Showing posts from February, 2011

Dress for success

First of all, thank you all for your continued prayers.  We appreciate them so much.  I am feeling significantly better today and I am sure it is everyone's prayers that have made the difference.  Now to the regularly scheduled post.

Have I mentioned before that I like to stay home?  Yeah, I thought so.  I get more done and feel more on top of things so consequently am a more relaxed and happy person.  I don't mind the occasional errand and I enjoy fun activities, but the constant errand-running and carpooling I find completely enervating.  I do all I can to avoid it.

But not leaving my home and seeing only my children and husband some days has made me think carefully about clothing choices.  It would be so easy to fall into the habit of throwing on whatever was easiest and not really worrying about what I look like.  But, I made a discovery along the way that stops me from doing that:  how my day goes and I how I feel about it is often in direct correlation to the care I took…

Prayer requests for H. and her adoption

We are in the midst of great stacks of paperwork to get through our home study and as we anticipate adding H. to our family, I would like to invite you to join us in praying for this venture.  On one level it seems the easiest thing to do... love and care for another child, but it is also a significant undertaking, one we don't take lightly.  So here's our list,  please pray as you feel led.
For H.  That her heart would be prepared for the huge transition she will undergo.  We also are praying for her complete healing.  God can do this if He chooses and we hope for this wonderful miracle for her.  She is also in constant pain from the tumor(s) in her face, we ask for relief from the pain for her.That all of the different levels of clearances and approvals that need to be worked through go quickly.  I have heard some really horrifying times for some of these and if each step takes the longest time, it could be closer to 18 months before we could hope to travel.  At this point, i…

Rules for family meals, Big Ugly House style

I'm sure I've blogged about this before, but since I can't find it in the past year's posts, it must have been a while back.  I was asked about what our other family meal rules in a comment on yesterday's post and I thought it might be of more general interest.  And I needed a topic to write about for today.

Our rules range from dealing with basic manners to the more idiosyncratic ones that were created to address specific situations.  I will just deal with the basic ones... as for the others, everyone probably already knows that it is impolite to play with one's feet at the table, just not (some) of my children.  They are pretty simple. 
Stay in your seat.  If you need to get up to get more water or visit the bathroom, ask to be excused.  If you just hop up from the table, we will assume you are done with you meal... even if you come back and announce you are still hungry.Wait to eat until everyone is served.  J. serves and then we say grace together and then …

Sitting in big girl chairs.

We have graduated G. (right) and L. (left) to youth chairs for breakfast and lunch at the kitchen table.  They are very cute sitting in their big girl chairs and so far they have done very well.  L. has hopped down from the table a couple of times and has been quite disappointed that her meal was over.  Since we don't allow children to get up from the table only to return a while later, we start this lesson early so it isn't an issue when they are older.

We were getting tired of dragging high chairs from room to room for each meal, so now the high chairs remain permanently in the dining room for the girls to use at dinner.  This isn't because we don't think that they can manage sitting at the table, but because there really isn't any room for them.  We seem to have a dining table crisis at the moment.  Ours comfortably seats 8 and uncomfortably seats 10... 11 or 12? Not so much.  At this point it seems easier to keep G. and L. in high chairs rather than figure out…

Pie for presidents

No, we're not sending pies to the president.  On Monday, President's Day, I decided to make use of a little bribery.  In return for memorizing the presidents, in order, I would make peach pies for dessert.  Manful attempts were made and a huge chart of each of the presidents was begun.  I'm not sure where we're eventually going to hang the thing, it is already many feet long and they are only up to president #29, Woodrow Wilson.  As a result of this little endeavor, everyone now knows a bit more about each of the presidents, especially since they have been using the book, The Buck Stops Here: The Presidents of the United States, to make their chart.  A. won for the most presidents memorized, she could do the entire list with just a little help.  We will probably keep working on this the rest of the week.  Of course, it would probably be fair if I memorized the presidents as well...

Mooching meals across the midwest

On Sunday we began our trip home.  Our first stop was brunch at a virtual friend's home.  The family is a homeschooling family and one of their children was adopted from Vietnam.  I have corresponded with the mother of the family over the past few years and we have become email friends.  It was wonderful to meet in person and become real life friends.  The only problem with virtual friends becoming real friends is that often these friends live far away and the chances to actually see each other are few.  We enjoyed brunch together and the adults were able to visit while all the children played games.  Their children are charming and everyone hit it off wonderfully.  This visit alone was worth the trip.

After brunch, we piled in the car again and continued west for a few hours.  Our next stop was at J.'s aunt and uncle's house where we took another break and had dinner together.  J.'s aunt is also a potter and so we spent some time down in her studio watching how a pott…

Back from a little weekend vacation

Last night we rolled in about 10pm from a quick trip to Ohio.  The main point to our trip was to attend a performance of The Drowsy Chaperone at Denison University.  Now while most of us are very involved in theater and enjoy acting.  (OK, really that would be everyone in my family but myself... I am a committed audience member.)  But even for us, driving to attend a show two states away might seem to be a bit much.  This is where the story becomes complicated, so I'll keep it brief.  J., his sister, and both of his parents attended Denison and were all very involved in the theater program there.  The show we saw was in honor of J.'s mother (who was a theater major) and Denison invited us to come and helped defray the cost.  We had dinner before hand with some of theater faculty and there was a very nice reception afterwards where many photos of show J.'s parents had appeared in were displayed.  It was a very nice evening.

We left home mid-afternoon on Friday and arrived l…

A new spring skirt for A.

Having learned my lesson the last time I tried to make a skirt for A., I made a trial run of this pattern before cutting into the expensive fabric. A while back, A. and I found some soft corduroy that she liked and I agreed to make her a skirt out of it. Last week I realized if I didn't get it made soon, the season for wearing corduroy would have passed and she'd have to wait a year to wear it.  But first I wanted to make a test skirt.  I used some fabric that I bought as a thrift store and which A. decided she really liked.  So, now she has a spring skirt and I'll make the winter one next week.

The pattern I was using was not written for the novice sewist.  The instructions included steps such as "neaten edge" and "insert zipper", assuming the reader would know how to do these things.  It made me really glad I took that zipper class last fall, because now I am able to "insert zipper".  In fact, I had to decide which of the three ways I learne…

Why I love the Anne books

One of the reasons I read aloud to my children is that it gives me an excuse to enjoy all the books I loved as a child over again.  Plus, it is interesting to view the same books from an adult perspective.  Now, I will admit, that some books just do not hold up and I am left wondering why I loved it so as a child, but others do.  The Anne of Green Gables books certainly fit in the latter category.  I love them as much as an adult as I did when I was a child.  Not only are children portrayed as real children, but LM Montgomery captures motherhood so vividly as well.  For instance,

"But Anne was feeling conscience-stricken.  'I should have found out what was troubling her [in reference to her daughter, Nan].  But I've been too much taken up with other things this week... things that really mattered nothing compared to a child's unhappiness.  Think of what the poor darling has suffered.'

She stooped repentantly, gloatingly over them.  They were still hers... wholly h…

Peer pressure

Have you noticed that there are some things we were lead to believe end with the end of school (stress dreams about tests or acne, for instance) but don't ever really end?  Peer pressure is one of those things.  While it is not as intense as when we were surrounded by the same group of people everyday for 6 to 7 hours, it is still there.  We are influenced by the people with whom we associate, for good or ill.

I am blessed that I have a group of very good friends who support my choices in life.  Not all of them may agree with everything we have chosen for our family, but never has one said or implied that we are making a mistake.  And because of that level of trust and acceptance, if one were to come to me with a concern, I would listen carefully and take it seriously.

It took a while for me to reach this point, though.  When I first started having children, I had to begin to develop new friendships.  I didn't want or need to let go of the friendships I had from my single, chi…

Valentine's Day dresses

from Grammy, a bit belated.  We pretended the weather was warmer than it really was.
L. (on left) and G. (on right)

L. (on left) and G. (on right)
A nice break from politics, don't you think? 

A civics lesson or Stop IL SB 136

It's nearly 4pm and I am just now getting around to writing a post, and it's not the post I was planning on writing.  Instead, our day was pre-empted by a real life civics lesson coupled with the role of social media in political movements.  We're not in Egypt, but it was perhaps a very small scale model of the way social media can inform, persuade (or not), and mobilize large groups of people.

The background.

A week ago an IL state senator introduced a bill that would seek to count and regulate homeschoolers.  The best thing (and it is a very short list) about living in IL is the fact that it leaves us homeschoolers alone.  We are free to raise and educate our children as we see fit without the state sticking in its oar. But then the senator heard that a family member of his was going to homeschool and suddenly we appeared on his radar.  Now up till now he was not bothered by us homeschoolers.  Clearly there were not articles being published about homeschooling gangs roami…

Father-Daughter Dance

Saturday night was the annual Father-Daughter Dance that J. and the three older girls have loved attending.  Here they are all dressed up before heading out the door.

J. and P.
J. and M. (with L. sneaking into the picture)
The theme was a masquerade and M. made masks for everyone.  Here is how hers looked with her dress.
J. and A.
M. worked so hard on her mask and it turned out so well that it deserves its own picture.
_____________ I finally took some time this weekend to clean-up the blog a bit.  The sidebar needed to be decluttered... I removed some things and added one.  I also updated some of the photos in the Cast of Characters and added H.  Thursday Homeschool Resource Day is cancelled until further notice.  The free linky service I was using is now going to a pay system and I am too cheap to pay and too lazy to look for another free option.  Plus, there didn't seem to be much need or interest in it.  If there is a huge groundswell of protest, I'll bring it back.  (But I don…

Still digging out of my hole

Today is going to be a busy day, which is good.  Perhaps it will help jump start my emotional system into functioning appropriately again.  Please pray that it does because if I feel like this for a year... well, it won't be good. 

So what's on the docket today?  Well, I've already made a vegetable calzone for B. to take to his bee keeping class.  (There is a potluck lunch which he needs to bring something to.)  Then I need to drive B. downtown to the class and come home by way of the fabric store (dangerous!)  Tonight is the father-daughter dance that J. and his girls have attended for several years now.  But the dress that A. is going to wear fits her beautifully, but is bit too long.  It is a ball gown and has a tulle overlay on the skirt which for the life of me I can't figure out how to hem.  Instead of hemming, I'm going to pull it up on the sides and make it scallop across the front, but I need silver ribbon to do that.

After coming home, laundry (which I h…

A special gift for a special girl

The wait to bring H. (that's our daughter-to-be's initial) is already weighing heavily on me.  I'm sure that some of it has to do with the fact that there is still a small part of me that has never quite recovered from the eons long wait for K.  I will never understand this side of heaven why we had to wait for so long for him while he was not quite thriving in his orphanage.  I'm remembering that sense of depression I had a little too clearly these past couple of days.  I'm going to have to give myself a good talking to, because my conservative estimate puts us travelling in November at the earliest with January '12 a strong possibility.  The bright side is that H. is in a wonderful place where she is being cared for and nurtured and loved.  Outside of being home with us, I couldn't ask for a better situation for her.  I've wallowed for two days and now it's time to move on with life.
It does help to make preparations for her, though.  Here is a pro…

Menu planning and grocery shopping

Another large family blogger posted about how she does her grocery shopping, which made me realize that this is something I have never written about.  Surprising really, since the question of how I feed all these people is one that is recurring.

I do the grocery shopping once a week and if all goes well, recently J. and I have been going together as a "date".  It does make the process more enjoyable.  I have tried to go for two weeks at a time between trips but that hasn't worked for us.  I would need to go for a short trip anyway to pick up milk and produce, plus, I sometimes have enough trouble coming up with one week's worth of meals much less two.

I always, always, always go to the store (well, actually stores) with a list made from the week's menu plan.  It is a waste of time and money to go without knowing what you are going to be cooking.  You will almost always have to go back to the store to pick-up things you didn't know you needed... and how often …

Time for toddlers

(Here's the giveaway.)
I know that if I go too long without pictures of the girls that I start to get complaints.  Here is this week's installlment.  We helped celebrate a friend's birthday over the weekend and the children all came home with balloons.  G. and L. love them.  G. is in pink and L. is in yellow.

We also had a friend drop by a couple bags of clothes for the girls.  It was much appreciated since the items in their dresser were starting to get a bit small.  A. had a wonderful time sorting them and picking out outfits for her sisters to wear.  Here are the girls sporting their new clothes.  G. is in black tights and L. is in white.

Purpose in the Ordinary

(Here's the giveaway.)

You may or may not know that the term 'Ordinary Time' comes from the church liturgical calendar.  It is the time of year when it is not Christmas or Easter or Advent or Lent or Pentecost, but all those in between times.  The holidays are special and help us to remember important things, but Ordinary Time is holy as well.  My blog is thus called to remind me of this fact.  The ordinary is important.  If we live only for the special we miss out on a lot of life.

Remembering the importance of the ordinary helps us to pay attention to it.  Without consciously thinking about our daily lives it is so easy to lose track of the small moments in the midst of our busy-ness.  And it doesn't have to be business outside the home, we can become too busy with our to-do lists inside the home as well.  Our lists of 'ought to' start to take center stage and push aside the truly important:  the people in our lives.

Because that is why we work at making a ho…


Have you heard of the Schoolhouse Expo?  It is an online homeschool conference put on by The Old Schoolhouse magazine.  I was contacted by them and was offered a giveaway prize if I would help publicize the event.  So I hopped on over to the list of speakers and topics to see what they were up to.  There are some great speakers scheduled, many of whom I've heard in person and from whom I've learned quite a bit.
I love homeschooling conferences.  I love listening to great speakers and picking up useful tips.  I love browsing the vendor fairs and seeing new products.  I do not love the money I end up spending because of both the conference fee and what I end up buying.  This is a way to get the things I love about conferences and avoid that little pitfall of spending too much money.
Until February 9, there is a sale on the conference.  For $19.50, you can listen to the entire conference, get a bunch of bonus freebies, and MP3's of the whole shebang.  It's a deal.
Now to the…

Snow days and the homeschooler, part 2

The art of living together is one that comes up at several times throughout the year, not just in unusually large snowstorms which cause the closing of schools.  I hear the same comments at the end of summer vacation and at the end of Christmas break.  And those comments?  "My kids are driving me crazy!  I can't wait for them to go back to school so I can get something done."  It makes me sad.  Listen to the tacit message underneath that socially acceptable statement:  My children are nice in small doses but I don't really like it, or them, when they are around too much.  Having children from the age of 5 (or younger) spend a significant portion of their lives away from their families causes a sort of learned incompetence for the whole family.  No one really spends extended periods of time together so they have forgotten how.

One of the most frequent questions I get as a homeschooling mother is, "Your kids are around all day?  How do you get anything done or hav…

Snow days and the homeschooler, part 1

The topic of whether homeschoolers get snow days or not has come up surprisingly often over the past few days.  It has either come in the form of a question asked in passing from a neighbor or by the increasingly frustrated comments by parents whose children are normally in school during the day or as a discussion with a fellow homeschooling parent.  There seem to be two underlying issues:  1.  That learning cannot happen without it being imposed from an outside source (which I'll tackle today) and 2. That children and parents living and functioning together is seen as an anomaly; something that doesn't normally happen. (Which I'll take on tomorrow because otherwise this will get too long.  Like that's ever stopped me before.)

So I'm not quite sure what to say when the neighbor calls over and asks if we had a snow day.  I mean, I know what he's asking... did we do book work today or did we take the day off.  I know what I am expected to answer, but it is not wh…

Year of the Cat

I know, two posts in one day, but I realized that I was about to let the lunar year pass without comment.  We aren't doing anything special today, but on Sunday we're combining watching the Super Bowl with friends with a joint Chinese New Year/Tet celebration.  We'll watch the game (well, some will watch the game, I'll bring some knitting), then we'll have Chinese and Vietnamese food and light some sparklers... or something.  How's that for a culturally integrated event?

I'll also be celebrating having another article published.  This time it is about the Vietnamese neighborhood in Chicago which is located on and around Argyle Street.

Snow day

Pictures from first thing yesterday morning.  It was still snowing, but the wind had died down and children couldn't wait to get outside to play in it.  These were taken from our side porch.  If you look carefully through the railing, you can see a green metal bench that shows how deep the snow is, since it is above the seat.

And two little girls who liked watching the snow, but couldn't really go out and play in it.

We had a lovely day.  J. made apple coffee cake for breakfast, we had red pepper hummus for lunch, and I made double chocolate brownies for after dinner.  Games were played; yarn was knitted (with greater or lesser frustration depending on the knitter); much snow was shovelled; books were read. 

The shared experience of extreme weather has appeared to bring out the best in people.  The population was nearly giddy with excitement at the prospect of a blizzard causing a city-wide holiday.  Yesterday afternoon just needed a table of food to make it close to a block …


The book I'm currently reading is, Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men by Leonard Sax.  I'm not finished yet, just about half-way through, but I'm really enjoying it.  It's got great research as well as practical suggestions as to what to do with the results of that research.  Plus, it's proving my pet-theories right.  (And who doesn't like that?)

For instance, we delay formal academics with our children.  They learn and experience a lot as young children, but we don't do a lot of sitting and writing activities.  I don't even begin to push learning to read until they are at least seven.  (Radical, I know.)  It never seemed worth the herculean effort it would take over the course of many, many months when we could accomplish the same things quickly and easily if we just waited a bit.  Plus, then, when one of them learns something quickly, he or she feels as though they are really sma…

Got blizzard?

Even if you don't live in the Chicago area, you've probably heard about the extreme, life-threatening blizzard with thunder storms and lakefront flooding with 18 to 20 foot waves that are being forecasted for the next 24 hours.  The hype is quite extraordinary and this is from someone who doesn't even have a television to watch.  Well, we will probably get snow, but I'll believe the blizzard part when it actually arrives.  It won't be the first time that extreme weather was predicted and the reality failed to live up to the hype.  Either way, though, it will be a snow day for everyone tomorrow... everything that was on my calendar from this afternoon through tomorrow has been cancelled due to the weather.  B. is thrilled since he scored a big, well-paying snow shovelling job for the next two weeks and it looks as though he will have plenty of opportunities to earn quite a bit of cash.

If there is a blizzard, we're set.  The pantry is full, we have plenty of can…