Saturday, January 30, 2010

Babies in hats

These babies have acquired an amazing collection of head wear. The hats were knitted for them by a dear family friend. G. is in yellow and L. is in green. The stuffed puppies were provided by TM who has developed quite a love affair with these two little girls. Yesterday G. fell forward on her face trying to reach a toy and hit her cheek on a pointy object. After we finished caring for the baby, TM looks at me and announces that he wished he had hit his head instead of her. Really, what else is there to say after that?


Thursday, January 28, 2010

The art of the cell

One of B.'s assignments in biology this week was to build a model of a cell. This is what he came up with using clay, plastic, wire, and hot glue. A bright spot in what has been a less than stellar week.



Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The terrible, horrible, no-good very bad day

I'm having one of those days where I wish I could fast-forward to tomorrow. First, the babies are teething and it is making them miserable. Plus, G. has a cold with a very stuffy nose and an off and on fever and I'm afraid L. is following close behind. Consequently, the only time it seems they are not fussing is when they are nursing or asleep....in my arms. It doesn't make for very restful nights and I'm feeling more sleep deprived than usual. A crabby, too tired mom often results in bickering children and today is no exception. And to top it off, M. discovered one of her gerbils died this morning resulting in an (understandably) upset girl.


I had planned on finishing a pair of dresses I am making for the babies, but that is looking unlikely since, unlike typing, I can't sew one-handed. But that is probably just as well because my (very expensive) sewing machine is behaving oddly and I think I'm going to have to take it in for servicing. Oh, and the tax bill arrived in the mail yesterday and we have quite a bit of money to get together before March first. Because you know, the county doesn't care that we just paid the last installment two and a half months ago when they were late getting the bills out. But woe to the tax-payer who even thinks about paying late. The county even put a nice little note in saying the next bill would probably be late as well and we may have to pay both installments at once next year. J. continues to apply for other jobs but we have yet to feel a real sense of direction as to what we should do.

I'll stop my whining here and instead practice some thankfulness to all those who wrote so positively about M.'s upcoming mission trip. We're working on adding some sort of chip-in-thing to the side bar. But for those who asked, you can also contribute directly through the TMI donations page. In the 'categories and funds' section, choose 'team member' from the drop down menu and put 'Margaret Curry' in the comments section. Thank you!

Off to nurse the sad, sad baby(ies). Only 6 1/2 hours to go before I can go to bed.

Monday, January 25, 2010

These boots were made for working


These are M.'s new boots: 6-inch, all-leather construction boots. Why you ask, does a 16 year old girl need such footwear? Because she is travelling to Samoa this summer with an organization called Teen Mission International. She and other young people will be helping to rebuild after last fall's tsunami. M. will be gone for about two months. The first couple of weeks will be spent in training in southern Florida. The group then travels to Samoa for the actual mission work, returning to Florida for a few days at the end for a debriefing session. (The debriefing session will be the first time they experience air conditioning and have access to ice in their drink since the beginning of the training camp.) The boots are required of all participants...to protect feet during construction and from picking up any unwanted parasites. M. has undertaken this venture all on her own. She has done her own research, is working on buying her own supplies, and is writing and sending out support letters.


M. is very excited about this upcoming venture. I think it will be extremely hard work but also a wonderful experience. You know, 'the toughest job you'll ever love' sort of thing. I am playing ostrich about her being gone for so long and flying to Florida and back by herself and travelling to Samoa and... Well, let's just say I won't be running out of things to worry about. J. and I have worked hard to prepare our children to venture out on their own. But as the actual departure date approaches, I find myself wondering what on earth we were thinking! I just want all my children with me all the time. (Except when I don't.) I'm not sure I'm really ready for this mature children-thing. But, boy am I proud of her for wanting to do this.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Play dollhouse me

When I was pregnant with P., A. hoped and hoped that the baby would be a girl so that her new baby sister could, "Play dollhouse me". A. was so excited when P. was born and she had a dollhouse-playing sister. It was a bit of let down when A. discovered it would be a while before P. was quite able to play dollhouse. In the ensuing 9 years, A. and P. have become quite the dollhouse playing pair, often with A. running out steam long before P.

So how sweet is it to discover this this morning? Four sisters all playing dollhouse together.


A., L., G., and P.

(P. is philosophically opposed to smiling for cameras.)


L. and G. (in hat) -- Putting things on the babies' heads has become the newest past time for brothers and sisters.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Why home disorganization is a lot like debt

The past 15 months of being pregnant and nursing babies nearly constantly has taken a toll on my home. There are piled-up projects and other things that need attention all over. I am finally feeling as though I'm able to come up for air and am beginning to sort through the chaos. As I do this I am struck with how similar it feels to when J. and I went through the process of getting out of debt.

Like living with debt, living in a disorganized home leaves me feeling anxious. There is so much to do, I don't quite know where to begin. Just as debt robs a person of financial resources because of high interest, living with disorganization robs a person of time. Instead of being able to take care of something small right away, too many small things pile up into a monumental task. And neither are a quick fix, it took a while to build up both debt and chaos, it takes time and hard work to make both go away.

So how am I going about the process of digging out? The first thing I'm doing is being vigilant about sticking to my weekly housework schedule:

Monday -- extra laundry and ironing
Tuesday -- sewing and mending
Wednesday -- desk work
Thursday -- cooking (it's when I prepare things for breakfast, do bulk cooking, etc.)
Friday -- grocery shopping
Saturday -- cleaning and supervising the children's cleaning
Sunday -- day of worship and rest (we don't do household chores...not even laundry)

With the ironing and mending, I've been trying to take care of the small things which come up over the course of the week and then do a little of the backlog. My idea is that I want to see the piles slowly going down. Some of the jobs are just too big to tackle in small bits and need some concentrated time to get them back to management phase. Some of these include filing all of last year's paperwork; sorting through and cleaning the room in which we keep all the outgrown clothes; and deep cleaning and organizing (again!) the little boys' room. These we will need to save as big weekend projects. I'm not looking forward to actually doing these jobs, but I am excited to have them done.

Sometimes I just don't feel like doing what I know needs to be done...and sometimes I don't. But I've learned that I usually end up feeling rotten about it by the end of the day and the memory of that feeling is often enough to give me the kick in the pants that I need. I've also learned that many of the daily jobs I do just don't take that long when I actually do them. There were some days that I thought I didn't have time to make my bed. But one day I decided to time myself to see how long it actually took. Three minutes. Every time I'm tempted to skip it, I remind myself that surely I can spare three minutes to make myself happy about the state of my room for the rest of the day.

When my house feels organized and I don't feel out of control, I think I'm a better parent and wife. I can focus on the people in my home and not the chaos I'm seeing around me. I am more hospitable because I can happily invite people over without being embarrassed about letting them see my house. And it saves me money. I know what we own because it's not shoved in a closet so I don't buy duplicates of something. And I am far more picky about what I do bring into my house. Is it something we really need and will add to our quality of life or is it something that I will just end up getting rid of the next time I have to conquer the chaos. Funny how bringing order to a home often involves getting rid of stuff.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Everything times 2

I know this will seem obvious, but when you have twins, everything is doubled. But there is a difference between knowing there will be two of everything and experiencing two of everything. I am constantly surprised by this 'two-ness'. We now have two high chairs set up for the two babies who are starting on solid food. (Not that full tummies is helping them with their sleeping much.) We make more beginning baby food than we ever had before and need more hands to feed them. And then there are two faces (and hands and heads and knees and...) to clean. But they really are twice as cute to watch and play with.



L. on left and G. on right
And while I'm on the subject of doubles, I never really thought about what two teething babies would look (and sound) like. J. asked me the other day if I thought two screaming babies could cause permanent hearing loss in parents.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Public activism on MLK day

It seems appropriate that on the day set aside to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday that we found ourselves standing outside the branch library near our home in near freezing weather. For what seems to be the umpteenth time, the city council is threatening to close the branches in an effort to save money. In my book, it's a penny-wise, pound-foolish idea. In a move that will save the city 1% of the total budget, the city council is willing to alienate the populace of the city.

We use the branch library multiple times in a week and the staff knows our children by name. I am so spoiled to live within a three minute walk to the library and since there are no major streets, even A. can go by herself. I hope the grass roots effort to save the two branches is successful. My children didn't quite get why we were standing outside in the cold for an hour. They knew it was to support the library and that there was free cocoa at the end (compliments of a local coffee shop), but had trouble grasping how their efforts would have any affect on grown-up life. If the branches are saved perhaps they will see how even small efforts can serve a greater good.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Sit and play

L. and G. are 7 months old today. They have reached what is possibly my favorite stage of babyhood: what I call the 'sit-and-play' stage. You know, where babies can sit independently, are interested in and can play with toys, but are still in the same place you set them down. Here are some photos from the morning. I'm very nicely only sharing three from the two dozen I took. It's becoming increasingly difficult to get non-blurry pictures of them; they like to move and wiggle. G. is on the left and L. is on the right...



L. has become quite taken with one of the soft dollies and shows her love by chewing on the dolly's head.

L. doing 'so big'.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

"Is Your Bed Still There When You Close the Door?" by Jane Healy

One of my favorite authors is Jane Healy who writes about thinking and learning. (I think her book, Endangered Minds is a must-read for parents.) I was pleased to discover this book she wrote back in 1992 that I hadn't seen before. The subtitle is, "how to have intelligent and creative conversations with your kids". I don't normally think I have difficulty in talking with my children, but trust Ms. Healy for useful insights so I picked it up. Half the book discusses higher order brain functions and how language helps develop this ability. The other half is filled with open ended questions to help stimulate family discussions and help improve creative thinking.

I was particularly struck with the section on the executive functions of the brain. This is not an in-depth treatment on the subject, but what I've learned here intrigues me. Ms. Healy uses an example of a little girl who was very impulsive and would often get into trouble because she acted before she thought. Using 'verbal mediation', Ms. Healy helped the child learn a four-step procedure that consisted of 1. Stop and think 2. Talk about the problem 3. Talk about your plan 4. Follow your plan. (p. 27) My most impulsive child also is the child who struggles most with using language for anything other than functionality. Talking about feelings is very difficult because he can't put what's going on in his head into words. I also discovered a year ago that telling a story back to me was next to impossible for him. (We have been working on this and he has improved significantly in this area.) Even just working with words is a struggle. Yesterday I asked him to copy a sentence from a book and he couldn't do it without leaving out parts of the sentence. Today, he was to take word cards and lay them out to match the sentence that was already written out. He could do it, but it took quite a while; it wasn't easy.

I want to do more research on language and the executive functioning of the brain. My gut has always told me that some of this child's difficulties lay in his inability to use language. Well, use language in useful ways...he uses language all the time, nearly constantly, in fact. So, I'm trusting my gut and we're working on labelling his world, not with nouns and vocabulary, but with processes and ideas.

**Note to Ann at Crazy for Kids...I'm still reading our book. Really, I am! I just got a little side-tracked this week. (We're having our own little book group together and I'm working on finishing one of the two books we're going to discuss, Map of Love. I've already finished The Help.)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Duct tape and ironclads

The Civil War continues. (At the rate we're going, it may well last as long here as it did the first time.) Today we were learning about the first ironclad ships: the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia. (Though when I was in school, it was called the Merrimak, which was its original name when it was still a Union ship.) And because history is always better with a project, we made the two ships with juice cartons and duct tape.


Applying the Monitor's iron cladding

We had some trouble with the Monitor's gun turret and had to call in B. for technical help.

The finished products: the CSS Virginia in front and the USS Monitor behind.


TM and D. couldn't wait to begin sea battles and are hoping for some bathtub time tonight to add real water.




Monday, January 11, 2010

Yet one more theater post

The shows are over and all went well. We can now get back to our regular schedule for the first time since Christmas break. If you want to see pictures from the show, here are the photos from the dress rehearsal. B. is in the 8th one down (he's the old man) and M. is in the 13th down. I, TM, K. and a baby are in some of them since that is the show we went to and I happened to be sitting across from the camera.

There is no rest for the weary, though. Tuesday M. and B. start rehearsals for their spring show, Taming of the Shrew.

Friday, January 08, 2010

G. and L. go to the theater

Yesterday the babies, middles, and I went to see one of the dress rehearsals for As You Like It. It was the only time I would get to see the show since I can't leave the babies for more than an hour or so at a time and at night they tend toward crabbiness. I knew there would be enough free hands at the rehearsal to hold them if needed so I could see the show. They were amazing audience members. For the entire first act they sat on A.'s and my laps and just stared and watched without a peep. The other adults in the room found themselves as interested in watching the babies watch the show as they were in watching the show themselves. And since it was photo day for costumes, they also had their picture taken:


They dressed up for the theater in one of their matching outfits since they don't get out much. L. is on the left on G. is on the right. (To me they look less and less identical.) The second half didn't hold their attention quite as much. G. was walked around the lobby a bit and L. had a little snack to make it through the second half. They still don't hold the family record for youngest to see a Shakespeare play, though. B. holds that record, having attended (dragged?) to see As You Like It (again!) when he was a month old. In my defense, it was outdoors at the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival and his aunt was playing Rosalind. J., J.'s mom, and I took turns pacing/nursing with him back behind all of the audience for the duration. M., at 2 1/2, though sat through the whole thing and could, for years, tell you all about it. It's kind of funny she is now in it playing Phebe.

It's a good show and the costumes are fabulous. Go see it if you can.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

You just never know

I have been asked more than once, by well intentioned people, that wouldn't it have been better for TM to have stayed in Vietnam. He was living with foster parents who loved and adored him and he considered them his parents. They were comfortable according to Vietnamese standards and TM was thriving. Separating from his foster parents and attaching to us was very difficult and some thought it was an unnecessary trauma to put him through. On some level, I have to admit, I sometimes wondered the same thing. Were we doing the very best thing for TM?

I'm sad to say I now have my answer. My standard response to such questions was, that while he appeared to be in a stable environment, he was still a ward of the state and there was no guarantee that he would be able to stay there the length of his growing up years. I had no idea how these words would be fulfilled. Because of the moratorium on adoptions to the US from Vietnam, the VN agency which works in tandem with our US agency can no longer support the orphanage they were working with in Vietnam. Without this support the government decided to close the orphanage. As of December 31, all of the children were moved out of the center, some to less than stellar situations. Not only were the children living in the actual facility affected, but those in foster care were removed and either placed back into family situations or into another care facility. It breaks my heart. The only bright spot is that an NGO working in Vietnam, the GVN Foundation, which has worked closely with the orphanage, has been working to ensure the safety and well-being of the children who have been displaced.

Not only am I sad for the children, it makes me sad for my son. He has so little of his past; this feels as though he has lost some more of his history. I always assumed that we would be able to go back and visit the orphanage and the agency staff when he was older so he could see it first hand. And now we can't.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

A distraction

The son of good friends of ours is currently in surgery having a bone graft done on his cleft. It's been three hours so far and they're still waiting to hear news of how the surgery is going. I'm finding the need to distract myself a bit before I go bring their other children to our house for the rest of the day. So, as something to do, I am posting a video we took of TM and D. last night as they were being silly before bed. Nearly all of our children love to come down stairs this way. I don't know why; J. and I think it would hurt.

video

We are also in the midst of another tech week; M. (as Phebe) and B. (as Adam --cast again as a quirky old man) are in As You Like It this weekend. I love the end product after the week of intense rehearsal, but, boy, I don't like the week itself. If anyone is in the area and would like to see the show, email me and I will give you details. thecurryseven at sbcglobal dot net

Edited to add: He's out of surgery and everything seems to have gone well. If he's feeling well enough, he may even get to go home tonight.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Back in the saddle

Vacation is officially over and we're back to our regular schedule. It hasn't been quite as dreadful as I had thought might be. There have been a few tears, but nothing out of the ordinary. I am actually feeling refreshed from our break and not minding having a schedule once more. As things begin to return to normal and we adjust to having 9 children, I'm realizing exactly how far from normal the past 15 months have been. And then when I factor in K.'s first year home with all his therapists which was preceded by the horrible 18 month wait for K., I wonder when the last time was that we had 'normal' around here. It's been several years of a lot of transitions and I'm now feeling able to start digging out of the chaos left behind. One of the things I accomplished over Christmas vacation was to clean off my desk. I no longer have a fear of being trapped in an avalanche of papers. Even better, I like to look at it now... at it's clean, paper-free surfaces. It makes me smile. Unfortunately we did not find the Netflix copy of Kung Fu Panda which has gone missing in the house and we still can't find it. Our last best hope was that it was buried in the papers on the desk.

Along with starting back with schoolwork, we also started back to our daily read-aloud session at lunch time. We are currently reading Little Britches by Ralph Moody. We are all loving it. It's funny what triggers memories one hasn't thought of in a while. The chapter we read today was titled 'Irrigation Wars'. Before we began I thought we should discuss what irrigation is because living in an urban area of the Midwest, it's not something we come across on a regular basis. So, I was describing irrigation and was suddenly transported to my childhood in Arizona where irrigation was a regular occurrence. Yards and playgrounds would be flooded by the city once(?) a month, and we would have to play on the concrete during recess while the water soaked into the ground. My children were fascinated by the idea and I was left smelling the remembered, none-too-pleasant scent of standing water as it soaked in and evaporated.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Sometimes my children humble me

I have mentioned before how we don't accept teenage behavior in our home. You know, the self-centered, inward-focused type of behavior that all too often typifies the American teenager. The trouble with this policy is that sometimes it has unintended consequences. One of which being when the adult ends up looking like the teenager and vice versa.

I discovered this when I compared my New Year's Day plans with those of M. and B.'s. My plans consisted of sleeping in, relaxing, maybe doing some fun sewing, nursing babies, and cooking the New Year's beans. All in all not a terribly taxing day and certainly focused on things that benefit me. Now shall I share what M. and B. (and our 17 yo house guest) are currently doing? They have gone over to the P Family's home where they are joining P17 (originator of the idea) and P15 in making bag lunches. (They are all using their own funds to supply the food.) Then they are hopping on the El' and heading downtown to distribute the lunches to people who look as though they could use a meal. And while this sounds incredibly generous, when I tell you that the weather in the windy city is currently a balmy 18 degrees, the whole plan becomes positively sacrificial. I feel like a slug.

I can't think of a better way to start out 2010 than to see this kind of fruit of their faith being evidenced in my children. I hope I can live up to their example.
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