Thursday, March 31, 2011

K. turns five today

Today is K.'s birthday and I can hardly believe he is turning five.  What's more he can tell you he is turning five!  It's been an amazing three years as we've watched this little one blossom and grow.  I wouldn't be telling you the whole story, though, if I didn't add that I do have moments of worry and panic about his future.  When I see him with other American-born children his age, it is very apparent that he is still delayed.  I wonder if he will ever catch-up and wonder what the future holds for him.  I worry I am not doing enough to help this little boy reach his full potential.  And I still have moments of anger.  Anger that he had to stay in that orphanage so much longer than necessary where he didn't grow and didn't develop.

But these moments are fleeting when I look back on how far he has come.  Having G. and L. around highlights for me exactly how far behind he was when we brought him home.  I guess I didn't fully appreciate how little he was.  The girls now, at nearly 6 months younger than K. was when he came home, are 10 pounds heavier.  Their language skills are at the place where K. was a full year after arriving home and they can do things we had to teach K. to do.

K. is working hard to catch-up.  His language is complex and constant.  Not only can he tell you how old he is, he was able to choose what he wanted for his birthday dinner.  Something else he couldn't do last year.  I've told you about how he can now ride his tricycle and he can walk the 1/2 mile to church under his own steam.  He continues to grow and gain weight, and, at least for the moment, still outweighs his baby sisters.

So we will celebrate tonight.  We will be having bacon and onion pizza, chocolate mayonnaise cake and ice cream... and presents.  K. has been very concerned already this morning that someone needs to wrap his presents.  He is also well aware of his birthday, even if the language sometimes escapes him... he has spent the morning wishing everyone a happy birthday.

Happy 5th Birthday, K.!
I have another article published... it's about kids and creativity

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

God's protection

Yesterday afternoon, I was calmly catching-up on the ironing, babies were napping, and everyone else was entertaining themselves quite nicely, when I heard a crash and what sounded like something shattering.  This would have been concerning enough, but when it is followed by a high-pitched scream yelling, "Mommy!", I know it is not good and is one of the few things that will cause me to run.  When I arrived in the boys' room I saw that the large window in the front of their room had completely broken when D. accidentally fell into it, both palms first.  His hands were trapped there in what were essentially glass handcuffs.  It's amazing how many different thoughts can flit through one's mine in the space of a second.  Having discarded the options of panic, worry about paying for the window, getting upset at two boys who would play so roughly a window was broken, my brain kicked into to gear and fully realized what a dangerous situation D. was in.  I settled on caring for the injured (or potentially injured) as my first course of action.

Miraculously, D. was unhurt; he just has one very small scratch.  I was able to carefully lift the glass from off and around his arms so he could remove his hands from the window.  As I did this, I fully realized how close he had come to a real disaster.  D. hit the window palms first, with what had to be real force based on how his hands ended up.  If it had been summer, and the storm window hadn't been down, I'm quite sure the rickety window screen would not have stopped his movement forward.  It is a low and large window, just a foot off the floor.  It would have been very easy for him to be propelled out of it.  And since I feel a little ill just at the thought, I'll move on.  D. also did not panic and try to pull his arms back out once he stopped moving.  (If you know my son, awareness of his body in space is not a strength and he often runs and flings himself about without fully thinking about what he is doing.)  Instead he stood there, absolutely still until help came.  Had he tried to pull his hands away, he would have been sliced to shreds, particularly on the wrists where most of the glass was pointing.  I'm pretty sure that we would have been calling 911 it would have been so bad.  Also, he could have lost his balance and fell upon the large pointed pieces of glass which would not have been good either.

But, D.'s angels were surely watching over him yesterday and we are so thankful that God protected our little boy. 

If you're curious, D. and TM were playing a game where each of them had super powers... D. was pretending that he could fly.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Indian fry bread

I don't normally having cooking disasters.  I am a pretty good cook and can follow a recipe and sometimes even come up with some of my own.  But every so often, a recipe gets the better of me.  Take last night for instance.  I had planned to have Navajo tacos, based on a recipe from Tastes &Treasures:  A Storytelling Cookbook of Historic Arizona.  The picture of them looked so good and I had sudden memories of eating Indian fry bread in grade school when a local tribe would come for the day.  This is what my mouth wanted.

Boy, was I disappointed.  My family enjoyed them, but they had nothing to compare them to, either.  At this point I'm pretty sure something was wrong with the bread recipe.  The dough never looked right and it was heavy instead of light and puffy after frying.  The whole thing was just wrong.

So, now, all my Arizona readers, I ask you, what have I done wrong?!  Here's the recipe I used, so you can see if you can find any glaring errors, but I really suggest no one try to make it based on this.

7 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c milk
1/2 c water

The dough was much too dry, even after I doubled the water, and was weirdly stringy. 

Of course, now, after preparing my taste buds, I am just a little obsessed about this.  Any help is greatly appreciated.  And as a reward, since I know most of you in AZ really just want pictures of G. and L., I'll promise a whole bunch of the little mess-makers darlings in return.

Monday, March 28, 2011


I came across this at the end of Confessions of an Organized Homemaker:

"I have read several studies about fatigue and have learned some interesting facts:
  • Tiredness is emotionally induced 90 percent of the time.
  • Frustrations, irritations and worry drain energy.
  • The mere contemplation of work causes more fatigue than the job itself.
  • Fatigue is not always related to the amount of energy we use buy how much we dislike the task.  Procrastination, by the way, adds dislike to our chores.  The longer we put off an important project, the more threatening and unattractive it becomes.
  • The people who are most tired are those whose behavior and work methods demonstrate disorder.
  • Proper diet and exercise are necessary to fight fatigue."
I don't know about you, but I find this fascinating... and true.  I know I always feel better if I just start doing the thing I don't want to do.  If I sit around thinking about how much I don't want to do something, that task starts to take on huge proportions and I start to dread it more and more.  It is almost a relief sometimes just to start doing such a task because I often find it is not as horrible as I made it out to be.

It also explains why, when I feel as though my home is under control and have been working steadily, I feel less tired than when I have been avoiding tasks and have the vague (or not so vague) notion that life is quickly spinning out of control.  In fact, I have learned that the more I want to just climb into bed and pull up the covers, that it is a huge sign that something in my life needs to be dealt with.  Stress, for me, shows up as extreme fatigue, even if I have had a full night's sleep.

What is doubly interesting about this is when I think about it light of some brain research I've recently read about.  It seems that our mind has the ability to reprogram our brain.  A quick example, in one study, a group of people who were prone to severe depression were taught that the depression symptoms were a result of the brain sending signals to the wrong part of the brain.  The symptoms were real, but if the brain could be rewired, the symptoms had the possibility of disappearing.  The participants were taught to tell themselves at each instance of the symptoms that this was merely their brain sending signals in the wrong manner.  Over time, as the participants did that, the researchers found that new neural pathways were being constructed that were healthier.  It was not a cure-all, and not all the participants had positive results, but a good percentage of the participants were helped by this practice.

All that to say is that it seems possible that God has provided a way for our brains to restructure when necessary.  If we get in the habit of recognizing the real reason we are feeling fatigued... instead of thinking, "Oh, I'm so tired!", we think, I must be worried about something... or what I am avoiding?... or this is a sign my life is disordered, what can I do about it?... we could teach ourselves to function in a healthier way.  It's kind of like thinking we're hungry when what we really are is thirsty.  Maybe.

Of course, I'm no expert and I could be totally making all this up.  Do I need to provide the disclaimer that none of this constitutes medical advice, etc., etc.?  It is just my idle musings as I find connections between all of my completely disparate reading.
I have yet one more article posted, this time on Surviving Toddlerhood.  I knew I had been writing a lot, but hadn't realized exactly how much.  No wonder I looked at my sewing machine the other day and wondered why I hadn't used it in a while.  Oh, and did I mention that every time someone clicks on the link to one of my articles, it goes into some grand tally system and the writer whose article gets the most hits wins a $25 gift certificate?  My linking them here to the blog is really quite self-serving... J. and I like to be able to go out to eat now and then.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Time for boys

Sometimes the young boys in the house get a bit overlooked being between twin girls and older siblings who are involved in various interesting projects.  So here is post just for them.  The occasion?  Fresh haircuts.  The situation had become dire with hair well past eye level.  Various sister's offers to pull it back in a pony tail were met with scorn.  I am probably the only mother of a large family who does not cut her own children's hair.  Or anyone else's for that matter.  I will trim the occasional ends on long girl's hair, but boys' cuts are beyond me.  I am quite happy to let someone else do it.

So here they are:  TM, D. and K. who are no longer doing sheepdog imitations and who now look as though they have parents who care about them.  Handsome, huh?  And I think TM is looking so much older these days.  Being 8 1/2 will do that to a person.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Back to the library

For much of my parenting life, frequent trips to the library to check out back-breaking amounts of books have been a part of it.  Once we moved into the Big Ugly House, it was even easier because all we had to do was load up the wagon with our books and walk 1/2 a block to our small branch library.  I rarely had to set foot in the bigger, main branch, because I just had all the books I wanted transferred to my library and I'd send a child to pick them up.  As my children grew older, they would take themselves to the library to feed their insatiable appetite for books. 

Our family library trips ended when I was expecting G. and L.  I just couldn't do it.  After they were born, we went a couple of times, but it was far easier to just send older children to collect a bunch of books for themselves and the youngers.  We might have continued this way indefinitely because toddler twins in the library in not really an improvement over baby twins.  But a small tragedy struck in that our small, personal, and close branch library closed earlier this month.  The easy life is over.

This morning, it was decided that we would resume our family library trips... twin toddlers and all.  We managed, but boy are we out of practice!  I anticipate a fairly steep learning curve for the next couple of months as we relearn our library visiting skills.  Some of the complications?  Well, G. and L. for one.  The main branch has a lovely children's area, but we need to work on training the girls to stay within the confines of the play area.  It's trickier with two in general, but because I tend not to take them places, they have very little experience with not wandering off.  This will be an excellent way to build those skills.  The same goes for K.  I am paying the price for having built-in child care in the form of my older children, in that the very youngest in my household don't have much experience with errand running and the like.  Let's just say, it shows.  If I expect my children to behave in public, I am going to have to give them time to practice.

Everyone else did just fine and B. and A. were a great help with everyone else.  (M. was not with us as she was at class.)  Since the main branch is much, much bigger than we're used to, we are going to have to figure out a system that allows everyone to have to time to find the books they want.  Plus, we just have to spend enough time in it so we know where to look.

The biggest bright spot of the morning was being greeted upon our arrival by one of our librarians from our branch library.  The children all knew her and she knew all the children (by name) and was able to help each of them navigate and find what they needed.  On the whole it wasn't a bad visit.  Everyone came home with books, we didn't lose anyone, and no one had a great big noisy fit.  But it will take a while before it feels comfortable...

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Organizing books

This has been the week of organizing books for me.  Books about organizing, that is, and not actually organizing the books themselves.  The timing is serendipitous since with spring coming I always get the spring cleaning itch.  This is despite the fact that it snowed very lightly last night.

Anyway, last Monday when A. and I were at the thrift store, I found a copy of Confessions of an Organized Homemaker: the secrets of uncluttering your home and taking control of your life.  This book has been on my list of books I want to read for a long time.  But since the library's copy is listed as missing, I have never had a chance to.  (Does anyone else find the idea of a book on organizing being lost slightly ironic?)  I was thrilled to see it sitting on a shelf as I walked by and happily paid my quarter for it. 

Then on Tuesday, Large Family Logistics: the art of science of managing the large family by Kim Brenneman arrived.  J. had been given a gift certificate and had used some of it to buy me this book.  (Sweet, huh?)  Being a brand-new hardcover, it was unlikely that I would shell out the money for it, and even more unlikely that it would ever appear in my library.

Of the two, I am liking Large Family Logistics better.  While the Confessions of an Organized Homemaker is full of useful information, it is really stuff I already knew, but is helpful to be reminded of.  But the Large Family Logistics book is written by a mother of 9 who is a little further on her journey of child rearing and homemaking than I am.  I appreciate her insights and have picked-up some helpful ideas.  I think it would even be helpful to a mother of fewer than 9 children as well since she spends a lot of time on raising children.  And she has some great quotes in it, such as this one by Elisabeth Elliot:

"The principal cause of boredom is the hatred of work.  People are trained from childhood to hate it.  Parents often feel guilty about making children do anything but the merest gestures toward work.  Perhaps the children are required to make their beds and, in a feeble and half-hearted fashion, tidy up their rooms once a month or so.  But take full responsibility to clear the table, load the dishwasher, scrub the pots, wipe the counters?  How many have the courage to ask this of a ten-year-old?  It would be too much to ask of many ten-year-olds because parents have seriously asked nothing of them when they were two or three.  Children quickly pick up the parents' negative attitudes toward work and think of it as something most sedulously to be avoided."

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Dinner by candlelight

But more truthfully it should be cooking by candlelight.  Right at the moment we were about to start dinner last night, the power went out.  My first thought was, "Well, let's order pizza."  But then I thought how wimpy that was and not wanting to be wimpy coupled with the fact that the dinner I had planned was all cooked on the gas stove, I decided to keep going.  We got out our candles and flashlights, lit the stove manually, and began cooking.  It was most helpful to have B. hold the flashlight over the pan while I cooked the chicken... otherwise I couldn't see when it was done.

A. set-up on the table and put the salad together.  M. took her picture, it's blurry, but you get the idea.

Everyone was quite excited by the prospect of eating dinner in a room lit only by candles, so there was some disappointment when the power came back on just before we were ready to sit down.  Evidently, eating dinner by candlelight was the deepest desire of several children.  Who knew?  So, since the table was all set anyway, we turned out the lights and had our candlelight dinner despite the restoration of electricity.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

New from old

Our crayon collection has become rather pathetic recently.  Most of the crayons are broken and nearly all are dull.  I hate to throw them out because they still color, but they are not very satisfying to use.  That's why I was so excited to find a tutorial explaining how to make new crayons.  I had everything we needed to do it, the only thing stopping me was that I was a little hesitant to use one of good pans.  That problem was solved yesterday when I found a small pan for $1.50 at the thrift store.  I had been wanting a dedicated non-food-craft-pan for a while so I was happy to have remembered to look for one.

It was fun to watch our crayons go from this:

To this:

And finally to this:

Aren't they pretty?  They are all shiny and pretty and look brand-new.  And who doesn't love crayons in the shapes of shells and hearts?  Since I only have two molds, we're doing two colors a day.  Today was pink hearts and green shells.

And poor, poor G.!  She was playing outside yesterday and tripped and skinned her face on the driveway.  The whole left side of her face is scratched and bruised and swollen.  She looks like a prize fighter after a match.
I have a new article published.  Click the link to read a brief article about when we adopted K:  Our Adoption Journey

Monday, March 21, 2011

Finished with finishing... at least as far as the blog goes

I've come to some conclusions this past week as I've been pondering the idea of finishing.  The first is that I'm never going to finish everything and that's OK.  I have some craft projects that I started years ago that I work on occasionally as the mood strikes.  For those things the benefit of them is the process and not the product.  They can each live in their bag waiting for me to pull them out... or not.  If I finish them, great.  If not, then someday my poor children will have to decide what to do with them.  (In an effort to relieve any future guilt, I hereby give my children permission to GET RID of any of my unfinished projects.  You do not need to keep them.  So there.) 

Second, I realized my angst about not finishing things was really a result of my horrible habit of procrastination.  I have a tendency to either put off what needs to be done or start something that needs to be done, but only do the joy halfway.  These aren't huge, life-changing projects, but more mundane things such as cleaning up the kitchen or taking care of bills.  I will start doing one of these jobs, but tend not to finish it completely... I leave the dirty pan on the stove because I don't feel like cleaning it... I throw the bills in a pile on my desk because putting them in their proper folder seems like too much work... I carry something halfway to its destination instead of going ten more feet to actually put it away.  As I've been making this the focus of my past week, I've been forcing myself to finish each job completely. 

And you know what?  Life (at least to me) feels a little more under control for very little more work.  In fact, in the long run, it has probably saved me time since when it's time to begin something I can do it right away instead of finishing what I had left undone earlier.  I don't have extra clutter in brain trying to remember what I was going to come back too.  And I don't have nagging worries that I'm going to lose or forget something.  This is particularly true in the realm of bills and important papers on my desk.

One technique I have used to encourage myself to just go ahead and finish something completely is to time myself.  (I have to admit I stole this from Flylady years ago.)  I look at the clock and make a note of how long a dreaded task actually takes.  What I found (and it's not really a surprise) is that those dreaded parts of a job really don't take all that long.  Putting those bills away immediately?  A matter of seconds.  Making the bed?  Three minutes.  Washing that yucky pan I was avoiding?  Not more than 5 minutes.  Knowing the actual time something takes makes it a lot more difficult for me to procrastinate.  Because really, the peace of mind I gain from knowing I'm not going to lose a bill far, far outweighs the few seconds it takes to put them away correctly.

My last thought is that I need to acknowledge that I do finish things.  I finish reading large amounts of books.  I finish writing assignments by their deadlines.  I teach my children regularly, and while that job can never be truly finished, I work on it diligently over the course of time.  Sometimes you just have to stop and remind yourself that you're not doing too badly.
On a completely unrelated note:  Flying fish are very cool.  We have been learning about all the creatures which the men on the Kon Tiki came across on their voyage across the ocean.  Today was the day to learn about flying fish, so we read about them, looked at pictures, drew them, and watched some videos.  Our favorite was this one of flying fish in slow motion.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Any guesses...

what all this might be? 

It's going to be a beehive, of course.  B., our budding beekeeper, ordered his hive a month ago and today J. and B. drove into the city to pick it up.  There's a whole lot of building that B. has to do before the bees arrive in April.  (Not to mention the city permits which have to be applied for.)

See that box on the right?  It's called a super.  (I sound as though I know what I'm talking about, huh?)  Here's a closer picture of it:

B. will have six of these and each super then contains 10 frames where the bees will store honey.  If this all works out according to plan, we could have pounds and pounds of honey.  This is all B.'s doing... J. and I really have no knowledge about bees at all.  (I even had B. proofread this post to be sure I had all my information correct.)  B. has done the reading and taken the classes and talked to actual beekeepers.  It has been quite impressive, really.  I'll let you know how it goes.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Bread baking

Can I just say how much I loved the bread I made yesterday from the book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day?  It turned out really, really well.  It was easy, tasted good, was very inexpensive, and I have enough dough in the refrigerator for about five more loaves.  I took some pictures of the process.

Here is the bread on its first rise:

The longest part of the process is mixing up the initial batch of dough, which then rises on the counter for two hours.  After that, you can either use some right away, or put it in the refrigerator to use later.  Mixing it took about five minutes, using my large mixer.  I then put the dough in an ice cream container I had in the pantry... it looked as though it was going to be big enough.  Over the two hours we watched the dough completely overflow the container.  M. said I had created the Blob.  After making a couple of loaves of dough, it all fit back in the container.  I'll keep using this one for the time being, since it's what I have.

I made three loaves of dough.  (I divided one loaf in half to fit on the one baking stone I own.)  Here they are all ready to go in the oven.  Next time I'll make the slashes a little deeper so they show up on the finished loaves.  Instead of using a baking peel, which I don't own, I floured a rimless baking sheet to use to get the loaves in the oven.

It was an imperfect system, since the second loaf ended up sticking a bit.  Consequently, it baked into an odd shape.  It still tasted good.  There was only the slightest difference in crust between the loaves baked on a baking stone and those baked on a heavy baking sheet.  Certainly not enough that I'm going to run out and invest in many baking stones.

They tasted fantastic, with the only downside is that I was tempted to eat far more bread than I usually do because it was so much better than the grocery store stuff I had been buying.  I'll use up this batch and then I'm going to try using my home ground wheat and see if it works as well.

Lastly, is an advertisement.  Here is a photo from The Diary of Anne Frank which opens tonight.  B. is Mr. Frank (center stage, looking very grey) and M. is Margot, Anne's older sister (slightly behind B., standing).  As dark as M. dyed her hair, it still looks quite light on stage with the lights.

More pictures can be seen on the Thin Ice Theater facebook page or at the EHE website.  Please come see the show... it is going to be wonderful.  But bring some tissues.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A food post

I haven't shared any recipes in while, so it seems I should remedy that.  Last week at the grocery store, while staring at the vegetables trying to break out of our vegetable rut, I spied a bag of miniature sweet peppers.  The price was less per pound than the regular ones and knowing how much my crew loves sweet peppers, I put them in the cart figuring they'd get eaten one way or another.  On the bag was a recipe suggestion which I tweaked just a bit... and they were so good.  I'm sure we could have all eaten twice as many, small girls included.

Miniature Sweet Peppers Stuffed with Goat Cheese

Miniature peppers (I had red, yellow, and orange), figure about 4 or 5 per person
1 large log of goat cheese (or small if you're only doing a few)
Dried basil and marjoram (I'm sure it will be even better with fresh herbs in the summer)

Wash and seed the peppers by cutting of the tops, leaving as much intact as possible.  We cut around the top and peeked in to see if there were any seeds.  If there weren't any, we left the top on.  Soften the cheese a bit and mix in the dried basil and marjoram.  I can't give you an amount, I just added some until it looked right.  Fill each pepper with the cheese and place on an oiled baking sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees, uncovered, for about a 1/2 hour.  Serve warm.

This afternoon I'm going to try making my own French bread.  While we (OK, by we, I really mean B.) make our bread, there are still some types of bread I buy, French bread being one.  I really want to kick my store bought French bread habit.  With that in mind, I checked out the book Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day that many of my friends have raved about.  It all looks easy enough, so I'm going to give it a try.  I'll even follow the instructions the first time and use unbleached white flour.  But, then I'll probably start fooling around with it to see if I can make it work using my home ground flour.  It just seems wrong to buy flour when I have all this wheat in the house.  I'll let you know how it all goes.

And a note on my project to finish things... as I sort through what all is making me feel as though I have a household of unfinished projects, it is the longer term projects that I have completely procrastinated about that hang most heavily.  I have begun the process of working to actually finish them or give myself permission to let them go and to stop living in their state of limbo.  I have also gone back (again!) to my regular schedule of certain jobs on certain days.  It allows me to focus on that day's task and permission not to focus on others.  The system works, so why I routinely abandon it only to find the new "system" doesn't work is beyond me, but back again I go.  How about you?  Have any of you been experimenting with focusing on finishing?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


I'm continuing to be challenged by Nancy Campbell's 100 Days of Blessing.  This morning's reading was about attitudes, specifically about not being a slave to one's emotions, but choosing thankfulness and Christ's joy.  As so often happens, it was particularly pertinent for today.  G. and L. had a horrible night, one up after another, and it certainly felt as though very little sleep happened from about 2am on.  (This may be a second pot of coffee day.)  Then, after I thought J. had left for work, I hear his voice in the kitchen.  He had returned because the "Stop Driving Now!" light came on in his car.  The car we had in the shop over the weekend for a not-cheap repair.  He is now off to take the car back in and then slowly trudge to school on public transportation.  (I need the van to schlep the 11 children in my house around this afternoon.)  It could be so easy to let myself grumble and complain.  And we all know what happens to the tone of the household when Mama ain't happy, don't we?

So, I'm going to take Mrs. Campbell up on her challenge and I'm going to smile, though I must confess the first ones may be through gritted teeth.  I'm going to be thankful I have two beautiful girls to keep me up at night and that we own a second car to break down.  But I still think I'll need the second pot of coffee.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Little girls

It's time to share more pictures of the little girls with you.  I can't believe how much they've grown and how much they can do.  Here's L.  (that's a blue fish she is holding):

And here's G:

G. is talking (and talking) more and more.  I think she comes up with a new word at least once a day.  L.?  Not so much.  She doesn't really need to talk, either.  While she does have some words, she is very proficient using grunting and gesturing to get her point across.  Plus, when your sister is talking all the time, there is no point in adding to the noise.

I try not to share funny things my children say and do too much, because really, no one else thinks they are as interesting and funny as I do.  But, I'm going to break my rule this once.  I was reading both girls a bedtime story the other evening and there were pictures of apples on the page.  G. loves to say 'apple' and she did... over and over and over.  It was a little difficult to continue to read the story.  At some point, L. became frustrated with the interruption, turns to her sister and says, "Shhhh!"  She then looks at me as if to say, "Can you believe her?  She never stops talking!" and waits for the story to continue.  G., of course, ignored her sister's hushing and just changed words to 'girl' over and over and over...

And those pictures I posted yesterday of M.'s hair color change?  Well, I need to take a new one because the director deemed her hair not dark enough and M. had to do it all over again.  She is now a genuine brunette... temporarily.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Show business

It's tech week once again in The Big Ugly House.  That means my two older children are gone for a big chunk of day.  It also means I have 5 additional little people here.  My contribution to the rehearsal process is to watch the small P family people so that their mother can go and work on the amazing costumes.  The small people bring their schoolwork and join us in whatever project we are working on.  I bet they don't know they will be heading to the South Pacific with us each day.  Tech week also means (recently) that at least one of my children will change their hair color.  Yesterday, M. changed from blond:

To light brown:

It's not permanent, but we learned from B. in the last show that it does take a few weeks to fully wash out.  The reason behind the change of hair color?  Well, it seems that ever since B. grew taller than his older sister, the two of them look remarkably like twins.  Over the past year, this is a recurring question for the two of them.  For the director, this is a bit awkward, hence the change of hair color.

Please come see the show.  It's The Diary of Anne Frank... Friday and Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.  Either head to the Thin Ice Theater facebook page or email me for more details.
Finishing update:  I realize that part of my problem is that I do not multi-task... I'm not good at it, I don't enjoy it, and it makes me feel frazzled.  Focusing on finishing tasks instead of leaving them strewn about this house is causing me to think carefully before I begin something.  Plus, it is also helping me to think about what "finishing" a task looks like.  Because, the laundry is never finished.
One other event notice... this one is a bit last minute.  A friend and I are hosting a series of evenings to view and discuss Nancy Campbell's teaching video, Reclaiming God's Plan for Women.  The first session is tonight at my home and is titled, Reclaiming Marriage.  Email me if you would like to join us and need more details.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


I have been reading through Nancy Campbells' devotional book, 100 Day of Blessing.  (Highly recommended, by the way.)  While I am always challenged and encouraged by her, I have been particularly convicted about her thoughts on finishing.  Finishing a job, what we set out to do, just completing things.  She points out that God never leaves things half done... He always completes and finishes what He sets out to do.  Even if we think He is taking too long, He still completes everything in His own time.  We also want our children to be people who complete things; who are reliable and can be counted on to do what they say they will.  This is where I need to look carefully at my own life.  If I want my children to be this type of person, am I modelling this type of behavior?

If I'm honest, I have to answer with a great big... sometimes.  And this has been a struggle for me even as a child.  I'm great at starting things.  I love dreaming up big projects, but when it comes time to do the actual work, I'm more likely to be focusing on my next big project and really not so much interested in the actual work of seeing the past idea to completion.  Perhaps it wouldn't be an issue if I were content to just dream up stuff, but that lack of actual follow through does irk me more than a little bit.

It's not just big things that I struggle with the idea of finishing; it's also all the little things in my life.  I spend my day flitting from one activity to another, focusing on whatever has caught my attention at any given time.  By the end of the day I often have a dozen jobs, half done about the house, lying in my wake.  I realize that some of this is the nature of motherhood.  Our darling little charges do take precedence over whatever activity we are in the middle of, and that is how is should be.  The trouble for me comes after I've helped the child.  Through lack of focus, I then flit to another activity without returning to the first one and seeing it through.  There are often days I go to bed with this heavy weight of all the uncompleted projects hanging over my head.

This week I'm going to focus on finishing.  It will be a kind of experiment.  First I want to discover if it is even possible to be focused enough to finish one task before beginning another with a household of small children.  Second, I want to see if I am more focused on this goal, if I can make my life feel a little calmer and less out of control.  Because that is how half done projects make me feel... out of control.  I'm done feeling like A.A. Milne's Old Sailor.

Does anyone else feel this way?  Would you care to join my in the challenge to try to finish things?  I'm going to keep you updated this next week and let you know how it goes... and you can comment and share how it is going with you.  And perhaps we can encourage one another.

Friday, March 11, 2011

How can I possibly be the mother of an 18 year old?

It doesn't seem right, but since today is M.'s birthday and she turned 18, there it is.  And a particularly nice 18 year old she is.  I think I would be just a little more angst-ridden over it all if she were going far away to school (sorry Mom, I know that's what I did) or heading to Africa (I've watched P18's mom deal with that) next fall.  Instead she will be living 25 minutes south.  Just close enough to laundry, but not so close that she will bump into me everyday.  (Though she might bump into J. on a regular basis.)  I want to go on the record to say I will still miss her.

We will celebrate tomorrow night since her day is pretty booked up, what with mid-terms, papers, presentations, and concerts.

Happy birthday, M.!
Giveaway winner (and yes, Sandwich, you were entered) is Sara who wrote:  I like the little pencil used to make the little book :) And I did some research on the book you're giving away, it sounds great!

But Sara... in order for me to send you the books, I need to be able to contact you.  Could you please send me your information using the email address in my sidebar?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Yet more randomness

I have high hopes for a coherent, well thought-out post for tomorrow, but it isn't going to happen today.  Instead, you get a little bit of everything.

Yesterday K. had his cleft-team appointment.  On the whole it went very well.  Because he is small, the plastic surgeon wants to put off the bone graft surgery for another year.  He also saw the cleft-team speech therapist.  Currently he does not need speech therapy.  (Hallelujah!)  What's more the therapist confirmed my pet theories as regards K.'s speech development.  That is, he is doing just fine if we subtract two years from his age to adjust for the two years he was in the orphanage.  She was quite pleased the with progress he has been making and sees no reason to change what we are doing.  Lastly, it looks as though we will need to do a sleep study on K. because of the amount of snoring that he does at night.  He could have pediatric sleep apnea and not only is severe sleep apnea dangerous, if the brain does not get enough oxygen while the child is asleep, it can interfere with normal development... both physical and intellectual.  And as not fun as a sleep study sounds on a four year old, I guess I have to put 'making the appointment' on my to-do list.

This afternoon is my designated time to slog through a pile of home study paperwork.  Once I get that done, there are only a few more odds and ends before my part of the home study process is completed.  I cannot tell you how excited I will be to have it off my plate.  At this point just waiting for approvals seems as though it will be easier than what I'm doing now.  Yeah, I know, go ahead and laugh.  In two months I will probably be back here and whining about the wait.  But the grass always does seem greener, doesn't it?

As I looked at what I posted yesterday, I realized I didn't give you the complete information about our Lenten Tree.  (See, I warned you this would be random.)  I only gave you the link to the list of devotions.  I didn't give you the link to the pictures so you could see what I was talking about.  Now you can... if you want.

Finally, don't forget to enter the giveaway if you want a chance to win a copy of The Hole in our Gospel.  This link should work, unlike the one I gave you yesterday.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Ash Wednesday

It's a crazy day today what with cleft team appointments, class performances, and children's choir, but it is also Ash Wednesday.  Every year we do the same Lenten devotional as a family, so at least I'm prepared in that department.  The pussy willows even managed to survive the year.

For something of more substance, you can head to my post about Psalm 32 that I wrote for our church's Lenten blog.
Don't forget to enter the giveaway for a copy of The Hole in our Gospel.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Books... some little and some to giveaway

We've been reading the book, Kon Tiki, to continue with our study of the South Pacific.  What a fascinating book!  I had been wondering what we should do as a project and came up with making a library of little books.  (Using the directions for little books in my favorite, Big Book of Books.)  We are making a little book about each of the sea creatures that is mentioned.  So far we have done jellyfish and the Gempylus, or Snake Mackerel.  Here are TM and D. working away.  When we're done, each child will have a little library of little books about sea creatures and I think we'll make a little bookcase for them as well.

Now to the book(s) I am giving away.  Do you remember when I read The Hole in our Gospel by Richard Stearns?  Well, I think other people should read it as well.  In order to make that happen, I am giving away a copy of the book as well a 6-week personal journal, a small group guide and a DVD that goes along with the small group study guide.  It would make an ideal Lenten study... and if I were really organized I would have done this last week so the winner could start tomorrow.  But I'm not, so whoever wins will have to deal with starting late to make it correspond with Lent.

How do you win?  Simply leave a comment on this post.  Want a second chance to win?  I'll make a place on Ordinary Time's facebook page and you can leave a comment there as well.  And to make it fair, for those of you who do not do facebook (because I completely understand the creepiness factor) and want a second entry as well... leave a second comment on this post saying it's your I-don't-do-facebook-but-I-want-a-second-entry-comment.  Clear?  (As mud?)  I'll leave the giveaway open until Thursday so that I can put the book in mail by Friday.

Monday, March 07, 2011

More birthday

Why is it that there is always at least one weekend a month that acts as a magnet for all activities?  This was one such weekend.  (Actually, it's just one of those months.)  Besides A.'s birthday, other events included our Families with Children from Vietnam group's Tet party.  This year the lion dancers came early and everyone could get a close-up view of the lions.  K. loved them in the past, but wasn't so sure of them this year, especially up close.  He did want to see them dance and kept asking when the monsters were coming.

G. and L. also enjoyed the party.  G. was transfixed by the girls performing Vietnamese folk dancers and I probably paid more attention to her and watching her try to copy the hand movements than I did the dancers.  L., on the other hand, perked up when the drum started and the lion dancers came out.  They are just very different girls.

And here are a couple of pictures from A.'s birthday which we finally celebrated yesterday.

She chose chocolate mayonnaise cake for her birthday cake.  She also had the saddest collection of birthday candles on her cake.  I guess it's time to splurge and invest in some new ones.  (Yes, I know that reusing birthday candles is probably a false economy.  But at least this way I always have some on hand.  It is one item I could see me easily forgetting each birthday.)

And here is A. with one of her presents.  Grammy gave her a stack of patterns... I imagine they will keep her busy for a while.

One March birthday down, two to go...

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Thirteen years old

Today is A.'s thirteenth birthday.  How did that happen?  How did my cute, adorable, and very strong-willed little pony-tailed girl become a lively, charming, and determined young adult?  Well, however it happened, that's what she did.  And what privilege do 13 year old girls have in our family?  It is the age where they can get their ears pierced if they so desire.  And A. desired.

A.'s good friend, P12, waited for A. so they could get their ears pierced together.  (The P. family allows ear piercing at 12.)  So this morning, P12 and her mother and A. and I went to have the deed done.  After signing more forms than you would think necessary, earrings were chosen and ears were pierced.  To make it more celebratory, we all went out to lunch together.  For how often any of us eat in restaurants, this definitely counts as a treat.

The celebrations will continue, and I'm sure there will be more pictures to share on Monday.

Friday, March 04, 2011

What else is there to say?

Some of you may know of Katie in Uganda... the young woman who moved from the US to Uganda to care for orphans and now lives there full-time with her 10+ adopted children.  She is an amazing young woman, though I have a sneaking suspicion she would brush off the compliment and say it's not her, it's Jesus.  Read one of her latest posts and be challenged.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Behavior and consequences

A while back I asked if any of you would be interested in hearing a bit about our behavior expectations and consequences... and I had some takers.  And since I am drawing a complete blank about what to write, this is what wins.  This is not meant to be a definitive list, and depending on circumstances we may not follow it to the letter.  It is more some examples of our practices and general thinking.  I also don't mean to imply that ours is the only way to raise children, but I often find useful ideas by hearing about what other parents do and perhaps I can do that for others.

In general, J. and I are far more concerned about our children's attitudes than by any specific outward behavior.  (And one very often follows the other anyway.)  For that reason we try to focus on consequences which deal with the underlying motivation than just the outward behavior.  At least that's what we try to do... if only we could parent perfectly.

We focus on obedience... doing what we ask when we ask it, and kindness to one another... being careful with words and actions towards others.  Siblings are most definitely included in the group of 'others'.  If you can treat those you live with kindly, it is far more likely that you will treat others outside the family kindly.  So, on to nuts and bolts examples:

I know I've said this before, but we do a lot of practicing of good behavior.  If a child does not respond and come when called, we practice this over and over.  (Sometimes up to 10 times in a row if the infraction was especially egregious.)  Our goal is to both create good habits and make the consequence as dull and unappealing as possible.  For example, when I call a child, I expect them to respond, "Yes, Mommy" or "I'm coming, Mommy" and then come.  If they don't, I will send them back to their starting place and we will do it again (and again and again).  It's dull and tedious (for everyone), but it is effective.  I try to be matter-of-fact about it.  It's just what happens when a child disobeys; no need for shouting or yelling.

Or, if I ask a child to do something for me, I expect the child to pleasantly agree and do the job.  They don't have to be eager, but nor may they whine and complain.  One job is added for every complaint.  (Yes, it's a pain for me.  I then have to be sure each additional job is completed as well as the original one.  I could have much easier just done the first job myself and been done with it.  But, this has now become about training my children and not the task.)  Very quickly, if the parent is consistent, the child learns that complaining is not worth their time.

For sibling relationships, we use other consequences.  Much depends on the pair of children involved and what the circumstances were.  Both parties often have had a hand in causing the problem... and while it does happen, it is rare that there was a completely innocent child.  First, I like to ask what each child could have done differently to change the outcome... and sometimes we will actually practice this if it seems as though it would be useful. 

If an older child seems to be baiting or is particularly impatient with a younger one, often a discussion is all it takes (and some quiet pointing out when it happens, because it often has become a habit).  Discussions are often along the lines of what kind of relationship they want to cultivate with their brothers and sisters and do they want to be friends with those people when they are all adults.  Sadly, we have friends who have poor relationships with their siblings with the seeds having been sown in childhood.  Being treated unkindly (and even cruelly) in childhood by a brother or sister does not promote healthy adult relationships.

If a younger child is pestering (or hitting or whatever) an older brother or sister, that child must do something to serve the older one... do one of the older's household jobs, make them a present or a card, etc.  Most often I find that this type of behavior is really more attention from the other person than malicious.  I will often talk with the younger child about ways to get the desired attention that isn't annoying.

And sometimes there are just two children who are not getting along.  One effective measure I have done is to force companionship by requiring them to stay in the same room, having some part of their body touching each other, and assign them a task (either positive, such as baking cookies, or negative, scrubbing a floor).  They usually end up laughing and having fun together because the situation is pretty ridiculous.  Other times, it is just caused by frayed nerves and all I need to do is put one on either side of me and read some stories.

Discipline is always a moving target with so many variables that's is difficult to have an absolute list of rules.  Parenting is an art.  It takes strong observational skills, quick thinking, creativity, and emotional intuitiveness, and a willingness to pray without ceasing.  Nothing having to do with raising children is stagnant, and what worked yesterday may not work today. 

Which leads me to my last point... that there are some things that I do (and don't do) that help (or hinder) my parenting and discipline efforts.  First, is that I need to respect my children.  Just because I'm the parent and in charge does not give me permission to become a petty tyrant.  If I know my child is involved in something, it is unfair of me to ask them to drop it without warning and come to me.  It is much more sensitive to give the child a warning that I will be asking them to stop what they're doing before I call them.  Try not to set up the child for failure.

Next, I need to ask myself if I am modelling what I expect from them.  (And this can be painful, I warn you.)  If my child needs me, do I come to them immediately?  If my child is saying something to me, do I attend to what they are saying?  Is the overall atmosphere in the home one of respect for each other or just from child to parent?  Ouch.

Last, I need to remember that happy, joyful children are far more likely to want to obey than unhappy, miserable ones.  Creating a joyful atmosphere in my home and having fun with my children (smiling, joking, singing songs, dancing) goes a long way toward raising children who are happy and content... and consequently obedient.  Everything is tied up together and is very difficult to try to fix one part without dealing with the whole package.  I also think this is why stressful events have such a negative impact on families.  Even happy stressful events... such as adding a new child... are still stressful and there is not a lot of emotional energy to focus on all the things I've mentioned.  When even one of those things becomes unbalanced, it affects the entire structure.

My short prescription for obedient children?  Smile, be joyful, be consistent, and be respectful.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

A surprise present

G. on left and L. on right

Last week a dear friend surprised me a pair of spring dresses for the girls.  It was a bright spot in an otherwise bleak day.  I love that they each have a matching sweater.  As far as pictures, though, this is the best of the bunch.  G. and L. were particularly uncooperative for this photo session... I have crying pictures, and blurry pictures, and pictures of girls showing off tummies, but none of smiling girls.

I can't wait until they can really wear them and not freeze.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Stopping to be thankful

Yesterday I felt so much better and consequently, the day went smoothly complete with happy children.  (Funny how that works, huh?)  I have been overwhelmed with thankfulness for my life and children.  I thought I'd share a few examples.  I'm thankful for...
  • how well M. is doing in the two college classes she is taking this semester.  She has been so diligent and responsible about them.
  • for the all the different interests my children have and how they teach me things I would have never thought to learn.  For example, B. has taken a strong interest in bee keeping.  He has done tons of research, taken a class, and has paid (nearly all by himself) for a new hive a colony of bees which will begin arriving later this month.
  • for how well my children can get along.  Yesterday, A. and P. and D. and TM decided on the spur of the moment to have a room cleaning contest.  Not only did it keep them happily occupied for most of the afternoon, but it's been a while since those two rooms have been so clean.
  • that D.'s reading has really taken off.  He's been reading several short chapter books a week now.  (I've also been finding myself telling him he needs to stop reading a couple of times, but that's a different post.)
  • that A. is so good at organizing and will happily tackle areas of the house which need attention.
  • for the times when something has hurt TM and he has cried appropriate tears and come to me for comfort.  Only a parent who has a child who has struggled with attachment can fully appreciate how wonderful appropriate tears are.
  • that P. has been working more diligently in her schoolwork and the quality of what she has been doing is really good.
  • for Shepherd's Field Children's Village and the fact that H. is in such a safe and loving place while we work through paperwork.
  • when K. walks around the house informing people that he loves them and then comes and announces to me that, "Everybody loves me!"
  • for two adorable little girls.  Really just thankful all the time for these two.  Yesterday I was watching G. and L. play.  At one point, they were each lying on the floor with their heads sharing a pillow.  Each girl had a book and each girl was singing a little book song to herself.  It was certainly one of those moments when I wished I could stop time.
Somedays I  absolutely marvel that God has given me these precious, wonderful children to love.  I am overwhelmed.
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