Wednesday, November 30, 2011

That will be 12 inches off the top, please

Yesterday, I took P. to get her hair cut so that she could donate her ponytail to Locks of Love.  This was a little traumatic for her parents, since she has only had her hair trimmed a little bit... ever.  But she has been rather persistent in wanting her hair cut, so I bit the bullet and we went.

Here is the result:

I think it's cute and not too short and P. is very happy with it.  She loves how much easier it is to comb.  The stylist was amazed at how long her hair was and the fact she could cut off 12 inches and still have it be below her shoulders.

Now I need to send in the ponytail.  There is a small part of me that wants to just keep it, but that would be a bit pathological so I won't.  Plus, the ponytail all by itself is kind of creeping some members of my family out and they would rather it not be around.  I agree that looking at it sitting there is a little off-putting.  Why is that?  Curious, isn't it.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Crafty Christmas gift ideas

(Hi Hearts at Home readers. One of the things we do is have siblings focus on making gifts for one another. This way the focus is more on what one is giving than what one is getting. So, in that spirit, here is an old post with ideas of things that children can make for one another.)

I don't know about you, but I am taking a deep breath and trying to plan how I will make everything I would like to before Christmas.  I think I need to prioritize and start that way, because I'm beginning to doubt whether I can really do it all or not.  In the past, my prime sewing time has been after everyone has gone to bed.  But recently, I have been so exhausted after everyone is tucked in that I really can't do much of anything, especially if it calls for concentrating on directions.  (Please tell me it's because I'm chasing two 2-year-old toddlers around and it's not because I'm getting old!)  I haven't even been able to read which tells you how bad it is.

If you are having the opposite problem of not enough ideas, I thought I would make a couple of lists of things to help you get started.  Some of these things I have linked to previous posts if I had posted a picture of them, others you will just have to use your imagination.  (If I have linked, you may have to scroll down the post to find the picture I am referencing.)

I have two different categories.  The first is a list of presents that a child has made for a brother or sister.  I try to come up with things that will be used or really played with and not just something that sits on a shelf for a while and then gets thrown away.

  • Blank wooden tops, painted by child. (For young children, the paint markers are great.)
  • Rice-filled hand warmers.  Use the tops of old socks (cutting off the foot part), fill with rice, and sew up.  If you put them in the microwave for a few seconds they heat up and can be put into pockets.
  • Homemade bouncy balls. (From a kit... sometimes I buy a kit which will make enough items to work for giving.)
  • Homemade soap with small toy inside
  • Fleece blanket, the type which is fringed and then tied together.  
  • Draft-blocking snakes.  Great if you have a lot of drafty old windows and cold bedrooms.  Take a pair of tights, cut off one leg, stuff, sew up end, sew on face and tongue to make it look more snake-like.
  • Blank wooden boxes, painted by child.
  • Sewn, stuffed dolls
  • Felt animals.  (Felt is great for smaller children to work with as the ends do not need to be finished.)
  • Playhouse (or car or spaceship) out of a large cardboard box.
  • Scarves and hats
  • Wooden tabletop bowling set.  Look for blank wooden bowling pins and a wooden ball which is the correct relative size.
  • Boxes for play kitchen.  Take empty kitchen boxes (cereal, tea, crackers, etc.), turn inside out, and have child paint or color what the new product will be and tape closed.  Empty single-serving cereal boxes are great because they fit in the play kitchen better and have a good generic shape.
  • Fleece pillows.  Can be made using the same tie method as the throw, use a pre-made pillow form for stuffing.
  • Hand-painted bead stringing kit.  Buy blank wooden spools and paint to match child's likes, can also paint the letters of child's name.  Include thick string and put in a pretty box.
  • Lip gloss (from kit)
  • Jewelry
  • Rhythm instruments
  • Large blocks made from cardboard boxes
  • Bookmarks
  • Felted soap -- great for scrubbing with in tub.  Take a bar of soap and some wool roving.  Rub (and rub and rub) the roving over and into the bar of soap getting the roving wet with very warm water every so often.  You're essentially felting the roving on and around the soap.  
This second list is for an adult (or young adult) to make for a child.  They are a bit more involved.
So, there you go.  These are all things we have done in the past.  My children read my blog, so I can't even hint at what I'm doing this year, because they would be all over it.  You (and they) will just have to wait.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Advent and the liturgical calendar

Yesterday was the first day of Advent and the beginning of a new church year.  Advent marks the four Sundays preceding Christmas and is a time of expectation, preparation, hope, and longing.  In the past it also had a penitent aspect, observed with fasting, which some traditions still observe today.  These five words just about sum up (at least for me) how we should approach the coming of the Lord Jesus, whether in remembrance of His birth or in expectation of when He comes again.

If you hadn't already guessed, I am a big fan of following the liturgical calendar.  (My blog is called Ordinary Time, after all, named after the non-special seasons of the church year.  The 'everyday' Sundays.)  I love how the church calendar gives us seasons of celebration and repentance, seasons of special days and regular days.  It is cyclical just as the seasons are and gives a balance to our lives.  If we follow the calendar we walk through the life of Jesus and the church on a yearly basis... Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Ordinary Time, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, Ordinary Time, and so on and so on.

I also think that by using the church calendar as a lens through which to order our lives we can avoid some of the pitfalls our modern society would push us into.  It is more difficult to get caught up in the extreme commercial Christmas mania which overtakes many at this time of year if we continue to focus on preparing for the coming of Jesus.  If one looks at the scheduled liturgical readings for Advent, one finds the readings from the Gospels to be about the warnings of when the Son of Man returns (Christ's second Advent) and about Jesus' death.  Focusing on being truly prepared for the second Advent of Jesus does help to squelch meaningless commercialism.

This is not to say as a result we should all be dour do-gooders; Scrooges with a more open hand, but Scrooges none the less.  The third candle lit in Advent is the candle of Joy.  These are ultimately joyful things we are celebrating... the coming of God as man to provide a way for us to be reconciled to Him despite our sinfulness.  It is difficult to wrap one's head around how much God loves us in order for this all to work, but it is the truth whether we understand it or not, and it is joyful news indeed.  If we even came close to understanding it all, we would be so filled with joy that it would spill out of us and we could do nothing to stop it.

The question then becomes how does one translate all of this for our families.  For us, we do several things.  We use an advent wreath with four candles and a Christ candle in the center.  Every Sunday at dinner, we light the candle(s) on the wreath, read some Scripture passages, pray, and then gather around the piano to sing carols together.  Singing carols all together is one of my favorite family Christmas activities.  It is also one of our children's favorite traditions as well.  The last thing we do before everyone goes to bed on Christmas Eve is to sing carols together.  Then, on Christmas morning, before we do anything else, we light our Advent wreath and the Christ candle to remember why we celebrate the day.

This year, in addition to our Sunday Advent wreath, we have a daily devotional book we will be reading from at dinner and special candle we will light. In other years we have used a Jesse Tree.  (This is a small Christmas tree with ornaments for each day of Advent.  The ornaments each match the Scripture reading for each day.  You would read the passage and put the ornament on.)  We try to make a conscience effort to put the emphasis of the season on Jesus and others and not on getting stuff.  We don't make Christmas lists because I was never comfortable with the mercenary aspect of it.  I would rather my children be grateful for what ever they happen to receive and not have expectations which may or may not be met.  We focus instead on what we are going to be doing for each other.  It is an important lesson to learn that giving gifts can give as much or more pleasure than receiving them.

Following a liturgical calendar does not mean that one is forced into rigidness.  It is a tool and I use it as such. For instance, in full disclosure, we did not light our first Advent candle last night... we will do so this evening.  After a very full weekend of house guests and activity followed by an afternoon at church where we attended the family Advent workshop, we were all out of steam.  It seemed better to wait a day until everyone was better rested (myself included) and when we had entered back into a more normal schedule.  Observing family traditions just for the sake of tradition is pointless if everyone is too tired and cranky to get anything out of it.
Two other items which some of you may be interested in.  The first, on Thanksgiving morning, the Chicago Tribune had a front page article about adoption and large families in IL.  See, I'm not making this stuff up!  The second, I will be interviewed about family traditions at Christmas time on Moody Radio tomorrow (11/29) at 10:30am  central time.  This is actually my second radio interview, but I didn't tell anyone about the first one because I was so nervous.  I survived, so feel a little more comfortable sharing about it this time.  You can listen through Moody's website.  Just click on the 'listen live' link.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Post holidays

I have always loved the days following holidays almost more than the holidays themselves.  All the hard work has been done, everyone is relaxed, there's nothing on the to-do list, and often there is still enough food so that no one really has to think about cooking all that much.  I do love holidays... the togetherness, the traditions, and at least in our family, an excuse to dress up and use the good china.  A little formality in life is a good thing.  But then it is counter-balanced by the informality and relaxation of the following days.  It is as if we enjoy the relaxation more because of the preceding formality.

Yesterday was filled with museum trips and time for cousins to play together.  Last night J. and I enjoyed watching our older children, a niece, and a "borrowed" child (we'll call him T.; he's staying with us since he is away from home, going to school) enjoy an uproarious game of hearts.

Today, I have a combination of 6 siblings and cousins playing a card game in the kitchen, T. is coloring with the little girls, and the cousins who have been staying with us are starting to pack up in order to head to the airport later today.  It is also far enough removed from Thanksgiving that we are starting to get back into our regular schedule.  A. is baking some much needed bread and I will be heading down to the basement to begin the laundry cycle again.

It has been a good holiday and wonderful chance to catch-up with family whom we don't get to see all that often.  I also like the few days between Thanksgiving and the beginning of Advent to catch my breath and change gears.  I'll spend a few minutes today finding the Advent wreath and devotional so that we are set begin the next turn of the church calendar.

Since I'm still playing hostess, I'll wait until Monday to write more on observing Advent and perhaps the liturgical calender in general.  Do you observe Advent?  What do you do?  I'm always in the market for new ideas.  Enjoy the rest of your holiday weekend.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

The tables were set.

(And a word of caution... if you plan on heading to your big box craft store the day before Thanksgiving to get appropriate table decorations, think again.  It is all Christmas all the time.)

We had appetizers,

which some small people liked very much,


and creamed onions.

My sister-in-law brought these fabulous roasted Brussel sprouts with bacon tossed in a vinaigrette.  I really need to get the recipe.

There was cranberry-orange relish and cranberry jelly.

Everyone pitched in to help.


There was much salad

and even more pies.

And believe it or not, everyone was up and ready to eat again this morning.

G. and D.

Truly, there is much we have to be thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A. and P.'s new digs

The room which was our schoolroom has now been transformed and turned into the A. and P.'s room.  It involved taking down some ugly paneling and J. and B. putting up wall board and then having 'worker guys' come in and tape and sand.  The worker guy also repaired the horrible water damage on the ceiling which was a result of the leaking roof which was repaired this past spring.  The girls were moving their stuff in practically while the paint was drying, they were so excited.

Here are a few sneak peaks of the new room.  It is still in the early stages.  Some organizing needs to happen and curtains made.  But these will give you an idea.

From the doorway

The currently unbunked beds.  The girls really, really wanted to have them set up as a traditional twin pair with a small table between.  So we have it set that way for a while.  Once we get closer to H. coming home, we will rearrange... rebunk the beds, add the twin we have in storage and make room for a 3rd girl.

The desk with various tanks of gerbils and fish

This bookcase, a leftover from the schoolroom, is going to serve as a dresser for the girls.  I need to head out to IKEA to get more doors for the cubbies which hold clothes.

Since A. and P. have now moved into their new room, that means G. and L. have their room all to themselves.  Boy, is it empty at the moment.  It too will need a little work to make it look more put together.  Since there was more flexibility in how it was set up, I thought the little girls would like it if their cribs were put right next to each other so they could be close.  They did like it, perhaps a bit too much.  Yesterday during nap time, this is what we discovered:

It's a dark picture. (Have you ever tried to take a picture without a flash of two sleeping children you don't want to wake up?)  But if you look closely, you will see that G. is on the left, sleeping with her thumb in her mouth, resting her head on L.'s legs.  L. is on the right, sleeping on her stomach.  Even funnier is that when B. went to get the girls out of their beds after nap time, both girls were back in their correct crib.  I pulled the cribs apart a bit before bedtime last night, though G. wasn't happy about it and tried to push them back together.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The cost of raising a child

The Census Bureau has come out with their newest figure of how much it costs to raise one child to the age of 18 (so this number does NOT include college expenses).  Ready for it?  For middle income families it's $286,860 over the course of 18 years.  Once again I'm forced to do some math.  That averages out to $15,937 a year and $1328 per month.  Hang on, hang on!  I know most of you with larger families or those who are living on one income are feeling your blood pressure rise just thinking about how this doesn't fit with your reality.  And I agree that it doesn't fit with mine, either.  Plus, I was curious how they treated multiple children, so I looked at the report. They were figuring the cost of multiple children (and the multiple children went to 3) to be a simple cumulative exercise of multiplying that figure by number of children.  It is wrongheaded thinking.

But believe it or not, that is not what I want to blog about.  I found the link to the article on the facebook page of a national parenting magazine.  (I keep tabs on it because every so often it offers me an opportunity to link to one of the articles I get paid for, and when my articles get hits my editors are happy as is my checking account.  I have a definite mercenary streak.)  Anyway, a side effect of doing this is that it makes me realize how much of a bubble I live in.  Many of my friends share my worldview and none of us is what I would call flush with cash.  Family and children are important to us and we make it work with what we have.  We don't let finances be the sole reason for not adding to our families.  I'm quite happy in my bubble and think others would be happier if they would join me.

Reading comments (which I can only bring myself to do once in a while) posted to this magazine's page is eye opening.  I get so used to thinking that I am not unusual in my lifestyle that I am truly surprised when confronted with evidence that I am.  I was so saddened when I read through the comments.  More than a few people expressed surprised that the final number in the study was so low.  Others expressed the opinion that this number was the reason they choose to have only one child.  At least one or two (and these are the ones who made me the saddest) said that they had always dreamed of having a large family, but stopped at one because of the expense.  I am so grieved at what these young mothers are going to miss out on by placing money at the top of what is important in life.  Money is a tool.  It is useful for paying bills and for helping others, but it should never be a means to an end.

Somewhere along the line, our society got it all backwards.  There seems to be the general belief that to be blessed is to be comfortable money-wise.  (With comfortable meaning able to buy what ever is desired, not having enough to eat and a roof over ones head.)  That children are merely drains on the budget; an expense.  (This opinion was expressed at least once in the comments; I'm not making it up.)  But if anyone takes even a cursory glance through the Bible, God is very clear that children are blessings.  Over and over it is how God blesses His people... through the gift of children.  They are something to be desired above all else, not an accessory to an affluent lifestyle.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Some adoption links

I'm starting in on my rather large to-do list so that I can enjoy Thanksgiving when it arrives, so instead of writing something myself, I'm going to give you a few links to what some other writers have said about adoption.

First from my real-life friend Ann at Crazy for Kids:

Remembering his Losses

The Happy Ending

Next is the excellent National Adoption Month post from No Greater Joy Mom:

Reckless Abandon

Then a great list by Lisa at A Bushel and a Peck (who also has such great information on her blog about parenting children who have experienced trauma) about how to help families who have just brought home a new child:

Six Things Adoptive/Foster Families Need When New Children Arrive

And finally an essay on why you shouldn't adopt.  I know it's an odd thing to include on this list, but read it anyway.

Don't Adopt

I can't help including one more link on my list after you have read all the great writing above.  (You did read it, didn't you?)    Here's the link to H's friend, Joseph, who still waits for a family.  As far as anyone knows, no one has asked for more information on him or asked how they can locate his file.  It only takes one family.  One family out of the millions of families out there to say yes to giving a young boy a home and permanent future.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

O be careful little brain what you think

Attachment is a big word in adoption.  It is the development of the bond between a new parent and child which will cement their relationship together.  For some, this is an easy bond to create, for others, it is difficult.  I have experienced both extremes.  Even with some of the drama we have been experiencing as TM becomes more fluent in English, more emotionally aware, and consequently more verbal in his processing of his early experiences, I have come to realize exactly how attached I am to this boy.  There are so many things I like and appreciate about him.  And he's funny and makes me laugh.  Not only do I love my boy, but I really, really like him as well.

When I think about my son, I have been finding that most of my thoughts about him are positive.  Yes, he still does things that can drive me up a tree, but I find myself viewing those things more as endearing quirks rather than faults that I just have to live with.  I have been pleased to discover that this has set-up a spiral of a very different sort than what I have experienced previously with him.  The more positive thoughts I think about him, the more I am likely to interact with him in a positive way and more likely it is that he will react in a positive way, causing more positive thoughts, and so on and so on.  I'm not being all Oprah-ish and that my thoughts are somehow causing this good behavior, but that by dwelling on positive things I find myself focusing more on those than the negative ones and my behavior adjusts accordingly.

If you stop and think about it, it's true, isn't it?  How about couples when they are first in love?  Neither can do any wrong and all thoughts tend to be of a super positive nature.  Now this is hard to keep up and learning to be married comes with its own difficulties.  If a couple decide that they are going to begin to focus on everything that is annoying about the other person, they are going to be far more annoyed than if they choose to talk about it and come to some resolution or choose to not be annoyed by it and realize it is a little thing in comparison to all the positive attributes the other has.

Here's the hard part.  What we dwell on in our thought life is a choice.  We can decide if we are going to let some annoyance fester in our minds until it is blown all out of proportion.  We can decide if we are only going to think negative thoughts about another.  We can decide what we are going to replay over and over in our heads.  Of course, it's not always easy to break a cycle of negative thinking.  This is an area that the devil loves to use to attack us.  If we have not armed ourselves with the truth of God's love and acceptance of us, we will be helpless to create new pathways of thinking in our brains.

But it can be done.  The first step is to be aware that you are thinking negative or harmful thoughts.  Decide on a strategy to use every time the unwanted thought comes into your head... choose to think of something else, say a Scripture verse, sing a song, snap a rubber band that you wear on wrist.  Once you get somewhat adept at stopping the unwanted thought pattern, then begin to work on purposefully thinking something that you do want in your brain.  The thoughts we think are not benign, they do have power and ultimately will inform our actions.

I want to go back to adoption attachment before I end.  I'm wondering if we do parents a disservice by not sharing this.  I know I spent more time than I would really care to admit with a less than healthy thought life regarding my son.  I don't know how much I would have been able, at that point, to change it, but frankly, even trying to make the effort wasn't on my radar.  I knew I should 'fake it 'till I make it'... the idea that if we act in a loving way toward our child, our emotions will follow, and it's not that I don't believe it.  I just am beginning to think there is more to the puzzle.  Even if I couldn't have dredged up some positive thoughts in those dark days, I could have perhaps made an effort to at least not dwell on the negative ones.  I was not helping myself or my child by continuing to focus on how rotten things were.  If it happens too often, one becomes used to it... it is almost comforting in a way because of its familiarity.  And it is difficult to break out of habits such as that.  It can feel painful to force our brains to use different pathways that don't feel as familiar.  Wouldn't it have been better to if not stop, at least try to be on guard against these pathways developing?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Little Women

Here's a shot from the production of Little Women which A. is in the weekend.  She is playing Aunt March.  Don't you think she is the oldest 13 year old you've ever seen?  Come see the show if you are able.  Details are available on the Thin Ice Theater website.  (For those of you who have been reading for a while, the redhead is P13 who is playing Jo in half of the shows.)

I thought I would give a few updates on some of the things I have been writing about recently.  First, I have figured out how to seat all 28 people in my dining room at Thanksgiving.  I actually had to resort to drawing it all out, but it should work.  I also have charts drawn up of what needs to happen when, and I think it looks do-able.

Next, I have started my hospitality campaign.  The week after Thanksgiving we have two couples whom we really like but don't get a chance to visit with coming over for dinner.  It should be fun.  Has anyone else bit the bullet and issued long-intentioned invitations?  (Is it not fair to ask this less than a week before Thanksgiving?)

Continuing, you know that post a wrote a while back when I was whining about our money concerns?  Thanks to my generous parents and a few other people, the money issues seem to be resolving.  My parents helped out with the catalytic converter.  I was able to pay the next adoption agency fee with the money people have donated to the holding organization for us.  I think I have Christmas under control.  If I can just remember not to worry about everything that is coming up, God is faithful and takes care of our current needs.  We have experienced God's provision in mighty ways, especially over the past five years.  He has provided for us through other people and sometimes things have worked out in such a way that I can only say that God did it. I can't come up with any other explanation.  It is humbling.  I know (really know, deep down) that I don't deserve this graciousness, but there it is.  I just hope that I can be as generous to other people as people have been to us.  I feel as though I am constantly fighting my natural tendency toward stinginess and continue to practice generosity.  (I'll pause here and take a deep breath, because I know first hand what happens the minute I voice a desire to practice a character trait!)

Finally, I am so excited to tell you that there is a family who is very interested in adopting little Olga.  There only hesitation is do they have the finances to make it work.  Please head over to Reeses Rainbow and donate a little money (or a lot) toward Olga's adoption.  Adopting from this country is very, very expensive (double than any fees we've paid for any of our adoptions).  Even $5, multiplied many times adds up and could make it possible for this family to bring Olga home and get her the therapy and care she needs.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

It's been too long without pictures

Some of the littles of the family:



G., L., and K.

G., L., and K., except now everyone is (sort of) looking at the camera

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bumbling after God

My young friend Molly suggested in the comments a while back that I share my testimony.  I'm 45 years old, so to share the whole thing would make for a longer blog post than even I typically write. It's still November, so I will share the part of my testimony that involves the adoption of my children.

Long before we had begun our adoption journey, I read the book L'Abri by Edith Schaeffer.  This is her account of when she and her husband, Francis Schaeffer began L'Abri Fellowship in Switzerland.  It is a powerful book and one I recommend.  But the one thing that struck me most forcefully while I was reading it was the part where their son, Frankie, contracted polio.  Francis was out of the country and Edith was left alone to deal with the situation.  A doctor informed her that he had developed a new treatment for polio, which if they acted quickly enough could save Frankie's ability to walk.  The treatment was not without risks, however.  Edith didn't have any way to contact Francis to ask his advice and she had to make the decision immediately.  She eventually chose to go forward with the treatment, but implored God to put a roadblock in the way if it wasn't the right decision.  Frankie survived the polio relatively unscathed, being left with only a slight limp.  The idea of making the best decision possible, when there wasn't a clear right or wrong choice and asking God to honor that decision and to take charge of events is what stayed with me.

I have written quite a bit about our experiences with TM after bringing him home.  How the experience brought me to my knees and caused me to give myself up to God as I never had before.  It was a life changing experience in more ways than one.  But I'm not sure I have ever shared the amazing workings of God as we continued on this path of adoption.

Even as difficult and chaotic as TM's transition was, J. and I always knew that we wanted to adopt a second child.  We wanted someone else who looked like TM and shared some of his experiences.  We didn't want TM to be the only dark-haired child in a sea of blonds; to always be the one who stood out and was different.  Even before we reached the 6 month mark of TM being home, I found myself trolling waiting child lists, having a strong feeling that we had another child out there... somewhere.  At 6 months, I phoned our agency and asked for the file of a little boy who had been on the photolisting for some time.  He had been waiting a while and needed a family.  I wondered if we were his family.  His paperwork arrived and it was a bit overwhelming.  His needs were pretty great and I wasn't sure if I could parent him.  But, I also had learned by this point that if God wanted us to parent him, He would give us the ability.  What to do?  I didn't feel strongly one way or the other.  I remember standing in my kitchen, holding the paperwork offering a desperate prayer to God, that if wanted us to parent him, we were willing, but I just needed to know one way or the other.  Five minutes later, the phone rings.  It is the developmental psychologist with whom I had left a message to talk about the file and she was calling me back.  (I knew this woman as we had taken TM to see her.)  I explained the situation and the first words out of her mouth were, "You should not adopt this child."  In consideration of my prayer five minutes earlier, this seemed like a pretty specific answer.  I sent the file back, and never felt any guilt.  (The little boy did get matched with another family.)  And we waited.

Two week after sending our application in (having decided that perhaps we were to wait and be referred a child), I received a phone call.  It was the director of the Vietnam department of our agency and we chatted for a bit.  I thought, "Oh, how nice, she's calling to welcome us back into the program."  And then, she asks, "So, I see you're open to quite a few special needs.  Would cleft lip and palate be on that list?"  I had checked so many that I couldn't remember for sure, so said that I thought so.  Well, it turns out there was a baby they wanted to send us information on.  The next day, we grabbed the envelope from the FedEx man and took a look at the picture of the boy who was to be our 7th child (whose needs, I might add, were remarkably similar to those of the little boy we had said no to).

I have also written quite a lot about the long wait to bring K. home.  It was another period of growth, though of a different sort.  A period of learning to wait on God's timing, even if I don't understand it at all.  I prayed so hard for K. during that time, that he would not be negatively affected emotionally from the extended time in the orphanage.  I was so fearful for him.  God is faithful.  We brought K. home (in God's time) and K. continues to have the most sunny and resilient nature.  He was indeed protected.

K. came home in May 2008.  I had no idea beforehand how life would be with seven children, one of whom had multiple weekly therapies for a while.  Parts of it seemed like a lot, but for the most part it was manageable.  That summer I still could not shake the feeling that we still had children missing from our family.  If you have never looked at your family, and felt, even briefly, that someone is missing, I can't begin to explain what it feels like.  But it was there and I could not ignore it.

By this time, Vietnam was closed to adoptions to the US.  China was not an option since we did not meet their requirements.  I was feeling very strongly pulled toward Ethiopia and so that was what we started looking into.  We applied to an agency, and then all forward motion stopped.  I had seen a photograph of a sibling set of four whom I was quite drawn to.  It was a huge thing to even consider, so I had asked a couple of friends, whom I knew to be Godly, prayerful women, to join me in praying over the situation.  And I tried to go forward.  And I tried and tried.  We could not even get started as no matter what I did, we could not find a homestudy agency to even come out and talk with us.  It was roadblock after roadblock and I was incredibly frustrated and angry.  Then one day in my Sunday school class, a phrase which someone said, jumped out at me as if it was electrified, "Dare to be idle".

I don't do 'idle' well, especially when I have a goal in mind.  But there it was.  All those roadblocks?  I started to see them as being from God.  God's way of taking my bumbling after Him and turning it to what He wanted.  I would by lying if this made it easier.  The defining moment of this process was when I was putting away some of P.'s clothes, which were too small, and weeping.  I was overcome with sadness that I might never have another little girl to wear those clothes.  God had said no to what I thought our path was and clearly, this was the end.  My heart was broken, and I tried to let it go.

Count back with me now from the birth of G. and L.  They were born in June 2009.  This little breakdown in the basement of my home was September 2008.  As so often happens, God knew the plans He had for me, and though I couldn't see it at the time, they were plans for good.  We have been so richly blessed by the presence of these two little girls in our lives.  God is good.  God is good even when it seems He is saying no to something we have our hearts set on.

H. brings another chapter of our journey, but I will save that for some other time.  All this is fresh in my mind today because of a friend of mine who received some bad news yesterday.  She and her husband made the hard choice to try to adopt a little girl from Russia.  This little girl has some significant needs and her care won't be easy, but they knew she needed a family and so they said yes.  Russia said no.  My friend is heartbroken, both because they wanted to call this little girl their daughter, but also for the little girl who is destined to live out her life in a mental institution.

God must have other plans for this little girl.  Could God be calling you to make the hard decision and say yes?


Date of Birth: December 2007
Gender: Female
Eyes: Gray
Hair: brown
Nature: Calm
Olga does NOT have Down syndrome — she has Cerebral Palsy.  More pictures available.
From an adoptive family who met her in August 2011:  
She is gorgeous- long eyelashes, blue eyes, beautiful teeth and smile.  She seemed to have quite limited movement.

Please go to Reeses Rainbow for more information about this little child of God.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lists, lists, lists

As we begin our gallop into the holiday season, I have been thinking about ways to keep life under control while still having fun and enjoying the holidays.  Some holiday craziness is unavoidable.  At Thanksgiving there is a lot of cooking involved and if you are the host, some cleaning is probably in order as well.  This is the holiday I am focusing on right now (though always running through the back of my head are lists, lists, lists of what needs to be done for Christams.)  It is the easier of the two holidays, though for us, Thanksgiving is a lot more crowded than Christmas. We are hosting this year and there will be a minimum of 28 people sitting down (somewhere!) for dinner, with 17 of those being 18 and under.

So here are the things I am working on to make the holiday pleasant:

  1. Food lists.  What we need for the actual dinner as well as for other meals.  I plan to make as much ahead over the next week as possible.  It would also be fantastic if I only had to make one grocery store run over the course of the next week.  I'm not sure that is logistically possible and I'm a bit frightened at what the total will be.
  2. House cleaning.  My house is generally clean, but there is nothing like looking at it with new eyes to show me what I have learned not to see anymore.... the piles that have become part of the landscape, the lone items that haven't been put away correctly, the junk that has collected (again) and needs to be purged.  Plus, I have a guest room to see to as it has been unused for a while.
  3. Clothing.  Yes, we dress for Thanksgiving.  Nothing too fancy, but definitely nice clothes.  I also try to take advantage of the occasion and have a Christmas card picture taken of everyone as well.  Call me crazy, but I have dresses cut out for the two little girls for them to wear.  In theory, they look simple and shouldn't take me too long.  For everyone else, I need to take a look at what they have and make some degree of coordination come out of it.  (That picture-thing, you know.)
  4. Activities.  Over the years I've comes to realize that holidays are much more pleasant for everyone if we have some sort of known schedule.  Some of my children find a lot of open-ended time spent with cousins (some of whom they see very infrequently) to be stressful and their behavior reflects that level of stress.  While I don't want to schedule every minute, I need some sort of general plan and some planned activities up my sleeve so that things don't spiral out of control.  For Thanksgiving Day, while the adults are all fussing in the kitchen, I think I may plan some sort of Thanksgiving craft station to help occupy the younger crowd as dinner approaches.  The big question is where is this going to be if all available tables and chairs will be drafted into service for the actual dinner.  I suppose it's too much to hope for that the weather would be as nice as it is today and I could set it up outside on the back porch.  
  5. Table settings.  I need to work out a seating plan, not only who is going to sit where, but on and at what.  I foresee a long afternoon spent with paper and pencil drawing diagrams to see how it will all work.  I'm not even sure my dining room, big as it is, can hold everyone.  Then once I figure out physical logistics, I need to take a look at my linens and see what will work from that.  I think much linen ironing is in my future as well.
It looks as though it will be a full week.  I am hoping by doing this advance work that when the actual holiday arrives, I will be relaxed enough to enjoy it.  I want my children to remember our family having fun and enjoying each other during holidays and not of an insane mother who snaps the head off of anyone who tries to talk with her.  

Monday, November 14, 2011

Doing a little advocating

As I have mentioned, H. is at a wonderful place called Shepherds Field Children's Village.  This home houses ~100 special needs orphans at a time and provides love, stability, and health care for them while they wait to find permanent homes.  For some this will not happen, either because they are not eligible for adoption or because the orphanage which holds their paperwork is not able to do adoptions or because the children reach the age of 14 before being adopted by a family.  A vocational center is being built in the village to train these children and give them a place to live.  I have been so impressed over the past year as I have become more familiar with all Shepherds Field does and look forward to being able to visit when we travel in the spring.

But along with getting to know about this wonderful place, I have also become aware of the children who continue to wait for a family.  These are children who have their paperwork completed and are available for adoption.  Currently there are twenty children who wait.  I wish I could put all of their pictures right here on this page for you to see, but since I can't, I ask you to click through to see them for yourself.  I know that not all of my readers are adept at the internet, so I'll make it easy.  Click on the words:  waiting children and the link will take you directly to the page.

I will share the picture of one boy who has been on my heart.
Meet Joseph.  He is 12 years old and has pulmonary atresia (and had his first surgery in September of 2006) and also has Velo-Cardio-Facial Syndrome.  Now if you google this diagnosis, it sounds scary.  If I am honest, when I first googled H.'s diagnosis, it was scary as well.  It still is.  But God is bigger than scary diagnoses.  There are plenty of people who have met Joseph and can attest to what a kind and gentle boy he is.  A boy who would love to have a family.  A boy who has watched dozens of other children be told they have a mother and father and have then left to go live with them.  A boy who has two more years before his chance for a mother and father to call his own is over.

Now in full disclosure, there is a bit of selfishness in my request.  Joseph is one of H.'s friends.  I would love for him to find his family here in the US where we could keep them in touch with one another.  Every time I hear of another child leaving Shepherds Field to join their new family, I mourn for my daughter as she watches one more child leave while she still does not know she has a family.  And I can't wait for the day when she is the one presented with a photo album and told the news that she will have a Mommy and Daddy.  But yet I also mourn for this little boy who will watch yet another of his friends leave while he still waits.

I won't paint a rainbows and happy trees picture of what older child adoption looks like.  It's hard.  It involves a lot of change and a lot of unknowns.  It can stretch you as you've never been stretched before.  There will be times when you wonder what on earth you were thinking.  You will learn to look at progress over the course of years instead of weeks.  But I also want each and every one of you to think carefully about what God is asking you to do.  Is He asking you to do something hard so that He can show His greatness?  Is He asking you to care for one of His beloved children even if that child is not perfect according to the world's standards.  Is He asking you to climb out of that boat and join Him on the water?  Because I'll tell you, that's what it will feel like.  There will be moments that you feel as though you will drown, but you will keep your eyes on Him because that is all you can do.  You won't drown but you will be aware, as you have never been aware before, that He is the only reason you don't go under.

And I ask you, is this your son?

For more information, you can contact Shepherds Field directly or you can contact me and I'll put in touch with who you need to talk to.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Read-alouds and the large family

I was asked a question yesterday about how we manage reading aloud to such a wide age group.  That is, how do we find books that interest children between the ages of 16 and 2.  (Can I just pause and say Hooray!  I don't have to think up a topic to post about?)

The simple answer is that we don't.  We don't really worry about finding just the right book that will appeal to everyone.  I look at choosing books about the same way that I look at choosing meals... I cater more to the oldest and let the littles come along for the ride.  More often than not, they rise to meet my expectations.  But also like meal planning, this is not true 100% of the time.  There are some times we will choose a book because it is good and we know the younger ones will like it, just as sometimes I will choose meals that I know appeal more to the younger set than the older one.  More often than not, the older children end up enjoying it just as much as their younger siblings.  Either because it's just a good book and they've never heard it before, or because they remember loving it when they were littler and don't mind hearing it again.  Good literature appeals to all ages.

Logistically the way we have set up our read aloud schedules looks like this.  At lunch time I read to everyone.  This fall it has been books that relate to our study of ancient Egypt (The Boy of the Pyramids and The Golden Goblet).  I also have a short chapter book about lighthouses which we'll read in December (Lighthouse at Tern Rock).  Then I have some more book about Egypt and about the California gold rush planned.  The littles are eating (and the little girls are strapped into their chairs), so they are happy to sit and listen to what they can as well.  I don't kid myself that they are getting anything out of the story, but the practice of sitting and listening and hear the flow and rhythm of language is an important part of developing a love of stories and reading.

In the evening, J. and I divide and conquer.  I read picture books to K. and the little girls and J. reads to TM and D.  I'm thrilled because G. and L. have developed a love of the Frances books and will happily sit and listen to them.  Actually, they are pretty insatiable and will sit for any amount of time as long as someone is reading to them.  Right now J. is reading a book about Robin Hood to TM and D.  They have already worked their way through the entire Lord of the Rings, many of the books by E. Nesbit, the Ramona books, some of the Borrowers, and quite a few more.  I'm not sure what is up next.

We have gotten out of the habit, but I've been meaning to go back to reading to A. and P.  Normally we read together after the little girls have been tucked into bed.  In the summer we finished with the Emily of New Moon series by LM Montgomery.  Just typing this makes me feel a bit guilty, so perhaps it will spur me on to resuming our reading sessions.  Their new room is almost done and maybe that will give us a chance to restart our reading habit.

Learning to listen to stories is a skill.  If a child has been hearing them from infancy, it is an easy skill to pick up.  But if this is a new habit that is being formed, it does take some training.  When we are reading, we have a few basic rules.  The first is that if you are the intended audience, you must stay in the room... no wandering away.  The second is that you cannot look at something with printed matter on it while you are listening.  Humans don't actually multi-task, we just think we do, and things with print on them will cause the person to read the words instead of listening to the words.  For instance, no looking at another book, even if it is a picture book or looking at a magazine or looking at at the newspaper.  The third is you may not talk because you are disturbing someone else.  You may ask a question, but not side conversations.  We do allow our children to quietly play or color or build.  Some children listen better if their hands are busy.  It just can't be a loud and distracting activity.  When I am reading non-fiction aloud as part of our schoolwork, I will often give them coloring pages to work on as I read.  As for the busy, busy, busy little girls?  Well, if I am reading and they are not at the table eating, they are in the pen playing with toys.  It just doesn't work to try and read while chasing little girls.

To sum up... start early, choose good books, keep the hands busy, assume everyone will like the story, and keep practicing.

Edited to add:  Since I seem to be getting a lot of new readers because of this post, I wanted to add where you could find some of our favorite read alouds.  The first place is to look at the sidebar at the Amazon link.  There I have listed quite a few of the chapter books we have enjoyed together.  (Also, because of the state in which I live, I am not part of the Amazon Associates program, I merely keep it there because it is a handy way to maintain the list.)  You can also go to my 100th post where I have listed 100 of my favorite books in all categories.

Friday, November 11, 2011

She is not afraid of snow for her household

That line would be from Proverbs 31.  And might I just mention that she didn't live in Chicago?  Where each child needs coat, boots, hat, gloves, and snow pants 

You would think I would know by now, having lived in the Chicago area for ~27 years, that the weather here is a little unpredictable.  Yes, we have been having a very mild autumn, but really that was no excuse for pretending that snow was not going to fall at some time.  As in falling yesterday afternoon with only light jackets hanging in the mud room.  All the winter gear is stashed in bags in the basement and I have yet to match each child up with the appropriate coat/pants/boots... that is assuming I have them.  There was a flurry of activity when children went running down to the basement to see what they could find to throw on to go outside.  I have a not-so-funny feeling that I am going to be needing to find some boots and pants.

A. and I are planning to pull everything up today after our history co-op and get it sorted out.  I'm still holding out a little hope that yesterday's search was not very thorough and we will have all the supplies we need.

This is not one of my most favorite jobs.  It is one of the few times of the year when I wished we lived in the desert where I grew up.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Young thespians

Yesterday was the class performance of the acting class P. and D. have been taking.  They were working on an abridged version of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.  P. was Susan and D. was Fenris Ulf, the head of the White Witch's secret police (who is also a wolf).  They did a nice job.

D. was particularly excited about performing.

P. removed her costume before I could get a picture of her.  We are now heading into an intense week of theater.  This weekend is M.'s final weekend of Hideous Progeny, about the Shelleys and Lord Byron and the writing of the novel, Frankenstein.  (I would hound you all to go to it... since they have received rave reviews... but it's sold out.)  Next week is tech week for A. in Little Women with her performances next weekend.  I hounded you yesterday about attending that show, so I'll hold off  'til next week to hound you again.

After an intense month of rehearsals and performances, the holiday season is looking more manageable!

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

We interrupt this blog to bring you a brief commercial message... or two

A. has been working on algebra, and while I really like the VideoText program I have her using, I realized that she was having difficulty with equations because she couldn't picture what was going on.  I remembered that I had heard of a manipulative program designed to teach algebraic concepts and went on a search.  I came up with the Hands-On Equations program.  A. and I have been working through it together, and I really like it.  (I can't say the A. 'really likes it'.  She is tolerating it and humoring me, but she can do it.)  I think the way they have devised for helping students see what is happening when they are solving equations is genius.  I know that A. thinks it feels babyish, but once we complete all three levels, I'm pretty confident that her abilities will take a giant leap forward and she will have no more trouble with what she is doing in her other program.  Besides, how can you not like a program which allows your child to easily (A. got it the first time) solve a word problem such as this:  "John is 6 years older than Keisha.  Together, their ages equal four times Keisha's age  How old is each?"  

Want a brief demonstration?  Here is a simple example so you can see how it works.  The variable 'x' is represented by the blue pawn and the whole numbers in the equation are the red cubes.  (Add the cube numbers together... don't place them together.  That number on the right side is 13, not 103.)

The equation for this picture is:  4x + 5 = 2x + 13

One of the rules of the manipulative is that if there is a blue pawn on each side of the balance, you can remove both.  So the first thing we did was to remove the two matching pawns on either side.  That leaves us with:  2x + 5 = 13

Now, we can also remove the same whole number from both sides.  Here we have removed 5 from each side, leaving us with 2x = 8.  We haven't learned how to divide yet, but the manipulative assumes that a child can look at this and figure out in their head that x will equal 4.

Here's a slightly more difficult equation.

Notice the pawns and numbers one above the other?  This is how to demonstrate:  2(x + 3) = x + 8.  Notice there are two sets of x + 3.  We then combine them together and remove the matching pawns from each side which leaves us with this:

 x + 6 = 8.  Then we remove 6 from each side and that gives us an answer of  x = 2.  Ingenious, isn't it?  We are now starting to learn how to work with negative numbers.  As we work through this, I have also been writing out how we would demonstrate what we are doing in a more traditional method so A. can see how the two relate.  I'm thinking I will always start with this in the future before doing a traditional pre-algebra program with the rest of my children.

My second advertisement is to invite you to come see Thin Ice Theater's newest production, Little Women.  It's next weekend and A. is playing Aunt March.  Either email me for details or go to Thin Ice's website.  Expect more theater posts soon.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

A few thoughts on Pinterest

My children have been teasing me a bit this past week because of the amount of time I have been spending on the Pinterest site.  I know I'm a bit late to the party, but I'm kind of used to that by now.  I really have been doing research, though I'm sure my children won't believe me.  I've found some interesting projects that could be potential gifts and it is providing a place to store other projects and ideas I've found that I didn't want to lose.  It is definitely proving useful, but, you know what?  When it boils down to it, Pinterest is a little dangerous as well.

I think that anyone who spends any regular amount of time on it will be far more prone to envy, greed, and general dissatisfaction than those people who do not.  As I search for ideas to go on my Christmas lists, I also see what other people are interested in.  It's an interesting mix.  There are a lot of obscenely large and ornate houses.  There are a lot of really big closets filled with more clothes than any one person could wear in year.  There are children's rooms in which I'm sure no child has ever lived.  And then there are the models.  The incredibly skinny and fit models.  Models who have most likely never given birth to a baby (or two).  And right there next to all the toned tummies are so many dessert recipes that one could gain weight just by looking at the pictures.

Combined all together it does a spectacular job of painting an idealized world which doesn't exist.  Talk about setting yourself up for failure.  How can anything in reality compete with such a fantasy?  And very little of it is real.  Much is enhanced; there are even links pinned to demonstrate how to enhance the reality of your photographs.  In some ways it's a form of p*rnography.  We fill our minds with the unreal so much so that we lose a taste and appreciation for what is.  We dull our senses with things we would never see with our eyes, to the point we can't appreciate the beauty of things which don't appear on a screen.

Am I making too much of this?  I don't think so.  Anything that causes us to stop being thankful for what we have is dangerous.  Dangerous to both our well-being and our relationship to God.  Because once we start desiring things that are not ours, we also begin to develop a complaining attitude.  And when we complain, even in our heads, it is really God we are complaining to... that He hasn't given us what we know will make us happy.  But, He already has, if we have eyes to see it.  And it won't be found in a glossy picture on Pinterest.

Monday, November 07, 2011

National Adoption Month... again

You knew it was coming, right?  My annual post about adoption and National Adoption Month?  I wasn't even sure I was going to write anything this year.  Ha!  I made it all the way to the 7th.

It was our pastor's sermon yesterday morning that changed my mind.  I liked the sermon, but felt that perhaps he didn't go quite far enough.  (Don't you find that sometimes you wish sermons were more of a discussion format?  Or is that just me?  I'm sure my children are thrilled that it's not.)  Anyway, he started out by mentioning the incident in China about the little 2 year old girl who was run over by the truck and no one stopped to help her.  (I know the video is all over You Tube, but I just can't bring myself to watch it... just knowing it happened is bad enough.)  Our pastor challenged us to not be bystanders when people are in distress.

That's all well and good, but I wonder if we are really aware of the distress around us.  I'm sure most of us would stop to help a little girl bleeding in the street.  That's pretty blatant distress.  (And it is the thing that horrifies us about the incident.  It was blatant, yet no one stopped.)  But, there are children in our midst who have been figuratively thrown under the truck and are lying there bleeding and yet we pass them by all the time.

Just think of the number of children in foster care in our country.  These are children who are not in a permanent situation; they have no stability.  It is quite possible that the majority of these children will be moved from placement to placement multiple times in their young lives.  Let me tell you, I live with the reality of what multiple placements can do to a child.  My son survived five moves in four years.  Many foster children face many more moves than that.  I cannot imagine the toll that is taking on them.  They need stability.  They deserve stability from the adults around them who are supposed to be caring for them.

Some of these children are available for adoption.  Some could be made available if there was an adoptive family interested.  Some are not, but are still shuffled from place to place waiting for the adults in their lives to get their act together.  These are the children who are emotionally bleeding to death waiting for someone to help.

Or how about heading over to Reece's Rainbow.  Take a look at the waiting children.  Some of them have Down Syndrome, others do not, but have other special needs.  You may notice a note about how some of these children are coming perilously close to being transferred to mental institutions where they will be warehoused and ignored.  These are the children who are easy to ignore... they are not seen, but are hidden away out of sight.

Can I tell you about the hundreds of children on China's shared list?  This is the list which is published that contains the children who currently have the appropriate paperwork and are waiting to be matched with a family.  They are all considered to have a special need, but for some that special need is merely that they are older and male.  In the adoption world, boys tend to be second class citizens, with families often opting for girls, even when those girls have more serious medical needs.  When these children reach the age of 14, they become ineligible to be adopted.  What will they do?  They have no family to go to; they will be out on their own once they reach 18 and can no longer live in the orphanage, often the only home they've ever known.  These are the children who will be adults soon.  They are not pig-tailed toddlers who are easy to rescue.

These are not easy scenarios.  A good portion of these children will probably not be 'easy' children, whether due to medical needs or emotional ones.  To open your home to one of these children would mean that you change the course of your life forever. It would be disruptive, costly, painful, and certainly outside the norm. You would run the risk of learning how little good you are capable of; of finding out the truth about yourself.

Of course, it would not be without its benefits.  You would be saved from a dull and normal existence.  You would be brought to the end of yourself, which is just about the only place you can really find God.  You would discover if God is really there by taking on a challenge far too great for you.  You would have a chance to see God perform miracles, because there is no point for them when you have everything under control.

So there you are.  Adoption isn't for everyone.  If you're too perfect, God can't use you.  If you're too strong, God can't use you, either.  God calls the imperfect, the weak, the poor, because it is through these that He shows His greatness.  And if He can do that, just think what miracles and glory He has planned for the children society would rather leave under the truck.  Take a chance.  Disrupt your life.  Stop and help.

Saturday, November 05, 2011


After doing some research, B. decided he could take the honey from the top super of his hive.  A fellow church member also kept bees at one point and had a honey extractor which he allowed B. to borrow.  What?  You've never heard of a honey extractor?  Here is what one looks like:

It is a hand operated machine which helps to separate the honey from the comb using centrifugal force.

First B. had to remove the wax caps from the top of each little cell which was filled with honey.  He started out using this scary-looking tool which heats up and melts the tops off.  That proved to be fairly tricky, so he ended up scraping off the caps with a fork.

The frames were then loaded into the extractor.  You can see it sitting in the basked waiting to be spun around and around.  The honey is thrown out of the comb and against the wall of the extractor where it then drops down the side, through a screen, and into the collection tank in the bottom.  It is a fairly time consuming process.  And sticky.

After the honey ran down, B. was able to open the spout and fill-up the jars.

He's not quite done, but the total for this year's honey crop looks to be at least 5 pints; he still has some honey left in the extractor.  A lot of time is spent waiting for the honey to s l o w l y run through the screen into the collection tank.

There has also been much licking of fingers as people make taste tests.  It has been deemed 'Yummy'.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Dear New Mother,

Congratulations on your new little one!  You have just been part of one of the greatest miracles there is... bringing a brand new life into this world; a life that is completely unique and never seen before.  What an exciting time is in front of you... getting to know this new little person, being amazed at how perfectly she has been formed, smelling that 'new baby smell', and being overwhelmed with feelings which you never knew existed.  Caring for a newborn is truly a wondrous time.

But, it is also a time of immense change.  We who are already mothers tend to focus on the pleasant parts of the journey.  Having survived, perhaps multiple times, caring for a newborn (or two), there is a happy amnesia that seems to occur so that our memories are mostly pleasant when we think about those early days.  We remember how wonderful it was to nurse our babies, watch them sleep, hear the fascinating sounds they made, and watch  their funny and adorable expressions.  This is what we could not get enough of and what we remember.  While we do remember the sleepless nights and the inconsolable crying, even that takes on a slightly rosier hue than when we were in the midst of it.  We forget to tell new mothers that yes, taking care of a newborn is hard work.  Hard, sleepless, and sometimes lonely and frustrating work.

In our present modern society, families tend to be smaller and extended families tend to live apart. It is entirely possible for new parents to have never had to change a diaper much less seen first hand how much care a baby needs.  There seems to be a modern expectation that life can go back to normal once the pregnancy is over and labor done with.  Sure, there is one more person in the family group, but that shouldn't change things too much, other than requiring a little bit of shopping to gather the needed equipment and supplies.  No wonder so many new parents are thrown for a loop when this new little person arrives on the scene.

Perhaps we older, more experienced parents should be more truthful.  We have fallen into the Martha Stewart trap of thinking that things should appear effortless or it doesn't count.  ("What?  The table arrangement?  Oh it was nothing; I just threw it together" Though the hostess knows full well that she slaved for hours and hours, sometimes with a mini-drill in hand to achieve the desired results.)  We do it with parenting as well.  We sometimes behave as if our well-behaved, well-adjusted children arrived this way; that the reason we have happy, secure children isn't because we have invested significant love, time, and training into their lives.  Why don't we want to admit to the world that raising children, especially newborns, takes a lot of time?  And yes, time that we could have used to do other things.

Entering into motherhood ushers in a new stage of life.  It is a life that by necessity is one of serving others.  This is God's boot camp, in a way.  If we as believers are to be slowly allowing ourselves to be transformed into Christ's likeness, I can think of no better way to learn this than to become a parent.  A baby cannot do anything for himself, his survival is entirely dependent upon the adults in his life.  As a result, a baby requires nearly constant care.  And if a mother is nursing, the new mother may spend what feels like every waking minute nursing.  Why don't we tell new mothers that this is normal?  Why don't we tell new mothers that this is what they should expect?  Why don't we tell new mothers that it is OK to spend all one's time taking care of one small infant?

Of course, this new-motherhood-thing would be a little easier for the new mother if our society weren't so fragmented.  No longer are new mothers naturally surrounded by those a little farther along in their parenting journey.  There is a lot we can share and support we can give.  There is nothing so comforting to a parent than to hear something is perfectly normal.  I am grateful for those more experienced mothers who spoke into my life... taught me how to use a sling, supported me when nursing was difficult, chatted and visited when I needed the company of more than a newborn, and provided wonderful role models by how they lived their lives.

New mothers, you have a steep hill ahead of you as get the hang of being a mother.  Your world has been turned upside-down, and it will never be the same.  But this is not a bad thing.  See this season of your life as one of learning selflessness; as a chance to serve one of the least of God's children; as a chance to pour yourself out as you take care of this blessing God has given you.  Allow God to change you into the mother He wants you to be.  Yes, you will be letting go of other things for the time being.  Some you will resume as your child grows, others you will wonder why they were important to you.  1 Timothy 4:4 says, "For everything created by God is good, and nothing to be rejected if is received with thanksgiving."  God created motherhood and knew the intense demands a newborn would place on her mother.  If God created it this way, it is good.  Embrace it and allow God to work through you and transform you as you practice motherhood.  It is a divine calling.

Oh, and smell that new baby head for me, OK?

Thursday, November 03, 2011

The Return of the Twelves

One of our favorite read-aloud books is The Return of the Twelves by Pauline Clark.  It is about a young boy who happens to find the set of small wooden soldiers which turn out to have been owned by the Bronte children.  Of course, there is much more to the story than that, but I don't want to ruin it for you.  It's a great opening to learning about a famous family as well, because the Bronte children did have a set of soldiers which they wrote stories about.

Why I am bringing this up?  Well, if you're like me, you suddenly realized that the gift-giving season is bearing down hard upon us and are starting to panic think about what your plan is.  I make a lot of the gifts I give my children, but there is a fine balance to be achieved between budget and the realities of time.  Since I have been trolling the internet these days searching for interesting ideas, I thought I would share one of my past ideas with you.  

I made these for B. about 11 years ago when he was five.  We had just finished reading the Return of the Twelves and he loved it.  So, I made him his own set of 12 soldiers.

These are about 2 1/2 inches high and are painted wooden soldier blanks.  (The most difficult part of this project was finding the blanks!)

The soldiers in the book all have distinct personalities, so I had to give each soldier his own face.

They line up and march around very nicely.

And to store them, a lion box from Africa... because that was where many of their original adventures took place.
My next article is up at Heart of the Matter about homeschooling high school.  Take a look.
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