Monday, March 31, 2008

Happy Birthday, K!

K. turns 2 today. Never in my wildest dreams did I think he would not be home so we could celebrate with him. I even have a present for him. It actually started out as a Christmas present, but became a birthday present when we realized that he wouldn't be home yet. Surely he would be home for his birthday, right?

Part of me feels such anger over this. He was matched at 7 months, he needs surgery, he has lived in an orphanage for 2 years...2 very important years in terms of development. And I just don't understand why.

This past year of my life has been a spiritual struggle. I have had to repeatedly place the care of K and the timing of his adoption into God's hands. If left up to me, there would have been 7 stockings hanging on our fireplace at Christmas. It all really comes down to whether I trust God or not. Do I trust Him to do what is ultimately for everyone's best, or do I act like a spoiled child and slam the door in God's face and refuse to talk to Him because I didn't get my way? (I'm afraid that the answer is sometimes the second option.) I am learning (notice present tense) to trust God always and to practice rejoicing in everything. It is a very difficult lesson to learn. It takes practice to praise God, even when we don't feel like it. This song, "Blessed be Your Name", by the Redmans, has been incredibly helpful:

Blessed be Your name
in the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name
And blessed be Your name
when I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed be your name

Every blessing You pour out Ill turn back to praise
And when the darkness closes in Lord
Still I will say
Blessed be the name of the Lord

Blessed be Your name
when the sun's shining down on me
When the world's all as it should be
Blessed be Your name
And blessed be Your name
on the road marked with suffering
Though there's pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A quick update

On the adoption front...we are currently waiting for just ONE piece of paper. A date on a VN government generated document was incorrect and needs to be emended. It's essentially a typo. Once we have the emended document, we will be issued a Giving and Receiving date. (That's the adoption ceremony for those not in the adoption world.) But, we have been waiting for over two weeks for this paper. Once again, I am beginning to despair that our travel call will ever come.

Why we chose homeschooling

Barabara over at Mommy Life has asked why families choose homeschooling. Since it will be a distraction from waiting for the phone to ring, I thought I'd tell our story. A couple of months ago, when I was cleaning out my desk, I came across an old Baby Blues cartoon. I had completely forgotten about it, but looking at it immediately brought back all the emotions I had upon reading it the first time. The first panel has Wanda and baby Zoe looking out the window at the children leaving for school on the school bus. In the next few panels, Wanda tells Zoe about how she will someday leave for school and Wanda will pack her lunch, etc. Wanda starts out happy and excited about Zoe's future departure for school, but as the cartoon continues she becomes more and more upset until Darryl walks in, sees what's happening and finishes Wanda's litany of "what will happen when..." with, "And then your mother will throw herself in front bus, screaming, 'Not my baby, don't take her away from me yet!'" This cartoon hung on our refrigerator for several years, and looking back, I suppose it's not suprising that we chose to homeschool. I loved my daughter and loved being a mother. It was so much fun watching her learn and figure out things that I didn't want anyone else to experience that instead of me.

So, we didn't send her to preschool....a decision that ended up being far more momentous than it felt at the time. Two other women and I created a preschool co-op for our three girls when M was 3. (And at that age, M was already a year behind in the preschool world.) It met three times a week and rotated houses each week. I think the girls enjoyed it, but you'll notice I never did the same thing for any of the following children or continued it the following year. But doing a small, homemade co-op still was not sufficient answer for the question, "So, where does your daughter go to preschool?" You see, in our area of the country, preschool is king. If your child doesn't go to preschool, it's pretty certain the child has been ruined for life. At least that was how it seemed when I would tell people we weren't sending our daughter to preschool. I'm not sure I would have gotten a stronger reaction if I had said we had already arranged her marriage.

Having weathered public comment on the issue of preschool, skipping school itself actually seemed easy. My flip answer when people ask why we homeschool is to say, "We just never got around to sending our daughter to school." This is not entirely untruthful. By not being in the preschool world, we never heard about kindergarten screening days or kindergarten registration or any other kindergarten readiness activities. Had I really been interested, I could have found this information out. We do have a phone. But I just never got around to making the call. So when the first day of school rolled around, M wasn't registered. I figured I could handle kindergarten level "academics" and so she stayed home and we enjoyed each other...plus the company of B and A who were around by then.

And so it continued; as each year worked, we tried it again the next. I now have a whole host of reasons why we homeschool: flexibility of time, one-on-one tutoring, flexibility of curriculum, positive sibling relationshiops, socialization (the positive kind as opposed the herd-type), but at the top remains the relationships I have with my children, the amount of time I'm able to spend with them, and the joy of watching them learn. I like my children...even the 15 and almost 13 year olds.

So are there downsides to homeschooling? Of course there are...nothing in this world is perfect. Of course there are some days when life falls apart and we don't get any bookwork done. Or there are days when everyone is tetchy and I wish I could go to school somewhere. And we live in our house, all of us, everyday, and it makes messes. My house never looks pristine. But these negatives seem minor to me in comparison to all we gain. And I'm not convinced that a different form of schooling would make any of those negatives go away; they are pretty much part of life.

To be truthful, the most difficult part of homeschooling is being different. Having the general public expect an explanation for why one is different can be tiring. Families hoping to adopt inter-racially are often expected to take classes on being a conspicuous family and how to deal with the public comment that ensues. Being a homescholing family is pretty good training. Just going out in pulic during school hours with a bunch of children invites comment. Most people have a positive response, although every so often I run into someone who either just doesn't get it or feels the need to tell me why it's wrong. Homeschooling has helped me grow a thicker skin and given me confidence to tell those individuals that I don't need to discuss my educational choices with them.

I am so glad that we let the schoolbus drive by 10 years ago. That one decision has changed our lives in profound ways...who our close friends are, what my children have had the opportunity to do, how we view what is important in our lives, and possibly even the size of our family. But most of all it has given us time. I'm sure looking back on how I mothered our children that I will find areas that I regret. As I said, we're not perfect. But one thing I won't regret is not having spent enough time with them. It is a gift for which I am continually grateful.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

This and that, and oh yeah, some new pictures

To say that life has been hectic around here the past few days would be a gross understatement. I continue to try to prepare for travel...so I'm ready when that call finally comes...and keep up with everything that needs to be done concerning the remodelling, and just manage the day-to-day running of the house, and then there are these six children who could use some attention every so often. You get the picture. I walk around with long to-do lists and most of the time I'm sure that I'm forgetting something. So it was particularly nice to have the quaterly update on K in my inbox. I'm posting a couple here so you can enjoy them as well.

The children (especially the boys) have been enjoying this part of the construction. The vents for the air-conditioning(!) are being cut into the ceilings of all the rooms. This means that there are many worker-men in the house and not just in the back kitchen area. The little boys (and a bigger one) have been watching all the work with great interest. Plus, D has befriended nearly all of them. He knows their names and they stop to chat with D. There are other construction benefits for the little boys: raw materials. There always seems to be quite a bit of debris that ends up on the floor. When I came home from some errands yesterday, I discovered a charming little tableaux in one of the door ways (and I forgot to take a picture). Some broken plaster had been nicely put in a pile and surrounding the pile were TM and D's two large excavator trucks. I wish I could have seen the earth-moving in process.

I so hope that the next time I post I will have some news about travel. We are at the end of 7 weeks out of a 4-8 week wait.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

House envy and guilt

When our older children were much younger (and there were fewer of them), we lived in a charming 1894 Victorian house. I really loved the house except for two things: it had only two bedrooms and it had a small kitchen. (Well, I thought it was small at the time...plus it wasn't ugly. If I had only know what I would be "moving up" to, I would have appreciated it more.) As we had more children and were squeezing number #4 into the same bedroom as the other three, I suffered acutely from an affliction I call 'house envy'. I always had a touch of it, but as we outgrew our home I suffered from it more and more. It is a dreadful disease that causes the sufferer to not be able to see the positives about their own living situation but to only see the faults. It is exacerbated by visiting the houses of others, especially if those houses are bigger or nicer or newly remodelled. It got so that there were certain homes which I just didn't want to go into because of how badly I felt afterward. I was pretty pathetic. I do look back fondly on that first house, but I could have saved myself a lot of grief if I had let myself enjoy living there more.

From the too small house we moved to the big, ugly house. (Or the money pit as I'm thinking of it these days.) When I say big, it's really what I mean, as in, we-don't-use-all-the-bedrooms-and-we-have-six-children big. I find it a bit embarrassing, actually. The fact that the house had so many areas of extreme ugliness and dysfunction plus the lack of heat in many rooms helped to ease my guilt over living here. But much of that will be fixed by June. While I'm excited about the new kitchen and new windows and the heating system and pipes to bathrooms that carry appropriate amounts of water, I'm finding that I'm not sure that I want other people to see it. I wish somehow I could make a holograph of the previous kitchen so that visitors would just see that. Having lived through several years of extreme house envy, I don't want to be the cause of it in others. But this desire to not let anyone see the kitchen happens to be in direct conflict with my other mode of alleviating guilt which is to open our home to as many people as possible. Since we have the space, I am glad we can be the ones to host guests and classes and such. It would be difficult to hide the kitchen. I'm just feeling a bit conflicted about it all.

On the positive side, I find this house to be an ever present example of grace. J's mother helped us to buy this house. Left to our own resources there is no way we could have even dreamed of living here. It was a gift from a loving mother to her children. It was not the result of anything that J or I did or because we somehow deserved it, but was purely a result of her love for us. I am humbled by such generosity. We are doing the kitchen project mainly for her. It was one of her wishes that she would be able to see the new kitchen before she died...but cancer works on its own timetable. God's grace is in many ways the same. God offers us his love and grace and salvation as a gift. It is not offered because of something we've done. It is not something we deserve. It is the gift of a loving Father to His children. J's mother paid the price of the house so we could live here, and God paid the price of our salvation with His life so that we could live with Him.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

It's nice to be taken care of

The work on the house continues apace. The framing is done, the electrical and plumbing are roughed-in, and new windows are being installed. It sounds so easy, doesn't it, just putting in new windows? I thought it sounded easy too, until the large saws started ripping into the exterior brick on Thursday. I had not taken into account the fact that some of the windows are not exactly the same size as the old ones nor the fact that we are adding a couple of windows. To add windows one needs to make holes and to make holes requires great amounts of noise and dust. (Truly, it looked as though the fog had rolled in inside the house.) I've always known that I do better with calm and quiet, but it was not until the past two days that I fully realized how poorly I do with continuous loud noise. By Thursday night I was at the end of my tether...headache, less than no patience...you get the picture. So, by Friday, when it continued, I was seriously wondering if we should take a trip somewhere. But that's not really an option considering what's on the 'to do' list this month. And, I had promised A a sleep-over party with some of her friends on Friday night for her birthday and we had 4 girls coming. They couldn't very well sleep in the accumulated brick dust, so that would need to cleaned up, plus the meatballs for the meatball sandwiches needed to be made for dinner and a cake made for dessert. I wasn't sure I could rouse myself from my stupor (and headache) to complete it all. Well, my older children came to the rescue. M brought me a glass of water and some medicine and then she and A took care of the vacuuming and dusting, B made me a cup of tea and made the meatballs. After A was done helping clean, she made her own cake. (I felt vaguely guilty about this until I realized how much she wanted to make it.) Even TM joined the game by doing some dishes. By 5pm when girls started to arrive I was feeling more human. And while not having to do the work myself was nice, what was even nicer was being cared for by my incredibly competent children.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

A month of cake and other thoughts

March and June are very cake-filled months around here. March has two birthdays (soon to be three) and sometimes Easter, while June leads with four birthdays, one anniversary and father's day. (Technically, June is a month of pies because J and B much prefer pie to cake.) A. turns 10 tomorrow and M. turns 15 next week. I can't believe these two girls are that old. It seems as though they were just born. I love watching them grow and seeing the caring and capable young women they are both becoming...but I sometimes miss the babies and little girls they once were. Sometimes I feel this so intensely it's like a form of homesickness. That's why I believe every child should be equipped with a "Go Back" button. Do you remember the Chrissy doll? I'm probably showing my age here, but, she was the doll whose hair could be pulled long by pushing a button in her stomach and then made short again by turning a dial in her back. I want something like that on my children. I could push a button and make them younger...sweet baby, funny toddler...but then when I was done I could turn a dial and make them their right age again. My young adults are so much fun (and helpful!) to have around, I wouldn't want to keep them little forever; just every now and then. It's one of the reasons I love having children of many different ages. I can enjoy having conversations with my young adults while still having the fun of the younger ages at the same time. I am secretly a little glad that K, though he turns 2 at the end of the month, is such a little guy. It will at least feel like holding a baby...for those 30 seconds before he wants to get down out of my arms to run around.
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