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


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.


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.

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