Saturday, July 31, 2010

Just two more weeks...

until all my children are home again.  But before that can happen, we had to send B. off this morning for his two weeks of backpacking at the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico.  Here he is with his backpack all packed:

This was taken last night as he was getting ready, this morning, he was in his scout uniform.  The 12 boys and 3 adults will take public transportation downtown in order to catch the Amtrak train to Philmont.  They will backpack for over a week and then take Amtrak home.  His pack was weighing in at ~18 pounds with all his stuff so he will have plenty of room to help carry troop supplies.  (I think the boys will be carrying between 25 to 30 pounds each.)  I think he's going to have a great time.  I can't wait until he is home and can tell me all about it.

I'll continue with our camping trip pictures on Monday... I was just getting to the really exciting part!

Friday, July 30, 2010

And the rain, rain, rain came down, down, down - Days 1 and 2 of our camping odyssey

Here we are all loaded up in the van, ready to head out to Allegany State Park in western New York state.  As you can see, it's pretty full.  Without M. along, we were able to pull-out the back bench giving us more room for all the stuff one needs when camping.  What you don't see is the car top carrier on the roof of the van also filled with stuff.  I'm not sure where we would have put M. and her belongings had she been along.

The trip to New York was uneventful.  We did it in two days, though it was only a 9 hour trip.  After our 13 hour a day marathon to Arizona, this seemed incredibly easy.  We only managed to listen to one recorded book, Love, Ruby Lavender.  (It was a good book, I recommend it.)  By splitting the trip up into two days, we arrived at the campsite in plenty of time to get things set-up and sorted out.

Here are the troops working on putting up one the three tents which our family used.  A. and P. slept with their cousin at her family's campsite, all four boys were in one tent, and J. and I were in another tent, squeezed in between two pack-n-plays which contained G. and L.

While the tents were being set-up, G. and L. had a little lunch in what one brother-in-law came to term the "port-a-prisons".  It became so muddy that it was just easier to contain the crawling babies in their seats.  They got a bit tired of them.

Our 'tent city' (at least half of it that is)

Up until this point, things were relatively calm.  We made dinner, toasted marshmallows for s'mores, and started to get children ready for bed.  And then the lightning started, and the thunder, and then it was as though someone turned on a faucet and the rain came pouring down... and down... and down.  Several of us huddled under the dining fly hoping it would let up.  When it didn't, we raced with the babies to the tent and I got them ready for bed.  They didn't much enjoy their drenching.  It was then I discovered that our tent leaked.  The rain fly was collecting water and it then dripped into the center of the tent.  Everything on the downward slope was fairly soggy.  J. borrowed an extra tarp and rigged another fly over the tent (in the rain) which helped the leaking.  Only one tent out of the six tents that were set-up stayed completely dry.  It was a soggy night.

To be continued...

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Life and death

I still haven't managed to dig out the camera to share trip pictures.  There is still a lot of laundry to do.  (B. leaves for Philmont Scout Ranch in two days and needs to repack.)  Plus, we have had a series of small events that make it difficult for me to sit down and upload pictures.

The first is that the monarch caterpillar which B. found a couple of weeks ago ate and ate and grew and grew and then left his jar.  B. found him... firmly attached to a wooden planter we had on the window sill.  It is actually quite a convenient place to watch him metamorphose into a butterfly.  Once he has finished forming his chrysalis I will take a picture of it to share with you.  They are really quite beautiful.

The second involves baby mice.  (Those of you who are squeamish about mice might want to just stop here.)  Yesterday, when down in the basement moving some laundry for me, B. discovered two baby mice, with their eyes still closed, crawling out in the open along the basement floor.  Let's just say it's never a good thing when your 15 year old son comes up from the basement, obviously carrying something in a towel and wants you to look at it.  So, now we had two mother-less baby mice, which are fairly cute.  To A., they were very, very cute.  She wanted to nurse them adulthood and keep them as pets.  But I've been down this road before.

When M. was 3 or 4, we found three baby mice, about the same age as these, crawling along the patio in the backyard.  Since M. was there at the time, J. felt he shouldn't put them out of their misery then and there and so we brought them into the house.  We lined a shoebox with soft cloths and set them under a light for heat.  For the next two days, I donned gardening gloves and carefully fed the baby mice milk with an eye dropper every one to two hours.  It was to no avail and they slowly died, one by one.  It was an agonizing two days.  Every time I smell sour milk, I immediately think of helpless dying baby mice.

Needless to say, we didn't try to feed these.  We put them in a box and set them on our shaded back porch where it was warm.  Over the course of the morning they have quietly died and A. has just finished burying the second one.  It's sad.

And as to the fact that B. found them in the basement?  Well, I'm just not thinking about it and am making sure I'm wearing shoes when I'm down there.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

We're back

We made it back home last night, and after insisting everyone get into a shower/bath, we all slept well in our warm, soft, and dry beds.  It was a good, if soggy, trip.  I have plenty of stories and pictures to share, but it will have to wait until I go to the grocery store and do several more loads of laundry.  Maybe tomorrow.

In the meantime, click over here to read what P18 is going to be doing this coming year.  I've known her since she was four and have seen her multiple times a week since then.  It makes me a little sad to think that I won't have her popping by all the time.  But at the same time I'm very excited for her to have this adventure and can't wait to see what her future brings.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Travel news

I love getting happy emails, especially emails that contain a photo of my daughter.  Here is a photo which a team member's mother took at the LA airport before the team flew out to Samoa.  M. is the tall, blond in the first standing row.  It's good to see her, but, boy, I miss her.  Currently the team is at a remote site on Samoa that does not even have phone access.  They are camping right on the ocean and doing a lot of construction.  The TMI website did say they got to go swimming in the ocean above a coral reef.  It should be fun to hear all about it.

In other travelling news, our friends in China seem to be having a positive time.  Their new son is transitioning well (so far) and has even started to give kisses.  There are a lot of cute pictures on their blog.

Finally, we are about to pull out of here to go camping for several days.  (Our house guests will be here to keep an eye on the house, feed all the animals, and enjoy some rare peace and quiet.)  I have to say, that getting ready for trips is one of the big downsides to having a large family.  The amount of luggage we create, even for a short trip is astounding.  And then when you add in all the stuff you need to camp... It's one reason why I'm inside blogging and not outside trying to squeeze it all in and on the van.

We are not taking the laptop (it would kind of defeat the purpose of camping, wouldn't it?), so things will be pretty quiet here until we get back.  I'll take lots of pictures, though.  I'm sure there will be many pictures of extremely dirty babies.  Crawling babies + campsites = bleh!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

No one's target audience

You would think I would be used to the fact that I am no one's target audience.  I realize I view the world from a position that is slightly skewed very different from the populace as a whole.  Usually I am OK with this and I have to admit to sometimes cultivating this different-ness.  But there are other times when it is just tiresome.  Take shoes, for example.  Children's shoes and especially baby shoes specifically.  Evidently, lace-up shoes are just not hip enough for the North Shore and therefore the stores do not stock them.  (Warning, incredibly snarky comment to follow!)  Or perhaps the extra minute it takes to tie a shoe is just too much for certain overly busy mothers.

Now how do I know that aside from buying them online, purchasing lace-up walkers in a real store where they can be tried on is not an option?  Let me tell you about the last two hours.  Before we go camping I thought it would be a good idea to get some shoes to cover G. and L.'s little feet, so I announce that I am going to go shoe shopping for them.  A., P., and A.'s friend who is over immediately ask if they can come along (they like shoes) and I agree since I don't think I can handle both babies by myself in the shoe store.  Then I realize that the three younger boys also need sneakers because their feet have grown.  The trouble is I have no idea what size they are anymore.  I decide to take them to the shoe store as well to have their feet measured.  (Their shoes are coming from somewhere less expensive, but it helps to know what size to look for.)  So I tell the 8 children to get in the van, hoping that the shoe store is not having a busy afternoon.  There are only a couple of children's shoe stores around where shoes are fitted well (in my opinion) and since I don't take children to malls, we head to the one three suburbs north and 20 minutes away.  I usually have success finding shoes at this store, though I have walked out without buying anything once or twice, always over the lace/Velcro and lights/no lights issues.  I thought I was pretty safe not calling first.  I mean, lace-up baby shoes would seem to be a pretty standard item.

My mistake.  In the girls' size (which is exactly the same, by the way), they had one pair of lace-up shoes.  Even calling the other store did not yield another pair.  Since one pair does not do me much good, I didn't buy anything.  I did have the boys feet measured before we left.  I have spent enough money in the store on previous trips that I did not feel guilty over this.  Perhaps annoyance at the inconvenience and at the expression on the store clerk's face which would seem to indicate I had grown another head, but not a whole lot of guilt.  I guess I am going to have to order their shoes online, since I now know their size.  Once I was home I called every shoe store in the area and none of them had lace-up walkers.  One helpful clerk suggested I wait until the fall lines come out and maybe there would be something then.  I'm not sure what he thought I should put on my children's feet in the meantime.

I should perhaps share why I dislike Velcro so (because I seem to be the only one who has this little obsession).  First, they are just too easy to take off.  Especially with babies, if they are wearing shoes it's because they need to be wearing shoes.  I know my girls well enough to know that to put velcroed shoes on them would merely be an expensive game.  I would put them on, they would take them off... until we lost one of the shoes somewhere because I didn't notice the baby threw it out of the stroller.  We have had the odd pair of velcroed shoes here and there and it has confirmed the other reasons I don't like them.  I don't think they fit as well.  With laces, it is much easier to adjust them to fit the child's foot in a secure way.  (My children have narrow feet, so perhaps I am more obsessive about this than other people.)  The Velcro also has not lasted as long as laces do.  If a lace breaks, it is very easy to replace it.  With Velcro it is not so easy to do so.  It's too bad to have to get rid of a pair of shoes merely because the Velcro doesn't stay fastened anymore.  And finally, have you thought about the noise that more than a couple of children can make playing with the Velcro on their shoes?  It is not as bad as soccer fan horns, but it is still not a pleasant sound. 

I have one last place to try tonight, but then it is off to Zappos I go.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

It's a hard life

There have been several instances over the past several days which have reminded me of the importance of positive parenting.  You know, where your interactions with your children are positive and you can compliment them on good behavior; you can spend more time smiling at your children than frowning; you can enjoy their presence.  It is so easy to get stuck in the negative.  Criticizing the fault is so much easier than acknowledging the positive.  One reason is perhaps that our children's positive behavior does not cause the same emotional reaction as poor behavior.  At least for me, when confronted with my children's negative behavior, I know that when I react, I am reacting more to the fear that it raises in me than I am to the actual behavior.  I have fear that my child will always behave this way, or that their bad behavior is somehow my fault, or that others might think poorly of me because of how my child is acting.  Fear is not a good place to parent from.

I am resolving to work on my positive parenting... looking for positive behavior to acknowledge, making a point to have real conversations with each child during the day (as opposed to directive interactions:  do this, do that), and giving multiple hugs to each child each day.  I have read that healthy, emotionally stable children need at least 5 hugs a day to really thrive and that children who have a history of trauma or attachment difficulties need at least 10.  I am significantly under that.  By my calculations this means I should be giving at least 55 hugs throughout the day.  But you know, I will also be receiving (usually) that same number.  Poor me.  It's a hard life.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Real friends

This past weekend was our Vietnamese adoptive families reunion.  I now have a whole lot more real friends, as opposed to the virtual friends I had before.  The weekend was wonderful, getting to meet with people who I've only had contact with through the internet.  It was quite a busy weekend, too.  There was dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant:

We also joined everyone at the zoo.  Well, the children and I did.  J. drove around (and around and around) the area looking for parking because the parking was closed because of a fund-raiser that was going to be held at the zoo in the evening.

Here's B. with the babies, though it was perhaps not the highlight of his life.

And here I am with a couple of friends, adoptive moms, and fellow bloggers:  Ann of Crazy for Kids, me, and Annette of Taco, Sushi, and Pho.  (Ann is also my long-distance book club buddy.)  After the zoo, everyone came to our house to have Chicago stuffed pizza.  I am happy to report we had more than enough pizza.  I was a little nervous about how to order for 32 people.

It was a great weekend.  Our house guests were wonderful and we enjoyed our time with them.  D. and TM had a great time as we had an extra almost 6 year old boy and a 7 year old boy added to the mix.  The 3 year old daughter of one of the families doted on the babies.  Promises of being penpals abounded. 

It does leave me with one small problem.  You know how we always tell our children about being careful on the Internet and not to meet people you meet on the Internet?  I think I'm not setting a very good example when I invite Internet friends to stay at my house for several nights.  It probably does not make me the poster child for Internet safety.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Poor Guido

I've mentioned before how K. is a huge fan of the movie Cars.  Consequently we own a lot of Cars-themed stuff, including quite a few of the car characters.  They are much played with and toted around from here to there.  The problem with them being toted everywhere is that they have a tendency to get lost.  (This toting only happens in the house.  I learned long ago to not ever let beloved toys be carried around as we are out and about; it's just not worth the trauma.)  After a while, the missing car will turn up again and there will be great rejoicing.  The little forklift, Guido, has this happen to him more often than the others.  He is very, very small and it is very easy to set him down and lose him.  But this does not explain why J. found Guido in the toaster the other day.  Yes, there was a small die-cast metal toy in our toaster and he had obviously gone through more than a couple of toastings.  It is a small miracle that Guido did not cause a small electrical fire.  Guido even survived the experience, though he is going to have to find other employment.  His days as a functioning forklift are over since he is now missing the forks which lift.  Evidently they were made out of plastic, not metal and they melted away.  I'm just not going to think about what that did to the inside of our toaster.

I still don't know how Guido ended up in the toaster or who put him there.  No one claims to have any knowledge what so ever.  My money is on K.  He loves to cook in his play kitchen and I can imagine him imagining that Guido would like a piece of toast... or was a piece of toast.  It's hard to know what goes on inside that little head sometimes.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Our guests arrive tomorrow

I checked the TMI website this morning and there was an update on the Samoa team.  They all arrived safely and are heading to the coast today to where they will be doing construction work.  You can read the update here

Not much else to report here.  I am using the coming weekend house guests as an excuse to do some cleaning and organizing that I have been putting off.  The schoolroom and kitchen were yesterday, and the third floor playroom and my bedroom are today.  You can tell I'm being a bit pathological about this since my bedroom doesn't really need to be tackled.  But the more organized my house is, the more relaxed I am, and I figure a relaxed hostess is a positive thing.  Right?

I often joke with my friends that all they have to do is look at the state of my kitchen sink and they will know exactly what my mood is.  A clean and organized sink says that I am feeling calm and in control; a messy, stacked and disorganized sink says either I haven't been home all day or I am feeling overwhelmed with life.  Often the two (being away from home and feeling disorganized) go hand in hand.  The more I am out of the house, the less organized and calm I feel.  To run and house and make a home just takes time.  And if I'm not home, I don't have the time I need to do it right.

But back to cleaning for our house guests... This is what I have been trying to keep in mind:

"How might we keep house, if by 'keeping house' we mean creating a home that is hospitable, both to those who are members of the household and to those who are neighbors, guests, or strangers?  To begin with, I think we will realize that elaborate, spotless perfection is really not the point.  The point is the continual re-creation of welcome and nurturance, not in some theoretical or disembodied sense but in simple, practical provision for the needs of the body:  food, clothing, a place to sit, a place to sleep."

This is from Keeping House: The Litany of Everyday Life by Margaret Kim Peterson.  I love this book so much, I'm sure I will be mentioning several more times... at least.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Cleaning frenzy

I have 6 people (from two different families) coming to stay this weekend and am hosting a pizza party for 40 on Saturday night.**  Why is it that I am more compulsive about cleaning my house for people who have never been here before than I am for people who are over all the time?  Maybe it's because I start looking at my house with new eyes and think, "I live like this?!?"

Oh, and I got to talk to M. on the phone yesterday!  The team was all at the Orlando airport waiting for their first flight and each person was taking a turn calling family.  It was, of course, one of the times I was out yesterday, but for once I actually answered my cell phone.  It was so good to talk with her.  She sounded wonderful and was very excited about actually heading off to Samoa.  (Where she should be by now.)

**Some of the families who adopted from Vietnam through our agency (Holt) are having a reunion weekend of sorts in Chicago.  (Can you reunite with people you've never met in real life?)  I will be getting to meet people in person whom up until this time I've only communicated with by email.  It should be a lot of fun.  Plus, my book club friend will be coming and is part of the group staying at my house.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Up, up, and away

Many people that I care about are leaving on planes today to go to far off places.  First, M. and her team fly today to Samoa by way of Denver and LA.  We received a stack of letters from her yesterday; it was so nice to hear from her.  She is doing well.  These two weeks of training have turned out to be a good experience which she has ended up enjoying.  It sounds as though she has some wonderful leaders and teammates (previously mentioned tent-mate aside).  They have been learning basic construction techniques as well as doing team building exercises.  She has had classes in layout, carpentry, trusses and bricklaying.  In her letter she was very excited to announce that the cinder block wall she and a teammate constructed had been judged the best wall the teacher had ever seen students built.  A picture was taken of it so she can show me this marvel when she returns home.  They have also been doing puppetry, some drama, and music.  Evidently, the team has some pretty good voices and have received quite a few compiments on how the sound.

The other thing that has contributed to M.'s well-being is that tent-mates were rotated for the second week so M. has a more agreeable living situation.  The more I learn about the former tent-mate, the more concerned I am for her.  She and her family definitely sound as though they need as many prayers as they can get.

Also flying today are some of the H-S family, who I just dropped off at the airport.  They (parents, 17yo daughter [AL], and 7yo son [ZG]) are travelling to China to adopt their newest 8yo son [ZT].  They will also be visiting ZG's foster parents while they are there.  The other H-S children will be at home tended by their oldest sister who is also on a plane today flying in from Seattle.  They will spend the day here until she arrives.  I expect we will be having them over quite a bit over the course of the next three weeks.

Once everyone has landed in their respective destinations, I will rest easier.  The trouble with long international flights is just that:  they are long; both for the people in the plane and those left on the ground.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Twirly Skirts

I am loving the look of twirly skirts on little girls.  The only problem is that we had only one twirly skirt to share between two girls.  How do you decide which girl gets to wear the cute skirt?  So I decided to try and make one.  L. is wearing the denim one that I already had; G. is wearing the multi-colored skirt I made.  Not only am I pleased with how it turned out, it also makes me feel virtuous.  All the material was either thrifted material or thrifted sheets, which is good since there is a lot of fabric in those tiers.  The bottom ruffle was nearly three yards long before I gathered it.

In the following pictures you'll also see L. doing her new favorite activity... holding onto someone's fingers (B. in this case) and walking.  I am actually hoping these girls learn to walk soon.  We are going camping later in the summer and I've done the crawling-baby-in-the-dusty-campsite-thing.  I don't really feel the need to do it times two.

And lastly, I came across an article on older child adoption which I think is excellent.  Anyone in the middle of adopting an older child or anyone supporting someone who is adopting an older child should really read it.  You can find it here.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Responding to comments -- there's a recipe at the end as a reward for slogging through the post

There have been some comments on some recent posts that I wanted to respond to.  First, I have loved hearing about everyone's rabbit stories.  Thank you for sharing them.  Since I have been telling people about our bunnies, I have heard quite a few stories about mother rabbits having babies in ridiculous places.  It makes our front yard look like quite a reasonable choice in comparison.  For those who are interested, the baby bunnies have all hopped away.  The day after we sat and painted them, the boys reported that the bunnies started hopping out of the nest in various directions.  A few returned that evening but the next day they were gone, with none of them returning.  They must have been about 4 weeks old.  We did some research and discovered that baby rabbits get fur and open their eyes by 3 weeks old and the mother then leaves them, returning only to feed them.  This is about the time (we think) that we discovered them.  We were aware of their presence for about 4 or 5 days.  I don't know, seems pretty young to be out and about in the world, but then, I am not a rabbit.

Next, thanks to Law Mommy's comments on my last post, I have been thinking about how I could clarify what I was trying to say.  Yes, I agree that being a new mother can be difficult; it's a pretty steep learning curve.  But, I think that this is due to several factors, not necessarily due to the parenting of a baby in and of itself.  (This is assuming, of course, that post-partum depression is not involved.  That changes everything and in no way do I make light of its debilitating affects.)  First, if a new mother has been used to interacting with other adults for most of the day, suddenly finding oneself alone with only a baby or a baby and a toddler can be a shock.  During this period I found that talking to other mothers to be sanity-saving.  And do you know which mothers were the most helpful?  It wasn't the other new moms.  It was great to talk with them, and I made some wonderful friends in the mothers who were at the same stage as I.  But, while we could commiserate together about our lack of sleep and such things, they couldn't offer me the experience that I needed to make this new career work.  (And sometimes, a whole bunch of new mothers together is anything but helpful.  I'm sure everyone has experienced that whole competitive-mother thing... "Well, my baby can say 10 words already at 8 months and we're starting to teach him French as well."  Demoralizing.)  No, it was the more experienced mothers who I found the most helpful.  It was they who were able to put things in perspective, offer advice, and give support.  I was blessed that there were a few experienced mothers in my church who had the time to offer to a young mother.  I am afraid, though, that in the past 17 years since I started having babies, that there are fewer and fewer woman in this stage of life who are available to mentor young mothers.  Sometimes I think we as a society have so over-valued earning a paycheck that in consequence those pursuits and endeavors that are done by women who choose to keep home instead are correspondingly devalued.  As a result, fewer and fewer women are left to do them.

Now, since I am the queen of tangents, I have to work my way back to my original thesis, which is:  that it is the newness of being a parent which makes the first one or two babies difficult and not the raising of babies in general.  My other supporting point is my own experience and that of my friends who have more than two or three children.  Our general consensus is that subsequent babies are just easier.  While each baby is different and it takes some figuring-out as to what works, there are fewer surprises.  I know how to get a shower with small people around and I also know the world won't end if I don't.  And I don't think it is because I have more older people, though that does make things even easier.  Even when my big people are all off doing things and I have just littles, it still feels more manageable.  There is so much I just do without having to think about it. 

I will confess, though, that being left alone with the twins has it's own learning curve. There have been many times in the past year where I feel like a new mom all over again. Perhaps that is why this topic resonates so much with me these days.  But twins aside, my steep learning is constantly on the upper end, where my older children are.  I've never parented a 17 year old before and I still find myself looking to mothers who are past that stage to learn from their experience and listen to their wisdom.

Now having clarified (Ha!) that point, on to the requested recipe.  It is so easy that it hardly qualifies as needing a recipe but here goes...

Carnitas (at least my version of it)

Take one beef roast and put it in a slow cooker.  Add salt and pepper.  You could also add sliced onion and peppers if you want, but I never do because I like not having to slice anything on a day that is busy... when I'm often making this.  Turn to high and cook ~6 hours.  If you need to start it earlier, turn to high for an hour, then turn down to low and cook the rest of the day.  Shred meat.  Serve on soft tortillas with your typical taco toppings:  shredded cheese, shredded lettuce, chopped tomato, olives, sour cream, avocado, salsa, etc.  That's it.  It's probably one of the easiest things I fix.
On an entirely different note:  Does anyone in my area have an extra baby swing (the kind that hangs from a swing set, not the type that you put an infant in)?  We have one in the shape of an airplane, but have two babies who love to swing.  I would love to find another.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Mixed messages

Once again, listening to the radio and driving is perhaps not something I should do.  Especially, if I find myself heartily disagreeing with what I'm hearing.  It's just not safe because I'm so distracted.  (It's moments such as these where I realize how far I need to go before I reach my goal of becoming serene.)  Since I survived the drive to the grocery store and back, I can now share my thoughts with you instead of talking out loud and banging on the steering wheel. 

The topic was benign enough: a woman who has written a book of devotionals for young mothers was being interviewed.  And really, I wasn't terribly interested and was only listening with half an ear.  That is until I realized that the author was using the terms "young mother" and "mother of infants and small babies" interchangably.  So I start to pay attention.  Not because I was ready to take offense.  I know I am outside the norms by being an older, experienced mother with babies.  But because I was curious about where she was going to go, and this is where I start to bang on the steering wheel.

First, I hear that yes, being a young mother with small children is very difficult.  The children's needs are so great that all of the mother's needs must be put on hold during this time.  But take heart, this period is really just a few years, you'll be able to pursue other interests before you know it.  The message was clearly stated that parenting babies and small children is hard, difficult and unrewarding, but soon they will be off to school and you (the young mother) can have your life back.  Then there seems to be a complete about face.  I am then told that being a mother and parenting children is an important work, one that has life long and eternal implications. 

Now I am confused.  Which is it?  Is mothering something to grit your teeth and survive until you can do something more personally rewarding?  Or is it a career in and of itself; something so important that it must take precedence over other endeavors?  I don't think we can have it both ways. 

Yes, being a mother is difficult sometimes.  There are sleepless nights, many diapers, and the need to be ever watchful when there are babies and young children in the home.  This is particularly true for the first baby or two because the new mother is still feeling her way in this new phase of life.  (I am convinced that parenting 5,6, or even 9 children is easier than when I had just a toddler and a baby.  More laundry, but much easier.)  We do new mothers a disservice to ever imply that what she is doing... changing diapers, rocking and nursing babies, playing peek-a-boo... is somehow not important.  Or not that it isn't important, but not nearly as important as pursuits outside the home, pursuits that influence adults.

We also don't tell this new mother the truth.  That though it is tiring to stay up at night with a baby, that it can be inconvenient to have to plan things around a baby's schedule, this is the easy time of parenting.  There is no other time when your child will adore you with all of their being and there is no other time that parenting is so joyous.  Really, how difficult is it when all your baby needs you to do is hold her tightly, gaze at him adoringly, kiss cheeks and tummies, and play with fingers and toes.  Society acts as though once the child is old enough to send off to school, that easy times are ahead.  But this is precisely when the hard work of parenting begins.  We need to be there to supervise our children and not give them more unsupervised freedom than they can handle.  We need to be there as they struggle with what they believe and how that is going to look in their lives.  We need to be there to set an example as to how to make tough decisions and to act in Godly ways even if it is not the easier path.  What our children need is our time, and lots of it.  Not some guilt-relieving notion of quality time, where it's not the amount but the intensity of the interactions, but real time. 

This could sound on the surface that I believe that mothers should exist solely for their children.  But this is not what I mean to say, nor do I think that that mindset would be healthy for either mother or child.  Of course mothers can be interested in and do things that don't involve one's children, but we must keep our priorities straight and our goals must be clear.  To raise children to be faithful adults, who function in society, and who follow hard after God takes great time and effort.  It is not something that can be outsourced or something we do with whatever time we have leftover from other things.  Parenting must be in the top three... our relationship with God, our marriages, and our children, in that order.  To tell mothers that there is another, easier way is to send them the wrong message and to cheapen the calling of motherhood. 

Thursday, July 08, 2010

M's Team Photo!

Since I think Facebook is creepy and don't participate, I am happy that there are those out there who use it and can send me important information.  Such as this photo of M's Team:

M. is in the very center in the dark blue T-shirt.

Thanks to Jason for the tip!

They're not little, tiny babies anymore, are they?

B. took a whole series of pictures of the babies last night.  They are looking more and more like toddlers and less and less like infants.  (sniff)  G. is in pink and L. is in white.

And as a public service announcement:  If you agree to host a sleepover for your daughter and three of her friends, it is perhaps not a wonderful idea to have it right after you pick the four of them up from a youth group event where they were playing messy games and were told to wear old clothes they didn't care about.  I only realized what I had done when I went to pick them up and the four of them came out of the church each carrying a plastic bag that they could use to sit on in the car.  It would have been useful to have four showers last night.  There is also a bathtub full of four sets of fairly disgusting clothes which are soaking upstairs.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Just a few links

1.  Head over to The Homeschooling Blog where I will be guest blogging on a fairly regular basis.

2.  Did you notice the new button on my sidebar?  It's a link to my wonderful sister-in-law's site; she designed this blog.  If you have any web design or graphics you need done, take a look at her work.  Plus she's really nice.

3.  Raise your hand if, like me, you remember watching the Disney cartoon about the bears who pick-up the garbage to the song that begins, "First you pick it up, put it in the bag..."  You just gotta love that last week of school, huh?  Anyway, for some reason I have been wanting to show this to my children.  If you share my need to relive part of your childhood, here's a link to the cartoon.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Cute pictures

So, the baby bunnies really do exist and I have pictures to prove it:

If you were just walking across my front yard, not looking where you were going, you would step right on them.

Of course, we had to spend some time painting them this morning.  It turns out that painting baby bunnies is fairly difficult.  Some people tried and gave up, choosing to paint something else.  Some didn't even want to attempt it.  And some gave it their best shot.  Here is TM's drawing:

And here is mine to give you a reference for TM's:

Since I promised cute pictures in the title, here is one we took Friday night of P5 and TM:

I'm afraid we did a rather rotten job of taking pictures on the Fourth, so I don't have any to share with you.  I do have a funny story, though.  As well as having a cookout with the P family and H-S family, it was also the birthday party for one of the H-S sons.  An ice cream sundae bar was part of the party, so everyone chose their toppings and took their ice cream outside to eat.  When the birthday boy's mother looked out the window, she saw 12 children, sitting in the sun, watching their ice cream melt, because no one had told them it was time to begin eating.  One of the older H-S daughters quickly rushed outside to give permission to start, so they would have some ice cream left.  I love this story for a couple of reasons.  First is that our children really do pay attention at home when we teach them about good manners.  Secondly, I am so appreciative to have such good friends whose parenting style matches my own.  It is so much easier to parent when rules and expectations are matched by other adults in my children's lives.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Survival of the dimmest

A few weeks ago, we noticed a rabbit digging a burrow in the middle of our front lawn.  We thought we had scared it away, because surely, two seven year old boys trying to pet the rabbit would scare any small mammal.  But then two days ago, D. comes screaming into the house that there were baby rabbits in the front yard.  Being the kind and understanding mother that I am, I, of course didn't believe him.  (See sentence no. 2, above, for my reason.)  When A. came in, close on D.'s heels, and confirmed the presence of the rabbits, I started to pay attention.

While I have never actually seen the five baby bunnies, enough of my older, reliable children have seen them that I now believe in their presence.  B., in fact, spent 45 minutes yesterday, luring baby bunnies out of their burrow with basil leaves.  I think that we must be host to a particularly un-rabbity kind of rabbit.  These rabbits don't run when approached by people, even if those people are 7 year old boys.  And it's obvious that our town is singularly lacking in the predator-types of animals.  The huge murders of crows we used to have were decimated by West Nile Virus a few years ago and are only now starting to reappear.  And while our library has a pair of peregrine falcons nesting on it and I have seen a fox crossing the street, there are obviously too many rabbits for these lonely predators to handle.  I mean, why else would a mother rabbit build her burrow in a front yard, with no cover what so ever, in grass that is mowed regularly and is home to many, many small children?  And the baby bunnies aren't even completely underground.  If you look closely at the burrow, you think you are seeing just dirt and leaves.  And then the dirt and leaves move and you realize you are looking at baby bunny fur instead.  It is remarkable camouflage, but my mothering instincts have gone on high alert for the safety of the bunnies which for all intents and purposes are just lying on the ground.  I don't like the rabbits eating up our garden, but I also don't like the thought of something happening to the bunnies while they are living in (on?) my front lawn. 

Did you notice, rabbits for the grown-up garden-eating animals, but bunnies for the cute, soft defenseless babies?

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Four years

Today marks the fourth anniversary of adopting TM.  All of us have come such a long way since that afternoon in Danang, watching our new son work on demolishing the ceremony room and shorting out the air conditioning.  Where the agency representative told us more than once that what we were doing was irrevocable.  Realizing that this was going to be far more difficult than J. and I had ever imagined.  We've come so far I can hardly believe it sometimes.  Not only was that first year marked by learning to help TM process and manage his extreme anger and grief, but probably more difficult was realizing the illusion that I had it all together was just that, an illusion.  During that period I discovered the depth of sin that lived within me.  Anger, grief, frustration, and despair in one person have a tendency to bring out those same emotions in others. 

In hindsight, the whole process has been a gift.  On the most obvious level, we now have a son whom we adore.  And one who is all the more precious because of the battle we waged for him.  But there has been another result; one that I would have never dreamed of.  That is of my own need for Jesus.  I grew up in a Christian home and made a commitment to Christ at the age of 7.  I was always the 'good' girl.  Other than knowing intellectually that I needed a savior, I never really felt that there was much to be saved from.  But parenting TM changed all that.  What I learned about myself and learning what was within me horrified me.  "Good" girls don't feel what I sometimes felt.  It was as if a monster lurked within me and I had had no idea it was there.  Sometimes I was so consumed by these emotions that it felt as though it was only through God's grace that they remained just emotions.  I felt ugly and horrible.  But Jesus.  I learned with every part of my being that I needed a savior.  Because only Jesus could love someone like I felt.  And not only love, but redeem and make new.  Only Jesus could make the monster disappear.

So, as we celebrate the adoption of our son tonight, I celebrate not only gaining a son but gaining my Savior and as a result my life as well.

Friday, July 02, 2010

M. update

We received a letter from M. in the mail today!  She sounds as though she is doing well.  She is tired, hot, and perhaps a bit homesick, but seems to weathering the experience well.  I have a prayer request for her, though.  Her tent mate, A., is the one person on the Samoa team who is not there voluntarily.  It sounds as though TMI was one of two choices given to her by her parents, with the other choice being not a wonderful option.  As a result, she is doing everything she can to be sent home.  Since M. has to live with the situation, I would ask that you pray for M. to be filled with patience and grace toward her tent mate and also to pray for A., that what ever is happening with her spiritually and emotionally be healed. 

It was so nice to get a letter and know that she is managing.  The training in Florida was always the piece I was most nervous about for her as I looked at the schedule.
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