Friday, January 30, 2009

My wonderful young adults

I might have mentioned before that I am not at the top of my form while pregnant, and carrying twins just magnifies all the usual symptoms. Fatigue and lack of stamina are the most noticeable and overwhelming. I find it incredibly frustrating that I just can't do everything I want to do. Recently my standards have dropped to making sure we have food for dinner and that everyone has clean underwear. Anything more than that is a bonus.

This is where my older children have really stepped into the breach to help out. (It is also where I'm very glad I've taught them to cook when I was functioning.) All three (M., B., and A.) have made dinner for me when I just can't. They also have helped care for the younger 4 when I've needed an extra hand, as well. A. and P. have become adept at making granola for breakfast, and A. keeps us well stocked in desserts. M. and B. have taken turns the last month going to the grocery store with me. It's getting to the point where I can't lift heavy boxes in and out of carts and cars and when it's slushy (nearly a constant state around here these days) I really can't push the grocery cart through the parking lot. These grocery store trips have the added benefit of giving me some one-on-one time with each of them and helps me to teach them to do grocery shopping. All three (and P., too, when she can) have been generous and gracious about helping.

This behavior flies in the face of all the comments I've received over the years of "Just wait 'till they're teenagers," said with the appropriate tone of gloom and doom. Perhaps if we had teenagers these comments would hold true. But, before M. reached the dreaded age, J. and I decided that we didn't buy into the whole teenager philosophy. In our home, our children have two choices: they can be young adults, with the accompanying benefits and responsibilities, or they can be children. Teenager-hood seems to take young people who are physically and mentally capable of doing important and adult work and keeps them children until they become a more suitable age. Often these teens' entire lives are subsidized by their parents; school and sports leave little time for anything else. In the process, these teenagers try to find ways to be adults, which often takes the form of undesirable behavior.

Do you remember the PBS show "Frontier House"? The thing I found most interesting about that particular reality show was watching the feckless teenagers. These teens, whose previous lives revolved around pools, parties, and shopping, were dumped in the middle of nowhere and expected to help their families do real work in order to survive. The interviews with them afterward, when the teens were back in their pool, was illuminating. All of them expressed regret that they had to leave the show. These teens had found out they were capable of much more than they thought and it wasn't just busy had real purpose. Back in suburbia, they all realized that their lives had gone back to having no meaning at all.

This does not mean we have it all figured out, or that our children are perfect. We are imperfect parents (as I'm reminded daily) and we joke that M. is our 'practice child'. The problem is that M.'s brothers and sisters are not exactly like her, so we feel as though we are back to square one with each child. But J. and I have felt compelled to try something different than what much of society is doing with the ages of 10 to 18. We have met young adults that we admire and hope our children will be like, but we have also met plenty of teenagers who are self-absorbed, overly peer dependant, and filled with a world weariness that is unwarranted by their chronological age. The idea of teenage-hood is a relatively new idea. While the idea of extending childhood for a few more years might have seemed positive, the statistics (which I won't bore you with) about teen suicide, substance abuse, etc., would seem to argue against its desirability. We like our young adults, and we suspect that they enjoy the responsibility of being a contributing member of the family much more than they would enjoy the gilded cage of a teenage life.

Friday, January 23, 2009

I thought it might come in handy....

but this isn't quite what I had in mind when we added the potty bucket to the piles of stuff we packed home from Vietnam.

As you can see it is duct taped to one of the windows of the little boys' room. Yesterday, the temperature rose to above freezing for the first time in many, many days. Evidently our poor old roof just can't handle the ice and snow we've had and has developed another leak. I was in the middle of a planning meeting with the mothers from our history co-op when a couple of distraught little boys came running in to say yellow water was coming from their ceiling. Being in the middle of a meeting, I sent some older girls up with towels to see what they could do. They were quite resourceful as the picture shows. But even catching the water didn't appease the boys. Finally I said to D that it was fine, it was just melting water from the roof coming into the house. Immediately, D's face brightened and he went running off to inform the others. This is what happens when you have lived with raccoons in your ceiling for too long. If you were a little boy, what would you think? Yellow-ish water, coming down directly from the place you remember hearing raccoons, it's not raining outside....

We're back to freezing temperatures so I can play ostrich about the roof a little while longer. What most annoys me at the moment is that all of K's CLEAN clothes were in a laundry basket UNDER the leak waiting to be put away, so back down to the basement they went.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

In case you needed a smile

K just makes us all laugh. Here he is with the plastic sink from the play kitchen on his head (he loves to turn everything into a hat), his blankie (which he calls, "BoBo"), and one of M's boots. What you can't see are the funny expressions he makes to go along with the adornments. He knows he is being funny.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Another show

Our lives seem to revolve around what show our children are in and those show's rehearsals and performances. We are having a lovely two week break, show-wise, since this past weekend was the performances for The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Goldoni. Don't beat yourself up if you've never heard of it. It is a Commedia dell'Arte play from 16th century Italy...very improvisational, very funny. M was Clarice, the ingenue of the play and B was a porter and a waiter. (He will have a much bigger role in the next show, Our Town.) They all did a great job. It is so fun to watch my young adults (the rest of the cast as well) on stage. They are so confident and sure of themselves on stage. It is youth theater at it's best, that is, youth theater I don't mind inviting non-related adults to. Here are a couple of cast photos:

M as Clarice

B as a waiter

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

8 months

K has become such a part of the family that I forget he has been with us for less than a year. That explains why I'm a week late with this post. Unlike with TM, I just don't keep track of those monthly anniversaries.

K has made amazing progress in these last 8 months, which is good since he ages out of Early Intervention at the end of March. When we first met K he had some significant delays: low muscle tone in the upper half of his body (which included skirting of his rib cage and his shoulder blades not being in the right position), he could not sit up straight and looked like the letter 'C' when sitting, shaking of his hands and arms when doing anything involving fine motor skills, no language (we will never know for sure how much Vietnamese he understood, but he spoke no words and did no babbling), he was still being fed from a bottle and didn't know how to eat solid food, and he was extremely small for his age (our not quite one year old niece was bigger than K was at 2 1/2 when we came home). It was as if we had a baby who could walk. In those first few weeks, while a pleasant little guy, he was obviously in shock.

Fast forward 8 months, with physical and occupational therapy he has developed a lot more muscle tone...the skirting is gone because he now has muscles to hold the rib cage in place; his shoulder blades are now in the correct position, also because of the new muscles; he can sit up straight; he can tall kneel on his knees (he couldn't kneel at all); the shaking of his hands and arms has disappeared because he has enough muscles to help control them; cognitively he can do all the tasks that a 2 1/2 year should be able to do; he eats all types of food and feeds himself; he has definitely grown taller moving from a 9 mos. size in clothes to 2T which fit him perfectly; he can drink from a cup without letting the water run out of his mouth; and recently, he has been adding at least a word a day to his vocabulary. It's still not really clear, but those of us who live with him understand what he's saying. My favorite is "Love you!" which his brothers and sisters taught him a couple of weeks ago. Surprisingly, he still doesn't say B's name, even though B is often K's favorite person.

The repair on his lip is still looking good and the plastic surgeon is pleased with it. We don't have to go back for a follow-up with her for another year. His next surgery will be for a bone graft when he is around 8 years old. The last doctor-type thing we need to do is see a geneticist which happens on Friday. This was recommended by the plastic surgeon just to rule anything out. The only markers that he may have a syndrome are his cleft lip and his funny folded over ears, but since there is nothing else wrong, the testing is merely precautionary.

I can't imagine not having this child in our family. He is so happy, and funny, and loving. (It's so easy to forget, though, how much chaos a two year old leaves in their wake.) And's been almost a non-issue. He had difficulty looking at people in their eyes for a while, but even that has corrected itself. He is content to be cuddled and gives kisses and hugs. I feel this is a huge gift from God. When his adoption was stretching out longer and longer, my continual prayer was that God would protect his heart so that K could freely attach to us without any grief or trauma. I truly feel that God has answered that prayer. We are blessed.

One funny K story...he loves to look at family pictures and name all the people in them (except for B). When we point to a picture of K and ask him who that is, he happily says, "You!" I guess we've pointed at his picture and said, "That's you" one too many times.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Snow Day

If a lot of snow has to fall, when better than on a day we don't need to go anywhere? The boys' music classes were cancelled, J didn't have to go to work, and I had gone to the store yesterday, so the pantry is full. It's snowed continuously since last night and it looks as if we've had at least a foot so far. Some pictures from the morning:

P hiding in some trees.
TM also hiding.

K wondering what on earth he's doing outside.

A, P, and D buried in snow.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

This and that and some resolutions

As it was pointed out to me, I can sit and rest and write blog posts all at the same time...So, Miss P., here you go...

As much as I didn't want it to, vacation has come to an end and we're back to our schedule. I always dread the first day back. It's hard for everyone to find their rhythm...math inevitably causes tears (especially when it involves long division), and things don't work as easily as they do when we're in practice. But having survived yesterday, today went much more smoothly. Not only did we cover everything I wanted to get to, those parties at war with long division seem to have conquered it.

But it is January, and cabin fever is starting to set in, especially among the 5-to-6-year-old male demographic. They do go outside to play, but it is never for as long or involves quite as much running and jumping as they need. It was great when we had a lot of snow. They would happily play for hours outside and work off their energy, but bare ground and cold winds don't have quite the same appeal. I wouldn't mind the running and jumping inside if they just kept it to that. But often, release of excess energy takes the form of annoying a brother or sister until someone ends up in tears, or in bed, or both. I need to come up with more forms of heavy labor that is doable by young boys, both to occupy them and use up their endless energy. Ideally, it could be harnessed and be converted into electricity...I would never have to pay an electric bill again.

For those keeping track, I'm about 16 weeks into this pregnancy. That means in about another month, we will be able to find out what combination of boys and/or girls we will be having. I'm feeling a bit better than I was in the fall, but I'm still not great. It's not really suprising, since I never feel wonderful, but this twins-thing has magnified how not great I'm feelling. Not only does this make it difficult to manage all the usual day-to-day stuff around here, but I'm also feeling a bit under the gun to get some other projects finished off. If I'm realistic, from May on, I'm probably not going to be doing much of anything. First, because I will be as big as a house (or two) and won't be able to do anything easily, then, after these two babies are born, all I can imagine I will have time for is nursing and changing diapers. So, to all my blog readers, here is my list of things I would like to finish before May (perhaps having a public list will help to motivate me):

1. Finish TM's lifebook. It's started...really, it's just a matter of putting it together.

2. Catch the family photo albums up to date. Don't laugh. I'm usually pretty good about this. Out of 17 1/2 years of marriage, I'm only 2 years behind on the photo albums. A couple of weekends and I should have it done. The bigger issue, really, is paying to have the photos printed.

3. Plan three lectures I've been asked to give. This is really non-negotiable, since if I don't do it, I will look foolish in March standing in front of a group of people with nothing to say. The first two are for part of a homeschool conference and I'm presenting with two good friends. We will do a session on homeschooling co-ops and a session on homeschooling large families. The third one I'm doing is for the moms group at church on meal planning and pantry storage. Things like this always sound like a good idea when they are 8 months away, but never sound quite as good in the two months leading up to them.

4. Spend some time sorting through outgrown clothes and boxing them up. K currently has sizes 9 mos. through 2T in his drawers and no one knows what fits and what doesn't. Managing clothes has got to be one of my least favorite aspects of having more than a couple of children, but it has got to be done...some children are having difficulty putting away clean clothes because there is no room for the ones that fit.

There, four things, that sounds managable, doesn't it? It's not as though I'm trying to knit entire layettes for the babies or anything. I actually wouldn't even consider it. I have difficulty concentrating during pregnancy and there are many things I can't focus on, knitting being one of them.

I will end with a request. We are studying the Civil War this year. Usually I read a book or two of historical fiction to go along with the time period we are studying, but am having trouble with this era. We tried Across Five Aprils, but no one got really excited by it. Do any of you have other suggestions....something that is good literature, is engaging, and can be enjoyed by many ages?
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