Monday, December 29, 2008

Some notes while waiting on 8 and 9...

[J]

  • While pregnant, E's usual sleep-based superpowers are even more astounding. Being home for Christmas break from my regular work schedule, I get to see her regularly nod off for an hour in a kitchen chair surrounded by noisy waves of children crashing in and out of the room.
  • E's method for approaching any project, including adding two more babies to the household, involves research. She recently picked up several books from the library on twin-related subjects. However, she was disappointed to find nothing particularly enlightening in any of them. The books seemed aimed at highly uninformed new parents. She pointed out that what she really needed was a book of tips for mothers of seven (or more) children who were pregnant with twins. ("Well, dear, I'm guessing that you may be one of the few qualified to write that book. And one of the few audience members clamoring for it, too.")
  • Another comment on one of the books she checked out: "I certainly don't need the chapter on when to go back to work after giving birth...."
  • I visited the dentist today with B, P, TM, and D. Our beloved dental hygenist, Pam (who cleaned MY teeth when I was D's age!), was very excited at our news, but the dentist himself was clearly aghast. Rarely do you get to see someone whose mouth literally hangs open for several seconds while he attempts to decide how to respond to the thought of nine children.
  • Meanwhile, K is "finding his voice," you might say. He has gone from being a fairly quiet and docile waif to a highly vocal and opinionated member of the party. He's begun to pick up a few words, but more significantly, he's realized that he can make things happen by using them. He's also realized that cranking up the volume gets more attention. All through dinner preparations tonight, he confronted everyone in the kitchen with shouts of "eat! eat!", clearly expecting results. He's also testing the boundaries by carrying on with much shouting and bouncing around the bed long after lights are out. (Fortunately, TM and D seem able to fall asleep even in the same room with noisy little K.)
  • It's remarkable how quickly these two little people, our unborn twins, have already become a part of our family. They are a subject of much conversation, speculation, and delight. We can hardly wait to meet them. Already I feel blessed that God has brought them into our lives, and I am once again astonished at how well He uses my family to draw me closer to Him.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Evidently eight isn't enough

As you can probably guess by my prolific posting this past month, I have been feeling fairly rotten. This pregnancy has seemed one of the worst as far as energy levels and general yuckiness. I had been chalking it up to that advanced-maternal-age-thing, but now I have a much, much better reason to explain why this pregnancy has seemed more difficult. Yesterday I went to have my first midwife appointment and when she couldn't find a heartbeat with the hand-held ???, (I'm realizing I have no idea what the thing is called that is used to listen to fetal heartbeats) she suggested we go down the hall and use the ultrasound machine. So we did.

Without too much effort she found the baby and saw it move, but didn't see the heart right away, so kept trying to see it. And while she did find the heart, she also found something else...another baby with another beating heart! Yes... twins. (Which means we are going from 7 children directly to 9, skipping the stop at 8.) They are still so small that we could see both babies on the screen at the same time, so not much doubt about the number. I am feeling remarkably at peace with the whole thing and feel so incredibly blessed. (Now, if I stop and think about the sheer logistics involved with two babies, I start to feel a bit overwhelmed, so I don't go there.) The children are thrilled. A. announced, with a bit of relief in her voice, "Good! Now there will be a baby for M. and a baby for me." J. and I have decided to split with tradition and find out the sex of the babies this time around. Having two seems enough surprise at this point. Plus, if we don't need to come up with two boys' names, we don't really want to. (Picking boy's names has been notoriously difficult for us...that could have played a small part in our decision to use Vietnamese names for T.M. and K.)

God is good. Now, if there was some type of lottery I could enter to win a lifetime supply of diapers... or ???

Friday, November 21, 2008

For a brief, shining moment, our email address was correct

That is because long about June, there will be another little Curry joining our family. No we're not adopting this time; yes, I am pregnant. We are excited and the children are ecstatic. Orders have been placed for each child's choice of boy or girl, surprisingly with 'girl' winning. D voted for a girl since he really thinks the numbers should be even. I'll see the midwife for the first time next month and that's when I can start hearing that lovely phrase, "advanced maternal age". Perhaps if I start using a cane it will make everyone feel better. (You know there's a new historical American Girl doll who is just about my age now.)

I have felt better in my life. I never feel terrific when pregnant and this time is no exception. This would explain the lack of posts recently. It would also explain the mountain of laundry in my basement among other things. (At least now I have an excuse for when things get out of control.) But I do have Christmas under control and am nearly done with the shopping.

In other news, things have been pretty normal (ie completely un-blog worthy) around here. Schoolwork happens, B bakes and sells bread, little boys play, A and P spend their entire week at the theater doing tech for A Midsummer Night's Eve production they are in this weekend, we read books, and all the other things which happen every week.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Worship

I wrote (and J heavily edited) this article for our church's newsletter:

We enter the sanctuary and my parade of children heads down the aisle toward the stairs which lead to the balcony. Some scamper quickly, almost, but not quite, running; others meander behind. We make our way up the stairs and head to a pew in the balcony. Some shuffling occurs as children negotiate seating arrangements. Sometimes the shuffling erupts in mild skirmishes if too many children want to sit by the same person. The 2-year-old likes to sit by everyone and so spends his time moving from person to person. That is, until his father puts an end to it by firmly holding him in his arms.

As the service begins, the 6-year-old wants to know where we are in the bulletin. I point to the words of the hymn we’re singing and, even though he doesn’t read yet, he is content to feel he is following along. The call to worship starts and the leader’s part begins, “Clap your hands…” at which point the 2-year-old grins and begins clapping his hands together, pleased at his own ability to follow instructions. As we move through the first part of the service, I notice the 10-year-old helping her 8-year-old sister relocate her place in the song. I hear the high voice of my 5-year-old son happily singing a praise song that he likes. I hear the newly much lower voice of my 13-year-old son as he joins with the congregation in reading the prayer of confession. I lean over and whisper to the squirmy 6-year-old, “Shhh, now we are talking to God.”

These are scenes which we repeat each week as our family worships together. But for us, our experience of worshiping together doesn’t end there. We have chosen to keep our children with us through the entire worship service rather than just for the singing at the beginning. We decided that we didn’t want our children to have the misplaced idea that only the first 20 minutes of worship was for them; we wanted them to know that all worship is open to and encouraged of everyone. It seems to us that waiting until our children are older before expecting them to join us in worship just means that we miss valuable opportunities to disciple our children in worship. Of course, most 5- or 6- or 7-year-olds don’t know how to behave in worship, but that’s why we want them there with us: so they can learn. (And it’s easier to teach a 6-year-old who is new to worship than a 12-year-old who is new to worship!)

When people ask about how to get children to sit through church, what they really want to know is how to make it through the sermon. From the beginning, we have used Edith Schaeffer’s idea of giving each child a worship notebook. In it, we illustrate the sermon for our young children so that they can understand the sermon. For our non-readers, this means we are forced to draw pictures to show what the pastor is saying. Trust me when I say the level of drawing is pretty low; the books abound with stick figures. Once the child starts to read, it becomes a bit easier as we can then reduce the sermon to more manageable vocabulary and use it to ask questions to clarify understanding. Often we will have the child draw their own illustrations of what the sermon is about.

We want to communicate to our children that the sermon is as much for them as it is for the adults in the congregation. And yes, this is hard work. It forces us to really pay attention to the sermon while at the same time try to interpret it for our children. Both J and I have been nudged in the ribs by a child who thinks we’re slacking on the job. Sometimes they are more engaged with what is going on than we are.

Worshiping as a family is so much more than just making it through the sermon and ‘long bits’, though. I believe it has also brought us closer together as a family. Each month we take communion together, those who are old enough. Those who are not see the rest of us taking communion and have experience with it long before they attend the communion workshop. Our whole family gets to hear testimonies and stories from other believers which we can then discuss together at a later time. Sometimes a child will ask a question that was brought to mind as a result of something the minister said during the sermon. My children also know the Apostles’ Creed and the Doxology as a result of repetition over the course of years. And sometimes, the best, most interesting part of the service comes at the end. I was thrilled that my children were there to witness the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at the end of one 11am service.

This is not to say that each Sunday is a walk in the park; some days go better than others. When everything goes right, when the children are cooperative and engaged, it’s glorious. But these Sundays are merely respites from the hard work of teaching our children to worship. Sometimes a child is uncooperative, or grumpy, or just merely too hungry to pay attention. In that situation, we just try to do our best. I’m pretty sure that each of our children has at one time been removed from the service for poor behavior.

We remind ourselves that we are training our children to worship; they don’t know how on their own. Worship takes practice and often I feel as though I am trying to teach my children something which I know very imperfectly myself. I love this paragraph from Robbie Castleman’s book, Parenting in the Pew, “Teaching your children to worship, parenting in the pew, is entering the house of your heavenly Father and saying, ‘Daddy, I would like you to meet my children.’ Worship is seeing your Father’s smile.”

If you are a parent, you may worry that sitting with your child in worship will distract you or others around you. And that may happen. But worship is not, after all, “our” time; it is not “adult” time. Worship is God’s time. Worshipping with our children is truly service to the Lord. Even those temporary distractions can lead to moments of deep worship, if we use them as opportunities to help our children learn what worship is.

If you don’t have children, but see some in worship with their families, please give the parents a nod and a smile. Worship is work for the whole body of Christ, from the youngest to the oldest. At each baptism, as a congregation we promise to assist in raising and discipling these children. What could be more important than supporting families in teaching their children to worship? And what is a better image of the body of Christ than a sanctuary filled with worshippers of every age, praising the one before whom all creation bows.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Compassion International

For those who don't know, Compassion International is a child sponsorship organization devoted to helping children one child at a time. We sponsor a child in Ethiopia; receiving a letter from him is the highlight of my week. It is a wonderful organization, serving children in the name of Christ.

Right now, one of my favorite bloggers, Mary at Owlhaven, is in the Dominican Republic on a trip sponsored by Compassion International. She and a group of other bloggers are writing about their experiences while meeting with Compassion staff and sponsored children. It is an amazing trip...go check it out.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Costumes

Here are a few pictures from Halloween, otherwise known as TM's birthday. What's better than a birthday on Halloween? A day with more candy than any one person needs plus ice cream, cake, and presents!

Two knights,

a princess,

and a bear.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Fish Oil is...

something I should never allow us to run out of. At this moment I have a nearly six year old boy, screaming, actually that would be SCREAMING, in his bed, because he didn't get to use the bathroom of his choice. Now, I'm not a doctor, nor do I play a doctor on TV. Heck, I don't even like TV shows about doctors, but I do have some pretty strong anecdotal evidence about the benefits of fish oil. TM has always had impulse control problems...acting before he thinks, getting easily frustrated, temper tantrums, and very animal-like vocalizations (a lot of growling and such). These have all become more manageable over time, but they have virtually disappeared since I began giving him regular doses of fish oil. He is calmer, more reasonable, able to think more clearly, and is more patient. In fact, his behavior was so normal I began to wonder if I really needed to be buying fish oil at all. So when we ran out, I didn't rush out to buy it. A week after I stopped giving it to TM, we had our first major tantrum in months. That day I ran, well, walked very fast, to the store to buy more. Within a few days, he was back to his calmer self. So now, just in case I didn't learn the lesson the first time, I can see first hand the effects of going without fish oil. This time I let it run out for financial reasons (it's kind of pricey stuff) and it's been two weeks. This last week has not been a really good one for TM. We have had behaviors I thought we were done with and I'm suddenly remembering how hard I had to work to love him in those first difficult months. It is particularly bad timing on my part since his birthday is on Friday and he seems to have difficulties around the anniversaries of past trauma anyway. (With all his previous moves, there are a lot of anniversaries to navigate.) Not having the fish oil in his system to help moderate reactions is not helping. I'm hoping that we can have him a bit more regulated by Friday so he (and all of us) can enjoy his birthday.

For those of you whose children have experienced trauma, I would recommend trying fish oil if your children show the same behaviors as TM. It's been a very good thing for us. Actually the best combination has been fish oil plus a tablet form of acidophilus. Acidophilus helps promote serotonin (the chemical that contributes to feelings of happiness and contentment) production in the brain. Children who have experienced trauma often have lower than normal levels of serotonin and giving their serotonin levels a boost helps to boost positive feelings. I have found Deborah Gray's book, Nurturing Adoptions: Creating Resilience after Neglect and Trauma, to be a very valuable book.

Oh, back to the bathrooms. I'm not sure if it will make anyone feel better or not, but to those of you with fewer bathrooms than we have (which I realize is nearly the entire world), having more bathrooms does not stop the jumping around in agony outside the bathroom door. It would seem that each child develops his or her own favorite bathroom and becomes incapable of using any other bathroom. The child would rather wait...and sometimes wait too long...just to use the bathroom of his or her choice. Even if there is an available bathroom not more than 20 feet away!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Back again...

to the ER that is. This afternoon, right before lunch, there was a scuffle between brothers with the result that K ended up hitting his head on our DVD monitor, and sliced his forehead open above his left eye. It was fairly deep, and the kind of cut you look at and reach for your car keys. We packed some snacks for K, and loaded K and A (as an extra pair of hands) into the van. On the way to the hospital, I vaguely wondered where on earth I was going to park the van. The parking lot clearance is 6' 10" and I need at least 7' to make it. I ended up pulling up to the ER valet parking guy and explained my dilemma. He very nicely told me to park in one of the reserved emergency vehicle spots with my flashers on and that he would keep on eye on the van. I highly recommend lunchtime on a weekday for any emergency room visits you have planned. We were just about the only ones there and had to spend just a short time in the waiting area. (But it was long enough to have to ask the receptionist to turn the channel on the television. The talk show that was currently airing was so inappropriate that I won't even divulge the topic, but there was no way I was letting my 10 year old daughter hear what they were saying...I had already made her turn her head. Luckily there were fish to look at.)

In the great scheme of ER visits, this was pretty short and easy. The cut was too deep and pulling open too much for the ER staff to glue it back together, so K ended up with 7 stitches. The worst part for him was having to be strapped into the papoose. I admit to stepping out of the room. I didn't really want to watch (unlike M who was disappointed there was no hand mirror so she could watch as they were stitching her up a couple of years ago). I also didn't want him to associate the trauma of being strapped in a papoose with me, either. We are at a great spot right now and I would much prefer to be viewed as the person who swoops in and rescues him when it's all over. We even made it home in time for us all to be on time to our children's choir rehearsal this afternoon. But, really, I'm done, truly and completely done with doctors and hospitals and emergency rooms. I know that 4 visits to the ER over the course of 15 1/2 years of parenting is pretty good, but if our current rate of visit continues, we will have more than made up for the first 13 1/2 ER-free years.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Just for fun

My sister-in-law passed along some hand-me-downs that a friend passed on to her. There were several pairs of jeans for the little boys and these two, cool, high-tech shirts:


Also note the sporty new haircuts. J is getting a lot more haircutting practice these days. B isn't sure he wants to be a practice subject, but then his bread business supplies him with a modest income so he can spring for his own haircut. (Which I wish he would do soon. It's becoming increasingly more difficult to find his eyes under all his hair.)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I suppose this makes me feel better

I'm afraid this is going to be a continuation of my 'obsessed with [the lack of] money' theme that's been going on here the last week or so. In my effort to find tasty yet cheap recipes to feed my family, I came across the USDA's chart of the current cost of food. According to that chart, on the frugal budget, our family of 9 should be spending ~$1068 per month on food. That's over $200 a week! Well, thankfully, we don't come close to that (and that's including cleaning supplies, diapers, bulk orders, etc.) While I'm happy that it appears I am doing a good job of keeping our monthly costs down, it also depresses me a bit. It seems that my dream of averaging just $100 per week on grocery costs may be more of a pipe dream than I had thought. It's a good thing that nearly everyone likes beans...in fact, K loves them. It's poor TM who eats them grudgingly; they are not his favorite food. Although, by the time we are out of this particular season of life, he may have developed a taste for them.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Homemaking vs. House keeping

I'm a sucker for books about homemaking. When we were at the library last week, I saw The Better Homes and Gardens book of Homemaking. It looked promising, so I added it to my pile. But, I have to say, after looking through it, it is as disappointing as most books on homemaking are. The trouble is, I believe that authors (editors, publishers?) are confusing the art of homemaking with the act of house keeping. House keeping involves the cleaning, organizing, and general running of a household. It is important, but, in my opinion, is somewhat superficial. It doesn't get to the heart of what a home is. I have been in houses that were immaculate and tastefully decorated, but they were houses, not homes. They felt sterile; as if they were missing their heart. I don't feel the need to read books on house keeping. I know how to do it...even if I don't always do what I ought...and, frankly, once one has read the tome, Home Comforts, there is very little left to say.

No, what I want is a book that discusses what makes a home. How do we go about turning the set of rooms we live in into a place of comfort and refreshment? I want a book that reinforces the importance of making a home and provides encouragement in doing so. I want less mechanics and more thought. I want something that feeds my soul while it encourages me to feed the souls of my family. The best example I can think of is Edith Schaeffer's The Hidden Art of Homemaking. But surely, she is not the only one to write such a book. I'm beginning to think I may have to write it myself.

One more quibble about the BH&G book I first mentioned. The section on household help belonged more in the universe of television than in the real world. First, families in this book's world have 3 children at the most, and then, the writing makes it sound as though the mother is totally overworked. Second, the idea that hiring outside help is unaffordable for some doesn't exist...no mention is ever made that this might not be economically feasible for some. And third, this book seems to inhabit a world where children are merely a thing, something you acquire because it's nice to have. Why do I say this? Because, right there in the household help section, along with window cleaners, cleaning ladies, and upholstery maintenance person, is child care provider. It truly does look like children are merely one more thing that requires cleaning and maintenance. Surely children and their care warrant a different level of importance. In fact, it seems that a section devoted to the care of children would make more sense than a few throw away comments that would indicate you should give the same amount of thought to the question of who cares for the children as to who washes the windows. Who knows, maybe they're really expensive windows....

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Counting my blessings

Not much has changed from last week: Our property taxes have still nearly doubled, with the bill due next month. It is of the variety that makes one think the assessor's office accidentally added an extra '0' on the end. Our roof still actively leaks in the rain. Trust me, rain dripping on plaster ceilings is not a pretty sight. (As an aside, I have a new circle for Dante. I had already added a circle for people who wallpaper ceilings, but now I am adding one for homeowners who put a 4th layer of roof on a house.) IL is still large family phobic. We truly believe we are called to adopt again, but the state of Illinois and many home study agencies don't hold that same belief.

But, I have been blessed with a terrific sense of peace. I know that we are in God's hands and that He will take care of us. So, instead of dwelling on yuckiness, I want to dwell on my blessings. There are so many, but I will only list the top 10. 1) I am married to, arguably, the greatest husband in the world. 2) We have seven healthy, beautiful children whom we love and enjoy. 3) M's knee continues to recover. She can now bend it and use it in ways she hasn't been able to since May. 4) We are able to eat three meals a day and pay our bills. 5) We have wonderful friends and family living both near and far who love us and whom we love. 6) We live in a house with ample space, both for living in and for providing hospitality. 7) My parents have given J and I a gift of a four day trip to New York City next June. We will be joining them for when the choir from my dad's church goes to sing in a concert at Carnegie Hall. Plus, J's brother and his wife (my blog designer) have agreed to care for our children while we're there. 8) We live in an culturally diverse area rich in museums, parks, and culture. 9) The teen years of our children (at least those who have reached this point) have been a joy. We are constantly amazed at these two young adults...at their self-assurance, at their compassion, and at their love for their siblings and others. And 10) That libraries are still free and we live 1/2 a block from one. I know this doesn't seem to carry the same weight as the others, but when a family reads as much as we all do, it becomes one of the necessities of life.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Because it's all I can do

"When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest in His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

On Christ the solid rock I stand,
All other ground is shifting sand,
All other ground is shifting sand.

His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
He still is all my hope and stay.

On Christ the solid rock I stand,
All other ground is shifting sand,
All other ground is shifting sand."

-Fanny Crosby

Thursday, October 02, 2008

The scoop

The moral to this whole surgery-thing is to listen to and believe your children. Back in June, when M hurt her knee, she said it felt as though her knee cap had slid out of joint, then popped back in and that's when the pain began. In my continuing effort to win the 'worst mother of the year' award, I didn't quite believe her, gave her some ice, and told her she probably just twisted it and it would get better.

Imagine my chagrin when the pediatric orthopedist was showing us the pictures he took of her knee during surgery (yes, we now have pictures of the underside of M's kneecap...I wonder how we should frame them?), and told us how she injured her knee. Yes, you guessed it, her kneecap had slid out of joint and when it popped back into to place it sheared off a 1.5 cm piece of cartilage from the end of her femur. The surgeon was able to remove the cartilage, and although she has some scarring where it was broken off, it shouldn't affect her. We are thankful it was in a part of her knee that is not weight bearing. If it had been, it would have had far more serious consequences.

M continues to recuperate nicely. Her knee is a little painful, but very manageable. She is able to move around pretty easily and has some crutches if she needs them. (TM and D are very jealous of the crutches.) We are also now the proud owners of the Polar 300. It is really just a cooler with a hose and a pump that circulates ice water through a tube to a wrap that goes around her knee. It is to help the swelling, though it is covered with warning labels that frostbite may occur if used improperly. Since I'm sure we paid the equivalent to at least a month's worth of groceries to own this glorious contraption, I've been trying to think of some practical use for it when M's knee is all healed. I'm not planning on anyone having anymore injuries, so its intended use is out. Any ideas?

So, having made it through M's surgery, I can go back to worrying about other things...the roof we can't afford to replace, IL's adoption laws and my realization that we may be done adopting unless we decide to move, the property tax bill that's coming (moving may not be such a bad idea), and so on. Perhaps the surgery was a nice mental break...it was at least a change.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

All's Well

Just a quick note...it's been a long day and there are still many small children to put to bed. M came through the surgery with flying colors and is feeling good and in good spirits. Of course, her leg is still completely numb and will be for 24 hours, so we'll see how she's doing after that. I'll describe in more detail exactly what was wrong...but it will have to wait for a later date.

Thanks for everyone's prayers. I'm just so relieved to have my girl home and have the surgery behind us!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Surgery tomorrow

The hospital called this afternoon and M is scheduled for her knee surgery at 2pm. The best scenario is that the doctor goes in, removes the broken off piece of cartilage, closes up and is done. If that happens, then M can go home the same afternoon. But, even with an MRI, the doctors can't really tell what is actually going on with her knee and won't know for sure until they are in surgery. There is a chance that the cartilage will need to be reattached or holes drilled into the bone to stimulate more bone growth. In either of these cases, the surgery is more involved and M will need to stay the night in the hospital. So, we have been instructed to be prepared to stay overnight M isn't looking forward to it, but is pretty calm about the whole thing. I'm...doing a good job of appearing calm, but feeling the need to pace growing stronger and stronger. I just keep reminding myself that this is pretty easy compared to when P had surgery at a week old. Is it too unreasonable to just want my children healthy all the time?



Here is a picture of tomorrow's patient in her costume for the recent murder mystery party:


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Still here

You would think in a family of 7 children, there would be more to blog about. But, aside from the cute comments from children, which I'm pretty sure only J and I find interesting, and my ongoing battle to make my children responsible and organized, not much is new around here. We get up, we learn some stuff, we fix and eat meals, and we make costumes. I know that last one isn't normal for most families, but it seems to be for us. The last costume event was M and her friends' murder mystery party. Thankfully, I had nothing to do with these...aside from finding B a new sports coat at the local thrift store. (His coat from last year was, predictably, several sizes too small.) B sprang for the dry cleaning cost himself. The party was a success, though I think the level of committedness to costuming was surprising to those for whom this was a first-time event. The girls also discovered the lack of importance that many people attach to the letters 'RSVP' these days. While not a happy life lesson, they managed gracefully and covered the needed parts. Probably the cutest part of the evening was watching the four 10-year-old little sisters who were allowed to participate by being given the role of 'servant'. They worked their little tails off running back and forth from the kitchen to the other rooms carrying drinks...the options being sparkling grape juice or lemonade. I wish I would have put a pedometer on one of them to see how many miles they actually logged. But I have a feeling it was worth it to feel a part of the 'big kids' party.

Our other costuming event, one which I should be working on at right this very minute and not typing about, is our history feast which is this Sunday. It should have been held at the end of the school year last May, but we were in Vietnam and our house (the party house) was still under construction. So we postponed it. Consequently it won't be quite the grand affair it usually is, but I still find myself making 4 costumes...two princesses and two knights. It's for the Middle Ages, don't you know. I find the later we get in history, the more fabric the costumes require. It's a shame I can't talk anyone into going as a peasant. It would be a lot less work and I bet we could use the same costumes for multiple time periods.

I'm also realizing that today marks the 4 month anniversary of arriving home with K. He continues to be an absolute joy. His therapists love him and are head over heels at how much progress he has been making. K now babbles (and babbles and babbles). It sounds to me much like my 18 month olds did right before they started having a huge explosion of words. I'm thinking we will have the same thing from him in the next few months. He is quite adept at making his wants known even with the few words he has, though.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Arggh!

I missed it again! Yesterday, Sept. 19 was "Talk Like a Pirate Day". I had such great intentions...talking like a pirate (and it was even swimming lesson day, and as my friend, P, reminded me, we could have had the children walk the plank), having pirate-y treats, perhaps wearing a bandanna and a big gold earring to embarrass my children...I was going to do it up right. But, like every other year, I forgot. I'm sure it had something to do with all of the emotional turmoil going on around here, which at some point I will blog about, but not yet. Pirates are way more fun. (And to anyone with an Eeyore frame of mind, we are all fine. Please don't panic...it has more to do with future family stuff than current family stuff. Did I make anyone feel better? I sure hope so.)

Anyway, next year I vow to remember my favorite holiday that I've never celebrated. Anyone want to join me? Arggh!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A family needs your prayers

I do not know this family at all, but I am so moved by their plight, I am asking for prayers on their behalf. They are living every adoptive family's nightmare.

http://www.roomforatleastonemore.blogspot.com/

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The art of the schedule

We have started back to school. I hesitate even to write that, as it sounds as though the children have only started to learn things again since summer began. Since they are learning things all the time, what it really means is that we're back to following a schedule. How this schedule looks changes radically from year to year. In my continuing quest for the perfect schedule...the one that will make me as fantastically organized as I fantasize about...I have tried many things. When the children were small, and there were fewer of them, I didn't really have a schedule. Life was less complicated and we could follow our interests, read lots of stories, make art projects, and play together...all before lunch. I'm sorry to say those days are over. From our structureless summer, I am all too well aware of what happens when too many children have too much free time. It starts out great. There is lots of play, reading, daydreaming, and various projects that happen. Children do creative things with free time. They put on shows on the 3rd floor, A. started a novel, the little boys built endless forts and block cities, M. decided on her own to continue her math curriculum, P. learned to read(!), and B. read and did a lot of outdoor manual labor for us. (Really, having those stumps dug out was one of the summer's highlights.) But as summer wears on, the novelty of free time begins to wear thin. More children are at loose ends. And from my experience, loose ends are often satisfied by pestering one's siblings. So, more bickering occurs, and more whining, and just general unpleasantness. I know fall is arriving when I start thinking about how nice a schedule would be.

Last year's schedule was a bust. I am embarrassed to admit that we never, not even one day, managed to follow it as it appeared on the chart in our hallway. It was far too cumbersome, with every child scheduled in 15 minute increments throughout the morning. I know some families are highly successful with that type of scheduling. We are not one of them. We needed something with a little (OK, a lot) more flexibility. I needed to be able to answer a child's question or take an important phone call without completely messing up the schedule. But we do need some sort of schedule. I need it to remind me what it is I hoped to accomplish and the children need it to answer the persistent and ever present question of, "What are we doing next?"

With all that, I'm proud to announce the success (so far) of this year's schedule. We have even managed to follow it for 2 days in a row. This is something of a record. There are two keys to our success. The first is that I have given priority to my youngest learners. In the past, I always focused on the most advanced child first, moving on down to the least. But by focusing on my kindergartners, I don't run out of time for them, they are happy to play by themselves for a while if they have had time with me first, and my oldest children are quite capable of working independently for an hour and a half without me. The second key is that I have scheduled more time than I actually need for any activity. If we end up with the whole time, that's great, we will be able to do a lot. But, if something happens...I need to change a diaper, take a phone call, answer a question, etc....all is not lost. With a workable schedule I am finding I am so much more relaxed. I do not feel as though the schedule is constantly pointing out my failure to keep to it. Instead, it is becoming the tool it is supposed to be. Oh, and the best thing? I have also scheduled in all of the children's chores. By the end of summer, life had become pretty lax and I found I was doing most of the housework myself. But no more! The work is more equitably shared and the house is (somewhat) neater.

In more immediate family news...P. celebrated her 8th birthday yesterday. I find that difficult to believe as she was just born a week or so ago. And, the big murder mystery party is tomorrow night. The girls have worked hard, bought their own food and supplies and are coming over tomorrow afternoon to clean my house. They are taking their duties as hostesses very seriously to the point that nearly all of them are having stress dreams about it. I'm sure it will go fine and be a terrific success.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Do you know what's better than owning a boat?

Having good friends who own a boat and invite you to ride in it. J and I had a great evening last night. We were invited to join our friends (who have the boat) plus another couple for an 'evening cruise'. (And it was adults only. This is a big deal when you know that between our three families, we have 19 children. Plus, we wouldn't all fit on the boat together.) So, at 5 pm last night, we set off for our three hour cruise. (I only put that in because now you will all be humming the theme to Gilligan's Island for the rest of the day, because ours was really four hours.) First there was the quick trip along the lake front to get to downtown Chicago, and then into the lock to get to the Chicago River. We cruised up the river all the way to Chinatown, where we tied up and ate our dinner. (It would have been fun if some of the restaurants served dock-side like they do along the river downtown. But we probably wouldn't have been able to afford it anyway if the prices of the downtown restaurants are any gauge.) We finished dinner and headed back as the sun was setting. By the time we reached downtown, it was dark (well, as dark as it gets in Chicago) and we had a magnificent view of the skyline. We then went through the lock once more and back into Lake Michigan. As a final cap to the evening, we pulled up to Navy Pier to enjoy a live jazz performance for a while. It was a lovely evening...thank you M and C!

A final note: it was so interesting to see familiar sites from a new angle, it gives them a whole new look. For instance, looking up from underneath Lake Shore Drive as opposed to driving on it. We also saw things we don't normally see from any angle...while waiting for the lock to open, we also saw a little flotilla, which we couldn't figure out at first. But, thanks to binoculars, it turned out to be a string of very expensive boats with a coast guard boat on either end and what looked like coast guardsmen on the decks of the boats in between. It was very curious and provided much conversation and speculation. But as you can probably guess, no mention of anything like it in the paper this morning. Why don't papers print stories about the things one is really curious about?

The only downside to the evening? I must be getting old and my inner ear isn't able to stabilize as it used to. I've been on a boat all morning. In fact, as I type, it feels as though the computer and I are bobbing gently up and down, up and down, on the water. It's a good thing I'm not prone to sea sickness.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

No wonder they're always hungry

Today I took B and D in for their annual physicals. I've now reached the point where the receptionist no longer needs to ask my name when I check in, instead she moves straight to small talk. However, I never seem to get the same nurse...I'm in there enough, you'd think I'd get a repeat at least once. But no, I have to break a new one in every time. This means dealing with children's baffled looks when asked if they like their teacher, avoiding the halo with which the nurse wants to crown me upon learning I have 7 children, and explaining that we don't watch TV. Again.

But these are minor inconveniences. What was really interesting was the amount both B and D have grown over the past year. B grew 5 1/2 inches and D grew 4. I knew they had grown, but had no idea they had grown so much. This explains why I am finding it difficult to keep food in the house and why they (along with everyone else) often follow me around telling me how hungry they are. Leftovers at dinner have long been a thing of the past and I have been having to double things I don't ordinarily need to double. I kind of chalked it up to having one more mouth to feed. Although thinking about it rationally, K doesn't really eat enough to cause another doubling. B is 13, so it makes sense he eats so much and is growing rapidly. But D is only 5. At this rate he will be taller than I am at age 9!

The other interesting thing is how D's height changes my perception of TM's height. TM is 8 months older than D, but is 1 1/2 inches shorter. Consequently, I always think of him as being a bit on the short side. But, it turns out D is in the 98th percentile for height, which makes TM actually quite tall, especially considering the height of most Vietnamese adults in Vietnam. So I continue to live in a family of giants whom I will never be able to catch-up to. A and K are my only hope at the moment of having children who do not tower above me. Although who knows what K's growth will ultimately do and A could always have a growth spurt and surprise us. At least I'll always be able to find my family in a crowd, though they might not be able to find me.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Pre- and Post-Dinner Entertainment

We've been eating dinner outside quite a bit since the weather has been nice and all too soon it won't be. On the spur of the moment, while we were outside getting things ready, J and I decided to buzz K's hair. It was too long (he was starting to receive "Oh what a cute girl" comments) and he sweats so much that he just always looked hot. So here are the results of J's efforts: We then enjoyed a pleasant dinner together. As we were finishing, D looks up and announces, "I see two skunks!" We turn around and he was right. Two skunks were ambling around our back yard having their own dinner. Not wanting to startle the skunks, we had everyone sit quietly (not easy for some of us), while we watched them...and took pictures. Eventually, the floor show ended and the skunks went under the fence into the parking lot next door. We have seen quite a few skunks in the past couple of days, and as long as they don't take up residence in our home I'm OK with it....though I will probably call the city and mention it to them. I figure skunk management is an acceptable use of our tax dollars.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Those poor unsocialized homeschoolers

As a homeschooling family, we field many questions about homeschooling and all that it entails. Probably the most asked question is along the lines of, "Do they have any friends?" I just know the questioner has an image of us never leaving our home (if only), sitting at desks, doing workbook page after workbook page, and not knowing how to have a conversation with anyone outside the family. I've learned just to laugh at this question because it is so ridiculous. My pat answer is to say that I wish they had fewer friends and social engagements as it would make my life a bit easier.

I am reminded of all this because earlier this week I was part of a homeschool information night at a local public library. One of the very real concerns of some of the attendees was that a homeschooled child wouldn't have any friends. The irony of discussing this concern while trying to survive the week that I've had is a bit amusing.

I will try to condense the past week into a paragraph (or 2 or 3) and you can decide for yourselves whether we need to feel sorry for the poor unsocialized homeschoolers among us. Monday started out wonderfully; no where to go, no one to see, just time at home doing my favorite thing of 'getting things done'. Monday night saw my kitchen filled with 7 young adults, only two of them mine. (The rest of the world would call them teenagers, but I dislike the term and won't be a party to it.) They were having another planning session for a party they are throwing for a few of their friends...the guest count is up to 27 last I heard. This is not just any ordinary party. It's a murder mystery party that requires acting, dressing in costume (it's set in Victorian England), and if some of them have their way, ballroom dancing. (The dancing is to be an ice-breaker...notice I never claimed homeschoolers were completely normal.) The guest list is eclectic...both homeschooled and public and private schoolers, from both city and suburbs, ages range from 12 on the young end to 17 on the older end, multiple sibling pairs, I'm sure I could come up with others if I sat and thought about it. It's been fun to watch the process. Plus, they're footing the bill for it themselves and doing all the cooking. (Yes, they are serving all of these people dinner.) I'm sure I will be posting more about this in future days.

Tuesday, we were invited for dinner at friend's house and the children spent the evening playing on a zip line. Wednesday brings a girls' Bible study group to our house followed by the weekly homeschooling beach day. Thursday was the annual Six Flags homeschool day where we and four other families (with a total of 21 children) whiled away the hours followed by a pizza dinner together. And today, because we didn't seem to have enough on our plate for the week, we went down to one of the museums to see a special exhibit on glass and glass blowing. This left us enough time to get to the park where our homeschooling group meets weekly for large group games. If after all of this M and B still feel the need to socialize, tomorrow a group of friends has arranged a beach time to welcome another homeschooler back from a trip. No wonder everyone has seemed a bit tired. Getting back to a more normal schedule might feel calming and refreshing.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Hip Hip Hooray!

D. has learned to ride his two-wheeler! He has been working on it for several months now, but every time he would try, the falling down part would get the better of him and he'd put the bike away. This was particularly difficult because TM has been able to ride a bike for nearly a year and half. (It was one of the first things he learned to do after he came home.) But yesterday was D's day. Instead of giving up when he didn't get it right away, he kept on trying. And then suddenly he was riding: a two and a half house long ride...pretty good for the first time. That's all it took and he was hooked. By the end of the afternoon he could start and stop with very little difficulty. I wish I had taken a video of his brothers and sisters cheering him on as he worked to master his new skill. D's smile was enormous; I think both due to the bike riding success and to all the cheering.

This, of course, leads to long family discussions about who is now going to ride what bike. I'm relieved that D is not put off by purple sunflowers and is just happy to have a bike (without training wheels) to call his own.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Where everyone knows your name

No, not our local bar...our branch library which is 1/2 a block away. (It was one of the selling points about our house.) I feel somewhat famous whenever we go in. I guess a family with 7 children, who comes during school hours and checks out no less than 70 books a visit is somewhat memorable. I know most of the librarians who work there, but today there were two whom I didn't think I knew, or who knew us. That is until one of them asks me if we're still homeschooling and then in a separate conversation, the other asks how we manage to keep track of all the books we check out each time. It makes me feel badly that I didn't know them.

About the number of books...everyone around here likes, no loves, to read or be read to. (I think the younger ones decide to learn to read as a defensive act. Sometimes when all the bigger types are involved in their own books, the only course for non-readers is to learn to read themselves.) Plus, because the city is always threatening to close the branch libraries to save money, we like to help keep circulation levels up. The city doesn't need to know it's all one family. And I know what you're all dying to ask. Everyone does. How on earth do I keep track of all those books? All I can say is thank goodness for online library accounts where I can see what I have out and when it is due. Weekly monitoring is mandatory. Even then I don't have a perfect track record. I still have to pay the occasional fine, or pay for a lost book. Sometimes I get overly enthusiastic and try to return a book that actually belongs to us. (It happened just today, in fact.) That's when I'm really glad the librarians all know us, because then they can return my books to me.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Looking for large families in IL

The madness has to stop! I have been in contact with several other women and we want to see what we can do to change how Illinois approves large families to adopt. We are looking for two things right now. The first is anyone who would like to join us and the second is we need stories. If you have a large family and have been adversely affected by IL's way of doing things, please share your story. You can email me at thecurryseven at sbcglobal dot net

Thanks!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

I love a productive day

(Welcome Kelly's Korner readers.  This is our third floor playroom.  If you want to see what laundry for 11 looks like, head here.)

Most of the third floor of our house is a single large room that we use as a play room. Usually this works pretty well. Usually being the key word. If it has been too long between my trips up there, the amount of mess that can be created is somewhat staggering. Staggering describes the mess when we started renovation, so I'm not sure what to call it after renovation. Due to some of the new systems we installed, the worker-men needed access to the play room as well. That means the staggering mess was then pushed to the center of the room and had a plastic sheet draped over it. Come June, children started venturing upstairs again and would burrow under the pile, pull out what they wanted, play with it, and then just leave it strewn across the floor. It looked as though a tornado had passed through. For any of you who thought perhaps I had my act together in all aspects of my life, I'm including pictures of what it looked like BEFORE we cleaned it up. This will dispel any notion of togetherness you may have had.(Actually, this is after we had spent about an hour cleaning...I'm not sure which is more embarrassing.)





Here are the 'after' pictures. This is the result of 6+ of us working all day with just a break for lunch. Everyone is thrilled. The children feel as though it's Christmas: finding toys they had forgotten, having a space to play, not having their mother grouse about the mess upstairs...I'm thrilled because there's no mess upstairs and we gave away a huge pile of toys that were never played with. The most time consuming part of the cleaning up was collecting the millions of small pieces (Lego, Playmobile, K'Nex, cars, doll accessories, puzzle pieces, etc.) and returning them to their respective bins. It's one reason why I've kept much of the small pieces toys in quarantine. The rules are only one out at a time, and the previous one must be put completely away before a new one comes out. I know from previous experience that this level of order only last so long...my home is a living example of entropy. But, boy, am I enjoying it while it lasts! (Oh, ignore the chipped floors. This is what happens when you buy your children scooter boards which are played with on painted surfaces. One of the new additions to this room is impact-grade Plexiglass over all the windows. We can still open them, but a child flying into one on a scooter board won't go though.)

Friday, August 15, 2008

We need more power, Scotty...

we're trapped in the gravitational field of Children's hospital and we can't break free! OK, that may be an exaggeration, but it's what it feels like. Early in the summer, while we were in Pennsylvania, M hurt her knee. Being the kind and compassionate mother that I am, I ignored her injury (aside from suggesting she stay off of it and giving her a bag of ice) and assumed that given time it would get better. Five weeks later, when it was still swollen and bothering her, I took her into the doctor. After poking and prodding, the doctor ordered an MRI. Armed with the results of the MRI, we now know that she chipped off a piece of cartilage that was attached to her thigh bone. (Not only did she injure her knee, but M. injured it in a very unusual way it seems.) We were then referred to a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon at Children's. M. is still having pain because the piece of cartilage is floating around in her knee causing trouble and the doctor will have to surgically remove it. It will all be done arthroscopicly, but she will still need a general anaesthesia. We won't know if she has to stay overnight until she is in surgery and the doctors can really see what needs to be done. The best case scenario is that she is able to come home the same day.

On the positive side, M's knee is bothering her too much and since the surgery won't happen until October, the doctors don't seem overly concerned. We also seem to have ended up with one of the best pediatric orthopaedists around. It is one of the positives of living in such a major metropolitan area.

After the surgery I proclaim our family done, really and truly done with Children's for a while. Well, at least until December, when K will go in for his semi-annual appointment with the plastic surgeon. Maybe it would be more realistic to just limit our events at Children's to two of the seven children.

(And, yes, J and I do enjoy watching the occasional episode of Star Trek.)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The wrong question?

When we were up in Michigan last week, there was a news magazine lying around at which I happened to glance. One of the articles was titled, "Do children make you happy?" The conclusion of the author, after looking at many studies that were conducted asking people, both with and without children, to rate their happiness, was that, no, indeed children do not make people happier than those without. I've been thinking about this, and I've decided that everyone is asking the wrong question. Happiness is such a fleeting thing and incredibly dependent on circumstance. Do my children make me happy when they are whining, or throwing up in the middle of the night, or waiting too long to get to the bathroom? No, I can honestly say that when any of them behaves poorly or when I must clean up bodily fluids, I am not happy. Sometimes I am about as far from happy as a person can get. I'm also not happy when one of my children is sick, or injured, or sad. How can I be happy when someone I love is hurting? This is not to say I am never happy, or more accurately, never happy because of my children. This would be untrue as well. But if we are just measuring happiness, that sun-is-shining-the-birds-are-singing-all-is-right-with-the-world feeling, and I am not happy about the above mentioned items, and you multiply those things by 7, by rights it would seem that not only should I never be happy, but I should be walking around with a huge cloud hanging over my head.

There is no cloud, and I don't think I'm an unusually sad and dour person. And why is that? It's because the question the researchers should have been asking goes more like this: Does having children make you more joyful, or fulfilled, or blessed, or any of those other words that have more to do with internal states rather than what's going on outside. And the answer to all would be a resounding, Yes! Because I can be joyful, if I choose, when I'm cleaning up bodily fluids, because while it may not be fun, I have a child after whom I need to clean up. I have someone to whom I can show love, both my love and a small example of God's love. I can be joyful because God gave this precious being into my care.

Happiness is fleeting and beyond my control. Happiness is not a choice that one makes; it is something that happens to one. Happiness is an emotional response to circumstances. And happiness is not the goal. Joy, on the other hand, is a state in which I can choose to live. Joy is not erased or destroyed by pain or suffering or tears. And ultimately, joy can only come from being connected to the true joy-giver, Jesus Christ. Because, it is only through Him that we know there is way more to life than just what's here on earth. This knowledge is what can enable us to choose joy when life isn't going like we think it should. Or as Anne Shirley would say, there is so much more 'scope for imagination' if we just look past our immediate circumstances and focus on our eternal circumstances. (Can you tell I'm reading Anne of Green Gables to A and P?)

Friday, August 08, 2008

More scenes from our vacation this past week

We had a wonderful week up in Michigan at J's aunt and uncle's home. Here's some other things we enjoyed:

Reading...

Picking blueberries (although some of the shorter family members did more eating than picking)...

"Surfing"...
and shucking corn...


Rub-a-Dub-Dub, Three Men in a Tub

More accurately, it is two boys in an inner tube, using smash rackets as paddles.



Here is the third "man", left on shore, wishing he could go to sea as well.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Two months....already?!

I know that K has been home for only two months. I mean, I was there in Vietnam when we first met him, for heaven's sake. But even now, with so little time together, I feel as though he has always been in our family. K's transition has been one of those hearts and puppies adoption stories, with everyone falling in love and everything all happy. With our two adoptions, we have experienced two absolute extremes. I'm glad I did the hard one first. I appreciate the easy one that much more. To sum it up, K is a joy.

K also continues to make huge developmental strides...his therapists are all very impressed. We call them the "play ladies". There are too many of them to try and differentiate between them when talking to the children, so if a play lady is coming, a child will ask what toys she brings to identify which one. And since I am something of a compulsive learner, especially if it is one of my favorite areas (raising children), I have found the play lady times to be fascinating. I love picking up new tips and ideas. Before I hit 'publish', I will share one with you. If any of you have children with maintaining a correct grip on crayons and pencils (or writing sticks as they are often referred to around here), one of the play ladies introduced me to crayon rocks. We are all in love with these. Essentially they are soy-based crayons in the shape of rocks. The color goes on very smoothly and because of their shape, the child has no choice but to use the correct hand position. (A tripod hold, if you want to hear some of my new jargon.) We've ordered some more, since the three crayons (rocks?) the play lady gave us have been nearly used up. They are one of those great items that are both really fun to use and good for you.

Alright, end of commercial. Time to start the day. The masses of hungry children are starting to hover closer and closer, making it increasingly difficult to think and type.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

New look

So what do you think? (Just so you know, I love the new look, so the correct answer is, "Your blog looks terrific!") I can't take any credit, though. It all goes to my incredibly talented sister-in-law, Stefanie. She even made the big ugly house look good up there in the header. It looks almost charming in a line drawing. So if you need any design or web-stuff done, go take a look at her website: http://www.lilypaddesignworkshop.com/index.html

Thanks, Stef!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Finally...

(Welcome to all those joining in the Open House.  Though this post is old, my kitchen looks exactly the same right now.  It was easier to link to an old post than to write a new one. [Well, the children are a lot older and there are nearly twice as many of them.] Lazy, I know. Thanks for stopping by and looking at the big ugly house!)

I know you all have hardly been able to bear the suspense as you wait for pictures of our new kitchen. Well, your torture is over.....


Our new kitchen, complete with children helping make strawberry shortcake:
The inside of the pantry:
One side of the butler's pantry:
The other side of the butler's pantry:
The guest room:
Now, about that camera. I have a tip for everyone. If you think your digital camera is broken, try using a different memory card before purchasing an expensive new one. It could just be the memory card is bad. I speak from experience. The above pictures were taken by our old camera and this picture was taken with the new one:
So, I'm in a quandary. The old camera takes decent pictures, but I think the new one takes better ones. But, financially, I should really return the new one...it's cost wasn't really in the budget what with hospital bills and all. But the new one takes really good pictures...
And a bonus picture for making it this far. K needs a haircut, but we've been waiting to let the bald patches grow in a bit so he doesn't look even funnier after the haircut.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Mom of Many

No, not me...considering the size of some of the families I know about, I don't even qualify. But Jenni at One Thing, has written a great post about being a "Mom of Many". Check it out; it's way better written and way funnier than I could ever to do, so now I don't need to bother.

http://rocksinmydryer.typepad.com/shannon/2008/07/what-id-like--3.html

Monday, July 21, 2008

This is not what you want to see on Sunday morning....

Yes, it is a raccoon, and yes, it is inside our house and not just inside the walls. We had optimistically thought we were done with the raccoon invasion. But the evidence would seem to indicate otherwise. I think we need to call a roofer to patch the remaining holes. They are so far up the exterior walls that J can't reach them, even with our tallest ladder.

So, back to the raccoon saga...there was an hour long stand-off between J and the raccoon, which involved a lot of staring at one another, except for the brief moment of excitement when J tried to put the trap over the top of the invader. J muttered something that included the word, "vicious" when describing the incident. Eventually, the raccoon climbed down off the radiator and chose to go out of the open window as opposed to the open trap. J was very disappointed, that the raccoon chose the window that is, not that the raccoon left. And, it was a filthy thing. I still have to clean the paw prints (and fur!) that is left on the wall.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Another victory for order and cleanliness

I had been threatening to do it for several months, but I could tell no one was taking me very seriously. But today, M and B offered to take A, P, TM and D to a movie during K's nap and I finally did it. Well, J and I finally did it...completely empty the little boys' room of all toys, that is. For a year now, that room has been very difficult to keep neat and orderly, much less clean. There was just too much stuff and even if the boys wanted to clean it up, it was just too difficult for them. Heck, I was often overwhelmed with the thought of trying to pick it up. So, I decided the only solution was to limit how much stuff there was to pick up. Don't feel too badly for them; their toys have just migrated to the third floor playroom. (Now that's a scary room at the moment. It's the last room that was affected by the remodelling which I haven't dealt with.) What are the boys left with? They have their dressers, a bin under the bed in which they can store special treasures (their definition, not mine), two dinosaurs each, a pop-up book each, and two baskets of board books for K. I think it's an amount that they can be responsible for. I have to say, it is nice to have the room actually clean. And without the obstacle course all over the floor, it is much easier to vacuum.

I have been on a sorting and purging kick for the past couple of weeks. I hate clutter and just can't think when it's around. It makes me claustrophobic. What with being preoccupied with waiting to bring K home, and then travelling, and then adjusting, things had gotten out of control. So, now I'm going back to my roots, so to speak. Before we lived in this embarrassingly large house, we lived in a small, two-bedroom Victorian. We stayed there until after P was born. (Yes, that makes four children in one bedroom.) It took a lot of creative organization to make it work. But we moved and the space made me lazy. Big houses take a lot longer to get messy than small ones, and I could have all the toys available all the time. But just because they're available doesn't mean they get played with. It's as if the children stop seeing them because they're always there. It worked so much better when I had to rotate toys. Only having a few out at a time and the rest in storage. Then when the novelty wore off, I would bring out some new ones and store the previous ones. It keeps the toys fresh, because they seem like new, and there is a lot less to get strewn about. I've decided that just because I have the space, I don't have to have everything out. I've also done the same thing with our pictures books. We have a small library's worth, but they weren't getting read, just used as stepping stones much of the time. (Even my constant shrieking of "Don't walk on the books!" didn't deter them.) Now we have only one quarter of them out at a time, sorted by season. With each new season, the old ones will be packed away and new ones, for the new season will come out. And they're much easier to store as many fewer bookcases are needed.

I've discovered over the years that I'm a much better mother when I feel the house is somewhat organized. I can relax and enjoy my children instead of constantly being annoyed by the mess I see around me. I've also discovered that organization can only come when I lessen the amount of stuff there is to organize. I'm working on holding onto things lightly. They are only things after all, and my relationships with people are so much more important. I don't want to wake up some day and realize that I spent more time caring for objects than enjoying my children. Anyone need a 6-foot wooden dinosaur?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Why 7 are easier than 2 or 3

Really, it's true. Although when I tell mothers of 2 or 3 that, they do have a habit of looking at me as though I've grown another head or two. But with 7, I can pay the bills (which really needed doing) while some of the middles can keep an eye on the littles, and the two oldest can make dinner. Even when the oldest needs to leave to go take care of a friend's pets, the third oldest can step in and fix the side dish. As dinner comes nearer, the littles get into the act by setting the table, carrying milk, etc. And so, at 6pm, when dinner is done, I can leisurely rise from my desk, with the bills all paid, pour a glass of wine, and join the family at the table. Ahhh...the luxury of having many children.

Monday, July 14, 2008

MAY CAUSE DIZZYNESS

appears in big, bold capital letters across all nine prescription bottles. As I'm doling out little white pills to everyone in the family, I have visions of staggering children falling over furniture and falling down stairs. As I take mine, I decide I will not be dizzy because I have dinner guests coming in one hour. The little white pills are to eradicate any possible parasites that we may have contracted from K who may have parasites he could have passed along. It's all very iffy. But now we can rest comfortably knowing that said pills are actively killing off any we may have. River blindness? Gone! Roundworm? Gone! Scabies? Gone! Gone! Gone! Which is good, because for the last week, I've been feeling itchy, but only when I think about scabies. Much like when a friend calls to say her child has lice and you can immediately feel the little things crawling on you scalp. (Feel free to pause here to scratch your own head.) But back to the communal drug ingesting...we all need to take two doses, each separated by two weeks. I suppose it's not too surprising that our local pharmacy didn't have enough for all of us and had to order it. I opted to wait for all the medicine to arrive before doling it out because I didn't feel up to having nine people on nine different time tables. Happily no one had any reactions and we now know that all the children, minus K, can swallow pills. I feel less itchy already.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Normal, everyday chaos

Life is starting to get back to normal. K. continues to stay healthy and his skin is healing nicely from his self-inflicted wounds. My family (both my parents, my brother, his wife and three daughters) came for the 4th of July and we sent the last group home yesterday. I have finished moving into the newly remodelled part of the house and can begin to think about some longer term projects. We've made it to the beach and to the park. We're starting to get back into a routine and it's lovely.

I'm not sure I quite fully realized the amount of anxiety I had been living with between January and May. The wait for K had become excruciating, and when coupled with major remodelling and spending half my time in the basement....well, let's just say I wasn't at the top of my form. It felt remarkably like the last month of pregnancy, except I wasn't the size of a house and it lasted for 5 months. It was the feeling of being completely overwhelmed with the smallest thing. Things I normally enjoyed doing, such as baking pies, were too much to contemplate. I just didn't have an ounce of emotional energy left-over. But, having K home, I find myself feeling the same type of blissful happiness as I experienced after giving birth. No longer being pregnant and having an adorable baby to boot was somewhat euphoric. And K is an adorable little boy. He brings such joy to our family with his eagerness to make people laugh and his willingness to snuggle close to all of us. He is oh so worth every ounce of anxiety, frustration, anger, and sadness that we felt waiting for him.

In other news, K had a hearing test done today to make sure that his language delays are not hearing related. I am happy to report that he passed with flying colors and hears normally. He has also added three words to his vocabulary: 'Dada', 'Mama', and 'up'. We think he might also say B's name sometimes as well.

I may still not have a camera (I know which I'm getting, I just have to order it...no way am I paying our local sales tax, it's robbery!), but I do have a new sewing machine and serger. These are my birthday presents from my incredibly generous parents. The sewing machine is a significant step up from what I had and I'm wondering if I'm a good enough seamstress to warrant it. M has inherited my old machine which she is thrilled about and A now has ownership of a small, basic machine that M used to have. I see sewing mania setting in here for the next few weeks. My only worry is that some little boys I know think that the serger is so cool that it may be more temptation than they can handle not to touch it. I'm going to keep my eye on them for a while.

I am so happy to be back to ordinary life. Life is not always calm and predictable, but the moments when it is can be so refreshing and renewing if we don't spend them looking for the next exciting thing or worrying about the next trouble. I am particularly bad about this, but my goal for the immediate future is to enjoy the peace and enjoy my children.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Two years

Two years ago today, TM became our son. This is a fairly big milestone for him since he has now been with our family longer than any other placement he had previously. And as he is now 5 1/2, this fact nearly breaks my heart. I hate to think of my boy being moved so often. Is it any wonder he harboured so much anger at being moved to a fifth placement in 3 1/2 years?

It all seems so long ago now, and we were all such different people. TM has become such a delightful boy. The other morning, as I was lying in bed recovering from being in the ER most of the night, I hear running feet going downstairs and TM's voice calling out cheerfully, "Hello everybody! Oh...no one is down here." Can this be the same boy who for months after coming home, would take hours to be able to face the world each day? There were more rages after waking in the morning than I can count. I am not the same person either. I have seen sides of myself, both positive and negative, that I didn't know existed. To live with a child who openly rejects you, can be a difficult thing and I learned how much I depend on the reciprocity of affection in my children. I have also learned that I can harbor great amounts of anger myself. But I have also learned that if I allow God to work through me, I am capable of things I never dreamed I could do. I have felt God's love and support during these two years as I never have before. There was a great quote I heard on the radio this morning that I believe sums up the past two years: that God wants to take us through times of trials into times of testimony. Without the trials, our testimony to God's power is flat and unexceptional.

Safe and good are not always the same thing. The safe thing would have been to have never ventured out onto this path of adoption. We had five beautiful children already, did we really want to take a chance and mess that up? During the darker moments I experienced two years ago, I would have run back to the safe path if I had been allowed to. I'm so glad I wasn't given that chance. The lessons I've learned, the love of God I've experienced, and the son I've gained have far outweighed the struggles I went through. Hallelujah!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Home again, home again

(E)
K was discharged from the hospital this afternoon. He is much, much better and is back to being his happy, goofy self. I'm not sure the doctors ever really came to an agreement, or that they ever really figured out what was going on, but this is their best guess:

Several days ago, K developed a rash that was causing him to scratch his skin raw. (It wasn't getting better, and I had already decided I needed to take him to the doctor this week.) The rash was caused by either a yeast infection, a strep infection, or (and this is the infectious dr's favorite) a form of super scabies. This would be a type of scabies that is unaffected by premetherin cream. Whatever the cause, the open skin seems to have been the pathway for a secondary bacterial infection which was the source of the redness and fever. K is now on antibiotics for the infection, an oral anti-itch medicine, and an oral scabies medicine. And, since we all live with him, the rest of us will also be taking the anti-scabies medicine as well. (I realize that this is making everyone have second thoughts about crossing our threshold...it makes me have second thoughts as well.) The important thing is that it all seems to be doing its job. Wellness, here we come.

(J)
While we certainly hope that we never have to do it again, the folks at Children's Memorial Hospital were very nice. They all agreed that K was cute as a bug, and the head infectious disease doctor had lots of questions about international adoption. It was disturbing, though, to realize that most (and possibly all) of the hundreds of doctors and nurses with whom we interacted were younger than we are. Many of them were residents or fellows, which means they're probably about 17 years old. While looking out of the window of K's room, I was suddenly struck with the realization that I'm now older than lots of people. I know that may not seem profound, but it is odd to begin to think of oneself as the old guy in the room. (My apologies to our friends who are older than I. If I feel old, you must feel ancient!)

I can also vouch for the fact that the fold-out armchairs in the hospital are adequate cots, but could be improved if they were covered in something other than vinyl. Even with a sheet spread over them, they end up feeling very damp and clammy after a night's restless sleep.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The good news is that K has gained two pounds,

but we found this out when he was being weighed in the ER last night.

After dinner, he spiked a very high (>104) fever and turned very red. It was a very impressive imitation of a boiled lobster. We took him to the ER and after 6 hours there (where he was poked and prodded in every conceivable way), they transferred him to the children's hospital. J had the night shift, which included a ride in an ambulance, and I came home and slept. We switched for the day. K is doing better, but still, no one seems to know what's wrong. It seems to depend on the time of day and the team of doctors. The dermatologists seem to think it is a viral infection working its way out, but the infectious disease doctors are leaning toward a form of super scabies. (That one makes me itch just to think about it.) I suggested to the nurse before I came home tonight that maybe, some time soon, all these doctors might just want to discuss it amongst themselves and pick one. I'm sorry to say the nurse didn't laugh when I suggested they do a coin toss.

It's late and I'm tired and going up to bed. I'll post an update once the doctors get around to sorting it out.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

One Month

It's been one month since we arrived home with K from Vietnam. When I think about all we've done this month it makes me realize why I'm tired. I want my relaxing summer to start! K's transition continues to be very easy. He is just the cutest and happiest little guy (who loves nothing more than an audience to make laugh). He even is starting to show me affection. He will come up and hug my legs, he wants me to pick him up, he smiles for me and makes more eye contact, and he started to cry when I left the house for a five minute errand on Tuesday. Up until that point, I wasn't sure whether he really cared yet if I was around or not. And so goes the dance of attachment...I love him, he begins to love me, I love him even more, and so on and so on.

On top of the happy stuff, we've also had a parade of therapists in here through Early Intervention to perform screenings on K. The second set was here yesterday, both a physical therapist and an occupational therapist. Not surprisingly, K qualifies for both types of therapies. He is most delayed (~14 month old) in the sitting aspect of his physical ability. He has a very curved back when he sits and just low muscle tone overall. But, the therapists were both very confident that within a few months of therapy he will be caught up to where he should be. I've been thinking about all the diagnoses that we've had for K over the past month and wondered why I'm not nervous or worried about any of them. I know one reason (and probably the biggest) is that my peace comes from God. I know K was meant to be our son regardless of his abilities and our job is to love him and help him to reach his full potential. We have no idea what God has in store for this little boy, but He's the one in charge...not me. But the other reason I feel calm is that I know K. He is a real, live person who is a charming child. His delays are not who he is. If I just saw a list of his delays written out on a piece of paper on a referral, without knowing the actual child, they would look serious enough that I might have second thoughts about bringing him into our home. The referral might go something like this:

The child is two years old and is very sociable. He has a repaired cleft lip and an unrepaired tooth ridge. He can walk and run and likes to follow his caretaker around the house. The child has no speech and makes very few babbling sounds although he seems to understand what is said to him. Physically, he is globally delayed, and exhibits low muscle tone, especially in his back. The child is underweight and has been malnourished. No physical cause for the lack of growth can be found. The child will need extensive therapy to help him meet his potential.

The child, my child, is so much more than his delays and inabilities. I certainly don't want to come across as arrogant or superior for having overlooked a child's areas of concern. Left to my own abilities, I am just as able to imagine horrible things happening in the future. I read waiting child listings and think, "Wow, I could never handle that!" But, when we allow God to work in us and use His eyes to see people as He sees them, perhaps all of us are able to do so much more than we thought we could.

There is a point to my little sermon here. The news came out yesterday that it appears that families with logged-in dossiers, who have not been matched with a child by September 1, will have those dossiers returned. They will not be allowed to be grandfathered in. I know there are people who read this blog who are waiting for a referral. I'm asking you to consider that maybe there is a child already waiting for you as you wait for a child. A child who on paper, might not look like you first imagined, but who would love you all the same. A child whose last chance at having a family of his or her own also ends on September 1. Many agencies have waiting children...I know Holt ( http://www.holtintl.org/cgi/photolisting/display.cgi?ID=B06-18&Index_re=9 )and WACAP (see below for a description about a little girl with Downs, whose fees have all been waived) both have children who have been waiting for a long time. No child, even apparently healthy ones, comes with guarantees; parenting any child requires a supreme act of faith. Take a leap and see what works of wonder and power God can work in your life.


Baby, 1 years old with Down syndrome, needs family quickly. She was abandoned. She enjoys food and is a good eater. She is a happy walker and when you hold her hands she is ready to explore her world. She can sit upright by herself and enjoys watching everything in her surroundings. She is a very active and happy baby who is quite social and attached to her caregivers. She is from Vietnam. No adoption fee as her agency adoption fees have been donated already. There is also a no-interest loan available. Dossier ready families and families able to submit their dossier by July 31st can be considered. Because of the adoption situation with Vietnam perspective families need to know this situation poses risks which may end in an unsuccessful adoption. WACAP will exhaust all possibilities to find this child a family, before Vietnamese adoptions are closed to U.S. citizens this summer. If you are dossier ready for an adoption in Vietnam or know someone who is, we> strongly encourage them to contact us about this child's future. WACAP (www.wacap.org) is a non-profit adoption agency. Contact FamilyFinders@ wacap.org, 1-800-732-1887

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Answered prayers

The whole time we were waiting for K to come home, one of my constant prayers was that God would keep him healthy...both emotionally and physically. From my compulsive reading habit, I was all too aware of how important the first few years of a baby's life are and how unsuited orphanages are at meeting a baby's needs. So as the wait dragged on (and on and on and on) this prayer became more urgent. Well, today K had his Early Intervention screening, done by a physical therapist and a speech therapist. And the verdict? He is delayed and qualifies for services; probably he will have two sessions a week. (Did I mention that E. I. comes to your house? Hallelujah!) But, I was expecting that. All along I had been saying it was much more like having a one year old (really like an 18 month old) than a two year old. And that is exactly the functional age that the therapists thought as well. (I guess I've learned something in the course of raising all these children.) But the really good news is that except for some low muscle tone as a result of sitting around in a crib a lot, he is just like an 18 month old. There seem to be no weird behaviors or disorders that can often be seen in institutionalized children (ie sensory problems, hyper-activity, inability to concentrate or interact, lack of curiosity, etc.) Other than the delays that go hand in hand with an impoverished environment, there were no concerns. I am so thankful!

In the course of the evaluation, both therapists kept telling me how wonderful it was that K was in a large family with so many brothers and sisters to play with and learn from. I find this highly ironic given my state's policy on adoption. (Warning! the following is a major rant that involves reading about details of foster licensing procedures and immigrant visa status...read at your own risk [of either being thoroughly confused or completely bored.]) I have the proud honor of living in Illinois, probably the absolutely worst state with regard to adoption in the country. In Illinois, in order to adopt, either domestically or internationally, the prospective adoptive parent must be issued a foster care license. This means that to adopt, one must qualify to be a foster parent even if there is no intention of becoming a foster parent.

So, it's a couple more hoops to jump through, so what? There's already enough paperwork in adoption to fell a forest, what's a couple pieces more? For most families, it's not a big deal, but large families are specifically penalized. In order to be a foster parent, there must be no more than six children in the household. If you have six and feel as though you can and want to parent more, you're out of luck. Obviously there are ways around this, since we just came home with number seven, and that's where the whole visa-thing comes in. Bear with me here. Children adopted from other countries arrive in the US on one of two types of visas: IR-3 and IR-4. On the IR-3 visa, once the child sets foot on US soil, they are a US citizen and the certificate of citizenship arrives in the mail several weeks later. On an IR-4 visa, the child is a resident alien, with the parents having custody but the adoption agency retaining legal guardianship until the child is readopted in the US. At the point, the child becomes the legal son or daughter of the parents and the child's citizenship can be applied for (for a hefty fee, of course). So back to IL, the process can be circumvented if the child comes home on an IR-3 visa because the parents are bringing their legally adopted child into the country and not even IL can tell a family they can't bring their own child home. But children from very few countries can come home on an IR-3. In order to qualify for an IR-3, some criteria must be met: 1) The adoption must be legally binding in the sending country. This disqualifies countries such as Korea and India whose courts only grant guardianship. And 2) Both parents must see the child BEFORE the adoption occurs. This makes countries such as Ethiopia difficult because usually families travel after the adoption has been granted in court. In order to come home on an IR-3, parents would need to travel twice, once to meet the child and once to bring the child home.

So why are large families discriminated against? Rumor has it that the woman in charge of approving family size waivers just denied a large family who was trying to adopt. The rumors say that there were concerns about the family being able to afford all of the children. I don't buy it. I think DCFS just doesn't like large families. If income were an issue, why would a woman on welfare be an approved foster parent?** (And yes, I know of a case.) It really feels as though no one in DCFS approves of or appreciates large families. I know not every large family is functioning and able to adopt, but the same can be said of families of any size. It is the blanket nature of the laws that I object to. It is also incredibly punitive financially. Money that could go to clothe and feed the children, must instead be spent on incredibly expensive plane tickets for a second trip around the world. It is wasteful and unneccesary.

I sometimes harbor fantasies that a grass-roots movement can begin and the citizens of IL will rise up and request a change to the laws...and that our elected officials will listen. But, I'm afraid living in IL for so long has made me an extreme pessimist when it comes to state elected officials. In some ways, the officials in K's province look upright, caring, and efficient in comparison. Until some very well-connected IL family (perhaps with the last name of Daley) has a large family and wants to adopt, I don't see any change happening. Oh, and no one knows about this it seems. (Although I will admit it's definitely a special interest case...but how many children are languishing in foster care because large families are not even looked at?) The therapists I mentioned this to today were astonished. They had no idea, and they were appalled that a large family so uniquely able to provide a nourishing environment for an adopted child should be barred from adopting.

So, if you have made it this far, congratulations! Either you are incredibly interested in adoption or you're avoiding cleaning the bathroom. Either way, feel free to speak up for the large families you know, especially if you happen to reside in the 'great' state of Illinois.


**Disclaimer! Please note I am not making generalizations about people who need to use welfare. I know that sometimes events happen out of people's control and welfare can help them get back on their feet. BUT, if DCFS is all so concered about finances, why should a family who is living at or above the 125% poverty level (required in international adoption) be denied when a woman who is below that is not?
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