Monday, August 31, 2009

A house is a house for them...

God has plans for us all, if we choose to follow Him, and there are few families we've met who have been so faithful in following God's calling in their lives as this family. The "ChipIn" link above is a chance to help them buy a bank-owned house that will hold this amazing family.

Now that seems like a pretty good investment to us.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

What do your children do on Saturday afternoon?

Mine like to go garbage picking...riding their bikes up and down the alleys looking to see if anyone is getting rid of anything good. Our neighborhood is rather affluent, so the chances of finding something interesting are fairly high. Here is what A. and P. found and M. and B. dragged home:

Everyone is very excited because they have been wanting a basketball hoop for a while. Our backyard, inexplicably, has a large cement pad at the back of it and it will be perfect for playing. (And, yes, M. asked the owners of the house where A. and P. found it before they dragged it off.) Good thing I picked up that 25 cent basketball at a rummage sale last year.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A small parenting success

It's been raining here for the past two days, and while we need the rain, it would be nice if some children could go outside. It also doesn't help that I am in the middle of redoing schedules and chores to get ready for the new school year, because it means we're not really on any type of schedule at all. Earlier in the week, this was fine. D and TM spent a couple days playing imaginary games for hours on end, either outside or up in the 3rd floor playroom. They were so busy that I had to go check to make sure they were OK every now and then. But its hard to sustain that level of play for too many days in a row, and some boys have been at very loose ends. This is harder on TM than on D. I often call TM my Border Collie. Like a Border Collie, he is extremely bright and extremely energetic and if all that energy and intelligence is not harnessed in a productive way, well, let's just say it isn't pretty. When this happens, I often lose my patience (what little I possess) and TM ends up in bed until I can locate said patience again. Looking back, I can always see where the downward spiral started and wish I had stopped it before it was too late. Ah, hindsight...

I don't know what was different about today, but this time I was aware of the vicious cycle starting. This time I decided to try redirecting all that aimless energy with a fun activity instead of a punitive one (which hasn't been terribly successful anyway). TM is a very tactile learner, but doesn't often get to explore things the way he would like. (I know that sounds bad, but since the way he would like often involves taking things apart, there isn't a lot I'm willing to sacrifice to his explorations.) But I hit upon what turned out to be the perfect activity: the plastic balance scale which I had stored away. It is fairly indestructible, so he could explore to their heart's content; it has metal weights included, so numbers were involved; and he had never seen it before. He was thrilled to be able to play with it how ever he wanted without anyone disturbing him. It kept him busy for at least a half an hour. That doesn't seem like a very long amount of time, but it was enough. In that half an hour of play and exploration, his brain was able to start functioning on a higher level and get out of the lower, more instinctual one he gets trapped in sometimes that causes much of the out of control behavior. I had no idea this would be the ultimate result. My initial goal was just to keep him busy for a while so I didn't end up sending him to bed. I'm thrilled to have another tool in my toolbox for helping TM to heal from past trauma. Now, if I can just remember this the next time the spiral starts.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

My recent reading list

I've been asked what I was reading while I was nursing babies and everyone else was down at the beach. I'm afraid by telling you, I will also be revealing exactly how compulsive I actually am. I tend to get interested in something and am not satisfied until I have either completely mastered it (the board game Othello, for instance) or until I've read everything I can get my hands on. Recently my obsession has been child development and here's what I've read in the past week or two:

The House of Make-Believe: Play and the Developing Imagination by Dorothy and Jerome Singer

Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv

Hothouse Kids: The Dilemma of the Gifted Child by Alissa Quart

The Power of Play: How Spontaneous, Imaginative Activities Lead to Happier, Healthier Children by David Elkind

and I'm currently halfway through:

Generation Me: Why Today's Young Americans are more Confident, Assertive, Entitled -- and more Miserable then Ever Before by Jean Twenge

There were also several mysteries thrown in there for fun. But since I read mysteries the way some people eat candy, (enjoyable while I'm reading but no substance) they're hardly worth mentioning.

There were some interesting themes and parallels between all of these books. Together they make a pretty convincing argument that children do not need a lot of organized activities; that lots of free time for unstructured, imaginative play is far healthier. Studies indicate that imaginative play (and the ability to do so) leads to children who are better at thinking ahead, calmer, more flexible, better able to get along with others, and better at dealing with difficult situations. (Most of the studies are listed and described in The House of Make-Believe, which was interesting, but pretty jargon-y and a bit of a slog.)

What they had to say about "gifted-ness" was also interesting. (I've done other reading on this subject and those books fall into line here as well.) I think (in my humble opinion) that a lot of the labelling of giftedness and gifted education is a bit of a sham. There seems to be a great difference between encouraging and expecting students to work up to their potential and gifted programs that treat the child as 'special'. Being treated as special is not good for anyone, and often leads to disappointments in adulthood. How can one live up to all that specialness? Plus, so many people are being labelled as 'gifted', really how special can it be? It was interesting to read about the childhoods of accomplished adults...those that we think of as the 'biggies': the Brontes, Goethe, T. Roosevelt, to name a few. They all describe the long, imaginary games and stories that were part of their childhood; a childhood which encompassed large spans of unstructured time. I know I'm stepping on a few toes here. But, frankly, my own experience with gifted programs wasn't so hot, and having seen it from the inside makes me leery of the whole thing. I asked my mother to pull me out, not because I couldn't handle the level of work, but because I was asked one too many times if I found it difficult to get along with others because I was smarter than they were. Really.

But, anyway, back to my reading list. The only problem with reading so voraciously on one topic is that I have no one to discuss the books I've read with. This is when taking a class would be helpful, if only to have people to discuss things with. (I don't really want to have to write papers...besides, I have a blog.) I've given up on trying to get others around me to keep up with me. J. will just have to continue to suffer as I have one-sided discussions at him.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


I think I have mentioned before how much my family likes pie. Any kind of pie, served at any time of day will make them happy. Tonight they hit the pie jackpot. Not only did I make beef pot pies for dinner, but there was peach pie for dessert. I didn't use to make pot pie very often. It's a lot of work to prepare the meat and vegetables for the filling, make the white sauce, make the crust, and then put it all together. But then I came up with a way to short-cut at least some of it. I started keeping two freezer bags in my freezer in which I put my odds and ends leftovers. For instance, if there is one chicken leg left after dinner, I'll take the meat from the bone and put it in the freezer for meat. Or, instead of trying to convince someone to eat the last serving of green beans, I'll put the beans in the freezer bag for vegetables. Eventually, I'll have enough saved to make the filling for 3 or four pot pies. It's then easy to make the white sauce and pie crusts. (If I've been industrious and have frozen pie crusts in the freezer, it's even easier.) Plus, I get to feel virtuous that I'm using leftovers that might have been thrown out because they sat in the refrigerator too long waiting for someone to eat them.

But, back to tonight. Pie for dinner and pie for dessert seems a bit much and wasn't my original plan. I thought I had enough filling for four pot pies and had made four double crusts. It turns out I only had enough for three, but I did have one last bag of peach pie filling which I froze last summer. So we had pie for dessert as well. Since the crust was made and all.

Using up the last of the prepared peaches means that I really need to buy a bushel of them at the farmer's market next weekend. But that also means a week of fussing with peaches in the kitchen afterwards. To do that I guess I'll have to finish freezing all those blueberries we picked last weekend. I froze 13 cups today, there's more to bag in the freezer, and still another box to wash in the refrigerator. I just keep reminding myself how much I like having all the saved fruit during the winter.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Locks of Love

Yesterday, M. decided she was tired of her hair and wanted to get it cut. She decided to donate 12 inches to Locks of Love and get a free haircut at the same time.


Cutting the ponytail

After the ponytail is cut off

12 inches of hair

The new 'do from the back and

from the front.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Catchy title, huh? Do you remember last summer when K. ended up in the hospital with a bacterial infection? The doctors finally settled on a recurrence of the scabies infection he had when we first met him, although the skin scratch test was negative and no one else in the family had any symptoms. I think the mystery is solved. The is a little known skin disease called acropustulosis which can come as a result of having scabies. The symptoms sound exactly like what K. has off and on. An adoptive mother, who is also a doctor, is trying to do a study on it, because though it is relatively unknown, it seems many internationally adopted children have it. The following is from Laurie Good, the doctor doing the study. If you are interested in taking her survey, please be aware that she will only leave it up for another couple of weeks.

I am an adoptive parent of 2 awesome little boys from Vietnam, one of whom has had continual outbreaks from a disease called acropustulosis. I am also a medical doctor, doing research in dermatology, and believe that this disease entity is LARGELY under-diagnosed in internationally adopted kids. My belief is that, while considered "rare," it is actually quite prevalent in the population of internationally adopted pediatric patients.

It often occurs after a scabies infection, and usually manifests as recurrent pustular (blister) outbreaks around the hands and feet in kids under 3 who were previously infested with scabies. These blisters ITCH, crop up in groups, then resolve, and a few weeks or months later, new ones appear just like the previous batch.

I know many AP's have bounced from doctor to doctor trying to get a diagnosis and find an effective treatment for their child's pustular outbreaks. Many of your kids have been treated repeatedly and unnecessarily for scabies infections or other unrelated dermatologic diseases such as hand-foot-mouth, when what they really have could be acropustulosis. While acropustulosis has been written about in dermatology literature, there isn't much that's understood about it and no one has any idea of the incidence. My interest is in highlighting, again, the connection between scabies and acropustulosis and investigating the incidence of acropustulosis in children who had previous scabies infections. Specifically, I am interested in drawing attention to this disease in internationally adopted kids so that it is recognized by pediatricians, family docs, and dermatologists as a common complication of scabies that occurs relatively frequently in immigrant children.

To do this, I am writing a case series on adopted children with acropustulosis after scabies infection in the hope that it garners more support in the dermatology community to launch a larger prospective study in collaboration with the large International Adoption clinics in this country. If your child has had any such skin findings (recurrent, itchy, pustular outbreaks around the hands and feet after a scabies infection), please consider contacting me and/or filling out this survey that will take 10 minutes or less of your time:

If it sounds like your child could have acropustulosis, I will follow up with you and ask that you sign a medical release form so that your child's medical information can be included in this case series. NO IDENTIFYING FEATURES WHATSOEVER will be used that could possibly link your child to any published information. If you have any concerns, questions, or comments, my email address is: laurie at goodhappenings dot com

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Pictures from the beach

J.'s aunt and uncle have a summer home on Lake Michigan to which they graciously invite us each year. We enjoyed time on the beach...

and picking blueberries...

We actually took home 4 1/2 buckets. They are pesticide-free and I paid less than $40 for all of them.

Buckets still seem to leave K. a bit confused as to their purpose.

The babies are more alert and smiling...



The sky chair is very relaxing, until, that is,

it falls down because the old rope broke.

Frresh corn is always good...

and games are fun.

And when one gets tired of all those things, there's always dune grass in which to decorate your little brother.

Thanks for the great weekend Aunt G. and Uncle W.!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

We're back

We've returned from our vacation at the beach in Michigan. The trip was relaxing and fun, plus we had terrific beach weather. Though, I, personally didn't see the beach much. It was just a bit too sunny and windy for the babies so we stayed up at the house and they nursed and I read. And for me, it's hard to beat a vacation where all I can do is read. (I brought plenty of books.) The babies did do great on both car rides; only crying a little bit and then only when hungry. The worst part of the trip was K.'s incredible exploding diaper on the way home, necessitating a stop for cleaning. Due, no doubt, to the vast number of blueberries he consumed over the weekend as a result of our blueberry picking.

I have lots of pictures which I'll post when I have a longer moment. That would be after we get unpacked and organized and some laundry conquered and...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Mystery solved!...with a moral

I found the suits! They were in the pile of laundry that had piled up over the past couple of days. I'm so glad I found them before I went out and bought new ones. The moral of the story? Never trust children's "looking" abilities. I should know this. At least once a day, someone loses something and can't find it anywhere. Yes, the child assures me, I have looked everywhere and it can't be found. This is often said with a tone that could possible imply that the item is so precious, that I, as caring mother, should have done a better job of keeping track of it. When I go to look, 9 times out of 10, I can immediately put my hands on the lost object merely by lifting things up and looking underneath. So why, why, why, did I think that these same children would be capable of sifting through a pile of dirty laundry and actually finding something?

But one more mystery remains. I know that I hung those suits on the line and did not take them off. J. didn't even know they were there, so it wasn't him either. That means one of the children in the house, took them off the line and put them in the laundry. An act which each and every one claimed to not have done when the initial search took place. It would probably be too much to hope that we have discovered laundry that actually takes itself to the washing machine.

Very curious

We have a slight mystery on our hands. A couple of days ago, I hung some towels and swimsuits on our clothesline to dry because they had been left outside during an overnight rainstorm. I kind of forgot about them then, very occasionally thinking I should bring them in. Then yesterday, when everyone was getting ready to go to the beach, P. and TM couldn't find their suits. The suits weren't on the line, weren't in their dressers, weren't in the laundry...they just weren't anywhere. P. and TM did have second suits to wear, but neither of them was happy about having to wear them. The more I thought about it, the more I was convinced that they were two of the three suits I had hung up. A.'s was still there, but the others were gone, leaving empty clothespins in their place.

So here's the mystery: I don't think they blew off, because I hung them properly and the wind just hadn't been that strong. And A.'s was still there, which I didn't hang as well. Plus, all the towels were still hung up. The only other possibility is that someone came into our yard and stole those two suits. But why?!? TM's was just a pair of swim trunks. They weren't anything fancy. P.'s is a little more understandable as it was a very nice rash guard suit. It's all incredibly annoying. I think P. can get by with what she has, though she is so fair-skinned I really liked her wearing the more protective suit. But, TM really needs a suit that fits better than his auxiliary one. I'm hoping I can find one at my favorite thrift store, but going shopping for items I thought I already owned was just not on my list of things to do this week!

Boy, I hope whoever has those suits really, really needed them.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Home again, home again

J., B., and M. all made it home safe and sound this past weekend and a good time was had by all at their various destinations. Those of us at home survived the week remarkably well, in no small part due to the help of my parents. My inner sheepdog is content.

We are still in summer vacation mode here, though some of the older children have continued to work on various math curriculum's. We won't 'officially' start our school routine until after Labor Day. But as much as I hate to say good-bye to summer, I'm finding myself having to think about the school year. There is music for the children's choir to choose, schedules for our family to rework, unit studies to think about, and a history co-op to plan. (Though like last year, we have yet to have our feast to celebrate our study of the middle ages. We're hoping to get to it in early September.) I can't believe I will have two high schoolers this year: M. will be a Jr. and B. will be a Freshman. The others are all still in grade school: A. in 6th, P. in 4th, TM and D. in 1st and K. will get to do a little preschool stuff.

But, this is really just planning. For our day to day living, it's most definitely summer...we have a vacation coming up, more trips to the beach, long days of doing nothing but reading, having lots of unscheduled time...structure can wait for another month.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Yesterday started off well enough..

the babies had a pediatrician appointment. They are doing well and gaining weight, although compared with my previous babies, these two are little peanuts. But coming home from the pediatrician, there was some wood in the middle of the road which I couldn't avoid, but thought I had managed to drive over so it was between the tires. I was so convinced of this that I didn't think anything else about it. That is until I get a call from my mom later on that day.

She and my dad had driven off in the car to go get some take-out for dinner. When they arrived at their destination, they discovered that one of the tires was completely flat. We have AAA, so I thought it would simply be a matter of calling and having someone come out and change the tire for them. But that would have been far too simple. It turns out that AAA benefits only follow the card holder, not the card holder's car. This is great if I happen to have trouble with a borrowed car, but not so great if someone, my parents, say, borrow my car. The only way to get service is for me to be there in person with my card in hand. This is where it starts to get complicated. My first thought is that I will load up all the children and meet my parents at the restaurant. We'll eat dinner there while we wait for the AAA guy. So I call my mom to have her get a table and we'll be right out. Evidently lack of sleep has hindered my ability to count, because A. then points out to me that we don't have enough seats in the van. (We are borrowing a mini-van during the week since my big 15-passenger is up north with J. and B.) I have 7 seats, but 8 people. The AAA guy then calls and says he's on his way so I have to come up with plan B rather quickly. I send A. into the house with P. and the little boys, telling her to put on a DVD and lock the door. I put the babies in the van and drive off to meet the AAA guy. I aso call my mom and tell her to cancel the table, we're back to take-out.

When I arrive, it turns out there is not one, but two flat tires. I guess I didn't miss that wood after all. Since the AAA guy didn't come in a tow truck (because he was only changing a tire), we now have to wait for a tow truck to arrive. When the dispatcher calls me, I find out it could be more than an hour. I explain that I left many small children at home and can't wait an hour. We compromise that I will leave the car and the dispatcher will call me when the tow truck is 15 minutes away so I can drive back out to meet him. In the meantime, our take-out, ordered when we were still all on plan A (or was it B?), is either getting cold or melting, depending on its original state.

So, working on plan C, we drive home and quickly get dinner on the table. My father and I eat rather quickly since we don't know when we will have to get back in the car. The babies have fallen asleep in their car seats and are peaceful for the moment. After being home for 20 minutes, AAA calls to say the driver is on his way, so back into the car we go, leaving my mom to hold down the fort. With plan C, I was going to have the driver tow the car somewhere, sign whatever needed to be signed so they could fix it and pick up the car in the morning. We weren't going to be gone all that long, which is why I didn't wake up the babies to give them a quick snack.

Plan C didn't take into account the fact that it was after 6pm, and the place we usually get tires was closed. I wasn't sure how to go about leaving the car and key at a closed business, so I asked the AAA guy for a recommendation. He suggested a place just into the city which was open 24 hours, had lots of tires, and reasonable prices. It didn't take long to put the car on the truck and off we went to the tire place. At this point I'm still planning on handing them the keys and going home.

When we arrived at the tire place, it became evident that we would have to move onto plan D. The place was extremely busy and for some reason reminded me of Vietnam, though most of the men working there were Hispanic and not Asian. I think it was because it was very busy with a lot of people of all ages around, it was at night, and there was evidently a system to the madness, though I never quite figured it out. The car was immediately put on the lift and the mechanic went off in search of tires. About 15 minutes later, he returns annd says he has two tires that will work and he will be done in about a half an hour, 45 minutes, tops. But I know I have two very hungry and unhappy babies at home, and my father doesn't drive in Chicago, so I am a driver short. Since the mechanic is not open to me leaving it 'til morning, I suggest going home, feeding babies, picking up a driver and coming back within the hour, which is what we do.

So back into the van again to go home...again. The babies were indeed hungry and A. was doing a valiant job of helping my mom to comfort them. (This is after she and P. put the little boys to bed.) I quickly feed the babies and this time my mom and I jump into the van. The car is all done when we arrive and I'm even able to locate the mechanic who worked on it. He was able to repair one tire (it was just a puncture) and had a good used tire for the other. And it was only $75 for the whole affair. It was 9:30 by the time I finally returned home for good. The last crisis of the evening was that TM was highly disturbed by all the coming and going, and had ended up sobbing in his bed during the last trip because he thought I had forgotten about him. Thankfully he was able to be calmed down fairly easily.

The best part of the night? The babies slept from midnight to 5:30 am! It was probably the best night's sleep I've had in months.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Thank goodness for grandparents...or piano, take-out, and fun

My parents arrived in town on Friday afternoon. While my dad had met the babies already, my mom saw them for the first time. The reason she delayed so much was that this is the week where I have no big helpers. J. and B. left before the crack of dawn on Saturday morning to go canoeing in the Boundary Waters with the Boy Scouts. M. left at a more reasonable time on Saturday morning to go with our church's youth group for a mission trip to Birmingham, Alabama. Which was leaving me with 7 children, 11 and under. It wasn't the 5 older ones I was worried about, but mainly the two babies. So my parents to the rescue! I'm not sure I would survive this week without them. They have been great at helping to hold babies, especially at night when they both feel the need to nurse. All the time. And when they're not nursing, they are crying. All the time. The hours of 8pm to midnight are not my favorite ones these days. But to make up for it, they have started to smile!

The bigger kids have really loved having Grammy and Grandpa here. Grammy has been giving A., P., and D. intensive piano lessons. (TM opted out.) I had been working with A. and P., but then when the pregnancy was so hard, it was one of the things that went out the window. They are thrilled to be making progress again. D. is also excited to start and has been fairly compulsive about it. I have actually had to tell him to stop practicing the piano.

My parents have also been treating us to some of our favorite restaurant take-out foods, which is a treat since we go out so infrequently. And then there's a movie in the future to look forward to. It's like a mini-vacation.

K. has taken quite a shine to 'ampa, and is constantly crawling on him and showing him things. While this may sound cute, it is a test of the recipient's patience. It involves K. saying(shouting?) 'truck' or 'car' and showing you his latest duplo masterpiece which may or may not look like the vehicle in question. This often is accompanied by him poking your arm at the same time. Just smiling and nodding doesn't cut it for K., he will continue to shout and show you the object until you actually talk to him about it. When you do so, K. happily goes to work to build another 'vehicle' to show you five minutes later. I'm so thrilled that K. has found a new audience and that I get a break.

Just so my mom doesn't feel left out, TM and D. have taken to following her around and subjecting her to constant questioning about any and all subjects (TM) and climbing in her lap or hanging on her arm (D). Maybe after a day of this, holding a crying baby at night doesn't seem so bad. At least they can't ask questions.
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