calls for it. Between the efforts of the whole family, with some significant decorating help by M, A., and H. H-S, we were ready at 6 pm when the guests started to arrive.

The bride was P23 whom I've known since she was 4. (Sniff.) Her favorite color is yellow, so that's what we went with. It seems I have a lot of decorative-type stuff kicking around my house. I only had to make a run out to the store for yellow ribbon and yellow candles.

Welcome everyone! There's going to be a wedding!

We needed to come up with seating for 43 people.

The 12 and younger crowd were in the kitchen.

The living room where the ceremony took place.

Store-bought cake with decoration by AL H-S and A.

The P. family did the food... though all three dads helped to get it all together.

It's impossible to have a 'small' family wedding when your family consists of three families with 30 people between them... and a few other friends and relatives. Here are some of the younger people.

The Father-of-the-Bride reading Scripture.

The happy couple.

Congratulations P23 (though I think I'm going to rename you Mrs. R). We were so happy we could share this moment with you.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Permission to talk

I've noticed something and I wonder if other people have as well. I don't sit and do nothing very well, and since I do a lot of waiting in doctor's offices, this is a constant challenge. My first line of defense is to always carry a book with me. The trouble is, I am often waiting in doctor's offices with a child and it seems a bit rude to bury my nose in a book and ignore him or her. So I have a knitting bag that always has a project in it and I drag around with me. I can knit, not have to sit and do nothing, and still pay attention to my child. It works. As a bonus, I have made a lot of small knitted projects over the past few months.

Now, when I have a book in my hands or (horror) don't have anything to do, no one approaches me. Everyone sits in their individual bubble and politely ignores each other. But, when I am knitting, it is another thing entirely. I would say that at least once (sometimes more) when I am knitting in a waiting room, someone will start a conversation. Usually it is about what I am knitting. Sometimes it's even to ask what it is exactly that I'm doing. (True story.) But I don't think there has ever been a time when someone didn't say something. This even happened in the waiting room of the large counseling center where TM's therapist used to work. I can't think of a place where people's individual bubbles are thicker and people pretend harder that they are not there.

[An aside. This is kind of sad, because long about year two of therapy, I would have been more than happy to chat with some of the parents there. Raising a child who requires the help of a therapist is not always easy and some of the parents who showed up looked so stressed and unhappy... and deep inside their protective bubble... that I longed to chat with them. It just never seemed as though my overtures would have been welcome. Probably I was wrong and I should have just said something. One does get braver (or has fewer filters) as one walks the path of a therapeutic parent.]

All this to say, I think that a person who is knitting is seen as a safe person. Think Miss Marple. I think there is also the whole car ride phenomenon going on as well. Have you ever noticed that your children will bare their souls when you're driving in the car together? It feels safer for a couple of reasons. One, you are not looking at each other. It can feel intimidating to tell emotional things when someone is looking right at you. And two, someone is driving and thus the full force of their attention is not directed at one person. It gives some emotional space. (It also means that the parents sometimes has to work really hard at not running into things.) Knitting does the same thing. Plus, because it is not a skill that every person has, it also arouses curiosity. It is a little bit fascinating to watch a ball of yarn become something useful just by wiggling two sticks around.

I'm curious. To my knitting readers, have you noticed this? And just in general, are you more likely to strike up a conversation with someone who is doing handwork if you are in a waiting room?
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